Have you ever had the feeling that what you used to love, or at least, what used to excite you no longer does? I have. It’s the worst feeling to know that the things you strived for and once cared most about doing no longer hold your eye as they once did. For me, this is a fairly common feeling that I get whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious because I’m exhausted, and travel is exhausting. Or, it can be for some people, and it often is for me.
This feeling is something that I’ve come to endearingly refer to as “travel fatigue”, and I know that I’m not the only avid traveler who experiences such a thing. With that being said, I absolutely understand that not all avid travelers experience this feeling; everyone travels and experiences travel differently. But, since I’ve traveled to New York, back to Prague, off to Singapore, and subsequently returned to Prague, I have had an unimaginable number of things to do- I think that I was jet lagged for all of January when all was said and done. So by the time my new 107 students arrived at the beginning of last week, I was nearly unable to empathize with their excitement to travel Europe for the next four months. I mean, does anyone sleep anymore?
After a crazy week working 10 or 12 hour days, I’ve finally had a second to breathe. More importantly, I had a tour to run with 30+ of my students around the exterior of Prague Castle, which served as an opportunity to wander around a beautiful part of the city, outside, and enjoy what was happening around me. I absolutely love traveling with my students because it helps me see things again for the first time, just as they’re usually seeing these things for the first time. I’ve written before about the tendency for us to consider the extraordinary things around us as simply ordinary, but it’s tough to break out of that mentality and experience the seemingly “normal” things again as things which are truly incredible. When I travel with my students, I get to see them experience things which are seemingly “normal” to me as something absolutely beautiful, new, and exciting. Today, I spent two hours walking around the Prague Castle complex on the first tour of the semester for my new group of students, and while I was mainly focused on ensuring the tour was going well and photos were being taken, I was able to re-examine a place which I’ve now walked through dozens of times without really giving it a second glance.
After the tour was over, and my work was done, I took myself up to the top of the tower at St. Vitus Cathedral, which is the iconic neogothic structure in the center of the Prague Castle complex, and I am so glad that I did. After realizing that I was incredibly unprepared for making the ascent to the top of the tower (you’d think all of this walking around Prague would mean something…), I finally reached the summit and sat down for a 5-minute breather. Then, I looked at the view.
In the 20 seconds it took for me to take in the massive expanse of the Prague city skyline, I instantly realized why I live here, why I’m doing what I’m doing, and why I love traveling so much. It’s that feeling you get when sitting at the highest point of any new and beautiful city, and I can think of countless places I’ve sat and thought how absolutely incredible it is that these cities all exist simultaneously and relatively independently of one another, but still exist in all of their beautiful glory. But looking out at the orange and green Bohemian rooftops of Prague and its most famous architecture, I realized that this city is special. At least, this city is special to me. Usually I look out at cities from these viewpoints and I wonder what it’s like to live inside of those roofs, or what life might feel like in that place once you’re past the beautiful exterior. Here, I understand. I understand exactly what it’s like to live in an awesome neighborhood, what it’s like to work at the oldest university in the country, what it’s like to show a new group of people the magic of this place every four months. I realized, upon looking out at the city, that I could identify all of the major landmarks I was seeing, the neighborhoods those landmarks were located in, and I could find my own apartment amongst the beautiful rooftops spread over the horizon.
Today, I got the urge to travel again to a new place in an effort to try to understand it. I felt the desire to sit at the top of a hill in a city where I know no one and marvel at its beauty and mystery. Today, I fell in love with Prague again. I can’t wait until I get to fall in love with it again.
If you’re feeling lost in your own city, whether you live abroad, in a new city in your own country, or in the house you grew up in, I encourage you to go experience something new. Go hiking in the nearby, unexplored forest. Go try that restaurant that you’ve always said you’d like to visit, but haven’t gotten around to yet. Go to a park you’ve walked through a million times, sit on a bench, and take in the surroundings. No matter where you are, there is something magical to be found, whether it’s in the gorgeous rooftops, surrounding nature, or in the people that inhabit the place. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure that I’ll say it again, I will no longer take this place or this opportunity for granted. And I hope that you don’t either- every place you visit, everywhere you live, you will leave a part of your heart there, so you might as well get to know it well enough so that it leaves a part of its soul with you, too.
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