Jurich: Home from EuropeWritten by Stacy Jurich | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I spent the last five weeks traveling in Europe with my partner Ben. I will start out answering the most common questions I am asked: We went to England (Bristol), France (Toulon, Cassis, Corsica), Italy (Levanto, Tuscany, Florence), Spain (Seville, Malaga, Barcelona); I don’t know if we “backpacked”…we carried backpacks, and we had a tent. (We only used the tent once as a last resort on a rainy night at a far from ideal campground.) I’m not sure what factors must be present to be “backpacking through Europe” so I cannot give a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’; Yes, we had an inspiring and exciting experience.
We covered more ground that the aforementioned small towns, island and cities. Our rental car took us through and to Genova, Pisa, Cannes and the rest of the beautiful southern coast of France (continuously throwing Euros out the window every 20km at a toll stop) and then through several towns in the Chianti wine region in Tuscany. We stayed at a friend’s house, a campground, a French ceramist’s cottage on work trade, the floor of two overnight ferry boats, an apartment and villa in a vineyard (we were with my family for this part), a bedroom/hostel in an old giggly Italian woman’s home in Florence, more hostel’s and pensions throughout and a miniscule bedroom in Barcelona (Airbnb).
I came across many other travelers and tourists, German, Australian and American. Many Americans were college-aged and intent on partying through Europe, displaying an embarrassingly immature elitism, expressing no concern for the volume of their voice, the dress of their clothes or behavior (i.e. motioning a suggested throw of an American football to any one of the eight elder Italian men stationed next to the once quaint inlet where they regularly watch the days go by).
This played into some of the stigmas abroad about Americans. I learned in prior travels in Brazil and Central America that people there perceive all Americans as wealthy. Selfishly wealthy, according to the Guatemalan that called our country “Los Estados Banditos”. In Europe it seemed that more people were curious to learn where we stood with our current political situation. (Europeans are more familiar with American politics than I am with theirs.) Some saw the U.S. as a country of abundance and expanse.
There are many customs, policies, institutions and behaviors in this land mass governed by the United States of America that I am not proud of, whether I’m home or abroad. I find them wasteful, like the built-in obsolescence of the majority of our consumer goods, or the packaging of our food products. I find them inefficient, like the economic development decisions made by the City of Toledo. I find them unethical, like the way our natural resources are depleted for those obsolescent consumer goods. I find them degrading, like the laws that prohibit same sex marriages. I find them corrupt, like the majority of the political, financial and criminal justice systems that operate in our country. I also find them heartbreaking, like the continuous funding for and implementation of military warfare.
This does not make me “unpatriotic”, this makes me an opinionated and somewhat skeptical human. In observing the protests, rebellions and revolutions throughout the world that have happened over the last year, I realize that no matter in which country one lives, there are still the pros and cons.
Spending five weeks in Europe brought to light the pros of our North American culture and country. I realized that as I became slightly homesick toward the end of the trip, it wasn’t a specific food or thing that I missed, it was the comforts of what home has to offer. Some of those comforts can be found wherever you set up a home, like a consistent and familiar bed, fresh clothes and homemade coffee in the morning. Some are particular to the part of the world that is my home, familiar faces, familiar sounds and familiar and favorite ways to pass time.
The United States has more interesting and beautiful places to visit that I could cover in a lifetime. The people are just as delightful as anywhere else in the world. The food here is everything and anything in bigger cities and hearty and comfort in small towns, but I am happy to be home and have a garden and kitchen to make my own. It is a great place to come home to where memories, past and new, await. Now if our government can skip this cursory care act and implement universal health care, then our country and its people will be considerably better off.