North Carolina

This week I interviewed my friend from home about Outer Banks, North Carolina. He has been going on vacation there every summer for the past several years and I was wondering just what it was that kept him coming back.
I asked him to recommend the places to go when visiting. The first thing he recommends is going to the beach. Here you can look for sea shells or sea glass while you take a walk along the shore. Don’t forget to stop and look for dolphins, you may be able to see their fines above the water in the distance!
The second thing that he recommends is driving on the 4×4 beach to look for wild horses. You can do this by yourself in your own car, but make sure to only do this if you have four-wheel drive, otherwise you may get stuck! (It happens more than you think.) If you do not have a four-wheel drive car, no need to fret! There are also tours that you can pay for that will take you on the beach in an open top jeep.
On the more historical front, you can visit the Whalehead Club, and get a tour of the old mansion that is still preserved on the island. It is the oldest house on the island, dating back to 1925. It is neat to be able to walk through a mansion that has been preserved for such a long time. Imagine what is must have felt like to live on this desolate peninsula with so much riches and property! The house itself is still luxurious for its time, which is amazing since it’s from nearly a century ago. They offer both self-guided tours or tours given by one of the historical society members who works at the house.
After you are done viewing the Whalehead Club, you can take a five-minute walk to visit the Wildlife Reserve Museum. Here you can learn more history about the Outer Banks and why it was famously known as a fishing and hunting area.
There are still many places to go fishing in this area, in fact, many people put chicken on their fishing lines and cast them in the lake area by the Whalehead club. A lot of people catch crabs here, and end up taking them home and eating them for dinner. If you don’t have your own fishing gear, there are many places to rent gear for the day!
Nearby, there is a little village called Currituck where there are many cute boutiques that you can shop at and good places to eat as well! Make sure that you climb the lighthouse because you will be able to see a view of the Outer Banks from Currituck Sound to the Outer Bank beach! Speaking of the Currituck Sound, you are able to go kayaking on the Sound and watch the sunrise and sunset which is a very relaxing experience. If you don’t have a kayak, you can take a night time tour where they will take you to see the sunrise.

Hanging Lose in Hawaii

Since I have written a lot about places outside the US thus far, I thought it would be nice to learn about what the United States has to offer. I interviewed my sister, Bianca, to see what her perspective was traveling to Hawaii.

For those of you looking to get a travel experience, but not leave the United States, Hawaii is for you. Hawaii seems like a world of its own, with its rich history and beautiful oceans and views. The plane ride is a bit long (about 11 hours), but Bianca assures that it will be worth the trip.

While in Hawaii, she stayed at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Ko Olina, Hawaii (located on the island of Oahu). When she arrived at the hotel, she received a leis as a welcome gift for visiting. Traditionally, the women receive leis and the men receive kukui nut leis. An interesting fact about kukui nuts is that their oil was used to make the first torches. To wear a kukui leis signifies wearing light. These nuts were also used as the first prayer beads in Hawaii and hold a very spiritual meaning as well.

Hawaii has a very rich history, and the hotel tried to give opportunities for visitors to learn more about it through different tours throughout the day. Bianca went on tours that explained the significance of all the paintings in the buildings, one about the flowers and why they are special to Hawaii, and even attended a storytelling session that told the tradition folk tale stories of Hawaii and how it was built. She mentioned that Hawaiians are some of the friendliest people she has ever met, and their willingness and pride to tell about their history is very respectable.

While in Hawaii, she suggests that you stop by at Kahuna Ranch. This ranch is open to visitors and allows you the opportunity to go horseback riding in the mountains of the ranch, where you will see beautiful views and also run into a lot of cattle on the way. She remembers that she was actually picked to lead all the horses on the tour up the mountain. They must have been pretty trusting of her, because she was only around 9 years old!
Although there were some parts that can be scary, (there are times when you are riding on cliffs and you can’t see anything beneath you so basically it seems like if you fall off your horse you would likely to fall off the cliff), it is definitely worth it to be able to see the amazing views of the beaches and mountains of Hawaii.

