Earlier this year, I shared some info about my upcoming Heritage Honeymoon and how my now-husband and I planned out where we would be traveling to. As we sit in the Detroit airport waiting to board our flight to Europe, I’m excited to share more about exactly how all of the plans have come together:
Creating a Rough Itinerary // When I originally had the idea for a Heritage Honeymoon, I knew that it would involve a lot of planning because of how unique and specialized the itinerary would be. So, once we determined the cities and countries we would visit, I started by laying out the basics, considering how many days/nights we would stay in each place, ideally. This, of course, changed as we actually got down to booking hotels and transportation, but having a rough outline gave us a guide to work with, and a starting point.
Being Flexible // The first things we booked were our flights to and from Europe so that we had a Heritage Honeymoon shell to fill in with all of the details. But, this required a certain flexibility in order to get to a price and plan that we were comfortable with. See, our last destination was to be southern Italy, to the towns of Benevento and Potenza. The nearest airport to this region in the direction of home is Naples, but I knew that we would need to take a train to Naples before flying out, and that that could take time. So, I considered how the logistics would actually work, and how we could make it more comfortable for us. We ended up booking a flight home from Rome, which was cheaper and required less flight connections. And, I decided to give us an entire day to take the train from Benevento to Rome, sleep one night at a hotel in Rome, and wake up the next day to fly home. The priority of flexibility helped us with booking most of our trip, and it paid off when it came time to make the big decisions.
Looking Ahead in the Itinerary // This is MAJOR KEY to planning a Heritage Honeymoon. As mentioned earlier, we had the **ideal** itinerary set, but we were flexible to make changes – and we did. After booking the main flights, we looked to secure the rest of our transportation between cities, knowing that we would find hotels that suited our stay no matter what. But I knew it wouldn’t be wise to just follow the itinerary and book it exactly. I had to look ahead to future cities/travel days before booking earlier ones, to make sure that everything lined up correctly. For example, I had originally planned 3 nights in Split before heading to Italy. But when I took a look at flight options, and also train options throughout Italy, I realized that it would be better to stay one extra day in Split and transportation options would be more abundant the following day. Looking ahead and considering the chain reaction of decisions was so helpful in making plans.
Touring it Up // Something that I really love when traveling is participating in day trips and day tours. I love these types of excursions because they allow you to see and do more, hear from local guides, ask questions, and spend time with other people from different places around the world, sharing in a travel experience together. For our Heritage Honeymoon, we set out to book at least one tour or excursion in each place that we were planning to visit. These are the details of our trip, planned out after flights, trains, and hotels, but they will ensure that we make the very most of our experience!
We are so very excited to kick-start our adventure with one of the biggest adventures of our lives so far, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share it with YOU reading this right now. I hope you feel inspired to take your own Heritage Honeymoon. And if you’re not sure where to start or feel intimidated by the whole thing, don’t worry! I am here to help you. Write me about Heritage Honeymoon consultations and I would be happy to offer my advice, feedback, and encouragement.
The Island of Rhodes and the city of Rhodes will always have a special place in my heart. It’s the last destination on the Forum-Nexus Study Abroad itinerary each summer, which is how I first came to know this beautiful place. Rhodes may not be as well known as Mykonos or Santorini, but it still has a ton to offer. Here are just 7 reasons to add this island to your travel bucket list:
1. You can get to Rhodes easily by plane or boat from Athens. Flights arrive in the Rhodes Diagoras (RHO) airport, which is small and sometimes crowded, but easy to navigate. Because the island is so small, you’ll never have to be in a taxi too long on your way to your hotel. The Sheraton Rhodes Resort is where I’ve always stayed and it’s a 20-minute cab ride from the airport.
2. Old Town is full of medieval history. The main areas within the city of Rhodes are the Old Town and the New City. To get to the center of Old Town, you must traverse through three medieval stone entrances that twist and turn (so that enemies could get lost or literally run into a wall on their way in and it would slow them down). There is an entrance facing the sea and an entrance facing the land, as Old Town is now met by a marina of private ships. Take a tour to learn about the history and preservation of the Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and then spend some time exploring on your own. If you’re looking for a dinner spot, Sissitio has a romantic atmosphere, detailed cocktails, and a variety of yummy dishes. For more modern shops and nightlife, New City, or “New Town,” will be your go-to.
