Budget Travel: Accommodation

I am a budget traveler.

I have never had much money to spend, and once I caught the travel bug (after being a part of a short study abroad program in Ireland which was thankfully funded by my university), I realized how tight my daily budget really was. Coming from Hawaii, everything is expensive— rent, food, gas— everything. Saving enough money to do something “luxurious” like traveling is a test of will, income, and faith. There were many days when I had to weigh my dreams of traveling again against what I was going to eat that day, or for the rest of the week really.

That being said, I did manage— over the course of a year and a half— to save enough money to travel with. But even after all that time of saving money, I still didn’t have enough for a week at a resort or eating out at five star restaurants, and I wanted to make my time abroad last.

I am a traveler that travels to experience new cultures, languages, foods, and ways of life— not to feel pampered or as if I am on vacation the entire time. Travel is a source of learning and growth for me, not just relaxation (though obviously I enjoy some of that too). So in the months leading up to my departure I did a lot of research on how to save money primarily on accommodation and transportation, and how to keep myself out of the tourist mill as much as possible.

In this week’s post I will focus on accommodation services. Though my research turned up many resources, I will write about the ones that I used myself or felt would have been the most helpful while I was traveling.

Work Away

This was my favorite accommodation resource, and I used it for my time in both Italy and Spain. This website links volunteers with those who need volunteer work, most often in return for a place to sleep and usually some meals. Other times volunteers will be given a small stipend and a place to stay in place of meals, or some other variant of give and take.

When you create a profile through Work Away you will be able to view and contact the profile pages of the hosts that you may be interested in. Every host page includes a rating (as left by volunteers who have stayed with them), a section for comments or reviews, and of course, an outline of who the host is, where they are, what their availability is, what services they are looking for, and what qualities they may be seeking in a volunteer. Once you find a host you are interested in staying with, you can contact them through the site and hope that they respond!

A great way to enhance your chances of getting a reply is to spend time and effort on making your volunteer page (your profile) as accurate and interesting as possible. For example, I highlighted my love for the English language and my tutoring experience on my profile and in the course of a couple of months I received about a dozen requests to teach English to children from across Europe.

Work Away is a wonderful resource if you like to volunteer or give back to the communities that you visit in your travels, and if you like the idea of spending time with “local” people as opposed to tourism industry workers and other tourists. Hosts can be found in essentially every country around the world, and you can find volunteer work for virtually any interest— teaching English to children, restoring old buildings, working in gardens, work at bed and breakfasts, hostels, and hotels, animal care, house sitting, and many others.

Just so you know…

I must stress that every host is different. Hosts decide as individuals if they would like to host you or not, and an agreement on the time and length of your stay, your transportation, and other variables must be discussed directly with them. If you have issues, the Work Away staff is there to lend a hand, but they cannot force a host to accept you or change a host’s mind on what is required by a volunteer, etc.

There is also the matter that this service is not free. As someone who is not a member, you can view host profiles but you cannot directly contact the hosts without paying the fee of about 35 euro per year. I am not usually one to pay for these sorts of things, but in a lonely and worried moment in a hostel in Bath, I decided to take the plunge and I am so happy that I did!

My Experience

I spent five weeks in Bracco, Italy helping run a bed and breakfast that overlooked the little town of Moneglia and the sea. My host cooked three delicious traditional Italian meals per day, and some of my best memories were of helping cut vegetables and speaking our broken English and Italian back and forth. He took me and the other volunteers to nearby cities and I saw more of the beach during my time in Italy than I had seen in two years back home in Hawaii. I got to greet guests from all over the world (one of my favorite things was trying to figure out which language I would be hearing in response to my Ciao!), and made some very dear friends during my time there. I spent the mornings cleaning, doing laundry, and singing to myself and the afternoons lounging in the sun on the beach or reading a book in a corner of the garden shaded by grape vines. I cried when I left because my time there and the people I met became a part of my heart.

I also used Work Away for my time in Barcelona, Spain. For two weeks I spent weeknights helping teach young people Spanish, and spent the days and weekends exploring the magnificent city of Barcelona. My host was enormously kind, provided me meals, and took me on multiple tours of Barcelona in her free time. It was my first time alone in a big foreign city and I could not have felt more safe or at home knowing there was someone I could turn to if I really needed it. This peace of mind alone was worth my membership fee, and all of the experiences, people I met, and great times that I had were priceless.

