When The Paradox Comes Full Circle

When I was away, I missed home. I longed for the routine of my life as it was the way I left it.

And now that I’m home, I don’t know why I ever wanted to come back in the first place.

I don’t have much here. But I guess before I left the dizzying busy-ness of planning my trip and the excitement that came with it distracted me from all that my life lacked.

I miss waking up everyday with a new place to see. With new people to meet and new friends to make. It was easy, there, everyone was alone. It was easy to start up conversation. To identify fellow Americans or other English speakers who were also traveling. You can meet someone anywhere and end up spending the whole day, weekend, or week with them. I miss having different countries at my fingertips each day.

I had to come back… to finish my degree so I can go back again once I’m finished here. I might not have much but I have to appreciate what I have.

The paradox of missing home when you’re away, and missing everywhere else when you’re home… a vicious cycle of constant yearning. I am restless yet exhausted.

Until next time.

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Dolce Far Niente 

Being born and raised in New York/New Jersey, I have always lived a fast paced life. I walk fast, I drive fast, I’m impatient as hell, and I feel as though I have always been in a rush. Moving to Florida definitely slowed down my pace a bit, but I still drive too fast and sometimes struggle with taking things slowly. Enjoying the minutes as they pass. Rushing through life. 

This trip has allowed me to slow myself down. To take time during my meals and to truly enjoy myself. I think in American culture, there is so much pressure to do things quickly, especially in the restaurant business, that you don’t even get time to enjoy yourself. I always found it weird when people would order their appetizers and finish them before ordering their main meal, because I always want my food as fast as possible. Granted, I’m usually kind of a hangry bitch, but still. Now I understand. Now I understand because I have learned to take my time, move at a slower pace and enjoy myself. 

I stretched out dinner for 2.5 hours while gazing at the Eiffel Tower from my AirBnb. I sat in the south of France on the Port of Marseille and sipped wine while enjoying every last bite of cheese and bread offered to me. If I have learned anything, enjoying myself is not sitting in bed and watching Netflix – it is enjoying every minute I have, without thinking about the next day or the past. I learned patience.

On this trip, this 90 day, 15 country, 45 city trip, I have learned about myself and what I am capable of. I have become comfortable with who I am and have only been unapologetically myself. I did not tuck myself away like I do a lot of the time. I let everyone I met see me for me. I have met so many people and I am so thankful for all of them, whether we just sat and talked at a bar or ended up meeting again in our journeys, the people I met made my trip what it was. 

Going home, sitting in Heathrow Airport, it feels surreal but I feel calm and ready. It’s hard to believe I am at the end of my road. No more mental strain on where I am off to next. No more planning. Now I can focus on school, and focus on coming back here, and one day making a life for myself here in Europe. 

That is the plan. 

I’ll be back.


An Ode to My Weight Gain

“You’ll lose so much weight when you’re in Europe” said every single person I told that I was traveling to Europe. 

My response? “Do you know how much I intend on eating?” 

I wasn’t kidding.

Who comes to Europe and doesn’t plan on eating EVERYTHING? Seriously. My budget for food per day was more than my budget for accommodation per night. That isn’t a joke either. I average about $20-$25 per day on accommodation. My budget for food was $30. I know. It’s a little much. But how can you go to Spain and not eat as much ham, olives, manchego, and tapas as you can? How can you go to France and not marvel at the amazing cheeses and breads and pastries? The pasta, meats, cheeses, pastries in Italy? The feta, grape leaves, gyros in Greece? Those little pancakes and stroopwafels in Holland? Pastel de natas in Lisbon? Ugh. I miss it all already. I’m getting sad. 

My plan for my trip was to eat my way through Europe. I succeeded. Without a doubt. If I were graded, I would have gotten an A++. Would have finished with a 5.0GPA. If it had the word “traditional” and was served with Nutella, I bought it. If the waiter recommended it, I bought it. And I finished it. Almost always. At home, I’m spoiled. I know that. I don’t really have to spend that much money on food because I live at home. Dinner and groceries are on my mom’s tab. Spoiled. I know. So when I have to buy my own food, it better be worth it, and you better BELIEVE I’m going to eat every last dollar’s worth. And I did. 

I don’t understand why anyone would come to Europe on a diet. Or would actually follow their whole “gluten free” or paleo shit. I’m sorry, but fuck that noise. You’re in Europe. Eat it all. Get a tummy ache. Shit your brains out. YOU KNOW IT WAS WORTH IT. Do you know how much gelato I ate? Too much for any lactose intolerant person to live through. 

