Travel Bug

Many people use the expression that they’ve been bitten by the travel bug. In some senses, I think that phrase holds true. You often don’t get into travel until you actually start traveling. But I’d like to think the travel bug was passed down to me by my dad. He has been everywhere thanks to his job. Along with a love of books and Boston, my love of travel is one of the best things my dad passed down to me. He (and my mom!) really pushed me to study abroad and I don’t think I would have been half as prepared as I was without his advice. Since today is his birthday and he’s away in Dublin, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all he’s done for me.

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Not many parents would be okay with sending their twenty year old daughter out to Europe, but my parents supported me the whole way. I’m so grateful or else I wouldn’t have gone on this life-changing adventure and been completely changed for the better.

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Happy birthday, Dad! I can’t wait to celebrate with you when you return home.

Who in your life has inspired you to travel?

 

A Traveler’s Thoughts

Hello friends! It’s been two whole weeks since I last traveled (gasp!), so I need to get on the move again. I am taking advantage of my two days off from work to visit my friend in Maine! My journey starts tomorrow at 6:30 am (yuck) as I catch a train to Boston to take a bus from there to my destination.

I found that I actually enjoy taking public transportation for long-distant travel. It gives me time to just sit, listen to music, read, and especially, write.

And write I did. I found that my time in Europe really got my juices flowing and I wrote more creatively during my time there than I have ever before. Here’s a poem I wrote which was published in the Castle’s literary magazine. I thought I’d share since it not only reflects how I felt during my travels, but also what I’m feeling now after being home for nearly a month.

 

Where is home?

Home is found in worn New England streets, paved with children’s shoes and bikes and the tires of my first car

In tired Boston monuments

and in the breath taken away by its skyline

 

I was told before I went away

That I would never come back

And I did not believe them

Thinking my heart would be forever trapped

Like a hand print in concrete on those East Coast streets

 

And then I lost myself

A piece of my heart nestling in these castle walls and cobblestone squares

And on the brick roads leading to everywhere imaginable

 

A piece of me slipped into Amsterdam

In a crowded Irish pub

Amongst confessed words and hushed jazz

 

I grew roots in London

In the underground and by fairy tale palaces

 

And there’s a part of me in Paris

Drowning in cheap wine and stuck between apartment bed sheets

 

I’m in Cologne, on crowded, commercial streets

And yet, in the quietest corner of Well

 

I am in places that I’ve yet to see

Somewhere across the sea from what I’ve known

I lost myself in the best way

And I don’t think

I can ever be home again.

 

 

What do you think? Does travel inspire creativity in you? Share your thoughts!

 

Home away from Homesick

Hello all! I hope everyone doesn’t mind that my posts are going to be less frequent now, simply due to the fact that I am no longer traveling. In fact, I’m working again, which leaves me stranded in one place for the time being. However, I still hope to bring you weekly tips and musings on travel and life after spending three months living in Europe.

Now one thing I was told to expect after arriving home to America was reverse culture shock. This is sort of like culture shock, but in reverse; you find yourself shocked by things being different from the place you just visited.

I’m not here to tell you that reverse culture shock is a myth. But I will say that I am very skeptical of its existence, mainly because I barely experienced it at all. The biggest thing for me was I kept forgetting that my phone would actually work when I left the house. Other than that, I found that it’s easy to come home because honestly, this is what I’m used to having in my life.

What I have been experiencing is homesickness, or perhaps more correctly, home away from home sickness. Before we left, the castle administration told us that the castle would always be our home away from home. And the truth is, I’m missing it like crazy. One thing I will say is that it’s a large adjustment to go from country hopping in Europe to living back at home and working a retail job part time. (Not that I don’t love it, but come on, what compares to Europe?)

So I’ve been trying to find remedies to nurse my overwhelming urge to collect my friends and hop on a plane right back to the good, old Netherlands. Here are a few that have been easing my withdrawal pain.

