Love Letters to Europe: Paris

Love Letters to Europe, Travel

Paris,

You lived up to every single expectation I had of you.

I fell for you, like so many others before me. I dream of going back to you and living with you for years. We would have a fabulous life consumed with markets, gardens, the language of love, and croissants. Lots and lots of croissants.

I had been dreaming of visiting you since I was 10 years old. From the very moment that I arrived in your city, I thought to myself who utterly chic everything and everyone was. That woman on the subway, who at 11 pm at night was still wearing a gorgeously put together outfit, sleek hair, and spoke amazing French accent. While I on the other hand, wore a slob-tastic white v-neck which was inevitably stained.

I met Zachary and Emily, who at the time I didn’t know, but would change my life once we got back to Florence together. Emily’s sassiness, her utter lack of respect for anyone until proven otherwise, combined with her intense sensitivity brought on by books and art made us fast friends. Zachary was a different story. Luckily, It only took 9 bottles of wine on Easter to change that.

Garrett, Jennifer, Javon, Kaylee – those amazing people – who I ended up falling in love with too. Our ridiculous bike tour, the boat ride on the Seine afterwards, calling it a night because we could barely stay awake. Drinking wine in the park, taking the subway to the bars, not being able to fit us all in the crowded bars, and finally finding a place after what felt like forever. Ordering every single colored drink on the menu. The journey was always so much fun with ya’ll and I never want to forget it.

I felt so lucky to have finally met you Paris. I was finally getting to experience everything you had promised me: breath-taking art at the Louvre, the magnitude of the Eiffel Tower, and the interesting texture of escargo. I wanted to learn French so I could get a job as a copywriter just to be nearer to you. I wanted to marry a French man. Any French man.

I had just ended my relationship with Tyler when we met. I was worried about being in arguably the most romantic city in the world and feeling utterly alone and hopeless. Instead you showed me things that I would eventually focus on in single life – friends, exploring, travel, art, and thrill of meeting new people. I learned how much more open I could be to people. I enjoyed just talking with people and getting to know them because I knew that I no longer had someone anymore who would always be available to listen.

You get a bad reputation for being stuck up. Which, you are. But you are also filled with lovely people who don’t detest tourists. Stefan Francottee – if you ever read this – you are the kindest, sweetest, and cutest stranger I ever had the pleasure of getting directions from. You were also the first person I attempted to flirt with in five years and I apologize that it took me a while to pick up on the clues you gave me – sorry. Emmy, who let me stay in her dorm for the night and made me pasta, bought me breakfast, and made an entire list of things I needed to do in Paris – I’m eternally grateful to you.

Paris, you and I will be reunited again. I’ll be older. I’ll have the money to treat you right. I also want to bring someone with me, someone who will appreciate your beauty as much as I do. When I watched Midnight in Paris my intense desire to see you again interrupted my light-hearted laughter at Owen Wilson. I cannot wait to walk your streets again and stare out at the glittering city reflected on the Seine and thank God that I’ve finally made it back to you again.

Love Letters to Europe: Budapest

Drinking, Love Letters to Europe, Travel

Budapest,

You are the bad boy my mother always warned me about.

You were dirty, you smelled, you were rough, and you were a blur of boys, booze, and baths. Yes, I said baths.

You were also the craziest, most adventurous, and epic weekend of my life.

As soon as I got to the city I got lost. I got on the wrong bus, took a wrong turn, and ended up sitting outside a cafe just to use the Wi-Fi to look at a map. Your language was so confusing and I didn’t understand you at all.

And then I found Retox*.

Retox Party Hostel is where dreams are made, beds are broken, and non-stop drinking began and hasn’t stopped since. I showed up at 11 am and was ushered upstairs into the common room where roughly 8 shirtless dudes were nursing hangovers or still rockin’ the buzz from the night before. At the time, I didn’t know this was an every day occurrence.

I was the fresh prey. I felt like you trapped me, Budapest. You created a booby trap lined with alcohol and penises and bad decisions.

The clap-out. I was pulled into a hostel room and told to clap. Mindlessly I did, slowly looking around and panicking at the amount of dick in this hostel. Then I realized what we were clapping for: a dreadlocked guy, naked, in bed with a redhead who was also naked. Apparently this was her fifth night in the hostel….and she wasn’t staying here. I would later learn more of your traditions like M-I-N-E and Buffalo. I took a tequila shot with cinnamon and orange instead of salt and lime. I remember thinking how bizarre everything felt.

I wasn’t kidding about the plethora of dick at the hostel.

Budapest, you were so bad for me. Instead of giving me water, you handed me pints of beer. Instead of meeting your friends, you introduced me to men whose only interest was getting laid. Instead of sightseeing, you showed me the hostel bar and held me captive for hours drinking with the British guys.

