It was a classic tale of Girl meets Europe.
Girl finishes high school, dreams of seeing the world, saves up all her money, defies her parents’ expectations to set off travelling around the world, and inevitably, falls head over heels for Europe. Swept up in the thrills of adventure, Girl visits as many countries as she can, as quickly as she can, barely able to get enough of Europe.
Girl does all the things every girl dreams of doing in Europe. She has a picnic under the Eiffel tower. She throws foreign currency into a fountain. She makes friends on Contiki that will always be her family. She even tries a weed brownie in Amsterdam (wanting the feeling of being high but without having to smoke, which hurts her throat). All at once, Europe and Girl become inseparable.
At every border crossing, Girl takes to social media to express her ever increasing gratitude for Europe’s generous hospitality. ‘Thanks for having me Greece!’ she writes beneath one photo of herself in front of the sunset on the Santorini coast, before firing off a warning to her next host: ‘Watch out Barcelona! Here I come!’ Girl usually finds it rather difficult to write captions, much harder than choosing the photo—despite a vast gallery of photos on her phone of the same thing that are almost impossible to distinguish from one another, there’s always one or two that separate themselves from the pack, you know? But captions in Europe seem to just write themselves! And to every photo posted, Girl’s friends from home write back with endearment.
“You go girl!” writes one.
“Living your best life!” writes another.
“STUNNING”, writes a third, which comes strangely from a friend with whom Girl knows would probably be bitching about her behind her back. But Girl doesn’t have the time to worry about the quarrels of the social circles in her everyday world. This is her time. This is Europe.
Girl seemingly cannot capture enough moments of her travels in Europe. And her followers seem to have an equally unquenchable thirst for Europe content. The comments just keep rolling in.
“So jealous,'' writes one of the other girls mentioned earlier.
“Can’t wait to hear all about it when you get homeee”, writes another.
“Love you sweetie, miss you SO much xxx”, writes Girl’s Mum—a comment which Girl doesn’t really need interfering with the compliments and jealousy being lauded by her peers.
As Girl continues forth across the continent, every city offering something fresh and new, Girl can’t help but wonder why Europe hadn’t come along in her life sooner. Europe was showing Girl a version of herself she was hopelessly unaware of. So Girl begins to wonder, what is stopping her from holding onto Europe forever, wherever she is? Couldn’t she wear berets anywhere? Couldn’t she have espresso and pastries for breakfast every morning? Couldn’t she take a siesta every afternoon? What was stopping her? It doesn’t seem to matter, because Girl begins to seriously wonder if she will ever go home. If she is careful with her money, does some volunteering in exchange for accommodation, and then gets some cash injections from her parents when things get sticky, Girl’s love affair with Europe might just go on forever.
But then, rather suddenly, Girl feels like going home. As much as she loves Europe, she misses home. She misses her friends. She misses her bed. She misses her laptop (which she wanted to bring but just couldn’t find the space in her suitcase); and she misses enjoying the full selection of her wardrobe.
On the flight home, Girl takes to social media one last time to pen her goodbyes to Europe, which were more upbeat than how she was really feeling. ‘So long Europe! Thanks for giving me the time of my short sweet life! Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you know it!!!’
But it isn’t the last time. After a few weeks at home catching up with all of her friends and family, in which everyone has lots of questions about Europe but Girl strangely finds she doesn’t have the words to explain just how good it was, Girl continues to share photos of Europe, because life away from Europe is even more boring than she remembered.
Each week, Girl eagerly awaits the opportunity to share content on #throwbackthursday and #flashbackfriday. And when those two days don’t quite seem like enough, Girl tries to invent a new day for resharing holiday content. She experiments with #waybackwednesday and #sentimentalsunday, but neither really take off. Eventually, traction on Girl’s Europe posts starts to wither, so she too loses interest and stops posting about Europe altogether.
Then one day, Girl picks up her phone to find a peculiar notification: a direct message from Europe.
“Hi”, Europe writes. “I noticed you haven’t been posting about us lately… How have you been?”
Confused, Girl writes back, “Um, hi Europe. I didn’t know you had an account... I’m good, thanks.” Girl deliberately doesn’t add ‘How about you?’ to the end of her message, expecting this to end the rather strange interaction with a continent on a social media platform. But it doesn’t.
“I’ve been good too,” Europe continues. “I mean, things have been a bit tricky financially lately and there’s a bit of an energy crisis going on, but otherwise pretty good. Weather’s been nice at least! What have you been up to?”
“Just work and stuff,” Girl responds bluntly.
“Ok, good that you’re keeping busy!” Europe writes back kindly, making Girl feel kind of bad for her abrupt response. “Anyway, hope you’re well! I miss you…”
Girl spends the next five or so minutes wondering what to reply. When she can’t think of anything, Girl goes to Youtube looking for something easy to watch but also hoping she’ll learn something—something niche maybe—and ends up disappearing into a rabbit hole for several hours watching celebrities eat hot wings.
Two days later, Girl receives another message from Europe. “Heyyy. What’s up?”
Taken aback once more by the follow up message, Girl immediately takes screenshots of the chat and sends them to her best friend from high school, whom she had been avoiding recently because her boyfriend had started being annoyingly affectionate in public.