  • Watching movies filmed in Europe (or anywhere else that you’re missing). Last night I popped on Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette while doing some internship work. It’s the only movie they’ve ever allowed to be filmed in Versailles and seeing it brought back all the good memories I had of touring there with my friends. It allowed me to take a little vacation, if only in my mind.
  • Indulging in some native cuisine. Namely, in my case, stroopwaffel. I started carrying around a pack in my purse for a snack during my breaks at work. It always brings me back to mornings in the tower where I’d have it every day for breakfast (even if its status as a breakfast food is questionable).
  • Talking about your experience. I recently volunteered to go back to my old middle school to talk about my experiences studying abroad. It gave me a chance to spread my enthusiasm for the experience, while teaching kids a bit about Europe. It was nice being able to relive my experience, even if I was probably more excited about it than the kids!
  •  Visiting your travel companions. I’m meeting up with a friend who lives nearby on Thursday and hoping to plan a trip to New York City to visit some others later in the summer. It’s been hard not seeing them after spending three months together and I hope by meeting up, we can get a chance to relive our adventures while swapping stories about readjusting to life in America.
  • Reading. Similar to watching a movie, reading a book that’s set in a place you’ve visited can be oddly comforting. I hope to start The Diary of Anne Frank soon as well, since I bought it while in Amsterdam. I’m actually glad now that I brought so many books while abroad, because each now holds a unique memory of the place where I bought it!

What are some things you do to relieve the post-travel blues?

The UMass Experience

Well, it seems that I cannot stay in one place for too long, as I packed up my duffel bag this past Friday and made the two-hour drive from my home in southeastern Massachusetts to Amherst in western Massachusetts. This was a long anticipated trip to visit some high school friends at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Like all trips though, I made an effort to learn more about the town and learned a lot about myself.

Finally made it!

Finally made it!

I go to a small liberal arts college in the heart of Boston. There are about 3,400 undergraduate students, four dorm buildings, and one dining hall. And I like it. UMASS Amherst has about 25,000 undergraduate students. It’s in western Massachusetts and surrounded by farms and mountains. According to my friends, there are about 50 dormitories and at least four dining halls. Cue the culture shock.

UMASS kicked my butt. It’s an entirely different way of living. The campus is bigger, we actually had to drive to get around, the library is 28 stories (as opposed to the Iwasaki Library at Emerson which takes up one floor of a building), and I had to walk up a very steep hill, just to get back to my friend’s dorm. People move faster, the dining halls are more crowded, and I accidentally bumped into one boy in the dining hall, causing him to spill some sauce from his plate onto his arm. Nice.

I was not equipped for the big school life. I was genuinely amazed by the school. There were so many people, places, food, even majors. I think it’s a great school. But visiting also made me realize how much I love my cozy, little Emerson, with its one dining hall and four dorms and tiny, yet tight-knit community. If you’re a reader in college and doubting your choice of school, visit friends at another school that’s different from yours. It’ll make you realize what you really like, which in my case, this visit only reaffirmed that I made the right choice with Emerson!

View from the top of the UMASS library

View from the top of the UMASS library

However, UMASS Amherst had things to offer that Emerson does not, beyond the university itself. Namely, small town life and the Emily Dickinson Museum. I decided that if I was going to make the two-hour drive to western Massachusetts, that I would at least what the towns there had to offer.So on Saturday, I convinced my friends to come along on a tour of Emily Dickinson’s house, located a few minutes away from the UMASS campus. The tour was brief, only forty-five minutes, but super interesting. We learned a lot about the Dickinson family, as well as Emily herself. It was cool to be inside the actual house that she lived in.

The house has been since the early 1800's!

The house has been since the early 1800’s!

 

After the tour, we drove to Northampton, the town over from Amherst. It reminded me of Brookline, Massachusetts. We drove through downtown, with lots of local shops in brick buildings. For dinner, we are at the Smithsonian Chowder House. It advertised its delicious chowder as award-winning, which obviously made my little New England girl heart flutter and drew me right in. (And the chowder was definitely award worthy.)

Northampton town hall

Northampton town hall

All in all, it was nice to get out and visit friends, even if it was only two hours away. Sometimes it’s nice to break the routine a little, because even places close by can be different from what you know. These are the sort of trips that I’d like to continue taking throughout the summer. This will hopefully be the first of many trips around the New England area!

