International Travel

Brainstorming in Belgium

I know it’s been awhile since my last post.  I’ve been thinking about what to write, as nothing has really come to mind.  I’m in a state of mind right now where I am really questioning why I’m here in the first place.  Yes, of course to see a new place and learn a new culture.  I’m just realizing that this answer might not be good enough.  What am I doing next? I can’t really seem to figure out what I want in my life, and it has hit me a little hard lately.  What skills and interests do I even possess?

Life in the hostel is pretty blah, to be honest.  It’s just really not what I was expecting in terms of energy.  It may be because Nijmegen is not really seen as a “tourist” place, so there’s not much of a social scene in some aspects.  There’s no doubt that this hostel could use some TLC and could use new ideas to bring in and keep volunteers happy. However, I’m trying to look past this as I don’t want this to determine my time abroad.

On a more positive note, I took my first and much needed mini trip last Wednesday to Sunday.  I went to Maastricht (Netherlands) for a night and then over to Ghent (Belgium) for three nights and a short day trip to Brugge (Belgium).  What can I say? Those Belgian beers are very strong.  I met some great people, including one from my bus ride from Maastricht to Ghent.  We ended up going to Brugge together! Then, in Ghent, the hostel had an amazing social scene and I had the chance to meet a great group of people.  Ghent was such a beautiful place. I can still see the canals lit up at night with the buildings reflecting off of the water. I’m glad I took the time to see more of the Netherlands and Belgium.  I can honestly say I learned quite a bit of Belgian history.

This week included lots of cleaning and a few reception shifts before heading to Belfast, Ireland for the weekend.  I’ve never been to (Northern) Ireland (besides a quick layover in Dublin), so I’m ready to check it out. I’ll be meeting up with a friend from London so I already know it’ll be a good time!  

I was looking online while in Ghent during Black Friday to try to score deals on flights back to the United Staes.  I ended up making a purchase on Cyber Monday ($50 off) for Amsterdam back to Chicago on December 20. I was toying around with the idea of doing Christmas/New Year abroad this year, but, I do want to be home and I cannot wait to see my family and friends.  Christmas will be great! And then we will see where life takes me.

International Travel

Hostel Life

Okay, let’s be real.  I’m living the proper hostel lifestyle.  Though, this place is starting to quickly feel like a home.  I’m realizing quickly that sometimes I have to force myself to be social.  Living in a hostel can be difficult at times if you don’t have the proper amount of time for yourself.

As a volunteer, I clean and do reception within the hostel I live.  It’s a lot of cleaning up after people and hard work is definitely involved with running a hostel.  Fortunately, this place is designed much like a home. Downstairs you have the kitchen, living area, and one 6-bed dorm.  Upstairs you have the reception area, 5 additional dorm rooms, two toilets, as well as three showers. 24 beds total, so not overly large.

Housekeeping includes: washing the toilets, showers, putting new sheets on beds, laundry, vacuuming, mopping, washing people’s dishes, putting dishes away, cleaning out ashtrays, etc. Usually the shift begins at 10am and you go hard until 1:30 or so.

Reception includes: checking people into the hostel, giving them basic information about hostel, being on watch for the doorbell and opening door for guests.  Shift begins at 4pm until 10pm. (I’m still learning reception a bit).

I also do a bit of cleaning within the restaurant that is owned by Joep (pronounced You-P), the same guy that runs the hostel.  Basic cleaning of bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, and leaf blowing. Followed by a team dinner at 4:30pm.  

There are 5 long term guests who also stay in the hostel.  They may not be the cleanest people, but I enjoy them for the most part. 

I also decided to get a bicycle subscription for a month or so.  It’s through a website called Swapfiets. You pay 15 euros a month and they deliver a bike right to you.  It seems like a pretty nice gig, and it’s highly recommended by the locals. I have yet to try out my bike though.. Unfortunately I haven’t had much free time the last few days.

The people here are great so far, within the hostel and within the city.  It’s just fun vibes. Nijmegen is quickly becoming a place I truly enjoy.

International Travel

Netherlands Novelty

When you think of the Netherlands what comes to mind?  Amsterdam? Marijuana? Prostitution? Bicycles? Cheese? Windmills?

Tuesday afternoon my flight landed in Amsterdam and it didn’t hit me that I was in Amsterdam.  It was a slightly odd feeling. I also felt somewhat ill, as I was coming down with a cold back in the States.  Only getting two hours of sleep on the flight was not in my favor.  With solely a backpack and tote bag to my name, I made my way through customs and onto the city. I found my hostel super easily and was SO, SO ready to take my backpack off my back and just lay down.  Thankfully, the hostel had a very good social atmosphere so once I was showered and recharged I made my way down to the hostel bar and ordered a local pumpkin flavored beer. As a solo traveler it can definitely be hard to be the one to order a drink and drink it at the table ALL alone. I somewhat had to force myself to be social as it was the only way to do it, or else the jet lag would have been 100 times worse if I were to just go straight to bed.  Soon after, I had met some great people from Australia and New Zealand (I find that my favorite travelers are usually from Australia or New Zealand).  Just like that, I found a small group of people to hang out with. 

