erika travels

blogging my three month adventure in europe

10 Aug

this is it.

i’ll be on a plane in 8 hours back to the states. in 8 hours, i will begin to fly further and further away from my new home.

i was in europe for 78 days. 78 days. i can’t even believe it. i remember the day i left and almost every day after that. the time flew by but i’ve done so much. 

i went to spain and fell head over heels in love with the country. i lived with a family, spoke the language, ate the tapas, drank tinto de verano and partied til 5 in the morning. i climbed La Giralda in the Sevilla Cathedral, enjoyed the peacocks in Alcazar, ate lunch in Plaza de España, danced in Triana, met every day at Plaza Nueva, shopped my heart out on Tetuan and Sierpes, cheered on Spain on the Euro Cup in Las Setas and went back to my home every day in Puerta Carmona. 

i visited 6 cities while i was there. i spent time with picasso’s “guernica” in Madrid, saw the fairytale city of Toledo, got tipsy off sherry in Jerez, swam in the Atlantic Ocean in Cadiz, thought deeply about the Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba and reveled in the beauty of the Alhambra in Granada. 

during my time in spain, i took a short trip to morocco. i was guided through the confusing maze of the medina in fes. i smelled the worst smell i’ve ever smelt in my entire life. i saw a protest in the market by meknes. i took my first arabic bath and had an old moroccan woman scrub my naked body to be as clean as a baby. i saw the saddest things in my life in morocco but at the same time really learned to appreciate the things i have in a way that is indescribable. 

i went to italy and saw the beautiful pictures i’ve seen of the country for myself. i had great, affordable wine every day and discovered limoncello. i went to the Amalfi Coast and saw the biggest lemons i’ve ever seen in my life. i roamed around the ancient ruins of Pompeii, a city i’ve always dreamed of visiting since i first learned about it as a child. i went to Rome and saw the colosseum. i went to the Vatican and climbed to the very top of St. Peter’s Basilica, an important pilgrimage in my life. 

i came to scotland and finally achieved my lifelong dream of being amongst the british. i visited the Edinburgh Castle and took part in an art instillation where i climbed to the very top of Arthur’s Seat at night time with only a light stick to guide me. i immersed myself in the Fringe Festival and got handed hundreds of fliers only to end up seeing 12 performances total. i saw Mies Julie, a play that will stay in my head for a long time, a play that made me really sit and pause to appreciate theater and the effects it can have on people. 

i went to Loch Ness, another teenage dream i’ve had after seeing many documentaries. i saw the breathtaking Highlands, the most green i’ve ever seen in my life extending for miles. i went to Glasgow and saw USA vs. France in women’s soccer at the olympics while i cheered on America and experienced the strange sense of pride i had when we won. i went to Dunbar and had the best, cheapest scotch pie. i climbed the cliffs of their beautiful shoreline and saw the North Sea’s tide take away my swimming friend’s shoe. 

god, i’ve done so much this summer. i can’t believe this all happened, i’m so happy i did this. i made friends along every way. i was so afraid at the beginning that i wouldn’t make any friends because i’m such a recluse but beautiful things happen when you open yourself up. i opened my mind and my heart to being receptive of new people and letting them into my life.  as a result, i’ve made so many new friends. before, i hardly had any friends at school because i never really had the opportunity to make friends. now, i can’t wait to see my friends on campus. 

i look back on all that i did and i’m honestly so proud of myself. i did it all by myself. i set my mind to studying abroad and here i am. i didn’t wait for someone to do it for me, i had to go through all the procedures and get the drive to do it myself. i lived in another country that spoke another language and survived perfectly fine. i learned cities and grew comfortable enough to call them home. i feel so much more confident in myself.

i have the travel bug and just want to keep seeing the world. the four countries i’ve visited during this trip have all been completely different from one another and i just want to see more. more more more. 

i promise myself that i am going to come back to europe. some way, some how, i will be back. but for now, it’s time for me to go home. i miss my family and i miss my friends. i miss mexican food and BBQ. i miss my bed and my car and cooking. i have a long flight ahead of me but it just brings me that much closer to home. 

i’m nervous about my adjustment back into america. reverse culture shock. it will happen and i think it’ll hit hard. i’ve enjoyed life here. life without a phone, without driving, without everything at my fingertips. a life of simplicity, at least as simple as i could get it to be. i’ll take note of what i’ve learned here and maybe i’ll lay off the iphone a little more. maybe.

this was the best thing i’ve ever done in my life. no one will ever be able to truly understand my experiences this summer and that’s okay because all these memories are mine. this is what life is about, being young and seeing the world and having an open mind. 

this study abroad chapter is closing but the impact it’s had on my life is forever. i can’t wait to come back.