What is also interesting about this ranch, is the fact that it served as the location for the set of multiple movies, including Jurassic Park. Godzilla, LOST, Hawaii Five-O, and 50 First Dates. In fact, there is even a tour offered where you can travel to the set of each movie and see the exact locations where they were filmed.

Hawaii has many attractions to offer, and Bianca would highly recommend taking a trip there to experience all that you can while you visit.

Hope you enjoyed my post and will now add traveling to Hawaii to your bucket list!

A hui hou! (goodbye in Hawaiian)

Perusing Through Peru

This week I decided to learn about somewhere on this side of the Atlantic Ocean and interview our classmate Carlos Curay about traveling to Peru. He was very excited to tell me about his time there, and was enthusiastic about the people and culture of Peru.

The first place that he recommended visiting is a small town called Aca, Peru. Aca is a nice little town in the dessert area in Peru. In this local town, you can take a plane ride to see the Nazca lines that the Incans built which have been there for thousands of years. In this town, there are many different activities to partake in such as renting dune buggies to go down the dessert dunes or the lower cost way of just sledding down the dunes on rugs.
When you get bored of dessert, Aca has many resorts with nice pools, and clear blue oceans lie just around the corner.

His favorite part about Aca is that there are dogs EVERYWHERE that freely roam the streets. This is because no one owns pets, so the people make little shelters for the canines where they all congregate to sleep.

Aca is a smaller town compared to the next town he went to; Lima

Don’t judge it when you get off the plane, because traffic is crazy, you may think that you are having a near death experience every time you get in a car, but rest assured, you will be okay, this is just the normal way of driving in Peru.

This where Carlos’s grandmother lives. He describes the houses there to be very nice, a combination of clay influences and a modern look. It reminds you a lot of an ancient Peru village. Because the weather is always so nice there and everyone has a large amount of open fields outside their homes. These fields are used for all types of activities that bring the community together, such as soccer. Everyone loves to be outside spending time with their neighbors, and the community feel is very prevalent in each person that lives there. Carlos’s wishes that the same feelings could be spread to American communities.

He told me a personal story about how the community feel is contagious when you are visiting Peru. One time he went to the bakery (everyone buys food locally), and as he was walking out, he noticed a boy there who didn’t have any money. Before he knew it, a family gave the poor boy two loafs of bread through an act of kindness. After witnessing this kind gesture, he decided to pass it on. The next time he saw a poor child, Carlos went up to him and gave him an ice cream cone.

The welcoming community feel really makes you feel as though Peru is your home way from home.

As a culture overall, Peru is known for its many gold influences from ancient times. Many locals wear ponchos, as this is the traditional dress, and it is not unusual to see many people wearing them on a daily basis. Although during the day it reaches temperatures over the 100s, by once the scorching sun does down, it is actually gets pretty chilly so the ponchos come in handy. Community sports are central to the culture as everyone tries to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. There are many pools to cool off after a long day of playing on the tennis field with the people of your neighborhood.

Another staple element of Peru is their open markets. Everyone sets up booths to sell their goods at and you bargain with the owners to get what you need down to the price that you want. Make sure that you are with a local when you first go to one because if they know that you are not from there, they may try to up the price on you. The markets contain a wide variety of items, ranging from paintings to instruments, clothing, and most importantly food. Some of the local food they sell there is Lucama Granadilla, which is a fruit about the size of an orange but with a hard shell and seeds like gelatin. Carlos described this as the “best fruit ever” and said that he ate 10 a day because they are so irresistibly good.

For those of you that are hopeless romantics, there is one particular area is Peru that is perfect for you. The place is called “Proposal Cliff.” This cliff overlooks the beach and you can watch the sun set on the beach. The great part about this is it is not crowded because only the locals know about it. The view is truly something to see.

Another must see attraction is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Maccu Picu. In this town, there are llama and alpaca everywhere. You should definitely invest in a pair of alapaca socks. They are comfortable, light, and extremely warm. Even though you may think of Peru as being super hot, it is located by the Andes Mountain Range which brings cold air to the town at night and can become pretty cold.

The last town he recommends visiting is Kusco. This town is very traditional, so much so that they still squeeze cactus for dye to dye their clothing. They serve many traditional dishes such as ceviche, lomo saltado, and aji de gallina. The people are all very welcoming, and they try their best to help you to understand their culture. On a day tour, you can visit a famous mountain that has a cave with crystals inside.

