Dealing with Reverse Culture Shock

Reverse culture shock is a very real and evident thing, and every time I come back home to America there is more shock, but I learn to handle it better.  It's a weird system I have going on, but I'm slowly learning how to make it work.  I'm sure people just assume reverse culture shock is me "missing my glamorous life in Europe" or "pissed because I have to join the 'real world'"- let me just state, my life in Europe is in no way "glamorous" and very much so a part of the 'real world' as my life in America is.  They are both different, but they are both very real and an integral part of who I am. 

So what is culture shock?

"The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes."  Many people experience this when they go abroad for the first time, and every time they leave.  It's a very normal and expected occurrence, minimized through personal research of a culture, but you can never learn everything.  I consistently still find myself surprised at things in Italy, and probably will for the rest of my life, though the number of things, and amount of shock will lessen throughout the years.

How can reverse culture shock even be a thing?  You grew up in America.

Let me tell you a quick story.  I was out at the bar with some friends in my college town.  I ordered my usual drink of choice, a Vodka Lemon, and the bartender gave me a quick side eye.  I sat talking to friends and as soon as  I was handed my drink realized I'd made a grave mistake. Schweppes lemon soda is NOT a thing in America, and I was handed a Vodka with soda water (?) and a splash of some sort of lemonade (maybe).   I drank it, but when the bartender asked me if I would have another I politely declined and ordered a standard gin and tonic instead.  

My friends made fun of me and we discussed the specs of a Vodka Lemon for about 15 minutes, as I hung my head in shame because I forgot how to order a drink in America (not really).  This is just one small instance of reverse culture shock.  

Another example?  I forget people are friendly here and want to have a conversation with me for no apparent reason, and I can't use a "I don't speak English excuse" because well, that would just be weird.  I forget what it's like to see trucks everywhere, and to hear southern accents, and the smell of barbecue.  It's being unaware of how much I really used to drive in a day, and how much I walked throughout the day in Italy.  

It's not that I actually forgot these things, it's that they get put in the back of your mind and you just don't think about them for the time you're abroad. There's more to reverse culture shock than missing your lifestyle.  It's becoming re-accustomed to your old one.

So what can you do?

There are a few things I do to help me get back into the swing of things and beat the Post Travel Blues/ Reverse Culture Shock Strifes.

  1. Edit Photos

    This is a personal thing for me, but you can swing it your way.  Often when I come home from a trip, or after I've been abroad for a while, I'll sit on my couch and watch TV and edit photos or video.  Often this brings members of my family over my shoulder asking questions about the photos and where I am, who I am with, etc. etc.  This is a great way to bring my family into my adventures so they are a little more clued-in to my life overseas, and let me vent and talk about my times from someone who asks so I don't feel like I'm annoying people with my travel stories.  (We've all been there...)

  2. Make Plans with Friends

    One of the best ways to get past your confusing return to America is to make plans with old friends.  Go out, get back used to eating American food, and listen to what they've been up to.  Hearing your friends talk about school, work, and your mutual friends will help you deal with the time that has passed and get you caught up on all the going ons, like who's dating who, what people's plans are in the next couple of months, and so on.

  3. Plan a Weekend Trip

    Another issue I frequently deal with is my restless feet.  The 'confinement' of not being able to hop on a plane and head to a new country for 20 bucks rips at my soul and causes me anguish, but I get past this by planning weekend trips.  Just driving a few hours to hang out for a weekend at the beach, in the mountains, or for a city stay can really satiate the travel palate for a time being.  America has so many beautiful things to offer, so grab some friends, load up the car, and take a quick road trip!

  4. Write About It

    If you were a study abroad student, you probably documented your adventures in one way or another, or if you were living abroad there was probably something you did while you were overseas to remember the fun times.  Writing about your struggles with adapting back to life in America, or even just writing more about your adventures or thoughts you have can help ease the transition.  

