When I was 24 or so, I went to visit my brother in Europe. He was studying abroad in Italy, and we were thrilled to use the weeks I came out there to build a fun Euro Trip together. We excitedly met in Athens, then hit up Amsterdam, Barcelona, back to Florence, and then Palermo, Sicily before I left to go back home. It was a two week trip in total, and it was quite a journey.
I’d gone through a bad break up right before I left for that trip, which included an almost-getting-back-together moment (or a few), and then my ex and I ending things for good, followed by him almost immediately posting photos on social media with a new woman. It was honestly all for the best that it ended, but I was extremely upset when I arrived in Europe, and my brother and I talked a lot of it out. As we climbed the Parthenon, he listened as I told him the complete story. As we breezed by Amsterdam Ferris wheels and laughed through the Heineken Museum, he gave me some advice. And I listened while he told me about how he was feeling homesick in Italy, and how it was difficult that he didn’t speak much of the language. I shared my experiences studying abroad in Italy 4 years prior and any helpful tips I had. We had a lot of catching up to do and the first week we spilled our all of our frustrations to each other, meandering over and around the canals of Amsterdam and visiting the mysterious Oracle of Delphi (which was closed). It was a time of wandering through lands unfamiliar and magical and funny and strange.
We sat together in the lobby of our hostel while, on a shared communal computer, my brother stood by me as I deleted my ex from all social media. We guided each other through some odd and new territory.
Then something changed about halfway through the trip- there was a lifting. We sat on a beach in Barcelona and sunk our feet into the sand and stared at dripping Gaudi buildings and felt free and alive. The problems started to soar out of our minds as we swam through that Spanish sea, replaced by a feeling of wonder. And the joyful giddiness stayed with us as we slurped spaghetti in Sicily and went bar hopping through ice bars and breweries and laughed and met strangers and felt like both grown ups and children again.
Now I’m on the tail end of a road trip with my family and I feel the same lifting as back then. I started this trip with an angst- nothing to do with the road trip- the trip is what helped. The feeling is the July angst I talked about in my last blogpost What Happens In Summer. Big questions play through my head in July and August and make these months a time of strong re-evaluation. But on this trip, and on many others with my family, I go through a period of release similar to that voyage through Europe. There’s something about being away for fun (and not just for my usual work travel), something about the open road. Something about talking to my family, talking to my brother again, who reminds me that dwelling on anxiety and toxic repetitive thoughts isn’t useful, and brings me back to the simple idea that the most important thing for me is my own happiness.
Whether splashing on a beach in Barcelona, or driving down the open road through some small southern town, occasionally you just need to let all the inside things out to remind yourself of what’s really important.