When I’m home, I eat generally pretty healthy (besides the fact that I eat loaded nachos at my job once a week… but they’re really good…) so this vacation was a time for me to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And then it’s back to my American life. Back to my “healthy” eating. Back to boring. 

I’m not kidding when I say I planned my trip in accordance to where had the best food. That’s why I skipped Germany, no offense, but I was already going to Austria, specifically Vienna, so I figured I’d get enough Schnitzel and sausage there to last. I have literally fantasized about eating olives and olive oil in Spain, the pasta and pizza in Italy, the mass amounts of cheese in France, and all of those food porn videos you see on Facebook of specialties from different places around the world. 

I have gained 10lbs. Averages out to only 3.3lbs per month, so when you look at it that way, it’s not that bad. I have probably consumed more wine and beer on this trip than I have in my entire life. I have never had to force myself to finish a cheese plate and then voluntarily order dessert. And it’s all worth it. I regret nothing. Not a single bite. 

The Clock is Ticking… 

It’s really starting to hit me that I’m leaving soon. In less than a week it’s back to my life. Back to reality. Back to school and work. No longer a tired mind from traveling but an exhausted one from the repetition of my days. Back to work. Back to school. 
This is the end of my journey. This is the end of my exploration. For now. I feel like I’m waiting, wasting time to go home, the clock is ticking…. and it feels all the more real now. This is it. These are my final moments. It all started to sink in as I was sitting on the metro in Paris. I’m making the most of it as best as I can. I canceled my hostel accommodation because it was 45 minutes from the Eiffel Tower. I booked an AirBnb last minute with a view of the Eiffel Tower from my window. 7th floor, no elevator, no wifi, no fridge. The view makes up for all that it lacks. All I wanted was to be able to truly feel like I was in Paris while I was in Paris. 
I’ve been living in a dream. A fantasy. Fulfilling what I’ve always wanted. Seeing what I’ve always wanted to see. And it’s flown faster than any bird I’ve ever seen fly. This experience gave me wings. It brought me to life. It gave me life. And it’s made me appreciate the simplicity of my life at home. It’s made me miss shitty filter coffee and laying in bed watching Netflix. Sitting on the beach for hours, reading, smoking, and getting lost in a summer haze. I have learned to appreciate my moments and my time. I have learned to treat myself. To do what I want when I want rather than what anyone else wants. 
I have learned to not have expectations. I have learned that cities are less magical than movies make them out to be. Everywhere you go has its own characteristics. Its own flow of life. And I have fallen in love with some of the cultures I have discovered and the people in different countries.
4 days left… the clock is ticking. 

The Simplicity of Home

I love where I live. That’s no secret. The beach is where I spend a lot of my time, waiting for the sun to set. I spend hours and hours sitting on the seashore. Sometimes reading. Sometimes doing absolutely nothing. I figured while I traveled I would get my fix of beaches elsewhere. The coasts of Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Greece were all beautiful in their own ways. I enjoyed being there and appreciated their beauties. But it isn’t the same.

The beauty of being home is knowing where to go to escape the crowds. But here I am a tourist. In some places my time has been limited. I haven’t been able to truly appreciate my solitude along the shore. Nowhere has managed to give me the same feeling I get when I am back home, sitting on my blanket, watching the waves crash, with no one around me as day turns to night. Sun setting, moon rising.

I miss and love the powder, white sand. The small crabs that pop out of their holes, watching me intently. The birds that fly by and stare at the sea the same way I do. Living in Florida for the last three years has changed me. I never imagined such a positive impact. To have such a relationship with nature. I love the shore more than anything. And no matter where I am, or how beautiful it is, nowhere gives me the same feeling I get when I am back home. Because that is where I became who I am. That’s what I miss the most. The calm feeling, the simplicity of home. 