3. Sun + Sand + Sea. The entire island of Rhodes sees mostly sunny days, and the summertime is hot but not overwhelming. There are plenty of beaches to relax on and ocean to play in. Many resorts like the Sheraton have their own private piece of the beach with chairs and umbrellas available at no extra charge. Depending on the beach, you can find beautiful rocks in different colors, and above the beaches are hills and mountains that make for really amazing views.
4. You can find every type of water sport at Faliraki Beach. Faliraki is a short ride from the city of Rhodes known for its water park and plethora of water activities. Whether you prefer to jet ski, slide, or rent your own boat for the day, you can find it at Faliraki. While at Faliraki, I rented a motor boat with friends for a few hours and had the chance to visit several coves in the Aegean Sea. The water was clear, it was the perfect temperature, and the boat had just enough shade, too. It was my favorite day while in Rhodes! If you’re interested in renting a boat, you can probably find one day-of (we did) but I recommend reserving one in advance just in case. Peter’s and Manolis are two companies that will rent you a boat that you can drive without a guide.
5. Lindos has the classic Greek island look you need. When you think of a Greek island, you might imagine hillsides of white buildings, bright flowers, and sparkling water hugging the beach. The beaches in Rhodes might disappoint in this aspect, but the town of Lindos won’t. In Lindos you can get lost in the alleyways of shops and restaurants, then make your way down to the beach. You’ll get a perfect view of the ivory buildings on your hike up to the Acropolis and temple of Athena, too.
6. It’s really hard to have a bad meal on the island of Rhodes. Traditional cuisine like grape leaves, tzatziki and pita, baba ghanoush, and moussaka can be found just about anywhere, and everything is absolutely delicious. To compliment your food you might try a local beer – Zythos. Mythos, or Alpha. Coming from an American background, I love to experience the care and consideration in the way other cultures prepare and present food, and Rhodes is no exception.
7. You’ll see an incredible sunset every night. Having the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Greek meal while watching the sun set beneath the Turkish mountains (Turkey is visible across the sea from the Sheraton Rhodes Resort), taking it all in from the beach, or even watching from the balcony of my guestroom, made every day just a little bit better than it already was.
Recently I traveled to Philadelphia for a John Mayer concert, and learned a few things during my time there. Full of history and energy, it's the city on the other end of the state I've called home for all of my life so far, but I hadn't been until now. Here are a few quick tips from my quick trip:
Tip 1 - Bring walking shoes // Philadelphia is a very walkable city, which I loved! We stayed in South Philly and were able to walk to many shops, restaurants, and attractions. I recommend preparing to walk if you visit - it's a great way to see the city and get your steps in, too.
Tip 2 - Make reservations // We had brunch reservations, which came in handy, but we didn't have reservations for Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, which was on my list of to-dos. They were sold out until 5 pm that day, which was too late for our schedule. Instead, we walked around the side streets and alleys to see the mosaic artwork there, but it wasn't quite the same as going in. I recommend buying tickets online in advance for this and anything else that you might want to see or do. Other activities like seeing the Liberty Bell were free and the wait in line wasn't bad at all.
Tip 3 - Do your research // Before the concert, we decided to get dinner at XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, which was close to the Wells Fargo Center. What we didn't consider is that the Phillies home opener was happening simultaneously, and it ended up being packed with people watching the game or who were at the game but left to be inside since it was so cold out. This made for a less than awesome experience, but we made the most of it! Had we known there weren't any other large restaurants nearby the stadiums, we would have gone somewhere completely different before the concert instead. Definitely do some research to find out about other events that are happening while you're there, and have a back-up plan for dining options if you find yourself in a similar situation!
