Category Archives: Travel

How To Visit the Past

A long time ago, a nurse in the Dutch army met a seaman in the American Navy at an officer’s club in the Philippines. He was composed of wasn’ts: he wasn’t an officer, he wasn’t Catholic, he wasn’t going to be her husband. And yet, they dated. And yet, he proposed. And yet, she said no (due to his lack of Catholicism). And yet, he became Catholic (one of the most devout I’ve ever known). And yet, they got married. And yet, despite the wasn’ts, they lived happily ever after.

Or something like that.

I inherited many things from my grandmother. My curly hair, my short, thick, graceless fingers, my Dutch heritage, my liberalness, and this story. This is the story of how my grandmother met my grandfather, how I moved to Europe, and how, for one week, I got to revisit the past.

IMG_0821

The church where my grandparents were married in Joure.

 

 

1974975_10152254734266445_363957692_n

The courthouse room where my grandparents were officially married.

 

When my older sister turned 13, my grandmother took her and my two other cousins–also Dutch, also 13–to Holland. They spent a few weeks traveling as my grandmother introduced them to the place that she’d come from.

We come in sets, my cousins and I, like littermates. We’re grouped in increments, occurring every few years. Katie, Meredith, and Dennis were the first set to be taken to Holland. They were also the last. Beppe died four years later.

I grew up knowing that, one day, I’d go to Holland. I thought it’d happen with my grandmother, then later, there were talks about aunts or uncles or parents stepping in to finish the tradition that never was. Because, if there was one thing that my grandmother valued, it was the connection between her old country and her new. We always had cousins and great-aunts and family friends visiting. She hosted nieces and nephews, sent her own children to spend summers in Holland, visited at least once a year. She never moved back but she never moved away.

A year ago, I had some last-minute time-off. Almost immediately, I knew: this is it. It’s time to go to Holland.

IMG_0862

A bicycle for sale in Heerenveen

 

1003401_10152285429996445_297102829_n

A bicycle (not for sale) in Amsterdam

 

Things exactly one year ago were a whirlwind. I had a puente where I went to England, then I was home for two days, then I was on a train to Cadiz for carnival. And then, directly from carnival and still very much hungover, I’m on a plane to Amsterdam. I’m going to the grandmotherland.

I arrived in Amsterdam late on Sunday evening with a bit of a hangover, a bit of a cold, and a lot of exhaustion. I still hadn’t planned out all of the details of my trip.

This is where the family comes in. Number one travel suggestion for visiting Holland? Be Dutch.

My cousin Maryke has informed the clan, through the power of Facebook, that one of Sirpriana’s own grandchildren will be returning to the home country. The Dutch relatives come out in surprising force. In Amsterdam, Sjoerd and Fransizka book-end my trip: collecting me from the airport and hosting me when I first arrive and then putting me up for the remainder of my stay in the tiny house in their backyard. In Eelde, I spend a night with Maryke and meet my cousin Jesse, who I’ve heard so much about. In Joure, I stay with my Tante Ide, Maryke’s mother, who shows me the courthouse where my grandparents married, the old family farm, and also Giethoorn.

Maryke is one of the few familiar faces I know in Holland. She visited us once or twice when I was little and I remember her vividly. When I stay with her, she buys me antihistamines and a cheese slicer: the only things you need to win me over, apparently.

Tante Ide is Maryke’s mother. Maybe I’m supposed to remember her from when I’m little, I’m not sure, it was all so long ago. But before long, she becomes familiar. From the Dutch accent to the way she cuts her food, it’s like being with my grandmother again.

IMG_0857

Tante Ide in Giethoorn

 

10000238_10201797112111933_1456103076_n (1)

Franziska showed me around my last Saturday in Amsterdam (and Holland). We went to the Rijks, for bowls of soup, and a market where I got a leather journal, a sundress, and a bitchin’ handkerchief for less than 25 euros.

 

My grandmother, Sipriana Minnema Adams, died when I was only eleven or so. Now, at the age of 23, there are so few things I remember about her.

Mostly, I know the stories that my family tells me.

Like three weeks ago, I was at dinner with my aunts Mary and Lisa and we get to the topic of Beppe and Granddad. Aunt Lisa tells us, “Once I asked Mom, ‘why did you date Dad?’ And she told me, ‘because he fed me.’ And then I asked Dad, ‘why did you date Mom?’ And he told me, ‘because she was on time.'”

Or the one that my mother told me, about how, years and years after my grandparents had been married, my grandmother told my grandfather about a bank account she’d started when she’d first come to America, some seed money, in case this whole marriage thing didn’t work out.

The impression I get of my grandmother is that she was fearless. That she was independent and strong. She was confident. She was kind. She was punctual. She was stubborn and, probably, she was sometimes wrong but, in the end, she was usually right.

She was also a saver, hence the secret bank account. When each of her grandchildren were born, she bought us stocks. It was those stocks that I sold to finance my trip abroad.

Going abroad was hard and scary. Not that my family would’ve ever told me not to go, but let’s just say they would’ve been perfectly okay if I’d changed my mind last minute and decided to stay. So, finding the courage to get on the plane and leave was something I had to do on my own.

I thought about my grandmother, leaving Holland for a new country with a new husband and a new future that she’d probably ever imagined. And then, several years and five kids and fifteen grandkids and one happily ever after (and a flesh-eating bacteria and a bout of pancreatic cancer and a few other maladies) later, here I was. I was made possible by one adventure, committed to by two people in a courthouse in Joure, all those years ago.

So I got on the plane and I moved to Europe.

1972458_10152261859031445_1251681417_n

It is my DREAM to one day live in a tiny house. Franziska let me live my dream for the weekend by setting me up on a cot in her office aka MY VERY OWN TINY HOUSE. Also, not their cat.

 

10151889_10152285430846445_616466984_n

The ceiling of the Hetsheepvaartmuseum, in Amsterdam

 

I don’t know how it took me a whole year to post about being in Holland. Even though I wouldn’t have been able to make a spur-of-the-moment trip if I hadn’t been living in Spain, my time in Holland seems separate from my time in Spain. This trip wasn’t about traveling with friends, about taking in new sights and unforgettable memories and cheap hostels and even cheaper beer.

This was something different, a connection with my past. It reminded me of being six and seeing my sister off at the airport. It reminded me of being five and picking bluebonnets and buttercups in the field behind my grandparents’ house on Sunday mornings after mass. It reminded me of the red toenail polish my grandmother fastidiously wore, it reminded me of the blue and white of her extensive collection of Delft china, it reminded me of cake on Sundays after mass. It also reminded me of my grandfather, not because he was from Holland as well, but because of how much he loved my grandmother.

If you were hoping for some step-by-step tourist guide to Holland, I apologize (though I do heartily recommend the Hetsheepvaartmuseum, the Rijksmuseum, and Hortus Botanicus!).

