As you all know, I was in Europe for 3.5 months. I have been home for over a week and the time for reflection on this dreamlike haze has commenced. Sometimes, I found myself asking other people “Is this real life?” Because, sometimes I felt like I was just waiting to be woken up from it all, because there’s no way it could have been real. From meeting friends all over Europe, to Paragliding off of an Austrian mountain, to traveling Europe by myself, to riding a gondola, to teaching Polish students English, to living life as a true vagabond, in a troop of what seems like wandering gypsies, I have learned about a million lessons. I’ll just share a few with you. I realize I showed you all a lot of where I have been and what I was doing but not a lot of what that did to me or how much I have changed so, here goes nothing. (No specific order in terms of lessons, all are equally important and intertwined.) Also, a blog about Rome is coming. When I got home I had to catch up on homework and write some final papers so, I’m working on it!
1. Always be yourself, do not conform. Once you start conforming and changing who you are to fit in, it will never end, it’s a slippery slope. By the end, you won’t even recognize yourself. Even though being yourself doesn’t always allow you into every social group, it’s a million times more gratifying to be accepted into a group for who you are. Also, if people don’t accept you, it’s not because there is something wrong with you, or even them really, you’re just different. Understand that being different is a good thing! Do not be ashamed of who you are, ever.
2. With that, understand that: There are people all over the world that will like you for who you are. There are amazing people out there, all you have it do is step outside of your small world to find them. If you have lived in the same city, same state, same country your whole life then you’ve probably been in the same social group as well. Surprisingly enough, there are people everywhere, outside of the place you are from and you may find them to be amazing. I met people on this trip from different countries, different cultures, different backgrounds, etc and after a week of knowing them, I felt like they were family. Sometimes you just click with certain people and you can’t explain why, you just do. Embrace it, find people that love you for who you are. It will help you be the best version of yourself. They will encourage that in you
3. Material things are trivial, unimportant, and when traveling, they are an added stress, physical baggage that you carry that makes you hurt all over and …sweat… It really isn’t worth it. Material things do not define you. I’ve seen some of the top designer stores all over Europe. I went to the fashion capital of the world, Milan and I strolled the champs élysées in Paris, passing by Chanel, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, the list goes on for days, really it does but, I would see people buying things at those stores and I thought to myself, “Well, that’s one more thing that they have to worry about.” My only thought was that they would then be more weighed down, less free. I love things, I always have. I enjoy possessing nice materialistic belongings and I pride myself on looking the best I can, whenever possible. But, this trip has been the first step in teaching me the lesson I had heard all along… “You can’t take it with you when you die.” So, collecting things, giving physical space to fragments of my life is a waste. All that is important is people and experiences in the end. I can spend my whole life accumulating beautiful things but do you think that when/if I get to heaven, God will say, “Abby, you had a very cute wardrobe, such nice things you had.” No, I highly doubt it. But, he might say something about what I did for other people, what kind of person I was… How much I helped others to serve Him. Focusing on others can be the most enriching experience, finding that you don’t need those materialistic things can free you from selfishness.
4. People will make or break an experience for you. Just as I struggled with negativity, other people struggle with other things. It is very important to not only surround yourself with people you like but people who are as excited about something as you are. I’ve had a few experiences where I was with people who weren’t as excited about an experience as I was and it totally ruined it for me. Surround yourself with people who want to enjoy life with you.
5. Take a step back from the camera when traveling! Self explanatory, if you find yourself traveling anywhere, take pictures, sure, but also take a step back and put the camera down, look at what is in front of you and take it in. Take a mental snapshot of what you are seeing hadn’t remember the feeling, the moment. Enjoy it!
6. Self-growth is truly what the life process is all about. If you’re not growing, what are you doing? Don’t be stagnant. Keep trying to broaden your mind and expand your thinking! It is truly a disservice to yourself and the rest of the world to stay content with mediocrity.
7. Planning is useless. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good plan more than most but usually they don’t go accordingly anyways. The best days I had in Europe were the ones I stumbled upon when I was wandering. In the past I have been someone who puts a lot of stock into my plans and I generate high expectations which are usually dashed. I have learned to let God show me where to go because He knows better than I do what’s coming.
