Why Everyone Should Travel Solo

My entire life, I’ve always had great respect for people who did things alone- eating in a restaurant by themselves, going to the doctor by themselves, traveling by themselves. I was always amazed that people could do all that because I never thought I was the type of person who could be so comfortable by myself. That is, until now. This semester abroad has given me so much confidence, I feel like I can do anything! There is no metro system too difficult to figure out, no language barrier too strong, no problem that cannot be outsmarted.

With all this newfound confidence in life, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do the ultimate adult thing- go to Prague all by myself! It sounded a bit crazy, and my mom was definitely not happy about it at first, but going to Prague ended up being one of my favorite trips of the semester.

Here are just a few reasons why everyone should take a solo trip at some point in your life:

1. You can eat whatever you want! For me, this meant going to some of the best (albeit most expensive) restaurants in Prague. Experiencing new food when I travel to new locations is my top priority, but it isn’t everyone’s. This time, I didn’t have anyone to hold me back from having a gourmet meal! (For an extremely unique and mind-blowing meal, be sure to visit Sansho– you won’t be disappointed.)

2. Silence is golden. I absolutely love people, all the new friends I’ve made, and traveling with them has been amazing! But sometimes constantly being with people is exhausting. It’s nice to go to a new city where you don’t know anyone, and you don’t have to utter a single word if you don’t want to. Introverts understand what I mean.

3. Your schedule is the only one that matters. I tend to be a bit of an early bird, but my friends are quite the opposite- and it can be frustrating to try to get everyone up in the morning to go see the sights. This time, however, I could wake up as early as I wanted and take the extra hour to hike across town to find that one specific coffee shop I was looking for. And it didn’t matter if I got lost, because my time was all mine!

4. You can participate in group activities. It’s hard to organize a large group of people to sign up for activities, so I’d never been able to do any of the tours I’d wanted to take. But this time? I signed up for a food tour and had the best four hours of my life. If you’re ever in Prague, sign up for a Taste of Prague tour (or at the very least, check out their restaurant guide. Prague is home to some of the best restaurants in the world)!

5. You can stop to take as many photos as you want. Because there’s no one to yell at you to “hurry up!” when you’re busy trying to take the perfect shot. The only downside to being alone for this is you are forced to either a) take selfies or b) hunt down another lone wolf and ask them to take pictures of you.

6. You can “discover” yourself. I know it’s an overused cliche, but it’s so true- when you go on a journey by yourself, you have time to figure out who you really are and what you really want. Sometimes when life gets busy, you can forget to focus on yourself and your needs, so it’s nice to take a little “me” time every once in awhile, and traveling alone is the perfect excuse!

So the next time you want to go somewhere or do something and can’t recruit anyone to go with you- forget about them.  Go by yourself, eat at a restaurant by yourself, and simply relish in the glory of being in charge of your own destiny.

Happy traveling (solo)!

pr1

When traveling solo, just embrace the selfie… It’s the only way.

Eating My Way Through Italy

Ah, Italy. The land of gelato, cheese, and wine. As a wise person* once said, Italy is truly “what dreams are made of.”

*yes, I am referring to Lizzie McGuire, thank you very much.

I’m a bit behind on my blog posts, but I wanted to share my amazing weekend in Italy with you all!

If you follow my Instagram account (@sarahcmcdaniel), then you noticed my friend Zoe and I went to Pisa a few weekends ago. Let me just tell you right off the bat; Pisa is not the best place to stay in Italy. It’s not a very pretty town, and besides taking the typical pictures holding up the Leaning Tower, there isn’t much to do there. However, we were balling on a budget and Pisa was the cheapest plane ticket we could find, so we made it work. Luckily, Pisa is in close proximity to many other neat cities, so we just spent one afternoon in Pisa, and spent the rest of the time traveling around the Tuscan countryside.

 

Our first stop was in Lucca, Italy. I don’t even have the words to explain how quaint this quiet little town was. An ancient walled city teeming with open markets, cafes, adorable shops, and of course, gelaterias, Lucca is a perfect place to really experience the Italian culture without feeling touristy.

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We ate lunch on the outer wall of the city (after having a quick photo shoot, because the view was gorgeous and dang it we looked good that day), and then spent the rest of the afternoon spending way too much money on Italian leather purses and gelato (I’m not ashamed to admit I had three gelatos that day). That night, we even found gluten free pizza- Pizzeria Mara Meo had the best GF pizza crust I’ve ever had!

The next day, we took the train to Cinque Terre. If you EVER have the opportunity to visit, DO IT. Honestly, this day was one of the best days in my entire life. Cinque Terre is a string of five ancient seaside villages that dot the northwestern coast of Italy. We were only able to visit three that day, but it was still a success!