Where we ate:
And that's it! Less than 48 hours in Philly reminded me that sometimes it's better to plan things out, but that there is so much to explore if you take the spontaneous route instead. What I liked the best wasn't necessarily anything that we did there, but the vibes there. It's one of America's oldest cities, holding so much significance and yet it's very progressive, modern, and friendly, a perfect example of how an American city should be! I'm looking forward to spending more time there, but in the meantime I'll think of Philadelphia in a whole new way.
You guessed it, I'm engaged! In less than 200 days I will be marrying my partner in life: a handsome, compassionate, talented, and genuine man. As we've gone through the wedding planning process, a thought occurred to me while daydreaming about our honeymoon - What better way to start off our marriage than experiencing where we came from? As third-generation Americans (meaning some of our grandparents immigrated to the United States), we've taken note of the decline in patriotism for our countries of origin. Many of my older family members don't know any of the details of where our ancestors came from, or why. Thus, a concept I've been affectionately referring to as our "heritage honeymoon" was born.
Both Brandon (my fiancé) and I have origins in Europe, but not knowing the details was a little intimidating at first. So, we decided to view it as a challenge rather than a problem. It took hours of research, conversations with family members who we hardly talk to, and did I mention research? But we're finally at the point where we are ready to book the details of our heritage honeymoon. Here's how we planned it, and how you can, too.
Step 1: Gather the Information You Know
Any details that you already know about your family origins will be helpful. Even just knowing a country is still a good place to start. Depending on when your ancestors emigrated from their countries to the U.S., you might even be able to talk to them directly! Unfortunately, neither Brandon nor I had that opportunity. Some of our grandparents were immigrants, and some were born in America; for those who were, that meant that we had to trace our ancestries back even farther.
Step 2: Research. A lot.
Since we had such limited knowledge of our ancestries, we decided to take what we did know and begin creating family trees using Ancestry.com. Ancestry provides access to databases and records that are difficult or impossible to find for free on the Internet - trust me, I've looked. We subscribed to Ancestry.com for a few months to collect as much research as we could, based on the little information that we knew. And what we found was amazing! Seeing the military, naturalization, and marriage records of some of my ancestors really blew me away. Family whom I've never met, but their sacrifice, their decisions, and their love ultimately led to me. And being able to show my mom and my uncles the documents related to their father who passed away at a young age, and their grandparents, was really exciting, and we were able to discover new things together as a family. There are plenty of websites like Ancestry out there, and you can consult specific resources like The Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation Passenger Search as well. In doing so, here's my warning: Approach each piece of information with investigation. Ancestry in particular suggests other family trees that may link to yours, and it's easy to get caught up in accepting all of the hints and attributing information to ancestors that you really don't know if it's true or not. We scrutinized as much as we could, knowing the limitations, and celebrated the puzzle pieces that fit.
Step 3: Lay it Out
Once we had gotten a better sense of the countries and cities or regions where our ancestors originated, it was time to look at the big picture. Disclaimer: We weren't able to zero in on clear locations for some of our ancestors. For example, my paternal grandmother's side of the family goes back generations and generations of being in the United States. We got a sense of what might be our family's path, but we couldn't identify for certain any other countries of origin. But, I now know a town in West Virginia where that side of the family lived for several generations. The tools and information still helped me learn, so don't be discouraged if you don't find exactly what you were hoping for. Work with what you can, and lay all of the potential locations out on a map.
The countries that we did know were: Wales, Slovakia, Croatia, and Italy. Countries that we had hints or suspicions about were England, Scotland, and Ireland. In attempting to plot out our itinerary, we first tried to plan to make it to all countries and cities. In doing so, we realized that we would be traveling more than we would be enjoying each place, and that the cost of traveling to all of the cities would be overwhelming. Which brings us to:
Step 4: Make Decisions
As difficult as it was, we had to make the decision to cut Slovakia from our heritage honeymoon itinerary. The flights and logistics weren't in our favor, and neither was the pressure to fit it into an already packed trip. We also had to make an alteration to our destination in Wales. We found that Brandon's family is from the north of Wales, but it is easier for us to fly into Cardiff in the south, and travel to our next destination from there. So, we decided that getting a sense of the country and culture in general would be a great first step. On the other hand, since we knew that both of our families are from Italy, we wanted to spend more time in that country in the particular regions we're from. And wouldn't you know it, but the two towns are only about 2 hours apart. Getting down to this level of detail will help you determine what's really doable given your time, budget, and energy commitment. In Croatia, where my paternal grandfather is from, we're taking the opportunity to enjoy some of the beautiful beaches and relax and unwind a little bit in the middle of our adventures. In the end, we had to make some strategic and difficult decisions, but we are really excited about making our heritage honeymoon official.
