I’m sitting in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, with my Starbucks coffee and the sandwich and chips that I packed (OK, that my mom packed), and for what feels like the first time in a month all I can do is sit here and breathe. There’s nothing else to get done. No more to-do lists to make. No more shopping that needs to happen or frantically writing down things to remember. All I can do is… sit. And that’s scary! Sitting is when all the doubts and questions rush in. What do I do when I get there? What if I can’t figure out where to go? What does jet lag feel like? What happens when I arrive at my apartment? Hold on… am I starting to get a sore throat?!
These past four weeks (and really, the entire summer) I have been getting ready to study abroad. I wasn’t nervous—I have enough friends who have studied abroad that I could ask them about any questions I had. My brain was too filled with thoughts about finding a balance between under packing and over packing and wondering if I could fit all my stuff into one checked bag and one carry on (spoiler alert: I had to bring two carry-ons).
Right now I feel like I have a perfect balance between joy and nerves; if I had to tip the scale in one direction it would be joy, but it’s pretty darn even. It still feels unreal that in nine hours I will be landing in Amsterdam, and four hours after that I will landing in Prague. I’ve dreamed about traveling through Europe for what feels like my entire life, ever since the days when I watched Madeline on repeat and was desperate to go to Paris. For years I’ve watched friends go to the coolest places all over the world, made dozens of “bucket list” places to visit, and worked on getting a passport. But now, sitting here in the airport with a boarding pass that reads “MSP to Amsterdam”, Amsterdam and Prague and everywhere else that I am planning on visiting sound like fictional places, like places that I can’t get my head around actually being in myself. Also, it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks that I will be flying in an airplane that weighs a couple hundred tons across a dark, cold, shark infested ocean. I’m going to try and keep that thought out of my mind though.
But the reality is that I will be in all of those places! Europe isn’t an exclusive place that only some can visit—it’s somewhere that I will be for the next three and a half months, and a place that I plan on returning to many times after that. At this point, the only thing to do is go through it. I know there will be challenges and confusions and I will have to be self-reliant in a way that I never have before, and there isn’t any more preparation that I can do for that. At this point, I just need to finish my Starbucks coffee, hope that I don’t have a sore throat, and relax and enjoy the ride.