Last but not least, when you travel up the mountains you can go to the elevated area, and here you can see all the lights of the city, and all the stars. It is one of the most beautiful things he has ever witnessed.

Hope you enjoyed learning about Peru!

Enchanted by England

For this blog, I interviewed one of our own classmates, Patrick Edwards. He told me about his amazing trip to London and all of the must-do attractions to put on your list when visiting.

He recommends staying in a hotel located by St. Paul’s cathedral. Out of all the places that he visited, St. Paul’s cathedral was his favorite place to see. The architecture of this old church will take your breath away.

While in London, he says that it is important to pick out a good café because that can make all the difference in your dining experience.
One of his favorite meals was eaten at a café that was tucked into a corner of the center of the city. There he found yummy tea and enjoyed a plate of eggs benedict.

Something that he will never forget is listening to the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral chime from the comfort of his hotel room. There were times when they would chime for a full half hour, imagine how beautiful that must have been!
Another great thing about the hotel is it was located right in the middle of the city so you are able to get to the biggest attractions in the city in no time!
It’s only a few minutes walk away from the River Thames! Here you can get a glimpse of the city by route of land and sea.

It is well worth it to take a River Walk around the River Thames. Right across the river is the famous Globe Theater where many Shakespearean plays were performed. Make sure that you have enough time mapped out during the day because to be able to see all of the attractions it will take most of the day.
You will really get bang for your buck by taking a bus tour where you can see everything on land and the water.
The city has a lot of visual history to offer, the buildings date back to 3 centuries old. It is a wonder that all the old buildings are still standing!

He recommends that you spend a day exploring the inside of the London Tower, which is an old royal castle complex, located right by the famous river draw bridge on the River Thames. Here you are able to get a tour of the Tower where the tour guides even dress to match the era they are giving the history of. and see the complexity of this fortified castle. It holds the crowned jewels and not too long ago served as the center for all the beheadings that took place in London.

Once you leave the London tower, you will see the famous Blue Tower Draw Bridge right outside.
What is cool about the drawbridge area is right across from here there is an international food area. One of the best meals that Patrick ate in England, was the food that was a pulled pork cheek it was served in a delicious BBQ sauce. The restaurant was a very hip, friendly environment. He even had a apple soda there as well!

unique about it, restarants are not sit down, you go to order at the counter and you sit down, and they bring the food to you — different then America

in the boat ride —you get on the boat wehre the draw bridge is and you go south down the themes, tour guides are really good,
pass the London eye on the left just before you pass the houses of Parliament on the right, you get off,
Westmingster Abbey is right there

At the houses of Parliament, you are only a mile and a half away from Buningham palace

there is a James park in between the houses of parliament and B palace on the way
lake, and garden

from here you can see Elizabeth tower (aka Big BEn) big ben is actually the bell, the tower is called Elizabeth tower.

When you get to the B palace you can see the changing of the guard at 8 am most days
you cant go inside but there is a pretty fence

round about outside the palace with a statue in the middle

you can take a mile long avenue back to the center of the city

there is good restaurants all along the road

Nomading through Norway

After talking about Hungary last week, I decided to travel to west of Russia to the peninsula of Norway. With the scenic views and the rich history, this destination would definitely be on my list of places to see. To get a first hand experience this time, I called my Aunt to interview her about her experience in Norway. She has a really cool job that allows her to travel all over the world a lot, so this probably will not be the last time you will hear from here. She recruits International students to her company which allows her to travel to all different schools around the world and get to see the awesome sites along the way.

So, what does she advice doing if you were to travel to Norway?

First visit Oslo, which is one of the major cities of Norway. Take a walk around the center of the city and you will witness all the historic buildings that this town has to offer. It is even home to the building that hosts the Nobel Peace Prize. Here you can also experience a true Swedish massage and sauna in the true Scandinavia/ European way (aka no one bothers to wear towels).

