Once you've tasted the buttery sweetness of a fresh croissant from a Parisian bakery on a cobblestone corner, once you've smelt the dust in the walls of an ancient church in Lucca, or walked through the green grass in Drogheda, the craving of foreign lands never leaves you. Everything about Europe captures my heart. The streets, the motorinos ignoring traffic laws, the markets, the history, the rooftops ... when I think about it I feel like Anne of Green Gables just bursting at the seams.
When I was going into my sophomore year of high school, my Nonno and Nonna took my family to Italy so we could meet our family and see where they grew up. To say I hated it would be an understatement. I was so upset that my parents were making me leave my friends in the middle of summer to go on a family vacation to a country where I couldn't even talk to my relatives there. I would be missing out on my touring group's performances, afternoons at Wind n Sea, and to make me feel better, the senior I had a crush on (whom, now looking back, I'm pretty sure my parents were glad to get me away from for 3 weeks) made me a mix CD of the most emo songs ever. So I took my converse, studded belt, and Jedidiah t-shirts to Italy with a scowl on my face. But not before I would pass out in the airport from the anxiety I had of flying on planes. Ya ... off to a great start.
About 4 years after my first Italian experience, on the last day possible (in an attempt to escape my woes of a break up) I applied to a study abroad program near Venice, Italy and about 2 months later, I was preparing to get on a plane to live in Italy for 4 months. I couldn't believe it myself. My dad flew with me and we went to visit family first. I had never felt so alone, and so free, on the day he said goodbye to me in my dorm room in Bassano del Grappa. In my 19 years of life, I had never lived away from my parents and now I was about to spend 4 months in a foreign country (where, fortunately, there was no longer a language barrier).
Bassano was a town that even most Italians didn't know existed. The stores closed at 1, opened again at 5, and were always closed on Sundays. We had to walk 20 minutes to get to anything other than the one coffee shop and pizzeria. Students in my program would walk to the nearest club where we were warned that neighboring Slovenians would come to scope out the less discrete American girls. I conveniently left those details out to my parents. Besides, I only went there once.
A few weeks into the program I was feeling more at home and my Italian was becoming so second nature, I never wanted to leave. We went to Venice for Carnevale, Amalfi for Easter, Verona, Sienna, Rome, and Florence for fun. I hiked a mountain with two of my friends and I was so out of shape from all the pizza and wine, I had to tell them to go at their own pace without me and then I proceeded to get totally lost in the mountain mist and I was pretty convinced I was going to die on the mountain. We took at $30 flight to Paris and stayed in a hostel where in the middle of one night a man was hitting our door and yelling something at us in French to which I finally yelled back "I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SAYING". That morning when we woke up, an Austrailian girl was also sleeping in our room. Needless to say, my friend and I were ecstatic to take our next $30 flight to Dublin where we stayed with my family friends.
In Dublin, we stayed with the Corcorans who are near and dear to my family's heart. Their son took my friend and me out and when we left the restaurant I forgot my shopping back which had my cell phone. When we went back, everything in the bag was intact except that cheap Nokia phone. My parents still think I lost it on purpose so that they couldn't call me every day to check on me. (It wasn't on purpose Mom, but hey ... we all survived with a few less Skype calls right? ;) )
On the last day, everyone parted ways, and I was at the airport in Milan alone. My flight didn't leave until the next morning and instead of getting a hotel, I slept on the airport floor on top of one bag and the others wrapped in my arms because that's what college students do.
To this day, I am still filled with anxiety about the thought of getting on long flights (although I'm proud to say I have more self-control and resist passing out). But my longing for Europe is more reminiscent of my time spent alone there and not when I was in high school and had zero appreciation for the magic. After studying abroad, I had the opportunity to visit my best friend in Paris while she was working there and it completely redeemed my first experience in that city. We ate the best falafel, tromped around Montmartre, and hung out in famous cemetaries because why not?
For our year anniversary, Jon and I spent 3 weeks in Europe and I was so excited to re-experience all the cities I love with my husband. We ate the most incredible food, stumbled upon jazz bands playing in the piazza, got lost looking for our Airbnb's, had massive Irish breakfasts made by Betty, sat by the Eiffel Tower in the rain and in cafes on the corner for hours. When I'm walking the streets in Europe, I feel the way I feel when I get to spend time in a bookstore alone. I feel so at rest, but so alive. It feels like I'm in a movie. All the cliches are true to me. Someday, I hope to spend a few months living in Italy with my family. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to be Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun and just buy a villa and write my days away.
Life certainly changes with kids. I know that's not news, but the wanderlust never goes away. I also know that if we are lucky enough we'll get to explore the world with our kids! Having Brighton doesn't mean we are bound to never see a thing again, we just know it looks different now. Planning a trip requires a little more effort, a little more money, and a little more determination to deal with the downsides of traveling with kids (jet lag, strollers, that kind of stuff). Wanting to explore somewhere new sometimes means adjusting our expectations and taking a more local trip while we wait for the perfect time for that big Europe trip again. I'm learning contentment through being a mother; contentment for what we have currently been blessed with and learning to not constantly be searching for more. Present and grateful. I have so much to be grateful for and the fact that I can say I've been to Europe FOUR times in a huge blessing and if I never get to go again, I can still say I'm lucky. So for now, I'll read books and watch movies and transport myself to the most magical of cities that I have been to and have yet to see.
Need some books to read to transport you to another place? I just finished reading the first two below and goodness gracious they were refreshing, adventurous, encouraging, and both fueled and subdued my current wanderlust. The 3rd pick is one of my all-time favorites.
At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doer
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Where are you currently dying to travel? How do you satisfy your wanderlust?