  5. Call Friends from Abroad

    For me talking to my boyfriend and other friends who are overseas while I am in America makes me miss life in Italy a whole lot less (sometimes).  Hearing about their *very* Italian struggles like people not showing up when they're supposed to, or the lack of heating and AC everywhere makes you appreciate the little luxuries of America just a little bit more.  Not only that, but it keeps you up to date with the going ons of your friends so you don't have any FOMO.

  6. Make a Conscious Effort

    You need to try and adjust.  It won't be easy, but just sulking about not being on a trip won't do anyone any good.  Find ways to get back into the swing of things and get into a routine.  Focus on the positive and not the negative, and for the love of god don't just post throwbacks on Instgram.  Get out and do something fun, live in the NOW.

  7. Plan your next trip!!

    Nothing helps you beat post travel blues like planning another trip!  Hop on your computer and check out some flight deals and get your butt onto your next adventure. Give yourself something to look forward to!

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The 7 People You Meet on Your Study Abroad

The Partier

You’re on study abroad, you’re under 21, and for the first time in your life you can drink in public!! But there’s always that one person (or group of friends) who are out every single night, regardless of class, exam, or project presentation the next day.  And somehow they always bounce back and make it to class, looking a little worse for wear, but ready to do it all again the following night.  How they don’t have an eternal hangover is baffling to everyone.

The Hater

The person everyone is nice to, but mostly so they don’t get blasted on social media.  This is the person who hates where they are studying, and no one can quite figure out why.  It’s not because they’re homesick, because they make it clear they wouldn’t want to be home by the posts for their weekend trips- but they have some personal vendetta against the city they are studying in.  Why? We don’t know, but we’re just gonna let them hate.

The One Who Might “Accidentally” Miss Their Flight Back

There’s always one in every group.  Either you’re not sure they’re going to come back, or they actually don’t come back.  These are usually the people who come back t0 work for a tour company, or end up traveling extensively after their degree.  You know the type.  Those kids who start a travel blog. Sheesh.  No one likes them.

The Homesick One

You feel bad for them, but you also can’t quite comprehend why they would rather be at home during one of the most exciting times of their lives.  Typicaclly these people stay in their rooms a lot and focus on school so they aren’t thinking too much of missing home.  The best way to deal with a homesick person is to continue inviting them to everything you do, but don’t pressure them to participate- everyone handles homesickness in their own way!  Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help and do as they ask, as long as it’s within your limitations!

The One Who’s “Been to Europe Before”

AKA the know-it-all.  Meaning they travelled to Europe for 3 weeks with their parents 3 summers ago.  Or maybe one of their parents are from somewhere in Europe and that makes them a walking travel book.  Take what they say worth a grain of salt, and do some research on your own.  You’ll be better off for it in the end.

The Planner

This is the person who plans every single trip you go on. From finding hostels and Air BnBs, to booking train tickets and giving you a rough itinerary. This person puts their travel guru mask on and gets the job done to make life a whole lot easier.

The One Who’s Down for Anything

Want to go skydiving? Sure!! Want to go hiking today? Sure!  Want to drink wine in the Piazza and people watch? Sure!  Want to take a day trip tomorrow? Sure! Where to!?
This person is great to have as a roommate or BSAFF (best study abroad friend forever) because they are down for ANY adventure.  They’re there with you no matter what and will be by your side through tourist traps, and amazing secret finds.

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10 Ways to Document Your Time Abroad

You are about to embark on one of the craziest and most fulfilling experiences of your life, and whether or not you are a writer, editor, photographer, Instagram model, YouTube sensation, or just a dude with a flip phone, you are going to want to document your time abroad.  It doesn't matter if you are just taking a gap year, heading overseas to volunteer, or participating in a Study Abroad program with your college, many new adventures await, and even if you don't want to share them with the world, you may want to share them with yourself later on down the road.  Here I have compiled a unique list of ways to document your time abroad,   From every day updating, to simple one a week check-ins, this list is for every type of traveller.

  1. Take Notes on Your Phone

    I always start with this, because it's the easiest way to document anything when you're on the go.  From questions that pop in my head that later turn into blog posts, to the name of the cute café down the street I might want to return to later on.  Keeping notes in your phone is a great habit to get into.  Whenever a new idea, thought, question, or tidbit of info comes my way, I quickly jot it down to look back on later. Once you do this, it makes the rest of the documentation process a whole lot easier!

