Summer in October

Just a quick three hour train ride outside of Siena lies a well known series of hiking trails connecting five small village-towns that rest upon a mountain, and are hugged by the sea. Whew, it’s a mouthful simply attempting to define Cinque Terre in a sentence.

There’s something special about Cinque Terre. It’s a town tucked away from normal civilization. I say this because it’s too beautiful to be considered “real life”. To be honest, riding on the train with my friends to Cinque Terre got me feeling like Harry Potter and his crew. Remember in the Sorcerer’s Stone when they first spot Hogwarts through the misty autumn air? – if you haven’t read Harry Potter I pity you. Anyway, the exasperated ooh’s and ahh’s that bellowed from all of the kids on their way to Hogwarts was the same reaction we had as our train entered Cinque Terre. We pulled out of a ridiculously long tunnel and there it was, the mass of Mediterranean sea crashing below the cliff that our train was gliding on. The sun beat down on us from above and reflected off of the water. It was something out of a postcard.


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When we got off of the train we got some lunch next to the station at a restaurant that overlooked the beach below and the ocean in the distance. To be honest, the food at that restaurant was terrible, I had some lasagna that tasted like plastic and milk, but the view made up for it.

We hiked over 6 KMs making our way from Monterosso to Vernazza and staying a night in a hostel. I caution you – future Cinque Terre adventurers – pack lightly, wear good hiking shoes or tennis shoes, and you’d better have a camera handy. The views are stunning. Several times atop the mountain side I would stop to catch my breath and take a moment to look around, it was unbelievable. Everything in Cinque Terre is so picturesque. The panorama of the ocean stretches as far out as you can see, and the pastel colored buildings sitting on the edge of the cliffs look so perfect they seem like paintings. It’s magnificent. To make it even more outrageous, the weather was beyond awesome. The sun shone through the sky without a cloud big enough to block it. The temperature was a moderate 75° F. and the air was crisp and dry with a nice cool breeze.

Unfortunately we didn’t have long enough to hike to all of the villages – thank you striking labor forces for pushing our trip back a day – but we still managed to see everything and save some energy by taking the train through Manarola and Riomaggiore. Naturally, we found time to get some gelato. I had basil gelato with olive oil on top. Don’t bash it till you try it! It’s like heaven on earth, created in a tiny gelato shop, tucked away in an Italian alleyway and placed inside a tiny little cup for only a Euro and a half.  It is molto buono.


basil gelato


Our final hour came hastily, we spent it seated on a loading dock that reached down into the shallow depths of the clearest and bluest ocean water I’ve ever seen. Small schools of fish swam in sync through the sun streaked water. This was one of those rare moments in time when my friends and I were content with being completely silent, in order to soak up the moment as selfishly as possible. There was only one problem, the water looked so empty without a few of us in there swimming around in it! There was no reason why we shouldn’t hop right in, except for the fact that the sun was beginning to drop, and usually October isn’t swimming weather. Oh, and we also didn’t have swimsuits. But, if there’s a will there’s a way. So we all dropped our pants and used our underwear as swimming gear. The water wasn’t extremely warm, but none of us cared, we wouldn’t have wanted to end our expedition in Cinque Terre any other way.

swim

Liebster Award

www.chicagonow.com

I would like to thank glitteringwanderlust — even if she is a beaver, Go Ducks! — thank you girl this means a lot! I’m very excited to finally get my first blog moving, and it seems to be heading in an exciting direction.

The award aims to expose new bloggers and help mark their blog in the blogging world. Here are the rules to accept.

  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who presented this award and link back to their blog.
  • Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate bloggers who you feel deserve this award and who have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer 11 questions about yourself and create 11 for your nominations.

Here are 11 random facts about me!

  1. When I was little I fell in a fire pit while camping.
  2. I was adopted, and I met my birth mom, and my three new siblings when I turned 18.
  3. I grew up despising peanut butter. Today, it competes for my best friend spot.
  4. My family and I adopted a cat when I was 8, I named her Princess.
  5. I play on the Oregon Men’s Rugby Club at University of Oregon.
  6. I don’t understand people that don’t try things because they think they won’t like it. Don’t be boring! Live a little.
  7. I was a very large kid, I weighed in at 255lbs in 8th grade.
  8. I cry every time Mufasa dies in Lion King.
  9. I’m a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
  10. I haven’t skinny dipped…yet.
  11. My mom has called me cootsie bug since before I can remember.

