Our feet haven't touched European soil in 12 days. I just looked through all of our blog posts to refresh myself for this summary and I now have butterflies in my stomach and a knot in my throat. Sometimes you just don't know what you are in the middle of until you are out of it.
We were warned by multiple people before we left that a trip to Europe like the one we took will change you. I didn't believe them... until we got home. We may not have accents (unfortunately) but seeing the things we've seen, meeting the people we've met, and doing our best to learn and live like and with the cultures we visited totally puts a new spin on everything else. The morning we woke up at home the adjustments began. I was shocked by the size of my closet, I was relaxed by not having to worry if my belongings were being stolen in the next room, I was thankful for the magic-like ease of a washing machine and warm shower, I wondered why our American eggs are always white, I was happy to go to the bathroom and not pay for it, I felt rich because we own two cars then wondered if we really need two cars, I reflected on how spoiled and selfish I often am. And all of these thoughts are just the ones that happened in the first two hours of being awake. Many more have come since then.
Most people have been asking us what place was our favorite, and I will answer that, but one friend asked what impacted us the most from the whole trip and that question made me think. I think the most impactful thing that happened (to me) was a huge shift in perspective. Perspective on the world, perspective on people, perspective on the gospel, perspective on cultures, perspective on my own culture and life. This world is so big yet so unimaginably small at the same time. Time is so long and slow yet so incredibly fast and short at the same time. We are all human, we all love, we all hurt, we all sin, we all feel, we all have anxieties. Whether here, or in a rough town in Greece, or in a wealthy town in France you will find moms caring for babies, siblings playing together, someone begging on the corner, and someone heading off to a hard day of work. It's so easy for me to think of the rest of the world as such a different place, and it is in some ways, but on a human level we are all very much the same and that simple truth has me feeling like this world is a very very small place and it has my heart feeling extra big for the people in it.
Another perspective change was time. I'm understanding so much more about both our world's history and country's history after seeing the places we've seen. It's a little clearer why certain things have happened the way they've happened over time, I'm a little prouder of our country's forefathers, I'm amazed by how civilized civilizations really were 2,000 years ago, and I'm shocked at how recent 2,000 years ago really was. Standing in front of ruins or artifacts dating back to 3,200 BC is a very humbling thing. Us advanced technological aged people, we're babies in this world! And after seeing centuries of civilizations a lot like us rise and fall... I think we're a little cocky. To stand where Paul stood almost 2,000 years ago and preached in a city with an already abundant amount of history to it's name is sobering. The "Good News" is not old, it is not a thing of the past, it is not out of date. It is very much alive, it is more relevant than ever, and the urgency Paul felt and the words he spoke were not spoken very long ago.
I don't know where my brain was in school. Probably on some smelly boy or what dress I was wearing to the dance. I remember hearing about these events and I remember loving my history classes but that's about it. I guess there is just nothing like standing in the middle of where it all took place; seeing the remains, understanding the people, becoming familiar with the geography. It will change you... well at least me.
As for our favorite place... this, of course, is a multi-layered answer:) We both agree on this and this is how we feel: If you want to go to Europe and see one thing you MUST see Italy. Italy is the complete package. It's for everyone. It's romantic, beautiful, adventurous, fun, relaxing, and delicious. We saw Venice, Tuscany, and Rome and loved all three. Italy is great because it is easy to travel around the whole country. We also loved that it had so much to offer. You get your history and a taste of the city in Rome, you get absolute beauty and relaxation in Tuscany, and Venice... there is just nothing like Venice. It's an old, romantic, sinking city straight off of a post card. The food everywhere is great, a lot of words are easy to recognize (especially if you know a little bit of Spanish), and I have to mention that the tap water is better than bottled water. This is worth a mention because you would never believe how much money has to be budgeted if you're going to be buying water as you go. Anyway, Italy is our recommendation and somewhere we know we will go back to some day.
Now... for the layers:) Italy is what we suggest everyone see but Ireland has completely stolen our hearts. We spent a day in Dublin but spent the rest of our time in the west (near Cork and Dingle etc). Brett really liked Dublin and I did too but next time I could go straight to the west and never leave that area. From the moment our feet touched that green green grass we were smitten. Seriously, we just stood in that field with our mouths hanging open saying "I can't believe this" over and over. Our first night in the pub had the same effect. As the whistle played and the tapping of feet grew louder and louder I felt a big knot in my throat forming. I guess I don't really have great words to express exactly how we felt. God's gorgeous Ireland just did something deep and inexpressible in our hearts. We simply adventured by day, taking in every gorgeous view and soft blade of grass, and became one of the locals by night. I kept telling Brett "I had to have been born here. How does this place feel so much like home?". I even wondered if a country could adopt you and let you change your heritage to Irish... at least on paper. How could I not be? Somehow I must be! My name is Heather, isn't that their famous hill-covering flower? I have to be Irish! :) And not the American version of "I'm Irish" but the Irish version of "I'm Irish". The Irish (the one's in Ireland) are the most unique people I've ever met. Not just a few select ones, but every single one we came across all had the same spirit about them. All helpful, all grateful, all positive, all take a second to stop, all ask how you are. If you've been to Hawaii and heard of and felt "the Aloha Spirit" then you might understand a little bit of how Ireland is. That place has soul. I count the days that I can be back there with my feet in the grass, Brett's hand in mine, and walking in silence as we listen to the heart beat of that, very alive, very beautiful land.
Tomorrow I will post our hard learned traveling tips!! :)