Travel Survey: Summer Vacations

by Cassidy Kearney

abroad starbucks

After several long weeks of waiting, we’re finally ready to reveal the results of our last summer series survey! This time around we offered a $25 Starbucks gift card to those of you who entered their email addresses. We sent an email out to our lucky winner! Keep an eye out to discover if you’ve won a $25 Starbucks gift card. Without further ado, here are our results:

Our survey’s demographics are straightforward: 42.9% of those surveyed are between 30 and 50 years old. The other 57.1% are 19 to 30 years old. This just goes to show that summer vacations aren’t just for kids and retired people! Furthermore, 42.9% of our responders so that they take a summer vacation every year. Meanwhile, the other 57.1% say they sometimes take a summer vacation, but not every year. This could be for a variety of reasons, like work, responsibilities, or timing. One thing is for sure though, all of our surveyors said they love their summer vacations and miss them when they don’t take one.

adventure beach Summer vacations travel survey abroad beach van water

Summer Vacations Can be Wildly Different

Summer vacations can be wildly different depending on the vacationer! A majority of those surveyed (85.7%) said that their summer vacations are typically a week long. There was a minority at 14.3% of those that said they had the whole summer for summer vacation! They’re truly living the dream!

Every once in a while, movie or TV characters will talk about a childhood summer vacation spot that their family went to every year. This is certainly not the case for our surveyors! 100% of our surveyors said that they don’t go to the same place every summer. They all prefer to explore and adventure in new places. Even if they go to different places every year, everyone looks forward to something during their vacation. Although 57.1% of those surveyed said they looked forward to spending time with friends and family, exploring stores, restaurants, and nightlife, and hanging out, each of the other categories was still popular! The other categories were exploring new places and meeting new people, finding fun outdoor activities, and unplugging from electronics to zone out and relax. Each of these categories had 14.3% of participants say they looked forward to that particular category most.

Summer vacations travel survey abroad beach life

Fun in the Sun

Finally, it wouldn’t be a summer vacation without summer activities! However, our surveyors were almost torn on what to do to have fun in the summer sun. The first two popular categories were exploring cities and finding things to do outdoors. These both earned a response from 28.6% each from our participants. None of our surveyors thought summer was too hot, and none selected watching movies, reading, and staying indoors as their favorite summer activities. The majority of our surveyors, however, at 42.9%, said that they loved doing all of the above! They found city slicking, outdoor exploration, and even the occasional summer blockbuster to be equally fun!

Most of our surveyors must be from somewhere hot, as most of our participants said they wanted to go north! 42.8% of participants said they wanted to go to Canada, with another 28.6% saying that they wanted to go somewhere up north. Finally, 14.3% of participants wanted to go to Iceland, while another 14.3% wanted to hop over the pond and explore some European countries.

As always, reading over the results of our survey was great fun! We look forward to hearing from our readers in our next survey series, which will be in a few months. Keep an eye out for the congratulatory email and stay hydrated as you enjoy your summer vacations!

beach sun rise

Getting Lost in London While Abroad

by Cassidy Kearney

It was a matter of bladders that led to us getting lost in London. Dounia and I hadn’t gone to the bathroom since the plane. It became too much to bear. While the other members of our group tried to figure out our location, how we got there, and how to get back, I decided I felt fed up with their lack of direction. I decided to take matters into my own hands.

After being met with the first public restroom that we had ever had to pay for, we emerged back into the rare British sunlight, noticing that the rest of the group had decided on a route and left. We were on our own. It was around 3:00, and we were supposed to be back by 4:00. We had plenty of time to get back (or so we thought). Wandering over to the Waterloo IMAX, we eventually found a station. We took a northern-bound line up to Euston, north of our hotel. It should have been a quick jog south, and we would have been there with time to spare. Instead, we wandered south for at least an hour before I finally admitted some defeat – I got us lost.

London Sign

For some ungodly reason, I, being the traditional Floridian that I am, wore flip-flops to the airport, and was now stuck wandering around, lost in London, with no map and an ever-thinning pair of flip-flops. Every time my foot hit the pavement I could feel a small bit of the cheap foam from the $5 flip flops I had picked up from some Payless Shoe Store compress ever so slightly as they slapped the ground. I might as well have been barefoot.

