Dear L.A.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas (Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Tujunga, DTLA) for about three years now (not all in a row, but close), and I can safely say I have a pretty harsh love/hate relationship with this place. L.A. is ugly, has boring architecture, the traffic is the WORST, and there really are a ton of people here trying to be famous or get discovered at every ice cream shop, club, and street corner.

However, even though I can say a million horrible things about Los Angeles, I also have a few good thoughts on this place and as I prepare to abandon it (only three more days!) in favor of the Great White North (aka Canada), I thought I’d write a little letter to Los Angeles to thank it for how it has contributed to who I am today.

Dear L.A.,

We have been through a lot together. My whole college career, internships, amazing friends. But I’ve known since the day I set foot in this town that it would be a temporary living space for me, and now the day has come for us to part ways.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you, you’re not the prettiest city I’ve ever had the pleasure of courting, but certain parts of you are incredible. I can’t deny that your proximity to the Pacific doesn’t make me justify your numerous other flaws everytime I set foot in that warm sand and get salt water in my hair.

Ugh and the food! You do so many things so well: Mexican, Chinese, Italian. You have a million dessert shops, each offering better cupcakes or ice cream than the last. And the best part? All of it is gorgeous because you know half your revenue is from being reposted on Instagram.

You’ve also taught me much about taking care of myself. Although you can get a little dramatic with all your overpriced juice cleanses and fancy gym memberships, you really showed me that it is ok to put a priority on self-care. You gave me all sorts of healthy eating options and introduced me to heaven in bowl form: acai bowls. You also made sure I never got bored exercising and offered me my choice of many boxing, yoga, swimming, and hiking prospects to stay fit.

And even though you can be way too expensive and way too superficial, you were also the place where I met some of my absolute best friends.  These are the friends that taught me to be more open minded, more social, and more generous. They taught me it’s ok to depend on others and to be vulnerable with them. They are friends that I can laugh, cry, or be silent with. The kind that truly change you as a person, shape your life, and stay with you forever, and for that, I will always be grateful.

See you again soon L.A.

Love, Melina

 

 

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Peru Travel Guide: Lima & TIPS

If you haven’t read the first two parts of my Peruvian adventure (INCLUDING MACCHU PICCHU!!), then click here or here!

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At last, we have reached the conclusion of the reminiscence of my Peru trip. Because we bought round trip tickets from LAX to Lima, we obviously had to conclude our trip in the Peruvian capital city. Although there are many museums and churches to see, we decided to keep our last two relaxed and stayed in the surprisingly beautiful, beachside area called Miraflores.

We were told that parts of Lima can be a bit unsavory but that Miraflores tends to be where all the expatriates live and is the safest area. We stayed in a private room in a cute little hostel minutes from the main square and spent much of the day just walking around. The first day we went to the LARCOMAR mall which looks out over the ocean and consists of beautiful restaurants and high-end shops.

The second day, we walked all the way along the coastline to the next neighborhood called Barranco, to stroll through the colorful houses and visit the Bridge of Sighs. Unfortunately, my travel partner had some food poisoning so we couldn’t push too hard during our stay, but honestly, a couple relaxing days were the perfect way to end an incredible vacation.

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Now for some TIPS on traveling in Peru!

  1. In Cusco, most places speak English. In Lima, it is much less common, even in the touristy areas, so brush up on the basics if you plan on spending a lot of time there. (If nothing else, learn how to ask for the bathroom!)
  2. Peruvian currency is the Sol. One Sol equals about 30 cents in the US.
  3. For food, make sure to try the ceviche, the Lomo Saltado, the cuy, and alpaca meat.

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4. You can negotiate for EVERYTHING. My boyfriend even got five soles off a cappuccino at a restaurant. Just go for it.

5. The water is not potable in Peru so make sure you buy bottled water from the small shops.

6. If you want traditional Peruvian chocolate or Coffee, buy it from the supermarket, not the tourist market, it will be WAY cheaper.

7. To get actual alpaca material, go to either a textile store OR a real alpaca shop. The street vendors will tell you their material is alpaca but it is not! REAL alpaca has a lot of weight to it and feels cool to the touch.

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8. The weather can be super volatile in Peru since the geography changes so drastically between places. Make sure you have a warm jacket, and a rain jacket just in case.

