My Study Abroad Experience

I’m back, everyone! You may or may not remember me, but I finished up my marketing internship at Winterline in December as I prepared for my semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Now I’m back again and able to reflect on how my thoughts and fears, goals and aspirations have changed.

My program welcomed us to Sydney with a cruise around the harbor to see famous landmarks, the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge!

The Logistics

After a long, long flight, I arrived in Sydney, where my program managers picked us up from the airport. My program was organized really well. There were about 150 students there, the majority being other students from my school. We lived in an apartment-style dormitory owned by Boston University and took classes in the adjoining building. This meant we were never really on our own or too far away from people we knew and trusted.

Checking out the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach in Melbourne.

I had mixed feelings about this style. On one hand, I felt safe and supported. On the other, I never felt truly immersed in Australian life because I was constantly surrounded by other Americans. There are pros and cons to traveling through different types of programs. While this was my best choice, be sure to explore all options to find the perfect-fit program: one whose goals, expectations, and attitudes align with yours.

Becoming Immersed

There were a few things that helped to me combat that feeling of not belonging. For one, my program sets up every student with an eight week internship in Sydney. Four days a week, I worked 9 to 5 as a marketing intern at a non-profit. I was around Australians, but I only had a handful of coworkers and none were in my age range, so I found it a bit hard to connect. That said, they really gave me insight as to the culture and society in the country.

I worked at a nonprofit called Action on Poverty, which does incredible work to help underprivileged communities in Africa, southeast Asia, and the Pacific.

Another great way to connect with locals is individual travel. Some friends and I spent a weekend in a small town called Newcastle where we used a home-sharing site. We ended up staying with a family: a mom, a dad, and two pre-teen daughters, who became our personal tour guides. Staying with the family was wonderful. They offered to drive us to a few of our destinations, gave us tips and recommendations for food and shopping, and offered us a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Australia. We learned about their schooling, politics, and overall lifestyle, and in turn, they asked all kinds of questions about ours. This was such a great way to interact with locals, but you can strike up a conversation in so many places. Random people would ask where we were from, leading into conversations anywhere from a restaurant, to public transportation, to a museum.

Making the Most of Your Time

Something that I grappled with while abroad was feeling like I was wasting time. Any time I slept in late or watched a show on Netflix, I felt like I was missing out on the opportunity to do something in Australia that I couldn’t do at home. And this bothered me. I got down on myself a lot until I finally was able to put it into perspective. By keeping a journal and sending weekly emails home about my experiences, I realized just how much I was truly doing and how many incredible experiences I was having. The list below is just a sample of some of the amazing activities I participated in:

  • Visited historical and cultural landmarks like the Hyde Park, State Library of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Royal Botanical Garden
  • Explored nature by hiking in the Blue Mountains and Royal National Park, visiting gorgeous beaches, seeing koalas and kangaroos, snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, cliff jumping, and going to a surf camp 
  • Traveled to Bali, where I visited a monkey forest, the active volcano Mt. Batur, a rice patty, a coffee plantation, and the spectacular Tirta Empul temple
  • Learned about Australian media by going on a tour of ABC channel, which is the equivalent to our PBS, being featured in a segment on the most popular radio channel Triple J, and sitting in the audience of a political debate show called Q & A
  • Said goodbye to Sydney by climbing on the famous Harbour Bridge overlooking the city at night before spending an evening at the Opera House
Monkeying around at Bali’s Ubud Monkey Forest
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
Kangaroos at Blackbutte Reserve in Newcastle
Making waves at surf camp
On air at Triple J
All-natural figure eight pools at the Royal National Park
The famous Three Sisters rock formation at the Blue Mountains
The spectacular Tirta Empul temple
Looking out on the beautiful city of Sydney one last time

I definitely recommend keeping track of all the awesome stuff you do, whether you journal, blog, email home, or post photos on Facebook. This way you won’t forget the fun details or anecdotes. You’ll also get to keep your friends and family updated, which will make them happy. Even better, it’ll prevent you from having to retell your entire journey every time you see someone new!

You Should Go Abroad, Too!

I won’t lie to you and say that every moment of abroad was smiles and rainbows and sunshine. As my plans solidified and my flight approached, I was excited, but I was also really, really scared. I’ll admit it: I cried when I left. It’s ok to have fear; in fact, it’s good to be. It means you’re pushing yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. I was scared that something bad would happen at home while I was away, or to me while I was on my own.

Bad things do happen. My childhood dog/best friend passed away while I was gone, and my grandmother got sick. I already told you that I got in my own head about how I was using my time. Sometimes I felt left out. I worried about any number of things going wrong. But you can’t let fear stop you from living your life. You have to balance your worries with the plain fact that sometimes there’s nothing you can do. You just have to remember that you’ll be ok, and the experiences you do have will outweigh the bad possibilities.

Grateful for the friends that were there for the ups and downs of abroad

My study abroad experience is just that: mine. I have good memories and not so good memories. But when I tell other people about my trip, and one day when I look back on it, I’m going to remember all of those once-in-a-lifetime activities I got to participate in. I’m going to remember the friends I made, and the work experience I had; what it felt like to be across the world from my family and how it made me braver; the things that I learned about myself, what I’m capable of, how adaptable I can be. I can’t know what your abroad experience will be like, but I can tell you that if you take the leap and stay open, you’ll be glad that you did.

