Friday, May 17, 2013

Leaving Florence

First Florence sunset I watched from Piazza Michelangelo with my flatmates.

This isn’t how I pictured my last day. I’m not ready to leave, but I know I’ll be back. If you really fall in love with something, it’s never truly goodbye—just see you later. That’s what I hope is true for Florence and all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. There is still so much I want to do! I didn’t even see Michelangelo’s David until two days ago.

When you study abroad for a semester, it seems like you have all the time in the world at first. I mean, 4 months is a long time, right? But it slips by so fast and before I could check off half the things on my list, I’m suddenly sitting here the night before move out day, looking around at an empty room.

There is so much I have done that I’m so grateful for. There were challenges, cultural differences, a few language barriers and a lot of gesturing, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

One of my classes this semester was Backgrounds of Western Literature, during which I reread The Odyssey. After reading about the adventures Odysseus encounters on his journey, our professor passed around a poem that seemed to encompass the ideal experience of traveling. For anyone else out there who loves to travel, I hope you will appreciate this poem as much as I did:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

As I continue to travel around Europe these next two months, I’m keeping this poem close to my heart. I will definitely continue blogging—hopefully with more frequency now that the semester is over.

And now I’m off, “backpacking” (I’m actually bringing a small suitcase) through Europe. Wish me well!

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