Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 3

A little note on hostel breakfasts: Yes, it’s nice when your hostel claims they can offer you free breakfast each morning, but know that because it’s included, it will probably consist of white bread and a pitiful selection of spreads. After reading my journal entry about that heavenly Irish Breakfast, I’d like to share how both of my Dublin and Barcelona hostel breakfasts compared to that one-of-a-kind feast.

My white bread pb&j had about 0.5% the soul of my last meal.

You’ve been warned.


Somewhere along the way between turning down a trip to the “must do” Guinness factory and excusing myself from a pricey ticket inside the “unmissable” Casa Mila, I realized that I have to travel for myself. Of course I’ll have to weather the disappointing looks when I tell people I didn’t do X and went shopping instead, but that’s how it goes. For some reason in Barcelona I got caught up in seeing all the academicky, artsy stuff and prioritizing that above pleasurable things like wandering around the El Born neighborhood. When it clicked that, to me, those activities held equal importance and that that was okay, I felt free. Like everyone says, you can’t travel somewhere with limited time and financial budget and do it all. You must believe you’ll be back or else you’ll go crazy. So that’s what I’m doing.

cliche travel photo shot

cliche travel photo shot. Choosing to explore the plentiful art, clothing, camera, and altogether fascinating shops in El Born instead of seeking out more Gaudi out of feelings of obligation

So, if we’re still talking about negative psychology of travel, I’ll mention that for the better half of my first day in Barcelona, I wasn’t completely happy because of all the pressure I felt to ENJOY. SO many people had told me I’d adore it, and while that’s a good thing, it’s also proof that the city is wonderful and if I don’t find that magic then I didn’t do it right and wasted all that money. Yeah, my head isn’t always the most cheerful place to be. But rest assured, I most certainly did find its magic. I think it first hit me at the Casa Ballto. Gaudi’s genius left me simply flabbergasted.

Hold your horses! We’ll get there in a moment.

I started off with a disappointing walking tour that I left in the middle of, preferring to seek out a cafe other than the affiliated one the company herds everyone into. Summoned some Spanish from the depths, which I thought it’d fallen into eternally, and ordered a sauteed zucchini tapa and fresca sandwich with tomato, brie, and avocado. Now, that type of sandwich doesn’t merit much interest off the bat. But what made it so special is that upon my first bite I thought of citrus and intensely fruity flavors: the tomato had obviously been grown in a more natural place and WOW were the results noticeable! Yes, the tomato actually tasted like a fruit!

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Went for a stroll along the Ramblas, a pretty paved walkway mostly for tourists and pickpockets. I guarded my purse like a mother hen. After going the exact wrong direction, I turned around and found my foodie destination: La Boqueria! A big organized market where the front shops cater to tourists and the back ones have chicken feet and pig snouts on display. You know where I made a beeline. (Also FYI the juices in the back were 1/3 the price of the front ones)

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Stopped by the whitewashed and striking contemporary art museum of Barcelona, MACBA. It was closed but still very lively with a gaggle of skaters taking advantage of the geometrical platforms around it.

DSCN1187Strolled down the street and found an art exhibit at the university. Wasn’t too into it but turned it into a fantastic nap-and-rally site! There were various installations all honoring/connected to a German writer named Sebald and one was a long movie with large portions of soothing classical music flowing through it. So, I plopped down in the movie theatre-like seat and enjoyed a very needed siesta.

Next stop: Casa Ballto. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING.

caught between wonder, happiness, and shock

Amazing.

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After gazing at the Casa Mila, I found a fun tapas place for dinner. Partook in some braised artichoke hearts, steak tartare, and calamari with a glass of Catalan cava. Called it a night and went home to prepare for my next huge day.

Casa Mila

Casa Mila

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enamored with tapas


Leave for home tomorrow! So I’ll probably post my last trip post in a couple days. So long, London!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

What, you thought I was travelling by airplane? Of course not! TARDIS is the only way to go!

Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 2

There’s no way I would say this unless I truly felt it: upon sighting four redheads simply on my way from departing the plane to passport control in the Dublin airport, I felt like I belonged in Ireland. No, I’m not Irish, even as the hair would suggest.

It didn’t hurt that the national color scheme is that which best matches my skin tone, too.

One of the coolest parts of being in Dublin was that I was present on the day that the groundbreaking same-sex marriage referendum passed. I heard the cheers and dove into the rampant rejoicing that was apparent among the people and many Dublin shops, who hosted creative decorations in their windows.

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After arriving around 4, I explored St Stephen’s Green, a centrally located park, and was surprised to find a garden tailored especially for the blind. There were plaques with braille and the plants were exceptionally textured, like bunnies’ ears. So cool and inclusive.

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Explored Trinity College, snacked on some mighty fine ice cream, and mostly walked around all evening. I’ve never seen so much drinking on the streets and general bacchanalia in my life. Combine the Irish affinity for drink and a huge political victory for a subjugated group and it’s hard to imagine any other celebration tactic, I suppose.

The next day at breakfast, I met a girl from Arizona named Cynthia who had been travelling around Europe for a couple months after attaining her GED. When she told me about her time in Cardiff, I seized the opportunity to bring up Doctor Who (many scenes were filmed there plus there’s a grand tour) and she delightedly pointed out that her shirt was all about! (Didn’t notice.) So after that great start, she decided to accompany me on a short stroll around Temple Bar before our walking tour. She escorted me to a rad alleyway with tons of art commemorating famous Irish stars and culture.

She was a superb friend for the day. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such a wonderful yet extremely short-term friend before. Owing to the circumstances of “I’ll probably never see you again” and “I have no reason to be reserved”, we opened up to each other quite a bit, without much hesitation about divulging tender details about life. I can’t speak for her, but I didn’t feel any pressure to add the usual conversation helpers and other niceties that function to ensure a smooth, long-term friendship. I was completely myself and honest and it was amazing. She’s really different from me as well, saying that she didn’t have any friends and didn’t consider herself as “nice”. However, that’s not to say she didn’t have positive personality traits: we got along very easily, exchanged mutual respect, and simply had fun with one another. Travel is so great for super short-term bursts of honesty and fun.

Our walking tour was informative and hilarious. Then we dove into lunch at O’Neil’s Pub and chatted with a restaurant manager from Barcelona, a bubbly Russian named Xenia, and a chipper Niagara Falls-native. Beef and Guinness pie = YUM! Cynthia did that thing where she noticed I was zoning out (mental siesta after eating plus the conversation was waning) so she swooped in and facilitated the move to continue our day. A small gesture but to me it was a sign that she didn’t feel the need to be overly nice and accommodating to others, which I appreciated, and I felt a little taken care of. Maybe it’s hard to understand this via blog.

Lemme say this loud and clear: I LOVE IRISH STYLE.

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Super edited because this shows the lines of the dress more. Not a big fan of the necklace, although it is without a doubt fantastic, but the denim dress was just the coolest ever.

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Found a store with Irish designer clothes and vintage finds. Heaven!

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The vintage part of the shop!

Ended up with a new sweater! Next day I wore it and realized it had dried snot on the arm. Fantastic.

Short ode to the Irish breakfast: Oi. That’s all I can say. Imagine me gazing wistfully into space with the sweet thought of lovable toast greeting the luscious sausage in an embrace, the grilled tomato smiling approvingly and reaching out for its eggy neighbor. Irish Breakfast tea supervises dutifully and excels in creating a cohesively flavor-melding symphony.

breakfast for dinner is never a bad idea.

breakfast for dinner is never a bad idea.

Heard some soul-quenching folk music before joining a Literary Pub Crawl. The organizers reenacted various pieces of Irish literature at each stop, impersonating characters like Oscar Wilde and the players of Waiting for Godot. We were the youngest on this pub crawl and so were talked to by many older patrons like parents and young professionals. Everyone thought Cynthia and I were longtime friends! Altogether it was very fun, would definitely recommend. This is where I tried a half pint of Guinness and unfortunately loathed it. Also unfortunate was my pre-purchased ticket to the Guinness factory, which I didn’t feel like going to anymore. So, if you’ll be in Dublin anytime within the next year and want a free ticket, let me know!! It’s a student pass though.