  2. Start a Blog

    If you're a writer, or even if you're not since everyone is blogging these days, a blog is a great way to write about your time abroad, and be able to share it with family and friends back at home.  Whether you go with a diary style blog and just write about your experiences, or you try and give more practical advice for other travelers, your people back at home will thank you for the frequent updates.
    Different (free) providers include, WordPress, Blogger, Tumbler...the list is endless.
    For more travel inspo, check out my other posts on The Boho Traveller.

  3. Start a Video Log (vlog)


    If writing isn't your thing (and you know it clap your hands!)- then maybe an alternative to a blog for you will be a Vlog.  This doesn't necessarily mean you have to buy fancy equipment or get on your phone every day and give a spiel about what you did that day.  There are many creative ways to start a video log.  Go Pros are a great asset to have, or when I video blog, I often use my iPhone to shoot.  I've seen vlogs that document 1.5 seconds from every day they were abroad, to just weekend specific vlogs, to certain activities.  The world is your creative oyster when it comes to video, so get jiggy with it!

  4. Start an Instagram or Twitter Account Dedicated to Your Travels

    This is my Instagram account attached to my blog, which is completely separate from my personal account.

    Another great way to document your travels in a very specific and unique way, and even allow yourself to grow and expand and come back to it when you have later travels.  Another great thing about both of these accounts?  You can share the login information and make it a collaboration project.  Have roommates or a significant other that will be traveling with you?  Inspire each other and make it a joint account, agreeing to post about amazing places you guys visit together.

  5. Start a #Hashtag

    If the work of creating an entirely new account isn't exactly your cup of tea, maybe start your own hashtag to use across Social Media, so whenever your family, friends, or you yourself search it, there you are in all your glory!  All you need to do now is just remember to tag it at the end of all of your posts. Just be sure do your research before you decide on a hashtag to make sure it isn't already taken.  #GetUnique

  6. Start a Photo Series

    Along your new account or hashtag, maybe you could start a photo series.  You know, along the lines of the whole #FollowMeTo series, or there are some people who are obsessed with doors, floors, or gates even.  Find your niche and start a photo series of a particular aspect of every place you visit.

  7. Keep a Paper Journal

    Nothing beats just a handwritten paper journal to remember every detail of your trip.  Later on you can look back and reminisce on the little things that will slip your mind in years to come
    Pro Tip:  Buy your journal once you reach your destination, then you have some added sentiment and encouragement to your documentations.

  8. Start a Collection

    Stamps, postcards, terrible t-shirts, snow globes, ornaments, you name it, there is something for every traveller.  For the not s0 sentimental perhaps train stubs will do, and for people who are homebodies, maybe you would rather have a Christmas tree full of ornaments from all over the world to look at every year.  Whatever the case is, a collection can  be a great way to commemorate times gone by, even if it might prove a bit hard to stuff back in your suitcase for the way home.

  9. Create a Scrapbook

    Not exactly practical while you are traveling, but if you plan just a little bit a head of time, once you arrive back home a really nice collection could take place.  Old fashioned scrapbooks take time and effort, but if you're like me and you love to craft, it shouldn't be a burden at all...plus it can give you wanderlust inspiration once you're back home to start planning your next trip.

  10. Make a Photo Book

    If scrapbooking (and the efforts involved) isn't really your thing, but maybe photography is, consider making a photo book at the end of your trip. Just select your photos and send them into a service such as Shutterfly, and voila, the work is done for you!

Do you have any other creative ways to document your adventures!?  Let me know in the comments below!

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100 Things Every Study Abroad Student in Florence Has Said

---Been there, said that!---

If you've studied abroad in Florence, I can almost guarantee that you've said at least one of these things, if not all 100.  Florence will always be every study abroad student's home away from home.

