Lake Titicaca {Peru}

Welcome to Travel Tuesday!

Travel Tuesday

It’s time for this month’s travel-themed prompt: where have you been that was unexpected in some way? Perhaps you didn’t expect it to be amazing and it blew you away? 

My unexpected destination is Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia (half to the lake is in Peru, and half of it is in Bolivia–I stayed on the Peruvian half!).

Before I studied abroad in Peru, Lake Titicaca was a funny name we learned in elementary school. It is the highest navigable lake in the world, and is a sacred site to the Incas, as legend goes that their civilization sprang from the water of this lake.

Even with how well known the lake is, when I started my semester abroad in Cuzco, Lake Titicaca did not enter my radar for awhile.

If several classmates and housemates had not decided to go, I probably would not have even made it there.

I went on a whim–my host brother knew a guy who knew a guy who ran a tourism business in Puno, Peru, the main town on the Peruvian side of the lake. The tour consisted of a visit to the famous “floating islands” of the lake, a home stay on Isla Amantani, and a visit to a few other islands on the way back for scenery and history.

The tour did not start out well–we arrived in the freezing rain before the sun was even up after a long, overnight bus ride. Light started to seep into the city, but unfortunately Puno is not the prettiest Peruvian city (except for the views of the lake, which we couldn’t see yet anyway!).

As we wandered the city, avoiding piles of trash and sad stray dogs, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. It was freezing and I was soaked. When we finally hopped on our tour boat, even my underwear was wet! (TMI?).

Thankfully, the rain stopped and my socks began to dry, just as we arrived at the first island–a small little one made completely out of reeds! It was one of the famous Uros Islands, or the “floating islands” of Lake Titicaca. The floating reeds, despite being, well, floating, have solid enough roots for little villages to be built on them. I have never seen anything like it. Everything was made out of these reeds–from the little village houses to the boats they use to navigate around the islands.  

IMG_2454 IMG_2455 IMG_2462^^our first view of a floating village. IMG_2464 IMG_2466 IMG_2467^^you can even eat the reeds!  so multi-purpose.

IMG_2469 IMG_2475^^the children were terrified of me so they ran away. But how cute, right? IMG_2476 IMG_2485^^our last view of the island. You can climb up into this fish for a view of everything. It used to be a reed boat but is now just for decoration.IMG_2489^^there were tons of little guinea pigs running around. Peru’s favorite dish happens to be these little guys…or “cuy” 

From there, we took a looooooong boat ride to Isla Amantaní, where we would spend the night. The sun had come out in full force, and it was beautiful when we arrived on the island. We were greeted by our home stay families and taken to a local soccer game, where if you had the skill and the energy, they were happy to let you join in. As I had neither (and will never have the skill), I declined. Instead, I hiked up to Patchatata with another group, the highest point on the island. The views were incredible–it was suddenly so clear, we could see all the way to Bolivia!

IMG_2504 IMG_2507 IMG_2511 IMG_2517 IMG_2518^^my Spanish teacher Indira and a British housemate, LauraIMG_2519^^Bolivia!IMG_2524^^my main travel buddy in those days was this little guy.IMG_2525 IMG_2526 IMG_2527

On the way back, we managed to get lost (how on this tiny piece of land??) but it gave us a chance to explore the island more. The island had very little electricity (although I still saw a man walking his donkey and talking on his cell phone…so there was enough for that!) and little running water.

Prior to this trip, I had very little idea that such places still existed.  It was like going back in time–we did have nice, kind of comfortable beds, but the kitchen was a little dirt hut with a fireplace. The food was amazing, although I don’t have any idea what most of it was. They were pretty decent Spanish speakers (and mine was passable), but a lot of the food only had Quechua names, the local language with Inca roots that is still spoken by the indigenous people of Peru.

IMG_2498^^a local family headed to their garden.

IMG_2496 IMG_2494 IMG_2495^^the views from our host family’s house. how blue is that water??

Our home stay on this tiny island was an incredible night. After we ate (and had tons of their delicious, local herbal tea), our family took us to a local fiesta all dressed up in traditional garb. They attempted to teach me local dances, but mostly I was just spun around, trying not to fall in the heavy dress. (There may or may not have been a few clumsy incidents).

IMG_2530^^the group at the dance: host families and hosted travelers!IMG_2528^^the local garb was beautifully handmade but heavy!

After a late night, I stopped to see some of the best stars I have ever seen, out in the middle of a giant mountain lake.

It’s safe to say that Lake Titicaca surprised me in every way. I didn’t expect my delight at the floating villages, the warmth of the natives, the peace of the simple lifestyle, and the absolutely stunning views.

IMG_2535^^tiny doorways! I’m a giant!

Tell me…

what’s a place you’ve visited that completely surprised you? I want to hear all about it!

Each week Bonnie, Jessi, Camila and I choose one post from the previous link-up to feature. Be sure to check out their blogs to see who they chose!

traveltuesdayspotlight_santorini

This week I am spotlighting Courtney from Adelante and her amazing trip to Santorini! Santorini is at the top of my list and her magical photos make me want to get there as fast as the next flight takes me.