Okay, now to answer Glitteringwanderlusts’ questions:

  1. What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?

This is a great question, considering the fact that I’m from the Pacific Northwest so I need to make this decision often. Well, there are different activities for different types of rainy days – yes, there are variations of rainy days, I’m an expert. For example, on a nice humid rainy day in the Spring or Summer I love being outside. Sometimes these are the best days to be active; hiking, running, mountain biking or even playing catch with some friends. On cool rainy days, in the Winter for example, I have no problem making a hot drink and watching a good movie with my lovely girlfriend Taryn, reading a good book, or delving into a video gaming adventure for hours on end with some friends.

  1. Do you prefer to travel to warm or cold locations?

This question also depends on context! But I will give a more concise answer this time. In general, I prefer to travel to warm locations. I live life like it’s slipping through  my fingers, I like to move and experience new things constantly, plus I’m very active. That being said, sunny, warm locations usually permit more activities than do colder areas.

  1. What is the top item on your bucket list?

Honestly, I don’t have a bucket list yet, so I haven’t thought about it much, you’re putting me on the spot Sara! Well I would have to say it would be to go on no less than a week long excursion backpacking through the Rocky Mountains.

  1. What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten? Where did you eat it?

Okay, so before I answer this let me give you a bit of a background story. When I was in 8th grade, I was nominated by the science department of my school for a chance to apply for a part on the Nickelodeon special “Nick News Adventure with Linda Ellerbee”. I wrote an essay, they liked what they read and offered me a phone interview which they also seemed to enjoy. So me and 5 other kids from America were taken on a ten day adventure in Chang Mai Thailand. We lived on an elephant sanctuary and trained our own individual elephants for the entire time. The episode was called: If I Could Talk to the Elephants – here’s a slideshow from the trip, I’m the chubby kid with glasses who wears too many awkward polo shirts.

So, near the end of the trip, we rode our elephants far away from our sanctuary village into the jungle. The mahouts or Thai elephant trainers, took us up the mountains to collect bamboo stalks to make plates, cups, and bamboo-ware AKA forks for our dinner. They also brought back a big pile of what looked to me like white rice or some other starchy grain. It was piled up in a basket covered in newspapers. I was asked to try some, and as I got closer to this “mystery grain” I realized it wasn’t rice, and it definitely wasn’t any other type of grain either. I was told it’s a special protein packed snack that is only harvested in that part of the year that give the mahouts lots of energy during their travels. Turns out, it was ant larva…. Naturally, I tried some. I will only say this about the experience, the larvae popped in my mouth like those little liquid filled balls you can get in your bubble tea, the taste is a bit earthy with hints of zesty pepper, and the texture is wet and grainy. Not the tastiest food in the world, but definitely edible if you’re out of protein bars.

  1. Do you like solo or group travel better?

Solo. But I do enjoy traveling with my girlfriend as well.

  1. Would you ever go skydiving?

I’ve been trying to do this for years, but every time I plan it, my friends bail last second. So anyone down to go soon?

  1. What is your dream job?

Truthfully, I ENVY Anthony Bourdain. He has the greatest career on the planet. He travels, meets awesome people, eats fantastic foods and drinks only the best alcohol, all while explaining his experiences in a journalistic style without any boundaries. He’s real, I like Anthony.

  1. Who, if anyone, inspires you to travel?

100% Linda Ellerbee. She’s an amazing woman, a historic journalist and one of my idols. She is the host of Nick News Adventure and she was the person who got me interested in studying journalism and definitely gave me the travel fever I carry with me to this day. Thanks Linda, you’re the woman!