“Can you believe how clingy Europe is being?” Girl writes alongside the screenshot. “Like, Europe knew we were a short term thing. Now I’m getting messages literally every other day…”
“I thought you liked Europe”, says Girl’s best friend, remembering the unrelenting funnel of Europe content, and her equally unrelenting responsibility to post comments of support.
“No, yeah I do… or, I did. But like, it’s over, you know?”
“I dunno, I thought you and Europe were cute together.” Girl writes back that her friend really isn’t being very supportive right now, so if she isn’t going to be there for her then maybe they shouldn’t talk at all. Girl realises she will need to deal with Europe herself. The strategy for doing so involves leaving Europe on ‘read’ and hoping for the best.
It isn’t effective. After a few hours, Europe writes again, “Hey. Not sure if you saw my earlier message! Been thinking about you… Remember that night when you got so drunk you made out with that Italian waiter. That was crazy!!! Memories...”
Provoked by embarrassment, Girl folds on her silent treatment.
“Look Europe, you need to get this into your head. We’re over.” Girl waits in anticipation as an ellipsis hangs on the screen.
“I don’t understand… Did I do something wrong?”
“Omg no,” Girl sighs as she types. “It’s just, it’s not you, it’s me. And I know that’s a cliche but like, it applies. I had fun in Europe… with you… but that was just a certain period of my life when I wanted to have cool experiences and just... let loose, you know? But I’m home now and I’m planning other holidays. I might even go to Africa next year, do some volunteering somewhere. I dunno.”
“Africa??? You can’t be serious? Africa is so not the right holiday for you. Are you forgetting how you react to heat? And who was the one that held you and put aloe vera on your back for six days straight when you got third degree sunburn from falling asleep on the beach in the Amalfi coast? Plus, you hate travelling by bus. It’s not that cheap to fly around Africa, you know? I really don’t think you’ve thought this through.”
Girl couldn’t really remember the details surrounding her sunburn recovery well enough to challenge what Europe had just said, but what really hit home was how well Europe seemed to know her. There was a time when Europe was her world, and it was hard to think about how quickly that world could change. But she was growing now, becoming someone new. Europe had to let go. “Look Europe, I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to say.”
Europe, sensing that Girl has just driven the final dagger through the heart of their relationship, becomes imbued with a clarity that seems to only come with acceptance. “I guess it just hurts to realise that you never really loved me,” Europe writes with the lightness of hindsight. “Just the idea of me.”
Girl has nothing to say to this, so she decides that the best thing to do—both for her and Europe—is to delete all of her Europe photos and block Europe from messaging her. Girl also decides she will book that next holiday soon (maybe reconsidering Africa though because she hadn’t thought about the heat thing) and get on with her life. Somewhere cool, somewhere less mainstream, somewhere that would appreciate her even at her worst.
Not even a month later, Girl scrolls through her feed to find her best friend in a photo with her annoyingly affectionate boyfriend in front of the Colosseum. ‘Can’t decide what’s better,’ the caption reads, ‘falling in love with Europe more and more every day, or getting to do it with this loser by my side'. Immediately, Girl’s fingers begin to tremble with rage.
First, she thinks, her friend is clearly trying to provoke her with this photo in Europe and she isn't going to be sucked in by petty social politics.
Second, her best friend would never have the relationship with Europe that she did. She would never understand the amazing experience that SHE had had at the Colosseum on a date with that Italian waiter where he declared he could die blind knowing that he had witnessed her beauty. The way these experiences felt like everything. And how, in the moment, they were. And sure, things had changed and Girl had moved on now, but maybe her reaction to this photo was proof that her relationship with Europe meant more to her than she thought. Maybe that’s something she couldn’t fully appreciate whilst her life was moving so fast and that’s what made it easier to leave it all behind. But that didn't seem like something she could control. Maybe she was too good at convincing herself that because she was young there was so much life ahead of her with so many people to meet and new places to go in which to meet them, so much so that she was never afraid of losing anything. Because in reality she'd been alone for a while and all she ever did now was meet friends of her friends, glance at dating apps for a week before deleting them and wonder what her life could be like with people she passed on the street or sat across from on the train. The romantic chance meetings she imagined in her teenage years seemed like just a fantasy now. Maybe the problem with life isn’t that it’s short, but that it’s small, with only a handful of opportunities for meaningful relationships passing through. And maybe only now was she seeing this pattern she was falling into: letting herself run away when things got difficult so she never had to face the vulnerability of being challenged by someone, being truly intimate or even being in love. Maybe that’s how she protected herself, by holding some degree of distance from everyone she would ever meet, no matter how much she let them into her life or how long they stayed. Maybe this pattern would see her end up alone as a middle aged woman, regretting the moments when she didn't have the courage to say what was in her heart. Maybe she would end up like her mother, someone who only ever talked about the past and complained about work and lived her life through others, who she feared would ultimately end up alone.
And third, calling your boyfriend a loser is so lame and not the calibre of caption that Europe content demands.
But instead of venting this hurt, this jealousy, and this betrayal in the comments, Girl reminds herself of a higher order, more important duty: a best friend’s duty to be supportive on social media no matter what. Girl takes a deep breath, and comments, ‘STUNNING!’.