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.

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Uncategorized

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.

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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.

International Travel

The final countdown

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling BUT it is so, so exhausting.  Especially when you’re already sick.

It’s been another crazy week. Friday night was an emotional night for me. I got together one final time with some of my favorite people within Catalonia.  We went to Marmelade for dinner where I had a delicious plate of duck fettuccine alfredo and a kickin’ bloody mary.  Following dinner we went out for a few drinks at an Irish bar called Cheers.  I didn’t want this night to end even though I was fighting this brutal cold.  My body was telling me to go to sleep but my heart would not let me. The group of 7 of us had many rounds and we were finally kicked out as the bar was closing… this meant we were forced to all go our separate ways, in the rain.  I cried frequently throughout the night. Sometimes you just have to remember that it’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later. After a long emotional night, I went to bed as I had to catch my blabla car ride to Madrid at 9am.

I woke up and was still sick and miserable.  I hopped into my blabla car and it was a rather smooth 6.5 hour ride despite all my coughing and stuffy nose nonsense.  I found myself listening to Jason Aldean in my headphones as it reminds me of back home in Wisconsin.

Madrid pleasantly surprised me.  It’s unfortunate that I only spent 3 nights there.  It deserves about a week, for sure. Despite my sickness, I really enjoyed Madrid.  It definitely feels more European compared to Barcelona. When I first arrived, I checked into my hostel and met up with my Festival Foods/Whitewater friend, Breanna, as she was still in Madrid for a few more hours before needing to catch her flight.  We went to GramaRoots and had some tasty Venezuelan street food.  

The people also seemed more genuine in Madrid from my short experience.  My hostel was more like a hotel, which was nice in the sense that it was quiet so I could rest.  But, also somewhat unfortunate because it lacked a social scene. But it was fine. I used couchsurfing for the first time ever and met two great people!  Solo traveling is honestly so fun. You don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself!

The one thing in Madrid that did disappoint me was Retiro Park.  Retiro Park offers 350 acres of park space and this was one of the things I was looking forward to most!  It was closed the whole time I was there due to windy weather. The day before I came a child was killed due to a tree falling over on him from the wind. Dangerous and tragic.  I heard they are keeping the park closed until all 15,000 trees are cleared as safe. So, so disappointing and tragic! I guess it’s an excuse to come back to Madrid, yeah?

I had the most amazing breakfast on Tuesday morning at Hanso Cafe.  I ordered the “avocado egg benedict” with green tea. The avocado egg benedict was set on a bagel with avocado, bacon, egg, and the hollandaise sauce.  The whole appearance of it was beautiful, as well as delicious.  Best breakfast ever.

I’m back in Barcelona for a final 4 nights.  This means I have to do the last of my things on my Barcelona bucket list.  I went up to Tibidabo yesterday with Jenny, the other American that was living in my small town where I worked.  Tibidabo is set on top of the city with impeccable views. We spent a few hours up there, taking in the view. We drank sangria and ate patatas bravas one last time.  Later that night, I headed to the beach and watched the sunset even though the sun sets in the other direction. It was still pretty as the sky changed colors. Tomorrow is my final day and I think I’m going to go back to the beach to watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean.

It’s hard to believe that my final days in Spain are here.  Time flies, as we already knew. I’m doing my final rounds of Barcelona now.  In less than 48 hours I’ll be arriving into Edinburgh, and my time in Spain will have come to a close.

It will be hard to say goodbye.  Even though so much B.S. has happened.  It’s finally getting to be beautiful in Spain.  The weather is getting to be perfect, the people seem to be getting friendlier than ever here.  I’m sure I’ll be back here at some point in my life.

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International Travel

March Madness

It feels like my time here needs to be done. I changed my flight out of Spain for March 31, instead of April 8. I will be in the UK for 2 weeks before returning home. I’m just so ready to be home.  I’m so ready to give my parents a hug and never let go. I’m so ready to hop in my car and go on a drive through the country roads.

I was shocked on Friday morning when my host mom told me I had to leave. According to her, I wasn’t putting in effort to talk to the kids. She never told me this is how she felt until Friday. I actually tried my best and was genuinely happy in this family. Spain is really testing my emotions. I booked a hostel in Barcelona for 8 nights…. As I am still working one final week. I head to Madrid this weekend and then back to Barcelona for 4 nights before I head to Scotland.