It’s always a good time!

Curiosity as a Skill

Most people know the saying, “curiosity killed the cat.” But fewer people have heard the rest of that sentence, which ends, “but satisfaction brought it back.” I have always considered myself a curious person, but my personal approach to curiosity changed throughout the course of my gap year with Winterline. I discovered new ways to satisfy my curiosity by seeing new places, trying new things, and saying, “yes” to new opportunities.

When I first enrolled in Winterline, I was focused on the skills and travel aspect of the program. I only envisioned myself learning and discovering new countries, but I failed to remember that there would be a significant amount of free time during the program. As a result, I found myself just hanging out and watching Netflix on our rest days. I wasn’t really doing anything with that valuable time.  When I got home for winter break, I did some reflecting and realized that I hadn’t been satiating my desire for adventure outsideof the Winterline program.

So, I made a goal for myself going into Southeast Asia and Europe. My goal was to do something with my rest days, whether it was visiting a new temple in Bangkok, seeing a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, or visiting a beautiful cathedral in Vienna. I made a list of all the locations on our itinerary for second and third trimester, did some research on each city/town, and came up with a list of things I wanted to do and see on my rest days in these specific locations.

As I moved into second trimester, my goal evolved into “saying yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me throughout my travels. And I had some incredible experiences as a result.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I woke up at 5 in the morning to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat with Nick, my field advisor, and one of my best friends, Alice. I visited a floating city in Siem Reap with Alice, to see the sunset. I went to China town in Bangkok to celebrate Chinese New Year, and we all stumbled upon a famous Thai rock star’s concert. I celebrated Holi at an Ashram with Nonny, Pablo, Alice, an old Austrian couple and an Ayurvedic doctor and his kids. I went to Dachau concentration camp by myself and had a humbling and moving experience. I went to Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice with Patrick. I modeled for an artist in front of Notre Dame. I even saw Waka Flocka perform in Munich. I had all of these experiences during free time and on rest days.

Celebrating Holi in Lonavla, India with an assortment of friends.

I did so much and all because I began to say yes, to everything, within reason of course.

Attending Easter Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica with Patrick.

There was one specific time, though, that sticks out to me. On my first full day in Pune, India, I went out to lunch with Sophia and Alice. I remember we all had an incredible lunch and then decided to explore. I looked at my list from winter break and saw “Aga Khan Palace,” which I knew nothing about. When we got there, we began to explore and wander the grounds. I learned that the palace had been turned into a museum and that it was where Gandhi, his wife, and assistant were imprisoned. We continued to wander around aimlessly. I was in awe of the beauty of the palace and its dark history. We saw a little pathway with a sign in Marathi, the local language in Pune. We decided to just follow it, even though we had no idea what it meant or where it led. We entered an enclosed garden and I saw a tombstone. As I walked closer to it, I made out the words, “Here rest the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.”

We stumbled upon the ashes of Gandhi.

It was in that moment when I realized how powerful my curiosity is and how far saying, “yes” can get me. I’ve learned to look at my own curiosity as an evolving skill- something that grows and develops as I do. I want to continue to say yes to new opportunities as I go to college, further immerse myself while traveling, and continue to lead a meaningful life.

So, how will you satisfy your curiosity on your gap year?

3 Things You Need to Do After You Return From Your Gap Year.

1. Manage Any Reverse Culture Shock.

Most people are familiar with regular culture shock, the feeling that you get during your travels where you realize you’ve truly left home. I’m sure you probably felt this while traveling on your gap year. You’re experiencing foreign and new things which sometimes are a blast and sometimes aren’t as fun (hence the word shock). But reverse culture shock isn’t talked about as much. It can be disorienting and uncomfortable when you come back from your time abroad and realize your idea of home isn’t quite the same anymore. As our Field Advisor, Mischa, outlined in his blog on reverse culture shock,

“After 9 months on the road, traveling to over 10 countries and learning 100 new skills, our students on the Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program have one more river to cross — coming home.”

So how do you deal with it?

Accept and understand that you’ve grown as a person. This isn’t always a quick process, but understanding how you’ve changed will help you adjust your “new” self in your “old” surroundings. Additionally, it’s important to connect with others who have shared your experience. Know that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling reverse culture shock. If you find that a text or a snapchat doesn’t meet your need for connection…reach out to your travel friends! Don’t be afraid to press the call button on your phone and just talk to your friends you spent time traveling with. After all, on a program like ours, you just spent 9 months seeing each other, every. single. day.

You may also find that journaling, blogging, or vlogging helps you keep your experiences alive and eases your transition into coming home. These activities can help you integrate your travels into your daily lives. And don’t forget, if you really love travel you can always work in the industry. Just because you spent the last 9 months traveling doesn’t mean you can’t make it your lifestyle or go abroad for an extended period of time again!

winterline global skills reverse culture shock

2. Tell Your Story!

As we mentioned above, journaling and blogging can help you with your transition from travels to coming home. As many of you may be discovering, your family and friends may have a limited capacity to relate to your experience abroad. As Mischa mentioned in his blog,

“Go easy on these people. You will have to find a sweet spot in your story telling. You don’t want to be that person who flips every conversation into “well… when I was in India…” But you also don’t want to keep your experience to yourself and let it fade into memory.” 

