Tag Archives: adventure

A is for Abroad

“Being abroad is a strange yet terrifying yet completely liberating and exhilarating experience,” says the girl who has been here all of five days. If we are being real here, I thought I would be gallivanting all over Europe, drinking wine, eating pizza, and practicing my Italian on beautiful willing locals/Armani models. School? What is school? I am just going to travel and tan and be a European for the next few weeks. Hold up, woah, press pause. That is all wrong, my friends. Well, not all of it, but being abroad requires a little hard work and it really reveals who you are when dropped in unfamiliar waters. This is what I have learned these past few days.

Know when it is time to buck up and do something and when it is time to go home. You are abroad, gosh darn it. You obviously did not pay X amount of money to sit in your apartment and watch movies all day. The world is waiting for you! You are here to explore, to practice the language, to meet people, to see things people dream of seeing, to take advantage of life! See it, enjoy it, live it, and take it all in. But if you are ill, injured, or physically exhausted, don’t stress! The Coliseum will be there tomorrow. So will the Eiffel Tower. Maybe even Big Ben. You will have other opportunities but know when the time is right to stay and see or go and rest.

Find a happy medium between comfy and fashion-forward for your clothes. It is no secret that Europeans are world renowned fashion know it alls. I have even seen Roman women treck ruins in Louboutin high heels. True story. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Dress to impress as the Europeans do, but please do not sacrifice your feet to the cobble stones. It really isn’t worth it. I invested in Birkenstocks today (which happen to be alla moda here in Italy) and wow did I not know what I was missing out on. Adjust your closet to your comfort and vise versa, but never sacrifice one for the other. There is always a happy medium.

If you are ill, take action immediately. European pharmacies, unlike American ones, open late and close early. So if you are ill, it really is hard to be proactive. Bring with you extra Advil, a thermometer, an over the counter cold and flu medicine, and an extra pack of band aids from home just in case your local pharmacy is closed. Call a doctor immediately. Often times they do house calls as well!

Explore outside of your host city. I am head over heels in love with Florence but I would be lying if I said I am not psyched to go to Croatia for Ultra Music Festival and to the Amalfi coast. Explore your city, but do not be afraid to get out there and see something new!

Know enough of the language to get directions and ask basic questions. I am currently learning Italian so I am not having many problems getting by here in Florence. But if I was in Paris, Munich, or Copenhagen I would be lost to bits. Knowing how to ask who, what, when, where, how, and why is never a problem. Yes, lots of Europeans speak English but they will be impressed with you- and appreciative- if you try to speak their language.

Keep a journal, a blog, a photo diary, ANYTHING to remember these moments. No, Instagram doesn’t count. Neither does Facebook. It doesn’t matter if writing isn’t your strong suit, you will want to look back at these days with a full and clear memory. It can be just a sentence or two! Write every day so you can always look back.

Make friends. Like, duh. Who doesn’t want to make new friends? Talk with people in your classes, in your program, friends of your roommates, locals even! Invite them out to the bar, invite a group over for dinner, go to gelato, go to a museum, go do anything! You are in a new place. New friends would be a bonus addition.

Focus on your classes. That is the whole reason you are here. Classes are so important I can’t even begin to stress it. You are not in Europe to eat gelato all day (ahh…wishes) and go out every night. Study and study hard so you can play hard. Nobody likes writing a paper or doing a project while your friends are traveling new places and having the time of their lives. Do not procrastinate, study in groups, get your school work done efficiently and yes, make sure it is correct!

A good work ethic in the classroom will make this all happen. Classes are classes and they are important and the reason you are here. But studying abroad is the one chance you have to be out every night with friends, travel the world, meet new people, and make some amazing memories. Do your school work, but make sure you get the full experience.

Originally posted on Memoir of a Cliché, reposted with permission from Ally Arrigo. 

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11 Reasons Interlaken is Heaven in Both Summer and Winter

11. The Jungfrau Mountain

Bernese Oberland tourism destinations

Whether you are skiing down its world class trails or simply ogling at it from town, the Jungfrau Mountain is sent from above.

