“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

For the past four weeks, I’ve been living in Prague! I’d say I’m “studying” abroad, but “living” really does feel like the better verb. The school week is only Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and I’ll tell you—four day weekends really are as nice as they sound! From touring castles and cathedrals with students from all over the world, to navigating daily life in a culture I don’t know the language, every day is an adventure!

But the reality is—and many of you may have been aware of this—I was terrified to do this. The week before I left, I could barely function. I couldn’t imagine being away from my family, my friends, my church, my job, my school, my routine, etc. for four months (123 days to be exact.) It seemed like a nightmare!

Gradually over the course of that week leading up to my departure, I changed my view from looking at it as “my world ending” or “a huge life change” to thinking of it as “vacation.” I enjoy going on vacation—meeting new people and seeing different parts of the country. Not to mention, some time off from day-to-day life is always a nice break…so if I viewed this whole “Study Abroad’ as vacation, it was amazing! How often in life do we get to go on vacation for four months?

It’s funny how our culture views vacation. I think everyone would agree we like vacation. We like stepping out of our routines, being able to sleep in, spend time with family or friends, see different parts of the world, and just live for a few days without the busyness of life. Yet other cultures actually work just for the ability to take vacation (or “holiday.”) I remember reading an article one time that talked about the problem with vacation in American culture.

…In the months building up to vacation, there is a lot to stress about—saving money, taking time off work, buying clothes and other vacations stuff, not to mention the joys of packing.

…Getting to a vacation is stressful—airports, security, rental cars, hotels.
…Being on vacation is stressful—seeing everything, finding your way around, taking pictures, finding restaurants, meeting up with relatives, worrying about money.
…Thinking about going home is stressful—repacking, checking out of the hotel, back through the airport, and then unpacking.
…Returning to life is stressful—back in a routine, jetlagged, recanting the stories to friends while trying to be productive and return to normal.
…Not to mention finding time and money to plan another vacation so that we have time to relax at some point from all this stress.

His ultimate thesis was that we don’t’ know how to be on vacation. We don’t know how to relax and live in the moment. We create so much stress because we are so used to worrying about things that may or may not be a problem for us at some point. We spend so much time planning for the worst that we don’t know how to recognize the best when we see it.

I often asked myself why I was going to Prague if the idea of it stressed me out so much. I finally came to an answer this past week. I think everyone wants their life to be something memorable. I think we want to have the stories of adventure. We want to have relationships filled with happiness and laughter. We want to say we lived our lives to the fullest. But I think we often assume that it’s just going to happen. That one day we will wake up and our life will be an adventure.

The reality is—all vacations, all relationships, all adventures —they don’t just happen. They require stepping out of the box, getting away from the ordinary, breaking out of routines, and letting go of the worries. They require action, and sometimes that is terrifying.

Luckily, we have a God who specializes in terrifying. We have a God who takes on giants with pebbles, steps out of boats into stormy seas, feeds crowds with single loaves of bread, and displays his love by dying on a tree.

I think God’s message to us is that not taking action can be just as terrifying if not more so than stepping into a risk. Just like vacation, life is fleeting. Every day that passes is one that won’t come back again. Every opportunity missed, is one that won’t present itself again. While 123 days seemed overwhelming just over a month ago, the 91 that I have left don’t seem like enough time.

In the award winning movie Benjamin Button, the title character writes a letter to his daughter in which he says, “And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." This quote has been my mantra for my trip to Prague, but when I return, I hope to make it a part of my daily life.

We have to remember that every day is an adventure. Every day is a chance to see something, do something, love someone, or make some sort of new memory. And we have a courageous God who ventures with us and gives us the strength to make life an epic adventure!

In closing, I’d like to share a song with you. There aren’t many English speaking radio stations over here, and we can’t pick up American TV in the dorms, but when listening to the radio one night, I heard this song. It helped me see the connection between my fleeting vacation, and the fleeting time we have on Earth. I hope you enjoy it!

Zach Herzog

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