“Not too very long ago there were two princess -Princess Deann and Princess Elaine- and one day…!” One of my favorite childhood memories growing up was the bedtime tradition my mommy would share with my sister and me. We would all lay cuddled in bed together and rather than reading to us, she would say those magical few words and my sister and I would begin to tell the enchanted stories of Princess Deann and Princess Elaine (the princesses had the same middle names as my sister and me fittingly enough). Of all the wonderful stories we shared about extraordinary journeys and sacred moments we would experience, none would prepare me enough for this opportunity of a lifetime!

This past weekend I was driving back to Indianapolis from a weekend spent at home in Bluffton. As I was drove into the sunset canyons of corn surrounded me, my windows were down, my hair was whipping in the wind, and the radio was playing Daughtry’s “September”. I had heard the song many times before, but this time I seemed to become embedded in the lyrics and how sentimental the moment felt. The song evoked such strong emotion and nostalgia and as my mind flashed over the days of night-time story telling, the roots that have blossomed for this small-town Indiana girl, and the dream of always wanting to explore the world! The song reminded me how thankful I was to grow in a small town but how excited I was to go out in the world while still treasuring all the memories that would never leave me.

I then began to make a mental picture of all that I would truly miss from the life that I had always known. This quickly developed into a list not of what would be missed, but a list of what I could not wait to experience while in Poland and abroad:

Sunsets: I’ve always wanted to save every beautiful sunset as a snapshot in my memory. It’s so majestic to look out over a sprawling field for miles and see nothing but a flawless backdrop filled with brilliant colors. But the incredible landscape composed of the Sudety Mountain Range, the Odra River, and the Baltic Sea, may prove to be an unmatched canvas for an evening’s sunset.

Driving: Being behind the wheel is such an empowering feeling, especially since it’s the most common way to travel here in the states. More than anything, however, I am looking forward to not having to worry about being pulled over for speeding! (Disclaimer: Lead foot Lauren has only been pulled over once and received a ticket for speeding, but the situation and fine was very tragic!) I’ll be relying mostly on my own two feet and a lot of public transit including bus and light rail! Poland is actually rated as the most dangerous country to drive in, which makes me a bit relieved I won’t be behind the wheel there!

Cell Phone: A 23-year-old is really going to live without her cell phone in the palm of her hand for 10 months?! Yes it will be done….and happily! I am so excited to embrace other forms of communication (Skype, Facebook, postcards, letters) with my friends and family. Communication has definitely become a lost art and it’s one I am ecstatic to reclaim!

Spending time with my Wish Kids: Since my involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation 3 years ago, I have been able to work directly with 10 Wish Kids and their families. The experiences have been blessings in my life and ones I will always hold close to my heart. Though Poland does not have a similar foundation, I look forward to serving as and advocate and mentor in so many different capacities while overseas!

Football: As an employee of the Indianapolis Colts this summer, my love for the team has grown stronger! It has been so neat seeing the development of Indianapolis from behind the scenes and in person as the city prepares for the 2012 Super Bowl! As difficult as it is to know I won’t be in Indy for one of the most amazing sporting events in the world, I am thrilled to find a new love in what the Europeans call “Futball” (soccer as we Americans know it)! Moreover, the 2012 UEFA European Football Championships will be hosted in June in the city I will be living in! I’ll cheer for that any day!

Favorite Restaurants: Walking into most restaurants one expects to be greeted with a smile and simple “hello!” But in Bluffton, a hug is the most normal way to welcome patrons. Visiting restaurants isn’t just about the delicious meal but also about the fellowship of most everyone in the place, because chances will have it, you’re going to strike up a conversation and share your life with more than the people sitting at your table! And while I am a total food fanatic and cannot wait to try the Polish cuisine, I am looking forward even more to spending my meal times fostering friendships while eating, drinking, and most importantly being merry!

Leaving my family and friends: Undoubtedly, I will miss my family and friends the most. But without their unwavering love and support this remarkable opportunity would not be possible! While preparing for this adventure, I have kept the words of my dear friend, Meredith, (who is out in Vegas being wonder woman) in mind:

“Life is not to be lived without challenge and unfamiliarity. Life is not to be cheated by separation anxiety. Life is about adventure and uncertainty that can’t always be found when you remain caught in comfort. And most of all, life is about discovering yourself and becoming the person you have always aspired to be by exposing yourself to the untried… and doing this all while not among your parents and best friends.” Although it is bittersweet to leave my small town and the comfort of familiarity behind, the stories of “Princess Deann” whittled much of my adventurous spirit and unquenchable curiosity of the world. As the inspirational song states, come the “middle of September” I will have “nothing to lose but everything to gain!”

With Joy,

Princess Deann

Here’s the link to the Daughtry song “September”! Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJzBcKM3ZIE&ob=av2e