The Simple Moments 

I have always lived a simple life. And the moments I enjoy the most while traveling are the most simple, living the way the locals live. Sipping on a flat white in Dublin, while eating a mile high lemon meringue tart and writing. Walking in the rain in Killarney National Park and finding myself in the greenest of woods. Eating a monstrous fish n chips in Dingle with a girl I had just met on the bus, overwhelmed at the portion of food in front of me. Sitting in a square full of students, cheap sangria in hand, feeling no different than the people I was surrounded by. Scarfing down a warm pastei de bellum after tearing packets of powdered sugar and cinnamon with my teeth in the middle of the street. Sitting in a bar where the students go in Sevilla, eating cheap appetizers of ham, cheese, and calamari, drinking endless supplies of cold, cheap buckets of beer. Sitting in the street at 4am drunk, talking and laughing with fellow hostel mates. Sipping wine and writing while waiting for my truffle risotto in Rome. Being determined to finish every ounce of cheese on my first cheese plate of France, taking my time while sitting next to the port in Marseille. Standing at the top of Notre Dame after a miserable walk up hill in Marseille to witness a magnificent view, wind blowing, of the entire city and sea. Falling asleep on an outdoor sofa on a vineyard in Brignoles, listening to nothing but the chirping of birds and cicadas under the shade of a tree. Sitting next to the dolphins and watching them swim by in the aquarium in Genoa. Sipping wine and watching the sun melt into the mountains in Kos. Wandering the isles of Naschmarkt in Vienna, tasting the foods that the vendors urge me to try, spending 8euro on nuts without a single regret because they were that damn good. Sitting in the streets of Brno with the cheapest craft beer I’ve ever came into contact with, jumping over language barriers with locals. Sipping even cheaper beer in a bar no tourist would have ever found on a random side street. Nothing but a small sign on the door to even let you know there was a bar there. And now, sitting in a local cafe with Barbora, me writing, her painting, sipping coffee and eating bread with different spreads.

These are the moments I will remember most. The most simple. The ones that require no thought. My entire life is nothing but an accumulation of simple moments of food, drink, nature, and laughter. And the simple moments will always be what I remember most because they are what I miss the most at home. Drinking shock top and eating nachos and wings where I work. Playing board games at my sister’s with my niece and nephew, making inappropriate jokes and watching them get emotional from winning or losing. Sitting for hours and hours on the beach while the sun sets, reading and smoking, and making my mom mad from all of the sand I drag back into the house. Simplicity is all I need in this life. And the simple moments are what I always remember. 

Experiencing True Luxury While Traveling

Luxury is not 5-star hotels and all inclusive resorts. Luxury is taking your time. Luxury is not rushing, or having to cram an entire city into a day. There’s no way to see it all, or to appreciate what you’re seeing when you’re always in a rush. Instead, all you think about is where you have to go, and what you have to see next, rather than just being in the moment of where you are. I think my small bouts of home sickness are less of a desire to be home and more of a desire to simply stay put. Real luxury and relaxation is being able to unpack my things for a few nights and not be on the move again in just a night or two. When you’re always on the move, hopping from city to city at such a fast pace, you almost miss out on more just because it’s nearly impossible to keep your energy up long enough to see all that there is to see. And without that energy, it becomes harder to appreciate when every move you make is trying to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. 
I have learned to take my time. I am finally at a slower pace, with only 26 days left in my trip, and only 7 cities left. I am on my fourth day here in Vienna, while the first was spent mainly settling in and napping. I have become familiar with the city. I have spent my time browsing Naschmarkt each day, walking back and forth from the city centre, making meals at my hostel, and simply just taking my time.
Luxury is not setting an alarm nor feeling obligated to be a tourist for 12 hours of the day. Luxury is not exhausting yourself to feel fulfilled. Luxury is sitting in a booth of red velvet in the oldest cafe in Vienna, drinking coffee, eating a plum strudel, and writing. As long as you buy at least a drink in any coffee shop in Vienna, you can sit and stay for as long as you want. This cafe, Cafe Frauenhuber, is the oldest in Vienna. Mozart and Beethoven both once performed here. I feel as though I am a guest in someone’s home, as there is no music playing, and very few people for what you would think would be a very touristic location. 
Luxury is not five star hotels. Luxury is not even a resort with luxury in the name. Luxury is taking your time. This is what I have learned. I have no regrets regarding the way that I planned my trip. I have seen and enjoyed 11 countries and 31 cities in the two months that have flown by. I had to do what I did in order to see what I wanted to see in the amount of time I had. Now I know where I will want to come back to. I still have so much to see but I will be moving at a slower pace. I get a few nights in Brno, Czech, before I move onto Prague for 4 nights, and then I am in Denmark for over a week. There is no summer long enough that would ever allow me to explore all that I want to explore, but so much of the beauty of travel is staying in a place long enough to really know where you are. I know I will be back… but not nearly soon enough.