Why Hello, Spring!

Why Hello, Spring!

It is officially March and yesterday was the perfect spring day in Viterbo. It was about 55 degrees and there were no clouds in sight. I woke up Sunday morning and ran to the park, where there were kids playing soccer, moms pushing strollers and cute, old couples observing from benches nearby the fountains. It … Read more

It is officially March and yesterday was the perfect spring day in Viterbo. It was about 55 degrees and there were no clouds in sight. I woke up Sunday morning and ran to the park, where there were kids playing soccer, moms pushing strollers and cute, old couples observing from benches nearby the fountains. It was so nice to be able to run outside in the warmer weather and not have to wear a jacket! After my run I went back to the apartment to grab some homework, an apple and yogurt, and then made my way back to the park to do some reading in the sun.

winery

This past Friday we went on a field trip to Tre Botti Winery for wine tasting! While I do not care for the taste of wine, I made it my goal to find a wine that I liked while I was in Italy. What better place, right? However, I have now decided to accept that I am just not a wine fan. We were taken on an outside tour of the vineyards, mostly only seeing Jane (the vineyard donkey), since near everything was dead due to the winter weather. Then we were taken inside to have lunch and have a tasting of three wines. The winery family made us pumpkin soup, a tray of cold cuts, roasted potatoes and pecorino cheese with jam on top for lunch. I promised myself to be adventurous while I was abroad, so I tried a little bit of each. Surprisingly, the pumpkin soup was really good. However, I think the fact that it warmed me up from the freezing cold may have something to do with why I liked it so much. The cheese was another story. Although I am not sure if I will get the memory of the horrible taste out of my mind for another few weeks, I am glad that I tried it! We tasted a white wine and two red wines. I preferred the white wine the most. Italians LOVE their wine! We were told at the winery not to swallow it right away, but to leave it on your tongue to savor and appreciate the taste and quality.

orvieto

After the winery we were taken to a nearby town called Orvieto. We went to see “Underground Orvieto,” where there are old Etruscan caves. The cathedral in Orvieto was beautiful! I loved it. Inside there were many stained glass windows. Behind the altar there were four vertical rows of 11 stained glass windows each. Each window told a different story with characters, animals and settings. I wish I could show what it looked like, but we were not allowed to take pictures. After the caves and cathedral, we were allowed to explore a little before heading back to Viterbo. There were cute ceramic shops everywhere. I made sure to purchase a postcard since I am attempting to get one from each town/city that I visit!

bracciano castle

Saturday I went with Kevin, Henal and Tyler to another nearby town called Bracciano. In Bracciano there is a huge fairytale castle and the eighth largest lake in Italy. We saw that the weather was supposed to be nice so we decided to pack lunch and a blanket to have a picnic by the castle and lake! It was a great day and I fell in love with the little town. Signs of spring were everywhere. Henal and I came across a tree with pretty, pink flowers blooming, so we decided to take a few for our hair. However, springtime bees also come along with springtime flowers and I don’t think those bees were too happy with us for picking a few of the blossoms.

lake

We had quite a hike from the castle down to the lake, but when we got there we found the perfect picnic spot. Two white swans came and swam near us during our picnic! After lunch we went on a tour of the castle. Although the inside was pretty, the view from the top of the castle, looking out onto the town and lake, was my favorite. It was so pretty!

Castles, lakes, swans, picnics, flowers, friends, gelato (Oh yes, we got gelato too of course. This time I got Nutella flavored!) … it was a perfect day trip and successful weekend. I am so excited for the warm weather and am crossing my fingers that it’s all sunshine and springtime from here on out.

Firenze Forever

Firenze Forever

This weekend I discovered Italian chocolate. If you love American chocolate, boy are you in for a treat if you get the chance to taste chocolate in Europe. My entire weekend involved chocolate, and I loved every bit of it. This past Saturday morning my roommates and I decided to take a trip to Florence. … Read more


This weekend I discovered Italian chocolate. If you love American chocolate, boy are you in for a treat if you get the chance to taste chocolate in Europe. My entire weekend involved chocolate, and I loved every bit of it.

