Tomorrow, I fly to Italy. In a way, I still can’t believe I’m typing those words. Each of them holds so much significance in their own way, a tiny molecule that contains both fear and desire in a few lines of font.
Tomorrow, for instance. As in barely any time left to finish all my required reading, prepare my presentation(s, gulp) for the honors seminar I take as part of the trip, pack clothes that will be appropriate for 30 degree and 50 degree weather, apply for internships and scholarships that are due in the month while I’m gone, etc., etc. Luckily, I don’t have the time to freak out or else that would be the main item on the agenda. Traveling to Europe for three and a half weeks takes more effort and time to prepare for than I ever would have thought.
Yet, at the same time, I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’ve wanted to go to Europe since I was five, when my mom decided to homeschool me because I said (and I quote since the story’s been told a thousand times) I didn’t “have time to do what I wanted to do.” She let me choose what I wanted to learn about, and European geography and culture were first on the list. I read everything I could find about this place that seemed so far away and so much more sophisticated than America. And now, I get to find out whether all I thought was true, or if every new thing you encounter really is better when you’re five.
I. That’s a big one. I’ve had friends who have traveled to Italy, but mostly with their families and the guise of tourists to shield them from having to actually learn Italian and interact with the locals. Not only do I not have the wisdom of my parents to guide me, but I also know none of the other students on this trip. Apparently, it’s common to plan to study abroad with your friends. Really? What’s the fun in that? Okay, I take that back. Obviously, taking your best friend with you to Italy for a month would be the epitome of awesome. But it also doesn’t take you out of your comfort zone. You’re stuck to that person. I want to choose to follow my nose to the best smells, stalls, monuments, streets, islands that I can find, even if they may be the opposite of mainstream. I want to experience Italia, not just Italy.
Fly. That shouldn’t be that significant. For the past year and a half, I’ve spent more time in airports than watching TV, as my permanent address is 10 hours by car from the University of Maryland. I can probably recite the flight attendants’ speeches by now. And I like planes. They get you where you want to go relatively quickly, and they introduce you to all sorts of people that you might never have met otherwise. But flying to Europe is a whole different story. It requires passport numbers and way-too-early arrival at the airport and flight changes that could mean losing my luggage or getting lost on a different continent if I happen to miss my connection. Though my profesor has given directions to get to our first destination if we’re delayed, I would much rather sleep on a bus than have to navigate my way to an obscure island via train. If I had one wish, it would be that all goes well in that department. Please, God.
To. As in the opposite of from. I’m going to have fun. I’m going to explore. I’m going to make the most out of everything that happens. All this potential is just sitting there, waiting for time to pass so I can experience all of it. It’s very easy to say and think all of that right now, before I discover what Italy and my fellow students and trying to get by with the 20 words of Italian I remember right now, is truly like. I can be optimistic now, but if I end up missing my flight or losing luggage or pick pocketed or all the thousands of things that could go wrong, my mood will be falling quickly from excited to LIAM-NEESON-GET-ME-OUT-OF-THIS-BROTHEL (See Taken if you haven’t, brilliant action movie).
And finally, Italy. Although I always thought I would go to France first since I’m minoring in it, Italy was probably second on the list. After all, it’s the land that brought pizza, pasta and gelato to this world, which are really the only food groups necessary. It’s the land of the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel, these works of art that are held up as achievements beyond all other and tokens of the extensive history that still floats in the alleys of Rome. It’s the land of Venetian glass and the gondolas that can take you on the ultimate romantic voyage, gliding down the canals of the “Floating City” with no idea where you’ll end up. I’m fairly certain Italy cannot get old (because it already is, hehe).
Yet it can be inconvenient. The converters for electronics, the euros that are worth more than the dollar, the six-hour time difference, the insane costs of communicating internationally by phone and of course, the language barrier, have so much potential to cause problems. I will try to look at these drawbacks in a positive way: The experience won’t be as fulfilling and incredibly awe-inspiring without the extra work needed to circumvent these issues. Right? Right. Right…
Together, the words, Tomorow-I-fly-to-Italy, make up the web of emotions building up in my brain at the moment. After 4 p.m., some of my fears might be alleviated, or they might be realized. I’ll have to wait longer to discover if the desire to witness the architecture, economics, geography and more of proud Italia continues to glow brightly. But maybe waiting is exactly what I need.