“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese
I can definitely identify with the statement above in different ways. I think Cesare Pavese was trying to say that traveling can be a brutality when you’re unwilling to adapt to your new environment. My host university, BOKU (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences) recently had an Easter break, and in a matter of three weeks I traveled to 12 cities in 6 countries. No, of course not alone! I traveled with two other girlfriends, and in order we traveled to: Bratislava, Slovakia; London, England; Paris, France (my favorite city in the world), Bergamo, Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Pisa in Italy, to the Vatican City and Rome in Italy, and finally Chania on the Crete Islands of Greece.
Essentially, nothing was ours. We had the luxury of hostels and everything that was provided to us, but since we weren’t staying in each place for a long period of time, the only thing we could call our own were the adventures we had, the laughs we shared, and the foods we ate. Not necessarily the material things, but the essential things. Nothing actually felt like our own until we were compelled to visit a McDonald’s during our stay in Verona. We called it a safe haven. We didn’t know the hostel we chose to stay at didn’t have WiFi, and we still had assignments to complete for online classes and the need to communicate with our families which required internet access. Situations like this definitely threw me off balance and required that I become resilient, and recognize that life isn’t going to fall apart because I don’t have something I’ve had all of my life. I know I was a bit melodramatic when we were told that were going to be without WiFi for three days. Veritably, I got to know my two friends better than I expected during that time. Side note: don’t take internet access for granted!
I have more stories to share about my life experiences than I’ve ever had before. Each story is shocking, funny, and some, unbelievable. Our adventures include: eating a traditional English breakfast, visiting Kensington Palace, home of Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, riding a train underwater from London to Paris, going to the very top of the Eiffel Tower, eating a crepe every day in Paris because it felt like the Parisian thing to do, dancing in front of Le Louvre museum, seeing the Mona Lisa herself, spending Easter in Milan, rubbing the statue of Juliet from Shakepeare’s Romeo and Juliet for good luck (an Italian tradition), exploring different parts of the beautiful city of Venice, discovering my love for spaghetti with clams, holding the leaning Tower of Pisa upright, eating pasta and gelato every day because it felt like the Italian thing to do, visiting the smallest country in the world (Vatican City) and sitting through the hottest communion service just to see Pope Francis, having a beach for a backyard in Chania, and experiencing European humility like none other from the locals there.
After traveling to ten different cities and getting a feel of their different cultures, I can definitely say that Paris is my favorite city in the entire world. I’m not sure if it’s because my three years of high school French was finally useful, but I felt right at home from the second we arrived. I’m appreciative to have shared this unforgettable experience with now two lifelong friends.