A Lesson Learned in Time

“That means we’ll get to the top in no time!”

Ten of us were hiking to the top of Neureuth, a small peak above Tegernsee Lake in the Alps. There were several routes we could take, and at each crossroads of our well-marked trail, signs told us how much time it would take us to reach the top. This got somewhat confusing as one sign would tell us we had an hour left, and ten minutes later when we got to the next one, we still had an hour left. As Americans, we found it odd that the signs told the time, because, to us, putting the distance to the top on the signs would be more practical than the time. At any rate, we managed to navigate to the top using the time marker as a very rough guide. Until we ran across one sign that had no marker, hence the “no time.”

The sign that failed to tell us how long it would be to the top.
The sign that failed to tell us how long it would be to the top.

Getting to the hike itself also proved to be more complicated than expected. On previous excursions, we met at the central train station and took one train to our destination. On this particular day, however, the train did not leave from the central station, but rather a small suburb on the outside of Munich. So after a subway, a bus, and a train, we finally arrived at the beautiful Tegernsee.

Lake Tegernsee
Lake Tegernsee

I like hiking in the mountains. The snowy caps provide a beautiful backdrop; the trees, a peaceful place to wander, and the overlooks offer a breathtaking reminder that the world really is a big place. We took many breaks to catch our breath on our way up—but to me, the difficulty made the view even more valuable.

Slightly cloudly view from the top of Neureuth.
Slightly cloudy view from the top of Neureuth.

Hikes, adventures, journeys, pilgrimages, etc. are all commonly used as metaphors to describe life. This week my mom reminded me that my study abroad experience is very much its own pilgrimage. And these past couple of days have definitely felt like I am rambling through the woods, climbing ever so slightly higher. Being immersed in history and culture classes has shown me that world is a lot bigger and more complex than I thought it was. Friday evening, some friends and I went to see the movie, Elser, based on Georg Elser, who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1939 and was promptly caught. It was a hard movie to watch; not just the torture scenes, but the movie also reminded me of the reality and brutality of the Second World War and got me thinking about how this kind of awfulness still exists today. Yikes. Later, in my intercultural communication class, we discussed how some cultures do not value freedom, democracy and human rights like Americans do, and suddenly I felt very grateful to have grown up in a country with access to a great education.

Speaking of which…

Being a junior in college, I’m starting to think about what to do post-graduation. This week has included several discussions on this topic: coffee and dinner chats with my new JYM friends and Skype conversations with my roommates and housemates. Some of them have an idea of what’s next, and it’s really exciting to hear some of those possibilities. I happen to still be in the I-have-no-clue-and-there-are-so-many-options boat.

Instead of becoming stressed by this current unknown, I’m trying to be excited about whatever may lie ahead, because it’s probably really cool (as one of my wonderful housemates often reminds me). However, I’m also definitely enjoying this current moment, because it’s important, too.

Into the woods we go!
Into the woods we go!

Hopefully I’ll make it out of this woodsy part of my hike one day and have a better picture of where I’m going. But for now, going to classes, practicing German, and hiking with friends while singing songs from The Sound of Music should keep me pretty content for the next three months.

What will this day be like? I wonder.

What will my future be? I wonder.

It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free.”

“I Have Confidence–from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music

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