Oh, the places you'll go

Oh, the places you'll go
Crete

Jamminnnn'

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chapter 28: Europe Living

Life...

... is a plethora of adjectives right now. Boring isn't really one of them. Even at work, I always know the means to my end. It's on to the next city, exploring the next castle, hiking the next trail or mountain, seeing the sights this beautiful planet has to offer. Feeling extremely grateful for the privilege to do so along the way. Although it is a privilege, I have to sacrifice many comforts in life in order to travel as much as I'd like to at this point in life. With these sacrifices, I have realized that not many people get the opportunity to travel so abundantly and I remember that this opportunity is once in a life time and the benefits of doing so and fulfilling life goals will stick with me for life. Having said that, I am taking full advantage. I am going everywhere possible. My goal to start this chapter in life was 25 countries, I have since reevaluated to 20 countries. I am at 11, I may hit more or less than 20, who knows.

Other items included on my Euro bucket list (no particular order):

-Drive a car...Check
-Visit 40 cities
-St. Pats in Ireland...Check
-The Venetian Carnivale (2018)
-Run with the bulls...(Most likely not)
-Visit the D-day memorial in Normandy...Check
-Eat everything...In progress
-Paraglide or Skydive in the mountains
-Hike 5-10 mountains...In Progress
-See orcas or the northern lights in Norway or Sweden
-Oktoberfest
-3 day hike from Hutte to Hutte in Switzerland Alps...Soon
-Not get locked up abroad...In progress
-Drunkenly argue with a German about how America is the best country in the world to the point he cusses me out in Deutsche  ... Searching

One thing that wasn't on my bucket list at all was getting robbed at knife point in Budapest. I'll have to tell you about this in person sometime because it is a little embarrassing and could have been avoided. (Don't worry Mom, I'm alive). Sometimes I venture off on my own and I meet amazing people and have these wild nights that are like movie scenes, and then an outlier situation like this happens, but it is still movie scene worthy. 

Ok, so far I have hit 11 countries:

Germany
Austria
France
Belgium
Netherlands
Portugal
Ireland
Slovenia
Hungary
Slovakia
Greece

I won't make this too long for you to read, so I will jump into it.

Austria:

Schönbrunn palace 
I have visited Innsbruck and Vienna. Very different cities. Innsbruck is a little underrated mountain town on the border of Germany and Austria. It is a nice day trip away from where we live and they have a lot to offer in terms of fests, beer, and scenery. Vienna is the cafe shop capital of the world and I cafe hopped one day. I was told to stop by a cafe called "Phil", short for Philosophy. The reason for this is all the books you can read for free while you're there. I killed several hours reading a book about why WWI started before I got on with my day. I did the other touristy things, but also explored random back alleys that usual tourists stay away from. This was an excellent way to see things some may never see, such as the flat where Wolfgang Mozart died. Interesting, right? After seeing all of this and exploring cafes, I hopped a train to Schönbrunn and saw the palace that has a zoo on the grounds. Absolutely fascinating. The elites of the time really liked to show off how everyone's fealty was paying off for the good of society! However pretentious, nonetheless stunning architecture.

France:

Omaha Beach
I did a road trip through France with 4 wonderful young women. We explored northern France and Paris. We got the honor of visiting the WWII memorial at Omaha Beach and saw thousands of graves designated for young men that fought and died so I could take a picture of it post it on Instagram. Ok, well not really, but they did die for the concept of freedom and I felt absolutely humbled to be experiencing an area that was a pivotal point in history for the world.

Frolicking in Fougeres
We also explored the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey. This abbey is incredible architecture and would have made it impossible for anyone to infiltrate from land or sea. It's no wonder it is rather pristine from the day it was built. Must see!

Mont-Saint-Michel







I can't remember the name of the town we stayed in, but it was relatively close to the abbey. Alicia, who turned 25, made Ratatouille for us one night and we all drank wine into the wee hours of the night and enjoyed each other's company.  

We had to head back to Paris so we did a cider distillery tour in the Calvados area and climbed in giant barrels and had a grand ole time before we headed back to Paris and partied the night away. But not before we stopped in a quaint French town called Fougeres. This is a small town untouched by the war and completely unknown to normal tourists. France was a good time.
Dutch Canals




Belgium:

Don't tell the Germans, but Belgium has better beer. There I said it.

