This post is what I’m going to call my “final installment” of reflective posts from studying abroad. Saying Goodbye captured my feelings right after leaving Europe, Cultural Differences in Hungary provided a more lighthearted look back on the experience (which I think I really needed more than anyone), and now that I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect, I’ve come up with a few lessons I learned while abroad.
The semester came and went faster than I could have ever possibly imagined. It seems like not long ago I was arriving in Budapest, nervous and excited. But four months quickly passed and as cliché and corny as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. Whenever I saw Facebook posts from my friends returning from study abroad spouting how life-changing the experience was and how they will never forget it, I just passed them off as humble-brags and didn’t think much of it. But they were right. It opens your mind and pushes you out of comfort zones. It provides new firsts, new friends, and some life lessons along the way too.
One lesson I learned is that material things are completely unimportant. When your life can fit into a single suitcase and carry-on bag for four months, you re-wear the same clothes, wear through the same few pairs of shoes, and make-do with what you have. And did I ever feel deprived? Not once. It was almost nice to not have as many options to choose from when getting dressed in the morning!
Each New Year I often hear the saying: “New Year, New Me”, but that implies that you aren’t currently good enough. Which is why I prefer the phrase “New Year, Better Me”. I like who I am right now, so I don’t feel the need to be a new person, but I think we can always work on bettering ourselves. Because when we better ourselves, we better those around us. New Year’s is a great opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make goals for the coming year; I also believe it is important to put your reflection and goals down in writing so that you can go back and check in on your goal progress throughout the year.
With that said, 2015 may have been my best year yet, so 2016 has a lot of work to do if it wants to top it. I spent 2015 pretty equally divided living in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Budapest. I visited nine new countries, met countless new friends, and didn’t work at any fast-food chains, which I spent far too much time doing in 2014. I hope 2016 brings just as much fun and adventure.
And with each New Year brings the inevitable resolutions that I tend to forget after two or three months. However this year I am determined not to forget them, so I am putting them out here to keep me accountable. I would say that my unofficial first resolution of 2016 is to not forget my resolutions. So without further ado, here are my New Year’s resolutions:
On my last day in Budapest, I woke up and walked to my favorite bakery to get a pastry and coffee for breakfast. I said hello to my favorite bakery worker who I usually make a little small talk with whenever I go in. It was a busy Saturday morning, so when I tried to say goodbye as he handed me my coffee, the noise of the espresso machine and the other customers drowned me out. He busied making the next customer’s coffee and I walked out the door. At first, I was a little sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. But maybe it was better that I didn’t get to say goodbye, because goodbyes are too final. And because I know I’ll be back to Budapest very soon. I don’t know when, but it was a city that felt like home to me after only a month of living there, and there’s no place like home.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted about a trip. My first excuse was midterms, but those have long come and gone. In fact, finals start in two weeks. My current excuse is life, which isn’t really an excuse. However, a trip almost every weekend with classes, homework, and laundry to fit in between each trip is exhausting and all I want to do during my limited free time is watch Netflix and sleep.
But I finally decided – no more excuses! If this blog is going to be consistent, I have to make time for it in my life, no matter how busy it is. A few minutes ago, I hesitated between clicking the next Gossip Girl episode or finally starting this blog post. It’s not that I don’t enjoy blogging at all; I do enjoy writing this blog quite a lot. But I decided that it’s time for a new post format.
Rather than go through each detail of my trip, I’ve decided to just play you the highlight reel. The length of my past posts made me put off writing this one, which is not something I want to feel about my blog. Now with the excuses out of the way, let’s talk about Kraków!
I left for Kraków on October 22nd… yeah I’m a month behind on posts. But I am determined to catch up! Anyways, my friend Margaret and I took the 10-hour overnight train from Budapest to Kraków, which was not that bad because we got beds and slept the whole time.
Right when we arrived we walked through the park surrounding the city center, which made a great first impression. People were running, biking, walking their dogs, and taking their kids to school. The foliage was full of beautiful yellows, reds, and oranges. Definitely take time to just walk around the city through the park, especially if you visit Kraków in the fall.
In three short days I will have been in Europe for exactly two months. It’s really nuts to think about – the time has certainly flown by! Coming up on this two-month mark, I decided it was an appropriate time to reflect a little on what I’ve learned so far. As you are probably wondering from the title of this, what do I mean by learning to sit still? Well, let me elaborate.
Before this, the longest trip I’ve ever been on was two weeks. A semester is certainly longer than that. On short trips I’m used to packing in as much as possible. I’m always thinking about the next thing to see or do. Even at DePaul I am constantly on the move. My calendar is packed with classes, clubs, internships, and social events.
