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101 Things I Did on my Summer Vacation

This is not an all inclusive list. Merely a snapshot of 65 days in 11 (officially 13, if you count Northern Ireland and The Vatican) countries.


1. Learned that everyone smokes in Europe. Everyone.

2. Spent a homeless night in Spain

3. Fell asleep on a train, a plane, a bus, a boat and a bench. And a bed.

4. Improved my Irish accent

5. Had the most surreal experience in Budapest. The sky looked like it was on fire. That’s the best way I can describe it.

6. Stood in two hemispheres at once.

7. Went to a bar for the first time. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top it.

8. Ran around Barcelona at 5 in the morning. Literally ran around.

9. Was taught how to eat a proper French meal.

10. Cut myself on rocks in the Mediterranean.

11. Avoided the dreaded jellyfish of the Mediterranean.

12. Scared the shit out of Justin with my sleepy ramblings.

13. Didn’t use my cell phone for so long I forgot I had one

14. Benefited from the kindness of strangers. American strangers at that.

15. Went to a coffee shop in Amsterdam. And did not partake.

16. Got mean mugged by people from 12 different countries.

17. Perfected my “I have no idea what you’re saying” smile.

18. Cheered for a French rugby team with French rugby hooligans. USAP!!

19. Saw people get patted down by the French Secret Police

20.Learned how to say “Thank you” in 8 languages. And promptly forgot 3 of them.

21. Danced with a Spaniard.

22. Got addicted to Battlestar Galactica. Frak.

23. Shopped for produce in 11 countries.

24. Learned what Kozak means.

25. Tried hookah. Decided that if I have a taste for an orange, I’m going to eat an orange. Not smoke orange flavored tobacco.

26. Got homesick

27. Couchsurfed in Belgium.

28. Stayed in a hostel that put most hotels to shame.

29. Stayed in a hostel that made my skin crawl.

30. Smelled urine. Everywhere.

31. Learned that European girls don’t’ wear swim tops until puberty. And then stop again after 18.

32. Ate paella. Loved it.

33. Walked the length of Dublin in 30 minutes.

34. Had frittes. Just like fries.

35. Learned that Polish bus drivers can get even the strongest of stomachs a bit queasy.

36. The mullet is alive and well my friends.

37. Played the most impressive game of Jenga ever. So intense, that Justin and I moved past our competitive nature and more marveled at our joint accomplishment.

38. Learned the treachery of the Italian Railway workers.

39. Did not get sick.

40. Spent a day on the beach in three countries.

41. Missed a birthday because of the time difference.

42. Cried while talking to a friend on the phone.

43. Sat on the steps with a bunch of college kids late at night in Perugia, Italy.

44. Had epiphanies about America.

45. Had epiphanies about the rest of the world.

46. Learned that I could live out of a backpack.

47. Had 6 shirts, 2 pants, and 2 shorts for 65 days.

48. Rode public transportation in 12 countries.

49. Smelled B.O. in 12 countries.

50. Toured a salt mine. The same salt mine that Pope John Paul II toured.

51. Was heckled for running in Ireland.

52. Saw a giant fireball explode from an Ice Cream truck. It was awesome.

53.  Had hot chocolate that made me believe in heaven.

54. Popped another persons toe blister for free cider. I know I have a problem and I’m working on it.

55. Got told by an English girl  “I like the way you party! If you’re ever in London you look me up.”

56. The Irish love Elvis. Love. Him.

57. Slept in the crack of a janky bed in Florence in the blistering heat in between Annye and Krysta. It was the best I slept all trip.

58. Was asked for my hand in marriage by a dashing and debonair Italian man named Giancarlo outside the Coliseum. While 20 years my senior, I still considered it.

59. Got bit.

60. Blew my chances with a Punjabi Prince. I could be sitting in a hammock being fanned and fed grapes by servants right now if it wasn’t for my standards and razor sharp instincts.

61. Had a German say this “Yeah, so we killed a few Jews…”

62. Ate in a pub that was older than America. By more than 100 years. NBD.

63. Got my butt kicked by a wave in the Atlantic. Or the Bay of Biscay. Minor details really.

64. Had Sangria.

65. Got catcalled by lesbians in Torremolinos, Spain.

66. Learned that Paris really is a dirty city. Saw a storekeeper litter in front of his own building. It’s just not considered a bad thing there, I guess.

67. Slept next to a naked Brazilian woman. I will forever rub that in my brothers’ faces.

68. Awakened my love for walking.

69 Realized how young America is as a country. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

70. Learned the job does not make the man.

71.  Got sick of hearing about other people. Yes, I realize how selfish and condescending that sounds but it was the truth.