8. You can be as independent as you want but you need to realize you will always, always, always need community. Being in fellowship with other people is what makes life worthwhile. One of my favorite quotes is, “The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.” This quote by Hugh Macleod truly showcases what the price of being on an extreme end is like. Live in the middle. Understand that being alone and independent is a blessing but share your life with people too.
9. Try to change the way you think about things. How you think about things is the most important thing in life. You can make your life a prison or palace depending solely on how you thin, how you respond and how you decide to look at a situation. You will be much happier if you choose to think differently, more positively.
10. Being a leader isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s pretty overrated actually… Be okay with not being a leader. That doesn’t mean that you’re a follower and it doesn’t mean that you’re a silent member in a group but instead not being a leader can allow you to express your opinions without the fear of having to appease everyone as the leader would. Being a leader means showing by example, making sure every member is heard, sometimes reserving your own comments to further group development. Not being a leader gives you the freedom to voice your opinion.
11. Home is where the heart is, but home is not a building. Home is where you make it, where you are with people that are close to your heart. I realized when I was in Europe that I had left my heart at home but after meeting Brooke, Francisca, Tomasz, Domi, Ania, My german class, countless other people, I realized I hadn’t truly left it at home. I had just simply chosen not to make Europe my home for those three months, but when I did, my oh my, did I enjoy it.
12. Life is only as exciting as you make it. Some people think that my European adventure was the most exciting thing to ever happen to me, and it was, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get bored. There were moments where I actively chose not to have a good time. I was in a new country more times than I could count and yet I found myself bored, that isn’t a problem with the traveling or the place I was, that’s a problem within me. Finding excitement isn’t about where you are, but who you are. I know people who can explore the city they have lived their whole lives as if it is some exciting new playground. Be like them and be excited in every moment God gives you.
13. Life goes on. It is more than okay to be sad sometimes, but note that I said sometimes, not all the time. MODERATION IS KEY for absolutely everything. Don’t do things in excess! The ancient Greeks knew it long before any of us, moderation is the key to a good life.
14. Remember through your little mess, how big you are blessed. Try to remember that things will be okay, you will be okay. God is always giving you grace, so give yourself a little. You are blessed.
15. Not everything is the end of the world. Realize what the big stuff is and what the small stuff is. Sometimes bad things happen, you lose something, or you don’t get invited to something, you don’t get exactly what you want. You’ll survive, just remember someone out there has it a lot worse than you. I witnessed a lot of homelessness in Europe and it made my heart ache. It really puts things into perspective for me. I truly appreciate all that I have and all that I am able to do. It would be a waste to not recognize it.
16. Flexibility is your friend. If you’re willing to be flexible, anything is possible. The most amazing things can happen if you just let go of some of that control you have your grip so tightly around. Predicting outcomes rarely produces anything except maybe disappointment.
17. When traveling, understand this: Less is more. Chances are if you’re in Europe or anywhere, you will want to buy tons of stuff because it is all so different and well, why not? But if you already brought with you a ton of stuff, then you won’t have much room for your new stuff. So pack light in both expectations and material belongings and see where life takes you. I can promise, if it takes you to Europe, you’re already winning.
18. LOOK UP, REALIZE THIS: PEOPLE AROUND YOU ARE GOING THROUGH STUFF JUST LIKE YOU. Surprisingly enough, you are not the only person on the planet that has issues and problems. That should be a comforting fact. But, my point is… look up, try to help, be there for people, they’ll hopefully in turn be there for you, just realize everyone is walking around with their own scars and many of them are still licking wounds that you have no idea about. Be mindful of others. Try to help if you can.
19. There are blessings in disguise everywhere. Try to look for them, be open to them and let God work in your life. Open your eyes.
20. At the end of the day, stuff is only stuff. Don’t place too much stock into earthly items and materialistic belongings, you can’t take them with you when you die anyways.
