It’s been a year since I started this blog and as I look back through the posts, it’s amazing to see how much I have grown, the crazy strands of thinking that I had to write about in the moment, and most of all the adventures I have had during this whirlwind of a year. I’ve learned a lot to say the least.

In three weeks I will be walking away from it all and as much hope and happiness that I have in that decision, I still feel a lump in my throat. Not for Spain the country itself and living in this adorable town, but for something else entirely. Over the year, I’ve met countless people. Some have brought me down and clouded my judgment, some have infuriated me with their selfishness and pettiness, but more than that, the majority have challenged my thinking and pushed me to better myself. They have shown me how to be self-less, caring, and loving in everything I do and to smile and nod after the third time asking ¿Que dices?

Regardless of what their role in my life has been there are key people who have weaseled their way into my heart and I will be forever grateful for the influence they have made.

So I wanted to dedicate this post to them. To those special few who have helped me find those opinions, practice this complicated language, let me cry when I was stressed, and of course, have always been down for a copa any given day, I say thank you.

From day one off the plane, I felt a weight of fear on my shoulders. It definitely could have been the oversized luggage I had strapped to my back at the time, but between my shaking legs and breaking back I wasn’t myself. As much as they told us not to cling to each other, we did. We clung together even though we had only met days or hours before. It was a strange experience to be bonded so quickly to people we didn’t even know each others last names, let alone how to get around in a foreign country. But we were wired with a mix between excitement and fear for that first week, nothing and everything could go wrong.

But then we moved to our city! The artificial friendships started to fizzle out and the real ones started to form. These relationships came from nothing besides the similarity between our passports, but developed into big life changes, shifts in mindset and new dreams and aspirations. They began when we stayed in a hotel room even after we both had new apartments and could have moved out at anytime. Or when we decided to stay in, watch First Dates and make friendship bracelets. They were the times we got lost while slightly intoxicated walking home those first few weeks. They were the times we sat and practiced language, where really it turned into laughing about the differences between the two and the accents we use. It was the bellyaching laughter from hilarious stories about falling down, twisted ankles, loud security alarms, and twisted tongues.

Day to day these relationships built—the amount of café con leche involved is still undetermined— but we were working through the complications and laughing at the hiccups the entire ride.

Leaving this tiny bubble, that has meant so much to me the past 10-months, I feel scared. I am scared I will forget my Spanish, I am scared I won’t know how to readjust to American culture, but most of all I am scared that the friendships I have made will turn into a memory about the one year I lived in Spain.

Last August I wrote a post about the people you meet in college. In a few short days I will be reunited with two of my best friends and I could not be more elated to see them! They are my friends that have stood the test of time and will always bring out the embarrassing stories from over the years. They are the special ones.

If I have learned anything from those two special friends (besides never snapchat how many double-chins you actually have unless you are willing to count them over drinks again someday) is that relationships are strong and they traverse distance and time easily.

Logroño, La Rioja brought us together, but our adventures navigating culture and language, our time spent together, all the inside jokes made, and our trust created are what will keep our relationships strong for years to come.

In my life I have lived in four different houses and nine apartments. Each time I have felt as if a piece of my heart was left with the people that filled those days. Leaving Spain, I feel no different. However, even as tears spring to my eyes at that thought of splitting it again, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have experienced it at all.

Not to mention, of course, all the countries, states and cities I now can visit 🙂

The point is, what makes traveling and moving so hard are these relationships we make, but on the other hand, they also make those trips worth making. You all were worth every minute spent and every minute yet to come. So as I say hasta luego to my new friends with a heavy heart, I am reminded of my favorite quote:

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” –Winnie the Pooh

Cheers to all the stories we will forever be keepers of and the people who get to keep them, you’ll stay in my heart forever (the extra CHEESE is free) ❤

 

Makenna

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Beautiful places, amazing views, new laugh lines and great food too

As I mentioned before I am starting to travel more and more this spring and I could not be happier for the change in pace. In the fall, I enjoyed sitting back and acclimating to my new home, but now, I am ready to enjoy its perfect proximity to other beautiful places (but let’s be real, I really go for the beautiful food).

This past week I was lucky enough to travel with four friends of mine (who I annoyingly call my Portugal Posse) to not only Portugal, but also Sevilla, Spain as well. We ended up meeting up with different groups of friends we knew along the way, as well, as reconnecting with my old friends in Sevilla. My feet have blisters, my muscles hurt, and I am sure my waist line has gained a few inches from the food…but the stories and memories outweigh any of the negatives (well we will see if that holds true when I go to the gym on Monday!)

IMG_2159We started off our journey in Sevilla, Spain by visiting and staying with a good friend of mine who I met when I was studying abroad. Alejandro and I met three years ago through a friend and even though I irritate him with my awful salsa moves, he still accepted four of us into his apartment for four days without hesitation. My friends wanted to experience Semana Santa in Sevilla because it is
renown for its celebration (although it is celebrated all over Spain). With the smell of incense in the air at every cobbled stoned street and the sounds of drums beating at all times of the day, I think by the end of the four days we all agreed that if living in Sevilla for a few years, it would be understandable to want to GTFO during Semana Santa. IMG_2132Regardless of our feelings after four days of processions in the intense heat, the processions were still marvelous. It’s always amazing to me the beauty of the pasos and the intensity of the music. However it will never cease to make me uneasy seeing the cone hats of the masked men walking in the street, but it’s significance doesn’t hold the same weight as it does to the Spanish (I’m American and the cone hats look like the KKK…it will never stop terrifying me).