I had until noon the next day to explore until I left to go to the airport. So I walked around from about 8-9:30 and popped into the Little Museum of Dublin. Was very sad to leave Dublin and plan on making a journey back to tour Ireland. I don’t know if I’ve connected with a destination as much as I did on the emerald isle. Everyone extended amazing warmth and friendliness. Makes me seriously wonder if I’m part Irish (any input, my so-called “family”???) 😉

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Love you, Dublin!

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Dublin + Barcelona: Cuid/Parte 1

Remember that post where I fangirled about how you’re literally what you eat and if you eat an octopus, that renders you part Octopodiforme? Well, after marvelling through Dublin and dancing through Barcelona, I’ve come to report my current physiological makeup:

-Smidge of Guinness (NOT A FAN. Sorry world.)

-Pinch of Irish Breakfast (Final step of falling in love with Dublin.)

-Pint of bottled water (Barcelona’s water isn’t very good so everyone shuns the tap)

-Four cubic centimeters of pretty subpar churros and chocolate but it’s okay because that was enough to shower me with praise for greasy sweet chocolatey confections and when I meet them again someday, it’ll just be that much better.

-Scoop of tapas: Fried calamari ( ❤ and yes, that makes me part mollusk), steak tartare, tenderly braised artichoke, Iberian jamon…) As Molly from Spilled Milk might say, I believe tapas are akin in theory to “perfectly engineered food products” because they deliver optimal gustatory adventure, entertainment for your tastebuds, and variety. Everywhere else it seems we get one main plate of homogenous food with comparatively fewer flavors to transform a porcelain disc with edible stuff on it into a joyful experience. Tapas are about joy! and appreciating life! But more on that in my Barcelona post.)

If for some reason you can’t adequately create a mental image of my current appearance from that description, I suppose I’ll throw in some actual photos for you. I guess.

Speaking of, embarrassingly enough, a high proportion (in my standards) of my pictures are selfies. Because I didn’t have a travel companion to bug for snaps, I used a trick from Erica that lets you capture your background and your face in one convenient shot. Beware: This caused a few usually concealed second and third chins to come out and play. Perversely interested? Stay tuned.

Add the Barcelona Cathedral in the background and that’s pretty accurate.

All in all, I loved travelling alone. Often I’d happily lose myself in thought and introspection, which you all know is my cherished hobby. My days were incredibly spontaneous, loosely-structured, and without constant conversation that often demands a good load of energy from my introverted self (although have no doubt that I love spending time with friends!) One day I spent a good 20 minutes searching for a genuine tapas restaurant, whereas I’d probably have given in much sooner to mollify my companions’ empty stomachs and exhausted psyches. (How cool would it to be named Psyche?) Asking for a table for one was never uncomfortable, as I used the opportunity to thoroughly soak up my surroundings and have a think about my day, often journaling concurrently.Throughout the whole trip I was very happy and as I believe happy girls are the prettiest, I encountered some unexpected kindness that I attribute to my elevated attitude. Those stories will come.

And here’s a few preliminary photos to start off this whirlwind adventure!

First pic: Dublin hostel selfie

First pic: Dublin hostel selfie

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River Liffey

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2nd-to-last house is floral!

Headphones in/podcast on/life is good

Headphones in/podcast on/life is good

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Gaelic looks like a fairy tale tongue

Irish humor?

Irish humor?

Historic Irish Marriage Referendum Passed!

Historic Irish Marriage Referendum Passed!

un gato with no name but a passion for fashion

un gato with no name but a passion for fashion

BARCELONA you stunning city, you.

BARCELONA you stunning city, you.

Fears about Coming Home

I’ve clung to the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”, “My Little Town”, and Adele’s “Hometown Glory”, each time reciting the words with different levels of excitement. And in just over one week, I’ll have changed residences from a massive metropolis to a village whose population is not even 0.07% that of London. Any of the 300 languages commonly spoken in this hubbub will revert to a measly handful, and don’t even get me started about the diversity shift. I know I’m going to be heartbroken.

