that has been my internal monologue basically every day since i arrived in europe. everything about this place is incredible to say the least. everywhere that we have gone- from Albania, to Montenegro, to Serbia, etc. – has had the most incredible views i have ever seen. mountains are growing to be one of my most very favorite sights and the thought of leaving them in a month makes me sad already. 😦 we’ve seen everything from castles, to the ocean, to islands, and even more historically significant places.

oh, and also- the WATER. i have never in my life seen water so clear and beautiful until arriving in Montenegro and getting to swim in the Adriatic Sea. incredible. and again once we arrived in Croatia. the water was so incredibly blue and clear. looking out and not seeing land on the other side, but just an endless stretch of blue, is one of the most incredible feelings i have ever experienced. much like the feeling i experienced while on the plane; there is just something about these sights that has the ability to make you feel so small and irrelevant and at the same time so capable and purposeful. needless to say, i am less than ready to return to Iowa yet.

the best part of this trip so far though has easily been the people. i have met some of the very best people throughout just the last two weeks. the individuals i have spent the last two weeks are by far some of the very most intelligent and driven that i have ever encountered, and it’s honestly incredibly inspiring. interacting with such individuals sets off a fire in me to follow this lead. when it is said that “you become who you associate yourself with” do not take this phrase lightly. even in just two weeks of growing close with some of the intelligent and independent women on this trip, i can already feel a change within myself.

with talking about people, it seems appropriate to touch on the cultural phenomenons i’ve observed so far.

firstly, the people of this region are so interesting. the politeness was one of the very first things i noticed. wherever you go, the hosts pour your drinks for you, check back very frequently, and go the extra mile without even blinking an eye. this is a common phenomenon in any eatery, regardless of the ‘class level’. and not even this, but everyone seems so chill. so often in the states, especially working in a food service job, you really see the worst side of people. more than once have i served and/or been a part of parties where there was at least one dramatized moment (the check being wrong, the food being wrong, etc.) but not once while here have i observed a moment like this. not only do the food service workers take their job very seriously and with a sense of pride, but there is a different atmosphere among the customers as well. you see more people staying for hours in restaurants and just talking. the world seems like it is slowed down almost, compared to the atmosphere we are accustomed to in the states. it’s an incredible new way to observe life and remind myself to slow down.

conversations over coffee, on a crusty bus, sitting on a hotel patio, or even hotel stairs at 3 am, and genuinely getting to know another person have become frequent parts of every day life while in this area, and i cannot express how refreshing it is. even a 15 minute conversation with the host while waiting for our food this past week proved to be one of the most eye-opening and fulfilling conversations i can pinpoint from the last two weeks. i am amazed at the amount of genuine people ive been lucky to interact with over the past few weeks, and i find myself drawing inspiration from those i interact with a little more every day. ‘lucky’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe how i feel in regards to this experience.

there are so many more insights i intend to share about this beautiful place, but not enough time in the day. more updates will be to come later!


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