Doors leading to Europe

Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Marrakech, Morocco
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco
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Stockholm, Sweden
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Paris, France
Paris, France
Cortona, Italia
Cortona, Italia
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Córdoba, España,
Córdoba, España
Roma, Italia
Roma, Italia
Morocco [Sammi]
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco [Sammi]
Espana
Ronda, España
Rastina, Serbia
Rastina, Serbia
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Budapest, Hungary
Capri, Italia
Capri, Italia
Sevilla, Espana
Sevilla, Espana [with Tamara]
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Perugia, Italia
Perugia, Italia

A door can symbolize openness–an opportunity and freedom to explore for those curious enough.

I was fixated on distinguishing the variations of doors while I was traveling. There was just something about admiring them that spoke to me about what it means to discover a culture. Was the door open? Who was leaving and where were they off to? What color stood out the most? How tarnished did it appear?

I was smitten by discovering the stories behind these doors.

Months before I left for Europe, I was anxiously applying for scholarships to study abroad and was reminded of this quote: “when one door closes, another one opens”. This rang true when I did not receive the travel scholarship I so desperately wanted. Fortunately, I had the incredible opportunity and honor to become a global ambassador. I wanted to inspire students just like myself to travel with me, even if was just through a computer screen. If I could leave you with any advice, hear this: stop making excuses–do yourself a favor and just buy the ticket already. It doesn’t have to be just a dream.

More about me as a Abroad 101 Global Ambassador here .

P.S. Do you gravitate towards something in particular too when you travel?

Backpacking through Andalucía, España

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Backing through the south of Spain was easily one of my favorite experiences during the past 6 months of traveling. Here’s some highlights from my six-city adventure through Andalucía!

Excited to experience my first bullfight in Sevilla
Excited to experience my first bullfight inside Plaza de Toros
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One of my favorite spots in Sevilla
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Plaza Santa Cruz is a peaceful part of Sevilla
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Beautiful Córdoba and a view of the Mezquita

For my first evening in Córdoba, a few of us took a night bike tour/tapas crawl to get to know each other and the city. At a small bar near the roman bridge, a girl from Salamanca leaned towards me asking in British English: “So if you don’t know any Spanish, then… how are you getting by, all by yourself?”. I smiled, then answered: “Well, I guess I never thought of it that way. I’m learning basics from people I meet and enjoying figuring it all out”.

I know how to order my favorite tapas, my coffee just how I like it, how to ask for directions, and…that’s about it. This was all part of the fun for me though I’ve got to admit.

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Streets of Cordoba
Streets of Córdoba
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A view from Cordoba from my hostel terrace
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Inside the famous Alhambra [Granada]
My second flamenco show
Flamenco show in Granada
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One of my favorite views of Monachil in Granada

If you have time to do the hike through Monachil, I can’t recommend it enough. I’d argue that day was one of my favorite memories with friends I had just met earlier that day through my hostel. You can swim in the water (the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful) and the hike itself is exciting. You feel like you’re in a hidden treasure of nature.

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Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada
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Playing around on the beaches of Marbella
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View of Ronda [Málaga region of Spain]
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Ronda’s famous bridge
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Old town in Marbella

I wrote a snippet about my backpacking trip here, but I’ve also learned that some people come into your life for years and some for maybe just a few hours. But regardless, that time is important. The beauty and heartache of traveling is leaving so abruptly;  and yet it’s amazing to cross paths with people from all over the world. Backpacking opened my eyes to the core of human needs and the simplicity of life. It’s not a style of travel for everyone (understandably), but I never thought I’d enjoy living out of a backpack either. It really challenges you and teaches you–and I’m so grateful for all of it.

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go”

P.S. I’m working on my “favorite hostels in europe” post for all the avid European travelers!

The best of Amsterdam, Holland

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Amsterdam was easily one of the best places to photograph
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Tulips are a symbol of Holland, especially tulip fields. You can buy them everywhere in the city

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One of my favorites, the canals are romantic and peaceful

I was surprised how much I loved Amsterdam. The Dutchman that lent us his home for the first night told me that “there’s more bikes than people in Amsterdam”, and he wasn’t kidding. This beautiful city is covered with bikers crossing over small brides framing glistening water canals, coffee shops with puff clouds with the concoction of weed and espresso, and dainty boutiques on every corner.

