Hiatus

I had never planned on this blog to ever upset anyone, therefore I have decided to take a short break from any writing and just enjoy the days like everyone else. Since the first post, I have unsettled a few people with my poor word choice. That was never my intention and I can't apologize enough to those I have upset. Whether I had included them directly or indirectly (they know who they are), I am sorry.

As my parents request, I would like to clarify the most recent post that some of you may have read. I did not "flunk" out of Seton Hall referring to the popular definition, yet I did not receive a passing grade in the required course. The course was pass/fail. Meaning you either obtain the C+ or you don't, very simple. I did not as I received a D referring to a letter grade. At the time, this unfortunate event forced my hand and I left the university to attend my local community college. 

Looking back on it now with a completely open mind, I am not convinced that if I passed that course that I'd be at where I am today. Chances are I would've returned for the spring semester and continued pursuing a degree I was not entirely in love with. 

Like I mentioned, I am sorry to those I have unsettled with this relatively meaningless blog. Whether it be family who has stupendously looked out for my well being over the past 20 years or fantastic friends I've had the pleasure of meeting, I am sorry for painting an unsatisfying picture and putting you in a bad light. 

Arrivederci Roma!

Departing Rome is such sweet sorrow, can't it wait till morrow. 

Not only did I walk away from this weekend seeing a few of the world's ancient wonders but clearly a bit of poetry knowledge as well! I'm excited to get back to Santander after a glorious weekend but we're entering the month of March. That means 30 days have passed since I boarded a US Airways flight to Madrid. Where has the time gone!?

I took a "Me" day on Saturday. My family is probably screaming at their computer right now but only because they care more about my well being than I evidently do. It was completely necessary to explore the less populated areas of Rome as the city is filled with countless hidden gems. It was also necessary to break away to be certain none of my comrades were lurking over my shoulder, waiting to get that close-up, embarrassing snapchat. 

First things first though... fill my backpack with snacks as St. Peter knows I'd be hungry throughout the day. Seven apples, check! Bag of peanuts, check! Barley puffs (healthiest cereal in Rome, don't judge), check! Especially since those dammed fake centurions jacked my 10€ I had set aside for food that day. 

An hour into the exploration, I had stumbled upon the burial grounds of two legendary European poets. Quick shout out to all of my English teachers over the years for gracing me with the knowledge necessary to truly appreciate the Protestant Cemetery. I was dumbfounded I was only one of five people that day reflecting on the lives of John Keats and Percy Shelley, as well as many other beloved humans. Sure the cemetery was off the beaten path and required a few Advil following the hike but it was breathtaking. The solemness and vibrant greens were incredible. Why @RomeTravel is not directing travelers to this spiritual site is beyond me. I suppose that could be my job.

What's next? Oh yeah, the keyhole to Rome. Another one of those "traveler" attractions off the beaten path. I say "traveler" because all the tourists are busy with the Coliseum and Vatican. Yes, that was me on Thursday and Friday, I admit it. 

Anyway, the keyhole to Rome. In my imagination, the closest real life entrance to Narnia. The destination is two giant green doors on the top of Aventine Hill. Nothing spectacular at first glance but bend over, cover one eye and look through the iron keyhole. Or just put your camera lens up to it. Either works, pick your poison. 

Now take a gander at one of Italy's most mysterious optical wonders. The keyhole is perfectly aligned with the Vatican City's steeple, bordered with an aisle of bright green shrubbery. Essentially, the perfect photo to frame and set on your mantle to commemorate a trip to Rome. Just be prepared to spend 20 minutes or so getting the image just right.

Now I have this fascination with soccer stadiums. Doesn't matter which European city it is, I have to see the local club's venue. Unless of course I'm held up in a bar in Bilbao, but that's another story, seriously. Anyway, the Vatican has a Pope, the Coliseum had Romans but the Stadio Olimpico has Francesco Totti and Miroslav Klose. Yes, I sound like a nerd, I know. For me, it was worth the four mile hike up the not so pretty side of the Tiber river. It was worth it just to see the empty venue that will be lit up with maroon and orange tonight for the Roma/Juventus derby. European stadium's are works of art. The majority need a power wash as I have mentioned before but they're enormous and eye catching. Doesn't matter if you're a sports fan or not.

As much as I didn't intend for the day to be sightseeing escapade, it was up to this point. Next on the list, Trevi Fountain. What a breathtaking piece of Roman architecture. I can only imagine how outstanding it looks without scaffolding and with a filled fountain. Regardless, I tossed my euro coin or two into the empty fountain, casting a wish on its way to the ground. Only time will tell if my wish was or will be granted. 