10. Hike till ya drop

Harder Kulm

Get your lungs ready for the hike of a lifetime! About two hours uphill but, let me tell you, the view of the lakes, Interlaken, and the mountains is more than worth it. If you aren’t into that whole exercise thing, there is a funicular to cruise you right on up so you can still enjoy the views.

9. Hitting the slopes

Ski Trails

If you are the ultimate ski bunny or board rat, Interlaken in the winter is for you. It is the gateway to the Jungfrau mountain trails which give you hours and hours of intense skiing!

8. The sky is not only for clouds

Skydivers

Interlaken is the adventure capital of Europe, and looking up all year long will not only show you clear skies but people floating down. Let your adventure animal roar as you paraglide or skydive from the planes and peaks into the center of Interlaken.

7. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese

Swiss Cheese

If cheese is something you could never live without, get on a plane to Interlaken now! The Swiss cheese there is locally made, and after what seems like just one bite, before you know it, three pounds of this food of the gods has disappeared…

6. Rosti for every meal

Rosti

No matter if it is hot or cold out the best way to chow down in Switzerland is with a traditional Swiss Rosti. Who doesn’t love fried potatoes sometimes garnished with a nice egg on top?!

5. Gatorade blue lakes

Lake Brienz

Taking a leisurely walk through Interlaken will bring you to two different lakes, one of which is the most breathtaking lake you may ever see, known by Interlaken fanatics as Gatorade Blue Lake Brienz.

4. Swiss chocolate

Chocolat

I mean…enough said. A country known for its chocolate is someplace I want to be year round.

3. World class relaxation

Victoria Jungfrau

Interlaken is the home of The Grand Hotel Victoria Jungfrau. Stay at a world class hotel with world class food–and the best part: the Spa has won 5 stars and will take away any aches and pains after a day of adventuring.

2. Water sports for days

Canyoning-Water Sports

While you may think Switzerland means snow and skiing, think again. Interlaken is also known for its white water rafting, canyoning, boating, and more. A basic summer night is turned into romance central when you are lounging by the lake watching the sunset.

1. Dream Land

Lake Thun Sunset

 

Walking through Interlaken is like walking through someplace you thought you could only dream of. With the snow capped mountains behind you and the gleaming lake in front of you, Interlaken will quickly become a place you never want to leave, and when you eventually have to, the spot you want to return to over and over again!

 

Europe’s top 10 adventure experiences

By Emily Rosenbloom and Sara Wiseman

10. Hiking in Cinque Terre
hiking
Lace up your sneakers and get ready to climb. Trails in Cinque Terre offer a stair-filled workout for your buns. The trails also offer incredible views of the towns and coast.

9. Scuba-diving in the French Riviera
scuba
After winning big at the Monte Carlo and living the high life, take a load off and explore Nice’s underwater world.

8. Whitewater Rafting in Croatia
rafting
While this activity gets the adrenaline pumping, visitors should also consider rafting in Croatia for the stunning views.

7. Caving in Budapest
caving
Also known as spelunking, caving is a unique activity that allows you to explore wild cave systems. Why do you want to do this? It’s a unique and beautiful experience in an equally beautiful city!

6. Visiting Morocco
morocco
New continent, new world! Morocco is one of a kind and an experience within its self! If you’re looking for an adventure, Morocco is calling your name.

5. Cliff jumping in Positano
cliff jumping
One word: Awesome!

4. ATV’ing in Greece
atv
Why walk when you can four wheel it around one of Europe’s most ancient cities? It’s the only way to explore Greece!

3. Canyon jumping in Interlaken
canyon jump
One of three places in the world that offers canyon jumping. You’ll take that jump and free fall through the canyon. It’s an adrenaline junkie’s heaven!

2. Surfing in Portugal
surf
Wax up your board and rip the waves. Or, if you’re a newbie, take a lesson to get onto your feet and enjoy the beautiful beaches of Portugal on a different level.