This past Saturday morning my roommates and I decided to take a trip to Florence. We woke up at 6 a.m. to catch the first train out of Viterbo. After the first train, we had a half hour layover until the next one, so we stopped in the train station’s café and ordered pastries for breakfast. Since my arrival in Italy, I’ve always chosen the fruit pastries, but I decided it was time to test out the chocolate. I picked out a croissant filled with half cream and half chocolate. It was so good! The chocolate just melts in your mouth. It is nothing like American chocolate.

After four hours of traveling, we finally reached Florence. Although I always heard good things about Florence, it was not at the top of my “must see” list. I did not have very high expectations for the city, since I heard it was mostly known for museums. Wow, was I wrong. Florence is absolutely beautiful. The pictures I took do not do it justice whatsoever. Unlike any other buildings I have seen in Italy, these buildings were not only decorated incredibly, but were also colored with light greens and pinks. I loved the colored details.

duomo

First we saw the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the main church in Florence (also known at the Duomo) and decided to climb to the top! We got the work out of a lifetime while climbing all 463 stairs to the top and it was so worth it. The view of the city from the top was amazing. After the Duomo we went to a museum that held marble, gems and collections from the Medici family (the family who ruled Florence back in the day)! We grabbed sandwiches for lunch and then walked on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. The bridge was lined with jewelry shops galore. Supposedly the Medici family owned it in the past and sold jewelry there. We then went to the Pitti Palace to see the Boboli Gardens! Unfortunately, we missed the last tour of the gardens by two minutes.

ponte vecchio

Since the sun was setting soon, my roommate Min (who has been to Florence previously) wanted to take us to Michelangelo Square, which is a very high hill top, in order to see the entire city of Florence. The hike there took a while. However, what was waiting for us was beyond worth it. The sun setting over Florence was literally breathtaking. At the top, there was a set of stairs and an Italian musician playing the guitar and singing. Being the sensitive girls that we are, my roommates and I all started crying while listening to Fabio (made up name) serenade us and watching the sun set over Florence. The tears were then followed by tons of laughter though, as we realized how emotional we were.

michealangelo hill

We then did a little window shopping and grabbed gelato at the cutest gelateria (I chose tiramisu and chocolate chip this time, on a chocolate waffle cone – my second taste of Italian chocolate).

The next morning we went back to the gelateria and ordered chocolate waffles for breakfast! So nutritional, I know. I also asked for a latte, expecting a glass of cold milk. However, I was brought a steaming glass of milk. Whoops. I will have to ask for “un latte freddo” next time. The waffle was delicious, but also made me miss mom and the strawberry waffles that she makes.

waffles

We did some more shopping since we saw so many sites the day before and then got gelato again, right before hopping on the train for home (attempting to try something new each time, I got mint gelato). On the train ride home, we taught Min some American slang words and phrases and in return she taught us a few Korean words. I think I am learning just as much about Korean culture as I am learning about Italian culture while living here.

We got home late Sunday night and, once again, we were all exhausted. However, it was nice to be “home.” Our program advisor told us upon our arrival that we would soon consider Viterbo “home,” but I didn’t really believe him. It’s funny how soon you can adapt and view someplace new as your home. While I thought there would never be any competition for my favorite city, I am now torn between the huge, magical city of Rome and the quaint, beautiful city of Florence. Firenze forever!

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.

vatican

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!

pantheon

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.

colosseum

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!

The Countdown Continues

The Countdown Continues

It was not until I attended the pre-departure study abroad orientation on campus that I realized how many Mount Union students are traveling abroad next semester! Including me, there is a total of 22 students studying abroad. Students will be traveling to Australia, Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Spain. Each … Read more

It was not until I attended the pre-departure study abroad orientation on campus that I realized how many Mount Union students are traveling abroad next semester! Including me, there is a total of 22 students studying abroad. Students will be traveling to Australia, Costa Rica, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Spain. Each location varies drastically in what there is to see and do, and each student will have such a different experience while abroad.

I was curious to know what fellow study abroad participants were looking forward to most, so I reached out to a few students.

  • Laura Mould (Ireland): “I’m really looking forward to being able to travel through Ireland and Europe and see many of the things that I’ve wanted to see my whole life. I’m really just looking forward to the experience in general, being able to say that I did it and got to be truly independent and on my own for a while!”
  • Emily Stafford (Japan): “Japan’s culture and America’s is so very different. I am really excited to meet new people and see and try different things. It is a once in a lifetime chance to learn by living a new lifestyle. I hope that it will be a wonderful trip and that the experiences help me discover a new side of my life!”
  • Rachel Toth (Germany): “The thing that I am most looking forward to is being able to be totally immersed in a new culture. I love traveling and trying different things, so this will be very exciting – and a little nerve wracking as well.”