Ready to link up? 

1. SHARE a post about travel! From road trips to trips abroad and from past travels to dream vacations. You can write about travel tips and tricks, favorite places to stay, or anything in between! Just make it about traveling somewhere!

2. GRAB the lovely button above. If you run into trouble, just make sure to mention Bonnie, Amy, Jessi and Camila in a link! 3. LINK-UP goes live every Tuesday at 0800 GMT. Make sure to comment here, on the co-hosts blogs, and visit around!

TIPS:

1. Please only one linked up post per blogger. Save other posts for future link-ups!

2. The last Tuesday of every month will be a themed prompt if you want to join in!

3. HOP around and meet new travel loving bloggers! Check back to visit some of the newer travel posts!



The Beginning

Although I’ve spoken of my travel beginnings in my brief travel history (and here), I often get asked “well, when did you start to travel?”

(Which is not a huge surprise because my little corner of the Internet is not necessarily something I broadcast to every person I meet).

So, let’s start from the beginning.

Technically, I have been traveling since I was in utero. My parents were living abroad in CANADA (gasp!) at the time of my, er, production.

This is starting to get gross. Let’s move on quickly.

They moved back to the States, to Colorado, several months before I was born. I lived there a measly few weeks before moving to Oregon, and then Montana several years after that.

Amy Baby Picture 3^^this is the only throwback picture I have. You’re welcome. Oh and that’s my adorable brother.  Also, yes, I did look startled for the first five years of my life.

For much of my life after that, I lived in good old Bozeman.

IMG_3224

We traveled often throughout my childhood, primarily to national parks and to visit our scattered family, but most of my traveling was done through books.

I was often described as a “sensitive” (read: crybaby) child and a “shy” one, but really I was plagued by anxiety. This was often debilitating (and still can be), so I lived my life through books, and reading, and the soaking up of other stories and lives.

I still strongly believe in the power of books to help you live more than one life, and I traveled many places as a child without having to go anywhere.

I visited jolly old England to see Emma’s failed attempts at matchmaking (Jane Austen), I went all over the world planting lupine seeds with Miss Rumphius (Barbara Cooney), I followed Pip on his adventures in London (Charles Dickens). I slept on a wooden raft with Huck Finn (Mark Twain), I went all over the West with Laura and her Pa (Laura Ingalls Wilder), I walked across Africa with Paul Theroux (Paul Theroux).

(My literary nerd just spewed out there. Sorry…but not sorry).

I loved these stories and these travels across time and places, but they opened up inside of me a desire to see more than my little corner of the world.

So, I scrimped and saved and sold burritos in a booth at a local arts festival for six years, and finally, me and five other girls (and two moms) traveled to Switzerland the summer I was fifteen.

IMG_3907^^yep, I’m the one miles behind the rest.

Switzerland, with its stunningly high peaks, alpine meadows, cow bells and cleanliness blew me away. I couldn’t believe how many languages everyone spoke (fun fact: Switzerland has four official languages), I couldn’t believe that they rode mopeds to work even in ties or skirts, or that people commuted on cute little trams and lived right next door to churches that were older than the United States.

IMG_3906 IMG_3900 IMG_3898 IMG_3897 IMG_3896 IMG_3894 ^^Old, grainy photos from Switzerland. It was over a decade ago! Although, they kind of look Instagrammy, am I right?

The anxiety I so often felt at the world around me disappeared in Switzerland, and I was hooked. I continued to read, more and more about all the corners of the world, and plotted all the places I would see.

I’m forever thankful for those books, and that first trip to the lovely little Switzerland, for opening this whole travel thing for me.

Tell me…

when did you start traveling?

Welcome to Travel Tuesday, hosted by Bonnie, Jessi, Camila and yours truly!

Travel Tuesday

Each week we choose a favorite post from last week’s link-up to highlight. Make sure to check out the other hosts’ blogs to see who they chose this week!

italy

This week, I am spotlighting Bailley from Lew Party of Two and her post about Florence. Although there are many places in Italy I want to visit, I usually fixate on Rome and the coast, not Tuscany. But, seeing her incredible photos of Florence–those sunset pictures are unreal!–have cemented this as a must-see destination in my mind.

THEMED TRAVEL TUESDAY PROMPT

Next week it is time for this month’s travel-themed prompt! The prompt for this month is for you to share an unexpected destination with us. Where have you been that you didn’t expect to be amazing, but ended up being a highlight destination? Can’t wait to hear what you all come ups with!

Ready to link up? 

1. SHARE a post about travel! From road trips to trips abroad and from past travels to dream vacations. You can write about travel tips and tricks, favorite places to stay, or anything in between! Just make it about traveling somewhere!

2. GRAB the lovely button above. If you run into trouble, just make sure to mention Bonnie, Amy, Jessi and Camila in a link! 3. LINK-UP goes live every Tuesday at 0800 GMT. Make sure to comment here, on the co-hosts blogs, and visit around!

TIPS:

1. Please only one linked up post per blogger. Save other posts for future link-ups!

2. The last Tuesday of every month will be a themed prompt if you want to join in!

3. HOP around and meet new travel loving bloggers! Check back to visit some of the newer travel posts!



Travel on My Mind

This post from the archives was originally published here.

