Where Did I Go?

Guess who finally had a weekend in Spain? I did. This was our first official trip booked and what a trip it was. 35 euros round trip flights with our wonderful friend Ryan air and we were off. We went to Mallorca, another part of Spanish paradise. It was an interesting island as it’s the off peak season since it has cooled down a lot over this side of the world. This made it a great time to go but even then you could tell it was a very tourist island. I had heard of this island before because of German friends, a lot of them holiday there every year. It was a beautiful Island, but again you had to question where we were as every sign was in 4 language and you don’t know what language to actually talk in the shops as the menus are in different languages as well. The next level of unknown about this island is that you think everyone is a tourist but they are actually locals from all around the world.

We spent the first day going around the main city where we stayed, Palma, surrounded by the beautiful beach. We could still sit on the beach and get sunburnt, although the wind did make it very fresh when the sun went behind the clouds. With endless delish food, none of us wanted to return back to Madrid. I think it is safe to say Mallorca was the least expected trip. When travel every weekend, you have this degree of excitement constantly building up throughout the week prior to arrival. It is kind of sad but for me this was my least exciting trip. I didn’t know what to expect but I just didn’t think it would be as magical, but of course once again the world of travelling won again and it was wonderful!

Our second day we decided to do a tour that allowed us to travel to the very northern point of the island, which we traveled by bus, train, tram and boat to reach this point. A day of meeting locals and seeing the different beauties of Spain opened our eyes and heart even more for this island but also Spain. As we went past endless olive trees and local vineyards, seeing just saw how content the locals were showed the other side of living with not too much just enough to make a living.

The weekend after Mallorca resulted in an 8 hour bus ride down to the bottom of Spain, to then jump on a ferry to end up no where else but AFRICA! Well Tangier, Morocco to be precise.

Our first day and night was spent in the town of Tangier. With special escorts around the city, our first sights and feelings of Africa were very interesting and once again beyond eye opening. Once off the ferry we went through security that was like a normal security entry like in an airport- bag on a belt, you walk through a machine. Only thing with this there only one man standing in the corner not actually reading the computer showing what was in our bag and the detector going off as every person walked through, again no one checked and no one cared. – Welcome to morocco!

This city was what everyone told us to prepare for: smelly, dirty and lots of men – Unfortunately this warning correct. Along the beach front and close to the port is where the foreign money is and it is clearly set up for tourists. With nice hotels and restaurants – it was the cleanest part of the city. As you start to head inland into the city and particularly the markets it’s a little bit of different story. Despite many dirty streets and seedy shopkeepers there is this unexpected beauty.

As our local tour guide led us through the lost streets, no one could concentrate on where we were but just what was in front of us. Stalls everywhere – filled with everything. A guy selling old Nokia phones, another selling chicken – cutting the heads off in front of you and to the other side of you is a fresh fruit and nut store with endless olives and dates although with so many bugs all over them. The shopkeepers would tell in many languages “you want, you need, come here“ and then smile with a lot missing teeth. As we kept weaving our way through the stalls we stopped at a natural medicine shop where they had a cure for everything with herbs all from Morocco. I ended up buying some soap made of olive oil and argon oil, which is meant to clear your pores and restrict pimples. Still to actually see if it works. We then headed further in and went to a stall where they made the most beautiful fabric items. Many of us watched them make blankets and scarfs, after hearing it takes over 5 hours to make a basic scarf – we all did our part and bought several. The scary reality of it all, is you are expect to barter with each shopkeeper, but we were already paying under 10 euros (15 dollars) a scarf. If you do the maths you start to question the wages and wonder how one can live off such a small wage yet they do.

Our final moments of daylight included a camel ride on the beach and visiting the caves of Hercules. The camel riding was fun and a little bit frightening, I now have a wish to ride in the desert for a day or two somewhere in the world. The caves had the most interesting opening to the sea; if you looked carefully enough it was shaped like Africa.

