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Croatia

Some pics from our time in Croatia. We spent a day in the capital Zagreb which is probably one of the most underrated cities in Europe. We then spent a few days in the Croatian countryside where we visited Plitvice Lakes NP. 

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Switzerland

Cora and I decided that we would be economical and save over 200 Euro by taking a 13 hour overnight bus from Croatia to Switzerland. Oh what a good idea that seemed at the time. After 1 hour it was all downhill from there. We arrived to Zurich somewhat delirious at 5:30AM. We stumbled our way to the train station and were told that it would cost us about 170 U.S. dollars each to get to and from Interlaken. The woman must have seen our jaws hit the floor because she quickly gave us an alternative route that was about half the cost.  We grabbed our tickets and boarded the train and instantly passed out on some couches. We were woken up by a grumpy old man asking to see our tickets, clearly not in the mood to be dealing with a couple of twenty-something backpackers that closely resembled hobos. You know when you wake up from a nap and you have no idea what year it is or where you are? Yeahhhh that was me.  I must have stared blankly at the old man for a solid two minutes until he yelled “TICKETS!!!!!” We showed him our tickets and he not so kindly informed us that we were accidentally in first class and out tickets were for second class. We grabbed our packs and walk-of-shamed to second class where we passed out on the less comfortable couches.   

 

We finally arrived to our stellar hostel on Lake Brienz in Interlaken. At this time in our travels our backpacking packs had begun to smell like wet dogs and thus, so did we (sexy, I know).  After a (few dozen) cups of coffee, we grabbed some clothes that were less dirty than the others and decided to do a hike.  Realizing now that that was probably not the best idea considering we were running on about 4 hours of sleep. “It’ll be a nice little hike!!!!” (lol “little”).

 

We got to the trailhead with tons of energy despite our lack of sleep. A couple hours later we made it to the top. Barely. Looking back now, I am seriously laughing at how much we were struggling. I would like to blame it on the lack of sleep but let’s be real I haven’t been in shape since I was a competitive swimmer. At the top of the mountain we relaxed (Cora took a nap and I ate pringles lol), soaked in the glorious Alps views then we began the descent back to the bottom.

 

About halfway down we came across a little old German lady with walking sticks slowly making her way to the top.  Thinking she might need some encouragement (hell, I did) I said, “Almost there! The view at the top is incredible!!” She smiled and responded “Oh I know! I make this hike three times a week.”  As we picked our jaws up from the ground she mentioned that it typically takes her about half the time it took us to get to the top. Again, we’ll just blame it on us being out of shape…. Once back in Interlaken we grabbed some groceries, made dinner, read by the lake and then PTFO.

 

Our second day in Switzerland we took a train to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. This place was frickin magical. No wonder it inspired J.R.R. Tolkein to write The Lord of the Rings novels. We spent the rest of the day hiking around this beautiful valley, exploring mountain peaks, little villages and waterfalls. It was the best of times.

 

Check out some pics from our time in Switzerland below. 

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[Picking up the pieces]

10 hours into a long day of travel and zero trace of caffeine in our veins, my roommate and I were on the brink of delirium as we sat on the train back to Florence. We passed the time by playing games, singing Christmas music to the unamused passengers and laughing at our horrific reflections in the train window that closely resembled sunburned, greasy rodents (hot, I know!).  In typical girl fashion, it took us no time at all to move onto the topic of love and what it meant to be in love. *half of the people who started reading this have now closed the tab* Sooo for those still reading, thanks! Love and heartbreak can be a touchy subject to write about because it is different for everyone but this post is something that has been sitting in the drafts folder of my brain for some time now and after my conversation with my roommate, I figured why the heck not post it, just maybe it’ll help someone.

I have been in love only once in my short life and it was both the best and the worst thing to ever happen to me. In it, I learned more about myself and the kind of respect and happiness that I deserve than through any other experience I have encountered. I learned what it means to really love someone. Not the puppy kind of love that gets old after a week but the kind of love that permeates through every fiber in your being. It changes your perspective of life, the meaning to it and fills with you an indescribable sense of joy and a new breath of life. Suddenly, one person means more to you than everything else in your life combined.

I witnessed firsthand the joy that comes when you put someone else before yourself. As well as the desire to do quite literally anything to make them happy or to see them smile. I learned that it’s hard to be upset about much when you have that special person to turn to. They don't solve all of your problems but somehow all of life's "what-ifs" and big decisions seem a lot less daunting when you are by their side. I learned that words don’t need to fill the silence – that is the beauty of being so comfortable with someone. I learned that the sight of your favorite person in the world can bring serenity among the chaos and that being wrapped in their hug is your favorite place to be. I learned that a box of pizza and beer is a way better dinner date than any fancy restaurant. I learned that belting out the wrong lyrics together could make even the longest car ride fly by. I learned that it becomes a ritual to thank God for them every time you pray. I learned that no matter how hard you try; you can’t seem to hug them hard enough. Finally, I learned that you can 100%, unapologetically, be your true weird self and know that they love you because of it.