Belgium Beer
I did a road trip with a delightful young woman named Meghan. We left from Amsterdam. We visited Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. Antwerp and Ghent were only for a day and we saw the main points. We saw Bruges for 2 nights and one day we did our own pub crawl we made up as we went along. We had a different beer at each one and drunkenly stumbled around Bruges. Along our pub crawl, we stumbled across a chocolate place and the way the Dutch do their hot chocolate is by sticking chocolate on a stick and giving you steaming milk, as you dip the chocolate it melts slowly and you have a wonderful cup of awesomeness. What geniuses! We also got to see the "Madonna and Child" sculpture that is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that made it out of Italy, guess the Dutch just wanted to keep it.







Netherlands:

This section is censored. Although I will say: if you ever go to Amsterdam, make sure it is on King's Day/Night. Woo!

Portugal:

Wine and walking. Met some Aussies here and explored the city and nightlife with them. I also met a young Spanish lady who invited me to the Canary Islands, might be taking her up on that soon. Porto is a very underrated and inexpensive city that should not be overlooked on a Euro trip.













Ireland:

Found Trump
I can't say enough good things about this country. I love it here. The people, the green, the beer, everything about this country is amazing to me. I made it here on St. Pats. We went to Galway for a wild and wet day. St. Pats is the time anyone should make it to Ireland. Dublin is full of tourists most of the time, so it is best to venture off to a different county. Typically, you can be safe to go west or southwest. I have heard northern Irelander's aren't as friendly to foreigners, but I had no problems in the west or southwest. Now, I will say, you should be aware of the subtle demeanor and personality of the Irish; they are usually thicker skinned and very sarcastic, but that means they expect you to give some banter in return. I have never met an Irishman that didn't ridicule me for something within the first 5 minutes of meeting me only to be impressed with the ease as to which I take it and give it in return. Once you realize this, you can get along with ease and have more fun in the Emerald Isle. I wrote an entire blog post on Ireland, feel free to go check it out if you want to know more




















Slovenia/Slovakia/Hungary:

I also did a road trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia and Lake Bled with Meghan. It was pretty cold at the time so we essentially skated on Lake Bled and enjoyed more indoor activities. I did a little day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia and saw an interesting castle ruin ground that would have been amazing to see if that a-hole Napoleon hadn't destroyed it for no reason. In Budapest, Hungary I had a good time walking around the city and exploring the main sights and a free walking tour. Unfortunately I did not make it to a thermal baths, so this gives me a good reason to go back in the future. I did get robbed here on my way back from the bars, I should've just taken a cab but I like walking places. I'm ok, but they made away with a few hundred euro. Ouch.
Devin Castle ruins




















Greece:

Greek Salad
My most recent solo trip was to Crete. It was a cheap flight for an impromptu trip that turned out to be quite a trip. I met some young doctors that will be practicing in London, along with a recent American grad and we ventured out to Matala to see some beaches one day, ended up getting a gyro and watching the sunset and heading back. The next day we essentially did the same thing but to a beach called Elafonisi. We stopped at a local Greek restaurant that was so inexpensive but rich in deliciousness and quantity of food. We called it a day after a few hours at the beach and eventually we said our goodbyes. I hope to go visit some new doctor friends in London in the near future. Greece is beautiful!


Gyro's and sunsets

Red Beach in Matala




















Plans coming up:


Ok, not much set in stone, well maybe a few things. I am going on a 3 day solo hiking trip through the Swiss alps at the end of the month. The goal is to start in the morning, hike to a hutte, stay over night, and do it again to the next hutte. You basically sleep on bunks next to hikers from around the world. I am very excited for this solo trip. Next, I am planning a trip to do some hiking and see some fjords in Norway in August. In September, my boys are coming to visit for about 2 weeks and we have a wild one planned. So far, the plan is to do some hiking, hit Oktoberfest, head to Barcelona, then Milan, then Copenhagen... I'll withhold the details for now ;) - October plans include heading to London and hopefully Dracula's castle in Romania for Halloween. This winter, I will be traveling less (def not stopping), and learning how to ski or snowboard as I save money for after Germany. In February, I hope to make my way to Kenya to see a friend doing a med project there and go on a safari. Then my contract will be up after that....But does that mean the adventure is over? Never.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Living Abroad Will Change You

We all change as we go through this life. 

We are constantly being molded into a new being as time goes on. The person we were last year is different from the person we are now, and who we will be in a year's time. We are the summation of every day we live, every circumstance we go through, every challenge we face, every moment we experience. We are the epitome of every thought that enters our minds, the food that enters our body, and chemicals that reach our blood. We essentially become what we allow ourselves to do throughout time. There are external factors, but nothing and no one can force you to eat one thing or think one way. You decide your reactions and thoughts and you complete your actions. Once this responsibility is realized, you can begin taking initiative in life and excuses come less often. You can either choose to focus on your worries and should've or could've been's, or you can focus on each moment as it comes and be happier for it. As of right now, there is no past or future, there is only this moment that we have. Don't let your mind run away with your moment.

