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.
In reference to the title of this post, I threw in a little of my German lessons, in all honesty it’s more like I’m in my own country of confusion rather than state. (Ha, see what I did there…) Anyways, here’s a little more of my German for you:
Servus Leiblings! Wie Gehts? (Hello Darlings! How are you?) Ok, that’s all I got… pathetic I know. I take German four hours every day and I’ve already had 6 days of it. Luckily though, I only have 3 more class days until my certificate test next Tuesday. I have so much to learn in so little time! I’m only a little worried…
On a more serious note, my foundation here in Austria has been shaky at best. As I detailed in my last post, I was given an amazing room here in the university dorms and just as soon as I was given that room and blogged about it, it was taken away. So, let me clarify for you all, I was meant to be put in a different room when my group moved in, the keys did not work for that 4 person apartment so they gave me the keys to a single flat, which I inhabited for a lovely 5 days. Then, the true inhabitant of my flat was to move in so they kicked me out. I had to move into my initial room on the same floor, but by the elevators.
Therefore, I could potentially have 3 new roommates moving in within the next two weeks. I have only received one… I didn’t think this would happen because the university semester here in Austria doesn’t start until October. I am currently taking an intensive summer course. My new roommate happens to inhabit the other bed in my room because we are assigned to the same apartment so at this point we have an empty bedroom with two beds next to our room but we do not have the keys for it. Her name is Cristina, she is a 21 year old Romanian economics student from a university in the Netherlands. She lives in the Netherlands to study but her university requires her to take a semester abroad so she’s basically studying abroad twice over because the Netherlands was already a stretch for her. She is very kind and speaks English well. I will only be here now for another week and a half until the German course is over next Friday. Then, my group will travel to the Czech Republic.
Here are the pictures of my new place, first the view outside my window now:
Now, my bedroom shared with Cristina:
Our bathrooms, the toilet has its own room:
Our common area with the other bedroom, that has no inhabitants yet:
So, that is my humble abode.
So, I have been learning a very difficult lesson from God over the past week and a half that I have been here in Austria. That lesson is that although I find comfort in being surrounded by my stuff (for those of you who have seen my bedrooms before, I like to be surrounded by my books and things) and as much as I like to be surrounded by people who love me, especially in the home I grew up in, I can’t stay there. I can’t forever stay in the comfort of my own home within the surroundings that I have been influenced by since birth because then no growth takes place. The Lord is teaching me that He is the constant everywhere I go. Although I may be 1,000’s of miles from home, He is the same. He is my comfort instead of the people, places and environment I have used for comfort for so long. Instead of staying where I am comfortable, going where I am not will allow me to rely on the Lord for comfort instead of relying upon my environment at home. I’ve already felt myself changing here which I know is a positive thing. Parts of my core are being challenged at every turn, parts of myself that I haven’t confronted before such as how my environment, in terms of where I come from has affected the way in which I communicate.
If you know me at all, you know that I am extremely direct and open. If I do not like something or if I am uncomfortable with something, I speak up. Where I come from, that is how things are done. If you do not confront an issue people assume that there isn’t one. Then, that behavior that made you uncomfortable before just continues. To a fault, I am direct, sometimes in an overly aggressive way, sometimes with the right intentions but the wrong delivery and sometimes at the completely wrong time. But, I have never regretted saying how I feel. Never have I brought up a situation, had a discussion about it and left the discussion unsatisfied because through that discourse, resolutions, change and progress is usually always developed. I am experiencing some very different communication styles here in Europe within my Bethel group and beyond. This is a hard and fast learning curve for me to adjust to.
This is something I am attempting to take in stride but struggling with all the same. Something I’m beginning to understand is that the expectations built around a trip of this magnitude are easily shattered just upon arrival. Whether that be how I planned to act, who I thought I would pursue relationships with, or even just what I would do while here. This trip is a jumble of unknown possibilities and at every turn the journey is subject to even more change depending on the previous determinants. I am attempting to handle this new way of life. I like order, structure of some kind and knowing what is coming. I am not able to have that here and so I must adapt, change, learn to thrive and breathe here.
Anyways, enough of the serious stuff, as you all know, I promised I’d post Mondays. Then this Monday, a post never arrived on my blog… I have begun to realize that as much as I would like to post all the time for both my memories sake and for you all, I cannot. I am going to try to post more often than I have but it is more likely that they will be sporadic and lengthy. I usually designate a night to do a post but finding time between my German and Bethel classes and of course all of the fun that is Vienna, I have struggled. I will do better, I promise! I love sharing this experience with you all and I can’t believe so many of you read this silly thing. I appreciate it more than you know. (Special shout out to my brother in laws, Kyle: an avid reader of my blog, thank you for reading! You rock and Tadd: who won’t read it unless I mention his name…So, there you go Tadd, you have to read it now.)