9. Some longer trips can be amazing, like the Salkantay Trek or Rainbow mountain, but they take a whole day or multiple days and require some advance planning. So do some research beforehand to make sure you get to do the excursions you want!

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10. When doing an excursion (like Macchu Picchu) where you have to leave early in the morning, discuss breakfast arrangements with your hostel. Many hostels realize that tourists must get up super early for these events and are willing to pack you a breakfast! Don’t miss out!

Overall, our time in Peru was amazing! All the different places we visited had their own attributes and the sites we visited had unparalleled energy — you just can’t beat Macchu Picchu! This was our first time in South America and of course, we were nervous, but Peru truly exceeded our expectations and now we can’t wait to go back!

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Peru Travel Guide: Macchu Picchu

Alright! Now for the good stuff. Peru is best known for the sacred Incan ruins of Macchu Picchu, and I, like everyone else was drawn to Peru for this bucket list location.

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Ollantaytambo Fortress Ruins

There are a couple ways to do Macchu Picchu, including the famed four-day hike, but we did NOT have time for that. If you don’t hike, you have to somehow make your way to the town of Aguas Calientes which is the jumping off point to get to the ruins. From Cusco, you can take a train or cab all the way to Aguas Calientes OR you can get a cab/bus to the town of Ollantaytambo first and take the train from there. We opted for the latter since Ollantaytambo had some ruins to explore as well. Definitely grateful for that decision because some of our best days were in this little town. There are amazing terraced ruins built into surrounding mountains and we had one of our favorite meals at Apu Veronica, just outside the main ruins.

 

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Ollantaytambo Ruins

From Ollantaytambo, we took the VistaDome train to Aguas Calientes. There are a couple train options between the two locations, and we opted for the VistaDome since it has huge windows all along the sides and the roof of the train for viewing the insane jungle and mountain scenery as you approach Aguas Calientes.

 

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Scenery from the Hot Springs site

 

Once in Aguas Calientes, don’t expect too much. It is a total tourist trap and everyone knows it. Every restaurant serves the same food and every shop is selling the same trinkets. However, the scenery is INCREDIBLE so if you have some extra time, I recommend hitting up the hot springs that the town is named for (Aguas Calentes=Hot Waters) or getting a cafe con leche and people watching against the gorgeous backdrop.

When the day of reckoning is upon you, you’ll need to get up at about 4 am to get in line for the buses up to Macchu Picchu. The first bus leaves the station at 6 am, but since everyone wants to get up there for the sunrise, the line is outrageously long! We arrived at 5 am, and there were already hundreds of people in front of us. Luckily the tourism industry in Peru is prepared for this, and they run the buses pretty much one right after the other to accommodate the crowds. Getting up for the sunrise is WORTH IT. We got super lucky with the weather and the mist was clearing up as soon as we got to the top, the sun came out and we had the most AMAZING view of the ruins! There are honestly no words to describe how spectacular it is to be up there before the crowds with the ruins almost to yourself to admire in the morning light.

 

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Macchu FREAKING Picchu!

 

It is easy and relatively cheap to book a tour guide to accompany you at the ruins, but we chose not to get one since we are stingy as fuck, and also so we could move at our own pace. Make sure you do the entire site — walk down below where the remains of buildings were and go all the way behind to where the Sungate view is (There are arrows and guides to help you out). You can also pay for an additional hike when you book your Macchu Picchu ticket for either Macchu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. If you want to do Huayna Picchu (the mountain present in all the typical photos of the site), you’ll need to book it far in advance. Macchu Picchu Mountain, however, is less popular but offers a higher vantage point. We ended up purchasing that one and it was a brutal hike, so be warned! And bring TONS of water!

 

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Macchu Picchu Lower Ruins

 

We spent a full seven hours up at the site exploring and we covered every inch of the ruins. Macchu Picchu is a Wonder of the World and we wanted to make sure we took full advantage! The pictures speak for themselves, and I honestly cannot recommend making this trip enough. We should’ve saved this site for last, but alas, our pocketbooks and logistics dictated that we return to Lima for a short stop before returning home. Stay tuned for the next post where I review Lima and offer tips for traveling in Peru! If you missed my review on Cusco, click here!

 

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Macchu Picchu Lower Ruins

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The dawn breaking over Macchu Picchu

 

 

Peru Travel Guide: DRINK THE TEA

Even though Peru falls within the time zones of the U.S. the trip down there is still enormously tiring. We booked a nine-hour nonstop flight from LAX to Lima and then had booked a flight a few hours after landing to go straight to Cusco.

