I'm in Bucharest for the weekend; it's not a trip I've been particularly looking forward to, but you can't argue with $10 airfare. I was excited to see a new country, but didn't have high expectations.
I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the economic statistics I've read, or even the negative publicity films have brought to the region. Whatever the reason, I arrived with little knowledge about what I would find.
Lo and behold, it's been one of my favorite trips so far.
I'm a planner; I'm also prone to anxiety. Even when I have something fun to look forward to, I get trapped in the details. I check for my passport a dozen times, arrive to the airport hours in advance, and stress about whether I'll be able to see everything I want.
Bucharest, though, has been great because I didn't have anything I felt I had to see. Everything is a pleasant surprise. Locals are kind about us using English; the food is delicious; the transportation is easy to use; the Old Town is full of lively bars and restaurants. I'm enjoying American chains like Taco Bell, and feeling nostalgic since the architecture reminds me of Kyiv.
When I don't set high expectations, I have a better time. I don't like the "You can't be disappointed if you don't expect much" mentality; there's something depressing in that. But consider Paris Syndrome, or why so many people cry on their birthday: when we go into a situation expecting social-media, movie-level experiences, it's natural to feel disappointed with reality.
We can apply this to most sectors of life. Relationships aren't as clean as Instagram presents; work goals aren't as straight-forward as LinkedIn posts like to say. Moving to a new place is romantic but also complicated and emotional, and self-care isn't as luxurious and easy as a bubble bath. Snapshots don't capture the whole scene, and the idolization of the future doesn't manifest in perfection.
This weekend has been filled with lazy explorations of the city, late mornings, and slow paces. We have three more trips planned in the coming weeks, and even though there are certain sites I want to see, I'll try to be content in enjoying the moment, and not comparing it to my expectations.