Year of Travel
What do you know, I am still reflecting on 2016. You know how we call someone who is aware and understanding of what is going on in the world (specifically with issues related to social justice and race) "woke"? 2016 is the year I woke up from a deep sleep. This awakening began when I returned to Dickinson after an entire year abroad in Norwich, England. Being one of a few people of color in my dorm, I began to understand myself, my Latinidad, my Blackness, queerness, and other aspects of my identity in a way that I had not before. When I returned to Dickinson as a Senior and an English major, I decided to write my thesis on the deconstruction of race.
Now, as a full-time teacher in NYC, I am more aware of racism, sexism, ageism, and other -isms more than I ever was before. Needless to say, this break was everything I needed. While thoughts of work seeped through the cracks a few times during my end-of-the-year trip, being with my significant other for two weeks reminded me that I am a human being who needs to prioritize self-care every now and then. While one can never, and should never, pretend to live in a world where the aforementioned -isms do not exist, it is important for our mental and emotional well-being to breath and take ourselves to a place, literally or metaphorically, where we are at peace. Wherever that place may be.
For me, that place was as far away from anything work-related as possible. Students, if you are, by any chance, reading this, I love you. If there is anything that I have learned about being a student or a teacher, it's that there is little to no time for self-care, and we need us some self-care.
In pursuit of love, after four months of long-distance, and self-care, my girlfriend and I traveled Europe for two and a half weeks. Five countries, six cities. It. Was. Amazing. Everything I could have asked for in a mini Eurotrip. My girlfriend is currently studying abroad in Italy so we met up in Rome and then we traveled to Paris, Barcelona, Greece, Budapest and finally, Venice. Can you imagine what traveling with one tiny carry-on was like for two and a half weeks? It was a challenge without a doubt, but we made it work somehow. That is, until Easy Jet, on our way to our final destination, stopped us and tried to charge us 60 euro each for having a personal item and a carry-on, but I digress.
Above are pictures of some of the places Lucy and I visited! Also some of the outfits I tried to put together being that I only had enough room in my tiny carry-on for three pants, three tops, two dresses, two pairs of shoes and a few other essentials. For this trip, wearing a different outfit every single day was clearly out of the question. Either we paid an extra 40 euro to check in our overweight luggage, or we checked it in as a carry-on for free. Without a doubt, it was always the latter.
Year of Travel: Takeaways from each country
Rome and Venice, Italy: Did you know coffee isn't meant to be drunk on the go? Maybe I've been in my New York bubble (NY can be a bubble sometimes) for too long, but I definitely didn't know. It took me a second trip to Rome to learn that. In fact, and correct me if I'm wrong, coffee in Italy is just an espresso shot, also known as caffè. So at the bar, you order a caffè, or a caffè latte (coffee with milk for us NY folk), or the many other coffee options. So. The biggest coffee takeaway is that you drink the coffee at the shop. Standing up. You don't walk out. You can't. You mustn't. It's not normal!
Paris, France: I need to continue learning French. It's a fun and beautiful language (my girlfriend does not agree). I loved that French people did not seem to mind when I slowly asked for directions in my very non-French accent. The thing is, I'm used to being understood. And while that may seem like a simple accomplishment, it isn't. I think about my dad, a Spanish-speaker who works in a predominantly English-speaking setting, and I laud him for struggling with his English, yet successfully getting his thoughts across. I appreciated having to check myself a few times. I definitely had to withhold myself from believing that everyone speaks English. Everyone doesn't.
Barcelona, Spain: What I am about to say is slightly embarrassing. Get ready. Before stepping foot into Barcelona, all I knew of the city was what I had seen on The Cheetah Girls when I was a child. Obviously I did some research before visiting, but, to be honest, most of my research was based on sites I remembered seeing in the movie. It was an extreme surprise to me when, as our uber driver was driving us to our Airbnb, I noticed that almost all advertisements and shop names were in Catalan and not Spanish. In The Cheetah Girls, when they got to Spain, all of the Spanish characters spoke Spanish, right? Well, I learned that everyone in Barcelona grows up learning both languages. So I was still able to put my Spanish to use! Catalan, though, sounded incredibly complex and beautiful. Like a mixture of Spanish and French with a vibrant Italian ring. Loved it.
Athens, Greece: Greece, you were phenomenal. Although we almost left you a day early (literally, we took an hour-long trip to the airport the day before our flight because we misread our flight information), I am so glad it felt like we had an extra day with you. The food was amazing, the hospitality was unparalleled, and the sights were breathtaking.
Budapest, Hungary: Budapest was lively and had a nightlife that every college student wishes existed on their campus. I know us Dickinsonians would appreciate a Budapest-inspired nightlife! My girlfriend and I spent our last night in Budapest at Szimpla, a ruin bar, and it was wild!
After Budapest, our final destination was Venice, where we rang in the New Year together. A wonderful ending to 2016, and a magical beginning for 2017!
And that, readers, briefly sums up my mini Eurotrip with my girlfriend. Along with these wonderful countries, many of which I visited for the second time (dream come true? Absolutely!), I also visited a few other exciting places earlier in the year-- Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Norwich, England. All of this to say, 2016 was nothing other than the year of travel. I hope I have one of those again! I can't wait to see what 2017 will bring!!
What are you looking forward to in 2017?? Comment below!!
Photography by Lucy West