Hey guys!! So, I've been just a bit busy since returning from my trip, but slowly, but as my mind begins to unwind, I'm able to remember small details that happened during my trip. Some things I jotted down in my phone, and other things just come back to me all of a sudden. These memories can be triggered by certain smells, foods, or even people. I try to recreate all of my memories and describe them in as much detail as possible. I want to be as informative as I can be with people to help give them an exact idea of what my experiences were. But most importantly, I've had a few people asking when I was going to do my next installment for this blog, and so without further ado- I give you 16 through 20.
(Backpacking through Madrid, Spain)
#16. I want to start by talking about one of the most important things that happened to me while on my vacation.... and that is earning my stamps. Passport stamps are like a right of passage showing the world (or your friends) that you've been "there" before (wherever "there" may be). On this trip, I was able to acquire 4 new stamps out of the 9 countries I visited. I passed through so many immigration centers that I lost count. Many of the countries I visited were accessible by water, so there were immigration check points not only in the airports, but in all of the major water transit areas too. The random searches, standing in long lines, and K9 police dogs sniffing your luggage was just another reason why I was so happy that I traveled with just a backpack. I was able to hop on and off without having to lug multiple pieces of luggage around behind me. My backpack fit under my seats, and I never had to use an overhead storage compartment, or pay for luggage checks. My backpack was a really smart decision. But back to these stamps. Earning stamps is proof that you've been international. Having a passport book full of stamps is like having a photo album full of photos. It brings back memories of the journey(ies) you took. It's something that international travelers have in common. Depending on how you travel, you won't necessarily get a stamp every time you go international. I've been to 17 countries so far, and I only have 7 stamps in my passport. That's because a few of my trips have been cruises, and on a cruise ship, I rarely ever take my passport off the ship with me. The rules for immigration and customs are a bit different from those at an airport, so for many of the international countries/ islands I visited while on a cruise ship, I did not receive a stamp for. However, I makes tons of memories and that's worth more than anything.
(My Passport Stamps for my visit to Europe.)
#17. Another really fantastic thing about my European vacation was the price of my flight. Everyone who knows me knows that I am the frugal Queen! Anyway that I can save money, I'm going for it. So it was no exception when it came to the price of my flight. The cost of my round trip airfare from LAX to London, Gatwick airport was just over $500! Through diligent research and scrutinizing reviews, I found an airline called WOW air. They're based out of Iceland, and have apparently made LAX their home for cheap flights to different parts of Europe. They're also in other U.S. airports offering the same amazing rates. Look them up to see if they service your area. Originally, when I first started planning my trip to Europe, I knew that the most expensive thing would be my airfare, as it usually is when traveling international. However, when I came across this WOW air, I had to double check, and do some homework about the airline. I found out that it's a fairly new airline, and they just made LAX their home a few years ago. Initially when I booked my trip, I didn't plan to stay in Europe for a month- I was only going to stay a couple of weeks. But after some close consideration, I figured I wouldn't be able to see as much as I did within that short period of time. The first plane ticket I bought was for the 2 week trip and it cost me just $469.00! Yes, from LAX to London, my ticket was $469!! That's about $500 LESS than the latest iPhone which will probably run you about $1,000! That means that for the price of 1 iPhone, you could take 2 round trip flights to Europe, once in the summer and once again in the winter. Talk about a luxurious lifestyle!! Even after changing my itinerary from a 2 week trip, to a month long trip- I was slapped with a $50 change fee, which bought my grand total up to $519. That's still not bad for an international, round trip flight. Although the airline didn't have the best reviews on yelp- I found them to be a very pleasant experience, and I would fly with them again! If you're big on freebies from airlines, then WOW air is not for you. If you want in flight entertainment, tea, water, or even Wifi, then again, WOW air is not for you. But if you can get pass not having those things on a 10+ hour flight, then you must be like me. I bought a tablet and loaded it full of movies and games to occupy my time during my flight, and it worked out perfectly. Luckily, the planes did have charger outlets, so that was a plus. Also, the flights were never filled to capacity, which meant that on both of my flights (going and coming), I had a row of seats to myself. Which made riding home for 10+ hours a little smoother. I was able to stretch out, lay down, look out the window, and go about the plane without bothering anyone else. Many of the bad reviews were about the plane not having freebies like other airlines offer. Outside of that, if you're just looking for a basic ride, and can supply your own amenities, WOW airlines is one of the cheapest airlines I've come across that offer trips to Iceland and Europe. Give them a try, they're not so bad. Don't let the reviews scare you out of an affordable ride.
