Four weeks is a long time. A person can learn quite a bit in that span. Being in foreign countries adds even more layers to the lessons.
Being months removed has made me even more thankful for my time visiting you. I honestly don’t know if a day goes by where I don’t look back fondly on my trip, think about a site I visited, laugh at a hilarious moment or reflect on something I learned. I am the greatest advocate for people to save up and go see the world. There are things you will learn that you just can’t by staying here in America. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:
- Nobody speaks English, what are you going to do?! Trust me, you figure it out. You have to.
- You have no option to pull out your phone in lull times (unless you want to pay astronomical fees, and we already know I ain’t about that life!). I learned to do other things in moments of waiting. I grew to become more purposeful, but I’m already fighting falling back into this trap on the reg.
- If something goes wrong, you are completely responsible. There’s no blame-shifting, calling home or getting out of it; you have to own it and figure it out. Decisions must be made in confidence and awareness of your safety at all times is vital. An intangible layer of responsibility is gained here. In other words, you just grow up.
- Follow the local transportation rules precisely. You’ll pay for it (literally) if you don’t. I left a 50 euro donation fine in Paris! In all seriousness, it’s easier to take a train from Italy to Switzerland than for me to drive from Missouri to Oklahoma.
- I think I learned the healthiness of a sabbatical at an early age! Time off and getting away is a win. We should enjoy life along the journey. But if we’re honest, it’s hard for us to truly ever shut off completely. A week off, and it takes 3 days to unwind and by day 5 your mind is preparing to get back again. A week of vacation is valuable, but I tasted something I had never experienced before. I was truly able to step away from work. I couldn’t pick up the phone and make a call. I only had Wi-Fi access occasionally. I tasted rest like most Americans never will, and I will do ‘vacation’ in a different way from now on because of it.
- Clear vision casting to the right people can make dreams come true! This trip started as a pipe dream, but a little over a year ago I crafted an email that captured people’s attention and created buy in in a way that I’m now looking back at photos and telling stories from the trip of a lifetime.
- Never let fear dictate your decisions. There are a million reasons I shouldn’t have gone. Safety, money, work, responsibility, the unknown. I could have believed them, but if I had I would have missed out on one of the greatest experiences of my life. Fear wants to win. Let’s not let it. Life’s way better when I don’t live in fear. I have pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and in the Swiss Alps to prove it!
- Stop waiting to live your life. If I’m honest, I waited for years before I made this trip happen. I’ve wanted to go since I was in college, but in the back of my head I knew it would probably be cheaper and for sure safer to do Europe with my spouse…it’s just easier to travel with a male, you assume a different level of risk. I never verbalized this but it was in my subconscious. Well guess what, I’m not married and it’s not on the horizon. So why in the world was I waiting? Not sure, but I’m done waiting to live my life.
Europe, you were good for so many reasons, but these simple and practical lessons were for sure eight of them. I will live life differently because of my choice to visit and travel you. Thanks for a great adventure, the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for all you taught me that I just wouldn’t have learned in America. And in the same way I refuse to operate in fear, I beg you not to either in the aftermath of Paris and the refugee situation. May fear never paralyze us, but rather may fear remind us to face them, to make the right decisions rather than the safe ones and to rely on the One who brings hope despite circumstance.
Until next time Europe,