The Missing Piece

Time has flown quicker than I could have ever imagined.

Sometimes it felt like a movie:
 an unbelievable plot, with majestical settings, and
characters better than I could have ever dreamed up.

I'm not the same person I was when I left four months ago.
Experiencing the world puts an entirely new and observing eye on the world, on life.

I could go on forever of what I've learned
(but I'm not here to be a blabbing bore).

However here are some of things I've learned:

1. Well I did go to school, so I guess I should say I learned something there. My Italian is well, horrible. But I loved my art classes. 

2. The world has endless possibilities, an array of people, and a
plethora of experiences. Each one has its differences, but when it comes down to it there are commonalities that tie us all together.

3. Travel, explore, put yourself out there. You're never too old or too young to experience a new culture. It has already made me a better person.

4. Go with the flow. Flights get delayed, buses are late, it rains, life happens. Getting uptight about it doesn't solve a darn thing.
Enjoy the ride.

5. It's the people at your side that make the moments in each place into amazing memories

I wrote in my first blog post:

“When I become broken inside, they hold the pieces for me until I’m ready to put myself back together”

So once again, thanks to all my family and friends that held the
pieces. It feels great to have them all back now. My four months away was the missing part of the puzzle.

Thanks for everyone that followed my blog!
Here's to whatever is to come in the next chapter.



The Parents Do Italy

Welcome to Italy parentals!

After an unforgettable journey with friends
it was time to show off the country
(and most importantly the city of Florence)
I have grown to love.

Back to Italy and reunited with the parents who had been in Rome for a couple days. What a great feeling
(AJ next time I'm kidnapping youand making you come. I could not be an only child)

The stunning Amalfi coast was my first major destination with them:
 Sorrento, Positano, Capri,   Amalfi Town, & Ravelo
All the towns were drop dead gorgeous. We’re talking houses literally built into the side of mountains, overlooking the blue Mediterranean, lemon trees, winding roads, and sunshine. 

A tidbit on each:

Sorrento- our home base from which we took all our day trips and home to lots of ceramic shops and lemon trees with lemons the size of your head (not kidding!)

 We spent four nights in our hotel here, eating lots of great Italian food.
Not only did father DeMarco only eat gelato and margarita pizza all day every day, his looks fit in so well that even Italians were asking him for directions. In Italian.

Positano- our first day trip on roads not wide enough for one bus. Good thing buses travel in both directions. Here our 40 year old waiter slipped me his number behind my dad’s back
(just what I want a 40 year olds number)

Capri- a breathtaking island with an equally breathtaking boat ride to get there. The highlight of the day was taking a chairlift to the highest point on the island to look out at some of the bluest water I’ve ever seen.

Amalfi Town- the oldest of the towns whose creation, according to myth, had something to do with Hercules
(I was looking for him, no luck)

Ravelo- an inland town set up in the mountains, surrounded by steep hills filled with vineyards and Italian villas. My favorite of the towns by far.

The rest of our visit was spent with Tourguide Kelsey showing off the city of Florence. The Uffizi Gallery, Duomo, Leather Market, Sunset, Ponte Vecchio, & plenty of good food.

Introducing the parents to the most yummy sandwich you will ever eat:
Salumeria Verdi
It was a wonderful visit, and after two weeks of being away from Florence it already felt like being back home. Though it was a whole different experience being there without the group of friends I shared the city with for months.

A wonderful two week trip. My parents ended their visit with a trip to Venice, while I stayed in Florence to soak in the last couple of days in the city I was lucky to call home for a few months.



No Worries

       Next destination that now has all my money GREECE

The things I learned during my six day stay:


1. Not all places are what they look like
on Google images. Rhodes is not the white buildings with blue tops you see in a lot of places.

2. Make the best of any situation.

(please refer to point #3)

3. When the British navy happens to have a boat docked on the island don't let the opportunity pass you bye.

Party with Brits all night.Check


4. When taking an 18 hour ferry ride find your own area to build fort(not kidding, Lea and I actually kind of built a fort. You're never too old to be a kid)

5. Santorini is what you picture a Greek island to look like. I'll happily take  stunning views of white houses,
take a donkey ride up the mountain side,
and eat Gyros until I want to burst.