Take a giant boat taxi to another part of the town and you will find an actual living museum. As you walk through, you will see buildings from each era of history the town has lived through. Of course the Viking era is the most known, and you can see all the old buildings made solely of wood. My Aunt’s favorite part was walking into a huge wooden church with frescoes painted on the wooden walls. It was really beautiful and really made you feel as though you were traveling back in time. This museum is called the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and should definitely make the itinerary.

As you travel throughout Norway, you will most likely be taking every form of transportation, plane (to fly there obvi), trains, boat taxi, and fast moving ferries called “Car Ferries.” Expect to travel by water a lot because many of the old glaciers have melted, so now Norway is surrounded by a lot of water.

These ferries are important links across the fjords and to other islands where there is no other form of transportation that could be used to get there. This is how she was able to visit the town of Flekke where one of the international schools, UWC Red Cross Nordic, was located. Although she almost got motion sicknesses from the high speed ferry,(she felt like she was sitting on a large airplane), it was worth it for the views from the front window that would take your breathe away. The boat felt like you were sitting in an airplane

The thing that she felt was most interesting about the town of Flekke was the grass that was on the roof tops. When I asked her why people plant grass on the roof, she said that it keeps the houses warmer and also provides goats with some extra feeding ground. In fact, goats can commonly be seen on the top of rooftops throughout Norway…I found that to be quite interesting!

Another town you should visit is Bergen. She described it as the “cutest village ever” and it resembled a town much like that in the movie of Cinderella.

As I mentioned before, Norway mostly uses car ferries to travel around town to avoid using the roads, but they can’t always be avoided. My Aunt almost experienced motion sickness for the second time when she was driven to the next town in a little car up the narrow and winding streets of a mountain, but she made it to the town of Stavanger. What is special about this town, is in a certain part of the town all the houses, still standing from thousands of years ago, are white. All the streets are cobblestone and fishing is their number one market.

Finally, if you want to visit a town with rich Viking history, Sandefjord should be on your to-do list. This town is right on the tip of the country which also means it’s right by the water. Here you can see both a preserved Viking ship and a big mound of a burial site of a original Viking ship.

If you are worried about the language barrier, have no fear! Norwegians speak good English in most parts of the country so if you don’t know Norwegian, it is totally okay. They are a very nice people and will be willing to help you in any way possible. It is pretty cold there, so make sure to dress warm!

Hope you enjoyed my post and were able to learn a little more about the awesome country of Norway!

Ha det sa lenge!
(Until next time in Norwegian)

Hungry for Hungary

Last week I talked to my roommate about her experiences of going to the other side of the world entirely to travel to Australia. For this week, I branched outside of my room and interview my friend, Liz from across the hall about a country that I not is well know, but just as interesting as any other. She told me about her experiences in Hungary, which is a country that is located in Eastern Europe.

Her mother was born in Szeged, Hungary which is just south of the capital city of Budapest. Although Liz has never been to the city of Budapest before, she did give me some interesting history on it. Budapest actually used to be two cities, Buda and Pest. They were a divided kingdom, but eventually they reunited and form a large Kingdom that stretched over present day Romania and other bordering countries.

Unfortunately after World War I, Hungary lost most of its land because of a treaty. It is now half the size it used to be and is situated between the countries of Romania, Slovakia, Austria, and Ukraine. With the lose of land, many of the native people of Hungary were displaced and are not presently living in Hungary today.

When she traveled to Hungary, she was visiting many family members who presently still live there. Interestingly enough, her grandmother was actually born in Transylvania ( and no she isn’t a vampire). She told me that she wishes that Hungary wasn’t overlooked as much as it is because it is such a beautiful country with many things to offer. It’s off the beaten path so most people don’t think to travel there, but she assures that if you were to travel there, you will not be disappointed. It’s landscape is flat and covered in plains, she compared the landscape to being similar to Midwestern USA.

When visiting there, she recommends that you make a trip to Lake Balaton located in western Hungary. The lake is a major tourist destination in Hungary and is definitely a must see. It is the largest lake in central Europe. On the lake, there is a town called Tihany, which is famous for its beautiful abbey.