Amsterdam is a great place.  I love it. My two days there were nothing short of amazing. In my opinion though, Amsterdam is definitely the main draw to the Netherlands.  It’s the “tourist” spot of the Netherlands and I’m just so curious to see what else this country offers. It was time to check out Nijmegen: the oldest city in the country.  Population: 170,681.

Thursday afternoon I walked my exhausted self to Central Station in the rain to purchase a one way ticket to Nijmegen.  Traveling isn’t always fun though. I was feeling sick to my stomach on this two hour journey. I was definitely sick with something as well as feeling EXTREMELY anxious because of all the uncertainty.  This was a new feeling to me though. I usually don’t feel like this. Generally speaking, I love the uncertainty. But this time something was different. What if I get to the hostel and they don’t need me?  I hadn’t heard anything from the hostel since being offered the position in the first place… even though I had sent two follow up emails. I was a little concerned in that aspect. I had played around with a Plan B in my head.  

I arrived to Nijmegen Central Station and walked the route to the hostel in the rain.  Within 15 minutes I had arrived and went straight to reception. Michaela, the girl working was surprised when I walked in saying that I was a new volunteer.  She said she wasn’t expecting me. My anxiety was somewhat justified right there. But she quickly figured out a solution and just like that, I was at my new home.

Having just arrived in Nijmegen I’m feeling a lot more integrated with the Dutch.  I feel a lot more local walking around the streets hearing Dutch everywhere I go, with not so many tourists flooding the streets.  I’m finding that the people here are amazing. I have yet to really explore the city, as I’ve only seen the city center and a little bit of the nightlife. This week I’m hoping to pick up a bicycle. Dutch cycling is a lot more intense than USA cycling. I’m going to have to have a local show me the ropes and bicycle etiquette.  I’m also hoping to become somewhat involved with the community. I love the atmosphere. To me, so far, I would say it has a similar vibe to Madison, Wisconsin.

I’m so happy to be here.  I cannot wait to see what’s in store.

Goede Nacht! (Goodnight)!




United States Travel

Ohio life

It’s been another crazy summer in Sandusky.  I’ve been working here for two months now, two more weeks to go.  Serving is definitely a profession I may consider when I go back to Wisconsin.  The money is a lot better than your average 9-something an hour.  Though, it can be a lot to handle at times, long hours, and constantly running around on your feet.  But serving is also so rewarding.

I’ve met so many great people again this summer through Cedar Point.  It’s starting to be the time of the season where everyone departs and goes their own separate ways.  Sandusky, Ohio is not one of my favorite places in the world, but it has provided me with a place to dive in and see what the hospitality and tourism industry has to offer. I still don’t know my next move.  But hey, I’m starting to realize that NOT having a plan is sometimes okay.  Who knows?  I might be back next year.  I have to keep that door open.

United States Travel

Summer 2018

It’s been almost two months since I’ve been back in the United States.  I’m feeling quite good and pretty well adjusted at this point.  Catching up with friends and family has really put a huge smile on my face.  I feel super comfortable back home in small town, Wisconsin.   However, that’s the problem.  Feeling too comfortable for too long.  I’m ready to jump out of that comfort zone yet again.

Fort Atkinson is great home base, but I’m ready to go again. I will be working in Sandusky, Ohio for the summer.  Another summer of long hours, achy feet, and huge paychecks.  I’m preparing for it mentally right now.  It’ll be a good summer! I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

After?  Still no idea, but I will figure it out.

I don’t want to completely stop these blog posts.  I hope to do updates here and there.  Through this Spanish experience I’ve really started to enjoy blogging.


Hello, Wisconsin!

I’ve been home three weeks now.  I’m still trying to find the words to describe how I feel being back home.  It does feel refreshing seeing my family, friends, and my favorite spots around town.  It all has me feeling quite humbled.  The first week I was back I went up to Green Bay with my dad to visit my brother, niece and nephew.  I am cherishing all the time spent with the people I love most.  I learned while in Spain to NEVER take my own family for granted ever again.

I’m trying to get back into the routine of everything.  The first couple weeks were a little tough in terms of my sleeping schedule.  The seven hour time difference had me waking up at 3am numerous nights.  It’s finally getting better!  I am getting in the gym routine once again, it feels great to be back with the gym family.  Time to lose this Spanish weight!  I am also working part time (once again) at Festival for a month, as I’m planning to head to Ohio early June to continue waiting tables at Cedar Point.

The one crappy thing about being home is getting bombarded with the question “So, what’s next?”  Honestly, I have no idea.  We will worry about that later.

I decided against doing the work and holiday authorization in Ireland because I’m not sure I’m ready to jump into something like that right away, as I just got back from Spain.  There was a time limit on the authorization (had to have been accepted within the next two weeks/one year of being enrolled in school), so I will no longer be eligible in the future.  But hey, there’s worse things in life.

It feels good to be back, but I’m already thinking about my next adventure.


International Travel

Final night abroad!