I have changed.

7 months abroad so far. I feel as if nothing and everything has changed about my life. I still have another 8 months of living in Germany to go and I know there is A LOT of room for growth. I have come to realize that the process is my destination and I will never quit trying to become a better person. Some would say this is due to dissatisfaction with life, but I see it as a passion of being in love with the process of my life. In the words of Matthew McConaughey, "My idol is me 10 years from now, and in 10 years from now, my idol will be me 10 years from then." I am a work in progress. Always. As long as I continue advancing myself without remaining stagnant then I will consider myself a success and that mindset will perpetuate my ability to continue advancing in life. You may think I am too serious about this life that inevitably ends, but it's all I have so I will make the best of it by enjoying each moment of getting better.


This acceptance speech is always a good reminder to keep it moving forward.

Some lessons I have learned:

1. Recent loss - 

Recently I lost the support of a majorly significant person in my life, and I never realized how much I cherished that support from her until I lost it completely. On the flip side, if it was meant to work out with her then I would not have left her back in the states and she would not have quit talking to me while I am here. I was feeling completely sorry for myself for a while until I realized that I do not have time to do that. I fell off of my meditation during this time and my negative thoughts carried my emotions off onto a rollercoaster ride dreamed up by Hades. I eventually came to my senses and remembered my meditations and realized what is will be and I have this moment. I am better than that. I have always cared a lot about that woman but I have done very little to prove it and I now believe this is truly an opportunity for her to move on and be happy away from me. This is the least I can do if I could never be there for her. One day, sooner or later, we will both find someone who will make us realize why it never worked in the first place. All I know now is that my future wife better be up for some extreme adventures or we are doomed.

2. Lost in Thought - 

I have been better about mindfulness lately. I have been practicing almost religiously. I used to find myself lost in thought for a long time thinking about who knows what from the moment I wake up until sleep that night, only to start the cycle over again the next day. I was not truly enjoying any moments because my thoughts were consuming my time. These small thoughts might start my day off "on the wrong side of the bed", and I would be in a mood because of it. I have began curiously noting my thoughts from the moment I wake up in order to file thoughts and feelings into categories that help me understand why I am thinking that, then I can move on from the thought and carry on with my day. I have realized I am much more relaxed when I do this, I am mindful to the moment, and I am overall slightly happier because the worries no longer consume me. It has not been easy and it has taken a lot of practice, but it is paying off tremendously.

3. Goal or Relationship Oriented - 

This is a tough lesson to learn. I have always had goals in my life, but I didn't realize how much I lean on the support of the relationships I have developed. That whole not knowing what you have until it is gone quote is a real thing when you deprive yourself for months. I truly care about my friends and family more than anyone or anything in my life, and if I do not have them then I do not have anything and my goals do not matter. I understand that I would like to be close to them (at least, you know, a plane ride away), and being away has helped me realize I can accomplish my goals while focusing on the relationships I have always taken for granted.

4. Time Spent Alone - 

I am slightly older than the median age here. I have done what majority of people are doing here and most people believe they need a big group of friends. I used to think this as well. But now I know I have no one to impress but myself and the ones I truly care about. I spend a lot of time reading, writing, hiking, and doing things on my own and it helps me consider what I truly feel passionate about. I know I love to travel and I would really like to help those in need. I have discovered something I can do to incorporate both of these foundational needs into a passion, and the best part is I can pursue this venture on my own back home in Kansas City when I return. I have been working on it in my spare time to get things squared away. I am very excited about this!

5. Traveling is Cool, but... - 

Traveling is a huge part of my life. I believe it helps people develop new synapses in the brain that allow for more learning. I believe experiencing new cultures and trying to learn a new language is a challenge that everyone should give a chance at some point. I believe the only way people are going to truly be less scared of the world and the news they consume online is to get out of their comfort zone and talk to their neighbor in a different country and realize that the world is not as bad of a place as one may think. Quite the opposite. Travel is cool in so many ways, but it's not as enjoyable unless you are doing it with people you know or care about. This goes back to goal/relationship oriented. Don't get me wrong, I love traveling solo- I learn so much about myself and I meet so many amazing people I never would have got the chance to meet. While solo travel is nice, I thoroughly miss the enjoyment of going somewhere new with someone I already know, it helps me learn more about that person and the walls come down even further. Also, being the travel agent of my friends, it allows me to satisfy them with my awesome logistical planning skills (ha ha). Either way, travel is cool, it's just a preference as to what you want to experience while you do it.