While in Hungary, you will often see paprika being sold in many of the farmer’s markets. It is one of the staple spices in Hungary and they use it in many of their famous dishes. One of the these dishes is called Chicken Paprikash Nokedli. Nokedli are a type of dumpling and the sauce has paprika in it. It is made by making dough and cutting it into small pieces. She described it as being a mix between Polish pierogis and Italian gnocchi. Sounds delicious to me!

Goulash is a big dish as well. It is a stew of vegetables and meat and of course, can’t forget that staple ingredients of paprika!

For dessert, Hungarians pride themselves on Palacsinta, which is the Hungarian form of a crepe. Sounds to me like you will definitely be eating well there!

Although the food sounds good, you have to be careful of the water there. There is a lot of fracking taking place in Hungary that makes the water unsafe for drinking. Be prepared to recycle a lot of plastic water bottles!

If you are worried about the language barrier, I am here to tell you that it should not be a concern. Many Hungarians speak English because they are taught this language from Kindergarten and up.

In fact, because Hungarian is such a hard language to learn, many of the shows and movies in Hungary have English voice overs. They call these voice overs “dubbed” and there are no Hungarian subtitles provided. Instead of having famous actors, many Hungarian people are famous for being voice over parts in movies and television shows.

Something that I didn’t realize was that Hungary is actually 8th in the world for Olympic Gold Medals and swimming and water polo are huge sports there.

Some other fun facts about Hungary:

They have the King’s right Hand embalmed and it’s on display with other holy relics. The king is Saint Stephan of Hungary, he was the first Christian king in Hungary.

There are several types of dogs that come from Hungary called Vizsla, Puli, (Mark Zucherburg has one), Komondor, and Kuvasz,

The inventor of the rubix cube is Hungarian.

The T- model for Ford was designed by a Hungarian American Immigrant.

A Hungarian invented the hydrogen bomb.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Hungary and become more aware of the Hungarian impact on our world. I hope you will consider traveling there!

Adventuring Around Australia

For my passion blog last semester I talked about my personal experience in traveling abroad. For this semester, I decided to take my own advice and start to explore the other places around the world that I haven’t been to yet. This lead me to take on the topic of talking about places that I have not yet traveled to, but would like to someday, almost like a bucket list. I will be interviewing individuals who have traveled to these different places to get their top picks of experiences to have while traveling to these countries.

The first inspiration for where I would want to travel came about over winter break. I was able to go to California for the Rose Bowl and there I befriended a guy who happened to be the little brother of a Penn State football player. He was from Australia, and we started to compare our countries to each other. We talked about the differences in everything from school to government to animals (aka koala’s & kangaroos). This conversation sparked my interest to go to Australia to go find out for myself the awesome things he was talking about.

My roommate, Abigail, traveled to Australia on a People to People tour so I thought that I would get her perspective on traveling there since she had experienced it first hand. I asked her what she would recommend as the “must do” attractions of Australia.

The number one place to go is the Sydney Opera House, that was the first thing to came to mind when talking about her trip. You are able to take a tour of this one-of-a-kind building and see the unique architectural make up of its long curved walls. There are many different rooms contained on the inside of the building, each with its own name. There is even a balcony that contains a huge mirror so that when you look up, you can see a reflection of the harbor skyline.

Another must do when traveling to Australia is an evening dinner cruise on the harbor where you can see a full view of the Sydney Opera House. When you are back on land, she would advice that you take some time to explore the harbor. It has lots of cool restaurants to offer that serve an array of the food native to this country. You can expect to be served fish and chips, scones, barramundi (a local fish), vegemite (a salty spread put on toast and crackers) and that’s right, even kangaroo meat usually garnished with cooked pineapples. Surprisingly, it’s pretty good but the taste can be a bit strange.

Don’t leave Australia until you go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. It is suggested that you go out for an hour tour so that you have enough time to take in all the beauty. You will take a boat out until you are to a certain point far enough away from land, and then you will take a pontoon boat to bring you to a location where you have the opportunity to go deep sea diving & snorkeling. Abigail went snorkeling on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and she described it as one side of the reef being coral and the other side just drops straight down into a deep darkness. Crazy right?! She saw sharks, different types of fish, clams,and starfish-it was all very colorful. Australia is know for their sea creature, the sea cucumber. Be careful because if you upset this creature, it will spit it’s guts out at you! You also have to be cautious of not touching the coral because that can be harmful as well.