21. Don’t be too prideful. It will only leave you hurt, that moment when you’re too prideful to tell people how you feel or go that extra mile for someone or do anything… It’s too much and chances are God will call you out on it. Remember He knows the true you.
22. Realize that you cannot expect the same treatment that you give someone. I’m not refuting the golden rule here: treat others as you want to be treated but… you can’t expect someone to have the same strengths as you. You may be a very skilled interpersonal communicator but the other person does better in groups, you may think they aren’t interested in you but they just aren’t good at what you are good at. Also, say you are very skilled at being empathetic and you can cry with your friends because you care so much but you have a friend that isn’t capable of that, that does not mean they don’t care. All that means is that they are better at something else, like helping you process your thoughts or helping you solve problems. Accept people for what they are and the strengths they possess. Don’t be upset that they can’t love you exactly the way you want.
23. It is good to have moments when you realize how very small you are. When I was standing at 12,000 feet on top of the Swiss Alps or when I was floating amongst the mountains when I went paragliding or any of the countless experiences I had… I had moments where I just realized how truly small I was in comparison to the vast majority of creation. I am a blip on the radar yet the Lord knows the number of strands of hair on my head. The Creator who created all that I have seen, and more knows that much about me. Feeling small is good, it keeps you humble and in constant praise of the Creator.
24. Communication styles are different, adjust or move on. Some people are aggressive, some are reserved, some are confrontational, some are not, and the list goes on. If you don’t like the way someone communicates, understand it or move on.
25. Live a life you can be proud of. Make your mark.
A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life. -Thomas Jefferson
Hey y’all! I wrote a blog about Paris already on my groups blog site, so here is the link to that: http://betheluniveuropeterm.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/paris-more-like-paradise/
I will although, be doing an extended version here as well 🙂
So, Paris was truly the most enchanting city I have ever encountered. Before my group made our way to Paris we had heard lots of negative things like, “Parisians are rude.” or “It’s a really dirty city.” and we began to form preconceived notions about what Paris would be like. Therefore, a lot of us had really low expectations for Paris. But, let me just say that Paris’ dazzling charm comes out at every turn, the city is incredible.
Our first night, we made our way to our hotel and then quickly gathered our things to head off to a free organ concert at the Notre Dame (Not to be confused with the school in Indiana), below is a picture of what we saw as we approached the church… It was breathtaking. In Intercultural Communications, one of the classes we are taking while abroad we learned about the phases of culture shock, one of them being fascination, you can move between the many phases and for many of us, we shifted right back into that fascination phase in Paris. We were awestruck by all that we saw and how could we not be? The city glows, it draws you in and makes you never want to leave. One look at the Eiffel Tower and you’re hooked.
As one of my favorite Minnesotans F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older – intelligence and good manners.” He is more than right.
So here is the Notre Dame at night:
So, skip ahead to my first full day in Paris. the majority of our group went to Artist’s Square, which is exactly what you would imagine, a square with artists in it, painting and selling their art. It was a really cool atmosphere to witness, artists everywhere painting other people, creating and selling. Before I reached the square I was able to see all of Paris… and boy did I fall in love with it. How can you not?
Here’s Artist’s Square.
One of the canvas’ being done in the square. I had brunch at a cafe in the square with Cat, Madeleine and Laura which was fun and then the four of us wandered down to find the Arc de Triomph.
We found it!
Then, we found the original Lady Liberty… France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty that resides on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor. The statue is of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. She bears a torch and a tablet evoking the law. The tablet on the statue in the United States bears the date of the Declaration of Independence. The French version, the original, is much smaller than the one they gave the U.S. but still impressive and beautiful.
At the Statue of Liberty (They two statues indeed have the same name, I was able to talk to some Parisians about it which was cool.) my group ran into another group of Bethel students from our group and we all headed off in search of the Eiffel Tower and I saw this along the way. The beauty of Paris at night is almost beyond words. Everything glows.
We found the bridge used in the inception movie.
And then, there it was… The Eiffel Tower. I can’t explain the feeling or the inspiration this tall tower inspires but it is pretty incredible.
