Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dancing Across Europe: The Video

Luckily when I suggested to Angie that we dance across Europe, she was 100% on board. I'm so glad, because now we have this!

Yes we are giant dorks.  Am I happy about that? Absolutely!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now What?

Now that graduation weekend has passed, my bags are unpacked, and I am finally over my jetlag, it is time to figure out what I get to do this summer.  Earlier this year I mentioned plans of going to Central America and South America, mainly with the goal to learn Spanish and travel with Kevin. About a month after a wrote that, I realized that I was being a bit too ambitious. Plus, there was still so much in Austin I wanted to do that I felt like I was already missing out by traveling.

Which brings me to my updated summer.  I have five must-happen goals, and otherwise I am pretty open.  Here they are:

1) Take Spanish lessons in Austin.  I am hopeful I found an outlet for this, but I'm open to more options.

2) Learn Excel like a pro.  Start with the training guides my new employer has given me, and then get even better.

3) Spend a ton of time with my dogs + Joe.  If my dogs can come with me somewhere, I am bringing them. I missed them so much while abroad.  (Side note: if anyone wants to have playdates, please let me know!!! I bet Sam would be willing to share the pool.)

4) Do physical activity at least 5-6/week, but with some requirements.  First, I want to love it and not have it feel like a burden.  Second, I want it to be flexible so I don't feel guilty leaving town. Third, I want to start my new job feeling/looking great and having a routine that is sustainable.

In regards to my fourth goal, I need help. There are so many options I can choose from, and I don't know where to start or which to pick. Bikram yoga, crossfit, personal training, rejoining Golds, joining a different gym, Camp Gladiator, running, masters swimming? I want to do all of it! But I don't want to do ALL of it. 

I'm going back to my podiatrist tomorrow. My feet were killing me the last five months, and it certainly made working out less fun. I'm going to hear what he says, and go from there. But as always, I welcome opinions and invitations. :)

5) Scuba certification. This starts next Wednesday!

What else is planned for the summer? Working with my dad, girls weekend in Birmingham, family vacation, lots of time visiting the library, watching old movies, taking as many walks as possible, hanging out with my friends, donating most of my stuff to Goodwill, cooking, practicing Spanish, rejoining Toastmasters, and saying "yes" when people invite me to do something.

Let the summer begin!!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

MBA Graduation!

I would normally use this post to reflect on my MBA experience. Luckily, I already did that here!

Angie & I made it back in time to graduate!
Thanks Dean!

Joe deserves to share this degree with me.

Winners!! Most supportive parents!
 And now begins summer vacation!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thoughts on Five Months Away

As I head back to Austin for my MBA graduation, I've been giving some thought into what I have learned over the past five months in Europe. I am sure that I will be thinking about this for months to come, but for now I wanted to put some thoughts in writing.

1. Living in Europe: Game On! I might as well start with this as it was the biggest test of all. Joe, who spent nearly two years living abroad in Dublin, told me at the beginning of this adventure that I would walk away with one of two conclusions. First, I would love Europe and want to move there. Second, I would enjoy my time but determine that I never want to move to Europe. Well, this probably is not a shock, but I definitely want to live in Europe. Or at least somewhere that is not the US. It is such a different experience and lifestyle, and I loved it. In the past few years, I've positioned myself to make an international opportunity a real potential, so we will see what happens.

2. Connectivity + Deliberate Communication. I had a cheap cell phone in Spain which I rarely used, and thus relied on an internet connection for everything. If I was going somewhere new, I had to map out a route in advance instead of rely on real-time google maps. I went long periods without email. I haven't sent a text message in five months. But I actually really enjoyed this because I had to be deliberate when I used the internet, thinking out what information I would need before the next period of disconnectivity. Ironically, I feel like my communication improved too. I used my internet time to Facetime with my parents, call Joe, and respond to emails. I stayed off Facebook for the last month, and this made talking with people intentional. I enjoyed using my blog as a mass form of communication. I also liked being disconnected, too. It's so rare to experience that in the US. Somehow I doubt this will continue once I'm back, but I'm glad to know I am capable of disconnecting.

3. Consumerism. I am not really a shopper, as I don't really like to spend money on physical things. However, I realized how much of consumerist lifestyle I was leading in Texas. With no Targets to drop $50+ without realizing it, nor stores with things I felt I needed, nor storage space to bring things home... I basically stopped shopping unless I really needed something. I would love to continue this upon returning. I was totally sufficient for 30 days with just a backpack, so that should be a guide for how much stuff I own.