Cusco is HIGH. Literally. Cusco proper sits at some 11,100 feet of elevation, and let me tell you, coming from the ocean village of Los Angeles, it can be a shock to your system. It is definitely harder to breathe and you will be able to feel your heart beating harder in order to pump blood to your oxygen deprived extremities.

The easiest way to get from the Cusco airport to wherever you need to go is by taxi. Of course, be wary of the taxi drivers in case of scams or safety concerns, but feel free to negotiate with them. A taxi from the airport to the main square should cost you between 20 and 30 soles (Between $6-10 USD). Agree upon the fare BEFORE getting in the taxi as the fares are not metered and you don’t want to arrive at your destination to find out that you’re being charged double.

In Cusco, I recommend staying at the Wild Rover Backpacker’s hostel, it has amazing views of the whole city, free breakfast, great wifi, and the best common areas (ping pong tables!). Furthermore, there is a bar on the property for any late night shenanigans, but it also keeps the party out of the room for anyone [ME] who prefers to sleep. They also have free Coca tea which helps a ton with adjusting to the altitude. I had at least two cups a day (along with liters of water) and the altitude never bothered me again after that first day.

 

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The view from the hostel…

 

Cusco is the ultimate jumping off point for most of the tourist sites Peru has to offer. It was the epicenter of the Incan empire and has the history to prove it. There are tons of travel agencies all over the city offering day trips and tours to all the different sites. Michael and I ended up doing two relatively low-key ones.

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Sacsayhuaman – This huge stone behind me weighs over 128 tons!

The first was the Cusco City tour (you can find this one anywhere so I’m not even going to bother recommending a travel agency). It costs thirty soles per person (a little less than $10 USD), and contrary to the name, this tour actually takes you around the archaeological sites closest to Cusco, not around the city itself (there are other tours for that). We covered the ancient fortress site of Sacsayhuaman (sounds like “sexy woman” if you say it too fast) which is a prime example of Incan building strategies. The site consists of huge stones, we’re talking over 100 tons, cut to fit perfectly together; the site took over 77 years to build with over 30,000 laborers! The tour includes Quenqo which is the site of the ancient Incan calendar and a ritual site for actual animal and human sacrifice. We also covered Puku Pukara, a small ancient rest stop, and Tambomochay or the “Incan Baths” a picturesque waterfall site.

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Tambomochay

The second tour was covered a little bit more area. We wanted to do the Maras — Moray tour. Although this tour also was a half day, it took us much farther outside the city limits of Cusco. Moray is an ancient agricultural testing site made up of terraced concentric circles. The Incans used it to try out different crops and created over 3000 different strains of potato! (Why anyone needs that many different potatoes is beyond me…). Maras, on the other hand, is a small town that leads into the Salineras salt flats which have been producing salt since before the Incan empire. The water that feeds the flats is 70% salt and 30% water, and the flats produce black, pink, and white salt. We didn’t get to spend much time here but it was honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip.

 

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The salt flats at Salineras

 

Within Cusco itself, there are also plenty of sites to see. The main square alone has two cathedrals that are worth a peek inside, one is actually a museum, and through ambling along the tourist districts, you should be able to find many other little churches and squares. The San Pedro market should also be at the top of any Cusco visitor’s list as one can do literally all of their shopping at this market. Not only do they sell blankets, socks, jewelry and the like, they also sell coffee, chocolate, and have an indoor eating area with many different vendors selling their specialty at an incredibly cheap price (between $2-6 USD).

 

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The cathedral in the Plaza de Mayor

 

As far as food is concerned though, I only recommend eating at the market once because there are some far better options outside the market. First off, get your hands on some street meat. There will be ladies on the street selling enormous skewers of all different kinds of meat. We preferred the alpaca and because each skewer has a whole potato on the end of it, you can eat an entire meal for five soles! ($1.50 USD). If you’re looking for something more formal, our favorite breakfast spot was Jack’s Cafe. They have great Western and Peruvian breakfast options for a very good price and they give you tons of food! For dinner, we cannot recommend Pacha Papa highly enough. I had the roasted trout, Michael had the lamb shoulder, and we shared the whole roasted Guinea Pig and a traditional Peruvian Quinoa dessert. Everything here was AMAZING! It is so good, in fact, that you actually might want to make a reservation to make sure you get a table! On the other hand, there is a ton of Italian food in Peru, especially in Cusco, and I cannot stress enough that you SHOULD NOT try any of it. We tried to get Italian (pasta, pizza) a few times and each time it was awful. I’m a terrible cook and I could’ve made better pasta than these places, so beware. On the whole, the Peruvian dish ‘Lomo Saltado’ was my favorite. I got this a few times in Cusco and elsewhere in Peru and it is solid. It consists of marinated beef with red onions and tomatoes served with french fries and rice. Delicious every single time.

