I’m starting these posts at the end of the month to reminisce on what I’ve done over the last month and things I can improve on.

The first week of the month was mostly spent studying for exams. I feel like I prepared well for my exams, but also balanced my social life, which was crucial as it was my last few weeks in England.

After my exams were finished, I met Dan’s family. They’re all lovely people and I’m glad I had the chance to meet them before I went back to the United States. My very last days in England were spent wandering around Brighton and spending time with Dan and Ben.

Before I knew it, I was back in Tucson. My first week was spent catching up with family and friends, unpacking, going through my junk (being abroad made me realize how little of all my stuff I actually use) and otherwise keeping busy by applying for jobs, knitting, coloring, painting, working out, reading and helping my mom around the house.

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With summer, the prime traveling season, in our midst, I thought I would share some pearls of wisdom on how to pack for those setting off:

  • Make a list. For my study abroad trip, I started considering things to pack about a month in advance so I would have time to shop for what I needed.
  • As a basic rule of thumb, if you don’t wear or use it now, you won’t wear or use it abroad. As simple as it sounds, I always trick myself into thinking, “There’s that shirt I haven’t worn in a few years, maybe I’ll wear it on this trip.” Of course, I never do. If I haven’t worn it in more than a month, I usually don’t consider bringing it.
  • For longer trips, once you lay out what you think you’re going to pack, however much it is, eliminate about a fourth of your clothing. I promise, it won’t be missed.
  • Some of the most effective space-saving solutions are to roll your t-shirts and put larger, non-flexible items like shoes in first.
  • Do not pack anything in your checked bags that you can’t live without. I make sure to have things like prescription medications, laptop, cameras, currency, etc. on my person and leave my checked bags exclusive to clothes and toiletries; things much more easy to replace.
  • Obey Murphy’s Law of packing: if it can spill, it will. Bag and even double bag things susceptible to spill, especially fine liquids.
  • As hard as it may be, try to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs or easy packing for your return trip. Another way to create extra space is to not expand your suitcase until your return trip.
  • You can find great deals on name-brand suitcases at stores like Ross, T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s.
  • Some airlines abroad (especially budget ones) might have different carry-on policies (in terms of prohibited items, maximum baggage size, etc.) you should check up on before traveling.
  • In addition, double check baggage restrictions on trains, buses, etc. you plan on taking, as well.

Happy trails!

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During my study abroad experience, I cataloged my memories and experiences using a scrapbook. I’ve recently completed it and I love sharing it with people and reliving those precious moments. Here are some bits and pieces I put in my travel scrapbook for those considering to make their own:

I order my scrapbooks chronologically, so if you were to look in my scrapbook, my trip to New York would be first. For each destination, I have three components: what I call “bits and pieces,” text of what I did and personal photographs (4-10 depending on the length of the trip). My favorite parts are the bits and pieces, which include:

  • Postcards
  • Concert/ event tickets
  • Transport tickets
  • Museum tickets/ maps
  • City maps
  • Attraction pamphlets
  • Business cards (restaurants, hostels, etc.)
  • Wristbands
  • Receipts (for an especially good meal)

Basically, I keep everything I collect on a trip and sort through it once I get home and decide what would look best in my scrapbook. I also cut down the maps and other thick documents to the front page so my scrapbook doesn’t get too thick. I love my scrapbook, my only regret is not holding out for a bigger one as I would have liked all my adventures to be in one big scrapbook rather than two smaller ones.

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Now that I’m back from an adventure of a lifetime, I’m trying my best to adjust back to real life that consists of far less traveling. Although this will be difficult, I remain positive by fantasizing about future trips! Here are a few of my top travel destinations:

Thailand: If anyone ever asks me for the one place in the world I would like to go, I will always say Thailand. It’s been on my bucket list for quite a while now. It seems quite different with exotic plants, animals and people, it looks gorgeous and I’ve been told it’s quite affordable.

Machu Picchu, Peru: This is another one that’s been on my list for quite some time, ever since my high school Spanish teacher told us about his trip. I would love to brave the wilderness and hike there myself in time to see the sun rise over the ruins.

Camino de Santiago, Western Europe: Again, I’ve dreamed of walking the camino since my high school Spanish teachers told us about their trips and we watched the film The Way in class. It is a network of pilgrimage routes through Europe ultimately leading to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Like many others, I would like to take up this path for spiritual growth. If anything, I’m sure the grueling trek will be character-building.

Australia: I would love to see all of Oceania, but especially Australia, with its diverse landscapes and wildlife. I really hope to scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef before it’s gone.

The Alps, Europe: I think skiing in The Alps would be an incredible experience. I’m not sold on any particular country yet, but I’ll get there!

Honorable mentions: Patagonia, Iceland, Turkey, Bhutan, Poland, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada (British Colombia, Alberta, Nova Scotia),  United States (Yosemite, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago, Montana).

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Now that I’m back and settled from my study abroad adventure, I’m determined to keep myself busy! This summer, I hope to:

  • Get a job (one for the summer in Tucson and find one for the fall on campus)
  • Organize my laptop (delete old documents, organize pictures, etc.)
  • Go through my clothes (studying abroad made me realize how little I actually wear)
  • Start thinking about what needs to be done for my visa (to move back to the United Kingdom)
  • Listen to new music
  • Read for half an hour a day
  • Paint more frequently
  • Watch movies (particularly ‘classics’ I’ve never seen)
  • Hit the gym 3-4 times a week
  • Stay on top of language lessons (Italian and Spanish on the free language learning app DuoLingo)
  • Watch documentaries
  • Get into meditation, mindfulness and yoga (to help relieve anxiety)
  • Color in my coloring books for half an hour a day (to help relieve anxiety)
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