Post Travel Blues

It’s been awhile since you last heard from me, but rest assured, I’m alive and well.

I returned home on July 31st and was thrown right back into my old, every day lifestyle. I bought a car, learned to drive in Detroit traffic again, went shopping at the over-sized American supermarkets, and began living in my old apartment again.

It was great seeing all of my friends and family members because I missed them so much, and I loved telling them about my trip, but I probably repeated my favorite stories five times a day and eventually it got old. For everyone.

After the initial excitement I felt upon returning home, I eventually started experiencing some post travel blues. I wanted to go back to my life in the Netherlands, where I could hop on a plane and fly anywhere in Europe, ride my bike along a canal, or even go back to Malta where the only thing on my daily agenda was sunbathing on a beach.

But instead of annoying people and sulking over my amazing experiences, I decided to take action and plan for my next one.

Don’t get me wrong, Michigan is great, but now that I’ve had a little taste of life across the Atlantic, I can’t wait to go back!

Since I’m scheduled to graduate this December, I began researching careers and volunteer opportunities abroad that I can begin applying for right now.

I considered joining the circus, working for a U.S. embassy, selling my car and traveling until I go broke, or applying for the Peace Corps.

All of the above are great options (joining the circus the most tempting all), but I decided the best one for me right now would be joining the Peace Corps.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Peace Corps, it is a volunteer program for Americans who want to help communities abroad. It’s different from the other volunteer opportunities abroad because you don’t have to pay a high fee to join, and instead you actually get paid to be there. The volunteer opportunities range from teaching school children English (what I applied for), to health outreach, and even agriculture related positions.

If I were to be offered a volunteer position with the Peace Corps, I would be shipped overseas (I’m hoping for Mongolia) and live and work in a new country for 27 months! It may seem like a long time, but in the big scheme of things, it’s really not.

Plus, I would be working in a controlled environment near other volunteers and have access to adequate health care.

I think this would be the next big step for me, and I have already been contacted by a recruiter who thinks I have a pretty great shot.

Fingers crossed!

Welcome to America

I am currently writing this to you all from the airport in Boston while I wait for my flight to Detroit.

In 5 hours I will be landing in my home city where I will be met by my mom and Leona (the pug).

When I arrived at the airport in Boston, I was greeted by a TSA agent who gave me a high five and said “welcome back home!”

Initially, I felt so happy to be in America again, but after about five minutes his words felt like a slap in the face.

There was a point during my trip where I wanted nothing more than to return home and see familiar faces. I wanted to be in a place that felt like home to me.

Now that the day is here, I wish I was sitting on a canal in Utrecht or laying on a beach somewhere in Malta. Or basically anywhere outside of this airport.

I have extended this trip three different times and I would extend it longer if I could. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look up flights to other countries.

Luckily, my dwindling bank account talked me out of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so excited to see everyone that I’ve missed, but I think a part of me will always want to go back.

Over the past seven months I have visited seven countries, seen the sunset 200 times, flown in 10 airplanes, drank at least 100 bottles of wine, met thousands of people, and made countless memories in the process.

I would not change a single thing.

This little chapter of my life has been so transforming and personal for me, and I feel that if I share more with my readers I would be giving away a part of myself.

So I will end with this:

If you are thinking about dropping everything and seeking out something greater for yourself, do it.

It took me way too long to get the nerve to travel on my own but I finally did it. And I will do it again, and again, and again.

See you soon, Michigan.

Until next time, Europe.

20 Reasons to Travel in Your 20’s

IMG_8144.JPG

Original photo taken by Gabi Zerafa.

Your 20’s can be some of the best years of your life. You may be approaching your final year of college and you’re clueless with what you want to do for the rest of your life (hello!), or you could just be an adrenaline junkie looking for your next fix. Either way, traveling is a great way to meet new people, make new memories and open yourself up to new ideas and possibilities.

Here’s a list of reasons why I think you should book your next plane ticket now:

1. You gain practical experience that will always be beneficial.

I learned how to live with people from all over the world, share my space and ask for help when I really needed it. I can say I have shared a one bedroom apartment with three other girls and survived! I learned how to communicate my needs effectively and also compromise when I needed to. All of the experiences I had while traveling have taught me something that I can take back with me when I finally return to my “normal” life.

2. Traveling helps you remember the history lessons you forgot about during your freshman year of college.

Like the fact that England colonized the entire planet.