Still, I wouldn’t change you for anything. I laughed so hard. I pushed my comfort boundaries to levels that are unheard of down South. I made friends with anyone and everyone, and it wasn’t just because I was drunk for the majority of the three days.

I wasn’t myself. I was Texas. I was ballsy, brash, blunt, and an overall badass – or so I felt anyways. I’m not really sure what everyone else but I didn’t care. I was so drunk on beer and confidence that I felt like I could take on the world.

You were gentle at times though. Like after I got back from touring all day by myself and I felt lonely, you introduced me to the Aussie who gave me the kind of hug that changes your day. Then he invited me on that alternative walking tour where I got to see your ruin bars and street art. God, you were so cool**. 

I cuddled with boys who reminded me for a few moments what it felt like to just lay next to someone. I remember feeling desired by guys. I left with friends who I wouldn’t ever see again but I knew I wouldn’t forget.

When I left, I cried in the taxi. It was so bittersweet. Boss telling me that I was going to be legend. I told Johnny next time I came back I wanted to work there. It was 4:30 am and I remember thinking, “This is it. I go home in 36 hours. My trip is officially over.” It was the end of Europe, not just you and me.

I know when I come back to you Budapest, I won’t be leaving for weeks because you’ll trap me again. There won’t be a plane ticket or a plan to interfere this time. I’ll give into your temptations without a shred of guilt, without looking ahead, and never looking back.  

Love,

Briana

*I would recommend anyone visiting Budapest to stay at one of the party hostels, preferably Retox, if you love to meet people, go out, and get crazy. Just make sure to prepare your liver beforehand.

**Check out the blog Postcards to Budapest for cool photos of the city, since I was too intoxicated to operate a camera for the duration of my stay.

Love Letters to Europe: Barcelona

Love Letters to Europe, Travel

Maybe it’s because I’m wearing the perfume that reminds me of Europe. Maybe it’s because I’m currently sans-boyfriend. Maybe it’s because I have too much time to spend thinking about how much I miss Europe.

Regardless, my baby is all the way across that big ole ocean and I’m starting to think it’s going to be a very difficult long-distance relationship.

Barcelona,

You are like that best friend who gets you to do all the crazy things you’re too scared to usually do.

And I would know because I’m usually that friend.

Your energy is intoxicating enough that staying up until 5 am seemed like the most natural thing I’d ever done. It kept me dancing at the best clubs in the world (RAZZMATAZZ) until I looked around and realized all my friends were long gone. I was left dancing with Alejandro or Paulo or whatever name he tried to yell into my ear over the dub-step remixed indie blaring on the club’s sound system. But I didn’t care, I was having the time of my life, regardless of the obvious communication barrier. He was the most precious Spanish hipster who loved to dance and smile as much as I did. And he didn’t try to shove his hand up my skirt – how sweet.

Then I had the idea that I would take your metro back to the hostel. The metro that was closed until 6 am. The metro I didn’t have a map for. The metro I was obviously too drunk to take.

Luckily you helped me find Jenna and those Irish guys who I couldn’t stop laughing with.  We grabbed a cab home with them and they ended up paying for it. I remember being disappointed you didn’t let me watch the sunrise but that feeling quickly dissipated as I crawled into my measly hostel bed to sleep for a glorious 4 hours.

You took my breath away when you showed me the Sagrada Familia.

Don’t even get me started on your cooking. Tapas bars where everything was amazing. I ate cheese that was on fire. I threw back entire sardines like a shot of vodka. I ate a pig’s ear for you. Well actually I ate a pig’s ear for Rick Steves, but that’s another story.

When I wasn’t eating your food, I was drinking any and all sangria I could get my hands on.

Do you remember when you took me to that hippie festival? I’ll never forget the smell of weed and the intense sunshine and happiness that literally emanated from everyone sitting on the grass. I fell in love with dreads. I told my friends I wanted to run away with a dirty hippie for a year and live like a gypsy. Only you could convince me that a life like that would be acceptable.

I cursed your Catalan road names that all sounded the same and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ever get mad at you. I miss you. I miss how it feels to explore a city. I miss how frustrated I felt when I would get lost. I miss the quick turn my feelings could take. When we stumbled upon a great bakery and suddenly I didn’t feel lost at all. I felt like everything had led me here. The only thing I am meant to be doing in this moment is eating this delicious pastry and I couldn’t give a damn about anything else.

Then just before we left you reminded me of how genuine people can be. I had loaned that guy from our hostel money to get into the club. I figured I would never see it again and I was okay with that. After checking out, the guy at the desk handed me an envelope with the cash in it and he had written me a note thanking me. I was so surprised. I had offered to help with no intention of getting anything in return and the fact that I did…well that was just icing on the cake.

