We must take advetures.

We must take advetures.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

101 Things I learned While Living in Europe for a Year

1. Don't worry if you miss your bus, train, or plane. There will always be another one...even if it costs you $400.
2. Learn to go with the flow.
3. Keep your travel plans flexible. If someone tells you to visit a city, it is usually for a good reason.
4. Try CouchSurfing, even if it's just one time, you will always meet interesting people.
5. It is possible to fall in love with a city, or multiple.
6. You will also meet many "loves of your life".
7. Keep in touch with the friends you make along the way, you never know if you’ll be in their hometown in the future or vice versa.
8. Pictures are nice, but remember to put the camera down see the world throw your own eyes.
9. Sometimes it is nice to not be connected to WIFI.
10. It's okay if you don't visit the essential sites in a city; it is an excuse to go back.
11. Eastern European is very underrated.
12. Eat Cevapi in Bosnia.
13. Stay in a 14 person dorm in a hostel....you will always meet cool people.
14. Traveling with friends is awesome, but nothing beats traveling solo.
15. Instead of visiting 7 cities in 10 days, visit 3 and truly experience them rather than checking them off your list.
16. We are very fortunate to have English as our first language.
17. Pay a little extra for a train reservation to get a bed on an overnight train.
18. If you have a funny feeling about a place or situation you are usually right and it is time to leave.
19. Listen to your peers when they tell you not to visit a city, especially if it’s Podgorica.
20. Wait to go to Paris with your lover.
21. Cinque Terre is incredible.
22. If there is a beach nearby, go to it.
23. The media always over-exaggerates things.
24. You might think you’re invincible, but try to remember you're not.
25. There is so much more to Amsterdam than sex, drugs, and alcohol.
26. Sometimes it's okay to be a tourist, but it's usually better to be a traveler.
27. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable; it usually ends up being an interesting experience.
28. Live for the stories.
29. Neck pillows are lifesavers.
30. Watch as many sunsets as possible.
31. It is always helpful to learn military time.
32. Drink with the locals.
33. Go to a city none of your friends have heard about.
34. DO NOT FILL OUT ANY PAPERS FROM THE GYPSIES IN PARIS BY THE EIFFEL TOWER, also do not allow them to put a bracelet on your wrist.
35. If your friend is snoring in the hostel or on the train, wake them up or plug their nose. Everyone will thank you.
36. Cliff jumping is always fun, just remember to point your toes.
37. Go for a bike ride, even if it ends up being 30 miles long to an abandon rice field.
38. The most fun I've had has been with a group of people who do not speak English.
39. If you go to Istanbul, buy your visa online before you arrive. You will thank me.
40. Live your life and don't worry about what you are missing at home. Life at home continues whether you're there or not.
41. Always smile at people walking by you, even if they think it is weird.
42. Invite a stranger to eat lunch with you, even if they have a bunch of tattoos, colorful hair, and face piercings.
43. Europe is full of beautiful churches; spend your time seeing other things.
44. Croatia is truly amazing.
45. When traveling alone, do not be afraid to invite yourself places. If someone doesn't want you coming they will tell you, but chances are your presence is always welcome.
46. Sometimes it’s okay to spend a day being lazy with your new friends.
47. It's never too early to start drinking, especially in Munich.
48. Hike up a mountain, even if it means you have to create your own path. Just watch out for falling rocks.
49. Asian tourists are everywhere. They are also some of the friendliest tourists you'll meet.
50. If you want to feel at home, visit London.
51. Ham and Sangria are the perfect hangover cure, so are churros.
52. Forget everything you thought you knew about a country. Chances are after you visit you will have a completely new perception.
53. Get used to having to pay for the bathroom, if you don't like it then go to Eastern Europe.
54. RyanAir isn't that bad, just buy the 5 euro pre-boarding pass and maybe you'll even get the cute flight attendants phone number.
55. Sometimes it is nice not being able to understand the people's conversation sitting next to you.
56. Allow yourself to get lost in a city.
57. 3 wine isn't that bad, neither is a 2L bottle of $4 beer.
58. A tight budget isn't a good excuse to not travel. You can live off cheese and bread and find cheap hostels.
59. The more places the visit; the more you realize there is so much more to see.
60. A travel journal is always a good investment.
61. You will never be as young as you are today.
62. Scandinavia is completely worth a visit!
63. Always adapt to the current situation, even if it means you have to check into a 4-star hotel at 3AM.
64. The more you travel the longer you can hold a conversation.
65. Send postcards to your friends and family back home. Everyone loves receiving mail and it is one of the cheapest and most cherished gifts you can send.
66. You should always carry a deck of cards.
67. You will meet Australians everywhere you go and yes they do live up to their reputation.
68. You should try to become comfortable being alone. There is a difference from loneliness and being alone.
69. Just because you are best friends, does not mean you are best travel companions.
70. Always say thank you. Most people will truly appreciate it.
71. You don't usually need to tip, but if you decide to you might make someone's day.
72. It's not the end of the world if you have to resort to Mac Donald’s.
73. Never eat fried mussels off the street. It will not end well for you or anyone around you.
74. Don’t worry if you get chased down the street in Florence…at least it made for a good story.
75. YOLO has become a universal phrase.
76. Don’t worry if you gain some weight; at least you are eating delicious food.
77. Always exchange books with fellow followers, except if you’re reading 50 Shades of Grey, then be careful who you exchange that with.
78. Sometimes you need a rainy day.
79. Get used to not having dishwasher disposals and dryers.
80. Open-minded, optimistic people are some of the best travelers.
81. You can make a drinking game out of just about anything.
82. People watching is one of the most entertaining ways to spend your day.
83. Google maps works without WIFI (well you have to open it in WIFI, but you can still use it when you leave). So does Trip Advisor Cities.
84. Travel light. It is okay to re-wear clothes, no one will even notice.
85. Traveling will change you like little else can.
86. When walking through a new city remember to look up once in a while. You never know what you're going to see.
87. Skinny dipping is always a great idea….if it is cold make sure you have a couple drinks before hand.
88. Do not wear heels if the roads are made of cobblestone.
89. Always carry Chap Stick.
90. Becoming a good storyteller is essential to sharing your experience.
91. People will respect you more if you attempt to speak their language, even if it is just “hello” or “thank you.”
92. Foreign accents will always be sexy.
93. The Greeks are the friendliest and have the best food.
94. The world is a small, yet very large place.
95. Even though you ask everyone the same questions when traveling, each person has their own interesting story to share, so listen to them.
96. Volunteering in a hostel is a great way stay abroad, save money, and meet awesome people.
97. No matter what city you’re in, you will most likely always find an Irish pub.
98. It is important to try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what's right in front of you.
99. The friends you make abroad will inspire you in a way no one else will.
100. It's much better to get bit by the travel bug, rather than a bed bug.
101. The world is a beautiful place and we should explore as much of it as we can!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life at Casa d'Alagoa

