8-22-17 | 9:22 a.m. local time
Well, we are already boarded on an outbound train to Berlin from Leipzig this morning. I’ve traveled somewhere with Kate and our (now slightly more condensed) pile of suitcases on nearly every form of public transportation imaginable in the last 7 days.
Leipzig yesterday was fascinating, for the parts where my leg could stand. Strolling through ‘passages’ etched in cobblestone and sipping Lukas coffee with Eva and Kate felt normal, comfortable even.
We saw the university, the local shops where I bought gifts for my family, and bussed over to the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. I never expected to like Leipzig as much as I really did. I now can see the appeal for moving halfway across the globe to live in another town for a year or so.
For lunch, we dived at a little hole-in-the-wall place for vegan currywurst. Who knew Leipzig of all places could invent a vegan version of a classic German dish! Mine was artfully doused in peanut sauce, and it was delectable. And then, we cooked chickpea-and-steamed-veggie leftovers for dinner at Eva’s place, spending more ‘veg’ time together before our next morning’s exit.
Watching the German countryside blur past — so much faster, and loads more tolerable than our bus ride down — and smiling at all the skinny pines, I am surprised with myself. Surprised that I ended up falling for Germany not Italy (at least Rome), of all places. Surprised that my rejection of Spanish and French in 6th grade, and therefore my subsequent acceptance of the German language, has served me well this summer — at least it hasn’t completely blocked me from all communication in this trip.
Surprised that ‘eternal’ cities like Rome can give off an aura of exhaustion, instead; while old (not ancient) cities like Leipzig can attract and permeate such more energy. Surprised that public transportation options aplenty can make a city seem so much more navigable, and ‘orderly’ if that’s possible to imagine. Germany, its buses, its trains, and its people move in a synchronized dance around time. In Rome, there’s either too much — too many hours blurring together — or not enough. It seems, as a city, carved out and scraped thin to the bone — like an empty hummus container. Those dilapidated ruins bordering the city streets? A metaphor for the city’s wavering vibrance.
As an Italian-American, I wanted to love Italy. But I romanticized Rome a little too much in my angsty American heart. Having lived there, even for just a few days, left me feeling burnt out (and not to mention sunburned).
If anything, this trip has overwhelmed and astonished me; this excursion has me pining for home … and no, not just my parent’s house in Columbus. I’m talking about my one, true home: the Pacific Northwest on continent North America. The pines, the redwoods, the mountains, the ocean, the vegan food, the bikes, the sun, the hummus, the coffee …..
Now, I know. I know that ‘just anywhere’ travel doesn’t make me want to move to every place my passport goes. And that’s such a reassuring feeling! Though it was at the entry to this decade, I found ‘my happy place’. And, now that I’ve traversed thousands more miles, I know my home is calling me to return. I know it as sure as Miss Kate knew she had to return to Germany and travel Europe after graduation. I know where my heart belongs.
Traveling to new places stimulates all of your senses, leaving you sometimes floundering, and sometimes soaring to new heights. New places and spaces in your mind — places you’d never thoughts you’d go.
Europe this August has given me more examples of ‘living on Earth’ and more reasons to be excited about adventure. But it has, most importantly, given me pause and forced me to reflect on my own wavering compass position. Forcing answers to questions I have ever only asked timidly: Do I belong here in this place? Do I see my life here? If so, how? If not, why?
This is a big year for me: my senior year of undergraduate. The last 4 years, I have seen and heard and tasted and danced and tried so many new and previously unknown opportunities.
With my passport, portable camera, and pen at the ready, I’m ready. Ready to explore, ready to discover, and ready to move confidently in the direction of my dreams.