Tag Archives: europe

My Top 5 Favorite Travel Destinations

21 May

So at this point in my life, I have been lucky enough to have traveled to over 15 different countries around the world (more if you include Caribbean Islands)! And people always ask me, “What’s your favorite place? & “What do you recommend?” or even the most flattering of all–“Will you plan a travel itinerary for me/book my flight?” Side note: YES! Please ask me these things! I really do enjoy helping people plan the perfect trip!

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(Easy to navigate with so much to see, Vienna was a great solo travel destination!)

But sometimes the most wonderfully overwhelming aspect of planning a trip is deciding exactly where to go! When making this decision, I suggest you break it down to 3 questions:

1. Who are you going with? (family, friends, children, solo?)

2. How long are you going for? (A couple of days, a week or several weeks?)

3. What kind of trip do you want to have? (a cultural city excursion with art, museums, monuments or a beachy/relaxing holiday in the nature?)

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(Though a bit pricier, Copenhagen was a beautifully refreshing city )

While most international cities can be quite accommodating, it is important to narrow it down as much as possible. **And remember: a well-planned itinerary booked a few months prior will save you much more $$$ than vague plans thrown together at the last minute**

If you still need some inspiration on where to take your next vacation, here is a list of my Top 5 Favorite Travel Destinations…

#5. Florence, Italy & The Tuscan Region

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Why You Should Go- Italy in general is a great country for rookie travelers. There is enough English spoken & hospitality for you to get around, there are plenty of cultural activities & the food alone is enough to satisfy any type of traveler

Times Traveled- 3 (two times with friends, once with my mom)

Best For- museums, culture, shopping for authentic leather goods, wine, FOOD!

Travel With– family, children, friends, solo (but if solo female, be weary of sometimes aggressive catcalling Italian men)

Must See- Climb to the top of the Duomo! It is a daunting 463 steps, however, a beautifully epic hand-painted mural on the inside of the dome & a breath-taking view of the city await you at the top! If you are a wine-lover, then schedule a wine tour in the Tuscan countryside! The sights alone are well worth it.

Must Eat- Pizza, gelato & all your other dream Italian food can be found all over the city! I especially recommend the famous Gusta Pizza.

Where To Stay- In the city center! Since there is no metro in Florence, things are quite walkable since the city is not that big. If traveling solo or with a very small group, I recommend Dany House, a small b&b run by the fabulous Jonathan!

Things To Know- 1. There IS a small airport in Florence, however, flights may be more expensive to fly into the city. A cheaper option is to utilize the Pisa airport, which accommodates more airlines. Fly into Pisa, take a photo with the Leaning Tower, then hop on the train for a cheap (10euro, I believe) ride through the countryside into Florence. You will be dropped off at the main station.

2. To purchase Duomo tickets, you must visit a nearby visitor center. Make sure to do so before standing in the massive line awaiting to climb to the top of the church!

3. Always check what days museums/attractions are open! Italy can be very traditional in having shops closed early in the evening/on Sundays!

#4. Hong Kong

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Why You Should Go- Hong Kong is the perfect city of East meets West. While extremely modern, it is quite easy to also find authentic Asian culture in the city. English is one of the official languages, so signs are often bilingual. Plus the city is located along the beautiful Victoria Harbor, which presents a nice breeze in the sometimes humid city.

Times Traveled- Once with my grandfather

Best For– culture, theme parks, shopping, food

Travel With- friends, older family members (parents/older siblings), children (there are several theme parks, including Disney HK), solo

Must See- Lantau Island/Ngong Ping Village! This is located at the end of the metro line, then a 30 minute monorail ride over the mountains! But it was the absolute highlight of the trip! Here you can visit the remote Ngong Ping Village, complete with a Starbucks & Subway (sandwich shop), but no atms & wild cows/dogs/cats wandering around! Climb to the top of the stairs to see the Big Buddha aka: the largest outdoor seated Budda in the world!

Must Eat- Hong Kong speaks the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, therefore, most authentic cuisine is Cantonese. The most notable of Cantonese food being Dim Sum! Travel over to HK Island to sample some extremely authentic dumplings in a very “no-frills” dining experience.

Where To Stay- Though it is definitely not the cheapest option, you HAVE to stay nearby or overlooking Victoria Harbor! The buildings light up interesting colors/patterns at night & reflect off the water. Plus beautifully strange ships with bright red sails can be seen all night.

Things To Know- 1. Like most Asian cities, HK’s public transport system is incredible. Buy a rechargeable Octopus Card, which can also be used on all transport mediums (including the ferry!). Grab a metro map from your hotel or a shop & feel free to navigate the city yourself as taxis can be quite expensive & the city is too big to walk.

2. There is an obvious difference between Mainland HK & HK Island. While the Mainland is incredibly modern, the island is insanely authentic. Take the ferry over to the island to explore the large open food shops, but do not be surprised if you experience so very interesting sights or smells!

3. Like most large Asian cities, the air quality in HK is not the best. Buy yourself a mask if you have any respiratory problems as smog levels can be quite high.

#3. Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Why You Should Go- Feel like you are absolutely visiting a post card! Dubrovnik is rather less known for Americans, but has long been a vacation destination for Europeans & it’s clear to see why! The beautiful Old Town is actually a fortress (complete with a draw bridge you must walk over to enter the city!) located on beautiful azure waters & is a much more affordable seaside getaway than other Southern European cities.

Times Traveled- Once with my mom

Best For- relaxation, water sports/swimming, nightlife, food

Travel With- friends, family, teenagers, solo–anyone really! (Since the Old Town is a series of winding streets with cute shops that are easy to navigate, I would have no qualms allowing a novice traveler to wander them solo)

Must See- Hike around the Old Town walls! These were used to defend the fortress & you can still see several look-out stations & cannons! However, be weary that climbing these stairs is QUITE the workout! Avoid going during the hottest part of the day to avoid sun burn, but also keep in mind that there are a few outdoor smoothie pubs built into the wall along the trek!

Must Eat- You will never get fresher seafood than that in Old Town Dubrovnik! Dishes consisting of prawn & cuttlefish are common, while I recommend sampling some Calamari or, if you’re more adventurous, Black Squid Ink Pasta! Wines are also proudly bottled all over Croatia; ask your server about local specialties to pair nicely with your seafood.

Where To Stay- While staying in the fortress of Old Town is convenient, you must decide which is more important for you on this trip: to sleep or to party. If you want to party, stay in Old Town. I was blown away by how LATE things stay open! We went in October (off-season) yet souvenir shops, restaurants, gelato stores & bars were still open past midnight! If you want to sleep, stay outside of the fortress of Old Town as it is much quieter. We stayed at the fabulous Edi’s Sea View Rooms, which is a house run by a fabulous man named Edi. His rooms not only have breath-taking ocean views & are insanely affordable, but Edi knows EVERYTHING about Dubrovnik! …& everyone in Dubrovnik knows Edi! His recommendations of the city were always spot on & I will always stay in his house whenever I visit this city!

