An Introduction To The Things I Learned...

Someone recently told me that my blog had talked them out of Europe. Now this was just a mild comment not some debate over anything but it sort of stung. This person did elaborate and the reasoning was funny but I really had to reflect on the general conclusion. How could I have made someone think like this? I had hoped that people would be driven to go overseas. Did I sort of ruin what Europe has to offer? I guess in reading my chronicles of traveling hiccups, food quandaries and the ultimate demise of a friendship (that may have thrived stateside) - I wouldn't want to go either! The reality is even with the outcome of all of this … I still really want to go back to Europe! I still want to live in Europe! The priority remains even after the travel, the plethora of shitty expat advice and the reality that it could take up to ten years to move … legally. I guess I hadn't gotten to a point of surmising my trip and perhaps I never will. I mean that is not the point of this blog. As mentioned, I'm recalling what happened, giving you decent advice for your travel and hope to be a resource for travelers and expats alike. This is all just the beginning of an extensive journey to a permanent life change. I know that was my first trip abroad, to Europe and it wasn't the greatest expedition. However, it wasn't a bad introduction either. There is still a lot more of the world to see. I still need to hone my traveling skills and after that I could wind up virtually anywhere. For now, I owe you some explanation.

If you've read from the beginning of the blog, you'll see there was a transition from resistance, to fear, to inclusion, confidence and execution. This was me trying to put life aside and make the decision to just leave. In the end I wound up risking, moving, sacrificing and going! Once in Europe it was a series of understanding and transformation that occurred to get me through and back. There is a major difference from going on a vacation to traveling just as there is between a tourist and traveler. This was no temporary disconnect from life, most days it wasn't even recreational as a trip ought to be. I made a commitment to myself to just be in strange places where most of the time I just did not belong. At surface level, I truly did not belong and was not expected to be at the places we chose to go. I had to immerse myself despite the uneasiness every single place we traveled to. Every three to five days I was thrown into a new environment, circle or challenge that I couldn't run from. Imagine my entire life I had choice - the ability to make both good and bad decisions. In this journey, most days I had zero choice and a lot of discomfort. This was a good thing for me and it is a good thing for anyone to see things differently.

So in turn I learned a lot. This education piece alone was priceless. Most days I felt shorted in life and in experiences. Seriously, there were days where I felt my own education and exposure before Europe had cheated me. There were important facts and values that no one had taught me before. Now 32 years later I'm in a different country and being taught things I should have always known. There were days of enlightenment and disappointment. I also felt that it would be impossible for me to return to my own country with this new wealth of knowledge. I felt like every conversation would be an opportunity for me to spar, a competition with those who haven't traveled and feel all-knowing by the means of money and books. In my opinion, I was coming home rich and I'd rather keep everything to myself and ultimately return back to the place that taught me without even asking. Here I'd been asking so many questions for years - to family, to so-called friends, to paid instructors in paid institutions, so school, church, community and I'd been lied to. Well, most things I acquired in Europe were just omitted in the United States. So there wasn't any mass hoodwinking - I just failed myself for waiting forever to … learn.

No, I don't know the source of happiness or youth. I didn't become supernatural abroad nor did I take on some subset of philosophy. What I ultimately gained is an extreme appreciation for life. My values and priorities were reset when I saw how others did it and do it - this thing called life. I may have paid or been sponsored to see and do all the things people do over there. However, outside of that I really tried to grasp the little things that I wasn't told or shown to do. I also easily missed the popular or even popularly obscure things to do. I didn't see the love locks in Paris or throw a coin in the Trevi fountain. It was more fulfilling for me to to walk the same streets as Hemingway or get lost finding a restaurant that someone told me to go to. These things filled my head with the majesty of life, the attraction of it and the connection to everyone we all have. Here, I was in my own little world of work, home, drinks and repeat. I generally isolated myself from seeing the world beyond that. I avoided discomfort. I ran from change. I also felt better than everyone for doing this. I actually felt good about being in my own bubble. Europe didn't have my "problems", everyone and everything seemed happier and even in bizarre and archaic situations - things were generally okay to all around.

So yeah I've seen some things that are very foreign to you. In that I never discount the overall experience. Europe can be a very medieval and backwards place in the eyes of the Western world. I do acknowledge there are things I witnessed that made my skin crawl. There were also places and processes of beauty and extreme efficiency. There was a very nice balance of modern and set in stone. What put a permanent lump in my throat and made me question my identity was knowing I didn't know everything. I was not some all-knowing, privileged being because I was from America. In fact, I was this blubbering and quite stupid person in comparison to everyone and I mean everyone else. I had accepted at a very early age that money, good schools and faith had gotten me everywhere I needed to be. I'd seen it all. As an adult I could never find happiness but I felt that routine was necessary to acquire it. Europe totally shut all these notions down. Now this may not happen for you. It really can't happen if you just go for a few days to a week and visit to do all the "things" and see important places. You can't be shaken to the core by a paella and trip to the Eiffel Tower. So allow me to tell you what I did take away from Europe. Let me also explain what I missed. I should also give you some redeeming qualities about Seville having torn it to shreds. 

So before I dive into Italy which just solidified my position on Europe allow me to share the things I learned...

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