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That ONE American Traveler.

You know THAT one.

That one who only wants to party.

That one who didn’t bother to learn any of the local language.

That one who expects to use his/ her charm to get help from other travelers.

That one who doesn’t care to respect cultural norms.

That one who’s traveling on Mommy and Daddy’s money.

That one who simply isn’t respectful of other travelers or locals.

That one who gets their shit stolen cause they left their stuff laying out or were drunk.

That one who gives a bad name for all American Travelers.

You know, THAT one.

It’s finally happening

I’m getting tired of backpacking.

I’ve ran into people who were any where between their 2-4 months of travel and were tired of it. They told me they had seen it all and were ready to go home early. And I kept thinking, there is NO way I could get tired of this so quickly. Maybe after 6 months or a couple years of constantly being on the road but after only 2 months? I get to go where I want, when I want. I can have social days or personal days. I can eat out or cook for dinner (depending on if the hostel has a kitchen). I thought ‘How could one possibly get tired of this life style so quickly?’

But that day has arrived.

I am three months into my trip with a little over a week left and ready to head home. Don’t get me wrong I still love traveling and will continue to do so. It’s not that I’m getting tired of traveling, it’s more I’m getting tired of so many new hellos and being constantly on the move. I miss being able to call up a friend and say ‘Lets go to our favorite restaurant!’ Or ‘Come over to my place and lets bake!’ Those merely aren’t things you can do while backpacking.
1. Because you just arrived to a new city so don’t have a favorite restaurant or want to buy all the materials for baking.
2. You have to make new friends just about ever where you go.
And especially after visiting the closest friends I have and will meet up with on this trip (my next post) in Bilbao these are things I have realized I miss.

I still think everyone should do some form of solo travel for a long period of time. I say long because you just don’t come across the same obstacles if only traveling for a short time.

  • You get extremely good at budgeting.
  • You learn some new tricks in the kitchen because you will get tired of eating out 24/7.
  • You meet more people then if traveling with someone else.
  • You will become more out going.
  •  You will most likely become more laid back (people who are stressing/ trying to organize things way in advance don’t last that long)
  • You’ll get use to being alone (not lonely, there’s a difference).
  • You’ll learn to enjoy those moments to yourself.
  • You’ll learn that you can travel on your own. Which will open up endless opportunities for the future than if you are always waiting for someone.

There are a lot more benefits of solo travel but those are probably my top ones, at least that I can think of right now.

Gelato, Wine, and Pasta

This post is a long one since I was in Italy for a wonderful 10 days 🙂

Day 56: I didn’t have a normal charter bus leaving Zagreb, we had a mini personalized bus that only fit about 16 people, including the two drivers.

We were about half way to Venice and it was gorgeous and sunny, like really sunny and warm almost 20 (Celsius)! We took a lunch break and I took off my jacket and put on my sunglasses. Then I fell asleep back on the bus for maybe 15 min and woke up in the thickest fog I’ve seen!

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There was a girl from South Korea on the bus who’s hostel was near mine so we decided to take the water taxi together which was interesting for someone who gets sea sick. We briefly talked to a local who told us it was the first day in 2 weeks it was foggy and was most likely to stay, we missed the sun by 1 day! Once we reached our stop we decided to meet up a little later to explore together. We found a couple gondola…. tours? And they had an accordion and opera singer! It was really cool to listen to/ watch as they went down the canals.

After walking around we found a grocery store, the only food around seemed to be extreme tourist traps, looked way too over priced and not that good. SO we headed to the grocery store and went our separate ways.

Day 57: As usual I found a free walking tour and our guide was great. As well as the information because Venice was never meant to be a city, so it didn’t have the generic historic town hall and fancy statue that most tours do. She talked about the 125 islands that make up ‘the fish’ (only tour guides call it that) and she had a lot of great little facts which are probably what I enjoy the most. We also went to a famous book store that has books in bath tubs so when it floods (which Venice does often in the winter, they have tables/ boards they place in the middle of the main streets to walk on. They also had a book of tourists stuck visiting during the flood season and not knowing what to do so walking down the street bare foot/ guys carrying girls over their shoulders haha.

