Exactly 3 years ago today, D and I landed at Ramstein Air Force Base to start our first overseas assignment in Germany. With 4 suitcases, lots of nerves, and mountains of excitement, we lived in the Army Lodge for 41 days before finally moving into our beautiful 2nd floor apartment on Alwinenstrasse, a hop, skip, and jump from Wiesbaden's charming downtown area. Over the next 3 years, we spent the majority of our time here traveling all over Germany and Europe. 28 different countries and countless new cities. I can hardly believe it myself. In between all of our travels, we made new and lifelong friends, D worked in a unique and challenging squadron (pinning on Captain at the end of our first year abroad), and we basically festivaled our brains out all over Germany...and Belgium, for that matter. We fell in love with Germany's picturesque villages, acclimated to German culture and way of life, and we navigated our way through countless language barriers, both in Germany and all across Europe. We hosted friends and family from the states when they came to visit. We parked in tiny parking spaces. We paid for water, and ketchup packets, and to use the bathroom. And naturally, we became obsessed with wine, and beer, and döner kebabs...among other German delights. Germany became a part of us, and us a part of Germany. But today, D and I find ourselves back at Ramstein...just a few short hours from flying back to the states to start our new life in Florida.
I can't even type this without tears welling up in my eyes. This place, this experience...it's beyond anything I could have ever imagined for D or myself. We have embraced every second of our time abroad...never wasting a long weekend...always out exploring...so much to see, so little time. 3 years might sound like a long time, but it flew by in a flash. Weren't we just telling our families the good news about Germany? Weren't we just packing our bags to move here? Now, it's time go. I can't quite wrap my head around how quickly good things come to an end. And I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put into perfect words just how lovely our life abroad has been. Everything about Germany has seeped into my bones. The good and bad, the strange and mundane. This country has such a tight hold on my heart. Leaving our apartment last Thursday just about did me in. I hadn't had time to think about leaving our charming little flat. Life had been so busy, what with our cruise, my impromptu trip home, the movers, the boxes...it wasn't until the movers had left and we started walking through the empty rooms that I had time to let the sadness flood in. I started mentally placing furniture and memories where they used to be. I thought of the hours I'd spent in our sun room, trip planning and blogging, reading and dreaming. I remembered the first thanksgiving dinner we hosted in our tiny dining room...with just a few friends and a whole lotta love. I thought of how much I hated our blue tiled bathroom and toilet with poop shelf when we first moved in. But also of how much I'd grown to love it (well, maybe not the poop shelf...that's a tough one to ever love). And I reminisced about the evenings D and I spent cooking dinner in our tiny German oven and drinking wine out on our balcony. Those nights were simple, but oh so perfect. With every room I walked through, the tears continued to stream down my face. D was shocked...so was I, really. I thought I'd let go of this place. I thought I'd properly grieved the ending of our Germany chapter. I thought my heart had already found its new place in Florida...but clearly I thought wrong. I've got a Germany-sized hole in my heart today. Probably forever.
Even with the sadness I carry for closing this amazing chapter of our lives, there's also immense happiness for the new one that's about to begin. We're so thrilled to move back to America. We're so thankful to finally get back into the same time zone as our loved ones. We're darn near exploding with excitement about Florida and all the wonderful sunshine and ocean breezes we'll enjoy each day. This time in our lives is bittersweet in the best way possible. We couldn't be more grateful for the life we've been given and the new adventures that await us just on the horizon. I'm overflowing with emotions today, you guys. I'm gonna ugly cry through customs, I can already feel it. So, let me leave you all with this. If you ever have the opportunity to get to Europe...whether it be via studying abroad, military assignment, work visa, or family vacation...DO IT. Don't even think about it, just go. You won't regret a single moment of a life (or visit) abroad. There's so much more beyond the USA. Get out and see the world, friends. Life is short! Don't waste a second of it with "should've, could've, would've." Just trust that I am right and Europe is awesome. Especially Germany, but I'm definitely biased. ;)
And to all of you who've followed along on this amazing European journey of ours...THANK YOU!! From the very, very bottom of our hearts. I still have lots more of Europe to share with you...so don't leave me yet! And, of course, the fun shall continue in Florida. We've got lots of the USA to explore!
Auf Wiedershen, Germany. You've been swell. ❤