I’m Going Back to SPAIN!

Hi everyone! I’m a bit delayed in writing this post, but I’ve been so excited, I’ve barely had the time to think! Look what came into my email the other day:

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That’s right, your girl got a spot in the BEDA program to teach English in Toledo, Spain from September 2017 to June 2018! Why would I want to do this, you ask? Well, there are a few reasons. The first is that I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but over here in Canada, most of our college applications require some¬†experience. And I have none! So I figured why not gain some valuable teaching practice in a lovely place like Spain? That’s reason number two: I fell in love with Spain years ago and have been itching to go back ever since. Almost exactly three years later, here I’ll go! ūüôā

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I’ll be teaching here! Image from:¬†https://nationaltokens.com/7-new-locations-toledo-spain/

Wow, was this ever an agonizing wait! I joined Facebook groups for both the¬†BEDA and¬†Auxiliar programs, and I’ve been anxiously watching others post their acceptances since I returned from Varadero in early May. I even racked up some pretty hefty roaming charges while in Cuba, because I was constantly checking my email for word! The year before, I heard pretty quickly from BEDA, but this year seemed to take more time. Finally, on May 17th, I had my answer!

The letter I got details my assignment (primary and high school students) and the amount of hours I’ll work each week. 24 may not seem like a lot, but in fact it’s the maximum you could be working with BEDA! Positions are assigned from 18-24 hours and are given at random. It’s a lighter work load because we’ll also be taking classes about teaching theory through the University of Comillas. I’m not sure what to expect from those, but I’m sure they’ll look great on a resume.

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Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1328388/Spain-weekend-breaks-Toledo-steel-heart.html

I’ll be living in a city with roughly 83,000 people, but it’s only 45 minutes from the Spanish capital of Madrid. Heart eyes! I have to confess, even though I spent nearly five months in and around Spain in 2014 during my exchange, I’ve never been to Madrid or most other parts of Spain (broke student life). I’m excited to discover the castles and cobblestones of Toledo, head to Madrid for easy flight-hopping and¬†El Clasico¬†(I’m getting tickets ASAP, baby!), take a train down to Malaga, Cordoba, or Cadiz, and explore the rest of Don Quixote’s province. I also can’t wait to visit the friends I made while living in Bilbao!

The process of applying for a student visa, which we’re technically under since we’ll be studying at Comillas, is a long one, so I promise to detail the steps that lead up to my BEDA experience as I go along! I’ve already put in an application for my national background check to be able to work with children, and I’ve made a massive list splitting up my tasks in nice “To Do” checklists for June, July, and August. Classes start on September 18th, but I’ll be in Spain long before then to apartment hunt and settle in! Oh, and I’m going to Varadero again in two weeks, for possibly the last time for a year! ūüė¶ I’m very sad about being even further from my boyfriend for 9+ long months, but we’ve spoken about this at length, and on a sort of positive note, we’re already used to distance. I’m excited to explore Spain and the rest of Europe, and to be back in one of my favourite countries once again!

Did anyone else apply to BEDA, UCETAM, MEDDEAS or the Auxiliares program in Spain? Anyone in the Madrid/Castilla La Mancha area? I’d love to connect!

xoxo Cady

5 Reasons Why I Love Varadero

Hi friends! It’s been a while, and there are a few reasons why that is. The first is that I’m lazy, to be honest. When I get home from work, I tend to sit down, grab a snack, and binge watch¬†Shameless or¬†Riverdale instead of working on this blog. Plus, there hasn’t been much to write about since my last trip to Cuba. I’ve been working, waiting patiently for the Canadian snow to melt, and checking my email daily for something from BEDA or the Auxiliares de Conversacion program to tell me I’ve gotten a position in Spain for September! Both programs have closed applications, so everything is just a waiting game at this point. Some people have heard back, but most tend to hear in early May.

But, that’s not why I’m here. Surprise, surprise, I’m going to Varadero¬†again in a week! I’ll be traveling with a couple of friends to my favourite little beach town to relax, explore, and of course, see my lovely Cubano boyfriend who I’ve been missing dearly for three whole months. Every time I go, I find more things to love about this cute tropical getaway, so I decided to write a list here about why I enjoy it so much! Hopefully, my third time will be a charm as well, and I’ll have even MORE to say on the subject when I return. Here are 5 reasons why I think you should go to Varadero, Cuba!