It’s been two weeks since my last post.  And, Barcelona has come to a close. It’s bittersweet but I’m ready to move on.  Unfortunately, the weather was getting to be absolutely beautiful as soon as I was leaving.  The streets were buzzing with people and the beaches were becoming more and more lively. The whole atmosphere of the city was changing AS SOON AS I leave.

Saturday I flew Barcelona to Edinburgh.  So many emotions were felt on that flight, as I said “Hasta Luego” to Spain.  All of the memories I shared with my best friends, it’s over (for now). I will definitely be back to Spain at some point.  As the flight landed in Edinburgh it was raining. Surprise, surprise. Good ol’ Scotland. Turns out the upcoming forecast for Scotland and England is just nothing but rain, rain, rain.  

It feels good to be back in my home away from home.  I’ve already met some of the students living in the Dalkeith house, where I lived exactly three years ago.  I saw the one and only Chef Henry for the first time since 2015. It was great to hear his heavy Scottish accent once again.

Thursday to Wednesday I did a six night trip through England. I took the train down to Bristol and spent three amazing nights in this city.  I was really looking forward to the city, despite some people telling me it wasn’t worth it. I hopped off the train, and hopped on a bus which placed me a nice three minute walk away from my hostel.  I walked through what they call the “Bearpit” which was a park in the middle of an intersection which was covered in local street art and graffiti. There were people here hanging out, skateboarding, having a good time. This Bearpit greeted me before I even checked into my hostel.  It was already a great feeling. Bristol really opened my eyes. I walked through the city and noticed how genuinely nice the people were here. They would say “sorry” for the weirdest of things on the streets. For example, I was walking and there was a runner running by me with little room on the sidewalk.  I moved aside for her to get by and she said “sorry” as she was striding past. It’s uncommon to hear these very polite manners in the littlest aquantinances.

Bristol, with a population of 450,000 people, is a place that strives with music and art.  The music scene is unreal with live gigs everynight in a number of places. The Clifton Suspension Bridge is also another main tourist attraction of Bristol.  I walked on that on my final morning in the city. It was stunning with great views on both sides. I was just so shocked at the number of friendships I made in my short three days.  All of the people I talked with, I talked with beyond the surface. Each person I talked with had something real to say about life. It was rather inspirational has left me with many thoughts to this day.  A week later.

I also took a day trip to Bath, a 10 minute train ride from Bristol, home of the only Roman Baths in England. I didn’t think much of Bath, to be honest.  It was just a cute city with a ton of tourists, and a ton of stores to make the tourists happy. It was definitely beautiful, but just kind of overrated, in my opinion.  However, just when I was about to head back to Bristol, I stopped for lunch. I got lunch in George Square, where there was a unique market going on. Lots of tents with local crafts, and then a few tents with food.  There was one tent with German food, which sounded amazing. I ended up with the German platter and ate it at one of the tables they had set up. After eating, I got up and tried to find a garbage. There were no garbages,  anywhere! There was another man following me also trying to find a garbage. He struck up a conversation with me and then he ended up giving me a tour of Bath! There was so much that the tourists don’t even know about. Jason (originally from Newcastle, but moved to Bath) took me to some of the most beautiful spots.  There is a canal that runs through the city and feels a little bit like Amsterdam. We talked quite a bit, and then he ended up giving me a ride back to Bristol on the back of his motorcycle. Thanks again, Jason!

I then headed to Brighton for a night to get a feel for the English seaside.  Brighton was good, but a little different than I had expected. Maybe it was because of the crappy, rainy weather or, the sketchy hostel.  But it was definitely a place you can see in 6 hours. I can say I’ve touched the water of the English Channel. The food was also good, so that’s a plus!  I’m sure it would’ve been better on a sunny day.

I ended the trip with a short two night stay in London, visiting my friend Agne.  It is always nice to catch up with friends! And she’s got a wonderful flat in the middle of London. I got in late-ish to London and we caught up a bit before heading to bed as she had to work in the morning.  Tuesday I had all day to explore the city.

The hustle and bustle of London was so real on Tuesday morning.  Riding the tube with the “usual” morning commuters. The men all dressed in their suits and ties, cramming into the crowded subway, not being able to move at all.  It was quite the experience to be a part of it all. I walked within the “Bank” area of London, which may be the equivalent of Wall Street in New York. I definitely felt out of place, but hey, it was something to see.  I walked all over the city and explored Hyde Park and up to Portobello Road. Agne and I met up in the evening at the supermarket and got ingredients to make enchiladas. Yum yum! Agne is a great cook 🙂 We then decided to go out for “one drink” in the SoHo area.  Tuesday’s have great drink deals, so I was talked into it. We had a great time and made it back to sleep before having to catch my 9:30am train back to Edinburgh.

I’m writing this in my hostel, as it is my FINAL night abroad.  I said goodbye to Dalkeith today, and walked my (heavy) luggage to the bus stop and made my way into the city.  I am so exhausted and so ready to start my journey back home.

When I get back home I have no idea what I’m doing.  I have plans to work at Cedar Point this summer, once again. I’ll probably end up doing it because it’s such a good gig. But I’m going back home with an open mind.  That’s all I can really do.