25 Jul

2 weeks in scotland

it’s been two weeks since i’ve been in scotland and i’m just now forcing myself to blog about it.

scotland is beautiful. it’s incredibly green. the city is so old and gray and the weather is so cool and breezy. it’s crazy that it’s july and i’m wearing jeans and sweaters and boots. i like that i use the bus to get around town, it gives me time to take in the city.

edinburgh is extra special because it involves harry potter and now i get so many things about it. the buildings and houses remind me of the movies. there really is a trolly on the train, the train stations use platforms and there is a night bus. i’ve visited the elephant house, the cafe where JK Rowling got wrote the first harry potter and seen the view that inspired her. now every time i watch the movies i will think of this city and my time here. 

the people speak english with funny accents and the scots say funny phrases like “a wee bit” or “throw your rubbish away” or “mind the gap”. i love it. while london has always been my dream city to visit, being in the united kingdom is just as great. i’ve always wanted to be british and now i’m here.

so far, i’ve done some great things in scotland. i went to loch ness, a place i’ve seen plenty of documentaries about. sadly, i didn’t see nessie. i’ve touched the north sea, water that has always seemed so very far away. i went to a ceilidh dance, which reminds me of the scottish version of texas square dancing. and probably the most exciting thing i’ve done so far happened today, going to the olympics to see the United States vs. France in women’s soccer. the olympics!

scotland is great but i can’t deny that my heart is still aching so very much for sevilla. sevilla just beats this place so much in everything. in culture, the people, the language, the experience. hearing spanish people visiting scotland makes me very sad. hearing them speak spanish in their accents or hearing them say “vale” brings me straight back to sevilla. i miss that place so so much, it’s hard to explain the feelings i have for that spain and it’s hard to restrain from talking about it. my memory of sevilla is just so vivid. it’s only been a month since i’ve left but i feel like i could recollect every day of my 6 week stay.

when the fringe festival starts in edinburgh, i hope it changes my feelings about here. i hope seeing different shows makes me excited about here. it’s frustrating that all i think about is spain and i need to get my head straight that i’m here in scotland, in the united kingdom. all i want to do is practice my spanish but now i think in a scottish accent occasionally. i do like the UK, i’ve been considering getting a job here after i graduate. anywhere in the UK would be fine with me. everything about here is perfect whereas the only thing i didn’t like about spain was the weather. 

the possibilities are endless. i’m only 20 and being in europe for 2 months now has helped me see that the world is huge and i could live anywhere, not just austin like i used to think. 

16 Jul i should blog about my experience studying abroad in scotland so far. but i’m still just so homesick for spain.

i should blog about my experience studying abroad in scotland so far. but i’m still just so homesick for spain.

11 Jul

first impressions.

spain: red

italy: blue

scotland: green

10 Jul

arrivederci italia

italy. italy has been a great experience. i’ve done some things that i’ve only dreamed of since i was a kid. i went to pompeii, a city i’ve learned about since elementary. i went to rome and the vatican, places that really meant a lot to me to see, places i never thought i’d be able to visit. i went to the amalfi coast, the exact picture perfect place of italy i imagined of before i even came. naples was different too, it gave me a more gritty site of italy and showed me that italy is not perfect, but it has a character in itself.

i’m sad to leave. as always, i’m sad to leave a place i know i’ll probably never come back to. i hope to come back to italy, there are still tons of places left to see. i want to visit all of rome, visit florence and milan and venice and pisa. i will miss southern italy and their amazingly affordable, tasty wine and crazy lemoncello and their beautiful waters and history. 

i’m very grateful that i was even given the opportunity to come to italy. if i didn’t come to italy, i would have either gone to kuwait or traveled europe alone. while experiencing kuwait would have been interesting and traveling europe sounds great, i would hate to do it alone. i’m glad i was able to stay with an american family stationed in italy. marcela, the daughter of one of my mom’s friend, has really been an amazing person to experience italy with. she took me to see some beautiful sites and without her hospitality, i would have been left alone. it’s like she was my older sister, she is a great friend. i’ve had a great time here in italy. i’m really sad to leave but excited for the next part of my journey.