Day two we headed to the north west part of Morocco to the blue city or otherwise known as Chefchaouen or Chaouen. There is a reason why it is called the blue city, everything is a shade of blue and it is beautiful. (Blue is my favourite colour, so I found my paradise). We were told on our tour that it was to keep out the mozzies, but there are many other theories, one being that Jews introduced the blue when they took refuge from Hitler in the 1930s. The city was the most unique and even though it is a very popular tourist destination I felt completely safe and like there was our tour and another and the locals. It was like the complete opposite to Tangier. By the end of the day we almost missed the bus, but I could secretly admit I wish we missed it and could of stayed longer. Everyone was so welcoming and the bartering became a constant game. The stalls were full of very unique local produced or made goods. One of my favourite moments was sitting on the edge of town watching all these kids kicking around the soccer ball on this dirt field. It reminds you the beauty of life can come from the simplist things. Just around the corner was this man just sitting there, painting with all different shades of blue, he captured me. He painted all the wonderful sights of the Blue city, my friends and I of course had to buy a couple of paintings. He sold them for absolutely nothing; you couldn’t even buy the plain canvas in Australia for the price we paid. Seeing him smile and paint away, it made my heart bleed a little. How can someone be so happy with sitting on a corner painting all-day and lucky to make $20.

Visiting a country like Morocco opens your heart and eyes, exposing you to the other part of the world we live that we all try and ignore. There is so many places in the world to visit and we are so fortunate that we lived in the best country in the world, but one day if you feel that your life wont be compromised I encourage you to take a trip to where they are less fortunate.

 

Jess xx

 

 

 

A bit of Jetlag and Shock

Last weekend I was in Lisbon and now I’m on a plane back to Madrid from Sydney.

Lisbon was one of our very first trips booked on exchange, for many of us it was the forgotten trip, but not necessarily purposely forgotten but rather put aside as it was our last trip with all of. It’s hard to come to terms that exchange is almost over and everywhere we have been able to go to and all the incredible things we have seen.

We headed off rather early and boarded our Easy Jet flight, which was all ready to depart until they couldn’t shut the front door, leaving us to disembark the aircraft and wait an extra hour or so to leave Madrid. Luckily with the hour time difference we didn’t miss out on too much in Lisbon. Two things you need to know about Lisbon is: Firstly it is the capital city of Portugal and the second thing you need to know is that it is built on hills. Another fun fact is this is my second time to Portugal this year and guess what? It was raining again!

What to expect? Crazy cab drivers that make you feel like you’re on a non-stop rollercoaster ride however cheap fares. (Unsure if it has something to do with the fact they make you feel motion sick every ride). Hills everywhere, so unless you want an endless leg day and huffing and puffing would highly recommend, getting a daily public transport ticket, a hop on/ hop off ticket or cab everywhere. Sea food everywhere, the greatest custard tarts (their famous dessert) Would definitely recommend searching for a chocolate flavoured one – they still make my mouth water just thinking about them. Lisbon is known for it’s cork and has some wonderful gifts for the family. In terms of the streets they have a certain beauty that makes you constantly question where actually in the world are you. You can see the poverty of the country yet you are surround by people from all around the world who actually have residence in Lisbon. The old buildings are similar to Spain although are covered by gorgeous different tiles. There are definitely areas that feel safer to others, but Lisbon is a big city with a lot to be done and seen, one could definitely easily spend a weekend there.

Unfortunately not long into our trip, in fact early Saturday morning I received a phone call from Australia. My Pop had passed away that day. Without any doubt I rang my insurance company and then booked flights home. My insurance company doesn’t pay for them up front but I should be able to receive the money back once my application is cleared. This is a good note for any traveler, I had only briefly looked into these terms of my insurance papers but make sure you are aware. As flights home are a huge unexpected cost, especially if you want to return home and then back to your exchange/holiday. With flights booked, support and love from my incredible American friends, we all returned back to Madrid Sunday afternoon. We quickly packed my bag and returned to the airport within the hour.