As much as I would've liked my adventure in Rome to have a storybook ending; the tossing of a wish into Trevi Fountain, I wanted to make one last trek up Aventine Hill. It was nearly desolate earlier in the day, no one would be looking out over the bright Roma skyline at nearly 9 pm. Surely enough, I was pretty much right. I shared the magnificent view with a newly married couple on their honeymoon. Don't ask me how I know that, it's just what I assumed. They didn't speak English but I assisted them in setting off a Chinese love balloon. Again, not sure that's exactly what it's referred to, but a red paper balloon in the shape of a heart. A fire is lit underneath and it's released into the atmosphere. Very romantic yet I don't think they planned on sharing the moment with a young American. Regardless, thank you for letting me partake and not yelling "Basta!" at me as if I was a Gypsy. I appreciated the moment as much as the two of you did. 

UPDATE: This post was written yesterday while I was hovering miles above the Mediterranean Sea. I wanted to mention that this day has ignited my interest in planning one hell of a spring break trip. I say ignited because the thought was always in the back of my head. I'll admit that it's a bit nerve wracking the first day in an unknown city. You begin to wonder how the hell you could maneuver you're way through such an immense place by yourself. Well, after a day, the city doesn't seem so big and isn't nearly as frightening. It's all about confidence. Everything in life is.  

With that being said, I can't wait to sit down and see what I can come up with for a 10 day journey across Europe. I've always thought it would be astonishing to experience the northern lights or hike the Swiss Alps. 

Back to life in Santander with roughly 60 days remaining. I hope the rest of the SIS (Semester in Spain) crew has enjoyed the first 30 days as much as I have. Here's to two more unforgettable months!

The Italian Job: Selfie Sticks, Hustlers and Ancient Edifices

...Good Evening

It's very awkward stepping off a plane into a foreign country and attempting to ask for directions. It's assumed that the blonde lady at the small help desk knows English, we're not the first English travelers but it's a "different" situation to be in nonetheless. Praise the lord she ended the eight second awkward silence with an American greeting. I felt right at home.

I feel hostels receive a bad reputation especially from my father, he never forgets to bring up that awful Eli Roth horror film. However, to be fair I've had absolutely zero experience with them. Never stayed in one and never seen one in the U.S. as far as I know. With that being said, I certainly lucked out on this trip. 20€ a night secured me a clean bed, private bath and a supermarket within spitting distance. Oh, and two showers a day. What more could I have asked for?

Remember that's just Ciampino. A small neighboring urban area two train stops from the center of Rome. What was waiting 15 minutes away? Well, I told you. Selfie sticks, hustlers and ancient edifices. 

Actually what was waiting 15 minutes away was a relatively run down McDonald's. In all honesty I'd have to say this McDonald's adjacent to the train station in Rome was the worst I've ever stepped foot in. Perhaps because of the warm welcoming I received. I attempted to fit in immediately by ordering my breakfast in Italian. I simply read the text under the #1, nothing special. Eggs, bacon and an english muffin. Success!  

The food tasted and looked just how you're imagining. Extremely salty, soggy bacon and not nearly as pretty as the picture depicts on the menu. Whatever, it's McDonald's, I wasn't expecting anything else. As you can imagine, I didn't finish my entire English muffin for reasons that don't need to be touched upon. I had planned on giving the garbage another morning snack. However, a random Italian, Gypsy or whatever they're claim to fame was had a different idea. A thin woman strolls up to my table looking as if she's about to execute the greatest heist in history of Italy. For all I know, she did. She reached down, snagged the unwanted half of the English muffin and skipped off.  Well... that was unusual. Welcome to Rome!

What fuels the economy of Rome? It's a perplexing question and you'll never guess the answer. Not olive oil or pizza. Not even gelato or exceptional wine. Selfie sticks! You can find one of those suckers on any and every street corner. Who would have known such a simple, relatively stupid tool would fuel the expenses of so many Italian street vendors (I hate selfies; I've taken one and failed miserably). They have Miley Cyrus to thank for their pocket change.

Tourists and heavily armed soldiers fill the streets of Rome. It's a lot like Washington, our own capital. It's nearly impossible to snap a great shot of one of Rome's hailed wonders without a fellow tourist unintentionally photo-bombing you. You're not going to succeed in taking a picture of a marbled Abe Lincoln being the sole focus of the photo. Same applies for any of the several Roman edifices. Tourists are everywhere and I now have an immense appreciation for anyone who can get a pic without any unwanted distractions. They deserve a pat on the back. Way to go man!

