Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best Part of 2013

Many bloggers, at the end of the year, post a recap of all of the fun and exciting things they did that year. And that's pretty cool, I too like to remember all the cool stuff I got up to in a given year, see how it compares to other years of my life.

However, I'm also really REALLY lazy. So instead of summarizing the entirety of the past year, I'm just going to pick out the one biggest accomplishment I've made in the last year.

And that accomplishment is....*drumroll*




That in 2013, I completed my goal of traveling to 25 countries before the age of 25!

In June, while I was traveling with my parents, our train was stopped at a border crossing and our passports were stamped as we entered Croatia, and I was proud to be able to say that I'd finally done what I set out to do years ago--visit 25 different countries before I was 25 years old (and even with a bit of time to spare)! 

Where did this goal come from, you might ask....well, it started on another train journey, back in summer 2009. I was backpacking with my Eurail pass across Europe. This particular day found me going from Nice to Paris, all on my own. I'd been traveling using trains in Europe for a few months by this point, but this was the first time I'd commenced a day's travels in France. Something you should know, if you ever happen to be traveling by train in France, is that you MUST stamp your ticket in the little yellow machines near the tracks before you board, or else the ticket inspector on the train will make you pay a hefty fine.

But I, innocent little study abroad student that I was, had no idea of this rule. It didn't exist in Spain or anywhere else that I'd traveled. So of course, when the ticket inspector started coming around, and the cute little old man next to me asked, "Is your ticket stamped?" I must have turned white as a sheet. He quickly gave me some advice, to pretend like I didn't speak French and had no idea what was going on, and maybe the inspector wouldn't be quite so harsh on me. But then, because I have incredible luck, the man across the aisle from me hadn't stamped his ticket either. But he was French, and because he fought back, he ended up getting kicked off the train. 

When the ticket inspector returned from dealing with that mess, my savior of a little old man told me to put my ticket away and pretend like we'd already had ours checked, and to my amazement, it worked! The inspector forgot about us and moved on to the next group of seats, and I sighed the hugest sigh of relief. 

So then it was only natural that the cute old man and I got to chatting about ourselves and our lives, and as the lavender-filled fields of Provence whizzed past the window, I learned that he was French, but had lived in Africa and England, and was currently a professor in Montréal. That in itself was impressive enough, but the one thing that really inspired me was when he told me he'd been to 83 countries in his lifetime. 83! At the time, having traveled to less than 10 (including the USA and Canada), that number was almost unimaginable to me. What things this man must have seen!

As the man told me about his various adventures in these many different countries, I made a promise to myself, that one day I'd be able to pass on amazing stories to some young person that I met on a train. That I'd be able to amaze them with the crazy places I'd traveled to. I told myself, I too want to travel to 83 countries in my lifetime. 

And as I thought more about it in the months that followed, I realized that it's possible that I may not even make it to the age of 83, and even at the rate of one country per year, I was woefully behind. So I told myself then, by the time I'm 25, I'll have at least caught up to one country per year lived, and then see if I can get beyond that.

And now, here I am! I did it! There's still a long way to go before I get to 83, but I feel much more confident now that I'm capable of making it there.

2013 may have been my most travel-filled year yet, or at least, the one with the most crazy weekend adventures to faraway destinations! However, although my goal of making it to 83 countries before I die hasn't changed, I think that now that I've made it to 28 countries (yes, you read that right...between June and December I went to 3 more new countries, because I'm a traveling fool) I don't have to stress about being able to make it to 2 more in the next 5 years. I'm pretty sure I'll get to more than just that amount! So although I hope 2014 still contains loads of travel adventures, my goal for this time next year is to feel a little more settled, to find a place and make it home for awhile. And now that it's out there for the whole internet to see, I have to actually do it...right?

Feliz 2014 to all, make the most of it! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Boas Festas!

