About one year ago, I created this blog and kicked it off with a post called “My first 20 days in Europe.” Having never been across the pond before, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, and I had no idea it would take me months to truly get used to this. But as I reflect on this past year, I realize how much has actually changed and I’m blown away by the person I have become, though I am still trying to figure her out. The cliché notion that travel changes you could not capture it better, and throw in building a life in a foreign country in addition to all that travel and it just goes to another level.
Speaking of clichés, the following quote by C.S. Lewis frequently runs through my mind: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” Well that also couldn’t be more true. It doesn’t feel like anything has changed but then a year goes by and suddenly it hits me. I still don’t have a job, mainly because I crave the flexibility to hop a plane whenever there’s a flight deal, or my mom has days off work, or my sister is coming to visit for two weeks. But I always tell myself that if I were to work full-time and rarely have the chance to travel, I might as well live in my familiar home country rather than a foreign place that challenges me every day. Whether I’m being tested on my relationships with people back home, my terrible German skills, or my ability to accomplish everyday tasks in an unfamiliar environment (i.e. accidentally spending €19 on meat at the grocery store because we weren’t sure how to order it), life as an expat is one big mentally exhausting adventure, and I cannot highlight enough that this life is never easy, regardless of the fact that it probably looks like I’m on vacation 24/7.
However, this is not a plea for sympathy and I do accept that this is what I signed up for when I moved here, and in some ways, Germany’s not as foreign as I thought it would be. Through DuoLingo and practicing whenever I can, I’ve actually made a little progress on this language and can communicate fairly well in basic everyday interactions. I honestly feel like I need a prize every time I get through a restaurant meal or transaction at the mall without speaking English. By sheer luck, I also managed to make friends. I met a half-German, half-American girl at a country concert (of all places!) on our military base and she introduced me to her friends–some German, some American–and soon enough, my network grew. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to everyone for welcoming someone they didn’t know at all into their Wiesbaden family. Though it took me nearly 6 months to find my social groove, that’s really what eased the transition. I’ve been loving life here ever since. I’ve discovered a Chipotle in Frankfurt. I fell in love with the traditional German dish of roast pork with potato dumplings. I still get giddy every time I see a dog in a restaurant or bar or shopping mall. I think I’m going to need a follow-up post to this one for all the reasons I love Germany.
And above all that, I’ve gotten to really travel for the first time in my life, aside from study abroad in Sydney. I figured I needed to do something with all my GoPro/iPhone footage so I compiled this 2-minute trip through my past year (and realized I don’t take enough videos, but hey that can be a goal for 2018). Since leaving America, I’ve been on 25 flights and countless road trips that have taken me to 13 new countries and two new continents. And there’s no way I’m stopping yet.