Prague, Czech Republic
As fab as many of my adventures were during my 5 weeks in Split, I also experienced some low moments. Friends who received my freaked out texts about forming an extraction team after one particularly long, harrowing and intense orientation meeting at the end of Week 1 can attest to this.
These times bring up the question that people naturally ask: why am I even doing this trip? Many assume it’s an “Eat, Pray, Love” journey — it’s not. I freaking hated that book and thew it in the garbage after suffering through it for a book club), or an escape from my real life — it’s not. My life is rich and wonderful. It is also not a self-exploration/learning-about-myself endeavor. I’m 50 years old; I know all about me.
So why am I doing this when there are so many challenges? Because I CAN! An opportunity for excitement, fun and adventure fell into my lap and I grabbed it! It’s quite simple.
That said, checking into the Czech Republic in Month 2 has actually reinforced some fundamental truths about myself that I need to keep in mind over the next 10 months to keep myself in check. Ok, I’ve officially beaten that pun to death.
1. I’m a city girl. Split is a relaxing and stunning waterside location, perfect for vacation, but it felt isolating as a home for me by the end of Week 3. With the exception of the beautiful, but touristy, Old City that one can only wander so many times, the row of nearly identical beach bars in which to drink wine and eat pizza, burgers or salads and our super-cool co-working space, there was really no place to go that had the background buzz that I need.
This beach life was perfection for many in our group and I thought it would be for me, but I quickly became restless. Perhaps because it was the end of the season, but many times it felt like we were the only 55 people in the world with the exception of the waiters and salty checkout clerk at the local Tommy’s supermarket with whom I had a tense relationship (I never did figure out how to weigh fruit according to their hieroglyphics code).
This location has serious relationship-building advantages, so I can see why Remote Year uses it as the first stop and it was, indeed, helpful for getting acquainted with so many new people. But I quickly longed for coffee shops, stores and strangers.
2. I’m just not a great team/group/club-ritual participant and I don’t have to be. In the 3rd grade, I almost got kicked out of The Girl Scouts because I wouldn’t walk over a symbolic bridge in the “Flying Up” Ceremony from Brownies to Girl Scouts, feeling it forced and indoctrinating. My parents have never had to worry about me joining a cult.
Therefore, when I found myself immersed in an entire calendar of bonding activities, lingo and traditions for the month and the year ahead, all designed to make this bunch of strangers an immediate “Tramily,” a Remote Year term for “traveling family,” I almost booked a flight home.
After letting friends talk me off the ledge by reminding me that I didn’t actually have to attend all (or any) of these bonding/sharing/pop-psychology “New Normal” personal and professional-growth events led by a 35 year-old man in a baby blue onesie and a straw cowboy hat (yes, you read that right), I relaxed.
I do love that most everyone else finds value and fun in these activities, but as I stated earlier, as a middle-aged woman with a 16 year-old business under my belt, I’m pretty much grown, both personally and professionally. That said, I do plan to attend more of the social and cultural activities that, so far, are all really well done, and I’m a little disappointed in myself for missing several along the way, such as this one at the John Lennon Wall.
But moving forward, I will be skipping the bonding/sharing/self-help/growth/leadership sessions.
Clearly, I’m still the 8 year-old Girl Scout skeptic and I’m ok with that.
3. I need real friends and real connections. The realization that this isn’t a vacation and I’m not going home to my comfort zone and the people who populate it in a few weeks was startling. It would jump out at me unexpectedly and rattle me for a few minutes every few days. I was surprised that I wasn’t more chill about these spells to be honest, but the combination of feeling simultaneously untethered/lonely and a little trapped in this high-intensity life with 55 people who you’re told are your ‘t/family,’ but are really just friendly strangers, was unnerving.
Then there was the niggling question of whether I was simply too old for this whole thing, as everyone else (average age 31) seemed to be bonding and adapting more easily and naturally than I was. Along the way I found out that most people were experiencing some uncertainty about their place in the group and and whether they’d made the right choice as this trip was turning out to be more difficult than they anticipated.
But what most of them had that helped their transition was something I did not: a commonality based on age and stage of life. They are at similar points in their careers, are beginning the arduous wedding circuit, enjoy hiking, biking and regular workouts (that was NEVER me anyway, let’s be honest) and form bonds with each other during late night partying, something I used to love but really am too old to do more than once in a while now.
Soon none of this mattered.
By virtue of my living situation – I hit the roommate lottery 2 months in a row – and a concerted effort to begin seeking out people with whom I felt a connection, I now have several great friendships and am in the process of making new ones with other like-minded people in the group. I’m taking my time and naturally developing rewarding relationships in a relaxed, more comfortable way.
I am growing more content as life in Prague more closely resembles my normal life, something I thought I didn’t want when I embarked on this journey of fun and excitement, but have discovered it is something that I really do need and deeply appreciate.
So, in short, I gratefully Czeched Myself Before I Wrecked Myself.
Until next time, here are a few Loren’s HotFlashes:
Loren’s HotFlash #1: Czech merchants always want cash and exact change, at that. Also, they are in no hurry to actually sell you what they’re offering. Patience is a must.
Loren’s HotFlash #2: You’re not a loser for staying inside and watching Netflix all damn day every once in a while. Fun is only fun if you are fresh enough to enjoy it.
Loren’s HotFlash #3: A Kitchen Dance Party with friends is ALWAYS the right choice when faced with an evening plan dilemma. Skip the club, grab some wine, some friends, some sweats, crank up the tunes and dance your asses off! You’ll never regret it.