After my program ended, I met up with Sammi and Kara for the first day before they had to get home. We did all the social aspects of Amsterdam like our first experience at a “coffee shop”, then bug-eyed in the red light district, and laughing in the sex shops. Somewhere in between stuffing our faces with Dutch pancakes of course. I was surprised how beautiful the city is, because all anyone talks about is how prostitution and weed is legal. No one says anything about how gorgeous the city is at dusk and how romantic it is to take a boat ride with live music. I can’t forget that everyone was so friendly towards us, and three cheers for being able to speak English for a few days!

Seeing the Anne Frank House was a highlight since I’ve read and seen movies on her legacy.  Seeing the house in person was pretty crazy. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and just wandering the streets of the canals.

I highly recommend going to a cute organic bakery called De Laatste Kruimel (I went three times in the 2.5 days I was there). I’d argue it has THE best white chocolate raspberry scones with fresh cream I’ve ever had. And I eat a lot of pastries. You’ll recognize the bakery by their darling display of pastries, cakes, and sandwiches in the window.

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A view of the red light district
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Maybe my favorite coffee houses/bakeries in all of Europe, that’s a big deal
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Dutch shoes on display at a vintage shop
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My favorite little corner of the city

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5 things I learned from my first solo backpacking adventure

I should start by saying I never planned on backpacking. Like eating a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, it just… sort of happened.

It was a week before my semester was ending and it dawned on me that 1. I had no real travel plans (daydreaming of island hopping around Greece doesn’t count), and 2. consequently, I’d be homeless in Italy real soon. And I could tell you that by my first day of backpacking, I knew I was about to have the experience I’d been missing out on during my time studying abroad.

And to be honest, I learned more in the two weeks I backpacked on my own then the time I spent studying and living in Italy. It must be the beauty of getting completely out of my comfort zone and not having a friendly face to depend on for anything. Here’s my thoughts:

1. Less things scare me now. My family was pretty nervous for my safety (understandably) and I was anxious about how I would figure all the planning out. But after overcoming something that once seemed daunting, I gained a new perspective and confidence in what I can accomplish.

2. A simple life is always more beautiful. You don’t need most things, you just don’t. I learned to appreciate every little thing I could fit into my bag. Especially the travel size goodies that I held onto for months. I swear, it’s the simplest things.

3. Don’t let others dictate what you can and cannot do.  Just because traveling independently has its precautions, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done (and loved). I was surprised how passionate and comfortable I felt; the people I met during my adventure made my experience exceptionally memorable.

4. There’s no price on education. I want to learn and grow–and I guarantee that you can’t buy experiences that grab a hold of you and transform you from the inside out. I learned to react  to mistakes that fostered a new kind of patience and understanding that I hope will stay with me forever.

5. People have this innate gravitation towards others. Even if you’re not an extrovert, when you’re in an unfamiliar, thrilling situation like traveling independently, you naturally gravitate towards others. You want others to share that new experience with you. I can only explain it by illustrating it as a basic human need.

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A view of one of the waterfalls in Monachil. One of my favorite memories.
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Travelers from literally all over the world. All day Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada, Spain

Would you ever backpack on your own?

The home-stay I never had: my first few days in Serbia

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A view of a small village and the train to/from Belgrade (capital of Serbia)
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The adorable Baka (‘grandmother’ in Serbian) and her favorite american girls
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Serbians drink “Turkish coffee” which means with no milk and the coffee grounds rest at the bottom of the cup. (For all the coffee addicts)
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Serbian baklava, a sweet dessert with honey and nuts
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Love the details of the homes with white lace in the windows
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Cherry trees are all over the farms we visited
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I met part of Tamara’s extended family and we laughed because I thought we looked like we could be related
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A glimpse of the home we visited in the village of Rastina
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Crkva imena Marijinog; The Name of Mary Church in the center of Novi Sad
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Downtown Novi Sad has some of the best night life

The first thing that comes to mind about Serbia is how generous and kind the people are here.  I’m currently living in a small town an hour from Belgrade called Futog with my best friend’s family. It’s the kind of hospitality that goes beyond feeling welcomed and comfortable– I actually feel like part of the family. I feel honored to see the intimate aspects of the family: the reminiscing of old photos and memories in the living room, daily meals together, and trips to visit family they haven’t seen in years. Today I was invited into multiple family members homes and I felt nothing but love (and delicious homemade stew and cake) from them.