During our evenings in Sevilla, we would all get together and go salsa dancing at a local club. This brought back all the memories from my study abroad experience! My moves might have been rusty, but the laughs were just that much stronger. Each night we would eat with Alejandro and whatever coachsurfer was staying with us at the time as well. The atmosphere was fun and silly, but incredibly meaningful and magical to me. I hadn’t missed Sevilla more than when I was spending those four days surrounded by people I loved and reliving memories of my time there.

However, we had to move on to our next city. An excruciating seven-hour bus ride later, we ended up in Lisbon, Portugal. Here we met up with our fifth Portugal Posse member and immediately took to the street for some good food and wine. Let me tIMG_2284ell you, the food, the architecture and the weather, are three HUGE selling points of Lisbon. After a two hour walking tour around the city, I was infatuated with its charm. There was this old historical ambiance of the city that was impossible not to like. We ended up walking for hours even after the tour, eating as many pastéis de nata that we possibly could and soaking up the amazing views. We even made the trek to Belém, which is a tiny town outside of Lisbon to try their famous Pastéis de Belém—which are all they are cracked up to be, trust me! Between the Bacalhau (codfish), pastries and the sangria we were sufficiently stuffed the entire day.

 

Our second day in Lisbon, we took a day trip to Sintra. I cannot stress how wonderful and important it is to go to this city! IT IS AMAZING. I have never considered ditching my teaching career to become a princess so seriously in my life! It’s that cool.

A small area located north of Lisbon is this province of Sintra. Not talked about enough for it’s beauty and wonder, it sits in the mountains with a small town charm that is as quaint as it sounds. However, this is not what makes it so magical (even though without it, it would probably not be as wonderful). No, located in this tiny area are castles. Yes, you heard me…castles. There are a ton of different castles all around the little town and each has their own unique charm. After renting a TUK TUK (a small little motor bike driven by a local) we were taken to some breathtaking views and a colorful palace on top of the mountain called Pena Palace. This palace was constructed in the Middle Ages and finished in 1854. It is a perfect depiction of the 19th century Romanticism in the world, as well as, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s magnificent. We only paid to walk around the castle, not in it, but it was worth even just the walk.

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After leaving Pena Palace, I didn’t think it could get any better than that. BUT, when we decided to go the Quinta da Regaleira castle on a lower part of the mountain, I was seriously mistaken. Situated halfway up the mountain is this beautiful estate, that not only has a beautiful palace and chapel on its grounds, but also a series of wonders throughout its park. This was by far my favorite of the entire day. There are a series of grottos, wells, lakes, statues, benches and fountains that add to the romantic atmosphere of the entire park. And what’s underneath all of these beautiful structures? Tunnels! A huge network of tunnels connects you to all these different wonders. It was incredibly interesting. The entire time we were there, we were dreaming of childhood adventures that could be had running through the park, princess fairytale evenings spent running through the woods and reading books (you can roll your eyes….now) It might sound stupid, but trust me, if you saw this place you would understand.

When we finally made it home, we were all satisfied and in a dream. We ended up meeting up with friends, enjoying drinks on a rooftop terrace and dreaming of our castles (that could have just been me).

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As always with trips, the end was nearing. We moved into our last leg of our trip by catching a morning flight (that was 10 euro I might add) to Porto in the northern part of Portugal. IMG_2550This city was recommended for the wine, the food and the views; none of which were disappointments (well, I didn’t care for the Port wine, but others did). Porto is a city in a mountain that overlooks a lake that eventually leads out to the ocean. To some it might look old and run down, but to me and my friends it had a character that was unmet by any other city. The part that I loved the most about this city was the tiny streets that ran through the mountain (up and down millions of stairs I might add) where locally owned bars and restaurants whose lovely smells drifted out into the streets at any mealtime were situated. It was peaceful and wonderful. We were in Porto for two days and I feel like I blinked and it was done. Overall it was a beautiful city that is worth every minute spent, I promise!

After a week and two days of traveling we all sadly walked through the Porto airport to our gate number back to Madrid. I know for me, I wasn’t ready to go back to Spain and kept feeling like we had one more part to our trip. It went incredibly fast, but will be forever remembered!

Now that I am safe at home in my little apartment in Logroño, Spain, I am happy to be home in my bed. I enjoyed all of the beautiful places and views, but even more, I loved the people I traveled to them with. They make the difference between a good trip and a fantastic trip every time. Besides my copious amounts of laundry and nursing my blistered feet back to normalcy, these next two days before school starts back are going to be spent relaxing.

Over all, this trip was unforgettable. From my special love of Sevilla to the most often forgotten about hidden gem of Portugal, I was filled with love (and a million calories a day).

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My advice is go to the beautiful places, take time to enjoy every part, and enjoy the people you are traveling with. The places will be that much more wonderful when you relive the memories in your head.

Sending love!

 

Gracias/Obrigada/Thank you,

 

Makenna

Blending in: A break from being the “rubia”

Last week I left Spain for the first time in seven months. WHAT? Compared to my fellow teaching assistants this is not common. Where my friends have been jet setting around Europe for the majority of our grant period, I have been staying closer, preferring to travel around Spain instead. I’ve done this for a few reasons, but mainly it has been to save money for a month long backpacking trip that I have planned with my friends from back home this summer. We are fitting six countries and eleven cities into a month…I just pray my body doesn’t give out from exhaustion!

I thought seven months was long enough in Spain and it was time to take a little time away from the routine chaos that has become daily life in Logroño.

Berlin, Germany sounded like a fantastic idea.

Back in September, we, as Fulbrighters, were told that there was an annual conference in Berlin, Germany every year. They told us that Fulbrighters from all over Europe were always invited and Spain was no exception. Along with the majority of my friends, we all of course wanted to attend. Fast-forward seven months to us boarding a plane at 6:30 in the morning in Madrid for a weeklong conference in the heart of Berlin. My hands gripping my passport and my shoulders not conditioned for the heavy backpack…I know, I know I need to start training ahora.

