Reflections on Europe

I left Europe last night after a whopping 56-day trip. I could not have anticipated that I'll spend this much time there, especially when I traditionally had little interest in going to Europe. The MIT reunion was really the only major reason that drew me there in the first place.

I arrived to El Gouna in Egypt this morning. I wanted to take this time to reflect on my experience in Europe. Here's how my itinerary in Europe panned out:

  1. Madrid, Spain
  2. Cordoba, Spain
  3. Seville, Spain
  4. Granada, Spain
  5. Tarifa, Spain
  6. Stockholm, Sweden
  7. Brussels, Belgium
  8. Dusseldorf, Germany
  9. Paris, France
  10. Bonn, Germany
  11. Lisbon, Portugal

On average, I relocated every 5 days, often using long bus rides or flights. Moving around was certainly a huge burden and barrier from me actually doing "work". Not to mention that, in most of these places, I was staying at hostels, which are not necessarily the most productive of environments.

I am not going to lie, it was hard. Reflecting back, here are some moments that come to mind:

  • Reconnecting with my MIT comrades in Spain
  • Feeling the most lost I've ever been after the MIT reunion, and that was especially hard in Cordoba and Seville.
  • Applying to YC with Carlos and having some healthy brainstorming sessions.
  • Connecting with old friends like Lise-Lotte, Linnea, Rafa, and Amelie.
  • Making great friends like Marie and Alina.
  • Getting to know the EdgeRyders crew and experiencing a different model of thinking when it comes to communal living.
  • Visiting the Catacombs in Paris with Bilal, Josephine, et al. - an incredible experience!
  • Attending WebSummit in Lisbon and connected with great people there.
  • Taking some great kite-surfing classes in Tarifa.
  • Visiting INSEAD in France and learning more about their MBA program.

Gains from my trip to Europe:

  • I started becoming more project-based and I think I found an approach that helps me stick with a project and commit to it. The first, and so far successful, example of that is Project Small Fish which involves calisthenics training, and I've been sticking to it religiously for weeks now.
  • I experienced the state of total loss, where I had no idea what I was doing with my life - no job, no career, no friends, and no home. I like to think that I've become accustomed to that, and I am no longer afraid. I feel a lot stronger and more emotionally resilient thanks to the training I've been doing.
  • I've identified two projects that have occupied a great deal of my time as I was traveling. It's still unclear where they'll go, but at least I have been spending my time doing work that is challenging me intellectually as well as growing my skill set over time.
  • Having the freedom to connect with old friends is a huge luxury that I have, and practicing that luxury while I was in Europe was highly rewarding for me. I would love to visit and connect with more of my friends who live abroad.
  • I learned that I am not asking for help as much as I should be. I should reached out to more friends about questions I wonder about and directly ask for help. I am a bit too independent for my liking.
  • I identified some key questions that I need to answer for myself to help guide what I should be doing moving forward. Two key questions that I am contemplating on are 1) whether I should do more product as opposed to more engineering, and 2) whether I should remain attached to my Arab heritage as I currently am. I'll be reflecting on both of these questions in more depth in the future.
  • I learned that joining a business school isn't really what I need right now. After going to that session at INSEAD, I felt very out of place and the crowd that I met there didn't appeal to me as a crowd I'd like to spend a year with.
  • I should be spending more. I've been mostly cost-cutting while I was in Europe, and I think it's more appropriate from me to invest in myself through courses, experiences, and whatever means necessary. Time should be what I'm optimizing for as opposed to finances in the meantime.

These are just my initial reflections, and having written those down it doesn't seem like Europe was a time ill-spent. I'll be digging deeper into some of the points I mentioned above in the near future.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Europe”

  1. Welcome back 🙂 to writing this type of posts. I suggest that you add writing a post like every week to Project Small Fish.

    I consider this blog a source of inspiration and encourages self-exploration for those who can’t articulate their thoughts and feelings that eloquently, like myself.

    I stumbled on it by coincidence and I can’t deny its effect on my recent plans with regards of life style generally and self-growth specifically.

    دمت ملهماً 🙂 و الف شكر

    1. أشكرك يا ياسمين 🙂

      I am pleasantly surprised that you found my ramblings useful. As for Project Small Fish, I currently document every workout I do (see the links at the bottom of the project’s blog post), but it’s more documenting the workout itself rather than reflecting on how I’ve improved/changed. I do plan though to add more reflections on the project and my progress at certain milestones – stay tuned and thanks for the suggestion 🙂

      I can’t emphasize strongly enough how beneficial I found writing to be. I highly recommend it as a way to distill your thoughts and clear your mind. Please do start writing, and when you do send me the link! I am always curious about how other people find their way around life 🙂

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