What a month it’s been being away from everything. Today is my last full day in Prague and while there’s a bit of sadness to leave the life of international travel, seeing new places, and trying new things, my heart knows that it’s time to go back home. As I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, I know that I will have taken away more from this experience than will be immediately apparent. Perhaps it will be months or years before certain things reveal themselves to me. Though I certainly have some immediate take aways and areas to focus on once I’m home.
And before everyone asks, “How was your trip? What was your favorite part?”, let me stop you now and request you try not to ask me. Of course there are highlights, but immediately upon getting back I will have little time to process everything and will be unlikely to have an answer for you in the near future. It was months, if not years, after my 2006 trip that my stand out moments came to me (a long, relaxing dinner at an outdoor cafe in Salzburg, Austria and being at Mont St. Michel in France). I encourage you to read through the blog (again) and note what I deemed worthwhile to share. We can start the conversation there. Besides, I want to know what’s going on with you beyond what you share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs, etc.
It will be good to be back home in a land where just about everybody speaks English I can understand and signs make sense again. It would not be an understatement to say I will not quickly forget my time here and think of it frequency with fondness. Simply thinking of my sabbatical will continue to shape how I think, see, and process the world for years to come. Thanks for following along here on the blog. Stick around for more WUGO blog goodness in the weeks, months, and maybe years to come.
Yesterday I came back to what feels like my home away from home: Prague. After spending 2 weeks here to start my sabbatical, I’m back at Sir Toby’s where I first stayed when I arrived – even back in the same room! There’s a certain comfort in starting and ending this trip in the same place. I suppose it gives it a sense of completeness, like closing the loop on the experience this has been.
The above photo is of the Charles Bridge that I took during my first week. I took it from I believe the south tower of St. Vitus Cathedral. It’s incredible to see how many people cross that bridge when they come to it.
I only have 5 more full days here before I return to reality on Friday. Though there isn’t much I want to do, I plan to make the most of the time by seeing one or two more sights and spending my free time reading and journaling/blogging. One of the main purposes of this sabbatical was for rest and I have no qualms about the fact that I didn’t see everything. Even if I had, would it matter much in the end? And while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being away, I do have some excitement building in me for getting back to what is familiar.
The photo below, also taken during the first week in Prague, was taken just outside this hostel as I was heading out for the day. For anyone from or connection to Chicago, this will bring a smile to you. I think I now know where Chicagoans got the idea.
Today marks the first day of me retracing my steps on my journey. Up until now, every place I have been to was the first time I was there. This afternoon, I left Lucerne to head back to Zurich, where I am now and where the above photo was taken a few nights back. Tomorrow I head to Munich and the day after that back to Prague before coming back home.
I think it’s actually quite fitting for me in a literal and symbolic sense to travel “backwards” on the same paths and revisit places I’ve already been to. It just reminded me of that scene at the end of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” where the kids find the old lamp post and slowly find the old trees and path back out of Narnia and into the room with the wardrobe where their story began. From here on out, I’m actually staying in hostels I’ve already been to, including the one in Prague where I first stayed. I fully expect some deja vu in the next week; I already am as I sit in the same Starbucks in Zurich as I did a few days ago.
This is the part of the trip where I can look at places and go, “I’ve been here and here’s what I remember and like about it” or “what does this place make me think about?” I’ll pull some photos from the archives that haven’t been shared yet as I continue to share here on the blog, as I don’t expect I’ll want or need to take many more. Now is also when I begin to pull the trigger on silly souvenir purchases. There was no reason to buy them and carry them around for longer than necessary.
Questions about my trip so far? Ask in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer. Know I’ll probably have more to say on reflective topics vs. historical. It’s just where my head focuses.
How far are you willing to go?
While I’ve been traveling, I have been very restricted with the amount of conversation I’m able to have with people I come into contact with. You come to find even the random banter you occasionally have with the barista at Starbucks or waiter at your local restaurant isn’t exactly possible because you’re pointing at signs and pictures to communicate. Thankfully, many people across Europe know enough English to deal with Americans like me who can’t grasp other languages very easily. Yet, this whole experience got me thinking to a topic I’ve been dealing with for a bit longer: depth of relationships.
Now, I will concede that everyone has their own ways to measuring how deep their relationships are with the people they know so measure how you will. As an introvert, (INFP for those curious), I value my personal relationships profoundly and I find enjoyment in them when they can jump from one extreme (“I need to talk about this potentially life changing decision”) to the other (“weren’t the chase scenes in Fast Five ridiculously unbelievable, but fun to watch?”).
One thing I’ve missed in the last 3 weeks, and perhaps much longer, is that I’m not consistently able to have the “life changing decision” conversations nearly as often as the ones about Fast Five. People aren’t as willing to go past the surface into areas that may be uncomfortable or expose any part of our true selves. It’s easy to put up a front. We all do it to varying degrees. But we also find it easy to discuss things of no consequence because it doesn’t personally challenge us in any way. There’s no intellectual or personal benefit, but that’s OK because it’s like we’re conversing, but nothing is actually being said.
It’s good to go deeper once in a while. Ask your friends what excites them. Find out why a certain TV show appeals to them. (Maybe it will reveal something about them far more fascinating than the show itself.) Ask questions of people who you don’t always agree with and get more information instead of avoiding the topic. At least you’ll understand why you disagree instead of just avoiding that topic or worse, that person. Besides, these conversations make life a lot more interesting when you look back at it.
How far are you willing to go down that path? Will you walk past that well lit park bench that you can see from where you’re standing? Or will you venture down the path together beyond the horizon, where unknown, but profound, adventures and depth await?
My Internet time is somewhat limited, so I’m only posting a couple photos of Zurich by night. Tomorrow, at some point, I will head off to Lucerne where I’ll stay for 3 nights. I seem to be feeling a bit better finally. Maybe it just took some new scenery and sunny skies (thanks for all the rain, Munich!) to clear me up. For now, enjoy the few pics below.