Things To Know- 1. Dubrovnik is a rather small city, therefore during high season (summer) it gets insanely crowded. Plus this is also when temperatures are upwards of 80 degrees daily. I recommend visiting in September or October, like we did. It will be much more affordable, less crowded, but the weather is still nice enough to swim.

2. Dubrovnik is in a unique location where it is nearby to other fabulous places such as Montenegro & Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. If you have the time, I recommend taking a guided tour to a nearby country for a different culture!

#2. Prague, Czech Republic

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Why You Should Go- Ah, my second home! Prague is EXTREMELY underrated, but is thankfully, a very up-and-coming tourist destination for Americans! I mean, it has everything you could ever want: enchanting architecture, exciting nightlife, ample history & very uniquely delicious food! A lot of people I know travel to Prague with virtually no expectations & are absolutely blown away by how awesome the city is! So put it on your bucket list right now.

Times Traveled- Lived here for 1 year, was visited by several friends & then returned for a solo trip & also another time with my mom

Best For- nightlife, culture (the city was freed from Communism less than 30 years ago), shopping (it’s insanely cheap city), food, BEER!!!

Travel With- Anyone legal drinking age (18 technically but they don’t really care) who likes beautiful buildings

Must See- Old Town Square needs to be your first stop. Here you have Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (3rd photo), the oldest Astronomical clock in the world (!), the clock tower which you can climb up, & usually some cool festival/vendors selling treats depending on the season. Plus this is not too far of a walk from Charles Bridge & Prague Castle!

Must Eat- Well, first off, get ready to drink beer 24/7. Czechs consume more beer than ANYWHERE else in the world! You can find several classic Czech brands such as Pilsner Urquell, Kozel & Staropramen. I recommend the addicting Kozel Cerny, a dark beer that literally got me through my time living there. Pubs & beer halls are around every corner.

As for food, Czech dishes are incredibly hearty. Gulas, Schnitzel & Kolbassa are classic meat served with either potato or bread dumplings, however, if you’re more adventurous then my favorite, Svichkova (Google it now!) is worth a taste! Dessert wise, try the delicious trdelnik (aka: that awesome fried cinnamon thing in everyone’s Prague insta photos)

Where To Stay- Near Old Town there are ample hostels that are very affordable for travelers of all ages. I recommend the beautiful Dahlia Inn which has affordable rooms for families. As for where NOT to say, avoid Zizkov or Karlin as these are the “rough” parts of the city. Personally, I don’t find them to be that dangerous, however, it is best to stay near more touristic areas of the city if you’re a first time traveler.

Things To Know- 1. Prague is very much a walking city due to it not being very big. However, there are fantastic public transport options! The metro has only 3 lines (you will not be able to pronounce any of the stops/they will not be in English so pay attention!) that are easy to navigate. The tram goes all over the city & runs nearly 24/7. And for more remote areas, you can take a bus. If you are using public transport, be sure to purchase a ticket beforehand in either a machine in the station, or a tobacco shop nearby. Once you have the ticket be sure to STAMP it in yellow machines at the entrance of the metro. These tickets are monitored by time. Some are 30 mins, 60 mins, 90 mins, 1 day, etc. Make sure you hold onto this ticket as there are typically ALWAYS ticket checkers. If caught without a ticket you risk paying a large fine.

2. Czechs do not speak much English & are not always the friendliest about speaking English. Keep this in mind. Learn some basic phrases like dobry den (good day) & dekuji (thank you). Do not expect anyone to speak English to you in grocery stores or normal shops that are not directed to tourists.

#1. Paris, France ! (obv)

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Why You Should Go- Are you KIDDING me!?Paris is one of the most iconic cities in the entire world & the most magical place I have ever been. There is so much culture, history, delicious food, pastries & wine & you will be absolutely blown away by the landmarks around every corner!

Times Traveled- Once in 2006, studied there for 5 months in 2012, once in 2013, once in 2014 & once in 2015! I cannot stop going back!

Best For- history, culture, museums, art, food & wine, nightlife, shopping

Travel With- ANYONE! Paris literally has activities for all ages! However, solo female travelers should be weary of catcallers in the northern parts of the city

Must See-Eiffel should be your absolute first stop. It will be the most beautiful thing you ever see in your life. Make sure you go see her at night as well! (The tower ‘sparkles’ every hour on the hour after sunset). As far as museums, I recommend Le Musee D’Orsay over Le Louvre (more do-able in a reasonable amount of time), & NEVER count out the fantastic parks of the city to have a relaxing picnic with some wine!

Must Eat- French food, even when dirt cheap, will always be well-cooked. Try classic dishes like confit canard, boeuf bourguignon, les escargots whether you’re at a five star restaurant or at a hole in the wall cafe. I recommend going to the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame for a fixe prix 3-course-meal at a set price!

Drink as much wine as possible & eat all the pastries! Crepes are classic staples, however, never discount a delicious baguette & some cheese. No matter what food you eat in Paris, it will most likely be delicious.

Where To Stay- If you look at a map of the city, you will see it is divided into arrondissments or numbered neighborhoods. I would suggest staying more towards the center, so the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7th arrondissments. Arrondissments 12-16 seem to be alright as well, however, I personally avoid anything north of the 2nd arrondissment. These neighborhoods can be a bit more dangerous, especially for female travelers.

A key to finding a hotel in Paris is READING REVIEWS. Unfortunately “you get what you pay for” seems to be true in this city, however, there may be some hidden gems!

Things To Know- 1. You must take the metro to get around since this is not really a walkable city. The good news is that the Paris metro has 14 lines & can get you basically anywhere in the city! There are ticket machines in English at all stations & workers in booths who mostly speak English to help purchase your tickets. Like in Prague, save your ticket/pass as there are sometimes ticket checkers waiting for you at station exits.

2. Beware the scammers! Since Paris receives such a high volume of tourists year round there are people literally lurking everywhere to scam you out of money. BEWARE anyone approaching you! I hate to sound negative, but in most places in Europe, if someone is approaching you, they either want to scam you or are going to pickpocket you. ALWAYS be weary! Be weary of someone asking you to sign a petition, be weary of someone trying to tie something around your wrist, be weary of everyone!

3. Your experience will be 100x different if you learn some French. Unlike the Czechs, most Parisians speak English well, however, reluctantly at times. If you say a simple bonjour (good day) upon entering a store/restaurant, & then merci, au revoir (thank you, goodbye) upon leaving, the service you receive will be much better.