A great way to find the “sweet spot” in your storytelling is to be intentional. Ask people to come over and watch your GoPro videos with you, look at photos, and share stories. Create the space for it so they know that it’s your time and it’s important to you. Another great way is to share your experiences on social media or with other students who plan on going abroad. Do you remember your own uncertainty, anxiety, and excitement as you researched the perfect gap year program for you? Wouldn’t it have been great to have a review from someone like you, who’s been in the exact same situation, had a great experience traveling, and come home to share their story.

By leaving a review on websites like Go Overseas or Go Abroad, you’ll give back to the global travel community. You’ll help future students like you feel more confident making their travel decisions and you’ll be encouraging more people to go abroad and share in experiences like you had.  Seriously, it’ll give you warm fuzzies and make you fall in love with your gap year all over again.

Not to mention sites like these will reward you for your reviews with contests where you can win travel abroad again. Check out this one that Go Overseas is hosting now. 

3. Travel the World, AGAIN.

Once you’re home and adjusted, you may notice this itching feeling in your stomach. It’s the travel bug! Now that you’ve experienced such amazing adventures abroad, you know what to expect when you travel the world again. Right? It’s time to start planning your next trip. Maybe you’ll head back to that amazing town in Costa Rica, or use your new certification to go SCUBA Diving near the Great Barrier reef–whatever the case is, we’re sure you have a head full of ideas, and we can’t wait to see where you wanderlust takes you.

Need help going abroad again? Check out that Go Overseas contest we mentioned above. This contest runs from literally right NOW through June 15th, and there are prizes available every week — including the grand prize, which is $1000 toward your next trip overseas.

How to Travel Alone

Let’s face it. It can be scary to travel alone, either as a man or a woman, especially in a foreign country where you don’t have your friends or family to help you, or even explore with you. As someone who has traveled alone in different parts of the world, I have some “do’s” and “don’ts” for when it comes to traveling alone. And maybe I’ll even give you a few reasons to start solo traveling…

#1: DO learn a few basics of the language in that country. It could be as simple as learning a few greetings and how to order a coffee, but that goes a long way. Locals, no matter where you are, really appreciate if you put in some amount of effort to speak their language. And it can help you feel more confident when you’re by yourself in a new place.

#2: DON’T be scared to take public transportation. Specifically, in Europe, I was afraid that it would be dangerous to take the metro or tram alone, especially at night. However, I found that I had no problems, always felt safe, and I saved tons of money taking the metro as opposed to taking Uber or taxis!

#3: DO start up conversations with other people. You’d be surprised by how many locals are interested in getting to know you, and how many fellow travelers you’re surrounded by! I found that I actually connected better with people I met along the way when I was alone because I was more invested in finding friends and people to keep me company. I’m even friends on Facebook with a few of them now!

Anna and her friend she met in Paris!

#4: DON’T lock yourself away in your hotel room! It’s easy to put something off because you’d only do it or see it if you had someone with you, but don’t make that an excuse to do nothing! Come up with things you want to do, and then go out and do them!

 #5: DO ask other people to take photos of you. This is something I felt really awkward about at first. I wanted photos to document what I saw, and I wanted to be in at least some of them (and I am not a fan of public selfies). I was pleasantly surprised at how nice people were when I asked them to take a photo of just me. I got over my fear of being “awkward” very quickly, and now I have photos from my solo trips that I’ll have forever.

Anna in front of Notre Dame

 #6: DON’T always have your headphones on. This is something I’ve noticed that a lot of people do when they’re by themselves, traveling or not. I’m not telling you to stop entirely, but when you’re traveling, it is so amazing to observe and listen to things as you walk by. There are definitely some things you can miss when you’re “plugged in.”

#7: DO stay in hostels! Hostels can be a great way to meet other people from around the world who are either traveling alone or in a group. Either way, hanging out at the bar or in the common area of your hostel is a great way to meet other travelers and make friends!

#8: DON’T be afraid to eat alone. So many of my friends have told me that they’ve skipped meals in the past, just because they have no one to eat with. I understand this feeling of awkwardness, but the reality is that no one else besides you really cares. I tend to feel comfortable eating alone, but sometimes I will bring along a book to read, my journal to write in, or even my phone to watch a show on. Just, please, don’t skip a meal because you’re alone!

 

Solo traveling is an amazing thing, and I encourage everyone to do it at some point during their lives. So many of my positive experiences while traveling have been when I’m without anyone else. There’s something about traveling alone that changes my perspective and makes me more eager to connect with others, more observant, and more grateful for what I’m doing. DO travel alone!

 

Feel free to check out Anna’s personal blog to read more about her Winterline experience!

My Gap Year Reflection

I could sit someone down for, well nine months, and go through the nitty, gritty details of my gap year trip with Winterline. Instead, I would like to share why I decided to do Winterline and how that morphed into what I’ve gotten out of the program.

In my first journal entry that I completed in my first week of the program, I claimed that the reason I was on Winterline was to “learn more about myself, bond with my peers and form lifelong relationships, and learn in an alternative way.” Sitting here, looking back on the past nine months of my life, I accomplished all of those goals that I set for myself.

winterline gap year trip
Anna enjoying a sunset in the Wind River Range with friends on NOLS.

