A Thank You to All My Travel Friends

My life changed for the better the first time that I left the United States: my mind was opened to realities I hadn’t considered before, I was humbled by how much I didn’t understand about the world, but I was instantly ready and anxious to gain that understanding. I figure now is the best time to make such a reflection since the second leg of my South American adventure this May was back to where it all began. ¡Viva Chile!

Arrived in Chile yesterday exactly 4 years after I left my first adventure abroad! Look how far we've come. 🙂 #tbt

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If you’re one of those detail-oriented types, you’d notice that I went through Chilean customs 4 years to the day after I first left! How fun is that?

My first trip abroad was to Viña del Mar, Chile, as many of you know since that’s where Abi, Maddy, and I met. We had a blast roaming the relaxed beach town and actually spent only one day in the big city capital, Santiago. This time around, my entire stay was in Santiago, so I had a much different experience.

I’m not going to focus on the differences, though.

Instead, I’d like to highlight all of the lovely perks there are to having friends scattered throughout the world in order to encourage those who are nervous to take the plunge into international mingling and also to thank those friends of mine who have enriched my travels throughout the past 4 years.

1. You have somewhere to crash that doesn’t dent your budget and doesn’t keep you sleeping with one eye open at night. Two of the Chilean students, both conveniently named Javier, that helped with the Pitt program we did in Viña del Mar ended up being my hosts when I passed through Santiago. (One pictured above!) I’ll be forever grateful for having my own room with clean sheets and a friendly face nearby. Gracias a los dos!

Also, I'm pretty sure a hostel couldn't beat this view.

Also, I’m pretty sure a hostel couldn’t beat this view.

2. Getting a sightseeing recommendation from a local friend is a lot easier to trust than a guide book. Since I was on my own while the chicos were at work, they threw a few ideas my way to keep me occupied. I had some beautiful walks through the city, people-watched while shopping, killed a few hours in the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes), and (I’ll publicly admit this) did some work-related research in a Chilean Walmart. They obviously understand my interests!

Neighborhood walk

Neighborhood walk

Never know what you might stumble upon.

Never know what you might stumble upon.

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Just hanging out at Lider. Look familiar?

Just hanging out at Lider. Look familiar?

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3. You automatically have someone to hang out with (and make plans for you). I had some pretty lazy days (read: woke up at 11am) while I was in Santiago, but the Javiers had plenty of other things in mind for when they got home. I tried my first CrossFit class, got delicious Indian food, crashed a work party, strolled through the biggest park in Chile, and went out in the trendy Bellavista neighborhood.

I was told this is "THE shot" to take of Parque Bicentenario. Check.

I was told this is “THE shot” to take of Parque Bicentenario. Check.

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A view from my last night walking through "Sanhattan", as they like to call it.

A view from my last night walking through “Sanhattan”, as they like to call it.

4. You don’t feel so out-of-place even if you are alone for a stretch of time. Those times I was sitting on a bench outside stuffing my face with empanadas or lugging my gawky backpack through a residential neighborhood, I wasn’t thinking, “Oh my gosh, everyone’s definitely staring at me. I look like SUCH a foreigner right now. Please don’t question me on what I’m doing,” which is what I’d normally do on my own. Knowing you have some friends who are “in” with the local culture can really put your mind at ease. If nothing else, you know you can tell them an awkward, hilarious story when you see them later in the day!

... Like your struggles in using a Chilean espresso machine.

… Like your struggles in using a Chilean espresso machine.

Don't mind me carrying my whole life around.

Don’t mind me carrying my whole life around.

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You might make some new friends in the process.

You might even make some NEW friends!.

The main point I’m trying to make is that although it’s hard having to be apart from people who you’d like to spend more time with, knowing those people in far-away places is a privilege and absolutely indispensable when traveling. I couldn’t have had even half of the experiences that I’ve had without the wonderful humans I’ve met from all over the world.

So thank you to everyone that I’ve met so far… for opening your schedules and your doors to make me feel at home, for putting up with my language errors, and mostly, for being awesome people. Know that I’ll always return the favor!

PROOF: Both the Javiers in Pittsburgh along with a Frenchy and a Spaniard that I've seen in their home towns!

PROOF: Both the Javiers in Pittsburgh along with a Frenchy and a Spaniard that I’ve seen in their home towns!

– Alexa

This may be a bit of a rant.