1. Skydiving in Interlaken
skydiving
You’ll never want to leave Interlaken after free falling between the snowy mountains and the two lakes.

Behind the Mainstream Study Abroad – Moments that are Worth Duplicating

Sitting in my apartment, I can hear tourists pass by on the Florentine street outside my window. Some complain about the rain, others comment on how beautiful the Duomo is. Some girls pass talking about day trips they’ll do while they study here, while others scoff at the fact that there’s a Subway Sandwich shop across the street. “Are you kidding?! When there’s an amazing Panini place right around the corner?!” All the conversations are varied, yet so much the same – living or visiting this beautiful city and looking at it through the eyes of a foreigner. But sometimes, I wish I could tell them that they need to stop and step off the main path. Adventure. I wish I could share some experiences that are my favorite – but if you’re reading this – maybe you can recreate these moments.

Sunrise somewhere: Before the tour groups step off their busses, before the restaurants open up their doors and unfurl their tablecloths out into the summer air, stroll the streets of dawn.

We woke when it was dark out and crawled out of bed, fumbling in the unfamiliar hotel room – donning jeans, a sweater, boots that I thought would make me fit in while I was in Italia. Caitlyn looked at me and questioned this decision, is it worth it? I responded with a resounding yes. I had done this before. We stepped outside our hotel – a small canal silently greeting us, a red rowboat sleeping peacefully in off-season air. And then we began, a walk through twisting and turning streets of dormant shops and ornate doors to come up upon the Grand Canal of Venice – just in time to see the golden sunset begin to shed light on the City of Bridges. Below us, the only boats were of the Venetians – Gondoliers uncovering their golden gilded boats, their striped shirts contrasting upon the rose and faded walls of an exhausted city. But in this moment, senza touristi, it became alive again. The real Venice; radiant in life instead of a travel book.

Conversation without Social Media: Turn off your phone when you travel. The person next to you could change your life.

I was lost in Rome, again, but managed to find a bus stop that seemed to point me in the right direction of the Vatican, I hoped. It wasn’t too crowded – not like rush hour when you are pressed up against other bodies, all just desperately clinging onto the bars and handles available. Now, in the evening chill, I stepped lightly into the orange bus and faced forward, beginning to search for signs that confirmed my arrival at the heart of Catholicism. He was quiet at first, and maybe it was my outfit that gave me away, but when the bus came to a stop at the next station, he patted my wrist. “Due piu” he smiled at me behind thick-rimmed glasses. Two more stops until the Vatican. When he realized I could speak minimal Italian, his face brightened, his brown eyes swam and he began teaching me the landmarks that were passing by the window. He spoke about the beauty of women when they don’t wear makeup: “that is when they look most beautiful, when they first wake up in the morning,” and as the Vatican came into view, he grinned, told me to drink the water from the fountains in the square and sent me off. A true Roman, he will be in my memory forever.

Adrenaline: Do something that scares you:

“I can’t wait,” I had boasted as we rode through the Swiss Alps. I saw the guide’s eyes flicker to my face in the rear-view mirror. I loved heights and adrenaline. I had seen my friends jump before, but canyon jumping was new to me – and as we pulled up to the bottom and saw another jumper fall gracefully into the crevice with a loud WHOOP, I was terrifyingly ecstatic. And the higher we climbed up to the platform, the more nerves began to creep into my system. The tremors in my legs began as I was fixed into the harness. I stepped out onto the metal grate with the guide. His smile was trumped by the sheer drop off behind him. “Are you ready?” he asked, and as I turned to face forward, I looked around. The Eiger was to my right – in the setting sun, in all of its glory – a Swiss Alp towered above us. Below, so, so far below, the river crashed over the rocks, daring me to jump, daring me to try and fly. Split second decision, my muscles moved, my feet left solid ground and I was falling, falling so fast, so far, my stomach clenched, my heart raced, it was too far, too fast, a free-fall like a bird soaring, and then the rope caught – swung me through past those that had already jumped, and back again. I could breathe, and as I looked up from where I had just come, I gave a “whoop” of my own. No roller coaster will ever compare.

