There is something magical about arriving in a new city. Everything is new, different and beautiful. It feels as if there are endless possibilities and you are itching to explore. Of course, the first day rush of navigating your way to your accommodation and dragging around heavy bags can hinder this slightly, but I always remember my first days fondly (the only exception being getting lost in Seoul on the first day with a broken suitcase and no sleep- but that’s a story for another time). Unfortunately for me, my first week had a lot of self-inflicted disasters and I’m going to walk you through everything that went wrong and how I’m not letting it affect my trip.
Prague is beautiful. Every minute of walking brings another beautiful sculpture, building or view. I was lucky to have my first day in Prague on a Tuesday, after landing on Monday night, which meant that the majority of the tourists on a weekend city break had left. It was still busy, but not to the same extent. I walked through Old Town Square for the first time and saw the mass gathering of tourists around the Astrological Clock (which is lovely to look at but isn’t worth the wait or the hype by the way). Now, I know to avoid walking through this area within the 15 minutes leading up to the hour, although I do quite like listening to tour guides and picking up interesting facts (when they are talking in a language I understand).
In the evening, I tried to learn my way around the area of my hostel. I was staying in a 6-bed mixed dorm, which would have been fine if the room wasn’t directly next to the common room/kitchen where people would be loudly making their dinner at 10pm. Luckily, it was in a really good location and I enjoyed walking around, stopping to read restaurant menus and writing down the names of places I wanted to try during my time there. I was surprised by the amount of vegetarian food available but worried about the cost of eating out.
I knew I had the option of cooking in the first hostel, but I felt uncomfortable with the atmosphere there and it was feeding on my anxiety. The people were friendly enough, but there wasn’t any socialising and I always felt a bit tense in the common room for some reason.
On my first day in Prague, I had several meetings and interviews planned for part-time temporary jobs during my stay and I had been offered a position at a hostel, planning activities, and events. So, on the second day, I did some research about places I wanted to include in tours and visited the vendors to try and get some discounts. It was a lot harder than I expected, but I think I am getting the hang of it now.
I felt confident about my job and I went in to get to know the hostel staff a few times who were so welcoming and it helped me feel a bit less lonely. I am mostly fine with being away from home and don’t get particularly homesick, but I don’t like being unable to talk with friends and family back home. So when I’m in a country with incompatible time zones or if they are all at work all day, I needed to find people to talk to.
My job is great because I can come and go as I please. Being self-employed is completely new to me and I feel like I’m learning more and more every day. I am struggling financially at the moment, while I’m just starting out, but I’m optimistic that once I get in a routine I will be able to make some money. I love being able to independently explore whenever I want to and it doesn’t really feel like I’m working, because I enjoy it. Unfortunately, when I have a bad mental health day it does hit me harder than it would at home surrounded by my friends.
On my third day in Prague, I had a panic attack. That morning, I had an email from my counselor in England. I had missed my last session but still had to pay. I didn’t have enough money to pay and I’m not even in the country, so I started the panic. He said that if I didn’t pay then I would be unable to use Mind’s services again in the future. At some point in the middle of this panic, I look at the time and realise I’m supposed to check out in 20 minutes and I haven’t packed. This urgency and stress are beginning to pile on top of all of the worries that were already there. In the rush to pack, I bend to pick something up and my jeans rip. They were the only jeans I bought with me, because I left my black jeans behind by accident, so now I really start to panic.
I check out and leave my luggage in the hostel storage so that I could go out without having to carry my heavy bags, but as I start to walk, I start crying. I feel like I can’t breathe, and I can’t stop crying. I can see people looking at me and it’s making me feel even more anxious.
Eventually, I set myself the mission of breathing to calm myself down. When that starts to work, I think of things that I want to achieve on this day and give myself these simple missions throughout the day to keep myself busy and keep my anxiety at bay. First, I found the vegan bistro that does the nice soup for lunch, then I walked across the Charles Bridge. I got someone to take a photo of me at the Lennon Wall for my Instagram in the morning and then I went to the hostel at check-in time and tried to sell some tickets to my first activity. I kept busy.
You wouldn’t know that picture was taken just hours after a panic attack. Updating my instagram feeds and story while I’m travelling is one of my favourite things. I love looking back at it when I come home and remembering all the good times. Although in Prague, it’s mostly been food so far. I ate some really good food in these few days. A giant tomato, olive and pesto pizza with beer, Tom Yum soup aka my fave Thai food and the only Czech food I had found so far which was suitable for vegetarian, fried cheese. Plus the vegan bistro was super cute and cheap. I had a lentil and carrot soup from there one day and an avocado sourdough thing on another.
Anyway, on the next day, I walked some more because that’s the main thing you do in Prague when you have no money and I spent hours in the hostel trying to generate interest in my tour of different Absinth bars for a tasting that evening. Eventually, I decided to go have some dinner to line my stomach for drinking and that’s when I found Maitrea. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with traditional Czech food on the menu! I decided to try the goulash which used a soy substitute for the beef dumplings and served it with roast potatoes and it was delicious. I can see why people say it’s overrated because it can be pricey compared to other options, but I really enjoyed my chance to try Czech food and it was a nice restaurant.
The absinth tour was an interesting experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have learned a few things about how I could improve my tour in the future and I’m going to be working on that next week. I went out for a beer with a group of German guys that went on the Absinth tour and then was invited to join a pub crawl by someone else I met earlier on that day during my walk. I drank way too much, mixed a lot of types of alcohol that probably shouldn’t be mixed and was very hungover well into the afternoon (when I went to go get a vegan burrito from a veggie place near me).
It was around 6pm when the biggest travel disaster of the trip so far happened. I thought I had booked this bed in the hostel for until Monday, but I was supposed to check out that morning. My bed had been booked and it was a Saturday night, meaning most places at booked up. First of all, shout out to the receptionist at Franz Kafka Hostel for saving my ass. It was my mistake and I was getting ready to move hostel when he told me that he had got an extra mattress for me to sleep on the floor in the common room for the night. He is honestly such a lifesaver and he even kicked everyone out of the common room and gave me the key, which basically meant I had a private room for the night! And they only charged me the cost of my 4-bed dorm! I mean I was sleeping on the floor, but that didn’t bother me at all.
That brings us to today. As I am writing this post, I am sat in the common room of the hostel I work in which will be my home for the next 5 weeks. I’m staying in a 16-bed dorm and it’s actually really nice. There are a big kitchen area and common room and the hostel is in an old building so there are all these beautiful markings on the ceiling. I think somebody told me it’s a 16th Century building.
Now that I’m settled in, I’m much happier. There have been a few bumps in the road this week with my mental health and my own mistakes, but overall, I am content. I have been struggling financially, so I’m going to be looking at a few different jobs to do part-time alongside planning activities for the hostel and I look forward to continuing my Absinth tasting every Friday.