Couch Surfing

I must begin by saying that I did not actively use this resource during my travels as I ended up solidifying plans through Work Away and by staying with friends, but I spent a good deal of time on the site during my travels and I asked multiple people that I met while traveling about their experiences with it— all of which seemed positive.

Couch Surfing is wonderful because first of all, it’s free.

You can make an account and create a profile where you can share a bit about yourself, your interests, and your travels. You can even add what countries you plan on visiting and when. Your account will also have an area for references, where people who have hosted you (and people that you have hosted) can leave a review about the experience, or where a friend who knows you can leave a personal reference (this really helps for people who are new to the platform as hosts are more likely to host those who have reviews).

There are hosts for Couch Surfing all over the world, and one of the great things about this resource is that nothing is expected of you (if a host decides to have you) other than showing up and leaving when you agreed, being respectful, and maybe bringing a little gift of appreciation (this last part is not required or even directly suggested, but it seems like a good rule, doesn’t it?). Most Couch Surfing hosts are on the site to enjoy cultural exchange opportunities. So for example, if you plan on staying with someone in Paris and you come from Seoul, maybe bring some popular candies or a post card from home, or use your cooking skills to cook them a “traditional” meal or share your language with them. This is part of what makes Couch Surfing such a fun community.

Just so you know…

Though Couch Surfing does have a sort of support team, it is a little less secure than other resources may be. What I’m saying is that it pays to be smart and selective when offering to host someone or when you are traveling and are looking for a place to stay. This is when references and profiles come in handy. Of course, there may be some great people out there who haven’t managed to rack up any shining reviews yet, but all I’m saying is be careful and be smart, as you always should when traveling.

My “Experience”

Though I did not directly have an experience with Couch Surfing, a dear friend of mine who I met in Italy told me that she has been both a host and a guest, and both experiences went very well for her. My Work Away host in Spain also uses Couch Surfing, and has hosted dozens of people from all across the globe (she even has a map in the spare bedroom where every guest can add a pin to identify where they come from). She is a leader of the Barcelona Couch Surfing forum— the group that listens to people’s concerns and issues as they may crop up— and after seeing her dedication to it, I had a lot more hope in the safety and kindheartedness of the Couch Surfing community as a whole.

I was thankfully able to receive a personal reference for my Couch Surfing profile from each of these wonderful ladies, and I created one for each of them. So hopefully next time I find myself traveling, Couch Surfing will be a useful resource for me.

These are the two accommodation resources that I found to be the most useful or prevalent for me in my travels. As I stated previously, there are other resources out there, which I will more than likely write about in the weeks to come, but these two provide people across the world with opportunities to travel affordably and also help form a community around travelers.

Next week I will post about the most budget-friendly transportation services that I found and what my experiences with them was like.

If you have any other suggestion for resources drop them in the comments!

(Image is of one of my favorite places in the world— the living room and kitchen area of the Bed and Breakfast called Bella Vita, in Bracco, Italy— where I had many delicious meals, conversations, and quiet cups of tea.)

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A (Very) Brief History Lesson: Christmas

Christmas has become more than a holiday—it’s a state of mind, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, it’s a celebration that lasts for some people from the end of November until the end of December. It’s celebrated in some incarnation all across the world. Some local news stations in America even have a “Santa tracker” on Christmas Eve. This holiday has a long history, and the modern concept of Christmas has evolved out of various traditions.

The Winter Solstice— often referred to as Yule in various pagan traditions— has long been celebrated. This day marks the longest night of the year, and was celebrated as the beginning of the end of the darkest parts of winter. In Rome, the festival of Saturnalia also occurred around this time, and consisted of much feasting and partying.

It was around the fourth century when the Christian church decided to take advantage of the festivities of this time of the year, and dedicated December 25th as the birth day of Jesus. (It’s unlikely just a coincidence that the birth of a Roman deity named Mithras was also said to take place on December 25th, for which there was a festival held in parts of the Roman Empire.)

As with Easter, Christmas became a Christianized holiday, built on the bones of pagan traditions. By the Middle Ages, the holiday was a part of societies across Europe. This tradition was temporarily dampened in the 17th century by Oliver Cromwell, who, being a Puritan, attempted to abolish Christmas. Of course this didn’t last long, and the holiday was brought back to its newfound Christian glory. It also faced some obstacles when arriving in America, but found its footing by the 1800s, which was partially led along by the written works of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens (think The Christmas Carol).

