A Visit with an Old Friend

So as a young person, my father had a Spanish exchange student come live with his family. Somehow even after all this time, my father has kept in touch with her. When we came to Europe the first time when I was nine, we went to visit her and her family. I remember a whole trip filled with people I didn’t know chattering away in Spanish and eating new foods and having a fun time exploring around Bilbao where she lived.

Now, I hadn’t seen these people in fifteen years. However, my family decided it might be nice to stop by and say hello while we were in the area. So that was how I ended up at a table with about twenty people all speaking Spanish and enjoying a fantastic meal together.


I will say, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not speak a language. Sure, I’m terrible at French and still struggle. However, I can sit at a table and at least know what’s going on, and order my food. So it was a bit difficult to readjust to not understanding much of anything at all.

Still, it’s always nice to be around friendly people even if you don’t speak their language.

Our friend of the family started by taking us for a beautiful walk in the countryside. It was a lovely day, so nice we didn’t need coats (this was December 23rd just to keep that in mind). And we walked with her, her parents, and her adorable dog! My brother and I had a great time watching the silly dog and giving her attention. That was until she rolled in cow poop. Well, that’s the one problem with dogs I suppose.

After a very pleasant walk, going over a Roman bridge, and seeing sheep being herded, we headed by car to a nearby town to have lunch.

We started with an aperitif in another restaurant while people continued to arrive. We eventually finished drinks and moved to another restaurant that didn’t even have enough room for us at first, because there were so many of us!

At long last we settled at a table and began a feast!

We started with some kind of a traditional bean and sausage stew. Since I didn’t speak the language, I never did see the names of the dishes, but it was very good.

Next I had a chicken dish. And I finished off with a delicious pastry dessert. It was all amazing, but it was also fun to spend time with people we hadn’t seen since childhood. Still, some things never change. I remembered my brother pulling out his Gameboy back in the day to interact with the other boys. Sure enough he and one of the boys pulled out their phones to play games together. Well, guess technology at least can pass the language barrier.


After some coffee and more chatting, we said our goodbyes and headed on the road. Everyone was pretty full from all the food, so there was some napping on the road and otherwise we went straight towards our destination.

We stopped in Madrid for the night, though we didn’t head into the city as it is hard to find parking and all, and we were all pretty exhausted anyways. So we stayed at another B&B near the airport. Everyone was tired, so we took advantage of the restaurant in the hotel and ate there. I had pizza and for the most part everyone enjoyed themselves even if it wasn’t fantastic food.

With full stomachs we headed off to bed to get some rest for the next day.

You Have to Try

“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

I’m finished with my first semester of teaching in another country. First semester, already done. I cannot believe how fast the time is going. As a result of 2016 coming to a close, I thought I’d go ahead and write a post about this year.

About a year and a half ago I graduated from university. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with myself. I fell into a spiral of depression and anxiety, became convinced that life would be empty for me. I stopped writing, stopped trying. Didn’t make plans for after graduation as I watched my friends file off to grad schools and future careers. I gave up essentially. It seemed easier that way.

Somehow I managed to dig myself out. Found a job, even if it was part-time and not great pay. I did some writing, even if it wasn’t anything really serious, and I just pushed myself to try even if it was hard, even if I was scared or frustrated.


Ziplining at Zip the Snake in Twin Falls, ID

I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they admire me for going to teach in another country. How brave and exciting that sounds. How impressed they are with what strength that  must have taken. And while I want to accept their praise, part of me is hesitant, because to be honest I was scared setting out, and because I’ve continued to be scared most of the time. And because there have been moments I’ve wanted to quit.

My habit in the past has been to give up when things get tough. I remember trying scuba diving as a child and giving up the moment I became frightened of the water pressing in on all sides. I remember refusing to go to dances in university because I worried I’d be uncomfortable. I recall refusing to submit novels to publishers because I knew I’d be unhappy if I was rejected. France has been no exception. I’ve had several times where I’ve thought about just throwing in the towel.