Where’s A Map When We Need One

The only map we had were small snapshots that London (ever so helpfully) had posted on street corners of major roads. This, of course, was no help because our hotel was on a small side street. We couldn’t use our phones for a GPS this early in the trip – each of us only had about 100 MB of data that we could use within the next 30 days. We were deep within London – so deep that tourist stalls were replaced with residential apartments, local parks, and offices.

There wasn’t even a map to buy (even if there were, I would have been damned before purchasing something as insignificant as a map). Several helpful Londonites passed us by, heard us arguing, and tried to help, but all we could offer them was that tiny, insignificant side street. We had no idea which neighborhood we were in or the closest major road.

Map of London

Fed Up

Finally, Dounia had had enough of me. She bolted ahead and ran into a building, which turned out to be a hotel. She emerged with a free map. We had wandered from northwest of our hotel, in Euston, all the way down to Liverpool – southeast of our hotel. By the time we finally got back it was 4:40. We were 40 minutes late, much to Dounia’s dismay (Dounia is the queen of punctuality and has never once been 40 minutes late to anything. Growing up in my family, however, we considered arriving 30 minutes late to an event almost “on time”).

(Un)Fortunately, there was another girl who was even more lost than us. She was all alone and still hadn’t come back, so we weren’t the only ones holding the entire group up. Nikos gave us our hotel room’s keys and then set off to find her.

Rachel, our roommate, was a bubbly girl from Texas, and a wonderful talker. This came as a relief to introverted Dounia and me, as we both struggle with small talk. She was the kind of person anybody could be friends with.


Nikos summoned the group once he found the other girl (her name was Yennifer). We were all (finally) issued maps, loaded subway tickets, and a ticket for our free dinner and a drink. Nikos told us to find our “exit buddy” (your roommates) and took us to Piccadilly Circus and the Covent Gardens. I remember neither of these locations and cannot tell you what either looked like — I was that exhausted.

Trying Ale For the First Time

We ended the evening in the rented-out upstairs portion of some local bar. We received a free dinner (again, I have no idea what I ate), and I tried my first alcoholic drink. My parents often ordered craft beers, so I thought they must have been onto something. I ordered a local ale, which left a lasting impression. It was disgusting. Later I wrote in my travel journal that, “a shiver went down my spine every time I took a sip, and I only got through half of it. I guzzled Dounia’s chardonnay to wash out the flavor of the ale.” There’s about a page dedicated in my journal about how gross the ale was.

I sat next to Bill, one of two guys on the trip. Bill was not good at small talk, which made for a rather quiet corner as each of us wished to be over on the louder end of the table. Eventually, we’d all grow to become good friends, all thanks to the help of the many extroverted friends we were soon to make.

A building found on our London Walking Tour

Lesson Learned

This night would later teach me a really important lesson. I had already dismissed several members of our group as people I probably wouldn’t like for ‘X’ reason. By the end of the trip, I cried because I was going to miss them all so much. After getting to know everyone, it genuinely surprised me how wrong I had been about my first impression. I had also made a mistake in where I thought I would fit in with the group.

After finishing dinner, we all followed Nikos back to the hotel (even though we were all free to explore the city more) like lost, exhausted puppies. When we got to the room, I lost the rock, paper, scissors match with Dounia, and wound up sleeping on the pull-out couch. I can’t tell you what might have happened later that night. I showered and had passed out before I had even had time to pull the blankets up. Dounia later told me that I started snoring about two minutes later, much to the amusement/chagrin of she and Rachel. A pull-out couch was never as comfortable as it was that first night.

In my next post, I’ll talk about my trip to Oxford, the adventure to find an apple martini, and our train out of London to Paris.