With that being said, the city is beautiful, spectacular, breathtaking, marvelous... You get the point. 

I don't consider myself to be overly religious by any means and I wouldn't necessarily side with any religion. I'm a believer but I could never wrap my head around the different religious concepts. With that being said, I still appreciate religion as a whole, especially in the Vatican City. I was lucky enough this weekend to take part in prayer in the Sistine Chapel under the mural's of Michelangelo. How many can say they've done that? I'm not entirely sure what we we're all praying for as the worship was in Latin, but I understand each of us had our own invocations. Secondly, I took part in a Latin mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Again, I can absolutely appreciate the monumental circumstance I was apart of: a religious ceremony in perhaps the religious capital of the world. Those two events may not have been on my bucket list prior to Friday but they very well should have been. 

Saturday brought more tourism and a tale I'm not proud to tell truthfully, yet I will. Beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. It couldn't have been nicer and I couldn't have felt better. A brisk walk to the Colosseum helps relieve any stress or worries that may have accumulated over the weeks. Who or what could possibly turn this smile into a salty grin of hatred and disappointment. A fake Roman centurion will definitely do the trick. So here I am with my two travelling partners 50 feet from the Colosseum when we're approached by two jackasses (not literally donkeys of course) dressed as ancient Roman soldiers. Our heads we're not on straight as an antique world wonder was smiling back at us. Yes, we were suckered into to thinking these two fellows were genuine and offered to take a FREE picture with us. 10 euro the drain and into those bastard's wallets. In all honesty that's not what I was pissed about. 

That damned swindler put his bulky Roman helmet on my head! But Jared, it's such for a quick shitty picture. I don't care, he ruined my hair that morning! As embarrassing as it is to admit, I try to look relatively presentable each and every day and when some random moron ruins a good hair day, I feel I have the right to be salty. I'm the one that sounds like the moron but I promised I would tell it like it is. To my own discomfort, that's the way it was. I was upset the man affected my appearance in a negative way. End of story.

Before I wrap up I must mention I did eat pizza and gelato. Both were very good and I'm happy I splurged a bit. When in Rome! I'm hoping my many pictures paint a better picture of the weekend and the scenery I came across. As always, thanks for reading and I apologize these posts are becoming a bit sporadic all of a sudden.

 

  

Gallivanting Gone Wrong: Andy Warhol, Hookers & Hundreds of Anonymous Faces

99% of me is telling myself not to post this story as it's just another example of me embarrassing myself, which I tend to do a lot. Once this is published, I also expect countless amounts of jokes to be thrown in my direction over these next two weeks. Yet, it's entertaining and I'm sure after reading you'll all think just a bit less of me. 

Bilbao is an intriguing place. Home of one the most architecturally awkward buildings, a river browner than a paper bag and weather that renders umbrellas useless. Unfortunately, they also lack bathrooms on every street corner (Same as every other city). 

As usual, after our guided tour of part of the city, we're all let of the leash and free to explore whatever we wanted. Just be back at the bus at 6:15. All I really wanted to see was the San Mames (Athletic Bilbao's stadium) and maybe wonder through a few stores acting as if I was actually interested in spending money. I'll cut to the chase now, I never made it to the San Mames. 

Instead I spent the first fifteen minutes off the leash searching for a free bathroom. I had to #1 to be specific. I didn't have any cash on me, I was unprepared. Anyway, Spanish Dick's, no bathroom. Spanish American Eagle, no bathroom. But that elegant upscale bar across the street looked like they had a bathroom. I figured I'd walk in and attempt to blend in, hoping I wouldn't be confronted and asked to purchase something in exchange for using their restroom.

Guess what? Didn't work. Two steps from the toilet I hear a voice mutter something about paying customers only. Yeah yeah, what the hell, I'll take one of them small pieces of bread covered in anchovies. In my defense, I was solely worried about completing the one task I had in mind. It didn't even occur to me that I had just put myself in a bit of a predicament. 

I sat down at the bar to eat this anchovies sandwich. To be honest, it wasn't even that bad. I inhaled it, three bites if I can remember correctly. Yet, it was after that third bite I had realized I f**ked up. I wasn't carrying any cash on me and by the look of it, the bar's 1923 cash register wasn't going to accept a credit card. Surely enough, the bartender broke the news to me as if I didn't already expect it for 10 minutes prior. 

