When in Rome

When in Rome

There are almost no words to describe Rome. This weekend I got to travel to the city and it surpassed all of my expectations. From eating my first gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain to standing with my polka dot umbrella in front of the Colosseum, I felt as though I was living out … Read more

There are almost no words to describe Rome. This weekend I got to travel to the city and it surpassed all of my expectations. From eating my first gelato in front of the Trevi Fountain to standing with my polka dot umbrella in front of the Colosseum, I felt as though I was living out a scene in a movie. This is the stuff you see on the big screen, with a bag of popcorn on your lap, yet I was seeing it with my own eyes. I still can’t believe I was just a few feet away from the Colosseum. I am so blessed.

The day began with a 7:30 a.m. meeting time to catch the 8 a.m. train. However, since there was about an inch of snow, the train was delayed. We were told that Italy never gets snow, so when it does snow, no one knows what to do. Trains are delayed, people go into major panic and the streets are filled with crazy drivers (and this is different from any other time?). I wasn’t too upset about the delay though, since that meant I had an extra hour to slip into a cozy café and order a breakfast pastry. Although one that I had tried before looked tempting, I promised myself to try new things so I picked out a croissant with wild berry fruit inside. Delicious!

The first thing we saw in Rome was the Vatican. I had no interest in seeing the Vatican, mostly because I had no idea about its significance or history before we went. However, the second I walked inside I was speechless. Every single inch of the walls, ceilings and floors has so much detail. It is absolutely amazing. I could have stayed in the Vatican for hours just staring at the ceiling itself.


Next we visited the Pantheon. I was surprised to learn that the ceiling of the Pantheon is open and there are slits in the floor to allow for water to drain into when it rains. Mass is still held there even when it rains. We came across the cutest gelato and crepe store right next to the Pantheon that I can’t wait to take my sisters to when they visit!


We then visited Piazza Novana, which was a big open piazza with two fountains. Although it was pretty, I was hardly paying attention since our tour guide announced that the Trevi Fountain would be next. I was literally giddy with excitement. I was a bit embarrassed as I could not fight back the biggest smile ever from sliding across my face. Before you see the fountain, you hear the water flowing, which builds even more anticipation. Closing my eyes to make a wish and toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.

After the Trevi Fountain, we visited the Spanish Steps and then we were free for lunch. While the rest of the kids in the program then went back to Viterbo, a group of us decided to stay at a hostel for the night so that we could see more of Rome! Before finding the hostel, we grabbed some gelato and saw the Trevi Fountain lit up. I was so excited for my first gelato. I got melon flavored!

trevi fountain

The next morning we visited the Colosseum! It was so incredible to be standing right there, in front of it. I decided to wait to tour the inside until my sisters visit, so we could do it together.


After the Colosseum, we did some souvenir shopping, revisited the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon and grabbed lunch. We then made our way back to the train station so that we could catch the next train back to Viterbo. However, pleased that we got to the station literally three minutes before the train was to arrive, we then noticed we forgot to purchase tickets. Panic mode set in. Our group sent me and two of my roommates to run as fast as we could through the station to buy tickets and return within the next three minutes… even though we just traveled up four flights of stairs, a broken escalator and around the corner from the ticket counter to get to the train platform. I have never ran so fast in my entire life. The fact that I just had a slice of pizza and potato wedges for lunch was not helping whatsoever. There were two people in front of us as we stood at the counter, gasping for air, praying for them to hurry. Of course, the man at the ticket counter decided to take his sweet time. The second he handed us our tickets, I heard the train arrive above. My roommates and I looked at each other and yelled “run!” Back around the corner we went, up four flights of stairs, the broken escalator, and finally to the train platform, all the while wishing that I had skipped the potato wedges and would have been previously trained for a 5k so that I was ready for this moment. We finally reached the top of the train platform, only to see the end of the train pulling away. So, we collapsed onto a bench and had an hour to catch our breath until the next train.

This weekend was absolutely exhausting, but amazing. I am hoping that tossing my coin into the Trevi Fountain does in fact ensure me a return trip to Rome one day.

