What I learned in Europe

High above the Atlantic on my way back to Canadian soil, I find myself reflecting on “what I got out of”, “what I learned” in Europe, etc… The question is one I expect to be asked, and one I find hostile – it’s the commodification of experience, such that it can be paid for, ranked, and marketed. But, on the other hand, it’s true that i learned a lot in Europe. Or rather, it might be better that I learned at a greater speed – this is normal, I think, when someone is exposed to so many new situations, so quickly. And yet, I feel the need to compile some meta-narrative answer which enables me to sound like a philosopher, which confirms or dis-confirms some assumption I possessed, anticipating my trip. And so here it is – that travelling, on its own, is useless. And that nearly everything I learned in Europe was from people, not places. In places, certainly. About places – definitely. But “places” are not themselves, they are sites of meaning, sites of imagined authenticity, sites of stories we tell ourselves, tell others, even sites that control us in ways we don’t understand. If you want to understand, you’ll have to ask someone. And they’ll ask you – because they don’t understand either.

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