3. THE FOOD.

Oh man, don’t even get me started about the food. I strongly despised pizza in America but that’s because I was sheltered from the pure cheesy goodness that is an Italian pizza. The day an Italian man in Malta whipped me up a traditional pizza my life was forever changed. I feel bad for my old self.

I also fell in love with Dutch fries dipped in mayonnaise and peanut sauce and the unforgettable deep fried gravy known as bitterballen. Sounds weird but don’t hate!

4. You will meet new people that will impact your life forever.

Although you’ll probably run into the occasional a-hole, you’re also guaranteed to meet a ton of great people. Whether they’re locals or fellow travelers, these people will impact your life in ways you couldn’t imagine.

5. You will challenge yourself.

6. You will learn how to take care of yourself, mentally and physically.

I previously mentioned my episode of culture shock in this post, but I think it deserves to be brought up again. I was depressed, scared to be in unknown surroundings and I felt helpless. I wasn’t used to being so far away from home and I didn’t think I could manage the distance for such a long period of time (approximately 7 months). Luckily, with the help of my mom’s pep talk, I pulled through and learned how to enjoy myself. I learned how to handle the homesick feelings and I learned that it’s okay to not always feel okay.

7. You will gain confidence.

When my mom came to visit me in the Netherlands after I had been living there for three months I realized how much I knew about my new home, how well I could navigate the city, and all of the best places to see in Utrecht. It made me feel so great to be able to share all of that with her. I started to feel like a local and I gained so much confidence because of it.

8. You could learn a new hobby.

Okay, so I didn’t exactly learn a new hobby but I did learn that riding a bike wasn’t so bad. That still counts, right?

9. You’ll learn how to live out of a backpack/suitcase.

I was the idiot who arrived in the Netherlands with two suitcases, a backpack and a carry-on bag. Why? What could I possibly have brought with me that was so important? Nothing.

I left the Netherlands with one suitcase and my backpack but to be honest, I wish I could have left with less.

10. You’ll appreciate your hometown more.

Talking about Michigan and Detroit made me realize how great it truly is. I am fortunate enough to live in a state that is known for the Great Lakes, beautiful wildlife, the Motor City and Vernors.

Yeah, I had to mention Vernors because it’s the first thing I’m buying once I get home.

11. You’ll experience another culture.

Other cultures can look pretty weird from an outside perspective, but once you start living like a local you begin to understand the customs and traditions.

12. You might find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. Bonus if it’s something really cool.

13. Traveling can open up new doors for you.

14. …it may also close a few.

Before leaving for the Netherlands, I never would have known that I was going to be spending my summer in Malta. Traveling sometimes does the unexpected and presents things in front of you that you would just be silly to not take advantage of.

Because I decided to spend six weeks in Malta, I had to cut back on my car budget for when I return back home. In the long run I’m pretty sure I’ll look back and know that I made the right decision.

15. You might learn a language.

I didn’t, but there’s no stopping you!

16. Cheap accommodation!

Hostels are a backpacker’s haven and really popular in Europe. Or if you’re really up for an adventure, there’s always CouchSurfing.

Okay, so this one isn’t just for people in their 20’s but both options are typically used by younger people.

17. Your Instagram will look ~fabulous.~

My iPhone currently houses over 2,000 pictures. That’s about 20 years worth of Instagram worthy footage.

18. You’ll feel freer than ever.

No bedtime, ice cream for dinner, no one to tell you what you should/shouldn’t be doing. What more can a 20 year old ask for?

19. There’s always a possibility for a new, exciting adventure that wouldn’t be available to you at home.

Buying my first plane ticket was one of the most terrifying, exciting things to happen in my life. It was the first time I was traveling on my own and I had no idea what to expect.

When I was in the Netherlands, I learned about a website called srprs.me. Although this website is only useful to people in the Netherlands, it sounds really freakin’ cool.

You basically decide on what your budget would be for a little vacation, decide if you want to take this little vacation with a friend or go solo, and choose your dates. Then, the website does the rest and they literally surprise you with a vacation. You have no idea where you’re going until you get to the airport. It has awesome reviews and I wish I would have done it.

There’s always next time.

20. Why not?

Why aren’t you traveling?

Are you waiting for the “perfect time?”

There will never be a “perfect time” because we always make excuses for ourselves. I mean, I did that for three years. Finally, I shut up and decided the time was now and it was.

Are you waiting to save up enough money?