If you consider yourself having good balance, surfing at Bondi Beach should also be on your list of “to do.” Here you will be able to get surfing lessons from the local surf shop. First, they will teach you how to surf on land and then you’ll take the courageous step of trying it out in the ocean. There is a net that keep the sharks and whales out of the surfing area, but the day after she left, a surfer got knocked off his board by a whale, so I am not sure how reliable the net is.

Finally, you should try to get the chance to go to an animal sanctuary and get to hold a koala. What is surprising about the koala is it smells really bad and its claws were super sharp. Not to be worried though, these animals just sit in trees all day and nap all the time. Kangaroos are also very abundant, as well as opossums. In fact, people try to hit the opossums with their car because they consider them to be such a nuisance.

I hope this give you a good idea of the opportunities that Australia has to offer and that you consider traveling there! It is definitely on my bucket list and I hope to get the chance to travel there someday and experience these amazing opportunities. All comments welcome!

Let your Dreams Take Flight

For my final passion blog, I am going to bring it closer to home and talk about travel within the United States. In the summer of 2012, I traveled with my family to Oahu, Hawaii.

At the time, Disney had just opened up a resort called Aulani on the island of Oahu, and of course, my family being avid fans of Disney, had to check it out. My parents surprised my sister and I with first class seats that reclined straight back so we could actually sleep on the plane. I never thought that was even possible, but I certainly slept good on that overnight flight. They also brought us little drinks with an umbrella on the straw that got my sister and I even more excited!

When we arrived at Aulani we were greeted with smiling faces and received leis over our necks. I always thought that they only did that in movies, but this was the real deal now, it was so cool!

Since I had never been to Hawaii before, I wanted to take full advantage of all the opportunities the hotel had to offer. I became the trip planner, and I made my family try EVERYTHING. We went on nature walks around the resort, made our own leis, learned how to play the ukulele, and even took a trip on a catamaran to see the place where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed! I even tried to paddle board and succeeded in not falling off the board, though my mom wasn’t so lucky.

On one of the excursion trips, we got the chance to go to a ranch and ride horseback on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was terrifying, but it was the experience of a lifetime so I tried to not think about my chancing of falling off the cliff too much, especially because my horse was a bit feisty and liked to randomly start running whenever he felt like it. The ranch was where the movie “Jurassic Park” was filmed so it was cool to see some familiar scenery.

After the horseback, we went on a boat ride and spotted some sea turtles! I decided to stand on the front of the boat so I could get a better view of everything. It was a good idea in theory, but when the boat suddenly hit a wave I was drenched from head to toe in salt water. I didn’t mind much though, it was refreshing!

We got to attend a traditional luau and I learned how to hula dance, my dad was actually brought on stage and taught by one of the dancers! We enjoyed delicious pork that came from a huge pig that was cooked on a spiket in front of us by two guys in grass skirts.

I was glad to have experienced all these new things and hope to go back there one day and hopefully learn how to surf. The area was rich with culture and I am glad we took the time to learn all about it. The people were all so welcoming and happy to be alive in general. I didn’t feel like we were still in the United States and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t actually that far from home. It was amazing to see how different the culture was here compared to any other place I had been to.

I hope that from reading my blogs you have learned that each place has its own unique characteristics that make it truly worthwhile. Travel is a way to open your perspectives and expand your horizons and learn that you are apart of something greater. I hope I have inspired you to go see the world, because there are just some lessons that you can’t learn if you stay put. Don’t be afraid to take chances, try something new, and let your dreams take flight as you explore all that the world has to offer.

On Top of the World

Every time you hear the song “On Top of the World” by OneRepublic, you picture yourself on a mountain top, looking out and thinking about how great it feels to just be present in that moment. That is the exact feeling I experienced, when I got the chance to stand at the top of the Swiss Alps.

Two summers ago, I got to go to Davos, Switzerland to attend a Global Leadership Summit with a leadership group called HOBY. We got to stay in the cute little small town in the middle of the huge snow capped mountains. I did not mind waking up to that view every morning!

