Rückkehrunruhe

It has been just over 2 months since I came back to Canada (2 months and 6 days to be exact, but who’s counting?). My life has mostly gone back to normal, I wake up most days, eat breakfast, go to work and come home. On my days off I run errands. However ‘normal’ my life has become, there are still many times during my daily routines that I am reminded of my time abroad.

I spoke to a woman at work today who asked me about my necklace. For those who are unaware, I wear the necklace that I bought in Scotland almost every day. I loved talking to her about my experience in Scotland, but it made me realize how quickly my time abroad is becoming a thing of the past.

This isn’t the first time this has crossed my mind either. I finally finished the chapstick that I bought while I was abroad and it was a weird thing to go pick up another one. It was literally something so simple and mindless, but it was one of the last things I had been using from Scotland and I was sad to see it go.

It’s easy to focus on how long it’s been since I went on my exchange and all the things that I miss. What’s not easy is seeing all the ways that my time in Scotland is still affecting my life. Without going into how it changed me as a person, I made a lot of friends while I was in Europe and I still talk to a fair amount of them. I message a few people daily, I’ve started talking to exchange students from Europe that are going to be starting at my school in the fall, and I’ve even started writing letters to one of my friends in Germany.

I often forget that when I’m messaging people on Facebook or Whatsapp how incredible it is that we are talking. I am very much aware of the time difference, not that anyone pays much attention to that – everyone just responds when they’re awake and it works out fine. But because Facebook is such a normal part of my life in Canada, I don’t always realize how special it is to be able to talk to people in different countries any time I want.

That’s one of the things I love about having an actual pen pal. We sit down and physically write each other letters. Yes they take a long time to be delivered, but it reminds me how amazing that connection is. I would never give up electronically messaging my friends – it makes life much easier, and it is such a convenient way to keep in touch. There’s just something about getting a letter in the mail knowing it came from somewhere far away that makes me realize that while I may not be abroad any more, it still impacts my life more than I often realize.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness (Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)

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What I’ve Learned About Myself From Travelling

Fair warning, this blog may get a little cheesy because it is more on the personal side. I did a fair amount of research before coming abroad, and it seemed everywhere people were telling me that I was going to find myself, or Pinterest articles telling me that studying abroad would change my life forever. I didn’t think that was true, or maybe it was true for some people, but I didn’t think I was the type to ‘find myself’. But it happened, and I didn’t even realize. I learned a lot about culture and history while I was travelling, but I also learned a lot about myself. I feel like deep down, I knew all these things already, I just was never given the opportunity to show my talents because a situation never came up or someone didn’t think I could so someone else did instead.

I am a different person when I travel than I am back home. I love the person I am when I travel, I feel like I am really ‘me’. As strange as it sounds, the scariest thing I will encounter on the entire study abroad experience is going home. However irrational it may sound to some, I worry that when I get back to Ottawa I will lose some of that. In any case, this is something I don’t have to worry about for another couple days. It will just be another challenge for me to overcome I suppose.

I like to plan, in fact I think most of the fun of travelling lies in the planning. I’ve never been a ‘go with the flow’ type person, but I sure became one when I was travelling. It was probably one of the least stressful two weeks of my life. Once I accepted that not everything was going to go exactly according to plan (cue me walking to the airport because there’s no public transport or mixing up my flight times) the trip became a lot more fun. I didn’t get upset if I didn’t get to see one of the attractions, I would go to another one. I didn’t get frustrated if the line was way too long, I found a way to entertain myself and avoid the stress of everything not going according to my plan.

I hate getting lost, I hated it before I came abroad and I still hate it. Much like my obsession with planning, I will often refuse to go somewhere unless I have a clear idea of where it is, or I am going with someone who does. Now going on this trip did not make me realize that being lost isn’t really a huge deal, it’s just an adventure. I still don’t enjoy it and I would take photos of maps and directions before leaving, but it didn’t bother me as much as it used it. I was able to laugh it off most of this time when I realized I was lost and then quickly find my way back to where I should be. So not a complete turnaround, but I think it was a step towards finding a balance of control and spontaneity.

I was able to pick up a language faster than I ever thought possible. I feel like I should point out, that I was nowhere close to being fluent in a language, but I was able to speak enough to get by. I feel like it’s become a running joke in my life that I have a strong French background, have taken French classes for 7 years and can still not speak the language very well. Basically all of my friends know it, and honestly it’s kind of a sour spot for me. I would love to be able to speak French, but I always thought that maybe languages weren’t for me. I guess once I was away from all the judgement and people knowing I couldn’t speak a language it became easier. I was able to pick up a few words in almost every city I was in, but when I was in Paris I barely spoke English outside my hostel. Granted all I needed to do was order food, ask for directions and make general small talk at museums and public transport, but I thought it was a huge accomplishment for me, and I am quite proud of myself.

