A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Facebook and stumbled upon a video about “Yolocaust,” a controversial photography project by Shahak Shapira. He is an Israeli artist and satirist who was outraged after seeing posts of tourists doing yoga and taking selfies at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Shahak responded by photoshopping the backgrounds of their photos to include the malnourished and deceased Jewish people who lived in the concentration camps where tourists were now snapping photos for Instagram likes. Amidst my disappointment and frustration with the lack of respect for the tragic history of the Holocaust, there was the uncomfortable realization: have I ever posted an insensitive photo while traveling?
For the rest of the story, go to the LMDES website here! More posts I've written are in the "Publications" tab!
Yes, Spaniards have a siesta (but they don’t nap like you think). Yes, they love ham (not the kind from Thanksgiving). And yes, their wine is amazing (don’t debate me).
These are all the cultural aspects that are popular when discussing Spain. However, there is more to Spain than that! The daily life can only be explained so much in school or pre-departure orientations for study abroad. The more you experience in a place long-term, the more you learn. So whether you are adjusting to life in a Spanish city, or interested in moving, I have what you should know about Spain.
“Ya” phrases are colloquial terms to fake like you’re a local
There are many “ya” phrases to learn to survive while living in Spain. They include:
Ya vale (Enough)!
Ya te digo (I agree)!
Ya está bien (I’m fed up)!
Ya caigo (I get it)!
Anda ya (I don’t believe you)!
This one is for all our wine lovers out there! While Spain is known the Gaudi art in Barcelona and the sunny beaches in Ibiza and The Canary Islands, Spanish wineries are often overlooked as a tourist attraction. These wineries, referred to as bodegas, are primarily located in the wine-producing region of La Rioja. Whether you’re a solo traveler, sightseeing with friends, or having a romantic getaway, a wine tasting is for everyone and a non-traditional way of getting to know Spain. Here’s the step-by-step process of planning a bodega tour and a few recommendations of my own.
To finish planning your wine tour, check out the LMDES website here! For more posts outside of Sojournies, click the "Publications" tab!
Raise your hand if you knew what the heck a “Logroño” was!
If you did, congrats! That means you’re excellent at your Spanish geography
Or you’re lying.
But because I have faith in you, I’ll take the former (today at least).
Logroño is a small town of 150,000 people in northern Spain and my home last year. I consider it a village and I was randomly put there by Fulbright to teach English. Though a blessing and a curse some days, I wanted to break down the pros and cons of living in a village (pueblo in Spanish) and why I think a village life is worth considering. I think people choose one or the other for various reasons, and I hope this helps you prepare!
Are you ready for life in the pueblo? Let’s find out.
Walking (or biking) everywhere
In a small town you rely on transportation less. For those living on a budget, this is perfect because you don’t have to worry about daily transportation costs. However, do give yourself enough time in to walk and make it on time to work in the mornings. If you live somewhere with all the seasons, and its extremes, carry change to get on the bus, have carpool with co-workers set up, or buy a bus card for emergencies. You can also get a bike for those non-rainy or snowy days, and not have to worry about excessive traffic!
Visiting a city or country you’ve already been to is like a second date. You may need the extra time to feel that spark...or decide to let it burn out.
Every now and again, there are a few places I see too quickly, have sites I didn’t know about at the time, or I can’t explore the place like I had hoped due to traveling with other people. When I did my favorite trips of 2017, those were key factors into why some places didn’t make the cut.
There is beauty in visiting a place you liked, or didn’t like, again. You learn more about the location and yourself. Maybe you decide a place truly is not for you. Or, you have a whole new appreciation for the destination. It all depends. After reflecting on my own travels, here are a few reasons why you should visit a place more than once, including cities that I need to give a second chance.
Have you ever wondered how those Auxiliars in Spain afford to travel so much? Yes, we live in Europe which is big step #1, but an English TA salary isn’t a one-way ticket to a life of luxury. Depending on the region and program, Auxiliars get paid around 700 to 1000 euros a month to teach 12 - 16 hours a week. After rent, groceries and unintentional shopping trips, those funds can magically disappear. Though not required, many of us teach private English classes on the side to fund our weekend escapades. So if you’re looking to have more financial freedom abroad by teaching English and don’t know where to start, I’ve got you covered.
Check out LMDES for the full article here! For more blog posts I've written outside of Sojournies, click the "Publications" tab!