  1. Who do you admire the most?

My mother. As cliché as that may seem, it’s true. My mother is the most caring, optimistic woman I’ve ever met. She never judges anyone and takes even the worst circumstances and turns them into learning experiences. She taught me the importance of finding the silver linging in everything. She is my silver lining.

10. What is your favorite book or movie? Wow, loaded question much?!

Ok, well I will have to say that my favorite book would definitely be the “Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho. It’s a story of a young shepherd boy that is told by a mysterious king that unlimited riches await him at the Egyptian pyramids. And the only way he will be able to reach them is if he learns to speak the language of the universe. For me, I associate the message from a Christian point of view. However, it can be interpreted in various ways. Every time I read it, I gain new wisdom from its words. In my eyes it’s a must read for all ages.

11. Do you write your blog with or without music?

Great question! As I write this post, Eric Hutchinson’s “Ok, It’s Alright With Me” is playing on my Jack Johnson Pandora radio station. So, yes.

I would like to nominate these fantastic bloggers below!

  1. Alyssa Cooper http://cooper1ak.blogspot.it/2014/10/san-gimignano.html
  2. Living Outside of the Box https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/53773173/
  3. My Travels and That http://longswanderlust.wordpress.com/

Here are my questions for ya’ll:

  1. Why did you choose to study abroad?
  2. What’s your homesickness remedy?
  3. If you had to live in one country for the rest of your life, where would it be? Why?
  4. If money didn’t matter, and judgment was non-existent, what would you do with your life?
  5. “Why male models?” — Zoolander: AKA what’s your favorite movie?
  6. Explain in delicious detail the best food you’ve eaten while abroad.
  7. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter? What do you think this says about you?
  8. If NASA created a public space travel vessel and offered you a spot, but the catch is that there’s no guarantee the ship will make it back to earth, would you do it?
  9. What’s your favorite past time while abroad?
  10. What’s the one gift you want to buy to splurge on yourself before going home?
  11. What aspect of studying abroad has affected you most? How?

Roma

Two days, that’s all we had. For a weekend excursion from my place in Seattle to Vancouver, that’s plenty of time to enjoy myself. But only two days in Rome? I thought there was no possible way to accomplish much of anything. But just like a group of superheroes, my study abroad squad and I happened to do it all in those 48 hours.


Rome 0 : Study Abroad Squad 1


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Don’t get me wrong, spending more than two days in Rome is definitely the preferred method of viewing the historic city, but we didn’t have a choice. And when I say that we “did it all” I mean I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything I wanted to see or do. I left without a single regret and if you can’t already tell, I’m pretty freakin’ thrilled about it.

So what was it like? Gosh dangit I’m glad you asked. Let me give you some pre-trip expectations. My thought of Rome before visiting was a bit pessimistic. Now I know there are some historically phenomenal things to see there, but I’ve never been much of a “big city guy”. To me, big cities – especially ones with the culture and history that Rome has – are tourist traps. Groups of annoying people, walking around with their pasty-white, sun-screened noses up in the air unknowingly blocking the walkway of every other person on the sidewalk. I figured the city would be full of beggars, hagglers, and trash. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just my preconceptions of Rome, but it’s how I picture nearly every big city, and I’m not a fan.

My first couple of hours in the city were a near perfect depiction of my preconceptions. There was trash littering the ground on every inch of pavement. Graffiti covered most of the walls of the buildings and glass paneling near the bus stops. Beggars were literally tripping you with their cups, as they lay face down on the side of the walkways. I wasn’t surprised, and I wasn’t extremely jolly either. Granted, our hotel was right next to the subway station, it was literally across the street from the entrance. So we weren’t staying in the prettiest area.

As our group took its first tour through the city, passing through the alleys and roadways towards downtown, my spirits lifted. The buildings were something out of a movie. There were palm trees throughout the landscape, and there were even wild parrots chirping and singing on the branches. The people were quite friendly, and they spoke a lot more English than the Sienese. Heck, even the beggars and hagglers were respectful, taking a “no” or “not interested” with a smile and pleasantly moving on. My mindset quickly started to change from negative to positive the more that I explored the city.

