Friday, August 7, 2009

Back from Europe

I have been back for almost 48 hours, and it still hasn't completely hit me that the most wonderful month of my life has come to a close. There is no way I can express in one blog post, or even many, just how much I learned about myself over the past four and a half weeks. I can't relate all of the times when I recounted hilarious moments with myself because there was no one else to tell. Many people have told me that they could never travel by themselves, but I challenge everyone to find somewhere to get away and be alone with only your thoughts and your emotions. It is a powerful experience, and there is no way I would trade my semi-solitude for the company of another. I had an incredible time, and I really hope I get to share all of my many memories with the readers of this blog. That being said, please tell me to shut up if my ramblings ever get to be too much to handle. I have a tendency to tell stories even when no one cares to listen.
I just wanted to share one of my final journal entries before flying back to the good ol' U.S. of A. This culminates a lot of my thoughts about the trip, and I really like the ideas inside. It explains a lot of details about my final adventure in England (you can skip over that part, but it really is pretty good). Most of all, read the last part; I think it perfectly explains all of the things I learned over the past month.

Today (August 4, 2009) was both the highest and lowest point of my trip. Low point #1: leaving London. I fell even more in love with that city over the past two weeks, and I will do whatever it takes to return there as soon as possible. I made my buses and train to Gatwick without any problems, and I was pretty positive concerning the rest of my trip. And that's when they lowered the boom on me. I stood in line to check my bag, and I was nervous about all of the signs I saw concerning hand baggage size and dimensions. I knew that my bag wouldn't fit into the provided corrals, but I knew that if I could sneak it in, I would be fine. So I checked my one bag, proceeded to security, and received the horrible news that I couldn't go any farther with my second piece of hand luggage. I had no idea what I would do, so I walked back over to Easyjet to see what options they could give me. They told me that I would have to pay for the additional bag, and any additional weight on top of my 20 allotted kilograms. Well, my first bag weighed in at 20.4, so I would have to pay the price of 9 pounds/kilo on top of the 16 pounds for an additional bag. I was immediately overcome with emotion, as I thought about the cost of taking the bag in the hold. The man at the information desk told me that I had the option to ship my bag as cargo, and I could pick it up when it arrived overseas. With this news, I ran to the shipping counter, hoping that they would be able to help me. The man there was very nice, but the price he quoted me was worse than the first. To ship my bag, I would have to pay 250 pounds, and there was no way I had that much cash to send my bag home. I pleaded to him, hoping he would be able to help me figure out a solution, and we thought that I might have the option to store my bag at Gatwick and pick it up during my layover at Heathrow. He told me that I needed at least 2 hours to make the return trip, and my 3-hour layover didn't leave much cushion in case of delays. I didn't want to jeopardize missing another flight, so I dropped that option and considered doing the other thing he suggested; namely, calling British Airways and figuring out how to cancel the leg of my journey that would bring me back to Barcelona. This would still leave me with getting back to Heathrow, and I didn't like the idea of paying the fees to change my flight. Plus, I only had about 40 minutes until my flight to BCN left, and I needed to get my first bag off of that plane if I was going to stay in London. It was an awful situation, and I was nearly hysterical as I walked back over to Easyjet to determine my fate. In the 5 minutes walking along the terminal, I decided to pay the extra 196 pounds and take my bag as hold luggage to Barcelona. Even though I could not afford this exorbitant amount, I knew that I had to stick with my plan and rely that things would work out for the best. I went back to the ticket counter, and the man said I needed to wait in line again to check my second bag. With the clock ticking toward my departure time, I walked back over and asked the woman if she would let me stand in the shorter line. She put me there, and I waited for about 5 minutes to see someone at the baggage counter. And that's when things went exactly as if God stepped in and delivered me. I was ushered along to the same man I saw the first time I checked my bags (the same man I told my anxieties to). I stepped up to the counter, and, crying, told him my situation. His face softened, and he asked if I would be able to pay any of the extra fee needed to check my bag. I told him that I could only fork out 30 pounds, and he just nodded his head and said, “That won't be necessary.” I almost didn't believe that he was letting me off scott free, but my bag rolled out of sight, and I thanked the man profusely and told him, “God bless you.” I walked away from the counter with tears of relief and gratitude in my eyes. I immediately said a prayer to thank my Heavenly Father for guiding me out of the awful situation, and I walked to security feeling as if my heart would burst.

In the past month, I have met some of the world's craziest, creepiest, and most heartless people, but I have also met their polar opposites. I have seen the very best this world has to offer, and it comes not in steel or in stone, not in shopping or in guided tours, but in the faces, words, and gestures of the people I have met. The best in this world is Ximena's smile, Alejandra's laugh, watching Mark and Sartan dance it out last night at FHE. The best in this world is the easyjet man, the hot guy on the plane to Heathrow, and the salespeople in the designer shops in the airport. It doesn't take money; it doesn't take beauty (except in the case of the hot guy on the airplane); it only takes a little time, and a little kindness. I truly believe that we can change the world by smiling more often, by holding open the door for a stranger, and by recognizing the need we all have for love. It's inspiring that I can learn more about myself and about mankind than I could ever wish to learn from artifacts in a museum or a library.