One of the biggest surprises for me in terms of “learning about myself” was how much I learned about myself. I always envisioned that “discovering who I am” would miraculously just happen at one point in my life, and I would suddenly have this answer. But, I discovered that my journey with Winterline was primarily an introspective journey, which ended up being one of the most important skills for me. And I learned a lot about myself.

I learned about my love and connectedness to the outdoors. I learned that I can’t “sit still” for long and need to stay active and explore, wherever I am. I learned how much I value, and need, alone time. I learned how much of a hard time I have receiving feedback, and I learned how to navigate that weakness. I learned that it’s okay to be an emotional person. I learned that I need to dedicate myself to self-care. I learned that I am a powerful leader, something I already knew, but that I further discovered in this group. And I learned that I still have a lot more to learn about myself, and it is an ever-evolving journey.

winterline gap year trip
Alice and Anna enjoying the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

When I think about my desire to get close with my peers and “form lifelong relationships,” it’s funny to look back on how naïve I was. I had this plan to be best friends with everyone in my group and be a peace-maker. In reality, I formed three strong, unbreakable bonds with people in my group and I am confident that I will stay in touch with those three in the future. The biggest lesson I learned when navigating relationships in the group is that it is okay to not like some people, and it is a given in any big group. It’s not necessary to be best friends with everyone, and frankly that’s not realistic for anyone. I made incredible connections with my peers and field advisors, but I wasn’t everyone’s best friend. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn, especially because I am so people-oriented, but I am grateful for my group as a whole and for every individual in the group. Everyone taught me something different.

And lastly, I learned in many, many alternative ways. I am an academically-focused person, and it’s just a core part of who I am. I enjoy taking notes, asking questions, and completing projects. A big part of my reason to go on Winterline was to challenge this traditional way I learn, and to see how I respond to learning in an environment without grades. One of the biggest examples that stands out to me is when I did my independent study project in Costa Rica. I did a “Spanish Immersion” course for five days with two professors. Every day, I had conversations entirely in Spanish and learned through asking questions in Spanishand by being corrected by my professors. I also took a cooking class, dancing lesson, and tour of the suspended bridges in Monteverde, all in Spanish.I learned more Spanish in those 5 days that I did in probably a full semester in high school. That experience is a reflection of the countless other ways I learned skills, and I feel more confident to go into college with more learning strategies under my belt.

winterline gap year trip
Anna learning how to repair a flat tire.

Winterline is special. I miss the program and the people dearly, but I look back on my year with no regrets, knowing that I got everything out of the program that I sought out to. I learned the life skills, but I learned much more beyond those- a lot of intangible lessons.

If you have the opportunity to do Winterline, you owe it to yourself to do it. Coming from an academically-focused person, doing Winterline was the best decision I have ever made. I encourage you to take the first step out of your comfort zone and apply.

If you have any questions for Anna, please feel free to contact us at admissions@winterline.com, or check out her personal blog!

Independent Travel: My Empowering Europe ISP Experience

Before I was even enrolled in Winterline, I knew that I wanted to study cooking in France during my Europe ISP (Independent Study Project). I’ve always had a deep interest in baking and cooking, especially given that I grew up in a household where family meals were of high importance, and brought us all together. What I didn’t realize, however, was that spending a week alone in Paris, with my sole intent of learning a variety of traditional French cooking skills, would actually teach me the power of my own independence.  

Anna holding up her eclairs that she made at La Cuisine, her cooking school in Paris!

On my first full day in Paris, I had an entire day to spend doing nothing. I didn’t have cooking classes, nor did I have anything scheduled on my calendar (a rare occurrence for me). After sleeping in, going out to get some groceries, and having lunch at a local Pho restaurant, I got back to my Airbnb apartment and came up with a general itinerary for my week. I realized that there was so much I wanted to do in Paris- more than I could even fit in if I stayed for a month. And this was in addition to wanting to learn how to cook and bake, so I set out to do all those things. And I was able to do all of them, because I was alone.

Anna captured Monet’s Water Lillies at L’Orangerie.

I walked through the Tuileries and took a nap in a chair at a small fountain, like all the locals were doing. I visited Musee D’Orsay and fell in love with Van Gogh’s work. I visited the Eiffel Tower. I had the richest and most delicious hot chocolate, at Angelina. I had the best macaron of my life. I had the best ice cream of my life. I had the only, and best, escargot of my life. I had a personal style consultation. I saw the most beautiful view of Paris, on the roof of a mall. I walked everywhere. And I fearlessly navigated the metro every day and night. I ran across the Paris marathon. I went to L’Orangerie and wandered as I admired Monet’s Water Lilies. I interviewed a French chef. I modeled for a caricaturist in front of Notre Dame. And I learned how to make classic French sauces, pate a choux and eclairs, two types of macarons, debone a chicken and make a variety of meals with it, and how to select the proper ingredients at any market.

That encompasses a little more than half of what I did while I was in Paris for just over a week.

Anna’s delicious macarons that she made in class!

During this week, I discovered how competent and powerful I am, and that my interests range even more than I thought. The cooking classes were amazing, and I’ve already used some of my newfound skills at home. But most importantly, I discovered more for myself in Paris than I would have if I was with anyone else. Because I was alone, I only did the things that I wanted to do, and I never felt badly for dragging someone along with me because I wanted to see something.

Spending my week alone in Paris was empowering and thrilling. And it allowed me to see how much can do on my own.