In our allotted 48 hours, we were able to see over 10 major attractions as well as explore and try out many fantastic restaurants, bars and clothing/gift stores. However, for the sake of time – yours and mine – I’m not going to dive into extraordinary detail of every statue, fountain, monument, restaurant, gellateria, museum, church and other sorts of buildings I saw. This will also save you from any spoiled preconceptions of these aspects of Rome so that you can travel there and see them for yourselves. However, I will tell you briefly what I saw, what I would recommend you see, and my final thoughts on the trip.


In no particular order here are the places we visited in our two days in Rome:

  1. Santa Marie Maggiore
  2. Foro Traiano
  3. Foro di Augusto
  4. Colloseo
  5. Arco di Constantino
  6. Palatino
  7. Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuele
  8. Campo De Fiori
  9. Piazza Navona
  10. Fontana di Trevi
  11. Basilica S. Pietro
  12. Musei Vaticani

And a few others.


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Now, when you visit, whatever you do please don’t pass up the opportunity to see these five places:

  1. Vatican
  2. Colosseo
  3. Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuele
  4. Basilica S. Pietro – Even if there’s a long line, do not pass up the opportunity to go inside. Also, there’s a chance to purchase a ticket to climb to the top of the dome inside the church, it was only five Euros. Do it.
  5. Hard Rock Cafe

Ok the last one was a joke, but I was in the mood for a serious cheeseburger when we were there so I just happened to find myself one.

All in all, Rome was fantastic. I wish we could have stayed longer, because even though I feel that we pretty much dominated the city with the time we had, I know there is still plenty more to see. That being said, I will be going back there. Probably more than once, and I’m taking my mother and my girlfriend.

Hope you liked what you read, please comment with any questions, thoughts or general feedback below.

Culture shock?

from: www.piazzapisano.com

I’ve been living in Europe for over a month now. Time is flying by, and so far things have gone extremely well! I’ve spent a good amount of money – all for good reasons – and have had an outstanding trip thus far. But, this past weekend, I had a bit of a setback. Even in hindsight I can’t quite put my finger on what was wrong, but I was off. I know, poor me, living in Italy and I happened to have a bad day, boo-hoo.

Seriously though, I’m very in tune with my emotions and my mood and when something is off I look for a reason why. I’m a constant work in progress, and progress is only made through change. So Sunday I spent all day just chillin’. It was hard, but after a long day of doing not much of anything, and a nice conversation with some friends over gelato that night, I gained a pretty solid understanding of what was going on.

I wouldn’t call my lack of positive vibes “homesickness” but in a sense I was. It wasn’t that I missed home altogether, because I’m still thrilled to be here in Europe, but I think I’m starting to slip away from what my friend Jessie so wisely considers, the “honeymoon” phase of the trip. I think you can grasp the idea of what I mean by “honeymoon” phase. When going to a new place i.e. Italy, you are so excited, you love the new area, you can’t wait to start a new adventure everyday and try new things, but after a while you get used to your new life. You settle in, you get comfortable and a bit complacent. Things aren’t as fresh and exciting as they once were. That’s what I have been struggling with.

It’s a bit of a culture clash really. As an American, I figure when things aren’t going the way I want them to, It’s my job to work harder, to put in more effort, and eventually I will change my current situation. So when I started feeling myself come out of the “honeymoon” stage of my trip, I pushed to find things to do, pushed to experience new adventures and to be honest I stressed myself out. What I realize now is that I’m finally settling into my new life abroad and I’m beginning to get comfortable. Which is exactly what I came here to do! In order to stay happy and content, what I need to do is be more like the Italians. Soak up each precious moment, I shouldn’t worry about what comes next or when my next major adventure is, instead live each second in the present and enjoy the moment, even if it is just sitting and doing absolutely nothing. For the rest of my stay in Italy, I want to take advantage of my free time. As the Italians say, Dolce far niente –  it’s about the sweetness of doing nothing. Life’s too short to be overwhelmed, might as well enjoy all of our precious seconds while we can.

Ode to Gelato


Oh gelato.

So sweet and so cool.

Your colors, as glamorous as special crystal from the sea.