4. Check the local city calendar before you arrive! Certain days museums are free, festivals take place, local markets are open! This will save you so much more $$$ if you plan ahead before your trip!

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(The Netherlands is DEFINITELY an honorable mention! Especially Amsterdam, a place where your mind will be blown)

So there you have it! A few tips for your next vacation!

As always, please let me know if you ever have any travel questions! I think the best part about venturing somewhere new is trying out all the recommendations of past travelers, while also exploring new places on your own…& then recommending them to the next traveler! Then we have a never-ending cycle of adventure seekers 🙂

As for me, I will officially be traveling with my family to Nice, France & Lisbon, Portugal this upcoming fall, two places I have never been. So please, give me some tips!

Venture on!

JG ❤

 

 

Never Stop Exploring

2 Apr

Welcome back, dear readers!

So as you know I started this blog before my big move to Prague. It was 2013 & I was nearing my university graduation & had no idea what I wanted to do.

So in the single most important act I have ever done–I bought a one-way ticket & moved to a faraway land all alone for a year of ups & downs.

Fast-forward 3 years later to today, where I can honestly say that I am in such a happy place. While I am now living a lot closer to home, I still have made a point to surround myself with as much travel opportunities as possible.

Whether with family, friends, or solo, I made a pact to myself when I moved back to the U.S.: never stop exploring no matter what. 

No matter what others say & no matter what the news says–just keep going.

Even if you have to save up entire paychecks for plane tickets, take painfully long yet affordable budget buses cross country, or sleep on someone’s lumpy couch for a couple of nights.

It will absolutely always be worth it.

And it always has been.

But sadly while the past few years have been comprised of some of my best vacations abroad, they have also consisted of some of the most tragic world events.

Every day tells of another bombing or shooting or death toll; innocent lives are drastically being wiped out by evil.

It’s unexplainable, it’s incomprehensible…it’s terrifying.

So why would I still want to travel?

Why would I put myself at risk to be another statistic

Well, that’s simple: because travel has always given me so much.

It has given me global perspectives: shattering ethnocentric ideas, expanding cultural knowledge & fully allowing me to experience being “the other”.

(Quite noticeably the only Westerners in Hong Kong’s remote Ngong Ping village, Grampy & I just went with the flow) 

It has given me self confidence: learning to navigate new cities, new languages & unfamiliar customs all on my own.

(Living in a city with minimal English-speaking, I learned the Czech language basics fast. Especially when it came to pivo!)

It has given me my dream job, uniting students & families from all over the world to form life-lasting bonds.

(Wonderful exchange students my company brought to the U.S. & are currently living with volunteer host families)

And of COURSE it has given me all my wonderful friendships with so many extraordinary human beings.

(My Japanese “sisters” in Tokyo)

(My host mother & host brother, Simon, in Paris)

(My TEFL “family” in Prague)

(My friend Meaghan & I spending Xmas 2013 with the family of my French friend, Apolline!)

When I say travel is my passion–I mean it.

And when you are fully invested in a passion, you will let nothing else stand in its way.

And I won’t.

Think about it: some people have “risky” passions like extreme sports. Yes, there is possible danger, however, with proper education & precaution, the dangers minimize drastically.

The same way you wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a race car without proper training, I would never travel to a foreign city without doing proper research.

Of course, any true traveler knows preparation is key. Making sure maps, currency conversions, accommodations & plans are finalized before moving forward. & A heightened sense of common sense can go a long way.

“Traveling smart” has saved me more than a few times abroad. Whether it be using my intuition about bad situations or being prepared should plans go wrong–this is my first rule of going anywhere.

(Though considered a “Second World Country”, Thailand had some of the nicest locals I’ve ever met)

As prepared as I am, every time I announce a new trip abroad, I am still always met by a response of worry & concern.

While sometimes it can seem understandable, I am still so sick of justifying my travels to people who know nothing about the destinations I’m going to.

To people who allow a heightened sense of media-induced paranoia cloud their logic. Reading exaggerated headlines & watching sensationalized videos that teach them that every thing outside their front door is a war zone.

& I’m sorry, but I refuse to buy into this mindset.

Don’t you understand? That is what terrorists want. They want us afraid & divided. They want us hateful & unable to continue our daily routines. They want us to scapegoat & point fingers.

Well, I don’t know about you, dear readers, but there’s no way I will let them succeed.

I will never stop exploring, asking questions & looking for answers.

I refuse to close my mind. I will not stigmatize 1.6 billion people for the horrendous actions of few. I will not panic about going to a city near Brussels when my own city has already had several shootings in 2016. I will not listen to politicians who use racism to further a disgusting agenda of hate. & I will never use blanket statements like “they” or “them” when discussing large groups of people.

(MEPI friends from various countries in the Middle East/North Africa!)

Because every human is different, & I refuse to believe that everyone is inherently bad…& travel keeps re-enforcing this for me. 

I have met with Hurricane Katrina survivors in New Orleans who have an indescribable sense of faith in the wake of so much tragedy.

(Service trip with my High School to New Orleans in 2008)

I have had strangers in Budapest, Prague & Vienna (who spoke zero English) literally take me by the hand to steer me in the right direction when I was lost & afraid & alone.

 

(I only found my way around Austria & Hungary thanks to the kindness of strangers!)

I have had wonderful experiences in Tokyo, Istanbul & Paris that would not have been half as special if it was not for the overwhelming hospitality of local friends.

(Mike is from Chicago but he was the best tour guide in Istanbul! Thanks, brother!)

& I have met extraordinary human beings in every single city I’ve been who have shared delicious meals, informative pub debates, & deep insight into their beautiful cultures with me, an outsider.

(Like my Japanese sisters, I am also very close with the group of Brazilian students we befriended who were studying at my university in 2014)

So next week I will venture back to Europe alone. I will FINALLY be reunited with the cooler older sister I never had, Gillian, in her new home, The Hague. Then travel by myself to Amsterdam & Copenhagen.

And I have not an ounce of fear.

Because I will do what I always do. I will pack all my travel supplies: my maps, my converters & my clothing layers. I will print out all my itineraries, my plane reservations, & my hostel addresses.

& I will be aware of my surroundings.

Not a panicked hyper-awareness, but not a foolish lack of awareness–just simply aware.

Like I always am when I’m in a new city.

And I will be fine.

I mean, I get to explore two brand new cities! I will see the wold-famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens & the beautiful seaside Nyhavn canal & get to have some much needed pub talk with one of my best friends!

(See you soon, Gillian!)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over these past few years, dear readers, it is that you cannot allow anything to dictate your happiness. 