scotland. in scotland, i look forward to cooler weather. i look forward to wearing jeans and cardigans and rain. i haven’t seen rain in months. i want to see beautiful, green, lush landscapes. the landscapes that inspired harry potter. i want to get back into a routine and to see a new culture with a new currency and a new country.

in italy, i am going to miss gelato. i’m going to miss their amazing food. their food beats spain’s food by far. there is so much flavor and variety despite their simple ingredients. i’m going to miss hearing italians speaking super fast to each other, going to miss their insane driving even though i thought i was gonna die a few times, i’m going to miss seeing mount vesuvius every day. mount vesuvius in itself is so crazy to see. it’s killed people, it’s buried history, it will erupt within years. i’ve never been this close to a volcano and to see it every day just kind of makes you think about how strong nature can be.

however, i’m not going to miss naples’ garbage filled roads or their bad air quality. i could literally see the haze of crap floating over naples, it’s kind of sad. i’m not going to miss seeing people burning their garbage cause they have no other way to get rid of it and i’m not going to miss how hot it is here in the summer. it’s not as hot as austin right now but their lack of AC makes it much more difficult to bear. 

i am oddly not as nervous about scotland as i was about spain or italy. maybe it’s because i’m a little more experienced in traveling now. i’m not nervous, i’m excited! i can’t wait to see what scotland has in store for me. i like the idea of traveling alone and being so successful traveling independently. it makes me feel confident.

i want to see the fringe festival and the military tattoo and the atmosphere that will bring. i really hope i will have time to travel to london when i’m there. my birthday is happening in a few weeks and the best birthday present i could ever have would be to celebrate in london so i’m going to try my best to make sure it happens.

italy was beautiful. it’s going to be hard to believe i was here but i was. i was here for about two weeks! i learned a little italian but will stay with me the most is that the typical image of italians stayed with me. they are family people, they speak with their hands, they make their hands into that little fist pointy gesture, they are killer cooks.

i hope i can come back to finish seeing the rest of italy. but tomorrow, i will make my life in scotland for the next month. i hope i will be able to call it home like i called spain home. 

02 Jul

culture shock & reverse culture shock.

i’m not sure which one i’m experiencing. i still miss spain, especially after their slaughter of the italians in the euro cup final. i wanted to be in the streets celebrating all night into the next day, to be chanting “yo soy español, español, español,” or to hum that white stripes song or waving around spain’s flag. i want to be drinking tinto de verano and walking past the cathedral at night or stumbling somewhere around calle betis or have a sweet (or creepy) old man call me guapa or hermosa or hear people saying “vale” all the time. i really, really miss spain.

while my head and heart are still stuck in spain, my body is in italy. maybe i’m not all here yet because i haven’t seen the sites in italy i’ve dreamt about since i was a kid. it’s also a different experience because i’m staying with an american family and i feel like i’m at home. my head and heart need to get to reality though because i’ve got a lot of things to see before i leave. so far on the list of things i’m going to do in italy include rome and all the tourist things that are included, the vatican, pompeii, the amalfi coast, capri, and who knows what else.

holy crap i’m in italy. here i go again with being unable to believe that i am actually here in yet another country i’ve dreamed about since i was a kid. i hope i leave satisfied knowing i saw everything i could see. even if i don’t, i know it just means i can come back next time to finish where i left off because i know i won’t be able to see the leaning tower of pisa and all the beautiful northern italy cities like florence or venice. that’s for another time.

italy, you have some big shoes to fill. i hope i can fall in love with italy like i have with spain. but then again maybe i can’t even compare the two, they are on two totally different levels.

02 Jul wish i could be celebrating in spain instead of being in italy, they’re bitter over their loss. 

wish i could be celebrating in spain instead of being in italy, they’re bitter over their loss. 

29 Jun

I’m dreaming.

Ten minutes. Ten minutes until I leave my host family’s home and then meet the group to get on the bus to Madrid. We’re driving overnight to get to the airport at 4 in the morning. My flight doesn’t leave until 5pm. I’ve got a long day ahead of me.

