Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Plan: Take 1

I think we may have some of you confused. We keep talking about this old trip – a trip that we had planned and that has since evaporated into non-existence. We have talked about why this trip has altered and changed, but we never really explained what this original trip was. So, again for clarity’s sake, let us delve into the world of our first European Dream Summer Itinerary (just to give you an idea of how much plans alter and change, we are now on European Dream Summer Itinerary 4 which is slowly becoming 5).

Anyways. On to our original, very first ever Europe itinerary. We planned to fly into Paris, France on July 2 and spend three days seeing as much of the city as we could. On the fourth day our Global Eurail pass would kick in, allowing us to travel by train to Amsterdam. Two nights in Amsterdam and then we were on the train to Frankfurt (a random city selected for reasons unbeknownst to either of us), then into Vienna and Prague. We had a brief respite in Prague until three days later we traveled to Ljubljana, Slovenia. A night or two there until we moved to Piran, Slovenia. Then Piran to Venice, Venice to Marseille, Marseille to Nice, Nice to Genoa, Genoa to Florence, Florence to San Giovanni Valdarno, San Giovanni Valdarno to Rome. Rome was the end of the line. Rome would be our final resting place (pun intended, who knew if we could manage to live through a trip like this? We would either kill ourselves or each other).

The tickets were expensive. The hostels were hard to find. We would have slept on a train three nights in a row. We would have gone to interesting places and seen touristy sites, but as our itinerary grew more and more detailed the quicker we were to realize that this trip, our so called European Dream Summer, wasn’t our dream at all. In fact it was becoming more of a nightmare (remember that European Conundrum we mentioned earlier).

The trip was too much. It was a mess. It was a pile of yarn and we were struggling to untangle it. We were na├»ve when we wrote this itinerary. We had outlandish goals and unrealistic dreams. We had done this before – jumped from one place to another without gaining a connection to the places we were in. We needed to slow down. Walk a little more, run a little less. Fully enjoy where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with.

We still don’t, yet, know all the details of the trip we hope to take. Plans are still in the works. Nothing, not even the dates, are set in stone. We do know, however, where we want to go and what we want to do, and honestly that is the most important part. Where do you want to go? What do you want to experience? And who do you want to be? Once you can answer these three questions – the three Ws of travel, so to speak, - everything else will slowly fall into place.

Friday, November 18, 2011

About Us - Richard

First off, just to clarify to everyone, there are, in fact, two separate people writing this blog. We both have very different writing styles, as you can probably already tell, and we are working on the fusion of our literary talents. Bare with us as we do this! We will be writing posts on our own and in tandem with each other. Hopefully, the clarity of our arguments will remain intact.

That said, I’m Richard, a Biology Pre-med major at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. I’m originally from sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yes, moving from the desert to one of the rainiest places in the country was different, but I’ve come to realize I’m not the desert rat I thought I was.

Although my current plan has me starting med school in a few years, my interests lie in places other than science. I have always been a creative person. I love photography and graphic design. Anything hands on, that I can make or create, fulfills me. Writing is a different story. It wasn’t until recently, my freshman fall semester, that I really found a passion for writing that I hadn’t had before. I think it was just a product of interest. If you are interested in something, you are going to enjoy it more. And so, I sit here in my extremely boring chemistry class to write to you all, about myself.

Like Rachel, I’ve traveled to Europe before. My trip, similar to hers, was for the high school student. 14 days in almost 14 different cities. It was fast. I got no sleep, hardly any culture, and a cough that lasted for weeks after the trip (probably from lack of sleep). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the trip thoroughly. It was a great experience, but we were moving so much that I could hardly breathe, let alone explore the culture and people of the place our tour group was in.

There were only a few times on this trip that I felt I was fulfilling this need to truly experience a place. Once instance sparks my memory the most. We were on the northern coast of France. Mont-St. Michele is a tidal island off the coast of Normandy. It’s a beautiful town/village that sits on an island with a church at its top. Our stay was only a few hours long. The goal was to see the church, get lunch, and get back on the bus. A few friends and I decided to make our way to the top of the hill through the back alleys and walkways, rather than on the main tourist thoroughfare. There’s something about winding through those (not so wide) alleys through that occasional “do not enter” sign (whoops) that connects you with a place. We didn't get to spend much time on that little island, but I will cherish the experience that I obtained from spending those moments off the beaten track forever. 

