Sunday, November 18, 2012


I haven't even been here for a month and I'm already in a different world.

From the minute we stepped off the plane into Europe, we considered what we would do with our lives when we got "back to reality". No, we talked about that from day one. Before we ever left for Thailand, we wanted to cover our bases on the matter of what we need to do with our "real lives" when we returned back to the United States. There are so many things expected of us: Two college grads. Intelligent. Audacious. Full of potential. We can't just float off onto another side of the world without any regard for what comes after, right? Well, I'm still trying to figure that one out. What does, in fact, come after?

If the purpose of my leaving was to witness all of the challenges, excitement and enlightenment that comes with experiencing a new way of looking at and living within the do I embrace this new life? Where do I find purpose? What drives me? I am more than I was before this. I believe that and know that for certain. I have come more into my own and I know myself better. But now, when I look at my options, I find myself feeling stuck. Isn't that funny? Walking along the streets of any town in a country I do not belong to feels more comforting than lying in my bed in the house I grew up in. That sense of opportunity...of rebirth. Like anything from the past which changed you in a way you can't take back is somehow unimportant and you have the chance to start life as though you've just started living it. How can a person not possibly desire that feeling?

I look back at photos from a time I know to be difficult and foreign from my understanding...and I somehow want some part of it back. I'll clarify: I don't want to teach again. I would never take that time in my life back, but I have gained as much as I needed/wanted from that experience. I don't want to pretend, like so many, that my life was so fabulous that all I had to fucking do was throw on a cartoon (take Mr. Bean) for my kids and day-dream about my next jaunt to my weekend island destination. That was not my reality as a teacher in Thailand. I don't want to live as a nomad, either, roaming from place to place, with no sense of home whatsoever. Why couldn't I just be like the most of you and choose either side: the wandering, adventurer's lifestyle or the house with the kids, dog, and steady job that pays the bills. I don't intend to make it so black and white but where do us stuck in the middle go?

There are so many things I believe I could do well with in this world. Most of all, I just want to lead a life full of happiness and laughter. Anyone can simplify their needs down to this, I'm sure. But coming from the past 6 months...I'm finding myself re-acclimating in a different way than I had originally expected. I thought I would be correcting my hands from using spoon and fork to eat each meal. I thought I would be checking my purse twice before realizing the empty space doesn't need a new refill of toilet paper. I thought I would be caught in thought...deciding whether the word I was looking for was, in fact, English, or some odd configuration of a foreign word I had become so accustomed to. No. This is not it. I am finding that my original way of understanding, responding, reflecting and taking action in my world (before Thailand) to be somehow altered from how I operate now. My goals have changed. I don't want to give into what everybody is telling me. I don't want to beat out all of my "competitors" in the job world. I just want to be myself. Is life supposed to be this ridiculously aggressive and calculated? I don't want to hate on my own country but I'm very frustrated and disappointed with my lack of new-found appreciation for America. When I left, I thought I would be gone for over a year. I thought I would be coming back here with a new-found sense of pride and excitement for my homeland and all that it would hold for me and Stephen. Instead, I left one country (Thailand) where I found myself appreciating America in a new Europe, where I once again found myself disgusted by it.

I held my tongue, for the sake of maintaining my position and sanity within Anuban Khon Kaen School for 4 months, but here...I have nothing to lose. I am not giving into this. If my choices in life look irresponsible or undirected to you, I don't care. Have you ever stopped to think about what lies beyond your parents and friends expectations? Have you ever considered what other peoples of the world value in their lifetime? Don't you want to see how the other side lives? Do they spend any time mourning Twinkies when there are opportunities across the globe to distract them from one temporary facebook feed fad?! There are no perfect countries in this world...but don't be fooled to believe that America is closer than many others. We don't even know what our reason is anymore. We are worked hard until we die. Where does life take place? In a small amount of time, I have met friends from all over the world and their philosophy and zest for life is unmatched by the majority of Americans I have ever known. We forget what's really important when we're distracted by what everybody tells us to pay attention to. Well, I've remembered and I'm not going to forget.

You know what's also off? I have almost finished 2/3 of a Greenbush growler (1/2 gallon) which would be considered unheard of for a 110 lb girl like myself, for no good reason. Well, you know what? I don't care. This is the result of 1.) Unemployment, 2.) A restless mind and 3.) Look, if you haven't realized this by now...I love beer. Deal with it.

I share all of this with deliberate honesty. There are a lot of cute little bells and whistles I could decorate my story with but it would only be furthering me from my point. I'm not trying to impress anybody with my experiences traveling. I'm trying to find where I fit, now, that I'm back. So far, Michigan isn't cutting it. It didn't before I left and it isn't now. Sadly, moving on has been the name of the game for a long time, now, and I just hope that there are other people who are out there to inspire and reignite this flame. If you hear this, let me know!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the Way Out: Wien and Praha

After spending almost a month in Germany, Stephen and I decided to conclude our last 10 days traveling abroad in Vienna, Austria and Prague, The Czech Republic.

I feel like in an attempt to keep up this blog and email family and friends back home while still fully participating in my traveling experience, I haven't really been putting forth a lot of my personal feelings and detailing my experiences in my writing. There are so many stories that follow the timeline I've described through my posts: stories of happiness, sadness, frustration, excitement, longing, doubt, guilt, anxiety, worry, elation and what feels like everything in between. I wish I had had the energy to share these stories with you more often throughout my journey. But between the sight-seeing, planning and downtime, transferring some of my deepest core emotions and experiences always seemed a bit exhausting and lower on the priority list. I also think it's near impossible to justifiably share all of the memorable moments through reflection. I've been using pictures to effortlessly evoke the words for me, so I'll do some more of the talking, myself.

