It's done - I've bought the tickets, made nearly all the plans. After two years, I'm coming back to Europe! Planning this trip has been special and difficult. I was fortunate enough to travel a good bit with family when I was young, but that also means that the meaning of travel has changed for me. I still enjoy the novelty of visiting a brand new place to explore, but I would now much rather go somewhere to see friends or family.
That, however, leaves me in a quandary - do I go somewhere new or rehash the same places with familiar faces? The former choice might be pricier, scarier, and disappointing - but it could also help me explore new places and therefore parts of myself. The latter choice is comfortable, predictable, and almost certainly cheaper - but the people I know have their own lives, and visiting someone's home during your vacation time can cause some strange disruptions and not meet expectations.
To get past this, I've been lucky enough to plan this trip to hit both points. One of my oldest friends lives in Holland but graciously invited me to tag along to her trip to the South of France. I'll be making a pitstop to visit old friends in Dublin, but will be slowing down along the way to explore more of England, the long lost home country that I never really got a chance to get to know. Hopefully somewhere in there I'll be seeing more of Holland itself and new places in Italy - again, to visit a friend. So, for the majority, I've found ways to combine new places with familiar faces - truly the best of both worlds.