SLIDER

detour to the Slovakian mountains, part 1

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Photo by Tanvi Malik

I'm at an incredibly friendly hostel in Bratislava, right in the old town, but I can't be bothered to go socialize or see the city.

I acknowledge how lucky I am, but I'm bored.  I'm tired.  If I see one more building described as neo-classical or neo-gothic or neo-ANYTHING, I'm going to scream.  All I want to do is go see the new Wonder Woman at the cinema in the mall and figure out where to go next.

I'm in Bratislava because it was on my itinerary and because I'm on my way to meet my friend in Budapest.  A week ago I realized I was traveling too quickly, which is why I added 5 days in Munich, but I still have a few days to kill in between.  I could stay in Bratislava for a full week, but there's not much to keep you entertained in that town for more than 2 days.  I have to find somewhere to go.



Photo by Zach Taiji

I sit down on the toilet.  Usually an irrelevant tidbit, but this moment changed the course of my trip.  Right at eye level from sitting on the pooper is a flier for a hostel in northern Slovakia in the High Tatras.  The mountains are what intrigued me, but the 10/10 Hostelworld review and the promise of a dog are what convinced me.

Two days later and I'm on the train to Poprad.

I've stayed in some enjoyable hostels, but this one is definitely the best one I've ever been to.  Right after I get there, I'm invited out to dinner with a few other guests, which I find out later is a regular occurrence.  Restaurants are so cheap in this village you can get a meal for under 10 euros, and even that's on the higher end (I average on 6 euros or less).

This is the first place I've been where the hostel actually has a family-feel.  As someone who hasn't been home since the very beginning of January, it feels so nice to just sit around and have a laugh with friendly people.  This hostel is slightly out of the way (i.e., not on the main Eurotrip path), so it attracts what another guest called "the right kind of people."  No stag parties, no huge groups, long-term travelers (at least longer than a few weeks), and a lot of solo travelers.

Also, the mountains.  I forgot how much I missed them.  I don't live in the mountains in Virginia, I'm right smack dab in the middle of the state, but something about being in the mountains makes me feel more at home than anything else in the world.

I do a 25-kilometer hike on my first full day, by myself for the majority of it.  Hiking is tough for me, especially alone without any distractions, because I internally beat myself up most of the way.  Usually, my head is a pleasant place to be, but for some reason, strenuous physical activity brings out my inner critic more than anything.  What matters is that no matter how much I wanted to give up and turn around, I didn't.  Which is what I like about myself.  Even when I am my own worst enemy, I can't seem to give up.  I'm sure that's a trait that will help me out in life.

Days 2 and 3 were much more chill, only short walks with the dog by the river and over to the Goulash Man.

On Saturday I reluctantly leave the hostel in the 1,300 person village (smaller than my high school) for Budapest.  Now that I've rested for a few days, I feel rejuvenated enough to tackle more central and eastern European cities.

Right?

Consume This #1

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Hello!  I'm changing up the way I do my What I'm Reading posts!  They started out as a summary of what books I've read, then morphed into a HEY HERE'S EVERYTHING I'VE READ AND DONE AND THOUGHT ABOUT OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS.

So I'm going to split things up and move stuff around.  On the 15th of each month I'll post a Consume This, which will be full of all the interesting links I've read in the past month.  If I have too many links for one post I'll split them up, but you can rely on a Consume This on every 15th.


Consume This is my monthly curated list of interesting links of things for you to read, watch, and listen.  If you come across something you think I'll like, tweet at me.

R E A D I N G

did Jesus have a wife? Dan Brown might have been onto something


why are books with a female protagonist automatically considered a 'beach read'

we already know that the publishing world is sexist but here's a reminder


a long article about the unattainable myth of the 'French girl'

two guys met in their fraternity and got married 10 years later

W A T C H I N G & L I S T E N I N G



Header Photo by Alisa Anton 

how a snow storm turned me into a traveler

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Photo by Donna 

This is my first time participating in the Travel Link Up!  July's topic is to share your travel story.



I never planned on traveling extensively.  As a kid, I never dreamed of laying on beaches in Thailand or going on safaris in Africa. I always thought hostels were scary and adults without traditional careers were making a HUGE mistake.  I had dreams of graduating college, getting a good job, and eventually owning a house on a huge plot of land somewhere in a southern state.  Basically, I wanted to live in a country song.

Then Freshman Year Spring Break happened.  My school calls it "spring break", but in reality, it was the last week of February and a huge snow storm made us evacuate the school early, so my week break turned into almost two.  This sounds lucky, but my school and home are only one hour apart so the snow storm also hit my house, but even harder.

So there I was, Spring Break 2015, unable to leave my house at all because of the piles of snow. I had nothing to do but toot around on the internet and read.

In my boredom, I read a really cheesy love story about these two solo travelers meeting on a beach in Spain and then traveling around together for a few months, and of course, they happened to be from the same town so they fell in love and yadda yadda yadda. The implausible love story isn't what made me want to travel, but all of the descriptions of the places the two characters visited. It put the idea in my head that people actually CAN travel for an extended period of time, that people CAN travel by themselves, and that traveling really isn't a "big deal".  Almost anyone can do it with a little bit of luck and a little bit of money.
 
This led me to google "two month Europe trip itinerary". Europe because nowhere else in the world interested me (yet). Two months because I was deadset on going to medical school, and two months is all I would have in between undergrad ending and medical school starting. That's all the traveling I could allow myself until I one day became a supercool neurologist or OBGYN and worked for Doctors Without Borders.

That innocent google search led me down the rabbit hole of travel blogs.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that I spent almost every second of that spring break reading people's blogs, consuming everything I could.

The decision had already been made.  I need to go travel.  But after more and more reading, I quickly learn that just two months in Europe won't even scratch the surface of what the world has to offer.
 

I need to go EVERYWHERE.

 
So I start looking into alternatives.  I could take a gap year in between college and medical school, but with the way the MCAT falls and the application process, I really wouldn't have that much time to travel.  Also, med schools like it when you do something "productive" with your gap year.  Flaking off to southeast Asia for a year is sadly not seen as productive by the corporate world.  I found a medical school program where I could do two years in Brisbane, Australia and the other two years in America.  But I couldn't put all of my eggs in one basket and only apply to one medical school, and even then two years in Australia didn't feel like enough.

Eventually, I had to face my own priorities that I tried so hard to suppress: I don't want to be a doctor.  I want to travel.  I could always go to medical school later in life, plenty of people do it, if I still felt that calling.

It wasn't a sudden realization.  It was almost exactly a full year between my initial google search and the breakdown during my Sophomore year that forced me to quit bullshitting myself and accept what I actually wanted out of life.

I'm still at the very beginning of my travel story.  I spent five months in Glasgow, Scotland and I'm currently a little over a month into my central/eastern Europe trip.  I have a few ideas for my post-college life and all of them include me moving out of Virginia, if not out of the country.

Lucky for me, my travel journey is just getting started.
 

What was your tipping point that turned you into a traveler?

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