Gone Like The Wind

What seemed like only yesterday has flown by so fast; I can still clearly remember the couple of days leading up to Cultural Routes and the hectic flying day to Berlin, our very first city. In those few days leading up to my experience, I was feeling a range of emotions from excitement to anxiousness: excitement for what was to come and anxiousness for having to start over in getting to know an unfamiliar group of people. Although it is easy to say I’d like to go back and relive it, CR wouldn’t be the same twice and it’s never good to live in the past. I learned a lot and have even been able to see those lessons playing out well after CR concluded. As many others before me have said, I can’t even begin to describe my Cultural Routes experience.

One of the most important lessons I learned about while on CR is the need for rest. Often times, the most challenging part of CR was relaxing. Although a crucial cog of CR is being All-In 24/7, how can I be all in if I’m struggling to make it through each day?? You can’t. Part of being All-in 24/7 requires you to be making the most of the little time you are given to rest, so that you can be energized for all that the day holds. It was so tempting to stay up and chat every night in a guise of being of “All-in 24/7,” but then I would be short tempered and cranky, which would not be good for the team. The need for rest has translated to my college life as well. This semester, especially, has revealed a great desire in me to rest. Constant busyness has been the theme of my life this semester, along with any other sophomore I’m sure, and I don’t say that as a badge of honor towards my involvement. But rather, constant busyness with no rest has left me drained and made it harder for me to really be All-In towards the things I choose to involve myself in. With consistent rest in my life, I know that I would me more dedicated to being All-In towards all that I do. This seemingly insignificant lesson has been the one that has stuck with me the most; I hope to be able to find rest in the midst of busyness.

Another important lesson impressed upon me was the proper articulation of my thoughts. I can’t count the number of times I may have said something out of line, thinking my words were completely innocent, yet they were actually blunt and conveyed a message I didn’t mean to come across. Needless to say, it led to some tense moments that could have been avoided if I had been more tactful in my word choice. Nowadays, the thought of whether or not I might be saying something to someone that could come off as rude fills my mind each time I am interacting with another person. There have definitely been some moments that I may have struggled with that this year, yet it is something I have been painfully aware of. The proper use of rhetoric can define and shape how a conversation goes as well how someone views you.

Gone are the days when our group could be seen moseying around each city, laughing and enjoying each other’s presence like we’d known each other forever. Gone are the days where every moment spent together was filled with deep, meaningful conversations that could go on for hours without a strict agenda limiting our time. Although CR10 has been over for a while, the lessons learned will be permanently etched into my brain. So, thanks Dr. P and Lindsey, and all the others a part of the CR10 familia for making my time in Europe such a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Farewell,

Marat

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Trading Gelato for Peaches

Heading back to Georgia

June 12, 2018

I am currently in an airplane, heading from London Heathrowe to the Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta. After spending three and a half weeks with my Cultural Routes 10 familia, I’m not sure what being home will feel like. Part of me is eager to get some r&r and time to process… But a big part of my heart feels like I’m gonna be wishing I was back in Europe, preparing for a day of brand new adventures. Each day of CR was full of discoveries, conversations, smiles, challenges, and growth. Some days were more challenging than others (check out Marat’s blog about transportation…),  but I can assure you there was not a single day that was boring or predictable. I appreciate that Dr. P didn’t reveal to us the full itinerary ahead of time. He usually didn’t even give us a hint at what the next day would look like. We were encouraged to enjoy the present moment and trust that tomorrow would come at just the right time–not worth worrying about it! Reminds me of a verse in the book of Matthew that tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring about its own troubles. Basically, since worrying is not productive even in the slightest, the best thing we can do for ourselves is focus on the moment we are in and trust that we will have all we need for tomorrow. With that in mind, CR10 helped me realize how truly special each and every day is. If I become so preoccupied with tomorrow, I miss out on the wonders of today. Skydiving happened and was fantastic, but I’m so glad I didn’t spend the first week of CR thinking about it. I got to enjoy Germany and then experience the beauty and adventure of Interlaken all in its own time. And then I got to move on and be present in Italy.