Let me spell out my situation for you... I owe the restaurant two euro. Hefty bill huh? They don't accept credit, I'm not carrying cash, I left my Spanish phone home that morning and I'm struggling to contact any close friends in my group due to the lack of WiFi across the city. Not that I wanted anyone to know. It's quite embarrassing. Well what do you do in this situation I ask myself. I'd happily clean a few dishes (It would make for a hell of a story). However, that's not a legitimate option.

After 30 minutes I decided to leave my phone and wallet with the bartender in hope I could leave and find an ATM close. I didn't really have any other option. My lucky day, two ATM's are down the street. Too bad one's out of order and the other isn't accepting my card. My day is getting gloomier, seriously, it starts to drizzle a bit. I'm standing at this ATM scratching my head, a bit perplexed. All of a sudden this not so clean, older woman strolls up behind me. It only took me a few seconds to realize what she wanted.

"I like you"

"Thanks... I like me too. What are you getting at? (Oh that...)."

#Prostitute. Unfortunately, (Kidding, of course!) we could not help each other out as we were both in need of funds. Picking up what I'm putting down? At least I must have looked somewhat pleasant today! I mean hookers have standards too don't they?

Another hour passes and I'm forced to walk back to the bar empty handed. I'm really not sure what to do now. Sit on a porch and act homeless? No. Walk a stranger's dog? No, these are strikingly dumb ideas J! I went back to the bar hoping someone would throw me a bone or even better, 2 euro. I really was stupid though and deserved whatever the consequences would be. I went off on my own to avoid being the third wheel, was irresponsible and let my bladder distract my rational behavior. 

Jumping to climax as the next 30 minutes are spent wondering why I was such an idiot. To my surprise an older man, American I presumed as he spoke English walked up next to me at the bar. He had been sitting at a table in the corner for awhile. I can only imagine he put together the pieces after I looked like a dumb tourist walking in and out of the bar speaking so-so Spanish to the bartender. After a few memorable, kind words (Which I'd rather keep for myself), he layed a 2 euro coin on the counter, covering my bathroom expense. Thanks for looking out!

I had to hustle back to the bus but ran into a friend whom which I borrowed a few euro from. Ran back to the restaurant to pay the elderly man back and thank once again. It all worked out but I wish it never happened. Again, just another example of me publicly embarrassing myself and looking like a fool. Tales of a wannabe gallivant I guess. 

Beware the Dog

Happy Valentine's Day ya filthy animals! If anyone can tell me where the title of this post is derived from, I'd be happy to mail or hand you a delicious cup of arroz con leche. I guarantee you'll love it just as much as me. Also, just a hint, the title has nothing to do with that popular sign that families hang on their doors to scare intruders away. However, my grandmother desperately needs one for her vicious 6 pound demon.

It's amazing how much is socially unacceptable in the United States but is a daily norm here. Let me elaborate. Dogs! Have Europeans heard of a leash!? They sell them but I feel it's the absolute worst business venture to open a store selling dog leashes. It's completely unnecessary. The perros are trained like Pikachu! They follow their owner wherever he/she goes, ignore that one annoying barking poodle across the street and wait patiently outside the store for their master to finish buying his/her groceries. Granted my pooch can shake or "paw" but she won't keep from yipping every time man's best friend walks past the house. 

Here's another one. Cars. Each and every car has at least one small dent in it. Nothing major but us Americans would freak out if the tiniest of dents was put in our priceless vehicles. Here, it seems like they could care less. Now I say that each car has a small dent but I haven't seen a vehicle missing any major bodily pieces like a broke teenager's car in the U.S.

Parking spots... who needs them? Parking on the curb is perfectly acceptable as well as leaving your car in the middle of the street while you run into the Lupa or Spain's Harris Teeter. The people are evidently aware that they're own driving ability is poor or careless but they possess an extreme sense of awareness for everyone else's lackadaisical driving. For example, I haven't seen one car accident since being here. Not even sure if there's  rollbacks or wreckers here to tow inoperable vehicles. 

Ever hear of being taken advantage of because of your need to use a bathroom in public? In Europe, one can make a decent sized salary if they opened their personal bathroom up to the public charging a few cents for every entry. Public restrooms cost twenty cent euro to enter and relieve yourself of any bodily stress. Complete ripoff! I drink a gallon of water a day. So when in comes down to it, I'm forced to pay at least one euro a day to drink that gallon of water. Picking up what I'm putting down? Oh, and guess what!? Not Obama's fault! 