1. It’s BEAUTIFUL

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Path between the mall “Plaza America” and Hotel Melia Varadero

I will willingly admit that my photos are not National Geographic-quality, but even my crappy camera can’t hide how beautiful and unspoiled the beaches of Varadero are. There’s a reason that it’s the most popular vacation destination in Cuba, and people come from as far as Germany and Russia to enjoy it. The sand is spotlessly white, the waters are azure blue, and the palm trees sway rhythmically above in a hazy brown and green swish. All along the peninsula, which is thin enough to cross from one side to another in a 10 minute walk, you’re treated to incredible views of the ocean and unparalleled sunsets. Not much can be done if it’s rainy or cloudy, but the water will still be warm.

Besides the obvious beaches, Varadero’ streets are also extremely clean. There are many parks in the area through which you can take a walk or a paddle-boat ride, and the houses you’ll pass by are colourful and decorated in bright patterns and unusual sculptures. No two houses are exactly alike, and I enjoyed walking by the picturesque buildings every day on my way to my boyfriend’s house.

2. It’s SAFE

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What I thought was a lamp post but is actually a security camera

This particular reason is, for me, difficult to construct, because I know that a large part of the “security” of Varadero comes from the fact that Cuba is a communist country, and there is a very high presence of the “state” wherever you travel. Crime rates here are low because of:
1. Lots of tourist police/security on the beach
2. Cameras on many street corners
3. Plain-clothed citizens who work for or report to the state, and not just in instances of theft or assault. For example, did you know that a person like me (Canadian) can’t stay the night at my Cuban boyfriend’s house, unless we were married or related? As a tourist, I’m obligated to spend money at hotels, and the family of my boyfriend would need a¬†casa particular license to have me in the home overnight, if I didn’t have a family visa. Also, if they did have that license, I’d have to pay to stay there anyways.

So, given my Canadian privilege, I’m well aware that Varadero is a safe place because of how tightly controlled the Cuban people are. It’s not good, and I don’t support such a strict regime. But if you are traveling solo in Varadero¬†(even as a woman) and you’re worried, don’t be. Like anywhere else, use your common sense, but don’t be afraid to walk down the street after dark. You’re likely to hear the usual macho cat-calling that is unfortunately a part of Cuban male culture, but it’s nothing worse than you might receive back in Canada, and it’s certainly not likely to lead to anything else.
*Note that this is limited to my experience in Varadero only, as a white female, and there are always things that could happen even in the safest of places. Plus, I’ve heard that other places in Cuba may not be so heavily patrolled and you should take your caution. Still, Cuba is the safest of the Latin American countries by far!

3. It’s FUN

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Did you know there was a Harley Davidson meet up in Varadero? People who ride them are called “Harlistas!”

Some people would come to Varadero for a week, stay at one of the resorts up the peninsula, and spend their entire vacation on the beach with a book in one hand and a mojito in the other. Honestly? There’s no “right” way to vacation, and if that’s the way people like to hang, whether they’re retirees or a family of four, then I’d say, you do you. But for me, I like to explore, and I had to find things to kill time when my boyfriend was at work and I was traveling solo. Most hotels offer the usual excursions to Havana or Trinidad (and if they don’t, you can find representatives selling them on the street!), and will often have information about local attractions too. There’s something for everyone!

If you like the beach… the choice is obvious and all around you. Varadero Beach is one of the best in the world!

If you like water sports… Most resorts offer kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and the list goes on! There are also fairly notable kite-surfing schools in Varadero, and a place halfway up the peninsula where you can swim with dolphins!

If you like shopping… Varadero has three malls: Plaza America, Plaza Caracol, and Centro Comercial Hicacos. Every street corner also has vendors selling souvenirs and trinkets. Admittedly, a lot of them are the same, and given the embargo, there isn’t much that can be brought in that’s different. However, it is possible to find some unique pieces if you keep your search going, and there are markets in the malls where you can find American brands (Pringles, Coke) if you’re missing snacks from home. Note that these will be more expensive than Cuban brands, and personally I dig the taste of Cuba’s own Tu Kola.

