Home Again

So where do I begin? I’ve been home for a little while, trying to collect my thoughts (and put together a scrapbook). And I’ve spent a lot of time, of course, answering questions about the trip. The most common one is “What/where was your favorite (city)?”. And honestly, I don’t have an answer. Maybe I just haven’t digested it all…maybe I never will have a favorite…all I know right now is that it was all great.

That’s another problem: when people ask how my trip was, I’m left with little to say other than “It was great.” I mean, how do you characterize a 6 week, 13 city/5 country experience? As most of you may already know, this was my first trip to Europe. I started with a much-too-long list of “must-see” cities/countries/sights in the initial planning stages, with one of the most difficult parts of the whole ordeal being to narrow down my focus. And yet, I returned from seeing many of these cities and sights with a list that is just as long. I knew that I wouldn’t get everywhere I wanted, and fortunately that is true. I say fortunately because I think it would have been a bad sign if I had returned with the mindset of “Well, that was fun. Now I’ve gotten everything I wanted to from Europe.” If anything, I learned that I only got a glimpse.

But what a glimpse it was! 🙂 I truly saw and experienced art, churches, architecture, people and cultures that I had previously only heard or leaned about. One of the strangest, almost surreal experiences was talking to other travelers about cities we had been to, exchanging advice and opinions: “If you’re in Madrid, definitely go to the Prado Museum, although the Sofia Reina was a little disappointing…” These–or similar–words, coming out of my mouth!…I would have never though t that I could speak about so many amazing places from experience.

And the fact is, I wouldn’t have been able to do so at this point in time were it not for the Ramsey award. Sure, I had worked at a pre-school for the past year, cleaning up spilled milk and mending 4-year-old egos in an effort to save  oney for a trip to Europe. But minimum wage only goes so far, and I can assure you that it does not go 13 cities/5 countries and 6 weeks far. And so, once again, I’m left trying to figure out how to express my appreciation for the award; I realize that it’s a constant effort on the part of the Board, contributors, past recipients, etc. to keep it alive and well. I look forward to being beyond the minimum wage days, when I can give back and help continue the award (although I’m not able to promise too much with a social worker’s salary :).

I planned to write more about what I learned, or some of the particular experiences that meant a lot to me. But I’m still thinking; it takes a while, I now realize, to digest all that I’ve done. So I plan to send another update. But for now, I wanted to make sure that I had a chance to say thank you and let you all know that it was an amazing experience.