At the moment I am seated in an aisle seat as the massive international plane I’m in cruises across the Atlantic Ocean, just off of the eastern coast Canada. My sister, who will be my travel companion for the next two weeks, sits five rows back, sleeping away the middle portion of the flight. This is the second leg of our journey to Europe. We began this morning at 10:30 when we caught a bus in Madison to take us to O’Hare airport. We checked our 50-liter backpacks with the bulk of our belongings and brought our carry-ons through security without any problems. After some short delays we boarded our Polish airplane. I managed to sleep through the waiting period as we prepared to take off, waking up only briefly to see the buildings disappear, while I strained to see past the three people between the window and myself. After groggily coming back to consciousness, I blinked furiously to relieve the dryness in my eyes from sleeping with contacts. As I began to familiarize myself with the plane, I saw it was very similar to most international aircrafts. As expected, the flight attendants speak Polish, but are also proficient in English. As I attempt to listen to the Polish being spoken I realize how challenging it is speak well in another language and my respect for the attendants grows tremendously. I then realize that a year from now, hopefully, I’ll have proficiency in two languages as well.
After pondering the upcoming year I scroll through the movies available on the plane and settle on Argo, a film based on a true story about the Iran hostage crisis. An hour passes by quickly and I take a break from the film to eat the chicken being served in the tin foil wrapped container. I’m hungry enough and the food goes down easily with a cool cup of water. I glance outside again and wish I had chosen a window seat as I see deep blue and orange from the sun setting across the ocean. I finish watching the movie and check the time remaining on the flight. Five and half hours remain until we touch down in Warsaw. From there, we connect to Rome, where we will stay for at least two nights in hostel. After a very brief exploration of Rome, we will continue north through Italy stopping where we please. We have both purchased rail passes that allow unlimited train usage for 15 consecutive days through any country in Europe. Hopefully, these will allow us to have flexibility over the next two weeks until my sister goes home to begin her semester at Madison and I remain in Europe, where I’ll be studying at the university in Madrid for the next year.
The realization of what I’ll be doing for the next year has begun to set in. As I said goodbye to my parents last night I began to realize how much I will miss the most important people in my life. With the rise of Skype and other technology hopefully it will be a little easier to stay in touch, but it can still be frightening to realize that you won’t see the people that raised you, and the friends you grew up with, for quite some time. Maybe the reason things are starting to seem more real is because I was in such hurry to get everything set over the past few days. I finished my summer class on August 7th and spent the next day moving out of my apartment and saying my goodbyes. I made it home by around 7:00pm on the 8th and finally begun packing. Because I’ll be traveling for two weeks I decided to only bring a backpack with me. At first it was frightening and nerve-wracking to pack everything you want for a year in a backpack. After a while I realized that, in reality, it was also impossible. I embraced the idea of knowing I was going to be unprepared and that, at this point, there was nothing I could do but enjoy myself and deal with the problems as they come. To be honest, it was, and still is, kind of an exciting feeling. While there are certain things that need to be planned ahead, like obtaining a visa, I think there are certain things that are more exciting to go into a little unorganized, and just see what happens. Maybe I just love the feeling of spontaneity that comes with traveling light and not having to be anywhere. To only be focused on exploring the place you’re in and being able to stay or go as you please is liberating. It’s such a change from the everyday consistency and responsibility of a college semester. I’m glad to have a break and I love this feeling of a relatively unorganized adventure.