As my plane prepared for landing in Germany and I could see the unfamiliar landscapes – all the flat greens, and of course no building as tall as the W.E.B Du Bois Library – that was when I realized I had done it. I had gotten myself to Europe, a place I had been dreaming of traveling to ever since I first watched Hallie Parker travel to London in The Parent Trap.
Upon landing, I knew it was time to begin my next adventure – not my study abroad adventure, but rather getting myself from the airplane to my connecting flight’s terminal, and finding a bathroom along the way. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t just studying abroad in Spain that was the adventure. It was my decision to do so in the first place, the boatloads of paperwork that came along with that decision, the months of preparation, the days of packing and the hours of going over and over the checklist of things in my head that I knew I had to get done or bring with me or memorize before I left Boston. As I stepped off the plane and made my way to the Lufthansa Business Passenger Lounge (thanks to my dad and his miles), the cliché, “It’s not the destination, but the journey that matters,” finally made sense to me. I had always enjoyed my family’s long road-trips from Boston to Florida, or on the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but I finally understood that the journey isn’t just the car ride or the flight; rather, the journey includes the preparation – both mental and physical – that must occur before any traveling can really be done.
Through the airport, I followed the signs and it really wasn’t as difficult as my dad had made it seem in the car on the way to Logan. 😉 Even though I knew I had to stay focused on where I was going, I kept turning my head to the right to look out the large windows lining the walls. I could see the runway and all the land behind it. I kept thinking, ‘Holy @#$%, I’m in Germany.’ As I made my way into the lounge (I will admit, I got a little lost), I found a comfortable chair to settle into for the next three or so hours. Before opening my laptop to tell my family I had arrived, I heard a European police siren off in the distance. I had heard it in movies before, but that sound was so foreign to me and so unfamiliar – it was the first thing I loved about Europe.
After a few hours of uncomfortable sleep in a chair that didn’t recline on the plane from Frankfurt to Madrid, we landed and every worry I had had for the past 5 months was quickly released from my body and turned into excitement. I looked outside at the sunny sky and green grass. I couldn’t believe I was in Spain. Flashbacks and memories of my middle school and high school Spanish teachers’ lectures were floating in my mind like one big dream. I wondered why I even considered studying anywhere but Spain. I had been learning about the language, the culture, the food and the history since seventh grade – I just kept thinking, ‘Holy @#$%, I’m in Spain!”
And that inappropriate phrase has been floating in my head for the past six days I’ve been in this beautiful country.