What it feels like coming home after a year of living abroad (now 4 years)

Today I’m sharing a blog post I wrote a little less than 3 years ago, for people who don`t know, I’ve had numerous blogs and Tumblers over the years and I have always been secretly writing. I was very happy when I still remembered some of my old login details and could go read some of my old stuff, and this is one of them that I wrote, on a blog no one will ever find and that was never shared on any form of social media. I think I’ve read it to a friend once. But although this was written so long ago I felt like it is just as applicable now, and there is still so much truth in it.
I hope you enjoy a little vulnerable look into the 21 year old brain of mine. 🙂
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“A month ago I came home after a year of living abroad. 8 Months living in London and 4 months living in Germany.

Until that day, in the past year I haven’t seen one of my family members once. Being someone who is indescribably close with her parents and siblings, this was a big step in the right direction in my early twenties, having now graduated college and with a desire to step out and create a life for myself outside of what I know.

Although I have only been home for a few days, many people have been quick to ask what it feels like ‘being back’.

My heart kind of sank a little, I forge a smile and politely claim “it’s great!”. But it’s not because it isn’t great – it is. South-Africa is one of the most beautiful places I have found myself out of all my travels, my family and friends are incredibly hospitable and caring, and I can’t describe how fond I am of all the local places like Spur, Ocean basket and the list continues.

This year living in two counties in Europe has sparked a change in me that I can’t quite put my finger on. But for whatever reason, home doesn’t feel like home anymore – at least not right now.

Whilst it was never an easy feat setting off to move to the other side of the world solo.

There are many things this year living in Europe at 21 years of age has been about, but finding myself or running away from my troubles has never been one of them.

(Sure, I changed a lot in the past 12 months and slowly but surely evolved into the happiest, most confident and collected version of myself to date.)

Rather, I’d like to think this year has been about creating myself.

The day I booked my one-way ticket to London departing at the beginning of this year after I completed my 2 College diploma’s. On a day where I was supposed to feel like I completed and achieved something from my tertiary education, a day of perceivable certainty, I couldn’t have felt any more confused by the whole ordeal. Lost? No. Okay, maybe a little. But more confused? Yes.

This past year has taught me a lot about myself and others around me. It has taught me to be patient. It has taught me to be kind to others, especially those who can do nothing for me. It has taught me to be understanding of others, even if their beliefs, traditions and cultures. It has taught me to be open and embrace every offering of help, which a stubborn person like me is very unlikely to accept.

Coming home feels like a complete contradiction. On the one hand it brings me indescribable joy to see my family and friends after a year without them, hearing their voices and just being in their presence.

But on the other hand it is completely overwhelming how little has changed. How little everything has changed… but me.

I’m no longer the sheltered, insecure and indecisive 21 year old that left one year ago. For starters I’ve added another year to my running tally… but the change I have experienced in the past year runs much deeper than any number. It’s in the way I look at things. Its in the way I perceive my reality and that of others. Its in the way I read, write and speak.

Change is often a scary thing when considered as a distant ideal or something you wish to achieve. But when you take a look back at how much change has occurred within yourself over a period of time, there could not possibly be a more comforting feeling.

For the rest of my life I can always go home, but I’m in my early 20’s, there is no better time than now to explore the world, and myself.

Home doesn’t feel like home, at least for now…

written by Carla West”

 

That being said, the only thing that changed is that after 4 years of traveling is that home is home now, I do not plan on moving anywhere anytime soon. I feel at peace here and that I lived my life to the fullest in Europe. Everything that little 21 year old dreamed of, I did and achieved in Europe and I hope I made her very proud.

 

Photo Gallery of Amalfi

Most amazing trip with the most amazing people.

All pictures taken by Elan Schnider or Dan Carter. I’ve shared enough on my instagram but here are some of the extra spectacular photo’s they took of the trip.

 

 

Elan Schnider: http://seeyoujustnow.com/

Dan Carter: http://dancarternow.com/

 

 

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Positano

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Furore

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Visiting Amsterdam…again

Let’s face it, as travelers, we are almost always obsessed with the idea of ‘new’. We visit certain places, have an amazing time in them and then never return because there’s so much else to see and do out there.

This need to find somewhere new is not a bad thing though… far from in fact! It’s the reason why we decided to travel in the first place – the opportunity to see somewhere new that we hadn’t before so it makes sense that we’re always in the search of fresh exciting travel plans but there’s so much to be said for returning to the familiar.

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This weekend, I revisiting Amsterdam, a place I really did enjoy the first time in the summer of 2015 with my 2 best friends from South Africa and my boyfriend.

 But, I still very much believe that travel is all about experiences rather than some check-list of places one has to visit and its safe to say that so many places offer so much more than one can experience over the space of a short holiday, and the last time I was there we only spent one day in Amsterdam, did a walking tour, learnt a lot about the history and saw all the important sights but this time, I was there for 3 days, and I had a whole day to myself where it was just me and my camera and the whole day to stroll through the city.