Hi. I’ve been pretty quiet lately, huh? At first, I thought it was because I didn’t have an interest in writing anymore. I just couldn’t make myself sit down and tell you about the amazing time I had being in Hershey, PA for the first time or the spectacular things I’ve done around San Antonio or the once-in-a-lifetime trip I took to Peru and Chile. They sound like pretty brag-worthy events, right? They were. And we’re pretty good at bragging on this blog about the awesome stuff that we do. Even so, I just didn’t get excited about chronicling those experiences to share with everyone.

Seriously, though... Peru has some cool things to look at.

Seriously, though… Peru has some cool things to look at.

I’ve had a list of “blog topics” piling up in a note on my phone. Things like…

  • What I actually do at work
  • Hipster San Antonio
  • Week in Hershey
  • Wine tasting in Fredericksburg, TX
  • Austin mini-excursions

There’s one at the top, though, that I think was holding me back from writing all of the others. It reads,

  • Transition from being college kids to real people – expectations vs. reality

When I first typed it in, the meaning was pretty light. I was still figuring out my job, wandering San Antonio, learning what kinds of trips a salary could actually buy me (or not buy me), and trying to find some new friends in this place.

All is not lost. People play volleyball here.

All is not lost. People play volleyball here.

The truth is… I’m not very happy. I can brag about events I’ve attended and places I’ve been, but if, at the end of the day, I’m not ecstatic about my life status, I can’t bring myself to feign enthusiasm about those things.

Obviously, the best way to express that is through the very public space that is the Internet because it feels more anonymous than the complaining I’ve already done to the people who know me well. Whatever. It feels like home.

I’ll lay it all out at once: My job isn’t glamorous. I’ve learned how miserable and rude people can be. I miss Pittsburgh. San Antonio is made of roads and strip malls (*sing* these are not some of my favorite things). I miss my friends. Set vacation days mean that gone are the months of roaming around a foreign country. Texas is hot as hell and full of conservative meat-eaters. It’s just… This life is not me.

Whine, whine, whine… #FirstWorldProblems. I’m spoiled. I know.

The honest truth is that I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunities that I was given over the past year. I mean, I have a job. Not everyone my age can say that. Hershey has fueled my chocolate addiction for years, and now its taking a chance by bringing me in as one of its own.

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Try to find me!

I’ve moved across the country and met people that I hope to know for the rest of my life. I have learned, from my experiences here, what I truly want and need to be happy, and now I’m on a mission to get it.

Being thrown into “the real world” has probably been the biggest culture shock of my life, which you know is really saying something. Without the doubts and worries and hard days, though, I’d have nothing pushing me forward into the next big thing. Patience is being forced upon me, which isn’t a very “millenial” trait to have, but it’ll pay off. OR AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TOLD. (Patience is hard, y’all.)

Anyway, my rant’s over. I apologize for the stretch of silence. Now that I’ve been about as open as I can be about the current situation, I’m hoping to move on to the usual pretty pictures and airy anecdotes. If anyone has some sage life advice they’d like to throw my way, though, feel free!

– Alexa

RTM: In Flight

The weird thing about trying to capture the essence of Nowhereland, TX is that even though practically no one is around, I feel like I can’t stop to enjoy the open spaces. The road is there to get you from point A to point B; there are farms and teeny towns in between, but nothing is made to be displayed or contemplated. It all has a purpose.

Unlike any museum, the beauty is not roped off and hung at eye level for you to soak in at your convenience. It’s all over, and sometimes you have to find your own path to stop and look.

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The speed limits on those open roads is the same as any major highway, so you go flying by everything along the way. If I hadn’t finally committed to pulling over, I would have missed this little guy floating around just like whoever was in the white truck that sped past.

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Cities aren’t the only places where life is in a hurry.

– Alexa

The Thing About Airplanes

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While writing this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Austin after dropping off Erin at the airport following our second roomie reunion. I’ll make sure to share how that went, but it’s been cold and rainy all weekend, and I remembered that I had written some thoughts on traveling while on my way to Seattle two weeks ago, so you get a mushy, rambling, introspective post first. (<– DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.)

The Scene

So, like I said, this came to me on my way to see Robby (wow, need to write about that, too). I was on my second 2.5-hour flight, dehydrated and slightly delirious, and a mix of thoughts were floating through my head. I remembered something Abi had said recently that went something like, “daydreams are better than regular dreams because you can usually remember them in detail.” And I was definitely daydreaming. Past flights came to mind, and all of the combined emotions I felt on them waved over me. I became hyper-aware of where I was going and why, really contemplated the significance of travel in my life, and noticed how the purpose of it has changed from what I did in college to now.

If you haven’t already, this is where you can stop reading if you only like this blog for the pics.

