Prague – the city of dreamers, travelers and adventure seekers. There is so much that could be said about the capital of the Czech Republic: from its breathtaking architecture infused with history, to its rich café culture that brings together the old and the new – both in generations and spirit. Prague is a city for those who wish to get away from everyday concerns and troubles of day-to-day life by losing themselves among medieval Gothic cathedrals or walks along Vltava, followed by a coffee or brunch in one of Prague’s old-style coffee shops. Yet, even in those moments of “being away” from our Berlin home, the phantoms of old life recur. I would like to focus on the latter, and talk about how traveling to a new place, especially one as contemplative and imaginative as the city of Prague, made me think and re-think in new ways about life and myself.
Maybe it was all because of my friend Alžběta’s (BA1, Czech Republic) cats and her therapist mom; or seeing a friend I have lost my connection with in the past year. Perhaps it was those five hours spent (to and from Prague) on the bus with nothing to do but reflect – when you cannot fall asleep that easily, as it always happens to me. Whatever the cause, I have consciously and subconsciously rethought my life along those long walks and endorsed some new wisdom from those local cafés and mini Czech versions of gingerbread cakes.
Traveling is a marvelous luxury that became largely affordable in the past years. By changing a place, we change our perspective and see our “everyday life” from an outsider’s view. In those moments we can see how much we have changed – whether through progression or digression. The most beautiful thing about this experience is that it happens simultaneously with the short-term enjoyment of being in an unexplored city. Everything is new again, open to interpretation and not taken for granted. The free spirit of our internal being comes back from its snoozing in the place we got used to. Traveling opens perspectives, naturally and inevitably.
I can definitely understand why many people prefer to travel alone. Absolute freedom can perhaps only be achieved in the solitude of a curious mind that wishes to be enticed – by people, places, moments and interactions respectively. Nevertheless, when you travel with people you are at absolute comfort with, the experience becomes even further enriched. We could most likely not live without this fragile thing called friendship. When such an unforced bond is tested against different environments, it brings out the essence of the friendship itself. As for me, the traveling bond I felt with my two friends Jimena (BA1, Mexico) and Alžběta (BA1, Czech Republic), felt as the most beautiful thing in the world. Beauty cannot be forced. It just IS. Friendship too, just is. And while traveling alone can provide a great reflective time, traveling with friends provides the same – with a pinch of bond-strengthening and truly getting to know another person in all their moods and phases.
We often find ourselves in situations that just exist. Going to a new place gives one a new chance to create novel situations, experiment and be what we want to be when we do not have to be responsible students with a never-ending “to-do” list. I was thinking a lot about our daily patterns during those five bus hours to Berlin. We fall into repetitive ways of thinking too often, finding ourselves in limbos of no-change and expectations, even desires. Whether it is relationships with other people, or our personal school/work environment, things often simply materialize around us without any input into that process from ourselves. Maybe it was the therapist mom – the source of our solutions – who provoked our contemplations after all.
However, to keep them rather comprehensive and concise altogether, I shall simply attempt to put them together for my part. The spring break trip to Prague was a beautiful expedition to a new city under Alžběta’s guidance, our local Prague tour guide and friend. Much was seen (see the gallery), and even more understood. It was a spiritual journey for the most part, one desperately needed at this crossroad of my college life, when much needs to be decided – about the 3rd “study abroad” year, compromises between “old” and “new” situations and people, as well as what I should be doing with my life. What I am truly trying to say, in a nutshell, is that traveling gives us an opportunity to look at ourselves from an external standpoint, point to what our life truly is and how we would like it to be. What would you advise yourself, if you were not that self? Looking at everyday situations from a distance is not only a benefit, but an essential (bene)factor of our life. Traveling enables a change in thinking patterns, it brings out our essential self, without the fear of fulfilling the expectations others pose on a certain persona we create for ourselves.
That is exactly what Prague was consequentially for me – a revelation on who I am beneath my socially-constructed human ego. Prague gave me that through its many street musicians, antique shops, cafés and even just walking over the Charles Bridge while looking into the distant horizon sparkled with a few boats and swans on a rainy day. My warmest advice is to go to Prague if you wish to be inspired, reflective or just drink coffee on affordable prices every day – the city has something to give to any personality, from art to long walks on lengthy paths around Vyšehrad, Prague’s historical fort. You will feel renewed, just as I do now, while finally sensing internally that the right time has come for me to put my newly charged inspirational reserves into my day-to-day Berlin practice.