I can't say that I have returned as a different person. I learnt more about myself and those closest to me but return mostly with precious memories and experiences that I will keep forever in my journal and heart.
It was a trip of an absolute life time where I was able to get a taste of different cities and countries including France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Holland. Of all the places I visited, I have narrowed my favorite places down to three: Paris, Nice and Switzerland. Paris is of course one of my favorites because it continues to hold my favorite memory of all. After arriving and driving through the city on our coach we were able to hop off and explore the city on our own. It is also when I first became friends with Ashleigh and Lauren who are likely two of the best friends that I have ever made. Spending a whole month together can have that affect on you.
We hopped off the bus in Paris and ran to the lookout, squealing as we stared at the Eiffel Tower in the short distance away while tears trickled down my cheeks. We grabbed some crepes beneath the majestic monument which was an undoubtedly surreal feeling before purchasing a bottle of champagne, popping it in the garden and sitting below the tower with a hundred other people and listening to music that people played nearby. From that night onwards, we were inseparable.
Nice was a city I had been looking forward to but had not expected for it to be one of my top three places that I visited. The beaches were always swarming with people, many topless and buskers playing actually really great music created a vibe in front of the breathtaking view that cannot easily be copied anywhere else.
One of my fondest memories is in Corfu Greece at our 'traditional Ionian Dinner' where I was able to smash plates as is the Greek tradition before we all danced with our arms around each other's shoulders and did an extremely long conga line around the restaurant. If you are after a real Greek experience I would not suggest going to Corfu, as it is a much quieter island with not very much of the Greek architecture we have all seen from Pictures, but our three days there were spent relaxing by the pool, drinking way too many Pina Coladas and allowed our group to spend more quality time with each other without the hectic and fast paced walks around new cities we had spent the previous two weeks doing.
We also spent a day on 'Georges Boat' where we were able to go Parasailing and tubing. I went tubing with Lauren and Ashleigh, laughing our heads off the entire time and swallowing more salt water than desired, before relaxing in the water with noodles and drinking wine. The water was so clear we could see fish from deep below us and the water was so salty you didn't even have to move in order to stay afloat.
In Munich we rode bikes and did a small tour of the city before going to the largest beer garden in the world and attempted to ride the bike back tipsy. All the boys on our tour had placed bets that I would be the one to fall off. Although I did scratch my leg on the pedal and bled a little bit, I can proudly say that they lost their bets.
Sorrento, a location I hadn't given much thought definitely surprised me. The water was clear as day and while we all treaded water by the shore, our view of the rolling hills and houses and buildings built on it in different colors was beautifully mesmerizing as I had never seen anything like it.
Venice was also one of my favorite locations. It is just so spectacular in the sense that there is nowhere else like it. Transport was either by boat or by foot, but I was surprised to find how small it actually is so walking everywhere was a breeze. I also got to tick off riding a Gondola from my bucket list. We sang as we were pushed around the canals and waved at others who passed us.
Switzlerland's never ending mountains and waterfalls is a place I definitely hope to return to. Sitting on the grass by our lodge and admiring the view was an activity in itself. I was able to see snow for the second time in my life as we traveled up Jungfrau mountain, also known as the 'Top of Europe'.
Of course we also went to Amsterdam and to get the full experience that the city has to offer, we went to a live sex show. It was an odd experience with one show including a young girl with the ability to smoke from a cigar out of her hoo-ha but it was definitely worth going to.
Rome was a great experience but not entirely a place I want to return to. As a tourist there is much to do, but I find that I prefer to live as a local, wandering around the streets, visiting stores to merely look, try different restaurants and find pretty places to sit and watch the world go by. However, the heat and dirtiness of the city left us quite uncomfortable and we found that many of the prime locations to visit was quite a far walk between with little to do on the way and we spent most of our time borderline lost, hoping to find our tour manger in time for our next activity.
As we drank wine on the Amsterdam Canal Cruise and did the Macarena, I realized that although I may not have changed as a person, I did feel in that moment that this experience was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I am not sure what this new chapter entails but I am excited to see where it takes me.
I have also now been infected with the travel bug as I make plans for my next trip. Next stop, USA.