European Street Art

I’ve been dying to do this post for a while, but I decided to wait until I was back from Europe and collected enough photos to make this a truly substantial post. Ever since ABC Family’s Switched at Birth addressed it, I’ve been fascinated by street art.
I never really saw any that caught my eye, that is, until I went to Europe.

 

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I was on the subway in Paris when it started. I remember I was tired and cranky after a long day and managed to snag a seat on the train. When I sat down, this drawing caught my eye. The man’s expression matched my own feelings and I found the saying funny, so I snapped a picture. (It roughly translates to “life is a female dog in heat”.)

The more time I spent traveling throughout Europe, the more I noticed the writing and drawings on the street. Some might consider it graffiti, but I found a lot of what I saw was thoughtful or interesting. It might be vandalism, but I love that most of it is actually beautiful or meaningful. Here’s some of my favorite pieces and phrases that I saw during my time in Europe.

 

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Zurich, Switzerland Arno Gruen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arno_Gruen

Zurich, Switzerland
Arno Gruen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arno_Gruen

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Venice, Italy. My friends and I really just thought this was hilarious.

Venice, Italy. My friends and I really just thought this was hilarious.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

 

What are your thoughts on graffiti? Street art or vandalism?

Marathon Monday

On Monday, I was lucky enough to travel back to Boston to visit some friends at school and see the marathon. Going into the city on such an important day brought on a flood of emotions. I was excited, nervous, anxious, and yet, so happy to see my home away from hometown make a comeback after what happened last year.

From the minute I stepped on the commuter rail train taking me to South Station, the energy in the air was palpable. Everyone wore Boston gear, whether it was Red Sox or some variation of a “Boston Strong” shirt. People packed into the train, to the point where it was standing room only when I got on. But the Boston spirit was there as people offered up their seats to others or moved over to make room for those who needed it. Praise of Boston’s sense of community is often spoken of, but it always gets me when I see it in action.

When I got off the train, I stepped into South Station and it felt like coming home. The buzz was even more noticeable here and as I made my way towards the exit, I noticed signs advertising the marathon, the first of many I would see supporting runners.

After reuniting with my friend and getting breakfast, we decided to walk around the Boston Common to look at the prayer canvas on display. There were tons of canvases from all over the country sending messages of love and support to the city. I mean it when I say that I was overwhelmed by it. To me, the attacks last year felt personal, as I’m sure it did to many. To see so many people send these messages to a city and people they may not even know was moving. One of my favorite things I saw written on a memorial last year was “love is louder than hate on Boylston”. After seeing those canvases, I don’t think that’s true, I know it for a fact, as sappy as that may sound.

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You bet it is.

This is only a portion of the canvases.

This is only a portion of the canvases.

Just one of many lovely sentiments sent from around the country.

Just one of many lovely sentiments sent from around the country.

After lunch, we decided to head down to the marathon. Talk about crowded! We walked around a bit, occasionally stopping at the sidelines to cheer on runners who were walking off the course. Of course, we couldn’t get near the finish line, but we managed to get pretty close. Our bags were checked at certain points, but I believe that’s a small price to pay considering what happened last year.

When we decided to head away from the marathon and go out into the rest of the city, we were followed by runners wrapped in foil and proudly toting medals hung from blue and yellow ribbons. Some lay in the Common relaxing, others grabbed something to eat. I was not only surprised by the sheer number of people who can run 26.2 miles (I doubt I can run one), but the support they got. Everywhere we went, people congratulated runners on the street.

But I guess that’s Boston for you. Back and stronger than ever. Boston Strong is more than just a rallying cry for a city once torn. It’s the way we operate in the city. I’m lucky to have gotten to see it in action on this special day and would recommend, if you ever can, going into the city for Marathon Monday if you want to get a real taste of what Boston is.

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Travel Bucket List

Hello all! I hope those of you who celebrate had a happy Easter and those of you who do not had a wonderful day.

Despite the fact that I am no longer studying in Europe, I plan to keep traveling and writing. I hope you will keep up as I travel around New England and share my travel related thoughts and tips with you!