No job, no lover, & absolutely no fear.

You must continue to venture on, to explore the unknown even when it can be terrifying. Because you never know what wonderful experiences or people may be waiting just around the corner.

Happy travels!

JG 🙂

 

 

 

Our Constant Pursuit of Constant Happiness

22 Feb

I read a quote a little while ago that absolutely shook me to the core: “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

Think about that for a second. It’s terrifying.

It made me so upset because I realized that a lot of my immediate happiness depends on things I can, & typically do, lose. People leave, experiences end, & moments fleet. And then I am left alone again, typically with a dull pang of sadness.

I guess the only real way of explaining it is considering Christmas Day. You plan, decorate, invite, bake, & get so excited. And then the day finally arrives & seems to go by so fast. Then suddenly, it’s December 26th & you have nothing left to look forward to anymore. The magic has disappeared.

This is how my life has been feeling lately. A roller coaster that builds & builds planning the next party, date, or hang out, only for the steep descent down to rattle me back to normalcy.

In all honesty, I feel like a has-been. Like I used to be so cool. When I lived abroad I had all these wonderful experiences, met so many people, did so many exciting things…& now my life has no true meaning. I wake up, commute, work, commute, sleep.

I know, you probably do the same thing too, right? Well, doesn’t it suck.

How are we expected to live in a state of constant happiness when our lives are so completely bland. Maybe we’re all a little depressed deep down, but we just don’t call it that, instead we brush it off as the average & accept it.

But do me a favor & ask yourself right now: Am I happy?

Personally if you have to think about it chances are you’re not. 

But shouldn’t you DESERVE to be?

Happiness is a strange thing. We are all expected to be it, but in the long run, we don’t really value it. We choose money over happiness, we choose stability over happiness, & we put other’s happiness before our own.

Happiness comes in waves for me. It’s a rush of euphoric emotion that is completely overwhelming, but then the squall dies down & all is still again. And I keep trying to get the rush back. I keep trying to cut corners & mimic previous actions, hoping to get the same effect. I just want to ride that wave forever. But that just doesn’t seem to happen.

Look at this pie chart that represents this idea. For a society that strives for perfection, we sure as hell settle with ‘average’, ‘normal’ & in this case ‘pretty happy’ real fast. It’s a strange concept. Is it truth, or just modesty? Did 50% of the people surveyed mentally negotiated to themselves before responding? Negating out things like crippling debt with young grandkids before shrugging & saying “I guess pretty happy”.

Is that really acceptable?

Maybe it’s just American.

It wasn’t until I visited Europe that I realized the belief of constant happiness was a very American concept. We are the unwavering optimists of the world. We do promote that good old ‘American Dream’ after all! We are told at a young age to try our best & we will be victorious, that we can be anything we want if only we push ourselves hard enough.

Well, what is ‘enough’?

Where does the line between our capabilities & incapability begin? And is it ever okay to accept that? Can we just be content with progress or growth instead of always pushing the limits to be ‘the best’?

Let me tell you, spending time in some fairly pessimistic countries is rough for a born & bred American optimist. People don’t automatically say ‘good’ when you ask them how they are & a plastic smile is certainly not the best remedy for a broken heart.

And it’s pretty off-putting. So we label the French as “rude” or Czechs as “unhappy”, but America, how many of us, the great nation pumped with smiles, high fives & gold stars just for participation right out of the womb are really not as chipper as we seem?

Apparently a whole lot. I mean why else would there be a multi-billion dollar anti-depressant industry? Where a simple pill, the quick flick of a pharmaceutical switch, can have those chemicals balanced again in no time! And before you know it you’ll be dancing & smiling like all those actors in the commercial & so hyped up in a chemical fog that you will never feel down again! (Note: this is only if it WORKS. Some people experience all those pesky side effects including nightmares & increased suicidal thoughts, but you don’t really hear the narrator mention those over all that cheerful music!)

^This is telling you to add more anti-depressants to your anti-depressants in order to cancel out side effects…makes sense.

So while most Americans seek solace in medicating their unhappiness & most Europeans prefer to just wear it on their sleeves sometimes I wonder who is truly happier?

A.) Those who set high expectations & are devastated when they’re not met

B.) Or those with lower expectations who are pleasantly surprised when things go extremely well

Guess it goes back to the age old glass half full/half empty debate.

However, who is even allowed to be unhappy these days? Wide spread anti-depressant access wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t some sort of stigma associated with unhappiness in this country. Personally, I believe there totally is. Self-help book readers receive sympathy, therapy attendees receive judgement & no one truly wants to hear how you actually are today.

Let’s face it: Unhappiness/Depression/Long periods of sadness = weak. 

You are admired more for putting on a brave face & living an absolute lie no matter how much you may hurt deep down. You’re strong, actually. And this polite game of sweeping one’s dark emotions under a socially accepted rug is all fine & well until it becomes deadly. 

This is 17-year-old Draven Rodriguez.

He gained fame for his laser cat yearbook photo, something that he insisted be published to mirror his unique sense of humor.

Draven Rodriguez killed himself this past Thursday.

The details are still unclear, but it was definitely suicide. However, family & friends do not paint him as those gloomy ladies moping around in anti-depressant commercials. He was “vibrant” & “made friends everywhere he went”. He was a member of anti-bullying campaigns & had “an incredible mind”.

He was also, like most suicide victims, quietly suffering. And now he is just another statistic. Another story that will never be told because there was no one to listen or possibly no one he thought would listen. 

Although this is an older graph, it does show an interesting trend. In 2007, the most populous demographic killing themselves was arguably the most privileged in U.S.A.: a white male, ages 45-59/30-44. Each instance is different, but what could have been the cause of this? Was it the pressure from their jobs? The stress of being a father? Or was it because these are people who are least allowed to be ‘depressed’ in our society. I mean afterall, I don’t see too many anti-depressant commercials depicting an attractive 30something buisnessman who needs to be wound up again.

Maybe it’s because this is when a man reaches his prime, & is expected to be his strongest. He is typically settled in his career, & a real family man or provider of a household. But it is a demographic that is also anticipated to feel the most pressure & unhappiness.

Do you know who else fit this demographic?

And just like Draven Rodriguez he would also be described by his sense of humor, uniqueness & overall big personality.

But Robin was sadly so much more than what we all saw. He battled a dark side that society did not allow him to express. So he hid it with a smile & humor until it tragically consumed him. And this seems to be happening all too often. 

We need to realize that happiness is just not an everyday thing.

It comes in moments & experiences. In little exchanges or encounters. In warm breezes, or yummy meals, or laughs with friends. And then, just as soon as happiness comes–it can leave.

