I've been really lucky that I've been able to realize my dreams: traveling, writing, lawyering. Sometimes, I wish that I spent more time developing my biggest passion which is to write. But in order to do that, I need to find some kind of gig that pays and gives me the stability that I now have.
The first time I left the country (the US) was in 2003. I left to study in Paris for six months. As an exchange student and part of the EU student program, I travelled to Germany, Italy, and Spain. I loved Europe and often felt like it was my second home because of the instant comfort and familiarity I felt whenever I returned. I now know and understand Parisian culture. I have a school that was mine and a place where I lived in Paris. I have routines that I practiced, like getting off at the same Metro stop, walking down the same street, and visiting friends. When I was studying in Paris, I took a weekend trip to Munich and then spent my spring break in the north of Spain visiting my cousin, and in Italy being a tourist and staying with a friend. C'était la vie.
I came back to the States and didn't return to Europe again until the fall of 2008. I worked in the Netherlands for three months. I lived in the Hague (Den Haag, as it's called in Dutch) with a roommate. Funny thing is, when I arrived, I was so jet-lagged, that my roommate woke me up on the first day of work, and I remember just standing there, staring at her blankly. And then she went, "Wake up Sabrina; you're in Europe!" Looking back on it now, I am utterly amused at how comical I must have looked, obviously showing no signs that I had a clue where I was, nor why I had come to her country. Hearing my roommate actually say that I was in Europe was the kicker I needed to remind myself to get ready to start my first day working for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. My time in Den Haag is actually a whole 'nother story 'cause I can literally spend pages writing about it from so many viewpoints. Let's just say that I learned how to balance working on cases of genocide (which was very draining, but about which I felt extremely passionate), and having a healthy social life of great and supportive friends. In Den Haag, happy hour was a very big deal on Tuesday nights - why Tuesday nights and not on Friday nights beats me. I was often the only, or one of the handful of, brown people in my groups, but I've been used to that since like forever. At least everyone spoke English, I rationalized to myself, so at least I was in the in-group somehow.
I left the Netherlands and didn't return to Europe again until three years later, when I visited my friend (let's call him) Nicola in his homeland of Sicily. I met Nicola when we were both in the Hague. Visiting him in Sicily was interesting because I definitely noticed the stares from people, which seemed to teeter between curiosity and hostility, either at again, seeing a brown face, or seeing a brown face in the company of a white face who was clearly getting along pretty well with him.
Tomorrow I go back to Europe for the first time in six years. That seems criminal, based on how frequently I used to find myself there (actually this year is the first time I've left the country in six years, so that's probably the real feeling that I find disturbing). I'll be visiting another friend who I met while we both studied in Paris. I'll be visiting Barcelona and Madrid. I am open to meeting the World and experiencing new things. I can't wait for this experience to begin and I know I'll be sad when it's over. Is there a way that we (I) can figure out how to just keep traveling on a continual basis? If you figure it out, please let me know!