Dealing with Homesickness

As the holidays approach, I find myself becoming a bit more homesick.

I have been living in the Czech Republic for nearly three months (time really does fly), and while I have obviously had my moments of wishing for home, they have always been easy to get over because the excitement of the new experience has always outweighed the negative emotions. Now that I am a bit more settled in my life here, the excitement has died down a bit, making it easier for me to become weighed down with stresses of work and money, and all of those other things that adults have to worry about. Plus, while I truly do love it here, I sometimes just want those comforts that only home can provide.

As I have mentioned here on this blog numerous times in the past, I am a very anxious person. The smallest things stress me out to no end, I worry endlessly over situations that are out of my control, and having this type of personality can cause me to go into periods of being overall "down" on life. I'm happy to say that since I have made this drastic life change, I have been a much, much happier person. Yet, I still go through my sad moments, and that can be difficult to deal with.

Living in a foreign country often comes with a bit of sensory overload. You see, hear, and experience new things every single day. However, even though I am constantly surrounded by new people and new things to do, and even though I have made some really good friends here, it's still easy to feel very lonely. What makes it worse, is because I'm more of an introverted person, I often close myself off from people and experiences instead of getting out and doing things to make myself feel better. This does happen way less often for me now, but sometimes I still crave the alone time, and I'm not sure that it always helps.

When I get into low moods like this, I always feel it's important to remind myself why I am actually here.

I am here for a change.
I am here to experience new people and their cultures.
I am here to teach others something that will be beneficial to their lives.
I am here to travel and see this vast world.
I am here for a new way of life, because the old one wasn't working for me anymore.
I'm here to make my dreams come true.
I'm here to be the person that I have always known I am meant to be.

I can also honestly say that even though I have been homesick, and I know that being away from my loved ones during the holidays will be difficult, I still don't want to leave here. I know I'm where I'm meant to be. I'm living out an opportunity that many people never receive. I am so fortunate, and I'm grateful for where I have been so far, and where I will continue to go as this journey progresses.

It's all about being brave, and as long as I continue to do that, my new life here will be the greatest blessing I have ever received.

On Money and Moving Abroad (Or Long-Term Travel)

Fact of the day: Life costs money.

Bonus fact of the day: Travel, being a part of life, also costs money.

Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about something that is necessary to travelling...specifically long term travel or moving abroad. And, that something that I want to talk about is...as I briefly mentioned a few moments ago, funds. Money. Moolah. The big green. Dollars. Crowns. Pounds. Euros. Etc.

Money has always seemed to be the biggest deciding factor for me in all life decisions. Mainly because, well, "it doesn't grow on trees." Even after graduating college, and working full-time in "good jobs," I still didn't have an overabundance of extra cash. I had bills to pay...rent, student loans, gas, car insurance, food...blah, blah, blah. I didn't feel like I was ever in a position to save enough money to do anything extra...let alone move out of the country. I had researched opportunities countless times, but it always came down to the, "Oh, I will never be able to make it work financially" excuse.

Over the years, I have read countless articles on saving money to begin a life abroad, or just travel long-term. In all honesty, the advice was always very similar, and seemed entirely too simple to actually work. After reading each article, I would think..."Sure, you're telling me to save money and how to do it...but still, HOW DO I DO IT?" Maybe when I read these articles, I just wasn't actually ready to make the commitment...or I was just afraid to take the leap. Therefore I would always close my computer and declare moving abroad an "impossible possibility."

Then, and I still don't know how exactly it happened, my mindset changed. I became more positive about making my dream a reality. With the positive reassurance of some of my closest friends, I realized that everything I had read in those articles actually was possible. Instead of saying, "when I have more money I will do this," I decided to push myself to obtain that then non-existent stockpile of cash. I applied for a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) program instead of just researching it, and once I was accepted I set a deadline for myself. On January 1st of this year (2015, duh), I began "Operation Prague."

I knew my departure date for Europe would be July 31st. I had an idea of what I was going to need to pay for in advance, and while in Prague. This obviously differs in every situation, but for me my "to buy" list looked something like this:

*TEFL course fee
*Plane ticket(s)
*Housing fee
*Travel insurance
*Travel necessities (luggage, etc.)
*Visa fees
*$$$ to get settled before your job begins paying (flat fees, electricity, gas, etc.)
*Basic living expenses (food, public transport. WINTER CLOTHES)

I'm not going to include exact amounts and numbers on here because what I had to pay for is not what everyone would have to pay for, so I will just tell you that it added up to quite a large number. (Somewhere around $5,000.) I had some savings, but not a lot. I had seven months to reach my savings goal, which is a very short period of time, but I had my heart set on making it happen.

So, how did I do it? I used the basic advice that I had read in those articles so many times. Who knew they would actually work? Here are the three saving methods that were the most successful in getting me on that plane to Prague:

1. Cut corners WHEREVER you can.
In a summary, stop spending money on unnecessary stuff. Make your own coffee instead of buying it every day. Pack your lunch instead of going out. Limit the number of times you eat dinner out, or go to the movies, or do other entertaining things that cost money. (There are free means of entertainment, believe it or not.) Do NOT buy that new shirt, because it most likely will not make the cut when you are choosing what clothes will go with you on your move. (Heads up: you will most likely only take one suitcase.) You can live without those new shoes, or that new bag, or that new book. (The book thing was really difficult for me, I will admit.) It's OKAY to become a cheap-o for a while, because it is definitely going to pay off in the end. Trust me.