Being a communications major, I tend to look at social advertisements a bit closer than most. Thanks Professor Plotnick. While in the U.S. we crowd the sides of our highways with monotonous advertisements, here I assume they look at them as a distraction. Which is VERY weird because I find it F**KING distracting seeing Liam Neeson on every other bus stop. Seriously, get out of my face! I hate your stupid, ludicrous trilogy!

Happy Chris...?

Surviving the Foodie Shock

Happy birthday Mom! For those of you who don't know, my beloved mother turns 47 today! Oh, get over it, age is just a number. At least I think that's what Shakespeare once said.

What are you looking for in a host family? It was the middle of October, I think. I was filling out a questionnaire distributed by the school asking all students partaking in the semester in Spain what they looked for in a family. I'm sure most were interested in the actually living situation. How many pets and siblings will I have? I didn't care about that, I just wanted to be able to keep up my relatively OCD diet.

For the most part, I live alone in Charlotte. I had a few great roommates this past semester (Hi Matt & Matt) but neither were interested in cooking for me or making sure I was well fed. That was my job. I enjoyed scavenger hunts around the city every weekend looking for the grocery store with the cheapest apples. I enjoy playing Gordon Ramsay five times a day in my cramped kitchen. I can't tell you how many times I ate quinoa and chicken during that fall semester. Not enough!

In all honesty though, I'm crazy when it comes to food! I stay well away from added sugars and have a five foot restraining order against all sodas. White bread is the devil and pizza will nearly kill you upon digestion. It's sad but I enjoy it. Instead of going out with friends to cheap fast food restaurants, I offer to cook and treat them to a deep fried-less picnic in their humble abode. Sounds marvelous, right?

Before embarking on this journey to Spain I forced myself to take a step back. I was not going to be that backseat chef and spend nights questioning if that pasta I consumed a few hours earlier was wheat or not. I was not going to do it! I would roll with the punches. Whatever was put in front of me, I'd do my best to consume it all and enjoy the food, like the billions of other normal humans on this earth. Remember, I'm the abnormal one. However, no one said ever I didn't have a sly plan to manipulate the eating situation into my favor though...

Step 1: Upon arriving in Spain, find the local grocery store and scout the isles for healthy alternatives to what you may be eating. Purchase the healthiest box of cereal possible (In this case, bran flakes was the winner) in case an omelette is not the routine breakfast in Spain (It's not). 

Step 2: Ignore the white bread on the dinner table that's glaring back at you as if your in a heated staring contest. When asked why your not eating the bread, explain politely (In Spanish of course) that white bread just doesn't sit well with you. Expect to see a loaf of wheat or multi-grain on the table the next night.

Step 3: Somehow explain, without a doctor's note, that you're lactose intolerant and that more than a slice of cheese a day will cause excessive vomiting. I understand that this won't make much sense as milk will be served with cereal and I brought home a lifetime supply of greek yogurt. Yet, just give it a try. You're stupidity may throw your family off. Voicing "No me gusta mucho queso" also seems to be a perfect response to any overly cheesy dish.

Step 4: Serve yourself dessert. This is extremely important. Also, it better be that container of artificial sugarless greek yogurt as nothing else will suffice. If these directions are not followed closely, you'll be stuck eating pudding topped with a soggy cracker every night of the week. You don't want that, trust me.

After a little over a week here, I admit the food has progressively been better. I haven't seen those dreaded cheese filled hot dogs in days and every meal has been leaps and bounds better than that dog food that was served on the plane. Wheat bread is now a staple at the dinner table and greek yogurt is served every night for dessert. My lame excuse that I'm deathly allergic to onions doesn't fly over here but I'm a big boy, I'll get over it.  

 

 

 

Club Paradise

 

At this time last week, I was somewhere over the Atlantic ocean praying that the aircraft wasn't on it's way to it's demise after unexpected turbulence forced the seat belt signal to reappear. It's always a sketchy experience when you're 30,000 feet above ground, or in this case water, and that illusory safe tube of metal you're trapped in begins to shake. Don't even try to tell me those flimsy blow-up life vests under the seat will save us in an emergency. Not happening!

In all seriousness, a week is in the books. 1/12 of the semester in Spain is complete. Where did the time go? I'll tell you, the time has been spent swimming in the streets, sitting helplessly on buses and boats with an endless amount of Erasmus students and hour long walks that were once upon a time only supposed to last 20 minutes. For the most part, it's been heavenly!

