A Thank You Note to the World

A Thank You Note to the World

They tell you to never travel alone. Especially if you’re a girl. Especially if you’re only 21 years old. It’s not safe. It’s dangerous. It’s irresponsible.

And they’re probably right.

But what they fail to consider when they tell you that well-meaning advice is that is not an super realistic way to live an entire life. To never be alone. To be so limited by by gender. That I must change my habits because others cannot change theirs. And it is often unavoidable. A flight delayed, a ticket booked for the wrong day, meeting a friend in a different country.

Wo this is not your mom giving advice now: if you have the chance, go it alone every once in a while. It is the most liberating and terrifying feeling in the world. To know not a single other soul in an entire country. To figure things out for yourself, by yourself, with only yourself to revel in the success. To get from one country where you don’t speak the language to another where you don’t speak the language. That is what strength can feel like.

And you will realize how good the world can be.

This is an open thank you to the old woman in the Philly airport who told me she would pray for me, to the friendly man in the Milan metro station who showed me how to buy a  bus ticket, to the nice lady on the airport bus who told me this wasn’t the right stop to get off at, to the airport worker in Columbus who asked me if I was okay because I was tearing up saying goodbye, to the kind woman in Copenhagen who pulled over to help because we looked so confused. There are so many good people.

When you travel solo, you never really travel solo. There are people pulling you up and out and whatever direction you need to go. When they tell you that you shouldn’t be alone they’re right. Because I never felt like I was.

I have never made it anywhere completely by myself. It is with the help of an entire planet.

They Eat Cake

They Eat Cake

The Czechs know problems. Regime takeover after regime takeover, they have suffered. It’s a country in the middle of countries, caught in the power plays of history, often collateral damage in the combustion. A country traded to the Nazis by world powers for just a little more time. A country freed from a totalitarian regime only to be taken captive by another. Freedom, fracture, freedom. There are bullet holes in building walls and places where bombs landed that were never built upon again. Rows and rows of Soviet building blocks painted light pink, baby blue, seafood green in rebellion against their utilitarian silhouettes. Bronze faces are memorialized on street corners, matyrs of a nation that has always been itself a martyr. Golden plaques are hidden between the cobblestones marking the homes of the murdered Jews of Prague.

Ledice was an entire town destroyed, wiped off the map by men with big guns and hate. A death mask on my school memorializes a student who set himself on fire in protest of the regime. A plaque marks the square where young girl was shot in the grass by Soviet police because she was carrying a poster that they thought it was a gun. 27 crosses mark the cobbles in Old Town Square where 27 Czech noblemen lost their heads. Fifty feet away stands a  20 foot statue of a brave man, burned at stake for speaking his mind. Hidden in a crypt under a church lies a memorial where 7 Czech heroes took their own lives rather than be taken by Nazis.

Sad story, sad story, sad story.

In the blueprint, this place is covered in death.

But they eat cake. Mid-morning, afternoon, late evening. Somewhere someone eats cake. In colors, flavors, shapes like you’ve never seen. 50 crowns. Cafe Louvre Cheesecake with an apricot inside. 45 crowns. Sacher cake covered in chocolate. 120 crowns. A  bright yellow cubist cake shaped like a square. 60 crowns. Tiramisu. 40 crowns.

That’s what all of this death, this suffering, this fighting teaches you. Eat your cake. While you can, as often as you can, all that you can. The blueprint of Prague says death, the people say life. I have never seen so much of it. So many people living on purpose. A slap in the face to all this dying. They will not be the victims. Eating cake at 10:30 am in spite of it all.

That’s what I’m taking with me back home. An optimism that defies gravity. The courage to live fully, impeccably, relentlessly. To enjoy more, so much more, it’s a precious thing; this life; all this time to eat cake.

Roma Weekend Guide

Roma Weekend Guide

Rome was one of my favorite cities I’ve been to in Europe, it’s a busy metropolis bustling with life, energy and pasta. There is way, way more to do in Rome than I could include in this little guide but it covers the basics! Be prepared for heat, crowds and gelato.

Food to Eat

The most important part of Italy: food. Here are a few of my favorite places I tasted while I was there:  

  • Mimi e Coco’s
    • Amazing dinner, well worth the wait!
  • Gelato
    • In terms of gelato, Rome is paradise. There’s a shop on every corner but here are some that were highly recommended to me:
      • Old Bridge
      • Frigidarium
      • Venchi
      • Grom
      • Galeteria del Teatro
      • Giolitti
  • Antipasta at Cantina Dei Papi
    • One of my favorite meals in Italy, you can’t go wrong with a giant plate of olives, meats, cheeses and everything good under the sun. Plus a bottle of red.

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  • Cul De Sac
    • Loved the meat and cheese platter + wine yet again! They had like millions of bottles, we asked for a Tuscan recommendation and it was fantastic.

 

Places to Go

Rome has no shortage of attractions, one of the European cities where I feel like you could stay forever and not see everything! Since you have to pick and choose these are the essentials:

  • Vatican City
    • Go super early in the morning to avoid a crazy long line
      • St. Peter’s
        • Climb the duomo– terrifying but worth it for the amazing view

 

  • Sistine Chapel
    • home of the famous Michelangelo frescoes and worth the crowds!
  • Spanish Steps
    • Beautiful area and a great place for people watching! Go into the church at the top too.
  • Piazza Navona
    • The prettiest little square teeming with street performers and artists
  • Roman Forum
    • Go here first to wait in a shorter line and get a ticket that works for the inside of the Colosseum too! I loved seeing the Roman ruins and there is plenty of green space to relax or picnic in.
      • The Colosseum is only a block away so it’s an easy walk even in Italian heat!
  • Trevi Fountain
    • Another Rome (and Lizzie McGuire) classic, they say if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain that you will one day return to Rome! I threw a few!

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Random tips:

  • Try to walk as much as possible to explore the city 
  • Bring a water bottle, there are fountains/spickets with free water everywhere
  • The city is filled with random markets and stalls, make sure to check these out while you’re meandering the street!

 

Make the most of the city of seven hills and eat some pasta for me! Ciao bella!

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 1. The Ruins Bars

A movement to rejuvenate the Jewish Quarter, left abandoned post WWll that has culminated in an eclectic collection of bars with multiple floors, indoor/outdoor rooms, antique decorations and strange odds and ends.

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2. Fisherman’s Bastion

On the Buda side, there is a castle that feels straight out of a Disney movie with incredible views of Pest.

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3. Foooooood

Bors sandwich shop is a world renowned (cheap!) place to grab the best sandwich of your life.

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4. The Baths

Fascinating (and somewhat horrifying), the thermal baths are a once in a lifetime experience of people who are impressively old and still wearing speedo combined the ancient tradition of Roman baths.

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5. Szimpla farmer’s market

The ruin bars often double as marketplaces/cafes during the day selling local Hungarian cheeses, meats, honey, peppers, paprika, whatever your hungry heart desires.

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Why You Should Go Somewhere That’s Not Paris

When I pictured my time abroad I envisioned London, Paris, Rome— the places you read about and see pictures of your entire life. I liked London, I loved Paris and I’m visiting Rome in a few weeks. But my favorite places I’ve been, are places I never dreamed of visiting.

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The places on the top of most American buckets lists tend to be large, touristy and very westernized. While they are still beautiful and historical and worth it, I never felt very uncomfortable or pushed or like I was growing. I saw sights that I’d seen pictures of my whole life and while it was incredible in person, I was never really surprised. In places like Ljbulajna or Krakow, I was always surprised.

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Nothing was like I expected because I had no expectations. The language barrier was large which made interactions memorable and everything felt like an adventure. These are the places you should go. Places with names you can’t pronounce and places you’ve never seen. Places that people from home won’t know what country they’re in and places you will not forget. Places that feel even further than 5000 miles away from home.

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So go. Go somewhere you never wanted to go. And let me know how it is so I can go there too.