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.
So, I am currently in the Polish countryside at a camp called H2O, it is the most beautiful camp I have ever been to and while we are here, my group is teaching English at different schools around. My group has been teaching middle school aged kids. I have a lot of free time while I am here so I wanted to post about my time spent in Prague last week! My group spent four days in Prague, wandering and exploring.
When we arrived in Prague, after our day of travel by bus that I detailed in my last post, where we stopped in a small village for lunch and toured a castle, my whole group was just hungry and tired. We stopped at our hotel and dropped off our luggage.
And luckily, our Czech tour guide, Fred had dinner plans for us. As we walked to dinner, my whole group seemed to be reminded of God’s perfect timing because although we didn’t understand why we had to travel all day and why we arrived in Prague at night time, God had this amazing sight in store for us:
The most beautiful sky to welcome us to Prague.
While walking across the St. Charles Bridge (Which yes, is featured in Mission Impossible 1) I came across John of Nepomuk again. The first martyr who was thrown over the bridge because he would not divulge to the King the details of the Queen’s confessional. His statue is both on the St. Charles Bridge and the bridge in the other Czech town I stayed in Cesky Krumlov.
Fred had dinner ordered for us by the time we arrived at the restaurant and it was of course, dumplings and goulash… something we had about four times in a row in the Czech. Mainly because it is what they are famous for but by this meal I think my whole group was ready for anything but dumplings and goulash.
Then, on the walk back from dinner, some of my group wandered around, some went back to get some sleep… I leisurely walked back with a group of people, snapping pictures as I tend to do.
I captured this gem:
I also saw a sign for this and was very tempted to enter…. Who doesn’t want to go to the museum of medieval torture instruments? I mean, come on…
Anyways, so then the next day our tour guide Fred had planned a tour for us with his friend Charles. This is Charles:
Charles is an older business man who gives tours. He lived under communism and capitalism so he is very open about talking about both and expressing what he likes and doesn’t like about both systems. So, that was interesting. Charles was very knowledgeable and gave us an amazing tour of Prague with some insider insight which was truly priceless.
We started our tour by seeing this memorial right by our hotel for 9/11. This is a dedication and commemoration for the United States of what happened on 9/11. It was truly touching to see this display.
Then, we kept walking and happened across what they call a lock bridge, where couples write their names on locks and lock them to bridges. The most famous of these is in Paris but I have seen them all over Europe.
We then proceeded to the Prague Castle and went to the Cathedral there. Cathedrals are such a striking sight for me, I am not used to worship spaces that look like this, so every time I enter a cathedral I am in awe of its beauty.
Then, we went into the Prague castle. This was my favorite room there, a ballroom of sorts
We also saw the room where defenestration has happened many times throughout Czech history, Prague is the defenestration capital of the world. More defenestration has happened there than anywhere else in history. Defenestration is the act of throwing someone out of a window. This has happened many times in Czech history. I love that about Prague.
Then, we walked to the Jewish section of Prague, which I was excited about because I love Jewish history. On the way, I spotted this nugget of awesomeness… hahahaha
And of course this was a beautiful sight as well, Prague in all its glory.
When we arrived in the Jewish section, we were first shown this statue of Moses. Which reminded me of the verse I have been carrying on a note with me since I began this trip, which is Joshua 3:7, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” Seeing this statue of Moses, in a sense renewed my hope in this trip or at least reminded me that the Lord is always with me, wherever I go.
Then, on a light hearted note, we saw this restaurant which Charles informed us was Laura Bush’s favorite when she was in Prague as the First Lady.
Then we finally reached the city center of old town where we had lunch (Once again, dumplings and goulash…) Then we had the rest of the day free, so most of us went back to the hotel and went out for dinner later.
Speaking of dinner, this was mine. THE MOST DELICIOUS MEAL I HAVE EVER TASTED. Mostly, because I had eaten goulash and dumplings for four to five meals in a row. Therefore, the majority of my group went to the Hard Rock Café and had some American food, finally! I was so pleased with this cheeseburger that I think I shed a tear of joy. Not that I haven’t loved the food over here, because I have but a nice cheeseburger between authentic European dishes does help.
The next day, we had a free day! I love free days. Especially in new cities, we are just able to wander and explore which I love. I explored the city with these people: Austin, DJ, Ben and Brooke.
We walked along the river and crossed a bridge and explored a part of town we hadn’t really been yet.
Saw some really cool graffiti art.
But then, we got really hungry… So we stopped in a random restaurant and this was my meal:
After lunch we wandered the city in search of some shopping, I always love seeing these fake statues, these people are so cool.
We found a really cool bookstore with random items everywhere so we shopped a little… Here’s Ben and Austin shoppinnn.
We kept wandering, which is when I saw my dad’s name as the name of a restaurant… Made me miss him, not that I didn’t already.
The rest of the day was spent wandering until it rained we headed back to the hotel, where Ben, Austin, DJ and I swore we were getting sick from food poisoning from that restaurant but we were all fine and we went out with a group to a pizza place later that night. Ben and I had an awesome political discussion over dinner which was a blast.