Now that I have returned safely to my wonderful little Spanish city, I can honestly say that leaving Spain was wonderful. That is not to say I don’t love Spain, I do…but I needed a break. I needed to not be the rubia (blonde) american for a week. It worked. Everyone spoke to me in German (which I cannot speak a bit of) and no one raised an eye when I walked into a coffee shop (except when I forgot how to order coffee in English…whoops). It was amazingly peaceful.

What about Berlin? Was it perfect just because it was my first trip in a while? Worth visiting?

A B S O L U T E L Y.

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Berlin is packed with a unique culture that is hard not to like. If I were to compare it to any other city, I would say it is a much larger New Orleans, LA. However, instead of soulful jazz music, it has bumping HOUSE music (I wasn’t totally a fan). What it lacked in my preference in music, it made up tenfold in food. I wish I could truly convey how wonderful it was to have such a selection of food choices, but I don’t think you can truly understand until you’ve had one country’s food for seven straight months with little variety. #stillloveSpanishfoodpromise We treated ourselves to Korean, Mexican, Kebab, and Currywurst throughout our week. My favorite by far being the Kebab. I will have dreams about it for the rest of my life.

Added to the great food, we were able to see the sights and learn more about the deep history that is easily seen all around the city. What I think I love about cities like Berlin and New Orleans is this feeling of depth to the city within its history. I remember leaving NOLA feeling similar to how I felt on my return from Berlin. It goes without saying that Berlin is historically rich, between the war, the wall, reconstruction and the counter culture population; the city is a hub of energy.

During the week we visited the majority of the significant places in Berlin: the Wall, East Side Gallery, the cathedral, etc. Of those places, the Holocaust Memorial, the Topography of Terror museum, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp were the most powerful and humbling experiences I experienced. These three places don’t warrant much explanation as to why they were so impactful, but their weight and influence on the city are definitely worth talking about.

For a city that is still rebuilding from the travesties that occurred only a few years ago, BerlIMG_1939in has every right to want to forget the horrors of the past. However, instead of forgetting these things, they have preserved it in a manner that suggests that rather than forget, they want to build and learn from it. This ideal can be seen everywhere around the city, but nowhere did I feel it like I did than in these three places. It was powerful. My heart felt hollow a
t moments. Many times my eyes watered and I was nauseated. But it was worth feeling because it made the positives, the growth, the rebuilding, and the hope…all that more significant. I was able to attend services at a Sy
nagogue after I visited the concentration camp as well. I was able to see all those positives within a four hour timespan.

I wouldbe lying if I said that Berlin was wonderful just on it’s own…the people I went with, the people I met, and the nature of the trip (first time out in 7 months), these things were all so perfect and I could not have planned it better. However, the energy, the beauty and the history of this city make it impossible to not like. If anything the food could speak for itself!

So in short, I recommend Berlin to any traveler wanting a high energy and historically significant trip. But also, I recommend taking your time here. Enjoy the eccentric people that walk the streets, try different neighborhoods, and eat anything and everything that smells good. It will be worth it.

These next few months I will be traveling 100% more than I had before. Sevilla and Portugal are next on the list, then a little time before my big backpacking trip. It could be the onset of spring in the air and the excitement of traveling, but these days are looking beautiful and I am so fortunate once again to be where I am!

 

Sending wonderful and positive vibes to everyone at home!

Abrazos,

Makenna Schrader

PS: I booked a ticket to come home July 31st…plan accordingly people!

 

 

 

 

 

Sun’s out, Guns out

The sun is out! And I’m working on my “guns” at the gym, so they aren’t technically out yet. But, the weather has been beautiful this past week and even though one of my students tried to color my face with a marker and I had to restrain him while he yelled “Hasta luego, CACA (poop),” this week has been relatively good! With warm weather, I believe it makes it near impossible to be too down for too long (I would THRIVE in a warm climate).

The end of this week marked the one-year anniversary of finding out I was accepted into Fulbright. I can still remember sitting with my host-teacher while she was talking to a student and me, jumping up from my seat and running around the school excited. It was euphoric. Wonderful. And mildly dramatic…I felt like Oprah just gave me a car on her Holiday Special, ok?

Last night, to celebrate, I went out with some friends to an Irish Pub and drank Guinness. Everyone might have thought we were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day…the green hats might have been confusing…but de verdad I was celebrating a year I could have never predicted.

To commemorate a year of my life that I could not have even dreamed of, I wrote an acrostic poem. In the words of my one true idol Amy Poehler, “the most lazy poem,” I will ever write. Here is is:

F: From the very beginning I’ve had no clue what to expect, one year later, I’ve given up on trying to find one. The wine is .80, why question anything?

U: Underdressing or overdressing during orientation and mid-year was a common occurrence. What exactly do you mean by “super casual.” Are yoga pants on the table or is there a strict jeans rule when you’re meeting the people of an international program? #Iworeadressandtights #somepeopleworesweatshirts

L: Likkeee what are we supposed to do for our side-project? I feel this has been a blanket requirement of our grant since we arrived, no one really know’s what’s going on underneath. With not too many instructions and an equal amount of “eh, well, if you can’t do it, ok,” I think the general consensus is of confusion.  Thankfully, I love my project because it works with my school and my school from back home. However, I know some people haven’t even started, puesss?

B: Brilliant, the people are truly brilliant. Fulbright has brought together some wonderfully intelligent people who are passionate about the changing world we live in and I am proud to say I was chosen to join them.

