Study Abroad Diaries: On Travel

I realized this past month how much I love traveling. I love road trips and feeling cozy in the backseat and talking about life. I love staring aimlessly out of windows for hours, even when it’s dark outside. I love being up in the sky in an airplane because the world below seems to come to a hushed standstill. I love waking up and looking out and seeing mountain peaks colored by the rising sun. I love packing my suitcase. I love the wonderful sleep you get after a full day of walking around and taking in the world. Traveling puts you in this beautiful threshold of time that’s sort of an in-between, a pause where you can fall in love with the world again.

Weekend 1: Amsterdam

What a place. Amsterdam was a spontaneous decision to go for one of my friend’s birthdays and it was a great decision indeed. Five of us took the night bus (if you’re curious, check out FlixBus or OuiBus. Super cheap and super comfy!) on Thursday night and made it really early Friday morning. We spent the first few hours being Vagabonds at the bus terminal’s Starbuck’s. The rest of the day was spent exploring Amsterdam, eating some delicious dutch pancakes at an adorable café called “The Happy Pig”, shopping around, taking in the canals, eating dutch french fries and stopping for some more coffee to keep ourselves going.

Our airbnb was a super cozy canal boat that instantly felt like home. That night, we went to the Amsterdam Music Festival. The concert was amazing because everyone was there for the same purpose: the music and the happy vibes. The next two days we spent eating lots and lots of food and exploring the city and going to museums. Amsterdam is full of really happy, really kind people. Also, it was so wonderful to shamelessly speak in English again, and have everyone you talk to understand you!

Weekend 2: London

I went to London to visit some family, and it was so lovely to a) reconnect with people I hadn’t seen in a very long time b) be in a country that shares your first language and c) eat some homemade Pakistani and Syrian food. God bless biryani, and authentic hummus. I missed it so much.

I spent the first day by myself, as everyone was either at work or school. I went to this place called Borough Market which was glorious because it was a market that was dedicated to the heavenly creation that is food. And it was all so, so cheap (for London prices especially!) I got this baby (see below) for less than 5 pounds. Grass-fed beef burger with aged English cheddar and avocados. Yes. Yes. YES!

Afterwards, I hung out on the London bridge and then stumbled my way over (I was quite proud of myself for managing to find my way around without falling into a dark hole of confusion and panic) to the Tate Britain Museum. I realized I’d never been alone in a museum before, and it was actually really fun to observe for as long as I wanted to. My last day was spent exploring a little, but mostly I was there to take it easy and spend time with people I missed.

Weekend 3: Italy

For fall break, my friends and I decided to city hop in Italy. We took a morning flight to Milan, spent a few days there, then made our way to Venice, Florence, and finally trained it back to Milan to catch a 6am flight back to Paris so I could make it to my morning class. As you can see, it was EXHAUSTING.

But, it was also so much fun! Florence was by far my favorite city in Italy. It was so, so beautiful. Every day the sun was shining brilliantly and the skies were blue and the food was, you know, INSANE (although, I still feel like I need to go back there to find that life-changing pizza). The best was when we walked up a hill to Piazza Michelangelo and got a view of the entire city of Florence and all of the beautiful mountains and hills and trees surrounding it. I was at bliss.

Venice was beautiful in every way. Even better than the postcards, I can assure you. There’s something about walking through those alleyways in the evening that just feels so warm. Super touristy, of course. I mean, it exists because of tourism, so can you really blame them? We also went to the Biennale, the global art festival that’s been going on over the past couple of months. There was some really strange, somewhat disturbing modern art, but intriguing nonetheless. In all three cities we saw so much art that we had learned solely from history books about the Renaissance and Middle Ages. I’m pretty sure we had gelato after every meal, and I am VERY sure that I gained at least a few pounds in the process (no regrets though).

After my travels, I was (and am) so, so happy to be back in Paris. There was this really warm, really cozy feeling that washed over me when we landed. I was finally back in the city that I knew and loved, and where I can speak the language. I had a love-hate relationship with Paris last month, as you may have noticed in my last article. But in that moment, being back after so long made me so excited to spend the rest of my study abroad time exploring my new, sort of temporary, sort of permanent home.

For the next few weeks, I’m staying put.