Sometimes I forget that I ever went to Holland and I guess I just wanted to remind myself of the reasons I went, and the reasons it meant so much to me. And also, for the future.

I never would’ve had Spain or Italy or carnival any of it, if I hadn’t gotten on that plane. And I never would’ve gotten on that plane if it wasn’t for my grandparents. So let this serve as a reminder to myself in the future: get on the plane, marry the foreigner, move to a new country, be independent and stubborn and kind. Because fortune favors the bold and adventure always follows when you’re willing to take the risk.

1982231_10152285428606445_531693619_n

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Adventure in an Accidental Manner

I chose the name Accidental Adventurer for the blog shortly after my college graduation, when the inevitable stream of questions started up.

“So what now?”

“I’m headed to camp to work as a horse wrangler for the summer and in the fall I move to Spain.”

“Have you ever worked with horses before?”

“No.”

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“No.”

The next question is easy to guess: how did you get from where you are to where you’re going? And the answer: purely by accident.

portlandmorn

The upside to always traveling (besides the fact that you’re always traveling) is that you make friends everywhere. So when I needed a place to stay in Portland for the night, I hit up a friend from Spain who’s from the area who texted her friend who let me crash on their living room floor and wake up to this view.

As a kid, I always knew I wanted to travel, I just figured it’d be a little more planned out: I thought I’d spend months saving and counting down days and then I’d go for maybe a weekend and then come home to my normal life.

I never planned on moving to Spain (as evidenced by the fact that I promptly forgot all of my high school Spanish before I’d even finished with the class). Before I’d landed up in Spain, I’d been in the process of applying for the Peace Corps, planning to be placed in some African country where I could put my years of college French to practice. And then, seemingly by accident and with no planning at all, I was headed to Spain.

A year later, I came back, torn between wanting things to be normal and not knowing what that even looked like. After a month in Texas, for lack of anything better to do, I moved out to California. And four months later, for lack of anywhere better to go, I’m moving back to Texas.

San Francisco says goodbye with a beautiful sunrise over the bay.

San Francisco says goodbye with a beautiful sunrise over the bay.

“But what are you going to do when you get back?”

Hell if I know. But, like the time that my aunt and I went through the usual post-grad script and I explained my plans and she asked me the follow-up questions and then snorted and said, “So how are you going to do this?” (this being ride horses and speak Spanish), and I said, “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out I guess,” I guess I’m just gonna figure out what happens next.

I never planned these adventures, not the way I imagined as a kid when I thought I would have more than a few months or weeks to process my spur-of-the-moment decision (“I want to go to Montana.” “I’m moving to Spain.” “I’d like to be a horse wrangler.” “I need to quit my job.”) but they happened and, despite the outcome, good or bad, I’ve got to figure it out.

theroadnorth

The road north.

One of the good things that has come out of my sudden decision to depart from California was my equally sudden and equally emphatic decision to spend a week in the north before I relocate to the South. Moments are I realized, “I have to quit my job,” I realized, “I’m going to go to Seattle.”

So here I am, on the floor of my college friend Caraline’s room, day 1 of a week long adventure that is entirely accidental. And in a week, a drive back to Texas. And then a week after that, a move to Dallas. And then a week later or maybe two or maybe ten, another plan and another adventure.

hwy5

See you in Seattle!

If you’d like to follow along with the adventure in progress, be sure to check out the old Insta, lapetitemadelyne, or any of my other forms of social media, links to which can be found on the Contact page.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reverse Culture Shock

The Things No One Tells You

In the weeks before you prepare to depart your recently adopted homeland, your Facebook newsfeed and your group Whatsapp and your inbox will be flooded with articles and blog posts and op ed pieces about coming home. You’ll become a pseudo-expert and fervent disciple in Reverse Culture Shock.

But, for all of articles I read and the friend-of-a-friend experiences I heard recounted, there are a few things that I’ve realized in the last few months that no one amount of studying up on Reverse Culture Shock prepared me for.

1. It’s surprisingly easy. One minute you’re meeting friends for tapas in an alley behind your piso and the next you’re driving the streets of your hometown having flashbacks to high school and it’s almost as if you’ve never left. I was just there, you think as you pass the restaurant where you had your farewell dinner, conveniently forgetting the last year of your life. Sure, you miss Spain, but do you know what else you miss? First crushes and your mom’s tuna noodle casserole and your childhood bedroom. Spain seems like just one more thing that’s gone the way of high school relationships and deceased grandparents: there will always be a hole and an ache for the things you left in the past but, with time and new memories, it gets smaller.

2. The panic. You’re lulled into a false sense of security for the first few weeks. This is so easy! you think triumphantly. I should come home from foreign countries more often! And then the panic sets in. Is this it? Is it all over? This big, significant thing that you spent the last ten months living and will impact the person you are for years to come is now just one more memory out of many, like losing your two front teeth at that roller rink or your first heartbreak. What if you forget the language and the lessons and the person you became? What was the point of any of it if you can’t point to at least one thing and say, “And that’s what I learned in Spain.”?

3. Happiness is slippery and evasive and rare. This is the biggest shock that I was not prepared for. In Spain, happiness came easy. It fell in my lap like sunshine, it blew in on the breeze with my curtains through the open window, it was mixed into my tinto de verano and its the stuff that they cure hams with.

This isn’t rose-colored glasses talking; there certainly were frustrating times and hard times and dull times and times when I missed home. But, as a whole, my life was happier there. What makes happiness so easy when you’re not at home? Is it the climate? Is it the lack of responsibilities or reality? Whatever it is, I took it for granted and I want it back.

Maybe these are lessons that you already knew. Maybe they were lessons that already knew, but this is the fourth thing that no one ever tells you about: you have to relearn them, and so much more, when you come home. How did happiness work before? In Spain, it just happened, but now: do I make it? Is it given to me? Do I take it? Where does it come from? This panic that reminds me I was made for greater thing, that I lived greater things, and now my life is a duller sliver of what it was: how do I get past it? This is more than deep breaths and positive visualization. This false sense of comfort lulls me to sleep and I have to fight tooth and nail to work harder and dream bigger than my high school self would’ve been content with.

10600423_10152611581816445_6080491504569030353_n

Life from Here On Out

Y’know how people always say that it’s better to “have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”? Well, I’d like to call bullshit. Sometimes I think it would’ve been much better if I’d never experienced Montana or lived in Spain so that I wouldn’t have to feel this heartache that hits me in the gut so hard that I have to stop and catch my breath.

This is the fifth thing that they never told me about coming home: nothing is ever the same. Sure, it feels like home and looks like home and it smells like home, but it’s different. Or, rather, it’s not different: you are. And you can sleep in your old bed and hang out with your old friends, but it’s not the old you that’s doing these things. If home is where your heart is, this can never be your whole-hearted home again–just like Spain never felt like a complete fit–because pieces of your heart are missing: you’ve carelessly left slivers of yourself in Gardner, MT and Huercal-Overa, and College Station and Washington D.C. and wherever else you’ve been that you’ve lived.