When asked, past study abroad participants were more than willing to pass on helpful advice.

  • Alyssa Greenwell (London): “Take advantage of every opportunity you are given while abroad. Travel to another country for the weekend. Try new foods. Experience the different cultures. Take risks. Studying abroad is one of the greatest experiences you will ever have so be sure to get everything you can out of it. It truly is the time of your life.”
  • Megan Shadrach (France): “It is important to keep an open mind about everything you see and do, and be able to laugh at your mistakes!”
  • Zak Suhar (Spain): “You might be afraid or anxious, but just know that studying abroad is a huge adventure. You may encounter struggles, confusion, sorrows and a lot of opportunities, but the most exciting things are the guarantees that are rewarded through travel. Just think how much you will grow and learn from this amazing experience.” (Zak is a fellow blogger. Check out his page here!)

What am I looking forward to most? I can’t wait to toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome and stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, for the first time, in Paris. I have dreamed of traveling to Europe since before I can remember, never believing I would ever be given the opportunity to do so. It feels so surreal that it is actually happening and I can’t wait to live out my dream.

The countdown continues: 35 more days!

Are you traveling abroad? If so, what are you looking forward to most? Do you have any advice for students studying abroad? Feel free to comment below!

Turn Your Cant’s Into Cans and Dreams Into Plans

¡Hola! Ciao! Salut! Hallo! Hello! I have less than two months to go until I start my European adventure and I am getting extremely anxious! In anticipation of my own study abroad experience, I find that I am constantly reading others’ travel blogs, flipping through countless online albums documenting their journey and watching videos filmed … Read more


¡Hola! Ciao! Salut! Hallo! Hello! I have less than two months to go until I start my European adventure and I am getting extremely anxious! In anticipation of my own study abroad experience, I find that I am constantly reading others’ travel blogs, flipping through countless online albums documenting their journey and watching videos filmed while abroad. From a breakfast of pork omelets in Thailand, to croissants in France, to rice in India, each location is composed of extremely different food, people, dress, language, landscapes, customs and traditions. It amazes me how diverse each city is, let alone each country! The world is so big and I can’t help getting excited just thinking of everything that is out there to see, appreciate and discover.

I came across a video a while back, called “Move,” which instantly set my study abroad plans in motion. I always knew I wanted to travel; however, after watching this video I decided to stop thinking about it and make it happen. So, I went to visit the Center for Global Education the very next day to talk about my options.

These three guys went on their own adventure and 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights and 38,000 miles later.. an AWESOME video was made. Watch it, you won’t regret it!

Also, check out the endless possibilities of study abroad programs offered through USAC here!

It’s time to turn your “cant’s into cans and dreams into plans”!

Are you interested in studying abroad? What is your dream location to travel to? Feel free to comment here!

Pearl of the Orient

Pearl of the Orient

Cheah Clan House When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is. I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those … Read more

Cheah Clan House

When I wrote my introductory post, I mentioned that I would love to tell everyone more about my home. Here it is.

I am from Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country located between Singapore and Thailand. Somehow that description works for most people. Yes, we are that big piece of land between those two nations. My home state, in particular, is called Penang. It is mostly an island with some of its state land being on the mainland (Malaysia) itself. Penang is located in the northwest part of Malaysia.

Living on an island (a really small one, in fact) is one of the best things in life. Penang is one of the most developed states in Malaysia. I would say we are second to the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. That being said, it means that Penang has close to everything you need. Malls, beaches, hangout spots, the airport and anything you can imagine is never more than 20 to 30 minutes away. That is of course without traffic playing its evil hand.

Kapitan Keling Mosque

George Town, Penang’s capital city, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage City. That means that the buildings and cultural events and craftsmen within the city is considered to be an important cultural treasure to the world and needs to be protected for future generations.

The city features colonial architecture, currently being restored to its former glory. Thanks to the UNESCO endorsement, Penang has been through an extensive transformation. Going back there during the summer break was eye opening for me because after being away for over a year, going back to a restored Penang makes me feel like a tourist.