Our first stop was in Manarola. This is the city with the most iconic views, so obviously we knew we had to go take some pictures! I also had gelato here (for breakfast), and although I can’t remember where exactly I bought it from, I’m 99% sure it was the best gelato I’ve ever had.

Our next stop was Monterosso. Although it isn’t necessarily  the most beautiful village in Cinque Terre, this is where the best beach is! We ate fried calamari (for Zoe) and french fries and gelato (for me) in the sand, and rented paddle boards for the afternoon! Unfortunately I don’t have any photo evidence of us doing this, but I was pretty good at it, if I do say so myself!

Our last stop of the day was in Vernazza. This is one of the biggest cities in Cinque Terre, so we spent our last evening looking at the many shops and exploring the coast. For dinner, we ate fresh seafood (I ordered the catch of the day, and they brought out the entire fish!), and sipped prosecco by the water.

There is no such thing as a perfect vacation- there will always be mishaps with trains, unexpected delays, and problems with the language barrier. But that’s what traveling is all about: exploring new places and trying new things with new people! And by those standards, this trip was as perfect as it gets.

Happy traveling!

Sarah

 

Things I Miss the Most About America

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about living in France. Anyone who knows me at all knows that my love of dressing in stripes and partaking in good food and wine obviously mean I should be European. My obsession with the French culture only escalated when I first arrived in the country. How could I not be in love with the country of wine, cheese, and picture-perfect villages in the countryside? Even the farm animals are prettier here, for crying out loud.

However, I have now been in France for one month, and as much as I love this country, let me tell you… there is something to be said for the good ole US of A. Here are some of the things I miss the most about the motherland:

8) English. I realize that the point of coming to France is being immersed in the language and culture. And while French is a beautiful language and I have learned so much since I first arrived, there is something to be said for being able to understand 100% of what is happening around you. It’s very awkward when a stranger engages you in a nice conversation and you think you’re doing a great job telling them your life story when really they were just asking for the time.

7) Granola Bars. Ok, I am aware that I am surrounded by some of the best food in the world. I can assure you, I certainly consume my fair share of fine cheeses, crepes, and macaroons- but let’s face it, I’m broke, and sometimes it would be nice to have a Kind bar to stave off your hunger during the 3 hour classes. Seriously, I need to have a talk with someone important who can get Kind Bars to go international.

6) Air conditioning. Why doesn’t this continent have A/C?!?!?

5) Screens. As in, the kind that goes on your window. Because there is no air conditioning in any building (see above), you’re forced to have the windows open at all times to get some air flow in the rooms. Except now you have a million insects flying around, because nobody seems to know about the newfangled invention that allows air into a room but keeps bugs outside.

4) Snapchat Stories. Go ahead, judge me. I derive a significant amount of pleasure from reading the Cosmopolitan Snapchat story every day. However, once you’ve been in another country for three weeks, it suddenly changes all the stories to the language of that country. Since French class doesn’t teach you the type of vocabulary that Cosmo uses and my poor translation skills just don’t do it justice, I must now wait until December to resume my daily guilty pleasure.

3) Convenience in general. Need something from the grocery store after 7 pm? Need to visit a bank or other important institution during your lunch break? Want to go absolutely anywhere on a Sunday? Forget about it. The French people love their two hour lunch breaks, and smoke breaks, and weekends, and in general prefer to work as little as possible. Which I obviously don’t blame them for, but it makes for a very stressful customer experience when you need to get anything done.

2) Peanut Butter. Or any sort of almond butter, cashew butter, etc. I love Nutella just as much as the next person (or probably more, since I eat it with every meal), but sometimes a girl just needs a spoonful of peanut butter to make it through the day. Also, how do people live their whole lives without PB&J?!?

1) Electricity. Not that I don’t have electricity here in France, because I do! But ohh boy it is not the same. Not only do you have to use an adapter to use everything that needs to be plugged into the wall, you also need a converter to convert the American voltage to European voltage, which renders half of your appliances absolutely useless. Additionally, sometimes your converter makes your electronics become so hot they almost explode, and when you go to unplug them from the wall, you actually get electrocuted and accidentally blow all the fuses in your dorm. TRUE STORY PEOPLE.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love it here. I am having the time of my life, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. However, I’m simply beginning to realize that nothing is perfect. What we lack in the art of leisure time and long meals in America, we make up for with efficiency and convenience- and vice versa.

As much as I love experiencing the European way of life, America will always be my home. And you know what they say: there’s no place like home.

xoxo,

Sarah