Christmas is now celebrated in many different ways. In Europe, Christmas markets full of goodies and crafts are popular during the holiday season. In America, the commercial frenzy begins the day after Thanksgiving and stretches until the end of December. Most countries have their own interpretations of the holiday as well. Some of my favorite renditions of the Christmas holiday come from Catalonia— which involves the personification of a log whom you feed throughout the month and the climax of which includes hitting the log with sticks, singing a sort of carol, and then receiving gifts in return (there’s more to this but it would take some time to explain)— and Iceland— where, to my understanding, Christmas Eve is dedicated to books and chocolate.

No matter how it’s celebrated, Christmas is a great excuse to spend time with family, eat delicious foods, and veg out on the couch in your pajamas all day. Wishing you all a wonderful— if belated— holiday season!

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“Tourist” vs “Traveler”: How to Travel and Grow

It is interesting being a traveler when I live in one of the most tourism-based places in the world.

Hawaii is famous all over the world and hailed as a place full of culture, sunshine, and good times. I have grown up being surrounded by tourism, working to serve tourists, and being a part of a place both reliant upon and also somewhat repulsed by its tourism status.

Living in such a tourist-centered place has given me a lot of experience in how to act as a visitor in my travels. The words “tourist” and “traveler” are often juxtaposed, and I abide by this somewhat unspoken rule of phrasing as well. To me, a tourist is someone who visits a place for the typical sites, who expects to be served, and who comes to see a place, not to interact with it or learn from it. A traveler is a seeker of inspiration and information, who visits a place to become a part of it or to grow from the experience. Due to my experience with tourists, I have always strived to be a traveler, and I have worked to amend my travel habits as much as I can to fit the role. Here are some of my personal goals as a traveler when visiting a place, so as not to come across as a (rude) tourist:

Be aware: This includes being aware of how your culture may not be the same as the one you are visiting and making an effort to be flexible and understanding of those around you, especially those who live in that place.

Be willing to learn: Do not come to a place expecting to know it all. Be open to learning the language, culture, and aspects of day-to-day living. (My number one suggestion, especially for those looking to come to Hawaii, is to at least attempt to learn how to pronounce some words in the local language. It goes a long way to show respect for the place and the people.)

Put your privilege away: No matter where you go, there are people there just living their lives, just like everywhere else. Their neighborhood or city is not your theme park, and people there do not exist to serve you. In most tourist-heavy places, many local people are essentially forced into the tourism industry due to a lack of other work. Respect that, and be aware that your travels may make up a week or two of your life, but these people need to live and work here every day.

Give back: This is something that I always work to improve on in my travels. I feel that you should always leave a place better than how you found it, even if it is in some small, unnoticed way. This can be done through anything, like volunteering, to giving a service worker an extra tip or a smile. Or my favorite, asking everyone that I can how their day is going, and genuinely listening to what they have to say. You can do so much for someone just by showing that you care.

Always try something new: This is more of a personal self-improvement goal, but I think that it plays a role in how you interact with the world around you as a traveler. Whether it’s a language, food, or cultural custom, making the effort to partake in the culture and place around you is a key to being a traveler, rather than just a tourist.

Exploring the world should be fun and accessible for everyone. It is not my intention to shame anyone who may have a different method of traveling than I do, but I do feel that it is important to provide information and ideas for tourists and travelers as someone who has been both a visitor as well as on the other end of the tourism industry. 


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The Interim: Hilo, Hawaii

This is my first time writing since I arrived “home” in Hilo, Hawaii.

This is the part of travel that many travel writers don’t discuss— the end, the interim between one dream chasing mission and another, the period of stasis interrupting adventures.

I personally do not deal with this period of time very well.
As a person who loves travel, trying new things, hearing many languages, meeting new people, and learning about architecture, art, history, and other cultures, living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is far, far less than ideal.

The place that I come from may appear to people passing through as a beautiful, small sea side town— but appearances come with a price. A fraction of the reality is this:

It has a terrible education system, a sky-high crime rate (for such a small place), is lacking in opportunities of any kind (good luck finding a good job or starting a career), has absolutely nothing to do, is “cheap” but still has a disproportionate cost of living, and is constantly hailed as a great place to live with literally no evidence of such a thing being true. So when you tell people that it is not the right place for you, they insist that maybe you are not trying hard enough to be happy or need to just “think more positively”.