This mindset of being present and enjoying where I am carried over into my two days in Dublin with my family, right after CR10 ended. Instead of asking, “Where are we going next?” or “What are we doing for dinner?” a hundred times like I’m more accustomed to, I caught myself before I asked and reminded myself to enjoy the moment before it was gone. I admit, I may have asked about dinner a couple of times, but I’m certainly getting better. It’s all about the process.

San Gimignano groupInterlaken Jake and OliviaTower of Pisa with AudreySkydiving RUNBerlin Wall Team Charlie

Because I know I’ll be giving advice to future CR members, I figure I may as well start now while it’s fresh. I’m sure I’ll have more to add as time goes by, but here’s what I would tell future members of the familia at this point:

  1. Some or all of my advice may not apply to you, and that’s okay. I found that some of the advice I received before CR helped me, and some did not necessarily help me. But none of it hurt me. My advice is to not rely too heavily on the advice you receive. Take that as you will. I do appreciate all of the words of wisdom from mi familia. But I urge you not to let our advice hinder you from going into CR free of specific expectations. I think part of the beauty of CR is that you are not in control of your experience. You are in control of your reaction to your experience. But, in a large capacity, your ultimate growth is not entirely up to you. Just let it happen. So when you are told to make sure you do this or that, take it all with a grain of salt!
  2. Pack lightly if you can. I brought a pretty large backpack and a fairly small carry-on sized roller suitcase. I re-wore a few t-shirts, but traveling was so easy. I don’t regret my packing choices at all.
  3. Drink lots of water. It’s not always free, but it’s always worth it… Your body will thank you!
  4. If you have a sensitive gut, maybe don’t eat gelato three times in one day. Just a warning, but do as you will……. Gelato is delicious….
  5. Give yourself grace. You’re gonna mess up and you’re gonna have rough days. I promise you, everyone does. I struggled a lot with energy. I’m typically a very bubbly, energetic gal, but I have found that when I run low on energy, it’s noticeable. I can go from about 75 to 15 mph in a matter of seconds. People would ask me if I was okay, and I’d be like, “Yep! Just tired.” But after a while, I started to question myself. Eventually, I got so frustrated with myself for “not being me.” I thought I had to be energetic to be the most authentic version of myself. Then, after sharing some of my feelings and struggles with a close CR10 buddy, Audrey Payne, and listening to her words of wisdom, I started to get it. I learned that I am someone who needs a bit of quiet, laid-back time to re-charge. Though I didn’t get much alone time on this experience, I did learn how to stand back and quietly observe for a little bit, when necessary. For me, it was less about my energy levels and more about embracing grace.
  6. Bring your TCU student ID. Many times in museums and memorials, we were offered a student discount with our IDs.

Ultimately, this has been the most exciting three and a half weeks of my life, and I can’t express how grateful I am for this experience and new friendships. I’m quite sure I will continue to make many personal discoveries over my next three years at TCU and beyond because of CR10 and these people. Thank you Dr. P, Lindsey, Audrey, Kyle, Abby, Jacob, Jake, Ryal, Brooke, Emma, Brittany, Nishu, Lauren, Taylor, OC, Olivia W, and Marat. I have learned so much from each of you, and I can’t wait to be back on campus with y’all! And special thanks to Kaity Butcher and Davis Donaldson for making this happen.

