7/15/08 05:34 pm
I love how the only thing left on my Outlook Calendar is "Go Home".
It's a good thing I'm going home soon. The US dollar continues to spin out of control--we're at €1 = $1.59... "up" from $1.34 the day I arrived. I'm going to have a number of euros to my name when I go back, so I'm actually going to make some money on it since I withdrew this money a few months ago. Small consolation for the year. You will, however, stop hearing me complain about exchange rates and things from now on, though. Though, I know that some things are just more expensive in general in the US, so I'll still get to complain about money. :)
Emotionally, I'm more than ready to go back. I think I did what I needed to do in Europe--at least what fits into who I am. No, I'm not an entirely different person because of oodles of alcohol and partying, but I opened myself up enough to figure out what it was that I did and didn't like. I am a little different. I appreciate a lot more things now. I met a lot of very different people this year, people that I probably otherwise would not have talked to, so I did get to learn a lot of things that I was missing--seeing that there really is a lot more to people than what meets the eye on any given day. Despite that, I know now that the world is a lot more full of people that have interests and tastes that don't coincide in mine, so I know have learned to appreciate more the people whose interests and tastes do. Perhaps the best example of this was two trips that I took during the month of May: one with my friend Vicky and the other with my friend Kelly. I enjoyed both, but after spending a few straight days with just one other person, you really get to know them well. There was a certain point in conversations with Vicky that just made me scream, because of both her very radical way of thinking and her inability to communicate it to me. It never happened with Kelly--and it was also clear that we shared an outlook on travel--spend our days looking at museums, cool architecture, and chatting away the night in a café. It doesn't hurt that she's also from UCSD--I think most of us UCSD-ites are more similar than we think. It's a hard to define group, but we do share a lot in common, somehow.
I appreciate my parents a lot more, and what they do. Traveling is tiring, especially when you're staying in hostels every day and have worry about scrounging for food. If you're well-off and stay in hotels and eat in restaurants, travel is a lot easier, obviously. I've experienced both, so I know what the difference means to the traveling mindset. But it's not just the accommodations--it's also the amount of planning that I know my parents do before going on a trip. The nature and frequency of my trips this past year made it difficult to really dedicate a lot of time in advance to learning about what I was going to be seeing before I went, but the real toughy is trying to figure out how to maximize your time. A lot of my time on my trips were spent sitting on transportation because of scheduling quirks. I would have not preferred to have sat on a train (and a bus, and then a train again) the entire day going from Hungary to Slovenia, but that's how it works sometimes. I think my parents have done a great job in the past avoiding those sorts of situations. And there was that one time where we had nowhere to stay in Galicia, and we had to tough it out during a rainstorm. That trip went really well planning-wise, except for that one day, which absolutely blew up in our faces. But that's part of the adventure, I suppose.
As a single traveler for most of the year, my trips really were defined by the people I was with. I only went on a trip with the same person twice--Ángel. Most of these people were my friends already, but I met an awful lot of other people, especially my last day in Portugal, and then all across Eastern Europe. It's definitely an interesting experience to spend time with someone that you know you will never see again. You can lie. One person misheard me and thought that I go to UCLA, and I never bothered to correct him, why not? I don't really like lying, but I probably do it too much. I decided to not lie the other day when I came home to Barcelona. My roommate, Anna, was out of town, but she left me my keys in her room. I knew where they were, but instead of searching for them and having to put them back later, I just texted her, and she called me to help me find them. She was glad to talk to me, so it was a good idea anyways. But she's my friend.
What I've certainly learned to do with people--strangers--is just talk and let them talk. You never have to agree with anyone's weird beliefs, you just don't have to let them know it. Just be friendly. I made a number of "friends" that I didn't talk to more than a half hour during the past 6month. There was the couple from the Netherlands at the bus stop in Montjuïc here in Barcelona, the group of middle-aged Americans touring Konopiste in the Czech Republic, the big group of English speakers from around the globe in Prague, the Mexican family in the night train to Krakow, and the older British man wandering the streets of Ljubljana. You just can't be afraid to approach strangers.
I think, though, the biggest thing this year was living in a big city. A big old European city. I knew before coming that I would like living in a big city, from my visits to downtown San Francisco and such. And I wasn't disappointed in Barcelona, which is such a cool city to walk around and just take in. I've learned to appreciate public transportation and cities where you can walk around so much. Our cities just weren't built that way--even the smaller towns in Europe have walkable centers. I haven't driven in nearly a year, and while I miss it, I totally see what the problem is with driving in general. I'm not sure how I'd deal with the weather, but I think I'd like to live in New York City once.
So that's about it. My advice to everyone is to take advantage of what you have in front of you--or at least try to find out what that is. I love day trips, and now I'm going to be looking for things to do in the San Diego area instead of just sitting on my butt every weekend. I have a car, so I should take advantage of it! I guess, in a roundabout way, I'm saying what Buster said a long time ago on "Arrested Development": "That’s what you do when life hands you a chance to be with someone special. You just grab that... that brownish area by its points and you don’t let go no matter what your mom says."