Delve into other cultures: Break out of your comfort zone to begin to understand others.

“Here, I cannot speak with a girl like this,” he says. His dark brown eyes squint into the Moroccan sun, searching the horizon for the next surge of water from the Atlantic. I don’t understand what he means. I lean forward to look at him closer and the nose of my board settles into the water. He turns and glances at me and then back to the water, his dark brown shoulders glistening with droplets of salt water.

“If I want to speak with a Muslim girl, it is secret. No one can know. Here is one. Turn,” he leans toward me and pushes at my leg, eyes still on the ocean. I look out, see the swell, and obediently turn and lie on my blue and white surfboard, chin hitting wax, resting my eyes on the golden Moroccan sand with Mounir’s board and back to my left. Still sitting, his muscles ripple as he balances.

“That’s stupid,” I say over my shoulder. “How can you talk to them in private if you don’t know them?” The sun is hot. He chuckles and tickles my foot.

“Paddle.”

“I couldn’t be Muslim,” I say as I feel the wave build behind me. He laughs again and takes hold of the back of my board, one hand resting on my calf, he pats it twice. The earthen scent of Argan Oil from his skin drifts towards me on the breeze.

“No…you are too strong….paddle,” he reminds me.

I sweep my hands into the water and under my board, pushing. I hear the wave crashing to the right of me. I feel Mounir push me forward.

“Stand up!” he calls under his French/Arabic accent. The wave carries me from him, surging me toward the beach. I can feel the board bouncing on the tumult. My hands push up against the board, my muscles tense, legs bend. I stand and shift my weight, easing the board into the side of the wave, gliding it down the stretch of water. I push against the water, up and down, pumping the board parallel with the wave until it breaks. I glide to the shore with the foam, jump off, feel the grit of the sand under the soles of my feet. I turn toward the horizon, raising an arm up to shield the sun. His silhouette gives a thumbs up as the ocean glistens behind him.

Run, hike, bike, climb – while you are still young enough:

“You won’t last in jeans,” I tell the guys as they stand in front of me. It’s autumn in the Swiss Alps, about fifty degrees, and I’m in a tank top and shorts. “It’s too rough and you’ll be sweating in about fifteen minutes.” But they were stubborn and came anyway, and as we started our ascent, the hike grew steep and they started stripping layers. I hated to say I told them so. But it didn’t matter – because they were doing it. We talked as we hiked, getting glimpses of the snow-covered alps on the other side of the valley – with the town of Interlaken nestled before us. I learned about the group, their time abroad, their home life, what sports they played, and we stopped to take pictures along the way. It grew steeper, and sweat started pouring, the banter stopped, for we needed to breathe and muscles ached. We climbed up into the mountain pastures, collected water from a hollowed out log used as a basin for the spring water used to satisfy the thirst of the cows that grazed there in the summer – their bells chiming in an unorganized harmony. When we reached the summit, I turned to the group and was met with smiles and astonishment as they looked out over the lakes and mountains. “Thank God I did this and have the ability to do this,” one said to me. Take care of yourself and challenge yourself – for sometimes the best views are at the other end of a climb.

Travel Advice for Flo-Town Peeps – Recommended Places to Visit this Summer!

Summertime travel is simple. There’s less to pack, everything is open, people are happy, and the sun is (usually) shining. Trying to decide where to travel – especially with so many options so close and easy to get to, is difficult. Take it from an experienced traveler; go with your gut feeling. Go where you’re drawn to and don’t second guess your decisions. Feel like the Swiss Alps would fit you like a glove? You’re probably right. Rather just hang on the beach all day? Positano on the Amalfi Coast is calling your name. But if you’re bad at decisions, Bus2alps may be able to help you out a bit. Let’s look at the options of getting you out of Flo-town: There’s almost too many to mention, but for an ideal travel schedule – hitting all of the main points, this is a list of a few suggestions to get your mind reeling about the possibilities:

