It’s never a goodbye/auf wiedersehen/tschüss/ciao- it’s a see you later!

I can’t believe it has been a month since I’ve had God’s gift to mankind, Giolitti’s gelato, twice a day. Being back in America has been bittersweet. While I enjoy (and now fully appreciate) the free water, ketchup packets, and public restrooms, there is a hole in my heart from being without the great food (I went through bread withdrawals), the unforgettable adventures, and most importantly, the familia. I find myself constantly looking through pictures and rereading blog posts, trying to do anything I can to fill the void. I think about some of my most favorite moments on the trip: tearing up at the Sistine Chapel, dancing at the dinner table every night, thinking I was going to die/feeling so accomplished after hiking up the mountain to get a better view of Neuschwanstein, practicing my German with old people, laughing uncontrollably at the boys and the “squishy” sellers, having the courage to jump off the side of the Swiss Alps, running around Rome on the last day almost like natives…. basically, the entire trip has become one lifetime favorite memory.

I’m just now realizing how much Cultural Routes has forever touched my life. I can say that I have already learned a few things:
  1. Night trains are for sleeping (surprisingly).
  2. Germans are different from the Swiss, and both are radically different from the Italians. I learned this firsthand from losing my money in Berlin (my own mistake) and not getting it back until Florence. I had to speak to people from all three different cultures, and they all had three different perspectives on the issue. It amazes me that these countries have been able to get along and form the EU and the EFTA.
  3. Speaking of losing money, I feel like I have recently learned the skill of budgeting.
  4. I learned the REAL meaning of The Great Gatsby thanks to Bryan.
  5. Most importantly, I was reminded how valuable friendships with people you would have normally never even talked to are. I knew that I would probably become friends with everyone on the trip before it was over, but I never knew that these new relationships would be so special. I cannot wait for school to start so I can hug and see all of these wonderful people! I also am inspired to get to know more people who are different from me this upcoming school year. I love my CR5 familia so much!
With all that I’ve learned,  I am currently still trying to figure out the complete meaning of the Italian word “preggo”…
I am so thankful for this trip. It is one of those experiences that I know I will hold near and dear to me for a long time- long enough to hopefully inspire my grandchildren to go abroad. The places we visited were amazing, but the memories we made there as a family are unforgettable.
I hope to see you very soon, Europe.