R: Running around Madrid and Burgos during orientation and mid-year were two of the most exhausting weeks of my life. Regardless of how much I am on my feet all day teaching crazy little children, it still makes me want to sleep for a month when I have to eat amazing food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Listen to brilliant people present. And then, socialize for hours on end with an open bar. How exhausting right?

I: I am blessed and incredibly fortunate for this organization and for this opportunity.

G: Gmail is my email of choice and I burn a hole in the inbox of my mentor. I would like to say that sometimes I just want to chat and also, I would love to become your best friend from four hours away, email is my way of showing my love.

Alternate G: GOOD LORD, how far away from Madrid Barajas-Airport are we?!

H: How do we go about never leaving this awesome country?

T: Thank you. Thank you for listening to all the complaints, panicked questions, and perplexing stories. But most of all, thank you for bringing the people you brought together, together. We couldn’t have done it without each other.

Looking back, the moment I jumped up from my chair in Columbia, Missouri in my fourth grade classroom, I could not have imagined my life that I have now. The good, the bad and the ugly have all made this experience unique and wonderful. I wouldn’t change a thing…except maybe the size of my tiny bed, but other than that, I can live with the gas leak #jk #nogasleak

My hope for my last few months here in Spain is that I enjoy every minute. I am currently unemployed for the next year and the stress of that knowledge is almost soul crushing when you are a planner. But, the fact is, this will be the only time in my life that I get to be in these months with these people at this time. Instead of being terrified of my future, I feel I have to enjoy the time that I have. So yes, I will eat that fifth pincho thanks.

 

Sending good vibes to all!

 

Un beso,

 

Makenna

Connecting Identities

I hope everyone has had a fantastic week so far. Unfortunately, I have been struggling getting over a cold that just doesn’t seem to be able to quit 😦 I do have faith that I am on the upswing though…fingers crossed.

After my few weeks of writers block, I finally decided that it might be time to just switch topics. So, I decided to write about something that I feel incredibly passionate about and that is something that I am implementing in my school with my students. It is time to share with my blog world (aka, family and friends) something that I have been working on with my fellow fulbrighter, Yohanna,  for the past few months. This is something we are both extremely proud of and equally as excited to implement and continue. So here it is, our baby…Connecting Identities.

A few months ago, Yohanna and I had this deep feeling that we needed to do something on a greater scale with our students at school. We noticed in our classes that our students were fantastic at noticing differences between themselves. Now sometimes, this is a great thing. However, we were struggling with our students noticing those differences and instead of having those differences bring them together, it was actually dividing them. This was causing divisions in class, hurtful words being said, and a general tense atmosphere between students and teachers.

We had to do something.

We ended up creating a curriculum to implement in the classroom called Connecting Identities. The basis of our project is this:

Students who live in Spain are seldom exposed to ethnicities and cultures that are drastically different from their own. Although there are plenty of non-native residents living in Spain there is still an immediate sense to distinct oneself from these people who reside in Spain. Students gain an immediate sense of separation from the outside world. Starting in January we will be implementing a 3-4 month curriculum with the primary objective to promote inclusion, tolerance, and an overall sense of interconnectedness with people from different cultures and backgrounds. The project requires students to understand their own identities beyond just physical characteristics. Students will engage in several activities and workshops to help them define the roles and values that construct their self-identity.  

We will begin with requiring students to self-reflect and figure out what components construct their own identities. This will be done through several workshops and activities to help them discover the adjectives and vocabulary to define their physical and internal characteristics, their roles within their lives, and their values. Students will then participate in activities to help them connect their identities with both their community and communities from around the world.

In all, our idea was setting out to fix what we had seen in the classroom. Having our students change what they saw as aspects of separation, but instead look deep beneath those things and realize that we truly are valuing the same value. Meaning, when Yohanna and I talk to each other about our families, mine being the typical American family and hers being a typical Ethiopian family, we can see that yes, we have those distinct differences, but underneath it all, we both have this value of family as well as a multitude of other similarities.

 We are moving through the curriculum working with our students from the inside out. First teaching identity. Then working on their significance in their immediate world around them. And lastly we are working on connecting them on a bigger scale to historical and modern day heroes and their similarities in their value of freedom, rights and respect.

I was terrified once we finished writing the curriculum that our students were not going to be receptive. This out-of-body thinking is complicated for students in their first language, how were we going to do it in their second…and with a low level of English at that?!

But somehow, it’s working. Somehow, every week we present in front of our students and they understand what we are telling them. Somehow, they remember the vocabulary from the previous lesson and are able to converse with us about the topic. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I’m not saying it’s monumental, but it’s poco a poco.

Complicated? Ambitious? Delusional? Maybe.

However, throughout this process, I have been reminded of this story.

Last year as I was working in the classroom, I remember I was teaching a lesson on a book called Rules. This book is fantastic. I won’t tell you much more besides the fact that it is amazing for teaching students empathy and accepting differences…it truly is wonderful. Anyway, as I was teaching this book, during one of the lessons a student asked me a question as I was reading aloud from the book. This question was golden. It showed me that my student was truly getting something from the book and learning a key concept that I wanted him to learn…WIN, YES! I wanted to cry from happiness. But, I couldn’t. I couldn’t because right next to my feet, as this question was occurring, a student was arguing with another classmate with a fist raised ready to punch. Typical right?

What I realized then is that I don’t believe in the crazy “storybook worthy” teacher moments where everything is perfect and there is a monumental break. No, what I believe in are the moments where we are able to catch those golden moments and cherish them even while the chaos is occurring right alongside it. I don’t believe everything can be perfect all in one moment. These golden moments are what teachers live for and if we don’t accept that they might not be as pretty as they appear in movies, we will miss them.