The Dying Village

The Dying Village

Today was exhausting, yet amazing! This morning I woke up early to go to the open air markets. My roommates and I met with a few other students and our program advisors and walked through a hundred or so little stands of jewelry, shoes, clothing, fabric and little odds and ends. Everything is very cheap … Read more

Today was exhausting, yet amazing! This morning I woke up early to go to the open air markets. My roommates and I met with a few other students and our program advisors and walked through a hundred or so little stands of jewelry, shoes, clothing, fabric and little odds and ends. Everything is very cheap at the market. The highlight of the market for me was the yellow lab puppy that was there. When I ran to pet the puppy, my first instinct was to yell “Hi, puppy!” but instead I said, “Ciao, cucciolo!” I am learning bit by bit.

After the open air market, we went to the fresh fruit market. I bought two fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, with the help of one of our “Italian buddies” from the program. I plan on buying basil and fresh bread tomorrow morning and making some sort of bruschetta for dinner tomorrow night. Afterwards, we walked to the art store and I bought a sketch pad and pencils for my art class! On the way back to the apartment, one of the year-long study abroad students showed us a little park, just outside the city walls. Although it is small, it is very pretty. I already know I will be spending many afternoons with my running shoes or my sketch pad there.

dying village

This afternoon we went on field trip to Civita di Bagnoregio, also known as “The Dying Village.” This village was built by the Etruscans hundreds of years ago. Due to an earthquake, the village is eroding and it is no longer safe to live there. All of the residents had to vacate to a different town. However, we were told that around eight or so people still live there! There are also a few little cafes and shops for tourists. I am not sure if I have ever seen a more beautiful place. It was so peaceful there. While it was absolutely freezing, I found that I often forgot about how cold I was walking around because I was so captivated by the village. However, while I would love to live in such a beautiful place, I believe I would get very lonely since it feels very deserted.

dying village 2

After we got back, my roommates Sarah and Kyung Min, and I went to “The Spaghetteria” for dinner. The Spaghetteria offers 300 different types of spaghetti! Anyone who knows me, knows how ridiculously indecisive I am and can only imagine how long it took me to decide on which dish to order. While my instinct was to order the traditional dish with tomato sauce and fresh herbs, I decided to order the dish called “saruzzo.” The description read: herb field and black olives. While it was not at all what I was expecting, I am proud that I tried something different! It was really good. I am sure that we will go back again to try out another spaghetti dish soon!

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

Travel Bug: Best Tips for Packing Light

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A few months ago I was hiking in the Galician region of northern Spain on el Camino de Santiago, and also traveling all around Europe on a tight budget. You can find very cheap flights in Europe, but the costs they hit you with are baggage fees, where if you literally can’t shove, jump, or punch your carry-on into the overhead compartment rack, you will have to check your bag (at a steep or undesireable price). Long story short, I needed to pack for about 10 days straight when hiking and 3 weeks straight over my spring break, all in a lovely Osprey Hornet 46 Liter bag, which is comparable to a larger backpack. So, here is “The Lucky 7,” my general rules to follow when packing in addition to my item lists for two trips!

  1. If it’s on Your Back, it Will Pack – Most of the time if you have a bag on your back, even if it may be a little bigger than standard size, the flight attendant will just look at your bag and pass you up in the line. This may not always work, but remember to try and carry everything you need right on your back.
  2. Plan, Make a List and Check it – Whenever traveling it is good to know where you are going, the weather and climate, etc. It usually helps to write things down as reminders and cross items off once you know they’ve been packed.
  3. Pack Efficiently – It’s true that one person may be able to fit double the items as someone else just because they know how to pack right. To take advantage of the most space in your bag, roll items like pants and shirts and use smaller things like socks and underwear as filler items. When you can, think miniature as far as toothpaste, toiletries and other small accessory items.
  4. Versatility is King – When packing light, if you are trying to minimize items, it’s a good idea to make sure clothes can be worn for different purposes. Pack some pants that can look dressy with a button-up, but also can be pulled off casual and feel comfortable. I highly recommend the prAna bronson pants, my favorite! Try to make sure almost everything can go with all other clothing items in your bag if you can, and maybe lean toward bringing more neutral colors.
  5. If You Debate it, You Won’t Need it – If you keep on thinking you may or may not need an item, leave it out. Always remember you can do laundry pretty much wherever or at least hand wash clothes. This classic mistake might be due to the many seemingly fantastic travel gadgets available, but a good rule of thumb is if you don’t need it at home, you don’t need it while traveling.
  6. Wear it! – If your bag doesn’t fit or you need more space, wear some of your clothes. I once saw two travel buddies in the Stockholm airport literally pulling out half of their clothes in the security checkpoint! Definitely put on the most clunky and heavy things as well as shoes and sweaters so you pass the weight limit. If you’re worried about wrinkly clothes consider buying wrinkle-free wear.
  7. Simplify – Remember that you can always buy things there. Challenge yourself, see if you can survive with the most minimal belongings. The nice thing is too, then you don’t need to lug around a very heavy bag the whole trip!

