“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”- Jerzy Gregorek

It’s been two weeks since I arrived home to the cozy embrace of the PNW, fifteen days since I was in Europe, and three-hundred and sixty hours since I had to pay for public utilities. My time in the land of castles and good bread has come to a bitter sweet finish. (insert sour dough joke, I’m sure I’ll think of something.) I took a whole lot away from these wild escapades, but it’s hard to put into words the exact extent of what this time meant to me. I’ll try though, for you, mom.

There are some skills that are clear-cut and easy to distinguish. I learned how to organize and budget my traveling without extra income, to travel correctly (way more complicated then I thought), and to develop relationships with people that were not only supremely interesting and unique, but also came from cultures that were SO different then my own. This all happened in THEIR second language btw. I can remember two words in Dutch. Europeans have earned my respect, and deserve yours as well.

I read my first blog post over again and was reminded of my old ideas about what this time abroad would mean to me. It was something like: by pushing myself into a foreign situation, I would ensure that I learn and adapt to the rapid change in scenery. That was true to an extent. Turns out that I am a perceptive person. My early days were a whirlwind of lessons and activity that at times felt like sink or swim situations. Crazy travels, crazier people, life was novel and I could not get enough. But eventually, it was all too easy to slip in the same boring routine that did nothing but accumulate stress. A routine that felt all to familiar to the daily combination of 2K and Rick and Morty that caused me to spaz out in the spring of 2016 and choose to study abroad in the first place.  Now that turned out to be a great choice, but I am already an anxious college student and would rather make great choices whilst in a sound state of mind (namaste).

I got to know a lot of people while traveling around, and most of them were superbly interesting. They climbed mountains, brewed beer, and fell asleep on city benches. They ran marathons, carried sketchbooks stuffed with innovation, and held mason jars full of fermenting sauerkraut. These were the characters I am grateful to have surrounded myself with, and they became my people. There were also others (myself included) that often chose familiarity and comfort over the unknown and growth. Netflix is now available in every country, but you know that you proxy drifters.

While the awesome people that totes meshed with my vibe are abundant, they did not just appear, as one might say, on my pueblo. I had to hunt for them, which was not easy. What would have been easy was binge watching Peaky Blinders in my dorm room while munching on a TONY’s chocolate bar. That’s not to say that didn’t happen btw. (we all deserve an off day). What I mean to say in this awkward little paragraph, is that community made my time abroad. But that time was short, and building that community took perseverance and learning which accent I found to be the most charming (Belgium loses, Italy wins).

Took me a hot sec to figure this out though. Plus, retrospect is always easier then the real thing. No worries if this takes a beat for you download these words into your personal experience. I’ll talk a little more about this before wrapping up.

Once I had visited a few countries and my class schedule was established, I slowly found myself slipping into a routine that was not in line the values I had initially set. Took at least a month before I recognized the pattern. Nothing is wrong with routine, but when it’s built around everything that is safe and predictable, it loses the chance of sparking something new. And I find that to be wack.

SO my most potent piece of advice for potential study abroaders; Going to a new country does not guarantee a new experience. I mean it does in a sense, like a new country is a new country. My POINT is that depending on how long you plan to live abroad, you will adapt quicker then you think. Having fun and and maintaining that spirit of adventure means always seeking new and challenging life moments. If you are not finding time to do that at home, then there could be a point were your motivation to do so abroad peters out. Preventing that takes work. It requires  pushing in a direction that is against the tide of familiar routine. But salmon do it every year and they are a ridiculous creature. So you got it.  Surround yourself with good people that want the same great time as you and also have the ability to banter. Always worked for me.

The quote that I began this final blog with sums up most of what I just said. It’s by a stoic philosopher that fled communist Poland. He went on to be a 3x Olympic champion in powerlifting as well as an award winning poet. He was also quoted in a TED talk that I once watched.

“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”- Jerzy Gregorek

I like his quote because it is simple. It makes immediate sense. Make the choice that scares you, within reason, and have fun in your new land.

It’s been real!

Ellis T