“You’re spending the summer in Europe again this year?” my friend asked.
“Yes, I’m summering in Europe”, I responded.
“You know summer can’t be a verb,” she pointed out.
“It can be if you do it right,” I told her.
This will be the fourth year in a row I’m summering in Europe, and I know the phrase is cringeworthy and pretentious, but I don’t care.
I don’t even remember when I first heard the term “summering in Europe,” but I was young.
Maybe it was said in a movie, or perhaps I overheard it eavesdropping on some conversation, but I latched onto the idea. It just sounded so romantic. Who even does that? Surely only celebrities and the wealthy elite.
You know who doesn’t summer in Europe? A kid from a town so small there were no tracks to be from the wrong side of.
Certainly not a kid raised by a single mom who spent his formative years growing up in a trailer park in Nacogdoches, Texas.
I remember sitting on a park bench in Pisa, Italy last year as I enjoyed a charcuterie platter that I still haven’t stopped talking about. As I ate it, I was so happy that I was almost brought to tears. Was it the food? That was part of it. Was it the wine? Well, that may have played more than a small part as well.
But it was more than that. In my wildest imagination, I never imagined this is what my life would look like. I couldn’t even have dreamed this big–it wasn’t even possible.
I, the kid from the trailer park, raised by a single mom, who had spent part of his life on public assistance, was now sitting quite literally under the Tuscan sun, having one of the best meals of my life, sipping local wine, and trying to untangle the complicated series of events that had led me to my current path.
I know that I’m blessed, and I know that I’m fortunate. I come from a country with more opportunities than most, and I have a strong passport. So, before you jump on me and call me out for needing to check my privilege, this isn’t about that. I’m aware of all those things. I have a degree in Sociology, and I’ve studied issues like inequality of opportunity, cycles of poverty, life chances, and birth lottery.
I am grateful for where I am, but what I’m talking about now is where I come from and how I ended up here, how I realized this dream.
It bothers me when people born in the States or another country with similar opportunities tell me, “you’re so lucky.”
I won’t deny that luck has played a role in landing me here, but it’s not luck alone. It’s also sacrifice.
Every moment that I spend chasing this dream of mine is time away from my friends, my family, my life back home.
I’ve spent important years away from the people that I love the most. I’ve missed weddings, funerals, births. And those are just the “big” moments.
When you’ve been gone so long you realize how big the seemingly small moments really are.
I miss catching matinees with friends.
I miss Sunday brunches and impromptu happy hours.
I miss hitting up the taco truck on the way home from a night of bar hopping with the guys.
I miss our ridiculous annual Christmas pajama party.
But, when I left, I knew I was sacrificing all of this. They say don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great but what I had was already great.
I had to become willing to give up the great to go for the dream.
The dream of seeing the world, connecting with strangers, exploring new cultures, trying new dishes.
The dream of actually experiencing the places that I’d only ever seen on tv or read about in books.
Some people summer in the Hamptons.
Some people summer in the Berkshires.
For now, I summer in Europe. And if that sounds pretentious I’m actually pretty ok with it.
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