Step 5: Book!
Ahh, and that brings us back to where we are now, preparing to book! We've decided that we will spend 3 days in Wales, 5 days in Croatia, and 4 days in Italy. Our heritage honeymoon will take us to cities and countries that we've never been to, and yet I imagine they might feel sort of familiar. Knowing where we came from can tell us where we're going. Understanding and appreciating, really, the incredible places our ancestors left to pursue something new in America will give us new perspectives on the family we will create, and our sacrifices, decisions, and love that will influence generations after us.
I hope this post may inspire you to do a little research into your family origins, even if you don't decide to pack up and go there. I hope you find time to consider the big picture of who you are and how you influence your family. We are living in a time in which it's ever important to celebrate what makes us unique - the melting pot of ideas, behaviors, perspectives, and characteristics that stirs inside each and every one of us, created by those who came before us.
Do you ever feel different when you travel? Maybe it’s the escape from work, or the change of environment. Or maybe it’s simply the rush of going somewhere new. Whether you take one or one hundred trips a year, there’s something about travel that makes us feel and act differently than we may normally do. I've taken a few months off from traveling recently, but I've tried not to let go of those feelings that come with travel. Here's how.
Practicing mindfulness – When we travel, we are stimulated with sights, sounds, and experiences that are different or new. We’re constantly trying to take it all in, to enact our photographic memories while also taking a thousand photos for backup. When traveling somewhere new, we're particularly aware because everything is so foreign to us, and we also don't want to get lost. But when we get back home, it's easy for all of that to change and for us to slide back in to our regular behaviors. I challenge you to remain mindful. Be aware of your surroundings, and don't get lost in the shuffle. The easiest way to be mindful is to put your phone in your pocket and look around you. Read signs. See your fellow humans. Admire the sights and sounds around you. You can look at the familiar in a totally new way.
Being curious - Are you perpetually curious? While traveling I find myself asking more questions and trying new foods, clothing styles, day-to-day schedules, etc. Back at home, some things must resume routine, but you can keep you mind and heart open and wondrous. Take chances. Explore your hometown. Ask questions about the history of your city or country and learn something. You never know what you may experience in your everyday life just by being curious. Paring this with practicing mindfulness can make any usual experience unusually special.
Living with less - This is one of the things I have been most excited about lately. Though it can be stressful sometimes, I love the feeling of living with less when you're traveling. When all of my possessions fit into a bag, and when I'm mobile enough to literally pick up my life and move it to the next city. Of course, I love all of my possessions at home, too, but I know that I don't need all of those things to enjoy each day. So I've started going through clothes and things and sorting them, donating items that can bring someone else more value than they can for me anymore. This makes everything more simple and I find myself cherishing the things that I do have, more. Just like when I'm traveling and what I have in those moments is all that I have. But of course, we have so much more in experiences, knowledge, and memories. Try living with less and experiencing more.
If you love traveling like me, but also have a practical lifestyle that prevents you from traveling all of the time (also me), I hope you may find the same joy of travel in practicing mindfulness, being curious, and living with less in your everyday life.
A few months ago I made my first trip to the great big state of Texas with my fiancé for his birthday. We spent a long weekend in Dallas and our only plan was to see a concert that was in town. Through the time that we had to explore the city and its surrounding areas, we learned a few dos and don'ts for a trip to "Big D."
Your research // When you're planning your trip and looking into hotels, be sure to get a solid understanding of where they are located, exactly. There are a lot of different neighborhoods and areas surrounding the city, so look for a hotel based on your interests, and do a little research to make sure it's in a convenient location - especially if you're not planning on renting a car. We stayed at The Highland, which is right across from SMU's campus. It was convenient for us to walk across the street and catch the DART or get an Uber.
