And just like that, the summer ends, as wonderfully, rapidly and breathtakingly as it began three months ago. I’m headed home after a whirlwind 12 weeks, 9 countries, 29 cities, 11 friends and 8,517 pictures. I am ready to be home, to see my parents and friends again, to settle back into my own routine, to be in one place for more than a week at a time. But I will miss Europe dearly, especially all the friends I leave behind. I will miss the simplicity of a purposeful life, a life lived independently of all expectations or routines but my own. It sounds cliché, but backpacking through Europe for three months–seeing how different cultures live their daily lives–was a life-changing experience. After conquering the anxiety of navigating foreign public transportation systems, menus, hostels, grocery and drug stores, all in foreign languages, I feel like I can conquer anything. Talk about a confidence booster.

Till next time, Europe!