Before my flight to Brussels, Belgium on New Year’s Eve, I was getting super excited because I would be celebrating with my friend/study abroad flatmate Dara. Our flights were scheduled to land 15 minutes away from each other, so we planned to meet in the airport. Well… Turns out Brussels has two airports and we each flew into a different one.
After the initial confusion of trying to find each other at arrivals in our opposite airports, we finally met midway at a train station. We talked over lunch about our travel adventures after we last saw each other in England. It was refreshing catching up and speaking freely in English after being surrounded by mostly Spanish speakers in Barcelona.
I realize that through solo travel I meet so many new and interesting people. Although most Europeans speak English, it is not always their first language, so I find myself going mute sometimes as not to reveal that I am a foreigner. I wish I could speak every language, that is my top pick for a superpower.
On New Year’s Eve, we took part in the Brussels Pub Crawl. We lost the group early on, but so did everyone else on the crawl. Our big group ended much smaller by the end of the night, but I still had fun.
Dara and I ran outside as the countdown came close to midnight. The festivities reminded me of New York’s celebration, but on a much smaller scale and without a ball drop or fireworks. Instead we had the countdown clock in the middle of the square, giant puppets made of lights and confetti raining down. I was so happy in that moment; celebrating in the middle of the Belgian festivities was a nice change from my usual sitting around my aunt’s house and watching festivities on TV. Being part of a public celebratory atmosphere is something I think everyone should experience at least once.
The next day I slept a lot. I slept so much I think I made myself even more sleepy. I finally got out of bed at around 4 p.m. Rodrigo, a local I met on the pub crawl, showed me and Dara around some local pubs. One was death themed, but it was cooler than you would think. There were coffins for tables, fake bats on the ceiling and skeletons on the walls. Another had beer brands from around the world all over the ceiling and a bottles covering an entire wall.
At the death themed pub, Rodrigo, originally from Brazil, overheard the people next to us speaking Portuguese and struck up a conversation. Since he speaks mainly French and Portuguese, with a little English, our communication was a bit difficult but we managed well enough. Of course not including the time it took about half an hour to explain getting to a train station. The other Brazilains joined us, and it was nice having more cool people to hang out with and translate each other’s sentences.
Dara and I then took a train to Gent, Belgium for our final day in the country. Gent has colourful street art, sparkling canals and cozy shops. We tried Belgian waffles for the first time and they are so much more fluffier than any other waffles I have had before! We walked around the town and visited the holiday market, where we ate some more waffles. This time I had one with chocolate on top.
At the end of the day, we returned to Brussels to pack for our next journeys and sleep. Dara was headed back to the States, and my next destination was France. I woke up for my early train the next day, gave Dara a “see you soon” hug and off I went. I did not say goodbye because we have become so close over the past few months that I know we will find a way to meet up again.
And that is what I like to do with all the people I have met and places I have visited; leave not with a “goodbye,” but with a “see you soon.”
Up next: Paris, Athens and another trip to London before I travel back to Sunderland and the States.