  1. I think we're lost...
  2. Oh my god, that gelato looks amazing.
  3. Wait, which way is the duomo?
  4. I want pizza for dinner.
  5. God, the pasta here is SO GOOD.
  6. Alright, where are we drinking tonight?
  7. Why does nobody here speak English?!
  8. Oh god, everyone here is speaking English...
  9. Why is dinner so late here?
  10. I need to call my mom.
  11. WHY IS NOTHING OPEN?!
  12. Pizza again for dinner?...yeah okay.
  13. Lets go drink in Piazzale Michelangelo tonight!
  14. Alright, we're definitely lost.
  15. Can you marry a country?
  16. What time is it back at home?  Can I post to Instagram yet?
  17. God, this coffee is so good.
  18. OK let's make a deal to go to the Uffizi next week.
  19. How is this Insta Caption? Have I posted too much this week?
  20. Let's start off at Lion's so we can get our free shots!
  21. Why is there no such thing as real breakfast here?
  22. I think I'm gonna stay in tonight...I really need to rest *get's dragged out by roommates 3 hours later*
  23. What time does our train leave?
  24. Can I have wine with lunch in between classes?  Suuure it'll be fine.
  25. UGH the workers are on strike...AGAIN.
  26. I still haven't been to the Academia yet...
  27. I don't think I can ever pasta again.
  28. Let's go ride on the Carousel!!
  29. *Names a Gelateria* is the best gelato I've had in my entire life.
  30. Do you think he's Italian or an Albanian? Also is he cute or am I just drunk? Ehhhh whatever.
  31. Ugh...can I have gniocchi two nights in a row, or is that too much?
  32. Oh wait, they're American, let's get them to take our picture.
  33. IT'S 4 AM!! IT'S TIME FOR SECRET BAKERY!
  34. Will you take a photo of me in front of *lists every historic monument in Italy*?
  35. Holy sh*t that was the best meal of my life.
  36. Let's try somewhere new tonight!
  37. Where should we travel to this weekend?
  38. Is this even really my life?
  39. I feel like I've gotten really good at math with never having split checks...
  40. Lets get a bottle of wine (or 2) and pregame on the Ponte Vecchio!
  41. More tour promoters...lets go this way instead!
  42. I need nachos and french fries STAT.
  43. What is up with the bathrooms here?
  44. I am NEVER drinking again *gets drunk at Uncle Jimmy's approximately 5 hours later*
  45. Another tour group...RUN!
  46. *trips on cobblestone* CAZZO...I think I just broke an ankle.
  47. Oooh that's SO pretty! Let me take a picture real quick.
  48. If one more person offers me a selfie stick I am going to take it and break it over their head.
  49. Wait, we only have a month left here!?!?
  50. How are Italian women so effortlessly beautiful and STYLISH?
  51. Oh god....I hooked up with a promoter last night....
  52. Let's go get fresh veggies at Mercato Centrale tomorrow.
  53. I think Piazza Santa Croce is my favorite. 
  54. Let's go get some Pino's!
  55. Lets go watch the sun set over the Ponte Vecchio!
  56. I need tacos!! Let's go to El Chicos!
  57. Do I look too American right now?
  58. Should I have a Negroni or a prosecco....what kind of night should tonight be?
  59. I don't have any cash, I'll need to stop at the ATM.
  60. Have you had Gusta Pizza yet?  It's amazing!
  61. Where is the closest gelateria to here? I'm on round 2 for today.
  62. Wow....look at that view!
  63. I'm going to call my sister...I miss home.
  64. OMG why is there no heat/AC ANYWHERE!?
  65. How do you say *Let's Bang* in Italian?
  66. I just dropped like €200 at Zara.
  67. Oh my god what did we even DO last night?
  68. I only have wine class on Thursdays...I guess I could skip it!
  69. I want Chipotle so bad right now.
  70. *death by cobblestone*
  71. Why doesn't anyone take card?
  72. Oh my god so last night at Uncle Jimmy's....
  73. Wow....the Duomo never fails to amaze me.
  74. I literally have €5.23 to my name right now....guess it's time to call dad...
  75. Do you think my parents would let me stay another semester?
  76. Do you think we should maybe work out...? I'm starting to get a pasta belly....nahhhh.
  77. Wow, this flight is so cheap!  I love European transportation!
  78. Italian men are so pretty.
  79. Let's do aperitivo tonight, I don't really need a full meal.
  80. My feet are killing me, but these shoes....
  81. Let's get breakfast at Le Vespe tomorrow! I could really use a breakfast burrito.
  82. Are those...rats...in the Arno...?
  83. Oh my god this train bathroom will be the death of me...I hate European transportation.
  84. Does everyone smoke here?
  85. I'm definitely taking a nap in between classes today.
  86. I think I've gained like 15 pounds since we got here....oh well.
  87. This place is so beautiful.
  88. Aaaaaaallora...
  89. God, this train smells awful.
  90. Why doesn't ranch dressing exist here?
  91. We will climb to the top of the Duomo eventually....
  92. I think I'm going to purposefully miss my flight home.
  93. This was not enough time here.
  94. Why are the bathrooms never free and always so gross?
  95. When can I come back?
  96. Why don't we cross to the Oltrarno more often?
  97. Wait, so do I ACTUALLY have to leave?
  98. I don't ever want to leave.
  99. Best 4 months of my life. 
  100. Florence will always be my second home.  My home away from home.

