It is no suprise to y’all that I am blogging from almost across the world (currently sitting in Boston Logan on a layover). As I am waiting on my flight to take me to Lisbon, Portugal, I will recount the top 10 best moments and top 6 most challenging moments from my first summer abroad (get it, because 10+6=16 and my first summer abroad was in ’16).
Top 10 Best Moments from Summer 2016:
- Meeting amazing people! Throughout my travels last summer, I met some awesome people along the way. As a solo traveler, it can get boring, however, it is super easy to make friends. Between the hostels I stayed in, flights I took, tours I participated in, and random people in between, I was lucky enough to meet people who shared the same interests as me. I was blessed enough to make friendships overseas, friends who even a year later I still talk to. (shout out to Kudzai, Liam, Steve, Clarence, Sonia, Jamie, and all the other people I met last summer!) PS See you in a little over 24 hours Kudzai!
- FINALLY going to Armenia. Those who know me know my unique obsession with the country of Armenia (as travelers we all have a weird obsession with a country). I was able to spend 10 days in Armenia last summer, 10 days filled with me being
awe-struck at the sights. It is an amazing feeling to see a country you have learned so much about in real life. (My favorite part was going to Tatev….google it, you won’t regret it).
- Visiting Jerusalem. As a Christian, most of us aspire to, at some point in our lives, take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While I did not take said pilgrimmage, I was blessed enough to see the old city and take a self guided trail of the path Jesus took. It was humbling and truly ground moving to walk where Jesus once walked and to see the Wailing Wall and the Garden of Gethsemane.
- Seeing the Eiffel Tower. Yes going up the Eiffel Tower was cool, but there were WAY too many people at the top. The best part was simply being able to see the Eiffel Tower. On average, I saw the Eiffel Tower four times a day while I was in Paris. I was able to see the lights show twice, both a great experience! When I do go back to Paris for an extended stay, I will find a cute café with a cute view of the Eiffel Tower, and read a book.
- Going up in the Swiss Alps. Because I live in the South where we get very little snow in the winters, I love snow! When I went up into the Swiss Alps, up to Jungfraujoch, I saw more snow than I have seen in my entire life! I have always been a beach > mountains girl, but the Swiss Alps caused me to rethink that. The snow was magical and the landscape looked like it was out of a winter Christmas movie. The only thing I regret was there not being time to ski or snowboard.
- Walking around Old Town Warsaw. Warsaw is one of my favorite cities. It is a capital city that I do not feel claustrophobic in. Warsaw is a city with a lot of history, which shows everywhere one walks. The Old Town was my favorite part of the city to walk
around. The streets feel very back-in-time like, yet seem more authentic than that of Paris. The Old Town feels as if you walked back in time, with the modern buildings outside the walls. It is definitely somewhere you cannot plan what you see, it’s a place where you wander around and walk where you want. Also, there are soooo many soft-serve ice-cream vendors in the Old Town, grab a cone and walk around!
- Viewing the Parthenon from the Areopagus Hill. The Areopagus Hill is where Paul delivered a sermon to the Athenians as seen in Acts 17. The hill is essentially a rock and provides one of the best viewing points in all of Athens. From the hill, you can see the sea, ancient agora, temples, and the Parthenon! The rock, however, is extremely smooth due to all the people who go up on it. Yet, there are some really good spots to sit and simply gaze at the view. Also, the line in the summer for the Parthenon is massive, if you want the best view of it without the wait, go to the Areopagus Hill.
- Wandering the streets of Paris. Like Old Town Warsaw, this too is a must. The streets, especially in the Latin Quarter, are so old have so much to tell. The cobblestones might hurt a little initially, but your feet will adjust. Walking around Paris with no agenda was one of my favorite things simply because you see and experience so much.
- Visiting the Anne Frank House. This was already on my top 10 list going into last summer. I had so much I wanted to see, and this made the cut. The Anne Frank House was every bit as worth it as I imagined it would be. To be able to see the house where Anne Frank and her friends and family hid out in and Anne wrote about was amazing. Going through the house, the diary was brought to life. I fully recommend.
- Literally making history. Would I even do the post justice if I failed to mention how I assisted in making history? This past summer for 6 weeks I participated in an archeology dig in Ashkelon, Israel. While my grid did not create as ground breaking a historical discovery as N5 (discovered the first Philistine cemetery), my grid, Grid 51 still created history. In my grid, we better learned of the layout of ancient Ashkelon. Moreover, we uncovered a merchant’s house and a wine-press! I also uncovered a clay replica of a Philistine boat (minus the horsehead prow, sorry Dan).
Top 6 Biggest Challenges of Summer 2016:
- Encountering Tel-Aviv security. The security at airport in Tel-Aviv is the most intense I have ever seen or experienced. I went through security at 3am, was questioned for almost an hour even though I had paperwork and everything, had my checked luggage rifled through, and my carry-on was searched item by item. At 3am I had very little sleep and was not in a pleasant mood to handle the intense security checks.
- Getting dehydrated. For those who have read my Naples blog post, you know about my dehydration experience in Italy. For those who haven’t, I went to Pompeii on a tour and 30 minutes into the tour, managed to get dehydrated and had to leave immediately. It was not fun and I do not recommend.
- Succumbing to the language barrier. The language barrier poses all sorts of problems. I have many tales about it, but the first instance I had was in Paris. At Henri’s, a crêpe shop, I ordered a nutella crêpe. The worker did not understand me, nor I him and I ended up nodding yes to coconut. I do not like coconut and I threw my crêpe away.
- Falling sick on a layover. In Athens, Greece, I managed to see the city on a layover. Yet, 6 hours before my flight I had to go back to the airport because I felt so bad. I laid on the floor of the airport until I could check my luggage in and go through security. That was also not fun.
- Taking my first red-eye flight. My first flight of the summer, the flight to get me over the Atlantic, was a red-eye flight. I tried to sleep on the flight, but between my excitedness and a crying baby, I might have gotten a solid hour. While I did not get jet lag, (yes Kudzai I don’t), I was tired from lack of sleep. Since then, I have learned and excelled at sleeping on flights. I will more than likely be passed out before I leave Boston.
- Almost getting dehydrated a second time. If Pompeii was not bad enough, I almost
managed to get dehydrated in Israel. On our last dig group field trip, we went to Masada and Ein Gedi. At Masada I drank lots of water and even took a hydration tablet. For most people, Masada was what gets then. Yet, it was Ein Gedi that got me. The climb to the highest waterfall there almost killed me. I was starting to see spots and lose focus. I had to stop the group multiple times. But, I made it to the waterfall and once there was able to adequately cool down.
As you can see, I have had my ups and downs while traveling. Last summer was a dream come true, but this summer will be even better! Make sure you check my blog for updates on my adventures this summer!
It is almost time to board, so until next time.