Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Serving it up at Manenberg Primary!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Travel Hiccups and Unexpected Blessings

Greetings, everyone! I hope you are doing well. I am currently en route to Vienna, Austria, to spend some time touring the city, meeting some friends, and simply enjoying life! Up until this point, I have been in Prague and Budapest, encountering extremely nice people along the way.

Three brief highlights I’ll share:

1. I took my first overnight train! It was actually quite lovely. I’m not sure how restfully I slept, but am grateful to have experienced this efficient travel option :)

[Hehe this is the only time I’ve ever taken a mirror selfie … while in Europe! :)]

2. Two friends were supposed to accompany me on this week of traveling - covering Prague, Budapest, Vienna, and Interlaken, Switzerland in one week - but had to cancel due to unforeseen conflicts. That was really sad to hear, so taking this trip alone has hit me harder than expected. Surprisingly, I haven’t run into a lot of Americans while traveling. Perhaps this is due to the higher costs of getting over to Europe, the time of year, random chance, etc. So, when I do have an opportunity to spend time with fellow Americans, it is quite meaningful. While on a walking tour in Prague, I ran into a trio of Americans who were incredibly inclusive and kind to me.

[This really brightened my spirits. In the cold, dreary weather of Prague, it was amazing to spend time with cheerful, engaging people!]

3. My last highlight was going out with an Italian (an excellent English speaker) and two Russians (not so excellent English speakers … but they were trying!) last night to a Latin dance bar. I had learned a little bit of salsa and bachata in college, but otherwise no one had danced latin style before. So, cue semi-awful dancing, mistranslations and missteps, and a whole bunch of laughter while on the dance floor. But hey, we had a blast.

[Ok, we weren’t that bad. Everyone else was just really good hahaha.]

Anyways, to get onto the content that informs this blog’s title, “Travel Hiccups, Unexpected Blessings,” I have had quite the dramatic week! The biggest news that I learned is that I will not be able to go to Spain, Portugal, or Germany over the next three months. Why? Read on.

The Schengen Zone: The bane of my Keegan existence
I am not sure of how I missed this while preparing for my trip - other future European travelers, beware! In Europe, there is a 26-country wide coalition called the Schengen Zone. It includes almost all EU countries, minus a few in southern Europe and the United Kingdom. Americans are only allowed to travel within the Schengen Zone for 90 days out of a 180-day window. I was not aware of this until two days ago, and I have spent over 70 days in the Schengen Zone. It was a huge blessing to discover this before I went over 90 days (shout out to the Americans who patiently explained this to me while in Budapest, despite my impatient disbelief...), otherwise I would have been deported, received a hefty fine, and may been banned from visiting the Schengen Zone for 5 years…

So I am grateful to have caught that. However, this means my travel itinerary will be taking a U-turn, and now I am headed south. So long Portugal and Spain, and hello to Croatia and Serbia!

[I mean, I’m not complaining, these countries are gorgeous!]

I haven’t checked to see if Croatia or Serbia have national school lunch programs (I did not have much choice in where I could travel outside of the Schengen Zone while staying in Europe), so I may study Spain and Portugal’s programs from afar. Resources have been extremely fruitful, so I have no doubt that I will continue to learn and grow wherever I go.

An unexpected blessing: Reestablishing priorities and self-direction
Since I found out about the Schengen Zone so late - I was supposed to be in Portugal on Monday - there were some plane tickets, train tickets, and lodging monies that were lost in the process. Earlier this week, I had also lost a large sum of money in purchasing the wrong train ticket in Germany. The puppy dog eyes can only help so much …

Losing a lot of money was quite stressful; I am unashamedly frugal, and can become quite distressed when I lose money for silly mistakes. Schengen Zone? Silly mistake. German train ticket? Silly mistake. Silly mistake + silly mistake = anxiety.

However, my situation did not turn out like that equation.

Over the course of my Keegan experience, I have made a series of small monetary mistakes: unknowingly shopping at the more expensive supermarket, purchasing single transit tickets rather than a travel card, losing and repurchasing an umbrella. As each mistake unfolded, I began to question the anxiety I was experiencing. Was becoming stressed helping my situation?

Furthermore, what does this stress say about my values and character?

Undoubtedly, money is important for staying alive and being comfortable. I would argue there is a self-defined threshhold for living comfortably. My Keegan experience is revealing that I often value money above that threshhold; there is an indiscrepancy between what I need and what I think I need.

Where do my priorities lie? In haboring my money, or in more deeply-rooted things? And, how can I realign my values to reflect the person I want to be, my family and friends want me to be, in whom God wants me to be?

Well, the major realignment started this last week. The German transportation fine? Made me cry (it had been a stressful day), but I put it into perspective and made it less important. The Schengen Zone fiasco? I freaked out a little more, but it was put into perspective and made less important. I am emotionally-internalizing that money does not define my existence, my happiness. A huge shoutout goes to my mom for helping me calm down from the Schengen Zone fiasco, she provided wisdom when I needed it most.

[Changing my itinerary, excited to head to Croatia soon!]

A travel hiccup turned into one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my lifetime. But I still don’t like the Schengen Zone. At all. ;)

So, now I turn to you. Where do your values lie? In matierals, in wealth, or in something more stable, more fulfilling? If you have any wisdom for me, or a story to share, please comment below. I’m slowly developing into the person I want to be, and would love to hear any feedback that could aid in that process.


1 comment:

  1. I'm just now reading through your blog and I needed to read this post as I prepare to go abroad! Thank you for sharing the wisdom :)