Lizzie, outbound to Lithuania

A few days ago, I celebrated (with astonishment) my 6 month anniversary in Lithuania. It’s a weird feeling, realizing that everything in my current life revolves around this small country in the corner of Europe…

Now, when I say, “home,” I’m referring to my host family’s apartment in Baltupiai. Hear me mention my mom or sisters, and I’m talking about my Lithuanian family. Ask me where to get coffee and I’ll point out the coziest cafes, those which serve drinks in actual mugs rather than paper cups, those with the tastiest coffee, and where to find free wifi. Craving a vegan or vegetarian meal? I’ve made a point to visit every healthy restaurant in Vilnius, so I’ll gladly direct you to my favorites.

It’s bizarre. I never would have imagined knowing this city so well, but that’s what happens when you make a home for yourself in a new place. Remembering my first day in Vilnius, it seems as if it were yesterday, but also feels like a lifetime ago. Arriving as a tan (how I miss my sun-kissed skin), scared-for-the-winter, yet eager-to-learn Floridian girl, I had absolutely no clue what to expect in the mysterious but enticing year lying ahead of me. I didn’t anticipate my Lithuanian host families to treat me as their real daughter. I couldn’t predict becoming so accustomed to public transportation that I now eat, drink, and sleep bus schedules. In no way did I expect to adjust to the cold, sticking to the Lithuanian mantra, “when in doubt, wear animals." Especially, I never thought I’d love my new siblings so much that the thought of leaving them makes me tear up.

I’ve learned and grown so much over the past few months, and honestly, that’s due to the amount of time I’ve had to myself – one huge difference between my life in the USA versus Lithuania. Back home, I was constantly surrounded by loved ones and close friends. I definitely didn’t understand what “alone” meant until moving here, and while so much me-time can drive one insane, it provides the precious time to think a lot and write a lot. Looking at my bookshelf overflowing with journals, I’m both impressed and slightly disturbed by my strange need to record all of the random thoughts and ideas racing through my head at 100 kilometers per hour. And what you may not know is that this behavior is strange for me – in the USA, I was the student who would get a pit in her stomach upon receiving any writing assignment, completely dreading it and putting it off until the last minute. Surprisingly, my life in Lithuania has been the trigger for the swift metamorphosis from hatred to passion for writing. Now, I excitedly await picking up a blue-ink pen (the only thing I’ll write in journals with) and jotting down anything and everything I’d like. That’s the beauty in writing, the immense freedom at your fingertips.

In all, yes, being away from home is difficult, leaving loved ones to venture off alone to a rather unusual country is scary, and the thought that I’m currently 8,617 km away from everything that I’ve known is shocking. However, it’s easily been the adventure of a lifetime and has given me the unique opportunity to discover what I genuinely love to do. So, next time I tell someone I’m spending a year in Vilnius, Lithuania, I hope they don’t reply with, “….but why?!?!” and instead ask about my new home… I’ve got lots of great things to say.