As is sadness. It is real & painful. It causes tears & anger & emotions that cannot constantly be pushed to the side. Humans are designed to experience a wide spectrum of feelings, it is our nature. It is healthy.

However, we need to create a society where we can express all of these emotions in a safe environment. Instead of prescribing & diagnosing, we need to learn to speak & listen. Instead of shaming others we need to SUPPORT others. Then watch how much the suicide, mass shooting & bullying statistics go down.

So yes, right now in my life I am not jumping up & down 24/7 with happiness, but I am not crying myself to sleep every night with unhappiness either. I realize that happiness can only truly exist if unhappiness does as well. There must be a balance. Unhappiness must exist in order to appreciate fleeting moments of happiness. And happiness must exist so it gives us hope that this life really is worth living. And only then is when we can find inner peace.

JG 🙂

Euro Trip 2014

5 Jun

Just got back from my European vacation yesterday &, let me tell you dear readers, what an adventure it was!

It was my friend Zach’s very first time being in Europe, so I was very excited to show him this wonderful lifestyle. During his 2 week visit we traveled around Prague, Rome, Firenze, Pisa & Paris! There’s no way I could possibly tell you about every single one of our adventures, but I will try & name some highlights!

Prague

-Zach tried every strange Czech delicacy I threw at home & actually enjoyed them! Normally a dedicated wine drinker, he tried the top 3 most famous (& in my opinion best) Czech beers: Kozel Cerny, Gambrinus & Pilsner Urquell. After trying to convert him to my obsession Kozel Cerny or a dark bitter beer (that is said to make certain female body parts grow bigger…), he crowned the light colored Gambrinus (Filip’s favorite) as the beer he liked best. 

-We also made Zach try some of the bizarre Czech cuisine. He left Prague having sampled Smažený sýr (FRIED CHEESE), beef Gulas, & my beloved Svíčková aka: steak with vegetable gravy topped with cranberries, whipped cream, lemon & served with a side of bread dumplings! Although most Czech food can sound scary, I was proud of Zach for keeping an open mind & he even ended our time in Prague ordering Svíčková as his own meal! I was so proud! 

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Image( Above: Don’t knock Svíčková, Smažený sýr or Kozel Cerny until you try them!)

-After we did all the touristy Prague things like Old Town, The John Lennon Wall & climb up to the castle, we did some favorite local activities. This included spending hours in my favorite neighborhood pub, dancing until 3am at the 5-story Karlovy Lázně club, & experiencing ‘The Nature’ of beautiful Divoká Šárka. As much as I love seeing all the big sites again when friends visit, I also really enjoy showing them all the hidden gems of the city that has become my home over the past 10 months. 

Rome

-I was excited to go here because Rome was the one city on this trip that we both had never visited. And it was overwhelming. There was soooo much to see. As much as I want to say that the ancient monuments & streets were my favorite–that’s not true. It was the pizza. Having gotten a recommendation from an American girl who studied in the city on our plane, we took her advice for dinner that night. And I am so glad we did! Although I have no idea what the restaurant name was, we ended up going there 2 nights in a row! It was jam packed with Americans but also so many friendly Italian workers. Sitting at tiny little wobbly tables with red checkered tablecloth noming down on my giant mixed veggie & sausage pizza was the highlight of Rome. 

-Another great thing about revisiting Italy was immediately recalling the extreme sense of welcome that Italians make you feel! Having spent 10 months in a city with silent metros, constant frowns & an overall sense of quiet it was nice to talk again. And Italians don’t just talk–they yell. So much that when they’re conversing with all their hand motions and facial expression you cannot tell if they’re angry or just telling a really good story. I loved it! 

Image(Above: This is essentially the typical Italian pizza. Notice how it is just out of the oven fresh & can barely fit on the plate? Yup.)

Firenze

-I first went to Firenze 2 years ago when I was studying abroad to visit/stay with the roommates of my friend. My time was filled with amazing food, drinking wine in piazzas at night, beautiful landscapes & a few scandalous adventures! Needless to say, I was extremely excited to show Zach this awesome city! One of the greatest things about Firenze besides the gelato shops, all the churches & duomo & restaurants is the openess. Most streets are cobblestone (reminded me of my Praha!) & don’t allow cars to drive down them. This gives the feel of genuinely being in Italy where you can walk in the streets freely–just look out for a vespa or bicycle whizzing by! 

-We were only planning on staying one night in Firenze so I knew our accommodation had to be good. After consulting the always reliable Hostelworld.com, I found the perfect place! My advice to anyone traveling is to READ THE REVIEWS! Sure the pictures may look cute & the price may be great…but it could also be 1 hour outside of the city & infested with bed bugs! The reviews are always honest &, in our case, these reviews led us to Danyhouse! A tiny section in an apartment building with only 3 small bedrooms & 2 bathrooms, the amenities were good, but it is the owner, Jonathan, who made our stay great! He immediately greeted us at the door knowing both our names & gave us a map of the city which he labeled completely. He showed us where all the sites were, as well as many places where we could get discounts for simply mentioning his name! Jonathan made us feel like treasured house guests! And after a night of political/current events discussion with the other 4 people staying there (2 Australians, 1 Welsh & 1 Brit), then a big breakfast together, I felt like we were a little family. I recommend Danyhouse to anyone traveling to Firenze! You will not be disappointed! 

Image(Above: This fabulous tan friendly man is Jonathan taking a selfie with another traveler. He took a selfie with us too before we left & I can’t wait to see how it came out!)

Pisa

-Having been to Pisa before, I knew that it would be doable in a couple of hours. So after our quick one hour train ride from Firenze, we made a move to the leaning tower & duomo. Even though there is not as much to do in Pisa, it is still so awesome to be lounging on a grassy yard a few meters away from one of the most famous monuments in the world! And of course we took those super touristy pics where to the camera is looks like you’re pushing up the leaning tower…but to everyone else, you & everyone around you look like you’re doing MJ’s ‘Thriller’ choreography!

Paris

-Although Zach thoroughly enjoyed all our previous destinations, I assured him that the best was being saved for last. I know I am super biased here; having first traveled to the amazing City of Lights when I was just 16, then spending 5 months studying there in college, & then just being there last December to turn 23–I knew my 4th visit to Paris would be just as special! By some stroke of crazy luck, our entire trip had beautiful weather! And our first full day in Paris was no exception (something extremely rare for a city that is usually cloudy). We saw all the main sights: L’Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur & Montmartre, Les Jardins des Tulleries, Musee D’Orsay, Le Defense, & of course, my girl, Eiffel. Seeing the look on Zach’s face every time he saw a new monument was priceless & actually not too far from my own expression. Paris is my ultimate happy place & even though I have been there several times, I will never stop being breathless at all that beauty. Paris is not a city, dear readers, it’s a mindset & lifestyle.