A couple months ago I committed to working for one month in a city I've never heard of at a hostel I've never been to and it was one of the best decisions I've made! I knew I wanted to spend part of my summer in a sunny city near the beach, so Faro, Portugal was the obvious choice (after researching where Faro was located). I exchanged a couple e-mails with one of my bosses before arriving, but I had no idea what to expect.  On May 28th I walked into Casa d'Alagoa and immediately I felt at home.

Faro is a pretty small town in the Algarve, which is Portugal premier summer destination. It is located along the Ria Formosa Lagoon and has many awesome islands to visit. Another staffer, Brent, and I went with two guests to check out Ilha Deserta (a deserted island). It was about a 40 minute ferry ride and was a beautiful day! We walked along the beach for hours collecting seashells and enjoying the sunshine.

The hostel is in a great location in town and has the perfect homey feel! It has a very chill vibe that makes it easy to meet everyone and the owners, Nuno and Diogo, are awesome! Every Saturday we have a piri-piri chicken BBQ with all you can drink sangria. We cook dinner every night and on Sundays the staff creates the menu. It is actually one of the best hostels I've been to and I'm not just saying that because I work here.
When I first arrived there were nine other helpers and slowly but surely they all left while new helpers arrived.  Throughout the month I worked with Germans, Canadians, Scottish, American, Australian, Irish, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese people (and that is just the nationality of all the different staff, I can’t even begin to describe all of our guests). By the end of the month we were all family. I’ve been to camp before so I know how close people can get in a short period of time, but this is the first time I experienced that in a work environment. It allowed me to appreciate positive group dynamics and effective teamwork.