That being said, I can honestly say that the threat of lava, hurricanes, and tsunamis is the least stressful thing about living here.

There is always a reality behind every place that you visit. There are always people living their every day lives there— working their jobs, tending to their families, and just trying to stay afloat. I think that many tourists tend to overlook this. There is no such thing as paradise.

One of the only things I appreciate about this place is that it taught me so much about how necessary it is to grow, how much I actually love my family (I never, ever would have come back if I didn’t), and how to conduct myself as a person in the world (mainly through examples of how NOT to be, as seen through locals and tourists here).

So here is to the travelers whose flight feathers have been temporarily plucked, those who need time to regrow their wings or refill their wallets.

I’m there with you.


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Maui, Hawaii: Returning “Home”

Home means a lot of different things to different people.
We all come from somewhere that in our heart of hearts is the source of our origin, whether that be where we were born, raised, or took that deep sigh and thought “this is it, this is where I belong”.

I find a little bit of home everywhere, in areas scattered across the globe.
I was born on the island of Maui, in Hawaii.
I was raised on the Big Island of Hawaii (otherwise known as Hawaii Island).
I found myself at home in the hillsides of Ireland, in a small beach town in Italy, and again in a little village in Germany.

And of course, I leave a little sliver of my heart in every place that I visit— a bit more in some places than others.

It seems fitting that after months of seeing new places and leaving bits of my heart behind, I would find myself returning to the place that I was born. To many people, the place that I come from is paradise— white sand beaches, palm trees, exotic flowers, and kind people, on a land secluded from the rest of the world. On some level, it is comprised of these things, and does hold a magic that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, but as is always the case, there is far more to a place than what you may see on post cards and television shows. There is a reality that escapes the attention of most people, even those who find themselves here.

Over the next few weeks I will give a deeper look into Hawaii as it really is. For now, I am sitting on a lanai overlooking the Pacific Ocean , watching palm trees sway in the breeze, hearing the waves crash, and smelling the sweet scent of a plumeria tree in the near distance. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling just a little of the magic that I haven’t felt in so long. I want to thank all of the people that I met on my travels that made me see the magic of their own lives, and made me realize that maybe I have some of that magic to share as well.


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Miami Beach: Sunshine and Changed Minds

I think that every traveler has a bucket list of must-visit places humming in the back of their mind at all times. With each trip, the goal becomes to visit as many of those places as they can, and to see as many of the sights as possible. Greece, Scotland, Portugal, and Morocco are still at the very top of my list of places to see, though sometimes— as was my case— decisions have to be made and some places have to be shelved for “next time”. That being said, you may also find yourself in completely unexpected places for infinite reasons— I’m referring mainly to Germany on this one. I have yet to set foot anywhere in the world— outside of my home state— that didn’t feel like a wonderful adventure, but I’ve also been rather selective in deciding where to visit.

Now I am in Florida, literally the last place on Earth that I ever expected to be. I actually made quite a point during one period of my life not to come to Florida, ironically enough. Coming from a tropical climate myself, I didn’t see the appeal of humid days, brightly dressed crowds, and skyscrapers blocking once pristine views of the sea. I built an image in my head of what Florida would be, and nearly missed out on a wonderful opportunity to visit a place brimming with culture, fantastic food, and a history much more vast than I previously imagined. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is full of skyscrapers, brightly dressed tourists, and its fair share of humidity, but the reality is so much more colorful and exciting than that. I am thankful to be spending my time here with family, and if it wasn’t for them, I likely never would have set foot in this state at all. I’m realizing now that would have been a shame.

Though I’m not making my way to Disney World or Key West (this time!), I have found myself in the Miami Beach area (thanks to my wonderful family for having me, of course) and I think that is more than enough for a first timer.

Some of the things that strike me most about Miami Beach:

The colors! Miami has not let the Art Deco era die. Some of the various flamingo pink buildings can come across as a bit much, but hey, at least it’s a city that knows itself and isn’t afraid to undeniably Miami.

The beach! I’m an ocean lover, and could never see myself living anywhere too far from the sea for very long. The long, white sand beaches may be a little less magical due to the fact that they are partially man made, but a sunset looks just as beautiful from any beach in the world to me.