6. Take every opportunity you can. Always.
Who knew I'd climb lava from a volcano and jump off a pirate looking ship into the salty water.

(We were told it was a hot spring- Wrong adjective. Luke warm, at best).

7. In keeping with #6. Learned the lesson of what it feels like to truly live without a care in the world. Whizzing around the island on an ATV all day, wind on my face, black sand beaches, ocean that stretches
on forever.



8. My teachers weren't lying in sixth grade when they said the ancient Greeks were important. Even after seeing the acropolis I'm mind-boggled by their ability to construct. It would be fascinating to travel back in time, if only for a day, to see the masterful civilization at its prime.

9.  Most importantly: appreciate it all.

The economic crisis is hitting Greece, and hard in areas. I couldn't help but feel slightly guilty as I whizzed by abandoned houses and restaurants.

Greeks and immigrants alike continuously said how lucky I was to be American. One immigrant told me Americans forget they have their freedom, that it's precious luck of where we were born.  It made me remember how lucky we all are.

Well I failed to find my Greek love, there was no Kostas like in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (darn!). But with great friends, amazing views, and memories of living with no worries he wasn't needed.




You know the movie Beerfest?
Ever wonder if such a place exists?

Hello Spring Beerfest in Munich, Germany.

Giant tents filled with German men wearing their lederhosen, giant pretzels the size of your head, and enormous liter large beers do exist at spring beerfest.

In fact (while not quite as insane as beerfest) Munich is home to many beerhalls open all year round.
Let's open one in America.

The best part of the weekend:
Miss Kari Anne Augusten came to visit!
(for those of you that don't know shes my Norwegian friend that
studied at my high school. I visited in Norway a couple of summers ago)

Adore her :)

 An absolute blast!

The majority of the weekend was spent exploring the city and well,
drinking beer like all the Germans.

 The tents were unexplainable-
 just think of the movie. The hotdogs were over a foot long. The carnival rides lit up the night. The live music played. And the glass beer mugs clicked in cheers.

Don't you worry, my entire weekend was not spent sipping brew.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site was an eerie and heart
throbbing experience. It amazes me the devastating things that
happened there. And such a short time ago.

All in all I would fly back in the fall for Octoberfest in a heartbeat if I could.

Besides how fun the city was, the beauty of Germany
pleasantly surprised me.
 (For some reason I never imagines rolling
hills filled with dandelions and amazing green)

The last day our bus took a trip to the Neuschwanstein castle, situated in the Alps. It is the building the Disney castle was based off of. Once again out of a movie.

Living a fairytale.



Walled In

Welcome to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
 First stop on my month long travel excursion.
Home to wild peacocks, marble streets, and a giant brick

For those of you that don't know much about Croatia (don't worry I won't judge, honestly it's Croatia)
Here is your lesson of the day:

1. It is located on the west side of the Adriatic Sea, across from Italy
2. In the early 90s it was severely bombed as it fought it's independence from Yugoslavia
3. The people there are really tall

After an 8 hour train ride (sitting on the floor no less) and a 10 hour ferry and lugging my giant backpack packed for a month we had arrived.
Old town Dubrovnik- the small area surrounded by an insane
brick wall- was the destination.

I had heard nothing but unbelievable reviews of Croatia but was
seriously clueless on what to expect.

Within moments of arrival to our
homey apartment style hostel I was blown away. The Adriatic sea seemed to stretch on forever into the distance, and the white marble streets in old town felt more like walking in a movie than real life.


Spent exploring the narrow, hilly alley ways, attending church
(it was Easter, I had to be holy even if I didn't understand a lick of Croatian),
 and spending the night with American study abroad students
we had met.


 Sun shown bright during our short boat ride to an just off the mainland.
So in Chicago we have these animals like chipmunks or squirrels. They just run across the sidewalks when the please. On this islan of Logrum the animal of choice.

Gorgeous,  bright blue, feathers out, shaking their tail feather...
 (honestly who would have thunk it?)


