Friday, July 23, 2010

This is it.

Eleven countries, eleven weeks. Thousands of miles, millions of hours navigating the transport systems of infinite places. Winding up lost time and time again. Confusion. Misunderstanding. Sheer chaos. Winging it.

And this is what I call the best three months of my life. I wouldn't trade this insane, incredible experience for the world. Yes, I am excited to go back to the States. Seeing friends and family will be wonderful. Free water and air-conditioning are nearly unimaginable luxuries, as are other things such as screens on windows to keep the bugs out, having a plumbing system that works, and actually being able to understand the world around you. But in spite of the cultural differences, I have felt surprisingly at home here in Europe. Is it the same? Absolutely not. You don't study abroad, you don't travel, in order to experience more of the same. You go to see what is different. And that's what I tried to do. I wanted to immerse myself in a lifestyle that was entirely different to me. That's part of why I chose Prague- it was so far removed from everything I was accustomed too. Westernized enough to be fairly "normal," it's still a far cry from America. So much is different here. Yet I forgot about the inconveniences and the struggles simply because it was part of the adventure. If you didn't already realize, I'm a big fan of adventure. Of exploring, seeing the world and embracing the unknown. That's just my style. Cobblestones a formidable enemy of walking in heels? Make like a Czech girl, and figure it out (yes, I can now waltz around the cobbled streets of Prague in heels. Mission accomplished!). I've always been fairly independent- the type to be happy by myself, or happy with others too. And to be honest, it's the "others" who really made this summer as incredible as it was. My roommates, other friends from my program, and the people I met along the way- they are the ones who made this experience as incredible as it was.

There are so many reasons I love Europe. The cobbled streets, the culture, the history, the diversity, the struggles, the strength (the gelato!)... I have such a respect for this continent and everything it has experienced. I truly do adore being here. There is a part of me that will always consider Prague "home." One of many, but a home of mine nonetheless. In just a few hours, I'll be on my way back to the States. There's a sense of finality weighing on my shoulders right now. Honestly, I haven't accepted the reality that this is done, that I'm going back to where I came from. It hasn't sunk in. Time is a funny thing. The last few weeks before I left school dragged on forever, but then this summer was gone in an instant. Yet something that seems so rapid has had such vast effects. This trip has changed me in so many ways. It's hard to describe. It's an intangible sort of thing. What did Europe do to me? I'm not quite sure.

But I know I will come back for more. There's so much left to see and do. Isn't there always?
The Lennon Wall here in Prague- very cool place of rebellion from the Communist era.
Just enjoying life aboard the Gustav... and yes, those are my dirty, filthy, nasty, smell, holey, gross, worn, beloved Converse tied to my bag.
Ashley and I along the banks of the Vltava River after our farewell cruise (We actually look fairly close in height for once! Please note that in reality, she has a good seven inches on me).

What is there left to say? Just this: na shledanou, Prague & ahoj, America!


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