Friday, March 28, 2014

Seven years of wanderlust.

This morning I got up at a reasonable time and did my run going the opposite direction on the promenade for a really beautiful 3-mile (3 miles!!) run.

The type of boats I assume Rihanna parties on when she comes to Nice

Afterwards I went to "my coffee place" and when I walked in there were two American girls going over the menu. Now, this place clearly caters to Americans as there is a big sign outside that says "Coffee-to-go!" which is not a very European concept. Plus their decor, bright colors, and menu options just let's me think they are trying to pick up the tourist business.

Anyways, I could have told you these girls were American without even having heard them speaking American English. It's funny how much we U.S.A-ers stick out in foreign countries, it's almost comical. They were wearing bright shorts, slouchy sweaters, and sandals. And although it is definitely nice weather in Nice (Aubrey would probably kill me if I tried to complain about it, right Aubs??), it is NOT shorts and sandals weather. The French are still bundled up.

The girls ordered fruit smoothies and bagels with cream cheese. Now, again, the fact that they have bagels on the menu shows you who they are marketing to. But then the fact that the girls actually ordered them... Are you kidding me!? Bagels in France!?! What the heck, get a croissant. Heck, get FIVE croissants and lord knows I wouldn't judge. But a bagel? Okay, well, anyways, I heard them talking about travel plans and asked where they were headed. They told me they were spending the weekend in Nice. "We're studying abroad in Luxembourg so we travel every weekend."  Ah, study abroad.

This interaction just reminded me of something I've been wanting to write about for the past week. And that is that for whatever reason I have been really nostalgic on this trip of my own study abroad experience, which was the first time I left the country (discluding a middle school class trip to Quebec.)  That study abroad experience is also when I fell in love with travel.  As I have gone from country to country this trip, I've been browsing through my passport which is almost in need of a renewal, and it is full of stamps, visas, and memories.

I know I'm probably too young to have these, "Back when I was your age..." type thoughts about technology, as I am a millennial and grew up with the Internet for the most part. However, communication was even so different seven years ago when I spent six months studying and living in Florence, Italy with Syracuse University.

I didn't have any WiFi, or a smart phone for that matter, and I would either buy minutes at an Internet cafe (which were always sketchy!) or wait in line to snag a desktop computer in our school's computer library. And when you got one of those you would hoard that chair and spot for as long as possible to check email, research and book weekend travel, and of course, upload pictures to Facebook.

Pre-mega popularity for blogging and pre-my first blog (which I didn't start until Fall 2007, holla!) so I used to write home novel length e-mails to a distribution including all my family members and friends. I'd often write the emails just in a word document in my tiny empty bedroom in my host families home and then use the coveted Internet access to send them out. My mom, and grandparents as well, would print them all out and keep them together in packets they both still have.

My bedroom for 6 months in Florence, 2007
I used to love recapping what I was seeing and experiencing and loved sharing everything with my family and friends back home. I was the first in my immediate family to travel to Europe and coming from an Italian family, I thought it was really cool to be able to share the experiences with them through words and photos. I also loved getting comments and responses back.

A photo with my namesake to send back to the fam, 2007
I had a little prepaid cell phone that I mainly used to communicate with my friends within Italy who were also studying abroad but every now and then I would use some minutes and euros to call home and talk to my parents. A couple drunk nights when the expense seemed more trivial, I called friends to have silly conversations -- because of the time difference they'd be just finishing classes for the day or having dinner.

I remember when the tragedy at Virginia Tech happened and how isolated and scared I felt trying to get in touch with my high school friend who went to school there to make sure he was okay.

It's just crazy how much communication has changed and how between my laptop, free WiFi, G-Chat, my iPhone equipped with iMessage, Skype, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and international coverage... Lack of communication is not even a thing.

I've been nostalgic about more than just the communication though. Some things have just stuck out at me about how much I have grown up and how some things I am still the same me.

I'd still prefer to often just sit outside of a museum and people watch/reflect than go inside. Although it's somewhat shameful looking back, in my 6 months in Florence, despite walking by it alllll the time and having not only a free entry pass but a pass to allow me to cut the line... I never visited the Uffizi museum.

And in Istanbul, I spent hours walking around and wandering and sitting on street benches. And although I walked over to them and viewed them from the outside I chose not to go inside the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sofia. It's not that I am disinterested, it's more that I just like to experience things in my own way.

In Florence I LOVED the Accademia Gallery and visited there multiple times to just sit and look at the David statue. And when I went back to Florence years after, I paid money and went to do it again.  And the Blue Mosque in Istanbul? I could have just sat and observed for hours. But if I have an afternoon... I'd rather spend it on my own sometimes and making my own observations, rather than walking a guided tour and being told by someone else what was important or memorable.

At the Blue Mosque in Istanbul last week
I also like to see a place as it is today and would rather get lost in a neighborhood in a city and have to find my way back rather than spend hours in line or fighting crowds to take a picture of a historical painting that I'll probably forget what it means later. Plus, all that stuff costs money and wandering is free. I'd rather spend that money on gelato and/or meringue to munch on as I walk.