On a different note, I have met some AMAZING international students here in the residence hall and in my German class. My friend Francisca, from Portugal both lives in my building and is in my German class. She is wonderful, I am loving every moment I am able to spend getting to know her better and understanding her and her culture. Last Friday, I went out to a place called the Travel Shack Vienna with Francisca and her Portuguese friends. The travel shack is a bar for international students where the commonality is speaking English and the people hang out and mingle. I had such an amazing time there, I met some local Austrians and some boys from Kosovo and Belgium. I was able to talk with them all about their homelands and their lives there. This was such an enriching experience for me because although I would love to spend an abundance of time with my Bethel group, I have 3 more months with them traveling throughout Europe. I only have 1.5 weeks left here in Vienna with these international students and these opportunities to make lifelong friends from around the world.
The Travel Shack was an awesome place with an incredible atmosphere, I had an Austrian guy come up to me and say with his thick German accent “Where are you from? My friend and I are in a bet about where you are from. I guessed the United States, he guessed England.” Of course, I said “The United States.” His friend then had to buy his beers for the rest of the night, lucky him. Then, A Belgian boy came up to me and said, “Are you from California?” I don’t know if it was my blonde hair or what that made him think I was from Cali but I said “No, I am from the United States but not California, I’m from Minnesota.” His response was this, “Will you still say ‘Hey, What’s up dude?’ for me…” I couldn’t help but laugh but I of course did it and all of his Belgian friends crowded around me and made me keep saying it. Granted, they were all pretty drunk but it was entertaining so I just went with it. I had an awesome night at the Travel Shack and I hope to go back before I leave Vienna.
Then, Sunday my entire Bethel group went to dinner at a place called Einstein’s and guess who the focus of this restaurant is? If you guessed Albert Einstein, you would be correct. It was a nice place, I would love to go back. I took these photos on the way there:
My lovely friend Brooke.
Classic tourist pic alone, never ceases to be awkward:
Tourist pictures are even more awkward when this happens, aka the wind blows:
Just gotta roll with the punches, flap in the wind.
This was my awesome dinner:
Now, what I’m probably most excited about sharing photos from is my night out on the town with Brooke, Tomasz (Toe-Mosh) My polish friend and Francisca. Brooke, Francisca and I have German class with Tomasz. He is from Poland and travels between Vienna and Poland studying and working here during the week and going home on weekends. Brooke, Francisca and I met Tomasz at Stephansplatz which is both the Cathedral in the photos below as well as a subway stop. We went and had pizza and then Tomasz drove us to an overlook of Vienna called Kahlenberg. It was so nice to ride in a car, I haven’t since I arrived here in Vienna. I’ve only traveled by train, subway, tram, bus but never car so it was a lovely feeling. We ended the evening by getting hot chocolate and coffee, it was a magical evening with amazing people that I will never forget.
Our dinner; a little Margherita pizza aka cheese and tomato sauce:
Myself, Brooke, Francisca and Tomasz
Took some random shots of the city as we were walking to Tomasz car:
Ahhh, we arrive at Tomasz car. This is his baby, he loves her:
The church on the Kahlenberg hill:
This is in Polish and Tomasz read it to us, it was awesome:
The overlook. It is very hard to capture photos of but Tomasz has experience with cameras like mine so he helped, the exposure is difficult because at night, capturing this view is very difficult. I love these photos though:
Then the coffee and hot chocolate… Ahhh
So, as I stated before, I have been getting to know Francisca and this sparked an interest in Brooke and I to take some time to travel to Portugal, where Francisca is from. Since we have a week of free travel we have decided to spend the second half together in Lisbon, Portugal! This is incredible because Francisca, while she will be here in Vienna studying, may be able to meet us for the weekend and show us around Lisbon! I will be going to London for the first 4 days of free travel and Brooke will be in Switzerland. We will meet in Portugal and spend the remainder together, hopefully the last weekend as well with Francisca and then three of us would fly back to Vienna together. This is such a priceless opportunity and I am so hoping it works out in the end. Here’s another picture of my lovely friend Francisca:
Now, with all of that said.. every single day things seem to change so by my next post I am sure I will either be leaving Vienna or in the Czech Republic having a blast in Prague, who knows. Until next time y’all! Also, I wanted to share this gem of a picture with you all that my sister sent me… I miss this little nugget so much. I sure hope she doesn’t forget about me while I’m here in Europe.
So, my last post detailed some of my homesickness, I wanted to check back in now with my new status. I am feeling wonderful. I know, it was only Sunday that I was feeling sad and today is Tuesday. Am I miraculously over it? No. Each day I wake up, I feel a little bit better. I am becoming connected to the people on my trip from my group and becoming more comfortable in Vienna. Austria is such a beautiful place and it is hard to stay sad here. Also they are the birthplace of Red Bull so I am in heaven. There is Red Bull everywhere… Like in every single store and I love it. I’ve had one almost every day with no shame. As you can see by the picture below, I drink one with all of my meals. I have always been obsessed, but I may be even more now. This meal was what I had for lunch Monday after my German placement test which my whole group took at the University of Vienna because we are taking an intensive German course for three weeks. This is a mixed salad, which had potatoes in it and other random stuff and an egg salad on bread. It was awesome.
