Barcelona, Spain: So Much More Than a Tourist Trap


I was featured in the University of South Alabama Study Abroad blog! Read the post to find out a little about my experience abroad.

Originally posted on south alabama study abroad:

After her first trip abroad, she returned to her college town with a deep passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures. Six weeks in Spain was everything she’d hoped for and more – from making friends from all over the world, improving her speaking ability in another language, gaining a new family, and more. This week’s featured blogger is Kaley Rector, an International Education Ambassador at the University of South Alabama, who just recently returned from a summer in Spain.

After returning from my study abroad in Spain, I found a quote that couldn’t have been more fitting: “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” This quote, by Pat Conroy, explains for me what I can’t put into words. This summer was more than just studyingIMG_7990 abroad, it was about…

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The dreaded, “What should I pack in my carry-on?”

As I sit here planning out what to take on my next trip this coming week, I come to the dreaded question, “What should I pack in my carry-on?” After quite a few recent trips I’ve come to realize I might just be able to answer this really easily, while a lot of people are still out there struggling. So, below are my suggestions of the essentials to pack in your carry-on.

1. Phone charger.

2. Laptop & laptop charger (or iPad/Kindle/Tablet/etc). I’m not sure if there has been any trip I’ve taken where I haven’t needed this with me at some point, including when I’m just bored. This is awesome to have during your long layovers and flights. Be sure to pack it where you can easily remove it for security checkpoints.

3. Reading material. Whether this be an actual book, a magazine, or a Kindle, this is a must-have for me when traveling. If you’re going abroad, a book about the place you’re traveling to is awesome but my favorite is having travel magazines like Lonely Planet.

4. Extra set of clothes. Just in case a flight gets canceled or you’re stuck somewhere longer than expected, bring an extra set of clothes. I always tend to pack a t-shirt and my favorite shirt out of the ones I’m bringing, pants, socks, and underwear.

5. Toiletries (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, medicine, glasses, makeup, etc). While you might not use these, you won’t regret having them if something happens and your flight is really delayed or canceled. Just make sure to have the liquids in Ziploc® bags ready to put in the bins at the security check and remember that they can’t be over 3.4 ounces.

6. Jacket/sweatshirt.

7. Headphones. I add this because I see a lot of people using headphones for the majority of their flights. However, I’ve gotten by a couple times without them because longer flights provide them.

8. Wallet (including license, credit cards, cash, boarding pass, passport, if necessary, etc). Pack these things where you can get to them easily because these will be the most used items in your carry-on.

A couple extra things that I always have are:

  • A notebook & a pencil. As a writer, I always tend to get inspired as I’m up 30,000 miles in the air. I’m also a list-maker, so something to write on is a must.
  • Any homework I have. If you’re in college and taking a trip, homework or tests are still happening as your miss classes. I like to bring anything I can do on paper or on my laptop/iPad to save me from having any heavy books to lug around the airport. (*If you absolutely need your books for a class, you can always take a picture on your phone of the pages you need to have.)
  • Snacks. I usually pack a couple small snacks for the airport and in case I can’t easily or quickly access food once I land. (Don’t forget gum!)

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From my lens

I recently read two photography based posts from The Daily Post and became really inspired to do my own take on them. As stated by Laura Cook, humanitarian and travel photographer, in her recent blog post on visual storytelling, “You can easily take a photograph, but not all photographs tell rich stories.” She provides ten pieces of advice on how to create the best story through your photographs – and I’m choosing to incorporate “Paint a scene with a photograph,” “Break the rules,” “Find the best POV for your story,” and “Frame your stories,” into my own post. In the second blog post I read, by Cheri Rowlands, she took the concept of framing your stories and elaborated on it throughout her entire post. The ideas I’m incorporating from her post will be “Architecture,” “Nature,” and “Windows and mirrors.” While I can admit that I am definitely not a photographer, I love taking pictures. So, here is my take on these ideas.

Painting a scene with a photograph:


In a beautiful city, in the center of a widely known park, surrounded by families of all kinds spending the afternoon together.

Breaking the rules:


Breaking the rules because it took me a lot more than one try to get this one. Two sisters dancing flamenco in Spain. The setting for this picture couldn’t have been more perfect.

(*Te quiero = I love you.)

Finding the best POV for your story:


Which point of view do you choose? Just to inspire a little thinking.

Framing your story:


Cuenca, Spain.

Framing your story through architecture:


Framing your story through nature:


A little abstract, but nonetheless, through the ivy roof.

Framing your story through windows and mirrors:


A collision of passion, adventure & lessons learned

“She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.” – Roman Payne

Putting into words what I felt and learned this summer during my six week study abroad trip in Spain is a really difficult task, but I know it’s necessary. I feel as if I owe a “back in the states” post to my blog audience, fellow study abroaders, family, friends and myself. But, where do I even start? Writing about my lessons learned while somehow infusing my overwhelming sense of passion within is difficult, but then add describing how that passion overflowed into my continuous six week adventure abroad…nearly impossible. But that’s why I’m here.

