How to Keep Your Year Abroad and Travelling Experiences Alive Back at Home

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I have just watched L'Auberge Espagnol for the 1 millionth time so please forgive me a little nostalgia.If you haven't watched it, a) where have you been and b) you should. It's a film about Erasmus and it gives me all kinds of feels. In the final scenes Xavier realises he has completely changed as a result of Erasmus (not a spoiler, I promise) and though that sounds a little cheesy for my liking, it has made me think about things I try to do differently since Erasmus.

So here are my teeny tiny changes that living abroad has caused...

1. Walk more

Perhaps it's something to do with the weather, or with having less time, but I probably walk half as much here as I do when I'm abroad. When I do though, and I'm actually paying attention to everything going on around me (a bit of a stretch sometimes I'll admit) I'm always so happy I chose to go on foot than pack myself onto a tube or bus and stare at my phone intently with everybody else. In Madrid I would walk almost two hours a day most days, wanting to drink up every drop of the sunshine and the atmosphere. I don't see why this should stop just because I'm back home! We're currently enjoying a glorious sunny spell in London (due to end tomorrow - wah!) so there's really no excuse!

2. Eat independent

OK, I would firstly definitely indulge your Nando's, Pizza Express and Wetherspoons breakfast cravings before taking this one up, but it's a necessity! You probably spent hours researching authentic local restaurants when you were away so why not do the same now? Hopefully, if you're following step 1, you're walking more and scoping out your local restaurants for rigorous checking and taste-testing. You might not only discover the next best thing in Lebanese cooking but you will also be putting money into independent restaurants rather than chains, which is always nice. If you read my recent blog post on me taking my own advice, you'll know I discovered the lovely Taps Bar in Leicester this way.

3. Shop at local places

While on this point, didn't you have a favourite local bakery, green grocers and market abroad? I basically live in the 1950s when I'm away and I became so friendly with the people at the fruit and veg shop on the corner of my road in Madrid that they gave me a free bunch of bananas when I left. Going to Sainsbury's now just isn't the same - I almost NEVER get free bananas. Getting all my fruit and veg from the local greengrocers wrapped up in a brown paper bag might seem like a bit of a strange throwback in the UK, but it's cheaper and always reminds me of my Saturday morning trip out for croissants, fruit and fresh bread.

4. Make the most of long weekends

Other countries in Europe have this amazing system where if a bank holiday falls on a Tuesday, then you also get Monday off work as well. That is my kind of system. It's not technically an extra day as they still have a quota of days they're allowed off but it does effectively give you a 4 day break which is pretty handy for travelling purposes. The long weekend break is much more fashionable on the continent but it makes lots of sense to take days here and there rather than a solid two weeks off in August.When you're working abroad you seize every weekend opportunity that you can to take off and explore and travelling from the UK isn't much more expensive so why don't we do it here as well? I recently spent 4 days in Barcelona for under £250 flying from the UK, so it's easy and affordable to fit in lots of short 4 day holidays if you avoid the peak months of July and August.

5. Go to language exchanges

Extremely important if you're back from your year abroad and still struggling to string a sentence together (which happens alarmingly frequently).Everyone knows Erasmus students are the funnest (struggling with English too...) people on Earth so just cos you're back doesn't mean you can't still live la vida loca. And it's all strictly in the name of revision, of course.And you never know, you might make a friend for life. A friend with a beach house in the Bahamas, ideally. 

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