Until I see you again keep the tapas warm, the sangria cool, and keep the beats blasting.

Love,

Briana

Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams

Inspiration, Personal, Travel

I’m really fearful of letting go of my aspirations.

I’m scared of the judgement I hear in people’s voices when I tell them I’m going to move home when I graduate. I’m even more scared by their disdained faces when I tell them I’m saving up because I’m going to travel instead of getting a ‘real’ job.But what’s more terrifying is not following my dreams.

Okay, it may be unorthodox to backpack instead of going straight into the employment cycle without any real plan for afterwards, but what dictates employment as the norm? I understand I may be making a mistake by putting my career on hold for two years, but for me it doesn’t feel like a mistake. I have my whole life to work 40+ hours a week at the same desk in the same city doing the same job. I’m scared of monotony. I’m worried I won’t live an unforgettable life.

“The days are long but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin

The intoxicating idea of traveling anonymously through Europe. Following my heart instead of my head. Following feelings instead of a calendar. Meeting people instead of answering emails and phones. I’m anxious to explore and grow. I’m daunted by the idea of living an ordinary life instead of literally pushing the boundaries of my experience.

“Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” – Jack Johnson

I can’t let this go, no matter how many people advise me against it, no matter how many shitty jobs I’ll do, and no matter how many terrible customers I’ll deal with along the way, it’s going to be worth it to me.

“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the dreams will come to you.” – Randy Pausch

My friends and my parents tell me if there’s one person who they know who could do this – move abroad and get out of America, lead a life they would be jealous of – it’s me. I just need to be strong enough to remind myself to do it in the face of adversity.

I also want to thank all the bloggers who are inspiring me to do this with my life. The writers who are brave enough to venture outside of their comfort zone and explain the terrors and the joys that come along with traveling. The photographers who capture the beauty in the ordinary that you find while you discover a new city. The few who stand up and choose to do something exceptionally inconceivable by so many. You are giving me the courage to live my life remarkably. Thank you.

“Travel is little beds and cramped bathrooms. It’s old television sets and slow Internet connections. Travel is extraordinary conversations with ordinary people. It’s waiters, gas station attendants, and housekeepers becoming the most interesting people in the world. It’s churches that are compelling enough to enter. It’s McDonald’s being a luxury. It’s the realization that you may have been born in the wrong century. Travel is a smile that leads to a conversation in broken English. It’s the epiphany that pretty girls smile the same way all over the world. Travel is tipping 10% and being embraced for it. Travel is the same white T-shirt again tomorrow. Travel is accented sex after good wine and too many unfiltered cigarettes. Travel is flowing in the back of a bus with giggly strangers. It’s a street full of bearded backpackers looking down at maps. Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was. It’s the rediscovery of walking somewhere. It’s sharing a bottle of liquor on an overnight train with a new friend. Travel is “Maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.” It’s nostalgia for studying abroad that one semester. Travel is realizing that “age thirty” should be shed of its goddamn stigma.”

– Nick Miller, Isn’t It Pretty to Think So?

Taken from The Squeaky Robot’s post Exodus 

“Travel is little beds …

Drinking, Inspiration, Travel

Home is Where the Heart Is

Inspiration, Personal, Travel

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Well I’m back in Texas and I’m already clicking the heels of my Jeffrey Campbells together wishing I could be traveling again. But alas, I open my eyes and I’m still here and I’ll probably be here for the next couple of years. It’s a hard feeling to live with, knowing that I need to spend a good amount of time working and saving money for my next set of adventures, but I’m more focused on it because I know exactly how rewarding the end goal feels. 

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I started working at my internships this week and it’s been really great to feel like I have a purpose during my day, as well as some structure. But I’ve noticed a major change in my priorities since I’ve been back. As much as advertising is my passion, I don’t care about being the best or working for the best company. I want to work in an environment that makes me happy every day when I come to work. What’s the point in spending your life somewhere you hate doing something that makes you unhappy? 

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Traveling by myself was EPIC. If I could tell every person in this world to travel by themselves for a week, I would, because it changed my study abroad experience so much. Being a girl traveling on your own is rare and when you encounter people and tell them that (after judging whether they would murder you or not) there is the weird respect that people have for you. I felt so independent and confident because I had to figure things out on my own like planes, trains, directions, hostels, things to see and do. It forced me to be outside of my comfort zone and I was so open-minded about meeting everyone, anywhere, that I met some of the coolest people I would have never talked to otherwise. The camaraderie between travelers and backpackers is like an immediate connection between people that always breaks the ice. Agh. I loved it so much and found so much respect for myself that coming back to the closed off people in bars in America has been an adjustment. But oh well, I’ll keep smiling and talking to strangers regardless because I know that I’ve been able to hang out with Australians, Canadians, and English people in places like Prague, Budapest, and Florence. Ch’yeah take that, frat stars. 