The work wasn’t too hard. The first two weeks I was on cleaning and while I don’t particularly enjoy scrubbing toilets it was fairly easy and the hours were not bad. Lets just say I am going to make a great wife now. After cleaning I moved to reception, which I enjoyed much more. It was a bit challenging because you have a lot of responsibility dealing with all of the money, but you get the hang of it after a couple days. It was nice because I knew almost all of the guests names from checking them in and when I didn’t have any reservations or money to invoice I was able to socialize with the guests. I worked a lot of night shifts from 1:00AM-9:00AM, but they were not too bad. It was always funny to watch the guests come home at 5:00AM after being at the bar all night. They definitely kept me entertained during those early hours. Working at the hostel made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into keeping a successful hostel running. It made me realize that the people cleaning need to be thanked more often and the people at reception are actually doing more work than just sitting behind a desk. It allowed me to interact with over 500 guests from all over the world! Now how many people can say they had that experience?  

I was definitely not ready to leave, but that is what happens when you make prior commitments. Thank you Nuno, Diogo, Matyna, Claudia, Alexandra, and the helper team for making this amazing experience unforgettable! I hope to see you all somewhere else around the world. You are all invited to come to Florida, but until then cheers and thank you again! 

"Casa d'Alagoa- where  you treat your friends like family and your family like friends"

Friday, June 27, 2014

New Beginnings

"Every end is a new beginning."

It was crazy to think that after nine months it was time to leave Dubrovnik. Fortunately for me that did not mean leaving Europe. During the next two months I will be volunteering at a hostel in Faro, Portugal and staffing a BBYO Teen Tour around Belgium, Holland, England, France, Slovenia, and Italy.

Some people think I'm crazy and maybe I am, but I figured when will I every get these opportunities again. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thank You, Dubrovnik!

Ten months ago I was sitting in my study abroad adviser’s office crying. It was a mixture of happy tears and nervous tears, mostly nervous tears. I was leaving for Dubrovnik in one week and I still didn’t know where I was going to live. Along with thinking that I was going be homeless in a foreign city, I was also nervous about going to this new university where I directly enrolled by myself.

It’s safe to say that I worried for no reason. I did find a place to live (after moving apartments 5 times) and I even extended my study abroad to an entire year. I fell in love with a city that most people have never heard about and I made the best of friends. I was able to experience a small private university and learn build relationships with my professors and faculty members. I learned more in one year of study abroad than I have the past two years in university. I experienced the city when it was crowded with tourists and when I was the only person walking down the street. I became friends with the locals and can’t wait to reunite with them somewhere else around the world. I watched countless sunsets. The beach became my second home. Everyday was a new adventure and I lived for the stories. The only way to describe my experience is ironically as indescribable.

Thank you, Dubrovnik for surrounding me with amazing people, for teaching me how to eat an oyster, for allowing me to live in Paradise, for teaching me to appreciate the little things, and for giving me an experience of a lifetime.

Discovering My Inner Greek Goddess

When I decided to study in Croatia my mom made it clear that she was more excited for me to visit Greece than anywhere else. Finally, after nine months of searching for flights to Greece I came across a deal that I couldn't pass up. I was able to get a round-trip flight from Dubrovnik to Athens for 115€! I booked the flight thinking I was going by myself, but my friend Julia ended up coming with me because I went to Scandinavia with her, which I am so thankful for! Usually I enjoy traveling by myself, but I quickly realized Greece is not the place for solo travelers. 
With only one week in Greece we had to decide which islands we wanted to spend our time. After much thought we came to the conclusion that Mykonos and Santorini were the winners. We flew into Athens and had to spend the night there in order to catch our ferry the next morning to Mykonos. The first thing we noticed in Athens was the police on every street. We weren't sure if this should've made us feel safe with them around or nervous with the fact that hey needed to be everywhere. After walking for about 30 minutes to find our hostel we realized we were lost. A nice police man helped us find our way and we finally made it to the hostel. We only stayed at the hostel for a couple hours before heading to the ferry and we met Myriam, the nicest person in Athens!She arranged for out 5:15 AM taxi and then we were on our way!