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Even when it started raining, I popped into a small cafe and drank the best coffee I’ve had in a very long time (sorry Germany, but your coffee sucks) I even had another one and then I couldn’t stop talking or shaking for the rest of the day. 🙂

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It took so much pressure off to just walk where I wanted, stop where I wanted and to drink my coffee as slowly as I wanted.

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Later that afternoon I met up with my best friend after work, went to go see her offices and then we strolled our way home. The best part of the trip, was spending time with a local, walking around her area, actually going into grocery stores and drinking in the little pubs, (where I apparently got judged for drinking white wine and not beer which I still don’t understand.) We danced the night away to terrible music and made memories to last a life time.

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I would definitely recommend someone to travel to a place they have been before, to spend a bit more time and not to rush anything. I definitely got a different and better impression of Amsterdam the second time around, it’s a lot more than just coffee shops and the red light district.

All my love,

Carla

A Weekend Guide to Budapest

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Let me start this blog post with how this trip came about, in fact this all started with planning my birthday, I was thinking maybe we should go to a club in Stuttgart, when my best friend mentioned, “I wish you didn’t have to work and we can go away for your birthday”, the next day my boss told me I have too many over hours, if I want some time off around my birthday, and 24H later, a 23 euro return tickets to Budapest was booked.  A city that was not even on my list to visit. The most spontaneous trip I have ever booked and one of the best weekends, if not the best weekend of my life.

I also have to admit that before we got to the airport, I didn’t know anything about Budapest.So everything I’m writing here, is a first timer/beginners advice. Obviously if I go a second time I will be a lot more prepared and know what to expect.

Getting There

As three girls, one just flying back from Cape Town, me from Stuttgart and the other one from Munich we bought the tickets from Nuremberg, right in the middle of us. Wednesday morning our journey started by missing our Flixbus from Stuttgart to get to Nuremberg airport, in our distress we bought a ticket from Deutschebahn  for 26 euros each, from Stuttgart airport to Nuremberg airport, which was more than a 3 hour journey, is a pretty fair price.

We arrived at Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof at 17:30 about 10 minutes after Melanie, my boyfriends sister from Munich who was joining us, which worked out perfectly. We made our way to the airport, and through security. Both girls got strip searched, and in the moment I thought it would be funny to make a snapchat, but I immediately got told off and was only able to snap this photo. haha

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Sorry Melanie haha

Once we were through security we made ourselves really comfortable, one whole day of travelling behind us and were not even on the plane yet. In duty free we realized we are going to arrive in Budapest after midnight, we need to buy wine now, for later.The cashier was a creepy man who gave me a cheeky wink, sending me off with “enjoy your party”

I forgot to mention the wine me and Julia were drinking/sneaking on the train on the way to Nuremberg already to calm our nerves after missing our bus. Photo added below.

Needless to say we wanted this girl trip to start already!!!!!

Our flight was about 1 hour and 10 min long. Landing in Budapest we needed to take a bus, the 200E from the airport to get to the nearest train station, a ticket cost about 350 Forint which is a bit more than 1 euro. At least we bought it at a machine that took credit cards so we didn’t have to exchange cash yet.

We then needed to get on a underground train and because we didn’t really understand the ticket system we just got on the train, thinking our tickets is valid, which it was not, luckily we didn’t get checked, this is between 11-12pm at night. But we were suppose to buy another single journey ticket. So getting from the airport to the city center will cost about 2 euros which is not bad at all.

The funny thing about public transport in Budapest is pretty much that they only know 2 speeds, “plat voet or breaking” Plat voet in Afrikaans would probably translate to pedal to the metal. But my goodness, we had to hold onto the railings on that train sitting down it was going so fast, and it was so loud there was no way we were able to hold a conversation. And the doors slam close so hard I kept imagining people getting chopped in half.I have a very graphic imagination. Even getting on the escalators, they seemed to be 3 times faster than in every other country. With your bag you almost have to leap onto it.

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The little blue train we went on.

Okay so lucky for us our apartment was super central, we only needed to take the one train, get off at one of the main stations, and walk about 3 minutes. 

Tip – You have to buy a single journey ticket for every single journey you take, pretty straight forward, I think we were just too tired to care….and you have to stamp them on the bus and at the train stations. Don’t forget!

Where We Stayed

Instead of staying in a hotel or a hostel, my friends and I arranged to stay in a apartment through Wimdu.de.  Easily booked through their website, we found a small 1 bedroom flat in an old historic building in the central area of Pest.

Our host greeted us and handed over the keys to the apartment. As we walked up to the apartment, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the buildings old world charm.

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Our front door

The apartment itself was really nice and could easily sleep 4 people. It was also equipped with basic things like towels and linens. Even the kitchen was stocked full of cutlery, plates and all the needed appliances.

Costing about 125 Euros for three nights, the price is not bad at all when divided by 3 people or even a larger group. Definitely something to consider if you’re heading to Budapest with your family or a group of friends.

It really did feel like home for the weekend and it gave me a taste about what it would be like to actually live in Budapest. This living like a local experience isn’t a feeling that you’d get if you stayed in a hotel or hostel. For this reason, I’d totally recommend Wimdu.de and I wouldn’t hesitate in using them again.