 

She told us that most buildings have been restored and how they have been because they can’t be build out of concrete or iron because they move. That the ground is mostly fossilized logs under everything to create more support,they can’t have open fires (all the houses are made out of wood) so the pizza isn’t as good, how the water is rising an average of 20mm per year! The day was also even foggier then the day before.

I was also kind of adopted by a lovely older couple in their 50’s from Oregon during the tour. After the walking tour the wife, Juanita, offered to take me out to Tapas and they got a bottle wine for the table which was really good, my first Chainti! After tapas we went to explore the city some more, we saw the famous Reale bridge and found this funky stair case someone built so their horse, yes I said horse, could get to the 5th floor with them. By then it was already getting dark again so we headed back to St. Marks square so they could see the basilica and I headed back to my hostel.

There was no one on my floor for most of the night which was a tad strange after the prior night but it was nice because I was able to skype friends from anywhere! My room, the lounge, or the kitchen.

Day 58: I got up and headed off through a still very foggy Venice by foot this time for what was going to turn into a very long day.

Florence

I never figured out why but we got severely delayed on some of the back roads. NOTHING was moving any where. I had both my books underneath but definitely should have kept them in my purse. I felt so bad for the people who were going to Rome/Napa because they still had at least another 3 hour bus ride AND we ended up being 3.5 hours late to Florence so the time doubled from a 3.5 hour trip to a 7 hour trip.

Then I couldn’t find my hostel and no one seemed to be a local who I asked so could point me where I was on the map. It was looking pretty dim until I asked a younger couple and they said to follow them and they’d show me the way!
I was so sweaty and gross by the time I made it to my hostel I was relieved to have such a nice room. I was in a room of 4, there were two girls from Canada, Emily and Sarah, and Bud, a 70 yr old man from the states, divorced 3 times, who had sold all his belongings and told his kids he’s be gone for 2-3 years traveling.

I showered and headed off to find some late dinner since I hadn’t eaten lunch being stuck on the bus. I spent the evening getting to know Emily and Sarah and we made plans to check out Florence’s free walking tour the next day.

Day 59: The walking tour wasn’t that great but it was a good way to see the city. We grabbed some lunch which turned out to be really expensive because I had gotten a simple salad! But it was worth it, I hadn’t had a salad since Amsterdam…?

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Then we walked across the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) and accidentally wandered into the botanic gardens which were gorgeous and gave us some great views of the city and was in general just entertaining to walk through.

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We spent a good couple hours exploring the gardens then headed off to get some gelato. It was SO good. Then we got a mini bottle of wine to take to the top of Piazzale Michelangeo which had the best view of the city! It was especially gorgeous at sunset 🙂

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Day 60: The morning was extremely cloudy and the girls were off to explore some of the museums since they were History/ Art History majors so I took a day to catch up on my blog. When the girl got back we headed off to grab some dinner at a place that when you purchased one drink you basically got a buffet included! And it was really good food too, and they kept bringing out more, we didn’t know what half of them were but we kept going back because they were all so delicious! When we got back to the hostel we headed to hostel bar since it was a Friday night but it was SO dead. We just enjoyed each others company then chatted with some other girls from Chicago until they closed it down.

Day 61: Luckily the day was sunny so we headed off to see the Dome which ended up taking the whole afternoon! There were SO many stairs and for the main one we had to wait since they only allowed a certain number of people at the top at one time, which makes sense since it was so small. That’s literally all we did all day was visit the tower then the Dome. I am so glad I had people to do it with thought because otherwise standing in line for the Dome for over and hour would have been a tad boring.

For dinner we decided to check out a more local place and splurge. However, before going out we headed to the roof top terrace/ pool/ bar of our hostel, however the last two were closed but we had a great view of the city and shared a bottle of wine.

I meet a lot of nice, interesting, and fun people while traveling but I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so hard I couldn’t breath and my abs even started to hurt! We were sharing another bottle of wine at this point but we had a lot of great conversation.

The bar was once again closed at the hostel but Emily and Sarah were leaving the next morning so we went back to the hotel to finish off our last bottle of wine (We’re not alcoholics I swear) and played some card games then had a dance party in the hall since Bud was sleeping.