One of the most memorable day trips from my study abroad time was when I went to Siena and San Gimingano. A friend and I ditched the guided tour completely after we got off the bus. We spent the day walking around on our own, talking pictures, and what I felt like was really SEEING Siena.

Do I regret not seeing any of the statues or historical monuments in the church tours we were supposed to be on? Not in the tiniest bit. But do I remember the old man that we met who walked with us for a bit, offered us gum, and took us to his favorite restaurant to "make ciao"? Absolutely.

"Making Ciao" with Othello in Siena, 2007
And in San Gimingano when we missed the tour and instead spent the afternoon sitting on a random fountain talking to some school boys who had no idea that the baby blue sweatsuit they had on said "Cheerleader!" on it and totally punked us by telling us that in Italian you don't say "Cheese!" when taking a picture but "Pomodoro!" (tomato) or "Lechuga!" (lettuce.)  That was perfection.

Best afternoon ever in San Gimingano, 2007
I still make friends when I travel and somehow find myself memorable to the lady who makes my coffee or the man who waited on my table.  My favorite waiter from my favorite restaurant in Florence remembered me years later when I returned.  But to be fair, I did eat there A LOT and one time my uncles and I took him out for drinks as a thank you for being awesome.

With my favorite waiter from studying abroad, 2 years later in 2009
I still takes chances and accept the offer to get tea or go to dinner with a stranger-turned-friend.

I still think it is important to view my time abroad as being a short term citizen rather than a tourist.

I still think it's important to try to ice cream in every city I travel to.

My favorite Gelateria in Florence, 2007
I still love noticing the similarities and differences in lifestyles in the people I meet around the world.

I still want to buy, and eat, pretty much everything I see everywhere I go!

I still get nervous trying to get in touch with friends after a tragedy happens at home, like the recent fire in Boston that happened to be across the street from my best friend's home.

I still like to zone out listening to John Mayer and Jack Johnson while sitting and people watching or seeing the countryside fly by via train or bus or airplane window.  I vividly remember being on a train to Grangola, Italy and discussing Jack Johnson's "Breakdown" and John Mayer's "Stop This Train" with L-Smith.

A memorable trip to Grangola with L-Smith, 2007
I still feel incredibly blessed and thankful to have the means and ability to have this life.

And of course, I still send home lengthy and verbose recaps of my adventures!

However, I've also grown up.

I'm not tempted to overhaul my wardrobe buying out the cheap European clothing lines such as H&M, Mango, and Promod. (Although I do stand true that European Zara is different, and cheaper, than the U.S. Zara...)

I no longer am willing to stay in hostels with shared rooms or bathrooms, and thankfully, have the means to no longer need to!

After last night's 2.50 euro wine, I will no longer be purchasing the cheapest wine on the shelf either! When I studied abroad in Florence I would drink the under 2 euro "frizzante" by the bottle and wine juice boxes were my best friend. The 2.50 wine was pretty much undrinkable (but I still drank a glass... because I'm willing to suffer like that... I just dumped the rest of the bottle out this AM and wouldn't drink it again.)

Many a days & nights spent with Tavernello wine juice boxes, 2007
Aside from financial things, I'm no longer as nervous to try new foods. I'll take a bite of most anything that is put in front of me.

I'm more apt to see a city by morning as it is waking up and I go for a run, than by staying out late and seeing the bar scene.

I no longer get upset when I don't get to see or do everything I want to do in a city and just vow that it is a reason to go back another time. I remember the first time I went to Rome I was really upset that I didn't get to see the Trevi Fountain. But low and behold, I returned to Rome and spent enough time at the Trevi Fountain to make up for it's absence from my first visit!

Back in Rome, 3 years later, finally making it to the Trevi Fountain, 2010
I also no longer feel the NEED to drink the wine and beer on international flights... Even though it is free! Or in the words of Ross Gellar, built in to the price. I remember my very first drink (also, first "legal" drink ever!) flying AirFrance from JFK to Florence and it was damn amazing though!

I mean, and let's just face it, I've grown up a lot over 7 years. Although much of me is the same, I've experienced and been through so much since I first studied abroad and stepped foot in Europe. And I like who I have become. I look back on the end of college and first years of adulthood - both the painful and the happy times-- fondly. As a part of who I am, and a part of my personal story.

For those who know me outside the blog, you know that I've had some experiences that could have left me closed off from other parts of the world.  Maybe, with some bitterness about opening oneself up to new cultures.

And I'm really happy that isn't the case. I'm confident that the urge to explore and learn about others and bring them in to my life will always be with me. I like that part of me. And I like being able to share it all with you.

Florence, 2007
So with that, I'm gonna log off and go start my day. Happy Starbucks Friday to my girls back home and happy Friday to everyone else!! XOXO.

Nice, 2014


  1. Loved this post! So great to relive some of our abroad memories. Loved every second we spent together in Florence. Miss you!!

    1. Lauren, I have been reminiscing about the wonderful memories from Florence so much this trip and am SO thankful that you were a part of so many :) Wish we could relive those fabulous days at Via Cirillo with our head inches apart. Miss you too!