The end of 2017 took a lifetime to wrap up. For two weeks, Mat and I traveled through the holidays but time did not calculate the same; two weeks was more than two weeks.
The surge of such an epic release of the hardest year of our marriage was equally thrilling and exhausting - as if something was born and something died - and I'm still acutely aware of the reverberations. It feels as if we were transported to another world. A world where minutes didn't exist and day and night had no distinction; a world where personal history didn't linger and revive stale judgments or assumptions. Ten years is a long time to be married but suddenly it feels as if our past is very young.
It turned out to be the exact kind of vacation we needed and, for the most part, we were able to maintain little to no expectations of the adventure or of each other.
I'm an alien.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to write a blog post to commemorate the trip. It was very personal, so it's hard to describe. What I can say is that I've never felt more like an alien than I did while in Europe. I often feel alien - because of my introversion and other tendencies I have that are weird to most everyone else - but this was different. Not only is the architecture enough to make your mouth dry out from gaping wide open, but standing in a building older than the country you live in is bizarre. I felt like a time traveler. History became real.
And because I don't speak another language, I understood nothing that was being said around us the majority of the time. To be surrounded by such diversity reminded me how very small I am. I was overwhelmed with a greater sense of compassion and gratitude with each interaction we had through broken English and body language. People were never bothered when asked for help, they were eager.
If I was a hugger, I would've hugged every person I talked to. But I'm not, so I didn't.
On one of our many train rides across Germany, after sitting for two hours counting down the stops and numbering the castles, we pulled into a station and an announcement was made that we couldn't understand, save one word: accident. Announcements were first made in German and followed up with the English translation - unless you were in a smaller town, then it's not a guarantee anything is translated. This was a smaller town. When people started fidgeting, I grew anxious. I turned to the man sitting next to me with helplessness in my eyes. "Can you tell me what's going on?"
There had been an accident, he explained, either on our train or on the tracks. Either way, we weren't going to continue on to the next station, our stop, for an undetermined amount of time. The sirens of emergency vehicles were getting louder. Mat and I were scheduled to arrive at our hotel in 30 minutes, where food, a king-sized bed, a bathtub, and WiFi waited for us.
Another man, collecting his luggage and pulling on his jacket to go in search of another means of transportation, leaned over and explained further. "Usually it means someone has committed suicide."
The woman sitting diagonally to me, facing my direction, was speaking wildly to her husband in a language I didn't recognize. But, like accident, there is another word that doesn't have a translation. She whispered it, frightened.
"... terrorist ..."
When you don't know because you don't understand most words, it's easy to feel like an alien.
I'm here, but I'm still there.
Being home, everybody wants to know what our favorite moments or favorite places were. For someone plagued by the thought that anywhere is better than here, everywhere else is always my favorite place. I'm not sure I can whittle the trip down to something shallow and compact, a short soundbite. I posted some photos on Instagram along the way (which you can find on my About page) but the memories feel sacred. They're our little secrets, and I like having secrets.
I've been slow to come back to reality, avoiding the tug of routine and watching the clock as little as I can. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and be in bed in Amsterdam.