Money Well Spent

VENEZIA: A waterlogged city renowned for its architecture, cultural history and geographical beauty. It’s a city that has been depicted in my head since I first learned about Italy. Since I was young, whenever I imagined Italian culture, food, it’s people and any other fact about Italy, I always had an image in my head that was based solely on the Venetian lifestyle.  I would imagine Italian men dressed in black and white striped shirts and a red bandana traversing along a liquid street standing on the rear-end of a gondola.  Unfortunately, being able to physically walk along the Venetian streets while living here in Italy seemed unlikely in the short amount of time I have.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take a day trip somewhere. I figured, in order to save some money, I would just check out a place close to Siena. Maybe I could take a bus to Montepulciano or San Gimignano perhaps, but something inside me wanted more.

My friend Taylor went to Venice for a weekend by himself earlier this month and told me that it was quite literally his favorite experience thus far. He was raving about it for days, but his only trepidation was that it was expensive. I wanted to go to Venice, but I’m cheap, and expensive is a very frightening word to me. So, naturally, I procrastinated on planning for the trip. I wouldn’t even take the time to look into the price because I knew that it would only turn me off from the idea. For two weeks I planned to research the price of the trip – but never got around to it. Finally, on Friday night, I worked up the nerve to open my laptop and figure out what it would cost to go to Venice.

Travel alone was going to run me about 110 Euros – I could just imagine how much lighter my wallet would weigh after this hit – then when I factored in my hostel, my food and my entertainment, I was going to be spending much too much.

Eventually I came to my senses and aksed my self a single question, “will I regret not going to Venice when I came this close to making it happen?”. The next morning at 7:00, I was on a 300km/h train North to Venice.

The question for me at this point was whether or not the image of Venice I’ve kept in my head all of these years would turn out to be a better depiction of the actual thing and disappoint me, or would seeing the city completely overrun my preconceived notions. I advise you, – yes you, pal – go to Venice. It will blow you away.

Coming into the city was like entering a mythical land. The train sped across acres and acres of earth and then suddenly, when I looked of the window, all I could see was water. The tracks themselves stretched across the sea leading into the city. The train station overlooked one of the most interesting panoramic scenes I’ve ever viewed. Busy streets full of shoppers and vendors that were lined up in sync with an infinite canal that was inhabited by boats of all shapes and sizes. It was beautiful and although the weather sucked, I didn’t mind because the city made up for it.


I only had a day and a half here so I did what every tourist does in a new city, I explored. I probably walked 10 miles that evening, trekking along the streets, looking at the shops, getting lost, and it was great. Eventually I found a beautiful church, – I can’t remember the name of it, shame on me – that was holding a classical orchestra performance that night. I bought a ticket – yay! more money spent – but it was well worth it. The church was gorgeous, the artists were phenomenal and it was a great way to spend my evening. The next morning I got lost some more. I enjoyed a good book while sitting  next to the canals, watching the gondolas pass by. It truly was an experience I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to visit the city again.

Overall, this was a good learning experience. I had the opportunity to trust my gut in spite of my fears and worries. Had I not gone to Venice I may have seen another cool city, saved some money, and been totally ok; but the regret I would have had after I returned to American would haunt me. I know myself too well, and luckily I’m pretty adept at recognizing good opportunities when they come my way. Needless to say, I made the right choice.

And yes, the real Venice was better than my preconceived idea of it. Until next time Venice.


Culture shock?


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.

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.


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.