We took the train into Vienna on Sunday the 14th from Regensburg and it took approximately 4 hours. Stephen and I chose a hostel located right alongside the Naschmarkt, which is an amazing market selling everything: dried fruit, a plethora of cheeses, cheese-stuffed peppers and tomatoes, Indian spices, fish, meat, tacky clothing (i.e. 3 wolf moon fleece), gelato and a variety of restaurants.

We spent our first day sight-seeing, taking a free walking tour through the lovely city of Vienna. The architecture is stunning and full of life and variety. Being a music history enthusiast, I found it incredibly exciting to imagine famous composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert walking the same streets of Vienna as me. Vienna is an aristocratic type of city, with music at its heart. Every night at the State Opera House there is an opera or ballet to attend. We discovered that for only 3 euros, you can purchase standing tickets (in some of the less-desirable locations in the house) for the opera. Simply taking in the beauty of the interior of the opera house made this price worthwhile. We got to experience our first opera--in the city which loves opera--when we attended Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro". We even rented ourselves some opera binoculars for 2 euros. Not bad. Another time, we listened to an organ concert inside the ornate Baroque-style Peterskirche.

Another day we chose to take a walk through the Schönbrunn Palace grounds. We couldn't have chosen a more beautiful day. With the weather coming in around the high 60's, this day may have peaked over 70 and was highlighted by such a clear, blue sky, allowing the sun to shine down on us most of the day. It felt like we were children, making our way through the green-hedge maze and labyrinth, playing around with the various garden games, delighting in the simple pleasure of a sunny day with your best friend. I often experience this feeling of free, uninhibited happiness, being with Stephen. Just one of the many reasons I love him.

 The start of our walking tour, through the Naschmarkt.



 Free climbing right off of the Vienna Aquarium!
 Statue of the famous composer, Joseph Haydn.
 A good way to relax on the platz. Well, aside from it being so cold!
 The Vienna State Opera House.
 Inside the opera house.
 The opera's about to begin...
 Enjoying a sunny day, walking through the Schönbrunn Palace grounds.

 Further exploring the grounds.
 What a perfect day! Schönbrunn Palace in the background.


Kaleidoscope mirrors.
 Mathematical puzzle.
 Inside of Peterskirche. Notice the Baroque architecture.
 "If it's not Baroque--don't fix it!" (had to include this for Stephen who so thoroughly enjoyed it)
 We listened to an organ concert in the church.

 Zwei Wieners.
 The highly-esteemed Sachertorte...not so amazing in our opinion.
 Stephen, about to dig into the famous Wiener Schnitzel.

After 4 nights in Vienna, we decided to take a bus to Prague, on the 19th. However...this did not go exactly as planned. We arrived at the bus stop, toting around our heavy world-travel-filled luggage, for the 10:40 a.m. bus to Prague. However, we soon discovered that you are supposed to purchase your ticket ahead of time. This being a Friday, it was incredibly busy and we spent the next 12 hours at the train station near the bus stop, trying to get on every consecutive bus. It was a day uneventfully filled with train station food, stress and WiFi cafe searching. We finally made it onto the 10:40 P.M. bus and arrived in the foggy, street-lit Gothic city of Prague at 3:30 a.m..

Prague, although highly touristed (like any big European city), was incredibly beautiful, in a dark and mysterious sort of way. Every corner has some kind of elaborately decorated and stylized architecture, all set in a mist/fog-laden eeriness which I found kind of magical. Our time in Prague consisted of your typical sight-seeing (The Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Astrological Clock), but we had some of the most fun making friends at our hostel and enjoying crazy nights with them, playing card games and dancing the night away. A great way to end our 6-month excursion away from the United States.

 The Charles Bridge.

Metro Station.

Station artwork made out of 2x2 stones.
 Overlook off of the Prague Castle courtyard.


I really loved the door architecture in Prague...

 Smazeny! Czech fried cheese.
Charles Bridge.
There were live pumas at this bar, just roaming around...

 On the Charles Bridge.

 Happy 2 year anniversary!

 Astrological Clock.

 All of the roads were covered in these 2x2 stones.
 St. Vitus Cathedral.

 Like a fairytale.

So the end of our long journey has finally come. It's such a strange feeling coming back after everything that has happened in these past 6 months. I think back to my mindset back in April when I was packing my bags for what was originally going to be at least a year's time living and teaching English in Thailand. So much has changed. Thailand was not what I had expected, but like Stephen has said on multiple occasions--it has also been a lot of things we didn't expect. A lot of really amazing things. I am so grateful for all of the experiences--both positive and negative--that my travels have given me. I started out on this journey with the hopes of growing as an individual, learning new things, challenging myself and seeing the world. And to have some fun. I know that I am the writer of my own history and I have the power to make whatever judgment or opinion I choose--but regardless, I really do feel that with those goals in mind, I succeeded. Unknowns in life still remain. I still have challenges awaiting me when I come home to the U.S.. But this time around, I feel stronger and I have a lot of incredible memories which fuel my passion and motivation for accepting those challenges.

The adventure doesn't end here, for me. I have a lot of things that I want to do with my life and although I'm a bit hesitant to say goodbye to globe-trekking and get back to American life, I'm also excited to see some of those things through. A routine really wouldn't be so bad. I want a job. I want to paint the walls in a new apartment. I want to take a ballroom dance class with Stephen. I want to practice piano. I want to read. I want to make friends. Right now, though, I just want to see my family and friends...and take my sweet, crazy Charlie dog for a walk at Grand Mere. There are so many wonderful things waiting for me...all I have to do is look for them.

<3 Alison