The End of an Era

Just recently, life came at me pretty fast. My entire life in Prague has flashed before my eyes. It’s surreal to think that I’ve been living in Europe for nearly 3.5 years. There have been ups and lots of downs to balance it all out. I’ve found love, heartbreak, and have had countless experiences that have helped shape me into the person that I am today. I’ve grown more in these past 3 and a half years than I ever have in my entire life. That is why it’s so hard to come to terms with the fact that I’ll soon be saying goodbye.

My one-way ticket home is dated for September 25th, just 5 days after my 27th birthday. Although I had been anticipating this moment for awhile now, the reality of moving back hit me like a ton of bricks. Once the decision became more than just an “idea”, reality sunk in. I will be departing the place I call home in just a little over 1 month. I must say goodbye to this European life that I’ve created for myself. Although I’ve always been open with my struggles of living in a foreign country, I will miss this city more than you know. I will miss hearing three different languages at once, I will miss passing by the Prague Castle on my tram rides, and most importantly – I will miss the people who stay behind. Prague has given me deep connections with countless people. I fear that I won’t find these unique connections in America. I fear that people won’t be as open and knowledgeable about the world as they are here. I fear that this experience has changed me so much that I won’t know how to fit in anymore. Although these fears and doubts follow me back to the U.S., I remain steadfast in the belief that this experience has shaped me into the person I was always meant to be.

Entering Prague’s Old Town

So as I prepare to say goodbye to the city, I promise to make the most out of the time that I have left. I will visit my favorite pubs, bars, and cafes and make sure to catch one last glimpse of all the famous Prague landmarks. I am 100% sure I will be back one day, but I know that it will never feel quite the same as it does in this moment. So, for now, I will soak up the beauty of this city and remind myself that this isn’t really goodbye, but “see you later”.

Bergen & Stockholm – A Scandinavian Adventure

In March, Kuba and I took a six-day trip to Scandinavia. We spent three days in Bergen, Norway and the next three in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a first for both of us, and we were really excited to see what Scandinavia had to offer. Our first stop was Bergen. From what I’d heard about Norway, I knew that we were in for some pretty spectacular nature. Bergen is quite a small city (less than 300,000 people). When we visited at the end of March, the weather was just as dreary as they said it’d be. Although cold and rainy every day, it didn’t put a damper on our trip. With umbrellas in hand, Kuba and I spent our time wandering the small town. My two favorite Bergen activities were the the Fløibanen Funicular (cable car to the top of Mount Fløyen), and the Fjord Cruise. The funicular was a really neat experience. Although unlucky in weather, this meant that we had the funicular mostly to ourselves. When we reached the top, it was actually snowing! The wind was whipping and it was freezing cold, but you couldn’t beat the view. There was even a gift shop and cafe to warm up in.

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Foggy view from the top of Mount Fløyen
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Trying to keep my eyes open!

Another highlight of Norway was our Fjord Cruise. Although the cruise wasn’t exactly cheap (around $60 per person), we had heard good things and wanted to explore more of Norway’s countryside. The 3-hour cruise ended up being worth every penny. We got to go out on the front and top decks to see everything up close. If possible, it was even colder than the top of Mount Floyen! But we buttoned up and put on our bravest faces. The wind was so strong that my eyes were nearly closed in every picture we took! The scenery was so picturesque and gorgeous that I don’t think any of us even cared. We saw fishing villages, gorgeous mountainsides, and waterfalls. We even got close enough to a waterfall to gather some fresh water. After climbing down from the top deck (for about the 5th time), we warmed up with some hot chocolate and enjoyed the cozy boat on our way back to the Bergen dock. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate with us, Bergen had something special.

I swear the city has a touch of magic.

The second part of our trip landed us in Stockholm, Sweden. The first thing we noticed upon arrival was the change in weather. Although the temperature was only around the mid 50’s, Kuba and I felt like it was summer! We shed our umbrellas and went exploring. There is so much to see in Stockholm.  With a population of nearly 910,000, you can imagine how different Stockholm was from Bergen. The city has a cool, hipster vibe with many young people. One of my favorite places that we visited was the Skansen Open-Air Museum

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Me at the aquarium in Skansen

Kuba and I spent the majority of the afternoon here, exploring the world’s oldest open-air museum. There was a lot of history involved and many animals native to Scandinavia. We saw bear cubs just out of hibernation, pigs, seals, and even some sloths and spiders at the aquarium! It was a really cool, vast outdoor area and even had a town square with glass blowers, pottery makers, and a quaint cafe. Another spot worth visiting in Stockholm is the Fotografiska museum. This is an eclectic photography museum with a contemporary vibe. I’m not much of an artsy person myself, but I really enjoyed wandering around exploring the photos. There is also a restaurant/cafe on the top floor of the museum with an amazing view of the city. 

Even though we had visited our fair share of restaurants in Stockholm, our favorite by far was a Japanese-inspired restaurant called Bistro Barbro. We didn’t make a reservation but were lucky enough to grab seats by the bar. This was actually one of the best spots in my opinion, as we got to see the chefs prepare the dishes right in front of us. We ordered 4 dishes between the two of us (each dish is meant to be shared). Our favorite dish was the tuna rolls topped with chipotle sauce! The cuisine was much different than anything we’d ever tried and it didn’t disappoint. The bill didn’t come cheap, but Kuba and I decided it was worth it for a great last meal in Stockholm!

Overall, I really enjoyed our little Scandinavian adventure. Norway’s fjords were breathtaking and the vibe in Stockholm was cool and hip. I also couldn’t help but notice how friendly Scandinavians are. No matter where we went, locals were more than willing help us out by practicing their English. I highly recommend checking out Norway and Sweden on your European travels if you haven’t done so already! 

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Waterfall spotted on the Fjord Cruise
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Scenery in Norway
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Our meal at Bistro Barbro


 

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.