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:

IMG_8335IMG_8332

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:

IMG_9020

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:

IMG_9280

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

Framing your story:

IMG_8528

Cuenca, Spain.

Framing your story through architecture:

IMG_9518

Framing your story through nature:

IMG_9257

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

Framing your story through windows and mirrors:

IMG_9761

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.

Continue reading

“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

la foto 2

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?

20140716-232743-84463134.jpg

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.

la foto 1

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…

20140716-232741-84461345.jpg

20140716-232742-84462144.jpg

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

10 reasons I should have been born in Spain

After a month in Spain I’ve come to realize that it’s where my heart lies and it’s what I’ve been missing my whole life. My heart and my soul are so happy here and I feel like this is somewhere I really belong. So, here is my list of ten reasons why I really honestly should have been born in Spain.

1. There is ALWAYS something to do. Fiestas, kayaking, hiking, dancing, eating, siestas, museums, painting, concerts, shopping, and so much more. Always.

2. Because siestas. Literally, everything shuts down for a few hours in the afternoon so you can sleep. You eat lunch and then you sleep and then you’re back at it until way after the sun goes down.

3. The music and dancing. Seriously I can dance in public here and love it. Flamenco, Sardana, etc., it’s all for me.
*Side note: I got to dance flamenco yesterday and actually learned some steps, so obviously I fell in love with it even more. One of my teachers:

20140711-193726-70646901.jpg

4. The comida. Bread for every meal, the best cookies in the world for breakfast (Chocolate Rebuenas), jamón and queso everywhere, every type of fruit and only the best of it, croquetas (imagine the mozzarella stick breading but better, with the best cheese and ham inside), and so much more. On top of it just being good, it’s so much more fresh here.

5. Madrid. Simply because it’s enough to make me miss my flight back at the end of the month and stay here forever. It’s my New York abroad.

6. The art. There are art museums of every type, everywhere, in every city. And my absolute favorite artist (Salvador Dali) is from Spain, so obviously that makes me love it even more.

7. In my favorite cities here, you can easily live without a car. It’s a much healthier lifestyle being able to walk everywhere and you get so much more time outside.

8. The style. Everyone dresses so different and it doesn’t matter. The clothes here are awesome, much more my style than what’s in the US, and I’d replace my whole closet if I could. Vans are also extremely popular here, and those are my go-to shoes.

9. You can spend more time with your cats here. Even they siesta too. (Look close enough and you’ll see a sweet cat sleeping in the shade.)

20140711-201154-72714083.jpg

10. Because the moment I stepped foot in Spain I just knew. The way someone knows they’ve found their true love, or the way someone knows they found the perfect wedding dress, I knew. There’s no stopping falling in love and Spain really did it for me.

“So, you see, my heart is held forever by this place,” she said. “I cannot leave.”
― Susanna Kearsley, The Winter Sea

New York has finally met its match in my heart

Yesterday I had the life-changing opportunity to travel to Madrid, Spain for the first time. What an absolute blessing and reminder that all the world can be mine to see if I try hard enough.

Previously this year, I made a trip to New York and have had a constant longing and aching in my heart and soul to travel back. As I think about these feelings, I can’t help but to now feel the same for Madrid. With that said, I believe that I have grown and my mind has expanded since that trip to New York only six months ago, and now deep in my heart, I have a sense of comfort within and know that I will return to both places one day.

In my eyes, both of these cities could not have better words to describe them other than accepting, incomparable, individualistic, and enlivening. A sense of self-worth encompasses you as you walk through each – even with people surrounding you everywhere you go. Here, you mean something more. You have the power to do whatever you put your mind to as long as you keep trying. You can be an individual and express yourself and you will still fit in. No one is judged in these cities full of differences on every corner. This feeling of appreciation, acknowledgement of self-worth, and love, both given and received, is indescribable. Once your heart and soul have devoted themselves to something they truly love, you will never be the same without that person, place, or thing again. As many people have said “When you know, you know,” about soul mates, or wedding dresses, I constantly say the same about cities. I find the quote below applicable to Madrid just as much as New York:

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” – Tom Wolfe