2016 has been an exceptional year for me. After returning to Prague in October 2015 following a six month absence, I enjoyed another seven months living in the city and I don't remember being more content and generally thrilled with my life. Even though I'm back in the UK now, my work is still Prague based and I get to return for at least a week most months. I pretty much have the best of both worlds - living at home but still with strong ties and connections to my second home.
It could have worked out so differently...
Although I loved my first stay in Prague from October 2014 through to April 2015 it wasn't the easiest of times for me, and looking back, although I tried to make the best of a difficult situation, I don't think I was able to fully appreciate where I was and how to truly embrace what was happening to me. So much so, that when I was offered the chance to return I initially turned it down.
If I had continued to stubbornly reject that opportunity because of a set of circumstances that were no longer relevant, I would have missed out on what has become the most satisfying period of my life. I would not have made the new friends and connections I made in Prague. I would never have truly understood the peace and freedom that I now feel in the city. And I most certainly would not have felt the sense of belonging that I now have whenever I'm back.
You can rub the plaque on the statue of John of Nepomuk on Karluv Most as many times as you like, but there comes a time when you just know that Prague is truly in your blood and that wherever you are, you'll never really have left.
So, next time you're in Prague, whether as a tourist or as an expat, leave your emotional baggage at home and make the most of your time there. I got a second chance - not everyone will be so fortunate.
"Užijte si tento den, jako by byl ten poslední, a od zítra bude vše ještě lepší! Krásný Nový rok a ještě lepší celý rok 2017!"
[Enjoy this day as if it was the last one, and starting tomorrow all will be even better! I wish you a beautiful New Year's Day and even better the whole of 2017! - Thanks to Czech Word A Day on Facebook from where I shamelessly stole this!]