The other day I was reading through the final essay I wrote for my Travel Writing class during my semester in Rome back in college; we were assigned it just a week or so before all of us left Europe behind to travel back to America. The essay was supposed to capture our emotions and thoughts as this huge part of our lives came to an end and also chronicle how we felt we had changed. In my intro paragraph to the essay, I wrote:
“I have prepared myself a cup of hot chamomile tea and opened my Macbook Pro, a device that suddenly seems too shiny, too bright, too high tech in this traditional, small Italian kitchen. This was how I felt as soon as I stepped off the plane delivering me to Rome, Italy: a fast-talking American girl from the city with a love for learning and travel, limited patience, and an extremely heavy carry-on.”
Four years later and I can say that this description still rings true for how I felt when Rachel and I landed in Zurich – our round two abroad experience, this time as adults.
Our first day in Switzerland we had coffee and snacks at a little café on the river in the middle of Zurich, and I remember our waitress was taking a long time to get our check. I was enjoying the view and people watching, but I wanted to get moving. I remember feeling antsy, looking at my phone, knowing there were so many places Rach and I wanted to see that day before having to head back to our apartment.
Guess what? The check will always come. You’ll always have time. I think so much of travelling isn’t even visiting the major landmarks that tourist books point out as “must-sees.” It’s looking at and taking in your surroundings, at the people who live every day in this place, this culture, and observing their ways of life. Watching that guy with the glasses and blazer at the next table reading and re-reading the Swiss papers, on his third espresso of the day. Pointing out the blonde lady in those amazing boots flying down the cobblestone street on her bicycle. Walking along the water with Rach, maps out, all smiles, reveling in the fact that we’re back, on our next European adventure together.
From chamomile tea in a Roman apartment on Via Clementina to hot chai in a Zurich apartment by the lake – both times I entered in as a fast paced city chick, still with limited patience, still with a passion for travel, still, unfortunately, with an aggressively overpacked suitcase. But little by little I’m learning, realizing how necessary it is to slow down and inhale instead of solely concentrating on getting from point A to point B.