We made a pit-stop in Phoenix last year on our way from The Grand Canyon to San Francisco (which is not at all between "The Grand Canyon and San Francisco", for those of you familiar with geography, but it was one of the places that had an airport relatively nearby - and also because, during the planning process, I said, "Ooh! We should go to Phoenix! It's so cool! I was there a few years ago with some friends, we loved it.")
We LOVED IT. In hindsight, I'm trying to remember why we loved it - maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was -2 degrees back home and in Phoenix we got to wear bikinis and drink margaritas all day. That might have had something to do with it.
But I managed to forget about all of that when I said "We should to go to Phoenix!", "It's going to be so fun!", "They have cactuses there!".... so we went to Phoenix. They have cactuses there.
There are plenty of great reasons to spend a semester abroad: to study the culture, to further your education, to meet new people and try new things and heck, who knows, maybe you'll even learn another language. Wouldn't that be neat?
That's why I was "supposed" to be going. All of those reasons. Specifically the language one, since I minored in Spanish.
But also, I reaaaaally wanted to go to Paris. I didn't know what I wanted to do there exactly, other than "see the Eiffel Tower", "wear a beret" and "eat a pastry" - but I had always wanted to go. It was a bucket list thing. All of my childhood tv-obsessions went to Paris at some point: Mary Kate and Ashley, the Rugrats, Rachel from Friends -- well, technically she turned down Paris to stay with Ross, but still. She made it seem like it was a pretty big deal!
I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. In person. I'd had a poster of it up on the wall of my college dorm room for two years, right next to Audrey Hepburn. It was a cliche - the equivalent of walking into a frat boy's dorm room and seeing a poster of Pamela Anderson (is she still "the hot girl" on posters? I don't even know). It was something I occasionally daydreamed about: walking down a Parisian sidewalk, wearing a polka-dot dress, sitting in a French cafe, eating a scone while reading a book and listening to everyone around me talking about art and culture and fancy-French-stuff (in my wild daydreams, I can speak fluent French, apparently).
So when the opportunity presented itself - to hit up Paris for a weekend while studying abroad in Madrid - I was like, "YEP! Let's GO!" ... because how often does the "opportunity present itself" to go to Paris?
I had been to the Grand Canyon once before. Which is not to say that when Kyle and I discussed visiting the Grand Canyon on our trip to Vegas last year, I was like - "yawn, snore - seen it, no thanks" --- but I figured you should know this for two reasons:
1) Because I - for some completely stupid reason - believed this made me an expert on all things 'Grand Canyon'. At least once I said, "No, we need to go this way. I remember from when I was here before." (Keep in mind that I can barely remember where I parked my car in the Target parking lot after thirty minutes - but, sure, I remember this dirt path from my two hours spent at The Grand Canyon four years ago.) And also -
2) I was the WORST tour guide. For someone who has actually BEEN to the Grand Canyon before - I know shockingly little about it. We pulled up to the entrance where they were doing helicopter tours, and I actually said "Oh wow, they do helicopter tours?! That's so cool!" So. There's that. *Also - in case you didn't know, they do helicopter tours.
I won't bore you with details about my trip there from 2014. Mostly because it was two hours spent walking around with my friend saying, "Oh, will you take a picture of me by this rock?" and then taking pictures of my friend when she asked, "Hey! Will you take a picture of me on this ledge?" And then we left. Because once the profile-picture-taking-game was over, we ran out of ways to entertain ourselves. "The Grand Canyon seems like more a 'family' vacation spot," we said - whatever that means. Like it's the equivalent to Sea World.
I signed up to study abroad during my junior year of college. An entire semester in Spain designed to immerse students into the culture, learn about the history, and live with a host family who spoke zero English.
Literally, zero. No habla. Just a Madre and a padre who discussed current affairs every night at the dinner table (I'm guessing, I actually had very little idea what they were talking about. Like I said, everything was in Spanish, and they talked so fast!), and a host brother who was super into Shakira. My roommate and I heard the song Rabiosa through the thin walls of our piso AT LEAST once a day.
Spending a semester in Spain sounded like a great opportunity. I mean, yea, my Spanish skills sucked - even after two semesters of the basics, my ability to string a sentence together usually went like this: "Hola. Como estas? Chaqueta, biblioteca, gracias, tienes un pluma?" Which Google Translate will tell you means: "Hi. How are you? Jacket, library, thank you, do you have a pen?" Clearly, I was ready to navigate a foreign country.
Before we could even DISCUSS plans for Saint Patricks Day, I had already made up my mind that I wanted to go into the city. It's tradition that Chicago dumps green food coloring in the river that runs through the city, and the whole day is just one big-huge-ginormous Saint Patricks Day party. All of the people from all over the land come to Chicago to party it up. They wear green, and watch a parade, and have a grand ol' time.
And I told my boyfriend - again, before anyone ever said anything about Saint Patricks Day - "I want to do a blog post about it."
I would love to be the kind of blogger who can start off a travel diary by saying, “Earlier this year, I booked a spontaneous trip to Las Vegas!” and make it sound totally normal. Like I’m the whimsical kind of girl who does this sort of thing all the time. “It was completely spur of the moment, tickets were cheap, and I thought – hey, why not! Let’s go to Vegas!” “Hey, why not! Let’s go to Vegas!”
is not something I’ve ever said in my entire life. I was whimsical for about twenty minutes. The twenty minutes that it took for some woman on the phone to convince me that Vegas was all the rage. “Oh, you haven’t been to Vegas?!”
She asked in a tone that suggested ‘but eeeeeveryone’s been to Vegas!!!’
. (But, like, in a nice way? I don’t know. It was weird.)
The woman calling me worked for the hotel chain that I frequently use when traveling for business trips (therefore they assumed that I would have the money to, you know, travel). “Now is a GREAT time to come out to Las Vegas.”
She said – (as if she would have called me to say, ‘You know, maybe now is not such a great time’) – “We just opened up a BRAND NEW hotel on the strip...