I've learned a lot about myself and different aspects of life since stepping off that plane in the Spanish capital. For example, beer is healthier than soda. It's no David vs. Goliath debate but if the two squared up on the back of a McDonald's place mat depicting nutritional facts, the beer KO's the soda.

Also, Americans are not nearly as hated as much as people think. I mean sure we get a bad reputation because we feel we can walk all over, speak as loud and be as arrogant as we want and no one can understand what we're saying. Wrong, everyone can understand to a degree what we're complaining about. We come off as uppity snobs, even though that's not the truth for half of us. For the most part, Cantabrians are delighted to meet an American.

I mean seriously, my host mother Loli would rather adopt 20 abhorrent Americans than spend time with one of those excessively inebriated Erasmus students. All they do is party! Hey, her words, not mine. 

Seriously though, they're not making a great name for themselves throwing a shindig at Club Paradise. It's bad enough it reminds me of the awful Drake concert "Club Paradise Tour" I attended back in 2012. I'll save you the pain and will not go into why I resent seated concerts.

Well in all honestly, the 10 minutes at Club Paradise wasn't all that bad. They played a decent song, admission to watch a few bozos bounce from wall to wall was free and just when I thought I knew everything about myself, I came to the realization that I'm a pathological liar. Actually, that oh so sweet neighbor I mentioned a few stories back arrived at the verdict for me (Over-exaggeration). Supposedly I had mentioned that the walk back home along the coast was 20 minutes tops, not cold and sand-less yet I don't have any recollection of it. The way I see it, she should have been overly thankful I offered to fend off attackers with my menacing Totes umbrella. Funny the way that works. 

All (hopeful) joking aside, the week has been good to me. I had my doubts about signing away my spring semester to the hands of the Spanish. There was a lot I was going to miss but there's also a lot I have gained. Don't let the evening news scare you, if you want triumph, happiness and an authentic churro, I say go for it (The churro being the least important of course)! 

 

 

 

 

Tightroping the not so Lonely Road

I enjoy pretending that I'm mercilessly self-assured and entirely independent. Truth is, neither of those statements could be any more false, at least not yet. There are very few trips I enjoy taking alone.

¿A donde vas? (Where are you going?), Loli (My home-stay mother) asked.

Uhm, I'm going to hike the entire, stunning coast of Santander, where else would I be going an hour past sunrise on a Thursday morning? To be fair, she had a legitimate point. Why would any sane human being hike part of the Spanish coast that early on a Thursday, especially when that senseless human didn't arrive home until 2 am that same morning.

¿Vas solo o no? (Are you going alone or no?)

Damn right I'm going alone! I secretly wanted to unleash my inner Christopher McCandless or even Cheryl Strayed, if you're an immense Reese Witherspoon fan. I knew it would be a f'ing blast! I chucked a few tapas (snacks) in my bag and was off. The locals aren't even up that early. I mean sure, a few overzealous college kids are lackadaisically promenading to class. Other than that, the only mammals that crossed my path were a few of your mainstream squirrels. Oh yeah, and a couple pigeons.

I mean don't get me wrong, if a friend or fellow gallivant-er were to accompany me on this audacious trek up the coast, I wouldn't mind. However, the cracks would immediately appear in my not so vigorous shield of self-assurance. Also, my attitude I exhibited to my host mother earlier would look utterly fake. Would you want that?

In all honesty, sometimes it's necessary to have a gallivanting buddy. You never know when you'll need that kick in the ass or when you'll need someone to take that astonishing picture for you. No one likes a selfie, especially when the idiot has his tongue sticking out. What a nitwit!

I had a specific destination in mind. My heart was set on getting to that one site of beauty, snapping the picture that would earn me 30 likes on Instagram and getting my ass off the miniature mountain! It was only a matter of time before I would be drenched in this monsoon that was visible out over the ocean.

A voice rang in my head though. It was most likely Mumford & Sons as they were babel-ing to me at that time yet I'm confident and convinced it was my Obi Wan! "Jared, trek through the soggy patch of grass to the right. You'll find what you've been looking for." That soggy patch of grass was simply an entrance to a vacant park that I couldn't pronounce to save my life. Again, I didn't have any plans of taking the road less traveled. All I was looking for was an elegant picture of the coast that would rack up 30 likes on Instagram. That's it! 

