Sitting in the airport awaiting my 5’o’clock flight I was anxious, nervous, and totally unaware of the adventure about to take place. I arrived in Florence unsure.
Unsure about what I was doing, unsure about spending 4 months in a foreign country without my closest people, unsure about my relationships and myself. It took me a while to realize I had this giant opportunity at my feet and it was up to me and me alone to make it either the greatest lesson of all time or a measly, elongated vacation. I chose the first.
I found a home in a dated apartment with 7 other girls all on the same journey. At nights I planned my weekends away, filling my calendar with trips to places I had no idea would leave such an impact on me. I met the most wonderful people and experienced first-hand the most beautiful cultures. Strangers taught me more about life than my entire school curriculum ever has. (But I promise I still learned school things mom and dad.)
However, every day wasn’t picture perfect like it was portrayed via social media. I experienced some of my toughest battles while abroad, and being thousands of miles away from my support system was not ideal then. But that’s when I learned the most. Time and conflict are not compatible.
It was then that I learned how strong I really am. I learned that I couldn’t control other people, but I could control how I let them affect me. So I refused to let the bad ones get to me, not when I was surrounded by so much beauty and opportunity. I had the opportunity to waste my days abroad in a fumbled mess trying to put back the pieces of something so broken, but instead I chose to build something new.
I convinced myself that there was something so good to be seen in every single day, I just had to go find it. Whether it was something big like riding ATV’s along the coast of Santorini, or just eating a really awesome Panini, it was there, and it was important. My mind and my heart were stretched to new lengths. I found new wonders and treasures I will cherish forever, like my hideaway church on top of a lonely hill in Italy, or that hole in the wall restaurant where the owners know you by name. So sitting here throwing out my worn out shoes, I’m actually proud.
It came and went faster than it should have. There were so many pictures taken and “storage too full notifications”, so many 40 euro flights I wasn’t convinced were going to ever reach the ground again, and so, so many new friends and new memories that would be showcased on social media but would never actually reveal the true depth of the moment. Many feelings came to play throughout my months, but the one I found most consistent was gratitude. Every day I thank my lucky stars that I had this opportunity to see the moon from a new side of the world, to fulfill a part of me that’s been missing for a while, I just had to go find it.
I’ll never truly be able to properly put into words how much this experience meant to me, but if I tried to sum it up I’d do it with my favorite over-used quote of the trip:
“This just doesn’t do it justice.”