The next day was a planned day for us, Fred our tour guide was to take us to Czech Republic TV for a tour. We took the underground transportation to get there which was designed very differently than all of the other public transportations we had taken in Europe so far. Apparently it was designed and installed by the Communist regime in Czech.
After the full day at Czech TV, followed by a dinner boat along the river, we were all exhausted but not too exhausted to head over to the John Lennon wall. So Ben, Austin, Michael, Tyler and I walked over to this wall honoring John Lennon and listened to an amazing street performer and took some cool pictures.
Then, we encountered yet another lock bridge. So many couples in love all over the world.
Anyways, I hope you’re all enjoying these posts! I know they come few and far between but that is partially due to my availability and access to time and WiFi. They come in high demand among my group but resources are scarce. We all receive very little and that very little is spent on homework. I have posted all of my edited photos on Facebook from this trip so far. I have made them available for those who don’t have Facebook by making them public. (Go to facebook, the website, search for Abby Christine Rime) They should just be on my wall in albums titled “European Adventure.” That is if you want to see more pictures from my journey!
It is so surreal that I have already been in Europe a month. I never thought I would be able to do this. The longest I had ever been away from home and my family before college (which doesn’t really count because I was only about 5 minutes from home at college) was the summer after my senior year when I went to North Carolina for two weeks for Conference on National Affairs with my Youth in Government family.
That situation is like this one, this is just magnified times a million. Not only am I traveling with people who I barely knew before this trip, I am also not able to communicate home without WiFi, which is a scarce commodity. We are also traveling in foreign counties, where just about everything is different.
This experience is a combination of every challenge I have ever encountered in the US, times a million. If you know me well, you know I’m not a huge fan of being uncomfortable, but really who is though? But, I especially have been labeled as spoiled, or been called a princess or even a diva from time to time, whatever label you prefer. This really just means I am not low maintenance, sorry about it. That hasn’t made this experience easy but I am also adjusting and adapting to this lifestyle and through that growing.
I think I am learning so much about myself at every turn that I am at times losing sight of who I am at the core. This experience can be really overwhelming and it requires dropping all of the defense mechanisms that people spend their whole lives building, mostly because instead of having time to get to know each other and drop those walls slowly, we drop them quickly due to the intensity of this situation. We grasp for whatever inclusion we can find because we are 1,000’s of miles from the people who truly know and love us the most. What I mean is, I am sequestered away with these 24 other students and my professor and her husband. Granted we do meet locals everywhere we go, those relationships are not of the main concern here because they last maybe a week depending on how long we are in a place. But, I am in constant communication with at least one person on this trip from my Bethel group at all times, there truly is no such thing as alone time. Even the most outgoing and energized extrovert’s need time alone sometimes, try it from an introverts point of view… Believe it or not, I am an introvert. I recharge when I am alone, being in very large groups exhausts me because I analyze everything around me, all the time. Within this trip, for safety purposes, we aren’t really supposed to ever be truly alone. We have at least one roommate in every living situation, we eat our meals together, we share WiFi areas, and everything is done together. This is something I am learning to adjust to and it is also teaching me a lot about myself.
Anyways, now that you have a little insight on my feelings at this point in the journey… Here’s what’s coming up in my travel future, I will be in Poland until next Thursday. I teach English until this Friday and then Friday night, my teaching group of 7 Bethel students is staying at the camp that we are at because a youth group from a nearby church is coming to spend the night here and we are helping with their organized overnight camp. Then Saturday, we are teaching them an English lesson and Saturday night we will be going for a night of homestays. There are two boys in my group and 5 girls. 3 girls will go to the youth group leader’s home, Domi. Domi is a youth group leader as well as an orthopedic trauma nurse, she is an amazing woman. The two boys will go to one of the boys from the youth groups house, and the same with the remaining two girls, they will go home with a girl from youth group.
Sunday is the day of rest. All of the Bethel students will come home from their homestays and we have the night to relax. At this point, we are done teaching English for good. Monday, we are doing a day of activities that include rock climbing and obstacle courses, etc. Then Tuesday, we will be going to Auschwitz to tour the concentration camp. We were supposed to do that this Monday, but we had to reschedule. Later that night we will be having a Bethel group bonfire. Thursday, we leave to go back to Vienna for one day and free travel begins! I am going to London for four days with four girls, then from London I am flying to Lisbon, Portugal! Where I will meet my friend from my Bethel group, Brooke. We will be staying with my friend Francisca’s friends! I met Francisca in German class in Vienna and we also lived in the same building and became very close. She has a house with three friends in Lisbon and they are going to host Brooke and me! It is such a priceless opportunity to be hosted by them, I am really excited. After free travel, we will all meet back in Vienna and head to Millstatt, Austria. We are staying in a castle there for three weeks. Until my next post! Take care, Miss y’all so much!