Day 62: I had given myself blisters walking so much with my new boots and had seen most of Florence twice so took the day to relax, I didn’t get as much done as I had planned to but it’s always good to relax and skype people 🙂

Pisa

Day 63: Whenever I tell myself I’m going to have a couple of down days to REALLY catch up on things, it never happens.

I was the first one to my hostel which was very small. I played Goldilocks and the 3 bears and found the perfect pillow off one bed, perfect bed frame that didn’t squeak and was by a socket, then a perfect mattress! But about 10 minutes later the owner came in and asked me to switch rooms haha then I got to do it all over again!

My first roommate was another girl from California, Heather. She was what I use to consider the average backpacker (I’ve now learned there is no such thing) very nice, open, laid back, wearing intricate designed loose pants, a comfy sweater, and dreads. She said she wanted to explore the city and that honestly sounded way more fun than sitting in my room most of the day, so off we went. We grabbed lunch, some Gelato, and checked out the leaning tower. Now we could say we’ve seen all of Pisa haha

Over lunch I learned Heather does a lot of woofing, she spent a year doing it in California with her dog and she just finished a month on a horse rehabilitation farm. She said it was the hardest work she’s ever done and most isolated, most of the other workers didn’t speak English so she was really excited to meet another native speaker haha

We headed back to the hostel but grabbed some wine and food from the grocery store, more pasta of course. Wine, dinner for 2 nights and breakfast for 2 mornings cost us each $5 euro. I love shopping with people in my hostel.

In the kitchen another hostel mate from upstairs came in to make his dinner and we all started chatting. Taylor was also from California and in Italy for an undetermined amount of time. I later found out he’s one of those super motivated people. He went to pilot school in Hawaii just cause, went to South America for 6 weeks to learn Spanish on his own which turned into 6 months. He’s in Italy now to improve his Italian which is already pretty good, and is headed to a Yoga retreat in Spain afterwards to get certified as an instructor.

We spent the evening drinking wine and chatting when Taylor disappeared to grab his guitar then we started singing. Unfortunately since the hostel was too small we were too loud. SO we took to the streets where another guy from Dublin joined us, we snagged some actually pretty tasty Oranges from a neighbors tree, and sad on the street till we all got tired.

Day 64: Heather was off that morning so Taylor and I decided to check out Viaregglo which she had recommended, about 20 minutes by train away at the beach.

For Ryanair (my flight the next day) you need to print the boarding pass, so instead of stressing about it the next morning we decided to look that morning, it came in handy Taylor knew Italian because he had to ask about 4 different people until we finally found a place. After that we headed to the beach, it was an over cast day but I wanted to walk through the sand and put my feet in the water, it wasn’t as cold as I though for November but still damn cold. We pretty much spent the entire afternoon walking up and down along the board walk. We DID find a gelato shop that a nutmeg/cinnamon delicious christmas tasting gelato that is by far my favorite. Except we had no clue what it was and forgot to take a picture to translate it.

Back at the hostel we both still had left overs to cook from the previous night so bought some wine and threw  all our ingredients in together. It was bomb! Veggies, fresh egg plant, sausage, cheese, and pesto.

Then Cameron came in, a Canadian who had been working on a wine vineyard in France for the past month and was also received to find native English speakers. Eventually when we ran out of wine Cameron decided to go find a bar, we found one down the street that would be open for about another 20 minutes so the boys grabbed another drink but the night pretty much ended with us eating oranges, drinking, Taylor playing his guitar and getting yelled at by locals for being too loud too late.

Day 65: As I was packing up I realized I had lost my camera lens! Which was weird because I hadn’t used it the whole time I was in Pisa. Taylor, Cameron and I walked through the city again before I head to head to the airport since they hasn’t seen the leaning tower yet. After trying to help Cameron take a photo of him kicking over the tower we grabbed some more gelato (did I mention I had gelato about every day I’d been in Italy?) we headed back to the hostel to grab out bags.

 

Zagreb

“To travel is to find out everything you thought about a country is wrong” And that can’t be truer for Zagreb/ Croatia.