If given the opportunity, I highly recommend that every traveler, spends a significant amount of time traveling alone. I promise you’ll see yourself, and wherever you are, in a different light.

 

To learn more about independent travel, feel free to contact us or read more on our blog!

Also, check out Anna’s personal blog!

 

12 Books About Travel You Have to Read

You may already be familiar with some of the classic travel stories. Eat, Pray, Love; The Alchemist; On the Road; Into the Wild are just a few (and if you haven’t read them, you should). But if you’re on the hunt for more pages to turn, here are a few books to get your mind – then hopefully, your body – wandering.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bryson was born in America, and upon returning after 20 years in England, decided to walk the Appalachian trail. The 2,100 mile trail is no easy feat, stretching all the way from Georgia to Maine! Bryson’s style is both witty and aware; he manages to find awe in even the most mundane sights. A Walk in the Woods is not only an intriguing read, but a much-needed reminder that sometimes, it is about how you get there. The journey itself can be the adventure.

 

 

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

Following the success of A Walk in the Woods, Bryson took his travels to the opposite side of the world: Australia. Bryson explores the history of the continent, interacts with its unique species and people, and poking fun at just a few of the town names. Bryson is adamant that Australia is the most dangerous place in the world, but it’s obvious he loves it immensely. By the end of this book, you will too, whether you’ve been there or not.

 

 

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Weiner sets out to answer a philosophical question in this travel memoir. A self-proclaimed grump, Weiner wants to know where the happiest people in the world live. He travels to dozens of countries, each which have their fair share of problems. While he may deem one country the “happiest”, Weiner’s book reminds us that nowhere is perfect, and happiness is subjective.

 

 

 

The Places in Between by Roy Stewart

Not only did Roy Stewart decide to visit a place not many of us are familiar with, he decided to walk across the country of Afghanistan. In his book, Stewart recounts this two-year adventure, which took place in 2002 shortly after the Taliban were deposed. His writing is objective and clear, offering unprecedented insight to the country and its people. If you’re looking to learn more about an unexpected place, this is the book for you.

 

 

 

The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

Newly graduated, title good girl Rachel makes a life-changing decision when she buys a plane ticket to Ireland. While abroad for the first time, Rachel meets a friend with whom she travels to three different continents, learning to live in the moment. This coming-of-age story is filled with fun and personal anecdotes, as well as lessons about life after school. Anyone considering a gap year is sure to find answers in this book.

 

 

Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche

Like your adventure with a side of romance? In this story, DeRoche recounts an age-old story of meeting a man in a bar. However, this man is about to sail around the world, and he wants her to join. Despite a phobia of deep water, DeRoche throws caution to the wind and decides to go. This book is as much about self-discovery as it is about relationships, as DeRoche learns and sees more of the world around her. The combination of travel and love is tied together by DeRoche’s conversational writing style for a fun and easy read.

 

 

Paris Was Ours by Penelope Rowlands

 

This book consists of short stories from 32 different writers explaining what life in Paris is to them. Some moments are exciting and new, some depressing and mundane. Each one draws light to the dream of living in Paris, which often seems to be a love/hate relationship. Every city has its ups and downs, and this collection explores a variety of both for an in-depth, honest narrative.

 

 

Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Adams had never done so much as sleep in a tent when he decided to journey through Machu Picchu. Adams is eager to uncover mysteries about the Incas and the fortress of Machu Picchu itself. His ability to describe the amazing sights he encounters both there and along the way is impressive and captivating. Not only is the book entertaining, readers really do discover Peru through Adams’ eyes. Adams’ tale serves as a note that anyone can begin to adventure at any time, and doing so will change your life.

 

 

Worldwalk by Steven Newman

At 28, Newman set off from his home in Ohio to backpack around the world. This four year journey took him across 21 countries on five continents. Newman’s background in journalism gave him the perfect platform to write about the unbelievable experiences he had and the unique individuals he met along the way. He may be an adult, but Newman’s journey is a compelling coming-of-age story sure to warm your heart and motivate your travels.

 

The Palace of the Snow Queen by Barbara Sjoholm

Sjoholm begins the recount of her travels in Sweden, and continues to travel throughout Scandinavia. She returns to the area for three winters, during which she learns about the area’s little known history and people. The far north may not be an area many choose to visit for vacation, but Sjoholm explores the tension between tourism and local Sami work and culture. The memoir is an intriguing and fascinating look into the famous Swedish Icehotel and the area surrounding it. Her tales won’t melt any ice, but they will fire up your desire to see this region of the north.

 

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack

When you think of America, you probably think of the 50 states. But what about the other territories we occupy? Upon realizing how little he knew about these areas, Mack set off with a goal to learn more about them. From Puerto Rico and Guam, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Polynesia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands, Mack reminds us how crucial the territories are to the history of America. Both a fascinating, culture-rich memoir and a political, informative travelogue, this book should be read by every American.

 

 

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah

Motivated by childhood vacations in Morocco, Shah moves his family from London to Casablanca. The move into a run-down house is followed by the process of restoring its glory, with the help of three residents whose lives are run by the jinn. His account is both funny at times and deeply thoughtful at others. The cultural insight makes readers feel connected to the people despite geographic or spiritual difference, which is a hard feat to accomplish.

 

 

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Keep reading! Once you find an author you like, check to see if they have other works. Ask for recommendations. Peruse the travel section of your library or bookstore. And if you find any great reads that we should know about, be sure to let us know.