I like posting pictures of my food because it is so different from what I am used to from home. I wouldn’t call myself a super picky eater but I like what I am used to and so this has been a roller coaster trying to find food I will like. I mentioned in my last post that I would post photos of my dorm room or “flat” as they call what my dorm is. Here they are:
So you walk in that door at the end of the hall and you will see…
A hallway and my kitchen! I have my own kitchen!
Then if you walk down the hall you will see the bathroom door on the left and this is what the bathroom looks like:
I bought a European curling iron and I love it!
Then if you continue down the hall you will see my bedroom part!
I love my room and having no roommates is quite nice because I have time to relax and unwind on my own. I went to a grocery store with some girls the other day and picked up some stuff. I have been eating this awesome granola chocolate cereal in yogurt for breakfast every day and it is awesome.
Also, I had to show you all the pizza I got last night because it was so incredible (as you can see by the can, I had a red bull with it) I went to this pizza place with some of the Bethel students from my group that live in a different building than myself. There are 11 in my building, 4 in another and 10 in the other. We all live in different parts of town and take trams, subways and buses to get to class at the University every day. Which is our intensive German course from 9:15am to 1pm. It’s really long… and hard because German is complicated. I was lucky enough to catch dinner with the people from the other dorms because I went with a boy from my group and dorm named Jay to help him set up WiFi in the two other dorms with routers. He needed a computer and since I was the only one who brought mine, I was the only option. I was happy to go though, it gave me a chance to see the other dorms and help them get WiFi and by help I really mean accompany Jay and carry my computer around. The University dorms do not have WiFi because each room has a port for an Ethernet cord but my group cannot hook up an Ethernet cord to our iPad’s so we had to figure out an alternative and luckily we did! I had an awesome opportunity though to hang with the people from the other dorms and find out my spirit animal which happens to be a wolf… How cool is that?! Here’s the pizza by the way… So amazing.
Anyways, I have been feeling so great recently because I am building a routine which feels nice and getting to know everyone in my group especially in my dorm. I have also met some really nice international students! I met a girl named Francisca from Portugal who lives in my building and is also in my German class and we have become friends! She is wonderful and speaks perfect English. Also, I have WiFi in my room, which is so rare and so amazing because I am a door down from my professor and her husband and they have it which is really convenient. I am beginning to become more appreciative of the culture around me. The Austrians definitely live differently than Americans but I am beginning to enjoy it. Although, it is going to take some getting used to, to pay to use the bathroom or carry your stuff home from the grocery store if you don’t bring a bag because they don’t provide bags and that everything is closed on Sundays. Also, they have a 10:00 pm quiet time all across Austria. It is a law that you must be quieter after 10 and so that is definitely new to me. But I enjoy their public transportation systems and the way that they have specialty stores, like everything has its own store instead of superstores like Target and Wal-Mart. It is really interesting and very cool how many differences there are. I am beginning to adjust well finally and I can’t wait for the next three weeks.
This trip is definitely a roller-coaster of emotions but I am enjoying the ride as best as I can. I do appreciate communication from home though in the form of e-mails and snapchats, iMessages and facebook messages, or whatever else. They are a nice surprise whenever I have WiFi. So thank you all for that! You can find my contact information if you click on the Contact tab above this post! I miss you all and can’t wait to share more of my journey with you. Thank you for reading! I’ll be posting often because I don’t want to forget anything and I just love sharing. Thank you for caring! Until next time!
So, I have been here in Vienna, Austria for 4 days, almost 5 and I will be starting classes tomorrow (Monday). Let me recap the past few days for you…
This is Maria Theresa, who ruled the Austrian Empire. She was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She gave birth to 16 children, 13 survived to adulthood. while leading the Austrian Empire she was either pregnant or had just had a baby the entire time. She is the mother of Marie Antoinette and married her children off to other nations for political gain. She was a very strategic woman, who believed in free healthcare and requiring children to be in school for at least six years. I think she is so awesome and she is all over Austria and here is a statue of her in Bratislava, Slovakia:
I know I only post Mondays but I thought I would post to let everyone know I am alive and surprisingly well. I also wanted to tell you some stories while they are still fresh in my memory.
Well, I am finally posting from Europe! I left the US Wednesday on an international flight from MSP to Amsterdam. On the plane I was seated next to a Bethel student named Benjamin. On the other side of me was a quiet Pakistani man, he was very polite but spoke very little overall. On the other side of Benjamin was a man named Michael, he is a Christian businessman from Missouri, his family owns Green Earth Greenhouses. Micheal was one of a kind, very talkative with stories to tell for days about his many travels. The flight we were on was going into Amsterdam and almost everyone on the flight had a connecting flight to some other part of Europe (Mine was to Vienna) Michael’s destination was Norway, he was flying there for a wedding that he was the officiant for! The couple asked him to be their officiant because the three of them had met on an airplane! The woman, Russian, the man, Norwegian met on a flight while sitting next to Micheal and the three of them talked their whole flight. The two fell in love and are now getting married! I found that to be such a cool unique story.