This post was written over several days and in several cities.
There's one big "secret" I don't want to share. Many travel bloggers don't admit to it or post about it on their feeds... but it is big, and real, and frankly quite annoying. The travel blues.
The travel blues arrive when you least expect and want them to. I could be happily strolling along the Tiber river in Rome, when all of a sudden, I don't want to be there anymore. My feet hurt and are swelling thanks to the marathon I've walked in the last 48 hours, but I am in such a beautiful place! How is this possible? I could be enjoying a nice Radler in a cool biergarten in Leipzig, talking and laughing with my friends and professors, when an urge to go home and wrap myself up in a blanket nest envelops me. One minute I'm fine, and the next, I snap into a darker, sadder, moodier, and snarkier version of myself.
I journal a lot, especially when I travel, and when I fill up a few pages of miscellaneous thoughts and reflections, I sometimes begin to draft posts (because I am a massive nerd). This post is a compilation of some of the more negative/challenging emotions I've felt while traveling, highlighting the fact that travel isn't always as pretty as the pictures included here make it seem.
Thursday, August 17. Sitting in the grass outside Berlin SXF.
I feel like my insides are turning inside out, and are slowly being ripped out of my abdomen. I'm dizzy and I want to throw up, but every time I try, nothing comes out. The world feels like it's spinning – it's a wonder I made it all the way here. I'm thousands of miles away from home...and yet, that isn't my home anymore. As of this morning, I moved to Germany. I have two more weeks of travel left before I settle in Leipzig on the 29th to start my graduate schooling there, and right now all I can think about is how shitty I feel.
Whatever this is, it has to wait it out until my insurance kicks in tomorrow. If I can just make it until tomorrow... everything will be fine. If I can feel better in a couple hours, I will get off the grass outside this airport and go inside and board my flight to Rome. After all, if I have to be sick and possibly die from whatever is happening inside of my body right now, at least I will have been to Italy.
Saturday, August 19. At the Orsa Maggiore Hostel for Women Only in Rome, Italy.
The thing that surprised me most about Rome is how BIG it ISN'T. That's right, it feels tiny. Miniscule. The Colosseum is large, yes, but I thought it would be bigger. It felt small – I walked around in circles, and it didn't take much time at all. The fact that it was built when it was and with way less advanced tools than we have today makes it impressive. Vatican City was decently sized, but when I finally made it through an excessive maze of ancient Egyptian artifacts to see the Sistine Chapel, it was not at all what I expected. First of all, the whole God-and-Adam painting took up a very tiny portion of the ceiling (think postage stamp?), and second, I got to spend about 3 minutes in there because the guards were ushering us in and out with little time to do more than move our necks up and down so as to take in what we could whilst not stepping on the heels of the person in front of us who was doing the exact same thing.
Bethany said it well – this city is exhausted, and while I liked Rome enough, coming back to Italy will mean going somewhere else. Perhaps I built it up way too much in my head, but Rome to me was utterly underwhelming. I feel like I've checked it off a list and gotten a cool instagram post (or a few) out of the experience, not that I've really gotten deep into the culture and the history. Then again, I do prefer to study contemporary history and I've seen a lot of very old buildings over the last two days. Was it worth it? Probably yes, but right now I'm too sweaty and grumpy to see it in a different light.
Monday, August 21. In a coffee shop in Leipzig, Germany.
I am a horrible person. I made Bethany (my coffee-turned-travel bud, one of the most amazing humans on the entire planet) walk so much in Rome, and as we dragged my heaping luggage through Berlin, and again this morning in Leipzig... it's probably my fault if her leg has to be amputated after this torture. I doubt that is the case, not that I know much about medicine, but please dear god let that not be the case because she loves biking, and hiking, and being outdoors, and hell, WALKING. We're sitting in this coffee shop with nice, fast wifi, and again I want to hide my head in shame. I wanted this trip to be amazing for both of us – a last sendoff before her senior year begins and my year in Germany begins – and I may have contributed to the extreme breaking of my best friend. I fear she hates Europe and now me because I made her walk. (Not that we had much of a choice in Rome, the public transit was not particularly conducive to our trek...but everywhere else!)
[sidenote: it turns out that this didn't totally ruin Bethany's trip, as evidenced in the blogs she put up before I had the chance to sit down at a computer and publish this]
Sunday, August 27. On a bus somewhere in rural Latvia. This section was drafted as the full post before I decided to add in bits and pieces from my journal leading up to this point.
