Peace Corps 2016-2018

Today is the start of a new adventure!

I will be joining the Peace Corps in Mongolia for the next two years as a Secondary English Teacher.

Therefore, I have created a new blog for my Peace Corps adventures.

Check it out at goneawhile.com

As a result, I will be taking a long break from this blog.

Please follow along for new stories and photographs.

 

 

Advertisements

There’s no city like Chicago

When I step out from Union Station, I am greeted by skyscrapers but only one stands out amongst all the rest. As I cross over the Chicago River via West Jackson Boulevard, I pass by the Willis Tower – ( but only a … Continue reading

23 countries and not a moment to waste!

I have now reached the ripe old age of 23.

The freezing Chicago temperatures aren’t helping in any way.

No, not old at all, but I feel old as I can still remember inviting all my friends to celebrate my sweet 16 in my basement, when my friends gave me a singing balloon to carry around school when I turned 17, and going to a Blackhawks game for my 18th birthday. For the next 2 years, I will be celebrating my birthdays on the other side of the world in Mongolia.

Looking back, I have already been to Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Germany, and Italy among many others.  So, to accompany my travel blog, and to correlate with my age, here are 23 countries I hope to cross off one day on my travel bucket list.

1. Argentina

Argentina

“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil they throw flowers at you. In Argentina they throw themselves.” – Marlene Dietrich.

2. New Zealand

New Zealand

“There’s a real purity in New Zealand that doesn’t exist in the states. It’s actually not an easy thing to find in our world anymore. It’s a unique place because it is so far away from the rest of the world. There is a sense of isolation and also being protected.” – Elijah Wood.

3. Japan

Japan

“When you look at Japanese traditional architecture, you have to look at Japanese culture and its relationship with nature. You can actually live in a harmonious, close contact with nature – this is very unique to Japan.” – Tadao Ando.

4. The Netherlands

The Netherlands

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” – The Fault in Our Stars.

 5. Namibia

Naimbia

“God is in the details and so is the devil.” – Namibian Proverb.

6. Romania

Romania

“Of course, I grew up in Communist Romania, but I am happy to say that now our country is democratic, and prospering, since the revolution in 1989.” – Nadia Comaneci.

7. Philippines

Philippines

“The divine flame of thought is inextinguishable in the Filipino people, and somehow or other it will shine forth and compel recognition. It is impossible to brutalize the inhabitants of the Philippines.” – Jose Rizal.

 8. Israel

Israel

“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” – David Ben Gurion.

9. South Africa

South Africa

“When Nelson Mandela walked free, the world sang with joy. Ever since, South Africa has stood as a beacon of hope for Africa.” – Ban Ki-Moon.

10. Australia

Australia

“After going to Australia, it’s hard to go anywhere after that. I want to move there. I’m obsessed with it.” – Nina Dobrev.

11. China

China

“Flowers may bloom again, but a person never has the chance to be young again. So don’t waste your time.” – Chinese saying.

12. Austria

Austria

When in Austria…”Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” – Unknown.

13. Chile

Chile

“Chile is not a rich country in terms of gas, or oil or coal, but we are extremely rich in terms of the energies of the future.” – Sebastian Pinera.

14. Vietnam

Vietnam

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.” – Thich Nhat Hanh.

15. Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

“Being Peruvian means to come from the farthest place possible to get to Europe. Peru is the land of the Incas. It was the capital of South America; it was where the Spanish founded their empire and took over the Inca Empire and made it into a colony of Spain.” – Mario Testino.

16. Maldives

Maldives

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.” – Rumi.

17. Russia

Russia
“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” – Winston Churchill.

18. Colombia

Colombia

“We have a bad image in the world, I’ve got to admit. I just want people to think twice about Colombia. Don’t go by first impression.” – Camilo Villegas.

19. Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands

“B.E.A.C.H…Best Escape Anyone Can Have.”

20. Brazil

IMG_4794

“They have a joy for life in Brazil unlike any country I’ve ever seen.” – Morena Baccarin.

21. Greece

Greece

“Greece has got something like 1,400 islands. There is so much of Greece you can’t know even if you’re Greek. It’s sprinkled out all around the edge of the Aegean, all over the place. It’s already a secret place wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere huge like Athens or Corinth. The place enchanted me.” – Joanna Lumley.

22. Croatia

Croatia

“The most amazing set where I’ve shot ‘Game of Thrones’ is definitely Croatia, in Dubrovnik. It’s such a stunning country with lots of good watersports there as well. Just a beautiful, beautiful place.” – Natalie Dormer.

23. Egypt

Egypt

“Egypt gave birth to what late would become known as ‘Western Civilization,’ long before the greatness of Greece and Rome.” – John Henrik Clarke.

