I have made it a point in life to not regret the past. Sure there are things that I wish had not happened, but I also think that for better or worse, these life experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today. That being said, my one regret is that I didn’t study abroad when I was in college. It wasn’t as if I actively made the decision to not study abroad; my college, being a small (tiny even) liberal arts school did not have contracts in place with foreign universities.
And also, let’s be honest. Even if they had had those agreements in place, most likely I would not have been able to afford it. It was all I could do to afford college to begin with. I worked full-time hours throughout my entire college career. Going abroad for a semester or a summer would have meant 3-4 months of no job and no income. Putting that together with the added expense of being overseas and it just didn’t add up.
I did manage to travel while in college so it wasn’t as if I never left the country. I turned a two week vacation into a three month tour of Northern England, Scotland, and Wales with a side of Ireland after my freshman year. While my friend were actually graduating college, I did an ‘independent study’ in Mexico AFTER I’d taken all my other classes needed to graduate thus delaying my official graduation for a year.
I am quite certain that if I had studied abroad, my life would be 99.9% different than it is now–or maybe I would have arrived at the life I have now a lot sooner. I am quite certain that NOT studying abroad in college led me to take a ‘career break’ in 2010. And that ‘career break’ in 2010-11 led to me changing my career over the last 5 years. That career break also led to me choosing an elective where I got to spend time in both St Petersburg and Moscow (studying plants of all things) , Russia and Cardiff, Wales (studying the UK’s National Health System). Both of those experiences, while amazing, was not the immersion experience I was looking for. And while travel nursing in the US is totally a thing; international travel nursing is not.
All these experiences (and lack of experiences) has led me to the Peace Corps. Peace Corps is not something I’d even heard of other than in passing until after I graduated college. But it is something that has been nagging at me, sometimes gently, sometimes with a bit more force over the last 15 years.
So maybe not studying abroad in my initial college experience was a good thing; after all, it has brought me to the Peace Corps where I’ll finally have that immersion experience I have been craving since I was 19 years old.
I have traveled a lot. Not as much as some, but a lot more than most of the people I deal with on a daily basis. I often get asked what’s my favorite city/country area, and it’s hard to say. Sometimes it depends on my mood. Sometimes it depends on the reason they are asking. So, I’ve come up with a list to answer what’s my favorite. OK two lists: one for smaller cities and one for European capitals.
First up, my favorite European cities.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Next, my favorite European capitals.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that, in general, I don’t love large cities. Luckily for me, some of Europe’s capital cities are quite small. Europe is so diverse and every country is so different that it is often impossible to make fair comparisons.
I have been to London 5 times, but only in the last two years have I gotten out and truly explored the city. I have barely cracked the surface, and there is so much more to explore. I am absolutely head over heels for it. If I could magically get a work visa and a job offer in London [not sure if the NHS hires foreigners or if I’d want to work there, but I digress], I would move there tomorrow; that’s how much I love it. I’ve never pictured myself living in a big city — until I finally explored London for the first time.
Things I love about London:
The variety — neighborhoods, food, museums, parks, historical sites; they’re all here
The location — London is situated perfectly to explore Europe, which this traveler loves. The only time I haven’t flown into London for a European holiday was when I solely toured Italy.
The Englishness — the Tube, the castles, the red double decker buses, the black cabs, the pubs, the tea… it’s all so quintessential English!
Berlin doesn’t get the attention than Munich or Bavaria does, but that’s OK by me… I’ve never been one to fall for surface flashiness, and on the surface Berlin is grungy, but it’s OK. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I am in love with Berlin. You could actually say that it was love at first sight, as I felt an immediate connection with Berlin from the moment I arrived. I don’t know if it’s the alternative culture, the history, or a mixture of the two that draws me to Berlin. But there’s no denying that it’s a place I can see myself spending a lot of time in in the future.
Things I love about Berlin:
The history — from Nazis during WWII to the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, Berlin has a fascinating (and very recent) history
The creative side — because I have a soft spot for hipsters and street art
The vibe — it’s a little gritty and a little alternative, but Berlin is evolving in a way that I find very exciting.
I never planned to go to Budapest at least not the first time, but a cheap flight from Geneva on EasyJet had me landing there one January afternoon, and my oh my was is bone-chillingly cold. The capital of Hungary was a bit of a surprise for me — I never expected to like it as much as I did. But, whether it was strolling along the Danube, visiting the Semmelweis Museum, or soaking at the Szecheni Baths while watching snow fall, I found myself loving everything about Budapest. It’s also seriously awesome ( and hot!) in the summer.
Things I love about Budapest:
The two halves of the city — the Buda and Pest sides of the city have completely different feels to them.
The bridges — which are attractive and offer up nice views of the Danube.
The buildings — from Parliament to Fisherman’s Bastion to Buda Castle, there’s plenty of amazing architecture here to view.
The capital of Scotland is one city that I probably will never tire of visiting. It’s not a large capital like the others listed here, but it still has a unique character all its own. Whether it’s roaming around the Old Town or climbing up to quieter parts like Calton Hill, Edinburgh is always enjoyable — even in that unpredictable Scottish weather.
Things I love about Edinburgh:
The architecture — with the gorgeous Victoria Street being my favorite example
The history — the entire city is recognized by UNESCO, which tells you something
The people– Scottish people are a treasure
Cardiff, the smallest capital in the UK doesn’t get near as much attention as London, Dublin, or even Edinburgh, but it’s still pretty amazing. Only two hours by train from London, and 45 minutes to Bristol, you can easily get to a bigger city quickly if the small town feel of Cardiff starts to get to you.
Things I love about Cardiff:
The size–For a capital city, Cardiff is small. And that makes it easy to navigate. And that makes me happy.
It’s location–Cardiff is perched on a river, quite close to the Atlantic Ocean, and on the Wales Coast Path. Coastal Welsh weather is unpredictable, but on nice days, Cardiff is close enough to the beach to make an afternoon of it.
The Language–Welsh is a language I’ll probably never master, but I love that every single sign is in both Welsh and English. The history and architecture are pretty great too.
It’s no secret that I prefer small cities to large ones, but this list is a good mix of both large cities and small villages.
What is this place?
Hi, I’m Michelle and this is my own little corner of the interwebs where I write, share photos, and interact with others in the blog-o-shpere. So in addition to that–Who am I? I am –in one way or another– the following: hiker + backpacker + swimmer + pediatric respiratory therapist + registered nurse + avid traveler + cat parent + gardener + photographer + medical science junkie + adventure-seeker + DIY enthusiast + voracious reader + history and science nerd + football fanatic + aging athlete + wannabe chef + trying not to succumb to the trappings of a 9-5 life. And beginning in 2018, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Madagascar.
Everyday life doesn’t have to be routine. Anyone can do just about anything he or she wants to do– sometimes one has to find creative ways in doing it. Sometimes one has to tear down the barriers that might stopping them. Everyday is an opportunity to choose your own adventure. That is what I ultimately write about.