Another Year Gone

It was my birthday early this week and I am now 24 years old. Kind of a boring milestone in the grand scheme of things, I don’t get cheaper car insurance until next year, despite the fact that I’ve driven tens of thousands of miles since I got my license at 17 and am still accident free. In this past year, I’ve come to better understand the personal affect that birthdays have on. More so, I’ve come to better appreciate the well wishes that my friends grant on me. I’ve really begun to understand the importance of friends and relationships. Friends and family are lifelong and that has begun to mean a great deal to me.

I feel I have always cared for my friends and family in my past. I’ve never been a very emotional person, much more logical and practical in my mind, but there have always been important people in my life who I have cared for: my parents, my relatives, my random assortment of friends. The traveling and moving that took place during my childhood limited myself from having long and close connections with people. It was something that never organically grew into my life. Even when I did live in Germany for 7 years, the longest still that I’ve ever lived in one place, I was content playing by myself with Legos on Saturday mornings. But over this last year, I’ve finally created some close relationships with friends. I visited friends in Europe after years apart. I visited friends in San Francisco after months apart. I drove across the country and made a bunch of new friends. Being able to see my friends after time apart and really feel glad to see them, to be interested in what has changed in their life, to see those changes and recount other ones, has been new and fulfilling. Whether due to time passing or actually reaching a new level of maturity and understand, I am unsure. But I am glad to have these connections now and cherish them more than ever.

In major milestones, I graduated from college this year. I acquired a real job and am moving into my own apartment next week. I am happy that my life is in order. I guess I have joined the working world, after wandering around the world as a traveler in college. I’m building my savings and starting to save money. I don’t for see many traveling related posts on here as I adjust to settling down, but we’ll see what happens.  Time will tell!

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Another Successful Trip

I arrived home yesterday from my 5-week trip across Europe and promptly fell asleep. Flying anywhere sucks, in terms of being treated like a prisoner for the sake of security theater, but it’s still the fastest/cheapest/necessary option for getting around. Traveling in Winter is getting annoying and I really am going to try not to do it again, especially in the coldest year out of the last 60. It was averaging 10-15F most of the time, but in Switzerland, it dropped to minus Fahrenheit temperatures and that just killed me.

My goals for this trip varied between catching up with friends and visiting some new places. Eastern Europe and Slovenia were completely new and quite exciting. Amsterdam/Stockholm I’ve visited before many times. Therefore, it was a mix between going out all the time and wandering around versus hanging out, grabbing a beer, and catching up. By the end of my trip, after having been to a dozen or so museums and galleries, I just was not interested in going to more. Having fun is the ultimate goal of my travels and sometimes relaxing and laying back is fun.

I really have to thank my many friends I stayed with on the trip, for offering a couch to crash on, but also for taking time to show me around and hang out. When I was kid, my dad worked for the gov’t, so I was a military brat and grew up traveling around. Moving around every couple years really limited my ability to grow long term friendships and as such, it’s an entirely new thing for me to “know” people for years at a time. I love having this ability now though! It’s such a great feeling to catchup with someone, see what has changed in their life, and congratulate them on their achievements. Friends are one of the many great things in life.

It was my first time in Europe in 3 years and since then, Europe has changed a bit, but I have changed a great deal. Graduating from college, living in 2 major cities (NYC/SF), and visiting many more has given me a wealth of things to compare. Biggest differences all around were size. Everything in Europe was so small and I never really got used it. You go to a bar, it fits maybe 20 people max, I’m feeling pretty cramped, and everyone is saying how large this bar is! Europe is a much smaller space than the US, but I feel the mentality to think small, or to perhaps think more conservatively about a space is definitely the norm, especially in the cities. I love my vast open spaces though. I felt on average, most people I met were happier. There was a certain balance that most cities had, in terms of food, life, size, housing, everything just seems more balanced. I can’t think of a “perfect” large city in the US, but certainly some cities in Europe come far closer. Europe cities are much more walkable and that is a big thing that helps.