But, what’s done is done. I’ve loved and I’ve lost and I’m back in the States. I don’t know where I’m going next or what I’m doing but I do know that my heart isn’t here in the Bay Area.

Or, maybe, once I leave, I’ll find that I was wrong. Maybe the Bay Area was just my rebound home and for that, San Francisco, I apologize: you didn’t get the best of me.

10527888_10152515766426445_8649631943637508783_n

What I learned from Standing Still

Nothing.

After spending a month in Texas, I was given/offered/handed the opportunity to go to California for a while. It was a sweet deal–free rent, paying job, indefinite amount of time–that fell together so quickly that I thought it was Meant To Be, with capital letters.

And then I spent two months out here. I applied for countless jobs was offered zero interviews. I made all of five friends. California was not the American Dream I’d been led to believe.

So, two months later I say the words out loud, “I haven’t been happy for a while.” This acknowledgment brings me a surprising amount of peace but still something holds me back from cutting the ties completely and going somewhere else.

I feel like I’ve failed. I came all the way out here and what do I have to show for it? I thought California would be the Land of Opportunities and instead I’ve found the Land of Waiting. I’ve had some nice times with some nice people, some good stories to tell, but nothing that’s made me stop and say “Damn.” Maybe this is a consequence of a post-Spain life. Happiness is hard and breathtaking moments are just as rare.

But after a talk with Kristen, who feels similarly about the Bay Area and is preparing to cut her own ties with the Golden State and give Colorado a try, I have to admit, I’ve had a good summer. And maybe that’s all I get.

What I learned from standing still out in California is nothing. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe I’ve had enough personal growth and life-changing lessons for several years to come. Maybe I was supposed to just come out here and have some fun and drink too much whiskey and never ride a cable car and get on a first name basis with the receptionist at my dentist’s office and wear some Superbowl rings and accept that not everything ends with a life lesson.

 

10505286_10152517769546445_1548162075459161982_n 10526039_10152565281891445_5948576397136894274_n 10405577_10152531641636445_7780078761389994867_n

Tagged , , , , ,

Jefferson Memorial

It’s been over two months since Italy, a month since Iceland, and almost a year since I sat in this exact same room, in this exact same bed, in this exact same house, puzzling over how to make sense of new beginnings.

After school ended back in May, I walked out of Cura Valera for the last time and straight to the bus station. My principal Laura, the same one who’d picked me up from the bus station nine months earlier, was the same one who dropped me off. Once I got to Almeria I took my last taxi to 26 Paseo de Almeria and let myself in with the key under the mat. That’s when it hit me: this is it. No more Ex-Pat Thanksgiving, no more rounds of King’s Cup, no more tapas at Bambalina or Coke & Hope Floats (or was it Hope & Coke Floats?) on Sunday nights. I had twelve hours to say goodbye so I put my luggage down, pushed aside my early-onset homesickness, and forged out into the night. And at 9 AM the next morning, after two rounds of discotecas and a sunrise skinny dip in the Mediterranean, I boarded my last ALSA bus and began the journey home.

Fast forward three flights, two countries, four time zones, and one week later and I’m back on American soil. After a long metro ride with someone I can only assume was my future self (my future self told me I’m going to marry a Navy man and have three boys) I scarfed down some REAL AMERICAN PIZZA WITH RANCH AND A DR. PEPPER and crashed mega-hard (I say things like mega-hard now that I’m back in the US). In the morning, because I’m still in traveler-mode, I get up at 8, lace up my Chacos and hit the streets.

This is my sixth time in DC.  It strikes me with particular poignancy (or maybe this is just the jet lag) that my time in DC has come full circle. Once, six or seven years ago, I left home for the first time to spend nearly a month in DC. My first week was spent hiding in a basement, terrified of my own shadow, let alone those cast by some of the buildings. And then one day the Downeys took me to these botanical gardens in Virginia with a greenhouse full of lily pads bigger than my entire body. And just like that, I fell in love with adventuring and I fell in love with DC.

One day, I walked the monuments, from the capitol all the way down to Lincoln. I sat on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to kids recite “I Have a Dream” in childish unison and felt my feet hanging dozens of feet above the ground but felt surprisingly rooted in the magnitude of history and my place in it. And then, with one last monument to visit, I took a right instead of a left and landed up in Foggy Bottom and GWU rather than the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial. Each time I’ve come back, I’ve tried to squeeze it into my schedule and failed each time.

So, three more trips, six years, and so many countries, I’ve finally made it to the Jefferson Memorial. And I’ve been walking all morning trying to make sense of things and this is what I’ve got: some things take years to get to. Forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, a surprisingly illusive monument.

jefferon

Some things take years to get to. At the Jefferson Memorial (FINALLY!).

When my dad was twenty, he and a buddy took a road trip out to California. Ever since I turned 18, I have been begging and planning and dreaming of the day when I would finally make what, to me, amounted to my coming-of-age pilgrimage to the Golden State. And tomorrow that pilgrimage begins; some things just take years to get to.

But I’ve come of age. I moved to Spain and I spent a week in Iceland and I finally saw the damn Jefferson Memorial (in real life, not just stills from Scandal). Why am I going? What am I going to do? How long am I going to be gone? All questions I’m looking forward to learning the answers to. I didn’t go looking for this adventure, I just kind of stumbled upon it by accident.

Back in May, I was sitting on a beach in Cabo de Gata with some friends on one of our last weekends together before our bus back to Almeria and I had to fight to keep from screaming, “BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” I didn’t expect the answer to be Texas. I also didn’t expect the answer to be California. I don’t think that the answer is France (for now).

So by Saturday I’ll be the newest resident of San Francisco where I’ll be somewhat of a nanny, sort of a housekeeper, maybe an employee of a software company. I didn’t say anything sooner because I didn’t want to jinx it; not even 48 hours before I received the offer to move to California, I had just finished accepting an offer from the College Station Parks & Rec department to teach swimming lessons. My month back in Texas hasn’t gone slowly and now, without even planning for it, I’m leaving again.

Back in Spain, I wondered what would happen to The Accidental Adventurer. Not surprisingly, she’s accidentally stumbled upon another adventure. Tomorrow, I move to California.

home

Home is wherever I’m with you. At Houston Intercontinental Airport. 

Once when I was in college, on a school night, I drove down to Austin for a concert. At the concert, I stood so close to the speakers that the bass moved through me, shaking down my collar bones and shimmying up my spine until I couldn’t tell where my heartbeat ended and the music began. This past month, I’ve been driving all over Texas, from Shiner to Fort Worth and all around the hill country. And everywhere I go, I get the same breathless, lost-my-heartbeat feeling. And then I see it: my heartbeat, in the hills and the trees and the sunsets and the highways and the rivers and the weddings and the reunions and the families and the friends. How am I supposed to leave this? How am I supposed to leave the place that makes my heart beat?