This next one is a bit of a weird one. I’ve always been the type of person who loves to be alone, but also hates doing things alone. There have been way more occasions than I would like to admit that I have cancelled plans because I was the only one who was going to go. One of my biggest fears about going abroad is that I would have a hard time going out and doing things by myself. It wasn’t easy, but travelling solo doesn’t really give you much of a choice. Once I was outside and doing things I was excited about, it became really easy for me to want to go out, and by the end I was trying to find ways to go out without having other people come with me.

This was kind of a longer post, so thank you to anyone who read to the end! Like many of my posts, there are 100 more things I could add to this list, but I feel like these sum it up quite nicely. I really did learn a lot while I was travelling, and my goal is to take as much as I can of what I have learned and integrate it into my daily life back in Ottawa.

Things Not to Tell A Traveller

I knew going into this journey that a lot of people were going to be interested and want to talk with me about this. After I arrived I actually created an FAQ post so that I wasn’t answering the same questions over and over, and everyone would have access to them. However prepared I was for people wanting to talk and ask me questions, I was not ready to be bombarded with other people’s opinions and thoughts on how I should spend my trip. While I appreciate people wanting to talk and give me suggestions, please do not act like you are entitled to make decisions or comment on my decisions. I have created this handy little list of things not to tell me (or anyone else who may be traveling)!

Oh that place/thing is boring, you should really go see this

Again, I appreciate the suggestion, and maybe I will go see what you suggested, but why do you think you can tell me not to go see something I am interested in? If I think something is boring, I am most certainly not going to see it. Everything on my list is on the list for a reason, so please don’t tell me that something I want to see is boring or not worth it.

Oh enjoy it!

This is a really nit-picky thing, but when you hear it from a ton of people, multiple times a day, it gets on your nerves. I know you are just trying to express to me how much fun you want me to have, or something but this is kind of a redundant phrase. I know this is a phrase that people just say when they aren’t sure what else to say, but it makes it really awkward for me. What am I supposed to say to that? I mean obviously I am going to enjoy it or at least try to. Why on earth would I travel through Europe, or anywhere for that matter, and not try to enjoy myself? Please, just find something else to say.

I’m so upset you couldn’t do *blank*

You know what, I probably am as well. I didn’t get to see everything in every place I went to. There simply wasn’t enough time to go everywhere and see anything, so I had to pick and choose and fit in as much as was possible. So please don’t tell me how upset you are. And if you are telling me how sorry you are I couldn’t do something that was never on my list and was instead part of your agenda, don’t apologize. Just read number 1 because I really don’t want to hear it.

So these are fairly blunt, but sometimes these things need to be said. I know everybody means well, but at a certain point it does tend to get on your nerves, especially because travelling is not always the most relaxing experience! I am more than open to talking about my experience and sharing my stories and listening to other people’s stories, but please avoid the phrases above. There are so many more things I could put in this post, so maybe there will be a follow up post!

Is there anything that bothers you when you travel?

Update!

Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I’ve just been traveling and its really hard to find time to sit and write a post. I have a bunch of posts planned out on my phone (mostly about my trip, my advice on traveling Europe and things I’ve learned along the way), so when I get back to Glasgow and finish exams they will be going up!
I can’t wait for you guys to read them, but until then check out my YouTube channel where I have vlogs about my trips so far!

6 Things I loved in Prague

I visited Prague this weekend with a friend from Canada, and I loved the city. We were there for 2 days and we crammed so much into the short amount of time that we had, and I thought I would share my thoughts and let you know 6 of my favourite things in Prague!

Saint Vitus Cathedral South Tower (In Prague Castle)

This one is pretty specific. But you can go up the South Tower and get an amazing 360 degree view of the city. Honestly, the rest of the castle was not that amazing. We went into the main cathedral area, which is mostly just a giant storage room for old art with cool stain glass windows. The basilica was also a little bit of a let down. We waited for half an hour, and we aren’t even sure what we waited for because there were only a few things to see and they had no descriptions.

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But the tower is worth it. It’s a separate ticket (150 crowns) you can buy right in the lobby. Be prepared, there are 287 stairs to climb. It’s a lot and it’s a spiral so you get dizzy real fast. But when you get to the top and look out over the city, you forget all of that.

