Doctor visits: 1
Family/friend reunions: 5
* * *
Some aspects of my 2017 summer Eurotrip can easily be placed into categories, from the number of cities to planes. But many aspects cannot be put in a clear-cut, categorical box. They are too complex, personal and inexplicable. From the places I’ve seen, feelings and experiences I’ve had, people I’ve met and reunited with, to things I’ve learned and discovered. When I return home to the States, I know the first questions everybody will ask – What was your favorite country? Favorite city? What were the highlights of your trip?
The problem is, I can’t possibly name a favorite place, memory or moment from this trip. To me, that feels like being asked to pick your favorite child or your favorite Friends character. It’s impossible! Every single day abroad has been unique, special and memorable in its own way. I’d have to rack my brain, pore through my journal and sift through my abundance of photos and videos in an attempt to contemplate a favorite place, memory, meal or experience.
Prague, Czech Republic
There were the numerous meals, drinks and conversations on Airbnb balconies – filled with laughter, tears, deep conversations and serene silence. There was the traditional Finnish smoke sauna experience with my family and Niko’s family together, splashing and screaming in the freezing cold lake before sprinting into the 200+°F sauna. There were the countless days of walking 10+ miles in order to see every castle, cathedral, garden, park, monument and museum. There were the moments of delirium and laughing until I was gasping for air while goofing off with Niko. There were the moments of trying new things – from eating grilled octopus and schnitzel, to experimenting with meditating on many mornings. There were the planes, trains, buses, boats and metros to take me from place to place. There were the reunions with family and friends from all around the world. There were the runs, cardio sets, homemade meals, 21-cent beers, supermarket sprees, park picnics, GoPro filming, festivals, treat-yo-self moments, casino nights, language barriers and culture shock.
Prague, Czech Republic
I lasted *almost* the entire trip before losing these sunglasses…
Even the not-so-good moments were tolerable because Niko and I always had each other to get through the ups and downs. The days of being ill, the doctor visits, the allergy attacks, the missing backpack full of passports, the flight delays, the throbbing feet and the dehydration. Some days we were just plain exhausted and wanted nothing more than to come home and take off our sweaty shoes and sit underneath a ceiling fan while chugging water. Some days we were hangry and could barely speak to each other until we had food in our bellies (okay, that was just me). Some days we had to cough up unexpected large sums of money for unplanned expenses.
As postgraduates, we didn’t have buckets of money to blow. But the wonderful thing is, we had time and priorities. We prioritize experiences over materials, and have worked extremely hard to achieve this exceptional travel opportunity. I could care less about buying trendy shoes, clothes and purses, because shopping sprees and splurges don’t evoke feelings of gratitude and jubilation. Travel and experiences do, and that’s why I often choose to spend my money on exploring the world. Possessions aren’t forever, but memories are (especially when you take 4,000 photos and videos!).
Some places I visited were more livable. Some more beautiful, lively and exotic. Some more preserved and untouched. Some more stimulating, and at times overwhelming. Some more touristy and trafficked. There were a plethora of nuances, but each city and country I visited has formed a special place in my heart. I’m hoping to return to most of these places later in life so that I can spend longer periods of time exploring. Plus hopefully I’ll have a thicker wallet by then so I won’t have to keep counting pennies! Regardless, I’ll always love spending my time in free public gardens, hopping on metros, and devouring meals from the supermarket.
At times, it felt like Niko and I were living a millionaire lifestyle – such as when we were laying out by the Mediterranean Sea without a worry in the world, a Greek beer in one hand, and a good book in the other. But in reality, we’re two youngins with big dreams and a small chunk of savings that allowed us to live out some of our dreams this summer.
For me, there’s not one specific highlight of my Eurotrip, because the highlights are innumerable. But there is an unparalleled feeling that I get each time I set foot in a new place. It’s a feeling of excitement, amazement and curiosity. It’s a blank page that I get to write all over. No matter how long and exhausting the travel day has been, I get a reinvigorating rush of energy and enchantment as soon as I step outside and see the first few sights of a new city. That to me is one of the biggest highlights of all – that indescribable feeling, that excitement of knowing that I’m somewhere new, somewhere faraway and exotic, without any expectations or an agenda, but knowing that I’m with the love of my life on the adventure of a lifetime.