The idea of keeping this blog was born at some point before I moved to Germany exactly two years ago today. I wanted to use it to keep friends and family in America up to date on my adventures around Europe, learning about German culture, and everyday life abroad (my most-read post to date is 10 Things I Stopped Asking Myself at the Supermarkt). I told everyone I knew about the idea, including people I met shortly before the move through the writing workshops and ESL volunteering I became involved in while the big day became delayed and final preparations dragged out. I figured this was the best way to hold myself accountable for actually bringing said blog to life.
As far as the theme or direction of the blog, I just let my experiences lead the way. At first, everything was new and interesting to write about: not only visiting castles, celebrating new holidays, and traveling to new cities and countries; but also learning to use a ventless washing machine, learning German, and managing an unreasonably complicated system of recycling. As time went on, particularly after living in Germany for about six months, I began to feel adjusted to living here. I had to look a little deeper to recognize things that had surprised me at the beginning, as I had begun to take many of these cultural/language/money/measurement system differences for granted. By that time, I could communicate enough to feel comfortable living here: able to understand strangers who asked simple questions at the store or on the bus, able to manage shopping and basic travel situations easily, and able to be a polite guest and host.
In August of this year, my life (and, subsequently, my blog) took an interesting turn as I took on a two-week job teaching in Romania. The experience was like starting over in Germany, only filled with starker contrasts in culture and ways of life. It reminded me of why I wanted to live abroad in the first place: to experience new possibilities and broaden my understanding of how and what life could be.
I still let the winds of adventure steer the direction of my blog, and am just as interested in small cultural differences as I was when I first arrived. I just have to look more carefully through the cultural lens I had at the beginning of this experience. It particularly helps when American friends and family members visit, because it draws my attention to practices that I’ve become used to. I’m still traveling as much as possible, though I often don’t write about the short day trips – including several additional trips to Belgium, one of the closest border countries to where I live.
Time is my biggest enemy for blogging, especially since part of becoming more settled has meant, of course, steadier work and a busier routine. In this next, and foreseeably last, year abroad, I would like to make time for writing about my experiences more regularly again. I’ve found that writing these posts helps me to more fully understand what I observe and feel as I continue on this journey. What began as a type of postcard home has become a way of internalizing and appreciating this experience and the possibilities it has opened. Not only observing what is, but understanding what it means and what it could be.
I’m reminded again of the poem I chose as the title for this blog, and find that it becomes more true each day:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”
– Robert Frost