"I’m walking out of the corner Starbucks on Wenceslas Square. A latte in hand, wet cobblestones under my feet, & cold air enveloping my body as I walk through the rainy streets. This is the exact same spot where I held my suitcases & got my first glimpse of the city over two years ago. & even now, I can hear the roll of suitcases from other tourists & the hum of the tram; my first sounds that are all too familiar these days. I can see people all around me dressed in black & I'm laughing silently to myself, as I am one of them now, dressed in black from head-to-toe. I’m watching tall buildings as I walk & am choosing to take the long way back home. I've stopped looking around at my surroundings here & it’s good to be reminded of the beauty & the difference that I’ve accepted as normality. I’m pulling over to the side of the street, even though it’s raining, to write these thoughts down in my phone. This is exactly one month before we move."
As we leave Prague for the States in a few days, I find myself having an overflow of reflections on our time living & traveling in Europe. What follows is a documentation of these thoughts, a letter to Prague if you will; a keepsake of memories & milestones & precious details of my observations over these last two years.
What I’ve Been Given
I've been given a worldview outside of the United States; a perspective that I’ll never be able to shake. I now have both a quenched thirst & a growing desire to travel & live unconventionally, with less judgment & more flexibility. I've developed an appreciation for European coffee shop culture with its new wave coffee & design. I've lived in a beautiful & romantic city that has always felt like home after traveling to different countries. & I've been given good friends from all over the world who have taught me so much about life. & for this, I am grateful.
What I’ve Learned
By uprooting my life to a different country, I've learned firsthand that people are people all over the world; with similar longings, thoughts, & abilities to feel what I feel. In contrast, I’ve also experienced huge differences between my culture & those from other backgrounds, & have become a more aware & informed individual as a result.
I've also learned that what’s in my heart (no matter how carefully hidden) will eventually be brought to the surface. I’ve realized that at my worst, I’m driven by my fears; which can cause me to become depressed, surface level, & self-involved. But I’ve also learned that at my best, I’m driven by my desire to love & obey the Lord; which frees me to become compassionate, determined, & confident in who I’m called to be.
What I’ll Miss
I’ll miss Prague throughout each season of the year: the festivals & markets & golden leaves of fall; the Christmas trees & mulled wine & snowy slanted rooftops of winter; the bright apple blossoms & outdoor cafe patios & great awakening of spring; & the big crowds & sticky gelato cones & hot city nights of summer.
I’ll miss all the little details of daily life: heavy glass beer mugs, hip street fashion, Czech design markets & cute stationary stores, babies snuggled up in their sleeping bag strollers, getting beer & wine to-go, castles & villages in the countryside, romantic double door windows, graffiti-splattered walls, old men with their dapper suits & hats, the sing-song sound of spoken Czech, little bakery treats in the metro stations, navigating through the crowds of tourists simply to meet with friends or go to the movies, dogs off their leashes inside of cafes & waiting outside of restaurants & grocery stores, beautiful old buildings & doors & tall monuments wherever I go…
I’ll miss never getting bored with my surroundings, showing my friends & family around the town, & going down to Naplavka or the Prague Castle or Charles Bridge - as if these were normal, ordinary places. I’ll miss our community of friends; our bond through years of meet-ups & traveling & holiday gatherings & hard talks about sin. I'll miss traveling to new countries with entirely new scenes every few months; knowing that Prague would be waiting for us after our journey.
& I’ll miss my own poetic sentiments that I’ve created during my time here: the hum of the trams, the sight of the river swans on the water, the sound of church bells ringing, my many afternoon jogs through Riegrovy Sady, the countless late nights spent laughing & eating metro pizza & making our way home from across the city, & the view of a thousand church & castle spires scattered throughout the landscape of Prague.
Michigan is our home. It's where we've both grown up, have gone to school, & where our roots run deep. However, it won't be simple moving back to the States & we have a lot of new questions on our minds. What will adjusting to Midwest life look like after big city living? Will we be able to find good community once again? What does reconnecting with old friends from college look like relationally? Will we choose to live overseas again in the future?
& just as we started this adventure, we don’t know where these questions will lead us. But we do know that we’ll hold these two years of life & learning like talismans inside of us; like jars of clay holding the great treasure of the Holy Spirit. & we’ll bring our experiences of Prague & beyond wherever we go; always remembering & holding fast to who we've become through the journey.