• Berlins and Outs

    I Never Expected to Learn German

    I studied Spanish for seven years and my favorite city in the world is Barcelona. While my Spanish is far from fluent these days, it’s still enough to get me through service interactions and daily life: ordering food, checking out at the grocery store, asking for directions. I kinda thought that if I was going to live abroad it would be in one of the dozens of countries where I already speak at least some of the official language (be it English or Spanish). And, before you say it, yes, many people in Berlin speak English. Earlier this month, I finished a 4-week beginners German class, and one of my…

  • Tea Tuesday

    Guest Post: Yerba Mate

    (For Tea Tuesday this week, I asked my brother, Ian, to fill in while I’m traipsing about the Southeastern United States, and he agreed to write a guest post about his favorite tea-like drink: yerba mate. He’s a freelance journalist, and you can read more of his writing at www.iandoesprojects.com, where he is conducting and documenting “life projects” — finite and arbitrary experiments in doing.) Hi everybody, I’m Ian. You might remember me from that time I went to London and Edinburgh with Emma. I started drinking mate regularly when I studied abroad in Buenos Aires during my junior year of college. I like to say that it’s “a habit…

  • Travel Inspiration

    Weekly Travel Linkspiration: language learning tips, “off the beaten path” travel, and small backpacks

    Here’s what you may have missed around the internet this month. terribleminds shares 25 Things Writers Should Know About Traveling, and makes me want to forget all about blogging in favor of writing fiction influenced by my travels. (Don’t worry, I’m going to keep blogging… I might start writing fiction on the side, though.) You know how my sidebar bio says, “I wish I were a polyglot,” well, Almost Fearless suggests we stop thinking about studying new languages as an obligation, and start doing things we love in the language we’re learning. She’s learning Spanish by reading magazines about cooking and celebrity gossip. Katie Aune says that common stereotypes about…

  • That Time I Studied Abroad

    Fleeting Encounters Over Tea

    There was an old woman listening in on our conversation. Or, maybe she wasn’t listening to us so much as simply noticing us. We were an odd-looking group, I suppose: two white women, barely older than teenagers, speaking jovial English with a Lebanese man in his early 30’s. We were in Perpignan at the time — a small city in Southern France. Noticeable, if not notable. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but we were in the courtyard of the Palais des Rois de Majorque (Palace of the Kings of Majorca). We smiled at the old woman when we noticed her noticing us, and she felt emboldened to…

  • Uncategorized

    Adventures in Public Transit

    I don’t like to ask for directions. Ever. And as a result, I try never to leave my house without a plan. Now, this does not mean I never wander or decide where to go serendipitously. I just plan to be serendipitous. In fact, one of my favorite things to do in a new city is meander down the streets, and look at architecture or find a secluded cafe, which I can pretend no tourist before me has ever encountered. I’m comfortable wandering down random side streets despite my discomfort with asking for help because I love maps and I fancy myself a person with a good sense of direction.…