72. Had chocolate and waffles in Belgium.

73. Would have strangled a puppy for Mexican food in Spain.

74. Had my fill of ancient relics and other important artifacts. Seen one old statue, seen them all.

75. Was told by a Belgian that he learned everything about America by watching The Simpsons and Family Guy. While there could be worse shows to base your American expertise on, this particular fellow was telling me how the Confederate Flag was a symbol of national pride for Southerners, not a symbol of years of slavery and racism. Needless to say we disagreed a bit.

76. Ate cereal with warm milk for breakfast. Oh, and a sandwich consists of bread, meat and cheese. Nothing else.

77. Learned that to the French, a 3-egg omelet is considered a “snack.” And they say America has an obesity problem.

78. Kabob.

79. Confirmed that Irish is a foreign language. As is most British English.

80. Woke up and didn’t know what country I was in.

81. Found out how many things in Poland are “A gift from Comrade Stalin.”

82. Lody.

83. Got lost with a geography major. 6 years of school and he’s bested by Barcelona!?

84. Listened as 5 Asians watched a video of them doing Karaoke, and were so inspired by their work, they decided to redo the song again, at that very moment. And film it. Again.

85. Actually found myself thinking. “Yeah, I’m okay with not visiting (insert exotic foreign land here), let’s just go to the beach.”

86. Got lost and found.

87. Was chastised by a nun in Rome for wearing shorts in Vatican City. She waved finger at my exposed legs, tsk tsk tsk’ed, and then gave me the universal sign for “shame on you.”

88. Was told, and later learned, that American’s do not know how to “holiday.”

89. Affirmed my love for cider.

90. Couldn’t throw a stick without hitting an Australian.

91. Said, “It’s so green here,” in Ireland. *locals slap hand to forehead*

92. Found out bargaining is harder than everyone told me.

93. Got the following responses when saying I’m from Chicago: “Jerry Springer!” “Michael Jordan!” “Oprah!” “Obama!”  “Where?”

94. Learned that like a fine wine, my trip gets better with age.

95. Ran along the French Riviera.

96. About 55 days into the trip, was so starved for any entertainment in English that I squealed in excitement when we got to watch “Yes Man” on the train from Madrid to Malaga. Then in Torremolinos, we watched a Spanish dubbed Jean-Claude Van Damme movie in including Laurence Taylor, the former football player. I actually said, “You know, Laurence Taylor isn’t that bad of an actor.”  He is.

97. Officially went to 13 different countries and only got 6 passport stamps. I’m not happy about it.

98. Made daylong friends.

99. Left my chapstick in Belgium.

100. Climbed more stairs than I’d ever care to remember.

101. Learned there’s no place like home.


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The trip thus far…

Editor’s note: This will be an abridged version seeing as I’m currently typing on a Belgian computer and some of the keys are different and it’s extremely frustrating trying to type. An example?

Here is that sentence, pretending that I’m using the typical American Qwerty keyboard. “This zill be an qbridged version seeing qs Iù; currently typing on q Belgiqn co,puter qnd so,e of the keys qre different qnd itùs extre,ely frustrqting trying to type;” I’m having a grammar seizure right now.

Well lets start from the beginning

May 28: It really hasn’t hit me that I’m going to Europe, that it’s finally here. Plane ride.

May 29: Uh-oh, first day away and already I had a ” this place is weird, I want to go home” moment. I put on my big girl pants and got over it. Belfast was nice, but the weather was confusing. Wasn’t Ireland supposed to be cold wet and rainy? We had blue skies and sunshine. Hmm, maybe it’s a fluke. Jet-lag sets in around 4pm Ireland time. Justin and I fall dead asleep on the bus to Downpatrick. Bernie, Joe’s mom and who we will be staying with met us at the train station. So nice and I can tell already I’m going to love my time with the Bryn’s. They live on a gorgeous farm in Northern Ireland. And of course I have to say it, it’s soooooooo green here. You really have to see it to believe it.

May 30- Justin and I have the day to walk around Downpatrick. It’s a really pretty area, with rolling green hills and shockingly polite people. Bernie, big Martin and little Martin are unbelievable. We felt like we were at home the whole time. Bernie kept trying to feed us and made delicious food. Little Martin and Justin played hurling in the fields. Bernie, Justin and I went for a nice walk through the village. This is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. It’s so soothing here.

May 31st- Justin and I miss a bus to Dublin by 1 minute. I’m not exageratting. We were there at 8:36, the bus was scheduled to leave at 8:35. So we catch the bus at 9:35 and head to Dublin. We decided to just skip the whole city and hop on a train to Galway. Everyone we asked said we had to go there so we didn’t want to miss it.