My point is, as we are working through this curriculum we are trying to promote change…a different way of thinking. But as we are going through it, we have to remember that we are working with students who not only speak a different language, but also live in a completely different culture than us. We have to be able to catch those moments of gold, those moments where a student says their personality trait is “happy,” where a student tells us their role is to be a “good friend” and we have to remember that they are magical. They are little, but they mean something.

Our students are B R I L L I A N T, trust me! We just have to be willing to listen, willing to put in the effort to guide them to that brilliance and willing to catch those moments. Even if our students are driving us insane and might be doing this to our leg:

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When something in life is weighing you down…it might be a four-year old Sara. 

This is what we are aiming for in Connecting Identities.

I hope you all are as excited for this project as I know Yohanna and I are! It is something that I look forward to do every week! I wish I could delve into all the juicy details, but this will have to do.

Sending good vibes to all!

 

Makenna

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Block is a B****

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These past two weeks have been hectic. I wish I could say that it was because I was enjoying some crazy adventure and that I have a wonderful story with words of wisdom to follow, but I don’t. Truthfully, I have sat down to write this blog post about three times and each time I leave frustrated. Writers block is a real problem people!

Anyway, I decided that instead of worrying so much about what I was going to write about and if it was going to be meaningful, I thought I would take a minute and share some of my traveling tips that I have been picking up along the way as I’ve been here abroad. The two most common issues about traveling are transportation and accommodations. So here is my advice on these two very important aspects of traveling.

Back in August, I wrote a blog post about how to get the best flight prices…but as the continual learner that I am, I have learned new and better methods to find those fantastic prices! With that said, I have to be honest, I hate trying to buy the best flight prices. This is part of the planning process that I do not enjoy, but I have found some methods to make it a wee bit easier.

The main resources that I use are: Hopper (this is my favorite), Kayak, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. These are all apps on my iPhone that I use constantly. I have set up alerts for all upcoming flights and these apps watch them for me…they also send me alerts roughly ever two-three hours, I always think I am incredibly popular every time my phone buzzes when in fact it is just flight prices. Anyway, the reason I love Hopper is because it informs you when to buy. Hopper will tell you when prices are rising and lowering like all the other apps, but instead of stopping there, it also informs you when you should buy your ticket by to get the best price. For example, I have a flight from Madrid – Zagreb being watched, every time the price changes it alerts me, but it also tells me that I should book now, soon or later depending on price trends. Trust me, it’s great and super helpful. Out of all of them, I think this is the best.

Now seeing as I actually have not flown on a plane since I landed in Madrid in September (but I have booked for upcoming trips on those sites, trust me!) I need to explain what I have been doing to get around! The truth is I have had more experience with the bussing, car and train systems in Spain.

So what’s my main method of transportation? BUS. The bussing system in Spain is amazing; you can catch a big coach bus to just about anywhere. My method for buying these tickets is first looking at the website: goeuro.com, searching my city of interest, finding out the busing company and then searching that specific company’s website. I have purchased my tickets directly from goeuro.com, but sometimes it pays to check the actual busing company website. Sometimes the prices are cheaper buying directly from there!

Trains are a little more on the expensive side, but sometimes vale la pena (it’s worth it!) Where buses do have their charm, trains, to me, are just much more relaxing! I don’t know what it is about a good train ride, but it’s amazing! The train system in Spain that is most common is Renfe. This will take you just about anywhere in Spain, but there is also AVE that is also very nice as well. To get these tickets, I typically look directly at the train companies website so this will vary depending on the country.

Cars. Now I don’t have a load of experience with this mode of transportation apart from my awesome compañeros del cole (coworkers from school) carpool, but when my parents visited from the states, they rented a car to tote the whole crew around Spain. I have also had a few friends rent vehicles and had great success as well! So this is an option. From what I can tell, it is a relatively cheap option if you are trying to get to places that the bussing system is unable to get to. With that said, I don’t know if I would rent a car for any other reason besides that. Another car transportation option is Blah Blah Car. This is becoming increasingly more popular around Europe even though I have yet to utilize it! This is a car sharing method of transport that people have really seemed to like. I have heard some horror stories, but overall it has been worth it for most! I would recommend taking a peek at this site when considering your travel.

Moving on from transportation to alojamiento (accommodations). My first search whenever I am looking for a place to stay in a city is always hostels. I prefer hostels most of the time for the social aspect of the stay…as well as the cheaper price. Hostels are fun to stay at if you choose the right one, but also a great way to meet new people and learn cool things about the place you are staying. Perks of staying at good hostels can be free food (breakfast and sometimes dinners at some places), free walking tours, pub-crawls, activities, etc. The options are endless and each hostel has a unique vibe…definitely my method of accommodation! My only advice is to try to stay in an eight-person room and under. I have stayed in a 24-person room before and it was a nightmare, so be wary if you don’t like the lights turning on and off all night!

But sometimes I don’t want to stay with other people! Sometimes I want my own area, with my own friends and nothing more. That’s where Airbnb comes in. I am sure you have heard about this website…the good and the bad. I have used Airbnb a handful of times and never had an issue. This is a method of accommodation that you can rent either a private room of someone’s apartment or the entire apartment by itself. The options are endless for this! The only problem I have run into is not doing my research ahead of time and booking an Airbnb in a “far from the city center” neighborhood. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is somewhat irritating when you want to be in on all the action of the city.

So that’s what I have! I know that doesn’t encapsulate all the aspects of traveling nor does it tell any of my personal travel experience, but I thought that some of my friends who are planning the trip abroad might be worried about these two vital aspects of traveling and hopefully now have some new resources!

Apart from that, I promise this writer’s block will end soon; I traveled to Brugos, Spain last week for a Fulbright Mid-Year conference and this March I will be heading off to Berlin, Germany…so I should have things to write about…more to come soon!

