So as I sit here on the train going to Munich, I thought I’d put down some of my thoughts as to my overall trip experience. This was no insignificant venture and I really do have to say that it’s been kind of life changing.
First – do I consider the trip a success? Yes! Granted, I didn’t get to have all the auditions I was hoping for, but I did get an important one in and got it done successfully – I now have a European agent. This is a big step in the right direction and it gives me hope for future opportunities. It also helps to validate my marketability in the European classical music scene. (You can read my blog post about my awesome audition for the agent HERE.) He let me know that they want me to put together a recording of oratorio arias, which I will do back home. (I already have opera and operetta recordings and videos on my website, so I guess it’s time to expand on those recordings.) And I let him know that I would be willing to come back for more auditions and would be willing to relocate to Europe.
Second – I feel that I have made a huge accomplishment just in going away by myself to a foreign country for a very extended period of time. I won’t lie – when I left Philly back in February for Europe, I was really nervous and a bit scared. I had never done anything like this before. I feel that the closest I ever got to it was going off to grad school in Boston. But seriously, it doesn’t even compare. Doesn’t even come close. And not only did I live in Vienna, but I started to settle in. I started making some really great friends, I got to know the ins and outs of the city, and I felt at home. And I realized just how much I truly love Vienna.
Third – I got to travel to some amazing places here. I’m really struck by the fact that Europe is so small geographically compared to the USA, but has so many diverse and distinct cultures so close together. There’s all these completely different worlds that you can travel between in a relatively short period of time. It’s amazing! Vienna has this amazing mix of old and new and a vibrancy unlike anything I’ve ever felt. The Alps are even more majestic and breath-taking than I ever could have imagined. The coast of Croatia looks like it’s right out of a postcard with it’s glorious blue waters, picturesque architecture, and quaint marinas and hidden beaches. Being in Basel had parts that made me feel like I was going back into history – seeing the medieval buildings and walls along the river. The list goes on, and there’s still so many places I want to see!
Fourth – I hit it off with a really awesome guy. One who’ll I’ll be seeing more of as the year progresses. (Well, we knew we got along great since we met last summer, but staying in touch online is very different from in person, and a lot of time had gone by. But being together in person again was really really fantastic.) Although, it’s been a bit of an emotional challenge for me, as I’ve never clicked with someone this well and then basically can’t see them or spend time with them. (Primarily because of that whole ocean thing, but also because of his job on the river cruise ship.) We were super lucky to not only have time together in Vienna, but also several days in his hometown in Croatia, and a short but awesome day in Switzerland. And it gives me something else to look forward to – a trip to Croatia in August to visit him during his vacation, and his visit to the USA in November/December. Good times ahead!
Fifth – I learned what it really meant to live on limited funds. I have to admit, I never got much education on how to handle money. I kind of suck at it. But coming over here I had just a certain amount of money to work with, and when that ran out, that was it. I very rarely went out for food, and primarily just cooked in my apartment. I learned that Hofer was cheaper than Billa, and that you can actually get by on not much food money. A big bag of frozen french fries is just over a Euro. I ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and later on in my trip, when I traveled, I would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in advance so I wouldn’t have to buy food at my destinations. Pasta is cheap and filling, and who doesn’t love a good meal of spaghetti and garlic bread?
My grandmother gave me some advice a couple years ago. She said, “Jenny, when someone offers you money, you take it.” (Word to the wise, don’t any one start calling me Jenny – only people who knew me before high school have that privilege – haha!) Well, I applied that advice to food and drinks as well. If someone insists on sharing some kindness, do not feel bad accepting, for they wouldn’t offer if they didn’t mean it. That philosophy gave me some great times and some great food. (I think the bacon cheeseburger I ate at my first Expat Meet and Greet, courtesy of Debbie and Martin, might have been the best burger I ever had in my life – it was SOOOO good. And I never would have had that great night out at MMX if it wasn’t for my new friend Amanda and her friends. Or a cheap trip to Croatia because Milos knew my money situation was not that great, so I didn’t have to pay for any food at all.) I am so grateful for such wonderful generosity from people.
Sixth – The value of friendship was reinforced even more for me – and especially being so far away. I knew I was a social person, but I didn’t truly grasp the extent of just how much. Near the end of my stay, after I started making friends in Vienna, it was MUCH better and it was great to have friends to do things with. But earlier in my trip, I had some times of feeling really really lonely. (Especially after Milos left after his week long stay.) My friends back home were a huge help, and thank God for Facebook, Gmail chat, and Skype! Kristen and Karen were awesome and chatted with me A LOT during my trip. It was such a HUGE help to have good friends to talk to regularly. And I was always so touched by all my other friends back home who checked in on me, encouraged me, and followed along with my adventures.
Seventh – Going away on my own kind of helped me to find myself more. And it also helped me to see things as far as where I want to go and what I want to do. I had always said that I couldn’t see myself living in a city. They always felt so cold and modern to me. But years ago, I only had American cities to base that opinion upon. European cities are SO different. And there’s something about Vienna especially – it just makes me feel at home. It just feels so…. comfortable. And I’ve never in my life felt such difficulty in returning home from being somewhere. Again, comparing to college and grad school, as that’s the only thing so far that I can use as a comparison…. At the end of a semester, I was always SO thrilled just to be going home. I knew I would miss my friends, but I never got attached to those places. But my last week in Europe was a roller coaster of emotions. I was really very sad to be going. I got glassy eyed regularly at the thought of leaving Vienna.
I’ve now had several people tell me that I can get an Austrian passport because my father was born in Austria. I’m finally going to look into that. Because if it’s true, I can get a job anywhere in the EU without worrying about visas or work permits. (We Americans can only stay in the EU for up to 3 months without a visa.) If I can get an Austrian passport, I can take a regular job while looking for singing gigs. Then I’d be right there and available anytime my agent (or I) would find something to audition for. But even if I can’t get the passport, I was told by one of my new friends that it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to get a work permit and visa if I really wanted to. So if the passport thing doesn’t work out, I’ll look into that. Because I’m thinking early in 2013 might be a good time for a big move if all things go well. (And I will also have to see how I can make it work with Olde Towne Carolers. My business has become too successful to not keep it going. So ideally, I’d love to find something that allowed me to go back home to the States every Christmas season.)
As I’ve said before, I want to always live my life a certain way, and that is NOT the “play it safe and easy” way. Life is too short to not take chances; to not follow dreams and explore new paths. To not follow your heart! I truly believe regret is one of the worst things you can have at the end of your life. I think a move to Austria might be just the right adventure to pursue. (Of course being the nerd that I am, I will do extensive research on how that all works and what things need to be done to move to a foreign country.) And as my sister just reminded me last night – nothing is permanent. You can always come back!
I am just SO glad I went on this trip. This adventure. This journey. My life will never be the same.