Colorful costumes, big bottles of Don Simon Sangría, and endless singing crowds, only signals one thing: Carnaval season!
From Latin America to Asia, this month is full of parades, dancing, satirical plays, and more, before the Lenten season. Though it has Roman Catholic roots, people pretty much let loose in socially unacceptable clothing before renouncing some luxuries for Lent.
In other words, it’s wild. And my experiences in Spain were no exception.
My first Carnaval was during study abroad in Cádiz where I stayed up until 5am in the rain. Mind you, the bus dropped me off at the venue 4pm the day before and I didn’t pack nearly enough food. I was tired, soaked, and hungry by 2am. I also saw people pee on porch stoops for the first time #memories.
I was more responsible the 2nd time in Logroño and slept. However, it should be noted that each country experience is different. Thus, I’ve put together a list of what you should know, pack, and do during Carnaval in Spain.
Greece had been on my life list for years. Aside from its obvious beauty, I was obsessed with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 when the girls went to find Lena’s love Kostos, only to find out he’s *SPOILER ALERT* married. My trip was full of Instagram photoshoots, and thankfully not relationship drama. Along the way, I learned a few new tips and tricks about planning a spring break vacation in Greece. You can check out the photo diary here, but keep reading to get recommendations, dos, and don’ts, about Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos!
Transportation Tip: Even if you plan on going to any of the Greek Islands, fly into Athens. It’s cheaper and there is more flight availability.
UNDERSTAND LOW VS. HIGH SEASON TRAVEL
Instead of saying there are “good” and “bad” times to see Greece, I would say there are crowded and less-crowded times to visit. June, July and August are the peak months of their tourist season. Though I was told by a local that Spring Break unofficially begins high season, I went to Santorini and Mykonos towards the end of April and it was still too cold for swimming.
Pros to Low/Off Season: Less people, less crowds, cheaper housing options
Cons to Low Season: Not as social, limited public transportation, possibility of bad weather
Pros to High Season: More lively atmosphere (great to meet new people), festivals
Cons to High Season: Long lines for tourist attractions, more expensive, crowds, and cruises
Super exciting news: I've been featured on POPSUGAR! Samantha, writer and creator of Call Me Adventurous, is a social media savvy blogger who is always supporting travel bloggers of color in her work. For that, I'm grateful she decided to include me! Check out myself and 13 other women of color who are travel blogging our way through the web here.
Deciding to teach abroad is a big deal and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It can be a long process before you even start. The transition from one job to another can also be quite strenuous. So, before beginning your new life as an auxiliar de conversación or teaching assistant, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Check out LMDES for the full article here! For more, go to the "Publications" page for other articles I've written outside of Sojournies.
2015. It’s hard to believe that this week makes 3 years since I took my first international trip to Spain. I remember the hours I stalked my program website, googled Granada until I memorized every tourist attraction, and read 10 packing lists to get my suitcase just right. I also remember being super annoying to people back home at saying, “I’m gonna miss *insert campus event* because I’ll be in Spain or Morocco.” How basic of me.
Anyway, after 1,095 days to reflect on how study abroad has impacted my life, I’m breaking down the best and worst things about studying abroad in Spain. This also includes traveling through Europe and how to financially prepare for a semester in Europe. Plus, there are tips and general study abroad advice too!
The BEST thing that studying abroad gave me was my Spanish fluency. I’ve been reading and writing in Spanish since the 6th grade, but I didn’t start speaking consistently until a college conversation class. By the end of sophomore year, I decided that a semester abroad was necessary for me to learn beyond literature and phonetics. Though I still make mistakes, going to Granada for full-immersion helped build my confidence with the language. From schools to grocery stores to bars, living in a culture with your second language allows you to actively practice grammar rules from class, and increase vocabulary. You’re forced to use it!
Tip: Don’t choose a random study abroad program. Do your research. Go to your study abroad office and see their options. Or, find one that fits with you, your university’s and your major(s) and minor(s) requirements. If you are looking to study in Spain, I’ve got a post here on how to choose a study abroad program.
2017 is coming to an end and I’m in complete reflection mode on what this year has meant to me. I spent the first half of the year living abroad in Spain and traveling as much as possible. The other half, I’ve spent living back at home, working as an AmeriCorps Service Member and plotting my next steps when my service year is up. To countdown to 2018, I wanted to share my favorite trips of this year and the #1 tip I have for each destination! Itinerary blog posts on at least two of these places will be coming in the new year, so stay tuned. But right now, let’s recap.