 

Sending good vibes to all my family and friends!

 

Love,

 

Makenna

Wanderlust

For the longest time I have tried to think back to the moment that I started to love to travel. How awesome of a story that would be if I could remember the exact place that I fell in love with it all, the wonder, the uncertainty, the thrill of traveling. But much like all of real-life, it’s not that poetic and I can’t remember.

What I remember most of traveling is doing a lot of it growing up. My parents love vacations and when we were kids, they loved to give us those experiences as well. My dad has always had the “wanderlust”(that I’ve come to learn you either have it, or you don’t… I’ll get more to that later). But on top of both of these things, I think what really set the stage for my need for adventure was that I come from a family of movers. My parents both moved growing up and with us, it was no different. Covering the mid-west by the time I went off to college never brought that much time to understand the obsession with “home sweet home.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love home. But to me, home was never a set location, a plot of land, or four walls with a roof, it was where my mom, my dad, my two brothers and I were altogether. That was my “home sweet home.” House, apartment, hotel room, whatever, that’s where home was. Looking back, I truly wouldn’t change it for the world, even though when I was in it, I vowed I would never put my kids through boxing up their Pokemon cards that many times.

I never tied roots to a house or even a state for that matter and I think this is where my traveling obsession began. I have never been afraid to go to a different city, meet new people, and live life somewhere else. In fact, I live for it. I purposely put myself in situations where I can go to a new place. Which brings me to the infamous “wanderlust.”

I had never heard of this term until I was in a college English class and the girl who would lend me her notes had it tattooed on her left wrist (I know, I’m late to the game, it’s fine). But I remember being perplexed by her tattoo. Wander-lust? I have always loved to travel, but lust? Really? What I didn’t realize then, but I do now, is that wanderlust is a fad that used in the correct conversation, amongst the most infuriating people, makes me want to vomit (remember I hate clichés?) But I don’t want to talk about the wanderlust of spending three weeks hopping from hostel to hostel sleeping your way through European men that I saw during my study abroad semester in Spain. No, true wanderlust, or at least the wanderlust that I have come to adopt as acceptable in my life, is an innate quality that you are either born with…or not.

So what is wanderlust in my life? To me it is the deep desire to wander and be humbled by the wonders of the world. Poetic right? What I mean is that when I allow myself to wander in an area that is foreign to me and that I have to merely experience instead of controlling every situation, I am able to see the jaw-dropping beauty that is around me and I am humbled by it.

It wasn’t until I was actually applying to study abroad that I realized there were people in this world that didn’t want to travel. And what shocked me the most, was that I realized one of those people was my mother. Now, my mom loves to stay in hotels. Go out to restaurants and drink good wine. But she doesn’t see the value or the reason for spending your life savings and flying across the ocean. She has no strong desire to see the Great Wall of China, no life-long dream of seeing Paris at night, and definitely no comfort in the revving sounds of an airplane engine. This isn’t to say my mom won’t go and see these things, she doesn’t have a sense of dire biological need to go like I do. However, it should be noted, she did come to Spain this year and she loved every minute…maybe she might have a little wanderlust? Maybe?!

After learning that travel was one of the things my mom and I didn’t have in common, I started to realize there were a ton of people like her. Non-wander-ers are more common than you would think. Once I started to realize that there were people who didn’t feel it was their soul’s destiny to fill up every page of their passport, I began to question my motives. Why did I feel this strongly about uprooting myself from every city that I fell in love with? Why do I have to see the Swiss Alps someday in my life? What is the point?

The truth is, I don’t have the answers to all those questions. There is a strong part of me that wants to settle down and stop saying goodbye to all the people that I love so dearly…the downside of creating strong relationships all over the world is that you have to leave those people eventually.

But what I do know is that there is something about being lost in a foreign country, stumbling on an adorable hidden cafe with only locals, living with people whose daily life is so drastically different than my own, and making connections with people from all walks of life, allows me to constantly learn about myself and grow into a better human being (cliché ALERT).

The point is, whether you’re a traveler or not, you have to do what your heart wants. Stop fooling yourself by saying “I would love to travel, but don’t have the money.” Trust me, if you value something, nothing will stand in your way from getting what you want. Figure out who you are and run with it.

Trust me, you’ll pay off your credit card eventually 🙂

Abrazos,

Makenna

 

 

 

My Favorite Cities in Spain: EXPLAINED –because I’m not the greatest at telling people about the places I visit

I have realized since I started this blog I have been mainly talking about life with traveling as a background setting. As much as I live to write life posts, I thought it was time to actually tell people about the different cities I have been to.

However, as I was trying to decide how to delve into all of them, I realized what might be a better idea would be to narrow it down to my favorites (because if they are my favorite, they must be your favorite too right?)

Anyway here they are, my five favorites (so far), alphabetized because I could NOT choose which ones I loved more.

  1. Haro you ready for some wine? HARO, LA RIOJA

img_0235I know, I’m hilarious you’re welcome.Besides being the city (city might be an exaggeration, it’s more like a pueblo) that I work in, Haro is a beautiful place to visit! The town is tiny, but it is surrounded by beautiful mountains and packed full of typical Spanish suburban charm. Located in La Rioja Alta, which is the northern part of La Rioja is this charming town. However, the main attraction is by far the vino. There are so many bodegas in Haro! Once you cross the river, every five steps you can bump into a wine cellar, it’s amazing. I have only been on one visita to Bodegas Bilbainas, but I have a comprehensive list of all the greatest ones and I am ready to keep trying more! Also, this town has an annual Batalla de Vino in June where you climb a mountain and throw wine at each other. Could it be any better?

