Three Travel Resolutions for 2017

In the days and weeks leading up to the new year, I spent a lot of time thinking about my resolutions for 2017. Since travel is such a big part of my life, I decided to make a few specific travel resolutions.

At the start of a new year, many people say they want to "travel more", but what exactly does that mean? If you want to travel more in 2017, be specific with your travel resolutions!

Image Credit: Martina (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

Three seemed like a good number.

I didn’t make these resolutions because I’m unhappy with my travel life. In fact, I’m very content. I just am of the belief that everything can be improved upon. I’m confident I’ll succeed with these resolutions because they come from a place of self-love.

Here’s to making 2017 my best travel year yet with the guidance of my three travel resolutions:

1. Meet locals.

Sure, you can follow your guidebook and hit all the “must-see” sites, but I’ve realized the best way to get to know a city is to make some local friends. In both Madrid and when I’m traveling, I plan to utilize apps like Meetup and Couchsurfing. And even though it can be intimidating, I’m going to try approaching strangers as well.  Does that make me sound totally crazy? I heard that’s how people used to do things pre-internet.

At the start of a new year, many people say they want to "travel more", but what exactly does that mean? If you want to travel more in 2017, be specific with your travel resolutions!
Through my book club, which I organized with the help of Meetup, I’ve met so many new friends, including a few Madrid locals!

2. Travel more sustainably.

Apparently, the United Nations has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in an effort to encourage “better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”. I’m all for it. In 2017, I want to travel more responsibly. For starters, I want to better understand how travel affects the environment and make more eco-friendly choices, especially in regard to transportation.

At the start of a new year, many people say they want to "travel more", but what exactly does that mean? If you want to travel more in 2017, be specific with your travel resolutions!
In the past, I’ve gravitated toward Ryanair because it’s such a great option for budget travel. But, is it really the best option for sustainability? Image Credit: Karen Bryan

3. Visit one new city every month.

So perhaps this one isn’t a resolution as much as it is a goal. It may sound lofty, but I think it’s more than doable. For the next seven months, I have no doubt I’ll be visiting at least one new city every month. However, my hope is this resolution/goal will motivate me to keep traveling and exploring new places even when I’m back in Michigan this summer. I think it’s natural for people’s travel to go stagnant when they’re in their hometowns, but I don’t want that to be the case with me any longer. Regardless of whether I’m in Spain or Michigan, I want to continue discovering new places.

At the start of a new year, many people say they want to "travel more", but what exactly does that mean? If you want to travel more in 2017, be specific with your travel resolutions!
Berlin is one city I’m definitely looking forward to visiting in 2017! Image Credit: Zoetnet

Do you have any travel resolutions for 2017? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments!

BB Monthly Recap: December 2016

I started writing this recap post while at my parents’ house in Michigan, but I didn’t end up finishing it until I got back to Madrid. Blogging took a backseat to family time, and I don’t feel bad about that at all.

This is my monthly recap for December 2017, including destinations, highlights and challenges.

Image Credit: Rachel Kramer (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

I’d originally planned on staying in Europe for the holiday break and using the time off to do some traveling. But Christmas Day, surrounded by family at our traditional gathering, I knew I’d made the right decision. It just felt right.

Destinations Visited

  • Madrid, Spain
  • Granada, Spain
  • St. Joseph, Michigan 
This is my monthly recap for December 2017, including destinations, highlights and challenges.
One of my favorite Spain memories to date: watching the sunset over the Alhambra.

Highlights

Visiting Granada. Earlier this month, I made the most of a puente (long weekend) and went to Granada with two girlfriends. A five-hour bus ride from Madrid, Granada is located in Spain’s Andalusia region. It was my third time visiting Granada. Southern Spain keeps calling me back! I plan on detailing the entire four-day trip in a post sometime in January (same goes for November’s Logroño trip). Until then, here’s my favorite moment of the trip: hiking up into Sacramonte and watching the sunset over the Alhambra.

Christmas in Madrid. Even though I wasn’t in Madrid on actual Christmas Day, I was still able to enjoy the holiday season in Spain. Taking part in the Christmas celebrations at my schools was so much fun! Like the students, the staff was also in the holiday spirit. I had a blast at the staff Christmas dinner for my new school, which was held at La Castela (Calle Doctoro Castelo, 22). The teachers at my school know how to have good time, and I didn’t get home until almost 4 a.m.!

Going home.  Would it be too cheesy to say Dorothy was right? There really is no place like home. It felt so good to wake up in my bed at my parents’ house on Christmas morning (even though I woke up two hours before everyone else due to jet lag). All the family time is just what I needed.

 

This is my monthly recap for December 2017, including destinations, highlights and challenges.
Here’s a not-so-great photo of me and my co-teacher Alicia. Can you tell we’re relieved to have finally sung “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree” for the last time?!

Challenges

Time management. To say December was a busy month would be an understatement. It was positively nonstop, and even though I accomplished a lot, there was still so much I just wasn’t able to fit in. I’ve been so focused on writing lately that I’ve kind of put running on the backburner. In the new year, I need to make time to run. It’s important for both my physical and mental health. I understand it’s not possible to do it all, but I want to work on managing my time better, so I can fit in as much as I possibly can.