Amalfi: Some of the bluest water you’ve ever seen, black sand beaches that make your skin glow with the summer sun, towns built up on breathtaking cliffs painted with beautiful pastels, and seafood that is out of this world. Welcome to the Amalfi Coast. Bus2alps has you staying in beautiful Sorrento, and then transports you to the Isle of Capri, Positano, and stops in Pompeii on the way home. A perfect mix of touring, beach time, and historical sites – there’s a reason why this tour has won awards in the past. Go cliff jumping, browse the coral jewelry, sip on limoncello on the rooftop terrace of Seven Hostel, and enjoy a weekend in paradise.

Rome: Though Florence is gorgeous, the Eternal city is just a few hours south and well worth the journey. Head to Rome and explore the sights you’ve had in your history books for ages. Walk through the Coliseum and picture the Gladiators, picture the war celebrations parading through the Forum, throw that coin over your shoulder at the Trevi fountain, and end the day with a look up at the ceiling of the Pantheon. Then head out to explore the illuminated city – Vatican, the Spanish steps, and check out a few of Bus2alps’s favorite restaurants and nightlife spots along the way. It’s a weekend roaming Rome and well worth it.

French Riviera: Spend a weekend pretending to be famous (or maybe even taste a little bit of real fame) while strolling the French Riviera with the likes of Beyonce, Keith Urban, Jennifer Aniston, and the Kardashians. Head to Wayne’s Bar and dance above the crowd, and maybe even find someone with a yacht that’s feeling generous enough for guests (no, but really, it’s happened). During the day, travel to Eze, Monaco and Antibes, hit up the Monte Carlo Casino and try your luck. This place will require a little shopping, but that’s the perfect excuse to get a nice Italian suit or a new pair of heels, right? Plus, needless to say, the beaches are gorgeous.

Munich: Though Springfest may be over, Munich is still bustling with life in the summer when the snow has cleared and the people are out in the streets. Take a bike tour and learn a little history – you can even have a sobering visit to Dachau, the local concentration camp and remember how recent history really is. Then spend the night meeting the locals in the beer halls and gardens all while making sure you get in that taste of perfect brews and the biggest bratwurst you’ll ever see.

Croatia: Picture it: you get off the bus and begin your walk through a rainforest – the roots of the trees are tangled above crystal clear water swimming with fish swimming against the current. You’re walking on wooden paths twisting and turning among the vines. Waterfalls can be heard in the distance. On your left and right, meadows flourish with little purple flowers – a carpet of sweet scented beauty and finally, you round a bend and see the most beautiful tumult of waterfalls with a pool at the bottom of emerald water. The swimming is gorgeous. This is just the last day of your time in Croatia. Before this, you’ve been whitewater rafting and island hopping off the coast of Split. Yes, it is a little bit longer of a bus ride, but the beauty is worth it.

Prague: Spend a weekend in the city of fairy tales  Watch the clock tower, riddled with myths and legends, come to life on the hour and ring out over beautiful architecture and the river below. Then, visit the “happily ever after” John Lennon wall – where words and art depicting peace and love will make your cameras glow and your hearts grow two sizes bigger, plus you can leave your own mark. Remember to bring a sharpie! At night after a day of beauty, meet up with your group to head out onto town and maybe even finish at one of Bus2alps’s favorites – Lucerna a club that plays the best of the best 90’s music.

Cinque Terre: Only a two hour drive from Florence, Cinque Terre is a gorgeous one-day getaway that is good for those that want some time in Florence for the weekend, but still go to somewhere beautiful on the coast. Spend the day hiking between towns, or sun bathing on the cliffs or on the beach in Monterosso. Eat tons of pesto-covered things like focaccia bread and pizza. Get a pina colada and use your photography skills for the brightly colored towns precariously perched on the cliffs. It’s a day getaway to get out of the stone of Florence, and you’ll be back to go out that night!

These are just a few places that we’d recommend for the summer – of course there are many more that may peak your interest, but now is the time to plan! Get moving.