Want more stuff on Florence? 
Why I Fall in Love with Florence Every Time

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What You Need to Understand Before You Move to Italy

I absolutely love living in this country, but let me just say it is NOT for everyone.  Sure, anyone with a brain, and a relative understanding of European culture, and a knack for travel can come visit, even for an extended stay maybe, but it takes a certain type of person to truly have the gall (and the patience of a saint) to live in Italy.  It can prove a very difficult thing for Americans to adapt to- I see it every semester with the study abroad students in Florence.  It’s a situation where you either love it, or you hate it.  Even when you do love it every second, there are times where you just want to throw Italy off the face of the planet for something or another stupid thing the country has gone and done again (this is where the patience of a saint comes in).  So do you have the aptitude and willingness to live in this amazing country?  Check out my list below to be prepared before you make the move!  (The photos are to encourage you that all of this mental preparation is SO worth it?)img_5074

Everything (YES EVERYTHING) Is Tiny

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Thankfully there are not tiny amounts of cheese in Italy

And I say this as a 5’3″ (160cm) female weighing in at 105 lbs (47 kilos)- everything is tiny.  The number of times I hit my head in my second apartment while washing dishes because the cabinets were so low you couldn’t lean over the sink is appalling- even more appalling is I never learned to just not hit my head.  Bathrooms are small, doors are small, the portions (are usually perfect, which is small for Americans), the restaurants are small, the people are small, the sidewalks are unbearably small in cohabitation with the tiny winding streets, and the churches are HUGE…I think that’s something to to with the Vatican….but that’s a whole other story.  
Italy is not made for big people, so if you’re tall, be prepared for ALOT of ducking.

The Visa Process is a Load of Codswallop

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The views, on the other hand, are not codswallop!

If you are a student or an EU citizen, consider yourself #BLESSED.  A number of hoops is required to jump through to get a visa on your own is painful, agonizing, and downright ludicrous.  I probably will spend about 5 days – meaning 120 hours- doing Visa BS annually.  For me- my love of Italy and my life here makes it worth it in the end- but it is time-consuming.  Not to mention dealing with the entire process that nobody will ever fully explain- EVER, in English or Italian, makes it that much more lovely.  

I love you Italy, but I do not love your Visa process.  Sorry.  Sincerely, a disgruntled expat.

You Should Never Be Rude

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But you can TOTALLY be sassy like this street art lady.

