I missed my flight from Ireland to Belgium, and my friend was pissed.
Understandably. She had taken off from work to meet me in her home country, and now I had gone and missed my flight.
I honestly didn’t have a good excuse. I was just off…in a wonderful way…while in Ireland. I think that was the first of two flights I have ever missed in my entire life.
When I did arrive in Belgium a day late and chagrined, my friend’s amazing family greeted me. The house was beautiful because, as she explained, “Belgians are born with a brick in their stomachs.” In other words, Belgians tend to take pride in home decorating.
This trip to Belgium was an Australia mini-reunion. Three of us who had met in The Outback now reunited in Europe.
There was no stopping us as we traveled all over Belgium. To be honest, it was a whirlwind of cities, chocolate, and beautiful plazas.
My takeaways from Belgium were as follows:
1.) Pay more attention to my physical health.
I was amazed at the sheer amount of bikers in this tiny country. Bike racks in Belgium are like parking lots in Texas: everywhere. Silver-haired men and women could be seen peddling down cobble stoned streets faster than I ever could on my best day. Images such as those stand in stark contrast to a NYC bus ride I took a month after returning to Belgium.
A woman, around the same age as the Belgian people I had seen peddling away on their bikes, took the MTA bus one stop (i.e., about two city blocks) because it was too painful for her to walk. As she crept up and down the bus steps it was excruciating for me to watch her because I saw how much she was hurting. I didn’t want to end up like her. I wanted to end up like the old, still bike-riding Belgians!
2.) Multilingualism is possible.
Maybe I internalized the wrong lessons in school, but I left my Linguistics class feeling like if I hadn’t started learning a language from an early age I just wouldn’t be fluent. Watching people switch between English, French, and Flemish changed all of that. One woman said “Of course!” when I asked her in French if she spoke English. Hell, if she had asked me if I spoke French she would’ve been met with a sad shake of my head. Now, after traveling to Curaçao (where I witnessed multilingualism again) and working at an international school, I’m determined to at least become bilingual.
3.) Stress just ain’t worth it.
When I look back on pictures, I swear I had the worst skin in Europe. My skin looked better in my high school days than it did during this trip! Why? I was miserable professionally, and it was showing outwardly. The blemishes and pimples eventually faded after a long time (I mean, Pangea separated faster than my skin cleared up), but the lesson those pictures showed to me has not. Stress just ain’t worth it. Though I still can put in some crazy long work hours when need be, I make a better attempt at having work-life balance than I did in the past. Furthermore, I’m learning to pull up stakes faster when I’m unhappy. Life is too short to be miserable.
4.) Eat the chocolate, figure be damned.
Need I say more?