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The places that influenced me the most: Koper, Ljubljana, London, Valencia

I’ve been thinking about this scary thing called future quite a lot lately. I know why that is. It’s because I’m finally finishing my studies. This is my last year as I’ve got four subjects and the thesis left. Once that’ll be done, I’ll have to put my life together, as they say. The location is just one of the things that come with adulting, but it’s the one I want to focus on today. So, here are some thoughts about the four cities/towns that influenced me the most.

Koper, my home

Before I went on exchange, home was a simple and clear notion for me. It was the small coastal town I was born in, Koper. It lies on the coast of Slovenia, near the border with Italy, as well as the one with Croatia. I spent the first nineteen years of my life living here. It’s where I went to primary school, to high school, where I made friends, where I had my first kiss and my first party. I’ve always loved it: the weather that is better than anywhere else in the country, the proximity of the sea, its smallness and simplicity. Most of all, I probably loved the fact that basically anyone I had ever cared for lived here.

Koper is very small and there isn’t much going on, especially during the winter. A consequence of its size is also the amount and diversity of options when it comes to studies and work. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I stayed here to study, without trying to live on my own and without experiencing a city with an actual student life. Would I have been bored? Probably.

A typical evening in Koper.

Ljubljana, my second home

When I had to go to university, there wasn’t much choice in my small town. So, I went to the capital, like almost everyone did. I have friends who come from the same town as me, and who grew to love Ljubljana, who will probably move there permanently at some point. Personally, I never liked it there. I think the old centre is very pretty, and it’s a fact that there’s much more going on in the capital than in Koper. But that’s just not enough for me. I hate the weather, which is colder and rainier than in my hometown, even though they are only 100 kilometres apart. Waking up to the fog isn’t out of the ordinary either. You often don’t know what the weather’s really like until midday.

I could go on with listing the things that made me a Ljubljana-hater: the accent of its residents, how everyone’s rushing all the time, the public transport that never works like it should, the traffic jams. But I also have to acknowledge the fact that I’m stressed whenever I’m there, as it’s always all about uni and uni-related work. It’s not like I’m suffering, though. I’m not. I have many friends there, and especially during bachelor’s we used to go out often. The various events made my student years interesting, which they probably wouldn’t have been had I stayed in Koper. They just weren’t enough to make me want to live there.

Ljubljana’s Congress Square and castle.

London, my Erasmus home

Perhaps I’ll sound like a paradox now. I, on the contrary, absolutely loved living in a city that is also famous for rushing, traffic jams, rain, cold and fog. But it’s London; its level of coolness makes up for all of that, including the fact that it’s not a coastal city. London’s night life, the number of concerts, festivals, various other events, restaurants, bars and shops can’t compete with anything you can get in Slovenia. We’re just too small. I love its internationality, its architecture, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps, the New York of Europe. I’ll stop here because I’ve expressed my love for this city enough in the previous posts.

The coolness of London also has its negatives sides, though. Its size makes it hard to meet anyone. As good as the transport system is, going somewhere can take ages. Then there are the crazy prices of accommodation, transport and everything in general, and the lack of any real nature. Luckily, London’s parks are amazing, and they make for a great escape. They’re huge, and you can really pretend that you’re not in a city anymore. When I lived there, I felt great whenever we took a trip, though. When we went to Dover, and I saw the sea after months, I felt relief, somehow.

The walk from Camden to Regent’s Park.

Valencia

Just when I was enjoying my life in London to the point of becoming confused about where I’d like to live, the only thing that could have made me more of a mess happened: I fell in love with a Spanish guy. And that’s how Valencia came into my life. I’ve travelled there many times and spent last summer working and living there. Valencia has its disadvantages, of course. It’s too hot in the summer months, huge cockroaches taking walks on its streets (or in your kitchen) is a regular thing, and life’s a bit slower than in most of Europe, probably. The jobs situation isn’t ideal either.

Otherwise, Valencia is pretty much perfect. It’s next to the sea, but it’s a proper city with many interesting things going on. It’s still small enough to be manageable, and you don’t have to waste your life in a metro or in a bus. The weather’s perfect if you can handle the heath in the summer and the absence of snow in the winter. Spanish people are lovely: open, friendly, direct and funny.

Playa de la Malvarrosa, my happy place.

And now what?

I’ve always been into travelling, but London was the first city that made me think that I’d perhaps like to live somewhere else than in my hometown. That it’s possible to have different homes in one life. Valencia did just the same.

I guess the normal thing for a person like me, who’s from a coastal town and dislikes the capital, would be to try to find work in the hometown first. And if that didn’t work, to suck it up, move to the capital and find work there. To continue the student life and come home every weekend. Or perhaps drive there and back every day and be tired all the time. It would make sense because it would allow me to spend more time with my family and friends.

