The places that influenced me the most: Koper, Ljubljana, London & Valencia
I’ve been thinking about this scary thing called the future quite a lot lately. I know why that is. It’s because I’m finally finishing my studies. This is my last year; I’ve got four subjects and the thesis left. Once that’s done, I’ll have to decide what’s next. Deciding where you’ll live is just one of the things that come with adulting, but it’s the one I want to focus on in this blog post. So, here are some thoughts about the four cities/towns that influenced me the most and to some of which I’d like to return.
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 there.
Koper is very small and there isn’t much going on, especially during the winter. A consequence of its size is also the (small) number and diversity of options when it comes to studies and work. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I stayed there to study, without trying to live on my own and without experiencing life in a bigger city. Would I have been bored? Probably.
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, which is very common in Slovenia. I have friends who come from the same town as me, grew to love Ljubljana and will probably move there permanently at some point. Personally, I never liked it there. I think the old center 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 kilometers 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 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 because 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 my 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.
London, my Erasmus home
Perhaps I’ll sound like a paradox now because I 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 nightlife, the number of concerts, festivals, various other events, restaurants, bars and shops can’t compete with anything you can find in Slovenia. We’re just too small. I love its internationality, its architecture, and 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 previous posts.
The coolness of London also has its negative 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 to the coast, though. When we went to Dover, and I saw the sea after months, I felt relieved.
Valencia, my Spanish home
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 traveled 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 in the warmer months and life’s a bit slower than in most of Europe, probably (which is good and bad). The job 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 on a bus. The weather’s perfect if you can handle the heat in the summer and the absence of snow in the winter. Spanish people are lovely: open, friendly, direct and funny.
And now what?
I’ve always been into traveling, 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 don’t want to 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 traveling. 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.
If living abroad has taught me anything, it’s that it’s possible to find a home somewhere else. 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. But it did help me understand that it doesn’t matter, 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.