I miss Europe.
I miss hoisting a bag with all my worldy possessions on my back and lumbering off into the sunrise. I miss Augustiner and cheap Italian house reds in carafes. I miss navigating my way through slushy puddles on cobblestone streets. I miss sleeping on the floor of airports. I miss my hiking boots, big thick socks, bell bottoms, bandana and white parka. I miss absinthe. I miss meeting people in Copenhagen and finding them again in Amsterdam. I miss saying "entschuldigung" every ten minutes and I really miss the one time in Salzburg when I sucessfully ordered pretzels in German and the shopkeeper actually responded in German and we carried on a two minute conversation about the weather in German.
I miss meeting strangers on trains. I miss the soldier from Abu Ghraib I spent that night with in Switzerland, the Estonian woodcutter, the German housewife, the woman who tutored the Spanish royal family in French. I miss the Notre Dame kids.
I miss the champagne risotto in Milan. I miss the Illy latte and chocolate crossiant I would buy every morning at the Hauptbanhof in Munich. I miss the feeling of seeing my mother in the hotel lobby in Paris after a month of traveling alone. I miss her face after seeing Notre Dame.
I miss the icy mountain lakes of Austria and I miss Steve the insane tour guide who showed them to me. I missed how he had the thickest Midwestern accent I'd ever heard outside of Drop Dead Gorgeous except for stubbornly pronouncing it "OY-ro" instead of"EU-ro."
I miss sitting at a bar with a book and not feeling weird about nursing a beer with only a paperback for company. I miss the freedom to look at a train schedule and and think "Denmark? Never been there, might as well go!" I miss the father and daughter I dined with at Poseiden in the Viktualenmarkt, whose business card I keep on my refrigerator door as a reminder of the friendliness of strangers. I miss how they told me I didn't look American, though I'm quite sure they were gently BS-ing me.
I miss Hot Australian Nate from Munich and the cheap champagne we pounded until 6AM. I miss staring at Guernica in wonder for ten minutes. I miss watching the wedding party in St Stephen's Green. I miss the jar of pumpkin pesto I carried in my bag for two weeks and finally consumed on an overnight train. I miss deciding where to sleep for the night based on the price of doing laundry there and whether or not they included sheets. I miss the shy Korean girl I borrowed tampons from in Vienna and bought her her first beer as a thank you. I miss the cafe in Venice where I would watch the sunset each night. I miss the beachfront bar in Barcelona where I removed my hands from the warm pocket of my Universitat de Amsterdam sweatshirt only to sip at my Baileys as I watched the cruise ships sail off into the Mediterranian. I miss the gasping, bone-chilling stark air of Prague, its crispness broken only by the tendrils of smoke coming from the lips of my stoner roommates.
I miss watching people go about their daily lives in other countries. I miss the oddly profound novelty of seeing a woman buy groceries or a man strap his son into a stroller and thinking "She's European. He is European, too. They don't know anything about PACs and 527s and they don't care to."
I miss all of it. I miss it more than I've ever missed a person or a place before.
People play the If I Had A Million Dollars Game endlessly. For me, it's not a game. I would wander the ends of the earth, reveling in ways of life I will never understand or participate in, collecting stories and memories and documenting them as best I can in my own stumbling way. It was the best thing I've ever done, and I would give anything in the world to go back and do it again.