November 7th

I’ve been in Florence 3 months and I have 1 more month to go. Here is what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Never again will my life be complacent. Not as long as EasyJet and RyanAir are in business. Sure, the landings were questionable and I had to fit 10 days of traveling to 3 separate climates into my college backpack, but I got to visit 6 cities and 4 countries for less than 200 euros. Not much of a competition there.
  2. Traveling alone and being a girl is not stupid. It is not dangerous. Do it.

Just because you travel somewhere alone doesn’t mean you spend all your time alone. After all, the point of traveling is to experience new things… you can’t really do that if you’re always traveling with the same people. Instead, go somewhere alone. Meet new people, preferably people unlike you. Do the things they like to do when they travel and really experience something exciting. Besides, Europe is safe; the U.S. is not. I can honestly say there is not one time in the last four months where I seriously felt threatened in any of the places I visited. I cannot say the same about any amount of time I spent living in New York City, Charlotte, or Chapel Hill.

3. Traveling is like a drug. It is quickly addicting and extremely exhaustive. And if you’re not smart, it can destroy your bank account. *See #1 about RyanAir. And do the free walking tour.

4. I’m still young, after all! In the U.S., I’m graduating college soon and being hounded with job interviews, real life decisions, questions about how the next 40 years of my life will look, and the looming event of financial independence. In Europe, however, life isn’t pre-planned. There is the opportunity for spontaneity in every young adult’s life. More so, spontaneity and the idea of not knowing what you’ll be doing at 60 when you just turned 20 is not something looked down upon. Graduating college is simply finishing your classroom education. It’s not finishing your education. In Europe, people value experiential education- the real kind of learning. Getting a job is obviously important, but it’s not like this passageway between the door of your education closing and the door to your future opening, which is how the pressure of success sometimes makes me feel in the U.S. Traveling, learning, escaping, messing up, and admitting there’s a lot you still don’t know about the world but you want to know, is all valued here. After all, those things are what make life life. They are what provide the dynamic, unpredictable and exciting stages. Not 12 hours spent behind a desk.

*Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting pressures of work and money are nonexistent in Europe. They’re just not as overwhelming.

5. Traveling didn’t lead me half way around the world, it led me to an entirely new world; it led me to 9 countries and 25 cities, to 14 amazing girls from my home college I had never met before, to other great friends from around the world, to excellent food, and finally, to happiness. I wrote about this in an earlier post. Many people think they derive happiness from a single source: money, a significant other, a pretty view. These things might make you smile, laugh, and feel good, but they don’t make you a happy person. They are temporary and fleeting. Real happiness comes from a combination of all those things and more. Each person has their own ingredients for happiness, but traveling has shown me mine: friendships, health, spirituality and location, and with that, movement, all mixed in with a little bit of unpredictability.

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