It’s been a few months since I returned to The States. I kept forgetting that I never actually had any closure to my Euroventure Blog. I’ll do the best I can to close this out, fashionably late as it may be.
London was awesome. Took a one-on-one walking tour. Took a bike tour of all of the royal sites. Ate fish and chips at a couple pubs. Got shoved all up people’s personal space during rush hour on the Tube. Then I got the flu. Crawled down the street to a pharmacy. Got nursed by an angel. By angel, I mean a young female pharmacist that felt sorry for me and fed me, gave me medicine, and let me lay back and moan and groan in the back of the store. Then, flu and all, I caught my plane back to the states on August 19th. Best plane ride of my life, seriously. My flu left me weak and tired, where all I could do was reflect on the enormity of everything I had just experienced over the past seven weeks. And plan my romantic, long-awaited reunion with Nellie.
I adjusted back to life in Northwest Arkansas much more easily than I thought I would. I did enjoy having a room all to myself for a change. It felt surreal to unpack and, well, leaving things unpacked because I was no longer a backpacking vagabond. Although I do miss waking up in a foreign country, lacing up my shoes and meeting an adventurous day head-on, I do enjoy taking Saturday mornings slow, making breakfast in my own kitchen and getting excited over (American) football season.
As I’ve adjusted back to life at home, I’m bombarded with thoughts of experiences from my trip that have changed me. Individual experiences, of course, but also the trip in its entirety has had a tremendous effect on me. And like many experiences in life, only when I take time to be still and self-reflect do I realize the immensity of what I learned and how much I grew from July 4th to August 19th. I get to yapping to friends about my trip and in mid-sentence, I realize the once-in-a-lifetime-ness of what I got to experience. Seven weeks. Eight Countries (ranging from two days to two weeks in each). By myself. Lots of food and drink. Sights, tours, early mornings, late nights, brutal hikes, sprints to catch trains, long and lazy afternoons, rich conversations, fatigue, joy, scratches and bruises, missing Nellie, building courage, planning and executing travel while maintaining flexibility, etc.
The question I’ve received the most was “How was your trip?!” And I’ve answered the same way every time: “That’s impossible to answer. Read my blog.” For those I’ve said that to, I apologize for my bluntness. For those five or six of your that read my blog, I apologize for making you unnecessarily hungry by posting exquisite pictures of everything I ate. I guess the only way to review my trip and write down a final conclusion to this blog will be to make a list of things I learned. Sounds broad, I know, but I’ll try. For much more detail, read my previous posts. Here we go…
Things Carlyle Has Learned:
– Travel is exhausting. Exhaustingly worthwhile.
– A picture can be worth a thousand words, but the travel behind the picture can be worth a bajillion words.
– Ouzo is kinda gross.
– Clouds are illegal on the Greek islands.
– Designated rest and peace every day isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.
– Let’s Go guidebooks are worth their weight in gold.
– The journey is more important than the destination. The journey is more important than the destination. The journey is more important than the destination.
– Hiking mountains by myself in Greece and Switzerland, though dangerous, were the most peacefully exhilarating experiences of my life.
– There are two things I’m willing to really spend money on. Real, good food and authentic art handmade by an artisan. Both bring me more joy than anything mass produced or electronic.
– Hostels are really hit or miss.
– In taking time to not only learn, but deeply understand history, you receive an education in history, human nature, architecture, military tactics and social activism. You also unearth fiery passions for each of the aforementioned subjects within yourself that you never knew existed.
– I’ve perfected the art of self-entertainment so much so that I would be surprised if I’m ever bored once again for the rest of my life on earth. Suggestions: Singing (lower the volume when others are in close proximity), listing off things to be thankful for, praying out loud, finding joy in learning new things, focusing solely on the beauty of your food when you eat, and finding humor in everyday life.
– If you visit Jerusalem, you will never read scripture the same.
– Israel is hot. Like, real hot.
– I’ll choose walking rather than public transportation any day. To an extent, duh.
– Although my camera rarely left my hip, I’ve learned that those who see most of their travels through the eye of a lens experience a lot less beauty than those who genuinely experience the place/thing they’re actually taking the image of.