 

  1. Mi Tierra es La Rioja, Logroño es mi pueblo (Lyrics from the Hymn a Logroño) LOGROÑO, LA RIOJA

img_0004-1If you don’t know the Logroño hymn, look it up on Youtube, you won’t be disappointed. Situated in the middle of La Rioja, surrounded by beautiful mountains is Logroño. This city is the capital of La Rioja and the main city in La Rioja in general. This city might be small and some people might be disappointed that it doesn’t have all the life of Madrid, but to me, it is perfect. The city reminds me a lot of where I went to university in Columbia because it is the perfect combination of city life, but also natural landscapes as well. This is something I value in a city I live in! Logroño has a few claims to fame, but the main two are its placement along the Camino de Santiago, the Catholic pilgrimage, and also the pinchos of Calle Laurel. What’s my favorite part? Calle Laurel. This is a famous street in Logroño that is packed with many bars are selling different types of food, but also each has their “specialty.” The food is cheap (even though you can go down to Calle San Juan for even cheaper) the wine is plentiful and it always attracts a big crowd on Thursday-Saturday nights. Logroño is an awesome little city and it has truly become my home.

    1. Round and round to Ronda. RONDA, MÁLAGA

IMG_1104.jpgIn short, Ronda is up and down a mountain. A big, curvy, dangerous mountain, that is! Situated in Málaga, Spain, in the Andalucía region is this tiny town that might almost kill you to get to, but will leave you breathless when you see the natural landscape. This city is storybook beautiful. When my family was visiting for the holidays, we decided to make the trek to this city and it instantly became a crowd favorite. What makes Ronda so jaw dropping? It has to be it’s mountains and it’s small winding old streets. These aspects give it a homey feel that relaxes you as you stroll the town. This city is a great place to visit for a day or two if you are looking for a break from the crazy and want to explore a cool mountainside city.

  1. Santander: You might not be the best bank, but your city is pretty bomb. SANTANDER, CANTABRIA 

unnamed.jpgSantander is a common bank in Spain, however if you base your opinion of the city off of the bank than you probably would never go (I’ve heard some stories). But instead, Santander, a city located on the coast, in northern Cantabria, Spain, is a wonderful city! This city is where I went solo traveling for the first time and it definitely had to been the timing of the trip, but I became enamored with everything it was and had to offer. Santander is on a bay, which overlooks the breath-taking Picos de Europa. The city also has great trails to go hiking, a cool, more alternative/relaxed nightlife and classic Spanish European architecture. I cannot boast about this city more, it truly is fantastic!

  1. If at first it doesn’t look like your car will fit down the street, let a Sevillano go first and show you how it’s done. SEVILLA, SEVILLA

img_0961As everyone who reads my blog is aware, I studied abroad here! Four and a half months of this enchanting city and it has become one of my favorite places in Spain (even though it could become your favorite in under two hours, I promise). Sevilla is located in Andalucía, Spain, which is in the southern part of the country. This city is the biggest of all the cities I have mentioned and it also the most touristy of them all. If you ever get the chance to visit or even just Google the city, you will find that it is overflowing with Old Spanish charm. From the interesting Spanish/Arabic architecture, to the flamenco dancing on the corners, and the world’s tiniest street’s I have ever seen, the city is uniquely wonderful. I cannot recommend this city enough!

So there it is! All five of my favorites in Spain (thus far)! I have been to many others that I love as well, but all of these ones I will continue to go back to whenever I get the chance! I would recommend any of the cities to anyone traveling Spain for a long time or even for a short time; they are all worth the visit!

This spring I am doing a lot more traveling so I will try to keep up my blog with the new places I go…or at least I will try.

 

 

Un abrazo,

 

Makenna

Seven people, Seven cities…Only One Spanish Police Encounter

Happy 2 0 1 7 everyone! We made it through the year. To some this year brought a ton of heartache, to some it brought big change, to some it brought loads of happiness (ahem, yo!) and to some it was just another year. Whatever your sentiments, the fact is we are starting another one and in my eyes, it is full of promise.

The last two weeks I haven’t been able to post due to my crazy family running me around all over Spain as their translator. However, watching them load the shuttle to airport was not one of those moments I will want to replay in my head over and over again, (it sucked to say goodbye #inthefeelstoday)

We truly had a fabulous time together! That’s not, of course, to say that the whole trip was smooth…there were seven of us, three of us spoke Spanish relatively well, we rented a car, we went to six different cities, we ate a ton of food and drank way too much…did I mention we drank too much? Anyway, it was eventful, fun, and much needed. I have always been close to my family and I was so happy to be able to show them my new home. UPDATE: The parents love Logroño ❤

During our trip, we were ambitious travelers and might have packed a bit much into ten days. The trip staimg_0625rted off with my parents being delayed in London…twice. Then after making it to Madrid, having the chaos of trying to rent a car and also driving at night in a foreign country…through the mountains…AND they ended up getting pulled over on their way! As my poor father tried to ramble on in English, my little brother’s girlfriend held up her American Passport and said “AMERICAN.” After realizing that my family was not in fact smuggling drugs, the kind police officer let them go.

You would think after such an adventurous ida that everyone would want to relax. Wrong. The following week included Haro, more Logroño, Pamplona, Sevilla, Ronda, Granada, and Marbella. All of this in a big white scary looking van. Like I said, ambitious.

We were exhausted, but we did it together and we definitely had our fair share of laughs along the way. The crowd favorites from the trip were: Logroño (the “groin” as my mom likes to call it now) Sevilla, and Ronda. And I have to admit those were my favorite as well!

Yes, going back to Sevilla was extremely surreal. It had been almost three years since I had been back and I don’t think there will ever be enough days spent exploring that city (let alone the six hours that we had). It was magical and reminded me of why I fell in love with Spain. ❤

Overall it was a happy holiday break filled with lots of beautiful cities, crazy stories and lots of laughs…but most importantly it was filled with my family.