If you like exploring… Varadero’s peninsula has a lot of cool day or afternoon trips on it. A few notable ones are Casa de Al (Al Capone’s house, now a restaurant), Parque Josone which is the biggest park with paddle boats and cute walking paths, the Varadero Marina, and the various¬†cuevas (caves) that can be accessed on the bus. Varadero has a great double-decker, open-top, hop-on hop-off bus system that takes you to all the hotspots and hotels along the highway. It’s 5 CUC for a day pass and is totally worth it.

If you like to party… Varadero has a variety of nightclubs, bars, billiards clubs, and music venues to entertain. Take a step off the resort one night and head to the classic rock-themed¬†Beatles bar, or relax and enjoy some salsa tunes at Calle 62.

4. It’s INEXPENSIVE

Of course, to call a place “cheap” or “inexpensive” is relative, because I already know I’m privileged in the sense of being able to travel and for some, an all-inclusive vacation is simply out of the question. That being said, Cuba is top on a lot of Canadians’ lists because of its relatively low cost when compared with other tropical destinations like Dominican Republic, Mexico, or the Bahamas. All inclusive packages can go for as low as $700 if you’re not picky about star-rating and are looking at your hotel room as a place to sleep and shower only. Getting around is easy by foot, taxi, bus, or even a rental moto/car, for the more adventurous, and prices are pretty low. If you’re not staying in an all-inclusive, surrounding restaurants offer great food for admirable prices, and shops sell bottles of water and other necessities. Locally-run casa particulars are also a great choice for those on a budget. These rooms are located in real Cuban homes, run by those who have obtained their license from the state to host foreigners. Prices can be as low as 25 CUC per night and usually include a breakfast. This is a great way to meet locals!

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Non-all-inclusive hotel El Pullman, cute and affordable

5. It’s full of wonderful people

My boyfriend and his fabulous family aside, every person I’ve met in Varadero was friendly and sweet. I’m not talking about staff at the hotel who are obligated to be nice to you (although they always were anyways, and we had some great conversations), but people on the street, in the markets, or at the beach were always willing to chat as well. It helps to know Spanish, but I met plenty of hotel staff who were multilingual, putting my barely-bilingual self to shame. Another woman I asked for directions to the mall on my first day, and she gave me a 50 CUP coin to grab the bus because she thought it’d be too far for me to walk there. It turned out to be a fifteen minute walk, which is nothing for me, but the thought was there.

The friendly openness of the Cuban people is what I give credit to for meeting my boyfriend in the first place, and I encourage you to talk to locals as well, since Varadero is not just a resort town, but their home (though many live outside of the town as well). Many have stories to tell, sometimes good, and sometimes sad. I met a guy working at my hotel who spoke five languages, moving from Italy to Egypt to the USA to Cuba, where he worked as the chef. Taking the time to chat with him got me awesome insight into his life, as well as a few deliciously crafted pastas ūüėČ

Anyways, those are 5 reasons I think you should go to Varadero, and I’ll be sure to update you with more when I return. Have you been there, or been to other places in Cuba? Do you like it?

xoxo Cady

La Habana, Cuba

I’ve been putting off writing my post about Cuba for a while now, and I couldn’t really begin to know¬†why. I went on an all inclusive vacation in November to Varadero with one of my best friends. It was one of those “Hey, we both have some time off, let’s do something,” kind of decisions, and while my heart was set on Mexico originally, I have to say that Cuba turned out to be the best idea. It was a cheaper option, especially for us Canadians, and even though we only went for 5 days, it was enough for a lot of cool things. I know my blog is supposed to focus on solo travel, and I technically broke this rule by going with a friend, but it was necessary for me, for reasons I’ll explain.

This trip meant a lot to me because it was the first major trip I’ve taken (except for the USA) since coming back from China in 2015, and it was my first plane ride since then too. Naturally, I was apprehensive weeks before leaving, and it wasn’t until the wheels of the plane hit the Varadero runway that I realized,¬†I did it. I was traveling again.

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In Cuba, I spent a lot of time at the beach. I ate tonnes of ice cream. I tried shrimp with the eyes still on it, I played chess with a set so big it felt like a Harry Potter prop, and I got to practice my Spanish in a whirlwind new environment. (Note: I don’t recommend Cuba as a place to try to practice Spanish as a beginner… maybe it’s just me being used to Spain, but the Cuban accent is wildly difficult to interpret.) But, I’ll surely be touching on my¬†feelings towards Cuba in a few weeks once I return from Varadero, so this post is meant to detail the highlights of one of my favourite new cities I’ve visited: Havana!

