I’ll be honest: Florence came and Florence went—way too fast. We arrived in the city of Dante Alighieri and Hannibal Lector (applause for anyone who understands these references) on Monday afternoon with droopy eyes and dragging feet. As we exited the train station and maneuvered our way around the cars at street intersections (something we hadn’t seen in a few days), all our faces silently screamed the exact same thing: We’re tired, we’re sore, we’re cranky, we’re ready to go home. Yeah, it’s getting to that point in the month.
If you’ve ever been away from home for more than a week or two, then maybe you can understand what I’m talking about. Our minds are too full—There’s so much coming at us, all at once, that we are longing for some OLD, something familiar—and our bodies are telling us to retreat. Quite frankly, we’re all suffering from that one thing that all world-travelers, even novices like us, tremble in fear of: homesickness.
With this in mind, I began looking for some sort of familiarity as we explored Florence on Tuesday morning. I needed to purge myself of this feeling. I wanted to feel at home. I wanted to be comfortable. Unfortunately, my efforts were all in vein. There was simply too much difference. The ground was paved with bricks. The street signs weren’t in English. I was only allowed to pay with euros. Instead of trees, statues of ancient gods and heroes stood tall at every street corner. Piazzas replaced parking lots. Gelato shops replaced coffee shops. Coffee shops replaced McDonalds. I returned to our hostel in low spirits.
The next day, we visited the Uffizi Gallery—you know, the biggest museum in Florence, home to some of the most important pieces of artwork from the history of mankind. At first, as we walked around a room filled with sketches from the workshop of a Renaissance painter, I still yearned for the OLD, the familiar. I wasn’t finding it. As I made my way into the next room, I connected to the free WiFi that the museum offered so that I could send a text to my girlfriend, even though I knew she was sleeping. I scrolled through Facebook, looking for pictures of home to reminisce with.
I walked into the next exhibit, a never-ending corridor adorned with statues owned by the Medici family from the 15th century and beyond. I looked up from my phone to see Augustus Caesar staring me in the face. The bust of the Roman Emperor took me by surprise, his cold stare apparent even through his white marble eyes. And that’s when it hit me.
We were in Florence, Italy. FLORENCE! This is the city in which Dante Alighieri began to write The Divine Comedy. This is the city he was exiled from. This is the city where Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote parts of Prometheus Unbound. This is the city where Mary Shelley did her research for her second novel, Valperga. This is the city where Michelangelo Buonarroti was born, the sculptor of the infamous David and the painter of the Sistine Chapel. This is the city of the Medici, the wealthiest family of all time. This is the city where one of the greatest cathedrals of the world, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria, was built in 1296. 1296! That’s over 700 years ago!
And there I was, staring at a small screen in my hand, trying to find the OLD in something that was very, very, very NEW. The life that I lead at home, whether that be in Omaha, Nebraska or on campus at Luther, is not old. It’s brand-spankin’-new compared to Florence. Before me was a bust, at least 500 years old, of a man much older than that. All around me were paintings, sculptures, and drawings of gods long forgotten, created by artists long deceased. And I was complaining about homesickness.
Let this be a lesson (because God knows we don’t get enough of those around here—wink, wink): the world is waiting to be seen by you. There is too much out there to simply push it aside and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m nineteen years old (1-9), I’ve been abroad for a little over two weeks, and I’ve seen more of the world that many people ever will—that’s not okay. Every single person on the face of this great, big, beautiful, blue ball deserves to see all of it—every single square inch. So, don’t hold back. Get out there and simply explore. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. You’ll be tired. You’ll be sore. You’ll be cranky. At times, you’ll want to go home. But home can wait. The world? It’s been waiting for millennia. Leave the NEW behind and go discover the OLD.