Let Go of the Reins: What My Weekend in Belgium and the Netherlands Taught Me

Hannah Van Otterloo is a student at the Colorado Christian University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA Veritas in Prague, Czech Republic.

I rolled out of bed Thursday morning, my phone sounding the alarm at 3:15 a.m. Although I was excited to add two more countries to my growing list of places visited, apprehension trumped any excitement.  


First of all, I was traveling by myself to two countries that I had never been to before. I wasn’t too nervous about travelling around once I got there; rather, I was more nervous about my initial flight. I hadn’t been to the Prague airport since the first day when I arrived seriously jet lagged. Even though I had been assured that taking public transportation to the airport was incredibly easy (and it was), anxiety still ate away at my gut. What if I got lost? What if I missed the tram which would lead me to miss the bus which would then cause me to miss my flight?

As you can see from this photo, I made my flight, but I was quite confused when I initially boarded a bus (that took me to the plane) instead of a plane.

Secondly, I was staying with people I had never met before – my aunt’s host sister from 30 years ago and her family. I was also on the verge of losing my voice because of a head cold and was terrified I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them. What-ifs began popping up again, spiraling out of control, sending me down a hole of despair. Had I not already booked the trip and had no chance for a refund, they may have even driven me to cancel my trip and stay in the safety and comfort of my home in Prague.

Thank goodness for no refunds!

Are Belgium Waffles really worth the hype? Yes. Yes they are. This is my waffle I had Thursday morning. It is topped with strawberries and white chocolate!

The trip- a morning in Brussels and then 3.5 days in the Netherlands– was amazing! Was it easy? No. Did I have to ask for a lot of help? Yes. Was it humbling? Definitely. Was I ever lost? Absolutely. Did I say lots of prayers, asking God for guidance, direction, peace of mind, etc.? Too many prayers to count! Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat!


Because I learned so much about life and about myself. I learned that I have a tendency to hold on to the reigns with an iron grip, convincing myself that as long as I am in control, everything will be OK.

But it really won’t be OK.

Remember the attack of the what-ifs? That happened because I believed everything was up to me, that I was in control. I was looking for all the things that could go wrong. Although this can be a useful tactic for planning on how to respond in case something were to actually go wrong, I was leading myself way too far down the absolute worst path possible, and I got lost in the darkness. The only way out of the darkness was to loosen my iron grip.

By loosening my grip and finally letting go, I found that it feels really good to hand the reigns- the control I think I have- back to God, whose it really ought to be. My travel became so much more enjoyable every time I said a prayer and reminded myself that God is in control and watching over me. He knows what He is doing. I, as I was repeatedly reminded on this trip, do not, and rejoice in this realization.

The sunset Sunday night at the North Sea was beautiful! It was a great end to my trip.

So many things, not only in traveling but also in life in general, would be so much more difficult, disheartening, and overwhelming if we really were in control, and it was all up to us! It may feel like our grip on the reigns allows us to move our lives forward when in reality, it’s just holding us back. Let go of the reigns!



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