Another fear I have is related to communication methods. Being an ocean away from everyone has given me quite a clue about who matters and who I can go five months without thinking about, especially with the absence of a daily “news feed”. I can identify who cares enough to write me thoughtful emails or carve out time to Skype. My fear is that I’ll once again be surrounded by people who I now don’t value as much as I used to. Consequently, I’m worried that by letting in some people who apparently don’t positively affect me as much as I’d like, I will change for the worse. Revert, even. I’ve worked hard and sacrificed a bit to construct the mental wellbeing I’ve proudly created over here and the last thing I want to do is let it disappear.

Without Facebook, I’ve grown confident in the roots of my desires to attend fun events and explore new places: I know they’re not borne out of FOMO or competition. This blog has let me share exciting news in longform (versus Facebook’s constrained status or photo options), therefore ensuring more truth and less bias for “likes”. I’ve told everyone that I’m coming back on that stupid site in June, but I think I’m just going to add my new London friends, maybe stay on for a week, and then hurriedly deactivate all summer until college begins again so I can hear about poorly-publicized (but sometimes amazing) events happening on campus that are impossible to hear about without finding them on Facebook (has happened to me. I hate this but I must respect it.)

Lately I’ve grown fond of soaking up information via podcasts while taking long walks. I’m slightly worried that this habit will wane or become less exciting in a place I’ve lived for so long. I’m also very happy with my cooking habit and ability to provide my own pantry and hope that can continue in some form at home.

I’ve grown used to going out with no shame in reference to how I look or act when I’m in public (don’t worry, it’s nothing that terrible- just, for instance, no embarrassment when I trip or wear a not-so-matching outfit.) I worry this will fade because while no one here knows me and the judgment doesn’t bother me, people at home do know me, have known me for many years, and will continue to mold a reputation for years to come. I’m all for expressing yourself and disregarding others’ judgment, but as most of you readers probably know, it’s tricky to escape your hometown’s critical gaze (and sometimes, gossip.) And truth be told, everyone’s so worried about themselves that half the time, when you make a fool of yourself, no one even notices. However, still a concern.

Right now, my life is really awesome. Honestly worried it has to go downhill from here. Of course I’m looking forward to a lot in the states, but I don’t think it’ll even out. We’ll see.

Finally, I have a few aspects of Wesleyan I’m dreading returning to, such as the negative sides of the students and culture. Here, I’ve been able to feel wholesome and encounter virtually zero pressure to do activities involved in “going out”. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything like that here- I have, but with a great bunch of pals and with locations that are actually prone to be fun, versus Wesleyan’s nightlife that mainly consists of disappointing electronic concerts and frat parties. If anyone is reading this and feels confused about why they don’t like going out at college when everyone else seems to love it, heed these words: it gets better. In Prague and London, I had some amazing nights out with friends where alcohol wasn’t necessary for fun (although it did add) and I didn’t have to listen to obnoxious, enviably intelligent students discuss politically correct race issues and complain about anything they could think of in a Northeastern drawl. Maybe I’m just boring but when alcohol is legal for 18+s, it’s totally more fun to center a party around. Wise elders, feel free to chime in.


And now, a brief log of my time with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Debbie who came to visit! We had a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant in Kensington and a subsequent trip to Westminster Abbey, a major site I admit had been virgin territory to mine eyes until recently. Full of important dead people, including my man C-Dar #win.

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We are quite cute.

Hadn’t seen them in who knows how many years, and it was so easy to talk with them! Great seeing you two!


And lastly, tomorrow morning I jet-set to Dublin and then Barcelona on Monday!!!! No more finals, just RELAXING and doing vacationy stuff! YAY-O-RAMA!

I feel like dancing now. Gonna bust a move, see you in a week!

(P.S. I probably look like a combination of the following gifs.) Au revoir!

