"There is only one road. Complacency is the roundabout. Assertiveness and striking a balance between humility and confidence is the highway."
Five months, one week, eight countries, thirty-two cities and it ends in the small Italian town of Dasa` with family I am meeting for the first time. Nestled deep within the peasant territory of Southern Italy and basking beneath the early Spring sun after a long British winter, my time abroad has come to a close.
The adventure has been a dream I will never have again. When I do return to the places I have visited, the memories will erupt like a volcano, but the emotions will remain dormant. The second time around never has the same intensity, its spark always diminished. But, there must always be light for it to fade…
The feeling of child-like innocence while wandering around a foreign city, all five senses stimulated by new experiences. The pride after mastering the daily routine of the locals, and camouflaging amid the European crowd with local winter fashion trends. The curiosity when meeting new people, listening to new languages and discovering hidden accents. The sacred silence when stepping into a decadent European church, all by yourself. The peaceful solitude of staring out a train window, watching the English countryside turn into the underground of the Paris metro and then becoming the mountainous terrain of Southern Italy or the snow covered fields in Poland- Thinking about the past, making sense of the present and building towards the future, all in your mind.
The final days abroad with family have been a special experience. The elderly are living examples of resistance and perseverance. They have told me sad tales of losing children, facing ongoing health issues and the despair that comes from relatives residing ten time zones away. Forced into a life of sacrifice and resilience, they have gritted their teeth and accepted an easy life is a figment beyond the stars.
Exchange is something special, it is not easy and it is not for everyone. But, as I have learnt many times throughout my experience, the easiest tasks are rarely the fulfilling ones. Exchange constitutes a whole world of opportunity, travelling, everyday living and studying. The freedom is cosmic, the opportunity is limitless, but it can be stressful and overwhelming. I have learnt that it is okay, and even healthy, to experience difficulty and stress. It means you are active, you have goals and expectations, you won’t accept failure or mediocrity, and the rewards are character building. Along the way you discover coping mechanisms, you implement defensive strategies and you can look forward to the next challenge without fear.
I am returning to Australia richer in spirit, deeper in soul and more determined in my pursuit. I have built an empire of resilience, patience and modesty. My core is set on Europe; I have a target in mind and a home at heart. There is only one road. Complacency is the roundabout. Assertiveness and striking a balance between humility and confidence is the highway.