I’m “home.” Although, to be completely honest, it doesn’t feel like home. Note to self: reverse culture shock is a very real thing. You know what they say, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Not that I was ever un-fond of my Italian haven, the distance has only increased my sense of belonging there.
Before I left, I created a bucket list with 10 goals. No… I didn’t finish it. But I’m proud to say I can check off 8 items. Survive Oktoberfest? Walk the Camino? Surf in Portugal? All done.
Attend a professional soccer match? I went to two Florentine games, yelled angry Italian threats at the opposing fans, pretended to know the team chants, bought a jersey and rocked purple. Check.
Travel somewhere alone? Just a few weeks into my stay, I went to Lisbon, Portugal, for 3 nights and stayed at the Independente. (Amazing hostel.) I met two traveling German girls in my bunk the first night, and ended up spending the majority of the weekend with them. I surfed with the ultimate pair of Portuguese “bros” and Boston College students (that happened to know some of my best friends from high school), and got stuck at a Flea Market conveniently on the top of a hill in the pouring rain. Again, I got caught in the rain on a free walking tour, where I met a group of really nice Florentines (yay) and grad students from New York. The best part: no one cared about the rain. We huddled three under a one-person umbrella, and got to know each other quickly. This trip marked my first realization of how travel, and more-so traveling alone, is encouraged so much more in European culture than in American culture. I gained a lot of respect for Europeans here.
Join a Florentine yoga studio? Complete 40 day japa meditation? Done.
Restore my faith in love?
So that leaves “ski the alps” and “meditate.” Guess that means I’ll have to go back. As for restoring my faith in love…
I met a really special person while studying in Florence. He taught me a lot of things. Most importantly, he taught me to love myself.
The whole time I knew I was leaving in December, and he wouldn’t return to the States for another 4 months. I knew it’d be over, at least temporarily. My friends told me not to let him go, that I’d never find someone who would treat me better. Again, I knew it was true. I told him that no one will compare to him and that he treated me better than I deserved. He told me I was a princess and to never let anyone treat me less than that.
He taught me to love myself. And for that, if nothing else, I will never forget him. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for that, and I don’t know if I realized what he’d given me until he was gone, but I’ll always be grateful for him. When I decided to study abroad, I, like the cliché cheeseball I’m known to be, hoped to learn a little more about myself and gain back the self-respect I had lost somewhere along the string of jerks I call (the majority of) my ex-boyfriends. Naturally, I never imagined it’d be a guy that returned this to me. The “love” this boy taught me was love for myself, and although it may not be what my initial implication was when I made the bucket list, in my mind, it’s much more meaningful.
Florence, thank you for everything you’ve given me. I’ll hold it with me forever, and I will be back.