We knew we wanted to book a day trip to Havana from Varadero, which ended up being offered by our Sunwing trip operator for a discounted price if we went on a Sunday. We got picked up and took a bus there (it’s only about two hours, but with the bus stopping at other resorts along the way, it was closer to three).

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Havana from Morro Castle. I’m also happy to say that while our day started out cloudy as per this picture, it was sunny for the rest of our tour!

Our first stop was the Morro Castle that sits across the bay from Havana city. To get over, there’s a tunnel under the bay that takes you in. The Morro was really neat and gave great views of the city on one side and the ocean on the other. We mostly went there because they have a great gift shop, selling coffee, cigars, and rum.

I think it’s worth mentioning that we went on this tour a day after Fidel Castro passed away in Cuba. With limited internet access and never turning on our hotel TV, my friend and I hadn’t even heard the news until our tour guide mentioned it! With the exception of hotels and the duty-free, nowhere was selling alcohol for 9 days following his death, and dance performances/music were prohibited as well.

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Cannons at the Morro

After the Morro, our real tour of the city began. A lot of things I had read or heard before going to Cuba was that the country is “stuck in the 50s” or “like a trip back in time.” Honestly? With the exception of the classic American cars (mostly just used as taxis nowadays anyways), I would have to disagree. Cuba is becoming ever more modern, as we discovered through both our tour and our own observations of the people around the city. Havana has set up many public Wi-Fi spots for people to use throughout the parks and other places. Yeah, they still have to pay 2 CUC (Cuban pesos) per one hour of connectivity, but it’s a step up from being one of the least connected countries only years prior.

If I had to compare, Havana reminded me so much of Spain‚ÄĒespecially some of the smaller Basque villages that I visited‚ÄĒthat it was almost uncanny. I love anywhere where people can gather in groups and just hang out, such as one of the many¬†plazas to be found in Old Havana. A lot of the buildings surrounding them were once homes to government officials in the 20th century, but have since been converted to museums or apartments.

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Plaza de la Catedral

I guess if I’m being objective, the older buildings in Havana can take you somewhat back in time. La Catedral de San Cristobal is one of the nicest sites in Old Havana, at least in my opinion. It has its own aptly named square. Lots of people were walking around selling things or chatting with tourists. I found Cuba to be an extremely friendly place, and not once did I feel like I was in any danger. Granted, I was with a group, but Havana as a whole seems a safe place to be a wanderer.

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Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Hemingway stayed while living in Havana

Another thing that was neat in Havana was the amount of rooms for rent. Sounds weird, but previously, many Cubans were not allowed to have their own business. Everything was run by the state, but the government is allowing more people to operate B&B type accommodations in their own homes and earn money through this venture. People also run restaurants or tourist shops out of their front windows.

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A building in Havana. Many of the colonial style homes are now embassies.

We walked the whole time, but there is also a network of buses that runs through Havana that is relatively cheap. We mostly explored Old Havana. The actual city has around 2 million people and looks way more modern in places.

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Comfort over style in Plaza de la Revolucion. Photo credit to Victoria Chiasson, my Cuban partner in crime

We also had a rare experience being in Cuba during the passing of Fidel, because the Revolution Square was being prepped for visitors from all over the world to attend his funeral service. We lucked out as it was slated for the next day, so we still got some cool pictures of it without it being packed.

I feel like I’ve said more than enough already, and I could go on forever, but my last tourist point is about the Capitol building in Havana, which is below.

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According to our guide, this building is an exact replica of the Capitol building in the USA, but 5 cm taller. It’s been under construction in Havana for around 20 years. As far as I know, there isn’t any reason behind it.

Anyways, this is Havana. There is so much I can say about one of my new fave cities, and from the learning I’ve done, not all of it may be good. I know through my rose-coloured tourist glasses, it was idyllic, vibrant, and colourful, but I also know that Havana and, by extension, Cuba, has a lot of problems still to deal with. Even so, this was one of my favourite days in Cuba, and I can’t wait to go back someday!

Have you been to Cuba, more specifically Havana? What did you think? Tell me!

xoxo Cady

P.S. I’ll be writing more about my all-inclusive stay in Varadero in the next week, before I jet off again to Cuba to visit a friend! ‚̧

Guidebooks: Yes or No?