I had the opportunity to do a “Heritage Trail” when I was back there over the summer. It seems to be a trend these days among youths in my state. The World Heritage status has given us youths a renewed sense of interest in our hometown. More of us are going out to take pictures and just visit the places that were specially shortlisted by UNESCO to be restored.

Master Lee: The last joss-stick maker. Joss-sticks are incense sticks used for Buddhist prayers. Master Lee is the last person in the country to still do it by hand.

If you happen to be in Southeast Asia and are thinking of visiting Penang, do take an entire day (or two) to embark on this Heritage Trail. You’ll find something different every time. I’ve personally been on the trail three separate times and I have always found something new, whether it be a new concept cafe (we have a lot of these), a new heritage building or just an old craftsman working on his artwork. George Town, Penang is full of surprises.

Taking Over the Windy City

As I mentioned in my last post, I was given the opportunity to travel to Chicago and take over the Windy City! Along with seven other students involved with campus media, such as The Dynamo (newspaper), WRMU (radio station) and The Unonian (yearbook), I attended the 2012 National College Media Convention. We left on Halloween and it was … Read more

As I mentioned in my last post, I was given the opportunity to travel to Chicago and take over the Windy City! Along with seven other students involved with campus media, such as The Dynamo (newspaper), WRMU (radio station) and The Unonian (yearbook), I attended the 2012 National College Media Convention. We left on Halloween and it was well worth the eight-hour drive there and back.

We attended sessions throughout the day, which provided suggestions and ideas on how to improve our campus media, gain interest on campus and get creative with our stories, layouts and writing styles. My favorite session was called “Dazzle your Digital Resume,” which was presented by Cassie Morien, web editor for Boca Raton Magazine (see her website here). She was so energetic and gave awesome tips for creating a portfolio and resume that no employer could pass up. I left Chicago with a ton of inspiration and the motivation I needed to add that extra sparkle to my resume and incorporate my personality and creativity into my portfolio.

After attending sessions during the day, we still had a lot of time to explore Chicago! This was my second time in the city, but I was excited to revisit some of my favorite spots as well as discover new things about the city that I did not get the opportunity to see the first time there. While I could write a novel on my favorite things about Chicago, here are just a few that made me fall in love with the Windy City…

  1. Sky Deck Chicago – looking down on the city from the 103rd floor = amazing view! My favorite place to visit in Chicago.
  2. Deep dish pizza (Giordano’s is the BEST and well worth the long wait)
  3. Magnificent Mile – a full mile of the best shopping ever! Two-story Forever 21 and Victoria’s Secret – need I say more?
  4. Starbucks at every corner – we arrived just in time for Peppermint Mochas to arrive for the holiday season!
  5. Clean, beautiful city – the city looked so pretty, as Chicago is all ready for the holiday season! Christmas decorations and lights lit up the city on every street.

Exploring Chicago is definitely something to put on your bucket list! I will always have great memories of the Windy City.

The Countdown has Begun

The Countdown has Begun

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Two Sundays ago marked the start of my three-month countdown until studying abroad in Italy! I leave on January 7. I cannot believe in three short months I will be flying half way across the world, making Italy my new home for almost half a year. The thought is so exciting, yet terrifying at the same time.

I have always dreamed of traveling. One of my best friends, Olivia, and I would always talk about how one day we would live in Paris and own our own cafe. We even planned to call it “Alyssa Deann” after our middle names. I always imagined riding a vespa around Rome, like the Olsen twins in When in Rome, and tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, just like Hilary in the Lizzie McGuire Movie. Watching these movies growing up always made me more determined to one day turn those fairytale moments into reality. I am scared to death, but there is no going back now! I am so happy that I am pushing myself to be fearless. I think Taylor Swift would be proud (yes, I am probably T. Swift’s biggest fan)!

While the thought may be scary, if you are at all interested in studying abroad, I suggest that you talk to Dawn Adams at the Center for Global Education in van den Eynden Hall. Even if you are on the fence about traveling abroad, promise that you’ll find out more! You will never regret taking the time to look into such a wonderful opportunity.

As my countdown continues, I created a bucket list of the things that I want to make absolute sure I do while I am in Europe. I am so excited to see what I get to cross off the list!

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!