The GoGlobal Blog

Month: December 2011

All Good Things Come To An End

All Good Things Come To An End

I am homeward bound tomorrow. It is nearly impossible to wrap my head around the fact that I will not be in Europe in less than 24 hours. It is definitely bittersweet.  I cannot wait to be home for the holidays. I have this great picture in my head (similiar to the ending scene of Love Actually) when I arrive in the airport to the open arms of my family. Needless to say,  it will be the perfect holiday reunion.

My program officially ended on December 13th so I have spent the last 9 days on a solo trip in the UK and Ireland. As much as I love traveling with friends, there is nothing more thrilling or exhilarating than solo travel.  It is a true test of your independence, travel smarts, and ability to make friends with strangers.  I definitely reccomend it if you are comfortable and confident with your travel abilities.  There is nothing more freeing and satisfying than knowing you traveled somewhere all on your own. In total, I traveled to Croatia, Montenegro, England, Scotland, and Ireland solo. If you are worried about being lonely, trust me you are not. I made instant friends with so many people in my hostels and I was constantly surrounded with other fellow backpackers.

Because I was watching my budget ( I mean I spent it all on Christmas presents) I took a bus from Prague to London mostly to avoid the outrageous fees for my luggage, which of course has doubled since my arrival.I quietly shed a tear as I watched the beautiful Praha (Czech for Prague) fade away in the distance.  I know it is my time to go for now because I dearly miss my family and want to return home. However, I know that I will not be able to return  to Prague for at least 2 years and that saddens me. How do you leave something that has literally embedded in your soul and become a part of you? Praha has forever left its mark. I left a piece of myself that day. I’m not quite sure how to go back to my life before I went to Prague.

I fell in love in love with London. It is as fast paced as New York,  has the quirkiness and good nature of Chicago; it is filled with amazing history that I only dreamed about in books, and those accents are to die for.  Let me tell you: chivalry is still  alive in the land of tea and crumpets.  Being a bit of a theatre nerd I spent most nights in London’s West End seeing  various performances. Over my stay I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; toured the Tower of London; went to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross; went to mass at Westminster Abbey; saw Big Ben, Parliament and the London Eye; visited the Tate Modern Museum,the National Gallery, and the British Museum and much more. It  was an amazing trip and I will make London one of my first stops when I return to Europe.

Next I ventured up to Edinburgh in Scotland. It is said to be one of the most haunted cities in Europe because of its bloody history. I went on a ghost tour and loved hearing about all the Scottish folklore and myths. Edinburgh was gorgeous with its castle sitting a top a giant hill overlooking the rest of the city, and the winding streets lined with stores, pubs, museums, and amazing medieval architecture. Plus, the Harry Potter nerd in me came out as J.K. Rowling used many aspects of Edinburgh for inspiration; the Elephant House Cafe even claims that it is the birthplace of Harry Potter. Although, when she actually started writing it in Porto, Portugal (a little fun fact I discovered while visiting there earlier.)    I also took a trip into the Scottish highlands and Loch Ness. The Highlands were simply breathtaking. Covered in snow, the mountains were striking and the lochs that lay nestled in between were majestic.  I survived a battle with Nessie and I have to say we are quite good friends now. I highly suggest leaving the city for a trip into the Scottish Highlands, they are amazing.

Lastly, I ended in Dublin, Ireland which is where I am writing this entry from. I felt completely at home with my fellow Irish and redheads. I have been to Dublin before but it is always nice to come back. I had a lovely time touring the city, spending time at Temple Bar, O’Connell Street, Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green, and the River Liffey.  Overall, it was time well spent with the spirited and most welcoming people.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the last 4 months. I thought I would make a small list to put in perspective all that I have done and  the different methods of transportations to the destinations.

Planes: 22

Trains: 7

Buses: 12

Currencies: 7

Countries: 18

Cities: 27

When I tell people that I have met in the various cities that I have traveled to 18 countries, their jaw usually drops and they are shocked. In all honesty, I cannot believe it myself. I cherish my time with the people I have met, the places I have been, and the life changing moments that I have experienced. I am forever changed by time abroad and I cannot wait to share my stories, experiences, and adventures with all my friends and family.

Luckily for me, only half of my adventure is over as next semester I will be in Australia. I am so sad to leave my precious Europe, but over the moon to live down under. They always say: when one door closes another one opens.  Bring it on Aussies!!

If I have one piece of advice being on the other side of studying abroad, all I can say is GO! You will never regret it and it will be the best experience of your life.

Happy reading and Happy Holidays!!

A Little Perspective

A Little Perspective

I only have 17 days left in Europe. While I feel like bursting into tears at the thought that these beautiful months are close to being over, I cannot help but let the tinge of joy spread as I think about sharing my stories, pictures, gifts, and laughs with those closest to me back home.  I have grown to understand that home is a relative term.  For me, it is the people that make up my home, not the place.  I recall the tearful goodbyes that I said in August, and I know that those people are my home.  I have found comfort in the idea that no matter how far I travel, I always carry the love and support from them.

I am overwhelmingly grateful at all that I have seen. So far I have been to 17 countries and 23 different cities all the while calling Prague my temporary home.  I will end this semester’s adventure in the UK and Ireland where I will visit London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.   I have learned so much about myself and grown in more ways than I can say. I know now that my eyes were meant to see foreign skies, my feet to walk the cobblestone streets, my ears to hear melodies from a far, my mind to soak up new individuals’ stories, and my soul to wander the crossroads of cultures.

