Backpacking Europe

{Originally posted by Megan Rakoczy. She is a Journalism and Media Communication major spending the spring of 2015 in Swansea, Wales. You can find Megan’s blog directly here.}

“In a sense, it’s the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become, which, after all, is why we left.”

This quote is a perfect representation of my experiences these past few week. Growing up, I was always blessed with the opportunity to travel. My parents were able to show me the world at a very young age, and I have always thought that each of those experiences helped me become who I am. My childhood was one giant adventure accompanied with each new deployment thrown our way. Things settled down in high school. It was nice to stay put somewhere for a little while. Junior year, in my mythology class, our big project was to make a scrapbook of our lives, needless to say, I had a lot of pages to fill out. At the end of the project we all had to present, and my teacher left me with the comment, “Your childhood will be a hard act to follow, have fun trying.” Boy was she right, I had already lived such a great life. I read her feedback and thought, and still think to myself, how am I going to top that?

This semester I chose to study abroad, not only to continue the adventure, but also to rediscover the pieces of my childhood. Revisit the places I have built up in my head that I so strongly believe shaped me. These past three weeks I have attempted to do just that.

The hardest question you can ever ask a military child is, “Where are you from?” Such a simple question for most, but every time it is thrown my way, I freeze. I never know quite how to answer. My default response usually ends up being, everywhere. Then, I have to carry out a long explanation. I can list out loud all the places I have lived, and before these past few weeks, I thought I remembered a lot about each location. What I discovered instead is that the going back, the return, really isn’t seeing things as they were 10 years ago.

Let’s start in Italy. My memory begins in Gaeta at the Lions Hotel where we lived for a few months during one HOT summer. I remember meeting the Strong’s (good family friends). I remember walking to the beach from the hotel. I remember when we finally moved into a house. I remember ripping my shirts climbing over the red fence to my friend Katelynn’s house. I remember going to church and absolutely loving when Mrs. Gwen would sing. I remember climbs to split mountain, Gelato from IL Molo’s, and Nutella pizza in the shape of a heart. It all kind of plays in my head like a fairy tale.

I did not end up going back to Gaeta this trip. I decided it would have been a lot on my own. So I started off in Rome. Walking down the streets, the smells, the sights, the language, though I couldn’t understand it, were all so familiar. They were all huge triggers, and though they didn’t bring up specific memories, it just felt like home and I couldn’t help but smile. When I was a kid, I remember always being grumpy when we had to go to Rome. It was always a lot of walking and the same old museums each time. This time around, I walked the streets with a more open mind, just trying to embrace what I was seeing, and also trying to remember the past visits. I remembered things like the Colosseum and a few other sights like Trevi Fountain, but honestly, other than that, not much. What I wish I could remember was the moments, but I think I was just too young to remember it all.

I then continued on to Florence. Once again revisiting a city I had been to before yet really don’t have much of a memory of. I do remember going to the museum and the Statue of David. I remember getting a flip book of the Duomo, which I still have somewhere. So though I could not remember much, I spent the week making new memories instead. My amazing roommate, Belle, graciously took me in for the week and showed me around town. This world has some absolutely beautiful places, great food, and intriguing cultures. I have seen some pretty amazing things, but at the end of the day, it is truly the people that make the place. Italy itself was good, but getting to share the new experience with a good friend, made it all the more special to me. I had a wonderful time getting to see Belle. I missed her a lot, and it was hard to leave. It is fun for me that she ended up in Italy. It will be nice when I go back home to relate my childhood memories of Italy to the ones she is making there now.

My memories of Italy have definitely faded over the years and things have changed with time. It was not the same with out my family and the other families that became part of me when I was there. However, both the old memories and the new are good even though things aren’t as they were. Italy will always hold a big piece of my heart.

London and Munich were also two cities I went to as a kid and retraced this trip. I had a really good time in both places, but once again found that most of my memories fell up short. In London I did a photo recreation at the Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Park, which I do remember. The city itself, still absolutely beautiful but somehow different than it was. Perhaps it is just because I am a different person than I was 12 years ago, and I just have a different/more developed view of the world now than I did before. Never-the-less London will always be one of my favorite cities, even if I’m not a city girl.