Love makes you feel so joyful and filled up. And then, as if in an instant, it’s gone. Heartbreak comes in many forms and presents itself differently to every individual. But it all hurts the same. No amount of Nicholas Sparks movies can prepare you for it and no amount of Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream can heal it.

It consumes you. It follows you. It is your constant companion. Every morning when you wake up you have to relive the fact that you didn’t dream it. It sits across from you as you drink your morning coffee, counteracting the caffeine you are trying to pump through your veins after a night of no sleep.  It flutters behind your puffy eyes as you sit at your computer at work slowly typing meaningless words into a spreadsheet you couldn’t care less about. It spills down your warm cheeks at 3AM when you're wondering how a God who loves you so much can let you feel that much pain. It stuffs itself in between the lines of words as you open a book to try to distract yourself.  It convinces you you’re worthless even when everyone around you is begging for you to realize you are the furthest thing from worthless. It robs you of your laughter, your infectious smile, and your infamous goofiness. It seeps into the light moments you try to have with your friends and instead places a hazy window in front of your eyes preventing you from seeing life as you once did. It forces you, day after day, to ask yourself how you could have been so stupid to trust someone so much to completely give them your heart and how the person you trusted most could just throw it away. It messes you up. It changes you.

You try to move on by doing the things you see in movie montages: going for long runs, grabbing dinner with old friends, saying yes to dates…. anything to signify that you are now OK. But you’re not OK; no matter how hard you try. That’s because this is not a movie, it’s real life where you feel real emotions. Your heartbreak doesn’t get resolved in an hour and fifty-one minutes like in a rom-com. There is no a-ha! I am all better now! moment, unfortunately.  Unlike the movies, we don’t heal in one perfect scene on top of a hill with a new man’s arm around us overlooking a picture-perfect skyline as the credits start to roll. Rather, we heal in little moments we don’t notice.  But that is the tricky thing about healing a broken heart: it is little by little. So little, in fact, that it can feel like you aren’t making any progress at all. There is no timeline, no end date to when the pain ends (man, wouldn’t that be nice!!!!), and no easy way out.

And then, one day, you find yourself laughing again. And I mean genuinely laughing – the kind where you are laughing so hard no noise is coming from you and you are left gasping for air holding your shaking stomach, happy tears streaming from your eyes. Instead of lying in bed in the morning, pulling the covers over your head, you jump out of bed ready for a new day (after hitting snooze 10 times of course, its still me we’re talking about after all). You find yourself on dates realizing that you are not, in fact, an emotionless monster and that you can feel those same things for other people. Gradually, that hazy window is lifted and you start to enjoy the little things again: feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, diving back into your favorite hobbies, picking up new hobbies, singing off key to songs on the radio, drunkenly dancing like a loser with some of your best friends… the list goes on. For the first time in a long time you're happy. Just happy. You might even forgive them for hurting you, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you will even be able to look at disgustingly adorable couples on the street and smile, not scoff.  Without you realizing it, you’ve moved on. The world is still turning. Your life is still happening. You’re, believe it or not, OK.  And damn, is that not the best feeling in the world. 

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Malta

"Malta? Where the heck is that?" This was a pretty common response to people when I told them I would be traveling there for a few days. So for those who are unfamiliar with this cool little island here are the facts: Where is Malta? Somewhere in-between Sicily and Africa in the Mediterranean Sea. Are they their own country? Yes, they used to be under British rule but are now an independent country. What language do they speak? Maltese is the primary language (it sounds like a hybrid of Italian and Arabic) but nearly everyone speaks very good English. 

Malta was one of the most interesting and intriguing places I have ever been. It is so unique in the sense that I think the country is culturally confused. They don't seem to have a defined, strong culture but rather they are a melting pot of different cultures. The best way I can describe it is that the country is a blend of European and African culture with a lot of arabic influences. My favorite part of my time there was being near the ocean. The 70 degree heat wasn't terrible either. The country, while being relatively small, has beauty in every direction. From the crashing waves of the Blue Grotto in Zurreiq to the rolling hills of the Island's north side, there was so much natural beauty to absorb. 

Parts of Malta look straight out of ancient times which may be why Game of Thrones, Troy and Gladiator were all filmed there. On our second day, we visited the Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra temples. These ancient, megalithic temple complexes date all the way back to the fourth millennium BC (WOWZA that is old). It is pretty sweet to say that I stood inside one of the most ancient religious structures on Earth. 

Best bits of my time in Malta: The Mac N Cheese from The Dubliner Pub in St. Julian, sitting on the beach of Golden Bay with my toes in the sand for 3 hours, the Blue Grotto in Zurreiq, the Sunday morning fish market in Marsaxlokk, sangria on the beach, and wandering the hilly streets of the capital city of Valletta. 

 

Thanks for reading,

Melissa

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[Important Words]

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[Important Words]

There are definitely a fair share of country-music haters out there but this song's lyrics are true regardless of your opinion on cowboy hats, I mean it!!! 