4. Walking. I got a little obsessed with how many steps and how many miles we clocked every day. (We averaged 9.4/day in case anyone is wondering.) I had no idea I loved walking so much, and I really hope to keep that up back home. Obviously it helps relying on public transportation and not having a car, but I might just be one of those pedometer-obsessed people even when I'm not traveling. I guess I should add how much I enjoyed not driving. It's obviously easier in cities that are made to be accessible via public transport, and I suppose that demonstrates that I would like to live in a city like that.

5. Sam + June. I had no idea I would miss my dogs so much. I totally turned into a crazy dog lady, uttering "ohmygosh! thatdogissocute! puppies!!" at each dog I saw. I can't wait to go kiss June's face!

6. Travel-snobbery. I can't help it, but I have developed a bit of travel-snobbery. By this, I mean that it takes more and more to impress me when I travel. I am probably going to get ostracized for this, but places like Paris or Prague do not impress me anymore. Luckily, I found that I still can go to new places that are ridiculously impressive. (Take Dubrovnik, Pompeii, and Rothenburg for instance.) I think this also means I need to branch out from Europe because I know there is a whole world waiting to take my breath away.

7. FOMO-Guilt, i.e Some things never change. I went through some guilty-feeling times where I felt like I was not making the most of my exchange adventure. I didn't want to start partying at 10:00pm, or go out every night, and because of this I missed getting to know a large number of students at ESADE. However, it's just not my style and I learned to be okay meeting a smaller number of people and living the way I wanted. I kept a quote from Jen in my phone whenever I was veering down the FOMO-guilt path: "I don't feel like I'm missing out if I'm doing something else that makes me happy."

8. Language. I wish I had been able to learn more Spanish while in Spain. I can come up with a ton of excuses, but at the end of the day I just didn't do enough to learn it. My goal is to remedy this during the summer. On a larger scale, I am totally embarrassed that I only know English while most of Europe knows a minimum of two languages. I have a huge sense of regret for not sticking with Spanish in high school and college.

9. Travel Love: Of course I am excited to come home and see people, play with my pups, sleep in my own bed, do laundry whenever I want, and establish routine again. Not living out of a backpack will be nice, no doubt! But the travel bug has permanently implanted itself in me and I already can't stop thinking about where I can travel to next. The above part where I talked about not wanting to spend money on physical things... well I hope to spend all of that saved money on travel for many many years to come.

10. People: I met some pretty damn awesome people. I think it's important to be open to meeting people while on the road, and in many ways I wish I had been more outgoing. (Yes, I said I need to be more outgoing. That actually happened.) I should have worn more "U of Texas" stuff - that's a great conversation starter anywhere in the world.

There aren't really any great breakthroughs in all of this. Perhaps trying to learn Spanish, spend less, walk more, and be deliberate with the Internet. I'm excited to put these into place upon returning. However, I am so glad I am coming out of this experience knowing that living in a different part the world is something I do in fact want to do. (Versus something I say I want to do.) This was such a safe way to figure this out, so I'm excited to see what will happen in the next few years.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Eurotrip: Cinque Terre

I am so glad we chose to visit the Cinque Terre for our last stop of the Eurotrip. Everyone I know who has visited this region of Italy raves about it, and now I know why. We had another long travel day, starting in Pompeii and stopping in Florence before ending in Riomaggiore. On the last leg, our train went through a dark tunnel with portions of rock cut out that gave us the most beautiful views of the ocean. When we stepped on to the platform, this was our view.
Angie and I were so happy!

We found our b&b at the top of the hill, got settled, took a trampoline stop (?!!), and then watched the sun set over the Cinque Terre. It was perfect!

The next morning we headed back down the hill to the harbor, before heading to the train station.
Seriously, is this real?!
This is part of the tunnel that connects the town to the station. The mosaics were so cool.
While at the train station, we decided to visit the town on the other side of the Cinque Terre and leave our backpacks there. It seemed that most of the towns looked really similar, and we didn't feel like trekking with our bags. The CT is known for hiking between each of the five villages, but some of the trails were closed and honestly we are pretty much over walking everywhere. So this solution worked great.

When we arrived in Monterosso, this was our view.

We dropped our bags at a laundry mat who offered left luggage services before wandering around the coast and through the town. Photo dump begins now.

It took us about three hours to wander, eat a leisurely lunch, and hang out on the beach. I think it would be amazing to actually hike from town to town, but that will be for another time. At this point, I am really happy with everything we saw. It was such a pretty place to close out the vacation-ish part of our journey.
I had one last mission before we stepped on the train: Italian gelato!

