Hometown: Woodbridge, VA
Do you ever want something so badly but you don’t know where to start so you end up putting it off for way too long? It wasn’t until I was forced to quarantine in my home for a month with no end in sight that I finally decided to buckle down and start my blog centered around my love of traveling that I’d been dreaming about for the last 5 years. For while my plans to see the world are currently on pause, the process of starting a blog has made me reflect on why I wanted to start one in the first place.
I caught a case of the travel bug thanks to my parents. They embarked on the new and risky journey of coming to the United States when they were in their twenties. They experienced so much since deciding to make this place our home, but what they always told me is how they wished they could have seen more. They told me to travel as much as I could while I was still young. “!La vida es corta, disfrútala!” and “Sacan el jugo a cada dia!” are two of my mom’s favorite phrases to say to me. With her full support and generous push, I’ve always felt motivated enough to carry out whatever crazy idea I come up with. And that’s exactly how I got to embark on my first solo trip to Spain.
I don’t come from money and I’m by no means rich myself. But, when I so much as mentioned to my mom that my school had a study abroad program with a round-trip ticket to Spain with my name on it, she undoubtedly exclaimed that I had to go! I believed whole-heartedly I couldn’t afford it but she reminded me that money will come and go but the memories I was going to make there would be priceless. So, I scraped up my pennies and learned how to book my first flight alone!
The trip started in Madrid. After navigating the confusing airports, acquainting myself with unfamiliar surroundings, I made it to my first stop and what a wonderful stop it was. My days were now filled with exploring new neighborhoods, dinners after 10 pm, and dancing until the break of dawn.
But, Córdoba and Malaga were where I flourished. I got to meet incredible friends, taste paella by the sea, and actually enjoy 6-hour workdays. Between sipping sangrias, eating copious amounts of jamon iberico and patatas bravas, and wearing my sneakers to the bone from all the walking, the feeling of this new lifestyle stuck with me. I wanted to keep doing what I was doing. It was exciting to get lost and be confused not knowing what was going to happen next. I felt more myself than ever before, free to make any decisions I wanted without any fears of being stopped or judged.
From there, the trip just got better and better! I learned from experience that booking train tickets is more affordable and flexible when done in Europe itself rather than online from the U.S. So after getting the right tickets, I arrived even more excited in Pamplona. I had timed my trip there perfectly. It was not only to catch up with distant relatives I had not seen for a long time but to also witness the Running of the Bulls festival with my own eyes! To this day, the day of the opening ceremony is one of the most fun experiences I have ever taken part in. Everyone gathers in the center of the Casco Viejo dressed in white from head to toe with accents of red scarves and belts. At the end of a countdown, every person brings out their bottles of wine and sangria to spray out, up into the air until everyone is soaked signaling the start of a 24 hour, 14-day long party! Every bar blasts lively music, people from all over the world come to dance in the streets, and the energy can’t be unmatched. But, I know it’s not as fun to hear about it as it is to go out and experience it for yourself so if ever have the chance to go, I’d say book that ticket!
Ironically enough, however, my favorite stop ended up being my last stop. Not for the energy or festivities, but for the beauty. The city of Zaragoza is underestimated. There is no greater peace than waking up to a gentle breeze coming from an open window and the smell of flowers filling the room. I got to wake up each morning to a fresh breakfast from the bakery downstairs and make my way over marvelous bridges to the Casco Antiguo to check out local museums, sculptures, and fountains. The Aljafería Palace stands near the middle of Zaragoza as a medieval, Islamic palace open for guided tours. I could have easily spent another day there.
I felt so much more empowered when I came home with all of these stories of new fun places, people, and experiences that I hadn’t seen before. It felt like knowing a secret that others hadn’t heard yet. But, it’s a secret I was so eager to share over and over again.
And so, the idea for Carolina’s Passport was planted and has been growing and growing inside me until now - sprouting into a blog! Carolina’s Passport was established as a place for other young people like me, who don’t come from the wealthiest of backgrounds to see that traveling is possible! And you don’t have to be rich to have the time of your life. I hope to inspire and motivate other like-minded travelers to get out of their comfort zones, learn about new cultures, meet new faces, and see the world from entirely new perspectives.
Traveling is not scary and it doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be a priority and it has to be something that is important to you. I have traveled so much since that eye-opening trip, with my share of sacrifice along the way. Because I understand now that the memories I make along the journey are so much more special to me than any other material item. And now my favorite part is filling in my parent’s with my latest stories straight out of my blog to show them that in some way, I now get to help realize a dream of theirs!
Favorite Travel Quote: Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy plane tickets and that’s pretty much the same thing!
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