Category Archives: Travel

Tough Mudder 2012

In the spirit of continuing my effort to experience amazing things (e.g., most recently my European adventures of 2009 & 2010) despite my indentured servitude to school, I’ve registered for one of next year’s Tough Mudder events. For those of you without any knowledge of Tough Mudder, the following video may answer some of your questions:

As with the prior impulsive decisions that took me to Europe twice, among other experiences, I registered and paid before I could think twice about it. Had I given myself time to think, I know I would have talked myself out of it. While thinking would normally work to my benefit, say if I was in Best Buy staring at a 42″ flat-screen, I rarely opt to think when I have the chance to experience something new. This has become somewhat like an unspoken rule of my life: spend money on experiences, not products.

I do tend to lead a frugal life (probably a combination of my upbringing and my ever-shrinking pockets as a student), so I only splurge when I feel I’m going to come away from something with a lasting memory, a story. In a sense, my decisions are driven by the series of anecdotes they will produce. In other words, I live my life like I would want to read it. I can’t help but ask if I met myself, would I be interested? Might this experience add to my character or make me more interesting? If the answer is yes, it’s important to me that I pursue it. Often, as I said before, I don’t even bother to ask myself that question; it’s a given. Since I formally adopted this personal philosophy about three years ago, I’ve continued to successfully create exactly what I wanted to: a personal narrative. I do record many of my experiences in writing, though I have no plans for the stories thus far. The written stories serve more as a source of satisfaction and reflection. They are a way for me to reminisce (accurately) and smile about my life.

And so when the Tough Mudder presented itself through an invitation to join a friend’s team, I said yes and paid immediately. There is no turning back. I’m going to have to train hard, run hard, push hard. All of this so I can return home that night and put pen to paper. When I’m done, I’ll have written another chapter. And since no one really knows which chapter will be their last, I’ll keep living my life like the story I’d want to read, always ending with a bang.

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New Year’s in Europe: A Recap

I’ve returned from my 10-day adventure abroad and I can say with confidence that it did not fall short of expectation. I could write a 10-post series on the trip, but I thought I’d spare the details and recap the highlights. So here goes:

New Town Hall (Munich, Germany)

New Town Hall (Munich, Germany)

I flew in Munich, Germany on an overnight flight (neighbored by the dreaded “crying child”) and met my group in the airport. We spent the first day on a walking tour and getting situated in our hotel. Day two was New Year’s Eve, and we spent it doing more touring. At night, myself and a few others headed to the city center to kick-off 2011. Though the night started off fairly orderly, as the hours went by, the streets descended into absolute chaos. Fireworks were shot recklessly into crowds and even directly at people (two in my group were hit in the face and body with them). The scene bore an uncanny resemblance to the New Year’s I spent in Amsterdam just two years prior. You can check out a quick clip of the Munich mayhem here (no sound, sorry). After midnight, we checked out a few clubs and made our way back to the hotel.

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck, Austria

The following morning we headed for Venice (it would be my second time there), but stopped in Innsbruck, Austria, on the way. Innsbruck had my favorite scenery of all the places I’ve ever visited. There is something surreal about being surrounded by snow-capped mountains that feel as if they’re an arm’s length away. I’m not sure that anyone could imagine what that was like without actually experiencing it themselves. Though we only spent an afternoon there, it was the most memorable afternoon I had.

Gondalier in Venice (Realto Bridge in background)

Our Gondalier in Venice

Once we arrived in Venice, we settled into the hotel for the night (it was already late). A water-taxi the next morning would take us to the city where we spent the day on a guided tour, “getting lost,” and testing the waters on a gondola. Just as the two previous times I’ve been in Italy, and one previous time in Venice, I find that either Italians have very limited tolerance for Americans, or it’s in their culture to brush off good customer service. I myself am Italian, so this was quite discouraging. Nonetheless, it was a great experience to be back.

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet's Balcony

On the way to Lucerne, Switzerland, we made a quick stop in Verona, Italy, to see Juliet’s balcony, along with all of the letters people leave her (a bigger tourist attraction than I anticipated). Switzerland was a beautiful country with very nice people, but it was a great way to break the wallet. Everything was outrageously expensive (around $5-6 American for a slice of pizza). Unfortunately, I had saved most of my shopping for Switzerland, so I exceeded my budget a bit, and though I don’t like to make exceptions, I figured this trip was a fair one.

Heidelberg Castle, Germany

Heidelberg Castle, Germany

We finished the trip in Heidelberg and Frankfurt of Germany. Both cities are rich in history (though Frankfurt was all reconstructed post-WWII). I spent these last few days a bit ill, so I have less to say about them, though there was still plenty to see. The highlights of these cities were Heidelberg’s Castle, and Frankfurt’s pedestrian area (packed with shoppers even on the rainiest of days).

The trip was a wonderful experience, and though it will be my last time traveling to Europe for quite some time, I will look to this trip and my last one as reminders of the great experiences I’ve had as a young adult. And now, as I get myself into graduate school, find a job, and settle down, perhaps they will also serve as motivation to find time to travel once I have a stable life!


New Year’s: Munich-style!

New Year's 2011 Itinerary!

Image: EF College Break

With Christmas passed, I’ve shifted my focus to the New Year ahead. But before I get too caught up in making it the best and most productive year of my life, I have a bit of traveling to do.

Two years ago, I spent New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam of the Netherlands, and it was a celebration for the history books. This year, in light of my college graduation and my impending entry into graduate school (presumably the beginning of the dreaded “real life”), I’ve chosen to spend New Year’s in Munich, Germany as a part of a tour traveling everywhere you see in the map shown. Major stops include Munich, Frankfurt, and Heidelberg (Germany), Venice (Italy), and Lucerne (Switzerland). There will be day trips and minor stops to Dachau (Germany), Innsbruck (Austria), and Verona (Italy). The trip is slated for 10 days, just long enough for my taste, and hopefully long enough to get a feel for our destinations.

I’m looking forward to the trip, as my last New Year’s abroad was fantastic. It will, however, put a dent into my savings. I am generally not a big spender though, so I enjoy saving for something like a trip to Europe rather than a trip to the mall. I also anticipate this being my last major [expected] expense for a while to come, because I know I will have plenty of student loans to pay back once I begin graduate school. The trip totals around $2,000, including some admissions, all travel expenses (flights and buses), and all accommodations. It covers one dinner, but that is all. I’m am not sure what to expect in terms of how much I will be spending on food, and I am indecisive about whether I should be setting a budget or not. Even without a budget, I won’t be seeking out expensive food (I lean towards a more frugal and economical approach to eating when abroad). So I’m inclined not to set a budget in order to avoid the constant calculations in my head (‘Am I over my budget?’ ‘If I splurge now, should I skip a meal later?’) and also to avoid the constant reminders of the money I am spending. I expect food to be the largest expense, and then any additional admissions and/or experiences, with souvenirs coming third. The trip as a whole, however, it something that I expect to be priceless. I’ve heard enough people suggest traveling after graduation to feel confident that I’ve made the right decision to go, even if it is a major expense. So to all of you out there, “prost neujahr!” (“Happy New Year!”)

Have you traveled before? Do you set specific or general budgets when traveling?

If you’ve been to any of the destinations I’ve listed, please share your experience!