I'm not sure what has happened to me, but once we got to our destined gelato stop, I didn't want any. That means I have gone through days in Italy without any gelato at all. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or worried with myself.

We hopped on a direct train to Milan at 3:00, then another to the airport, then cabbed to our hotel. Holiday Inn Airport Express... luxury! Today we fly to Barcelona and then tomorrow I fly back to Dallas. I can't believe the trip is coming to an end. I should probably save those thoughts for another post. To be continued!




Eurotrip: Train Blogging

Yesterday Angie & I took the last train of our trip. We went from Monterossa to Milan, and then the Airport Express to the Milan Malpensa airport. In honor of our last train ride, I thought I would share what it looks like when I blogged from the train. (Even though it was generally the only time I blogged, I rode the train just about every day!)

Side note: the Eurail pass definitely paid for itself throughout this trip! Also, Angie is a train whiz now - she was in charge of transportation, and she was flawless!


Saturday, May 11, 2013


I have my parents and grandma to thank for my love of travel. From elementary school to high school, they sent me to eight months of summer camp, solo-trips to Ohio, spring breaks in Wyoming, work/play trips to San Francisco and England, and on a six week trip to Israel. When I was 20, I convinced them we needed a family trip to Paris and Rome over summer break. I guess the travel bug bit early!

My visited countries are starting to add up!

  1. Mexico
  2. England
  3. Israel
  4. France
  5. Italy
  6. New Zealand
  7. India
  8. Belgium
  9. Holland
  10. Ireland
  11. Scotland
  12. Switzerland
  13. Spain
  14. Hungary
  15. Austria
  16. Germany
  17. Morocco
  18. Czech Republic
  19. Portugal
  20. Denmark
  21. Sweden
  22. Slovakia
  23. Croatia
  24. Montenegro

That makes 4(5) continents: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and arguably Australia if NZ counts? Even as I have friends (ah hem, Kevin) that have been all over the world, I'm really happy with my travels so far.


Looks like I need to head to South America next! Or Antarctica anyone?


Eurotrip: Pompeii

Pompeii = Mind Blown.
I don't even know what to say about this place!! I'm at a loss for words to demonstrate how incredible it was. And this is coming from a girl who really does not like looking at ruins. This post has turned into a giant photo-dump, but again I am somewhat word-less.

To say Pompeii is a big site is an understatement. One could explore all day long and still not see it all. Here is an example of an average street. (Before the tour buses came, of course!) The stones in the middle of the "road" are ancient crosswalks over the gutter-like streets.

So not *everything* is original in Pompeii... but pretty darn close!

The details uncovered on the walls were gorgeous.

This was part of a ceiling!

These lions represent the base of a table from the first person to try to overthrow Caesar! How do historians figure this stuff out?!

Beware of dog!

This is what McDonalds looked like in 79 AD.

Angie and I had debated getting a tour guide to help us understand the site better. The 100 euro price tag helped our decision. It turned out we didn't need one because one of the guards befriended us and took us on a private tour. Seriously!!?!!

First he showed us where the plaster bodies were located. They represented three families who died from asphyxiation. (Yes, it was creepy and very sad.)

Then he took us behind some fences to a Palace of Venus that was under renovation. The frescoes were out of this world!

Then he took us to another site that was in the process of being uncovered/renovated. We had trouble translating his Italian, but I think it was a bathhouse/gymnasium/something? We were able to determine there were pools, saunas, and lounges.

I loved this fresco!

And this was the swimming pool. Seriously, the early Romans had it good!

I would have loved Pompeii even without some VIP treatment, but I admit that it totally added to the experience. There is something so cool about bypassing the barriers and being taken to the special, off-limit places. I'm not sure if our guard was bored, good-natured, or just happy to watch two American girls giddily snap pictures. Whatever it was, I am thankful!
Another highlight was the giant amphitheater, which Angie and I had all to ourselves thanks to arriving so early in the day.
One other interesting place we visited was the Lupanare, or House of Prostitution. I will keep this post PG (hi Mom & Dad) but it was certainly interesting to see how, er, open the early Romans were! Most of Pompeii's "erotic art" has been removed and is kept in a recently opened secret collection in Naples. But there were still some interesting things to see in the Lupanare. It was definitely one of the most popular places to visit at Pompeii.
I fear I may be sounding like a broken record, but I just can't get over how incredible of a place Pompeii is. To think there is still so much more to uncover. (Is it too late to switch careers and become an archeologist?)
I will definitely be renting as many documentaries as possible about Pompeii when I get back. I want to know so much more! I can solidly say that this was one of the best interesting places I have been in my entire life, and a true highlight of my amazing adventure.