Posted by: 2girls2europe | August 3, 2011

The Soles of My Travellin’ Shoes or What I Learned from Six Weeks in Europe

“You pass through places

And places pass through you

To carry ‘em with you

On the souls of your travellin’ shoes.”

–The Littlest Bird

The Be Good Tanyas

Because of the above stanza, this song was my favorite as I train traveled through Europe. I felt like it perfectly described what I was doing this summer.

I didn’t know exactly what I was learning as I traveled or what I was giving to these places that I visited, but I was there. And that in-and-of-itself is significant. (I know, I know, my depth astounds you.)

So we kind of left you, dearest readers, on a cliffhanger ending. We were both looking forward to going home, and then we stopped blogging. For that I apologize.

Instead of spending my journey home constructively blogging, I watched three movies and three television shows. I even watched Gnomeo and Juliet (and that was the best movie I watched, I kid you not).

I just wanted to be home, and I couldn’t focus on anything as sophisticated as “summing up my thoughts” or “rethinking one of the most important journeys of my life.” It seemed like a lot of pressure.

But now I have been home for all of three days, and I feel up for the challenge (kind of).

 First, here is a quantitative review:

Number of Countries Visited: 7

Number of Cities Visited: 19

Weeks Spent Abroad: 6

Number of Times I Cried Due to Homesickness: 2 (I am proud of this)

Number of Girls: 2

Number of Europes: 1 (Everyone keeps mocking us for calling our blog “2 Girls 2 Europe,” because there is obviously one Europe and not two, but the second 2 is meant to convey “to Europe.” Just wanted everyone to know we were aware of how many Europes there are.)

Now, here is a more qualitative overview (aka here is the section where I talk about what I learned. And you see that I am clearly full of sage wisdom … not):

1. I don’t want to be one of those people who travels all the time.

I like routine and being in one place and knowing the place where I am really well. I never have thought of myself as a homebody, and I wouldn’t quite put me at that extreme end of the spectrum. However, I am someone who likes knowing a lot about a place. 3 days in one place is not enough to know it.

I came to this realization on one of our last days in London. We watched a couple enter the Indian restaurant where we were eating. They were regulars and they kissed the cheeks of the waiters and commented on the new chairs. They didn’t even have to order.

I missed being able to do that. In London, I was still a stranger. I was not a part of the community. I was just another tourist. I love being a tourist for a bit, but it does get old.

This led me to the realization that I will definitely be someone who travels in the future, but not someone who travels all the time or spends their life on the road. I like being home.

I like being a regular.

2. I have never learned so much about people than I have in these six weeks. I can’t sum up all that I learned, but I will try!

If you think about it, these six weeks were basically a giant sociology experiment. What is the rest of the world like from the eyes of twenty-year-old outsider?

Turns out, people everywhere are pretty much the same. Some are awesome, some are weird, and some are mean. But European people are not scary or outlandishly different. Different cultures, sure, but the same old people.

Furthermore, from watching all of these people interact I learned three important lessons about humanity: being polite goes farther than you think, some jokes don’t translate the language border, and people are generally good. They are trying to help you, not follow/stalk/kill you. I think these lessons are critical to my success as I continue in my life. (Especially the joke part, because I rely on those heavily in my daily conversation.)

Overall, this trip was six weeks of people watching. And people are cool and passionate and interesting.

This also taught me, in case I wasn’t already sure, that I must have a job where I work with people. I love people.

3. I am stronger than I think. This was a pretty cool lesson to learn. Gina and I learned that we each had different strengths and weaknesses, as all people do. I struggled with second guessing myself, with directions, with over planning, etc.

But I also learned that I can talk to anyone. I can read a map when push comes to shove. I can take a bad situation and remain optimistic. I am a strong person. I am someone that I am proud of. I am sure that sounds gaggable, but shouldn’t everyone be proud of the person that they are?

I know that those are only three lessons, but they are important to me. I think you learn more traveling than you do in most other environments, because you are directly confronted with history/people/racism/sexism/[insert your favorite –ism here]. You have to see the world as it is, and see yourself for who you are. (Where is this “deep Jessie” coming from?? I couldn’t tell you.)

But after all of this learning, right now, I am just glad to be home. A place where I know the best place to get coffee, and I can use the dollar, and I can call my boyfriend who is the same time zone, and I can wave at my neighbors who have known me since I was six. And I am enjoying every minute of being home with my friends and family whom I missed dearly while I was abroad.

I don’t think of my adventure as fully over, because every day I am realizing more and more the impact of my trip. And it will continue to change me. Or maybe I am already changed and I am just now seeing it. I couldn’t tell you.

I can tell you one thing I did change. My shoes. They smelled. But they were my travellin’ shoes, and for now, they are on the shelf.

With love from my home.

Jessie

P.s. The thing I miss most from traveling? Gina Edwards. It is really hard to be separated from her. We are truly friends for life now. 2 girls 2 europe 4 life.


Responses

  1. 100% agreed on number 1 especially.

  2. That was a wonderful post!
    It was great to have you two here in Leipzig and I hope we’ll meet again sometime in Europe or the States, Timbuktu or Mongolia :)


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