As you could imagine the 26 hours flying home is a long trip but especially when you’re not prepared to go home and to face the situation. With a lot of tears and tissues I managed to make it home. I wont go into much detail but I arrived Tuesday morning and then flew out again Sunday evening. I didn’t actually feel like I was home until Saturday so it made it harder than I thought to actually get back on the plane. Although sitting here now I know I made the right decision, even though it still feels so unreal, It was the right thing to go home and say goodbye but also not allow too much time at home.

I have decided to return to Madrid as I only travel the world today because of my Pop and I know I need to finish what I have started. Losing someone you love will never be easy regardless where in the world you are, but life keeps happening whether you want it to or not.

Jess xx

 

2000 miles

When I was first accepted on exchange I made a list of the countries I really wanted to visit during my time abroad. As of last Sunday I have officially ticked off every place on that list. It is like a dream coming true. Since I was a kid, I have always dreamt of the future and what other countries would look like. When I travel I don’t like to do a lot of research and set my expectations high, I like the surprise, which causes pure excitement and a slight thrill to see the unknown.

With my wonderful British friend Abbi, who I roomed with in Greece we set off for two quick weeks driving around Ireland and Scotland. Clocking just over 2000 miles up in Abbi’s ford fiesta, you could definitely say it was one hell of a road trip.

We actually began the road trip at London Stansted and then we drove to Holyhead where we stayed the night before we boarded the ferry bright and early. Even though I have been travelling for a while now, still to this very day it amazes me how easy and quick you can pop to another country. As the ferry approached the Dublin headlands, the scenery became instantly greener.

You know the quote that the grass is greener on the other side? Well when it comes to Ireland, the grass is definitely greener on the other side. Ireland had a beauty to it that I can’t put my finger on it. I think it is a combination that it is endless beauty, a fab accent spoken by all, great pubs and even though it is a small country they are just humble in their ways.

Our first stop over in Ireland was Dublin for two nights. Throughout our trip we stayed in hostels and Airbnb’s. Which in it’s self is always an interesting experience, as again you’re never really know what you’re going to get until you arrive. Unless staying with friends, most weekends have been in Airbnb’s. We have come across some real gems, are we travel in a group we rent out the whole house for a weekend. It is nice to get away for a couple of days and have access to a double bed and a kitchen – always a luxury when you don’t have access to either everyday in Madrid.

Dublin was great but once again surprised me, it felt a little sketchy at night but during the day perfectly small and safe. The Guinness beers went down very well at the incredible and original Guinness factory, they also went down well when exploring the local and tourist bars. The one thing most people don’t know about Ireland is that they also have many other amazing flavored beers other than Guinness; I definitely say there is a beer or cider for everyone in Ireland.

After Dublin we adventured to the wonderful city of Limerick, which is the third largest city in Ireland. We stayed in the most wonderful cottage on the outskirts of town. The peace and scenery created such endless picture perfect moments. One of our days in Limerick we explored the castle and also the University of limerick – which is in fact of my second chose after Madrid for exchange. The campus was beautiful and large, with a river and a great bridge in the middle. You could say it was love at first sight, once I return to Australia I think I’m going to have to research further study abroad options, perhaps complete my masters overseas.

Another day we drove and we drove pass Kilarney National Park all the way down to the endless area of Ring of Kerry. This without a doubt was my favorite place we visited in Ireland. It was absolutely breath taking. Along the way were many small downs, lakes, cliffs, sheep and green as far as you could see.