This trip to Europe has become something special to me. I can't wait for the fulfillment of traveling--by foot and by train--through France, Italy, and wherever else we end up. The glory of it is, we don't yet know where we'll end up. I see a connection between this trip and our lives. There isn't really a defined path. You end up taking different roads to different places, and somehow, through fate, you end up exactly where you need to be. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

About Us - Rachel

Hey all! So let’s get one thing straight before I start this post. I hate (and I mean absolutely HATE) having to write these sorts of things. It’s not for the obvious reason of making me feel like a pretension, egotistical person. More it’s that I can never think of creative, witty things to say.
As you may have potentially guessed by now, my name is Rachel. I am a freshman at the University of Puget Sound majoring in Comparative Sociology. Long title I know. I could add in my emphasis, but trust me, you don’t want me to go there. Anyways, I hail from the great state of Nevada -- Reno more specifically. In my free time I do fun, collegiate things like eat and sleep and watch copious (my favorite word, I might add) amounts of Netflix. I like dancing and acting and photography (black and white is by far my favorite). I also love the outdoors and just being active. I love to bake and cook and discover aspects of other cultures through their foods and customs. It’s why I can’t wait to go backpacking through Europe. All my favorite things coming together in one beautiful package. And to make this package even better, it will all be made into a book by the end of our journey; allowing me to do another thing I love – write.

I have been to Europe before. In fact my passion for travel and culture was sparked the summer before my freshman year of high school. I had the opportunity to participate in a student ambassador program. We went to 4 countries in 3 weeks. The trip was absolute craziness. We were constantly moving from place to place. The most I saw of some cities with the inside of the hotel room. I never had the opportunity to immerse myself in the cultures around me, and honestly at 14, I didn’t really want to. I was perfectly fine being the tourist, and an obnoxious one at times, I have to admit. And yet, I came back to America with a desire to not just go back to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and France and really explore the cultures of these countries, but to travel the world.

I have stayed in hotels and gone on group tours and visited the Top 10 Must See Attractions in Rome.  I have been an American tourist rather than the anthropologist. I want to change this. And this trip is the perfect opportunity. I’ll be exploring Europe by foot, bus, and train with a friend. All with the hopes of finding hidden gems along with way.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Story

Hi all! This is our first blogging experience so bear with us here while we get the hang of things. We are two freshmen at the University of Puget Sound. Richard is a biology and Pre-Med major (Rachel says yuck – wayyyyy too much science) and Rachel is a Comparative Sociology major. This Europe trip has been a work in progress over the past month. The idea has twisted and turned and basically taken on a life of its own, gradually becoming more confusing, complicated, and expensive. We shall call it the Europe Conundrum (EC). This EC has caused sleepless nights, doodles in Stats class, and countless hours on and as we tried hopelessly to make a trip that included everything we wanted.

What did we want though? That was the problem. A month ago we weren’t really sure. We began this process in the stereotypical college student backpacking through Europe manner. We were going to buy a Global Eurail pass and visit as many countries as we possibly could in a month. We were going to stay at hostels in major cities, meet people, and relish in the fact that we would be 19 and in Europe. As the planning process wore on and the price quickly went up, we began to realize that this quick sprint through Europe wasn’t what we wanted. Yes, we would have gone to 7 countries (including Slovenia – how many people can say they’ve been there?), but we wouldn’t have been able to experience the culture or people of any of these places.

I have a theory: Major cities are alike; every small village is unique in its own way. (Yes I may have just modified an Anna Karenina quote)

After this realization came to pass: at about 11:00 on a Thursday night, we proceeded to stay up until 4:00 the next morning reconfiguring our trip. This time with a new goal in mind. To explore the back roads of the countries we were visiting with the hopes of eating, photographing, and walking our way through. We cut out 5 countries, leaving us with just Italy and France. We found cheaper plane tickets, cheaper hostels, and a more meaningful itinerary. Europe for us is more than partying and meeting foreign teens at hostels. It’s about coming across some long forgotten village that has no name. It’s about learning from some little old lady we met on the side of the road. It’s about discovering ourselves through the process of discovering others.

These revelations culminated in one main goal: the writing of a book. A memoir of sorts, a guidebook of sorts, a recipe book of sorts, a photo journal of sorts. Basically all we eat, see, experience, and think along this journey will be documented in one concrete place in the hopes that we can encourage and aid others in truly exploring and getting to know Europe. P6NN6EAGFZA9