In three short days I will have been in Europe for exactly two months. It’s really nuts to think about – the time has certainly flown by! Coming up on this two-month mark, I decided it was an appropriate time to reflect a little on what I’ve learned so far. As you are probably wondering from the title of this, what do I mean by learning to sit still? Well, let me elaborate.
Before this, the longest trip I’ve ever been on was two weeks. A semester is certainly longer than that. On short trips I’m used to packing in as much as possible. I’m always thinking about the next thing to see or do. Even at DePaul I am constantly on the move. My calendar is packed with classes, clubs, internships, and social events.
In Budapest I actually have quite a bit of free-time. I hesitate to say in Europe, because I’m usually gone on the weekends visiting other countries where my “Go, go, go” motto falls back into play. But when I’m home in Budapest I get to sit and breathe. That’s right, home in Budapest; this city quickly felt like home after the first few weeks. However, it took me a while to learn how this whole free-time thing works. My initial mentality was, I’m in a new city! I must see, do, and try everything right now! Then it hit me: I have until late December to explore Budapest. It’s okay to take a nap. It’s okay to watch a movie.
Last Sunday night I arrived back at my dorm tired and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I definitely didn’t feel like a million bucks, but I had just gotten back from a weekend in Italy with views, people, food, and experiences worth more than a million bucks.
Thursday morning we awoke at 4:15 to make our 7:00 flight from Budapest to the Rome Fiumicino Airport. I traveled with my friends Molly, Margaret, and Solveiga, who all live on my floor and go to DePaul as well. After sleeping most of the hour and a half long flight, we landed in Rome at 8:30. The adventures began when we split a cab to Termini station; the cab driver weaved in and out of traffic quite dangerously (which I’ve come to expect of all European cab drivers at this point), tried to point out landmarks to us in very broken English and mostly Italian (which none of us speak), and literally exclaimed “Mama Mia!” several times. The cab ride ended at the Termini train station where we dropped off our carry-on bags so we wouldn’t have to bring them around all day. By this point it was 10:30 and we were starving, so we tracked down a paper map and set off to find some food.
After some mediocre sandwiches at the first food place we could find, we ventured towards the Colosseum. We took in the beauty and fascinating history of the Colosseum and the Forum, then walked to the Victor Emmanuel monument, which is very grand and regal. On the way to more monuments, we stopped for some gelato, which I proceeded to spill all over my hands and onto my white shirt… typical. However, the stop was not in vain because we found ruins that operate as a cat sanctuary, much to Molly’s delight. After petting some cats we walked to the Pantheon, which was probably my favorite monument just because it is such a marvelous building. On the way to the Trevi Fountain, Molly and I stumbled upon the Church of St. Ignatius; the ceiling fresco is definitely worth the visit if you are ever in Rome. From there we found our way to the Trevi Fountain, which was disappointingly under construction. The fountain is very beautiful, but the water effects weren’t operating. I still threw a coin into the small area they left for coin tossing because apparently doing so means you will return to Rome one day.
Last week I ran. No timer, no splits, no pace goal. I ran to run and for no other reason than it was what my body was craving. I took the tram to Margaret Island by myself because I’d been wanting to check out the 5km track there for a while. As I ran, I was surrounded by other runners, old couples walking hand in hand, groups of friends sitting beside the river, and dogs racing each other. Despite the bustling island, I felt very at peace. There is something to be said for running with no goals or expectations. Runners are often motivated by numbers and results, however I think that there is a time when it’s okay to step back and run for no other reason than the joy of running. Hop off the treadmill, leave the watch at home, and go explore. Make nature your playground. There is a dreary workout room in my dorm building, but why would I go there when I can breathe the fresh air and get outside?
The experience reminded me of something even more important though – it’s okay to be alone. Living down the hall from most of my friends and constantly being around other people has sometimes made me forget what it’s like to do something alone. I’ve gotten used to doing almost everything with other people. The run reminded me how good it feels to be alone sometimes. When I haven’t had time to think by myself, my head starts to spin with too many thoughts and sometimes I need to write them down. (Which explains this blog post.) I’ve found that I’m most inspired to write after being alone for a bit.
I consider myself to be a pretty extroverted person; I enjoy doing things with other people and I feed off the energy of others. Would I want to travel solo? Probably not. Some people love it, but of the trips I’ve gone on so far, I can’t imagine I would have quite as much fun alone. I’ve learned that balance is key. Sometimes you need that coffee with a friend to vent to and sometimes that coffee is better with headphones, some James Vincent McMorrow tunes, and a relaxing location by oneself. My mission this week is to find a little more of the latter. And coffee is almost always involved.
I was watching one of my favorite movies today, Stuck in Love, and a particular line jumped out at me.
A writer is the sum of their experiences. Go get some.
As I’m studying abroad, I feel so grateful to have countless experiences waiting for me and at my fingertips. I wouldn’t even call myself a writer, but I know that if I ever want to call myself that, I have these experiences to thank for inspiration. And if you haven’t seen that movie, go watch it – if not for the soundtrack alone. It’s funny, heartwarming, and despite the name, not a corny rom-com. Now go make today an experience.