I started writing this post a while ago and just continued it recently. Enjoy!
Back in May:
I was very impressed with Grand Circle (the tour company). Traveling with a tour group is a very different experience compared to traveling on your own. For starters, the river cruise feels very luxurious. The accommodations were very comfortable, the crew was extremely friendly, and they fed us well (a little too well).
I think the most interesting part of this trip to Germany was the history. World War II was not that long ago. We got to talk to a woman who survived the bombing of Dresden. In large tour groups it can be hard not to feel like you’re touring in an American bubble without really experiencing the local culture. Grand Circle really did a good job trying to counteract this effect by letting us speak to locals whenever possible. We even went to someone’s home and had coffee with them for about two hours.
They also brought speakers onto the ship to talk about German history, language, and their own personal experiences. You can’t mimic the cultural immersion you get from traveling alone, and even that doesn’t scratch the surface of the immersion experience you can get from staying in someone’s home, but I can’t imagine how Grand Circle could have possibly done a better job immersing our tour group in the culture and the history of the region.
Earlier today, as we were sailing back to Dresden, I was talking to the only other young person on this cruise. Even though she is nearly a decade older than me at 28, the two of us bring the average age down a considerable amount. She has been living in Berlin with her husband for the past year.
One of the things that she said to me was that everyone back home acts like she’s seen absolutely everything when they hear everywhere she’s been. We discussed how even though it looks like that to our friends and families, to us, it feels as if we’ve only scratched the surface. There’s so much still to see in Europe – I feel like I could spend five years here doing nothing but traveling, and I still would have new things to see, people to meet, and places to go – not to mention the other six continents.
Traveling is easily the most addictive thing that I’ve ever done. It sort of reminds me of the dentist office fish in “Finding Nemo” breaking out of their fish tank. As far as a fish is concerned, its bowl is the entire world. If a fish is released into the ocean from its bowl of a world and suddenly has the whole ocean to explore, everything changes. Their perspective is no longer as narrow as their bowl; it’s as wide as the expanse of ocean which they’ve explored.
I didn’t realize how much there was to see in this world until I went to Italy after the 10th grade. Every time I’ve traveled since then, my thirst to see more of the world has only intensified. I knew Italy existed, but it seemed so distant and foreign. Now, distance doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore in the sense that nothing is so far away that it is unreachable – distance is merely a minor obstacle.
After spending approximately 140 days on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I’ve now been home for nearly a month. We had a little bit of trouble getting home. We missed our connection in London and got to spend a bonus night in a Heathrow airport hotel before flying home the following morning.
It is nice being home and seeing family and friends whom I hadn’t seen all semester. I even went up to Lafayette to work reunion weekend so I got to see some college friends, too. Since coming home, I’ve been working full time, which isn’t nearly as exciting as living in Madrid and exploring Europe in my free time, but I am gaining valuable experience. It’s good to be home, but I already miss Madrid and I can’t wait to go back.
You can read my old blogs here: http://voices.lafayette.edu/category/scott-paulis/