I was supposed to have a dinner on Saturday night with the family and their friends. But, that was quickly cancelled. I was free Saturday and my friends here all had plans to go to Valencia for the Las Falles festival. Las Falles is a huge traditional festival where people come together to celebrate and view the huge statues that were built and are later burned down to the ground. I had such a good time with these beautiful humans. Though, just as we were about to head back for the 2:30 am bus pick up time, I found myself craving a doner kebab. I attempted to buy one but their card machine didn’t work and I only had 3 euros of cash on me. So, I met back up with my friends and within 5 minutes another one of my friends also wanted a kebab. So we marched back to the kebab place through a crowd of people. When some guy pulled me aside to tell me I should zip up my backpack. That’s when I lost it. I’m not that stupid. Obviously I zip up my backpack… someone went in and stole my wallet, and a postcard I had just purchased. I didn’t know what else to do but cry. We had to catch the bus in 30 minutes and my credit cards & ID is gone. Thankfully I noticed it so quick and I called my mom (another time Connie is the MVP). She cancelled the cards within 30 minutes of the pickpocketer. I don’t know anyone else that has had this much bad luck. THANKFULLY, there was one credit card I packed with me that I never use.  I guess I’ll be using it now.

Regardless of that happening though, I had such a wonderful time with my friends. It is the last time I will see some of them. My final goodbyes with them will be tomorrow, I already know there will be tears.

My final week is at the academy is done and saying goodbye to these kids and teachers was so hard.  They have been the ones that have made my time here so enjoyable. I didn’t expect my life to be this hectic during my final week, that’s for sure. Spain has been one hell of an experience.

On Monday I headed to Barceloneta where I picked up a bike rental.  It was on my list of things to do in Barcelona, so of course I had to rent a bike.  I biked to the Arc de Triomf and then back to the coast heading north to Forum and then back down, to Sagrada Familia, down to San Antoni and back to Barceloneta.  The bike lanes in Barcelona are great! It’s just finding them, and going in the right direction is the toughest. I got yelled at by a Police Officer for going down the WRONG way in a bike lane. Whoops.  I was so happy on this bike though. It makes me so excited to be back home and bike down the Glacial River Trail.

Then on Tuesday I headed to CosmoCaixa, a famous science museum in Barcelona.  Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed even though it was very informational.  It’s clearly a big spot for class field trips. At times I couldn’t even walk through the museum because there were just kids everywhere.  Which was fine, and I should have expected that. Tuesday night I met up with a friend from Whitewater/Festival Foods as she’s here on her break and studying abroad in Salamanca.  We went to the Jamboree Jazz Club which is also one place that I wanted to see before I left. The music was fantastic and we danced our hearts out.

This weekend I’m heading to Madrid.  I have no idea what to expect. I’ve heard it’s quite different from Barcelona.  I’m excited to explore another Spanish place! Next week are my final days in Spain.  I have a few more things on my Barcelona bucket list! I want to do a day trip down to the coastal town of Sitges, make it up to Tibidabo, and maybe up to Bunkers for the sunset.

International Travel

Captivating Cabrils

This weekend was full of events.  Friday after work I headed into Barcelona to find a birthday gift for the host brother, Gil.  I didn’t know what to get him, I was originally thinking something related to the Barcelona Football team.  I decided I should try taking a look at El Corte Ingles (huge department store in Catalunya with 8 floors). I rode the escalator up to each floor and browsed around.  Though, I found myself shopping for myself more than for Gil. I found a couple cute raincoats, but I couldn’t decide on one at the time. I might need to go back and buy one.  I made it to the floor with the electronics and decided a bluetooth speaker would be good for Gil. I bought that and made my way up to the top floor where there is a food court with stunning views of the city.  I had a croissant and my beloved Cacaolat drink (one of the foods I’ll miss most).

Saturday was a huge day.  I went on a hike with the host parents, their friend Gemma, and the two dogs.  We climbed the mountain that surrounds our beautiful village of Cabrils. It is quite the hike up the mountain, but once you make it to the top the views are impeccable. All the hard work pays off and you start to feel accomplished and inspired at the same time.  Cameras couldn’t even do the views justice. It was just incredible. If I get time I would love to climb it again, but take my journal with me and just sit up there and write. 

After the hike we quickly showered and then this time drove up the mountain where there is a delicious restaurant nestled in this mountainous area.  I had the best tasting sangria ever with traditional Spanish cannoles with meat, followed by a piece of mouth-watering chocolate cake. After lunch we went to see Mar play volleyball.  It was a good time, despite being overly tired from the hike. We finally arrived home to Gil and his 20 friends celebrating Gil’s 15th birthday.  As Sunday was Gil’s birthday I gave him my gift, and he lit up as he saw his new speaker.

I also met an American in my town last week!  We went out for a couple beers yesterday and made some plans together before we both head back to the states in a few weeks. It always feels nice to have another American close-by.

Next week is my last week teaching the kids.  I’ve been wrapping up this week with my last educational teaching before we play games all of next week.  It hasn’t really hit me yet that I won’t be seeing these people everyday anymore. Once I get comfortable with everyone, I have to leave.  I guess that’s how it works though, right? It’ll be a sad week, but I’m ready to move on to the next part of life. 

