2013: A Year of Travel!

Now that 2013 is coming to an end, I can officially say that it has been the year I have done the most travel. Between road trips around the USA with my friends to backpacking Europe and then moving to Spain, I’ve been to so many new places this year. I don’t make new years resolutions that much, but I can say one of my big goals of 2013 was to travel more. Last year at this time, the idea of moving to Spain was definitely in my head, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to do it, and I’m so happy I did. I talk to a lot of people now about making big moves or big changes, and I think at the end of the day, you’re never going to be 100% sure of anything you do, so you might as well take a chance and go for something instead of living with the awful question of “what if?”. Sure, I still have “what if’s?” about other things that happen in my life–I’m definitely far from perfect, but I’m happy that in 2013, I stopped asking myself “what if I did buy a one way plane ticket and moved to Europe” and I just did it.5ab22a35f1d2cfcc4248b7a437307ad1

In 2013, I didn’t just move to Europe though. I also traveled to places I’ve never been in the USA! In February, I went to Maui, Hawaii for 10 days with my dad. It was absolutely beautiful. I saw whales when we were whale watching, I went snorkeling with sea turtles, I paddle boarded (and went a littttttle too far out in the sea lol) and I got to spend a lot of time with my dad–just me and him, which I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. hawaiihawaii2

In March for spring break, I went on my first official “college spring break” to Panama City Beach with my friends. It was exactly how I imagined it–lots of music, lots of alcohol. lots of beach. Happy I can say I finally did a real “college spring break”. We also stopped by Nashville for a night on the way back, and I fell in love with the city! I never really liked country music until that night, when we were on Broadway Street and in every bar we went  to there was live music. Nashville was definitely a pleasant surprise, because I had no expectations for it and never had really wanted to visit it, but I’m so glad we went.

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In April, I visited Louisville for a night with my mom and sister to run a half marathon. After Lousiville, we went to Nashville for another night. It was different than when I went with my friends, because instead of going out to check out the nightlife, we stayed in the Gaylord hotel and did more touristy things, like checking out the Grand Ole Opry which was so much fun!

nashville2After April, it was May (obviously lol). May was a really big month for me. I defended my honors thesis and graduated from college. The day after I graduated from college, I got offered the position to teach english in Spain, which I quickly accepted without telling anyone. A few days after that, I left to backpack Europe for a month (in this post, it has all the places I went). I’m not going to do a giant review of backpacking, because I plan on doing more posts about that, but I will post a few of my highlights backpacking from the trip.

Eurotrip highlight 1: Getting my first stamp ever in my passport…. (it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but talk to me after you get your first passport stamp!)passportstampEurotrip highlight 2: Falling over when we got off the metro in Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time…pariseiffel tower 1Eurotrip highlight 3: Cliff jumping in Interlaken, Switzerland…cliff jumping in swiss

There were lots of other trip highlights but those were some of my favorites. Another major part of the trip was making new friends and meeting new people! Backpacking Europe was one of my top highlights in 2013, if not the best part. I wish I could go back and do it all over again!

After backpacking Europe in May/June, I took a day trip in July to Chicago with one of my best friends to pick up my VISA for Spain. We went to the Navy Pier, ate Chicago pizza, saw the bean, and just walked around Chicago for the day. I wish I could have stayed the night, or for the weekend, but with my work schedule this summer it was impossible. Even though we were only there for a short day, it was still cool (and by cool, I mean EXTREMELY HOT TEMPERATURES) seeing Chicago in the summer.chicagoBefore I knew it, it was September and I was moving to Spain, the land of vino, tortillas, siestas and fiestas.tortillaspainIf there was a month of complete chaos for me, it was definitely September. I somehow managed to get all my stuff from living in Columbus for five years, home to Cincinnati, to repack my life in a suitcase and take to Spain with me, where I knew literally no one, to start a job I didn’t know that much about. My life felt chaotic from September-November (read: I WROTE A POST ABOUT CULTURE ADAPTATION LOL), but finally started to feel normal again towards the end of December. In October, I took a day trip to Vitoria and a weekend trip to San Sebastian. In November, I went to Paris (again!) for a long weekend and saw everything I didn’t get to see while I was there the first time. I also touched the invisible pyramid…again.pyramind parisIn December, I took a weekend trip to Madrid and fell in love with the city! I have a feeling I’ll be back there…madrid1And in December, I also packed up my things in my giant purple suitcase and traveled back home to the USA for Christmas break, where my trip highlights home have included reading magazines in English, not planning every conversation in my head before speaking and MOST OF ALL, seeing my friends and family. 

If there is one thing I’ve learned this year about traveling, it is the places I visited that I had no or little expectations for, I have the best memories of. For example, Nashville, Switzerland, Vitoria and Madrid. All those places, I had no plans and no expectations, but I ended up falling in love with them. I don’t think you should live your life without expectations, but I do think letting yourself go somewhere without imagining what it is going to be like and without planning every detail sometimes makes for a better trip and a better experience.