This goes as a general life fact, but when you first move here, especially if you aren’t particularly well versed in the language or culture, try and shy away from being rude.  You should do so in general, but ya know if you want to be rude be rude in the country’s native language.  Apart from being a hooman bean other hooman beans want to be around, Italians will be rude right back at you.  Sometimes they will be rude just because they KNOW you are an American (see how they know here), and though they shouldn’t be since tourism is a main source of revenue here- it’s how it goes.  And when Italians are rude it can sting, and you will get cry like a little baby because you are a soft American who hasn’t been toughened by the European scorn.  Not really, but just being polite makes things easier for everyone.  Once you know some Italian and someone says something rude, you can yell back a few choice words- until then it’s time to play nice. ??

You Have to Make Time to Enjoy the City

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I shouldn’t have to tell you to enjoy this!! ?

If you’re a study abroad student, it may seem like you have forever to enjoy the city you are living in, but those 3/4 months will fly by faster than expected.  Make time to go and climb the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore), walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, hike the trail in Fiesole, and see the artwork in the Uffizi.  I know people who have lived in Florence for 15 years and have just within this past month climbed the bell tower to the Duomo.  (If you’re reading this you know who you are…) Don’t leave it all for the last minute (or 2 weeks) you’re in town- because you won’t enjoy it as you would have if you spread it out.  

Water, Heat/AC, Electricity are Expensive and IMPOSSIBLE

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Who needs AC when you can apertivo to this view!?!? PC Cristian Diletti

Okay, well forget about the whole AC concept if you’re here in the summer because if your apartment has it, consider yourself highfalutin- and it’s probably not even that spectacular.  Here in the winter?  You can’t turn on the heat until after November 1st usually. 

As for water- pressure is usually less than desired, and it’s pretty harsh on the hair.  The good news is in most of Italy tap water is drinkable! 

Electricity is a completely different beast.  If you have ever lived in an old house, what I’m about to say won’t come as a surprise.  Don’t run more than one appliance at a time.  In my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, we couldn’t run the dishwasher at the same time as the toaster, but the microwave is OK.  Only 1 AC can be on when the stove is on, but no other appliance or the breaker will flip.  In my current apartment as soon as I hear one of my roommates turn on the blow dryer I run to turn off my space heater, otherwise we are all wandering around in the dark for 5 minutes while someone goes to find their phone to light the way to the breaker.  It’s a bit like a game, though exhausting and a little terrifying when the lights go out and you’re in the shower.

Italians tend to be very energy-conscious and turn off lights when they leave rooms and don’t have appliances running unless it’s necessary.  This also means no laundry dryers, so get ready to air dry all your dirty (not really I mean your clean) laundry!

While I’m on the subject of homes- you might want to invest in a white noise maker or a good app on your phone or computer or earplugs!  The walls in Italy are old and thin, which means you can hear everything in your flatmate’s room and on the street below. 

It’s Grazie, not Grazie

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David will be mad if you mispronounce it.

It’s all in the pronunciation, and if you can get this one right, you’re already doing better than half of the Americans I hear on the street.  Check out this brief guide to crucial phrases in Italian, and start off your stay on the right track. ?  Prego.

The Grocery Stores are a Blessing within a Curse

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Which means it’s a good thing there’s always gelato.

While I love how everything in the grocery stores here is cheaper and fresher than in America (seriously, this is amazing)- the trip itself is a curse from the DEVIL HIMSELF.  Jokes aside, you’re going to want a plan of attack, because this is no relaxing stroll through Publix- this is full on war!  Most of the grocery stores (Conad City) are one long zigzagging path through the building that flows in a single direction leading to the check out counter.  Know what you want and need before you go!  Lines are usually painfully long at rush hour, but the ‘Nad will have everything you need.

Pro Tip: When buying fruits and veggies make sure to check the number, take them to the scale and weigh them and get a sticker to put on your bag.  Otherwise, you are going to cause all sorts of hassle at the checkout lane.

Patience is a Great Virtue to Have

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When the patience is lacking…the wine is not.

As mentioned before, you have to have a lot of patience to live in Italy- or you will certainly be angry all the time.  Come to terms with the fact that everything takes forever.  Literally everything.  Then if something happens in a reasonable time, be surprised.  Otherwise, it’s gonna be a lot of anxious waiting for you, because regardless of what you do- you WILL have to wait.

