Traveling has always been a dream of mine which I’m sure for most people it is. When I was 18, I followed another one of my dreams by moving to San Luis Obispo for school. I stayed there for about a year until I decided to move back home. Erik and I then got our first apartment in our hometown. It was the cutest little thing ever! A year went by and we both longed for another adventure so we decided to move to Santa Barbara. I still had traveling on my bucket list but as the years went on it seemed like it was never a good time to just go– until it was.
In 2015, I found myself single, (a story for another time), living in a beach condo in Summerland and a strong urge to ‘find myself’
It just so happens that an opportunity presented itself through my school in Santa Barbara. It was a program to travel to Spain to learn Spanish for a month and I knew I had to go! I had about four months to get the money together, get a passport and prepare myself for this traveling adventure that I had always dreamed of. Since I was already going to be in Europe I figured it would be a good idea to travel to more countries: Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands were on my list!
Plane tickets were bought as well as my Eurail pass that allowed me to travel across Europe by train for a very reasonable price.
I spent a month in Spain learning Spanish, met amazingly nice people, learned how to surf by Spaniards, got drunk off cheap ‘vino tinto’ and sat on the beach topless (cuz all the locals were doing it) haha! I really just had the time of my life not to mention a great way to spend my 22nd birthday!
After the month was over, I caught a bus to Bordeaux, France alone where I then caught a train to Paris. I stayed in Paris for a whole four days and ventured out as a lone [female] traveler which probably wasn’t the safest thing to do in a foreign county. I knew I had to be smart about it so I told everyone that asked: cab drivers etc. that I was from Spain and only spoke in Spanish because the stereotype of Americans (in my opinion) isn’t a very good one over seas. Paris is one of my favorite city’s in the world! It was all so dreamy and everything that I expected it to be.
After Paris I caught a train to Marseille. I got an Airbnb with this super sweet yoga teacher named Isabella. The inside of her home was filled with tiny buddhas, beautiful artwork and cute plants. Unfortunately, the location of her home was in a really bad area. The first day I was in Marseille I tried going out for a walk to the city center but what I found outside were men lined upon the streets. I thought “hey if I can handle Paris I can handle the south of France” boy was I wrong. It started with men yelling out to me while I was walking down the street then a man ran his fingers through my hair. I put my poker face on and walked in confidence like I knew the area. All of a sudden a man on a moped pulled up right in front of me stopping me in my tracks and started yelling in my face in french. I was so afraid! I walked extremely fast down the street to a mini store for safety. I thought at this point men were going to come in and take me. I grabbed some groceries for the next two days and ran-walk home with my head held high. Again confidence was key! I got back to her cute little home and told her about my experience. We held a conversation in French/Spanish and she told me that that’s just how men are. I ended up staying inside for the next two days, tanning in her back yard, doing yoga and listening to beautiful French music with her. Isabella took me to the train station at 7am, we said our good byes and that was that.
I took a train to Nice, France and decided it was safer to get a hotel near city center so I can go off and explore. Again all alone in a foreign beautiful beach city in France I couldn’t believe I was actually there. I hiked up this beautiful old stairway that led me to a perfect view. I had fun in the sun laying out on the beach and wine of course. I was in Nice for three days until I took a train to Italy.
My train was supposed to pick me up at 5am and take me from Nice, France to a small Italian town where I would have got a connection straight to Rome. Of course the train was late so it made me miss my other train. I noticed two girls my age talking about how they were going to Rome and missing their train as well. I kindly introduced my self and to my surprise they were from LA. I told them how I lived in Santa Barbara and we immediately became travel partners. Oh how many shitty Italian trains we had to catch before we ended up in Rome 15 hours later! Ugh so stressful but so much fun! I’m so glad I had people to go through this with. We then said our goodbyes and there I was in Rome.
I had previously made plans to travel in Italy with my (now EX) boyfriend who happen to study in Italy a few years previously. We had a good time, saw all the sights, and even traveled to Italian beach towns by train. To be completely honest I wasn’t too impressed with Rome, yes the architect was beautiful but it was really dirty, sketchy and lots of people were constantly in your face trying to sell you things. And for some reason everywhere we went something, somewhere was broken, from the trains to the toilets and everything else in between. Unfortunately all the main sights happen to be under construction: The Spanish steps, Trevi fountain and even the Colosseum. We spent a week in Italy and then went to Amsterdam.
The Netherlands was amazing!!! Super clean, super nice people and yay, they speak English! Amsterdam was so great, from the coffee shops to the red light district, tiny cobbled stoned streets filled with colors and flowers, going into a store looking for something when the clerk suddenly asks “looking for shrooms?” like it was no big deal. Also my favorite: everyone was on bikes! The people there were so polite, open-minded and I just felt safe. Families and children were walking around as well as older folks, teens and really people from all walks of life. I could not believe how safe and at home I felt in Amsterdam, I really wanted to just stay there forever….
One of the many ‘coffee shops’ I visited
I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to experience and travel (a bit) of the world before I settled down, got married and had a family of my own. I had the time of my life getting to see and explore places I only dreamed of going and I honestly can’t believe I still achieved one of my biggest goals in life so far. I know I’m pretty young still, but I really do feel like I have LIVED every year of my life to the fullest. I hope one day, no, I KNOW one day I will go back to Paris and Amsterdam with my family and other beautiful places that we can all explore and enjoy together.