Feelings while crossing borders

It’s easy to be in awe of the drastic change when crossing an invisible boarder into a different country. The language, the music, the landscapes all change. I definitely felt that entering Slovenia from Italy. 
A few days have passed since then and I wish I could remember what it actually looked like upon arrival without looking at pictures – but I remember one thing for sure. I fell in love with Ljubljana. I know I have said that about a few places since I’ve been traveling, but this place was so different. Walkable but not crawling with tourists. After coming from some of the biggest and most popular cities in Europe, I was accustomed to people begging in the streets, vendors aggressively approaching you while dining, trying to sell you selfie sticks and scarves. But not here. I didn’t feel like a tourist here, obligated to purchase things. Education in Slovenia is free, for everyone, so everyone was highly educated and spoke very good English and it was surprising and comforting. I knew nothing about this country or this city upon my arrival, all the information I discovered was by my tour manager, Aryan, who educates us on most of our locations over the two week tour. 
I just crossed the border to Albania from a lunch in Montenegro. As we are traveling with 50 people on a coach bus, border patrol can take a very long time when crossing borders. Our tour manager got off of the bus to talk to the border patrol and attempted to bribe them with 10euro, to which the Albanian border patrol responded by asking if they were receiving the same payment as well. The bus driver ran off with a 6 pack of beers and we were through almost immediately. Hilarious what a few beers and 20euro will do.
Now that I am in Albania, I feel… different. I feel something for this place that I didn’t really know anything about. Aryan explained to us that it wasn’t that long ago that this country was horribly controlled by communism. Rations were a real thing. And that wasn’t that long ago. I live such a privileged life and I almost don’t even know it. I always knew the realities that people in other countries faced but I wasn’t ever actually in it. I never saw the results. I never understood. I feel connected to this place. More than I ever could have imagined that I would. And I want to come back. I want to find an opportunity to do so. 
I’m writing this as we are driving to Tirana. I am surrounded by farm land and mountains and a lot of half finished, if not abandoned buildings, along with seemingly a lot of corruption. But I think that’s what adds to my interest in this place. How different it is. And how I don’t even understand the differences. As I travel I realize how little I know and how much I want to know. How much I want to learn about so many places. And I keep making mental notes of how many places I want to come back to, or sped through too quickly. I know I’ll be back to some of these places… I know that for sure. 
Traveling and seeing so much only makes me more excited for my future. I want to do so much and I have so much time to play with once I finish my degree. This trip might be more about eating and enjoying myself but I’m just setting myself up to come back and do something serious for myself. I know I’m going to be restless. 

I didn’t want to leave Sevilla 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in such beautiful cities. Every place I go is more beautiful than the last. Something different to offer, different to see, more to fall in love with… Sevilla is no exception. Sevilla is definitely the most beautiful city I have been to so far. The bus was over four hours with a pit stop and my hostel was only about ten minutes from the bus station. I walked on the main roads and made my way to the narrow streets of the historic district of Sevilla and fell in love. The architecture on every building, even the main roads, was beautiful. I was pretty exhausted upon my arrival in Sevilla, but I was also starving. 
I got settled into my room and one of the guys asked me and the rest of the bunk mates whether we were hungry, so we all decided to go out to eat. The guy who asked brought a ukulele along with him to travel and I soon found him to be unbearably annoying. No offense to him, I just don’t get along with 28 year olds who act like they’re 12 and require constant attention. The girl I was with was from Belgium and we got along very well, and this was my first taste of Spanish tapas so I wasn’t going to let some annoying, immature, ukulele playing Canadian ruin my meal. 
We all ate. I ordered manchego, olives, and grilled octopus, along with a glass of Sangria. The food came out all separately and it was exactly what I wanted out of life in that moment. I came back to the hostel and took my very first Spanish siesta that lasted a few hours and I was out cold. When I woke up, my Belgium roomie was not in her bunk so I wandered off to buy some clothes to better suit me for the weather. Because Sevilla. Is. Hot. I knew it was going to be hot, and the temperature really was not that bad in comparison to Florida, but going from Ireland to Portugal and then to a drastic increase in temperature was almost too hot to handle. 
I changed my clothes and ended up walking to the river for sunset. The bridge was beautiful at night and the park was covered with the same purple trees as Portugal. I walked along before making my way back to the hostel while waiting for the pub crawl to start. The pub crawl that night turned out to be canceled because not enough people signed up so some people from the hostel just went to the tapas bar next door for drinks. 3 euro wine and 1,30 euro beer. No complaints from me. A group of us ended up going elsewhere. This was the night that I learned how heavy of a pour the Spanish do for liquor… in a big class, nearly half of it was gin and half of it was tonic. No 3 second pour. It was 9. Some US college student attempted to hit on me and tried awfully too hard, sorry pal, so I went back to the hostel to sleep. 

