Three years ago, I accepted an offer for an international internship to live and work in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was very brief, but it was honestly one of the best times of my life. It was the very first time that I had the opportunity to live and work in another country so different from my own. I absolutely loved all the work I did when I was in Bulgaria, and I absolutely cherished all the people that I had met. When I remember those Autumn-Winter months, I always do so fondly and with a smile…
Which is why coming back to Sofia after so many years of being away scared the living crap out of me. What if my old friends won’t be the same people I fell in love with? What if the old spots I loved won’t be satisfying to visit again? What if the food I used to eat that turned me into a giant piglet before will taste disgusting in my mouth? What if being in Sofia won’t spark the joy and happiness I felt when I lived there? What if my present trip will never compare to my memories?
It sounds sooooo melodramatic, but you have to know that once you leave any place at any given time… It will never ever be the same again. You won’t be with the same people because they might’ve relocated or they might’ve changed into people you can’t get along with. You won’t be the same person because you’ve experienced more in life. You won’t live in the same place, because trespassing property is actually a crime.
But… After my trip, I found that it is possible to still feel the love for an old piece of home. You just have to love it in a different way… :)
Here are the things you can do to get back the ghost of that old warm feeling for any place… :)
1.) Have one-on-one time with the people who were closest to you
First, you need to reconnect with the city, and the best way to do that is to catch up with the people who were closest to you. In doing so, you get a lowdown on what’s happened/been happening with everything since you’ve been gone. Also, they get special one on one time with you because of course, they meant the most to you the last time you were there.
2.) Take a stroll in the city center
I spent hours and hours walking around and getting lost in the city center. Simply doing so reminded me of everything Sofia was back then. Some things were still the same. Same language, same hustle and bustle of the people, occasional rally here and there. But there were also new buildings that weren’t there before.
Going around the city center gives you a feel of the old familiar while exploring what’s new.
3.) Eat the food you’ve been craving for that can only be found in that place
I have never had a bigger weight gain in my life than when I was living in Bulgaria. You cannot blame me though. Eastern European food is the shit. It’s really REALLY good. I spent countless nights craving for palla burger, chicken duner with special garlic sauce, and many many other specialties that my friends and I used to pig out on.
This is the best part of the trip, go indulge on your old favorites. Even better if you can get one of your friends to go on a pig out date with you!
4.) Have dinner with a big group of friends that you spent a lot of time with before
Having dinner as a group always makes for the best reminiscing! This night was so blissfully nostalgic that I constantly found myself getting teary eyed. Just seeing all my friends again after all these years, hearing their stories of how they came to be the adults they are now, just feels wonderfully weird.
Another bonus to this night was that these people weren’t really close or in contact with each other. But because I pestered them for a big group dinner, we all came together, re-lived those fond memories, and meet the people that we were now.
5.) Spend time at the park
Parks are a great place to spend some alone time. I used to go to parks just to think and contemplate on things. Sometimes, I fed the pigeons. Sometimes, I was eating 500 donuts while reading a book. Being in a park just slows everything down and help you catch up to reality.
At the time, it was still so surreal for me to be back in that city. For three years, I only re-lived Bulgaria in my thoughts and memories, but suddenly, I was living it again for real. It was overwhelming but spending time at the park helped me appreciate everything even more.
6.) Re-visit your old habits
Here’s a usual scenario in my everyday Sofia life.
**while watching a movie with my Mexican room mate and bestfriend, Adria**
Me: Maldita, I’m hungry.
Adria: Me too. Wanna go out to get something to eat?
Me: I dunno, I’m a bit lazy. It’s cold.
**knock on the door**
Iva: Hey guys! What are you doing?
Me: Watching a movie.
Adria: We’re hungry!
Iva: Let’s go eat at Fantastiko!!
**wears 20 layers of clothes to brave the cold to eat out**
**spends 2 hours at Fantastiko over good food and good company**
Because we lived in the same building and spent a lot of time together, Iva and Adria were my constant late night pig-out buddies. We always head out to this place called Fantastiko. It’s a 24 hour marketplace that has food options for the average hungry student. It is always there to catch you when you feel like being a piglet any time of the day. It does not judge. Fantastiko is life.
7.) Grab drinks at the bar with more friends!
We used to have parties when we were younger and got drunk and crazy and sometimes a bit wasted. But now that we were adult-ing, we could do so now with a little bit more dignity. Grabbing drinks at the bar is a great way to catch up with some more friends that you haven’t seen in ages. Now that you’re adults, drinking options have gotten wider. There are a million options than just your average beer and/or mixer. Plus, sometimes, it’s more fun to talk to people with alcohol around.
8.) Party hard with your old party buddies!
Partying during the week was one of our ways of life before. And I had the best constant party buddies. We may be older now, but we still loved to have fun! I really liked that some things hadn’t changed and that I can still count on the same people to have a great time!
Overall, my trip to Sofia, Bulgaria has been refreshing. At the time, I was going through something really difficult and I just wanted to find myself in a place that sparked joy and happiness for me. Boy was I glad I went. Even though I was scared that things wouldn’t be the same, I ended my trip being happy that things weren’t the same. Now, my friends have evolved to be better individuals but also still maintained the same goodness that I loved in them. My old room building is still scary like a ghost story venue but I now look at it with love. The places were definitely still there, but I had found a better appreciation for them.
And the biggest impact that re-visiting an old city you used to live in had on me… Was the realization that I am not the same person I was when I was there. Which helped me out through my rough patch. Because it made me realize that sometimes, change wasn’t something to be afraid of. But something to accept as part of your journey.
Have you ever re-visited a city you used to live in before? What was it like? How did it make you feel?