It was great to talk German again while in Berlin, I am definitely going to look for some weekly meetings in my city, to try and keep speaking it. I have let my language skills languish and while everything seemed familiar when I was speaking, I definitely had forgotten some words.

Countries that I visited, in order of travel:

Switzerland (couple hours), Slovenia (2 weeks), Italy (couple hours), Croatia (8 hours), Austria (8 hours), Slovakia (2 days), Hungary (3 days), Germany (1 week), Sweden (5 days), the Netherlands (1 week)

Things Well Planned

  • All of my gear: having a big clothes bag and a small daily bag, new hiking boots, right amount of pants/shirts
  • Small hand towel for drying off after a shower. It doesn’t take long to dry out.
  • Under Armour Cold Gear – I wore it everywhere, thin and light, just as good as a huge wool sweater
  • Bringing along Woolite packets for cleaning my socks. At one point, I hadn’t washed my clothes for like 2 weeks, so I had to clean atleast my socks.
  • Earplugs for hostels. ’nuff said.

Things Poorly Planned

  • More socks. Cotton socks suck and get wet really easily, especially in Winter. A friend recommended Tilley Travel Socks, which are wool and apparently awesome. I am going to buy a bunch.
  • Poor planning for New Years week. I didn’t book a hostel or anything and just imaged that everything would be fine. It wasn’t. Everything booked out, something I didn’t even consider. Very poor planning.
  • I brought an extra pair of shoes that I never used. Hiking boots were all I needed.
  • Only bring 2 books max. I brought like 4 and didn’t read any of them. If I had finished a book, there were plenty of places to swap them out or buy another.

Hopefully I will write some more stories and post some more pictures from the trip in the future, but if you really want to find out more, sit down with me a for a few hours and buy me a beer!

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Merry Xmas And Happy New Year

It’s been another week or two since I’ve posted. Since that time, I did a minor trip swinging through Wien, Bratislava, and Budapest. I spent Christmas in Slovenia with Vesna’s family and then took off a week days ago to Berlin. This whole christmas-new years week was definitely the least planned part of my trip and I’ve come to realize how poor an idea this was, considering the major holidays and the possibility that hostels/hotel would completely sell out! Especially coming to Berlin, a major international city, and trying to bum my way around without planning anything was definitely not a smart thing to do, but things have managed to work out quite well!

My latest theory is that traveling is something like being a pinball in a giant machine or a domino that you want to push over and start a chain of awesome events. You want to be as extroverted as possible to meet new people, who open up new opportunities for you or give you help. This applies to real life as well, but I find especially while traveling in foreign country with completely different language and culture, knowing someone local can make a world of difference in understanding things.

For example: I got the idea to come to Berlin because I asked twitter where I should go in Europe last week. Someone suggested 26C3, a hacking/social conference. It looked like something interesting to do for 4 days, so I made the plans! I showed up the first night of the conference without housing, so I sent out some emails to people and eventually found a free bed for the last night of the conference with Paul, a CS student here in Berlin. The conference finished up on the 30th, but Paul’s housing contract/lease was up this month and he had to out by January 1st! So, he let me stay with him in exchange for helping him move out. I spent most of the morning of the 31st carrying boxes and a couch down a couple flights of stairs. I then showed up at 7PM at Alexander Platz for Journey to the End of the Year, a massive Pacman style game, which I found out about via Paul and other people from the conference… I spent a couple hours running around Berlin with another German, Stephan, from the Blackforest. We got lost during the game, but met up at the after party, around 10PM. That party sucked, so I jumped ship with some other guys I met from Darmstat, Florian and Lucas, and we picked up fireworks from their apartment to shoot off at midnight. Florian and I traded emails and I kept hanging out him for the next few days, hitting up a science museum, since we are both engineers.

Long story short, I had a great time running around meeting random people in Berlin. With no plan, a bit of luck, and throwing myself out there, I’ve gotten pretty far!

