3 Things I Learned While Travelling Overseas as a Student

  1. Uncertainty = Adventure

There are various things that can keep us from going out of our comfort zone and doing something big in our lives, such as traveling. We think we don’t have the money for it, we think we don’t have the time, or we have the FEAR of the unknown.  We fear getting into a situation where we are lost, don’t know what to do, or don’t even speak the language. I was making my way from Rome, Italy to Stockholm, Sweden. The reason for that is a much longer story I will get into in another post. When people asked me how or what I was going to do I said: “I have no idea, Ill figure it out on the way.”  This definitely isn’t for everyone, but it was the experience I desired. There’s a quote by Rolf Potts: “Having an adventure is sometimes just a matter of going out and allowing things to happen in a strange and amazing new environment—not so much a physical challenge as a psychic one”. Alright, so don’t think that I came up with this amazing thought by myself, I just wanted to have that adventure. I ended up one day in Hamburg, Germany.. I was hauling around my big backpack as I got off the train and I picked a direction and said, “I’m going to go that way today”. I knew nothing about Hamburg. I stumbled upon this building that was called “Miniature Wunderland” It is about 3 whole floors of the largest model train attraction in the world. I knew nothing about it and spent about 4 hours there. It was amazing. I didn’t have a plan, I had no idea what I was doing, and I ended up having one of the best days of the trip.  Another quote I love from him: “The simple willingness to improvise is more vital, in the long run, than research.”

  1. It’s a lot cheaper to travel than you think, if you are willing to sacrifice some comforts.

You always hear: “I wish I had the money for that”, or “I will never be able to afford to travel”. This can be true, but if you are willing to sacrifice some comforts you can make it work. Stay away from Hotels. Hostels in a room with 15 other people, or Airbnb are great alternatives and you will meet amazing people. Grabbing a sandwich at a convenient store or from a bakery instead of eating at a restaurant. Sacrifice is part of the adventure.

  1. There are good people everywhere that care about you.

I learned that there are good people everywhere. I constantly was relying on locals to help me to find where to go and what things to see. Some invited me into their homes for food and others gave me tours. If you are good to them they are good to you. People care about you. I was renting an Airbnb from this older lady who lived by herself. She made me breakfast, washed my clothes, she even WALKED with me for THREE HOURS to show me places to see. She barely spoke English.  I only paid 20 bucks for one night! I was felt like I was at home. There are good people everywhere, you just have to be good yourself.

I want to know what you think, what other lessons have you learned or you think are important? Let me know in the comments and subscribe to my Email Newsletter to check out more!

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Why Switzerland is the Best, Ever.

I want to tell you about Switzerland and my trip there. My photos will be much more exciting than this post will be. But if you don’t want to immediately drop what you are doing and catch a plane to Switzerland after this then I have failed miserably.

My only regret about Switzerland was not having enough time to explore it more. I had always wanted check it out because my family, the “Kohlers” are originally from Switzerland. So it has all that special family ancestor stuff that everyone talks about.

The first thing I noticed arriving in Switzerland by train is the mountains. Now, here in Utah where I am from, we have beautiful mountains. But, it is nothing compared to the astonishing mountain landscape that is Switzerland. I love mountains. I love the metaphor that they are for the challenges that we encounter in life. They rise above us, intimidating and dominating our thoughts. Only when we conquer them and reach the summit can we look down and understand the benefit of the challenge that we had to get to the top. I had planned to stay in a mountain town if Interlaken. It is a rather wealthy town, but I soon realized that all of Switzerland is much wealthier that most the countries in Europe. Maybe it was just the slim perception of the areas I saw, but it seems like the Swiss are just on another level than the rest of the world.

My train was pulling into the town and I saw a bunch of people parasailing in the sky. I immediately signed up and hit the parasailing bright and early in the morning. It was a terrifyingly beautiful experience. They strap you in in front of an expert and you start sprinting down a steep slope on top of the highest mountain. The parasail catches the wind and you fly above the mountains, the crisp blue lake, and you swiftly drop into the center of the town. It goes by insanely fast but was one of the best experiences of the whole trip. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible and my fear of heights made this a number one attraction to conquer. Luckily, I had a trusty expert to handle all the real stuff. I was just along for the ride.

I climbed some mountains, rode bikes down a beautiful trail, and ate some barbeque ribs that I didn’t know could exist outside of a 4th of July BBQ. If you ever are thinking about visiting Europe, and you don’t go to Switzerland, I don’t even know if you are a real person. It is my number 1 recommendation for a visit in all of Europe. Everyone speaks English and is extremely kind and welcoming. There were so many other things I wanted to do but didn’t have time. You can take a trip to the highest mountain where it is always covered in snow and they filmed some of a James Bond movie on, you can take rafting trips, and repelling expedition into a canyon that is lit up for miles with neon lights. It is my number one spot for any return trip I make.