2. Work that overtime, my friend.
While I was on my saving spree, I was fortunate enough to work in a job that I could pick up overtime hours fairly easily, and I took major advantage of that. I went from working 40 hours a week, to around 50 or 55 some weeks. Again, it wasn't "fun," but I knew it was only temporary. You may not be in a job that allows you to work these types of hours, but that doesn't mean defeat. Another option would be to get a second, part-time job for a while. Even if you work an 8-5, you could still work retail or do some waitressing on the evenings or weekend. Maybe you could babysit, or pet set, or something else that has more flexible hours. The possibilities are endless though. Make it happen.

3. Sell your junk.
I know, I know...but you love your stuff. I loved mine too. Here's a little push to get you started on this...YOU REALLY WON'T MISS IT. Now, I'm not saying that you have to pawn off your family heirlooms or things that are extremely important or valuable to you. Keep the things that cannot be replaced, and get rid of the rest. For example, some of the things I decided to keep were some of my nicer, more sentimental jewelry, my book collection (which my parents are so kindly storing at their house), and a couple of other odds and ends. Everything else got the boot. There are so many ways that you can sell your things...yard sales, online Facebook groups, etc. That is how I got rid of the majority of my stuff. The biggest thing that I sold, and the thing that earned me the most money for my move, was my car. Sure, it was sad to get rid of it, but what was I going to do with it while I'm in Europe? I'm going to be here for a while. If I move back to the states in the future, then I will sort things out as far as "stuff" goes.

I know what you're thinking...all of those things sound too easy. Trust me, I once thought the same thing. But, they work. A little hard work, perseverance, and self-control can make all of the difference. It will be stressful, and sometimes annoying, but if you keep your goal in mind you can't fail.

Are you preparing to travel long-term or move abroad? Are you currently an expat? What are some of your tips and tricks when it comes to saving money for travel?

Have a wonderful remainder of your Sunday!

A Weekend in Wien

Hello, and Happy Sunday!

I have decided it is finally time to share my trip to Vienna, which also happened to fall on my birthday weekend. (My birthday was on September 27th, btw...so this trip took place about a week ago.)

First of all, I would like to say that I am so happy with the fact that travelling around Europe by bus is incredibly affordable. To go to Austria, and then come back to Prague, it was only about 28 euros total. We left Prague on Friday afternoon around 3:30pm, and we were in Vienna by 10:30pm that night. It was supposed to be 9:30, but there was a bit of a delay due to some rainy weather and unexpected traffic.

The first noticeable difference in Prague and Vienna, which is to be expected considering that they are in two different countries, was the language difference. The primary language in Vienna in German, and I have spent the past two months surrounded by Czech. Czech is finally becoming a bit familiar to me, so adjusting to the German was interesting. (However, German is quite an entertaining language, and in my opinion, much easier to read and pronounce than Czech. That's probably because it is more closely related to English.)

We stayed at the A&T Hostel, which was a bit more pricy than some of the other hostels in the city. However, we were going based on the reviews and sometimes it is a better idea to pay and bit more for safety/cleanliness/etc. The pricing was still affordable though. My friend Jess and I stayed for 3 nights, and paid around 100 euros altogether. I would recommend checking it out if you are ever in Vienna! We shared a four-bed room with two sisters from Australia who have been travelling Europe for a couple of months. They were super friendly and we all got along well. The last night we shared with an older woman from Russia, and the language barrier didn't allow us to communicate very much but we tried. :)

Vienna has a lot of the same "charm" that Prague has. The majority of the buildings are old and beautiful, and the architecture is to die for. Jess, Ephram (my two friends that I went with) and I had the best time wandering around, taking pictures, and admiring everything. Vienna is very laid-back, and also extremely clean. I'm not sure that I have ever seen a cleaner city. It was impeccable.

I feel like Vienna is a perfect combination of history and modern entertainment. The city is full of museums, nightlife, food, architecture, and so much more. The downside that we encountered though, is many things close extremely early (ie; good luck finding an open market after 6pm), and some things are closed for the entire weekend. Still, it's not a deal breaker...you can still find plenty of things to do and plenty of places to eat or buy food.  (Speaking of food, there are a million stands where you can buy giant hot dogs or bratwurst sausages...so that's a plus.)

If I had to choose, I would say that my two favorite things about Vienna were wandering around the gardens at Schonbrunn Palace and standing in awe of the parliament building. Both were breathtaking! It was also nice to have a good time with Jess and Ephram...they keep me laughing non-stop and I'm thankful for that!

Austria is the 3rd country that I have been to in the past two months. I will be leaving for a weekend in Berlin next week. I'm very excited about that as well, and will obviously have more details on that to share soon.

Until then, enjoy some pictures from the beautiful Wien! The last few are ones that Ephram took on his awesome camera.