Somehow, it has already been just over a year since I’ve been in the United States, where I spent the entirety of my previous 26 years of life. CRAZY! I've spent the past 12 months living in a fairytale land. Seriously, I pass a castle every day. A fucking castle. I am currently back in the US-of-A visiting, and decided to reflect on my first year living as an expat.
Expat; noun — (short for to expatriate) a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing.
This is my first time in Trump America. I imagined my return looking something like Ursula’s cave of souls in the Little Mermaid. Once my feet touched down on U.S. soil I would be forced to sign a contract and my soul would get sucked out of me and my body would shrivel up along with all the other poor unfortunate souls. Luckily, that didn't happen and I still have my soul. Anyway, let’s get off that subject before my first blog post turns into an endless rant about he who shall not be named.
I was afraid that on my return to the States I wouldn’t want to go back to Prague. I was nervous, I felt weird and unsure of how to process the fact that I was returning back home after over a year. I am by no means an anxious traveler, but on the second leg of my trip, I was getting nervous. Would I want to stay? Would I regret everything? Would I want my spot back on the corporate ladder? Would I get hung-up on where I would be now if I hadn’t left? Would the occasional FOMO I felt while in Prague manifest into a certainty that I needed to stay with my lifelong friends in New England? Would I not feel a connection to my life in Prague once I was back to my old ways? To silence these thoughts, I took advantage of the free booze on the flight, turned on Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and eventually nodded off. I am happy to say, that as great as it is to be back, I actually really miss Prague.
It all started when I was living in Boston, working my ass off at a job that wasn’t paying me nearly enough. I was feeling under-appreciated, and discouraged. Sound familiar corporate America? A familiar face from my college years had posted something about this place called The Language House, and the rest was history. I applied, was accepted, and was ready AF (my use of AF [as fuck] is my attempt at being young and hip and cool with the kids) to peace out of the standard post-college lifestyle. Then reality, fear, and the looming cloud of “you should/you shouldn’t” set in. Feeling that Boston was a dead end for me (even though I love you so much), I moved back in with my parents in CT (every 25 year old's dream), and started a new design job. Fast forward another year, I was comfortable, happy, doing well, and had even just received a pay raise. On paper, it sounds amazing, and it was pretty damn good, but; there was still that huge “what If” weighing me down. Eventually the “what if” and my restless need for the uncomfortable and the unknown took over, I left my job, and in November 2016 I packed up—way too many—of my belongings and said goodbye to all that was familiar.
Fast forward another year, and here I am, reflecting upon 12 exciting, intimidating, eye-opening, mind-expanding, and adventure-filled months that I wouldn’t change for the world. I have been to 13 countries, 22+ cities, snowboarded in the Austrian Alps, island hopped in the Adriatic Sea, attended my first European music festival, said hello, goodbye, and thank you in multiple languages, laid in a field of flowers on the top of a mountain, met amazing people, experienced wonderful (and terrible) things, and been completely changed in the best way possible. If you are thinking of doing something similar, I hope that you will throw away what society says you “should do” and do what’s best for your-own-damn-self. Seriously! I’m beyond happy I took the leap into an abstract lifestyle. But who am I to tell you how to live your life, or what you should do? That seems pretty hypocritical of me, am I right? All I’m saying is;
YOU. DO. YOU.
In case you were curious, here are some of the more somewhat-ridiculous (but relevant) thoughts that come to mind when I reflect back on this past year in the Czech Republic:
Americans live life on high volume while the rest of the world is at a comfortable medium. I imagine the rest of the world views a group of American travelers kicking back pints the same way I view all of the Real Housewives when shit hits the fan at a dinner party. Loud and obnoxious.
Czech Republic has a larger selection of scented toilet paper than it does chips at your local grocery store.
Do NOT touch someone else’s dog unless it is pre-approved. The dog won’t bite, but the owner will. Some exceptions apply.
There is NO match for New Haven, CT pizza. Good Lord I can’t wait to get my hands on a slice (or 50) of that sweet sweet pizza. Santa, if you are reading this, just put a Modern, Sea Breeze, Bar, and Pepe's pizza under the tree for me. Cool, thanks!
The Americanized view on hostels (thanks to the terrifying movie series Hostel) is insanely out of wack, hostels are the best way to cheaply travel. I’ve met some great people, been on amazing day trips, and really fun bar crawls via hostels I have stayed at!
When it comes to good Czech food, the low key places filled with old men are the best. If grandpa Honza is here for the goulash, you better believe it’s good.
Even an attempt at "thank you" in the local language doesn’t go unnoticed, no matter how terrible your pronunciation is.
Face-time is probably one of the best modern day advances in technology. What would I do without it?
I now refer to anywhere outside of the city or a village as “the nature” and I can’t remember what I called it before. “We are going hiking in the nature tomorrow.” Thank you Czech Republic.
Budgeting when your new currency reminds you of monopoly money is hard. Currency exchange apps like Xe Currency have saved me from going into deep-dark-debt-black-holes while traveling.
Journal. Always journal. Jokes, adventures, people, and places will escape your memory. Even if you think you’ll never forget something, you will.
It takes extra effort to stay hydrated in a country where beer is cheaper than water.
Photos have become my most prized possessions. Save them all, the terrible candids where you have 5 chins because you’re laughing, the desperately posed photos where you are trying to be an insta model, the selfies, the hungover snapchats. Save ‘em.
When you’re away from everything familiar, you realize how much you take for granted. Like a clothes dryer and Cheez-Itz. Oh, and sunlight in the Winter.
I'm excited to share my favorite things about my new home, travel tips, adventures, freelance tips, recipes, and whatever else I randomly decide to write about. Keep an eye out for more from my new and unusual life as an expat.
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** Insert peace sign emoji**
Cheers! - Cat