Well, quite honestly, I have been trying to write up something since the day I returned, but nothing, nothing, that I've put down has A. made any sense, and B. really expressed just how this trip affected me.
So, with that bear with me as I try to put into words, how the last 8-10 weeks affected and changed my life..
My trip began, really, sometime in 2006 when I got an email from Patty telling me that I was going to be invited to her wedding in 2007. Europe, I thought. That's for rich people (honestly, thats what I thought). I never would have imagined that taking a trip to Europe, even for a few weeks was within my meager budget.
But the more I began to research online, the more and more possible a trip to Cyprus became - and the more possible a trip to Cyprus became, the more possible a trip through Europe became.
I wont get into boring details here, because, well, they're boring. But over the next few months (Sept '06 through June '07), I learned that not only was a trip like that completely within my budget (ok, I am lying), but it was a done deal. I was going to take a leap of faith (within myself) and take the journey that would turn nearly everything I presumed (and assumed) about the world on its ears.
The trip through Europe was something, I've said, that changed me. It isn't like I can put my finger on a specific moment when all of a sudden the sky opened, the angels sang, and my life was changed. No. It's more of a building up toward something.
During the last eight weeks, each experience, from making life-long friends in Athens, to the old woman and the cheese on the train from Sofia, to the friends I made in Florence, Italy, built up as well a broke down several walls that had been living inside me. My perceptions about the world and the people in it were not only changed, some of them were vanished completely (to be fair, some perceptions, er (read: stereotypes) were actually strengthened).
But enough of all that. The trip was amazing. One of the questions that I keep getting from people is 'What was your favorite part of the trip?'
Honestly, when I close my eyes and think about it, so many memories come flooding back that it's hard to pick just one that stands out more than another. How do you choose between sitting under the 'singing fountain' in Prague with two new friends, and sitting in cafe in Rome drinking espresso and watching the world go by? I simply can't.
<--Sitting under the singing fountain with James in Prague..
Sitting and watch the world go by in Rome --->
So, with all of that said, it was, indeed, a life-changing trip. And like I said, I can't put my finger on the exact moment that my life was changed (man that sounds SO corny). But it was. And if I don't know the moment at which it was changed, I do (at least) know the reason for the change - it definitely wasn't seeing 4567 old buildings - though to be honest, seeing buildings that have withstood hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, really made me feel as though I need to get on the ball and either build something or make a lasting impression on the world somehow (today this blog, tomorrow the world??). Seeing something that has been around for 2500 years is, to say the least, humbling.
No. I think what had the most effect on me was, of course, all the people - from the local citizens of each city and country that I met and spoke to, to the many, MANY travelers that I met and befriended. Meeting new people is always fun, and I think, that with each person you meet, you take away something important as much as you give a part of yourself. I learned SO much from each person that I met - whether the learning that took place was about myself or my country, or about them and their country/culture. It's amazing and incredibly humbling to realize that while America is a powerful force in the world, most people get by in their daily lives without ever thinking of us (amazing, I know).
So, that is my wrap up. There is a ton more that I could have written here and if you've spoken to me recently, you know that this blog isn't even 1/2 of what happened, there is so much more, but those stories are better told in person - preferably over drinks (preferably if you're buying)...
It was a long and exciting (and expensive) trip, but the stories that I now have, the friends that I've now made, and the perception through which I now view the world was more than worth it. I simply cannot wait to head out on my next adventure, and whether it brings me back to Europe, South America, or Africa I know that for each experience that I have, each person I meet, (and each dollar I spend), I will be better off for it.
Thank you all so much for reading. It really meant a lot to me to see that people (not just the required family members) were taking an interest in my trip. Throughout the trip, I took roughly 900 photos.. Out of those, I've put up about half and I am adding more each day. You can check them out at:
John's Picasa Web Albums
Also, and on a lighter note, the biggest physical change would have to be my hair. Before I left I was bald. But over the last 2 months, I've decided to let it grow out a bit.
I think I might stick with the hair for a while. I mean, if I can still grow it, I might as well.. Thanks again,