I don’t have the answer to that one either. I just know that coming home wasn’t as hard as I expected. I just know that today I picked up my Heart of Texas charm from James Avery, freshly polished for new adventures. I just know that tomorrow a new adventure begins and I’m just as prepared for it as I was almost one year ago, when I sat in this same spot preparing to go to Spain.

It’s been a hell of a year, hasn’t it?

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Special Set of Skills

I’ve been applying for a whole slew of jobs lately, particularly in the field of hospitality and customer service. While my actual work experience is rather limited, I’m playing up other skills, like my success in completely random and unrelated fields (pottery painting, horse wrangling, whitewater rafting), my dubious Spanish skills, and things I’ve learned from this past year. Somewhere after “functional-ish Spanish” and “traveling hungover,” is the skill of flexibility.

On no trip was my flexibility tested more than my time in Italy. Here is a short list of setbacks that required flexibility whilst journeying across the Italian countryside:

1. That time my flight got canceled three days before I was supposed to leave.

2. That time I had to book a new flight and bump up my departure time, giving me 24 hours to pack, give notice at work, and get ready for a week in Italy.

backpack

This is what last-minute packing looks like.

3. That time that I got all the way to Malaga and found an email from EasyJet that basically said, “JK, original flight back on. All that drama from the last 24 hrs? It was for naught.”

4. That time I had to beg EasyJet at 6 AM to let me on the plane.

5. That time that Laurel and I arrived in Milan and got lost right out of the gate because we spoke no Italian.

6. The time immediately following that when we bought the wrong train tickets in an effort to get to Como.

7. That time that Laurel and I successfully made it to Saronno, transfer to a new train for the last leg of the journey to Como, take that train all the way to the end of the line, find out that its not the right train, head back to Saronno and try again.

saronno

Oh hello, Saronno train station, you look familiar!

8. After getting on the right train, finding the water taxi, spending too much on the water taxi, getting to Menaggio, Laur and I read the sign pointing towards the hostel, then walked in the opposite direction for twenty minutes.

watertaxi

The expensive, but worthwhile, water taxi.

9. That time that we hiked several hours up a mountain and to a waterfall and then got lost on the way back down.

waterfall

The waterfall in Val Sangra. Worth it? The near-heart attack given by the sight of the world’s largest cows that live in this part of the mountains might beg to differ.

viewfromvalsanagra

Ehh. In Val Sanagra.

10. When there was a train strike (naturally) and we couldn’t make it to Venice.

This is what cancelling your trip to Venice looks like: sailing on Lake Como with new friends from Australia.

This is what cancelling your trip to Venice looks like: sailing on Lake Como with new friends from Australia.

boatface

SAIL.

11. Even though it didn’t happen to me, that time that Christina missed her flight out of Barcelona, booked a new flight to Milan, couldn’t catch a train to Como because of the strike, got on a bus that left her at the Swiss border, and joined us for a brief 24-hour stint in Menaggio.

3bestfriends

Reunited and it feels so gooooooood.

12. When the train strike ended, we cut Venice from our trip itinerary, and made it to Milan, we bought the wrong train tickets and made it to the right train to Cinque Terre with a few minutes to spare.

13. That time we got lost in Vernazza, an Italian town with exactly one road, and couldn’t find our lodging because we couldn’t find a street sign.

Vernazza

Vernazza

14. That time Christina wanted to wear her hiking boots with her sundress and Laurel and I outvoted her and then we ended up hiking for an hour and a half.

trailmarker

I see Italian trail markers every time I close my eyes.

15. Whilst hiking the trails connecting the cities of Cinque Terre, we were finally coming down from the mountain that we had to climb to get to Manarola and came to a fork in the road. Naturally, we took the path that led us along the cliff with no handrail.

corniglia

Quick, 2-hour accidental hike. Corniglia in the distance

 

manarola

Manarola, as viewed from the edge of a cliff.

riomaggiore

The end of Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore

16. The time when, taking the train back from Riomaggiore, we didn’t buy tickets since we hadn’t had our tickets checked the entire time we’d been in Italy, and this happened to be the one train where they were checking tickets. We were also on the wrong train.

17. The time that I packed only skirts and dresses (and one pair of pants) for a week in Italy and then it was rainy and miserable the three days we spent in Rome.

colosseum

The colosseum is smaller than expected #secfootballproblems

fontana di trevi

The most breathtaking landmark I’ve seen to date.

With the year wrapping up, my fellow ex-pats and I are making plans for the future. The majority are coming back for a second year in Spain, while others are pursuing new paths back in the States. For them, Spain helped them figure out what kind of career they want and what they want to do with their lives. Me, I’m still trying to sort out my emotions from New Year’s.

But one thing I have figured out is this: I want to work for a company whose creativity and passion matches my own. One thing that my scattered work experience has in common is that I’m at my best when I’m being challenged.

market

Saturday market in Como

sandia

Watermelon bike in Florence

lemontree

Lemon tree in the mountains that run along the Mediterranean

ruins

Ruins in Val Sanagra

I was watching Charlie Day’s commencement address this morning and, if anything, it resonates more with me a year out from college than it would’ve a year ago. Because when you’re sitting in an auditorium in a funny hat and gown, anything seems possible. The future is a big uncertain thing and you don’t know what the next adventure holds.

Well, I’ve made it through the next adventure after college. Sometimes, it felt like a continuation of college. Sometimes, it felt like I was just born and living for the first time. Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in that auditorium wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

So I’m staying flexible. I’m taking a bus to Switzerland and skipping Venice and hiding in a bathroom from the man who’s come to check my non-existent ticket. I’m applying for any and everything and I’m refusing to settle for a job, a career, a new life in a new city, that doesn’t excite or impress or inspire me. I’m terrified, but I’m going with it.

“You do not have to be fearless, just don’t let fear stop you.” –Charlie Day’s Merrimack College Commencement Address

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Last Month

If you’ve noticed a lack of silence around The Accidental Adventurer, that would be because I’m trying to break some non-existent record (that only exists in my head, like many of my travel games, apparently) by traveling for the last 9 weekends straight (in backwards-chronological order: Almeria, Cabo de Gata, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Lake Como, Almeria, Granada). The blog posts have been piling up and I still haven’t even finished my damn post about the trip to the (grand)motherland (aka Holland) that occurred back in February and has been hiding in my drafts folder for the last few months.

So, in an effort to procrastinate even more, I thought I’d pull together a list of things that, with only a month left to go, I’m just now realizing.

1. I’m a competitive traveler.

This was brought to my attention whilst abroad in Italy, specifically Rome. I like to think of myself a student of crowd dynamics: it’s all about reading the bodies, seeing a break in the crowd, and going for it. When I get into a metro station or historical monument, I don’t dilly-dally. It’s a get-in, get-out mentality and I’m blazing a path that all others in my party must scurry to keep up with (sorry Christina and Collin). In my mind, I’m racing (against myself? Who else is playing this game, Madelyne?) to make it through the crowded situation as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Another explanation besides OIC (Obsessive Internal Competitiveness; don’t look it up, I just coined it), could be the fact that I’ve got a bubble and I like to keep it intact. Fun fact: having a bubble is how I avoided getting pickpocketed on a metro in Rome (um, why are you standing so close to me? Oh, it’s because your hand’s in my purse? That makes sense.)

