Back where it all started

I’m almost at the end of my career break – I have something like thirteen hours before I start work again (and to be honest I feel like it would take all thirteen of those hours to write a post which would really do justice to the last 12 months) and I just want to write a post about the last year and what it’s meant for me personally. This is really a stream of consciousness and random thoughts rather than any coherent examination of the past year, but here goes.

The main lesson I’ve learned is that I’m fine on my own. I can travel by myself and not feel lonely. This was an aspect of things that I was concerned about, but I’ve got used to exploring alone and enjoying it. Even things like eating alone, which I didn’t like and always felt awkward doing, have become easier. When I was in Ukraine I ate many times at a restaurant chain called Puzata Hata, and noticed there that other people were eating by themselves, and that made me realise that I wasn’t the only person to go there not as part of a group or a couple.

I also realised that I need a lot less stuff than I thought. When I went to Krakow and Ukraine for a month most of the things I brought with me fitted in a 20 litre rucksack. I’m bringing this mindset into my life, not just for the sake of having less, but the amount of mental clutter and wasted energy (and money) that it eliminates.

I’m looking forward to getting back to work. I missed working, not just for the income but the routine and social connections that working can bring. So this will be one part of the year that I won’t be bringing forward into my future life.

My plans for 2020

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year because I don’t feel that it’s the best thing for me right now. There are areas of my life that I want to work on, but setting specific targets or goals seems a bit strange to me. It will all probably make more sense when I explain what I want to work on.

I hadn’t chosen a word of the year before, but this year I’ve done so with the help of this great post. My word for the year is boundaries. In the past couple of years I’ve struggled with setting boundaries, with the results that I’ve let people and things into my life that were very toxic and led to some very bad situations. So this year I’m working on not only knowing what my boundaries are but also feeling comfortable asserting them. My boundaries cover many aspects of my life; financial, spiritual, and emotional as well as social interactions and relationships with family and friends. It will involve saying ‘no’ , but also ‘yes’ to things that are nourishing and add value to my life.

I also want to live more sustainably, and I’m taking small steps towards this. For me, this isn’t just about environmental awareness (although that’s an important part of it), but it’s about creating a life that’s meaningful. It’s about simplifying things and living a more minimalist lifestyle, ensuring that I live within my means. I’ve more or less stopped buying new clothes and books (for obvious reasons underwear doesn’t fall under the ‘no new clothing’ rule) and intend only to buy something if it adds value to my life.

I wish everyone reading this all the best for the coming year.

A visit to Ivano-Frankivsk

Ivano-Frankivsk’s Ratusha

I arrived in Ivano-Frankivsk early one Wednesday morning in September, having travelled on the overnight train from Kyiv. It was still dark by the time I got there, and I remember walking along the streets feeling like I was the only person around. It felt quite magical.

Just before dawn…

By the time I found the main square, dawn had broken. I found a branch of Lviv Croissants and had a coffee, then went to find my hostel. Check-in wouldn’t be open until some hours later, so I explored a little bit and had some lunch before going back to the hostel, checking in, and leaving my bag. The hostel I stayed in was lovely, with a view of the Greek Catholic Church in the square outside, and across to the hills surrounding the city.

The view from my hostel room

There are many reasons why I enjoyed my visit here so much; as I said in my previous post, it’s my favourite city of those that I travelled to this year. The hostel where I stayed was a big factor in my enjoyment of the city because it was a few minutes walk away from the town hall, the room I stayed in was gorgeous, and the staff were very kind.

Flowers for sale at the market

I really liked the markets in the city. There is the main one around the Rynok and I also came across a few others. They were selling all sorts of things, from clothing and shoes to notebooks and fruit and vegetables. I bought some really nice bread from a lady who had a stall just outside the Rynok.