This is my monthly recap for December 2017, including destinations, highlights and challenges.
With so much going on in December, I kept putting off reading my book club’s pick. I finished reading Bad Feminist just a few hours before the meeting!

What I Read, Watched and Heard

Read: Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. This was my book club’s second pick, and it definitely provided some interesting discussion material. I found the essay “Peculiar Benefits” particularly thought provoking. Gay wrote about different kinds of privilege, how almost everyone has some degree of privilege and why we have trouble acknowledging our privilege.

At some point, you have to surrender to the kinds of privilege you hold. Nearly everyone, particularly in the developed world, has something someone else doesn’t, something someone else yearns for.

Roxanne Gay, “Peculiar Benefits”

Watched: Bates Motel (Season Four). I don’t know why more people don’t watch Bates Motel. Amazing writing. Amazing acting. I’m seriously always recommending it to people, and everyone who’s followed up on my recommendation is just as obsessed as me. Sooooo, go binge on it now! The show is a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and depicts the lives of Norman and Norma Bates in a modern setting. I think the “Master of Suspense” would be pleased.

Heard: Madonna’s Billboard Women in Music speech. I could listen to this speech every day for the rest of my life. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. Ferocious. Funny. Fearless. Her honesty is inspiring. Please, if you haven’t heard this speech, go listen.

Coming Up in January 2017

January marks the beginning of my final seven months in Spain. I have so much I want to see and do before leaving Europe. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make the most of my time in Madrid. Sometimes in my quest to visit as many new places as possible I forget to explore the amazing city I’ve been fortunate enough to call home for the past year and a half. Madrid, tell me your secrets. Here’s to more adventures in 2017!

What have you got coming up in January? Any travel plans?

Feliz Navidad: Celebrating Christmas in Spain

Thursday morning, I’ll be on a plane bound for the United States. Like the eve of every big trip, I have a million things to do. I meant to start packing on Monday, but this week, I’ve been busy celebrating Christmas in Spain.

Here's an overview of my experience celebrating Christmas in Spain in the schools where I teach English.

Image Credit: Felipe Ortega (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette) 

Like Halloween, schools have their own way of celebrating Christmas in Spain. It’s always fun to learn how other cultures celebrate holidays, and this week, I’ve been comparing celebrating Christmas in Spain to what I remember about my holiday parties in elementary school in the States.

El Festival de Navidad

El Festival de Navidad (Christmas festival) is a big deal in just about every primary school in Spain. The students and teachers begin preparing for the festival right after Halloween. So, yes, that means we’ve been singing Christmas carols since the first week of November.

This year, the bilingual classes decided to sing songs in English. At one school, I helped teach the class “I’m the Happiest Christmas Tree”. At the other, I helped teach “Must Be Santa”. The music teachers choreographed a dance for each song.

I rearranged my work schedule, so I could attend both festivals. It was so much fun! One group was dressed up as Christmas trees and the other as Papá Noel (Santa Claus). It was cool to see how much pride each class put into their performance. The acts varied from traditional Spanish carols and dances to Stomp-esque percussion.

Here's an overview of my experience celebrating Christmas in Spain in the schools where I teach English.
Look at all the little Papa Noels on their way to the Christmas festival!

Chocolate con churros

Of course, what’s the Christmas season without some sweet treats?! On the last day of school before the break, parents bring churros con chocolate for the whole school to enjoy. They even bring some gluten-free churros to accommodate the children with dietary restrictions!

Churros, for those of you who have never tasted this beloved Spanish snack, are lightly-sugared fried dough sticks, which you dip in a cup of piping hot chocolate. Sugar? Fried? Chocolate? YUM. It’s no wonder the kids go crazy for them!

Here's an overview of my experience celebrating Christmas in Spain in the schools where I teach English.
This picture alone is making me crave churros! Image Credit:CTJ

Los Reyes Magos

I remember writing letters to Santa Claus when I was little and addressing them to him at the North Pole. In class Wednesday, the second graders wrote Christmas letters but not to Santa. They wrote their letters to Los Reyes Magos.

In Spain, Los Reyes Magos (the Three Wise Men) bring good girls and boys presents on Jan. 6. In recent years, Papá Noel has started to visit homes on Dec. 25, but traditionally, it’s good ol’ Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar bringing gifts by camelback just like they brought to Jesus in Bethlehem.

In addition to asking for toys, the students were instructed to request general gifts for the world. Some of my favorites were “an end to all wars” and “food for every hungry child”. Awwww. On the last day of school (Dec. 22), Los Reyes Magos will visit the school, and the students will have the opportunity to meet them, take pictures and hand deliver their letters.

Here's an overview of my experience celebrating Christmas in Spain in the schools where I teach English.
Last year, my coworker Alba and I snapped a picture with Los Reyes Magos after the kids delivered their letters.

Celebrating Christmas in Spain

Celebrating Christmas in Spanish schools is one of my favorite Spain memories to date. The students’ joy is contagious. This might sound kind of cheesy, but I feel like my holiday spirit has been renewed.

Have you ever celebrated Christmas abroad? If you did so while teaching English like me, how did your school’s holiday traditions differ from the ones your grew up with?