Hiking to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Since moving to Bilbao, I’ve spent a lot of my weekends hiking and exploring! Basque Country is also known as The Little Switzerland because it has so many mountains. After living in Ohio my whole life, living around mountains is such a nice change from the flat farms I’m used to! My first hike I did was  one of my favorites and definitely my most memorable. Two of my auxiliar friends and I decided to hike from Bermeo to Bakio and make a stop at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (pronounced: GAZ-TEL-U-GA-CHE). Our hike overall looked (something) like this:

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We took the bus from Bilbao to Bermeo (about an hour). Bermeo is right on the coast and had a beautiful port.

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On the way to the mountain, we ran into a market in Bermeo and took a few minutes to explore it! It was adorable.

Different kinds of tea leaves

Different kinds of tea leaves

After that, we began our ascend into the mountain and after some climbing, we could see a view of Bermeo.

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When you leave the pueblos in the Basque Country, there are a lot of farms and random houses along the roads in the mountains. Whenever I hike, I always see more animals than people….sheep, cows, chickens, etc. I always get a good laugh from the farm animals in Spain.

Get some serious side eye from the cows

Get some serious side eye from the cows

After about 3 hours of hiking, we reached San Juan de Gaztelugatxe POR FIN (okay, let’s give it a nickname… SJDG for short)! The thing about SJDG is you have to hike to it. There isn’t a bus that goes to it, but once you are there, you also have to climb 274 stairs to get to the top. After a hike up a mountain from Bermeo and back down to see SJDG , the stairs were a little rough, but totally worth it! One things I’ve learned through all my travels is that the climb is always worth it (whether it be the Bell Tower in Florence, the million stairs in Cinque Terre, etc).

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After seeing SJDG (and climbing the stairs to SJDG), we were pretty tired. It had been about 5 hours of hiking at this point, but like I said, there is no bus that goes to/from SJDG, so we had planned on hiking to either Bermeo or Bakio. Luckily, when we were hiking to SJDG, we already saw a view of Bakio, so we didn’t really care which pueblo we took the bus back to Bilbao from. We just really wanted to get to the closet bus stop and get back to Bilbao.

Bakio

Bakio

We began walking on the road, thinking we were going the right way only to be greeted with some traffic cones and the road being closed. Did I mention this whole road was uphill? At this point, we were stumped. We thought we were heading back to Bermeo to catch the bus, but the road was closed. A car drove up and we tried to ask them a question, but they weren’t very helpful and they drove off. So there we stood. Three Americans on the coast of Spain by a dead end road, completely exhausted from hiking all day but 5k from BOTH towns with bus stations. The struggle was real. Just when I was running out of hope and coming to terms with the fact that we were going to be walking from SJDG to Bakio, another car sped up the mountain and stopped at the dead end. We asked them which pueblo was closer and they looked at us like we were crazy for considering walking to either. In the car was a lady, man and their child. I heard the lady and man speaking in Basque. Next thing I knew, he was rearranging stuff in his compact car to make room for us! They drove us from SJDG to Bakio. When we got to the Bakio bus stop, the lady promptly got out of her car to check to make sure the buses were still running for us. Once she found out the buses were still running, she let us leave. We graciously thanked her and her family, and then hopped on the bus back to Bilbao. At least now, I can officially check Hitchhiking off my bucket list….

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Have you ever hitchhiked? Do you enjoy hiking? What’s your most memorable hike? 

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What I’m Loving This Week

Hey it’s the weekend! Yay! 

So here’s a few things I’m loving this week:

1. That I’m currently in Salamanca for a sexy valentines day weekend with my lover Taylor (okay, it’s actually a girls weekend). Follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for live updates on the trip if you want! I always update those while I’m traveling with pictures! 

2. That two of my adorable younger students thought American money had penguins in the middle after I taught a lesson about shopping and we used this as money:

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3. This mug. It doesn’t need words. It didn’t need an Instagram filter. It’s that cute.

Wait did I just post a picture of a mug? #postgradproblems

Wait, did I just post a picture of a mug? #postgradproblems

4. The fact that I feel the need to post a selfie on this blog to show you how big the cute mug is, by comparing it to the size of my face. I JUST WANTED EVERYONE TO KNOW IT WAS AN OVERSIZED ROUND MUG AND THAT’S WHY IT’S CUTE. This picture was taken after a workout, so please don’t judge my lack of makeup or hair.