7 Reasons to Go to Thailand

Thailand is quickly rising on the list of popular travel destinations. Don’t waste any time in getting there for yourself. It can be difficult to choose where to go in another country: do you stay in its biggest city or one of its small, hidden gem towns? We won’t make you choose on our nine day trip. If the promise of authentic pad thai isn’t enough to convince you to apply, maybe these reasons will. The Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, what’s holding you back?

  1. It doesn’t matter if you’re a city or a country person; you’ll get to experience both! Spend part of your adventure exploring an area you’re comfortable with. The rest of the time, you’ll get to push your boundaries in a new setting.
  2. Travel off the beaten path in both urban and rural areas for a unique trip. You’ll visit non-tourist destinations for an exciting and one-of-a-kind journey. Winterline Student at Temple Bangkok Thailand
  3. Learn directly from Thai chefs how to create a traditional three-course meal. If you love cooking, then you’ll learn to put a twist on your daily meals. Don’t know how to hold a knife? This is a great way to learn. And, of course, you’ll get to eat what you make. Is there any better way to connect with a culture than to eat their cuisine?
  4. Pick up a skill that you would never have thought to learn otherwise. Maybe you already know how to fish, but have you ever been a rice or coconut farmer? Now’s your chance to see how agriculture works on the other side of the world.
  5. Protect the earth, or more specifically, mangrove forests. You’ll be taught coastline protection techniques to help keep these important ecosystems intact. It’s important to take any and every chance to reduce your carbon footprint and learn how to save precious biodiversity.
  6. Thailand is brimming with culture, especially in its temples. Learn about religion, spirituality, and history in a country that your classes might not focus on. The predominant Buddhist heritage is apparent in everything from the architecture to the interpersonal interactions.mike_temple_wat_pho_thailand_bangkok-gap-year-program
  7. Nicknamed “The Land of Smiles”, Thailand has notably friendly people. Get to know them and their stories through conversation while you’re traveling. The country welcomes tourism, so really, you’d be doing them a disservice by staying home!

What’s holding you back? Apply now to experience Thailand for yourself; you won’t regret it. Don’t forget, our Final Application deadline for our spring trip is January 26th, sign up while spots are still available!

Why I’m Going Abroad

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and almost 21 years later, here I am…still in Boston. I love this city and my school, so I have no regrets about choosing to stay local for college. My only trips have been fairly short, meaning I was unable to truly immerse myself in a new culture. I’ve always been fascinated by travel, and I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. However, once it hit me that I would be continuing my education so close to home, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to go somewhere completely foreign to me.

I visited Israel and floated in the Dead Sea between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

I did, in fact, base a lot of my college decision around schools that offered study abroad. My college has a fantastic study abroad program, offering the chance to study on all seven continents. That’s right, our students even go to Antarctica!

I decided to stick with one of the programs specifically for my major of Advertising, meaning I would either be going to London or Sydney. For me, this was actually a really easy choice. While London is a great city, I’ve had the chance to go to Europe before. Also, Europe is pretty accessible from the East Coast, and I’m confident that I’ll get to go back later in life. So choosing Australia was obvious.Sydney is literally the farthest I can get away from Boston, on the complete other side of the world. It’s a city that not a lot of people from my area get to go to, and logistically, I might not ever be able to go in my life without a program like this. I know how lucky I am to have the chance to go anywhere in the world to study, and I wanted to take advantage of that.

Climbing Masada, an ancient Israeli fortress, at sunrise in 2015.

All of my friends who have studied abroad tell me that this experience is going to change me, that I’m going to learn so much about myself. I don’t doubt that for a minute. For the first time in my life, I’m going to be truly independent. Sure, I have friends going, and there’s program managers and professors. But for three months, I’ll be living much more than 45 minute drive away from my parents.

For a self-proclaimed child like myself, this is really scary. I’m admittedly not always the best at taking care of myself. There’s no meal plan in Sydney, and I don’t know how to cook. My mom still has to remind me to make doctor’s appointments. I don’t do laundry or wash my dishes enough, and now I actually have to listen to my dad when he explains finances and budgeting to me. I understand how privileged I am that, at almost 21, I haven’t had to completely take care of myself yet. But I’m ready to learn.

My best friend and roommate, Marissa, is coming to Sydney with me!

Study abroad will teach me these basics of how to be an adult. It will also teach me how to appreciate the world and people around me. It’s easy, especially as a student, to get caught up in the little things. I need to see the bigger picture. I need a reminder that living isn’t just about school or work. I’m going to get to explore the natural beauty of Australia and reflect on just how amazing this life is. I’ll meet new people and get new perspectives on everything I thought I knew. I’ll experience a whole new culture: food, art, politics, communication.

I leave in a little less than two months, and that’s simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. Part of me still wants to back out. I’ll miss my family, and my friends, and my dog. But the rest of me knows that this is the most important thing I can do for myself. Studying abroad is about allowing yourself to be scared, and pushing your limits. Finding out what you can and can’t do, what you like and hate, what the world looks like to you and what you look like to the world. So, Sydney, I’m coming for you, ready or not.