 This brick wall I speak of walls in the city. The best part is
climbing it provides for the most spectacular views. On one side of you the terracotta roofs fill in the inside, while on the other side nothing but blue
as the wall drops directly into the sea.

Travel Buddies
Jenna, Alex, Me, Chelsey, Rachel

If you asked me four months ago where I'd be, Croatia would not be on my list
 ( heck I couldn't even point to it on a map).
But it was a wonderfully whimsical and beautiful town to begin the last chapter of my abroad experience.

Now only if the peacocks would replace those darn squirrels in Downers Grove.




Where has the time gone?

It feels like just yesterday I set foot on my wonderful street for the first time, the newness of 63 Borgo la Croce and my Italian kitchen filling me with excitement for the months to come. 

I will miss sunsets in Firenze

You always hear that time flies, but I truly feel like all I did was blink and my program was over.

January until now has been filled with more amazing experiences than my wildest dreams could have created. In some ways it feels like it was yesterday and in others an eternity ago. From Guinness in Dublin to a massage in Budapest I am more than grateful for what I have done. 

I read a quote about memories the other day and realized the last few months have brought the best memories I could have ever asked for. Moments that have made me stronger, made me laugh, and made me see how astonishingly brilliant our world and its people are.

"Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."

 I couldn't have asked for better roommates and better people in my program. I will cherish my time in Italy for the amazing countries it is and my travels for the amazing smiles they have brought;
 but i will remember even more the happy times with the people besides me in the city I'm lucky to be able to have called home. 
A typical night at Kikuya

And to the people that have shared the experience I hope you had just as amazing of a time. What ever will we do without dragoons? It hasn't quite hit me yet that my program is over. For its a bittersweet goodbye as I am more than excited for the month to come. 

cooking up a feast in our kitchen

I'm off to one last month of travels. Europe just hasn't had enough of me yet.
Croatia, Munich, Greece, and then Amalfi coast  and Florence with the parentals.

So ciao CAPA and Florence. 
My time here got me back on my feet and changed me for the better.

Firenze will always have a place in my heart. 




Never would I ever think I would be in 
Budapest, Hungary. 

To tell you the truth I did not even know where Budapest was on a map before I went. So don't feel too bad at geography if you haven't the slightest clue either.

The adventure began with a 15 hour train ride (Yes, you read that number correctly). Aided by sleeping pills the train really wouldn't have been half bad without police waking us up every couple hours to check passports.
There is a strange feeling in your gut when you are awaken by a man in a police outfit asking for a passport, with a gun, not knowing what country you're in, or the language
... us Americans really need to study our maps more. 
By Friday morning Jon, Brett, Chelsey and I arrived at our destination. And the most welcoming hotel owner handing us Hungarian shot at the door. Not a bad start to the day.

Budapest is a large and gorgeous city. The Gothic architecture is very different than Florence, but it was far more similar to Eastern European cities than I expected. 

Fun facts about Budapest

1. One side of the river is called Buda, the other Pest. 
2. You spend thousands when there. Well thousands in their currency. I've never before withdrawn 27,000 from an ATM.

Day one was spent exploring. From atop an amazing view of the city we had a beer and looked out at the river. It was very relaxing, and the more I travel the more I understand that you always have the best time when you sit back and enjoy. Rushing from place to place to check things off your list isn't fun. 

Our two nights in Budapest were spent at the same
all-you-can-eat-and-drink restaurant and then a bar.

Lets see the new foods I tasted-
duck, catfish, goulash, shark
(sharks a negative on my list. I would rather not eat Jaws)

Jon, Chels, Me, Brett

Day two. Time for a typical Budapest experience: The Bathhouses.
Bathhouses are massive structures with warm pools (inside and out), saunas, massages, and lots of people relaxing. Chelsey and I spent the morning basking in the sun, followed by a massage.
If I learned anything from the bathhouse it is that massages aren't for me. Holding back laughter the entire time is not exactly the zen experience. Sorry bout being ticklish. 

Another great weekend. I would love to explore more of Eastern Europe. The more I travel the longer my wish list of travels becomes. Sometimes the unexpected travels are the best.