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Ultimately, my heart is always going to be in Texas. It’s where I was raised, where my family is, and where my best friends live. But my heart is also in Florence and Europe because that’s where I grew up. I realized how to finally see myself clearly, without all the American standardized ideals clouding my judgement. So for now, I’m enjoying my life because for once in my life, I’m not sure where I’m going to end up after graduation. Right now at this moment I think I want to work in DFW for a year after I graduate and save money and then move abroad to somewhere in Europe or Australia… preferably somewhere that speaks English. But who knows. 

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May Florence Be With You

Inspiration, Personal

This weekend was essentially my last weekend in Florence because I’ll be traveling to Cinque Terra, Sicily, Prague, and Budapest during my last three weeks abroad. It’s becoming harder every day knowing that I won’t be able to walk these streets anymore. I’ve made so many memories in this city that it’s going to be hard to remember them once I don’t have visual reminders like landmarks and streets to reminiscence on. I started to make a list of things\goals that I want to bring back with me when I get home and it’s been a good way to reflect on my experiences here.

1. Take time for yourself. In Italy, I’ll wake up and make breakfast, coffee, and listen to music while I take my time enjoying the morning. Why can’t I do this when I’m home?

2. Everything works out, don’t stress about all the little things. 

3. Take the time to appreciate people, things, and places. Enjoy making memories and sharing moments with any body and everyone, especially good friends.

4. Yoga, yoga, yoga. I’m so excited to get back into it when I get home!

5. Stay positive and open-minded about life and the people in it. 

6. Always travel. Some places I know I want to come back to in Europe are Germany, the UK, and Paris again. Then there’s a whole mess of continents that I wanna get over to as well.

I am really excited to go back to Fort Worth this summer and move in to a new home with one of my best friends. I’ll be starting a new internship and returning back to a former one as well. I miss my friends and family more than ever so I’m quite excited to see them as well. But I just can’t let Florence and my experiences slip away from me. Sounds of a baristas singing while they get my cappuccino ready in the morning and the way the Italian language sounds in general. The smell of Florence after rain and wine corks. The way the sun looks shining into a piazza and the reflection of the Ponte Vechhio on the Arno. The way I feel here, no stress and filled with a kind of detached happiness, I don’t want to ever forget these things.

Clever Blog Title

Personal, Travel

World traveler right there.

I would try to come up with a witty title for this post but honestly I’m just fresh out of remarks today after writing a paper over the religiosity of the Renaissance so I apologize.

I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind the last month. First my mom and my sister came to visit…oh what 3 weeks ago? It was so wonderful getting to show them around Florence, recommending restaurants for lunch, telling them which museums to see, and of course where to shop. It was a little exhausting at times because I wanted them to love Florence as much as I do – but of course they loved it. Whoever doesn’t love it has to have a dark hole where their heart is supposed to be.

The next week I left for TURKEY. Let me tell you…it was absolutely incredible. I will be writing a separate blog post about the specific places and events we did so watch out for that! Keep your head up because this next part is gonna get deep. Turkey gave me so much perspective on my life and my priorities. Each day challenged me culturally and individually and left me with a lot of thoughts to come home to. I came to the realization that I want to have less stress in my life and I want to be more carefree with my time. Each day in Turkey unfolded itself beyond every single expectation we had because we simply didn’t have expectations. I loved interacting and meeting new people who came from a completely different background and mindset than me. One day we met two young people on the street and ended up going out to bar with them later that night and having an absolutely wonderful night dancing and talking. How are you ever going to allow events like that to transpire if you are constantly planning every second of your day?

Turkish people are some of the nicest and more genuine people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. So many people offered to help us throughout our days and every person was always willing to assist us if we asked. It was amazing how open and friendly people can be when you don’t look at someone with a cultural bias. You are able to connect better with people and communicate while creating relationships, although maybe not long lasting, will always hold a special place in your memories.

Every thing works out. No matter what happens, where you end up, or how you feel at one point in time, everything eventually comes to pass and works itself out. It’s just been easier to let life run its course than to continually fight it by making our own plans. Being open to trying new things like food or activities makes you realize how much you may or may not like. It’s a big world out there and I’m not really ready to say no to anything at this point.

Overall, these are just some of things I’m trying to come away with after studying abroad. There was a quote I posted on a blog post before I left.

“We travel initially to lose ourselves, then we find ourselves.”

I never thought those words could be so incredibly true. However, being abroad makes you realize things about yourself you wouldn’t normally discover about yourself until you are put into situations that make you reconsider and reevaluate your choices.

I need to obviously write a post on Turkey and a post on Paris (which by the way lived up to every single expectation and dream I have had since I was 13!) but for now this is all I have to say.