Oh, the photoshoots I had here! If you follow me on Instagram, this should be no surprise. I finally fulfilled my Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants dream by spending spring break in Greece. The friendliness of all the Greeks I met, the calming sunsets, and endless number of spinach pies, were a few of my favorite things. It lived up to the hype. I did visit Athens and Mykonos, but Santorini was my favorite of three. Hands down.
#1 Tip: Stay in hostels while in Greece. They are very accommodating because most pick you up from the ferry or airport free of charge. Look for that tidbit in their housing description on websites such as Hostelworld.
Instagram in the travel world can be an inspirational space if you follow people who challenge you to reflect on your experiences abroad. Isabelle, writer and creator of Dominican Abroad, is one of those people. She recently wrote a post, titled “Why I am Dominican Abroad and Not American Abroad,” where she broke down the importance of her blog title and cultural heritage as a Dominican-American traveler. From representation and inspiration to breaking stereotypes, enough points hit home for me as a fellow Diaspora-American that I was inspired to share.
Diaspora-American is a term, one that Isabelle used in her Instagram caption, that I understand as someone who was born in the U.S even though their ancestors were forcibly dispersed from their homelands. As an Black/African-American woman, I identify as such too.
After reading Isabelle’s perspective, I thought about my own identities as a Black/African-American traveler. Having done two stints in Spain, one studying abroad and another teaching English, of course I learned the Spanish equivalents of “African-American” and “American” to define who I am in various contexts. The translations were “Afroamericana” for African-American and “Estadounidense” for American. They both describe my ethnicity, race and nationality so they're easy to use, right?
Ehh...yes and no.
That’s what I like to call a deep breath of appreciation, after hours of travel, when I’ve finally reached my destination. Or what I do after crying tears of joy that my Ryanair flight landed smooth-ish.
But now, the real fun begins.
You've made it to a new city, checked into your hostel or Airbnb, and are ready to explore. Some people prefer to walk around and stumble upon tourist attractions. Others plan their itinerary. It's a personal choice, but if you need some help I've got a guide to help you get on your feet and sightseeing. With these ideas, you can tour a new city and know it well enough to make that flight worth it.
Tinder (and Tinder Social)
Tinder is an unique resource to meet new people without the extra relations and creepy messages. Match with a local and ask what locals do in your city; it can be hit or miss, but sometimes you get the best recommendations. The "meeting up" with said Tinder local match at the recommendation is up to you. If you're traveling with friends, Tinder Social is an amusing way to meet a group of locals, expats, or tourists and create your own tour group thus making new friends in the process.
You’ve got 30 seconds to search: “book cheap flights.”
Ready. Set...Go! 30, 29, 28, 27....
If you see what I see (and even if you don’t, no worries), there are about 83,000,000 Google results of how to score a cheap flight. That’s not surprising because thousands of people are posting about their adventures on Instagram with any hashtag that starts with #Travel. International travel is more affordable than ever and now is the time to take advantage, even on a budget. It’s a movement and the solution to your wanderlust. Let’s get into how.
Use an incognito window
Ever since a friend told me about this window, I’ve been traveling happily (and cheaply) throughout Europe. Any time you search a flight, use the incognito window as a security blanket. It protects you from airline tactics such as increasing prices while you search, or showing a flight is suddenly unavailable. These are ways to force you to buy a more expensive flight.
Subscribe to Scott’s Cheap Flights and The Flight Deal
The deals I’ve seen on Scott’s email list are unbelievable. Go to his website to sign-up for the free emails. He sends one to three deals per day to international destinations all over the world (including non-European locations) from the U.S. There’s also a premium option that requires a login and offers multiple payment plans in your budget. It’s not 100% necessary, but if you work remotely and can travel often, you get more options. Scott even tells you how long he expects the deals to last. Have your money ready and turn on those email notifications to snag them quickly. The Flight Deal is comparable too for U.S domestic destinations.
Example: The past 3 weeks, there have been three or four flight deals to Europe for $300 to $400 roundtrip from almost every major U.S. city with Scott’s Cheap Flights!
"Traveling has become one of the most important things in my life and always has been constant. I have family from Michigan to Georgia and California to Pennsylvania, so as a child I was traveling for holidays and summer vacations yearly. I've grown to international travel after two stints in Spain, getting lost, excited and frustrated along the way. It's by no means easy and as a black woman with an afro some days and Marley twists the next, I feel like a walking cultural landmark at times.
