The sangria in Spain is slightly sweet and almost fizzy. The night air in Tarragona is warm and stale without being humid and pink clouds streak the sky long into the evening. Narrow cobblestone streets weave throughout the open plazas, outdoor cafes, and down to the ocean. Everything is relaxed. Ebbing and flowing with happy chatter and clanking glasses and children playing tag. Nighttime in Spain is a dinner party run late. Wine-warmed cheeks and cigars and laughter without echoes.
The terra cotta roofs in Florence stretch the skyline, interrupted only by church spires and bulbing domes. Hanging flower boxes and drying laundry on every balcony and the sweet smell of roasting garlic. Modern life written on the pages of history. Italy is a silent parade too ornate and drawn on for music. The water by the Cinque Terra is so densely sapphire, the ocean looks like a melted gem washing against the stacked pastel houses. The panfrito is pillowy and filled with melted mozzarella and I ate it knowing it would never be this good again.
Paris hums like New Year's Eve. Taxis, tourists, buses, motorcycles, boats, shuffling feet and clicking cameras. Open patio cafes on every corner. Decadent art and architecture in reckless excess. Souvenirs from the world's greatest. Here. Bubbly white wine on the balcony and "La Vie En Rose." I danced alone above the city completely and singularly in love. I understand Hemingway. It will always be Paris.
Traveling alone is terrifying and redefining and wholly necessary. I wanted this experience to say that I conquered the world and had growled in the darkness of the unknown but the reality was more like whimpering in a shadow. The truth is that I failed. Many times. I failed to plan, to communicate, to navigate, and yet somehow it all worked out. I had to rely on people and it made me more open and humble and grateful. I owe my entire trip to the Irish guy who helped me find my train, and to the Italian couple who shared their walnuts with me on the plane, and even to the little Dutch girl on the bus who played Eye Spy with me. It turns out, the darkness of the unknown is filled with other people who also sometimes need help getting home.