12 Aug An Ode to Chacos

[caption id="attachment_2198" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Ah, Chacos. Although it is quite a feat (hah, get it?!) learning how to adjust the straps, once they're on you are golden.[/caption] If you are traveling in the near future, here is a lifesaving (more like foot saving) tip: do yourself a favor and invest in some Chacos. To express my love for the most comfortable, durable hiking / all adventure shoe, I wrote this little ode: Chacos, oh Chacos, the most comfortable of all To be worn in the spring, the summer or fall You can hike, you can bike, you can climb the rock wall Chacos, oh Chacos, the most comfortable of all You’re pricey, you are, but now I don’t mind After feeling your straps hug my feet—oh so kind Your designs they are solid, spotted or lined You’re pricey you are, but now I don’t mind We’ve been a few places, I’m sure there’ll be more Wherever we go, it isn’t a bore With you on my feet, walking is not a chore We’ve been a few places, I’m sure there’ll be more Oh Chacos, just listen, you’re special to me Each corner of the world I’m sure we will see From hiking to climbing to drinking some tea Chacos, just listen, you’re special to me Okay, but really. If you are looking for the most durable, comfortable, great sandal for travel—Chacos are for you. With Vibram rubber soles and the ingenius Chacos Z strap, your feet will be happy happy happy for your entire trip!...

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03 Aug Catch Her If You Can

[caption id="attachment_2201" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Do you choose to face the world?[/caption]  "I choose to face the world" is the motto of this confident, adventurous, inspiring young traveler, Kim Charters. Hailing from Bay City, Michigan, this 19 year old is taking on the world one country at a time--and usually by herself! Her most recent trip abroad included Norway, Germany and beyond. From sleeping on strangers' couches (don't worry, it's safe, you'll here more about it later!), to hiking 10 hours through Norwegian snow with a man and a dog she had just met the day before, to drinking countless liters of German beer and stomping on tables until she couldn't anymore in one of her favorite cities--Kim is a phenomenal, confident example of how to get the most out of your adventures! I've known Kim for a handful of years and she didn't mind answering a few questions for me. So, here is a piece of Kim's story, from her most recent adventures abroad. It is my hope that people like Kim can inspire other young travelers to JUST GO. So, tell me all you can about couch surfing! I am so interested in how it works, how safe you felt, what your hosts were like, what you did, etc. I want to let people know that it’s not unsafe or crazy or any of those other negative things that people assume. "Couchsurfing? Do you mean life-changing experience? So, you start off by going to couchsurfing.com, make...

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23 Jul “Be Where Your Feet Are”

  [gallery ids="2214,2215,2216,2217,2218,2219,2220,2222,2223,2224,2225,2226"] The saying that started it all, for me. If you follow me on Instagram (@chucklesponcho), you may have noticed that in many of my photos the prominent subject is my feet. I take a lot of “from where I stand” style photos. Although I am chastised and teased by a few people for it (“are you taking a picture of your feet again…?”), here’s why I do it: A month or so before my Fall 2014 study abroad semester, I stumbled across the saying “be where your feet are” on Instagram. It intrigued me immediately—the simplicity and ease of saying it and knowing it held so much more than the literal meaning. I latched on to it, to say the least—and it stayed with me. As I prepared for my trip—a big step for me, having not been out of the country or done anything like this before—I held on to my little nugget of encouragement. When I found myself worried about my trip or money or being homesick or the plane ride or any other details, I said to myself : “Hey, you’re not even there yet! Worrying will do you no good. Be where your feet are—here! Enjoy the people and moments around you because things will be very different soon.” I found myself repeating “be where your feet are” over and over almost as a little mantra of encouragement for myself. I said it as I packed, on...

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14 Jul Safe, not sorry—Top 5 Travel Safety Tips

[caption id="attachment_2232" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Safety when traveling is important! Always be aware of your surroundings.[/caption] Safety when traveling should be of utmost importance to all travelers—especially those of you who may be embarking on your first trip or study abroad in the near future. These basic safety tips will help ensure that you have the best time possible while traveling: Know your stuff—read up on where you’ll be traveling to. It is wise to familiarize yourself with the better and not so great areas of town, customs, festivals, food facts, and more. This way, you are less likely to catch yourself in a cultural “oops”—an embarrassment and sometimes big trouble. Write it down—arm yourself with a journal or notebook specifically for writing down addresses of where you’ll be staying, phone numbers, emails, restaurants, etc. It is important to physically write these things somewhere instead of just storing them in a phone or tablet—although having this information in two places is never a bad idea, either. Be aware of your surroundings—my high school health teacher always used to bark this at us during our self defense unit freshman year…and while I found it annoying and unnecessary then, it is so important! Always, always, always be aware of your surroundings. Often times, your intuition is a great sense of danger. This is key in keeping yourself safe on traffic jammed streets, in airports or train stations, and especially when traveling alone. Even if you’re trying to...

