My dad has this saying, “Life’s a journey, not a destination,” that he tells me often whenever I stress too much about the future. The phrase was always so figurative for me, never too literal, until now when I hop on and off train, trams, and buses on the regular as I make my way across Europe to see spectacular sights I’ve only dreamed of.

Because of the language barriers I inevitably face in different European countries and my lack of experience using public transportation, I have become an expert in planning train trips and other excursions down to the smallest detail, doing plenty of research and calculating exactly how to get from point A to point B. Yes, this is a handy skill when traveling in Europe, because its always a good idea to be prepared when traveling in a foreign country, but on my way back to Strasbourg from Switzerland I had a sudden thought–am I becoming too focused on the destination?

While I had a good time in Interlaken, I didn’t enjoy my time there to the fullest. I had a frozen feeling and it wasn’t because of the sometimes chilly mountain air. I focused on doing each activity by thinking of the most efficient way to get there and get it done. But what is the fun in that? Why didn’t I just laugh and admire the scenery when we ended our 2-plus hour hike down a Swiss mountain by a field in the middle of nowhere? Or when the group went wandering around to find a place to eat, why didn’t I enjoy the meandering?

I think this can be a pitfall of traveling, going from place to place without thinking of and maybe even reveling in the journey, the tiny moments of pure bliss, whether it is sitting on a train and watching the trees fly by you or pausing at the edge of a turquoise glacial lake to watch the clouds pass their shadows on the surrounding mountains.

Another lesson of studying abroad: enjoy the journey.

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