The cultures! I was somehow not prepared for the international flare of Miami. It makes complete sense of course, as it serves as a sort of gateway between North America, South America, and parts of Europe. I can walk into a grocery store and see holiday posters with the Star of David, buy a magazine in Spanish, visit a bookstore and find a selection of books in foreign languages, or can say “Hello”, “Hallo”, “Ciao”, or “Hola” and be greeted with a smile.

The food! One of my favorite things about virtually every place I visit will inevitably be the food. The blend of Cuban, Caribbean, other Latin foods, as well as more “new wave” options— like vegan food— and everything else in between allows anyone to find something that they will enjoy. (I tried fried plantains for the first time and am upset that I have been missing out on this for all my life.)

Of course, like any place, Miami has its problems. Like many other tourist or luxury driven economies, Miami thrives on a particular subset of people and industries. This can make every day living difficult for people in “off season” times, or when there are other patterns of change that cause instability. Florida also suffers from the simple issue that it is part of a nation that is undergoing great— and sometimes terrifying— social, economic, and cultural changes as a whole, all of which have a trickle down effect to the every day people living in cities like these. (Florida is a “red” state in spite of the multicultural atmosphere of some of its cities, which is a whole other conversation.)

Of course as a visitor, Miami is not particularly affordable. It has an air of luxury, pride, and vanity that isn’t necessarily rooted in a bad place, but does set a certain image and draws in a particular group of people. If you’re like me— living life on a shoestring— it may not be a super welcoming city, at least to your wallet. That being said, if you have a need to live in America with a desire to travel internationally, and perhaps with an affinity for sunshine, a fast paced life, and spicy food, Miami isn’t a terrible place to look.

If I have learned anything from my time in Miami it is that you can find beauty and excitement anywhere. I have at times heard travelers say “I have no interest in ever going there” or “It’s not really my scene”— yes, by this I mainly mean me— but Miami has been the city to convince me that maybe there really is something amazing to find in every little corner of our big, beautiful world. So thank you Miami, for the family time, the sunshine, the fried plantains, and the epiphanies.

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Thanksgiving: Understanding the Real History and Decolonizing the “American” Holiday

Thanksgiving is a beloved American holiday. People eat gluttonous amounts of food, gather with family, and celebrate the Pilgrims feasting before their first harsh winter on their newfound American soil. This is the idea perpetuated for generations by “Americans”, most of whom are the descendants of individuals who immigrated to the continent and decided to claim everything they set their eyes upon. The reality of this history is not a part of the master narrative of the American understanding of Thanksgiving. The entire history of the Native American peoples has not been included— or in some cases, completely fabricated— in many education systems across the country, and the current displacement and abuse of these peoples continues to be overlooked or ignored.

I have never been very comfortable with the holiday of Thanksgiving due to its history— one based in cruelty, erasure, and genocide. This year, I am visiting family for the holiday, and I felt that it would be important to take a moment and make an effort to acknowledge the peoples past and present who suffer from displacement, erasure, abuse, and other forms of cruelty through everything from stereotypes, to racist mascots (looking at you Redskins), and the absurdity of living as second class citizens on their own lands.

Here are some of my ideas for playing just a small part in decolonizing the holiday of Thanksgiving:

Acknowledge that if you live on “American” soil and are not of direct Native descent, that you are the descendant of an immigrant and a colonizer, and there was a high price to be paid for you to live here. If you are going to be thankful, let it be with the knowledge that the things you have to be thankful for are often mourned by those who actually paid the price.

Learn about the real history of the Pilgrims and their role in the colonization and destruction of the Native American peoples and their cultures.

Familiarize yourself with these populations before colonization. The history of America often begins with the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, and completely ignores the millennia of various cultures that thrived across the continent before their introduction.

Visit a map or site that can give you a better idea of what land you are really living on and its history. A good resource is Native-Land.ca where you can see what tribes traditionally lived and cared for the lands you are currently living on (if you’re in America of course).

Realize and refuse to tolerate all forms of racism— including stereotypes, the usage of minorities as mascots or money-making figures, further gentrification of Native spaces, and any other form of degradation.

Promote visibility for Native peoples and their voices. Some ways to do this are by supporting Native owned brands and media, acknowledging and raising their voices when you hear them, and giving them the space and forum to speak for themselves— thereby being an ally and not steamrolling in the name of “social justice”.