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07 Jul Falling in Love with The Fear

[caption id="attachment_2242" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Get out there; conquer your fears; step out of that comfort zone![/caption] As exhilarating as traveling is, even well experienced travelers know that it can be frightening sometimes. Yes, you may know where you are going and you may have everything planned out down to the last detail—yet there is still so much unknown, even if you have traveled to your destination before. What to pack, am I forgetting something, how much money do I need, will I have travel difficulties, will something bad happen—there could be a lot to worry about if you choose to. If you’ll be gone for a while there is always the question and worry about relationships and friendships falling through or missing your family or feeling homesick—the list may go on and on, again, if you let it. When you get on that plane, so many feelings will most likely be rumbling in your brain and heart. Excitement, anticipation, fear, anxiety, ahhhhh! Here is my biggest piece of advice regarding those feelings: FEEL them. Let them be and let them happen and be in that moment. Those moments are growing moments—when you know you are scared and you know you feel a little worried, but you feel it and grow and BE in that moment. Instead of pushing those “negative” feelings aside, indulge in them—they are happening for a reason. You may even find that you fall in love with that fear; you...

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02 Jul Ditch the “hostel”-ity: Pros and cons of hostels

[caption id="attachment_2236" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Hostel living.[/caption] Alright, so let’s address this topic once and for all: Hostels are not sketchy. No, they are not like the movie Hostel. No, they do not all have bed bugs. No, they’re not all sex, drugs, rock and roll. Yes, there are plenty of safe hostels. Yes, hostels are a great way to meet new people. Yes, they are very cheap and you should take advantage of them! Hostel Pros: Hostels can be very cheap! Ranging from $12 to $40 a night, hostels are a great way to travel if you are trying to save money. Sure, you won’t be living in the lap of luxury but you probably won’t be spending much time at the actual hostel anyway. Hostels are an awesome way to meet people! Generally, the average hostel goer is 18-26 years old. So, if you fall in that category as well, you will most likely be meeting many people your own age, from all over the world! Some hostels are considered “youth hostels”—these generally have lower rates and age restrictions (another safety bonus, if that is what you’re worried about). Often times, hostels will have a “community room”—a space with all the plugs to charge your phone and other electronics. This makes it even easier to meet people and maybe even make some plans! Of course, use your own judgment and common sense when interacting with strangers. Breakfast, shower, lockers, oh my! Some hostels include...

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22 Jun Making the Most of your Internship Abroad

Our summer internships are off to a great start! It’s exciting for me to hear from our interns about their new cities, homes and jobs – so many of them are getting such unique exposure in their fields, from music promotion in Galway to engineering in Reykjavik to tourism in Madrid – and so many more! Eight weeks may seem like a short period of time, but it’s definitely long enough to develop some valuable professional skills, learn new things about the world (and about yourself) and leave a great impression with your supervisor and colleagues. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your short-term internship: Take risks – You already took a huge risk by going halfway around the world for the summer! Bring that same adventurous spirit to your internship. Offer your opinion at a staff meeting, use your creativity to help solve a problem, or take on a project that intimidates you a little bit. Fully embrace that risk you’ve already taken! Be assertive – If you feel ready to tackle a new assignment, need some clarity on a task, or have an idea of how to make an existing system more efficient, speak up! Your supervisor will appreciate your interest in being a self-assured, engaged member of the team, and you may get some additional exposure and learn some new skills. Stay on your game – Remember why you made the choice to do an internship this...

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18 Jun This day in 1885

[caption id="attachment_2248" align="aligncenter" width="300"] There she is![/caption] This day (okay, technically yesterday) 130 years ago, a very important lady arrived in the United States: Lady Liberty. The United States’ most iconic monument was actually created in France. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and constructed by Gustave Eiffel, the statue was completed in 1885 after roughly 11 years of work. Once completed, the 150 foot statue was disassembled into smaller fragments and shipped to New York from Rouen, France.   Edouard de Laboulaye, a prominent political thinker and supporter of democracy, conceptualized the project in 1865, with the end of the American Civil War. The passage of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States, proved to Laboulaye, himself President of the French Anti-Slavery Society, that freedom and democracy was possible for all. “Liberty Enlightening the World” would be a gift to the United States to symbolize the French-American alliance, independence and liberty, and to inspire a return of democracy to France.   Today, France has its own replicas of the Statue of Liberty in multiple cities. For the World’s Fair of 1900, designer of the original, Auguste Bartholdi created a smaller model of the statue, which now stands at the entrance of the Musée d’Orsay. A second replica, located on the Ile aux Cygnes in the River Seine, bears the dates of both the Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution. Still other replicas can be found in Bordeaux, Barentin, Colmar...

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16 Jun Famous Landmarks that almost didn’t survive WWII

 When discussing World War II and its lasting impact on international populations and politics the focus is, rightly, on the human cost of the conflict. Six years of war claimed the lives of over 72,000,000 soldiers and civilians worldwide, and some regions have never regained the prosperity they enjoyed before the battles. Every aspect of society was altered by the massive conflict, which saw the birth America as a superpower, the fall of several empires, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of some of the most destructive weapons the world has ever seen. During the chaotic war years when the preservation of human life took precedence over all else, innumerable works of art and architecture fell victim to the astounding destruction. Mystery continues to surround the fate of some treasures, including Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael, and the infamous lost Amber Room of the Czars. Though teams of historians and experts have devoted years to finding stolen works, repairing damaged décor, and protecting sites against future damage, it is an imperfect science. As ISIS’ recent destruction of irreplaceable historic sites across Iraq and Syria has taught us, sometimes the survival of iconic buildings and structures is left entirely to the whim of occupying forces. Though it may be easy to despair for the art and history of the Mideast during the current conflicts, it is important to remember that less than 100 years ago the treasures of...

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