But as much as I love them, I wouldn’t stay, at least not right now. Koper’s too small, I’ve explained Ljubljana, and I’d never consider living anywhere else in Slovenia. Of course, a big reason is the boyfriend abroad, and the fact that long distance relationships aren’t meant to be long distance forever. But it’s also the fact that there’s too much left to see and experience out there, and not just by travelling. I want to spend a couple of months living in Italy, some time in Russia, and a part of me wants to return to London, or at least to somewhere in England. And then there’s Valencia where I definitely want to return.

Worries

If living abroad has taught me anything, it taught me that it’s possible to find home somewhere else. That I enjoy it, that it’s possible to make friends anywhere, as it is to survive without being physically close to my loved ones. As long as there’s Wi-Fi at least. The very real possibility of moving away makes me feel guilty and worried whenever I think about it. How do I leave everything behind, even when I know I want to go? I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t go that far, that Europe is small, that nowadays it’s easy to stay in touch and to visit. That they’ll survive without me being there all the time and I’ll survive without them. That I’ll do my best to come back often and that Koper will always be my home.

Writing this didn’t make me figure out where I want to spend my life, or what the “right” decision would be. I still don’t know which city I’ll call home in the future. It did help me understand that it doesn’t matter, though, that I don’t need to have that figured out just yet. As for you, if you actually managed to get through this post which probably turned into a rather confused diary entry at some point, I hope it was somehow useful to you. 😊

25 Things I Learned in 25 Years

So, 25 things I learned in 25 years. It’s my birthday, and as I’ve now completed a quarter of a century, I’m closer to thirty than to twenty and I’m halfway to fifty, I thought it would be appropriate to write something about it. The points listed below are things I’m aware of, but I’m not, you know, practicing what I’m preaching all the time and in all aspects of life yet. So, I’m telling this to myself as much as I’m telling it to you, hoping some of these 25 things might inspire you.

25-year-old girl
My cake, myself and my doggo.

1. Spend time with your family

I often feel like I’m too busy to visit my grandma, take a walk with my mum or do some other family-related activity. The thing is, though, that when I do it, I never regret it. They appreciate it, I enjoy it, and in the end it’s one of the most important and valuable things in life. For my mum and me it’s quite easy as we like similar music and we’re both into travelling, so concerts and trips are something we can do together.

2. Meet friends regularly

What social media did to us, or at least to me, is the fake illusion that we see people and know what’s going on in their lives, when in reality we only know what they choose to show. We’re all busy, of course, but it’s important to find time for the people we really care about and actually meet them in person from time to time.

3. Accept that some friendships end

As we grow up, we lose contact with some people. Busy schedules might have a lot to do with it, but often it’s simply about having different interests. Sometimes we must accept that certain friendships worked perfectly when we were kids or teenagers but ceased to exist in our twenties.

4. There’s no perfect relationship or friendship

Whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship, there will always be times when one will annoy the other, or there will be brief periods of bad mood. As long as they are brief, the two people are capable of sorting it out with respect and humour, there’s nothing abnormal or wrong with that; we’re all human and nobody can be perfect all the time.

5. When he/she’s the right one, you’ll know

I don’t believe that there’s only one soulmate out there for each person. I think it’s all a result of a lot of coincidence and being in the right place at the right time. But when it clicks, you know it. You can understand that with this person you get along as you never got along with anyone before. And you understand why it has never worked with anyone before.

6. Long distance relationships are possible

I always thought they were some phenomenon from Hollywood films that would never work in real life. How can you be with someone you never see? Well, you can’t; you got to see each other. You have to be prepared to spend time skyping and visiting each other, and money on plane tickets. It works as long as both want it badly enough to work for it.

7. Long distance friendships work too

During my exchange in London I didn’t only meet my boyfriend; I also met some of my best friends. Of course, it’s easier to be friends with someone who lives close to you, but it’s by no mean impossible to keep in touch with someone who’s far, at least not in this century. I still talk to my ex flatmates regularly via WhatsApp and Facebook, we skype occasionally, and we meet when time and money allow us. It’s not perfect, but it works.

8. Buying lots of things won’t make you happy

Going to shopping centres and shopping streets, and buying things I mostly didn’t need was something I used to enjoy. I bought many items of clothing that I then gave away without wearing them once. In time, I simply stopped doing that; I now buy clothes when I really need them, or really like them, and even then I try not to buy from big chain stores, but from local boutiques or second-hand shops instead.

9. Less is more when it comes to makeup

In high school I wouldn’t leave the house without eye liner. Man, are those days gone. It’s not that I don’t wear makeup now, I do. There’s just a lot less of it, it’s a lot simpler and from ethical brands. Plus, there are many days when I simply don’t wear it at all because I just can’t be bothered to put it on.

10. Money spent on travel is never wasted

I’ve never regretted a trip; even when I disliked the accommodation, the exact location or an organized trip, I still didn’t regret spending money on visiting the actual place. Travelling creates some of the best memories and opens your eyes to things you could never learn just from books, the TV or the internet.

11. Living abroad is the shit

Living abroad is completely different from travelling, and you never get to know a place that well if you simply spend a week there as a tourist. Getting to know what it feels like to use the public transport daily, to buy food in local shops weekly, and to hang out with the locals, gives you a unique experience that a short time visit never could.