 

If I’ve made you grumpy about living here, maybe read about why it’s so great too! 

 

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Social Media is a Lie

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I recently called a friend and told her about a difficult situation going on in my life.  She responded "Oh wow, really?  I'm so surprised, your Instagram pictures from this weekend were amazing!" While yes, I know my photos from that weekend were, as the kids call it, "on fleek", they in no way represented the emotional turmoil wreaking havoc inside my head.

I posted those photos, happy and carefree, even though at the moment I felt like a train wreck.  I chose to post something to Social Media which in no way represented my actual well being.  Why did I do this?  At what point in time did I mentally say, "No, Sydney, only show people the good stuff."?  I don't know the answer.

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I began to wonder at what age are we taught to not let people see our true emotions.  It's not just boys who are told not to cry as kids, but girls too.  Don't cry or they'll think your a "typical" emotional woman.  Why are we so uncomfortable with other's knowing our pain?  Why is it a contest to see who can be the "strongest", or in bad relationships whoever is the least attached has the most power.  Why as humans are we selfish with these kinds of emotions?  Why, when I was upset in the 10th grade for my childhood dog dying, did someone turn around to me and say "Stop being emotional, it's just a f***ing dog."?  

I don't believe in posting all of your problems on social media, and I'm sure that many people feel the same way.  Which means coming into play here is that SOCIAL MEDIA IS A LIE.  If everyone is doing this, except for on occasion, and we believed only what we saw on Facebook, then we would be living in some sort of engagement party, baby shower, politcal agenda utopia.  And some days it certainly feels that way when I spend all day on a computer. 

But it's not.  Life is nothing like Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/whatever is the newest trend says it is.  

Constantly I have people messaging me saying how incredible my life is and how inspiring my posts are, or how they wish they could be living my life.  I always answer to them, well it's not that hard, all you have to do is get up and move.  They always just laugh and ask me what my next adventure is.  Maybe my life may seem exotic at times to those not around, but most days I feel like a normal girl who misses ranch dressing.  

I know I lead a blessed life- and this post is in no means trying to disregard the incredible opportunities I have been given.  I built my way of life for myself, and I try everyday to be proud of it and know I am a strong woman who has done incredible things, with only more to come.  This is unfortunately something that daily becomes harder to tell myself.

With so much social media around, a true challenge lies in not comparing yourself to other people.  There is nothing more time consuming (expect maybe binge watching Lost and eating cheese puffs), than going to other people's social media profiles and putting yourself down.  We need to stop the comparisons! That smiling photo in Barcelona, or the amazing sunset shot in Greece, in no way represents the person who posted it.  There is a reason why when I post a photo with myself in it at some amazing location gets more likes than just a scenic photo.  Because people are self indulgent, and for some reason they like to see it as well.  It's not like I make the photo any better.  If anything I'm taking away from the natural beauty around me and slightly distracting myself from truly experiencing where I am.  

Come to terms with it. Social Media is a lie.  Being a Social Media Manager and a blogger, this is one of the hardest things to come to terms with.  It is a vicious love/hate relationship that cycles insistently.  

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Do not waste your time going to other people's pages and wishing you were like them, or that you had their life, or even that you wish your hair looked like theirs.  Live your own life.  Post what makes you feel good and comfortable, but don't lie.  Don't be afraid to post the "ugly" and uncomfortable on Social Media either, as humans, we need to see it all.  If you are literally always happy, with no other emotions, then are you even human at all?

If you must compare, use it to better yourself, and set goals.  Say "Hey!  I really like what this person has done and I am going to aspire to be as successful."  Do not compare to bring yourself or others down.  Remember you never know what is actually happening on the other end of the screen.

 

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6 Reasons to Add Budapest to your European Vacation

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An ancient town originally settled by the Romans, in Budapest awaits grandeur and wonder for those who visit.  A gem of Hungary, the name Budapest comes from the combination of 2 originally Bulgarian towns having sat on either side of the Danube River, Buda and Pest.  After the Széchenyi Chain Bridge was built as the first permanent bridge to cross the Danube in 1849, Buda and Pest quickly integrated into each other allowing for more accessible trade and the towns quickly grew together.  War and devastation wreaked Hungary during the early 1900's and was destroyed even more through the wrath of World War II.  Soviet forces blew up the Buda Castle and every bridge on the Danube as the Nazi's refused to surrender.