#18. Europe was such a cultured continent. It would have to be after being around for hundreds of years. I was fascinated at how many different cultures I saw while in any particular country. I saw Black people, Latin people, Indians, Greeks, Spaniards, Africans, Jamaicans, Germans, Asians, and just about every other group you can think of. What amazed me most, is that in whatever country I saw them in, they had adapted to that way of living, even if it wasn't their home country. I saw descendants of African immigrants living in Rome, speaking Italian. They lived in Paris, and spoke French. In Amsterdam, they spoke Dutch, and in Spain, Spanish. It was one of the rather remarkable experiences of my entire vacation. To be around people who looked like me, living and speaking fluent in these languages that they adopted after settling in these countries. Many people spoke multiple languages. I remember being in Santorini, Greece- about to board a ship for an excursion. The captain of the ship spoke about 5 different languages. She introduced herself, and then proceeded to greet each group of people in their own language. It was fantastic. It was such a cultural and enlightening experience. I can't even begin to tell you how many different languages I heard while traveling across Europe. If I tried to put a specific number to it, it would be grossly understated. Knowing a bit of Spanish carried me a long way when I went to Spain. I was able to order food, drinks, buy clothes, and navigate my way around the city all because I was able to speak the language. I was really happy that my experience of taking Spanish classes and living in Los Angeles with thousands of Spanish speakers had finally paid off. Being able to understand and speak with the locals made being in a foreign country that much more comfortable for me. In fact, when I decide to return to Europe, Spain is definitely one of the places I'll return to with no hesitation. There and of course, Amsterdam. Amsterdam was also very rich in culture. Despite being popular for it's exotic Red Light District, and Marijuana usage, it was a pretty friendly and "hippy-ish" place to be. If that makes any sense.... Everyone was laid back, relaxed, and even the weather was not too hot, not too cold, but just perfect enough for a light sweater, some leggings, and a cute pair of boots to wander around town in. It was one of the best places I visited during my trip to Europe.
(A sign of the Greek language in Santorini, Greece)
#19. As corny as it may seem, another thing that I absolutely loved while on my European vacation was taking pictures and videos, and sharing them with my followers. I, for one, already love to take hundreds of pictures and about as many videos as my phone will allow. I love sharing my moments with my friends, family, and followers all around the world. I realize that not everyone can travel as freely and as far as I've gone, so I like to share my adventures to include people, even if in just a small way. A picture is worth a thousand words, and you never know who it can touch or how far it can go. It can make someone's day, spark up some excitement, or inspire someone to go out and do the same thing. Pictures are not only memories for the person taking them, but inspiration for the person viewing them. That's how my love of travel began. Seeing pictures of people in these really beautiful and far away places. Places that I thought were out of reach for me. Places that you only see on T.V. or in movies. After seeing these pictures, I would feel like "I can see myself there, taking my own pictures." I made that a goal and shortly after, I began traveling the world. I wanted to be in places that when I saw them on T.V. I could say "I've been there!" Pictures are my way of showing the world that you too can take your own pictures and say "I've been there!" From the inspiring messages I receive on social media, to people telling me that they want to travel after seeing me do it- is really uplifting to me. It makes me feel like I'm doing something that people can aspire to also do themselves. Travel is not that out of reach for anyone, you just have to want to go bad enough that you get up and go alone. Your friends won't always be available when you find a hot deal that's within your budget. Are you going to miss out because you have no one to go with? I would certainly hope not. Experiences are sometimes only meant for us to have. And then share. And then inspire others to want to have those same experiences. Everybody can't go where you're going. Stop being left behind because you're afraid to move ahead. Go alone or don't go at all. The decision is ultimately yours to deal with.
(Some photos I took while in Rome, Italy)
#20. While this may not be my most fondest memory, it is a pretty vivid one... The exposure to real life butcher shops. Not the butcher shops/ grocery stores we're used to in California where the meat is already packaged, drained, and waiting for us to purchase off the super market shelves; But the authentic, freshly skinned, blood dripping, hanging upside down in the middle of a market, out in public type of butcher shop. Yes, I said freshly skinned. Meaning that most of the animals were caught that same day or the night before. They'd been shaved, gutted, and hung up on display at the local flee market, in the middle of the town's square. Some poor animals still had their eyes attached! It was horrible. I'm not vegan, nor vegetarian, but I am a human, and I believe that nothing deserves to suffer the cruel and inhumane fate as some of the animals I seen. It was brutal, but people were lining up to buy all sorts of fresh animal meat. I saw goats, pigs, lambs, chickens, bunnies, and parts of cows all hanging up like clothing on a rack in these butcher shops. It was a gruesome sight to see, and many times- I would turn and walk away to avoid seeing it. It was really disheartening. But, that's a part of the culture in Europe. They like their meats fresh. I witnessed these type of butcher shops in parts of Spain, Greece, Italy, and Iceland. I could never become immune to seeing that type of stuff and not feeling some sort of sadness. It was eye opening to see such rawness.
(Images of raw meat at butcher shops)
As usual, thank you for reading part 4 (#16-20). I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, feel free to share it with friends, as you never know who may need the inspiration. We must all learn how to imagine life outside of what we know. I'll be sure not to go so long in between posting. Also, if you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe to my blog. You'll be among the first to receive new posts, and travel information as it becomes available. Again, thanks for reading and bye for now!!