Little did I know, the spot that Obi Wan led me to allowed me to release my inner Chris McCandless. I was hopping from wet, mossy rock to wet, mossy rock. Desperately trying not slip and drown myself in the puddles left over from high tide (Another reason to have a trekking buddy). I spotted that lone hippy-like fisherman who looked like he was having a rough day, evoked a brief conversation in Spanglish and was on my way. My adventure couldn't be any more comparable to "Into the Wild".

I bet you're still wondering when the tightroping is going to come into play. Well, the cliffs off the coast are very steep as you can imagine. Steep enough to have my mother look the other way. The designated path paved by other nomads is narrow, more or less hazardous. The wind is vicious! I'd post the other selfie as proof but between you and I, let's pretend it was never taken. All together, it's an exhilarating nightmare to say the least, one that I'll certainly jump back into next week! 

It's one hell of an experience journeying alone. Less time is spent illegally carving your name into that graffiti-ed wall. I'm not saying that you should tell your friends to kick rocks on your next trip to Pizza Hut. Never do that! However, you should yank that excursion buddy out of bed when they plead to you their alarm didn't go off, especially when you're certain they would enjoy the journey as much as yourself. Traveling alone will still land you a new sense of empowerment, a stronger relationship with yourself and a new concept on the vast world we live in. Next time, take that fellow gallivant-er with you and bestow your priceless journey on them. I can't stress it enough, someone has to be there to save you from taking that utterly embarrassing selfie that surprisingly did earn 30 likes on Instagram. Thanks! 

 

 

Traveler or Tourist: Inspiration for Gallivantology

I bet your deep in thought wondering why I'm writing this pretentious travel blog. Why in the world would I devote so much time to writing a run-in-the-mill diary about my travels? What's the point of all this gibberish?

Oh no, that's not what your wondering... well this just got awkward.

I've spent twenty years on this earth. Actually I've spent twenty and a half breathtaking, marvelous years on this earth. I've been dealt a stunning hand in life. Unfortunately, I've felt that I was sleep walking through a vast majority of them. My motto was always, "What can be done today, can be done tomorrow." That couldn't be more from the truth! In 2008, I graduated eighth grade and my parents blessed our family with an extravagant trip out west. We spent hours driving through desolate, awe-inspiring scenery in South Dakota and Wyoming. How lucky was I? Dumb question, I was ridiculously fortunate. Too bad I spent more than half the trip with my face buried in a video game.

Ahhhhh, no you didn't Jared!? Yes... I did.

I've come to learn that what can be done today, can't be done tomorrow. You can't walk up under Mt. Rushmore tomorrow or stand in the same place Steven Spielberg shot "Close Encounters" whenever you want. I hate for this post to become overly sappy and excessively philosophical but bear with me. A vast majority of my life, I have spent it as a tourist, a wallflower, soaking up every experience that has crossed my path. I half-assed countless indispensable opportunities as if they would magically last forever. I've soaked up each and every monumental episode of my life as if I were a sponge. Yes, I experienced a lot in my time but did I ACTUALLY experience it or was I on autopilot? 

I did say bear with as I am by no means the second coming of Socrates, Aristotle or even that random guy in Colorado high of his ass assessing the magnitude of our night sky. Anyway, let me continue...

Drum roll please... Que Steve McDonald!

Who is Steve McDonald? Well, he has nothing to do with that godforsaken American food chain and he's not that famous European soap opera character from the 80's who I had no idea existed until I googled "Steve McDonald". The real Steve McDonald is an immensely stupidious 20-something year old who donned a backpack a few years ago and trekked across southeast Asia in search for adventure and something meaningful. I had the privilege to speak to Steve a year ago before he evidently and abruptly put down his backpack and cut the chord on his life changing blog.

If there's one thing he taught me in the few semi-occasional email chats we shared, it was to be a traveler in life. It was to forge a meaning from every opportunity that presents itself in life. If you want see Australia and try to out jump a kangaroo, go do it! If you want to backpack across southeast Asia without the slightest plan in mind, then go do it! I've realized that a plethora of time is spent waiting for the next substantial event when the moment for adventure is now.

I went off on a tangent and I may not have made one bit of sense. What I was trying to get to was, the point of this blog is so I can recollect and paint a picture of my participation each day in an attempt to be more like Steve, a traveler. Someone who did not waste single second while he was gallivanting through what CNN would call, "The Most Dangerous Places on Earth."

Hope all is well Steve.

 

 

Cheese filled hot dogs

Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad I'm not a fool. In all honesty, I think that shipped has sailed years ago. I'm a fool, at least at times and my father is completely aware of it.

