I’m currently listening to “A Candle’s Fire” by Beirut, which is always guaranteed to get me in my feels and which I listened to on repeat after returning home from France last year, so I may or may not start crying while writing this post. I’ll keep you posted. (Feel free to listen to Beirut’s album The Rip Tide if you want to follow along.)
Two weeks went by fast.
I can’t believe that I’m sitting on my bed at my parents’ house right now when I’ve just spent two weeks exploring in Europe. In two simple weeks I’ve been in Vienna; Salzburg; Dorfgastein; Bad Hofgastein; Hallstatt; (Am I forgetting another Austrian city? …Maybe. To Be Determined.) Germany; Venice, Italy; the Alps; and, now, America… Whoa. I was so tired by the end of our two weeks and I was more or less ready to be home, a feeling that surprised me because you could not have payed me to leave Paris last year. Now, as I sit in my room stuffed with luggage and chocolate from my trip, I miss Vienna and I would almost consider sitting through another ten-hour flight to be back there. (Ask me in a couple days and the “almost” might turn into a “definitely.”)
Life seems better in Europe. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. I know that I don’t necessarily sit in a position to make this claim as any time I’m in Europe I’m a tourist. When there, I don’t have bills to pay or a job to go to or groceries to buy or other annoyances to deal with. I do the things I need to do for class and I spend the rest of my days visiting castles and purchasing souvenirs and meeting interesting people and wishing that my parents could see what I’m seeing. My life is easy and carefree when I’m in Europe, which makes my American life, by contrast, look dull and chore-filled when it is not. But it also makes me wonder– what would my life look like if I packed up and moved? What would I feel if I made the move to Vienna? My host mom did something very similar to that. She lived in Germany and decided one day that she needed something different, so she packed up her things and moved to Vienna. She didn’t have a place to stay when she arrived and she only knew one person, but she made friends and moved into a flat and made a life for herself in a new city.
Could I do that?
Would I be able to leave behind my safety net in the U.S. and cross the ocean? How long would I last? A month? A year? Less? More? Would anyone hire the clueless English-speaker from Walmart-country? Would I learn German and be able to function there?
I know that there are friends and family reading this blog right now who would say, “Yes. Yes, you can do that and you will be fine.” But it’s one thing to be able to hear that and a completely other thing to be able to do it.
What if I’m never brave enough to leave what I know?
(I told you Beirut gets me in my feels.)
Can I tell you something dorky? My watch is an activity tracker, and when synced to my phone, the time on my watch changes to whatever time zone my phone is in. I synced my watch while in Europe to see how many steps I was getting (a TON is the answer!!) and my watch switched to Vienna’s time. Now that I’m home, I don’t want to sync my watch again because I love looking down and seeing what time it is back there. I love imagining what I would be doing if I were still there. Right now, it is 9:37 am. Najeeah and I would already be up for the day, and we would likely be going somewhere to meet up with the group for an outing.
I miss Schwendenplatz a lot tonight. I miss sitting in cafes to work on blog posts with my friends. I miss laughing over dinner and drinks with KeLee, Hersh, and Najeeah. I miss using eye signals to point out cute European boys to each other. (It’s true; they really are cuter there.) After my drive home today I definitely miss the U-Bahn. I even miss walking everywhere! All I did today was drive and sleep, and I can 100% feel it.
On our last day in Vienna, we all sat in a park next to Hofburg and talked about our experience. The girls unanimously agreed that the trip taught us that Austria has it all figured out and America has some major work to do. Recognizing all the things that Austria does for the environment and for its citizens, we wondered how we could still feel proud to be Americans, knowing how far behind we are. We talked about how the United States is a very young country compared to European countries. We are missing a lot of history and experience that they have (I saw a building in Italy that was last renovated in the thousands, for goodness sake! We weren’t even a country yet!) yet as a country we think we are the best and that we have everything figured out. When you travel to other places, it puts your own homeland in perspective for you. For me, it helped me see how far we have to go before we come even close to what Europe has. With the attitude we currently have of being holier than thou art and being the standard of what a successful country looks like, I don’t know that we’ll get to where we need to be anytime soon.
During this discussion, our professor pointed out that we are still American citizens and we would have to return to our country soon. So, with this in mind, she asked how we could take and apply what we’ve learned and find a way to still be proud of our country. The goal of the trip, after all, was not to learn to hate where we come from but to learn how to learn from others in order to better ourselves and our country.
I don’t know what the answer is. From where I sit tonight, I’d pick Austria over the United States. Maybe that’s a sign that I am meant to live in Europe. I know that other girls spoke about how they would never move there let alone move out of the state because they love where they are, but I as uncertain as I am about whether or not I’d ever have the courage to leave I also don’t know if I’d have the stomach to stay.
This post doesn’t give as much closure as I wished that it would, probably because I think I have one foot here and another there, so here are some things that I learned while abroad:
What I Learned While In Austria
- If you’re taking a suitcase, a carry-on, and a backpack, you’re taking too much. Pack less. You’ll thank yourself later because of the blood, sweat, and tears you’ll avoid while navigating your luggage through the airport, U-Bahn, and streets to your home. (Also, fewer people will laugh at you. Austrians pack light. My host mom spent a month in a different country with only a backpack.)
- Air Conditioning is a privilege, not a right. Thank your lucky stars while you have it and never take it for granted again.
- Ice is great. You won’t get it in Europe. If I got ice in a drink, the operative word being “if” as it only happened twice, it was one ice cube. Sometimes they have cold drinks; oftentimes they don’t. Give thanks for your ice.
- There are many kinds of water with various amounts of carbonation. If you say that you want “flat water,” they probably won’t understand you. Learn to like sparkling water, or tattoo the word “still” on your hand in many different languages (just to be safe).
- If you only do what you’re currently comfortable with, you’ll never experience what you’re meant to experience. Yes, plan out your trip. But if you don’t abandon those plans at least once, I guarantee you that you’re missing out on something great.
- Buy a lot of chocolate before you come home. European chocolate is simply better than American chocolate. Stock up or you’ll fiercely regret it.
*song change* If you’re following along musically, pause here and put on “Vienna” by Billy Joel. I’ll wait.
Okay, good. Let’s resume.
Well, this is it… I can’t believe that this adventure has come to a close. I’ll dream about these past two weeks until I can go back.
I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to go;
I’m thankful for the people who put in all the hard work to make this trip possible (Shoutout to you, Dr. Demers!! Thank you so much. I can’t put into words my gratitude.);
I’m thankful for a future that I get to write for myself, wherever I decide to land.
(Here come the tears; brace yourself.)
I feel so fortunate that I go to a University that makes it possible for so many students to study abroad, and I’m very thankful that I’ve gotten to do it twice now. Before I studied in Paris, I had no desire to travel, and before I studied in Vienna, I had no desire to travel outside of France. Now I’m able to see how vast and magnificent the world is, even as I’ve only seen a fragment of what’s out there. I’m thankful for parents who support my dreams, even the outlandish ones, and I’m thankful to live in a time where as a woman, I can do whatever makes me happy.
I don’t know what exactly I’ll do in the future, but I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, in the words of Billy Joel:
Slow down you crazy child
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile
But then if you’re so smart tell me,
Why are you still so afraid?
You got your passion, you got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true (Oooh)
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?
Slow down you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s alright, you can afford to lose a day or two (oooh)
When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?