I’ve been back from Austria for nearly three and a half years now. I spent two school years teaching English there, exploring, meeting some of the best people I know, and generally being up to no good. I met people from all over the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. We were paid way too much money to do not that much work, and in our free time we had fun. We all ended up there because we had studied German in college, and, I, for one, was not ready to figure out “the rest of my life” quite yet. It is crazy to think how long ago it was now.
I think of that time, that place, and those people at least once a day. When I am daydreaming at work, when I am walking to the bus, when I hear a song, or when a random German word pops into my head. The two apartments I inhabited there, my friends that went through those years with me, the routes I walked, the public transport I used, the birthdays celebrated, the food, the beer, the cigarettes – all the memories are there and tinged with nostalgia.
My personal philosophy is that it is never healthy to live in the past, but this is a bit different than that. These are memories so strong and vivid that they just seem to come to mind automatically. And I think that the newness and foreignness of that time had intensified everything; I mean, I can barely remember what I did a month ago, but I feel that I remember all of those two years.
So, as more time falls between myself and Austria, I try to reflect on what I learned there, and how I can apply those lessons to my current life. Lessons like: always have a sense of adventure, and spontaneity; your bed may be comfortable, but you must earn that rest after a night of fun; there is always some new place to explore, despite the seeming mundaneness of it.
But, since then, I have accomplished so much. I went back to school, and I am now a registered nurse with a 40 hour per week job that I love. The hard part is, after experiencing such freedom and newness, to now stay in one place, and do the same job each day. Part of what I am also trying to teach myself is that exploration does not have to be on a grand scheme, in a foreign locale. Exploration of yourself, and your mind, can be just as new and exciting as exploring a far off city.
And those are some lessons I’ve learned from missing a place.