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The Roasted Guinea Pig!

Michael and I spent the bulk of our trip in Cusco and it was definitely worth the extra time. The people here are helpful and kind, and for the most part, speak English! You’re able to negotiate for everything you buy and there is so much history to experience within the city and beyond. If you are interested in ancient empires or ancient architecture, Cusco is a MUST. However, everyone knows the real reason tourists flock to Peru each year. The best parts of the trip are yet to come, so stay tuned for Part 2!

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How to Travel as a Couple without Killing Eachother

I recently went to Peru with my amazing boyfriend (travel guides coming soon!) and I have to confess, I was a little nervous to travel with him. We had met while traveling separately but we had never really done a trip together as a couple and this was an important step for me. Traveling to new places is a passion of mine and I knew I couldn’t be with somebody who was a terrible travel partner (not that I’m a saint but you know what I mean). However, after doing this trip I realized that there are some lessons we BOTH learned about traveling together that make things a lot easier.

If you’re bringing drugs, bring lots: It is not unlikely to feel under the weather or even get sick while traveling. If you know you always get indigestion, for example, and bring medication for it, bring twice as much because you never know if you’re significant other will need some. This came in handy multiple times throughout our Peru trip. I knew I would need Alka-Seltzer for my stomach but I brought a lot and lo and behold, my boyfriend ended up getting food poisoning towards the end of the trip and needed something to calm his stomach. Likewise, my boyfriend gets headaches so he brought a lot of Advil, and I ended up needing a few for an untimely sprained ankle.

Recognize each other’s limits: Each of you will have different capabilities and limits when it comes to traveling and it is important to not push your partner too hard, and also to be vocal if something is too much for you. My boyfriend and I were pretty good at this but only because we were both outspoken about when we were struggling. For example, I cannot sleep on airplanes or in airports and my boyfriend can sleep anywhere. So after traveling for over twenty-four hours, my boyfriend knew I was zonked and we took it easy that day. On the flip side, while we were hiking Macchu Picchu Mountain we ran out of the water and it hit my boyfriend way harder than it hit me so I knew to be quick about pictures and get him water as soon as possible. It is extremely important to be aware of what your partner is feeling so you can make sure you both can enjoy yourselves.

 

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Macchu Picchu of course – this day took a lot of prep and compromise

 

Be Decisive: There will be endless decisions to make on a trip, even once you’ve already planned it. Where should we eat? Should we go to those ruins today or tomorrow? How should we get there? Is this too expensive? And on and on and on. Nothing wastes precious travel time like being indecisive. We ran into this issue a couple times, especially where food was concerned. Tourist towns often have a million different restaurants that all serve the same thing. This should make it easier to choose, right? WRONG. My boyfriend and I would go back and forth with the whole ‘I don’t care where we eat…actually no not this place…’ type dialogue until one of us [ME] snapped because they were so hungry they couldn’t take it anymore. We had to actively have a conversation about when we actually mean we’re indifferent to certain decisions as opposed to speaking out immediately if we have a preference. This smoothed things out considerably for the rest of the trip.

Be open-minded: This one should go without saying, and most people who are love traveling in the first place possess this quality, but every so often you end up traveling with someone who sticks their nose up at everything and would rather order room service than go exploring a new place. This person SUCKS to travel with. Don’t be that person, don’t date that person, and don’t go on a trip with them if you can help it. If you’re enamored with traveling and experiencing new things, this person will kill your vibe SO FAST. Neither my boyfriend nor I are like this, so it wasn’t a problem for us, but we witnessed other couples with this dynamic. The worst kind of travel partner is the one that says ‘no’ too often. When you travel you should open yourself up to what that place can teach you, and those with a bad attitude have no interest in learning and you should not let them ruin your fun!