-Unsurprisingly, the food we ate here was also delicious. Confit de Canard (fried duck), crepes, all kinds of cheeses, wines & a home-made Granny Smith apple & Brie baguette sandwich I made for myself while watching a match of the French Open. Speaking of the French Open aka: one of the biggest tennis events in the world, it was taking place only a few blocks over! How Paris. There is always some event, concept, festival, exhibition going on in this city–but at the same time, the French lifestyle is all about relaxation. I made sure during my trip to Paris I took some time to chill out & enjoy the experience. 

-Another GREAT thing about being in Paris? I speak French! And even though it has been wayyy too long since I have spoken the language, I was surprised at how much immediately came back! The first bout being when we arrived in this random airport ‘Paris’ Beauvais

(Note: never fly Ryanair! Yes it’s cheap but it’s so unprofessional, the staff is rude & they only fly to airports 1hr from the actual city. Our flight was delayed over an hour with NO EXPLANATION. Spend a little more for EasyJet, it’s worth it). 

Anyways, we got off the plane & knew we had to take a 34euro bus into the city. There was a machine to buy tickets for this bus that took credit cards only. But surprise, surprise, not American credit cards! 

(Another note: Unlike European/other credit cards, American credit cards have no computer chip on them, therefore, they are not accepted at a lot of places over here. Sure they will be accepted at big chain stores/restaurants, but always ask before at smaller places & always carry some spare cash around!) 

It was alright because there was a shuttle bus, which we soon found out was full. Immediately there was a herd of nervous Americans in the airport being addressed by a girl who spoke barely any English. I sprung into action. I explained our cards didn’t work and she informed me that there was a cash desk for tickets outside–boom, day was saved! (And the bus was actually only 17euro–win!)

Image(Above: Any true Parisian knows that the best view of the city is on top of Les Galeries LaFayette shopping mall!)

Although most Parisians speak some English they 9 times out of 10 would rather speak to you in French. It’s a respect thing, much like in Prague, people value you 100% more with your broken Czech than if you were immediately resorting to only English. However, in Italy, I got the vibe that speaking English was no problem & Italians gave no attitude about the language switch. Anyways, it was nice to speak a language & have someone respond & I actually understood them. It’s a powerful feeling, one that I have since felt was forming a wall between my acculturation into Prague. This is why if I ever move back to Prague, or anywhere else, I will actively learn the language. 

So that was our trip in a nutshell! Thank you to everyone who helped us, partied with us, let us stay with them (including my awesome French host brother Simon & the cooler older sister I never had, Gillian!), & Mama G/Grampy for allowing me to take such a wonderful trip!

Now I only have 5 days left in Prague, but this trip was certainly ending this amazing adventure with a bang! 

děkuji moc

grazie

et merci beaucoup!

-JG 🙂 

 

 

Pour Some Out For My Homies

17 May

Update: I AM FREE.

After one of the most bizarre weeks ever with my (ex) boss displaying some of the oddest behavior (lurking around my classroom in the dark, crazy bi-polar personality changes, ‘forgetting’ to pay me until 4 days after pay day…), I made it. Barely though. I had my school keys already taken off the main key ring, had tossed all my un-used worksheets into the scrap paper pile & was just finishing up my final class when she decided to twist the knife deeper & completely devoid any shred of guilt I felt about quitting. 

We had literally 2 minutes left of class, & I told the students to start cleaning up. Post quitting celebratory drinks with Gillian & Filip at our favorite pub were already arranged & I could not GTFO of there fast enough. When all of a sudden, this woman comes into my room.

“Hi, I am looking for Jessica.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s me.”

“My daughter has a private lesson with you right now.”

Um what.

See this is what I am talking about, this is why I despise my boss so much. She is so damn inconsiderate. She NEVER mentioned this lesson, never asked if I was free for the lesson, NEVER EVEN BROUGHT IT UP. Yet she made this poor woman & her daughter drive all the way across the city in rush hour traffic. 

“Um, I had no idea about this lesson, I’m sorry, I have plans, I can’t do it.”

Suddenly, what do you know, my phone is ringing & it’s my boss telling me she has a problem & forgot to tell me & begs me just to sit & talk to this little girl for 10 minutes just to see what level she is. And reluctantly, I agree.

But I am so glad I did.

This girl was adorable, smart & way too advanced in the English language to be wasting her time at such a horrible school that only wanted her money. Talking to her for those 10minutes made me realize, while I was estactic about quitting my teaching job, I was really going to miss teaching. So I wanted to write a post to give some special shout outs to some of the little ones who have changed me over these past 9 months.

Kamila, 4,

One of the most well-behaved Montessori children I have ever encountered. I am not sure if you are aware of the Montessori teaching style but it mostly results in unruly children who don’t understand the concept of sharing or being directed by a superior. But Kamila did. She always chattered away in long sentences in Czech to me, like I understood any of it, to which I always responded with an excited “Wow! Okay!” That always made her smile. 

Veronika, 5,

Another great Montessori kid who would always greet me with a huge hug when I would pick up her class downstairs. She loved to make little art projects & always wore the same pink dress over her clothes. She is one of the kids who, from early on, instinctively always went to hold my hand as we were walking up the stairs to our classroom.

Filip, 2, 

My youngest student, but also one of the most improved. I would have an hour long one-on-one class with him because every other child who attempted to enter the class was not as mature and often left crying & screaming. ‘Fifi’ as he called himself blew my mind every week when he would greet me at the start of class saying ‘Monkeys jump, monkeys jump!’ (Referring to the 10 Little Monkeys Song) He was like a sponge, repeating EVERYTHING I said & actually remembering & understanding. He would tackle me & hug me & his favorite sentence by the end of the year became: “Fifi is crazy! But Jessica is crazy too!”

Prokop & Elias, 5,

These two extremely hyper blonde best friends originally did an observation class in one my most calmest classes. The results were awful. The tackled each other & Prokop “Rocky” left crying with a bumped head. I was weary when my boss created a special class with only these two boys, but it worked out great. I mirrored their energy & after every snack time for 10 minutes they would chase me around the room pretending to be Iron Man or Spiderman. Their final class with me consisted of me painting their faces like transformers. 

THE BEST CLASS: Vivi, 5, Luisa, 5, Diana, 5, Lauren, 4, Sophia, 5, Hermina, 3.