Unlike everyone’s expectations for us, we had very un-Irish weather. Everyday filled with sunshine, little wind and not excessive cold weather. Even my Irish friends were surprised when I told them. From Limerick we made our way to Galway, on the way with a very touristy stop at Cliffs of Moher. Unlike most tourists we walked to the end of the cliff, which felt like miles away. The Cliffs were just like all the postcards and as we kept walking we would meet people who told us what movies had filled scenes at the Cliffs of Moher, which made this world-renowned tourist attraction even greater. One thing that I didn’t realize is that Ireland has hundreds of wonderful walking tracks, would definitely like to look into doing one when I go back another day. As the country is beautiful and small, so you could cover a lot in a day if you tried.

Galway and Donegal were our final nights in Ireland and were two great places to visit. Even though we didn’t have a lot of time at either place, I believe we found the best of it. We went to some great local pubs, heard great live music and meet some great locals along the way. Galway and Donegal towns were smaller than I originally imaged with by being surrounded by water, again we found post card perfect places to visit.

From Donegal we headed up to the North Ireland to board the big ferry to get to Scotland. It was funny entering North Ireland, as you don’t realize you’ve crossed the boarder but then all of sudden numbers plates become UK and car road signs change to miles.

Unfortunately Scotland was like a wonderful blur, it made me wish we had longer in places but we booked this trip knowing I couldn’t miss too much school. The days flew by and we had our first couple of days of true cold UK weather and rain. We met up with Abbi’s uncle and Aunty in FortWilliams and boarded the Harry Potter train you could call it, it is the same one from the first movie and we got over the bridge they do. I’m personally not a Harry Potter fan, but the sights of the train were so incredible! It’s hard to believe that I didn’t see an ugly sight in the UK. Not that anywhere is ever ugly, but I had a huge smile on my face all day, everyday, each and every turn it was all so wonderful.

We stayed one night in a cute cottage in the middle of nowhere with Ab’s aunt and uncle, yet some could call it close to the famous Lochness. I didn’t see the Lochness monster on the way to Edinburg. We spent two days in Edinburg for our final days which was simply fab. We headed to some of the highest points around the city to capture the views of this wonderful city.

It was interesting living out of suitcase again for two weeks, as I think I love having a home base. It is exhausting travelling each weekend but being exciting and a constant adventure when you’re travelling with incredible people. Considering I was planning on travelling alone when I first arrived in Madrid but haven’t done a trip alone. I’ve been lucky enough to met people from all around the world who have become not only people I’ve met on exchange but rather friends for life. Thank you everyone, especially Abbi for this incredible trip around Ireland and Scotland, can’t wait to explore England with you in December.

 

Jess xx

Adrift

Part of exchange – despite its amazing advantages and opportunities for personal growth and making new friends – is a sense of being adrift.

Your friends at home are continuing on with their lives; graduating, getting internships and jobs, going to music festivals, celebrating birthdays etc. and no matter how much you talk and try to stay in contact you’re not really part of their world. Well not at the moment. When you get back in a few months its going to be like ‘nothing even changed’, but right now. Right this minute you are adrift. The 10 hour time difference doesn’t help. You wake up to a whole day of activity in Aus with heaps of notifications and messages feeling really popular but everyone’s asleep for the majority of my day and therefore I have no one to talk to online from home.

And it may just apply to me but I’m also adrift whilst here. My choice to make good friends with Swede’s and people living in Sweden for the entirety of their degree – in order to you know “fully emerse myself” in the exchange experience and take in as much of the culture and regular Swedish life as possible – has left me slightly out of the international student circle. But obviously being international myself I’m not totally present in the Swedish circles too… Mostly blocked out by my lack of Swedish language.

I step into a room of exchange students and it’s like an old high school movie where I am the odd one out and everyone stops. Just stops. what they’re doing and looks at me. The looks make it seem to me that I have some type of rare airborne virus that they could catch so they try not to breath and wait for me to leave. Actually I could probably better tie my experience to being a wolf in a flock of sheep. I am the one out there making friends with locals whilst they stay huddled in their international flock. I’m not invited to some things unless my small number of international friends chose to let me in on the details. They ostracize me because I chose not to stay confined to international activities which is shit on their behalf.