Charles Bridge

View of the bridge from the South Tower

View of the bridge from the South Tower

This is a must see when you come to Prague. I think it’s on every list of Prague attractions I’ve ever seen. There are statues all along the bridge, and while some of them are creepy, they are really well done. By itself, the bridge is basically just a large pedestrian bridge, but the atmosphere is great. It was really crowded when we went, but there are vendors selling homemade trinkets, artists who have paintings of the city and even caricature artists who will draw you and your friends. It’s a really lively part of the city and one time while we were there, there was live music!

Vaclauske Namesti (One of the main roads in the city)

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Honestly, I don’t have a clue what this means, how to pronounce it or even all the accents that go on it. But this is a main road that leads from a few museums up at the top (right by the train station) and leads to the old town square. There are a few tourist places, but a lot of shops for the locals. This is definitely an area where locals and tourists are about equal in number. This road also had some Easter Market stalls along it, but the main market is in the old town square.

Astronomical Clock

Our view of the city!

Our view of the city!

This was the highlight of the Old Town Square for me. If you get a chance, read up on the history behind it. We went up the clock before we did the South Tower, and while it’s not as high, this was a really unique view. From this tower, we could see exactly where we started our day and where we were headed to on the other side. It looked like such a huge distance. We could also look down on the square and the Easter market and see everything going on.

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Meet Burger

This is where we ate lunch the first day, and I was really impressed with the quality and the location of this place. The service wasn’t fantastic, but this is located right between the old town square and the main road. The amount of food we got was really good considering it was pretty cheap (I got a hamburger, a bread basket and a brownie for about 550 crowns). There was a ton of food, I’m not sure how we finished it.

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Trdelniks

Do not ask me how to pronounce this. But this was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It’s a classic street food in Czech, there were more stalls selling this than there are Tim Horton’s in a neighbourhood. It’s basically snakes of dough that get wrapped around a heated rod and covered in cinnamon and sugar. Similar to a Beavertail in Canada! We ended up finding a booth that covered the inside with Nutella. Magical.

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There were so many things we did in Prague, and it was just so gorgeous, the pictures don’t do it justice. Prague is such a fabulous city and I would recommend it to anyone.

Arthur’s Seat

This is another post about Edinburgh guys. I hope you aren’t sick of Edinburgh, because I’m not and I plan to go back there on at least one more occasion.

So I went on an official tour of Edinburgh today. I went with Student Tours Scotland, and if any of you are in Scotland and can get to Glasgow where his tours leave from, go on these tours. They run on weekends, and go all through Scotland. The tour guide Gary, is absolutely amazing and his first priority is to make sure everyone has the best time possible. He also has really cool stories and recommendations for things to do no matter what stuff you’re into. Also he is ginger.

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

Some guy on a horse and our tour guide Gary

So I was really excited for this tour, because I’d already been to Edinburgh, but Gary gives great tours and brings you to places you wouldn’t necessarily find if you were a tourist. Plus Arthur’s Seat. I will talk waaaaay more about this later.

Gorgeous park in the city

Gorgeous park in the city

But this morning actually started out like shite. We were meeting on the bus for 8:45, so not very early but I set my alarm for 6:45 so I could be up and ready to go with plenty of time. I got up at 8:30. I don’t know what happened, but I was not pleased. I managed to get out the door in 6 minutes and still be on time.

We did a walk around Edinburgh in the morning which was fascinating before we broke for lunch. After lunch it was time for Arthur’s Seat.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan's dream.

Plus I got to go here. Every Harry Potter fan’s dream.

Arthur’s Seat is on top of a volcano (dormant, obviously) and is generally associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian legend is actually really special to me, and is a big part of my life. I grew up loving it, and when I moved to university I met people who loved it (and BBC’s Merlin) just as much as I did. It brought us all really close together and is probably one of the main reasons we are all friends today. In second year, that group of people all moved into a house together and it’s actually been named Camelot. So I was extremely excited when I got to climb up to the point where many people believe this round table was actually held.

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur's Seat

This is about halfway down, that little point at the top is Arthur’s Seat

The hike up was intense. It had been raining ten minutes earlier (thank God it didn’t rain while we were there) so it was so muddy. The path we took up was relatively steep and was more long patches of mud and rock stairs than a proper path. It was not easy and I actually don’t think I could have done it without walking the Escarpment stairs with my dad over Christmas. Huge shoutout to my dad who invited (read: guilt tripped) me into walking the stairs with him. The first few times I did the stairs I seriously thought I was going to throw up or pass out. Maybe both. But it definitely prepared me for this climb.