Where We Ate

Day 1:

  • For the first breakfast: Fekete Budapest, Múzeum krt. 5, 1053 Hungary

Julia was in charge as she is the biggest breakfast fanatic and she found this place online and we made our way there. It’s a very creative little place with little seating and the chairs were falling apart a bit and the portion sizes were super small. But i guess that is the style of this very creative cute cafe.

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2. Lunch: Meat boutique, where I had the most amazing cheese cake.

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  • Dinner: Pizza, cocktails and Palinka at Kelta – Budapest, Ferenciek tere 5, 1053 Hungary. No pictures or videos are PG enough for this blog after we had a shot of that Palinka. haha (I will add a link to the video Julia made and put on YouTube and there you can witness us having these horrible shots. This place does looks a bit dodgy from outside, but it was up the street from where we stayed, and  we were really in the mood for a pub vibe, a meal and a drink. And the staff here were truly incredible. Our waiter made our night 🙂

Day 2:

  • Breakfast: We walked around a bit and I ended up getting a very nice cream cheese, parma ham, mozzarella panini at a very lovely cafe I truly cannot remember the name of. No pictures we taken because I was starving!!
  • Snack: We found a very weird coffee shop on the hill where we ordered a hot chocolate so we could use their bathrooms, but as soon as we connected to the WiFi we stayed longer than planned. This coffee shop had 1 table! We were their only customers, and everything else was just clutter and books, I felt like I walked into someones living room by accident.
  • Dinner: As we walked back to the city center we were hungry again, and the food at the Christmas markets looked amazing! Honestly I ordered way to much just for me but I couldn’t help myself. I had Pulled pork, ribs and potato wedges. My friends had goulash.
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The goulash was served in those breads.
  • That night we went clubbing and the next morning we stopped at Starbucks for a coffee.
  • Our last meal in Budapest, obviously had to be something from the Christmas markets again. I had fried bread with sour cream and mozzarella cheese. Life changing.
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Deep fried bread 🙂
  • And then I ended up sneaking my left over ribs through security and eating it in the boarding area while waiting for our plane back home. With my hands… Have you ever seen anything more South African haha No meat will be left behind.

Oh and in between Julia bought Kürtőskalács a few times and we nibbled on them.

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Kürtőskalács

Other less expensive dining ideas?

I have to say we didn’t go to any fancy restaurants and food in Budapest is fairly cheap but we could’ve saved more money if we cooked at home – One of the great things about renting a flat for the weekend, is that you can make dinner at “home.” But we unfortunately didn’t do it as we were barely there..

Where We Drank

  • Ötkert, 1051 Budapest Zrínyi Street 4, Hungary.

 

This is the only club we visited while in Budapest, I actually wish we moved around and saw more but if time flies so fast, you know you are having fun. Although Google and other blogs suggested that there will be a super long line to get in, don’t arrive after 11 and entrance is pretty steep, I guess because it was off season but there was NO line, and NO entrance fee. We just walked in. So when we arrived there was some kind of dance class and they had the same song on repeat doing the same choreography over and over again. And birthday mood me (very very tipsy) decided to join this wannabe flash mob, these videos will never surface the internet, because everyone knows this lanky awkward thing cannot dance to save her life, never mind hip hop or anything with choreography. But at least as soon as they finished the party really started, the music was good and the Palinka was flowing.

Just as a side note, not that I’m available, but all the guys/people that were there were either German, British or from the Netherlands. Absolutely no locals. So even for November, very very touristy.

What We Did

 Believe it or not, although we stayed in Pest, I feel like we almost spent more of our time in Buda. 

1) Walk along the Danube

Although we were walking along the Danube the whole day, nothing beats seeing Budapest at night. Or even just the sunset.

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2) Roar with the Lions on the Chain Bridge

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a literal linking point for Buda and Pest (the two towns that form Budapest). This dramatic chain bridge stands in contrast to the ornate and beautiful buildings that surround it. It’s even guarded by two stern looking lions on each side. We walked over it, over and over again singing, laughing, taking million pictures. We loved it.

3) Explore the Castle District

The Buda side of the city plays host to the notable Royal Palace and Hungarian National GalleryMatthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. There are two ways to reach the top of the hill where the palace and other sites are located – either walk or take the funicular. We preferred the walk. There is more than one pathway and they’re all equally beautiful.

 

Random side note: Buda Castle is also that place where Katy Perry shot her “Firework” music video.

4.) Hungarian Parliament Building

Built in the 19th century, the Hungarian Parliament Building is one of Budapest’s most iconic buildings. Take a stroll down the banks of the River Danube and watch the sunset transform this building with its warm, orange glow.

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So there you have it, my weekend guide to Budapest. I can’t wait to go back.

And just as a final good bye, photo credits are due to the wonderful Julia Mitereva and Melanie Gross. All these photos are from our phones as I forgot my camera and down here is the AMAZING video Julia put together for us. I can’t but help to smile when I’m watching it. Thank you all for reading and have a wonderful evening.

All my love Carla xx