There haven't been many opportunities for returns on this trip. Unidirectional travel means always going to a new place, a new adventure, a new language or currency. West, always west. So arriving in Venice today felt different. I've never been to Venice before, but I have been to Italy. It was 15 years ago, but it was with the same people who accompanied me stepping off the boat from northern Croatia this morning-- my parents.
It's almost too simplistic to say that a lot of things changed in the 15 years since I went on my first trip abroad to Tuscany, a timid 3rd grader with childhood anxiety disorder. I grew up, of course, and my parents aged. The EU didn't exist then, and we paid for our spaghetti carbonara and Chianti classico in Lira. But that trip changed me, too. When I left the US I was a kid scared of everything, from the dark to the waves on the beach. But international travel unlocked something in me, and what fears hadn't dissolved by the time I returned slowly gave way in the next months and years.
Travel continues to unlock my strengths, teach me to be happy in ways I had no idea I could be. Sitting in Piazza San Margherita today in the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice watching night fall, little old ladies making their daily constitutionals, boys kicking around a soccer ball, couple strolling under the tolling of the Saturday mass bells, I was reminded of that.
One return deserves another. I've been away from this blog awhile, a break due to technological difficulties, internet shortage, logistics, and writer's block. But I'm back in Italy, and back here for my 4 remaining months of joyous exploration. Many happy returns.