As you may have already read in some of my earlier posts, for the first time ever this year I'm not going home for Christmas. At least, not in the traditional sense. If you consider that we all have multiple homes, home is where the heart is, etc., then sure. I came home to Vigo this year instead of to America. And honestly, though of course I'm missing my family, I'm pretty thrilled about it.

It's probably been pretty obvious to most people that, although France is cool so far, a lot of the time my heart has been aching for Spain. For Galicia. For Vigo. So coming back here, seeing my friends who are more like family, speaking a language I dominate fairly well, eating foodstuffs I'd been craving for months, really feels wonderful. In a sense, it does feel like a homecoming.

So although I know my family back in the States is missing me (and I them), and even though that family is about to get just a little bit bigger (bienvenido a sobrino #7!), I'm not tragically crying my eyes out because I can't be there. Especially because I'm obviously very familiar with American Christmas traditions; cookies and eggnog and Santa Claus, etc. However, this year I finally get to learn about Spanish Christmas, eat shrimp and turrón and talk about the Reyes Magos (3 Wise Men)...who actually are coming on the same day I leave back to France, but I'm going to talk about them anyway, because I'm curious.

So I'm excited to learn, to try new things, and to be in a place I feel like I belong, even if it isn't where I originally came from.

Boas festas to you and yours,

with love from Alisabroad

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Un Week-End à Rennes

Sometimes a weekend getaway feels so good, doesn't it? So far in France I haven't been traveling that much, mostly just enjoying really getting to know my city. However, last weekend the time was right to get out and take a little trip--45 minutes down the road.

I was finally able to make it down to Rennes this past weekend, and I have to tell you all--I fell in love. I think I'd really missed being in a bigger city. I mean, my small city is great, but I actually like hustle and bustle and markets and buildings and buses. My poor parents, their farm-raised minds are constantly asking each other, "Where did we go wrong??"

But I digress. Rennes is a lovely size for a city, not too small, not too big, juuuuust right. I really liked wandering around and seeing the churches and quaint old buildings and even a moat and drawbridge.

There are also government buildings, since Rennes is the capital of Brittany. These were done in a more traditionally (what I think of as) "old French" style. That is to say, think of a typical building in Paris and you've got the right idea. 

But what I found cool about Rennes was that there were these stodgy government buildings on one block, and when I turned the corner, I came upon buildings that looked like something out of a fairy tale. What a cool style! I loved the brown and white patterned wood; like someone took a bunch of gingerbread houses and stretched them really tall. And of course they weren't at all level--totally added to the charm! 

And of course, being American, I can't fail to mention how much I love European Christmas markets and how superior I find them to being in your average United States mall any time after Thanksgiving. Christmas lights, little decorated huts, hot wine and comfort food? Sign me up! 

Rennes' Christmas market did not disappoint, and I was pleased to find that the potato "soup" concoction I had reminded me a lot of something my mom usually makes in the wintertime. It was like getting a little motherly love in a foreign land, which, trust me, will always be well-received when I'm far from home at Christmastime. 

So, Rennes, cheers to a lovely weekend getaway, and I hope we can get together again soon! I've been told you may have even more delights to share with me the next time I visit. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving by the Numbers


Number of years since I've had a Thanksgiving with my family: 7

 Number of memories I have of said last familial Thanksgiving: 0

Number of Thanksgivings I've had in the States total (both with family and not): 20

Number of photos of American Thanksgivings that I have: 0

Number of Thanksgivings I've celebrated in Europe: 4

Number of photos of said European Thanksgivings: hundreds

Number of kilos of turkey bought this year: 4.7 (that's 10.3 pounds)

Number of Euros spent on Fernando the French turkey: €47 (that's ~$64)

Number of guests this year: 8

Number of times I've explained the "pilgrims and Indians" story in the past week: (feels like) hundreds

Number of good memories created at expat Thanksgivings: uncountable

Number of leftovers in the fridge: (finally) dwindling

Hope you all had a Happy Turkey Day!