I am wishing and hoping everyone the best of 2017, forget the New Year’s resolutions, embrace what is coming, and make it the best!

Abrazos,

Makenna
img_0961

Book the Ticket: Round 1 Solo Travels

Solo Traveling. What exactly is it? Some could say that moving to another country where you didn’t know anyone could be considered “solo traveling,” But not to me. I have too many friends in Spain and rarely find myself lonely. No, solo traveling to me is going somewhere alone and being alone.

Five years ago, that would have sounded awful to me. Five years ago, I wanted to be surrounded by people at all times. I was enamored with the idea of having friends around and traveling/experiencing life with them. Who can you relive the memories with if you are by yourself?!

However, here I am, twenty-three years old, and the day I booked my single ticket to Santander, Spain, I had tears in my eyes from excitement. I don’t know if it’s because I am older or just strange, and even though I am not tied to a husband or children, moments to be completely by myself have been hard to come by. In short, the thought of being by myself in a new city for an extended amount of time made me giddy.

One little side note before I continue on about how my solo traveling experience went. I know that traveling alone scares some. It is definitely not something to take lightly! You are more susceptible to things happening when you are not in a group. But do not let that scare you. Be smart. Walks are great, hiking is wonderful, doing either of those things at night in an unfamiliar city or anywhere for that matter, not so great. The point is, have your wits about you. Just some advice…also I could say this a million times to my mother and she would still worry about me. It’s their mom job, just suck it up and listen to the lecture again.
Moving on! This past weekend was a Puente, in Spain. This means that we, as teachers, were fortunate enough to have some days off of school! Instead of relaxing, for most auxiliares, that meant t r a v e l i n g. Like I am sure you have already guessed, I took this opportunity to try some solo traveling. I have many friends who have traveled alone many times and they raved about it. They highly encouraged me to give it a shot; so how could I say no!? Three weeks ago I decided I was going to give it a try and I booked a ticket to a small city in the autonomous region of Cantabria, Spain called Santander.


I had wanted to go to this city for a while. A part from being a beautiful city with mountains and pre-historic cave drawings (which I still haven’t seen, but it’s on my list), the Palacio de la Magdelena, in Santander, is where one of my new favorite Spanish television shows was filmed! I was super excited to go to this city and fan girl in peace. What I didn’t expect however was how much I would fall in love.

I was told growing up that “a friend is a need answered” and as much as I truly have grown to believe that saying, I also now believe it could be applied to cities. Santander was a need answered. I needed the time away. I needed to be with me. Now, as much as I want to share how meaningful the experience was to me on a deeper level because would I be Makenna Schrader if I didn’t? However, I don’t think I have the words yet…give me time (so…to be continued…).

But what I can tell you is what I did with my time in this beautiful seaside city. First, I should tell you that Santander is located on the northern coast of Spain with beautiful cliffs that jet out into the Bay of Santander. Basically, it is a paradise for natural paisaje (landscape) aficionados like myself. The beautiful mountains engulf your view to one side, while the fantastic architecture makes you feel transported in time, on the other.

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So what did I do with all my time? I walked. I walked…a lot. My poor white converse have been with me through a lot already and now they have been with me through a 14 mile hike back and forth along the Santander coast (my feet kill actually thanks for asking). What I decided to do was grab a map of the city, follow the coast and only stop when I wanted to stop. The beauty of solo traveling at it’s finest. The best decision I made was choosing my favorite instrumental album (kudos to Yiruma’s First Love album) and letting myself get lost for hours walking up the coast (I was moved to tears at some points #pathetic). It was beautiful and fulfilling when I didn’t even know that I was feeling empty.

15494083_10154270081262972_259738575_nAfter about an hour of this, I ditched the headphones, walked the coast with sand between my toes and water splashing my legs (by the way it was sixty and sunny all weekend…yes, I got sunburnt). I finally reached the Palacio by noon and proceeded to walk around the entire estate dreaming of Julio professing his love for me (SWOON). I was also lucky enough to catch a tour of the inside. I was in heaven.

After the tour, per recommendation of my hostel receptionist, I kept going after the Palacio. Most people stop at the peninsula, but as Anna told me to do, I just kept walking. It made the three course meal I treated myselfon the way, guilt-less! As I kept walking, I came to the Parque de Mataleñas. This was a well-trekked trail (AHEM FOR MY MOTHER’S SAKE) that followed the edge of the cliffs. I walked this entire path until the Faro de Cabo Mayor, a beautiful lighthouse on the cliffs. The trek was long, I was sweaty and gross, but I have never had so much fun on a hike. By 5pm, I was overjoyed and ready to turn back.

Fourteen miles (over 20km) later, I was back at my hostel. Exhausted and sore, I grabbed pinchos with a friend (a happy coincidence that a friend from Logroño was in Santander and staying at the same hostel) and went to bed.

As I am sitting journaling this blog entry, from this beautiful view (refer to image below) I feel a deep sense of happiness. Santander was my need answered. It was my time to figure some things out, to be intellectual, but also to lighten up, to do exactly what I wanted to do, and to enjoy a beautiful city. Sevilla will always be the city where I fell in love with Spain, La Rioja will always be my home, and Santander will always be the city that stole my heart…my hidden gem.

15424588_10154270128442972_1175527756_nMy advice is book the ticket. Spend the night in a city. Go without a plan. Don’t be too serious. And most of all cherish the time that you have to be alone. Growing up brings wonderful things, but it also gets inundated with people and demands. Take time to marvel at something because you want to!

 

Sending happiness to all!

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Besos,

 

Makenna