I loved coming to this class every week & simply referred to them as ‘my girls’. They were not only all extremely smart but they all loved me & listened to me. They would all come in with homework completed, follow directions & give me big hugs when they left. They loved to point at me & say I was various items they had for snack that day. They thought it was hilarious. My biggest victory as a teacher came around March when all the girls (even little Hermina who is basically a baby my boss stuffed in the class because her mom already paid) said their first sentence. Going over family vocab & I said: “Me, I have 2 brothers, do you have a brother?” They all went around the room responding USING THE CORRECT PLURALIZATION “I have 1 brother”, “I have 2 brothers” “I have no brothers” I have never been so proud.

Pata, 8,

The mature & smart older sister of little Honza, a boy who was too unruly to be in class, Pata was very responsible. She always did her homework correctly & just loved to learn English. She would often ask for copies of worksheets we did to practice further at home & impressed me with her improvement each class.

Eliska, 8,

Sweet & shy, Eliska was also one of the strongest in her class. She would always come in with her long brown hair in 2 braids & would wear cute little skirts. She also loved to learn English, but was also an amazing artist. Many of the homework assignments I asked her to do are still hanging on my wall & will continue to in USA just because she is that talented. 

Andrea, 4,

This little spit fire who began the class shy & quiet certainly came out of her shell. She is the one who would joke at snack time that her water bottle was actually filled with alcohol. She especially thought it was hilarious to sneak up and take the pillow I sit on at circle time. I will miss her for her wonderful personality & her cute little metallic rhinestone outfits she would rock each class. 

Danny, 4,

Another one who began extremely shy but soon found his place. Danny is the little boy who was so excited about the weekend he accidentally peed his pants. He was so adorable & fit in perfectly with his class. His mom, who was a sweetheart, would always whisper to him at snack time in Czech to offer me a piece of the chocolate he was eating. That’s one way to definitely get on my good side!

Ivan, 5, 

One of my all-time favorites, I can remember Ivan all the way back from the open house in September when I played board games with him & his little mini-me brother, Boris. His family soon became one of my favorites as well, with his mom always asking me about me & gifting me with an amazing (expensive!) box of chocolates on Christmas. Ivan loved spiderman & dinosaurs & we just completely formed a bond. He would always sit next to me at snack time & even when he got a little fresh mid-way through the year, all I had to do was give him a look. He was one of the few kids who felt bad about misbehaving because he knew it upset me. I will miss him very much & will always save the slightly lopsided self-portrait he drew for me.

Dori, 8, & Tobi, 6,

A sister & brother with SO MUCH energy. Whenever my 3 hour Friday class was quiet you knew it was because these two were absent. But as much as Dori would get upset & cry sometimes or Tobi would throw a temper tantrum & hit another student, they were such sweet children. Dori loved to act like a big sister to all the other kids in the class & Tobi was OBSESSED with playing Plants Vs. Zombies on my computer. Their mother is blind & they would always come & go from class linking arms with her on both sides. Even when Gillian was still teaching at the school, she loved these two, & when she quit they were the only 2 kids who asked about her. Dori would give me a big hug & kiss on the cheek when she would leave & Tobi would always want to hug me & sit on my lap while we watched videos (all completely normal/allowed student-teacher behavior here). Often if I was leaving the school the same time they were we would walk to the tram together & they would hold my hands. These children genuinely loved me & their parents said they would not be able to sleep on Thursdays because they were so excited for English class.

See, I really do love my students & some of them I will never forget. As much as I completely dreaded coming to work somedays because of my crazy boss or unpredictable parents, my students made it all worth it. They made me laugh & smile. I would chase them around the room, we would have tickle fights & then they would amaze me & make me so proud with their English. 

When I quit I wanted to make sure that the parents knew that.

It is unfortunate that my working situation was so awful–but I wanted the parents to know that I wasn’t leaving because of their children. So I sent out an e-mail to all the parents from my school e-mail address saying what a pleasure it was teaching their children. I wished them all luck on their future with the English language & said how proud I was of all of them. And its true. I can remember from all my years as a student some of the great teachers that I had. They inspired me & I will never forget them.

& I just hope that at least one of those kids remembers that blonde American teacher from some weird place called ‘Massachusetts’ who loved to draw horses & sing about monkeys.

🙂

-JG 

Learning To Hold Your Own

10 May

So, it’s 4am right now on a Friday night in the Czech Republic & I just cannot sleep. It’s not because I just got in from a crazy European party, it’s not because I am currently AT a crazy European party, & it’s not because I am about to go to one. I am awake right now at 4am on a Friday because I just woke up from a nightmare about my real-life nightmare: my job. 

Based on some of my past posts about teaching, you probably think I hate it. Wrong, I actually love it. I realized children are awesome, I am DEFINITELY a ‘kids person’ (those totally exist & you either are or aren’t one), & I really just enjoy the job of passing on my language knowledge to these little ones. Don’t tell anyone but I totally have some students who are my favs. They amaze me with their wit, make me laugh with their antics & some have also really impressed me with their improvements with English. I look forward to seeing them each week & the time we spend together.

Someone I definitely DO NOT look forward to seeing each week? My boss.

I don’t really know how to describe her fully without completely breaking my blog’s ‘PG-13’ rating, so I will let your imaginations run wild, dear readers. 

Let’s just say this woman opened a flashy language school with misspelled signs on the wall, breakable props hanging from the ceiling & a wifi box resting in a bed of wires when all she really cares about is not the students –but their parent’s money.

If you have ever had a bad work experience with a boss, then you know how terrible this is. Let me tell you, if the root of your awful boss experience was their obsession with money then that is the most terrible of all. Some bosses just want you to do crazy things like come in to work with a 100degree fever, or risk your life driving through a blizzard or miss out on holidays, birthdays & general priceless memories just so they can make a little more profit at your expense. 

And it is absolutely disgusting.

Some people are just like that & as long as you’re working for them it will remain that way. Because bosses like this will never change. No matter how many extra hours you work, no matter how many shifts you cover, no matter how many times you compliment them on their tie or ask about their vacations they will never remember it. But do you know what they will remember? A time you called out sick, a time you showed up late or a time they caught you slacking off. Yup, they never forget that.

So you are then faced a choice: should I stay or should I go?

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You may want to stay because of the job. It’s secure, it’s well-paying, you worked so hard to earn it that you just don’t want to throw it all away. You think you can handle your boss. You think you can ignore them, or not take their cruelness so personally. Because you will have to deal with people like that in life, right? Wrong.

You don’t have to do anything. And personally, I feel like working even your dream job can be completely ruined by having a bad boss. Trust me, it happened to me. Because you can ignore them but you really can’t. They will be calling you in on weekends, piling more stacks of work on your desk & just generally giving you a constant feeling like you are not one bit appreciated. If you want to spend your life like this, be my guest. 