The touristy things // I always encourage breaking away from the norm, but there are some major things in Dallas that you really should see. Visit the JFK memorial site, even if you don't go into the museum. Walk through the plazas and parks. Go to an art museum or gallery, or just stand and admire the sculptures and street art that consumes the city. I never knew about how full of art and culture Dallas is, and I was so pleasantly surprised by it!
Expect the stereotype // Cowboy boots. Football. Conservative. Southern accent. - These are some of the things that are stereotypes of people living in Texas. These are, however, not at all the norm and in no way represent Texas or Dallas. I found that the majority of people we interacted with in Dallas had no distinct accent at all. They were friendly, trusting, and open-minded. We met so many interesting and unique people, not one of them the same and not one of them reinforcing what so many people believe to be true about them.
No matter where you go, never let a stereotype dictate the way you see the world. Every person is an individual. Every place is a collective of the individual passions and personalities of the people who call it home.
Stay in one place // As with its people, the areas around Dallas are so diverse - from calm and cute Belmont to artsy and edgy Deep Ellum to classy Uptown - and there's so much to see and do. Don't miss the opportunity to explore and get a sense of Dallas as a whole by getting to know each neighborhood and district. If you're not sure where to start, look up events that are happening in Dallas and map out your day based on things to do and easy access to transportation.
So there you have it - some quick tips for a visit to Dallas, Texas. Have you visited a place that you knew very little about? I like to strike a balance of doing my research for the planning phase but also saving room for fun surprises and things to learn whenever I get there.
We will never fully understand our world until we get out there and explore it! Where will you go next?
"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back... "
Is it better to visit a faraway place for only a day or two, or not visit at all? In my opinion, every trip is worthwhile. Sometimes you can’t stay for long, but at least you went to stay.
A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Ireland, and it was so lovely. I had never been to the Emerald Isle, and it did not disappoint. My fiancé and I had to be in Barcelona, Spain on a Monday, so we decided to leave the U.S. on Friday night and make a short stop in Dublin.
Here I’m sharing notes about my trip and all of the things that we managed to do in just two days. I hope this will give you a perspective of Ireland if you don’t already have one, and some inspiration to visit, even if just for a few days.
Saturday // We arrived to Dublin around 10:30 AM local time on Saturday. Upon arrival we took the 747 bus, which is convenient for most hotel or hostel locations around the city. We stayed at the Trinity City Hotel, near Trinity College. The eccentric décor was charming and the location was perfect.
Knowing that we didn’t have too much time, we dropped our bags and headed to lunch with friends who were also in Dublin. Our pub of choice was Slattery’s Bar and I went straight for the fish and chips with a pint of Guinness. After lunch, a quick stop at an Insomnia Coffee fueled the rest of our afternoon. We opted to take the Dublin Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour (the green buses). A hop-on, hop-off bus tour might seem touristy (because it is), but it’s also a great way to see any city in a limited amount of time. You’ll hit all of the main attractions with the option to check them out from the bus, or get out and explore further. Most of these types of tours play a recording, which explains historical events and shares fun facts about what you’re seeing along the way. We got lucky on our Dublin tour – the bus driver offered a live commentary the entire way. He was hilarious, and he really made the tour so much fun.
On the tour we learned that O’Connell Bridge is more wide than it is long, we saw where Oscar Wilde was born, and we learned that the original "Leo the Lion" who roars before MGM films was born in the Dublin Zoo, one of the oldest zoos. But it wasn’t just about the textbook facts or even the fun facts – we also got a cultural lesson during the tour. Our guide explained that in Dublin there are Northsiders and Southsiders – local terminology for people who are born on either side of the River Liffey, and who have jokes and rivalries with one another. During the tour we also drove past a concert at the Museum of Modern Art and saw a lot of police officers outside. Here we learned that most of the police force in Dublin is unarmed.