 

Thrown Off the Deep End: My Experience Diving in Belize

Change. Audible groans normally ensue after hearing this word. The idea of “change” is difficult for many people to wrap their heads around. It’s in our nature to want stability and to find comfort in the consistency of our day-to-day routines. The negative connotation that comes with the word “change” often comes as a result of people not wanting to stray outside of their comfort zones. There’s such a stigma around this word, which I sometimes don’t understand. I am unique in the fact that I actually like change- or rather, I am used to it. In the past eight years, I have learned how to live in two separate homes. I move back and forth between my mom and dad’s house every two weeks, needing to re-adjust for different expectations at each house. It hasn’t been easy and I have gotten sick of moving back and forth between their houses, but a lot of good has come of it. Because of my unique upbringing, I do not struggle adapting to change as much as others, especially while traveling. Throughout my three weeks in Belize, I did not have a difficult time adjusting to the language barrier or the culture or the food. The challenge of being in a foreign country was more fun for me than anything. However, learning to scuba dive literally threw me off the deep end. Diving put me into an extended period of discomfort and forced me to experience a lot of change, both physically and emotionally.

After spending 2 weeks in Big Falls and Punta Gorda, our final destination in Belize was Placencia. Our sole purpose was to get our scuba certification over a 3-day course with our partner, Splash Dive Center. We spent our first day in a classroom, so I felt very comfortable learning in that type of environment. After spending hours and hours watching videos about safety, hand signals, equipment and everything in between, we took a variety of quizzes and then went onto our final exam. After getting a 91% on the test and 100% on my RDP dive table test, I was more than confident going into the next two days of actually diving. It was a slight mistake to be that confident.

Anna Nickerson
Photo By: Anna Nickerson

As we got onto the dive boat the next day, I knew I was in for a challenging two days. The dive instructors were barking orders at each other while simultaneously going through equipment with their students while also directing people on the boat, all while rain poured down to the point that it was painful on my skin. After spending an hour on the boat, we made it to our island and were instructed to get all of our gear on and enter the water with the “Giant Stride” technique. I got into the water and felt both anxious and excited as I swam towards my instructor and two dive buddies. We went through four confined water dives, which are mini skill-building courses underwater. We went through the motions of clearing our masks, taking our masks off, swimming without a mask and even briefly swimming without our air source, among a variety of other skills. I did not like these skills. When I first cleared my mask, I panicked and rushed to the surface (important thing NOT to do while diving) and got charley horse cramps every time I panicked, which did not help with my level of anxiety at all. I “mastered” the required skills by the time we finished our confined water dives, but I was not confident about going into the open water dive next.

After resting and eating lunch on the boat, it was right back to the water for our first open water dive. I used the Giant Stride technique and followed my instructor to forty feet below the surface. As we descended, a wave of excitement and optimism came over me. I could breathe easily and when we reached the bottom, I realized that enduring the miserable skill building was worth it. I was at the bottom of the ocean! I was in absolute awe of where I was and what I was doing. I was at peace for the first time since starting the day and it gave me even more respect for my mom, who is a passionate scuba diver. I felt like I could finally get a glimpse of something that has always made her so happy and it felt very special. After swimming around for a bit and exploring the diverse marine life, we had to perform our skills. The skills went surprisingly well and I felt prepared to take on our next dive.

Scuba Anna Nickerson
Photo By: Anna Nickerson

On the next dive, I almost died. Okay, not actually, but that’s what I’ve been telling people. It may be a slight exaggeration, but what happened was one of the scariest experiences I’ve had. We had just finished swimming around on our second open water dive and it was time to perform our skills at a greater depth. My instructor motioned to me that I needed to get air from my buddy’s second air source. I signaled “out of air” to Alice and she grabbed onto my arm as I reached for her back-up regulator. Her regulator wouldn’t come loose of her BCD so I had to swim closer to her torso and force the regulator in my mouth. I breathed in and no air entered my mouth, only a few big gulps of sea water. I tried again only to experience the same awful result. I noticed we were floating up to the surface and at this point I was in a complete frenzy. I was out of air and didn’t know what to do. My mind went completely blank. I lost my ability to think. My instructor finally put my own first stage regulator into my mouth and as I got air, I shrieked into my regulator out of a combination of fear and relief. I regained control of myself and we all continued with the dive. I was very cautious for the rest of the dive and made sure to remember to keep breathing. When we surfaced, my instructor explained that I had been trying to use Alice’s regulator upside down. I made a mental note not to do that again. We headed back to the dive center, cleaned and put our equipment away, and we were done with the day. I felt so relived to be on land and didn’t want the next day to come because I knew that meant more scuba and therefore even more discomfort.

Despite my wishes, that next morning did come. I promised to myself that I would stay calm no matter what happened during the day. But… I broke that promise upon surfacing from my first open water dive of the day. Our instructor told us to take off our BCD’s, inflate them, and then use them as flotation devices to relax in the water. I took my BCD off while struggling against the big waves and then had difficulty inflating it, so I was just swimming against the current while holding my heavy BCD and cylinder without any means to help me float, aside from my own body. Needless to say, my anxiety level was high and I was not calm. After about ten minutes of struggling, my instructor came over and helped me. He repeatedly told me, “stay calm,” which everyone knows does not help in stressful situations. My whole body was so exhausted from fighting the waves and the weight of my equipment. I just wanted to be on the boat. He spent about twenty minutes with me in the water, helping me perform this skill with my BCD. I finally got it on my own and the boat came to pick us up. We all had lunch on the boat and for lack of a better phrase, I was not having it. I had so much salt water in my sinuses, felt fatigued and sore, and the last thing I wanted to do was go back in the water. I said, “I don’t want to go back in” multiple times, but after eating something and laughing with friends I found the strength to force myself back in the ocean. I wanted to get certified and I just needed to push through.

Anna Diving
Anna Diving | Photo By: Alex Messitidis

I am so proud of myself for having the grit to continue because my last open water dive was incredible. We descended to sixty feet and didn’t have to perform any more skills, so we were able to explore and swim around. Alice and I made little dance routines underwater, which was hilarious and quite a thing to be able to do underwater. At one point, our instructor blew his whistle and signaled that there was a sound up above. We stayed neutrally buoyant and just looked above to the surface. I saw a shadow a couple times, but thought it was a boat. Alice did the “shark” hand motion to me, but because we had been dancing earlier I thought she was joking. When we surfaced, our instructor told us that it was a Blacktip reef shark, which are known to attack people. I had no idea that there was actually a shark in the water with us, so I was relieved that I didn’t know that while being underwater. In hindsight, it’s pretty cool. I swam under a shark that is known to attack humans. Badass.

I am proud of myself for the way in which I went about learning to scuba dive. Well, I am not particularly proud of how panicked I got at times, but when I look at the big picture, I did something that made me very uncomfortable and I really grinded it out. For the first time in a long time I experienced change that I did not take positively. And I could have let that ruin the entire experience for me. But I didn’t. I embraced the change and I was the change for myself. Change can be good and change is good, especially when you force yourself to dive off the deep end, whether it’s literally or figuratively. -AN.

Check out this video Anna put together about her time in Belize. 

Perfect Holiday Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

The holiday season is coming up quickly, and it’s never too early to start thinking about gifts! Whether you’re treating yourself or honoring a relative or friend this winter, we’ve compiled some gift ideas for the traveler in your life. For more gift inspiration beyond this post, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board

  1. Add a little flair and personality to boring travel pieces with a cute passport cover and luggage tags. This way, no one will take your luggage, but maybe they’ll wish they could. 
  2. Everyone wants great pictures to remember their trips by, but having a professional camera may be too expensive to buy or impractical to carry. Luckily, anyone can make their iPhone camera high-quality with the olloclip core lens set. The set attaches over the phone’s front and rear cameras with either a fisheye, super-wide, or macro 15x lens for just $99.99 on Amazon. 
  3. The last thing you want to realize when going overseas is that you can’t charge your devices because you don’t have an adapter. You’ll never be in that situation again with this 5-in-1 adapter from Nordstrom. The plugs work for over 150 countries, and are even color-coded for simple use. The best part? It’s only $35.                                                                
  4. Both chronic overpackers and forgetful travelers will appreciate this packing guide for any trip. Only $10 on Amazon, this book will ensure you bring exactly what you need – no more, no less – on any journey. You’ll never pay any overweight luggage fees or run to drugstores for left-behind items again.                                                                                                                   
  5. Hydration is key to staying healthy, especially when you’re spending long days walking, hiking, or doing similar activities. The Klean Kanteen is regarded as the best water bottle for travel due to its durability, insulation, and leak-proof cap. The brand claims that a 20oz bottle will keep drinks hot for 20 hours and iced for 50 hours, priced at $30.95 and available in a variety of colors. Another option is the Grayl, a bottle which purifies the water for you, removing pathogens, particulates, and chemicals. For $59.50, the bottle purifies water in 15 seconds, making it ideal for camping trips or visits to any countries where there are recommendations against drinking the tap water.
     
  6. Help your traveler stay organized and keep a record of their journey with a travel notebook. For the no-frills recipient, Moleskine makes a traveler’s notebook designed to store printed emails, itineraries and maps at $22.95. It is made to keep track of your observations and explorations on the road, featuring sections marked by colored tabs; paper that is ruled, dotted, and plain; suggestions about how to make it digital; and a sheet of stickers. If you’re looking for an artsier notebook, checkout I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded. Available on Amazon for around $15, this journal is filled with quirky doodles as well as space for “addresses, itineraries, reviews, and tips from locals; a reference section with time zones, measurements, and other relevant information; graphic pages for note taking; and a back pocket”.
     
  7. There’s no greater feeling than that of achievement when crossing a destination off your bucket list. Take it one step further with a scratch-off map, letting you visually mark off the places you’ve been in the world, and the ones you have left to go, for under $30. 
     
  8. Sleeping in noisy situations can be hard. Whether on a plane or train, or in a hostel or camping, give the gift of rest with this two-in-one eye mask and ear plug duo. The mask blocks out all light and an estimated 40% of noise. The Hibermate typically retails for $99.95, but as of November 3rd, the 2018 Generation 6 mask is on sale for $49.95.
     
  9. Buying for somebody else? You can’t go wrong with a gift card. Visa gift cards work anywhere credit cards are accepted, making them a great versatile option. AirBnB gift cards give travelers a homey place to stay. Many hotel and airline brands also offer gift cards, as do most outdoor apparel retailers!

This is only a sampling of all the incredible gifts a traveler could ask for, but they’re guaranteed to make any recipient grateful! Make sure to keep an eye out for those Holiday sales for an ever greater deal on some of these purchases. For more gift inspiration check out our Pinterest Board