I walked past Karis' room yesterday and found her feverishly "washing" something in her play kitchen sink. I did a double take as I walked past, putting on the breaks to get another peek at the item. It looked too paper-ish and important to be in her hands. Sure enough, she had swiped my college journal from the bookshelf in the office and was playing with a piece of paper I stuck in there nearly 11 years ago.
It was a list describing the 10 weeks I spent studying abroad in Eastern Europe, each week containing a few notes on the highlights of that week. I stood there and reminisced over the details. Italy in week 2. The gorgeous countryside of Salzburg in week four. The festive, gypsy concert and awkward bathhouse experience of week six's Hungary trip. And how could I forget Vienna and all of it's gorgeous Christmas decorations in week 10? It was there that I tasted the most mouthwatering bratwurst sandwich at a Christmas festival in the park.
My daydreaming continued as I thought for a few moments about my 3 roommates. I won't soon forget our dancing parties in that old, communist-style, Slovakian dorm room, washing our travel-weary clothes by hand in a stand-up shower, or keeping the entire Slovak bird population fed when we left our perishable food out on the balcony one freezing cold night. I couldn't help but consider how we'd all changed since those days. Dianna is now mother to 7 children. Brooke traded in her dancing shoes to become an adopted mom to a beautiful, teenage girl. And Jessica went on to get her master's degree in nursing, marry the man of her dreams, and pass away after a long battle with cancer.
Along with the list of countries, I had also jotted down a few observations and lessons learned while traveling. The following are my favorites:
It is funny how a weary traveler will territorialize a space no matter how small and dingy it may be. It becomes home. No one can touch that 3 feet you have sealed off as privately your own.
You know it's time to go home when you rate a nice warm bed and a hot shower right up there with seeing a famous, beautiful, historical landmark.
But I found it funny that, according to the notes above, the footloose and fancy free, 20-year-old me would have traded a trip to a historic, European castle for a nice, warm bed. At that time, I envied something that the current me has plenty of: a home, plenty of personal space, a warm bed, and a hot shower. Granted, that personal space is littered with books, dolls, and miniature versions of Mickey Mouse. And certainly that hot shower only comes late into the night after everyone else in the home has nodded off. And a warm bed? I've got that too, so long as I've remembered to wash, dry, and put the sheets back on the bed in a timely fashion.
As I stuffed the note unceremoniously back into the journal and slid it back into it's spot on the bookshelf, I couldn't help but smile at the irony of the situation. Even if I tried, I couldn't have thought of a more fitting place to rediscover this piece of paper, a relic of my former youthful and independent days, than between the grubby hands of my 2-year-old daughter as she washed them down the drain. That might just be my favorite definition of irony ever.
Here I am at one of the many castles I toured, an experience that apparently I would have traded for a few domestic comforts. I think the look on my face says otherwise.
[Top photo] Taken atop the Untersberg Mountain in Salzburg, Austria following a hearty yodelling session with Jessica.