Most people go to Croatia thinking it’s a poorer country, and maybe it’s just because I was in the capital and I don’t mean this in a negative way but it was just as modern and clean as most western European cities.

Day 53: As mentioned in my pervious post (Budapest) I got to the bus station very early in the morning (around 5:15am) to give myself enough time for my 6am bus. However, we were at the wrong station. After finding some other travelers on my bus and asking about 10 different people we finally found someone, within 5 minutes before our bus was to leave, who told us where our bus actually was. Turns out about a total of 15 people were in our situation and we all made it in time.

When we got to the boarder of Croatia around 9am it was freezing. Literally it was 0 Celsius out. We all had to file off the bus into the freezing weather to hand over our passports. I almost thought they were going to have a problem with my emergency passport but I got through. However, there was an indian guy who was denied access so the bus randomly started backing up (they didn’t tell any of us the bus was taking him back to the closest city) so we all had to stand in the cold for another 20 minutes waiting.

Tom picked me up from the bus station in his car, it had been so long since I rode in a car haha. I also met Tom at the Hansen Summer Institute over the summer! We went back to his place where I met his girlfriend, Katarina, who prepared a lunch of cheese, many meats and bread, they were all so good! Then we headed into the city center. We walked through the cathedral, city center, old town area and visited the Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum is full of objects people from across the world have submitted with a short story that represent their broken relationship. There were letters, mementos from first dates, wedding dresses, and much much more. One of my favorites was a heal, just one heal submitted by a prostitute/ dominatrix who ran into an ex and asked to keep the other…

After that we met up with another one of their friends and got some hot wine at a local bar.

Zagreb

That night we went to dinner at a Bosnia restaurant since Katerina is from Bosnia and wanted me to try their local dish. It was SO good, very greasy and buttery called a Cevapi. They also had a band playing traditional Bosnian music which was very very loud and made it almost impossible to hear each other over the instruments.

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Day 54: Tom wasn’t feeling too good so we all spent a lazy day in and I was able to catch up on some blogging and photo editing. Katarina also made some delicious spicy potato dish which they called a pic but by American standards was definitely not a pie. Katarina also helped me with my laundry and told me about the current elections taking place, voting would be the following day so I could go with her and Tom to see.

Day 55: We had left over potato pie for breakfast which was still just as delicious then headed off to get me some new boots. Mine had wholes wear through them and I could still wear them as long as it didn’t rain but I was afraid I’d run into some rain in Italy and my feet would get soaked and boots would definitely be more expensive there. After finding a pair we headed into the city center to the voting stations.

After walking around some more of the city we headed to the massive cemetery. They have just celebrated Day of the Saints on November 1st, similar to Dia de los Muertos. Basically family members go to the graves of their loved ones and bring flowers and candles. We were there a few days after so there were still flowers every where it was absolutely gorgeous!

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That night the poles closed so the whole family sat around the TV watching the results. They release them every couple hours as they collected the votes and by the second to last results they were tied right down the center 56-56! It was all in croatian so I didn’t understand anything but it was interesting to watch.

Day 56: I made sure to pack the night before since my bus was at 8am so Tom and I headed off for the bus station. It was nice to have a ride and not have to worry about finding public transportation. It was the smallest bus I’d ridden on, I’d honestly call it a van. It only fit about 15 people

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Budapest

My new favorite city on my journey 🙂

Day 49: I met Ky on the bus into the city. Turns out she didn’t have any accommodation booked nor know where to go so I offered to show her to the city center, on the way she figured she’d just follow me to my hostel since she didn’t have place booked. And what do you know they had an opening in my room!

First roommate we met was Linda, a 70 yr old woman from Maryland traveling by herself for the past 2 months. She’d spend about a week in each city but I wasn’t able to ask her more about her life/ travels cause she went to bed super early to get up at 4:30 for her bus.

