Final Reflection

For the last time, I greet you all.

My travels have come to an end.  This post was delayed by a final stop in Florida for a few days.  It helped ween me out of travel mode.  It feels really strange not waking up every morning and charting out an adventure.  However, even the good things must come to an end, and I think the trip ended at just the right time to allow me to remember it with utter fondness.

Everyone told me before I left that I would keep these memories for a lifetime.  As the trip has faded from my immediate reality to a series of perfect days cataloged in my mind, I know this to be true.  I learned more about my area of study, the region, and myself in these three weeks than I ever fathomed possible.

When I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to Florida, I engaged in a conversation with an elderly man.  He was 86 and on his way home after visiting some family in Pittsburgh.  He asked me many questions about my studies and my future plans, and eventually we landed on the fact that just 24 hours before, I was sitting on a plane returning from Dublin.  We spent the next thirty minutes discussing different tales from our travels.  He has seen much more of the world than I would even dare aspire to.

As he began discussing time he has spent in London, he commented on what it was like growing up during World War II.  “London was different before the war,” he said, “you wouldn’t even recognize parts of it.”  I knew this from descriptions given by tour guides and historical texts, but his account was much more valuable.  He said in his 30’s, he went to London for the second time and saw Westminster Abbey.  It was the 4th of July.  Apparently, outside of the Abbey was a large sign with hundreds of flower bouquets thanking the American troops for their protection and alliance during the war.  As he described the scene, tears fell down his face.

It was in this moment that I knew without an ounce of doubt that someday that would be me and my fellow travelers.  I knew that one day, I would recount some of my favorite moments from my trip to a friend, family member, or even a stranger in an airport, and I would remember my experiences with just as much fondness and passion as this man remembered his own experiences.

Truthfully, I could sit here for hours and ramble on about everything I saw and about all of the friendships I made and about the unique education I acquired.  It gives me some comfort to know that this blog has solidified an account of the main highlights.  It brings me even greater pleasure, however, that I hardly even began to scratch the surface of the amazing experience I had abroad–that my experiences were too wonderful and too plentiful to ever completely capture in text.

To end this post, I would like to individually thank each person I traveled with because the experience simply would not have been nearly as fantastic without each of them.

-To Shainnah: You were my roommate and a supplier of countless laughs.  I am so thankful for the friendship we created and I know it does not end here.  Thank you for taking so many wonderful pictures to help us all remember the small stuff, even if we complained sometimes.
-To Amanda: You helped me remember to slow down and soak up the moments even when it was tempting to rush ahead.  I enjoyed each interaction we had (and each pot of tea and scone) and I hope someday to possess even a fraction of your photographic genius.
-To Elaina: Even though we knew each other before the trip, I cannot imagine a more fantastic setting in which to reconnect.  You are brilliant and adventurous and it was contagious.
-To Josh: I marveled at your traveling expertise at the beginning of the trip but I think by the end I held my own and I owe some of that to you.  Thank you for reminding me to not always play it safe and for some conversations that I will never forget.
-To DJ: You are truly one of the most interesting, hilarious people I have ever met. We formed a friendship that I am grateful I took the time to nurture. Your film choices may have given me nightmares, but I will remember our time with nothing but fondness.
-To Kiersten: We think very similarly about life in general and for that I am grateful.  Life doesn’t feel the same without hearing you singing behind me. Thank you for keeping the energy alive.
-And finally, to Jody Brooks:  I have more to thank you for than I could ever fit in this post.  I knew immediately that I was destined to take this trip the moment I saw your name on the flyer.  You are truly one of the most intelligent, graceful women I have ever met.  You taught me just as much about life in the past three weeks as you did about literature.  If every educator approached his or her job with the same attitude you do, the world would be a much different, and arguably much improved place.  I will follow you anywhere.

And to my faithful readers, thank you all for taking the time to follow my posts.  This opportunity was so special to me and it would not have been worth it without your willingness to read.

On that note, I bid you all a sorrowful farewell.

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.” -Isabelle Eberhardt