Is it really over? It can’t be. I remember landing yesterday. My heart is already aching because I will probably never come back. Sevilla, how could you become my home in a month? I’m sad. I’m going to miss this place. No one else is going to understand my experience here, just the friends I’ve made from St. Ed’s. Only those people will understand my love and absolute adoration for this beautiful city because they feel it too.
I hate saying goodbye but this is it. While I’m truly sad about leaving, I do have my next stop to look forward to. Italy. Italy for two weeks and then off again.

But for now, all I can think about is engulfing every little thing I’m seeing in Sevilla. Studying abroad was the best decision I’ve ever made. As of now in my life, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m really living life and seeing everything it has to offer.

Sevilla. NO8DO. No me ha dejado. You’ll never leave me.

24 Jun

my last weekend.

yesterday i went to aracena, supposed jamon iberico capital of southern spain or something like that. i guess that’s the only thing they can be proud of because it’s a really small town. we visited the cathedral at the top of the city and then the caves. the caves were gorgeous!! amazing, beautiful, surreal. i felt so insignificant. some of these formations have taken millions of years to happen. i loved it but hated that we couldn’t take pictures. i would have taken hundreds because it was just so beautiful.

afterwards when we came back to sevilla, i went to the Mushrooms to watch Spain play France in soccer. it was awesome! i’ve been waiting to watch a game in that kind of atmosphere with nothing but spaniards around cheering hard for their team. everyone was wearing red and chanting and waving the spanish flag. what an experience. and when spain scored, wow!! everyone was going crazy. and then at the end of the game when they won, the waves of people leaving was awesome, i don’t think you can see that kind of excitement and pride for your team in the united states. the closest thing is the super bowl maybe but this isn’t even the championship. i’m just glad i got to experience it, i hope to go again this wednesday when they play portugal.

today, we went to matalascañas to go to the beach because it was supposed to be 106 degrees today. HOT. but it didn’t feel nearly as hot as that when we were at the beach. and there were so many people there! i’ve never seen that many people at a beach before. but then again i’ve only been to the beach a handful of times. the water was so cold, it felt so nice to just stand and swim in it and then to go sit on the beach and dry up just to go back in the water. what a nice relaxing way to spend my last weekend in spain. 

i don’t even want to think about leaving saturday, it makes me too sad. i didn’t know living somewhere for just a month could make you feel this kind of emotional attachment. spain has a very special place in my heart. 

19 Jun

seeing more beautiful spanish cities

this past weekend the program took us to the cities of Cordoba and Granada. 

we only stayed in Cordoba for about 6 hours. the main thing we saw was the Cathedral-Mosque. Inside was beautiful. the striped red and white arches were amazing, i’ve never seen anything like it. and then i learned the history. a mosque built on top of a church and then a church built in the center of the mosque. crazy. while i don’t consider myself too religious i do have faith and when i learn about things like the Cathedral-Mosque in Cordoba, i begin to wonder. it’s pretty messed up what they did. they didn’t even demolish the mosque, they said you know what, i’m going to build a church right in the middle of your mosque which to me is worse than demolishing a mosque. and then to not even let muslims pray in the mosque because it’s considered a church now? wow, it’s sad and amazing the power religion can have on people.

after leaving Cordoba, we went to Granada. Granada is a lot more mountainous than the other Spanish cities i’ve seen. we saw a flamenco show and it was amazing! i’ve never seen anything like it. i was in the second row and could see the particles of wood coming off the floor from their stomping, i loved it! that evening we went to the bars. in granada, when you order a drink, you get a free tapa, awesome. we took advantage of that and had paella and fried shrimp. so good.

the next day we went to see the tombs of King Fernando and Queen Isabella from the Spanish Inquisition. knowing the history behind all of that made seeing them much more meaningful. we also went to the Alhambra. wow, what a gorgeous place. the gardens and the castle were very beautiful and the view of the city was completely breathtaking. i swear, i’ve never seen so many beautiful places in my life. the views of the cities i’ve seen throughout this trip are completely amazing. really. they’re surreal.

i really liked my visit to Cordoba and Granada. i think i have the travel bug. my plans fell through for Barcelona this weekend but i might make it out to Portugal instead. it’s my last weekend in Spain and i would like to keep traveling. there’s just not enough time to do everything!