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How I Saved Money Travelling Around Europe for Three Months.

Everyone’s first objection or complaint is that traveling is expensive. And they are right. But if you are willing to make some sacrifices there are very simple things you can do to save loads of money.

  1. Stay away from Hotels. Use Hostels and AirBnB
    1. This should be obvious. Don’t be an old person and assume the old ways of using hotels for 300 dollars a night. Sacrifice a little and stay in a hostel with a shared room with 10 strangers for 10 bucks a night. You will have way more fun and meet all sorts of people, you will sacrifice some comfort but in a couple years you won’t look back on that hotel bed you had and remember it. I stayed in a hostel 20 min outside of the center of Rome for 25 bucks a night. I had a bed in a room of 9 other beds. They were filled with 9 Chinese ladies that barely spoke English. It was hilarious and uncomfortable. But I would do it again every time. Always check AirBnB, sometimes it is even cheaper than the hostels. A good tip is if you are willing to stay a 10 min or 45 min walk away from the center of a big city there is a good chance there are available AirBnb’s for extremely cheap. I went stayed a few nights in Belfast, Ireland and I got an AirBnB for 15 bucks a night because it was about an hour and half walk to anything interesting. But it saved me over 100 dollars from not staying in the city!
  2. WALK EVERYWHERE YOU CAN.
    1. If you can walk to where you’re going without being late, always do it. Stay away from taxis unless in emergency. They can be really tempting on a hot and humid day. Use google maps to see if their free trains or busses, but walking will allow you to see more of the cities that the average traveler does not. AND you will save tons of money. Taxi spending adds up REAL quick.
  3. Sometimes a plane ride is cheaper than a train ride
    1. This can seem crazy and is not always true. But there are airlines within Europe that are extremely cheap, such as RyanAir. I got a plane ticket from Stockholm, Sweden to Barcelona, Spain for 50 bucks. 50 BUCKS! Instead of taking several trains, maybe a day and a couple hundred bucks I got to Barcelona in a few hours for extremely cheap. The trick with these airlines is they charge you for EVERY little thing. You want to check a bag? Extra cost. You want a drink? Extra cost. Some even charge you to go to the bathroom. So, I was able to take a backpack and not pay any extra costs. The EuroRail pass can be a good deal if you are traveling between countries over a long period of time. I found it to be cheaper to just buy your train tickets in advance online and have all the tickets on your phone and have a printed copy.
  4. If you are feeling really brave, sleep on trains.
    1. This one is if you are really extreme on saving money. I was traveling from Hamburg, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark and I spent a day in Hamburg and took an overnight train to Copenhagen and that is where I slept! Then I had a whole day in Copenhagen before I had to pay for a hostel. I’m sort of insane, so this isn’t for everyone, but it was an adventure.

I want to know what you think. Do you think these are good ways to save money? Do you think I am a fool? What are some other ways to do it? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to subscribe to my Email Newsletter to get other tips and stories!

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How I Almost Died in Copenhagen

 

It was about 3 am and I was on the 4th story floor hanging in the window in my underwear about to jump on the roof about 10 feet down and across the alleyway. Alright I’m jumping ahead a little bit, lets rewind and I’ll tell you how I ended up there.

I didn’t actually almost die. But it sure sounds cooler when I say it like that. I’ll get to what happened, but I want to tell you a little bit about Copenhagen. One of my favorite places I visited in Europe. The reason I loved it so much was because it was one of the cities where I arrived without a plan and had absolutely no idea what to do. I arrived by train from Hamburg, Germany at about 7 in the morning. I had my backpack and had just slept all night on the train. I had a night paid for at a hostel in the center of the city. I checked in and left my pack there in the room that I was sharing with about 8 other people. They were mostly all from Japan and didn’t really speak any English. Luckily, almost every local speaks fantastic English. You will find that this is true for most of Europe. Everyone speaks two or three languages. We suck in America. I left my stuff in the hostel and walked out the door and picked a direction and decided to go that way and find out what I could experience. I ate some awesome waffles and found a river with a bunch of colorful houses. It’s that beautiful spot where you see all the pictures with the tall skinny houses all in red, blue, yellow, and black. I overheard some people talking about the little mermaid statue that is a big attraction in Copenhagen. I had to check it out. It was pretty lame. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was like those situations where there is all this hype and you see this big crown and I arrive there and just say “hmm, that’s neat.” I wandered around the city all day checking out some museums and getting good food.