Munich was fun. It was a good place to end. The city was so open that it just felt easier to breathe with a little less people. My most dominate memory there from childhood is the clock tower with the moving figures. That is still there and they still move! We also took a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. I know I have been here before too. I did remember the castle, at least the outside of it. I think we went here when my grandparents were visiting, but I could be wrong. I also have a vague memory of eating spaghetti after seeing the castle. I only remember this because I was forced by “someone” to use a spoon to twist the noodles on my fork and that made me mad. It’s also quite possible that, that memory wasn’t at this spot, but even if it wasn’t let’s pretend it was.

So in the end it was a long but good backpacking trip around a few spots in Europe. I learned that you can’t always go back to your childhood home. Well you can but it isn’t going to be the same. Places change and people move on. We also change, I know I have changed a lot since I was last in Europe. Therefore, when I sit and look at the sights I saw as a kid. Though in reality, they may be the same on the surface. They are foreign to me now because I am looking at them with different eyes.

For a closer look at each of my stops, follow the Links below:

DSC_0008Ireland, Take Two

IMG_2657London, England

DSC_0066Italy

IMG_3372Munich

How Amanda Spent a Weekend in England

This weekend I hiked the Yorkshire Dales with my best friends. It was the best weekend I could ever ask for. We treated ourselves to a bed and breakfast with the BEST beds ever; it felt like I was sleeping on a cloud. This time, we actually all had a bed too (which is rare, usually we find someone on the floor or in the bath tub). The bed and breakfast included a breakfast full of organic, free-range, and homemade food. We had a traditional English breakfast and the best hand-pressed coffee in the world.

On Saturday, we milled around town and had lunch at an adorable pub in Leeds. We made a new friend, a local drunk guy, who bought us a whole bottle of red wine! I’m not usually a fan of red wine, but it was delicious! Then, we hopped a train to Skipton and ate some dinner in town after a long nap. I had the best red snapper in the world and the price didn’t end up being too bad, because I shared it with Kendall.

The next day, we took a taxi to Malham and hiked around (see pictures). It was BEAUTIFUL and I died a little inside, missing the nature and beauty from back home. Colorado makes it ridiculously easy to enjoy nature and beauty, because it’s right outside your door step. It was freezing, so our hike was cut a bit short. It was well worth every penny spent to see a bit of nature for a day. 

We ate lunch in town, had some hot cocoa, and headed home. It was a refreshing weekend of good sleep, good food, and good conversation ❤

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Amanda is a junior studying journalism and technical communication at CSU.  She is attending the University of Leicester for the spring 2013 term.  

Amanda arrives in England

What a day! I finally arrived into Heathrow today after an 8 hour flight with a slight delay that had me panicked.

Anyway, finally got my Travelex card and some currency. The exchange rate still baffles me and I swear they use Monopoly money over here; it isn’t real! From there, I met a ton of study abroad kids from around the US and Canada. We chatted and everyone is super friendly! We are all in the same boat which is a nice change of pace from my other international encounters. Usually, I’m the only person with a zillion questions. Now, we all have em!

Anyway, we all went to ASDA, which is like Wal-Mart and I picked up a few things for the room. When I got home, I had a roommate from South Korea named Sue! She’s really clean, which is awesome and she’s nice too! An added bonus 😉

From there, we had a questionable dinner of salisbury steak and mashed potatoes and were invited to drink at the pub. I had some room issues to attend to so I headed back early. What a day, what a day.

I feel like a freshman again, that’s for sure. I don’t know my way, I got lost in ASDA, and I ask loads of questions. Everything here is so different, yet strangely familiar.

Hopefully tomorrow goes easier on me, but I doubt it. We have a full day planned of getting a tour, getting bus passes, getting ID passes, etc. I’d like to register for classes soon, but can’t be too picky!

All in due time, I suppose…

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The University of Leicester

Amanda is a junior studying journalism and technical communication at CSU.  She is attending the University of Leicester for the spring 2013 term.