This past semester, I did a story on my roommate’s bucket list for my Journalism class. Inspired by her as always, I decided to come up with my own bucket list, specifically a travel one. Some items are specific, others more general. Some are doable and others are less likely. Some have personal significance, like traveling to Ireland or the Middle East (both places where my ancestors are from), while others are based on sheer whims (Colorado just seems cool). Either way, I decided to share it here! Not only is it great to have specific goals, but hopefully posting this will keep me motivated to complete most of the items on it!

  1. Travel around Ireland.
  2. Buy some Irish wool from there.
  3. Go to New Orleans.
  4. Visit Colorado.
  5. Visit the Black Forest and Berlin.
  6. Visit a concentration camp.
  7. Go to Ellis Island in New York to find my great-grandparents in the immigration records.
  8. Visit the Middle East.
  9. Buy a copy of The Great Gatsby in French while in France (or any other French-speaking country).
  10. Visit my friends at UMass Amherst.
  11. Put a lock on a bridge or write names some where with a significant other.
  12. Visit the grave of my favorite composer, Howard Ashman, in Maryland.
  13. Revisit London to spend more time there and get a better feel for the city. My first visit felt too short!
  14. Travel to new places in New England to get a better feel for the region.
  15. Keep blogging!

What are some of the items on your travel bucket list?

Where’s Kevin?

Over Spring Break, my friends and I had a recurring joke: every time we got some place, someone would look around and ask “where’s Kevin?” in a panic, a reference to the Home Alone films. We would all respond with some excuse, saying Kevin had gone ahead without us or something. Yes, we were a real bundle of laughs.

The whole idea was that all of a sudden, you realized someone was missing. That is how I felt almost as soon as I walked away from the group of people who were by my side constantly since January. I actually felt that I lost Kevin. It felt like something was missing.

Life gets funny at this age. As soon as you turn eighteen, they slap a label on you: adult. You have to pick a major, a life path, a place to call home. They send you off to foreign countries, saying you can care for yourself.

The undeniable truth is that no one can take care of themselves, but especially not college kids. We were far from home and everything we’d known. So we turned to each other. We became family. We held each other when we cried, looked after each other when we were sick, and were there for each other to make sure we all made it back alive. (Good news: we all did!) One of my pre-departure fears was that I’d feel alone, leaving the country with all new people. The reality was that I never for a second felt that I wasn’t taken care of.

They say the biggest thing about going back home after being away is experiencing reverse culture shock, culture shock’s scarier older cousin. But I’m used to the American way. The biggest shock is being away from these people who were all I knew for three months. It felt weird leaving the airport and not making sure my group was with me, trundling along with overstuffed backpacks. I think of jokes or things I want to tell them and then remember we won’t all be reunited until September. I went to bed feeling weird and realized that it’s because for the first time in three months, I was sleeping in a room alone. No more being lulled to sleep by my roommate’s snores or waking up to find my other roommate already dressed and watching TV.

I loved studying abroad. But I think the best part wasn’t the places, but the people who made these places special. So here’s to every single person that made my time in Europe so special. Whatever happens, you all made a wonderful impact on my life and I can’t say thank you enough.

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Boston Strong

Today is the day: my final day abroad. My bag is packed and the emotions of leaving are just beginning to creep in and hit me. But today’s date is one that I cannot forget and those emotions are mixing in and overpowering my feelings about leaving.

A year ago today, bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston marathon: the finish line that so many of my friends were within close proximity of, the finish line that my father has crossed, the finish line that I and so many before me have walked by, a proud mark of our city. I will never forget that day. What happened a year ago today changed me as a person. I now know what it’s like to be truly afraid and to be aware of the fact that there are people out there who want to hurt me. But I also know what it’s like to be part of a community and be proud of that community.

I feel that I need to acknowledge this anniversary here. Living in Boston, I was deeply affected by the marathon, but as someone who’s lived in Massachusetts their entire life, it was strange seeing people around me react. I had a lot of anger, especially from the fact that I felt that everywhere I went, I was affected by this. So here is something I wrote a few months ago to express the frustration and isolation I felt after the bombings.

 

It’s a funny thing to be a victim of terrorism.

You are suddenly a member of an exclusive club that nobody and everybody wants to be in.