But just so you know there are great bosses out there too. Bosses who appreciate their employees, bosses who take your side of the story & bosses who don’t take 3-4days to give you your paycheck & then gyp you out of some of it anyway (yup). 

So if you decide you no longer want to stay, then it’s time to go. 

One thing you should think about before quitting is how this will affect your lives. Both you & your boss’s. In some cases, you really are just a number that can be easily replaced, but in certain situations, you actually have much more power than your boss will ever give you credit for. How do you have power you ask?

By doing a damn good job at your job. 

If you are an asset to your company/store/work team then when you finally decide to leave it will cause a gap. Even if you don’t think so. Especially if you have a good relationship with co-workers. People remember & miss ex-employees who were good leaders, reliable & hard-working. Why? Because not everyone is one. Not everyone is a leader or has a high level of skill in their profession, so when those people walk away the entire dynamic changes.

Another plus of these types of people choosing to leave their job is that it sends a pretty powerful message. You may not think so but anyone who finally stops complaining about their unhappiness & actually does something about it is quite brave.

I can remember when I first met my boyfriend, Filip, & he was working in a laptop factory. He hated the job but hated his boss even more. After dealing with it for a long time, the final straw was when his boss became extremely unethical to other employees & demanded he work not only 7-5 five days a week but weekends too. And he just basically said ‘F**k you’ & just quit. 

I don’t think I have ever admired someone so much. (After a month he found a GREAT new job fixing the Prague trams & is now happy) He did something I had fantasized about doing for so long but was reluctant to do. Why? Not because I was afraid I wouldn’t find a new teaching job, no, those are easy to get here, but because I didn’t want to rock the boat. I didn’t want to start over somewhere new when I was all settled. I didn’t want to leave my students. I thought it would get better.

But you know why I really think I settled for late paychecks, crazy schedule changes & the passive aggression for so long, dear readers? It’s because I thought I deserved it.

Yes, it sounds awful. I thought I was young, inexperienced, foreign & I had to settle for this job. I thought recent college graduates had to go through all this mistreatment because we’re the bottom of the totem pole. We know nothing about ‘the real world’ or the work place or life. 

Writing that right now just made me realize how completely stupid it sounds. Because no one deserves that. 

If you show up to work on time, prepare things ahead of time, do your job & especially if you go the extra mile–you should not be treated like a slacker. The more & more people put me down inside or outside the classroom simply because of my age the more I realize this stigma is complete B.S. 

Age means nothing. I know people in their 20s who have done more than people in 40s. Age is not synonymous with maturity. And I am so COMPLETELY fed up with my entire generation being put down like this. Yes, there are always the idiots who perpetuate every awful stereotype, but then there are those 22-year-olds who move alone across the world.

Age means nothing. Experience means everything. Work ethic means everything. Because work ethic grows & builds. Without a good work ethic, I don’t care how old you are you’re not going to hold on to that job very long. 

So if you know you’re a good worker, act like it.

Stand up for yourself. Don’t let your passion for your job or your skills be wasted on someone who doesn’t appreciate them, or even worse, forces you to hate your job! Chalk it up to a growing experience, but know when it’s time to walk.

And now is my time.

So dear readers, after 9 months of being denied vacations, being bad-mouthed to parents, being provided no supplies, & an overall complete lack of guidance it’s time for me to stop talking the talk & to start walking the walk.

Next week, I am going to quit my job.

-JG  

 

The End Is In Sight

1 Apr

I knew this day would come. Deep down, I really did. I just wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. And now that it’s here, I am still not exactly sure how I feel. 

I just bought my one-way plane ticket home. 

And it was really upsetting, because now a little clock is ticking in my head. Now months, weeks, days, hours, minutes & seconds can begin counting down until this is all over. Until I leave this place, which has been my home for the past 8 months, to return to my actual home.

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I can remember when I bought another one-way ticket. It was around one year ago. 

I had decided in March 2013, just 2 months before my college graduation, that I wanted to move to another country. I could get my TEFL teaching certificate, find an apartment & experience a whole new life. It sounded like a fantasy. It sounded like the ultimate left turn when everyone else in my graduating class of 2,000 was turning right. But I just knew I wanted to do this.

After researching like crazy, I decided on Prague. 

Why?

Well, because it was pretty, it was cheap & I had never been there before–so why not move here?

I begged & begged Mama G. I promised I would get a job, make a life & work hard. I promised it just wouldn’t be one long vacation of partying. And she finally said yes.

And we booked that ticket.

Unless you, yourself, have done it, I really cannot describe the feeling of pure adrenaline of buying a one-way ticket.

It just has such a feeling of finality. You are not going in a circular journey that begins with eagerly boarding the plane & ends with a bummed out feeling of having to return back to reality. It’s a straight line. There is Point A aka: wherever you are right now, & there’s Point B aka: where you want to end up. There’s no turning back.

And this is how I feel right now.

I know what you’re thinking: why even come back?

I have asked myself that too, actually I ask myself that every day. It was one of the reasons I put off buying this ticket for months.

I can say it’s because I owe $600 a month on student loans,

I can say it’s because I miss my family & friends so much,

I can say it’s because I am sick of living here,

But none of these are quite the whole truth.

In all honesty, I don’t know. 

I mean I already have an apartment, an amazing boyfriend, a ton of friends & could easily renew my visa & find a new job…it would have actually been verrry easy to stay right here. 

But that’s not what I want to do in this stage of my life.

I want to keep moving. 

Image(Above: July 30, 2013, my last girl’s night out in the USA with Mama G)

I had a wonderful experience here. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best thing. I have been put through the emotional ringer & become truly independent. 

Moving back home will be extremely hard, because I am leaving so many great people behind.

It will be hard like packing up all you own to get on a plane to fly to a country you have never been to before, where you know no one to start a new life….but hey, I did that already.

I just feel like it is time to close my chapter on Prague for now.

Who knows, maybe someday it will be re-opened & more will be added.

Or maybe this will just be a precursor of memories to look back fondly on, as new adventures elsewhere are being written.

But I believe that this experience was all a chain effect of life milestones I will never forget.

If I had never traveled to Paris, I would have never had the courage to keep my training wheels slightly on while studying 5 months in Paris, & if I had never studied in Paris I would have never in a million years found the courage to move to Prague. 

And this is something that I will always remember.

Paris may have showed me the beauty of Europe, the culture of food & art…but Prague, you showed me who I was. What I was capable of enduring & what I was capable of surviving. Prague made me a grown up.

So now I am not going to dwell on this receipt of a plane ticket to Boston on June 10th, but will instead look forward to the 70 days I have left in this wonderful place with these wonderful people 🙂

Na Zdravi! 

-JG