Talk To Somebody

Talk To Somebody

Have you ever seen Pulp Fiction? It’s an entertaining movie, and you should absolutely see it. There’s a special scene in that movie that is relevant to this point. There’s this couple at Jack Rabbit Slims, but the thing is…they’re not really a couple. John Travolta who plays Vincent Vega is a charismatic thug and Uma Thurman who plays Mia Wallace is the big boss’s wife. To him, she being the big boss’s wife and all…she’s out of reach, theoretically at least, but he kind of likes her and she likes him. But they don’t know each other, so there’s a lot of gaps in the conversation and more than a few points of awkward silence. Well as much silence as you can get in a 60s-themed dance bar. Then, in the middle of an awkward silence, she says,  “Don’t you hate that?”  “What?” he says. “Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?” She pauses, “That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the (…) up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”

And that says it all for me. She’s right, I remember the first time I saw that scene and still think the same way today. It is not necessary to be talkative. Most of the time it’s just small talk, people just trying to keep the conversation going, because we don’t tolerate silence well. Being alone with your thoughts it’s hard…and fun, joyful, stressful, all kinds of feelings. Most people will talk to just kill the silence, talking about whatever comes to mind.

All of us feel the need to talk to others about what’s important to us, but often times we don’t know how or to whom we should talk. But every now and then we can find someone to open up to. The life lesson that took me too long to figure out is sometimes these deeper conversations can begin with a little small talk. Philosophy, at least the Greek one, starts with dialogue, which is required in order to discover or achieve knowledge. We are not alone- that we are not islands but rather, are part of a larger community- humanity is a big family of human beings. So then why is it so hard to talk to people sometimes?

Unfortunately, the irony of this post for me is that I am writing this at a point in my own life when I am relatively isolated. I would be totally disconnected from the outside world if it weren’t for my girlfriend. I am thankful for her help and I am glad I was more adventurous when I was in Florida.

What did the trick? I knew that I couldn’t go all the way to Florida just to be quiet all the time. I didn’t want to go there and stay in my dorm. Traveling someplace else new is a chance to improve yourself because no one knows you. They don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. You have a chance to make a lot of first impressions. A lot of great history lies within strangers all around you. A potential good friend could be in the coffee bar next to you, a good laugh, an interesting idea, topic and/or conversation. Who are we to deprive ourselves from the others? We won’t learn anything from closing ourselves off in our rooms.

In my college there’s the possibility of graduating by just taking classes on the internet. This is intended for people who can’t make it to school for whatever reason, but they are missing the incredible experience of engaging with your classmates. And that happens outside school as well. Engaging people goes beyond those in your peer group. It´s not gratuitous folk wisdom that says one should listen to their elders. Potentially, all the people in the world know something you don’t, and vice versa.

We should take our chances and try to improve ourselves through others, get the most of a trip and talk to the locals, smile and listen. The best thing someone said to me in Tallahassee was that I really listened. He said that most of the people in town didn’t do that anymore. Which is sad. Silent people like me enjoy listening to people: the ones who have something to say, who talk with their soul rather than their brains, that really live and breathe, who scream when they scared and shout when they’re happy, that never get you bored and who make you laugh. Most of all, those who aren’t afraid to say what they really think, who are desirous of living and willing to really live.


Even As I Left Florida…

In a time that feels so far away now, I remember reading a book about a painter obsessed with portraying Paradise. She dreamed about completion, about fulfilling her purpose in life, yet she couldn’t face her own problems. Whenever she encountered serious trouble, she packed up, bought a plane ticket and then was gone. She eventually rediscovered herself through those sudden escapes from her home, her country, herself. Even when the reason behind a trip is just to run away, you can never really not learn anything from a trip. It doesn´t need to be so far, you don´t need to feel a jet lag for a fresh start, a well-deserved rest of your routine, a break from yourself, the version of “you” stacked with duties to fulfill.

Jack and me at the coffee shop. Jack was my conversation partner.
Photo credit: Jack Levine

There’s been only one trip that I could say that I made without a hidden intention of running away. On the contrary, I didn’t wanted to go at first. I didn’t want to jeopardize what I had with my significant other. I went however. She kissed me farewell and then I went. How curious is how life works. I wonder where would my life be if I hadn’t been bored at my place and if I hadn’t gone to school early in order to distract myself from boredom. Long story short: A notice from my school’s humanities department was sent to me.  It offered a chance to win a scholarship to study abroad. I took a chance and I went for it.  Finally, my lonely childhood beside a monitor pushing buttons paid off.  No one from my philosophy department really knew English, so suddenly I became a serious contender for the scholarship. A letter to the governor and several hours waiting in line and I was confirmed as one of the lucky people who got the scholarship to study English in the USA.


