Nelson Mandela once said:
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
I feel this way each time I return from an extended trip abroad. From each trip I’ve taken, usually to Europe, I find I see the world in a different way. Sometimes the grander sites stand out to me in drastic meaningful ways, and sometimes the simpler aspects of life call out to me in a way I’ve never heard before.
And regardless of my experience while I am away, home always looks different when I return. I find I understand people differently, I see their lives differently, and I experience those around me in a new way.
For better or for worse, after a lengthy trip like my current one (2.5 months in BaIrcelona [w/ multiple side trips]), things are never the same. I know now that I am already not the same person as when I left for Barcelona in May. I feel better. More alive.
I have more goals now that I want to accomplish, places I’d like to visit, and milestones I’d like to reach before I turn 35 that didn’t exist 3 months ago.
This trip has left a definite impact on me. I LOVE living in Barcelona, and I love Europe. But I don’t like visiting anymore, I just like being here. Just the simplicity and feeling of being somewhere new and not having to rush through every “experience” like a madman with a tourist map.
For exampe, I used to tell people that 3-5 days was enough to see all there is in Barcelona and now I know how truly false that was. I have one of my best friends currently visiting me for two weeks and at the start of week #2, only now has he covered 90% of what this city has to offer.
I imagine I’ve made these same mistakes with other cities in the past as I always tried to do whirlwind stops of large cities, just wanting to be able to tell people I’ve been there. All the while I was robbing myself of actually experiencing the city itself.
I imagine european cruises are like this. People rushing on and off ships like locusts, pouring through the city of the day over several hours, taking photos on the fly and only actually remembering what they saw once they return home and review their digital masterpieces on their PCs. Because the truth is that sometimes you spend so much time looking at your camera, you never actually look at where you are.
And its not their fault, this is the nature of the north american european vacation. North Americans typically treat trips to Europe like a trip to the mall, and their whole trip ends up as nothing more than more interesting fodder for their Facebook profiles. But again, because of how vacations are handed out like rations in north america, and flight/hotel prices are a scandal… these trip designs are out of necessity.
What I’m saying, is that I think the most valuable lesson I’ve come away with on this trip is how incredibly lucky I am to have had this experience. The chance to live, at will, in Barcelona and travel to places like London, Veneto (italy), San Sebastian, Roses, Calella, for little mini-trips is something I try to remind myself everyday is NOT NORMAL.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the world around me will have changed when I return to Canada, because with all that I’ve seen in Europe, I still love my home country (minus their brutal tax system).
But its only a matter of time until I am on another plane. Europe certainly hasn’t seen the last of me.