As we leave Atlanta on the final leg of our journey, reflection comes naturally. There are many ways to “count” this trip and experience.
Busses: 5, one with a broken window
Countries: 4, well 5 if you count Vatican City
Miles: Countless. You’d have to ask Demitri or Franz or one of our other drivers that question.
Experiences. Well, those are harder to sum up in easy terms. Parents and friends are going to be asking the inevitable question, “How was your trip?” If you ask that question of one of us right after we get off the plane, you’ll probably get a groggy “great,” “awesome,” “cool” or some other single word assent as we fall asleep on the car ride home. However, don’t be fooled. We all have a lot to say. However, it might be hard to put it into words. How do you express what it is like when time stand stills and flies by at the same time? How 2 and half weeks can feel like 3 months and 5 minutes in the same breath? How you can see over 5,000+ years of history and feel like you have so much more to see? How can you explain that people you barely knew at the beginning of 2013 feel like they have always been in your life?
Everyone will find their own way to fill you in. Some will show pictures. Some will present gifts, others might share stories; but will any of these really get at what we all just experienced? We can only relay information to you, yet we can relive it all in our own minds and hearts. But that is why you travel. We could have learned much of the same information from Wikipedia or a Travel Channel special but we would not have been changed because of it. Aaron and I and the Gustavus faculty throw around this term of “experiential learning” when it comes to these classes. This is what it means to learn via experience, especially when you travel. History comes alive. Myths become reality. Famous sites become something you can touch (though never in a museum!). Stories of great achievement and tragedy get played out in front of you. Streets you can’t pronounce become familiar in the short span of a free afternoon.
We will try to relate all this to you. Show you 1600 pictures (that is not an exaggeration – several students took that many personal pictures, about 100 a day). Share some videos (the motorcycle demonstration at MBW world, the soccer match). Give gifts (probably a lot of chocolate as we tried to use up our Euros in the airport this morning). And best of all, share stories. Tell you about “Kyla” and her overlay books, getting caught in the Piazza San Marco while it was beginning to flood from rain and high tide, tossing coins into the Trevi fountain, haggling with street vendors over bags/ t-shirts/umbrellas, swimming in the Adriatic Sea in Naphlion, Aaron jumping out from behind a monument in Rome, SuperFast II and our adventures at sea, seeing Michelangelo’s David and realizing you don’t have to see any other statue, racing on the stadion of Ancient Olympia, being grateful for free tap water at dinner, Sergei in Venice, Wine tasting in Tuscany (who knew truffle olive oil was so good on saltine crackers), Gelato (enough said), skiing in the Alps, learning to Polka in a small Bavarian village, disco nights, Mark singing in the amphitheater of Pompeii, German soccer teams keeping us awake, group photos (especially when Mario was behind the camera), experiencing the cold at Dachau and realizing it is nothing compared to what those poor souls must have experienced, climbing up to the top of Delphi and its incredible views, the awe of the Sistine Chapel, and on and on.
Do you start to see what you are in for? It might come out all at once or bit by bit, but know that it will stay with us forever. So to all of you that supported us (whether financially, emotionally, covering work/home duties for us, or just following along), we thank you. This experience changed our lives and you are a part of that. Aaron and I would also like to thank the students who dedicated so much time, money, and effort into this experience. Y’all (apparently one afternoon in Atlanta can bring out my suppressed southern twang) made it unforgettable and we can only hope that it gave you something to think about when you come back home.
It is bittersweet to see it come to an end. We are definitely ready to be off this plane, but this has been many months, even years, in the making for some of us. From classes on campus with our amazing guest lecturers (thank y’all again so much!) to the excitement at the airport in Minneapolis, through Greece, Italy, Austria, and Germany and now back to Minneapolis, we have truly traveled many miles, both literally and figuratively. We hope y’all enjoyed following us on this journey. We hope you will continue to see this journey in our actions, or thoughts, and our lives as we move forward.
Kalinýchta, Buonanotte, Gute Nacht