We only made a few stops along the way, sticking on the route because the tour guide was so amazing, and because we had limited time. We did decide to get off the bus at the Guinness Storehouse. An incredible 7-level facility, it was 100% worth it to spend the ~$20 to go inside. We opted for a self-guided tour through the levels, up to the Gravity Bar at the top, which boasted an incredible view of Dublin through glass walls all the way around. Our entry fee included a pint of Guinness from the Gravity Bar, and it was probably the best Guinness I’ll ever have.
Later that night we took a walk through the Temple Bar area before going to the Oval Bar, where we ate Irish stew and beef and Guinness pie.
Sunday // For our second day in Ireland, we decided to see more than just Dublin. We signed up for a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher through Extreme Ireland / Irish Day Tours. (Tip: We signed up ahead of time, and our tour ended up being very full. Sign up online a few weeks before, if you can.)
We met early in the morning in Dublin and drove until we made a quick stop in Moneygall. We continued on, passing the River Shannon, which divides the west and the east, while getting a lesson in Irish history from our guide, Jennifer. She explained Celtic passage graves, the Iron Age, trade with the Romans, and the way Irish words are structured and what certain prefixes mean. I loved being able to take everything in while admiring the beautiful green and fertile Irish countryside. Shout out to our bus driver, Larry, too!
When we arrived to the Cliffs of Moher we were given an hour and a half to explore, which sounds like a lot of time, but we could have stayed forever. You can choose to pursue the left or right side walking path, but the right side leads to an area where you can walk beyond the fence and continue to explore. So that’s what we did! We were fortunate that the weather was in our favor that day – not too cold, and no rain. The cliffs are incredible to see in photos but even more breathtaking in real life. The way they drop off into the ocean is dramatic and demanding. To be on the edge is a thrill but not one to be taken lightly. If you are visiting Ireland, even just for a few days, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher should be on your list!
Next we traveled to nearby Doolin for lunch at McGann’s Pub. The pub was charming and the company was delightful. We sat with a woman from Sweden, sharing travel tales and thoughts about our favorite places. Continuing on our journey back to Dublin, we made another pit stop in the Burren, a barren area consisting of limestone rock, also overlooking the water. It was incredible to see so much limestone rock in one place. Back on the bus, we drove along Galway Bay, making another stop at the Corcomroe Abbey, and a final major stop in Kinvara. Kinvara was a sweet sea port town with colorful buildings, cute shops, and hidden treasures.
I really liked that this tour took us to so many places and exposed us to so much, even in just one day. We arrived back to Dublin around 7 pm – a 12-hour day well spent.
Back in Dublin, we ate dinner at The Porterhouse Central. We tried a flight of beer – Chiller, Temple Brau, and Dublin Pale Ale. The food was delicious and we enjoyed getting a taste of some craft beers in Ireland. After a long day, it was back to the hotel bar for a drink before packing up for our early flight to Barcelona in the morning.
Our trip to Dublin was jam-packed with history, great food, good beer, and memories that I will never forget. The people were so friendly and helpful, and the landscape was awe-inspiring. I look forward to visiting Dublin and Ireland again someday, even if just for day.
Where will you explore this weekend?
Something that I’ve always done no matter what kind of trip I’ve taken is journal, in one way or another. Journaling is something that can be hard to do, but it’s always rewarding. If you’ve never journaled before, I hope that you’ll consider my perspective and try it out for your next adventure!
Why is journaling so important? Journaling not only helps you to remember the big things – the who, what, where, and when – but it also helps you to recall the little things. The moments that weren’t captured in photos but that happened at another time or place. The funny quotes from the waiter at dinner or that one thing your cousin/friend/colleague said that stuck with you. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but your words can tell a story that is more than just a snapshot of time. The words that you use when you journal can be so descriptive and so telling of who you were and where you were, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally.
Journaling becomes increasingly valuable for you and for others as you age. Imagine 30 years from now, sitting down with your children or grandchildren and being able to read them an entry from a journal you kept during your favorite trip. Those memories captured on paper coupled with photographs will help you to recount your experience in the most accurate and special way.
So, how do you make it happen?
