Ahem –I most certainly apologize for taking pretty much all of September off from blogging. Between my mom’s week long visit during the glorious Indian summer days at the early part of the month, trying to be a good student in my short story writing class, and then taking a 2 week vacation to Germany, I’ve been a bit too lax on contributing to L + L.
My sincere apologies.
But, ah yes, Europe. I’ve written before but until last year, I’d never traveled outside of America and Canada until Cole took me on a business/personal vacation to Europe.
The last year I’ve been traveling. A lot. Once again, I can not be more grateful for the opportunities to travel to castles much, much older than my own hometown, fumble through the line at the women’s bathroom with my inability to speak any language other than English and even then I do it poorly, and just see the world. To feel vulnerable, stimulated, and encouraged all are intoxicating feelings that wash over me when I say goodbye to my country and wait in line at customs in Europe, hoping the custom’s officer at Frankfurt won’t be absolutely horrified at my greasy hair, rank breath, and wrinkled clothes.
Oh Europe! So yes, my friends can probably attest that I might have become a slight snob about Europe and how all things Euro are way better than daily life in America. However, as Cole likes to remind me, life looks good any place where you vacation and are free to gallivant through cathedrals, drink sinfully good beer in an open air cafe among the ruins of war and hope, and see beautiful people everywhere you look. Vacation is an escape, a slice of the good life. Sure, if I moved to Germany or Switzerland or another magical land, the daily routine of life, no matter the destination, would certainly catch up on me. I’m, after-all, a grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side kind of woman.
Traveling is intoxicating — especially coming from Montana where our city is so young, so new, and it is just our mountains and glaciers that speak of history. I’ve always loved the past — it stirs and spikes my imagination (I’m much like the character Gil in Woody Allen’s new flick, “Midnight in Paris”) but also reveals how little I know about history, how little I know about major world events that were staged on the hillsides of Germany, and all of Europe. I believe I took history classes in high school but I really don’t know much about the world…religion, politics, wars, kings and queens. I know so little. It is very embarrassing.
Some may say that it’s a small world, but after all, I think it’s actually a quite large one, full of human voices from all walks of life and all the ages…and especially in Europe where castle walls and church steeples mingle with modern life, like the iPhone and the Autobahn. The world might have become much smaller in recent years but that doesn’t discount its richness. Sometimes I feel like my own world, my America, is being made into a processed, packaged box store where everything tastes, looks, and smells the exact same, despite geography. I love traveling to Germany to see history, to see monuments erected for the arts, for religion, for love, and for passion. Sure, I also know that many of those famous buildings and castles came at a high price to all those but the bishops and kings. Anywhere in the world, it is the common, the poor, the regular guy who pays the ultimate price and sacrifice to fulfill the whimsical and fanatical dreams of just a few men.
I try and absorb as many lessons as I can when I’m roaming through Germany, whether those lessons come from touring one of the many lavish and outlandish castles of King Ludwig II or in trying to cross language barriers with new friends at Oktoberfest. Sure, the most obvious lesson would be to learn some freakin’ German and not rely on their English to help navigate our conversation, but perhaps what I’ve taken away from travelling abroad is that my story, my own small existence in the mountains, is just but one of millions in history. My sorrows, my dark days and my own vivid dreams are probably no different than those of people’s a hundred or even four hundred years ago. When I start to think too highly of myself, I look to the world around me, to the statues of beautiful curvy woman, and think, I’ve got nothing on these people. I’m just a witness — and did this sculptor ever dream that his work, done by his own hands, would endure all of this time? That his idea of beauty would be shared with the world centuries into the future?
So, I return home, humbled and encouraged. There is nothing better than to be a participant in life — whether it is here in my community, on an island in Michigan, or wandering through the Cologne Cathedral. Just look at what we humans have done, for better, for worse.