However, I would never let that stop me from seeing the world. I travel to explore. I travel for the many generations of family who couldn't. I travel to learn. I travel to see the beautiful and not-so beautiful areas of the world. I travel to experience other cultures. I travel because it's where I feel at peace. My name is Sojourn-er so it's not that surprising right? Hahaha."
To read more about how I kind of crashed a wedding reception in Morocco, why I started traveling and the ways I think people scare women into not traveling, check out the interview here with Suitcase Six!
It’s a cool and windy day in Logroño. Walking to my street, Calle Duquesa de la Victoria, I look up and see the bright, holiday lights shining on the cobblestone. I smile because Christmas decorations have finally arrived and my two-week holiday in Prague, Budapest, Barcelona and Valencia is approaching. Through the door, up the elevator and entering my apartment I greet my roommates. I fall on my bed and look up again, now at a white ceiling. I glance around my Harry Potter sized room and realize: I really want my mom’s home-cooking for the holidays.
Holiday homesickness abroad is no joke. It can sneak up on you before, after or during a vacation. It can triggered by lights, Christmas trees, food, etc. Sometimes it’s too late to book that now-overpriced flight home. Other times you realize early enough to plan. After spending my first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home, I’ve broken down how to cope with homesickness abroad just in time for the 2017 holiday season.
Before you do anything, slow down and let yourself feel
Cry, scream, do whatever you need to do and let it all out. Whatever you’re feeling, don’t tuck it away. I’m not saying sulk and brood for the entire holiday, but allow yourself to express yourself. Feel, accept your situation, then move on to enjoy your holiday. I promise you, these feelings won't last forever.
Before it was known as “Dragonstone,” I got the chance to hike the one and only San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. The Game of Thrones (GOT) location was the talk of Season 7 and for a good reason. Located in Bermeo, a small beach town in the Basque Country region of Spain, I can attest to its beauty and help you prepare for your hike! You’ll need lots of water, energy, and patience to reach your dream television location.
Check out We Are Travel Girls for the full article here! And check the "Publications" page for more blog posts I've written outside Sojournies.
You’re frozen with your phone in hand. It’s been sitting there for about 10 minutes now, open to your online banking. You don’t want to open your account history so you scroll back and forth between Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to avoid the inevitable: you spent too much money this month, once again! Yes, saving money is difficult because food is delicious and buying another pair of $5 sunglasses seems like a good idea. But it’s not, especially if you want to see the world. Traveling requires money, consistency, and self-control. I’ve compiled a list of ideas to help cut some extra costs in your life and save some cash for your growing bucket list.
1) Cancel unnecessary subscription services
No, I'm not telling you to cancel Netflix or Hulu! 'Unnecessary' refers to those monthly subscriptions that send you cosmetics, clothing, electronics, etc. They can add up if you have too many so prioritize which ones you like the most or cut your losses and cancel them altogether.
2) Share your Netflix and Hulu with friends
This is the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too. Instead of paying for both streaming services, you pay for one and your friend pays for another. It’s a cost-effective plan to save roughly $100 to $120 per year! That could be half, or a quarter, of a plane ticket if you catch one on a glitch fare.
Airports: you can't live with them, you can't live without them. They are a hub of new beginnings, nerves, life-changing adventures, excitement and germs all in one. Airports can be the most relaxing of places as you wait to board...or the most frustrating when said flight is delayed or cancelled. After spending many days and nights in airports, I've compiled some tips and tricks to help you get through waiting, hunger and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.
Whoever said "patience is a virtue" clearly hadn't spent significant time in an airport. Bothering the service desk to get information on a flight delay or simply sitting in a waiting area is never fun and checking your phone every minute won't help. Take a few deep breaths, avoid glances at clocks and just relax near your boarding gate. You don't want to drive yourself crazy before your trip even begins or annoy the airport staff! They are hard-working people and it’s (normally) not their fault your flight is delayed. Take that up with Mother Nature.
Bring Something to Read (Electronic and Non-Electronic)
For any trip, bring a mix of electronic resources such as a phone, tablet, laptop, kindle, etc. and non-electronics such as books, journals, word searches, crosswords and magazines. Many airports have charging stations, however those can get crowded. If you're on your phone while stuck for hours, it's bound to die so those non-electronic activities will come in handy. If you do decide to use electronics, make sure you have all the cords, regular chargers and portable chargers you need. Though we could all benefit from disconnecting for a bit anyway.