Here is a sample list of the things I brought with me in my spring break bag where I traveled to around 5 different countries: comfortable walking shoes, sandals, Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, sunglasses, swimsuit, shorts – 1 athletic – 2 North Face, shirts – 2 dress – 2 undershirts – 1 long sleeve tee – 4 tees, pants – 2 pair, socks – 5 pair (odor resistant if possible!), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – computer (if need be) – chargers – memory cards, Nalgenes, watch (comes in handy!), ear plugs, toiletries, small quick drying pack towel, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks, chico bags and any snacks if you wish. I would say I overpacked too!

On a different trip, when I hiked for 10 days in northern Spain, I substituted some things out for others: comfortable hiking boots (worn at almost all times), sandals (for at hostels), Patagonia capilene baselayer, hat, bandana, shorts/pants – lightweight convertable zip-offs – 1 athletic, 1 North Face, shirts - 4 pair, socks – 5 pair (boy did these smell), underwear – 4 pair, jacket – rain/insulator, moneybelt/documents, electronics – cell phone (doubled as alarm clock) – camera – ipod – chargers, Nalgenes, watch, ear plugs (necessity for group hostels on the trail!), toiletries, small quick-drying pack towel, sleep sack, hammock, collapsable hanger, playing cards, notepad, small first-aid, bag locks and chico bags. Some other hiking materials were needed on this trip.

Just remember with added fees from airlines, the hassle of baggage claim and the many TSA regulations, being able to carry on luggage is a must and will make your life a heck of a lot easier. There are many instances where people need to get their bag checked, and you do not want to fall into this trap. My one friend on the way to Morocco barely got her bag past security after I saw her pull out Ugg boots, and other heavy items too (see tip #6)! I have confidence that everyone will be master packers next time they travel. Here are some dimensions for your convenience…

American Airways: The maximum dimensions cannot exceed any of the following measurements: 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall or 115cm (56 x 36 x 23 cm). All carry-on items should be stowed in an overhead bin. You are also allowed one personal item in addition to your carry on.

RyanAir: Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger (excluding infants) weighing up to 10kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm is permitted. (handbag, briefcase, laptop, shop purchases, camera etc.) must be carried in your 1 permitted piece of cabin baggage. Extra/oversized cabin baggage will be refused at the boarding gate, or where available, placed in the hold of the aircraft for a fee of £50/€50. If you are unsure, check at the Bag Drop desk before going through security. You are NOT allowed on personal item in addition to your carry on.

I hope “The Lucky 7″ and my sample lists can help you on your next adventure!

Finally an Excuse to Slack Off

Finally an Excuse to Slack Off

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Every week this semester seems never ending for me. Taking 18 credits, going to practice and helping plan our next Raider Relief project leaves only a little wiggle room to have some fun. One way I try to take advantage of my free time is to just slack off. I am very focused at school, but the slacking off I’m referring to involves some nylon webbing and two trees. Slacklining is a balance sport, which utilizes nylon webbing stretched tight between two anchor points, and is an activity that has rapidly grown in popularity. Maybe you have seen some people by the campus lakes having a slack off, just trying to balance their school work with their social life.

Slacklining began when climbers who were hanging out in campgrounds became bored and started playing with their equipment. Since slacklining’s development in the late 1970s, slacklining has grown into an international craze, and is a common and popular pastime within the outdoor community. Slacklining has become so popular because anyone can do it. Some people do it for fun, while others do it for the obvious athletic benefits, and some still do it for a meditative purpose (seeking a higher state of mind). It’s just a great way to get a little exercise and hangout with friends. There is lowlining (basic slacklining low to the ground), tricklining (people do flips and spins) and highlining (extremists put lines over canyons and rivers). For now, I am going to stick to lowlining.

I encourage people to try slacklining because with it combines an emphasis on focus, balance and strength. For the adventurous, it’s an effective cross-training activity for yoga enthusiasts, surfers, climbers and snowboarders. Also, it’s just as much an exceptional form of exercise as it is a spiritual quest, where your mind and body exist in complete balance with nature. Slacklining presents individuals with the opportunity to truly live in the moment with an emphasis on focus, fulfillment and fun. What are some other ways you like to slack off?