The Daydream

Airports are kind of strange places, right? It seems that air travel brings out a different side of everyone: parents become even more overprotective and stressed as they herd their small children around, the calm-and-collected personalities are suddenly thrown into a state of confusion and lost baggage, the quiet types are forced to bond with their seatmates on a long flight, even if they will never see that person again. Everyone has a completely different end goal, yet they all need to go through the same means to achieve it.

If I go back through significant moments in my recent life history, most of them happened in an airport or were bookended by a walk through airport security and baggage claims: discovering Pittsburgh, leaving the country for the first time, being introduced to Argentina (and later taken away from it), living and traveling in Europe for the first time, commemorating graduation by traveling with my best friends, and lately, reconnecting with those friends all over the country. They’re the memories that stick because they were the most emotionally intense, whether I was running in three directions at once with a stupid excited grin on my face or bawling my eyes out alone in a window seat on the plane. Or a mix of the two. Opening yourself to a new place and accepting it as a part of you is both invigorating and heartbreaking knowing you must leave it behind, even to return to the place you call home.

Going through those moments made me start thinking about all the people I appreciate (and used to appreciate) the most in my life. A lot of them I’ve met while traveling or talking about it, and you definitely realize who matters when you’re willing to throw away a lot of time, money, and leg room to go see them. Recognizing that, a latent guilt started to creep into my chest when I thought of those I haven’t made those small sacrifices for. Technology may be keeping us more easily connected than ever, but nothing beats being at the same table with a lifelong friend to catch up on what time and distance have taken away.

The Meaning

I’ve been doing a lot of life evaluation lately, so maybe this is a byproduct of that exercise, or maybe I was just short on sleep and fluids when I wrote these thoughts down. In any case, it’s helped remind me what I’ve found to be meaningful all along: uncovering the wonderful oddities the world has to offer, finding my own niche in unexpected places, and sharing it all with people who make me a better person.

Let the soul searching and good times continue.

– Alexa

Tea at the Frick

DSC_0069I’m in this weird do-I-stay, do-I-go limbo. Most of my friends have left Pittsburgh for bigger and better places (most recently, our BFF Robby up and moved to Seattle, and my roomie Steph is camped out in Chicago for the next four years) and I’m still…here. I love it here, but I want to leave. I want to leave, but since I’ve never left (except that one time I went to Argentina for 5 months, but there was a specific end date to that, so I’m not going to count that one) I’m overwhelmed with this feeling of terror and “how will I survive outside of Pittsburgh?!”. Everyone I know who has left is surviving perfectly fine in their new cities, however it still doesn’t help shake the feeling that I’m going to be that one person who absolutely hates their new city/job/life. My main concern is the matter of finding the “right time” (which, I’m told, doesn’t exist. It’s like what they always say about having a kid, but people do that all the time!) and the right job and the right place.

I’ll let you all know when I figure out what I need to figure out. For now I’m about 75% content with living at home, being harassed by my new kitten, saving money for those loans that start in, oh, 105 days, and enjoying my current job, which I am very fortunate to even have.

I just needed to share what’s on my mind and hopefully learn that some of you are going through/have been through the same thing. It’s not fun, but the prospect of an exciting future has never left anyone empty-handed in the long run. And hey, I can always come back and start again, right?

Now, on to what this post is actually about…I DRANK TEA!

***

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one of those people who hate tea. Sucks, I know, with all the soothing remedies it has and the fact that it is a staple in the UK and I’m an anglophile. The first time I drank tea in a long time was a few short weeks ago at the Frick … Cafe or something. Tea house, maybe? Who knows. It’s not important. The important thing is ELLEN AND MARGOT WERE THERE! You don’t remember Ellen and Margot? Well that’s probably because Alexa and I were too stupid to get a picture of them when we were staying in their lovely house in England! Aaaand I didn’t get a picture of them when I saw them at the Frick either because I’m apparently incapable of taking a single picture of people (that’s what Alexa’s for! Except Alexa wasn’t there so there really isn’t a picture of all of us. Sorry I suck.)

I drove across town to meet up with Ellen and Margot, who were staying with Lisa (Ellen’s sister and my mother’s very good friend, hence the connection between us and them). We had a lovely time catching up, meeting some of Lisa and Ellen’s oldest friends, talking about their glory days at Pitt (and the pranks they pulled), and then snapping some pictures around the Frick with Margot. Here’s a little bit of what we saw:
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Apparently it’s called “The Cafe at the Frick.” There we go!

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SCONES!

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Mini Phipps is mini

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World’s smallest watermelon!

