The Grand Total: 46 Cities in 19 Countries

As I mentioned before, I still can’t really process how my life had been during the first half of 2014.

I’m back in Hawaii now, and when I wake up (in my own bed), I wonder for a moment if it all really happened. Sometimes, the truth is the craziest thing that your mind needs to comprehend.

I set foot in almost 20 countries within three months, and in almost 50 cities in four-and-a-half.

It’s been a heck of a ride.

For those of you interested, here’s the scorecard:

GERMANY (well, obviously) – Vallendar, Koblenz, Heidelberg, Cologne, Stuttgart, Bonn, Trier, Frankfurt, Baden-Baden, Munich, Karlsruhe, Düsseldorf, Bürgstadt, Miltenberg, Dortmund, Berlin

BELGIUM – Bruges, Brussels

PORTUGAL – Porto, Lisbon

AUSTRIA – Vienna

NORWAY – Oslo

SWEDEN – Gothenburg

ENGLAND – London

SCOTLAND – Edinburgh

IRELAND – Dublin

DENMARK – Copenhagen

FRANCE – Paris, Caen (Normandy)

HOLLAND – Maastricht, Amsterdam

SPAIN – Barcelona

ITALY – Rome, Pisa

VATICAN CITY (Yes, it’s technically it’s own country)

POLAND – Krakow, Auschwitz/Oświęcim, Wieliczka

CZECH REPUBLIC – Prague

GREECE – Athens, Sounion, Santorini (Fira, Oia, Kamari, Akrotiki)

LUXEMBOURG – Schengen

And all of this wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the fact I had four months in a very centrally located country with an amazing (though quite expensive and ein bisschen monopolistic) train system and the existence of Ryanair. And also my travel buddies who are extremely talented at travel planning (and actually enjoy it!) as well as discount brands at grocery stores, especially in Germany.

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Home Is Where You Let It Be

(Entry from May 11, 2014)

This morning, I hopped on a train to leave my home forever, and didn’t look back. I realized there was no sense in thinking too much about it. I boarded the train from Track 2 in Vallendar station to Koblenz as I had done so many times during the semester that it all felt routine.

I’ve moved around before, but it was almost always back and forth from the places I called home. Whenever I left, I knew I’d come back eventually. This time was different. I never expected to feel such at home in little quaint Vallendar, but I did. The truth of it never hit me so much as it did tonight, after I settled into my lodging for the night in Stuttgart that I’ll probably never see Vallendar again. And even if I do return, it wouldn’t be the same. I’ll just be passing through.

Something I’ve always struggled with is the saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Can it be more than one place? What if I don’t feel anything for anywhere? Germany made me realize I could do something about this, that I made the mistake of merely adapting to my surroundings, thinking it was enough, and never trying to  belong.   There is a difference. Feeling you belong makes the place home, wherever you are. Otherwise it is just an address, simply where you live. All my life, I’ve been trying to balance out the cultural differences, trying to awkwardly fit in to both. At some point, I knew as hard as I tried, I would always be a mixture of at least two worlds, but I always saw the glass as half-empty and not half-full.

Germany taught me many things, but the most powerful and simplest of one was the great difference a small change of mind can be. I wanted to be European. I wanted to thrive in this new surrounding. I came here with an open heart and mind, freed myself all my emotional baggage upon arrival — and it made all the difference. Germany became home for me because I WANTED it to be.

Part of the reasons to study abroad is the demonstration and experience that one is a global citizen. One must be empathetic towards different cultures and find strength and harmony through those differences, rather than dissonance.

I know I am blessed beyond measure to have three places in the world that I can call Home. Slowly, but surely, I’m emerging from my self-induced dissonance, and truly making an effort to make music out of my eclectic identity.

P.S. I’m coming home (back to Hawaii) on May 20, at which point I will have time to really process my life over the past few months and (hopefully) give a intelligible account.

Another thing I learned/saw in action: All things do happen in some sort of weird, great design; one just needs time to make the connections.