Make time in the morning – When you return back to your hotel/hostel/Airbnb/temporary home, you’re likely to be exhausted, and the last thing on your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the details of your day. If you’re too tired at the end of the day or simply forget, I suggest making some time each morning to record what you experienced the day before. Everything will still be pretty fresh in your mind and you can jot things down over your morning coffee or tea.
Type it – I will always be an advocate for handwritten notes, cards, letters, and journals, but to save time, typing is the way to go. If you don’t have a journal or want to spend the time to handwrite your entries, type it out! You can use down time that you spend on public transportation to type journal entries on your computer or mobile device.
Use your phone – Almost every second of every day you are in arm's reach of your cell phone. You might even be using it right now to read this post (and hey, thanks for reading!). You can use your phone as a journaling device, too. Something that I do when I travel is open up a new note and record short words and phrases throughout the day, so that I can remember the order of events and anything funny/interesting/notable. Sometimes this list is all I need to record. Other times I turn it into a larger journal entry or article. There are plenty of journaling apps and tools that you could consider, too!
Take photos for reference - Nothing is worse than remembering your thoughts and feelings about a place, but struggling to recall the name of it. Take a quick photo of a sign, door, business card, street light - whatever will help you to remember the details of where you were. It's always nice to reference those things later on when you're writing.
In the end, the choice to keep a journal is totally up to you. I love the concept of journaling because it helps me to remember the big things and the details, it takes me back to where and who I was at different times in my life, and it’s something that can live on when I no longer can.
In addition to keeping travel journals, I also journal about my day-to-day experiences. I keep a notebook in which I write 1 significant thing from each day, whether it be a thought, experience, or moment – good or bad – that happened that day.
Journaling helps you to appreciate every aspect of an experience as you recount it, and it freezes moments in time to take you back to a cherished memory or show how far you've come. If you're feeling inspired, start small and see where it takes you. Happy writing!
Studying abroad is one of the most valuable things that you could ever do, whether you're pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, taking a gap year or break in between semesters, or have recently graduated and want to check it off of your bucket list. Don't miss your chance to explore a new country (or countries) with your peers before you're "adulting" to the max. Studying abroad provides countless value in helping you to build skills in cross-cultural communication, language, time management, and traveling in general.
You're probably thinking okay, that sounds great - but how? If you couldn't guess by the title of this post, I'm here to tell you! These are the top 5 things that I believe you should consider in order to find the perfect study abroad program for you:
Who do you want to study abroad with? // If you're a current student, there are probably a few programs available through your university. They're likely shorter term, for two or three weeks. This is a great place to start if you're nervous about traveling by yourself and want to stick close to your friends, professors, or university. On the other hand, if you're open to it, you can find countless programs that attract students from around the world, which provides an opportunity to meet new people while you meet new places together. You can also get the best of both worlds by bringing your bestie with you! Find a program that a friend or two is interested in as well (and look for referral discounts) - but just make sure that you go into it with an open mind and a sense of awareness. Don't spend every moment with each other and seclude yourself from the group!
How long do you want to study abroad? // A semester abroad can seem like the most amazing thing or the most terrifying. How long you want to be abroad may depend on the other things going on in your life. If you play a sport, are very involved in clubs and organizations, or maintain a steady job at home, a semester or year abroad might not seem feasible. But you can still study abroad! Search for a shorter term trip. When I studied abroad, I chose a program that was one month long and it was the perfect amount of time for me.
How many countries do you want to visit? Any in particular? // This is important, but don't get hung up on it. If it's your dream to visit Rome, be open to considering both programs that are based in Rome, and those that visit Rome as part of a larger itinerary. Multi-country programs are amazing because they allow you to experience a variety of countries, cultures, and languages, but programs based in one city are also great because they allow you to become fully immersed in a country and culture for a longer period of time.
What kind of courses do you want to take? (And how many?) // Many times students run into issues with the credit transfer of courses because they are out of elective or general credits, and the study abroad courses do not transfer for their major credits. If you plan on studying abroad, talk with your advisors about how you can keep some openings in your course checksheet for study abroad courses. Also think about how many courses you want to take - more courses mean you'll make the most of your program academically, but it also means more of a commitment for studying, reading, and class time.