I think that being kind is arguably the most important and admired quality in a person. It is a sentiment we should all carry with us wherever we go at all times. Not listening to respond, but rather listening to others to understand. Kindness is about going through your life and making the world a better place for others, not just yourself. Diggin the lyrics to this song... give it a listen!

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Verona

Ahhh Verona: the city of love And boy did I fall in love! This day is still one of my favorite days I have had in Europe. We saw Juliet's balcony then hiked up to the most beautiful view of the city. After a delicious lunch and exploring the city we started walking back to the train station only to be surprised by the Veronese Carnivale celebration. Loud music, a parade, and about five millions tons of confetti comprise this 400 year old celebration. Thoroughly enjoyed seeing kids in costumes running around throwing confetti at their unsuspecting parents. Verona, you were a dream. 

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Munich

Best bits of Munich: The beer. (There were a lot more but like c'mon THE BEER WAS AMAZING!!!)

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Smitten with Britain

Now I am not much of a city girl - I would take a day in the mountains over a big city any day. But with that being said, London is one of my favorite cities (I will probably say that about every city I visit… you have been warned). It is the most perfect blend of old and new.  It is diverse and extreme, beautiful yet rough, fast yet sleepy, and noisy yet peaceful. There were so many things I loved about England but I think my favorite part of was definitely the people. From the devilishly handsome and charming men to the cute little old ladies that say, “smashing” in their magnificent accents, the people are so friendly and willing to help. From 8AM smiles on the Tube to the kind old man that had to explain that the word for elevator was “lift.” Another thing that I loved about England was the history. Two thousand years of history to be exact. It is incredible to think that England’s history began long before America was even established as a country. I don’t know if there is any other city in the world that you can be standing in the Tower of London, a ancient castle and fort built in 1078 and look to your left and see the Shard, a modern 1,000 foot tall skyscraper built across the river. Another part of Britain that fascinates me is the royal family. Yeah, they are slightly overrated and get way too much press but for real how cool is it that they have a queen and palaces (which are beautiful by the way). The royal family has absolutely zero political power but it is still cool to learn about the history of their beginnings.

There wasn’t really any part of England that I didn’t like so here were a few of my favorite things: St. Paul’s Cathedral in London (an architectural brilliance), Windsor Castle (the royal family’s “quaint” 484,000 sq. foot weekend home…), Stonehenge (the weirdest but coolest structure of rocks), evening service in Westminster Abbey (where Will and Kate got married ayyyyo), roaming the cobblestone streets of Bath, eating the best wings I have ever had from The Swan, walking down Oxford Circus at night, and of course, getting to use my super great fake British accent. London was an absolute dream and I will definitely be back.

 

Thanks for reading,

Me

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Here goes nothing

Sitting here on the airplane I suddenly realize how much I love airports. They are filled with so many real emotions and some of the most heartfelt goodbyes. Whether it is a wife desperately clinging on to her armed forces husband as if the tighter she holds him the sooner he'll return, the overprotective mom hesitantly sending her child back to college after winter break, or the single father of four somehow managing to herd his wild children through a packed airport while simultaneously juggling all their luggage. It is all un-staged, sincere emotion. And quite frankly, it's beautiful. 

I love airports because they strip us of our egos. Here, we aren't students, businessmen, janitors, or CEOs. We're travelers. We're all the same. We're all terrified when the plane starts to shake and we convince ourselves that we are about to die. We're all tired and cranky. We're all praying (literally) we don't get stuck next to the smelly dude who snores. We're all starving because we refuse to pay FOURTEEN FREAKING DOLLARS for a sandwich. We're all in the same boat. (Or plane, if you will) 

Today I leave for Europe for 5 months. I have been looking forward to this day since September. This afternoon when I was walking through the airport I felt so cool: Everyone! Look at me! Im going to Europe! *flips hair* Took me a hot minute but I eventually realized that I was not special. Everyone here has their own story and is headed to different parts of the world for different reasons. To me, that is super cool. Over the past week I have been on at least 15 coffee dates with close friends to say our final goodbyes and without fail they have all asked me the same question: "So tell me, how are you feeling??!!" and then they stare at me smiling creepily until I chuckle and respond "Honestly I have no clue." to each of them. 

And I didn't have a clue how I felt until the plane literally started taking off. It didn't actually hit me until I slowly watched the Minneapolis skyline fade through the tiny, smeared, plane window. Emotionally, I am somewhere in-between the anxiety-ridden lady next to me white knuckling her armrests as we take off and the overly enthusiastic flight attendant. I am both terrified and ecstatic about this experience. 

I am going to miss my friends and family back home (and bacon lol) dearly but that doesn't compare to how excited I am for this new adventure. I absolutely hate the overused mantra and basic Instagram selfie caption of "New year, new me!!!!!" but I think this year it might actually be true.... In 5 months I will not be returning to MN as the same person I am now. I will have seen, experienced and learned so many things about the world and about myself. I know this year will be a year of growth for myself and I can confidently say I am SO ready for it. Here's to hoping my "oldies jamz yo" playlist and the free wine will make this dreadful plane ride a little shorter...

No turning back now! Here goes nothing...

Thanks for reading 

-Mel

 

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