Our bus getting into Dublin was a few minutes late and we had about 20 minutes to catch our train which was convienently located on the other side of town. Justin, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t show me exactly how far we had to go to catch the train so I just walked as fast as I could the whole time. With a 40 pound pack on my back and my smaller backpack in hand, it felt like trying to run in a dream. Like you feel your legs moving but you look around and don’t seem to be going anywhere. We made it to the station with 4 minutes to get our Eurail passes validated and run to the train. We walked the length of Dublin in under 20 minutes. I think it’s about a mile and a half.

Turns out we picked a great weekend to go to Galway seeing as it was hosting the Volvo Ocean Race. Google it. It’s big. So big in fact, every hostel in town was booked. So we had to haggle a hotel room down to a reasonable price and hope a hostel opened up tomorrow. We walked around for a bit, the city was fun. We went to the Spanish Arches bar and listened to an amazing cover band. How amazing? Justin and I ruled the dance floor. That’s how amazing.

June 1st-More Galway. Moved into the Hunlay house hostel. Really clean and welcoming. Met two German girls who might host us in Frankfort. Walked around the Ocean Race some more. I went for a run later in the evening, thinking it´d be nice to see the ocean around sunset. I guess girls running isn´t very common in Ireland because I got quite a few stares and even a few drunken shouts.

June 2nd-Leave Galway for Dingle. Absolutely gorgeous. See the pics. No better way to describe it.

Ok, that´s enough for now. I´ve uploaded more pics on Flickr. The link is on the right.

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Ireland Update

Computer and internet time is very limited. I’ve uploaded a few pictures to flickr which you can see at right. More to come soon (hopefully). Cheers!

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Lisa Lubin-writer, producer, world traveler

On the eve of my first overseas adventure, I thought I’d share a story I wrote on former Columbia teacher and current world traveler extraordinaire Lisa Lubin.  You can follow Lisa on LLWorldTour.com.

Lisa Lubin refers to the future as L.A.W.T., life after the world tour. “As the months tick by I do think about what the heck I will do,” she says. But after a life like Lubin’s how much more exciting could it get?

Lubin is a former Columbia College television professor and was a specials producer in the programming department for ABC7 in Chicago for 9 years. She produced several weekly shows, most notably “190 North” a program focusing on Chicago entertainment, trends, and style. During her time at ABC, she was nominated for an Emmy 10 times, winning three of them.

Then she left it all to travel the world.

Lubin has visited 312 cities in 45 countries, that’s 22% of the world. Starting in October of 2006 Lubin traveled to South America, then to New Zealand and Australia, then up through Asia and over to Europe and the Middle East. She documented it all on her website, LLWorldtour.com.

“I have always loved traveling. Since I was little I loved exploring new towns and places. I would ride my bike down new streets mesmerized by something I’d never seen before,” said Lubin.

Lubin’s passion for travel was just as clear to her coworkers.

“No one was really surprised when she decided to travel. She talked about it for a long time,” said Cathy Vlahgiannis, who worked with Lubin at ABC.

“She is one of the most secure people I know and I thought it was a terrific idea,” said Frank Bianco, who hired Lubin to teach the “Creating the News Package Class” at Columbia College.

The travel bug bit Lubin after she backpacked through Europe after college. Since then, she’s made a promise to herself that she would travel “somewhere far away” every year. She stuck to her promise, but the longest she’d ever been away was three weeks. So how did she make the jump from occasional vacationer to yearlong world traveler?

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21 Days Later.

This is what we've used to map out our trip. The little post-its represent some cities we're going to.

This is what we've used to map out our trip. The little post-its represent some cities we're going to.

Holy Hell.

We leave in 21 days.

Where did March and April go?

Oh yeah that’s right, Justin had to one up everyone and get cancer. Show off.

Life has happened so fast that I think we’ve all lost track of how soon we leave. We do have some things planned out. Now it’s more just the details.

We leave May 28th and arrive in Belfast, Ireland. We return from London July 31st. What happens in between is still up in the air. We have relatives in Poland we will definitely be seeing. Justin has a friend in Germany who is also welcoming us into her home. Other than that, we are nomads. We both agreed that we want a lot of flexibility in the schedule to allow for impromptu trips and gut decisions. I guarantee some European city is going to get on our nerves, so why stay longer than we need? Let’s just move on.

With school finishing up in the next two weeks, we’ll hopefully be able to solidify some more plans.

Things to do prior to May 28th:

  • get new lens (in my Norov Virus daze, I dropped the camera and now the 18mm-55mm lens won’t stay on)
  • buy EuroRail passes
  • contact CouchSurfers in areas we are headed
  • procure a proper backpack


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