The next day was the free walking tour that started around 10:30 and was supposed to last for about three hours. The huge group was divided by language and just about everyone in my group was paired off or apart of a family except for one guy. He turned out to be from Switzerland and working towards being a doctor. We chatted throughout the entire tour that took us to the Cathedral, a castle, the walkway across from Tirana, and ended at Plaza de Espana. We took a 30 minute break at one point and the Swiss guy got to watch me spill ice cream all down my shirt like a four year old. I claimed it was hereditary because seemingly everyone in my family has a problem spilling shit down their shirt when they’re eating. We agreed to get tapas afterwards and we shared garlic potatoes, sliced tomatoes, olives, tuna with roasted red peppers, and goat cheese. It was exactly what was needed after a long, hot few hours of walking. 
We were going to go to the Cathedral but the line looked dreadfully long so we passed and agreed to meet up later at Plaza de Espana or for a drink. I went back to the hostel, showered, and got ready to meet my penpal Manu that I have been talking to since October. He was actually my first penpal from a website that a friend had recommended. Exams are approaching in Spain so I was surprised he even had time in the first place but after all, I was in Sevilla. We met in Plaza Nueva by my hostel before heading over to PLaza de la Encarnacion where the “mushroom” was located. It is basically a big structure and you can take the elevator up to the top for a cool view of the city. Sevilla looked beautiful even at night, and the prettiest buildings were all illuminated. After that, we went for cheap beer and cheap food and drank and talk while I slowly lost my voice more and more. I had done a lot of talking that day already, and with a nasty cough, my voice was only getting worse. I ended up meeting with the Swiss guy from the walking tour again for a drink after Manu and his friend had to turn in for the night. It was definitely a perfect day in Sevilla. 
The next morning was hotter than the last, but I knew that I wanted to go to the Cathedral and climb up the tower, so I waited in line and got drenched with sweat. There is nothing weirder than the feeling of sweat dripping down your back and into you’re buttcrack. That’s all I’m saying. The Cathedral itself is the largest gothic cathedral in the world, I think. Rightly so. It was stunning. The ceilings were so high and the organs were the biggest I’ve ever seen. It was so easy to get lost in there. I’m not entirely religious so my main motivation was the tower. It was over 30 “flights” high but there was no elevator nor stairs. There were ramps. Apparently, back in the day, rather than walking up the ramps or creating stairs, donkeys used to pull people or be ridden up the tower. It took a bit to climb up to the top, especially because I kept getting stuck behind old people. Why do people love to stop in the middle of narrow hallways? Or walk directly in the center? People… 
The view from the top of the tower was really cool and you could get up on any ledge for a different view. Some of the views led into the courtyard, some were just of the city, or other parts of the cathedral itself. After the Cathedral I went back to the hostel, got made fun of for my rapsy voice, and then headed to get some Gelato before I showered. 
For dinner I treated myself to some Spanish tapas with a gin and tonic. I know, weird combination, but I was not in the mood for beer anymore. I ordered the gin and tonic and the waiter brought the bottle and a glass to the table. He filled my glass, a large glass, half way with gin. As he was pouring, I asked if he was trying to kill me because he didn’t stop for at least ten seconds and he just laughed as if it was totally normal, while dramatically shaking the bottle up and down to make more come out. He put the tonic on the table next to my glass and when he realized how much he actually poured he grabbed the tonic and started pouring it, laughing. “I don’t want my boss to see!” He exclaimed before he walked away. A fifth into my gin and tonic, I was drunk. I didn’t plan on eating any bread, but I soon realized I needed it with my cheese, ham, and mushrooms, and even put the rest of the bread in my purse like the grandma I am to save for later. After, I ordered dessert and got a 5 layer chocolate mousse cake thing that was drool worthy. I wandered back to my hostel and found my friends while they laughed at how drunk I was from only a single (triple) drink.
Later on I went to Plaza de Espana aftr the sun had set because the tour guide told us that it was beautiful at night and he was totally right. It was magical. Part of Star Wars was actually filmed there but that wasn’t something I knew. I had a random stranger take a picture of me in front of the magic and found my way to where all of my friends were on the pub crawl. The pub crawl was pretty unorganized but I was just happy to have found my friends and get another drink. I had another gin and tonic with an insanely heavy pour before we headed to a different bar, and another, and another. At the last one, I actually got carded. ID’d. The only one. I seriously must look 16 years old to get carded in Spain. 
After the last bar, most of us wandered back to the hostel while drunken food was made before we went outside, loudly talking / yelling / laughing. Most of us headed up to the roof top to smoke before I turned in for the night. Though this explanation of the night was a little vague, it was probably the best night I have had out in my entire trip so far. I will never forget Sevilla or the people I met there and I couldn’t be more excited to return. 

waiting is the hard part

I’m sitting in bed, watching The Office, in my last hour of being home. I wasn’t really sure how I would feel in these final moments.

I’ve never been away from my family for an extended period of time like this. I’ve never been that far from the comfort of my own home. I think this is the hard part – being here, knowing what’s about to come, but not being there quite yet. This small waiting period counting down the actual beginning of my trip is grueling. Making sure I have everything, worrying about forgetting something. Goodbyes are weird. It’s not that long of a time, but it’s the longest amount of time for me.

I feel overall excited, blanketed with a sheet of nervousness and topped with a small combination of fear and sadness, but even with all of that, my mind can only focus on the future and what I have to look forward to. I have been planning this trip for over six months, and now it’s just a matter of living out all that I have planned. Getting from place to place. No expectations. Just living each day. I am yearning to be there, to start. Waiting is the hard part.