If we were to seasonally classify the memories of our youth, we'd likely find the most fond, fun, carefree of those memories under the summer category.
Of all those epic summers, and they were epic, my mandatory, inoeffesively rebelious, middleclass liberal summer backpacking of Europe went down as one of the top summer memories of my youth. The year was 2002, the countries were Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. On trains, buses and even hitch-hiking I conquered Western Europe and left an elipses in my adolesence that wouldn't be concluded until after college.
Whatever magic occured on the road those 10 years ago, convinced me to relocate perminantly to this ancient cradle of western civilization and nest of monarchs, four years later.
As an "American (the US ethnocentric reference for ourselves despite the presence of 34 other countries on said continent)" Europe, feels like; going to my grandparents house.
Europeans have a seasoned, composed, at times old-fashioned understanding of human existence. They've lived it, their previous generations essential scripted it with their own quills. And as with many an ancient, there is a sage-like understanding regarding the rawness and earthiness of human life. People eat, defecate, have sex. We're naked under our clothes. Every one of us has our particular deviation and vice. In general folk seem to appreciate this here. After seven years living in Spain I sum up their philosophy on coexistence with the adage "live and let live".
In the US, we're in a hurry to reach our goals, to accumulate our fortune, to make our family, to build our ideal home and to realize the American Dream. We've been instilled with a feeling of deserving as long as we work hard (or in spite of not doing that).
In Contrast, Europeans are more in touch with the day to day. Sure they have goals. I've met many whom idolize the American way of life, but on the whole, they know better how to live. For me the proof is in the bar/café life. According to the website donquijote.org, Spain has the second most bars per person, in the world. They spend it doing exactly what they love; eating, drinking and being with their community.
The way to live this life, is to do it in both places. I'm going down to my local café right now to raise a glass to bi-continental living and my decision in the summer of 2013.