Another game I like to play when traveling is called Get Me the Heck Out of This Security Line Without Any Hangups. Hangups include: forgetting to take off belts, being told you can go through with your shoes on but then going through with your shoes on and setting off the detector and having to go back through and take off your shoes, forgetting to wear a tight enough shirt so that the security guards can visibly see that you’re not hiding anything under your shirt and therefore can refrain from doing the awkward credit-card-swipe-between-your-boobs thing.

2. My couch is more comfortable than my bed. 

Figured this one out when my friend since forever, Luke, came to visit and I “selflessly” gave up my bed for the few days that we spent in Huercal. Score one for manners!

We're pretty much an old married couple.

We’re pretty much an old married couple.

3. My TV does speak English!

Also a realization from the Visit of Luke. Whilst trying to find the Bayern-Real Madrid match on the telly, I got distracted, as I do every time I turn on my television here in Spain (a thing that’s only happened a handful of times since I moved in), with trying to switch the language to English. And this time it worked! So Luke and I chowed down on burrito bowls and watched terrible celebrity news about the richest babies and a really bad Charlize Theron movie and I fell asleep on my mega-comfortable couch and it was all so American I could’ve cried.

4. Spain doesn’t scare me anymore.

I was walking to school sometime in early May when it hit me.

I remember the first day I arrived here. Saying I was cautiously optimistic would’ve been a stretch; I was convinced that this was going to be the biggest mistake of my life to date and I would have to just grit my teeth and suffer through the next 8 months. I had a survival strategy: drown myself in Friends episodes, write copious amounts, and travel to Almeria to see my friends on the weekends every chance I got. And that’s actually pretty much how it went down. But, also, it became my home.

When I first arrived, everything was a Big Deal. Going to the supermarket for the first time left me soaked in sweat, for the first month I had to force myself to make my daily visit to the bank to try and sort out my bank account yet again, and every so often I’d reward myself with a walk to the British goods store and a Dr. Pepper: I’d run these errands then I’d scamper home and stay there until it was time to work.

And now, it’s not. I know people, I know places, I know words in Spanish necessary for communicating. Spain doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s going home that’s got me terrified.

boat jump

Things that don’t scare me: Spain. Things that do scare me: a two foot drop and a three foot gap between my toes and this boat. In Barcelona.

5. I’m good at simple.

I figured this one out a little over a month ago, when I was packing for Italy. One week spent on trains, planes, and automobiles starting in Milan and working our way down to Rome, and I’d crammed all of my necessities into a smaller-than-necessary backpacking backpack. Much credit is due to H&M’s pañuelo-sized tank tops, but more credit is due to my winter break training when I made it through 2 weeks and 2 major holidays in 2 different countries with a slightly-bigger-than-said-smaller-than-necessary-backpacking-backpack-but-still-impressively-restrained suitcase. One pair of pants, no jacket, and too many skirts meant I was often ill equipped for the springtime weather but not throwing out my back with a child-sized backpack that also doubles an effective weapon and shield (ahem, Laurel) (broma, Laurel, I actually really want to make the Purple Beast my own).

But this has spilled over into other areas of my life. I can sleep on almost any surface you give me, I can stay up at a disco until 5 and I can wake up at 7 to catch a train, I can survive a weekend in Barcelona with a pair of shorts, two skirts, and a tank top (not that I did, I’m just trying to prove a point).

And it’s freeing (not just because I’m confidently striding ten feet ahead while Laurel is crushed under the weight of the Purple Beast). Less money spent on clothes and extravagances like a bed (because I really should’ve just been sleeping on my couch the whole summer) mean more money spent on the important things, like plane tickets and beer and books.

backpack

Simplicity personified

6. This is the end. 

With one week to go, I’m finally starting to realize what this all means. Hint: it means that I’m leaving in a week.

As in, no more Spain. As in, no more weekend trips to Almeria. As in, no more puentes in Barcelona. As in, no more cheap RyanAir flights to Dublin. As in, no more binge shopping at H&M.

When we were hiking in Italy, Christina (or was it Laurel), asked the other two of us what we were going to say when we got back to the States and people asked about our time abroad. I had a dialogue ready in my head.

Well-Meaning Person: So, Madelyne, what’s changed since you’ve been back?

Madelyne: [Gaze off into the sunset dramatically. Whisper:] Everything.

Well-Meaning Person: [naively chuckles] What’s that supposed to-

Madelyne: EVERYTHING.

It has. It has changed everything. It’s changed the way I talk, the way I think, the way I cook, the way I dress, the way I look, the way I walk, the way I feel. Everything.

There’s really no good way to end this post because there’s really no good way to end this year. I’m gonna shoot for going out with grace and dignity but will DEFINITELY fall short of the way. In the mean time, I leave you with this picture of a Spanish sunset and the promise of tears.

Sunsets in Almeria

Sunsets in Almeria

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ex-Pat Games

In honor of my flight to Italy being cancelled THREE DAYS before I was supposed to leave, while I’m scrambling to find some travel alternatives, I thought I’d enlighten you on some games that us young ex-pats like to play whilst abroad.

How Can I Get There for Very Cheap Game

Objectives: Get there for very cheap.

Rules: Pay little to no money.

Directions: Employ every method you have in your arsenal: Skyscanner.com, Hostels.com, Alsa, BlahBlahCar, basic human interaction. Fly Ryanair. Buy a suitcase that fits their stringent luggage requirements, then load that baby down and take it everywhere. Speak the language when necessary, play the mute card when necessary.

Be flexible. The cheapest flights are usually the ones that no one wants, i.e. early in the morning, or too late to make sense. Prepare for 4 AM check-ins.

And, if your flight gets cancelled three days before you’re supposed to leave for a week in Italy and the only other available flight means that you have to leave TOMORROW, book it.

Guess What Nationality I Am Game

Objective: Guess my nationality. (I’m like the Lily’s dad from HIMYM of board game titles)

Rules: Don’t ask, just assume.

Directions: Identify the person as non-Spaniard, guess every nationality that doesn’t make sense and then some. I have been identified as French, German, some kind of Scandinavian, British, and Australian multiple times, but never American. Have you heard my accent?

Sunday Night Dinner Game, Or, Alternatively, The Saturday Night Mercadona Game

Objective: Feed yourself on Sunday.

Rules: Everything is closed on Sunday.

Directions: Depending on your plans for the weekend affects how you play this game. If you stay in your hometown, then choose the Saturday night version. If you’ve spent the weekend away and are only returning on Sunday night, please select the Sunday night version.