Trying Palinka in Budapest

I ran across the Fangirl quote above while on Goodreads today, and I just thought to myself how again the words from this silly young adult novel continue to be applicable to my life. They continue to remind me that I shouldn’t just give up even when I want to, and that’s something I’m continuing to learn.

As the year comes to a close I’m having a look at my “brave things” list I started keeping a year ago. I find it’s a good way for me to remember all the ways that I’ve been strong in the face of adversity. All the ways I’ve refused to back down in spite of pain, or fear, or discomfort. Some are simple things like going to social outings when I was feeling anxious, making an uncomfortable phone call. or trying a new food. Others are more exciting: riding a camel, ziplining, or traveling to six different countries all by myself.


Riding a camel in Tangiers, Morocco (future post to come)

My New Years resolution? I have to think of some more specific ones, of course. Probably a reading goal of 90 books since I read 80 this year. Maybe I’ll try to write another novel. Maybe I’ll aim to be healthier and exercise more. However, the big one I have is to try to have more brave things on my list next year. To keep expanding and pushing and trying even when I’d rather not. To keep pushing myself into life instead of avoiding it as I too often do.

So Happy New Years to my readers, friends, and family! I hope you’ll think about being brave as well, and continuing to try. Don’t ever give up. There are better things ahead, and you’ll find them if you just keep trying.


Traveling around France for a year

Just a Little Bit of Courage

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” ― Emma Donoghue, Room

It’s safe to say I’m scared of heights.

If fear involves shaking and gasping for breath and coming close to tears, then you have yourself a nice picture of fear whenever I end up in a situation that takes me off the ground.

I suppose that’s what makes my parent’s decision to take me ziplining so amusing.

Now people reading this might be thinking…hold on you went ziplining in the U.S. last September. Isn’t this blog supposed to be about your current life in Europe?

I’m getting there.

See Europe is such a similar scenario to ziplining for me. Both start my adrenaline going. As I stepped onto the plane I found myself shaking, getting teary, struggling to take a proper breath. Not because of fear of heights, but because of my fear of the unknown.


After ziplining, I pretty much know how this year abroad will pan out. I know the start of my journey was getting up on the platform. Like with ziplining, I was reassured by plenty of people that there would be safety and security,  tested by thousands of users before me. But as I walked through the customs line into France, that didn’t keep me from feeling a rush of anxiety over the realization that my feet had left solid ground. I was soaring freestyle, and at this point my trajectory was inevitable, and there was no getting out of my harness. I’ll be on this line until May. Seven months of dangling off the ground.

I am aware that by May I’ll likely be so happy I did this. For all I know I’ll want to do this another year in fact! I will be so proud of myself and so much better off in the long run. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not hard right now.

I just wanted to post this to let people know that I get scared the same as anyone. In two days I’m leaving to go tour six countries by myself. I’ve had a lot of people telling me how brave that is. Several teachers yesterday commented that I was “comme une grande”…in other words…like an adult (which I will point out I actually am). The point is, as much as people keep telling me I’m brave, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel afraid.


The point is I’m taking a leap of faith in spite of my fear. I’m trusting in systems beyond my control, even if I’ve researched safe areas of cities, booked highly reviewed hostels, and planned a very detailed route around Europe. However, I’m almost certain that when I touch back in France in two weeks, I will be so happy I did this, even if it was scary at the time. But for now, I’m simply taking a leap of faith and keeping that quote at the top in mind. Fear is an emotion. Bravery is an action. So let me act now and hope that the fear will disappear eventually.

I hope that others can take these words to heart. Even after years of traveling, it can still be scary. You cannot allow these feelings to keep your in place, however. At some point, you just have to leap and figure you’ll touch back down eventually.

Future posts to come on my great two week adventure. For now, just know that being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid. It just means you go ahead and act in spite of the fear.