 

Ultimately, traveling with another person, especially a romantic partner, should be tons of fun. However, in order to make it an amazing trip all around, you both have to go into it with open eyes and a willingness to compromise. Sure you can plan down to every last detail if you want, but I can assure you that attitude will EITHER kill the energy of the whole trip, OR something will go wrong and your plans will have been for naught and you’ll have to work together anyways. And to be really frank, if your trip sucks, maybe you just aren’t right for each other. Awk. (Luckily my boyfriend and I rocked it and realized we are more perfect for each other than ever! Sickening, I know.)

 

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Exploring Sacsayhuaman

 

 

CANADA – Banff Travel Guide

Unless you’re Canadian, or a ski bum, you might not have heard of Banff. Banff is a small mountain town in Western Canada, about a 3-hour flight from LA, and an hour and a half from the fifth largest city in Canada, Calgary. While Calgary has its own set of attributes, we’ll cover those later. This travel guide only focuses on Banff and the surrounding area because it’s a place I had never even heard of and subsequently love.

 

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Lake Louise

 

Let’s get one thing straight here: I am not a cold weather friend. I hate being cold, would rather BURN to death than freeze, and do not participate in winter/snow based sports. However, Banff made me reconsider my views.

Banff is actually a resort town within Banff National Park. Banff National Park and the surrounding area is nestled within the Rocky Mountains and offers stunning mountain views along with a seemingly endless opportunity for snow sport, hiking, and camping. The resort town itself is home to shops, restaurants, cafes, and the ever beautiful Banff Springs Hotel. Banff is also nearby the Lake Louise Village and national Park. Lake Louise is a stunning lake snuggled into the mountains with opportunity for ice skating in the winter and canoeing in the summer.

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Johnston Canyon Icicles

 

 

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Johnston Canyon

 

I have been out to Banff twice now. The first time was just to see the town and the mountains because it was absurdly cold. But this second time, I managed to fit in Lake Louise, skiing, hot springs, and some hiking. And despite my abhorrence for the cold, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time spent in it.

Now for the nitty gritty, if you’re a snow-sport lover, then Banff is not a place to be missed. Easiest ways to get there are to fly into Calgary airport (YYC) and then rent a car to make the drive or book a tour. Luckily my boyfriend drove us, but it is not difficult to get there, with a major highway leading straight from Calgary into the mountains.

As far as accommodation goes, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a beautiful (albeit pricey) hotel with all the amenities one could need and stunning mountain vistas. However, in the event that it is too expensive (like for me), there are numerous lodges, inns, and hotels in the town, although the Fairmont is still worth a visit for its gorgeous interior and/or spa if you feel so inclined.

 

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Fairmont at Banff Springs

 

Alright, once you’ve got transport and lodging squared away, it’s time for the fun stuff! If you’ve got a weekend and some ambition, you can explore almost all of what Banff has to offer. Firstly, I recommend going skiing at Sunshine hill. This was my first time, so I might not be the best person to taking skiing advice from, but I CAN tell you that this ski resort was positively BRIMMING with tourists from all over the world who had come for the skiing. There is a wide variety of hills for all skill levels and the view is just insane. Skiing will probably take the better part of the day, so after that, I recommend going to the Hot Springs in Banff. The springs are naturally heated and even in negative temps, you’ll be comfortable in the outdoor hot pool under the stars.

 

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Ski induced suffering sucks a little less with a view like this…

 

For the following day, I recommend getting up early and heading a few more kilometers up to Lake Louise. When you get there, you can go ice skating, or you can simply walk around the lake and admire the ice sculptures. Overseeing the lake is the Fairmont Chateau, another gorgeous hotel that deserves a walk through, at least while you’re warming up from all the ice. The park surrounding Lake Louise is also prime for more downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and even dog sledding to my SUPREME DELIGHT! But once you’ve had your fill of the cold for the day, heading back into Banff town to have dinner and explore the shops is a wonderful way to end your stay. Especially since the town is all lit up at night.

 

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Lake Louise, Mountains, and Ice sculptures

 

I would have never thought to go to Banff on my own, but now that I’ve made it out there, I know I’ll be spending a lot more time in the mountains.

Wander Alone

Long time, no see. I haven’t written in QUITE awhile and that is due to the fact that in the last couple months, I graduated university, got a pretty insane first job, and just spent the last seven weeks backpacking by myself through Southern Europe. On said trip I hit Athens, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, Lake Garda, Genoa, Nice, Barcelona, Ibiza, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, and Agistri. I booked everything by myself and I traveled completely alone from place to place.