Recently I moved, and fortunately, my house happens to be a ten minute walk from a popular Canadian bookstore chain, where I’ve taken to spending a lot of my time when I’m not at work.

Since I’m still in the process of planning a possible mini-trip, I decided to browse the many guidebooks to Greece, Spain, and Europe in general that the bookstore offered. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I go there almost every day to look through guides and travel stories. It got me thinking: should I get a guidebook for my time in Spain, or for my (hopefully) future trip to Greece? Would it be worth it to spend upwards of $40.00 on something I may only flip through once or twice, especially in an age where we have the internet at our fingertips almost anywhere?

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Before my exchange to Spain, I purchased Rough Guides’¬†First Time Europe. It had a lot of professional insight to everything from packing, planning, safety, and even tips for those who planned to study or work abroad. My favourite section was the back, where there were short guides on must-sees in each country in Europe, including sections on Russia and Morocco. I still refer to it from time to time when planning things, because it’s for exactly what it spells out: a first time in Europe, and it’s written in a really nice step-by-step way. Even though I’m onto my second now, the book has proven to be an excellent purchase and something I’ll keep in my luggage when I cross the pond.

But, a book that’s mostly about organizing your adventure is a lot different than a guide strictly devoted to one place or region. In addition to the Rough Guide, I also picked up Lonely Planet’s¬†Discover Spain.

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I’m going to be honest: Before I started researching schools to apply to for exchange, I had never even heard of Bilbao, the Basque Country, or¬†pintxos (tapas), so I figured it would be a good call to familiarize myself with the regions of Spain. Although my budget ended up restricting me from seeing a lot of Spain back then (something I hope to remedy this time around), I really liked that this book dove into the “best” spots, pointed out all of the neat things about select regions, and didn’t bother going into a detailed description about every single town on the Basque coast. However, some of my best experiences in Spain and other countries happened in places that were a little “off the map,” so I’ve been toying with the idea of a large guidebook that will point me in the right direction.

My last post, where I reflected on some mistakes I made in planning last time, detailed the points when I neglected to book ahead or see where the best places were before heading off. My recent foray into the guidebook game helped me to realize a few things, especially when I picked up one specifically dedicated to travel in Greece:

  • Greece is pretty big, and getting around the islands can be a costly and time consuming affair. As much as I’d like to zip around the country and then head to Malta as well, I’m now thinking it might be smarter to just spend two weeks or so exploring Greece in depth
  • There’s so much to see in Greece, and transportation can be limited around this seafaring country, so knowing when and where to avoid crowds is a big plus
  • Although we do have the internet at our fingertips, that only counts if you’ve got Wi-Fi, which can be sparse in some parts of Europe and is virtually non-existent on trains. If something happens where I end up without a reservation in a town I’m not familiar with, having a guidebook that suggests some hostels or hotels wouldn’t be such a bad idea
  • As a person with generalized anxiety disorder, letting myself get “lost” and going with the flow is actually kind of difficult. I like having an itinerary and something to refer to along the way
  • Guidebooks can offer places and things you might never think of doing. I really want to try SCUBA diving, and the book I looked at had a whole section dedicated to where the best places to go for that are, as well as suggestions for itineraries, foods to try, which airlines go where, and tonnes more I never thought of
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One of the ones I was checking out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m on the fence really. ¬†I can’t remember if it was a book or a website that alerted me to the Catacombs, but I hadn’t heard of it before my first Euro trip, and it’s now one of my favourite sights in Paris. The books tend to tell you when each excursion is open until, how much it will cost, best ways to get there, etc. This can be hard to remember for tonnes of ¬†different places when you’re heading out on a train ride, hungover and sleepy, and unable to access that website that told you everything about Greece. Plus, I’m not taking Busabout this time, which includes planned destinations, a mini-guidebook, hostel dropoffs, and an on-board trip leader to tell you things about where you’re going.

In contrast, I found out about one of my other favourite places (Sorrento)¬†through the internet in 2010, and finally made it there in 2014 without any pages to aid me. These books can be expensive‚ÄĒsometimes around $60.00 if you’re getting a full Europe one‚ÄĒand tend to be geared towards travelers with a more average amount of money to spend, versus backpackers who are usually looking for the cheapest hostels and excursions.