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

So I roasted a pigeon

Yup.

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Just to be clear- I bought it! Didn’t swipe it off a fountain or anything, don’t worry.

It was not a winner. The recipe I followed undercooked the few meaty parts of it while leaving it with an overcooked-feeling texture. Poor bird: few appreciate it alive, and fewer on a dinner plate.


Just in time for my concluding trip to Ireland and Spain, I wrote an article for an online women’s magazine called She’s Poised about how to balance staying present while documenting a moment. This is a problem that my friends and I are often confronted with when travelling- how many pictures should I take, and how much time should I reserve for purely being in the moment?

What makes this website exceptional is the refreshing way its contributors deliver sophisticated yet relatable information about various topics from dressing for work to finding New York’s best egg cream to celebrating historically monumental women like my homegirl J Child (the video in this post is actually hilarious.) The icing on the cake is the warmth exuded by the articles’ titles: “How We ___” feels like a mother or aunt teaching you as compared to the condescending tone of “How to ___” that’s common elsewhere.

Here’s the link!

Thanks again to Lauren for reaching out and taking me through the process of brainstorming, editing, and finally publishing the post! While it’s pretty common these days for bloggers to make guest appearances on other blogs, it was a personal first and I feel honored.

The website is written by women, for women, which mirrors my beloved RookieMag’s by girls, for girls philosophy. I’d like to think that She’s Poised, BUST magazine, and some other materials will be my media-related stepping stones as I gradually age out of adolescence and wistfully leave behind websites and reading material that thrilled my teenage self a few years ago. I will always love and cheer for Tavi, but RookieMag is pretty much in my past now. Yes, it is sad. And just one of the things that has changed about me since I first embarrassed myself in that British Sainsbury’s and started growing into a different version of myself.

(But seriously, read Tavi’s Editor’s Letter about Forever. While she wrote it while on the cusp of adulthood, another transitional rite of passage, she says much about what I (wish I) could (so eloquently) write about this period of my life coming to an end, appreciating it, mourning it, archiving it, etc.)

Photocapture from Tavi’s genius post “How to Bitchface: Channel your inner Martha Stewart with this crafty DIY.”

My Vassar flatmate left yesterday 😦 Eleven days left…

Discovering the US from the UK

They say a memorable aspect of living abroad is realizing how your own country compares to the rest of the world. And they’re right. Studying in London has given me an incredible vantage point from which to judge and analyze America. Confronting the assumptions I held in the US is especially interesting. For example, when comparing post-college plans with a new friend here (originally from Lebanon, moved to the UAE, now lives in London), I mentioned how I’d like to take a year off before grad school. His facial expression divulged a little incredulity, some amusement, a pinch of envy, and a whole lotta enthusiasm: He said something like “You Americans and your gap years!”

He went on to explain that here (meaning in UK and his culture), people go to uni for one area of study and then get a job afterwards. But Americans have liberal arts colleges that enable us to learn oenology in addition to our majors, we have colleges who worship their sports teams (at QM you have to pay to join a sports team- they’re not funded by the school), and we have a little something called Spring Break that fills many a Brit’s imagination with ideas of every American student stampeding to Florida to do the thing that probably 10% of us actually do.

I think that a lot of factors cause Americans to hang out in an adolescent state of mind much longer than the British. But to veer back to my point, travel educates you about new places and where you’re from. It’s all about reflection. And that’s why reading Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”, an impeccably chosen recommendation from Mary and Hug, is unmeasurably enriching my London experience.

I’m worried about this moving into high-school-English-teacher territory so I’m keeping most of the book’s meaning inside the book and not splayed out like a massacre of literature for all to see (was that passive aggressive?)

Anyways, the book follows Steinbeck, who is on the cusp of entering a new era that seduces some into excusing themselves into old men. He rejects this call of the man-child (see what I did there?) and instead turns his eyes to the American roads on a journey through the states. He does it to reacquaint himself with his homeland after living abroad for a few years, but moreso to discover the a country whose distinctive people, ways of life, mannerisms, and landscapes create the vivid, undescribable mosaic of American culture. He embarks just as the 1960s are beginning. I’m only about halfway through, but whispers of that era don’t seem to enter into the book much.

