Oh my God! I’ve bought the airplane ticket. It’s real— I’m flying to the Czech Republic on November 9 and there’s no getting out of it. I’m anxious, afraid and thoroughly excited.

Twenty years ago, when Czechoslovakia still existed, I spent eight months is Slovakia as an English language teacher, not long after graduating from university. I loved the country, the people, the beer and the architecture. Now I am returning to the Czech Republic, a middle aged woman, a tee-tolling Baha’i, and a person living with a mental illness. Not being a drinker anymore may hamper me socially, but it’s that last bit about having a mental illness that I’m most unsure of—what role it will play in my traveling, living and working abroad?

What role will  mental illness play in my traveling, living and working abroad?

I will be taking a backpack of medication (three months’ worth) with me. I will have a note from my doctor, outlining the medications I’ll be packing. I think it’ll all go smoothly at the airport. I hope so. And I know during the three months of my trip I’ll have my down days, but usually something or someone unexpectedly good or welcoming lifts me out of them.

For the first two months I’ll be volunteering at Townshend International School in Hluboka nad Vltavou as Writer-in-Residence. Hopefully the kids will accept me as a writing workshop facilitator, tutor and whatever other role I find myself in. I know it will be a challenge not to feel insecure about my weight, my thinning hair, my tendency to blink a lot, all of which contribute to a certain weirdness of appearance. But I am determined that the students will have so much fun they won’t notice that I look different, by the end of my time there.

For the last month I will be doing an artist residency at Milkwood International in Cesky Krumlov. That will be a month of relative solitude for me, during which I will concentrate on my own writing, revising a novel and producing poetry. The challenge then will be to be productive on my own terms, and to face being alone sometimes.

I hope you’ll read along, and send me your encouraging thoughts.

Luckily, I will be connected to the Baha’i community during the whole trip, so I will not be without a community of friends. And I intend this blog to function as a true “reality check”, to help me put things in perspective during my time abroad. It’s also a way to “czech in” with the folks who mean the most to me, my friends and family. So I hope you’ll read along, and send me your encouraging thoughts. Ahojte, Anna.