Niemaszyk: European Backyards, People, and Backpacks
In New Hampshire, my backyard has a shed, a pool, a large grassy area, a tree with a swing…things that are ordinary for a backyard to have. So far, the places I’ve stayed in Europe have had extraordinary backyards, with astounding nature and famous historical sights to replace the ordinary.
Backyards: In Iceland, I could see the northern lights from our cabins back-deck and in the daylight you could miles of untouched land. The city center was our backyard in Vienna and surrounding mountains and Lake Bled were right outside our apartment in Slovenia. Mount Vesuvius could be seen on the horizon from our picturesque Italian courtyard in Pompeii, and on the university’s planned ten-day pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, the Colosseum, Vatican, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Pope, were all scattered about in our backyard in Rome and a perfect view of the sunset and small town could be seen from our balcony off of our rooms in Assisi. This past weekend, my backyard was a vineyard in a small French town close to Burgundy.
People: In just under two months, I’ve been to 8 countries and multiple cities. To some degree, I’ve experienced the culture, food and wine, and society of each destination. Traveling continues to be exciting and the people I’m with continue to amaze me. Trips I’ve experienced have been with a wide variety of people – a mixture of different personalities and characters – diverse groups of enthusiasm and love for discovery. The stories created and memories made while waiting to see Pope Francis at the papal audience, walking through the ruins of Pompeii, eating home-cooked French food on a vineyard where my friends mother grew up, or watching the sunset over a castle on a hill in Assisi (Ed Sheeran reference), wouldn’t have made any impact if it wasn’t for the people I shared those moments with. It’s truly amazing to be constantly surrounded by the same 150 people every day.
My backpack: I love my hiking backpack. I love the amount of things it’s able to hold. I love the way the straps and buckles perfectly fit and form to my back, I love the backyards it’s brought me to and the miles I’ve walked with it. And FYI, I also love metaphors, so bear with me as you hear another! My backpack is like my life right now. I’ve been to a numerous amount of places, and I love how studying abroad holds an abundance of opportunities for growth. I love how everything has been perfectly fitting together as I’m currently figuring out the pieces to the Austrian puzzle – the aspects I’ve figured out work and things that don’t while being a student and a traveler. I’ve loved every step of the miles I’ve walked through cities and fields, mountains and ancient ruins, and the European backyards I’ve experienced.
I close with one thought: If you have the opportunity to go somewhere you’ve never been, do it. If a group of people want to travel with you, say yes. And if all you have to do is pack your backpack to travel to that place with those people, pack it. I promise you won’t regret it.