I am fortunate enough to continue this wonderful year in Australia as well, so I honestly feel like I am perhaps undeserving of this wonderful fortune. Studying abroad has changed my life forever. Much to my chagrin I cannot restrain myself from using that cliché to describe my time in Europe.   Prague has truly captured my heart. I bid farewell to the little girl that I taught English to today. I met her and her mom in the Christmas markets in Old Town Square and we meandered in among the venders soaking up the Christmas spirit. It was a perfect way to say goodbye and I cherished the last moments that I was able to spend with them.

As much as I would like to continue telling you about my time, I am painfully behind on my final papers. It is easy to forget that I am still in fact in school while living over here. Reality has hit and I need to get to work.

I regret to say that I am desperately behind on updating this blog on my recent travels to Poland, Croatia, Germany, Montenegro, and Rome.  As soon as finals are done, I will share all of my tales, I promise.

Happy Reading!

The long awaited, ever fabulous: Paris

The long awaited, ever fabulous: Paris

I can’t believe that I’m already back in Rome after my last trip of the semester. I loved Paris (coming soon: ranking of the places I’ve been this semester) and I definitely made some great memories there.

The weekend was kicked off on Wednesday night last week since it was the beginning of Thanksgiving break. It was a little weird to not be home for the holiday. There was a special dinner on Wednesday night in the cafeteria though. It consisted of wine, pasta (of course), turkey, mashed potatoes, and peas. The pasta was really good: it was pumpkin ravioli with melted cheese on top. I wish they would make that regularly for meals! Overall, it was a good time and I ended up going to sleep pretty late even though I had to get up at 4 am the next morning to leave for my flight to Paris.

Of course when we got to the airport we saw people from JFRC that were on the same flight. It always seems so crazy to me that I just run into people I know all over the world since everyone travels so much here. “Yea, I’m in [insert European city here] and I know the people sitting at the table over there, no big deal”. It is a really cool feeling. We had a nice ryan-air flight and arrived in Paris pretty early Thursday so we had time to do a lot of sightseeing right away. After dropping our backpacks off at the hostel, we headed over to the Louvre. It was really easy to get there, and everywhere else around Paris because they have such a great public transportation system. We took the Metro all over the city. It was really clean and trains came every couple of minutes so the wait was never too long. That was a great change from Rome because in Rome public transportation is more often than not a nightmare. The Louvre was HUGE so we didn’t get to see even close to everything in the three hours that we spent in the museum. We did get to see all of the highlights, however. Also, it was really nice that almost all the museums in Paris are free for students so we just had to show them the Visa in our passports to get in. The Mona Lisa was naturally one of our stops in the museum. It was smaller than I imagined, though. I really liked the Winged Victory statue. We also went to the D’Orsay Museum during that first day in Paris. It has the more modern impressionist painters, who built their own museum because their artwork was not allowed in the Louvre. That museum was pretty cool too. It was a long day of traveling, however, to by the end of the night I was glad to get out of the museum.

D'Orsay Museum

The second day of the trip, we went to Versailles. I was so excited! It was really cool to see the place that I had learned about so many times in history classes. It really is a giant palace. Although it is outside of Paris a little bit, it was really easy to get there by train. The whole palace is not open to the public so we saw the inside pretty quickly. Luckily, along with our free student tickets, we got free audio guides that told us about each room. It was a little dreary that day, and it started raining as we stepped out into the giant gardens that surround the palace. Not even the rain could stop my excitement, however. The gardens were so beautiful! After about a 15-minute walk through the gardens, we arrived at the Grand Trianon, where guests stayed, and the Petite Trianon, which was Marie Antoinette’s personal space. At this point I still just couldn’t get over the fact that these famous people in history had walked the same halls! There is also a little village that Marie Antoinette had built on the grounds that was super cute. It looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale! I was also surprised to see that there were a lot of animals on the grounds, I could have reached out and touched a bull at one point. By the time we finished walking around Versailles, it was already around 5pm, so we headed back to Paris in order to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Naturally, it was really pretty. If you get a chance to go there, make sure to be there on the hour after it gets dark because there are small lights all over the tower that twinkle.

Our second full day in Paris was also a lot of fun. One of my friends and I were staying a day longer than the other people we were traveling with, so we were able to sleep in a little. This was one awesome benefit of having some extra time because weekend trips get really tiring when you wake up at 8 and are out until past midnight every night. We met up with our friends to go shopping for souvenirs and ended up stumbling upon a Christmas market! There were tons of stands with food and gifts. It was awesome and really helped me get into the Christmas spirit (it hasn’t really felt like winter to me here since its still so warm). I had a variety of delicious snacks at the fair for lunch: soft pretzel, chocolate covered marshmallow, chocolate covered waffle, and hot wine. It was so nutritious… not! I also got a bunch of souvenirs for family, friends, and myself.

On our last day in Paris, we did some more traditional sightseeing. We checked out Notre Dame in the morning. Then I had a ham and cheese crepe by the Eiffel Tower (delicious!) before going up to the top of the tower. There are a couple of choices for ways that you can go up. We chose to walk to the first level instead of taking the elevator. It was 40-sum stories! It wasn’t too bad of a hike though. There is a good view from that level. Even though we heard that going to the top didn’t give you a much better view, we decided to do so anyway. We had to take an elevator to the top level.

The view was pretty much the same, but the elevator ride was really cool. It was weird because usually elevator rides are within a building, but going up in the tower felt like the elevator was just going up in the middle of the air. The whole Eiffel Tower experience took a bit longer than we expected, so by the time we were back on the solid ground, we had just enough time to pick up our backpacks from the hostel and we were off to the airport!