Support Native peoples and their causes. I have decided to start an annual tradition of donating to a foundation that directly supports Native peoples every Thanksgiving.

I may not be able to change the country, or abolish the harmful ideas around this holiday, but I like to believe that every bit of love and support reaches someone in need in some way.

Here are some resources for learning more about the real history of Thanksgiving, some tools for learning to decolonize your understanding of Native American peoples, and some suggestions for places to donate:




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Things To Know Before Going Abroad

When visiting a foreign country, you realize how many elements of everyday life we take for granted, how many social situations we navigate without thinking, and how easy it can be to become lost— in speech and in the streets.

I decided to dedicate this post to the things that I believe are most important to know (or attempt to learn) before entering a foreign country:

Visa information— I suppose this should be obvious to some degree, but there are more rules and conditions involved (depending on your country of origin) than I realized. As an American citizen, you can travel in what is referred to as the Schengen Zone, which is made up of 26 European countries, for three months on a tourist visa (for which you only need a valid U.S passport with more than six months left before the expiration date).

Basic Vocabulary— This is written by someone who only speaks one language— English— so hear me out. I think it is important to know some basic key words for the sake of politeness and saving yourself the hassle of navigating even the simplest of interactions. My go-to words to learn are:
— Yes
— No
— Please
— Thank You
— I’m sorry (or Pardon Me)
— I don’t speak _____ (insert language of country here)
— Do you speak _____ (insert your language here, in my case, “English” of course)

Communication Cues— You quickly realize when communicating with someone who doesn’t speak your language that body language goes a long way. Gestures are a large part of human communication, but can be misread depending on where you find yourself in the world. You don’t want to find yourself having accidentally offended someone by making a gesture, and you don’t want to take anything too seriously without knowing the context. The same actually applies to people who may know your language as a second language. Sometimes words do not hold the same meaning when coming from an individual who hasn’t grown into the social constructs around the language.

Restaurant Etiquette and Vocabulary— This is a very specific subset of knowledge that I wish I had put more time into learning before traveling. You really never realize how little you know about a language in a foreign country until you are hungry and sit down at a restaurant, only to realize that you cannot read a single thing on the menu. (So bonus points go out there to restaurants that have pictures of their food on their menus, you’ve provided me a lot of delicious meals and some peace of mind.) Also, tipping is not a matter to be overlooked. In countries like America, a 15% tip is expected, but while staying in Northern Italy, I was repeatedly told that a tip makes up no specific percentage of the bill, it is more like “whatever pocket change you have”. So it’s worth looking in to, to save yourself some money and not come off looking like a dumb, unthankful tourist.

A General Itinerary— I am a person who likes to know where I am going, about 90% of the time. The other 10% wants spontaneous adventures in unknown places. So I compromise by making a list of places I want to see, and also preparing myself not to see all of them. Also, an app for maps— like maps.me— will always be a life saver, especially for those of us who can’t afford a crazy expensive international data plan.

There are some of my top suggestions for things to know before going abroad. I am sure that there are many, many more that will come to me, which will probably make their way to this blog eventually, but for now, there it is!



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100 Days Abroad: An Ode to the Good Moments

The day after I post this will be my 100th day abroad.

That’s one hundred days of exploring, seeing new places, meeting new people, working, laughing, eating great food, and being free. I have stayed in six countries (not including my day trips to Switzerland and Austria, which are more than worth a mention!), three of which I had never seen before, and now I am on the last leg of my trip.

I am writing this from Barcelona, and in about a week I will be preparing to head back to America, and then more specifically back “home”. It feels like I am preparing to undergo a test of faith and personal strength.

It’s difficult not to begin to focus on the negatives. That is why I wanted to dedicate this post to some of my favorite moments that I’ve experienced abroad.

Meeting so many wonderful people in Ireland and being given a true Irish welcome (and breakfast!)