What do you think? Are guidebooks a good investment, or only if you’re planning months in a single country? Are the regional books (Europe, Asia, etc) better than the country-specific ones for spotting the highlights of each?

xoxo Cady

Planning a Euro Trip… the Second Time

 

As per usual, I’m not only looking into how to get myself to my destination for my teaching job, but also if and how I can do a mini Euro-trip around some popular places before I arrive in Orense for September. Two summers ago, I was already booked and waiting anxiously for my trip with Busabout around France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, with a few stops in between. The prices with Busabout were great and I enjoyed my time with them, but if you read my review you can see why I probably won’t go with them this time around. If it’s TL;DR then basically: I hate riding the bus and there were no bathrooms.

Now, I’m looking into stopping in Greece and possibly Malta before making my way back West for my BEDA job. This has proven to be a lot harder than it sounds to make work, because Orense isn’t located near a major airport, and I’ll be bringing 9 months’ worth of stuff with me that I do NOT want to be lugging around while I (hopefully) tour Santorini’s little streets or hop budget airlines. There’s a lot to think about, and while I’m slowly looking into the logistics and budget of everything, I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on some mistakes I made last time I toured Europe, which was my very first time doing a solo trip!

Mistake #1: Not taking the time to convert the currency

Only 25 euros? That’s not bad! 60 euros for a last minute hotel room? Pretty good! Only 75 euros for this 6 hour train ride? I guess it could be worse.
Which it was, because I was always thinking in euros instead of the Canadian dollars that I actually had. My money slipped through my hands faster than an Italian high-speed train. If you’re coming from a country that doesn’t use the euro, consider what you’re actually spending before you drop the big bucks.

Mistake #2: Not planning my time off of Busabout

Busabout made things pretty simple: Reserve a bus seat, get on, arrive at your next destination at a hostel that you’ll hopefully stay at because we’re dropping you there. It was relatively painless. However, there were a few places Busabout didn’t go, so I took myself there on trains and buses and just wandered around hoping I would find accommodation. In the peak travel season of August, this was a terrible idea. Not booking ahead had me paying a lot more up front, and forced me to spend time in places that I didn’t want to stay in because trains were all booked up. One time, I arrived alone at night in a strange city with no idea where any hostels were, so I paid out the ying-yang for a hotel near the train station to avoid skulking in the dark alleys with my valuables. Smart? Avoiding sketchy streets at night was, but dropping major cash on a hotel because I’d neglected to book ahead was not.

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Mistake #3: Making my own assumptions about the weather

Ahh, summer in Europe. It’s generally warmer than Canada, so I can assume that it’ll be alright to wear shorts all the time and don’t need to bring anything to keep myself warm…
Wrong again. When I arrived in Munich it was rainy and cold, and I stopped off at H&M for a beanie and some leggings just so I could wander the streets without freezing my butt off. In Paris, I waited in a long line, shivering under a sunless sky for three hours to get into the catacombs, which were even colder underground. A kind woman behind me gave me an extra coat that she had for the duration of the tour, but because I finished about 20 minutes before her, I had to wait at the exit for her to be done so I could return the coat.

Mistake #4: Not planning some relaxation time

Europe was go, go, go from one attraction to the next. I assumed this was how everyone did it, catching what sleep they could on over night trains and adopting a sort of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” type of mantra. Maybe some do, but I found that it was terrible trying to fit too many sights and journeys into three weeks. Even when planning this current trip, I was thinking of zipping around from Budapest to Hungary to Athens to Corsica, without considering how much time it takes to check into airlines and get into the cities and throw your stuff down into the hostel, while taking time to eat, sleep, and just CHILL. Trying to see too many sights can be a sensory overload. I’ll definitely be planning some leisure days at a beach or even just reading in my hostel, in order to balance out the fun filled tourist stuff.

There were definitely a few more errors I made, like eating out too much (Italian pasta is just so tempting!), using Wi-Fi that wasn’t free just to talk to people back home, and forgetting to bring my towel. If you’re planning on hitting up a lot of churches in Italy, it’s worth it to bring a shawl or skirt, as I was denied entry into some because of my bare shoulders and legs.

I’m taking my time with my Greek adventure and trying to make sure things go alright. In true travel fashion, I’ll probably still have some hitches, but at least I know what kind of mistakes to try to avoid for round two.

