It’s over a year since I departed on the biggest journey I have ever known. As you probably know, the beautiful and terrible details of that adventure are detailed on this blog. If you’re just tuning in, well, go ahead and start here.
Amazingly, eight months have passed since I touched back down on American soil, and a lot has happened since that rainy spring day at MSP International. Just so we’re all on the same page, let me catch you up to speed on what’s been going on from the time immediately after Italy, to now, as we will reluctantly refer to as “real life”:
Once my flight landed:
- After an emotional pickup from the airport, Chris and I spent the day opening late birthday gifts, eating Chipotle, hugging my roommates, and repacking my things to return to the airport just six hours later for a family wedding.
- When the fun ended, it ended hard – back in Rhinelander I had all four wisdom teeth pulled. My parents tended to my every need and didn’t bat an eye when I ate mashed potatoes for every meal. No really, every meal.
- I then laid dormant on the couch of a period of time that might have been three weeks, or three years. It was hard to tell.
- Back up on my feet, I started my first day as an intern at Digitaria, an advertising agency in downtown Minneapolis, on June 2nd.
- Summer was quick to fall in to rhythm, and what a sweet song it played. I think the sun shone for 90 days straight.
- Fall found me, still tanned and happy, working two jobs and one big course load.
- We said goodbye to my sweet grandpa, Frankie, on September 24th. Everything just stopped for a little while.
- Fall semester gone and spring is well on it’s way – the final leg of this four year journey. What’s next?
Which leaves me here, sitting at my desk downtown on a snowy afternoon, dusting off this blog that I’ve put aside for a little too long. I made big promises to keep posting and say more about my experience, but as time went on I realized that just wasn’t true.
In my final week in Sean Lovett’s class, we were thrown in to the Vatican TV studio and asked to talk openly about our time abroad and what we wanted people to know about it. When I started speaking, I surprised myself with the direction of my words and the emotion that came along with them.
And instead of poorly paraphrasing those candid words, I’ve decided sharing this experience is the most meaningful way to wrap up my documentation of life abroad. Filming this short video was a personal experience for me and it has really helped me reflect on the limits of pushing our stories out to others. But of course, there’s a little bit of fun in it too – because Sean’s class couldn’t end any other way.
And so the revelation I made once the cameras were rolling was that, at the end of the journey, no one will truly understand my story. And I’m OK with that.
And now that a little more time, and life, has passed, what I said on camera still rings true to me, and yet it has blossomed in to something so much bigger than traveling abroad. Something I try to live out every day.
This experience, this life, is the only one you will every have. You can read blogs, admire Pinterest, and watch documentaries, but no amount of understanding or admiration of anyone or anything else will ever give you more than a secondhand experience. That doesn’t mean you have to do the journey alone, and you shouldn’t. But true empathy doesn’t exist. You’ll only ever get to feel this world through your own touch.
You only get to be you, but you are so privileged just to be that. So you’d better get out there.
So what’s next?
I’m happy to say that writing my words out online will become a permanent part of my life from here on out. I enjoy putting a story out there, and I know there will be so many more stories to tell. The positive feedback I’ve received from family, friends, and total strangers has given me so much happiness and sense of being, assuring me that this is only the beginning.
Coming soon, I’ll be starting a brand new site with stories of every day, from kitchen experiments to deep thoughts, to travel near and far and the roads we take to get there.
And with that, I’m moving past Italy and my time abroad and on to life as it’s happening now. Studying abroad is what taught me to live in the moment and enjoy the journey as it happened, and so I’m ready to change the subject, but continue the conversation.
Ciao, for now.