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“I am not the same…”

Now that I’ve returned from studying abroad in Spain, before anything else, I want to share some quotes that have inspired me this summer. Whether while traveling, writing, adventuring, changing my outlook on things, or growing as a person, these quotes were anchors, holding me to what I firmly believed, words of encouragement, or even just words of comfort during any challenging times or personal struggles. Through each bridge I encountered, each beautiful or even close-minded person I came across, and every adventure-filled step I made, I ended up taking away so much from every one. Below are 15 quotes that I truly found (and still find) meaningful and I hope you can take away something from one or more as well.IMG_9139

1. “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

2. “She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water.” – Roman Payne

3. “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy

4. “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Scott Cameron

5. “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson

6. “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.” – Edith Wharton

7. “Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” – Pico Iyer

8. “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

9. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

10. “Travel teaches toleration.” – Benjamin Disraeli

11. “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” – Anatole France

12. “We live in a world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

13. “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” – Pico Iyer

14. “There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” – Kate Douglas Wiggin

15. “Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” – Alan Keightley

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6 weeks, 6 things I missed in the U.S.

As my time abroad comes to an end, I’ve realized that each week here I began to miss different, and sometimes random, things about living in the U.S. or just the U.S. in general. Here’s my story of my top 6 weekly desires and longings while abroad.

Week one. Running through my head that first week (besides shock and the strongest desire to adjust to a new Spanish family as quickly as possible) was a serious longing for English speakers. I missed that daily conversion with people speaking my first language and always knowing exactly what people were saying. It was a little difficult adjusting to the fast pace of Spanish speakers and not knowing some of the vocabulary or slang. It felt like I was like I was running beside a car going 50 mph every single time I tried to speak to someone.

Week two. Home, my bed, etc. At the beginning of this week I woke up throwing up because of something I had eaten the night before and all I wanted was to be somewhere comfortable. At home, in my bed, with an Icee and my cat. It isn’t fun being sick abroad, especially when you don’t have the things you’d normally eat to feel better. However, my host family was so generous and sincere and really took care of me during this time.

Week three. Missing my family is something always on my mind, but becauseIMG_3010 I go to school away from home anyway, that wasn’t my week three of what I missed or longed for. Missing family or friends is rather different than missing animals because they KNOW where you’re going, when you’ll be back, etc. So, week three was me really missing my cat. Before leaving, as those last few weeks in the U.S. came to an end, I was always around her and she was like my shadow, always following me wherever I went. It’s a sad thing, leaving an animal, because they don’t understand the concept of where you’re going or when you’ll be back.

Week four. William and my family. While I was in Spain, having the time of my life, I did find myself thinking that I wished my family and boyfriend were with me. I would see things that reminded me of them, or go somewhere and really wish that they could have been with me. And it would have been wonderful having my love by my side on this amazing adventure, so my family and boyfriend are week four of what I missed back in the U.S.

Week five. For some reason, after a while I was really craving a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Constantly, all day, every day. For about two weeks straight. You think I’d be craving steak…or pizza…but no, peanut butter and banana sandwich. Peanut butter is not typical of Spain either, so I had to just push that craving to the back of my head.

Week six. During this last week, a million thoughts have been rushing through my head. Leaving Spain. Leaving my host family. Leaving my four sweet dogs here. Not getting tapas with bee10525820_10152203326191087_1500987536075568856_nr anymore. Not getting to shop for all of these clothes that are so much more my style. Having to drive everywhere back in the states. The food. The views. My favorite bar here. And so much more. While my mind has been racing, and I’ve almost started crying three times now (yes, I’m keeping track) because I really don’t want to leave, I’ve realized that I already am beginning to miss my life here. Studying abroad in Cuenca has been life-changing and one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s hard to express how much my heart has grown with love for other cities, people, animals, life here in general, everything. I already don’t want to leave because I know, now, and understand that returning to the U.S. will be just as much of a culture shock as when I first arrived in Spain.

Today, one of our USA Spanish professors told me to think about a famous quote whenever I got sad about being back in the U.S. -

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.


And it’s true. What a beautiful way to think about it. What a sweet reminder of the amazing opportunity I was given and worked so hard for.

Viajes, verano, and vino

Trips, summer and wine. Can it get any better than that?


This summer I’ve been crossing things off my bucket list a lot more than I ever imagined possible in such a short period of time. One of the things that I have yet to accomplish, however, is to take a road trip around the U.S. to visit different vineyards. And somehow, by some amazing chance, yesterday I visited my first bodega (winery) in the breathtaking country of España, home to only the best wine. I guess I can “settle” for that for now (until my feet are tingling with the desire to keep traveling – which will most likely be the day I’m back in Alabama). I’m definitely no wine connoisseur but after half a day spent at Finca Venta de Don Quijote, a bodega in Castilla La Mancha, I found a new interest that is soon to grow in my life. I’m a lover of sampling wines, and a newfound lover of the beauty of the vineyard itself, and I would ultimately love to learn all the details about the different types of wines and how they’re made.

Our day began with a trip to Belmonte Castle, a castle that was beginning to be built during the 1300s and had a touch of gothic style and towers centered around a triangle in the middle. Courtney and I ventured off to another tower around the outside of the castle for one of the prettiest views of the land, houses and wall in front of us.

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After, we continued our journey through La Mancha to the Don Quijote winery, where we learned how the wine was made, saw where the grapes were grown, saw where the wine was stored, and sampled three types of vinos jovenes (young wines), tinto, rosado and blanco. It was difficult to choose, but blanco was my favorite. Tinto and rosado were close seconds – both having very original tastes. Maybe one day I’ll have a lot more knowledge on wine and be able to create a post solely dedicated to that…



For lunch, the UCLM students surprised us with vino tinto from the winery to go with our amazing food – sopa (soup), ensalada (salad), calamar (calamari), cordero (lamb) and, of course, pan (bread).

Who knows, maybe the next thing on my bucket list will be to visit bodegas all over Spain. That gives me another reason to come back, right?20140716-232740-84460991.jpg