Regardless, today was the first day of classes.

Step 1: Beeeeep, beeeeep, the alarm goes off bright and early. I'm not complaining, it's been two months since I've had to wake up for a class. It's about time I get my ass in gear.

Step 2: Proceed to the kitchen to sit down for a so called breakfast. El desayuno as sieve! (Breakfast is served). One of cup of hot milk, one glass of pulp (The actual orange juice is non-existent), and 2 pieces of moderately burnt toast. For us Americans, hardly the breakfast of champions. Where in the world are the uncooked steel cut oats I've been accustomed to chowing down every morning!?

Step 3:  Jump in the backseat of your oh so sweet neighbor's European version of a Ford Focus; seriously though Silvina is a saint! That's what they all have in Spain. Us Americans think we give away our nationality easily because we sound like aliens when speaking. Wrong! If you want the entire city of Santander to know you're American, cruise through the compact streets in a lifted Ford pickup blasting Florida Georgia Line (or any over rated cliche country star) until the police pull you over for disturbing the peace. 

Step 4: Get laughed at by nearly every local student. Seriously, they're not even discrete about it! At least in the United States if we're laughing at someone we don't purposely point at them while lol'ing. The least they could have done was pull up the video of Crack Kid on YouTube and pretend they were watching it, jeez!

I'm proofreading this now and bewildered on how I went off on that tangent that seemleasly depicts Billy Madison's first day of school. The only difference is that no one peed their pants, at least as far as I know... All the cool kids do it. 

Moral of the story is that while my oh so sweet neighbor is devouring a perfectly healthy omelette AKA tortilla and mixed greens salad for dinner, I'm clogging my arteries with cheese filled hot dogs. Don't get any ideas Mom, I will feed them to Lizzie (the family dog) if you put those is front of me for dinner when I come home! Needless to say I'm joining the local gym immediately to refrain from blowing up to the size of Chris Christie. 

Other than that slight speed bump, I found wifi four times in one day #NewRecord, walked a half marathon and successfully strolled along the beach without unpredictably amassing a kilogram of sand in my shoes. I'm equally as impressed as you are.  

 

Wet, lost and three euros poorer

Stay calm mom! I wasn't wet alone, lost alone or poor alone. Plus if you're not lost, you're never found, right? 

Anyway, jet lag has hit me like a train or a plane. Whatever the saying is. Plane seems a bit more appropriate in this instance. Before I go on I must stress that the airline provided us with movies on the plane ride. Yeah, sounds normal but they had "Boyhood". Yes, BOYHOOD, for free! I say that as if I haven't seen the movie four times already this week. Only a few of you will understand how monumental that is to me. 

Madrid was awesome for the 10 minutes I was there. I couldn't help but smile ear-to-ear walking off the plane knowing I was in the land of Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. It seemed so surreal (Don't get it twisted, I'm not a Real Madrid fan) . The best picture I can paint would be a mix of Chernobyl and Arizona, even though I haven't visited either yet. The buildings in the suburbs looked like they needed a power wash (perfect job for John Steckel) and the area looked a bit desolate. Regardless, being on the ground was relieving. 

Okay, enough of a flashback, let me fast-forward to now. The word "wet" is fairly understandable. It rains here. A LOT. A fish could live out of water in Santander. I'm also beginning to regret not bringing a bathing suit. 

Following a short tour of the local museum and aquarium, the group was let off the leash. I'm a big fan of the similes so imagine a dog off a leash in a new area aimlessly searching for the perfect patch of grass. You get my point. It's not difficult to get lost, even in a group. None of us want to or really have the ability at this point to walk up to a stranger and ask for a ride home. Yes I listened to your rants mom, Scotty (my father) doesn't possess the skills Liam Neeson has. So why not walk around as if we're not tourists and explore the magnificent city in a downpour. We saw the sights on foot but opted for a bus tour in the wrong direction. Accidentally. My new best friends and I are forced off the bus, supposedly buses in Spain don't make round trips. They may not make round trips anywhere but now we know. Now three euros poorer we hop on the next bus. Fast-forward an hour, we're home safe and sound eating eggs, they call them tortillas. 

I'd elaborate but I'm headed to a bar to watch the Super Bowl. I'm also beginning to realize this blog may be scaring my mom more than actually helping. I still have yet to connect my laptop to WiFi so I'm forced to type these stories on my phone. Yes I'm faster than most but I'm sure you feel my pain. Tomorrow's another day. Let's see where it takes me...