Ky’s from Melbourne, Australia teaching in England for about a year so was just on a week long holiday between Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. She’s also a budget traveler but so we went to the grocery store together. When I got out of the shower Ky had already started cooking and had made two new friends. Bridget was also from Melbourne like Ky and backpacking for four months and turns out we all went to Deakin university! At different times it turned out but what a small world. Lorna was from England who had saved up enough work holiday days and needed to take them before they expired so was doing Vienna and Budapest. It turned out we had all been in Vienna during the same time and all traveled to Budapest within a couple hours of each other. We all ate and chatted for a while until deciding we should all go to the free walking tour the next morning!

Day 50: We met up in the kitchen and headed off. Bridget had data on her phone so she directed us to the tour meeting point. We stopped half way at the Melbourne Coffee house which had decently good coffee. We were the first ones to show up for the tour and with only 5 minutes before it was suppose to start. Then about 25 other people showed up.

The first thing our tour guide told us was that you pronounce Budapest like Buda-peshht. She was a local and she was great! She tried to teach us some Hungarian which proved quite difficult, they have 30 something letters in their alphabet. She also gave us a little card with her favorite food dishes on it for us to try which was super helpful since we couldn’t pronounce any of them.

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Budapest also has a Michael Jackson memorial like Munich, but just under a tree in a local park. I really don’t understand their fascination with him.

Our tour ended on the other side of the river by a Church with an amazingly tiled roof, it was absolutely gorgeous. After taking some pictures there we wandered back to the main side of the river and had our first Langos. They are absolutely delicious, probably thousands of calories but they are SO good. Deep fried dough with toppings kinda like a pizza but not really. Most came with sour cream and cheese, then I added sausage. After our late lunch we walked back to the river to the Parliament which really is a gorgeous building. By this time we were tired so returned to the hostel to rest/ have dinner.

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After dinner we decided to go for a walk around the city and to get some good night photos. The bridges and Parliament looked SO nice all lit up! Although I forgot my camera doesn’t take good night photos. On our way home I met up with my two couch surfing friends from Vienna! We just had a couple beers and continued to talk about our travels.

Day 51: We all decided to go check out the other side of the city so headed off, it was once again a gorgeous sunny day! We walked around a couple more squares/ plazas, small castle, parks, and checked out the Turkish baths. We also found some cute street vendors and another local places that had amazing Langos, this time I got Garlic butter and cheese, SOOO delicious. Ky had to leave after lunch because she was off to Prague and Bridget wasn’t feeling good so Lorna and I kept wandering through the city. I’m so glad we did because we were able to find the rose shaped gelato! We had wanted to go into the Basilica but it was close due to a meeting inside but like I said we got rose shaped gelato so it was all good.

After that we went to go find the local market which was HUGE. and all the stores are starting to get their Christmas stuff in stalk. Lorna also showed me this really cool box, you think you’re able to easily open it BUT the key is hidden some where in the box so you need to move it around, it’s basically like a giant puzzle. The one thing that’s kinda disappointing about backpacking is I can’t really buy anything, which is good for my budget but these boxes were really cool. Guess that’s just my excuse to go back!

That night our hostel was putting on a free wine tasting, which basically turned out to be them just providing us with a bunch of bottles of wine. Lorna and I went to dinner at the hostel and had some really good Goulash and a burger. During the wine tasting we met a lovely couple from Australia in their late twenties who were basically taking a year long honeymoon.

Day 52: My day was spent very hung over. Lorna and I went and got some good thai food for a late brunch before she had to head off to the airport and to say goodbye. (Her flight ended up getting cancelled and they didn’t want to put her on another one until like 5 days later haha so she had to take a bus back to Vienna, to fly to Brussels and have a something like 7 hour layover then fly home). I wanted to spend the whole day in bed but Lorna had told me about a nice hill to climb during sunset so I headed off and am so glad I went. 1 it greatly helped with my hang over to get some cool fresh air and 2 it was absolutely gorgeous! Pictures don’t do it justice or the sunset (that was at 3:45pm) but I’ll just leave them here.

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Day 53: Had to wake up at 4am to pack my pj’s away and make sure I made it to the bus station in time. Which it’s a good thing I did because it turned out my bus wasn’t at the actual station… it was a cross the street. But I found some other travelers in the same situation so we were all able to make it by running frantically across the street 5 minutes before out bus was due to depart at 6am with all our stuff.

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