Europe

From start to finish Dubrovnik was an unreal experience. Upon boarding the flight from Barcelona I was instantly reminded of the few Mexico-bound flights I’ve flown stateside: everyone was in a great mood and excited to be on vacation while Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ even blasted on the airplane speakers. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I was still in the throes of sickness, with my outlook on life looking a little more like this:

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Leaving San Sebastián, I was super psyched to continue on to what I understood to be the culture capital of Spain’s Basque Country. I knew Bilbao was the home of the world famous Guggenheim Museum, and expected its cuisine and other attractions to be equally worldclass. Well… shame on me for not researching more!

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My junior year of college I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a quarter abroad in the south of Spain. Within days of arriving I fell in love with the Spanish beaches, people, and way of life, and quickly made arrangements to instead stay the entire school year.

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After a few mellow days spent site seeing, hiking, and hanging with my super nice Italian AirBnb host (seriously for anyone who still hasn’t tried AirBnb, definitely give it a chance), I set off from Ålesund on the next leg of my Norway in a Nutshell tour.

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When mapping out this trip months ago, I’d chosen a number of pillars around which to plan my travels. The first on the list (in thanks to both Buzzfeed Travel and my Instragram addiction), was visiting the Geirangerfjord in Norway. A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea with steep land on three sides, formed by glacial erosion; if the geological formation is wider than it is long, it isn’t a fjord. While the U.S. does have a number of fjords in Alaska, the most famous in the world are in Norway and New Zealand.

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Sorry for the hiatus, y’all. I’ve been on a Norwegian adventure (posts forthcoming) and the wifi’s been a bit spotty… #firstworldproblems, I know.

But on to the amazing city of STOCKHOLM!

So, I know I use the word ‘amazing’ approximately 50 times a day and have painted most everywhere I’ve traveled thus far with a glowing review… I try to differentiate one amazing from the other with some context though, so with that disclaimer I’ll say this about Stockholm: it’s the first city I’ve visited on my trip that I would actually consider moving to. I spent three days there and wish I had planned longer because when I left it felt like I’d barely scratched the surface of the city…

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My dad’s grandfather came over from Denmark in the late 1920s. As long as I can remember, I’ve been told I take after this ‘Nielsen’ side of the family: tall with an athletic build, and thick and wavy light hair. I was excited to visit Denmark at the prospect of, for once in my life, feeling small.

Well, after boarding my flight from Ireland to Copenhagen, I got my wish. I didn’t feel small though really, just extraordinarily average. Never before had I been surrounded by so many other people with my same coloring and build! (My mom’s side has roots in what was once Czechoslovakia, with slightly darker coloring and slighter builds. Definitely no curly hair on this side!) For the remainder of my time in Denmark, this sense of belonging stayed with me. It was fun to imagine what life might have been like there for my ancestors…

(They probably didn’t eat as much candy as I do… Did you know they have salty gummies in Scandinavia? Mind blown.)

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County Kerry, Ireland, was easily another highlight of my trip so far. Of course I’m slightly biased, as we do share almost the same name, but it was really the beyond-beautiful scenery and perfect hospitality of the people there that made it a favorite.

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After a few days in Dublin we set out to see the real Ireland. I’d heard that the truly beautiful Irish scenery doesn’t begin until you reach the west side of the country and I found this to be true; if I were to do Ireland over again I’m not sure I’d even stop in Dublin, but might instead immediately rent a car and head for the hills!

This rental go-round we were lucky enough to get this little guy, pictured below. It didn’t have quite the same pickup as the VW we had in Scotland, but was an absolute dream when maneuvering between tight spaces and tour buses!! (= priceless)

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After the excitement of London and beauty of Edinburgh, visiting the capital city of Ireland was a different experience altogether.

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