– Remember those tourists at the beginning of Despicable Me? Yep, they actually exist.
– Wandering off of the beaten path and through side streets to find a local eatery is well worth the extra effort.
– The longer you stare at something, the more beautiful it becomes. Make yourself do it. It’s worth it.
– Climbing those extra few hundred stairs is worth the view.
– Some things I’ll just never know (How did they cut those stones a thousand years ago? How did they get that high? What’s holding these bricks together? How did they get around without a GPS? How did they build this thing? Who?…Wha-…How?)
– Street performers are great entertainment.
– St. Francis knew what he was talking about. And his town of Assisi gets my vote for prettiest small town in the world.
– Taking initiative to meet people is worth the extra effort. Out of that comes rich conversation, advice, laughter, and the occasional gift of 20 Euros for a free meal (see my post on Assisi).
– Learning a foreign language is a must.
– Spontaneity is a gift. I’ve learned that spontaneity combined with joy leads to an exhilarating, adventurous life to the full.
– Florence has good, good, good food.
– Small & Quality >; Large & Quantity
– I hope they have wine, fresh-pressed olive oil, and warmed, herbed bread in Heaven.
– Initiating and maintaining quality conversation with strangers is an art that, with enough practice practiced, enhances life tremendously.
– Wandering is highly beneficial. It leads to exploration, curiosity, deep thought. And some pretty stunning views and surprises.
– With most food, you get what you pay for. And, oh, is the occasional splurge worth it!
– I would always rather regret something I did rather than something I never did.
– Us humans are like ponds. Most of the time we’re ruffled, making it difficult to see the depths of ourselves. But when we’re intentionally still and peaceful (preferably in the Cinque Terre in Italy), we see a whole new depth to who we are and develop a healthy perspective on the world around us.
– You know those moments when time stands still and the world becomes small? Yea, those. I want more of those.
– When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello. And sip it slowly.
– Brutal hikes are brutally beautiful with the right people, with the right attitude, and a gorgeous destination.
– I’ve discovered the inexplicable happiness that comes in being the recipient of a gift from someone I never knew, nor had the opportunity to even thank.
– Gimmelwald. Oh, Gimmelwald.
– Learning the basics of photography has manifested itself tenfold in my life.
– The Lord knew what He was doing when He ordered people in the Old Testament build monuments and stones of remembrance. Memories trigger powerful emotions. They can squeeze tears out of your eyes, make your armpits all sweaty and make your heart beat so hard you can feel the pulse in your fingertips. Memories put life in perspective and are fuel for inspiration.
– Initiating and engaging in rich conversation with strangers is a worthwhile art. It helps when you’re both hiking in the Alps.
– Live music unifies people. Especially in a hostel with other backpackers. In Gimmelwald.
– The resistance efforts that took place during the Holocaust are some of the most powerful tales of human will I’ll probably ever hear.
– Bavarian Diet = Heart Attack.
– Communism is ugly. But the innate thirst for freedom in human beings, like you see when you visit somewhere that was once under communism, is beautiful.
– There are endless puns in the word “Czechoslovakia.”
– Sunrise and dusk make for the best pictures.
– Lastly, I feasted on “Daily Bread.” The daily bread I tasted was a kind I had never eaten before. For the past two years or so, I’ve “chewed” on the statement Jesus makes in the Bible about asking Him for daily bread. I’ve found that when I pray for daily bread, my circumstances around me don’t change as much as I personally change. I don’t see my bank account busting at the seams, but instead, I experience The Lord in deeper ways in situations I’m already in. My intimacy with The Lord during my time traveling was rich. I loved the peaceful excitement in not having each day planned to a T. It was a small taste of the adventure I’m sure the disciples felt when Jesus sent them out. Spontaneity is spiritual, and I enjoy it.
I thought a lot on my trip. I saw a lot too. I ate and drank more than I thought and saw combined.
Looking back on my trip, it seems surreal. But the maturity I gained, lessons learned, and the depths of humanity I experienced are very real.
I’ll seal this blog with a quote I read on the sidewalk in Prague: