Month: October 2016

Travel Tips and Tricks

7 Tips for Staying with a Host Family

This year has truly been an amazing adventure. In a span of three months, I had been with five different host families. Each host family was different in size, but each special and unique in their own way. I have found something I have loved about each of them and something to miss about them all. After having left each host family, I can look back on my experience with happiness.

After being in different homes with different families, I have learned that we are all the same and all filled with love, no matter the house size. Each home held people that were so hospitable and for that I am grateful. With the summer program I was in, I was to be with each family for two weeks and then my location, along with my family would change. It was definitely hard, in the beginning, to get accustom to each new home I was introduced to. But at the end of every two weeks, I felt sad to leave to my new host family.

Here are some tips you can try out if you are or going to be au paring or even if you have a host family in general.

Be Open

I am very close to my parents and being away from them can get hard, but I spoke to my host parents like they were my own parents and because of that I felt less homesick. I told them about my life back where I was from, I asked them about theirs and what it was like to live in the area they lived in. Talking to them about everything really brought us closer.

So don’t be shy or think they won’t understand you if they don’t speak the same language, because I have learned they will always at least try to keep up a conversation. I have had so many amazing conversations with all of my host families and now I keep in contact with many of them.

Let Them Know If You Need Anything

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My host families made some amazing coffee <3

In each house I stayed at whether it was in Italy or Austria, the families were very hospitable. They gave me everything I needed and more. But if you ever need something extra like toothpaste, lady products or you need to wash your clothes, be sure to let them know! Also if you have a food allergy or you are a vegetarian be sure to also let them know as soon as you meet them. All my host families would ask me multiple times a day if I needed anything, which was always really nice and helpful.

Hang Out With Your Host Kids

If you’re an au pair or just simply being hosted by a family and they have children try and hang out with them! Play sports, cards, video games or board games with them. One of my families had three energetic kids; they loved playing games by the pool and played a very competitive game of Nerf which I loved because it made me feel like a kid again.

If Your Host Kids Don’t Like You…

If they don’t like you, it might be because they’re really shy. So try not to push yourself on them because it might push them farther away. Be there for them and act like a friend. Ask them questions about what they like to do. I had three young teenage host brothers in one home and it was difficult to try and find things in common but I mentioned to them that I liked soccer, after that it was much better.

Go Places with Your Host Family

Every host family is so nice, that they would always ask if I wanted to go run errands with them and as much as I

All of my host families took me to amazing places like this one!
All of my host families took me to amazing places like this one!

sometimes wanted to stay in and sleep, I went anyway. I realized that these moments spent in the car or grocery shopping were good times to talk to the parents, who were sometimes busy cooking or cleaning and sings songs in the car with the kids. These moments became some of my favorite time spent with my host families.

Offer to Help Around the House

In every host family I was in, I always offered to help around the house. Even though nine out of ten times they will say to not worry about it, so always try to help in any way you can. Clearing the tables is something I always did, even if they didn’t ask me to and I could tell they really appreciate it.

If you are an au pair, sometimes helping out around the house is part of your job description, so something simple, but helpful that you can do is keeping your room/bathroom clean. Even with my busy schedule, I made sure that I made my bed before I left for work and again, I could tell it helped out in a small way.

Learn New Languages with Your Host Family

One of my host sisters was seven years old and we spent a lot of time on me learning their version of the alphabet. The seven year old who taught me really enjoyed it and I actually learned a lot. Spend some time with the kids or even the parents and ask questions. I think its great bonding time to spend with your host families.

 

I hope that these tips help you out with your host families and that you have the courage to make the most of the time spent away by truly submerging yourself in the new culture.13770235_10206930182965292_927423265373612152_n

 

Travel Stories

Summer Festivals in Germany

13256021_10206624112153713_3474312076634615740_nArriving to Germany felt like I had arrived home. Germany had always been one of my favorite countries in the world, 13325740_10206624123073986_8144127295374997883_nespecially the Bavarian area. My first visit to this amazing country was back in 2008, when I was twelve and since then I had been in awe of the place. I had been back two more times after that and this was going to be my fourth time.

Each time I go to Germany with my family, we always stay with this older couple, Max* and Ali*, that we had met on a cruise when I was eleven. This couple could be considered the typical Opa and Oma (Grandpa and Grandma in German). Max and Ali are both my grandparents age and they are some of the sweetest people I have ever met.

We decided to stay in Germany for a week and during the week we visited historic Munich, grand palaces, and the snow covered Alps. Max and Ali live in a very small town about an hour away from Munich and everything about their little town felt Bavarian and local. I had left my friends from my previous trip, two weeks ago, and I was feeling sad and discouraged that I wouldn’t meet any new friends because I was staying so local.

Max was tall in the way that all Germans were and had ice white hair that surprisingly made him look younger. He was 13256021_10206624127274091_1345510990342350299_na very organized man and each time we had come, he always had planned events for us. This time was no different. He announced to us when we arrived that we were invited to attend a local festival. This Fest, as they call it, apparently is planned for the beginning of June, but this year, it had been scheduled for the very end of May. Our hosts told us that it would a small taste of what Oktoberfest feels like. But at the end of the night, I couldn’t help but feel like it was much better.

The festival is usually a full week but the best day to go this year was surprisingly, Wednesday. So early Wednesday morning, we went to Burghausen, the longest castle in Europe, which is located so close to the Austrian border that there’s only a river separating the two countries. We drove over to Austria and took pictures of the castle and the town of Alötting. I debated on whether or not I would drink a beer during lunch because of the festival later, but I had one anyway.

The rest of the day went by and then suddenly it was time to party like a German! I walked into the scene and I saw stung up lights, carnival rides, and colorful food stands that smelled of pretzels. The whole thing felt like a German Carnival and I loved everthing about it. All around girl were wearing their dirndl and the boys wore their lederhosen while I, feeling slightly out of place, came in wearing jeans and a floral blouse.12871488_10206624119993909_128085008675544769_n

All around the festival area were different colored tents, each for something different like dancing or getting a cocktail. We headed into the main and biggest tent that was packed with people. I saw more strung up golden lights, big wooden benches and tables, colored streamers, and beer, lots and lots of beer. Earlier in the day, Max had told us that his kids, who were my parent’s age, had booked tables for all of us. Their family was a big one, so we had a few tables that were just for us.

Right away we got handed beers, or in my case, a Raddler, which is lemon and beer mix that didn’t taste nearly as strong as the regular beer they sold. Max is one of my favorite people in the world, he is unexpected in the way that you think he’s serious all the time, but he’s actually super funny and sarcastic. Ten minutes into festival he was swinging his beer from side to side and belting out German folk songs he knew or didn’t know.

We sat down, chatted and ate some German food while a live band that were drinking beer too, played top party hits along with the traditional German folk songs. Every once in a while, the band would yell out some sort of German chant we were all supposed to yell out and then clink our gallon sized glasses together, which was actually really fun.

Two hours into the festival, like all German festivals, we were all drunk of life, lots of beer and we were standing on the13241393_10206624120513922_8947355622742436919_n benches dancing. My fear of feeling like I wouldn’t meet anyone diminished as I continued to meet some really great people throughout the night. Life felt great. All around me Germans were letting loose on a Wednesday night and let me tell you, they knew how to party. Lights all over the tent were getting softer, the music got louder and the beer got sweeter.

At about midnight, after hours of dancing on benches and meeting new friends, the big tent was finishing up its course but the party was not over yet. The next in size tent that sold more beet and mixed drinks was the next hot spot on that weekday night.

We were all in need of loud music and dancing so we walked into the smaller tent that was meant for dancing. But dancing was nearly impossible in this too small tent, but we danced anyway. It was fun to party with the people I had known for nearly 10 years and it was crazy to think about how long ago it had been. Time and time again, Germany has never failed to amaze me with its wonderful people and gorgeous sights. This night filled with dancing, belting out songs and beer, was turning out to be one of my favorite days thus far.

Oktoberfest is one of the most popular festivals in the world but I think I liked this smaller one better, mainly for the fact that it was just meant for local Germans who work and have lived by each other for years and I was grateful that I had been a part of this special night, that I loved so much.

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*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals

Travel Tips and Tricks

How to Live Your Dream Life!

10399557_10206084309498984_2556352374444340147_nEver since I was young, I’ve had dreams of traveling and becoming a writer. Now, years later, I’ve been traveling the world and writing about it in this blog! In the past year I’ve gone from feeling like a total failure because I failed a full semester of classes in college, to altogether leaving school and following my dreams.

This past year I have learned that it’s okay to not have my whole life planned out, because things change and in the end it will all work out if I believe it will. I have traveled to more than 10 countries this year alone and I’m on my way to discovering new places to visit.

Today I want to share my 5 tips on how I got to travel, live my dream life and how you can too!

  1. Believe you can!

You need to have faith that you have the power to have your dreams come true. If you believe that your dreams won’t true, they won’t. You need to believe that no matter the circumstances, you can do it. Just like they say in the movies, don’t give up on your dreams.10982689_10204330510735111_1692896487340003217_n

I’ve always heard that in order to travel you need lots of money, and with me having no degree or full time job, this was a hard concept to grasp. I only had a part time job where I wasn’t making a lot. So what was I going to do? Give up on my dreams? No! I continued to believe that I could travel and write and that I was capable of having my dreams come true.

2. Have a positive mindset!  

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is, in my opinion, a great place to start. In the book she goes over the law of attraction. This law is the philosophy that “like attracts like” meaning that by focusing on positive thoughts, it will bring positives things into your life and the same is true with negative thoughts.

This all means that we are responsible for bringing the both the positives and the negatives that come into our lives. So the law of attraction inspires you to realize that you have the power to take control of how the rest of your life shapes up to be. Focusing on every negative thing in your life will not only have your dreams not come true but will hinder your happiness. In order to be our happiest selves, we must think of all the positive things.

For example, when I failed my classes and I realized I would no longer have financial aid which was paying for all my classes, instead of focusing on how badly I did and how I would never amount to anything, I saw it as a blessing in disguise. I had always wanted to truly travel for a long time, learn new cultures and meet new people. But I had this preconceived notion that in order for that to happen I needed to get a degree or study abroad and this was not true.

Now that I was free from school, I could do what I wanted and I wanted to travel. So I started to think of my failing school as a positive thing and that helped me out in the future.

3. Dream big!  

Once you find out what it is you want to do, whether it’s like me and you want to travel. Dream big! Dream like there are no limitations and you can have everything you’ve ever wanted.

Think of your dreams with details. For example, I really wanted to travel and live in Italy, specifically, for a longer time that the rest of the countries I visited. Next thing I knew I was getting paid to stay in some of Italy’s most amazing places.

4. Begin the first step in your new life!  

Once you have thought of what you want to do and have your dreams in full details, you must begin the first step. In the movie Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire cat once said “Every adventure requires a first step.” Begin your research with the steps you need to take in order to make these amazing dreams come true.

1491679_10205987983570896_896761538881897147_nFor me, I knew I wanted to do something that required teaching English to children because I liked kids and it was a good way to be able to travel abroad while getting paid for it. I looked into au pairing and teaching kids English in summer camps. Researching is where I found this great summer camp program I could apply to, where I could teach kids English and travel throughout Italy in the summer. So my first step was applying for these programs and believing that it was possible. I ended up getting called for the program I applied to; I could not have been happier!

5. Surround yourself with your dreams!   

The best way thing to do is to think of your dreams as something you already have. The greatest way to do that is to visualize! Make a vision board where you can, visualize, with pictures of the things you want in your life. I would look at my vision board that was filled with pictures of places I wanted to go, and I thought of the things on it like I was already there traveling.

Look at your vision board every day and be sure to spend 5-10 minutes thinking and visualizing what you want your life to be like. Think of your dreams as things you already have because your thoughts won’t know the difference between fiction and fact. So believe your dreams can come true, because they will!

To end this post off, I want to share my favorite inspiring quote from one of my favorite shows One Tree Hill.

“Make a wish and place it in your heart. Anything you want, everything you want. Do you have it? Good. Now believe it can come true. You never know where the next miracle is going to come from. The next smile, the next wish come true. But if you believe that it’s right around the corner, and you open up your heart and mind to the possibility of it, to the certainty of it, you just might get the thing you’re wishing for. The world is full of magic. You just have to believe in it. So make your wish. Do you have it? Good. Now believe in it, with all of your heart.”

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Here’s to blurry pictures and believing in magic!

Travel Stories

A Quick Guide to the Spanish Coast

 

13230326_10206589615651322_2902559771960907017_nAh Espania! Home of flamenco dancing, soccer teams, sangria and romantic Latin language. Spain has many major cities; its capitol Madrid has a population of about 3.3 million people while Barcelona is right on the coast with a population of approximately 1.7 million people.

I have been traveling to Barcelona on cruises for years. Each time I would stay in the same areas and I wouldn’t venture off to see more of what Spain really has to offer. Except for this time. I stayed in Spain for a full week, but only spent one day in Barcelona. I realized there was so much more to see in Spain that I hadn’t seen before.

Here are just a couple places that I experienced that you should check out!

Sitges, Barcelona

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Home to many people who live luxuriously along the beach. Boats sail by, vendors sell cheap sunglasses all while a gentle sea breeze blows by. The coast is filled with shops, gay night clubs and little bars to hang out in.

There’s a soft old fas13221601_10206559536979374_5856901178751603764_nhion feel to the small coastal town, like it’s existed for centuries because it has. People are laying in the sand trying to tan in 75 degree heat, which was too cold for my Floridian liking.

A mermaid greets large steps that lead up to a great stone church that people have gone in and out for years. All around there are old medieval buildings with Catalan language written all over them.

Small note: As a Spanish speaker myself, being in Spain can sometimes be difficult, because while many people do speak Spanish they will mostly speak the Catalan language if in the Catalonia region of Spain or if you’re in Valencia region, many people will also speak the Valencian language.

Sitges is a beautiful place to grab some tapas and drink a cool sangria while watching boats sail on the blue Mediterranean sea.

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Cordorniu Winery

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The winery is surrounded by gardens and trees in a vineyard where they make some of the best wine in all of Spain. I went for a wine tasting while also getting a historic tour about how the wine is made and how the vineyard began.

Definitely check it out if you’re close to Barcelona and you want some great wine with really pretty views.

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Vinaroz, Valencia

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Right along the coast is another small truly local city that is about a two hour drive from Barcelona. I spent most of my time here visiting some of my parent’s friends who own a house in Vinaroz.

Faraway views of Vinaroz
Faraway views of Vinaroz

Vinaroz is small and everyone has known one another since they were young. Along the beach are small shops and bars. This is the city where I tried so many delicious Spanish dishes, like Paella which is a rice mixed in with seasoning and typically seafood. The people we were staying with had a BBQ and cooked up some amazing Paella.

They have some great ships in this small city, like Stradivarius which is a Forever 21 version of Zara where I bought some jeans and a jacket. This store is all over Spain and you should check it out if you’re on a budget but need some great clothes.

While walking along the streets of Vinaroz, you can find old couples sitting down with friends grabbing some coffee or wine while chatting up about the latest town gossip. Younger couples with smaller kids and little dogs do typically the same thing, but will catch up with their friends in a children’s park instead. I can see how things like this have been the same for a long time.

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Now if you’re willing to make a bit of a drive away from the coast, you can also check out these amazing spots.

Morella, Castellon

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Faraway views of Morella

A walled city atop of a hill that was listed as one of the most beautiful towns in Spain is 13221113_10206582492113238_8887565497947677224_nnow a tourist destination. This town has been in establishment for centuries and I could see trances of medieval times in each old building or church I saw. Churches here in Spain is where I see the beauty and art of the Spanish people from eras before with each detail and step taken inside their most sacred place.

With narrow cobblestone streets where parking is nonexistent as I got higher in the town, I could see the beautiful view of the Spanish countryside and what medieval soldiers would have looked out to while watching out for enemies. I found the town to be gorgeous in each stone house I saw and each cobblestone step I took.

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Pobla De Bennifasser, Valencia

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For this beautiful piece of land, I only visited the lake. The lakes and mountains gather here to create a bold rich color of earth. The Spanish mountains looking vastly different to anything I’ve ever seen before and the sheer beauty of it left me breathless.13254331_10206582487193115_8206838792106489995_n13245394_10206582487833131_7931016400654970653_n

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The End of the Spanish Chapter

The fabulous Spanish people are proud, rightfully so, of their great cities and small towns for their unique beauty. I love seeing the history in the places I go to so that I’m able to travel in time and see the true beauty of the country.

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My Favorites

Around the World in 8 Young Adult Novels

J.K Rowling once wrote “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” I believe that too. Reading has always been an escape for my mind if I had to stay put somewhere. Now with my current job I have become a very avid reader which I love. One of my favorite kinds of genre is Young Adult (YA) probably because I’m close to the age the characters are themselves and I find that I can relate to them the best. But the best YA books are the ones where the characters travel all over the world. They’re brilliant books because they let me see and envision what these new places in the world hold.

Here is a list of my top 8 favorites countdown!

  1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13envelopes_maureenjohnsonMakes you want to buy a ticket to: All over Europe

Thirteen letters arrive for Virginia (Ginny) Blackstone with instructions from her Aunt Peg to buy a one way ticket to London. It’s a beautiful tale about a shy girl’s adventures abroad with crazy instructions to do things in new places. I love the descriptions in each new place Ginny goes to that it makes me feel like I’m there as well

  1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Makes you want to buy a ticket to: Paris, France71n-haxibzl

A cute story set in a boarding school in Paris where Anna meets a wonderful boy who unfortunately has a girlfriend. This one will make you swoon and fall in love under the twinkling lights of Paris. I like this one because of the way Stephanie Perkins is able to make such amazing unique characters that make the whole story feel real and heartfelt.

 

 

 

 

  1.  When Irish Guys are Smiling by Suzanne Supplee1883317

Makes you want to buy a ticket to: Ireland

The main character Delk brings us along in her journey as she learns the ins and outs of Ireland while also meeting some cute guys. I loved learning more about Irish culture in this fun read.

  1. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Makes you want to road trip or buy a ticket to: Mid-West USA, New York City, California, Englandebfdbec7094d521603428dfc5910b27f

Lucy and Owen get stuck on an elevator together in New York City during a blackout. Their lives intertwine and separate before they know it while Lucy moves away to London and Owen heads to the West Coast. Will they be able to forget about their one special night and each other? Jennifer E. Smith is one my favorite travel fiction writers with her great characters and unforgettable moments.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper3017947

Makes you want to buy a ticket to: Verona, Italy

Kate Sanderson gets an opportunity to travel to Verona, Italy for the summer for a Shakespeare symposium. Along the way she meets some new friends and maybe her very own Romeo while she enjoys pasta and gelato in beautiful Italy. When I first read this book I absolutely fell in love with the descriptions of Verona and the fun times Kate goes through as she falls in love.

  1. Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

51lb-6q9sulMakes you want to get a time machine and go to: 1500s Verona, Italy

Mimi Wallington comes from a very famous Broadway family which is why she is playing Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opposite her nemesis Troy. But one night during the show Mimi and Troy are thrust back to Shakespeare’s Verona. Will they be able to get back and save Romeo and Juliet from their tragic destinty? Mimi and Troy are both such amazing characters in this great book that I could barely put it down. I loved learning more about Shakespeare’s time and how his characters could be more relatable that we think.

 

 

  1. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith5142jjgkghl__sy344_bo1204203200_

Makes you want to buy a ticket to: London, England

Told in a time frame of twenty-four hours, Hadley Sullivan is on her way to her dad’s wedding in London, but misses her flight at JFK and during her new flight sits next to very handsome Oliver. Hadley and Oliver spend the whole flight to London talking and end up losing each other in the mist of airport chaos. Can fate bring them together again before the day is through? This is everyone’s dream meet cute (including my own): meeting someone on a plane and falling in love and it’s spectacular. Jennifer E. Smith has a way of combining real life troubles with finding love and I loved every second of this book.

  1. Just One Day/Just One Year by Gayle Forman

chatsworthhouse1Makes you want to buy ticket to: Mainly Paris and all over the world

Allyson Healey meets a laid back Dutch actor William De Ruiter in London and they head off to Paris for a magical day. There are not enough things I can say about these two books. Written by the same author who wrote If I Stay comes a beautiful story about love, life, and finding ourselves. These books will make you laugh, cry and contemplate why you’re not buying a ticket out of the country. I’ve included both books in the series because they go hand and hand and I recommend reading both. So if you only read one book out of this whole list, these have to be it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list! And leave your own recommendations below!

 

Travel Stories

Bike Riding In London

13226632_10206553139219434_5436101320582676275_nLondon is one of the most popular cities in the world, with a population of 8.7 million people; it’s an American’s dream city when traveling abroad. Although I had an amazing few days there, in a few months I would come back to London for one of the toughest days of my life. But that is a blog for another day and today’s blog is about the stunning day I had in London.

The recent cruise I had been on, had finished two days prior in Southampton. Although I was traveling to London with my family and friends, Millie and Will, plus their families, I was forced to say goodbye to new friends that I had met knowing I wouldn’t see for a while and for that my heart felt slightly heavy.

Will was staying at the same hotel I was staying at, which was nice having a friend close by, while Millie and her brother, Aaron, were staying not too far from us, closer to the center of London. The elusive John lived about two hours away, but had promised to visit us in London. I was worried he wouldn’t show up and I wouldn’t see any of my friends on the last day. Will had left early that morning to hang out with Millie and Aaron, so I was left to start my adventures alone.

After breakfast, I got ready to head out to Abbey Road, the famous street The Beatles once crossed. Now it is a street in front of Abbey House. I had been here once before when I visited with my parents in 2006, and we returned back to the torn up tourist infested road, where nothing had changed in ten years. People posed for their picture, while angry drivers honked and threated to run them over.

My family and I walking down Abbey Road in 2006. #tbt
My family and I walking down Abbey Road in 2006. #tbt

 

My family wanted to recreate the picture we had taken so long ago, so we asked a nice lady with an accent that looking to be in her late twenties to take the photo. Walking across the battered road that aged like Paul McCartney had, I tried not to feel awkward as we took the picture while people around us waited for their turn to cross. We thanked the lady who had taken the picture and started to talk to her and her London friend she was with. They were both super friendly; the lady was from Argentina who had decided to take a chance and go to London and happen to meet the really nice guy she was standing next to. Her adventurous spirit and her friend’s charismatic charm inspired me to be unafraid of the unknown weeks ahead. 

 

Walking down the road in 2016.
Walking down the road in 2016.

My family and I were then off to Camden Street, where we would meet up with John, who had texted and said he was on his way. Arriving to Camden Street was like arriving to the streets of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. It had a very hipster vibe to it and I saw all kinds of people wearing all kinds of hairstyles and clothes. They had little dark antique shops and stands all around. We met up with John and headed to a cute wooden pub where we grabbed burgers and beer. Camden Street was quickly becoming one of my favorite places in London because of the feeling that anything went and nobody cared.

 

The colorful shops in Camden Street.
The colorful shops in Camden Street.

After the delicious lunch, we were off to pick up Nick. Nick was a friend we had met on the recent cruise, who was a frequent cruiser and was funny in the way that he was unaware of. I had hoped I would see Millie, Aaron, and Will during the day, but we kept missing each other at each stop we went to so my family, John, Nick, and I decided to be one like the locals and hop on a city bike you could rent for two pounds.

I was terrified at first, I hadn’t been on a bike in years, let alone on one in the middle of the city where the streets were backwards and the people were not so nice. But as I hopped on the sturdy red bike and wobbled my way onto the streets of London, my confidence in biking grew. We set off to Tower Bridge and rode along River Thames.

The ride along River Thames was incredible, no cars are allowed in these small streets, where people walked and cycled from cute shops to hidden pubs. Everything along the streets looked expensive, structured, and very English in an old fashion way. We stopped to take pictures of historical buildings and old boats along the river.

England is known for its constant cloudy skies and rain, but today was different. As the day went on, the skies became less cloudy and the mid-May sun had been sneaking its way through. The day turned out to be a beautiful spring day as the cold temperatures rose and a gentle breeze blew by.

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Tower Bridge Views

We reached a place where we could see the old famous Tower Bridge that gleamed against the afternoon sun as the clouds altogether disappeared and I finally met up with Millie, Aaron, and Will. They rented bikes while we said goodbye to Nick and we were off to travel to London Bridge once again along the river.

Have you ever been in a middle of a moment where you stop and think about how lucky you are? I almost wanted to bottle in the memory and save it forever to replay in my mind when things aren’t so perfect so I can go back to a moment it was. I road beside my family and friends along the river while the London skyline was illuminated by a setting sun. We raced, laughed, yelled, and almost died riding along the big red buses. I felt free, like anything was possible.

We stopped to take pictures every once in a while and we would stop when our bicycle street lights went red. I was behind the pack 98 percent of the time, but I was just happy to be there with my friends and family. There was not one cloud in sight as the sun emitted a golden glow across the London buildings. Riding on the bikes all through the streets of London was amazing and I recommended to everyone because it’s a fast quick way to see the best of the city that you wouldn’t see with a car.

After reaching London Bridge, we traveled to the Prime Ministers gorgeous house and then headed to our last stop, Hyde Park. We rode into the park that had a golden twilight radiance draped against thousands of flowers, tall oak trees and the flat Oz inspired green grass. We messed around, laid on the grass, and rode around places we weren’t allowed to be in.

Feelings of leaving my friends, who I had grown so close to within the last three weeks, hit me as I soaked up what was the last moment of the day with them. The next day would bring goodbyes, sadness and the feeling of the unknown, but for that moment we were together.

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Travel Tips and Tricks

10 Tips For 18-20 Year Old Cruisers

I’ve been traveling since I was 8 years old on all types of cruises and cruise lines. I had always been involved in the cruise line’s children and teen programs, where kids and teens could hang out and do activities with people their own age. The children programs typically end at 11 years old and the teen programs are from ages 12-17. After this there isn’t anything really planned for people between the ages of 18-20.

Two years ago, I went on a cruise as a newly turned 19 year old and I was terrified that I wouldn’t make any friends and that I would be bored during the long sea days. I looked online for tips and tricks on how to survive being in the weird age group of 18-20 and found nothing. So I went on the cruise scared and unprepared.

After twelve days of cruising, I was having as much, if not more, fun than I’d had in previous cruises. If I had only known some of the tips I will share today I would have been excited and prepared.

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So here are my 10 tips on surviving cruises as an 18-20 year old!

  1. Say yes!

Become a yes man and say yes! Whether it’s trying something new like food or a sport or volunteering during a show onboard, say yes! This is something that definitely helped me because I tried not to have any guards up or prejudgment ideas about things like zip lining over the ocean or dancing like crazy with retired folks. Saying yes helped me have an open mind about everything and made the trip better.

Best sushi I have EVER tried in my life aboard Allure of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)
Best sushi I have EVER tried in my life aboard Allure of The Seas (Royal Caribbean)

The Quest (a show that is down on almost all Royal Caribbean) is great show to participate and watch if you're around the ages of 18-20 years old.
The Quest (a show that is on almost all Royal Caribbean ships) is great show to participate and watch if you’re around the ages of 18-20 years old.
2. Don’t be afraid to say hi to strangers!

I’m a pretty outgoing person in general but when I began the cruise as a 19 year old I was terrified to say hi to people. What if they didn’t want to meet anyone new? What if they thought I was weird for saying hello?

But I had to feel the fear and do it anyway in order to make new friends because chances were that these people were in the same boat.

My favorite opening liner: “Hey, where are you from?”

Most likely they are not from the exact same place you are from and the line is a great conversation starter.

3. Be open to people of all ages!

I have been on cruises during peak season which have more people my age than the cruises that are on the off season. But I actually prefer the off season ones and have met many more friends during these cruises. On these cruises, there are some people that are my age but most will be either older or younger than me.

My best friend Millie and I met when I used the line mentioned above and I learned she was younger than me but we soon became friends. If I had the notion that I would only find friends my age I was going to be disappointed.

My parents are another great example, they are of course older than me, and I found people of all ages loved hanging out with my cool parents including myself. So be open to everyone despite their age because you will find some amazing friends of all ages.

The Flow Rider at sunset.
The Flow Rider at sunset.

4. Get involved on onboard activities!

Try out all the different competitions like soccer, basketball, ping pong, pool volleyball, and my favorite dodge ball! You will always meet some really cool people trying all these activities out. I’ve met multiple friends this way and I found its great way to try new things too! On Royal Caribbean Cruises, they have something called the Flow Rider where you can ride artificial waves and there are always some young if not cool people hanging out there.

5. Go out at night to the club! 

Mostly everyone around the ages of 18-20 loves to party and typically there’s only one place to do just that! Every cruise will have at least one 18+ club/disco that will feature some great music and some great people that love to dance. You will always meet people here with the same thought in mind.

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Me as a 19 year old drinking in Spain off the ship.

6. Don’t get drunk if you’re not allowed to!

On this peak season cruise I was on during spring break, there were a ton of people my age and one of whom was a 19 year old boy traveling with his 21 year old brother. The older one would sneak drinks to his younger sibling all night long and as always he got caught early on in the cruise. The 19 year old would no longer be allowed to go to the only club the cruise had to offer.

So as much as you want to drink, if you are underage, cruising is not the place to do it! Because when you’re on the cruise, the security guards will remember you and the fact that you are underage. So if the port the cruise goes to allows it, drink on land and not onboard.

7. Stay up late, get up early-ish!

After dancing all night in the club, the people around the ages of 18-20 or older will most likely hang out afterwards like getting some late night pizza, playing some cards, or going to the hot tub. Don’t be afraid to stay up with them.

Staying up with new friends until the sun rose over Southampton.
Staying up with new friends until the sun rose over Southampton.
Mornings on cruises are always packed with tons of things to do that you shouldn’t miss out on so wake up early-ish even if you’re tired because you don’t want to just sleep the day away. Take naps by the pool or before and after dinner time for an hour. But as I always say “you can sleep when you’re dead.

8. Get to know the staff!

Some of the staff (usually the sport staff) is typically made of people that are around 20-30 years old and you can always spend some time talking to them and find out where they’re from and how they like working on a cruise. They got this job because they wanted to travel and meet people all the time, so chat it up!

9. Don’t fall in love!

I am all for a Jack and Rose Titanic love affair but chances are it probably won’t happen. While I have met people that have met on a cruise and are still together, to quote He’s Just Not That Into You “That is the exception and you are the rule.”

Most boys and even girls that are on a cruise are there to have fun whether it’s a five day cruise or a fourteen day cruise. Don’t go crazy about someone whose just there to “hang out.” Instead have fun yourself and be open to meeting all different kinds of boys or girls and enjoy yourself because it’s still a vacation.

Selfies by the sea
Selfies by the sea
10. Be Happy! 

This is just a life motto of mine so I feel it’s always good advice! But it’s a vacation so stay happy and positive about making new friends and wonderful memories because it will happen. Don’t over think or get mad at things you can’t control. If you stay in a happy and positive mindset, you will have an amazing adventure!

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So have fun on your next cruise! And if any of you have any more tips and tricks be sure to leave a comment below!


Travel Stories

Kayaking In St. Maarten

The pretty blue views
The pretty blue views

The sun was resting almost directly above us and my body was drenched in salty ocean water. My arms were sore from paddling against a current for what seemed like over an hour. But I stared in awe at the beautiful St. Maarten view that consisted of tropical mountains, sandy beaches and clear blue water. I was in the middle of the ocean kayaking with my sister Kimberly and my new found English friend John* who insisted that we’d be “brilliant” as three people on a kayak. But it wasn’t “brilliant”, we were the only people kayaking having the current drift us futher away as our friends were relaxing on the island that was meant to be our destination.

This all began four hours earlier when we arrived to the gorgeous island of St. Maarten. We arrived as many people do nowadays, on a big ole commercial cruise. The cruise had begun four days ago and this was our last stop before it made its eleven day voyage to the United Kingdom. My family and I were cruising with a few other friends we had made throughout the years and some we had made in the last four days, so together we had decided to head to the beach.

I discovered on the way to the beach that streets in the St. Maarten were small but the cars that drove on them were not and the mini bus we’d been on drove up and down tropical hills somehow managing to squeeze and zoom past other big cars and motorcyclists.

As soon as we reached breathtaking Orient Beach, I set up my chair under a palm tree and got myself an island mojito that was a bit strong for a drink at eleven in the morning, but hey it was five o’clock somewhere! Tipsy on fruity cocktails, I headed into the water with my best friend Millie and we swam in the turquoise sea. The sand was silky soft under my feet as I pushed myself up and floated in the water. Orient beach is a clothing optional beach so women around us were going topless as the sun rose higher in the skies, making it feel like a free spirited tropical oasis.

The beach offered a lot of cool tourist things to do including jet skiing, parasailing and kayaking. The young guys in our group went jet skiing and when they came back, my new three day friend John wanted to go kayaking, I was tipsy on life and mojitos so I happily agreed. John had a West English accent, he was half Italian and was strong in the way boys who played rugby were. He was wearing short blue swim trunks and since he wasn’t used to the strong Caribbean sun, he had a red sunburn on his back from the days before. He looked tough but turned out to be one of the nicest guys I’d ever met.

There were seven of us and five kayaks but the kayaks could hold up to three people. So we agreed my sister, John and I could all go in one. John prided himself on being great at kayaking and my sister and I went along with it because it was our first time. Millie went with her brother, Aaron*, in one kayak. John’s brother and Will*, another one of my friends, went by themselves. We made a plan to reach this little island that we could see from the beach that looked to be about a mile and a half away.

We all left at the same time so the fact that they reached the beach in fewer than fifteen minutes while we were stuck fighting against a current surprised me. Maybe it was because we were three to a kayak made it heavier than it needed to be or maybe because John thought it would be a good idea to hop off and try and push us with his feet that made it so much harder.

After twenty-five minutes of rowing, rocking and John having us all chant “We can do this!” my arms were burning and sore from the extensive paddling. I was exhausted but the view around us was amazing. I looked out to the green mountains that laid behind the nearly white beach as a breeze blew by and told myself I was grateful to be here.

Another fifteen minutes passed and we had finally nearly reached the beach and our friends came to “help” us out but ended up capsizing the kayak as me and my sister screamed for our lives even though the beach was tame, shallow and didn’t hold any sharks as far as we could tell. I swam to shore and started to explore the tiny island.

The little island held tons of rocks, seaweed and looked like the home to the children in Blue Lagoon. All around the island were these huge beautiful coral colored seashells that reminded me of the glass ones you’d buy at a home décor store. We gathered a good number of seashells and started to organize how we would return to the main beach.

John insisted in an exasperated breath. “I’m not going with them girls.”

“Whatever, I didn’t want to go back with you anyway.” I said under my breath. It was his fault that it took so long to arrive but at this point I really didn’t care.

My sister and I were going to kayak with Will, as we began our journey back to the beach, John and Aaron came around once again to “help” us take some of the seashells’ weight. But as soon as they took the seashells they capsized the kayak again but this time John was involved and found it super amusing.

Unlike last time I really didn’t expect it, so there I was being flung into the ocean, whacking Will accidently in the face with a paddle and salt water going in through my nose. I temporarily thought I was drowning before I remembered I had a life vest on. My sister and I emerged and after looking at Kimberly’s poor panicked face, Aaron grabbed her and got her into his kayak while Will and I (mostly Will) managed to turn the kayak upside and we headed back to the beach.

When I reached the beach, I nearly kissed the sand on the ground after the, in my mind, traumatic yet fun experience. After a couple more hours of fun in the sun, we headed back to where our ship awaited all equally exhausted and smelling of sand and sunscreen.

Walking closer to the ship, I could hear music being played. As I reached where the sound was coming from, I saw a group of local children with all kinds of instruments playing their island version of today’s top hits. These local kids were unlike anything I’ve ever seen, they didn’t just play the music, they danced with their music, they were singing their beautiful hearts out, and they were alive with every beat.

One boy, the smallest in the group, didn’t play an instrument at all. He just danced, sang, and held up a CD of the band’s hit music. I don’t know how long they had been playing, but they had such amazing energy in the thousand degree heat that it had everyone smiling. I love small islands because of the people, in the way that they may come from a small area of land but they have some of the biggest personalities and the biggest of hearts. My family and I ended our day by joining the party and dancing along to the tropical style of Maroon 5’s “Sugar”.

*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals