I had a chance to visit Prague this year, after getting invited to do the keynote speech at the Engaged Investments Conference, a new event specific for Venture Capitalists in Central & Eastern Europe. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to visit one of my most favorite places. A place of fond memories and of my personal growth.
Back in 1996, I had just graduated from university in Canada and could not wait to leave. I had gotten into a summer studies program for Medieval Warfare at Cambridge University and the original plan was to come back to Canada and look for work or start studies again. Or at least that was the plan or what my parents expected.
I decided to buy a one way ticket to Prague after Cambridge. And my life was never the same again. Yes, I’ve done travels to the USA, the UK, Taiwan and Japan. But they were either with family, school or orchestra.
So this was the first trip at that time in my life where I was truly alone and independent. Bear in mind, I had never cooked or cleaned or done laundry at that time because my job was just work and school. The trip was a crash course in life. Finding a place to live, managing money as I had very little of it and finding my way around.
When I landed in Prague it was like a fairytale. Beautiful architecture as it had never been affected by war for 500 years at least. It was so physically beautiful to me that I literally could not speak for a day. I was in literal awe. The place was magical, and even now I feel the same way. I spent almost 2 months here, exploring Prague and taking day trips by train all around the country like Cesky Krumlov, Karlovy Vary, Kutna Hora, Telc, Marianske Lazny & Ceske Budejovice among many other beautiful places.
I learned about my personal finance. I was able to stretch my 1 month budget to 6 months, although I admit I had to call home in early December to ask for money so I could eventually get back home. My mom was mad. But it was worth it. My bubble of naive suburban Canadian innocence was bursted quite violently. I ran into racist a — holes, almost pick pocketed by gypsies and was even attacked a few times by neo nazi skinheads. Interestingly, looking back, this rough and tumble crash course mentally prepared me well for my life in America.
Most importantly, I met so many interesting & nice people as well who showed me immense kindness. Business people of all types, retirees, students, fellow backpackers and travelers from everywhere in the world. I really grew up fast.
I’d been back to Prague over the years but always under a tight schedule for work or business. This was the first time in 27 years that I had time to wonder and explore. And it brought back wonderful memories. In the end that’s all we have. It’s also a great reminder of how far I’ve come and how much my life has changed. Overall for the better I think. It’s so easy to forget sometimes when you are so caught up in everyday life.
So here is to travel, to personal growth and to having great memories. And also to Prague. I really need to spend more time here in the future as it holds such a special place in my heart just like Japan does.