Now that I got through all that boring stuff here is where the day gets weird. So, my hostel is like a big 5 or 6 story building with probably hundreds of people staying there. It is like a hostel hotel. They have accommodations for people ranging from families to ppl paying as less as possible to have a bed. That was me. I went to bed at about 11 pm feeling pretty good about the chill day seeing the beautiful city of Copenhagen. I woke up at about 3am to screaming and a loud alarm going off and a recorded voice over the intercom saying: “Fire, Fire, Fire, please exit the building…. Fire, Fire, Fire, please exit the building” I thought I was dreaming. Everyone was scrambling to get out of their beds, rush to the stairway, and exit the building. We were on the 4th floor and the stairway door was about 3 feet wide and the whole floor was smashing into it trying to downstairs. I could smell smoke and there were kids crying and everyone shoving to get downstairs. My first thought was no way I’m gonna leave this building in only my underwear and let it all burn down. So, I left the crowd and ran back to my room and grabbed my phone and ran back out. That’s all I grabbed… my phone. I had great priorities. Everyone is struggling to get out and I told myself there is now way I’m dying up here with all these people. So, I run to the bathroom and open window to climb out. Thank goodness Europe doesn’t believe in screens on their windows. I was perched on the windowsill, half naked, about ready to jump onto the roof across the alleyway with my phone. I was about to do it when this guy ran in the bathroom and grabbed me. He said the fire was just a stove fire and there was no danger. We all made it outside and I sat out there for about 2 hours waiting for the fire department to clear the building for us all to go back in.

I was pretty disappointed I wasn’t able to jump out of a window in my underwear in Denmark. It would have been a way cooler story, but it was still quite interesting of a night. And that is how I almost thought I was gonna die in Copenhagen, Denmark.

What do you think? Was that a good story? Or am I just full of myself and think its funnier than it really is? Let me know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to my Email Newsletter!

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5 Things and a Few Tips You Need to Survive Europe.

Everyone has their ideas on what is important when traveling, in my opinion these are essentials when traveling by yourself in Europe or anywhere for that matter.

  1.  Smartphone
    1. Your smartphone is your best friend while traveling around. Lose the big bulky camera if you are looking for quick and lightweight travel. If you aren’t trying to spend money and you have a huge suitcase and are staying in nice hotels everywhere you go bring a tripod, separate lenses, and the whole shabang. But let’s be real, if that is your case you probably aren’t readying this. Your phone is your camera, your tool for moving funds, your tour guide, and your map. You need to find out what trains to take and where to grab them and what time they leave. That is all available on google maps!
  2. External battery charger!
    1. I used the Mophie Powerstation XL external Battery Pack. This thing will literally save your life. The outlet situation int most of Europe is an absolute shitshow compared to what we have in the US. I spent 2 days on the road sleeping on trains at night and I searched for outlets for hours. Having this battery pack kept me from getting lost in the middle of Italy when I got off at the wrong stop at 3 AM and my phone was dead. Charge it every chance you get. You won’t regret it. Especially if you don’t have access to a plug adapter which brings me to the next point.
  3. Travel Adaptor
    1. For some reason that makes little to no sense, whoever was in charge of deciding what plugs to use across the world thought it would be hilarious to have a different plug and voltage in every single country. Somehow, we can all agree on using the same way to track and tell time, but when it comes to electricity we are all insane. Not only are the plugs only two holes or completely different fit than what we have in the US, the voltage is way higher and can fry many of your electrical devices. Grab an adapter and thank me later. Power Adapter . You can have just regular plug adapters, but the voltage adaption is the most important part when charging your devices multiple times. If you have a laptop check the batter power back for the settings in the back: 100 – 240 V setting means it takes care of the conversion and you should be fine. But you still need the plug adapter
  4. A good VPN – private internet access.
    1. This might be a surprise to a lot of you and you may not even know what it is. Basically, everywhere you connect to the internet you are provided an automatic IP address that is like a mailing address to your device. In some countries this will limit your ability to view things on the internet such as certain Netflix shows or HBO now. Using a VPN will hide your actual IP address and assign you one that pretends you are located somewhere else in the world. I used this to be able to access HBO now and watch Game of Thrones in English. What a great use right? The other benefit is security. You will probably be using public free Wifi connections all over the place. The internet in Europe is actually way better than here and there is free Wi-Fi everywhere. Just ask people. But, remember to use a VPN for your own protection!
  5. Here is a quick rapid-fire list of things to remember:
    1. Bring a quick dry travel towel. Just do it. Don’t complain.
    2. Don’t tip anyone. Unless it is clearly obvious they want and deserve a tip, DO NOT TIP. It is not customary to tip at restaurants or bars in most of Europe. I left 5 bucks in cash at the first restaurant I went to and the waitress called her boss over and asked what to do and they both looked at me like I was an absolute idiot.
    3. Try not to wear flashy, American brand clothing. Wearing your colorful Nikes, and your college emblem and name on a shirt will make you stand out like a sore thumb. Especially if you are in a sketchy place, try not to look like an American just to avoid the risk.

