“Good people do things and never know why. Great people do things and know the purpose.”
– Eoin Fray
How in the world do I start this? Certainly, it has been way too long since I blogged. Thinking back, I know now that I refrained from writing because I wanted to be so connected to what I was seeing and experiencing that imagining how I was going to write about it would somewhat hinder me in living in those moments. I’ve been home now for 3 weeks, and wanted to give myself some time until I decided to come back to everything in Bilbao and my study abroad journey of a lifetime.
Everyday I’ve been home has been a constant and slow adjustment to life back in America. During these weeks I’ve been able to see the drastic differences between Spain and here, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Don’t get me wrong, being with my family and best friends is everything to me. And that statement there stems from the most valuable lesson I learned from everything that happened over the course of last semester. I’ll explain. After reading my blogs again, it gives me reassurance in my realization that before I left, I legitimately had no idea what was to come. I mean really, it came so quick that all I could do was buckle up and hold on. You don’t know how it is to be on your own, in a completely different culture until you experience it first hand. Before it begins you don’t know how you’ll feel, what you’ll think about, or what you’ll do. Granted, this is what I wanted from my semester abroad; a culturally gripping, reality-changing, radically life-altering experience. Oh, and I got that. But what I’m saying is that the past months have taught me lessons that would take me days to count, and ones that I still have yet to discover. However, in the clouded array and mumbo jumbo of all these ideas, one in particular stands out.
I know now the only things that matter in my life: my family and friends. When people ask me about what I missed while I was away I try and change my normal answer, maybe I can remember something that I hadn’t yet. But I mean, throw Chipotle in the mix and that just about settles it. The time away taught me what I actually have and care about, and that’s them. It also taught me that all the other bullshit doesn’t matter. It figures itself out, and if it doesn’t…well, just forget about it.
Without my family, none of this would’ve happened. I’m so extremely lucky to have had an experience like this, being able to travel all throughout Europe is more than most people can say they’ve done in their entire lives. God, I just can’t even believe it. I thought before I left I was a traveler/adventurer/whatever you want to call it. Haha, if only I actually were. But today, I am that. The semester only opened the door for what is to come, and that is the World. You aren’t meant to stay where you’ve lived, to see repeatedly the same things and people. No way! We’re meant to move, learn, grow, and repeat.
Truly, it’s impossible to convey how much I fell in love with Bilbao and all of the countries and cultures I encountered. All in all, I went to ten countries and saw things and met people that will leave me with countless stories for as long as I live. I drank beer in Belgium while making friends with two Swedes. I had the best fish and chips in London. I went to the Holocaust Memorial in Germany and touched the Berlin Wall. I took a shot of the powerfully potent alcohol Absinthe in Hungary. I had some Gelato in Italy. I swam in the crystal clear water of Portugal. I rode a camel in Africa, and got back to the city just in time to hear the Islamic call to prayer (plus the food poisoning and allergic reaction as well). And who could forget France and The Netherlands. I visited numerous cities in Spain, and finally, I lived and studied in the most beautiful one of all: Bilbao.
Bilbao was home, and in a way it always will be. I’m still so connected to it because I look at everything in the eyes of the person it molded me into. I left a part of me there. I left people that I fell in love with, ones that truly can never be replaced or forgotten. When you’re in a new place, all you can do is learn. That in itself is a disastrously overlooked part of life. There weren’t enough hours in the day to learn new things; whether it was Spanish, or the unique cultural differences in the Basque Country there was always something. I have so many people to thank, and there isn’t anything I could say or give to ever repay them.
I was given a language, and with that a way to feel, communicate, and connect with others. My professors who became great friends understood the importance of young adults, especially Americans, learning another language. In language I found passion, an obsession and non-stop drive for knowledge. I was blessed with a perfect match in a host mother, Maika. She cared for me like I was her son and would be compassionate when needed and certainly demanding as well. I can remember vividly our first encounter and all I knew to say was Hola and gracias. How things have changed. When I left it was a snowball of emotions, filled with tears, and laughs. I learned so much that those two words turned into hundreds, thousands, and in that moment it became evident how powerful language truly is. It gave me the chance to build a lifelong bond with someone I never imagined ever meeting. Now, I’ll have to resort to weekly Skype sessions and frequent WhatsApp conversations until the next time my feet touch down in the Basque Country.
And finally, to all of the friends I made in Bilbao. Who I shared moments of complete bliss and sincere melancholy with. Who I embarked with in a journey where the end result was so unfathomable throughout it’s entirety that all we could do was simply live through it. Who were by my side through the best time of my life, who can relate to what I actually experienced: thank you doesn’t do it justice. I can only hope that we all found what we were looking for. Now, it is a simple hasta luego. Never could I forget the memories made, times spent, and bonds forged. Venga y agur a ti!