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Slovenia: The First Week

It has been a full week now that I have been in Slovenia! Since I left on the 4th, two weeks ago, I spent most of a week in NYC touring around. I had some great food and caught up with some good friends, but nothing too special. Then last Thursday, I took an overnight plane to Zurich and then to Slovenia. The jetlag wasn’t too bad, the first night here I slept for 12 hours straight and that was about it.

Slovenia is a wonderful little country that has really surprised me with how beautiful everything is. I perhaps had some misconceptions about the country before coming here due its proximity to some not-so-modern Eastern European countries, but I have seen that it is quite a modern country and has some very smart people here. Most people I have met speak fluent English, which has been great for me, along with a bit of Italian, and German. I’ve picked up a bit of Slovenian too, I’ve been told it’s a very hard language to learn, but I haven’t had much difficulty with the pronunciation of most words. The Internet here is faster than most home connections in the US and I’ve found plenty of free or open wireless for my iPhone. Despite the old exterior on many buildings, they are completely new and awesome inside!

Flying into LjubljanaThe view from my friend's windowThe main castle of Ljubljana

I am staying here with a good friend of mine, Vesna, from my study abroad in Germany. We kept in touch and now I am finally visiting her! She has been trying her best to get me out and around Slovenia, also filling me in with plenty of useful facts and history, since she studies art history.

Over the first weekend, we hung around Ljubljana, the capitol, and where she lives. They have a nice Christmas market in the center of town, overlooked by this awesome castle that has been around for hundreds of years. The castle is one of Ljubljana’s most famous landmarks.

Tuesday, I went to Zagreb, Croatia by myself. 2.5 hour train ride from Ljubljana, about 21 euros roundtrip. Zagreb was very lovely, nestled between two large hills, it gives the city a nice upper/lower split of houses and a very nice view from the hill. I’m planning on writing up another larger post about Zagreb.

Wednesday, we borrowed Vesna’s sister’s car and drove to the coast! Trieste in Italian, Trst in Slovenian, is right on the Adriatic Sea, used to be Slovenia before WWII, and is still quite Slovenian. Great coffee and pizza in Italy, of course. Many beautiful views as we drove along the coast, heading South, to the 48KM of Slovenian coastline. We drove out to Piran, a small and old city out on a tip of land. Very beautiful to watch the sunset from there.

Thursday, yesterday, we borrow the car again and drove to Bled, in the Northwest of Slovenia, where there is the only island in all of Slovenia. There is a big church on that island, with a huge awesome castle overlooking the church and the lake. You are up in the Alps by now and it is just gorgeous.

Bled lake

Today was recovery and planning. This weekend/next week is travel to Wien, Bratislava, and Budapest! Keep reading for stories from my travels.

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Eurotrip 09

To make the most of my current freedom and lack of job, I’ve been planning a backpacking trip around Europe, to visit some old friends I haven’t seen in awhile and visit some new places. I will categorize this as a “backpacking” trip, since I will be carrying my clothes around in my largest backpack, but I won’t be hiking around like some backpackers. It is a goal to illustrate my journey here on this blog through writing and pictures, hopefully during the journey, instead of after the fact, like my many other trips.


The main stops for my trip are a weekend in NYC, 3 weeks in Slovenia, 1 week in Stockholm, and 1 week in Amsterdam. I am currently a few days into the trip, writing this post from NYC. My itinerary includes:

  • Dec 4th, fly from PIT to JFK.
  • Dec 9th, fly from JFK to LJU (Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia)
  • Around Dec 30ish, get to Stockholm somehow.
  • Around Jan 7th, get to Amsterdam.
  • January 13th, fly AMS to PIT.

I’m hoping to fit some snowboarding in during my time in Slovenia, in the Alps. The timing for some of these places is still up in the air right now and I need to figure that out once I get to Slovenia, which will be this Wednesday. I am quite ready to head to Europe!

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