My interview with El Consulado de Mexico en Orlando about my scholarship.

American Dreams

I want to learn. I’m curious about everything. But I would be a liar if I told you that I wanted to spend all my time studying in the US. I wanted to know the place! I wanted to talk to people, to walk long distances, to see as much as I could and immerse myself in a brand-new way of seeing and appreciating life. As a Mexican, I’m hopelessly soaked with the fragrance of the American Dream. A place that seemed to me like a place where everyone has a chance, as long as (s)he has the courage to go for it. A place where you´re not entitled to happiness, but rather the country gives you the means to get it for yourself.

I was so excited, but I was also terrified. You don’t pause your life when you travel, you can´t get away from yourself when you go far. A friend of mine has a catch phrase that goes: “Wherever you go, there you will be”. The first time I heard it I thought he went crazy. But as years go by, now I see the wisdom in that phrase: I was putting my life on pause for two months, just to see what life could be like someplace else. The amazing person that I had the fortune to call my teacher during my time in Tallahassee said to us that we were brave. Now I think we were.

Isn’t she beautiful?

Photo credit: Jack Levine

Florida looks so beautiful from up high. The moss so green swarming the earth, sprinkled with lots of blues here and there. But oh, my god, the heat! It’s like being in an oven. In all my delightful staying I never really got used to the heat. Thank God for AC. The people were so nice, everyone was so up front, not friendly but definitely not cranky, gloomy or moody. That´s how I like strangers, a little skeptical of strangers, but willing to help a person in need. Everyone was so nice to me. I promised myself that I would try to be more talkative with people, since I´m really comfortable with silence, but it was ridiculous to go all this way just to be quiet. You learn a lot from travels, talking to people and reading a lot. I´m not the brightest guy in the land, so I can’t spare the chance to learn something. And I learned a lot. From classes, obviously, but I learned the most from the people in Tallahassee, walking in those peaceful streets and parks.

Opening your senses and enjoying the moment. I think most of our concerns about past and future come from not really being “in the moment”.  Worrying about your problems instead of enjoying the fact that you’re in a foreign land, where no one knows your name, where you can be anything you want to be. So, I tried to enjoy the moment as much as I could.

Walk the walk

There’s several ways to get to know a culture, a town. First of all, don’t Uber yourself to elsewhere. Walk. Enjoy the view. Forget about your life as much as you can. Feel the breeze, the heat in your forehead, the sun way up high. Talk to people, be as friendly as you can, take interest in what they do, where they come from and what they think about life. I ask a lot of people what they think the American Dream represents, for instance. Something that works for me is imagining myself as a reporter interviewing everybody. Don´t push, but be curious. Another way to do it is visiting retail stores or even garage sales.  Where one person might see a bunch of meaningless stuff at a garage sale, another knows that there is a life represented by all those things.  There are stories about the house, the people, the past. As I said, be curious whether you´re at the mall or you´re in an art shop. Another way is going to restaurants. I wanted to eat at a waffle house at two in the morning like an American movie cliché, a pizza at night on Gaines Street where you can find out why they keep open the place at night, perhaps grab a beer at a bar while listening to some really good live jazz. Check. Check. Check.

By forcing myself to go out and interact I met a lot of interesting people. It’s fascinating how much you can accomplish when you talk to people. I was invited to perform at a coffee shop, I read some of my short stories and they were very well received. I discussed philosophy and poetry in the middle of the night, I covered a duo version of Wish You Were Here with a friend. I crashed at a friend´s place, I played pool with a coquette woman named Casey and I met a smart and beautiful model at a blues concert (Hi, Victoria).  I also visited some pubs, I sang with strangers to the rhythms of Neil Diamond and I met some very talented musicians from the jazz scene from Tallahassee. One of them now lives in New Orleans and he´s going to make it big. Cheers to all of them.

My certificate of completion and last day of class.