These are a just a few lessons I have learned in a short amount of time and the growth is exponential in this environment of being away from comfort. I understand my mindset is constantly changing, molding, and adapting into the person I want to be. This experience is humbling me. I am enjoying the rest of it and accomplishing my goals, but I am making less selfish plans that will last the rest of my life.

Oh, I hope you all are ready for my next post. It is all about where I have been and what I have done so far during this chapter in life. If you don't like being jealous, then I would skip it :D

Sunday, May 7, 2017

When You Are Missing Home

I never thought I would miss home this much. I am completely homesick and I cannot seem to get it out of my mind. I constantly imagine how things are going back home, I wonder how my friends are doing in their careers, I wonder what's new within my city, I miss the food, and I haven't hugged my mom in over 5 months- and most likely will not get to for at least another 10 months. I am completely out of my element and it is difficult to focus on things I love to do- like traveling and writing.

The homesickness is causing a slight depression and I have been in a little down funk for a few weeks now. I am trying to stay as focused as possible, but often times, I revert back to thinking about things I cannot control. I have been doing so well with meditation, working out, journaling, positive affirmations, doing things I love to do, but I would just really like to chow down on an OG 24 wrap from Longboards, or go grill out before a Royal's game, or ride the street car around and hit up a First Friday's.

I know some people back home will just say I am not missing very much, but it's easier to feel like I am when I am 4000+ miles away. People are getting married, doing well in their careers, moving along in life. Don't get me wrong, I love the traveling bit and seeing parts of the world I probably never would have if I didn't take this opportunity, but I have come to realize the type of person I am in these past 5 months. I have grown a lot already, and have a lot of room for more improvement, but I also want to be able to grow relationships I have with friends and family- the art of accomplishing both is in the balancing act.

I seem to always focus on things I don't have, instead of things I do, which is something I have been attempting to change. I write down things I am grateful for, I remind myself how lucky I am, I try to smile when I really don't want to because I have way more to smile for than I have to frown about.

While writing this, I have had an epiphany. All of these negative and sad emotions I have been having are for a reason. I clearly miss where I am from and everything it provides. I have left my heart in KC and I will be back one day, but that day is not today, nor tomorrow. I can either sulk in the fact I am missing home, or I can use this time as opportunity for growth. I can remain down and bitter and let my homesickness spiral me down to the point of making very poor decisions, or I can continue to learn and progress and smash some life goals of mine. Without self awareness, the former would be the easier path in the short term, but long term it would destroy my psyche, and ain't nobody got time for dat.

Here are some things you can focus on if you are ever feeling homesick:

1. Yourself: We all have goals and plans for our lives, never forget them. Focus on them and why you are away from home. It is for a reason. You might not always feel like working on your goals due to feeling down, but building the momentum and continuing to focus on your goals will allow you to work your way out of the funk you are in.

2. Writing and meditation: You all know I am a big fan of these two and I will push them to the day I die. They help your mind relax by clearing itself, and then you can relax and have less anxiety about any given situation. For example, I already feel slightly better just because I am putting built up thoughts on paper and sharing it with you. You don't write? Try painting, drawing, playing an instrument, or anything that will allow you put some emotional expression on paper.

3. Let your emotions out when they happen: This one is mainly for my fella's out there. Don't hold back your emotions for some macho reason. That is plain dumb. If you are feeling sad, cry. Let it out. Don't feel like crying but you are sad? Watch a sad really sad movie alone and let the water works flow. It really can help you overcome anything you are uneasy about. Oh, and here's more on why you should cry instead of repressing emotions: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/11884611/Why-men-need-to-learn-how-to-cry.html

4. Break a sweat: Get in the gym and workout. Or just walk somewhere for a while. Release some endorphins and your body will help relax your mind for you.

5. Talk. To. People: Even introverts are social beings. You have someone who cares about you. Talk to them. If you think no one cares about you, talk to a stranger and share some common interests and if you get into a deeper conversation then share how you miss home, they could potentially have some insight into your situation. Just don't do it in a weird uncontrollable way. Talk to family back home- mainly so when you tell them you are homesick, they can tell you that you aren't missing anything and you can be reassured of your decision.

6. Cut out the stimulants for a bit: The alcohol, caffeine, drugs, social media, etc., it is all changing the way your brain functions and how your mind views things. You may feel great while doing it and you are no longer homesick at the time, but it is a roller coaster for your emotions and will only perpetuate the period of feeling down. Or you know, just stay perpetually drunk and you will be just fine as well!

All of these are things I am attempting to do while feeling this period of homesickness. I understand it is a phase and it will pass, but I also need to understand it is happening for a reason. I miss you and love you KC and I will be home soon, but I have some things to accomplish first.