It’s been 365 days since I landed in Rome.
I’m not sure how time has moved so quickly through this year. It feels like yesterday I was staring at the colosseum, mouth agape, realizing the possibilities that were in the palm of my hand.
I’ve become that person that talks about studying abroad a lot. But honestly, how could I not? How could I not want to tell the stories that I created in the best experience of my life. Stories just seem to spill out of me.
“Oh yeah when we wrecked a scooter at midnight in the cold mist a 45 minutes walk away from my hotel in Brussels…”
“Did I tell you about having a full panic attack trying to go up to the top of the Duomo, my last week in Florence?” (my fear of heights progressively got worse over the semester and ended in a full blown panic. That is a story for another time)
“Yeah when I was in Spain I got caught in a sleet and snow storm”
“Yeah I would ride the train to xyz”
“I did a half day bike trip through the Tuscany countryside to a winery, it was so breathtaking”
“When I was in Munich we stumbled into Oktoberfest…”
“When I got lost in the London tube…”
“I did a solo trip to Paris…”
The list goes on and on and on. I’ve got to be honest. I miss it. I miss it a lot actually. Sometimes I dream about waking up in my Florence apartment, going to the market in Santo Spirito directly below my apartment to buy fresh produce, walking across the bridge that faces the Pointe Vecchio, and walking by the Duomo on the way to class, which was down the street from Michelangelo’s David. Sometimes the memories feel so real, that it’s like I’m there. I can hear and smell the memories. Remembering every crack in the road as I walked to the grocery store, or the flow of the river as people kayaked in the mornings, or the faces of the security guards on my daily walks on the fashion strip by Gucci, Prada, and LXR. It’s like I’m still there. I can taste my favorite panini. My feet calloused from the >735 miles I walked during that 3.5 months (yes I did the math). Ten countries and numerous cities will do that to you. It will leave you longing for a beautiful life, dreaming of all the avenues you could choose. And reflecting on the ones you lived. What if I moved to Munich and biked everyday to work? What if I moved to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower everyday? What if I moved back to Florence? There are an unlimited number of possible scenarios. Infinite possible realities.
I’ve lived a lot of my life in a hurry. I needed to achieve achieve achieve, and have a plan for every hour of the day. There was no slowness to me. No lenience. Being late was not an option. Not being in a ton of activities was not an option. I know I would still be fully in this mindset if I hadn’t taken this leap of faith. People have asked a lot “how have you changed from this experience?” and “What did you learn?” And I suppose this is part of the change.
I’ve changed in how I romanticize my life, knowing that there is such pleasure in enjoying the moments as they come. I’ve changed in the slowness. I’ve changed in how I walk a lot. I didn’t grow up in a place that had the infrastructure to walk everywhere. Even now as I walk to work in a city of +260,000 I’m the anomaly. I’ve changed in how my expectations for life are evolving. As a young person in the Midwest there is a lot of pressure to go to school, get married, and start a family. I’m done putting the pressure of other’s expectations on my life. My life gets to look how I want it to. Whether it’s getting married and having kids, or traveling to Europe every year. I’ve changed in many ways, and I’m not sure I know them all even now. But isn’t there beauty in that constant evolution?
I took a video everyday I was abroad. I’ve attached the video at the bottom of this post. One second everyday. I will never regret that. I will never regret the thousands of photos I took. I will never regret this investment.
I’m thankful. I’m grateful. In this moment I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. What a special experience that I truly made the most of. And how lucky I was to have realized it in the moment. I cried many times when I felt overwhelming gratitude. When I saw the Mona Lisa. When I stood in the garden where the Sound of Music was filmed. When I reached the peak of the hike at the Cinque Terre National Park. When I saw David. I was filled with gratitude. And that gratitude remains.
One year ago I landed in Rome, hopped on a train, and began a journey that has changed my life forever.
I am grateful. I lived with courage. I am proud.