SATURDAY NIGHT VERSION: Lounge about your room/apartment/village until the last possible minute. Realize that the grocery closes in 30 minutes. Grab your shopping bag and wallet, make a dash to the Dia/Mercadona/Lidl/Carrefour of your choice. Have absolutely no plan so that, when you arrive at the store, you buy things like spicy mustard and chicken seasoning, but nothing that makes sense like cheese and water and bread. Wait for Sunday, wonder what you’ve done and why you have nothing to eat.

SUNDAY NIGHT VERSION: Return to your home, collapse in your bed and lay there with your computer propped on your boobs watching SNL until hunger prompts you from your nest. Realize that you have nothing edible or easily prepared. Create a masterpiece that would make your drunk, college-self proud. Recent hits include:

-egg, beef, pepper, onion, rice, or, as I later realized, essentially a breakfast taco

-marinera, greek yogurt, and mayonnaise for pasta sauce (created by Laurel Hess)

-toast and ali-oli

Meet the American Game

Objectives: Introduce an American to all of your friends and family

Rules: Must be Spanish.

Directions: If you’re the American, you don’t really do much. Besitos, smile, basic Spanish greetings. Answer the same questions over and over. This is actually usually a really fun, if exhausting game. People are so nice and, usually, considerate enough to speak slow enough for you to follow. Sometimes, they tell the same story over and over, and if they’re 83 year old Spanish grandpas named Pablo and the story is, “En ingles, me llamo Peter,” well, then, it’s just downright adorable.

Street-Crossing Game

Objectives: Cross a street without a crosswalk sign.

Rules: Don’t die?

Directions: Prepare yourself. Bounce on the balls of your feet. Look left, look right, even if it’s a one-way street. Be confident, swagger if possible. Move so slowly that it appears you’re about to be hit by that car that just stepped on the gas to hit you, let it graze your leg, leap the last few inches to the other side, triumphant. It’s a rite of passage and you’re not really Spanish until you recklessly cross a street.

This game is, obviously, played in other countries to varying degrees. Check your local listings for appropriate rules and directions.

backpack

My sidekick for the next week, apparently starting tomorrow.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Carnaval 2014

Before we begin, let’s go over a few things:

1. This is a more or less accurate description of everything that happened (that I can remember) from that weekend. 

2. While reading, you should listen to ten straight minutes of the saxophone bit from “Talk Dirty to Me.” It helps you to a) get into the mindset of carnaval weekend and b) imagine what it sounded like on Saturday night when we had our kazoos. 

Now that we’ve got that out of way, may I present cArNaVaL wEeKeNd!!!!!!!!1!!!

Thursday, 6 March: 11 PM

After 48 hours in Huercal-Overa, I’ve taught 7 classes, washed all my clothes, re-packed my suitcase, paid my bills, and I’m off again. I’m hoping that somewhere in the next 24 hours I can find a beret to complete my carnaval outfit.

I arrive in Almeria around 11 PM, around the same time as Laurel. Since I only had 48 hours, I didn’t have the foresight to go to the grocery to buy snacks and food for dinner and the train trip tomorrow. Laurel, on the other hand, always travels with food; one time she showed up in Almeria with a whole chicken. I eat a pastry, Laurel eats a salad and a carton of strawberries she dropped in the street. We compare costumes with the girls and head for bed.

girlwithtoast

My costume: girl with toast and moustache.

Friday, 7 March: 8 AM

The train for Cadiz leaves at 9 PM and around 8:15 we make our leisurely way down to the station. There we meet Colin and print out our tickets. Laurel tries to purchase her ticket but the train is full. We leave her behind.

This is something that can only happen with a certain group of friends. There’s no muss, no fuss, no drama. We ask if she has a plan (take the later train), Macy passes off a key to the apartment, and we wish her luck. If I was traveling Europe with anyone else, this would be a Major Incident that we’re abandoning our friend in another city but this is Laurel, so we wave goodbye and part ways.

Friday, 7 March: 9:42 AM

I have a migraine. When I say migraine, I don’t mean that I have a really bad headache. I mean that the edges of my vision start to go blurry, then I have searing pain, then I throw up. On a well-lit, 7 hour train, this is a nightmare.

I engineer a head wrap, borrowing a sweater of Kristen’s to wrap across my eyes and tie tightly behind my head, creating a blindfold and applying pressure on my temples. I pop a few Ibuprofen and attempt to sleep through it.

Only later do I realize that the old couple across from me probably doesn’t realize that I have a migraine considering I look like a hungover vagabond. Not yet, señora, not yet.

Friday, 7 March: 14:19 PM

After a transfer in Dos Hermanas, it’s time for train 2. My migraine is more or less gone. As I board the train, Popeye lounges by the open door, smoking a cigarette. I am officially en route to carnaval.

Friday, 7 March: 16:10 PM

Popeye should’ve tipped me off but it doesn’t take long to realize that I’m on the Bro Train. There’s a whole pack of them sitting in front of me, shouting and singing and talking in Spanish. They keep looking back at me but I’m more or less absorbed in watching Justified on the guy’s iPad next to me, who’s passed out with his English subtitles on.

I fall asleep and when I wake up, the train is empty and it’s just me and the bros. “Donde vas? Donde vas?” I tell them Cadiz. They get very excited and we take many pictures together (I’m still waking up) before the train stops and we, sadly, must part ways.

4-up on 3-8-14 at 9.22 PM (compiled)

I never got to see any of those pictures from the Bro Train so I thought I’d share the time that we busted out the Photobooth.

Friday, 7 March: 18:30 PM

No sign of a beret. We’ve checked into our AirBNB and stocked up on supplies, i.e. Aquarius (Spain’s Gatorade), cookies, and Pringles.

Friday, 7 March: 10:45 PM

After tapas and pre-gaming at our AirBNB apartment, Laurel arrives and manages to pull together a fairly convincing sushi costume. We take some prom-esque pictures on the stairs, pack a few beers for the road, then hit the streets.

girls stairs

The girls’ costume picture. Featured, from top to bottom: “French toast”, sushi, dos fresas, and a pirate.

boysstairs

The guys’ costume picture. “How do I stand?”

Friday, 7 March: 11:30 PM

There is no game plan. We head in the general direction that the crowd seems to be moving but don’t make it more than a block before we’re stopped by chirigotas (barbershop quartets meets parade floats) and the crowd listening to them. So instead we follow a pack of Dragon Ball Z characters in the opposite direction.

cruzcampo_Fotor_Collage

You can’t make this stuff up. Spain wins for best costumes.

Most often when you go out in Spain, the horario is: tapas at 10, bars by 11:30, discotecas at 3, bed by 6. But for carnaval, you put on your costume first thing when you wake up (maybe you never took it off) and you do your shopping at the market, your besitos on street corners, your jugando a la pelota en la plaza, all while dressed as Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. By the time we made it out, the party had been going for some time.