So much love,

Indigo

The Art of Peer Pressure

To be honest, I was completely peer pressured by my friends to go skydiving. That may seem like a negative thing, yet it gave birth to one of the most intense and thrilling experiences of my life as I slid out of that airplane into the abyss over the clouds. Not only was I able to check this one item off my bucket list in Switzerland but also alongside a group of my fellow Cultural Routes members. I know had I not let them completely influence my decision making, I would have regretted this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Peer pressure is a powerful tool that can be both used to both positive and negative ends, most of the time trending toward the negative side. Yet I would assert that peer pressure has nothing to do with peers at all, and simply rests upon one’s personal decisions. You get to choose your friends, and if you choose to surround yourself with good and wholesome people they will pressure you to grow and develop. On the other hand, if you surround yourself with the less than wholesome you will be pushed towards error. The people you choose to spend time with dictate so much of your demeanor, your humor, and your priorities. It’s incredible how you pick up mannerisms from your friends, taking a part of them and making it your own. Thankfully, I’m able to spend this experience surrounded by the members of CR 10 who constantly challenge me to examine myself, recognizing both my strengths and deficiencies.

As we crossed the halfway point in Interlaken I feel as if the group has settled in and everyone is comfortable with one another, allowing people to fully express themselves. This raw expression allows for a constructive atmosphere far surpassing any normal environment. During the first half of the experience, my flaws rose to the surface as I’ve become aware of the lack of vision I have. I’ve seen my intensity, my style of thought, and direct nature harm my relationship with others. I don’t find that to be okay by any means, and I’m incredibly thankful to be surrounded by a group willing to stick with me throughout my attempts and failings at growth.

The full expression of everyone’s self doesn’t only help bring into focus my flaws but the strengths of those around me that pressure me to improve, from Audrey’s ability to listen and observe, to Marat’s meticulousness, to Lauren’s joy, to Indigo’s energy, to Nishu’s thought process and so much more from each of the 15 around me.

The extreme nature of Interlaken helped push our cores to the forefront and reminded me not to stay static, but to reach even deeper into the experience and embrace the pressures of those around me.

Dinner With Sam

So we just arrived in Interlaken, but I still have a ton to talk about with both Berlin and Munich. Here’s one of those things from the first city. So way back last week in Berlin, we had dinner one night with a tour guide from the UK names Sam. I had met sam before on Frog Camp, and he remembered me because of my stylish glasses. He didn’t remember Ryal though.

Anyways, we were enjoying our meal, asking intellectual questions, stuffing our mouths with schnitzel, and chugging still water. Sam was super interesting to talk to and had a ton of great insight into cultural differences in politics, religion, the whole nine yards. We all were enjoying his insights and wisdom, but there two questions I really wanted to ask him, and one quote we had to share with him.

So I just went for it.

“Okay Sam. So I know you drive on the left side of the road, but what side of the sidewalk do you walk on?”

He paused for a moment, and we finally stumped him. He didn’t really know. I had succeeded in intellectually challenging a European tour guide. After much thought and clarification about what I meant by that, he came to the conclusion that he naturally tended towards the left side of the sidewalk. He also explained that they started driving on the left side because it was safer for horse riders to be on the left side so they could protect themselves with their sword arm (their right arm) against threats on the road. I don’t buy it. I think they’re just wrong.

The next thing brought up was the American Revolution. I know I know, but we were just that comfortable with this guy. Plus Ryal brought it up, not me. Sam quickly responded with “oh yeah I’m so hurt by the fact that you guys one a wars 200 years ago that I had nothing to do with. Also how’s your health care?” Basically, he just started roasting the US, so I had to ask: what do are the stereotypes of US citizens in Europe? Here are the notes I took:

Loud

Loud

Loud

Enthusiastic

Badly dressed

Religious

Gun loving

I will admit, most of those are pretty true. You could here us coming towards the U-Bahn station from miles away – or should I say, kilometers away? He also explained to us how there is a difference between the type of people Americans root for, and the type of people Brits root for. Americans love the people who are good at things. We’re really quick to praise success and idolize the people who have done well, or who have been dealt a good hand in life, whereas British culture typically finds it hard to do that. They would much rather see the underdog come out on top than we would. While I don’t think either one is inherently more correct than the other, as the latter may bring up problems with perpetuating success and the former may cause exclusivity, that simple conversation revealed just how much people of different countries can learn from each other.