So, some of us just sat in awe of it for awhile, we couldn’t seem to tear our eyes away from it but after awhile the hunger and cold forced us to search for a restaurant.
Can’t get enough of it.
Seriously, I was obsessed.
It even lights up on the hour every hour…
After everyone had dinner, a bunch of Bethel students met up to go ice skating on the Champs-Élysées at the “Christmas Festival” is what we all called it. This was such a blast! Some groups kept going back to go skating for nights after.
Austin and I
Tyler and I
Madeleine and I
Michael, Austin and I
The next day our whole group went to the Louvre, the largest museum in the world. It was a very overwhelming and stimulating experience. Some of the art you are seeing is 4,000 years old and there’s just no way to conceptualize or rap your mind around that time frame… It is a really surreal experience.
Brittany, the ultimate tourist.
Venus de Milo
My favorite room: The Apollo Gallery
It was so beautiful.
Proud to be an Aries.
The Louvre was packed
There was artists inside of the Louvre painting copies of famous paintings which was incredible to watch.
Then, I saw the Mona Lisa. Been there, done that.
Madeleine, Cat and I decided to have a little fun at the Louvre… hahaha
Then, we went to see the Napoleon Apartments. Lived in by Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine.
After the Louvre, we headed off in search of the lock bridge that puts all of the other lock bridges to shame. THE ORIGINAL LOCK BRIDGE. Where couples began placing locks on this bridge to signify their commitments to each other. Since, they have sprouted all around Europe.
Then we went back to see the Notre Dame in daylight. Still so beautiful.
But, at night some of us decided to find out what there was to do in Paris and so about 8 of us got ready and headed off to a jazz club! One of the most popular places to visit at night in Paris. The building dates to the 16th century, but became a jazz club in 1946. It was allegedly once used by Rosicrucians and by those linked to Freemasonry. Also, it claims to be the place the Templar’s met and hung out.
Beth, Brittany, Myself, Madeleine, Brooke.
Steph, Tyler and Austin came with us as well. We had dinner first… some of our group tried Escargot, snails…
I played it safe.
This was the Jazz Club:
Cat and Tyler dancing.
Madeleine and a man who made all of us dance with him…
Me dancing with that man… lol he was nice.
Madeleine, Brittany and I at the Jazz club.
The jazz club was definitely a highlight to my time in Paris, Brittany and I stayed till the last set and were able to meet the band. A few of them were from the U.S., two were from Italy. It was such a cool experience.
So our four days in Paris were almost up and we had one group activity left, a trip up to the top of the Eiffel Tower… I think we all fell in love with Paris all over again. This is Brittany and I at the top of the Eiffel Tower:
View from the top:
My favorite angle of the Eiffel Tower:
But, with all of that said, I learned a lot in Paris. I remembered what it was like to see things through child-like eyes, to absorb without judgement but with an open heart and open eyes and to accept a city for all that it is and appreciate it fully. It has been 3 long months well spent here in Europe but it can leave you very weary and homesick. The fact that all of us can still snap back into that fascination phase is so impressive to me. I love that all of us have not given up our senses of adventure and our seeking for meaningful experiences. To find the beauty in God’s creation everywhere, because it is always there. I couldn’t help but walk around the enormity of Paris and think of this verse, Isaiah 66: 2 “”For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.” Paris may be beautiful, the mountains in Zermatt might take my breath away but the Lord is infinitely more beautiful than all of that because He created those places. He didn’t have to bless us with all that He did but because He loves us, he did. I can’t help but stand in awe of God’s creation everywhere I go in Europe.
So, Parisians aren’t rude, the city isn’t dirty and the Eiffel Tower is actually all it’s cracked up to be.
“The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.” -T.S. Eliot
Sadly, T.S. Eliot might be right, Paris is a hard act to follow but the United Nations tours in Geneva and the skiing in Zermatt hasn’t disappointed any of us yet! I am currently in Florence and will be posting a blog about Geneva and Zermatt, Switzerland soon. This is a busy time in my trip so bear with me! I will be home in 9 days!! Boy does time fly by… Till next post.