Europe speaks to me. It always has. There was a period in my life when I made a point to go every year. I felt like I was living day-to-day life in a haze, just trying to survive until the next time I could be away, over there. Just thinking of it, I go into a trance. Just now, I was looking at pictures of European real estate – and there it was, that familiar trance – where I’m staring at a picture (or recalling a memory) and my eyes go out of focus and my imagination takes over…and I’m there. I’m feeling how I would feel if I was there at that moment in time. I am fortunate in that I’ve been in some of the most amazing places in the world. Throughout all my travels, there are specific, pivotal moments I can pick out, snapshots I took in my mind. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not. Snapshots not only of how it looked at that moment, but how it felt, smelled, tasted, sounded.
And just like I can stare at a good painting and lose myself in it, in the story, in the emotion, in the details, I can do that simply from closing my eyes and picturing a quiet Paris street at 4am on New Year’s Day. Or sleepy Venice, and the way the sun hit the tops of the buildings as we trudged through cobblestone streets looking for our hotel. The skinny, aloof Italian alley cats. The way the narrow street echoed with children’s voices on Christmas morning in Barcelona. I can smell it. I can see it, I can feel it, I can breathe it. This is when I feel most alive. When I am traveling, I am so aware of these moments that it feels ultra-vivid, almost electric. Everything is bright, my mind recording everything that it can, to pull out and relive over and over again on a warm April night in Texas.
I can tick off those moments in my mind. The first time my feet touched the sidewalk in Paris. The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower. The first time I stood outside the train station in Venice and beheld the canal. The moment in that Paris apartment where a drunken Parisian girl followed me into the gigantic bathroom and hissed to me, in perfect English, “my boyfriend just gave me back my panties in front of my husband – what should I do??” Standing on the frail wooden bridge in Bavaria staring at the impossibly beautiful castle before me. Aware of the long, long drop beneath my feet. Keenly aware of the fragility of life and how we must take it all in. We must soak up as much as we can while we are here.
Which brings me to this thought: what in the world am I doing? Why am I even still here, in Austin, in Texas, much less the United States?? I feel like my real self is across the ocean. I can live life when I’m over there, in the moment, but for some reason, something holds me back when I’m here. I’m overwhelmed with a sadness at the time that I’ve wasted, and how much more I will waste, until I can quit thinking of it as an unattainable dream and just GO.
What freaks me out, and what we used to think about upon returning from our journeys, is that somewhere in Austin there is an Italian girl who considers this her nirvana. She traveled over the ocean, in the opposite direction, and feels alive here, as opposed to the stale green rolling hills and the beautiful, lilting dialogue of Italy.
And to that, I ask: WTF?
Of course, there are places in the U.S. that have moved me, and I have certainly not seen every place. But these places are missing the most important factor: distance. When I behold beauty in my own country vs. across the ocean, it lacks the sense of mystery, the sense of different, the sense of the exotic. The flaw is in the simple fact that I am not far, far away from everyday problems. Away from “real” life.
So why do I have to cross an ocean to feel like myself? To really enjoy life? To feel alive? Why can’t I capture that feeling here? Why do I feel stale and stuck here, but weightless and full of possibility there? Why do I let moments, days, weeks, even years slide by here, uneventful, as opposed to cherishing every second while in a different land?
Or is this just the normal thing that everyone feels, the yearning to live life constantly on vacation? Why do I feel like it’s more than that?
Geez, I need to plan a killer vacation, and soon. Or maybe, just pick up and move my life to another state. Hm...