These are some of my important items and tips. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to my Email Newsletter to receive weekly updates.

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Sagrada Familia

Imagine having an idea for the craziest cathedral ever built and its gonna take decades to finish. You start construction and then 130 years later it is barely finished. That is essentially what happened to Antoni Gaudi and his masterpiece: La Basilica de la Sagrada Familia.

Let’s do a quick history run, to show you how amazing this place actually is. It began construction in 1882 and it is still under construction today! Gaudi is famous for his gothic style architecture and unique artistic style.  He is basically a god now in Barcelona. His work is some of the best things to see in the city. George Lucas said that some of his architecture is what inspired the Stormtrooper’s helmets in Star Wars.  Gaudi took over the Sagrada Familia project from another designer and applied his own ideas into what is being constructed today. When Gaudi died at age 73 in the year 1926 the project was less than a quarter complete. A huge reason it has taken so long is that it was stalled by the Spanish Civil War for a couple decades but was able to resume construction with help from private donations and funding from visitors.

The entire building is covered in symbolism. Its spires represent the apostles and other bible figures. The entire story of Jesus Christ is carved into elaborate sculptures all over the front of the entrance. One side is the nativity scene, the other is the calcification and other stories of his life. It is absolutely insane to look at in person and try to imagine the work and effort put into creating it. Besides the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome it is one of the most fascinating structures I have ever seen. Art Critic Rainer Zerbst said: “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art”

The enormous number of visitors it receives each year is its primary source of funding as they strive to complete the building by 2026 with all the decorative aspects completed by 2030.

The video shows some incredible views as it towers over city of Barcelona. The inside has gigantic pillars extending into the sky that are carved to resemble giant trees and you feel like you are inside a forest. All the windows are perfectly designed to let the light in in just the right way to resemble a forest with sunlight beaming through the branches. It becomes very clear that there is not a single aspect of the cathedral that was not specifically designed to symbolize a religious concept or to give a certain feeling and awe to visitors.  Antoni Gaudi was buried in the tomb of his biggest masterpiece ever.

You can go in and take a tour of the whole cathedral for about 15 bucks and you can have an audio guide with headphones that will explain things to you as you go through the building. It is absolutely amazing and a must see for anyone visiting Barcelona, Spain.

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How I Traveled to More than 10 Countries While Studying Abroad in Barcelona.

Why am I even making this blog? Why should you read? What gives me the right to event talk about this stuff? Should you listen to me? Honestly, probably not. But let me tell you a quick summary of what I did and what you might be able to get out this.

I had just finished my Junior year of college and was heading to Barcelona, Spain for study abroad. The program began in the middle of May and went until the first week of August. So, I would be abroad for about 3 months. This is a relatively short option for study abroad, but it was also cheaper! The plan was to take about three classes all studying Spanish, this would complete my Spanish minor. I had saved up money for a year and a half to be able to go and support my goals of traveling around Europe. I lived in a home-stay, which means I lived with a local family who cooked my food, washed my clothes and basically acted as my family in Barcelona.

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They were absolutely incredible and made me feel at home right away. Everyone always asks me how I was able to travel around so much and attend school. The answer is discipline. I generally don’t have much so when I told my family I was going to practice discipline to finish the classes, so I could travel they laughed in my face. This is what I did.

My classes were scheduled to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Starting at 8:00 AM and I would be done by 2 PM with the classes. I forced myself to not leave the school until I had finished all assignments and studying for that week. This left me the time I wanted on Friday through Monday to do whatever I wanted. It was HARD. My classes were advanced Spanish classes like Spanish Literature of the Golden Age of Spain. I had to read all of Don Quixote in Spanish. If you don’t know what that is look it up and see how many pages it has. It was insanely hard, and I didn’t understand most of it. It is like reading old English books but in Spanish.  So that is how I was able to finish my classes and still have time for travel.

On the weekends I took trips to different parts of Spain, I went to Montpelier, France and a town that was the home of Vincent Van Goh in France. I did all that in one weekend and would be back in for class on Tuesday. I took a plane to Belfast, Ireland for a weekend and I also visited places like Rome, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. The end of my trip I took the most advantage of being in Europe already and made it to Switzerland for a few days where I visited the land of my ancestors and parasailed in Interlaken.

I probably sound like I’m bragging, which I am. It was an amazing experience and being able to take advantage of being in the study abroad program and make so many new friends and see amazing places is an experience I will never forget. In my other posts I will go further into ways I saved money, essential things to take, posts about places I visited, and hilarious stories. You won’t be disappointed, or maybe you and will never read my posts again. I’m fine with that, I am writing stuff I would like to read and trying to express how I did my travels and how I will make future travels. I made most of these trips all by myself and it was quite an adventure.

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