Before I jump into the deep end of this April pool, I'll give you the facts. Facts are this...
-I visited 13 cities in 30 days: Utrecht, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Olomouc, Vienna, Innsbruck, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore), Genova, and last but not least- Munich. In this order, though unfortunately the pictures are organized in the exact opposite way...sorry about that.
-Accommodations included hostels, hotels, B&Bs, brother's friends couches/guest rooms, and my sleeping bag (a.k.a- "the cocoon").
-I traveled "on my own" (I learned you always meet SOMEONE) for the first 2 weeks. After that, I met up with Phillip Wolff, a friend from high school, as he had a break from his studies in Paris.
-Transportation was by train, a most wonderful way to SEE places. My claim to fame with this statement actually is that I saw the leaning tower of Pisa from the window of the train and never actually stepped foot in the city. Haha, just passed through from Florence to La Spezia and on to Cinque Terre. Check that off the list!
-I did not have a hairbrush.
Objective thoughts are a lot more complicated to lay out than facts. And I can assure you, there was a LOT of time for thinking and developing of opinions and realizations. A journal was good for this and I promise you I'm not about to lay all of those pages out on the table. However, I do want to share a few of the things I jotted down as well as some of the more prominent revelations and lessons learned. It will be this that makes up my blog post and the link for pictures is at the bottom of the page.
-Holding my father's hand with my sister holding the other is a very pleasant memory of mine that flashed through my head many a time as I watched families walk down the crowded streets of wherever I happened to be. I was a little too reflective at times about what it was like to be little. What it was like to be under the complete care of my parents- relying on them for every part of travel- directions, accommodation, where to put one foot before the next. This was a thought I wrote down and one that really makes me smile when I look back at it because it reminds me of how blessed I am and was to have the experiences that I got to have. To be small and innocent seeing so much of the world while walking next to my brothers, laughing with my sister, singing songs and smiling with my mother, and holding onto the safe, strong hand of my father. And here I was/am- 12+ years later with no hand to hold and no pair of Wetzel brown eyes to look into beside me- just myself, in the world, taking on each adventure to come at me- what an EXHILARATING feeling to realize life is in constant motion and that you have grown.
-Amsterdam is insane. And I can't believe I made it back to the hostel today.
- I don't want just anyone's company when I travel. I want to stand beside someone I love that can be back home with me months, YEARS from now and recall this moment, this statue, this church, this sky, these buildings, these people, this everything with me. I don't just want small talk and conversation- I want discussion and genuine laughter. I am lonely, but not SO desperately lonely that I will waste my day seeing wonders of the world next to someone that is more interested in what Hollywood's latest drama is.
-I am very, very small. And in moments like this- I would prefer to be small with the rest of my small friends and family back in the small part of the small world called Kansas.
PAUSE- the theme of many of my thoughts throughout the first week and a half was loneliness. I was loving what I was seeing and still out and about doing all that I could, but every smile that I gave and small conversation that I had with someone felt like robotic reflexes with no feeling behind them. Welll...journal entries a little later proved I moved on from this...
-I will learn what it means to be "happy with myself". My thoughts are over-analytical and completely and utterly depressing when they get down to it. STOP THIS LAURA! Appreciate the moments I am having for what they are worth even if it is just a surface value worth- love it and be happy at what I have seen or done and MOVE ON. Stop lingering and attempting to solve the puzzle of life that will always be missing a piece. This is perhaps the only, maybe just one of a few times that I will ever have to really get to be by myself. To get to know myself. To love myself. To BE myself all by myself. To BUILD myself into who I want to be to others, around others, and in the world. Let these beautiful things I'm seeing offer reflections that help shape me.
I vow to enjoy all of the lonely moments that may come in the future. To not be disappointed by a table for one or a couple walking hand in hand in front of me. I am happy and when I'm not- I'm being very ignorant...cause I'm in Europe right now. Backpacking part of the world. Some of the most beautiful parts of the world. I refuse to have a head so dense.
-Did I have 2 or 3 White Russians...AND a Doner Kebab?!...oh Berlin you've gotten the best of me...
-The fact that I cannot ever truly convey a thought to anyone, even a piece of paper, is a strangely beautiful thing. I will forever be the only one that knows my inner thoughts at the most intimate and unexplainable level. And everyone has this! I wonder what everyone's thoughts are that they can't share...doesn't matter! This is so deep and so complex I can't even really think about it much longer. But how frustrating, yet incredible- that there will always be a space between the lines that can just never be filled and can only exist in the grey and white matter of my brain (Mostly the grey where cognition happens...thanks Dana Townsend).
-Coffee in Italy is REALLY good. And I don't even like coffee.
-I absolutely love the humility that is brought upon oneself when standing amongst the mountains.
-I'M AN AUNT TO A LITTLE GIRL NAMED RUBY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-The world is really a wonderful and beautiful place. Not everyone is nice...but mostly- people are trying.
-Mark Zuckerburg is a genius.
- Having an open mind is the best way to have a discussion about religion. Without one you're only listening to a voice inside your head that tells you what to respond with. With one your religion is more likely to be actually in practice.
-WeissBier and Sprite- a Radler- this is delicious.
-HOW WILL I EVER convey these thoughts and moments in a blog...
I can't. All that you've just read (or most likely skimmed through) just scratches the surface and doesn't EVEN begin to tell of the stories, the laughs, the people that made up this month long journey. I look forward to conversations with most of you that will happen when I come home. To pulling up pictures and saying- "This is when Italian trains decided not to run for a day and we sat on the platform for two hours drinking wine before just hiking back to our village".
All in all, the conclusion I've come to is this... I can tell those stories as many times as I want, rave about the people that I met and harp on the most beautiful places ever, and none of it will ever be as much to you as it is to me. Not in the way that you don't care to hear them or any of that other shallow stuff... but just that this trip was FOR ME. "For me" in a way that it can never fully be expressed or shared with others and that's the BEST part of all of it. For the first time I was the 5th Wetzel that got to be introduced as the FIRST Wetzel any of these people or places had ever met- and in some ways- it was the first time the 5th Wetzel ever really met herself. I can only hope that what I found, that what I became aware of in the world and in myself, is conveyed to you in my actions and in my being. As a friend, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a babysitter, a student, but mostly as a PERSON on this incredibly large (but surprisingly small) earth- I hope to never stop changing for the better in response to what the world has shown (and has yet to show) me.
PICTURES (remember they're in reverse order...shucks):
-if this above link isn't highlighted, I think you can just copy and paste it into the URL and that should get you there :)
Love to all,