Travel changes your life…

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Wise words...

Well, in just two days I’ll be on my way back to the USA.  The law allows Americans  to stay in Europe 90 days in a six month period.  Which basically means, three months on, three months off.  And my three months are just about up.  Now, technically, since I spent a good amount of that time in Croatia, which is not yet in the EU, I probably would have a little bit of wiggle room.  However, with this summer’s big family river cruise, I didn’t want to risk anything.  So I’m heading home exactly three months before we’ll be back in Europe for our trip.  (The last thing I wanted to risk was showing up in Switzerland on July 21st for the start of our river cruise and being told, sorry, you’re not allowed back in yet.)

Those who know me, know that I can get all introspective and emotional sometimes, and right now is definitely one of those times.  I was even on Pinterest last night looking for good inspirational travel quotes.  Not only did I find some goodies, but I also shed some tears as well.  (I cry easily.)  So many of them really hit a nerve with me and I wanted to share them and why I find them to be so touching.  (Along with other ramblings, as is my style!  Haha!)

The first quote is at the top of this post – that pic up there with the quote about friends.  I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for the amazing people I have met on my travels.  I have been truly blessed.  I have made wonderful friends from all over the world, and as a result, I have seen more, learned more, experienced more, and smiled more.  I have been shown kindness and hospitality beyond measure.  To all my friends here in Europe – you have truly touched my life in a very meaningful way.  I might have to go away for a bit, but I’ll be back soon, and I can’t wait to see you all again when I return!

So true...
This one really hit the nail on the head…

Ultimately, the primary reason for my visits to Europe for years has been for music.  My very first trip to Europe back in 2007 was to sing at an International Festival in England.  (With a return to the festival the next year.)  And my first trip to Vienna was to coach music for a CD project back in 2010.  And when I came here last year, it was to pursue auditions and singing opportunities.  But something else happened while I was pursuing that dream.  Simply put, I fell in love.  My heart is now in Europe with a very special man.  So even though my intention has been to move to Europe for some time anyway, the reasons for staying are SO much more than just the singing dream anymore.  I didn’t know there could be something that meant more than the singing dream, but I was wrong.  It’s a really good feeling, I have to say.

I spent so much time during this trip here trying to find ways to stay in Europe long term.  I got offered jobs, but none were able to sponsor me for a visa and residency card, because they were freelance jobs.  So that was a dead end.  Even though my dad was born in Austria, he was a full-out American citizen at the time of my birth, which by Austrian law means that it doesn’t count for squat.  So that turned out to be a dead end as well.  I did not qualify for Austria’s strict guidelines for an artist visa.  (They are not easy to get in Austria like they are in Germany.) Dead end after dead end.

However, a random Facebook chat with a new singer friend led me to some interesting info.  You see, all countries in the EU have different rules for citizenship.  I came into some new information and ran with it.  Because my grandparents were born in a town that was in Hungary at the time of their birth, it qualified me to apply for Hungarian citizenship.  Which would ultimately allow me to live and work in the European Union without need for a visa.  Dual citizenship would effectively allow me to come and go between the US and the EU with no restrictions.  As of today, all my documents, forms, and photos have been turned in, and my citizenship application is submitted.  I had to bust my ass to get it all together in time (with the help of my parents gathering information and documents back home.)  I also had to start learning Hungarian, as that is part of the deal.  But it’s a small price to pay when looking at the big picture.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to learn a new language, but I’d rather spend that time improving my existing German so I can get fluent, or work on Croatian so I can understand things better when I’m in Croatia with Milos.)  The process takes a few months, but if all goes according to plan, 2013 will be the year that I get my EU passport!  (Please continue to send me the good vibes – I don’t like to count my eggs before they’re hatched and I don’t want to jinx anything! *knocking on wood*)

But I’ll be back here this summer.  My family is taking another river cruise with Avalon Waterways – this time on the Rhine River.  (Unfortunately, Miloš didn’t get assigned to that route this year.  Would’ve been nice to have that extra week together!)  We have a few more people going this time, and I’m especially looking forward to meeting our relatives in Heidelberg, Germany on the trip.  After that, it’s straight on to Croatia to spend Miloš’ vacation with him, followed by a little stay back in Vienna!  After that I’ll go home to the States again, as the fall will be time to get ready for the next caroling season.  Then after caroling season – back to Europe, with (hopefully) a legal way to stay indefinitely!

Traveling and living abroad has taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible.  It has taught me to take risks and leaps of faith.  It has taught me that I can do things I never thought I could do.  Yes, you really can just jump on a train and end up in a foreign city you’ve never been to.  And guess what?  You’ll be fine!  You’ll have an amazing adventure!  You’ll see beautiful things.  You’ll meet wonderful new people.  That first step is the scariest – the actual going, the first part of the doing.  But once you make that first step, the second one is so much easier.  And before you know it, you’re taking great big strides down a road you thought was out of reach, but there you are truckin’ along like you own the place!  All it takes is a little courage.  And if you feel like you’re lacking in that department, fake it ’til you make it!

Adventure! Don’t be afraid of it!

Because of my travels, I’ve “learned by doing” when it comes to figuring out new places.  All this knowledge only puts me into a better position to help others experience the same places and adventures that I do.  I may be a Disney specialist for the travel agency I work for, but I can safely tell you that I can most certainly help you plan a trip to Europe – and beyond!  And I hope that maybe I’ve inspired others to get out and want to explore more as well.  Maybe I’ve opened people’s eyes to things beyond their doorsteps.  I would encourage you all to experience the breath-taking majesty of the Alps, the crystal clear blue waters of Croatia’s coastline, the music and architecture of Vienna, the quaint canals of Amsterdam, or add your own love-lock to the Hohenzollernbrücke in Cologne!

Many of you probably know that I am a HUGE fan of anything Lord of the Rings.  (Understatement of the century.)  But I love Tolkein’s one quote.  It’s really popular for a good reason.  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  Ah, so true!  Some of us just aren’t happy to play it safe in life.  And the more I experience, the less it scares me to just pick up and go.  I don’t know that everyone in my life really “gets me” when it comes to this kind of thing.  But I am who I am.  I’m a wandering dreamer who longs for adventure!  I want amazing things in life!  I want to take the risks!  And despite all the wonderful things I’ve been able to experience so far, I have a feeling that the adventures are still only just beginning.  🙂

check, check, and check!
check, check, and check!
Photo of author
Jennifer was initially drawn to Europe for two reasons: music and love.  She lived in Vienna for four years, and now calls Croatia home for much of each year, as she married a native Croatian. Since 2015, Jennifer has worked as a tour director and cruise director on European river cruises for a major American travel company, and has become an expert in all of the cities along her routes on the Danube, Rhine, and Main Rivers. She also has traveled to Disney World almost every year since 1985, and knows Disney World inside and out. As a travel agent, Disney World is her primary specialty, and she has helped many Disney newbies and veterans have amazing trips with her insider information.

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