Not that I would change my experiences for the world but next time if I were to do it again I would hope to align myself with one group of people whether it be the locals or the internationals to a higher degree. If I were not such an outgoing and charismatic person it would hurt they they don’t want to be my friends.

Too bad I’m off to different counties every weekend.. I’m too busy to care about their sheeplike opinions #internationaljetsetter

Oh yeah since my last post I’ve been to England, Gothenburg and Copenhagen with Norway and its Fjords coming up in the coming days.

Ps. Finished one of my subjects hopefully with flying colours! Yay Swedish Uni is so more relaxed and easy to do well in that Aussie Uni’s. Would recommend this country for exchange if you don’t mind snow in Autumn (yeah thats happening right now) and the crushing darkness of night time from 4pm 🙂

Eat up that update and I’ll check in with you later xoxo

Less than 24hrs in another country

Lovely readers,

Do you remember how I was telling you about cheap flights in Europe and how it makes it easy to go places? Well this blog is rather delayed however it is about 2 weeks ago.

When one is on exchange or travelling, the world just keeps becoming smaller and smaller. The distance between cities, countries doesn’t become a huge factor or issue (Unlike travel in Australia). Often people refer to it as the travel bug- and i’ve definitely got it!

One of best friends has been travelling Europe for the past couple of months and when I asked where he was heading next, he told me Portugal. This particular guy, was the guy who grew up a mad supporter of the Portugal football (soccer) team and refused to play any other team on Fifa for many years. When I found out the days he was in Portugal I realised one of them was my day off and as you know it’s just a little jump from Spain to Portugal. So what was my first reaction? Jump on Ryan air and look up flights! All of sudden I find return flights to Porto – Portugal for 27 Euros. This would of been a missed opportunity.

I guess this when I remind you that I have a day off on a Wednesday but classes on Thursday. Therefore this amazing opportunity for many reasons- a) to see Murray again after a couple of months apart b) see part of the country we always talked about growing up c) less than 24hrs in another country.

Some may say less than 24hours is not enough time but I would call it achievable and acceptable and now officially accomplished! Porto was this city that kept become more surprising. It was old but quiet and peaceful. The name of the city gives it away what it is filled with “PORTo”.  Our day involved talking about our travels, life and walking around the city. It also involved us staring at the sky for a lot of the day, just wondering when it would pour rain on us. Luckily we had just a couple of drops. Finishing the day with Port and cheese by the river, was just the cherry on top for my day trip to Portugal.

After returning early morning Thursday, it wasn’t long until I was packing my bags again for Copenhagen – Denmark!  And we were off again!

Copenhagen was absolutely incredible, I don’t think I could wipe the smile off my face. It was one of those places I always dreamt of going, although i never thought i could get there on this trip. It was actually my first choice for my 2012 exchange. Even though it was freezing and windy, it was a very welcoming city. With plenty of wonderful sights to be seen and explored. Would highly recommend climbing the 100’s of stairs to the top of  Church of our Saviour. I can’t even begin to describe the scenes to you. With great hot chocolates, cute cafes, lovely people and wonderful sights – the weekend went quicker than ever.

This weekend marked a milestone for me. It wasn’t about the travel, the sights, the food and drinks but more about the company. I went to Copenhagen with 2 or the 3 American girls I live with in Madrid, and these girls have become more than friends but rather sisters. It was when we were taking photos in front of the classic colourful houses that I realised that I had made friends for life. I couldn’t imagine exchange without them and I can’t even remember what life was before them. Kind of funny to think that we only all met in August, but here we are a couple months later and I don’t want to be separated.

Exchange is about a lot of things, but the one thing you’ll never truly understand is the emotions it exposes you to. For now I will tell you that i’m the happiest i’ve ever been and surrounded by some of the most incredible people, who I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Next trip: IRELAND AND SCOTLAND

 

Love,

Jess