Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The End

So i know that i haven't been in the mood to write very much lately and i was just waiting for the time to come when i would feel inspired.
As i sit on my plane ride back into Toronto i've started to feel quite nostalgic.

To be honest, this past 3 weeks i've felt exhausted and much less motivated than i was the first 2 months of my trip. I was very happy with where I was and eastern europe was really a pleasant surprise that i grew to love but i found myself thinking about home much more.

At first, i was upset when I found out how broke i was. I was hoping to stay in europe and see Spain and Amsterdam before I had to fly home but if i wanted to be able to afford my flight back that really wasn't the best idea for me. So i booked my flight and ever since then I've had a whole bunch of mixed emotions.
Happy to see all my friends and family again and surprisingly excited to start back at work.
Sad that what i've worked so hard for was coming to an end and kind of bummed that I missed out on 4 countries that i wanted to see. (Portugal, Spain, France, and the Netherlands. Ahhh, but I tell myself not to worry because I can always come back. Right?)

This past few months has been way more than i expected. I was so lucky to be able to meet the people I did along the way. Also, I learned so much the entire time... a kind of hands on education i guess. Not many people can have the opportunities to go to some of the places I was able to on my trip. I am lucky, but I also think that it doesn't have so much to do with luck. I had to make some hard decisions to come on this trip and i don't regret a single one. Dropping out of university, moving out of my apartment, and quitting my job are all big moves. I'm normally a very indecisive person and it's a quality that i really dislike about myself but I'm happy to say that if i do know what i want I have the guts to go for it. Not to say that I wasn't unsure of myself at any point leading up to or during my trip... but i knew the whole time that it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

I remember talking to a couple friends about how I always feel the need to go somewhere when i'm at home. Not to escape or anything because i really do love my home but just for the adventure. I guess you could say that I get a little stir crazy. My point is that I wondered if I could ever be happy enough to stay in one spot. I wondered if i could be happy to finish university for 3 more years like everyone else or if I'll just slowly be doing it year by year with a trip inbetween. None of that is a bad thing... I just get curious about how I'll feel when the time comes. I really hope that I can be happy and content settling down one day.

If i wasn't independent enough before my trip i think that I should be now. Definitely much more confident in my decisions and a bit more understanding of other people.
Also, my next big goal for once I'm home is to learn another language. I'm sick of feeling so ignorant when I have to say "sorry, i only speak english". Granted, most of europe could speak english as well but I felt so rude coming to their countries and expecting them to speak my language. I figured since I am Canadian I might as well learn French. It could never hurt to have a second language!

Things I won't miss about Europe:
- Not being allowed to flush toilet paper in Greece. It's gross and weird.
- Not being able to eaves drop on other people's conversations. It's one of my favourite pasttimes.
- Never truly understanding the currency because I've had to change money so many times.
- How rude and pushy everyone was in Italy.
- Not being able to have a root beer for almost 3 months.
- My stupid backpack!
- Having roommates every night and having to sleep in bunkbeds.
- Having to specify every time I order a water if i want gas in it or not. Also, having to pay for water everywhere.
- Having to pay to use the washroom.

Eastern Europe:
Kind of a change in my plans. I wasn't planning on going any further east than Prague on my entire trip but I kept hearing amazing things about other places so i decided to change my plans. That's one good thing about being unorganized... I had no concrete plans that i needed to change, I only had to change my mind.

After my week apart from Virginia we ended up meeting up again in Prague. She hated the job in Venice and quit almost right away. It was a very poorly run and bed bug infested hostel. Since we had heard so many good things about Prague and about how cheap it was she took a bus straight from Venice to the Czech Republic. I visited Switzerland and Austria in the meantime then booked my hostel in Prague and realized we were at the same one. It was a really nice hostel with big rooms, a huge kitchen, and a tv/movie room with comfy couches. The people there were all really nice and we had alot of chill out time which was kind of nice after the last few countries that seemed to just be go-go all the time. Prague is actually a really nice city. Very beautiful buildings which i came to learn were actually built ontop of the original city. In the 1400s they decided to build a wall around the town and then dug a 7 metre deep by 23 metre wide trench on the outside of it. They didn't know what to do with the extra soil so they brought it inside the city walls and literally just buried all the existing houses and built new buildings on top of them. It doesn't really make sense to me... but it's very interesting. We took a tour of the old houses underground which were all basically in their same condition as when they were buried. They say Prague is as deep as it is wide. The subway especiallly is really far underground because it has to technically run underneath two cities. We also went to the Jewish museum which consisted of 4 different synagogues, an old Jewish cemetery, and a ceremonial house. The cemetery was neat to see... it wasn't very big but had 12,000 tombstones and even more people were buried there. They had to bury people in layers under the ground. The tombstones were all very old and kind of falling over but it looked quite pretty with the fall leaves all around. We also went to a chocolate museum one day. Not very educational but very yummy! Speaking of yummy... i ate so well while i was in Prague. I could get a very decent meal for about 5 dollars total. So I treated myself to ribs and nicer restaurants and ended up spending less money than i would have anywhere else in western europe.

Poland was way more beautiful and interesting than i expected. I'm not totally sure why but my vision of what it would be like kind of seemed all grey in my mind. However, it really is the opposite. The people was very friendly and the food was great. There was so much culture and history packed into my short 4 days that I spent in Krakow. I went and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau... the biggest concentration camps. It was a much different feel than i got when i was able to walk around Dachau. People who came to these camps knew they were going to die. It was a much scarier place with the main purpose of mass extermination. I was able to walk from room to room as the guide tried to explain what each building was used for. It's disgusting how planned out every detail was.
That was a rough day. Very emotional. However, i felt very lucky that i was there to be able to see what alot of people can only ever have the opportunity to read about.
While in Krakow we also went to the salt mines. That was really fun to walk through and see how elaborate everything was hundred of metres underground. We had about an hour and a half long tour but our guide said we didn't even get to see 1 percent of the mines. They are very large and extensive and go on for ages underground. That is how so many people from Krakow were wealthy so long ago because the workers were allowed to bring a fist full of salt up after every shift and back then salt was worth more than gold.

Hungary was my last and final stop. The hard thing about leaving Budapest was leaving the people that i met while i was there. Everyone was so amazing and made me feel welcome instantly. It felt like home for a week. I'm glad i was excited to come home and surprise everyone or i may have just missed my flight. I still think about Hungary all the time and really want to go back. We visited a tea house almost every day and that's definitely one thing i miss. We would just go and sit on pillows, order a new tea off a list of about a hundred, and sit there for hours just talking to one another. Although someone usually at some point would fall asleep for a while.
The city itself was beautiful. Big, tall, old buildings with more character than you'd find anywhere in Canada lined every street. Right before i left they decorated a huge Christmas tree only 5 minutes from my hostel and covered all the trees with little white lights. It snowed for my last 5 days and everyone was so happy about it, not like at home. I wasn't quite so happy because it was slushy snow and whenever i'd go outside my feet would be soaking wet. At least it was all covered and looked beautiful.

My trip was so different than i expected. I missed some of the key things i thought for sure i would see and ended up discovering places that I can say i honestly never dreamed of visiting. I'm happy to be home for now. I think i need to put some roots down for a little while and maybe tackle a bit more school. I'm glad i went alone, I don't want to do it again. I'm so thankful for the memories i made and the things i was able to learn.
Sometimes it's really hard to put into words the things i felt or places i saw. That's why i always feel the need to actually get up and travel for myself. I need the full experience of seeing, hearing, and feeling every bit of these countries. It truly is an amazing thing to be able to leave my own world where everything makes sense and i'm completely comfortable, to go somewhere new and be able to experience a glimpse of someone else's world.
It's addicting and I'm definitely not finished. I think I'll have a lifetime of discovery. It's exciting and I can't wait to see where I'll end up next!