Breaking Bridges


A few months ago I signed some papers and wrote a check that will allow me to step on an airplane this Friday and head to Europe for the next three months. We’ll first step foot on European ground in Amsterdam, and from there our first order of business is getting to London for our group trip. We’ll spend about a week there (just long enough to get used to the pound system) before we head to what will become home for two months in Maastricht.

If you know me at all, this is probably as much a surprise for you as it is for me. Although studying abroad is one of those decisions you make a year in advance, I couldn’t have told you for sure last year if this is even what I wanted to do. I was (and still am) scared, and quite frankly, I like sticking with what works and staying comfortable, calm, and collected. Nothing about backpacking across Europe will be calm or comforting (except maybe singing “Doe, a deer, a female deer!” while frolicking in the hills of Austria), but thankfully God put a few people in my life that made me realize comfort is no reason to not have an adventure.

I’m more excited about this trip than I have been about anything since we got a trampoline for Christmas twelve years ago, but naturally I’m also worried about leaving the comfort and routine of college, of my apartment, of Wal-Mart, of free refills… to enter a world that no longer accommodates my every need. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty good at building comfort and familiarity bridges over the difficulties and risks that ripple safely beneath me.

Don Miller, the most honest writer I know, doesn’t encourage building bridges, but instead he believes that being uncomfortable is a means by which we grow into the fullest version of ourselves: creative, daring, and content. My friend Don (let a girl dream…) says, “No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath… We get one story, you and I, and one story alone.”

It was my sister Kimberly who told me that comfort is no reason not to do something. This, coming from a girl who lives in an Alaskan bush village without most basic amenities, who has fallen into frozen ponds and crashed into a snow wall on her snow machine, is from one person who knows a thing or two about NOT being comfortable. So I decided to listen, and I’m holding on tight now to possibility and adventure rather than to something as fleeting as comfort.

So here I go… memorizing poems… walking the cobblestone streets of Maastricht, braving my way into an Irish pub, watching a bullfight in Barcelona… no longer waiting on life to come to me but finally taking a step toward the uncomfortable so that I might live a story worth telling. I’ll probably crash into a few snow walls, but I’m putting all of my ambition and hopes into a sledgehammer that will tear down the bridge of comfort I’ve spent so long building. I’m jumping straight into the icy puddles… and I’m not even wearing rain boots.

You can look forward to finding out more about Maastricht and Maastricht University in one of my next posts!


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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Breaking Bridges

  1. Danielle

    As someone who recently took the studying abroad step, and has been at it for about four months, I completely understand how you are feeling. I’m not going to tell you that living in a foreign country is easy; it isn’t. The things you miss the most are the things you wouldn’t even suspect you would miss. Kraft Mac’n’cheese, tortillas made from corn, and Dr Pepper all rate high on my list. There are things about this European lifestyle that are not comfortable. Weather, transportation, groceries, and language all take some adjustments. My entire life is spent within walking distance now, which precludes both wild spontaneity and impulse purchases at the grocery store. Everything I own now fits in two suitcases. I do not know where I will be living in six months. But in the balance, it is so worth it. If I am allowed to give any advice at all, it is to take a few moments to marvel at your own daring. Breathe deep, close your eyes, and congratulate yourself because you’ve made an awesome decision. You’re moving more than 5,000 miles away because you’re an amazing, independent woman who will leave this experience a little more knowledgeable, a little more fearless, and with a whole heck of a lot of excellent stories. People with less nerve spend their entire lives wishing they had the guts you do. Have fun, enjoy the ride, and look me up if your in my neck of the woods.
    -D

    PS- The Dutch people I have met so far have been, hands down, some of the kindest, most intelligent people I have ever met. If you don’t sweep them off your feet with Texas tales, then I’ll color myself surprised!

    • Thanks Danielle! I’m excited to get to know these kind, intelligent, tall people! I also hope I get to see you. The only time I will be in London will be for the one and only group trip that the whole group takes, which is actually very structured and planned except for one day, January 26th, which is our one totally free day. I have no idea how hectic that free day will be with our touring and such, but I do know this will be the only time I’ll be in England at all for whole the three months. Do you have a number (if it’s different than the one I have) or something so I can text you on when I get there in case I have a few free hours or something to meet up and get lunch? If so you can Facebook message it to me!

  2. Lyndsie

    Audrey,
    you are a writer.
    Enjoyed the way your chose to portray your thoughts.
    thank you.
    love you.
    Hope all goes well.

    P.S. love Don too 🙂 we are friends too as a matter of a fact. AND I love that latest book of his…

  3. Blair

    I think it SO awesome that you are going on this adventure! I know this trip will be filled with ALL kinds of mixed emotions. I know that in the end that this experience will not only change your life, but forever give you an experience that no one can ever take away. The best part is you get to do it with your two best friends, which is so cool! I hope you have a safe trip and a wonderful time! I will keep you in my prayers. Take lots of pictures because there’s no way I could pick up for a semester to go halfway across the world! Love you!

  4. Audrey,

    I am so glad you are doing this! You are going to love every minute of it, and I am excited to keep up with your adventures.

    Best of luck, and be sure to do the sound of music tour.

  5. Kimberly

    Auj! I’m so, so, so excited for you and I’m super proud of you! I can’t believe it’s this Friday that you’re leaving! I hope you learn a lot, absorb all you can, and mainly I hope you have fun and live it up! Go with the flow, but OWN your adventure~that’s how you’re sure you’ll never regret it. Jump in and experience life. I can’t wait to read about it!!! I love you little sister.
    P.S. your writing is amazing, it’s like a super professional. Also, don’t forget Toaster.

  6. Hannah

    I am so excited for you!!!! I agree with Danielle, there will be some things you will have to get used to but it will be SO worth it. When again in your life will you be able to pack up and move somewhere for months at a time? This is something you will look upon with vivid and wonderful memories for the rest of your life.

    As for recommendations – you MUST go to Bath and tour the Jane Austen Centre! I have traveled to many places and it was by far one of the coolest places I have ever been. If you have money for it, I also suggest you take the red sightseeing tour buses in Bath. They are cheesy and touristy but it is the best way to see all of Bath in a short amount of time (I’m guessing you will be in a time crunch and trying to see as much as possible). I can give you recommendations for other places in Europe as well – just ask! Have fun!!! 🙂

  7. You are going to have a plethora of amazing adventures, and I am so very excited to have the opportunity to read about them! Full speed ahead, girl! 🙂

  8. Kathy Herron :)

    Audrey, I am so proud and excited for you! I’ll be praying that God leads you to some amazing encounters and blesses you with laughter and wisdom and safety and excitement and love wherever you go. I’ll love you from here, and be praying for you. Be spectacular!! :)D

  9. Krystle

    Oh my gosh!!! Audrey! I am so stinkin excited for you. Look at you jumping into adventure and life. What a great story you will have to tell. My friend Don and I have beautiful inspiring conversations in my head all the time. I’m glad we have such a famous mutual friend. Then again, he’s just a normal guy. I can’t wait to stay updated on this with you. Embrace every experience and whatever you do, be all there.

  10. Aunt Patty

    I am so excited for you. Thanks so much for allowing us to “ride along” on your journey!

  11. Skip Limp

    Audrey… I so envy the adventure you’ve embarked upon, so many people remain in their “comfort zone” due to un-admitted fear of the unknown. Relish and savor this experience. Remember the pitfalls you’ll trip in are nothing compared to the vistas you’ll see, the people you’ll befriend and the tiem you’ll have.

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