As I am in the last few hours of 2013, I am going to leave this post with 2 quotes. The first is what I think everyone should make their resolution if they don’t have one, and the second is for you to take however you want. Happy New Years! d40eb40cf79708d8661b490d50dce738

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Celebrating the Holidays in Bilbao

Once November 1st hits, it seems like all the sudden there are Thanksgiving and Christmas ads and reminders everywhere in the United States. Holiday spirit is always in the air, with Christmas music being played everywhere and people gearing up for the winter holiday season. Well, this year, I obviously have not been in the United States for this. I didn’t really even experience fall the way I’m used to it, because Bilbao has such a moderate climate that there is still greenery everywhere. I also have yet to see any snow here in Spain which is also not a surprise to me. What does crack me up though, is how once the temperature drops below 60 degrees here, people are in all out winter gear…like I mean pouffy, knee length winter coats, scarfs that are almost big enough to be a blanket, and boots that could track through a snow blizzard. 

Spain, however, has it’s own holiday spirit. It isn’t the same as the United States, and in my opinion the differences don’t make it any better or worse than in the US, it’s just different. For starters, Spain doesn’t have Thanksgiving. I mean that’s pretty obvious. Not sure why any other country would celebrate the Mayflower sailing over and whatever the rest of the story is (history isn’t my strong suite lol). But despite there being no Thanksgiving here, my American friends and I decided to have a friendsgiving! You don’t realize how easy the US makes it to buy Thanksgiving ingredients until you start shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients in Spain. In the US, the grocery stores usually pile them all in an aisle, but here in Spain, it’s impossible to find certain ingredients. POR EJEMPLO, for Thanksgiving, one of the dishes I was in charge of was sweet potato casserole. What usually goes on top of sweet potato casserole? White marshmallows. Emphasis on the word “white”. Spain doesn’t have plain white marshmallows, not even in the Corte Ingles grocery store (the grocery store that carries more american food, most notorious for it’s peanut butter). So I had to improvise…Image

Two bags of “Chamallows” shaped like Smurfs, a large pair of cooking scissors and about 20 minutes, and I finally had white marshmallows! Other than that small hurdle, our friendsgiving was a huge success and one of my favorite nights thus far in Bilbao. We all invited our flatmates and friends, and for most of the people there, it was their first “Thanksgiving”! My favorite part of the evening was when we went around in a circle and everyone said what they were thankful for. Most people spoke in their native tongue, and even though I couldn’t understand everything, everyone was saying, it was still a really cool moment. Because we have friends from Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain and the USA, there were a bunch of different languages being spoken the whole night and I loved it. Although it was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, that night I found that I had made a new family in Bilbao :). 

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On the US’s “Black Friday”, I did see something really interesting in Spain. I was up early, grabbing a coffee before school at a cafe where they always play the news in the morning. Anyways, I saw an interesting story on the US’s “Black Friday”, and I have to say, it was a litttttle embarrassing. From the outside, in other countries, Black Friday looks dumb. People shivering in lines at 2am, waiting to get something a little cheaper after eating a huge dinner. Lol. NO PUEDO.

Anyways, shortly after friendsgiving, on December 1st, the holiday spirit came to life in Bilbao with lights up all over the city! There are trees up in Indauxtu and Casco Viejo, with shimmering lights on the main shopping street, Gran Via, and beautiful lights draped along all the streets in all the neighborhoods of Bilbao. Image

Seeing the lights around the city really got me in the holiday spirit! Not to mention that the first weekend of December was a Puente weekend, aka 3 day weekend, so I didn’t have school on Friday. Two of my friends and I jetted off to Madrid for the weekend! After experience the Christmas markets in Madrid and their holiday season, I’ve been back in Bilbao comparing it. I went out into the city yesterday with my friend to check out the Christmas markets here. Well, that was a fail because we forgot about the siesta! But we did end up making it to a few after the siesta was over and for the most part, they are pretty similar to Madrid. Less people and less variety, but all in all, the same things. Lots of jewelry, leather, scarfs, bread, chocolate, etc. Along with checking out the markets and lights, no Christmas season would be complete without a white elephant gift exchange and a party! Last night, I got together with my friends for our Christmas party!Image

There were a lot of funny moments during the evening. With different languages being spoken, there is always miscommunications and mispronunciations and it always gives everybody a few laughs. One of the food highlights (all the food was great) was my Italian friend’s Tiramisu. So so so good. I fell asleep dreaming about it. My flatmate is also Italian and I have come to the conclusion that Italian people get an extra cooking gene that nobody else gets, so there food will always be better and there is nothing you can do about it. 

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I obviously do not have any complaints about this holiday season in Bilbao. I think I’m finally settled here and am not experiencing culture shock anymore (I mean, I still have my moments lol). And, it’s hard to not enjoy being somewhere as beautiful as Basque Country where you can go on a morning jog in December, in 65 degree weather, along the coast and have this as the view….

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