To all the people who showed me stereotypes are just ridiculous assumptions, thank you. No one judged me, I judged no one. We just live life as we can, as best as we can, in a way that brings us joy and we share it with the people we care about. Maybe it’s all about perspective. Like the perspective this trip gave me. The notions that I felt. The feel that I could really make it someplace else, that I´m not trapped in a city, in a way of living, in a career severely discredited by current academic thought. Not that I wanted to, but it was good to know that I could get a job at a coffee shop, live with some friends, save money to get a car or pay for classes and potentially build a new life. It’s nice to know things can work out. That you can make the best from even the worst-case scenario, like sleeping in a rented bed in a rented room, with summer friends near you, and the AC going silently in the night whispering a lullaby.

The experience I had in Tallahassee left a great taste in my mouth. Looking to the future I know I will travel again.  I will visit another country and I will also come back to Florida.  I could live in a place like Tallahassee because it’s something between a small city or a big town. It filled my mind with memories and anecdotes that will dance within me as long as I live.

The Adventure Continues of my Summer in Greece

by Justin Hughes-Coleman

Ifigenia and I

After a month on Skyros, I was ready for the next stop in my summer adventure in Greece: Rhodes!

Rhodes is a totally different experience from Skyros. Where Skyros had a population of about 3,000 people, Rhodes is a much bigger island with 115,000 residents.  On Skyros there were more goats than people but Rhodes has miles upon miles of hotels and resorts on the coasts. It was definitely a lot to take in at first. I had done some research on Rhodes but I didn’t expect it to be that much of a bustling vacation island.

Yoga Club Rhodes

I began my next adventure; helping out in a yoga retreat. Luckily, my new workaway was tucked away on the west side of the island, away from all the bad quad drivers and screaming children (honestly how is that a vacation?)

My duties included helping plant new trees and flowers, (which is actually harder than it looks), helping clean the facilities, setting up tents and assisting with events. On one occasion, I was asked to help with getting a guest to pay for their stay. It is odd, Greek people can be very direct except when it comes to asking for money for goods and services rendered. As an American, I have no problem with it. Time to pay up!


If there is one thing I will never get sick of it’s picturesque towns in Greece, and Theologos is no exception! I had to walk through through town everyday to get to and from the beach (Remember: Goal #2 of this whole summer!) and the villagers were always so friendly and would offer up a “kalimera” and “yassu” every time I would walk by.

Another beautiful Greek restaurant, closed during the day.
This church sits at the entrance of Theologos and welcomes you into the beautiful town.


One of the best things about walking to and from the property was these three angels greeting me each time. They would run up to me and I would play with them for about 10 minutes! If I was trying to catch the bus into Rhodes City, I would actually leave an additional 10 minutes early just so I could play with them! I would then spend the rest of the walk to the bus stop thinking of ways to smuggle them back to Spain.


They would lay on my feet and make those adorable faces.


Rhodes wasn’t all strollers and luggage running over my feet, there were some truly stunning natural landscapes. The Valley of the Butterflies was only three kilometers from the yoga retreat. This lush environment is home to only one species of butterfly and it is nocturnal. I bring this up because while there I ran into a lady who was throwing large rocks at the sleeping butterflies in order to get pictures of them flying around, never mind that she killed a dozen or so in her effort for the perfect Instagram picture. See, tourists ruining everything!

Hundreds of butterflies PEACEFULLY sleeping.


There was a sad moment when my travel buddy of two months had to leave. Even though we were going to see each other again in about a month back in Spain, we were still super emotional! We had been on some wild adventures together. Something about camping and doing deep breathing exercises just tears down all the emotional walls!

A month is too long!


Although I was here longer than I had been on Skyros, my time in Rhodes seemed to almost fly by. Almost. Fun Fact: did you know that about 20% of people are more prone to mosquito bites than other? Guess who is a lucky member of that 20%? There I go again, being exceptional!

Mythical Greece

The end of my time in Greece almost felt surreal. One has to take ferries to get around to the different islands and each island feels like a world on its own. When I made it back to Athens, it felt as if I were already back in Madrid in my normal daily routine. Greece will always have a place in my heart; the people are strong-willed and generous, Greece’s natural beauty definitely lives up to the wonder that has inspired millennia of writings, and don’t even get me started on how great the food is! I will miss Greece with all my heart, but I’m lucky enough to leave one amazing place for another. Time to head back to Spain!

A beach within a stone bay!
Olive Groves for miles