I did it.  I went to Europe with a backpack & a rail pass, spent three weeks wandering, and had the most amazing time.  The trip was wonderful, fantastic, soul-enriching, happiness-inducing, super fun… madness.  Pure crazy.  Stressful and strange, at times, but I loved every single damn minute of it.

Backpacking in Venice

And then I came home and bought a new car in the 3 days between landing and going back to work.

And then I got a tattoo!

So it’s fair to say that the last month has been a whirlwind – trip to Europe, new car, and a new tattoo!  I am not the Katie who got on the plane on September 6th.  I’m actually having trouble processing the whole experience – which may be best done in small pieces – but I know that I’ve changed.  If it had just been the trip, maybe I wouldn’t have felt such an extreme shift.  But I guess the car was part of my identity, too, a relic of a past life I’ve been trying to escape from, a piece of the person I’ve left behind in so many other ways.  And the tattoo – well, I’m not even the same person on the outside.

Watercolor Compass Tattoo

I highly recommend getting a tattoo right after having a life altering experience, by the way.  It’s incredibly gratifying to SEE a change.  When I returned from Belfast earlier this year, it was jarring to feel so different when nothing had changed outwardly.  I didn’t plan on getting a tattoo at the end of the trip, but things just worked out, the way they do sometimes.  I saw an artist on Facebook while I was in Amsterdam, we sent some messages back and forth, and suddenly I had an appointment for the Sunday after my return.  It all came together like it was meant to be!  Thing #15 is Finish a Half-Sleeve and this was a step in that direction – a compass on my right arm to celebrate my love of travel.  Now, whenever I look at it, I’ll remember how wonderful it felt to be in Europe.

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The car was a whole other thing.  It’s a shiny red 2013 Honda Fit – not the car I thought I’d get, but I compromised my desire for a hybrid car for my desire not to blow all my savings after having the travel experience of a lifetime.  The gas mileage is good, I can fit my bike in it, and I think I got it for a fair price, so I’m happy with that.  Not to say I didn’t cry when I turned in my old car, which I’m sure they’ve crushed into a metal cube by now.  In fact, I may cry again – who knew I was so attached to that car!

At the Forum in Rome

But the trip!  I’m sure you (my 2 readers) want to hear all about the trip.  That’s so much harder to talk about because it was so… much!  There are so very many things to say.  I’m going to do a Best/Worst list to sum it up, then get in-depth on each city, but until then I’ll leave you with the overall feeling: I did not want to come home.  I love my house and my dog and my job (most of the time), but I’d trade it all for life as a vagabond.  There was a moment in the train station in Amsterdam, where I was crouched on the platform eating a very odd sandwich, that I just felt completely at ease with everything.  For someone with an anxiety disorder, that’s huge.  But I was with my best friend, we were on our way from one amazing place to another amazing place, and I didn’t ever want it to end.  So this is how I’ve been changed by the trip, and this is why I can’t REALLY get back to normal.  I feel, more strongly than ever, that my place is in the world.  Workaday, domesticated, live-for-the-weekend life just isn’t going to cut it for me.  I know what real freedom – soul-level freedom – is for me, and I want more of it!