The good news: you booked a trip to Amsterdam! The bad news? You only have 48 hours to see as much as you can. Lucky for you, Amsterdam is full of all sorts of shenanigans for you to see. The reality is you can't see everything in such a short amount of time. However, I've got a few sights you should have on your itinerary in the "Venice of the North."
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Amsterdam comes straight from Earth itself: marijuana. Yep, these aren't your average coffee shops! The edibles have a little more kick then your usual Starbuck's baked good and the smell is most definitely not Pumpkin Spice. If you're an avid smoker, you'll probably love it. If you're not, skip it. If you want to try it out because "when in Amsterdam..." do it! Traveling is all about new experiences. Just be safe and don't overdo it.
Sexmuseum Amsterdam Venustempel
The Sexmuseum is an interesting little pit stop full of erotic photos and the positions to go with them. The museum itself is small so there's no audio guide or tour guide available, nor necessary. You can walk around on your own! Tickets are 5 euros, but seeing fellow tourists squirm and laugh is priceless.
I knew black girls were magic long before a hashtag made it a movement. Growing up in Milwaukee, I had the privilege of being raised by a village of strong and educated black women. The knowledge my mother, grandmothers, aunts, sister friends and community mothers attained came from inside and outside the classroom. From getting my hair braided in the living room with Spike Lee’s Crooklyn playing in the background to community reading circles at Capitol Library to sprinkling brown sugar over a dish of candied yams at the kitchen table. Black women have been creating non-traditional spaces for learning long before “experiential learning” was a buzz phrase on college campuses.
Check out the rest of my featured article on why international learning is important for black women on Ubuntu Research and Evaluation here! For more features, head over to the "Publications" page for articles I've written outside Sojournies.
I know, I know, we all love Madrid because it's the partying capital of Spain and Barcelona because The Cheetah Girls taught us how to strut on the streets like a pro. They are the cities everyone goes to see and I agree you should visit one or both on your Spanish adventure. However, for those who want to expand their itinerary a bit, I have 14 more places to consider (in no particular order)!
Autonomous Community: Andalusia
Ronda is a hidden gem of Spain. This small town is located near Málaga, making it a perfect day trip from the busy beaches and city life. It's walkable, cheap and the iconic Puente Nuevo ("New Bridge'') is the coolest bridge in Spain. Fun fact: writer and avid Ronda visitor Ernest Hemingway even has a street named after himself on one of the windy roads.
Autonomous Community: Basque Country
On the opposite side of the country sits Bilbao, another walkable city known for their museum The Guggenheim. Riding the bus into Bilbao is gorgeous because it has the perfect balance of city and nature, with an industrial vibe mixed in. They also speak Basque in addition to Spanish and are really proud of it, so don't confuse the two. You can even consider flying into or out of their airport. Though it can be expensive it's worth a shot!
Bonus Destination Near Bilbao: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo!
The Game of Thrones nerd in me just had to include the infamous "Dragonstone" on the list! San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is located 45 minutes north of Bilbao in Bermeo. Hop on a green Bizkaia bus and you'll be well on your way. Don't forget to bring your best hiking or workout shoes, a water bottle and a lunch to eat at the top.
The Tandem is a restaurant in Milwaukee, WI that truly makes you feel at home. The food is flavored just right and uses a delicious combination of seasonings and sauces that doesn't overpower each dish's natural flavor. The Grain Salad was the standout and the best salad I've ever had (and being a Pescatarian means I've eaten many). It mixed basic salad components such as beets, carrots and lettuce with grains and a vinaigrette that you couldn't see, but when I took a bite my taste buds exploded with satisfaction. Their website says it's "down-to-earth food with fresh-from-the-earth ingredients" and that's just the tastiness I experienced.
Spain is one of the biggest tourist hubs in the world. People are drawn to its sunny beaches, rich history, never-ending nightlife, sangria and of course, the infamous siestas. From Madrid to Mallorca, the possibilities for experiencing Spanish culture are endless. A main attraction? Wine tasting in the wine-making region of La Rioja! You may recognize this area of Spain, as it was featured on the most recent season of The Bachelorette.
Check out the rest of the article I wrote as to why a wine tour in Spain should be on your life list here! Click the "Publications" page for more articles I've written outside of Sojournies.
I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.