On one of the days, we got to hike half way up the Swiss Alps. The bottom was more of a typical mountain, with skinny tall trees and beautiful waterfalls. Looking out over the town, you could see the roofs of the colorful houses, all gathered together in one area. There were beautiful rolling hills and glistening lakes. I could’ve sat there forever and never got tired of looking at it’s beauty.

I remember singing along to “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music” with my friends and feeling completely carefree. I was only worried about being in the moment and taking in every thing about this beautiful mountain.

The next day, we got to experience the top snow capped hills of the Alps. We boarded onto a gondola and rode up to the top. As we climbed higher and higher our excitement grew, knowing the view that lied ahead was one we would never forget.

We all shuffled out of the gondola an started hiking our way up to a little resort area tucked in the mountain. We stopped only for a couple minutes to snap some group pictures and then we were free to hike up the mountain at our own pace.

The stony path made it hard at times, but our excitement propelled our legs forward. Even though it was mid July, we were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts because of the wind chill of being at a high altitude.

Once we reached the top, we all sat down so that we could let it all sink in. For the first time in a while, I finally felt at peace. Maybe it was because the air up there was thinner, or maybe because I was having the experience of a lifetime, but as I breathed in and out I felt a sense of revival enter my lugs. It was a true euphoria and I now understand why people are willing to climb Mt. Everest because I’m sure they have that same feeling but magnified.

I could see the rolling hills, the crystal clear lakes, and the snow capped mountains that stretched on for miles. Suddenly, I was brought back to reality as I got hit with a snowball from behind. This started a whole frenzy of everyone getting in a snowball fight, naturally.

Having this experience helped me to develop an appreciation for nature, and to always remember that when you get to the top, don’t forget to enjoy the view. Some times things come into our lives when we need it most, and this experience helped to give me hope for the future because there was still such beauty present in this world.

Open Door

When one door closes, another door opens, right? What if all the doors are closed?

When I was in Amsterdam, I got the opportunity to go to a place called the Humanity House. This house was created a stimulation of what life would be like as a refugee. The experience was very impactful for me and I would like to share it with you.

First since you would be traveling to a different country, you were given a visa. This visa contained only a picture of yourself and a number. After that, you went down to your “house.” As you were walking in, a alarm goes off saying, “The city is under siege, you must evacuate.” Then there was the sound of police knocking at your door saying, “We command you to open the door.” Around the house is a suitcase with clothes half hazardly thrown it. The table is set for dinner, but glasses are knocked down and plates are scattered. It was as though someone was in a rush to leave.

To get away from the alarm and the police you walkup the stairs. You enter into a hallway filled with closed doors and windows. You try to open them up but they are all locked. There are holes in the doors that you can look through. You see things like your city up in flames, your house flooded, and rubble of where you once lived. There is no turning back now. Through one of the windows you see a grassy field. You want so badly to be able to go and sit there so you can finally feel safe and calm again, but the window is locked and you must keep moving.

As you find the only door that opens, you walk through to a room with three separate rooms. You are instructed to go inside one of them. In these rooms you are interrogated. You are asked questions like “How many people are you traveling with?” “How much money do you have with you?” “Why are you coming this country?” “What is your name?” “What is your mother’s maiden name?” As these questions are thrown at you, you are so nervous you can’t even speak let along answer any of the questions. Finally the interrogator takes your visa and you are permitted through the next door.

In the next room, there are a rows and rows of files. Since you are separated from your family, you must find the file with the first letter of your last name. If your family’s file is in there, then they have gotten there safely, and you have the chance of finding them. If the file is not there, it is possible that you will never see your family again.

Up another set of stairs, you are now in front of a screen with a gun in front of you. On the screen flashes a bunch of faces. You have one second to decide as the screen indicates you must shoot someone or you will be shot.

This experience really stuck with me. Even if just for a day, I learned what it would be like to be in that situation and frankly it was quite terrifying. I gained a great more sympathy for those that are forced to become refugees, because I can’t imagine living each day not knowing if you will find your family ever again, let alone make it out alive. I realized how lucky I was to be able to travel safely back home and know my family would be there waiting for me. I certainly have learned to not take my family or life in general for granted.