Cheers to Three Years

March 13th marks my three year anniversary of living in Prague. Three. Years. When did that happen? I can envision the moment I left the U.S. so vividly. I remember crying in the airport bathroom as I was overcome with emotion and anxiety. I remember waving goodbye to my tearful mom and dad. I remember crying in uncertainty once more as I looked out the airplane window on the plane that would take me to a new adventure with no clear end. When I had made the decision to move to the Czech Republic, I expected to stay until around the six-month mark. I never planned on living here long-term. I wanted the new, thrilling experience of living in another country while traveling a bit along the way. I wasn’t mentally prepared to indulge the idea that I’d be away from home for an extended period of time. Little did I know I’d make a life for myself here three years down the road.

Although I know that I will eventually make a new home for myself in the U.S., Prague has become a part of me. If I’m being honest, it no longer holds the luster that it did in the beginning. It’s not to say that I don’t still love the city (I do), but much like my previous post where I discussed expat life, living in a foreign country can be difficult. I still struggle daily with the language barrier. Even though I recently took a beginner’s Czech course, it will be years down the road before I’ll be fluent.

Little did I know I’d make a life for myself here three years down the road.

Being an expat can be tough for a number of reasons. You make friends from all over the world. Many of which come into your life for short periods of time. It can be hard to find pure connections. I find myself struggling to find the connections here that I have with my friends back home. It can get lonely feeling like you don’t have many close friends to lean on. Striking a bond here similar to the ones you share with people you’ve known your entire life is rare. I find my Prague friendships few and far between. Although I’ve had many amazing, inspiring people come in and out of my life these past three years, many of them don’t stay for one reason or another. It’s not something I’m bitter about. I am thankful for all the people I’ve met along the way throughout my journey. Some have provided me with a new perspective, while others have taught me valuable life lessons. I still find myself yearning for the strong connections that I have with my friends back in the U.S. Expat life can be a lonely business. Thankfully, I have the support of my boyfriend to fall back on. Kuba is a beacon of light in my life. He’s supportive, kind, and always has my back. I’m so grateful he came into my life and am still baffled at times by his love.

So yes, these past three years have been a trial of up’s-and-down’s. I’ve experienced happiness, heartbreak, and nearly everything in-between. But throughout this experience, I’ve managed to learn more about myself and blossom into the person that I’m meant to be. Although I’m still that stubborn American girl from Northwestern Pennsylvania, I’m learning to see the world from a new perspective. I empathize with those different from myself and understand that the world doesn’t fully revolve around me (much to the dismay of my teenage self). I’ve realized that I’m worthy and deserving of love. I’ve realized that some people are meant to come into your life to teach you a lesson. And I have these past three tumultuous years to thank for that.

Brussels: a solo adventure

As mentioned in my previous post, I’d recently booked a cheap flight to Brussels. Well seeing as it’s now February, I guess it’s no longer that recent. Let’s get updated then, shall we?

Back in mid-November, I embarked on a weekend solo trip to Brussels, Belgium. Although my main motivation for visiting Brussels was the $50 flight that I’d scored, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the city. I had been to Bruges in 2011 while studying abroad; but other than that, Belgium was quite a mystery to me. After braving my very first Ryanair flight (hello tiny seats!), I successfully navigated the shuttle into the city and managed to find my hotel without taking an Uber or taxi. That first night, I asked the hotel staff where I could find a nice restaurant in the area. When I finally found the place that they had suggested, I was the only one there (it was about 9:30PM). One of the owners saw that I was by myself and came and sat down with me. We had a nice chat as I enjoyed my (delicious) calzone with the promise of visiting again before the weekend was over.

I spent the majority of Saturday morning exploring sights that I’d previously researched. I used the app CityMaps2Go to find my way around (bonus: it works without data!). There was a lot to see and I spent most of the morning walking the city. I also let myself wander a bit to see what I could discover. The thrill of getting lost in a new city is one of the best feelings. My favorite part of Brussels by far was the Grand Place-Grote Markt, or the main city square. The beautiful square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses the City Hall. I found it so magical that I Facetimed my mom so I could share the moment with someone!15078596_10153839251821230_6420008361767794489_n

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awkward selfie in the square

After an eventful morning of sightseeing, I took a rest at my hotel and anxiously awaited the Beer and Chocolate Tour that I had booked. Although this particular tour was a bit over my budget, it had positive reviews on TripAdvisor and I figured that it’d be a nice way to familiarize myself with the city (okay, and with Belgian beer). This tour ended up being the best part of my trip! It consisted of a small group of about 8. The first part of the tour was all about chocolate. Our guide Marie took us to her favorite local chocolate shops and let us try a variety of flavors. I even got to try basil-infused chocolate (very good, by the way) and pure cocoa (not so good). She was also really great at providing us with her own personal insight and history of Brussels as we walked from place to place. The second part of the tour was all about the beer. We got the chance to try 6 different types of beer at local pubs and learn about how they’re made. The tour concluded in a traditional Belgian bar with a glass of beer and a toast. Most of our group decided that since we were having such a good time, why not stay for another drink (or two)? I ended up drinking more Belgian beer and walking around the city with new friends. We were an eclectic group of Canadian, British, Australian, and American travelers of varying ages. We even managed to stumble into a random bar where “Wonderwall” was playing live. It goes without saying that we belted out our best rendition (which turned out to be not very good, after). The night ended with some famous Belgian frites to soak up the alcohol and the promise of new Facebook friends.