12. Learning languages is one of the best things you can do

I study languages, so of course I’m going to say that, but I really think it’s enjoyable in general. Being able to understand and speak a foreign language can give you an understanding of a culture you couldn’t have otherwise, not to mention how useful it is when you travel, or how cool it is to talk to locals in their mother tongue.

13. Going to concerts is always worth it

I love music even if I don’t play any instruments anymore; I used to play the flute when I was a child but I gradually lost interest. Live music, especially if there’s a band I know and like performing, makes me feel all the feelings. I’ve spent quite a lot of money on concerts tickets and have been to quite a few countries just to see a band, but I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing.

14. Reading books is one of the best past time activities

Books allow you to live another life, to learn languages and vocabulary, to engage your mind in the most enjoyable way, to boost your imagination. I’m determined to work hard on giving myself more time for reading books; the pile next to my bed is getting too big.

 15. Use an agenda

Planning, writing things down in my agenda and sticking to it makes a big difference, even if I don’t manage to do everything I had planned for the day. I’m lost, and I forget things if I don’t write them down, plus this sort of gives me motivation, not to mention the satisfaction when I cross things out once they’re done. I usually spend a couple of minutes checking what I have to do every morning, and I also plan the week every Sunday evening.

16. Limit the amount of time for every activity

I try to make myself stop doing a particular thing even if it’s not finished: this gives me the opportunity to do other things, and to do more of different things daily. I’m bad at this, though; I often find it hard to stop myself from doing something that’s unfinished.

17. Have a sleeping routine

If I’m completely honest, I still have a lot to learn in this department, but I noticed that when I do manage to go to bed and drag myself out of it at approximately the same time for a few days in a row, I’m more productive. For me it would be ideal to go to bed at 10, read until 11, and then sleep until 7.

18. Limit phone use

Checking Instagram or Facebook before bed is the worst idea, at least in my case; it makes me not even touch the book that’s lying next to me, and it makes me stay up too late. I try to check emails and read some news in the morning before I start working and browse The Gram after lunch. I’m sort of out of the habit of checking Facebook daily, anyway. I think that’s now my mother’s and her generation’s thing.

19. Watching lots of TV series is a waste of time

And the same goes for shitty films. I used to do both on an almost daily basis a couple of years ago. Now I barely watch anything; I mostly only do if there’s someone else with me. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with watching good films or TV series. On the contrary; I think it’s beneficial as it can teach you a great deal of language and culture. It’s just that it’s often hard to find enough time for it. When I do watch something, I try to make sure it’s beneficial for me in some way (languages), or it’s something I really want to see.

20. Quality over quantity when it comes to going out

I used to party and drink much more than I do now, and I think I sort of got it out of my system. I still enjoy going out and having a few drinks occasionally, and especially when I’m abroad and with I haven’t seen in a long time or with new people (maybe these are just excuses for my partying in Spain this summer). But generally, when I’m home, I prefer to just hang out without drinking, and I do less of that than I used to. I drink for special occasions like my birthday, New Year’s Eve or some other party that feels special to me. A good night’s sleep and no hangover are much more important than they’re used to be (getting old, I guess).

21. Doing sport daily is beneficial

But if, and only if, I don’t feel too tired; there are days like this too, and when they come, I rest. Most of the time, though, moving my body from 40 minutes up to an hour, or sometimes an hour and a half, makes my day so much better, whether I go for a run, for a bike ride, for a long walk or even if I just exercise in my room with the help of YouTube.

22. Healthy in general with occasional treats when it comes to food

My friends say I’m a food wanker, but I do like my occasional chocolate. Otherwise, they’re right; eating whole foods, mostly lots of veggies and fruit, makes me feel good. I also find it easier not to have junk food at home; if it’s not there, I won’t eat it.

23. The taste isn’t worth the harm animal products cause

Oh, come on, I mentioned 22 things before getting to veganism. Once I got over the fact that most of the people in my life don’t understand my way of eating or agree with it, and once I stopped missing certain foods I loved before going vegan, this lifestyle became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It makes me feel good in relation to so many things: animal welfare, the environment, my own body. If you’re interested in why I’m vegan, you can read about it here.

24. Accept yourself as you are

I used to hate certain things about my body and my personality that I’m slowly learning to accept. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, it’s just about not feeling less worthy because you don’t look like or behave like someone else. Loving yourself and your life and wanting to be exactly who you are is one of the most valuable things you can learn to do.

25. Dream big but be practical

I’m sort of doing that, and I’d like to think it’s a good plan. I want to publish a book one day, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed inside my room focusing on that only. I’m working on my writing, but I’m also studying languages because I know I have to keep my options open, and a translation-related job might come before a writing-related one or anything even remotely close to a best-seller.

The end

And I thought I was going to have trouble coming up with 25 things I learned in 25 years. I could come up with another 25. Anyway, congrats if you got this far, I know it’s a lengthy post. Thanks for reading and I hope some of the points were useful to you in some way. 🙂