Staring over the Cliffs of Moher in awe

Castles, so many castles (and possibly meeting a ghost in one of them)

The many teas

Meeting a seal in the harbor at Skerries, Ireland

Spending time with a dear friend in Ipswich, England (and trying a chia bowl for the first time)

Sitting in the sunshine in the park with said friend and enjoying an ice cream punctuated by talk about the workings of the universe

Arriving in Italy in one piece after my first international plane ride solo

Attending a mushroom festival in the mountains of Liguria and having a sudden lightning storm turn out all the lights while people cheered and sang

Meeting so many kind people at the B&B named Bella Vita in Bracco

Cooking lunch and dinner with my Work Away host and having a good laugh at my knife cutting skills

Spending every other day on the warm Italian beaches (and shell hunting there)

Gelato, all the (café) gelato

Making the daily morning espresso (and nearly burning it way too many times)

Meeting my fellow Work Away volunteers and becoming such good friends

Making pizza together

Arriving in Germany after a terrible twelve hour bus ride and getting to fall asleep safe and warm

Spending time in Germany with some of my best friends and really feeling at home

Picking fresh apples off of the tree

Meeting a willow tree for the first time

Taking a cable car up the mountain in Austria

Walking along Lake Constance (in Germany and Austria)

Making apple bread (more specifically making it look like a dinosaur)

Going to a medieval festival

Carving pumpkins

Visiting the Rhine Falls in Switzerland

Meeting monkeys

Visiting the medieval town of Perouges

Visiting more beautiful castles

Seeing the view over Lyon

Arriving in Barcelona and being greeted by Sagrada Familia

All the spicy food in Spain (how I missed spicy food!)

The massive outdoor markets

The experience of helping teach others how to speak English

There were so many more moments, and there are sure to be more before I touch back down at “home”, but these have been some of the highlights of the last 100 days that have made me thankful again and again for deciding to take this trip.

Thank you to any of you who decided to follow me on this journey so far. More adventures are still to come, even if I don’t know what they are yet.



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A Brief History Lesson: All Hallows Eve

Today is Halloween, my absolute favorite day of the year.

I have always been fascinated by the macabre, interested in darkness, and intrigued by death.
I have found solace in hiding behind a mask, in personifying whomever I want to be for an evening, and by the sudden and temporary break in social decorum that comes along with trick or treating.

America is the epicenter of Halloween in the modern age. It has taken elements of harvest celebrations and traditions of honoring the dead from cultures all over the world and combined them into what now has become a mostly commercial holiday.

Despite this, I adore the holiday for its roots. We dress up, go trick or treating, carve pumpkins, and immerse ourselves in elements of the dead and the world beyond the veil today, putting us distantly in touch with generations of people before us.

Here are some of the roots of the modern American Halloween:


This is a nearly two thousand year old Celtic (pagan) festival that celebrated the end of the harvest season and welcomed in the beginning of winter, which marked the Celtic new year. This was believed to be the time when the veil between the world of the living and the “otherworld” was at its thinnest. It was often celebrated with bonfires and other festivities, including carving faces into turnips (the original jack o lantern) to ward off unwanted spirits.


Of course with the insurgence of Catholicism into the Celtic regions, the pagan holidays began to be changed and molded to fit the church. From this came All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd), which combined with what we know as Halloween (October 31st), is sometimes referred to as Hallowmas. The tradition of All Souls Day came to include leaving “soul cakes” out in front of homes, to feed and appease the spirits that may come to the door. Sometimes children would dress up (partly to slip among the spirits themselves unbothered) and “go a-souling”, or what we know today as trick or treating.


This is a celebration of the dead that is primarily associated with Mexico and some South American countries. From October 31st to November 2nd families pay respects to their deceased loved ones by building beautiful shrines in their memory, setting out offerings of food, and visiting the graves of their loved ones. This celebration has even deeper roots in an Aztec festival honoring the goddess Mictecacihuatl— the Queen of the Underworld— but was also (like Samhain) later blended with Christian elements of All Saints Day.



Due to a massive immigration of people from Ireland into America, which was primarily caused by the Great Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, and the rise of Mysticism in America not long after, the tradition of Samhain and its Christian companions remained somewhat intact. In the early 20th century, Halloween began to rise into the consciousness of America. By the 1950s, the focus of Halloween shifted to children, making it a family holiday, and opening the door for the modern traditions of Halloween, which ironically have begun to make their way back across the Atlantic to Europe just in recent years.

One of the things I love so much about travel is that history is irrevocably tied to it. While visiting museums, castles, and medieval villages, there is an awareness of the history of the world and how it has created the world we live in today.

This year I am celebrating Halloween in France, next year, who knows where I will be.



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