Cappuccino from Street Coffee

The food and coffee was also a big part of why I liked Ivano-Frankivsk. I had a few coffees and cakes from a place called Street Coffee, and also enjoyed eating at a restaurant called Urban 100, which donates a large percentage of its profits to community projects in the city. The food there is delicious. I tried sea buckthorn for the first time (in a lemonade) and loved the taste.

One of Ivano-Frankivsk’s parks

I loved the outdoor space in Ivano-Frankivsk. I found so many lovely places to go for a walk. I really liked the Town Lake and the Shevchenko Park.

Town Lake
Shevchenko Park

I found Ivano-Frankivsk a charming place to visit. It’s quirky and laid back and there are many things to do there. I really enjoyed my visit.

My 2019 travel summary

This year I’ve visited 19 cities in 9 countries. Here is a list of all the cities where I’ve travelled.

  • Austria (Vienna)
  • Czech Republic (Prague, Brno)
  • France (Paris)
  • Hungary (Budapest)
  • Poland (Krakow, Wroclaw)
  • Slovakia (Bratislava)
  • Spain (Bilbao, Donostia/San Sebastián, Burgos, Logroño, San Sebastián de La Gomera)
  • Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk)
  • United Kingdom (Armagh, Bristol, London)

Favourite city – Ivano-Frankivsk

Least favourite city -Paris

A trip to Camden Market

I had wanted to visit Camden Market for a while (I’d originally planned to visit in February this year) so my friend and I made plans to come here on our recent trip to London.

We were staying in a hostel near King’s Cross station, so we travelled the two stops by London Underground to Camden Town. You can also walk there along the Regent’s Canal towpath (we didn’t go for that option because it was a cold day). The market is a short walk away from the Underground station.

I expected to like Camden, because I love all the elements that are on offer there, like quirky vintage shops and a good selection of street food. It was even better than I expected. I bought a second hand shirt and some postcards, and we ate halloumi fries and a very tasty dessert. My friend and I also found a really nice coffee shop called Hygge Pygge which is near the market, on Chalk Farm Road. They have really nice coffee and also do a Pay it Forward scheme. The cafe has a real cosy, community feel and I’d recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

Packing list for a 4 day trip to London

I love packing lists.

When I first started planning my trips abroad I pored over packing lists trying to refine what I was bringing along with me on my journey. Now, I’ve become addicted to the concept of packing as lightly as possible. When I travelled to Poland and Ukraine a few months ago the majority of the belongings I brought with me fitted into a 20l backpack, and this habit of packing light is one I want to continue.

I’m going to London for 4 days and this is what I’m bringing with me

  1. 4 pairs of underwear
  2. 1 bra
  3. 4 pairs of socks
  4. 2 long sleeved tops
  5. 2 jumpers
  6. 1 pair of jeans
  7. Pyjamas
  8. Charger
  9. Phone
  10. Kindle
  11. Toiletries (deodorant, bar shampoo/soap, toothpaste,perfume, lip balm)
  12. Toothbrush
  13. Hairbrush
  14. Foldable rucksack
  15. Foldable water bottle
  16. Small crossbody handbag
  17. Coat, scarf, hat, and gloves
  18. Ankle boots

I’d normally add a towel to this list, but towels will be provided at the hostel where my friend and I will be staying.

Experiencing reverse culture shock

I felt a little strange when I arrived in the UK a few months ago after my trip to Ukraine. I had a bit of a cold, so went into Boots to buy some medicines. I was a little bit shocked to see that they were selling Christmas gifts; to me it seemed very over the top (in contrast to other years when I’d been excited by the arrival of the Christmas gift guides in the shops, eagerly perusing them to decide what I’d buy for my family and friends).

I know now that I was experiencing a very mild version of reverse culture shock when a person feels out of place in their home environment. Even though I was only away for a month, I’d got used to the pace of life in Ukraine, the Ukrainian culture, and even the language and alphabet to some extent.

A couple of months has passed and I’m settling back into my home country, but I’ve realised my travels have changed me and I don’t have some of the same attitudes that I used to.