Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Despite my lack of funds and anxiety about being away from home, I’ve always wanted to travel the world. Growing up in New York with a limited travel budget, my family’s idea of vacation consisted of visiting nearby states or occasionally visiting my Grandma in Florida. I remember being ecstatic when we ventured out to Boston, Massachusetts when I was in the seventh grade. I fell in love with the city and became obsessed with moving there when I grew up. Funny enough, I now go to school in Western Massachusetts and I still dream of moving to Boston all these years later.

Leaving the United States was never an option growing up. I begged and begged my parents to take me to Europe but we were never able to afford it. As a sophomore in college, I was losing hope of ever leaving the east coast. Then, 2016 happened. It may have been a terrible year in terms of my mental health, but boy did I travel.

It all started when I was tabling in the UMass Campus Center for my sorority. I saw another organization tabling for Birthright Israel. I had never thought about going on the trip, although I’m 100% Jewish and it was a free opportunity to leave the United States — something I dreamed about for years. I decided on a whim to sign up, and suddenly, I was going to Israel in May 2016!

I rushed to CVS to take a passport photo and then to the post office to send in all of my documentation. The passport arrived quicker than expected, right before a long weekend. Long weekend + a brand new passport = a weekend trip to Quebec City, Canada! I was so excited to step foot out of the country for the first time, although crossing the border was quite anti-climatic. The weekend was amazing. I loved experiencing a new culture for the first time. I got to put what I learned in my four years of French classes to the test, and it turns out I didn’t learn that much. I was able to read a lot of the signs but I could not understand a word out of anyone’s mouth.

Click here to see my photos from Quebec!

When May came around, it was time to travel to Israel for ten days. Not going to lie, I was nervous as hell. Traveling across the Atlantic was always my dream but my anxiety disorder tends to get in the way of things. Somehow I worked up the courage to force myself onto the nine-hour plane ride to Tel Aviv when all I wanted to do was run out of Newark Airport.

My time in Israel was truly life-changing. I knew little to nothing about Israeli culture prior to the trip, and it was amazing getting to learn it first hand. I also got to learn more about Judaism, as I am not a religious person. My favorite part of the trip was visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum. I think that is an experience that everyone should have in their life. It was extremely emotional but eye-opening.

Traveling throughout a whole country in ten days was exhausting but so worth it. We visited Tiberias, Tzfat, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Sde Boker, and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was truly the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to. The ancient buildings were breathtaking. It was amazing to see everyone praying at the Western Wall. Although I do not consider myself to be religious, it was inspiring to see. In my ten days there, I hiked (a lot), rode a camel, floated in the Dead Sea, became friends with fellow UMass students & Israeli soldiers, and of course, took lots and lots of photos.

Click here to see my photos from Israel!

My traveling did not stop there! I was lucky enough to visit Israel, but instead of heading back to JFK from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I headed to the United Kingdom with my now ex-boyfriend. We landed in London, England, and then took the train up to Edinburgh, Scotland the next morning. We spent four days in Edinburgh and they were incredible. My favorite thing to photograph is old buildings, so naturally, I was in heaven. We spent most of the time wandering around exploring the city. We even went to a cat cafe!

Click here to see my photos from Edinburgh!

We then took the train back down to London to stay with one of my best friends, Sammy. At the time, her parents lived there so we were able to stay at their flat. Unfortunately, I got sick while we were there but I still enjoyed the trip. It was amazing to see sights like Big Ben and the Tower Bridge in person. Like in Edinburgh, we mostly just wandered around and explored. From London, we flew back to Tel Aviv, and then back to JFK.

Click here to see my photos from London!

Being able to see so many different cultures in a short time frame was a life changing experience. I spent my whole life living in New York and New Jersey, two places that aren’t very different from each other. Seeing how different people live around the world only increased my travel bug. Although studying abroad for this semester didn’t work out, I hope that it will for the upcoming summer!

There are tons of places I still want to visit around the world, including in the United States! Here’s a list of all of the destinations I can think of right now:

  • Reykjavik, Iceland
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Paris, France
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, Poland
  • Florence, Italy
  • Rome, Italy
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Marrakesh, Morrocco
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Athens, Greece
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Zurich, Switzerland
  • Providence, Rhode Island (how have I not been here yet???)
  • Williamsburg, Virginia (this has seriously been on my list since elementary school)
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Fransisco, California
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Banff, Canada
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Vancouver, Canada

 

I don’t expect to make a large dent in that list in 2017, but let’s hope I can at least check off one place! I feel so blessed that I was able to travel around the world in 2016, and I hope that my adventures don’t end there!

xo, Lauren

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