Any tips for planning a trip? Did you make any mistakes traveling for the first time that you wish you’d planned better for? Tell me!

xoxo Cady

 

Back at it with BEDA!

Sticking with my style of doing complete 180s when it comes to life plans, I’ve had a change of heart in terms of teaching in Spain. I wrote a bit about my interview with BEDA here, but I had already basically decided to go back to university and bump up my degree to an Honours, and then go to teacher’s college here in Canada afterwards. But, I received acceptance into BEDA a few days ago, and I felt like I couldn’t say no.

Why? A few reasons. One, I feel like I have to try teaching somewhere¬† before I end up committing to a two-year money-draining Master’s program in teacher education here. If it turns out that I go through all of this, graduate when I’m 27-28, and end up hating teaching, it’ll be a waste of my time AND money.

Two, school will always be there, but traveling opportunities come with age restrictions and responsibilities. I’m not a parent, home owner, or car owner, and my lease ends in September. What better time to go?

Three, I love traveling, and I love Spain. While my China teaching adventure didn’t end up working out, I largely attribute the failure to my lack of proper medication for my anxiety and the language barrier around me. But hey, I speak Spanish, and I’ve already researched that my medication is available abroad. Plus, I was assigned to the beautiful little town of Orense, Galicia, which is a region completely unexplored by yours truly! How could I turn it down?

Ourense-view

Image from galiciaguide.com

Four is that I love the idea of teaching, and I’m itching to travel again. I want to explore more of Spain, and see other countries I never got to see the first time around. As well, I have some friends I met during my exchange that I miss dearly, who would be easy to visit once I was already across the pond.

I don’t want to be sitting in a classroom during a cold Canadian winter, wishing I’d taken the plunge but being too afraid of past failures to do it. We’ve all got to move on someday, and I’m ready to put my unfortunate China experience behind me.

I’ll end this post with a quote from one of my favourite books, and probably my favourite work of non-fiction, Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves:

“My wanderlust had only been in abeyance, like a briefly dormant volcano. There was so much of the world I hadn‚Äôt seen yet. There were lives, so many, that I hadn‚Äôt experimented with. What if I was meant to be an aid worker, a dive instructor, a spy? What if I was meant to be a writer in New York? And forget even what I was meant to be. What would it feel like to just wander the world, free of all responsibility, knowing I could stand on my own two feet?”

What if?

 

xoxo Cady

P.S. Anyone else get into BEDA or any other program? Let’s connect!

Teaching in Spain Update: BEDA & Auxiliares

As of January 12th, the applications for the Auxiliar de Conversacion program have opened, and I’ve already run into my first problem: a recommendation letter that I requested a couple of months ago isn’t done yet. I’m still waiting and so, I haven’t been able to submit my application yet. Given that some blogs I’ve read said that they were in the hundreds (for application number) just two hours after it opened, and I’m currently 9 days past the opening date, I’m a little worried about my chances for the program. I mean yes, I’d teach ANYWHERE in Spain, but the Auxiliar program runs on a first come, first serve basis for top location choices, so chances of getting one of mine are getting slimmer every day ūüė¶ . So basically, there’s nothing to report for my Auxiliar application for now.

In contrast, I received a notification for an interview with¬†BEDA , which is another teach-in-Spain program that mainly operates out of Madrid. I did a simple application for them a few months ago (without needing a recommendation letter, at least at this point) and forgot about it, to be honest. I did some research on the BEDA program and, like any program, there are different opinions… but, BEDA is generally thought to be more helpful than the Auxiliar program when it comes to setting up a bank account, finding an apartment, and paying teaching assistants on time. One of the downsides, however, is that you have to take mandatory classes about teaching theory at a university in Madrid. The thought of that made me not want to do it, but some people say they’re helpful, and you do get a certificate at the end…

My interview with BEDA is tomorrow, and then I’ll probably find out about a placement sometime in April. It operates on the same 9 month grounds as the Auxiliar program, only this time on an extended student visa, so you can attend those classes. Meanwhile, I’ll still be submitting an Auxiliar application once I get my recommendation letter, so we’ll see where I stand in competition there!

Is anyone else applying to teach in Spain in Fall 2016??

xoxo Cady

*Featured image from the BEDA main website