I just got back from my most anticipated trip around Europe this semester. After traveling with my class to cities in Northern Italy for a week at the start of November, we had a week off from school during which everyone traveled freely, either in groups or alone. I had a lot of countries and cities on my travel bucket list (Istanbul, Morocco, Croatia...to name a few) but decided to only visit Austria and Paris due to college student budget constraints, safety issues, and my need to spend more time everywhere I go to fully experience what a place has to offer. Needless to say, I'm pretty drained from two long weeks on the road, taking just about every form of transportation possible, and constantly making sure I can get myself and my stuff from one place to another safely and on time.
I was flipping through my planner the first Monday after I got back to Rome. The last ten weeks of my life have revolved around planning this trip, and it's finally over. I had looked forward to it for so long, dreamed about it, anticipated every detail, and I finally did it! Looking back at my teenage self a few years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed to be traveling around Europe alone and having the freedom to go where I want, do what I want. It still blows my mind that I'm finally having the time of my life.
I'm glad everything's winding down. As I much as I like to adventure, I like to settle down once in a while and get my life together - get caught up with school, organize photos, respond to emails, eat like a normal person. The next big thing on my to-do list is going home! I've basically been anticipating that since Rome week two.
Things I'm desperately looking forward to once I get home:
- seeing loved ones
- spending Christmas with them
- eating non-Italian food
- going back to work and actually being of use in this world
- having access to my full collection of shoes and clothes
- shopping malls
- warm California winter days
In other (less self-centered) news, I guess I should probably touch on what's been happening in the world. Being in the Paris during the wake of terror was a heavy dose of reality. Since that night, I've been reading every article I've come across about ISIS and the terrible things they've been doing to the world, especially psychologically. Being so caught up in my own safety is so trivial compared to what's happening at a global scale. I don't know how I feel about France responding with war, but I also don't know what other way to protect the welfare of our people without getting rid of such a backwards-thinking group of merciless killers. My thoughts are with the innocent lives lost and their families and friends, but I'm glad they got the chance to live happy, albeit way too short, lives. I also mourn the young men recruited to fight with ISIS who are so brainwashed by jihadists they never got to live at all. As much as we antagonize them, they're still human like the rest of us. They were children once, but fell into the hands of people with extremist opinions who hypnotized them to value a set of extremist beliefs above their own lives. I'm sorry they never received a real education, tasted freedom, or experienced the feeling of love that can trump every ounce of hatred and violence in this world. I don't want to makes claims about religion, but it's certainly a powerful thing. It's a belief system that determines how we think and who we are. It can sometimes blindly teach us to think and act, indoctrinating a set of ideologies and "truths" to us rather than educate us and allow us to make our own judgments about the world. After all, what is even true other than what we believe to be?
The Dalai Lama, in response to the Paris attacks, claimed there's no way we can use war to solve these problems, nor religion. We humans caused this mess, and it's up to us to fix it. It's up to us to figure out how to live in harmony with one another, learn to accept and understand each other, open our minds, and stop using things like religion as excuses to fight our own kind. Look at the big picture. We're all human. We're one.