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Goodnight, Brussels!

The next day was Sunday, my final day in Brussels. I had the morning to explore before catching a flight back to Prague. Although I wasn’t feeling my best (too much beer?), I managed to get myself out of bed to see the magical square one last time. I also picked up some Belgian chocolates at Chocopolis, one of the shops that Marie had shown us the day before. As a hangover cure, I indulged in one last batch of delicious homemade Belgian frites. Lastly, I stopped by the restaurant that I’d visited my first night and had a coffee and a chat with the owner, my new Brussels acquaintance.

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Belgian frites with spicy mayo

Although I came to Brussels not knowing exactly what to expect, it ended up being one of my best trips yet. Exploring the city with new friends and meeting a local were definitely a few of the highlights. Although I’ve said it before, I do truly adore solo travel. That sense of pride you feel after successfully navigating a new city on your own is unprecedented. You’re forced out of your comfort zone and into the unfamiliar. You end up meeting amazing, likeminded people along the way and begin to realize that no matter where we come from, we are all the same. So, go on, fellow travelers. Don’t be afraid to (safely) put yourself out there. You might be surprised what you can find.

To Live Would Be an Awfully Big Adventure

Bucket lists: love them or hate them? Personally, I love a good bucket list. They get me excited for the future and are good reminders to live, not simply exist.

I’ve attempted multiple bucket lists in the past.The last one I made was in October of 2015, featuring things I’ve already ticked off and things I’ve yet to do. You can take a look at the old one on my previous blog here.

I’ve had many experiences in my 25 years that I’m very grateful for. However, this new and improved bucket list highlights only the things I’ve yet to do (and hopefully what’s to come!)

 stay close to (3)

stay close to (5)

So maybe I’m a little overzealous, so what? Gotta think big to be big! 🙂 Is there anything on your bucket that you think I missed? Let me know! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When One Door Closes…

If you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve been on the job hunt. Well, guess whose luck has finally turned? That’s right, this girl!  I scored a job as a Social Media Moderator for a start-up travel company here in Prague. Isn’t that the funny thing about life? It knocks you down then builds you back up.

As you already know, I’ve been incessantly searching for job leads for the past month and a half. Two weeks before I landed my new job, I made a deal with myself. If I was still unemployed by the upcoming week, I’d start searching for teaching jobs. Although teaching kids was basically soul-sucking, I didn’t mind teaching private lessons to adults. In fact, I had picked up two students as a side job and was actually really enjoying it. And here’s the thing: with my certification, finding a teaching job was pretty much guaranteed. There are countless language schools searching for native English teachers and I knew that I could find a job without too much trouble. I wasn’t thrilled with the thought of teaching a class of adults (cue anxiety), but what was the alternative? Sitting in my flat, broke and searching for the “perfect” job because I refused to teach? With that sentiment in mind, I swallowed my pride and the search began.

By Monday, I had applied to a few languages schools to teach either private students or small group classes. Unsurprisingly, all the replies I received asked me to prepare a 60-90 minute lesson. Okay, so here’s the thing…I actually forgot how to create a proper lesson plan (very different from preparing a conversation lesson). I finished my TEFL course over two years ago and I threw away all my resources after moving into my new flat (in my defense, the papers were collecting dust on the shelf for almost two years). I asked my fellow TEFL friends for their resources and slowly began relearning the methodology of teaching English. Preparing a 90-minute grammar lesson was painful, to say the least. I was getting more and more frustrated with every passing minute as I tried to create a comprehensible lesson plan. In the midst of my concentration, I had nearly forgotten about the upcoming interview I’d scored with a hostel. Although the position was only part-time, I was holding on to the hope that it’d get me out of teaching as much. I hopped on the tram en route to my interview, abandoning my lesson plan and promising myself that I’d finish after.

Fast forward to an hour later. I’m leaving my hostel interview, replaying the events of the past hour in my head. Although the job was basically offered to me, the atmosphere was odd and the whole thing just felt a little off. Knowing in my heart I wouldn’t take the job, I slowly walked to the tram, absentmindedly checking my email along the way. I had been expecting an email from the travel company I interviewed with a week back with the old “we regret to inform you” line. I spotted a new message from them and almost skipped over it, when a few lines made me do a double-take. The words “we would love to cooperate with you” popped out at me through the screen. Wait, was I reading this correctly? They wanted me? The interviewing process for the job was definitely the most demanding one I’d experienced recently. The interview consisted of a 30-minute “test” of sorts creating hypothetical content and responding to mock customer enquiries. As I was leaving that interview, I vaguely remember my potential boss telling me that “many people” applied for the job. That pretty much made it clear (to me, at least) that I was not getting the job. So to receive this email solidifying the fact that they wanted ME was a huge shock, and that’s putting it lightly. Rejection after rejection and I’d finally received a big fat yes!

It’s been about a month since I’ve taken on my new role at the company and I couldn’t be happier. The exhaustion I feel at the end of the day is welcome and oddly comforting. I walk through the door at the end of each workday to see that unfinished English lesson plan sitting on the table, beckoning me. A reminder of what could have been. A commemoration to the phase of my life I can finally leave behind. And maybe I’m a just sucker for a good cliche, but I can’t help but to feel that the lesson plan is a sentiment to the past. A chapter that I can finally leave behind.