Before I jet off to the greatest adventure of my life, I should probably explain why I’m writing this blog and give you a little more history. Allow me to introduce myself… I come from a tiny, forgotten little city called Port Colborne in the south of Ontario, Canada. A population of 18,000 people, most of who are over age 50. I’m a bright lights, big city kind of girl, which is exactly why I’ve decided to spend my gap year in Rome. As in Rome, Italy. As in over 4,425 miles away from home. This idea was first planted in my head in December of my senior year at my Catholic high school. I had already filled out all my applications and had planned to study Journalism at University of Ottawa (which I ended up getting accepted to the following Spring). But unlike my fellow friends and classmates, I couldn’t see myself walking across a sprawling green campus with ivory growing off the side, drinking from a keg stand in a jail sized dorm room, eating ramen noodles at 2 am and spending my time studying flash cards in a library. I just wasn't in love with the image.
Anyway, back to my story. It was December, and I was talking with my friend Shayna, who has been my neighbour and best friend since before I can even remember. She was working as an au pair in Europe at the time because she graduated the year before and didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. It started out as an ordinary December day: it was cold and snowing outside, so I was curled up on my favourite chair and asking her over facebook to update me on her life. She asked me to wait for a bit, and minutes later, I heard a tiny fist knocking upon my door. You can just imagine my surprise as I opened the door to find her standing on my porch, and it wasn’t long until she spilled out every single detail about her time in Europe, and I had fallen in love. Not with Shayna, of course, but of the idea of living in Europe for a year. Then she asked me what I was doing the following September, and I told her I was still planning on going to school. I will never forget this conversation for as long as I live, because it changed everything. “Why don’t you take a gap year abroad?” she asked. Now, I want you to imagine an actual light bulb above my head, bursting with a golden light as she asked proposed the idea. “Why not? If anyone can survive alone in Europe, it's you, MichElle.” We talked and talked about it, but I still hadn’t committed to anything.
Once Christmas break was over, Shayna flew back to Europe, leaving me to think for myself and make some decisions. At the time, I was in a serious relationship (oops) and the idea of trekking around Europe for a year would change everything. Soon enough, as most high school relationships go, we broke up. I spent the rest of my time in high school trying to figure out if I was actually going to take the jump and go to Europe. Do I go? Do I not go? I spent some very sleepless nights arguing with myself, but eventually the smarter half of my brain convinced myself that yes, I must travel before pursuing university.
Every free minute I had (which wasn’t much, since I was working part time and still involved with clubs, sports and maintaining my spot on the honor roll) I was online talking to Shayna, researching the process of getting an International Working Visa, finding cheap air fares, and families who were looking for an English speaking au pair. While I was supposed to be excited for prom and graduation, I was occupying myself with my plans of going to Italy. Ahh, Italy... The land where they invented spaghetti. I still enjoyed the last part of high school, but I was very, very ready for it to end. Whenever people asked me what University I would be attending in the fall, I always told them the same thing: University of Life (or when my French teacher and classmates asked, L'université du Vie. Cliché, sure, but also true. I was still going to have a learning experience, except that mine wouldn’t be inside a traditional classroom – it would be across the Atlantic ocean. As the great Mark Twain once said, “I never let school interfere with my education.” It’s not that I don’t appreciate my education, but life lessons aren’t learned on a chalkboard.
So I'm leaving this Sunday, September 11th, 2011 (the 10th anniversary of 9/11) and coming home on June 6th of 2012. Because its already so expensive to fly from Europe to Canada and Christmas is the most expensive time of year, I'll be spending it alone. Unless some hot Italian men are reading this blog and decide to change this by climbing down my chimney. I'm just kidding (or maybe not), but I know I'll find something interesting to do. Rather than sit alone wearing a sweater I knitted for myself, I'll probably spend it at the Vatican or something. Again, if any hot Italian men are reading this, I'm pretty sure my e-mail is listed on my site.
I’m currently sitting here inside my tiny Canadian bedroom with the window opened and appreciating the fall weather, the season I love the most. I have two over sized suitcases untouched and waiting to be filled with piles of clothes. Someone please tell me – how do you pack your entire life into two suitcases? My flight leaves at 10 pm for Frankfurt on Sunday where I have 4 hours to kill until my second flight leaves for the land of fine art and Opera music. I guess this is goodbye for now. Until next time..