Our adventure began with a four-hour ferry from Athens to Mykonos. The ferry felt more like a mini cruise ship. It had a lounge area, a deck to walk outside, a mini restaurant, and a store. We didn't realize that the ferry stopped at a couple ports before arriving in Mykonos. We arrived at a port and almost everyone on the ferry lined up to get off, so naturally we lined up with everyone, got off the ferry, and looked for our transfer to our hotel. After a couple minutes of looking around we asked a taxi driver where the transfer to Paradise Beach would be. He then started talking in Greek to us and we couldn't understand anything he was saying. Finally I understood "Not Mykonos." We ran back to the ferry as they were about to leave the port and re-boarded just in time before we were stranded on an unknown island. 

After an eventful ferry ride, we finally got to Mykonos where we found our shuttle to Paradise Beach Resort! A place where you can combine relaxing on the beach and partying at a beach club at the same time. We stayed in a cute little bungalow located 2 minutes walking from the beach. We had three full days to spend in Mykonos which would be split between hanging out on the beach and exploring the main town in Mykonos. 

Our days at the beach were spent relaxing in lounge chairs, eating gyros, enjoying the all-day happy hour at Guapaloca, swimming in the Mediterranean, having breakfast in bed, dancing, taking GoPro selfies, and just enjoying life! 

The only way to describe Mykonos Town is as out of a story tale. It is so cute that it almost looks fake. We explored all of the little side streets, ate two delicious meals, made new friends, met our future husband-Valentino, and watched a beautiful sunset. While we were watching the sunset, two American girls asked us to take their picture and naturally we started having a conversation with them. Taking a picture turned into a new friendship. After watching the sunset we all explored town together and enjoyed a fantastic dinner together. It turns out that Taylor and Kemi were also both Pi Phis! What a small world!

Leaving Mykonos wasn't that horrible considering that we were making our way to another beautiful island. The ferry from Mykonos to Santorini was much different than our first ferry from Athens. It was set up like an airplane with crammed seats and it had very unorganized luggage system. Fortunately the ferry wasn't too long and before we knew it we were arriving at the port. We met two girls who stayed at Paradise Beach and were also staying at the same hostel in Santorini so we all split a cab and ventured on together. The weather on the first day was a bit on the rainy side, but we didn't let that affect us. We explored Perissa Beach and decided to head into Fira, which is one of the main towns. We turned a rainy day into a happy day by enjoying a fish spa therapy at the Kissing Fish. We put our feet into a tub of fish that would eat the dead skin and bacteria off our toes and legs. It was ticklish for the first 30 seconds, but then you got used to it. We left with very soft feet!
Our second day consisted of exploring Santorini via ATVs! We rented one ATV for the day and literally explored the entire Island from bottom to top! We found a starfish, a sunflower field, and Red Beach. We also went to the famous town of Oia to watch the sunset! Oia is the town where Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was filmed and is what everyone thinks about when they think of Greece. 
Our last day in Santorini was spent on Perissa Beach, which is an awesome black sand beach! There are restaurants and bars located all along it so again we were served breakfast in bed on the beach. Life doesn't get better than that! While we were walking to the beach we also ran into Taylor and Kemi sitting at the same restaurant as us! We spent the last couple hours with our new friends enjoying the sunshine in Paradise!
After spending five days in Paradise it was time to start our journey back to Dubrovnik, but before hopping on the plane home we were able to spend a full day exploring Athens. After an eight hour ferry from Santorini to Athens we arrived at our hostel late at night. The next day we were able to visit the Parthenon and just be tourists for the day. While we were walking around town we met a local business owner. He started talking to us while we were walking past his store and naturally we ignored him. He then said something that caught our attention. He asked where we were from and then told us he used to live in South Carolina. He then brought us into his store and showed us a collection of business cards he has from Local Greek people who moved to America and opened businesses there. He even had one from Boca Raton! He was the nicest person and he even told us we could marry his very attractive son. He gave us Athens magnets and pinched our cheeks goodbye. 

 In the short time we spent in our hostel we made a new Aussie friend, his name is Angus and he was our roommate for the night. Angus's brother, Lachlan, happened to be in Dubrovnik so he put us in touch. A couple days later we were hanging out with Lachlan in Dubrovnik. Now fast forward one month...I ran into both Angus and Lachlan in Lagos, Portugal! Europe is actually a really small place!

Greece is a lot different than how the movies depict it to be. There is much more to offer to the islands than just white buildings with blue roofs. Greece was everything I hoped it would be and much more. The people are wonderful, the food is delicious, and the towns are beautiful. Greece is being added to my list of favorite countries and I can't wait to go back!