As I left Asia for Europe, I thought back to April of 2005. I had completed my stint at university and was ready for a massive change. I remember handing my mother with my university diploma, packing a bag and being pushed out of a car by my good friend Tracy at Charlotte Douglas International airport. I was ready for my first jump into expat life.
While I had never been to the Czech Republic, I felt it was where I needed to be. Though I had no clue what wait waited for me there, I knew Prague would be drastically different from my life in Asheville, North Carolina. At the time, the change of location was exactly what was needed.
I felt pressure boarding the Czech Airlines flight. Moving to a new country is inherently much more drastic than say, backpacking for a summer. While I knew I would feel like a traveller for the first months in my new foreign home, in a strange way I was deeply worried that I wouldn't not be able to hack expat life. If I turned back, I wasn't coming home from a trip or a grand adventure. If I returned "home," I would be a failure. As my plane took off for the trans-Atlantic flight, I decided that, no matter what, I would not be beaten by my new environment or my own fears (I admit that I have way too much pride that has caused more harm than good throughout the years).
Over the next months in Prague, I learned the tricks of the trade needed to survive as a young expat. I learned how to pinch pennies (even more than I did in university). I learned how to quickly assemble a group of friends (No man is an island). I learned how to spot cons and how to minimize my footprint as a foreigner. I learned that it is okay to be lonely. It is okay to ask for help. I learned that heartbreak and isolation compliment each other perfectly.
It was also in Prague that I first learned that a camera can teach you how to craft a unique vision of the world. Wandering around the cobblestoned alleyways and twisting around the gothic spires, I learned to see the minutia of the world and became keenly aware of everyday scenes that usually go unnoticed. Having solitude, and therefore time, I was able to actively SEE (something I had really never done before). That newly found "sight" was, oddly enough, directly related to a viewfinder and a couple hundred rolls of black and white film.
Almost a decade later, I boarded a train in Salzburg and crossed the Moravian highlands for Prague. The minute I stepped out of Staromestska station, I was twenty two again. The spires and the stone-lined alleys hadn't changed a bit. Yet, this time, I wasn't wandering around the Czech capital with a analog camera and pockets full of Ilford monochrome film.
For this encounter with the glorious European city I had my wife, some good friends and a Canon EOS 6d. I was no longer worried about failure or learning how to become an expat. I simply focused on having a great time in one of the world's most beautiful cities.