I expected carnaval in Cadiz to be something like Mardi Gras in New Orleans (or Halloween in a college town, considering the costumes). A family holiday, sure, but something completely different once night hits the streets of a city country that (from what I can tell) doesn’t seem to have much by way of open container laws. But there are no slutty pumpkins, or beads for boobs campaigns, only men dressed as Cruzcampo bottles rolling around in a six-pack.

So we take a left, then another right, then another left. There is no plan. I’m not entirely sure we are. We meet matadors (bankers from Madrid by day, matadors on the weekends) and bulls and baroque gentlemen and a hoard of Marvel superheroes wearing pink feather boas and Rachel and Joaquin’s creepy BlahBlah Car drivers, one of whom compliments me on my height (“You’re tall. I like it.”)

matadors

The first time I’ve been bought a drink since being in Spain (it’s not a common practice here; everyone was duly impressed). Protip: make friends with bankers.

The party starts to die down around 1. There are still chirigotas out singing but, since we can only understand about three out of every ten words they sing, (and we keep getting shushed by the audience every time we speak) and Joaquin is cold in his guiri outfit (cargo shorts, bro tank, sandals with socks, sunglasses), we head home sometime around 1.

Saturday, 8 March: 10 AM

Christina Facebook messages me to know if I’ve found a beret yet. I reply in the negative.

Laurel, Kellie and I lounge about for a bit before getting dressed and heading for the open air market near our house.

Saturday, 8 March: Noon-thirty-ish

Open air market purchases: hot dog and dusty Sprite.

Saturday, 8 March: 1 PM

Kellie, Laurel, and I wander the confetti-filled streets of Cadiz and land up in the plaza by the cathedral, teeming with people. I pop into a quick pickup game and take a shot on goal, hitting the “crossbar” and hurrying away before my triumph can be contested by another shot. In the center of the plaza there’s a makeshift ring filled with torreros and men wearing inflatable bull costumes. Parents buy tickets (? We could never confirm this, otherwise I would’ve hopped into the ring as I so desperately desired) to have their children fake-gored on the steps of the Cadiz cathedral. They even have a fake, inflatable ambulance to pick up the children after they’ve been gored.

confetti

Confetti-filled streets.

toro

Fake goring by fake bulls.

The important part of all of this is that, on this walk, I made one of the most important purchases of my time here in Europe: a commemorative kazoo.

kazoos

I can do a pretty snazzy rendition of Talk Dirty to Me on the kazoo that’ll take your breath away.

Saturday, 8 March: 3 PM

Eating a whole chicken while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ain’t too shabby of a way to live life.

cadiz

Shoutout to Rachel for having the foresight to take plenty of daytime pictures too.

Saturday, 8 March: 7 PM

Christina DOESN’T bring my beret.

“But you never responded!”

“You messaged me at midnight on the first night of Carnaval and you left the next morning at 7 AM: you expected me to responded for 11 AM?”

Laurel and I decide that our respective food costumes were failures and commandeer the bedsheets from Airbnb apartment for toga time.

medicine

Ingenuity, the hallmark of Americans abroad. 

toga

“You know that’s not actually how Greek women dressed, right? The only women who were togas like that were actually prostitutes.” Well, thanks Joaquin.

I am anxious to hit the streets earlier than we did last night, that way to have more party time. If this were a novel, this would be foreshadowing.

In my anxiety, I forget to eat dinner.

what

Group photos before the one of the Best Nights Out. (Christina’s hand?)

underwater

Kristen and I went for a swim.

Saturday, 8 March: 10 PM

When we head out for the night, we go in the opposite direction of the way we went the night before. I don’t know if this was fate or just planned. We head for the cathedral and as we step into the plaza, my jaw drops. It’s one giant botellón and the cathedral plaza is filled with people in costumes. We’re like kids at a carnival (GET IT?! BECAUSE WE ARE!) and we hop around and take pictures and carve a path for the cathedral steps where we’re meeting more people? (Hold on, folks. Details are about to get real fuzzy.) It doesn’t matter what’s going on because everyone is happy happy happy and I’m feeling fanDAMNtastic.

catedral

So many people!

steps

“WE ARE THE KINGS OF CAMPUS.” (Pitch Perfect reference that I may or may not have shouted because I felt like the spirit of the sentiment really applied in that moment.)

Communicating becomes a whole lot easier. I like to start out with a few words I know, shouting in top-volume Spanish, then I kind of trail off as I remember I don’t actually speak very good Spanish, then I just pantomime the rest or run away.

There are a lot of pictures taken. To date, I feel like I’ve only seen a handful of the actual pictures that were taken. You will be treated to some here.

flying

The kazoo band. We serenaded everyone and their mother on Saturday.

friends?

Um, people?

photobomb

I haven’t actually seen a picture where I’m facing the right way so I might be grinning at no one.

ppl

Don’t know when this was taken but I do know it’s a darn good picture with some darn good people.

At some point, I remember standing on the steps of the cathedral with my pal, KayJo. Our group has more or less disintegrated by this point–Laurel and Christina went in search of kebabs, Kellie ran off with some friend from Alabama, I don’t know what happened to Joaquin, Collin, or Rachel the rest of that night–and KayJo and I have our arms around one another as we look out on hundreds of Spaniards, having a heart to heart about our good fortune.

And despite the hangover that comes the next morning or the fact that I can’t remember what exactly we said, this is the best part of this weekend and of my time here in Spain. I live in Spain with some of the best friends imaginable and we’re drunk on the steps of a cathedral. It’s one of those things that I can’t fully explain because it’s a feeling more than a travel anecdote and it’s one of my most treasured memories from that weekend.

snapchat4_Fotor_Collage

Heart to hearts and friends in purple wigs (whose names you don’t remember) (or never knew?)

But such happiness was not to last. All that I remember after that was running through the streets (I don’t think we were actually running. I was wearing a very tightly wrapped toga so there wasn’t much leg movement to be had.) and coming across a couple in matching Miley Cyrus costumes and singing ‘Wrecking Ball’ for them with KayJo and Kristen. And then, by 1 AM, I’m down for the count.

miley cyrus

There’s a video, too.

Sunday, 9 March: 10 AM

It is now 10 AM and I would like to die. I have a delightful 12 hours of travel to look forward to (train to Malaga, metro to Malaga airport, plane to Amsterdam) and I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before. But like true champion travelers, I’m packed and ready to go and more or less respectably dressed by 10:30. I grab some churros and tostadas with friends before heading for my 11:30 train.

And what do you know, Popeye and all the bros from Friday are on the same train.

wig

A Sunday morning, post-carnaval gem.

cadiz sunset

Cadiz, you’ve been swell!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

England for Puente

When I was a kid, get-to-know-me questionnaires were my nightmare. You know the kind: they came in sparkle covered, themed journals where Hello Kitty peeks over the edge of the page and says, “What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite food? What’s your best friend’s name?” These are the things that sent me into paroxysms of panic.