But really, don't judge my hair.

But really, don’t judge my hair.

5. Discovering pink quinoa (will post recipe soon!). Food is always better pink, AMIRIGHT

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6. Cosmo Magazine. Also, that it came with a free BB cream. I’m excited to try it out! I love trying new make up, but I will say, I’m a die hard for Aveda face products.

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7. Strawberries. They are everywhere in the supermarkets and super cheap. Nommmssss.

HELLO VITAMIN C AND ANTIOXIDANTS!

HELLO VITAMIN C AND ANTIOXIDANTS!

8. That I saw this view while walking home from work the other night. I love old architecture by new buildings. This building is the Iberdrola Tower and is a famous building in Bilbao. It is actually the only high-rise in the city. Bilbao doesn’t have a skyline full of buildings, so this building really stands out, especially at night when you walk along the Nervión river (the river that runs from the Bay of Biscay through Bilbao). The Basques love to talk about it too, as it’s only two years old and a new addition to Bilbao.

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9. That this happened: I taught Valentine’s day puns this week in class (shout out to Jenny for giving me the idea!). This one went over realllllly well with a group of 9 year old boys:

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Bad judgement on my part…. “KEITLANNN, what are buns?” -student *clicks to next slide to avoid talking about this with a group of 9 year old boys* “NO GO BACK PLEASE, ohhhh jajajjajaja I know what are buns” -student *whispers to friends in spanish what buns are, everyone laughs*

10. This song.

And that’s it! How are you guys? What are some things you’re loving this week? 

How To Battle Homesickness Abroad

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Hi lovies!

Happy Friday! I’m currently on my way to Salamanca for the weekend, but I wanted to share this blog post (side note: follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for updates during my Salamanca trip! I always post pictures while I’m traveling!). So I wrote a post a few months ago about The Spain Struggle and cultural adaptation, so this is kind of Part II in the series. Now that I’ve had my fair share of culture adaptation and homesickness, I think I’ve finally figured out the key to beating it. I’m going to be completely honest when I say coming back to Spain after spending the holidays in the USA was harder than the first time I left. The travel itself was easier because I knew what to expect when I got here, but leaving my family, friends and Ohio was just a lot harder the second time around. Now I’ve been back for about a month and a half and while it might be that I have readjusted to the culture, I think there is one thing I’m doing a lot different than when I arrived in Spain in September that is making all the difference.

Instead of missing things about home, I am making Bilbao my home.

It’s as simple as that. Instead of missing everything about the USA, I am embracing more things about Spain. I also am beginning to realize that a lot of the things I was missing, I just needed to look a little harder for. For example, my little sister, Emily. It turns out she was living a few pisos down and I just wasn’t looking hard enough. JUST KIDDING. But little things like peanut butter, a yoga mat, a cafe that has to-go soy lattes, indulging in watching #TheBachelor, etc (so many #whitegirlproblems necessities). So if you’re abroad, lonely, homesick and reading this, here’s some simple instructions to get you started. First, leave you house. Go out and get something that reminds you of home. Anything. A book, music, a coffee, a candle, a food. Second, start building your own home in your current city. For me, investing in things that make me feel more at home, are actually turning Bilbao into more of a home for me. And lately, despite all the rain, Bilbao has been growing on me (I can’t believe I just said that!).

I think it’s important for people to remember that when you move abroad, you don’t have to lose yourself. I know all those pinterest quotes are like “LEAVE YOUR IDENTITY BEHIND AND JUST LOSE YOURSELF IN THE TREES AND GRASS OF EVERY CONTINENT AND BECOME ONE WITH THE WIND AND NEVER LOOK BACK” or something, but in all honestly, I think that’s far from the truth (And yes, I’ve probably pinned every single one of those quotes, in case you were wondering). I think the key to battling homesickness is bringing elements of home to you. And I’ve found, the more home I bring to me, the less I feel like I need it, and the more I can truly embrace living in Spain. 

**Note: A close second for the key to battling homesickness was giving someone a hug. Not even kidding. Hug it out. It helps. 

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Have you ever been homesick while being abroad (or just away from home)? What do you think helps battle homesickness the most? 

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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