In Budapest I actually have quite a bit of free-time. I hesitate to say in Europe, because I’m usually gone on the weekends visiting other countries where my “Go, go, go” motto falls back into play. But when I’m home in Budapest I get to sit and breathe. That’s right, home in Budapest; this city quickly felt like home after the first few weeks. However, it took me a while to learn how this whole free-time thing works. My initial mentality was, I’m in a new city! I must see, do, and try everything right now! Then it hit me: I have until late December to explore Budapest. It’s okay to take a nap. It’s okay to watch a movie.
Last week I ran. No timer, no splits, no pace goal. I ran to run and for no other reason than it was what my body was craving. I took the tram to Margaret Island by myself because I’d been wanting to check out the 5km track there for a while. As I ran, I was surrounded by other runners, old couples walking hand in hand, groups of friends sitting beside the river, and dogs racing each other. Despite the bustling island, I felt very at peace. There is something to be said for running with no goals or expectations. Runners are often motivated by numbers and results, however I think that there is a time when it’s okay to step back and run for no other reason than the joy of running. Hop off the treadmill, leave the watch at home, and go explore. Make nature your playground. There is a dreary workout room in my dorm building, but why would I go there when I can breathe the fresh air and get outside?
The experience reminded me of something even more important though – it’s okay to be alone. Living down the hall from most of my friends and constantly being around other people has sometimes made me forget what it’s like to do something alone. I’ve gotten used to doing almost everything with other people. The run reminded me how good it feels to be alone sometimes. When I haven’t had time to think by myself, my head starts to spin with too many thoughts and sometimes I need to write them down. (Which explains this blog post.) I’ve found that I’m most inspired to write after being alone for a bit.
I consider myself to be a pretty extroverted person; I enjoy doing things with other people and I feed off the energy of others. Would I want to travel solo? Probably not. Some people love it, but of the trips I’ve gone on so far, I can’t imagine I would have quite as much fun alone. I’ve learned that balance is key. Sometimes you need that coffee with a friend to vent to and sometimes that coffee is better with headphones, some James Vincent McMorrow tunes, and a relaxing location by oneself. My mission this week is to find a little more of the latter. And coffee is almost always involved.
Now here’s where I try to get deep and pull a life lesson out of yoga.
Nothing beats a good savasana. If you aren’t a yogi and have no idea what savasana is, it’s when you lay in corpse pose at the end of a yoga class for a few minutes. Corpse pose is exactly what it sounds like: laying flat on your back with all your muscles completely relaxed.
Savasana is like meditation. You try to clear all thoughts from your mind and breathe naturally (no controlled breathing sequences, like some meditation suggests). However, whether or not you are able to really meditate during savasana depends on the teacher in my opinion.
This may sound a little corny, but some of the happiest moments of my life have been laying in savasana. For me, if the song is just right, something very blissful and peaceful just clicks. Here are my two favorite songs that I have experienced during savasana:
I stumbled upon a New York Times article about longevity recently, and I wanted to share a quick excerpt with you all.
In the article, the author spends a day with longevity expert Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones. In a very brief synopsis, The Blue Zones basically studies several areas of the world where people tend to live the longest. I bought the book after reading the New York Times article and I’m currently only a few chapters in, however it seems like sensible advice so far and I look forward to reading the rest of the book. Here is the excerpt I particularly liked:
…in longevity idylls like Icaria, it’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat, and how much you and your friends enjoy a meal together.
“Dan, do any of the Blue Zones people eat kale salad?” Mr. Solomon asked.
“No,” Mr. Buettner replied. “They eat food that they enjoy.”
You don’t need to know where Icaria is or who Mr. Solomon is to understand the point of this quote. I, like many, often get distracted by new health foods and fads that claim to be healthier than the last. However, one thing that I never forget is that food is to be enjoyed. I truly believe that food is one of the greatest sources of joy in life. Other than a game of poker, not much else brings a group of people to sit down at a table together for leisure purposes. I love sitting down to a meal with my family or friends, enjoying each other’s company while absorbing the unique flavors of the food.
I don’t plan on going into this much more because I think the quote speaks for itself. It’s a reminder for me as much as anyone else. Bottom line: eat with your friends and family, eat food that tastes good, and don’t force kale down your throat if you don’t like it.
Halfway between my house and my job in northeast Minneapolis (or Nordeast, as the locals call it) stands downtown Minneapolis. And parked precariously close to my place of employment, just on the other side of the Mississippi river, is the North Loop.
It is every hip millennial’s fantasy; located in the Warehouse District, modern renovated apartments, restaurants, and shops dwell in old industrial buildings. There is an abundance of coffee shops, cycling studios, yoga studios, hybrid yoga-cycling studios, amazing restaurants, niche boutiques, and of course, a Whole Foods. Basically, it’s my dream neighborhood.
Seeing as I don’t yet have the means to make my dream of living there a reality, I play pretend every once in a while. I get brunch with my family on Sundays, drink some kombucha, and wander around the farmers market; I love it.