This was an opportunity for me to experience Serbian culture hands-on and in a way that would teach me more about adapting and respecting culture in general. Plus, I love eastern Europe–it’s interesting and beautiful in this unique way.

Tomorrow brings a fun day of: cooking with Baka, an afternoon with new friends in Novi Sad, and belly dancing.

All my love. љубав

Photo series: Prague, Czech Republic

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Old Town Hall Tower & the astronomical clock
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Traditional street food of sausage and beer near the clock tower
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Street food dessert of almond/toffee pastries…one of my favorites!
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Feeling the peace at the John Lennon wall
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by  Mumford & Sons
Making my mark on the wall with one of my favorite quotes by Mumford & Sons
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I had to try this famous Czech beer!
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
Traditional goulash with sausage, onions, peppers, and bread dumplings in a creamy sauce
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Easter decorations around the city
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

I couldn’t help but think of my full Czech grandfather during my weekend in Prague. In a weird way, I felt like a part of me was coming home.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

-John Lennon

Travel lust: Where I’m headed

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

One of my favorite parts of studying abroad is how I have the freedom and luxury in creating my own experience. It’s this unique opportunity where fantasies can spark into your reality. Most people don’t realize this though because they believe it’s too expensive/unrealistic, and the truth is that there’s definitely a strategy in booking flights, where to stay, and how to save your money. Living on a student budget has taught me that I need very little in my daily life (I can thank my trip to Honduras in high school for that as well). You need to be open for trading comfort sometimes in order to ultimately do what you want. Plus, better stories come from the times I’ve felt unsure of my personal comfort (my first hostel experience) and making mistakes along the way (my first solo-traveling experience in Cortona).  I’ve learned to get creative so that I can make the most out of my time abroad. Most weekend trips in Italia are spontaneous (mainly depending on the weather), because the Italian train system is so easy and relatively affordable.

With only a month left of my study abroad program (scary how quickly time passes), I am narrowing down my priorities, and trying to figure out how to spend the 13 days– between my program ending and having to leave my apartment, before meeting up with my family mid-May.

If you had 13 days to go anywhere in Europe, where would you go?

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Well, here’s my travel plans, including a few at the bottom that have not been officially booked yet. Let’s see where life takes me.

Where I’m Headed:

Sevilla, Spain

Prague, Czech Republic

Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Italia

Istanbul, Turkey

Porto, Portugal

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Venice, Italia

The Cinque Terre, Italia

Belgrade, Serbia

Split, Croatia

Santorini, Greece

Where I’ve Been:

Perugia, Italia

Budapest, Hungary

Gubbio, Italia

Roma, Italia

Firenze, Italia

Siena, Italia

Paris, France

Barcelona, Spain

Marrakech, Morocco

Bologna, Italia

Cortona, Italia

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I have no idea where I’ll be a year from now, let alone 2 months from now, but I find beauty in not knowing who I’ll meet, where I’ll be sleeping, or what I’ll be eating. Let the adventures continue…

Roaming around Roma

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Pretty outdoor lights above a glass bead shop
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vintage inspired postcards
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Spanish steps with Meg
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The second gelato of the day
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Witnessing The Notebook roma edition 😉

A day trip to Roma from Perugia means the plan is no plan. I went to wander the city in the sun and fell in love with the romance, history, and sweets of the eternal city.

il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing…

 

A change of pace

Midterms are over! I’m feeling the excitement & anticipation of starting my 10 day spring break adventure. That craving for something new and inspiring. There’s something about packing up and just leaving– feeling ready for anything that comes my way with an open mind. If you had the chance to travel, where would you go?

“For those who can dream, there is no such place as faraway”

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I’ll give you a hint where I’m going…  3 countries including 1 new continent. Sending good vibes as I travel, here’s some peaceful music I just discovered &  can’t stop listening to: