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!