Rebuilt, Budapest offers a unique way of life in the trendy city. 20% of the population of Hungary lives in Budapest, so take it from the Hungarians and go to Budapest!  From amazing architecture and ancient ruins, to some of the funkiest bars in Europe, here is a few measly reasons you should add Budapest to your European Vacation.

 

The Budapest Thermal Baths

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Seriously one of the most unique and interesting experiences I've had in my life.  Stripping down to practically nothing, then heading outside into 45-degree weather, to take a dip in natural outdoor hot springs with hundreds of people from all over the world, is unforgettable.  

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There are several different locations for Thermal Baths in Budapest, though my favorite are the Széchenyi Baths, with 15 indoor baths, and a huge outdoor one, all ranging with different temperatures.  Different saunas with different temperatures and aromas are there as well- and there is now even a beer bath!  Take a meditating dip in a private bath with other person with natural minerals found in beer, combined with hops, and have all you can drink beer for the session!  

Pro Tip- When you get there you will need to rent a locker or a cabin, and you will want to bring your own towel/robe!

 

The Parliament House

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Built between 1885 and 1902, the Parliament house was considered one of the largest parliament buildings in the entire world, and to this day some consider it to be one of the grandest.  A top sight to see in Budapest, it is he largest building in Hungary and the tallest in Budapest.  The crown jewels are currently housed and on display in the building. The crown jewels of Hungary are currently housed in the building, but it has not always been so.  They were held in the US reserves for a while during the trials of  war and turmoil in the earlier half of the 1900’s until Jimmy Carter returned them.

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691 rooms in the building she is pretty hard to miss!

Pro-Tip: To get the best view of the Parliament house, head across to the other side of the Danube and head up to the castle district!

The Ruin Pubs

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The trendiest way to spend any evening in Europe is by heading out to one of the many popular Ruin Pubs Budapest has to offer!  Sit in what used to be an old car repair shop, or an old apartment, or something else very bizarre, throw in some mix-matched hand-me-down furniture, and boom!  You've got yourself a Budapest Ruin Pub.  Covered in twinkling lights usually, and a hipster's dream, head to one of these such as Szimpla kertz and enjoy the evening with really cheap beer (around €2) in one of the world's most unique atmospheres

Hungarian Cuisine

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It's sort if like every day is Thanksgiving.  Hungarians love their beef stews, casseroles, Goulash, and dumplings.  If you in search of some delicious and heavy meals for a few days- go to Hungary and chow down!  For lovers of soups and stews- Budapest is the place to be!

St. Stephen’s Basilica 

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The 3rd largest church in Hungary, Saint Stephen's Basilica is a sight to behold.  The two towers of the church hold 6 bells, among which is the Szent István-bell (Great St. Stephan bell) the biggest bell in all of Hungary weighing in at 9250 kg (20,393 lbs) and it is usually only rung twice a year. 

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The Catholics do this weird things where they keep bits of dead saints, and in this church is the hand of Saint Stephen.  Every year on August 26 Budapest hosts a parade to honor Saint Stephen.  Who leads this parade, you ask?  Oh just none other than Saint Stephen's hand himself.  He wouldn't want to miss out on his own big day now, would he?

The Shoes on the Danube

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Created in April of 2005, the memorial commemorates the lives of the Jews who were killed by the fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen.  Those killed were ordered to take their shoes off before being shot.  Lined up along the bank they were then shot down with arrows, left to fall away into the river. About 60 pairs of iron shoes rest on the banks of the Danube.

People often put flowers and other trinkets inside the shoes to honor those lost.  A must-see while in Budapest, this humbling river-side memorial pays tribute to those lost, with the backdrop of the Buda castle in the distance.

 

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