Your flavors endless as a desert and as soothing as a lullaby.

Gelato, you complete me.

Before or after my meal, you are there to ease my tummy.

Gelato, in how many forms are you made?

Ferrera Rochet, blueberry and chocolate, I may never need another dessert.

You are my one and only, nothing can compare to you.

I may fall from grace, eating a cookie here or there,

but your creamy, blissful, summertime taste keeps me true to you.

You are the food for stressed minds, and a sight for sore eyes.

Oh gelato, I’m glad you are all mine.


Friends Make the Difference

Before heading off on this adventure of mine in Europe, I had a few friends telling me we should all study abroad together. It was a great idea, it’s always fun to do something exciting with friends and if ever one of us got into some trouble, we would have each other’s backs. But I had to tell my friends no. It was hard, but it was important because in those moments that challenge me, I didn’t want a safety net, I wanted the experience to shape me. Selfishly, it seemed, I was just pushing my friends away. Truthfully, it was a bit selfish; but in my opinion, being selfish isn’t always bad.

Coming to Europe without my friends was another step away from comfort. I was purposely  putting myself out on a limb without anyone to keep me safe. I wanted this. A study abroad experience was a chance to get to know myself better. That being said, I also was interested in meeting a lot of new people and making new friends that I can eventually share this experience with. I’ve been very fortunate to find new friends here in Italy that I would have never have met had I come here with my friends from home. Again, I love my boys, but it’s a fact that if we came here together we would be by each other’s sides constantly and it would be more difficult to meet new people.

I’m very blessed because the group of kids studying here with me from the States have been fantastic. We are all so different, we come from different groups at school and have never met each other before. But, we all have the same goals for this trip, to come here by ourselves, make new friends, challenge ourselves and come out stronger than ever. Truthfully, we all came here to a be a bit selfish. The best part is, it’s this goal that unites us. We respect each other’s desire to grow, we’ve pushed each other to meet new people, to use the native language, to try new things and even to go do things alone. I have made plenty of friends in Europe so far, many of them locals and some are other students from other countries. But I am extremely thankful to have the group of friends I have in this program. They keep me sane. If I’m in a bad mood, I can go see any one of them and it puts a huge smile on my face. Seriously, I’m getting kind of sappy here but I love my new friends. I feel like we are all family and I know for a fact that we will stay in touch long after our three month excursion to Europe.


Friends


Traveling is great, heck even life is awesome, but it’s only made better through strong friendships. I’m blessed, I’m happy and I think it’s time to go grab a coffee with my friends.

Ciao

A Blessed Beverage

My friend Mila and I went to our favorite pizza bar this morning to “study” and have some coffee. Eventually after reading about a page of my reading assignment, our friends Andrea and Alyssa showed up and joined us. We moved to another table next to a group of men who were American, or so I assumed due to their fluent English and American accents.

Halfway through my margarita pizza, Andrea asked what type of drink everyone around us was sipping on. I didn’t know what it was either so naturally, I asked the Americans who were sitting directly behind me. They explained to me that it was a “spritz” – carbonated water with some kind of sweet Italian liquor and bitters, served in a large wine glass with ice. They said it was a great drink to kick start digestion and that it was very enjoyable on a sunny afternoon like today. We spoke together for a few minutes and I learned that they were all priests traveling to Rome to visit some friends for a few days, and it just so happened that they were visiting Siena for a day trip. Patrick – the man nearest me – was from North Carolina, and the others were from all over the country. Eventually we said our goodbyes and I continued conversation with my friends.

As we were finishing our food, the waiter Mauro came to me with a spritz and said it was from the priest! We clinked our glasses with a happy “salute!” and they told me to enjoy it as they bid me a good day and God bless.

I use this anecdote to give a piece of advice to any traveler or really any person looking to squeeze every ounce of happiness from life. It’s very simple, just make an effort to smile, talk and meet people more often. When paired together, these three simple gestures lead to developing awesome friendships and often have their perks. Like getting a nice and blessed beverage.

Thanks for visiting my blog, if you are interested in seeing more pictures from my trips check out my instagram: @torresknows