Where do you want to go?
1…2…3…LETS GO!
**All pictures used are from Google Images**

How I managed to go backpacking around Europe

Whether you are on the move for a month or five months, backpacking around Europe…or on any continent…is an experience like no other. It sounds difficult. What do I pack? How much do I pack? Where should I go?  How will I travel? It can be headache. But with the right planning and incredible organization, you can do it!

Backpacking

Having a snooze in Nice, France. You will get exhausted when you are constantly on the move but at least you will always have an amazing view.

 

Here are some important steps to backpacking:

#1: Choose the countries you want to visit.

Once you know which countries you want to travel to, it becomes a lot easier to envision a route in your mind. Think about traveling in a circle. Don’t go crazy and travel in which ever direction. Avoid flying from London to Rome then Rome to Barcelona because then you are skipping over all the countries that are in the middle of those cities.

The hardest part about deciding on which countries you want to visit is that there are so many to choose from! For my backpacking trip, I desperately wanted to visit France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Once I chose my countries, I narrowed my search down to cities.

#2: Figure out your transportation.

While searching for the best modes of transport, I mostly used Skyscanner.com and Easyjet.com. EasyJet is very cheap. For example, a flight from London to Rome in January for 10 days only costs $46. A flight from Berlin to Paris in January costs $34. However, not every airport has EasyJet. So Skyskanner will hook you up with other airlines to fly when Easyet is not available.

Once you are in a country and you are traveling from city to city, I recommend traveling by train. Prices are cheap and you see more of the country. That is if you don’t fall asleep like I did most of the time.

#3: Pack light.

This is where I had the most trouble. I only had a backpack and a small suitcase I could roll around, but if I managed to roll up my t-shirts in just the right way, everything was squeezed in. I packed many t-shirts, a sweater, a light jacket, a scarf, a pair of pants, a lot of socks and underwear, a pair of shorts, and a swimsuit, which I never ended up wearing.

Be prepared to become an “outfit repeater!” In each city, I practically wore the same outfit. When you’re backpacking, it can be difficult to look fashionable. I chose comfort over fashion.

same outfit

Paris, Rome, Berlin…I was definitely an outfit repeater with my sweater and scarf. It looks like I never changed clothes  but I chose comfort over fashion.


 

#4: Decide on the right hostels.

Some of the hostels I stayed in were amazing! Use Hostelworld.com.

A couple of my favorite ones were Wombats City Hostel in Berlin and Munich and David Inn in Florence (My absolute favorite one!)

It’s important to shoot the hostels an email ahead of time just to make sure your reservation came through or if you will be in the same room as your friends.

Also, pack a pair of flip-flops for communal showers and a lock so you can lock up your belongings.

Lastly, it would be wise to have a third form of ID. Some hostels want to keep your passport or license as insurance. I had an old high school ID that I would give. Give them something that you don’t really care about.

#5: Organization is the key to travel.

Yes, you must be organized. I created my itinerary with Google docs. In my opinion, this is the best way to share with friends if you want to travel in a group. It was also super easy for me to stay organized. By using columns, it was easy to track when I was traveling, where I was staying, how much everything will cost, and sights to see. Because you can share Google docs, this allowed my friends who were interested in coming along to buy tickets and to make reservations at hostels.

You can log on to Google docs anywhere.

#6: How to avoid exhaustion.

While traveling with my friends, it became a joke to say, “Shoes up, feet up.” We made sure to avoid taking our shoes off because the second we did, we would fall asleep. So yes, you will get tired! When you are constantly on the move and you want to see everything, you get exhausted. Especially when you have early flights.

The key to starve off exhaustion? I recommend taking short naps and don’t travel hungry. Also, avoid staying up to the early hours. You will only regret it later when you find yourself nodding off on a museum bench.

“I need  to have a vacation from this vacation.”

Sleeping collage

The Palace of Versailles and Marseille…we took naps everywhere. On the grass in parks and gardens, weird chairs, on beaches, on trains and planes, and even on a statue we found.


 

#7: Take advantage of discounts.

I was still a university student while backpacking through Europe. In Paris, you can get free admittance to the Louvre Museum and to the Palace of Versailles if you show either your student ID or your EU passport.

This is why you want to give your hostel an ID that you don’t need, (like my high school ID that I mentioned at #4). If you don’t have your current school ID you might miss out on discounts or free entries.


 

I know that there might be many similar blog posts as to how to go backpacking. Many are more detailed but I believe that these 7 points I mentioned are universal. The less stress the better!

“You don’t need magic to disappear. All you need is a destination.”

Florence

Having a snooze in Nice, France. You will get exhausted when you are constantly on the move but at least you will always have an amazing view.

Copenhagen, Denmark

From Gothenburg, Sweden, a train whizzed me over the Øresund Bridge and into Copenhagen. It’s a 3-hour long ride but on the plus side, the train has wifi, so Hannibal kept me company. H.C. Andersens Boulevard – I got a kick … Continue reading