What can be said after three weeks bouncing around parts of Europe?
Henry Miller probably said it best, some years ago: "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
Travel is meant for you to reflect. Whether it is a new restaurant in town or flying across the ocean, the world is new around you. It is a powerful decision to experience abandoning everything you know of your habits and familiars to slowly find yourself finding yourself all over again.
Most of the clarity comes when you settle back into what you thought you knew. I returned to New York this past weekend exhausted, for sure, but refreshed. I was able to release some of the guilty, self-defeating feelings I had just existing in New York because I was no longer in it. There was no more constant questioning of "What next?" or plotting how I would become "somebody" quicker. It was just existing in another place, searching for what I wanted to experience next. It felt better to keep it simple.
And so now that I've returned, there are questions. There are always questions. Plenty of people want to know: "Did you have fun?" "What's it like on the outside?" "What was your favorite part?"
Of course I had fun. It was beautiful and exciting. And I didn't even have to think twice to know there couldn't be a favorite moment to the trip. Yes, some days had better weather and other days my eyelids were heavy and legs like Jello. But it's not about the moments, it's about the ride. It's about the way we see things. Someone without your experience might not even begin to understand. Until they see how you've changed.
It was almost serendipitous that I decided to watch Before Sunset on my flight home from Amsterdam. The film is so jam-packed with existential questions it was fun enough to unpack and forget I was flying thousands of feet above the water.
Before Sunset is the story and conversation between Jesse and Celine as they roam through Paris remembering the details of a one-night stand they shared nine years prior. They talk a lot. And I can't remember what she was talking about it in the film before it, but I know Celine, the female lead, says, "They enjoy the goal but not the process. But the reality of it is that the true work of improving things is in the little achievements of the day."
Richard Linklater, the director, is clear and strong with each bit of dialogue. Hell, it carries the movie. The conversation cycles around the narratives of our lives through the challenges of memory and the wackiness of time. And so Celine's quote hit me hard particularly because it was another final slap in the face to remind me to relax, breathe deep, and seize the day. You don't want to look back at your life and remember only missed opportunities because you were too busy worrying or dreaming.
Step outside. It might be unknown, unfamiliar or unwelcoming or it might be everything you didn't realize you needed and could find - a new way to see things.