First, some final pictures from Paris (we got back on August 22):
We had a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, and watched the sun go down while the Tower lit up.
And we had another picnic the next morning on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
I’ve been waking up nervous most mornings. We’re well into our final few days here in London. Every day there are good-byes to be said. The flat is cluttered, and dirty (“Oh well, we’re leaving,” has become our mantra), and there is a mountain of laundry to do. Today the flat will become even more chaotic as we get our big suitcases out from under the bed and open them on the floor to begin packing.
All the things that I still need to do swirl in my head constantly. I spend my days juggling dissertation writing, preparing to move out of the flat and back across the Atlantic Ocean, and planning for a big mountain hike (more below) – all the while wondering if I haven’t missed any balls that should be up in the air as well. This past weekend I inadvertently stood up a friend for breakfast because I had written her a note asking her to meet me Sunday, only I typed “Saturday” by mistake. Oh boy.
I’ve been making one last, big, final push to get my dissertation done, but I feel like I keep pushing and it doesn’t seem to want to move. I keep putting in longer hours – late nights, early mornings, work while eating, don’t stop for breaks, don’t go to the gym, don’t look at your “fun things I want to do before I leave” list – anything to get myself to just get it done. But it’s still many hours away from completion. I don’t begrudge my dissertation for consuming my time (really, my education was my ticket to London so that would be incredibly unfair) but I keep thinking I would love to have some time to think and reflect and slow down a little before I leave, instead of working on my dissertation up until the very last moment, packing frantically and running out the door (in my head I imagine personal articles trailing behind my suitcases).
People keep asking me how I feel about going home and I think I’m happy. And sad. And scared. The truth is, as much as I actively pursue challenges and adventure, I’m really scared of change. We’re going home to our families and friends and familiar streets where we know where everything is and how to get around, but there are some big adjustments too. We need to look for a place to live. I’m starting the final leg of my residency which will be completely new and I will no doubt go back to feeling like I don’t know anything and am at the bottom of the totem pole…because I won’t, and will be. Allan starts work at his old job but in a new office with new colleagues. So even though we’re going back to the familiar it will all still seem, at least for the first while, very strange.
About this little walk we’re doing: We’ll be hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc before we come home, a sign that our time in London really has come full circle. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a long-distance trail around the base of Europe’s highest mountain (Mont Blanc) that takes you through France, Italy and Switzerland. Last year we had wanted to do the hike as our honeymoon, sometime between our wedding in early September and moving into our flat a few weeks later. It didn’t work out because our student visas didn’t arrive in time for us to book the trip, but it ended up being for the best. Instead, we did the complete opposite: a Mediterranean cruise, where we basically slept the whole week, exhausted from the wedding, packing, consecutive red-eye flights and jet-lag. There’s no way we would have survived the hike. I had pictured the hike as a leisurely walk, the two of us strolling hand-in-hand along smooth paths through charming villages, eating meals of fondue for dinner before resting in a cozy bed and breakfast at night. In reality, this trail is a proper 170km, 11-day hike, with, on average, one kilometre of ascent and descent daily. We’re told to prepare for everything from heat to hail, and all the other weather patterns in between. Most nights we’ll be staying in mountain huts in dorm rooms of a dozen people or more.
I can’t wait.
And we’ll be doing it exactly a year after we had planned to do it. Instead of a prelude, it’ll be a grand finish to our European adventure.