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It was so great to see them again and so unfortunate that Alexa had decided to move across the country and miss this shindig. I can say, however, that one more afternoon with some Brits did not convert me to a tea lover. It still tastes like watery herbs (oh wait…)

Have a good weekend!

-Abi

Two-Year Anniversary

Our blog provider just told me that today is our two-year anniversary since registering this blog. Can you believe that? Time flies! Really, though.

Two years ago, the three of us were sitting in our respective hometowns counting down the days (We had exactly a month left, I recall.) until we would get on a plane to Buenos Aires and not look back… Well, not for 5-6 months, at least. Now, we’re all in very different places of our lives.

Two years ago, when you logged on to this site, the page was blank but for the sky blue and white background – reminiscent of the Argentine flag and the ambiguous open potential of what we were about to encounter. Now, you can scroll through every detail of our trip, every milestone that came after, and other bits and pieces that make up the last two years.

I meant to write one of those “New Year, New Me”-type posts because I think it’s a refreshing thing to do, but seeing the little Happy Anniversary! notification when I logged on brought all of these other words to the surface.

For now, I want to dig up this gem to let it see the light of day again after these two years.

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One week until Argentina!

See that excitement?! That’s how I want to feel about the next year coming up. I think I’m starting to get there.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck around for this long and to those of you who have jumped on for the ride. We’ll try to keep things interesting. 😉

– Alexa

Life Crisis 101

You’d think we’d be better at blogging with all of this extra time on our hands over the holiday break, right? Think again! I know Abi’s been taking on tons of extra hours at her internship to get that mon-ay, while this has been my set up for a majority of the past week…

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in the kitchen, in my room, in Starbucks… Wherever, really.

Yes, I’m finally being a big girl and applying to jobs like I’m supposed to. YAY adulthood!

Meh. No thanks.

To be honest, I’m starting to get really jealous of all the people I know staying in college another year (or 3). “Why don’t you want to start the next phase of your life?”, you ask. “This is so exciting!”, you might think. “I do,” and, “you’re right,” I’d reply, but the whole process is ridiculously ambiguous, drawn out, and just plain SCARY. To give you an idea of how I’ve been approaching this (potentially) massive, looming change on the horizon, I bring you to my notebook.

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This is what I keep being told that I should be asking myself, so I did. In big capital letters and with a puffy cloud, no less.

I’ve been meaning to take time to sit down and ask myself this question for a while, so I finally shut off all my various noise-making gadgets and stared at the page to see what might come of it. Unsurprisingly, I immediately wrote “TRAVEL” in huge block letters and started scribbling ideas on how I would do it and what I would want to accomplish. What I didn’t expect was the next point…

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Design, huh? It just kind of sat there staring at me. Where did that come from?

I took some graphic design, computer graphics, and web design courses in high school, but I’m long past being able to use those skills. What I realized was that writing this blog and editing the pictures that it forces me to take are the things I most look forward to doing. I can get into my little bubble of oblivion and completely lose track of time while hemming and hawing over backgrounds, layouts, word order, and that perfect image to capture an idea.

Well, that’s great! Right? I have a life calling.

Um, no, that’s not exactly how it’s been going.

Flash forward. Scene: Me, crumpled in a ball on my bed, my mom on the couch next to it. Cue: Alexa being dramatic.

“NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO HIRE ME.”

Ok, I’ll admit I’m not the most rational person all the time.

Anyway, the point of this is that I was in desperate need of some mommy advice. We all need that from time to time, you know? So it started with, “of course someone will hire you, honey. I think you’re great, so there are plenty of other people out there that will think the same thing.” Mmmm… Ok, not the most comforting first statement. It got better, though.

Through some more encouraging words and reminders of where I am now in comparison to where I was a few years ago, I calmed down and started thinking like a human again, rather than a lost, whiny child. There was a key comparison made that I latched on to, which was, “remember how you used to say that that boy you dated in high school was ‘too cool’ for you before you two started hanging out? Now you think he’s kind of a dork. If you think about it, all of these companies that you think are ‘so great’ and ‘too cool’ to hire you just seem that way because you don’t know them yet.” Once I stopped hysterically laughing at the connection that was made between a high school boyfriend and job searching, I realized she was right. All of this studying and interning and networking have built up some sort of valuable batch of skills that are wanted in someone’s office. I just need to go find them!

And that is why I, and this laptop that’s been glued to my fingers lately, are going to move ourselves over to a table at Starbucks to find all those super cool companies that will let me do super cool things for real life money. K bye!

– Alexa

PS – I’m aware none of that really connected, and it reads like a kid with ADD would talk, but I guess I needed to throw all of those thoughts out, so… That’s what you get. 🙂