Things to come.

Flights have been booked. Plans have been made. I’ve finally gotten my act together and have mostly finalized my plans for the upcoming future. These are short term plans, any long term thinking is still out of the question. If for some reason you’re at all curious about what if approaching in my life, here’s the general outline.

Team Diekman during last year's Japan tour. This year: Eurotrip

Team Diekman during last year’s Japan tour. This year: Eurotrip

In mid May I’ll be finishing up my time as an au pair with my amazing family. Soon after my parents will be coming out to the Netherlands for the European style Team Diekman Tour. Patty, Doug, and I will be leaving our mark on Holland, Belgium, and France for two weeks of cycling, beer drinking, and general awesomeness.

urlAfter my parents leave Europe I’ll be heading down to Spain for the El Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage across Spain. My friend and I will be walking across Spain as we follow the way of St. James during the month of June.

7157_956092456249_1483636011_nI’ll have until mid July to complete the walk, then I have my flight back to the States. That’s right America, I’m coming back to you for the foreseeable future. After traveling, and living abroad for the last three years its time to recollect and see where life takes me. I’m not saying that this is the end of my life abroad, I just feel that I need to take a pause, save some money and figure out where I want to go next. I’d also like to reconnect with those I haven’t seen in the last few years. While I’ve been gone, friends have married, babies have been born and lives changed. I’d like to visit family and friends and strengthen relationships that have been strained by distance.

Tot ziens, matta ne, see you later

Even things this good come to an end.

Even things this good come to an end.

Its that time of year again, just as the weather begins to warm up and flowers begin to bloom, the good-byes also begin. For the last three springs life has taken a turn and my friends and I have gone separate ways. These parting friendships are caused by geographical relocations rather than frictions between personalities. The six pack of friends that I have made during my time in the Netherlands is starting to fall apart. Line is the first to leave this week as she heads back to South Africa. The rest of us will peal away between now and May. Since the au pair program only allows participants to stay in the country for a year, we all knew this was coming, however it doesn’t make the separation any easier.

The constant turnover of friends caused by relocation has been a large part of my life for the last 4 years. Each time I change location I have to say goodbye to people that have been an integral part of my life, and hope that there will be people crazy enough to be my friend in my next place of residence.

Saying goodbye to friends I’ve made abroad is especially difficult. Many of my friends are not from America, thus greatly diminishing the chances that we will be in the same geographical location. My friends are scattered around the globe, making visits expensive, and time consuming.

Why yes that is a friendship lasagna. ps-I'm the one with the pigtails

Why yes that is a friendship lasagna. ps-I’m the one with the pigtails

Although I have had a great deal of experience in department of the farewell, I’m still not proficient. Goodbyes are never easy but I feel that I am rather clumsy during the parting words. How do you sum up your time together in a eloquent way while expressing your admiration for the other person. I usually just awkwardly hug, and spit out a few words between the tears. Or there’s no tears and I feel even worse that I’m not displaying the appropriate amount of emotion. Later on I always review in my head the several ways I could have made the parting of ways much more special.

The farewells are coming whether or not I’m prepared for them, and hopefully they’ll be better than my usual, “umm well I’ll see you around. Oh crap not really. I’m going to miss you. Bye. See you, ummm sometime. Travel safe.”

Table for one? Yes I did.

62432_948575684919_726316545_nI don’t know about you, but I’ve always feared eating at a restaurant alone. Table for one. Even eating at fast food by myself hasn’t been an option, I almost always get it to go, or eat  as quickly as possible. This fear of solo eating tends to put a small dent in my solo travel adventures. While traveling with myself, I tend to picnic  or eat on the go. I didn’t eat at a single restaurant in Paris because I just couldn’t do it by my lonesome. But after my friend Ria tackled this small mountain, and highly recommending the same restaurant, I decided that my trip to Prague was the time to do it.  Sure, I could have wrangled some of my hostel friends to come along with me, but I really wanted to try something that I had been afraid of for so long.

 After a small inner monologue pep talk, I walked into the restaurant. It was pretty much empty. I went before noon on a week day, so as to see as few people as possible. Besides the people I did see, I’ll probably never see again. The staff were quite puzzled that I was eating alone, and that I seemed to be fine with it.

I had a wonderful and very central european meal of meat and candlestick sauce over dumplings, accompanied with beer. Beer before noon you ask? 1) its vacation 2) I was eating alone, I needed a little liquid courage.

By the end of the meal I was quite comfortable with this new eating arrangement. In fact, I was really enjoying it. (the beer didn’t hurt either) It was also quite fun to watch and gage the reactions of the other people in the restaurant.  People seemed to be uncomfortable and awkward for me. The wait staff didn’t really know what to do with me, and I could tell that others were looking without looking like they were looking. I can’t say that solo meals are going to become a habit but it feels quite nice to have gone out on my own for once. Having a great meal and beer was a pretty good reward as well.

If you’re at all interested or in Prague this great restaurant is called Pivovarsky Dum (google it) , they have great traditional Czech food as well as brew their own beer next door.

Lennon vs Lenin

PrahahahahaWhile most of the tourist attractions of Prague are over 300 years old there’s at least one that’s only a little older than me, the Lennon Wall, a graffiti wall dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. The original tagging on the wall started in the 1980’s as an act of defiance against the communist regime. John Lennon and his music were symbolic of the freedoms that many young people felt they weren’t allowed under communist rule. Although authorities tried to whitewash the walls several times, the drawings came back as strong as ever. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 the wall is still under transformation and has become more a symbol of free speech and peace rather than a place for anti-communist expression.

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The architecture around Prague is simply stunning. Most of the dramatic beauty is on or near the rooftops. So to keep my eyes closer to the earth I collected the various doors I found around the city. Well not the actual doors, photos of them, I don’t think a collection of doors would have be considered carry on.

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So I went to Prague….

IMGP7890 For my birthday,  with the help of my parents ,I decided to treat myself to a trip. From my top list of destinations, Prague was the cheapest flight from the Netherlands. I had a couple extra days off last week and jumped at the opportunity to take a mini holiday.

IMGP7699I always heard that Prague was a beautiful city. In fact, many people that I’ve spoken to said that it is their favorite city in Europe. It was love at first sight, and the attraction only grew stronger for the duration of my stay. By the time I left I was madly in love with the city. I loved the beautiful architecture, the views with the hills (there aren’t many where I’m living now) combined with the river. Even the sound of my boots clicking on the cobble stone roads made me giddy.

IMGP7762 IMGP7790I also found the history fascinating.  The several influences throughout history, with the 30 years war, Nazi invasion during WWII, their time of communism and then Soviet occupation, peaceful separation from the Soviets during the Velvet Revolution, and the Velvet Divorce from Slovakia, have all contributed to the Czech Republic’s rich and complicated history. I also went on a fantastic walking tour of the city which gave the backstory of the monuments and how they tied into the city’s history.

IMGP7718 IMGP7968I took this trip solo but still had a great time. I was just so infatuated with the city that I was happy as a clam strolling along by myself. During the evenings and nights my hostel was filled with great people to swap stories with. I was  inspired by the people I met while during the weekend. I love meeting other travelers, hearing their stories of exploration, where they’ve been, where they come from, as well as their reasons for traveling. My list of “must see” places has grown tremendously, as well as my list of languages to learn and books to read.