Well I don’t know, Hello Kitty. Sometimes I really like mac ‘n’ cheese, but other times like, say, Friday’s in Lent, there’s nothing more that I like that my mom’s tuna noodle casserole, but I also really like my grandma’s Christmas gumbo but how do I know if that’s my favorite because I only get to eat it once or twice a year and DAMMIT Kitty why are you grilling me like this? Can’t I just say ‘FOOD’ and be done with it? Because I do, I like food. I like all food. I like mac ‘n’ cheese and tuna noodle casserole and McDonald’s chicken nuggets and Christmas gumbo and cheese enchiladas but only if they’re from that one restaurant, not the other one.

lill and me

“We don’t have houses like that in the States.” At Stokesay Castle

And so on and so forth, as we went through all of the requisite categories of favorites. The page would be covered with cross outs as I remembered some other food that I liked more than pizza or spaghetti or mac ‘n’ cheese or when I decided that I really liked red more than blue or blue more than green.

And it only got worse as I got older. “What’s your favorite kind of music? (The one with the instruments and sometimes just the voices) Who’s your favorite author? (The good kind) What do you read? (Books. Articles. Instructions. Warning Labels. Stop signs. E-mails.)” The answer: ALL. I like all colors. I like all foods. I like all music and I damn sure don’t have just one favorite book.

photo1

Continuing with the theme of pictures taken of the back of my head. At Acton Burnell Castle.

With all of the traveling that I’ve been doing lately, there comes my new, least favorite question: “Where’s your favorite place that you’ve been?” Umm, ummm, Italy! No, I haven’t been there yet. Iceland! Haven’t been there either. India! You’re not even scheduled to go there. Spain? Yes, but where in Spain? Almeria! Really? No! Um, Malaga? You’ve only been to the airport and the train station. Granada? Really? No. Madrid! And on and on.

What you can’t say (and what really is the answer) is that each place is my favorite. Each place is different because each time I travel it’s different. There are weekend trips, which are loads of fun but usually not enough time to get to the heart and soul of the place that you’re visiting. There are weeklong trips, which are more relaxed but you spend the first half of the trip thinking “Oh, I have so much time!” and then the second half going “Where did all my time go?!” There are puentes, there are ex-pat traveling trips, there are hikes and parent/siblings/best friends from back home family visits and long-lost-relative-seeking family visits. There are trips when you travel alone but meet someone once you get there, and then are trips where you just travel alone.

photo2

I caught a lamb! At Lill’s uncle’s farm.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently. First it was England, for puente (“bridge”, a long weekend), and then back to Huercal for two days of teaching, then off again to Cádiz for carnaval, then straight from Cádiz to Málaga for a flight to Holland, and then a week in Holland and now I’m back home trying to catch up on sleep and remember what closets are (living out of a suitcase joke). And everyone has been asking, “How was your trip(s)? What was your favorite part(s)? Where was your favorite place(s)?” And it’s impossible to answer that question!

For the first trip, England, I flew into Birmingham on Friday night where, after a brief tussle with customs, I was admitted into the country and the waiting arms of my dear pal and co-wrangler from the past summer, Lill.

Lill, the darling, is an excellent host for Americans. She drove me back to Shrewsbury and her family’s farm and, on Saturday, helped me get into all sorts of mischief with ponies, lambs, castles, and bowling. Neither of us are going back to camp next summer (Lill has a much bigger adventure, wrangling elephants instead of horses, and I’m going to be working as many hours as humanely possible to pay off this last year of adventures) so it was awesome that we got to relive a bit of the glory that was the friendship that made camp so awesome.

photo2 (1)

So we were sitting down for lunch on Saturday when I saw a commercial on the television that featured some stereotypically, English-looking ruins with a bunny hopping around. When I expressed my new-found obsession with ruins (I’ve got pages on pages of Wikipedia articles favorited in my ‘TRAVEL’ folder), we added it to our itinerary. England: Where the Ruins are Literally Right up the Road. At Acton Burnell.

Discounting the time that my parents came, my trip to England was one of the first times I got to see someone from my old, pre-Spain life. Not just Farm Time with Lill, but when I went to London on Sunday for the remainder of the puente. Whilst in London, I got to hang out with my pal, BRumph, who was finishing up a TEFL course there and about to return to the States to pursue a visa for new job teaching English in China. Bethany and I met my last semester of college when we worked on a project together for our film class and recreated the epic concert sequence from The Lizzie McGuire Movie

BRumph and I took advantage of our time together and mutual love of movies to see not one, but TWO films while I was in London, and also eat any and all food that I could not get in Spain (see: Mexican food, see: Skittles and Dr. Pepper, see: three scoops of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that I TOTALLY regretted about halfway through the movie). We also had a very romantic bike ride through Hyde Park so at least I can pretend I earned some of those calories.

hyde park

Romanticism is alive and well in Hyde Park.

photo5

I’d been in London for less than 2 hours and I’d already found a library and gone on a tour. Tons of interesting stuff, plus a job application! At British Library.

pub

After parting ways with Bethany, I needed a bit of a walk to let all of that food settle. Naturally, I landed up in a pub drinking an Irish cider, writing postcards while a Highlander in a kilt named Billy sweet-talked me into giving him a peck on the cheek.

photo4

When Lill and I went to Acton Burnell, we were walking back to the car when we found a geocache (http://www.geocaching.com/). It’s hard to say that it was the highlight of our day but it was pretty darn close. At Acton Burnell.

photo3

A baby lamb standing on it’s mother to make friends with a cow. Does it get any more Babe than this?

photo1 (1)

First thoughts upon entering the tube platform: 1) Neat, Chronicles of Narnia! 2) Oh God, Atonement.

british museum

Culturing the Uncultured Swine Within, or The Time I Spent 4 Hours in the British Museum Learning Stuff. In King George’s Library at the British National Museum.

Like all of my trips out and about in Europe, it adds itself to the list of favorite trips. But there was something special about getting to see people who know you from outside of Spain and it was undoubtedly one of the simplest and happiest trips I’ve had whilst being abroad.

Up next: carnaval in Cádiz + a week-long return to the (grand)motherland in Holland

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

bootswriting

On Sunday I had a bus to myself

Day 17 is a photo post, with the prompt “Something I never would’ve seen at home.”

And the question is raised: what haven’t I seen that I never would’ve seen at home? Dublin, Paris, Lagos, Sevilla, Granada, Madrid, and Almeria to start. Cadiz, Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, and London to follow. Mountains and the Mediterranean and cliffs and monuments and cultures. I’ve seen it in boots and Chacos and sneakers. I’ve carried the same maroon satchel that’s become an almost cartoon-like staple for my traveling wardrobe. I’ve traveled by trains and (too many) buses and planes and the occasional automobile.

It’s impossible to choose just one picture so I chose one taken on the last place that I ever expected to become my second-home: seen over the pages of a notebook, the aisle of an ALSA bus.

Tagged , , , , , , ,