“Taylor, how was your holidays and time away?” It’s a question I have gotten multiple times in the recent weeks. I respond enthusiastically, “It was great! I went to Germany, Poland, Austria, Italy, and France, and then back to the United States, with a weekend up in Canada visiting my family.” My go to response is the quick overview, as this is what most people have time to hear. But honestly, that’s not how I think of it. I would much rather delve into the story of listening to the haunting beauty of a rehearsal drifting into the lobby of one of Vienna’s oldest opera houses. Or maybe the chain of events that led to me ending up having a beautiful Monday night of adventures in Berlin playing pool with new friends in a smoky, grungy, metal bar. Or even share the ridiculousness of waking up in a 100-year-old farmhouse in the French countryside 7 hours into 2016 to find a group of friends golfing in the wet dewy grass surrounded by miles of sun-light vineyards.
Europe was a strange first for me. Since I began traveling at 16, my life of travels has included Africa four times, India twice, but never places like southeast Asia or Europe. Back in my first ever blog post, I talked about adding meaning to my own world map. Up until now, the paint splatter-like shape that represents Europe on that map has been blank, full of iconic images from the media and the stories of friends, but never anything that was authentically mine.
Now, the iconic high-heeled boot that sticks out from the bottom of that paint-splatter is more than vague knowledge of my Italian heritage. It’s the peaceful silence of Venice’s residential islands, the breathtaking (defined in both of its forms) hiking that consumed my Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Cinque Terre, the taste of a fresh panini and local wine in a cellar below the historic streets of Siena in Tuscany. A larger mass on the upper edge of the paint-splatter has become a snapshot into a mashing of worlds, one ancient in its centuries-old buildings, one communist in it’s concrete apartment blocks, and one capitalist in it’s sparkling malls. This country of contrasts showed me where the world has been, the growing pains it has been through, and the name brand, designer jean-wearing results of what we call Western society, or at least it’s Polish representation.
Shift your eyes down, and a little to the left, and I am home. 42 days with my backpack, wandering, sometimes lost, around that map whose contents are different for each and every one of us. Next time I get asked, “How was your trip?!”, I will reply, “Can we take a minute and really talk?” I will then delve into the stories, not just places in which to check off a list, that define how I see that paint splatter, on a map in which, when you zoom way way out, we all call home.