What extra benefits do you want to get out of it? // Every program has something that makes it unique. Are you looking for professional opportunities? Do you want to do more of a service trip? Are you interested in learning a new language in addition to studying abroad? Do you want to live in an apartment, dorm, or hotel? These are all things to think about, but no matter what, studying abroad will be a new and different experience with more benefits than you could ever imagine.
You may have noticed that I left program cost out of this list. I did so intentionally because I don't believe that the program cost should deter you from pursuing education abroad. There are a ton of resources out there - inquire at your university, research scholarships available in your community, and explore sites like GoAbroad.com and Abroad101.com for opportunities specifically for students interested in studying abroad.
So, where did I study abroad? Between my sophomore and junior years of college, I traveled to Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece, all in just one month! The program I selected was Forum-Nexus Study Abroad (forum-nexus.com), and it completely changed my life. I became friends with students from around the world and I was catapulted out of my comfort zone. And it was wonderful. It reignited the wanderlust I always knew I had. And now I love being able to continue to encourage others to take the leap and study abroad. Every person is different and has different preferences, but I urge you to study abroad in some capacity. I promise you, you won't regret it.
This post is dedicated to one of my best friends, Nicole. She will be traveling to Barcelona for the first time in just a few days. I am so excited for her to visit one of my favorite cities and I promised to provide all of the must-sees and must-dos! As with every place, a day or two is just not enough to see and do everything, so it can be good to make your first trip all about the basics.
Things to know about Barcelona: This city is known for its beautiful art and architecture, it gives you a taste of both city and beach lifestyles, and it thrives through a passionate and vibrant culture.
When it comes to architecture, Barcelona is unlike any other city. The contrast between older, ornate buildings and modern structures is endearing, but the city is best known for the architectural masterpieces conceptualized by Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí's buildings are like a dream. They tell a story. And they catch you off guard if you're not expecting them.
Gaudí is probably best known for La Sagrada Familia, a basilica that is dedicated to the Holy Family. Gaudí took over the project in 1883 and it is not yet complete. Though the project is deeply rooted in Christianity, each tower and façade representing something significant, anyone can enjoy a trip to La Sagrada Familia to marvel at the detail and intricacy in its craftsmanship.
My main tip for visiting La Sagrada Familia - don't wait in the long lines. Purchase a ticket for a designated time slot, and try to find a time around 3 or 4 pm (www.sagradafamilia.org/en/).
Other works by Gaudí in Barcelona include Parc Güell, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà, La Pedrera. Take a stroll down Passeig de Gracia and you can see Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. Parc Güell is a stop on most if not all hop on hop off bus tours as is La Sagrada Familia (www.parkguell.cat/en/). Near Parc Güell is the Gaudí 4D Experience that takes you on a journey through his works and his vision - definitely interesting if you have the time! (www.gaudiexperiencia.com/)
Other things to see + do when you're in Barcelona:
There is so much to see and do in Barca, but these are some of the go-tos. I encourage you to start at one of these suggestions and then wander from there. Barcelona is also unique for having both the city environment and the beach. It's easy to take the metro and then walk to the Barceloneta beach, but it's usually very crowded. If you have time, other nearby beaches you can travel to are Sitges and Calella.
Embedded into all of the sights and sounds in Barcelona is the passionate culture of the Catalonian people. Natives of Barcelona are very proud of their region, and consider themselves very separate from Spain. Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. For many, their native language is not Spanish - it's Catalan, or both. Both are considered official languages of the region and many people also speak English. The city is a melting pot of people and it's full of energy and life. Dinner is late and people are just going out when others are just waking up. Around every corner you can find an artist, performer, or musician, ready to entertain.
Barcelona offers the perfect mix of the arts, history, leisure, nightlife, and culture. I find myself comfortable, yet curious every time that I return. The warmth and excitement in the air is something that I always look forward to, and something that you should experience, too! Plan your trip. Make it happen! Barcelona is a city that you won't soon forget.
Have other tips for Barca? Leave them in the comments below:
Lover of life.