 

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International Travel

A bit of American Invasion

Hola, hola. Lots has happened this past week!  I headed to London on Friday during their winter storm of the season.  After landing in the afternoon, I headed through Customs. I didn’t think I would have any troubles getting into London.  I was wrong. I was detained in London Stansted for 3 hours. I waited over an hour before I was fingerprinted, had a photograph taken of my face, and went through an extensive interview.  Turns out, I’ve overstayed my time in Europe. Being an American citizen definitely has some unfortunate consequences, not being allowed to stay in Europe for more than 90 days at a time. Being a citizen of the EU would be much easier.  Finally after three draining hours, the woman interviewing me let me go and actually felt bad that I was detained for so long over something so minimal. I had my flight details to go back to the United States, so that had me in the clear.  But, now I’m in the UK Government system…

After that chaos, I was headed into the center of London.  I checked into my hostel and treated myself to a pint of Chicago’s own Goose Island IPA.  The hostel had a great social atmosphere and a bar in the basement. I instantly made some friends within the hostel, but as we were all tired, we just stayed in the hostel bar and had a few (too many) drinks.  I had a busy weekend coming up anyway!

I woke up the next morning feeling great and ready to explore!  I went with my two new friends to the main “tourist” area of London and saw the covered up Big Ben, as it was being renovated.  I then walked off on my own as I wanted to explore the city as much as possible in very little time. I didn’t want to do the main tourist stuff.  Though, I shortly found myself on Oxford Street, the main shopping area. I walked on it for 10 minutes but then felt super overwhelmed and had to get off the street, where I walked up to Regent’s Park and then to Primrose Hill.  Unfortunately, the weather was cold and the sidewalks were full of slush. But that didn’t take away from the beauty of the parks. I must go back in the Spring or Summertime. It seems like the perfect place to have a picnic and read a book.  I had messaged my friend Agne, that lives in London however she was moving this same weekend I was there. She moved to the Camden area, and I was within walking distance to her. After my visit to the parks, I walked to the Camden Market and explored that lively area for the first time since 2015.  It was CROWDED with people, everywhere. After 30 minutes, I was content. I got myself a slice of veggie pizza and walked my way to Agne’s. I arrived at her new flat, and instantly became jealous of her prime location and spacious bedroom. She was exhausted from moving all the boxes, so we just talked over some tea.  It was great to catch up and we had dinner plans for later that night. I went back to my hostel to rest a bit, before getting ready for dinner and drinks. Agne, her two friends- Louis and Chee, and I all met up at Salt n Pepper, a Pakistani fusion restaurant. We all ordered curry dishes with rice and naan. We shared it all.  It was amazing and I truly miss the spicy-ness. Spain hates spice. Following the dinner, we went out to a bar in the SoHo area of London. Always a good time getting down to the hip hop from the early 2000’s! I also have another friend, Theo, who works at Bar SoHo, the bar right next door from where we were! I had met Theo in Manchester on my weekend trip in October.  Of course I was determined to say hi to him. Theo let us in on the guest list and it was good fun too! So nice to see another traveler at work 🙂

Sunday was my last full day in London.  Upsetting, but I will be back there, no doubt.  I got up early and headed to the London Bridge tube stop.  I explored that whole area down by the river, and walked across London Bridge. I then walked to the Brick Lane market, which is one of my highlights of the trip.  I wish I would’ve spent more time at this market. I breezed through it as I had to make it to lunch with Agne far from where I was. I got really frustrated when I couldn’t figure out the tube as there were many cancelled tube lines. FINALLY.  I made it to the right place, and Agne and I had the traditional English Breakfast. We wandered around a bit in the neighborhood before heading to Tate Britain Art Museum to check out the exhibition. Following the wicked art, we were exhausted.  I headed back to my hostel and Agne headed back home. On my way home I got a doner kebab and ate in in my hostel while chatting with new people and enjoying their company. I truly love hostels.

Monday morning I left the hostel at 6am.  I had to take an hour train to the airport.  I got to the airport in a breeze for my 9:45am flight.  Though, the flight was delayed a bit. But I made it back to Spain easy.  I didn’t get questioned at Customs at all.

It feels good to be back “home” in Spain.  However, I also realize that I need to start organizing my time here in Spain.  Because in reality, I don’t have much time left! One month from today I am flying to Scotland where I will spend 5 days before flying back home.  Also within this month I’m taking a 3 night trip to Madrid, followed by a camping trip with the familia.

This weekend I’ll be staying here embracing the time with the family as a true member of the Catalan life.

Stay tuned 🙂

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