When I first told some of my friends I planned on going alone, they looked at me with incredulity. “You’re going ALONE?” They would ask almost in hushed tones, “Aren’t you scared?” And even now when I tell people what I just did, they are impressed that I would embark on such a trip all by myself. Honestly what I’ve found, is that people have two major hang ups about going on trips alone. 1.) Security and 2.) Companionship.

Security is an understandable concern. I was a lone female traveler and there are of course crime and shady characters to watch out for. But honestly, you’re probably not that much safer from pickpockets and such with friends than without. And as long as you’ve got a reasonable degree of street smarts, you’ll probably be fine, especially in Europe. Which brings us to our next concern, the much bigger concern: Companionship.

At our core, humans aren’t really meant to be alone. We like being around other people because we want someone to share our experiences with so we can be sure someone understands us. This was the hardest fear for me to overcome as well. Right before I left, I had an anxiety-ridden conversation with my mom in which I relayed my reservations to her. I had started freaking out that I had just signed myself up for seven weeks of pure loneliness. However, as soon as I got started, all those fears quickly dissipated.

The thing about traveling alone is that you get to be COMPLETELY selfish. I quickly learned that I could get up when I wanted, see what I wanted, eat what I wanted and meet/not meet the people I wanted. I didn’t have to drag my travel companion out of bed, or worry about their food proclivities or even worry about a girlfriend at the club. I didn’t have to worry about compromising with family,  and I most certainly did not have to worry about staying on track with a tour group. I got to do WHATEVER I wanted, WHENEVER I wanted, and HOW I wanted. That may sound horrifically indulgent to some, but that’s because not many of us get periods of time in our lives where we get to be this selfish. That’s the price we pay for companionship. There’s always someone else to worry about, therefore we can usually never focus solely on our own desires.

Now, just because I was selfish almost to the point of hedonism doesn’t mean I was alone. Oh no no no, in every city I met new people–Finnish, Canadian, Australian,French, English, Italian, ALL SORTS! Aside from my first day, there wasn’t a twenty-four hour period in which I didn’t meet at least one person and hang out with them in some capacity. In Dubrovnik, I partied with a tour group filled with Aussies and then kayaked all of the next day with a girl from Finland. I met a friend in Italy and met up with friends of said Italian friend when I got to Barcelona. I encountered a string of Canadians from Genoa to Nice and actually had the most romantic night of my entire life in Santorini.

Because you are constantly seeing new things and meeting new people, the companionship problem solves itself. You meet people who are in the city for the exact same reason as you and you can make plans together or plans to meet up later. Either way, the option to have people to share your travels with creates itself. The onus is on you to create the opportunity for people to meet you and to facilitate compelling conversation.

In short, I got an average of four hours of sleep per night, saw sights in the morning, lived at beaches in the afternoons, drank a lot of wine and beer…and liquor, gorged myself on carbs and ice cream, and had more than my fair share of flirtatious encounters in every city. I saw some of the most beautiful places and got to meet different and interesting people every night, and I loved EVERY SECOND OF IT.

The thing with traveling alone is that it basically is the ultimate test in putting yourself out there. You have to check your insecurities at the door and you have to overcome obstacles all by yourself. But because you’re all alone, there’s also no one to judge you if you do screw it up. Sure there’s tons of people you’ll interact with everyday, but the beauty is that YOU NEVER HAVE TO SEE THOSE PEOPLE AGAIN. Most of the time, you just gotta swallow your pride and go for it. I didn’t have data/wifi so you bet I was lost all the time. I bought the wrong kind of ticket at least three times, and sometimes my transport was simply on strike. To make friends is even more humbling. Twice, I faked not knowing where I was going so I could ask fellow tourists for directions and ultimately infiltrate their group. I met two people in France while savagely devouring a kebab and later accidentally dining and dashing. I desperately begged one of my roommates in Ibiza to save me from another roommate and when all else failed, I simply would spend a little time wandering alone.

I honestly learned a lot on this trip and thought I would break down any tips I picked up into more posts, so if you are curious as to how I fit seven weeks of stuff in a backpack, or how I didn’t get sick, or even tips on travel boredom, be on lookout for those articles in the coming weeks.