Out of everything I expected to write for this blog, speaking negatively about my favorite pastime did not rank high on my list of post ideas. In fact, it didn't rank at all. But I'm currently drafting this post on a bus somewhere in the middle of Latvia (so exotic, I know, who am I to talk about the downsides of what I am currently doing?) and all I want to do is be laying in my own bed... or a bed... or in a place that is not barreling down the road and making announcements in several languages, none of which I understand.
I have been going going going nonstop since I last posted on this blog (very late again, sorry), which was coincidentally when I left the U.S. I have now been in four different countries in two weeks, have reconnected with friends in two of these, and have seen so many new sites and eaten a lot of really delicious food. I am beyond grateful that I have the ability and the means to travel so much before my program starts (and don't intend to totally stop the travel once I'm settled in Leipzig and have a little bit of a break), but I. Need. A. Break.
Living out of a backpack is not as glamorous as it may sound to other world traveling fiends like me (or perhaps I just need a new backpack... just kidding mom...). Being constantly on the move has been wearing out my physical and emotional energy, and yet I can't seem to fall asleep on this bus. I don't have much to decide when I pick out what I'm wearing each day thanks to my extremely limited wardrobe, but I do have to sacrifice more money eating out than I usually would at home. With the exception of my travels in Estonia, during which my friend Signe and I ate mostly at her flat or at delicious vegan/vegetarian restaurants around the country, I have let proper nutrition go by the wayside to save what little money I could for other activities or requirements (such as hostels). My schedule is entirely my own -- I can stay out late and sleep in as long as I want without worrying about missing meetings or classes, or I can go to bed at 8pm to wake up and see the sun rise over another city. Or I can go to bed early AND sleep in, because why sacrifice sleep when you're on vacation (er- holiday- I should probably start using the European phrase)?
Travel drains your resources - quite literally, all of them. Even if you sleep in a lot, or only go to dive bars, or walk around a city instead of taking public transit. Travel is exhausting.
Tuesday, August 29. RIX airport.
I'm now writing from Riga's international airport, about a 30 minute bus ride outside of the city. My next flight (and last for the time being) leaves for Berlin in less than two hours, and within the next 10, I should be back in Leipzig. I've never been so excited to go home (it may also help that "home" for me is the place of my dreams...). When I arrived in Riga and made it to my hostel from the bus station (Coach Station), I was a walking zombie. I didn't want to do anything except sleep through the entire next day and even looked into changing my flight back to Germany. Ultimately I'm glad I was priced out of this last minute change - I got up leisurely yesterday and found a little coffee shop very reminiscent of Donkey Coffee in Athens, Ohio. The hostel provided a free tourist map, which told me there would be a free "alternative" walking tour of Riga at 12, so I went on a very long walk with 20 strangers around the suburbs and everywhere except old town Riga. Though my feet ached by the time we had finished crisscrossing the city, I was more energized than I have been for a lot of this trip. Sometimes it takes a moment to breathe and take it all in to get back into your groove.
Am I stupidly excited about finding a charity shop with English-language books for 50 cents in a small corner of Riga? For sure! Am I also elated to be getting on a plane back to a stable, constant life in Germany? More than I can say. Please, RyanAir flight, be on time today.
Wednesday, August 30. My friend's flat in Leipzig, Germany.
I got back from the Baltic States (or, two of them) yesterday, and utterly crashed when I finally got myself and my friends to their respective homestays. We move into our apartments (flats) on Friday. Today has been a whirlwind of activity, and yet I haven't crossed that much off of my to-do list. I have a German phone number now, which is exciting. I finally connected my phone to the university's eduroam network, giving me access to wifi networks around the globe. I have a ticket for unlimited public transit for the next month until I get my student ID, but I've also walked around the city (specifically, the Lindenau and Plagwitz areas). I had vegan currywurst for lunch at my new favorite place, Curry & Co.
I'm physically exhausted, but my mind is racing. I have so much to do and see and experience, that I almost can't wrap up this post that I've been writing snippets of during the last two weeks of nonstop travel. But I know I need to be awake in a few hours, and judging by my inability to keep my eyes open for too long, it's high time I hit the hay. Rest is important on many levels.
This entire year will be a grand adventure. I need to keep in mind that taking care of myself, even if it means doing absolutely nothing at all (or right now, sleeping), is the only way I'll be able to rally and make this experience as amazing as it can be.
Prost (cheers) to the next chapter.