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Gorgeous view about 3/4 of the way there

Unfortunately there are no actual ruins there (how amazing would that be), but it’s an incredible view of Edinburgh and the lochs surrounding it. Pictures don’t even begin to show how stunning and moving it actually was. I’m not one to be ‘moved’ by going to places and seeing things – usually I think it’s quite a weird thing for people to say, but I was slightly emotional being there. Totally worth the torture to get up there.

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn't fall over when taking this picture

The very top! I had to wedge my feet between rocks so I wouldn’t fall over when taking this picture

It was crazy windy. Taking pictures was really hard because I could barely stand still or hold my phone. I managed to get some good pictures, but it involved a lot of securing myself to the ground and someone quickly grabbing a shot of me. And to top off me being blown around this giant volcano, my hair was a giant mess. I could barely see, and walking on a very rocky surface was a total challenge.

Even with the wind, we did catch fantastic weather and stayed away from the rain most of the time we were outside. It was a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh again.

Edinburgh Trip

A friend of mine asked me to write about a trip I recently took to St Andrews, but honestly I went to Edinburgh today and it was much more exciting. St. Andrews was incredibly lovely, but you can get almost all you need to know from the photos!

I was really excited for my trip today. I was getting on a bus in the morning and heading to Edinburgh to visit the castle there. I was even more excited because I was getting to meet a girl I have been talking to online for a while who was visiting the UK. She and her friends are doing a study abroad program in France and are spending some time up here and she asked if I would like to see Edinburgh Castle with them. I was beyond thrilled!

The day started off pretty well, I got up and was ready to go long before I had to leave. I wanted to stop at the bank before I got to Edinburgh, so I left about half an hour before I had to be at the bus stop. This was waaay to much time. The bank machine is on campus (across the road) and then the bus stop is across the road from campus. It took me about ten minutes from the time I left my flat to the time I got to the bus stop.

I wandered around for a while before figuring out what stance (basically which bus stop) I needed to be at. I saw a line forming so I figured I would wait with everyone else, my bus was supposed to be there in 15 minutes so it seemed reasonable.

The bus driver was really nice, but it turns out I was on the bus scheduled right before mine. They were going to the same place and the bus was far from full so the driver said I could just stay on this one.

The ride there was really relaxing until one of the air hoses blew. It was not a pleasant noise to hear early in the morning. We sat there for about 15 minutes before another bus came and got us.

Finding my way to the castle from the bus station wasn’t terribly hard, but I had google maps open the entire time. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city to walk in. Every building just looks like it belongs in a fairytale.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

Climbing up this hill, was the easy.

The castle itself is amazing. It’s built on a dormant volcano, so the earth science geek in me was freaking out a little. Unfortunately, very little of the original castle remains, but our guide said that civilizations can be placed there up to 3000 years ago. Holy cow.

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The only original part of the castle grounds is the chapel, which you can still get married in today. It was gorgeous but so small. Maybe 5-10 people if you all squeezed in. Talk about a small wedding!

The majority of the interiors have been turned into different exhibits and museums, which was good and bad. While I would have liked to see the exact places where famous historical figures lived and visited, I understand why that would be almost impossible. We did however get to visit the royal apartments where Mary Queen of Scots stayed where she visited the castle and gave birth to her only son. Anyone who has been following me on social media knows that I am obsessed with the Tudor period of history, so I was incredibly excited about this.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

Mary Queen of Scots, crowned when she was only 6 days old.

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

A bust of a much older Mary Queen of Scots

We walked around the grounds for a while, trying to see everything we could. It was incredibly windy, and being in open courtyards on the top of the mountain was brutal. But we did get to see some amazing buildings, the war memorial and even this dog cemetery.

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After we finished at the castle (we stayed for about 3 and a half hours) we headed down to a Scottish pub for some food! It was such a cute little place, and it had an amazing lunch special. The other girls wanted haggis because they had never had it, and I got bangers and mash. It was so good. Slightly spicy, but I have a low tolerance and the Scots seem to like their spice!

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

The classiest pub food I have ever seen.

We stayed at the pub for longer than we expected to, so I had to head to the bus station right after, but the girls were incredibly nice and walked back with me. We took our time and looked at the cool shops along the way. Edinburgh at dusk is stunning.

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Edinburgh, but I do live in Glasgow and the cities have a history of rivalry. I was quite pleased with my visit, but I can understand why not all people are so keen on it. It is a smaller city, and even people in Edinburgh told us that after a few days of being in the city it gets rather dull. I am excited to go back at the beginning of March and perhaps get to climb up and see Arthur’s Seat!