Six weeks ago, I came home from my dream trip to Europe. Granted, I didn’t always expect my dream trip to include my younger brother, but we made it work. The question I always seem to get since coming home is, “what was your favorite part?” I know people mean well when they ask me this question, but if I’m being totally honest, it drives me crazy. You’re going to ask me to go through two weeks in Europe and pick out my favorite part?? Impossible.
Don’t get me wrong- Europe was amazing. London, Paris, Venice, and Rome have so much to offer. The cities are beautiful; the countryside even more so. There’s more color, better food (minus London), and the subway systems are a bajillion times easier to navigate than New York’s.
I loved getting to see the Eiffel Tower lit up after climbing what was at least 100 steps to where Sacré-Cœur stands. (We walked over 15 miles that day.) I love that in Italy, you can get gelato on literally every street. I love that you have to take a water taxi to get anywhere while in Venice. Or that when visiting Burano, a nearby island, every house is a different color.
I loved all these things- I really did. BUT what I loved most about Europe was that I was able to just be me. Not Alyssa: the daughter. Or… Alyssa: the employee. Or… Alyssa: the friend. It was just Alyssa, and there was such freedom in that. I didn’t feel the pressure I normally feel to look, think, or act a certain way based on the role I was trying to fill. I was able to be me- unapologetically.
In preparing to come home, I started to experience this heart-wrenching fear. It crossed my mind: What if Europe is the only place I get to feel this way? What if I go home and lose this who I am? I didn’t want to go home, and once I was home, I felt uneasy, restless. I cried the first few days I was back, unable to forget the freedom I experienced and wondering if I would ever get it back.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of processing. Journaling, reflecting, and some good heart to hearts with dear friends. And I’ve come to this conclusion: I will always have the opportunity to be me- unapologetically. It doesn’t matter if I’m in sitting at home in Maryland or gallivanting across Europe. I have a choice every day to experience that freedom, and THAT was my favorite part about my trip.