People will place themselves close in their minds

And then drag themselves away.

Your friends will not understand why you cry

Or don’t want to go out when the boy who did it is caught.

The boy.

They will not understand why you just want to sleep for a million years

Hoping the heaviness of slumber will drown out the images of smoke curling in the air.

But, how could I ever forget?

Folk distantly affected will cry.

They don’t know what it’s like to be locked indoors to be kept safe

To walk deserted streets with only the sound of helicopters to keep you company.

You will be angry

And like the feeling of realizing someone you love is gone

This is a thing you’ll never forget

Until the day you die

Of smoke curling in the air.

 

Obviously, these are just my feelings. There are lots of different reactions from what happened that day. What’s important though is that we all came together and Boston is a stronger community from what happened. As much as I will never forget the horror of that day, I will never forget the heroism and kindness that followed.

Boston Strong forever

Boston Strong forever

Europe 2014 Superlatives

As I finish up my last final and start packing my room up, I’ve also begun reflecting more on my trip and dealing with the reality of going home. Namely, I’ve been trying to think up an answer to the inevitable question that everyone will ask me: where was my favorite place to visit?

As I discover more and more trinkets from my trips upon packing, the more and more difficult this question becomes to answer. So many things factor into whether or not you enjoy a trip. There’s who you travel with, the weather, where you stayed, how you were feeling when you were traveling. Sure, these things don’t always affect you, but sometimes they have more affect than the actual place you visited! Every trip had things I liked more than others. Here are a few final thoughts on the many places I visited and trips that I took this semester!

Favorite weekend: Road trip weekend. Not only did we get to visit some really unique places that I might not have seen otherwise (mainly Luxembourg), but this was also the only weekend where the actual travel was enjoyable. Sure, planes are nice, but it can be a pain stuffing all your stuff into a bag, shuffling it through security, rushing to get to the airport on time, sitting through the takeoff procedure for the hundredth time…I liked being able to sit back, relax, enjoy my friends, and travel on my own schedule.

Most unique place: A toss-up between Switzerland and Luxembourg. Luxembourg was definitely unique in its storybook like feel, but Switzerland was such a unique mix of cultures. It was the only place I went where the language changed between cities.

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Okay, I think I’ll add this to the list of places to return to, simply for the view

Plus, how many other places can boast fondue and chocolate as national foods? Yum! Speaking of which…

Best food: Again, I have to go with Switzerland, mostly because of the fondue and the delicious home cooked meal I had while there. But overall, I’d have to go with Italy. Pizza, pasta, gelato…oh, take me back. Honorable mention goes to Madrid for introducing me to seafood paella.

This definitely wasn't my fifth cup or anything...

This definitely wasn’t my fifth cup or anything…

Favorite country: The Netherlands will always have a special place in my heart because I live here! I will defend the Dutch and their stroopwafel until the day I die and nothing puts a smile on my face like taking a walk into town and seeing the townspeople on their bikes and with their dogs and saying hello to them. But, I also found that I really love Italy. It’s not just the food, but the fact that even after two trips there, I’d still go back to Rome and I still want to go back to visit more places within the country. Maybe that’s because I’m still hoping to meet the pope though.

Most memorable experience: Another tie, this time between riding a gondola in Venice and going to mass in the Vatican. Both were such amazing  once in a lifetime experiences that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The gondola ride was so relaxing and unbelievably beautiful, while mass in the Vatican meant so much to me on a spiritual level. I had a lot of cool experiences on this trip, but I think those two will stick with me for the rest of my life.

 

A boat ride like no other

A boat ride like no other

 

Places to revisit: I don’t think there’s a single place that I wouldn’t revisit. But my top two are London and Paris. I just feel like I could’ve stayed so much longer in both of them. They are definitely at the top of my list.

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I’ll be back!

 

Favorite city: If I absolutely had to choose, I’d go with Rome. I just love it, there’s really no reason for it. But the reality is, I loved everywhere I went. There’s no city or place that doesn’t have something to love and I traveled with some great people, so I’ll always have wonderful memories of all the places I’ve went. Essentially, travel is what you make of it. I just was able to make more out of some places than others. In the end though, I don’t regret a thing!