As the title suggests, Steinbeck brings along his canine pal Charley. The way that he describes his companion is heartwrenchingly dear, especially when he dually anthropomorphizes and condescends him. Charley acts as a liaison for introducing Steinbeck to characters he meets at roadside stops. And much more.

The reason why I’m talking about this book is because it’s given me so many new angles to compare experiences across time and space. It’s a reverse culture shock teaser. I can relate and reflect on Steinbeck (1) rediscovering America, and (2) when he’s undergoing momentous change in his life, and (3) at a revolutionary time in history.

I love knowing that he’s driving by default on what are modern “back roads” but in his time were the typical routes. There’s a section where he writes of the horrors of the highway. I feel for him. There’s another poignant moment where he realizes that “when we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing”. It’s so sad because he was right: that time is now. This prediction was true in more than just the literal interpretation: we’re often so focused on getting from A to B that we bypass beauty. You can fill in your own heard-them-all-before examples here but before I finish, one last interpretation. Picture-taking.

We see artsy graffiti: click. Busker playing a spunky song in a tube station: record it. Where’s the joy in leaving something beautiful where it came from and having your memory of it be enough? Why must we nervously take and photograph things we know we won’t bother to look at let alone appreciate much after the fact at the cost of breaking the beauty of an unscripted moment? I’m all for documenting memories but can’t your own knowledge that you saw a pretty thing be enough? To this end, I’m stating why I’m leaving some of the most amazing pieces of London in London.

I guess this is leading into facebook/ insecurity/ fomo etc. territory. I guess I’ll digress.

But ok to finish, if you appreciate lyrical writing, vivid imagery, and having your heart busted out from really sad but beautiful depictions of change and a romanticized America, try out “Travels with Charley”. This book has made a real impact on me and my entire study abroad experience. Bam.

Steinbeck and Charley ❤


In other news, I recently went to London’s BOARD GAME CAFE! Went on a Wednesday afternoon/evening, and by 7 pm, the place was packed! Enjoyed a Hackney cider and some jenga all while feeling the hipsterness coming at me from all angles. We finished with some very Anglocentric Trivial Pursuit that left both the American and the Portuguese at a disadvantage. All in all, very fun. Worth a visit if you still can’t shake your love of board games (honestly why would you ever dream of such blasphemy?!)

from Draughts’ website

And finally, on the academic studying circuit, for all your synapsid, Cambrian Explosion, and zygapophyses-related queries, you know who to call!

Mini-piphany

I finally understand why travel is so crucial for self-discovery! In a way that’s concise and easily put into words!

We are defined by our actions. Having just spoken with my bff and giving advice that I know I’m just as likely to forget as I am to heed (a personal weakness), I know very well that actions speak much louder than words.

Travel is all about acting and reacting. How do you cope with no wifi and a delayed train? Do you sit and grumble for a minute, ten minutes, or until the train finally arrives? Then, what do those choices tell you about yourself? That you like to thoroughly evaluate your situation and let yourself experience those negative emotions, or that you’d rather try to brush them off?

By meeting other people from intensely different backgrounds, what happens when they tell you about how they’re a humanist and believe we should all get bioinic arms immediately? Do you find yourself armed with tens of arguments about why humans are doomed and we’re really no better than animals, and that bionic arms undermine our human condition and are extremely dangerous? Once more, what do these reactions tell you about who you are?

In sum, I realize travel is really all about setting yourself up with lots of situations- strange, challenging, exciting, painful situations- and by finding ways through them, you discover personal characteristics. It’s impossible to simply peer inside yourself and spelunk for a personality trait; you must find something that will provide you with an opportunity to act, then reflect on your performance.

Travel is great for finding the weirdest of the weird as well as the stunning sights that push you to your boundaries and elicit out-of-the-ordinary responses. It truly provides opportunities to figure out how to persevere amidst never-before-experienced situations.

Go studying abroad!