Traveling on a budget has never been easier with all of the resources you have online. You can do a Workaway (like me!), CouchSurf, or even hitchhike. If you want it bad enough, $500 can be enough to get you somewhere.

Do you want to travel with another person but you kind of hate all of your friends?

Bad idea. Don’t rely on others because you’ll be waiting for years. Solo travel can be scary but hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Do yourself a favor by visiting Skyscanner, typing in your local airport as the starting point, and “everywhere” as the destination.

You might be traveling sooner than you think.

Culture Shock: The Ugly Truth

12798944_1152579771452835_8729403608137731603_n

Photo was taken during my most recent weekend excursion at Castell Coch in Cardiff, Wales.

 

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m kind of bad at blogging. I forget to check my e-mail daily, so I’m having a hard time keeping up with this thing. Apologies.

Since my last post about Belgium I have traveled to The Hague, Germany, England, and Wales. I had so much fun in all of these cities/countries, and they each deserve their own blog post, but I have more important things to talk about.

I’ve started this post a handful of times, trying to figure out the best way to put my thoughts into words. I’m finding it hard to be honest with you all, but I started this blog to document my journey and it would be unfair if I didn’t paint the correct picture for you.

I’m dealing with serious culture shock.

While I briefly mentioned the culture shock I was feeling during my first few weeks in Utrecht in this post, the full effects didn’t sink in until two weeks ago.

If you have me on Facebook, you might have gotten the idea that I’m having the time of my life. And while that’s mostly true, I’ve also been dealing with the not so picturesque side of study abroad.

I was having a very hard time settling into my new home. I cannot read or speak in Dutch, most of the time I have no idea where I’m going, and people in the city can be less than pleasant on an average day (but that’s anywhere).

I also felt very trapped. Since I’m from America, the average one way ticket to go home would cost me approximately $700. It would also take a full day of traveling and a new time zone to get used to, so I wouldn’t be able to swing a weekend trip like most of my fellow European study-abroaders (new word, Webster?).

Two weeks ago, I was crying to my mom over the phone about how much I missed home. I didn’t think I could make until July in the Netherlands. I was googling cheap tickets home and panicking when I saw the prices. Thankfully, she convinced me to not be impulsive and to sleep on it before making any rash decisions. And I’m so happy she did, because staying is what’s best for me.

Throughout the past two months of this experience I have learned so much about myself:

I learned that it’s okay to be really uncomfortable in a new place. 

I went through a lot of changes by coming here and they all happened to me at once. From starting my job at the hostel to starting classes at Hogeschool, I was bound to feel extreme emotions of excitement, shock and anxiety. It’s okay to not always feel okay.

I learned that home is not necessarily a place, but a feeling.

I feel at home every time I talk to my mom on the phone. She tells me stories about her coworkers, my family members, and even the crazy Michigan weather. Talking to her reminds me that living in the Netherlands is only temporary and I cannot take this experience for granted.

I felt at home when I visited my friends Taylor and Jens in Kleve, Germany. Taylor was my roommate for six months when I was at Ferris last semester, so being around her always feels normal. It also helped that Jens’ mom made us dinner one night, because obviously a home cooked meal is comforting.

But I’m also learning to accept Utrecht as my home. I have three amazing roommates and a handful of coworkers that always bring a smile to my face. We often have karaoke and jam sessions in the living room, and they always make me the happiest. My apartment is surrounded by green grass, canals, tulips, and millions of Dutchies riding endless amounts of bikes – which is so great I almost take it for granted.

And lastly, I’m learning to try new things.

In the middle of writing this sentence, my roommate offered me to try Turkish pita bread topped with a “liver spread” and a funky smelling cheese. I loved it so much I am now eating it for dinner.

But on a more serious note, I work, live and interact with people from different cultures on a daily basis. When someone asks me to go somewhere with them, or even try a new food that’s unusual for me (raw herring thanks to Andrew), I have learned to always say yes. It could be the best raw herring in the world (it was), or it could have been the worst. But I never would have known if I didn’t try.

It has taken me so long to write this (much needed) blog post because I feared my readers would think I was crazy for not always enjoying myself during my study abroad. I don’t want you all to think I’m ungrateful for this experience, because I most certainly am not. I worked very hard to get to where I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I want you to all understand that there can be other sides to studying abroad that aren’t always noticeable through smiling photos on Facebook.

Below you can see a few pictures from the trips I’ve taken since Belgium!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.