While I plan on fully enjoying my new city of Prague, there’s also so much else to see in Europe. Besides last summer and a few other quick summer trips, most of my time abroad has been spent in places other than Europe, so I am excited to travel, well, everywhere! Below you’ll find a list (in pictures!) of the places I can’t wait to visit most in Europe.

(disclaimer: I definitely expect this list to keep growing throughout the year!). 

I’m only a little ambitious…

Maybe a year won’t be long enough?

(click image for source)

bled Dubrovnik_wall netherlands swiss

 

paris_pic

budapest

krakow

riga

scandinavia

lstein

austria

germany christmas

tallinn

scotland

italy

cotswolds

greek islands

dublin

denmark

DSCN1162

IMG_3180

AND so.many.more. I have to stop now or I’ll never stop!

If you’ve been to Europe, what were some of your favorite experiences? 

Linking up with Adelina for #SundayTraveler!

Prague Highlights #3

And, just like that, we have finished our third week in Prague!

Even though I went on and on yesterday about how easy our adjustment has been, I may have jumped the gun a little. While it has been easy, we officially started the apartment (or flat, here!) hunt and it’s not the smoothest ride so far. In addition, we’ve also started getting the job business moving along. The stress is starting to kick up just a wee bit as our little safety bubble of the past few weeks (or class and the student apartment) begin to come to an end.

I’ll admit, I’m very ready for the coursework to be over, but I also don’t want it to end! I don’t want to say goodbye to our classmates, some of whom I already adore after a few weeks, or to the students we have been training on. I had my first one-on-one lesson with a Czech boy today, and it was so much fun! I’m sad that I won’t see him again after next week.

Even with all of these happenings, it was another glorious week to explore here in the city. I still haven’t whipped out my actual camera–just my iPhone, sorry!–but I managed to take a lot of photos this week on my little friend. Here are some of the highlights from our third week here in Praha (as the locals say).

My birthday! (Are you sick of hearing about that yet?).

IMG_5922

Although I was dreading my birthday, it ended up being really fun. A big group went out on Friday, and when we came home, I found a cake in the fridge from my roommates! Too nice.

My new favorite Czech dish.

photo 1

I am not entirely sure what the name of this dish is yet, but it’s my favorite. It’s beef in some kind of sauce that sort of reminds me of squash soup, with cranberries, cream, and dumplings! While I don’t love the Czech dumplings (they’re the pieces of bread you see in the photo above) I’ve found they are delicious when you can’t get enough of the sauce and you need to sop it up.

Finding the John Lennon Wall.

IMG_5912

The John Lennon Wall is a famous wall in Prague that is dedicated to, you guessed it, John Lennon. We found it by surprise after getting lost (it’s a common theme here) and it took me a minute to realize why a bunch of people were crowding around some graffiti. When you get closer, though, it’s actually very cool.

Walking across the Charles Bridge for the first time!

IMG_5907 IMG_5908 IMG_5894

While this wasn’t the best experience due to the masses of humanity (go in the morning or evening! Which we were told after we went!), it’s still beautiful and famous for a reason. The views of the castle are unparalleled! If you can squeeze through the crowds and the musicians and the vendors and the caricaturists, you can also get a great, peaceful view of the river and city. We will be going back…but probably not until the middle of September.

Hiking up for a bigger view of Prague. 

IMG_5942 IMG_5944

While we were apartment hunting, we accidentally climbed a million steps up to a park. The view was incredible! And pretty much worth it. The park also has an almost fairy-tale view of the castle.

What were the highlights of your week?

Linking up for Fresh Face Friday!


We Took the Road Less Traveled

First Days in Prague

We have almost been in Prague for three weeks!

As often seems to be so when you are first traveling, it seems like a much longer 2 1/2 weeks than it would back in the States. Thinking about the crazy, stressful month that was July, those weeks of preparation for our trip, and they went by much faster than these few weeks have.

Part of the reason is that our ESL (English as a Second Language) training program is intense. On of our roommates says it feels like finals week every week and she’s kind of right (although let’s be real–graduate school was way more stressful for me!). However, while it is busy, it’s also given us a routine and a group of friends right away in Prague, so it feels like we have been here longer because we feel so settled.

This will all change soon, though! Our course ends next week, and we have to be out of our student apartment the week after that. Then, many of our new friends will be off teaching elsewhere–people are going to teach in smaller towns in the Czech Republic, in South Korea, in Istanbul, in Hungary, in Bulgaria, and more. We will have to find jobs, we will have to get all of this visa stuff figured out, we will have to find a more permanent place to live and probably some new friends, too.

Despite all of these changes rapidly approaching, I don’t think the “settled” feeling will disappear. It might still be the “honeymoon” phase (and boy do I hate that phrase, despite the truth behind it), but Prague is just a nice, fun, relatively easy city. I can’t explain the vibe here–you will just have to come experience it for yourself! It’s a comforting, welcoming vibe, and it’s easy to see why so many people love this city. I really am starting to love it, too.

IMG_5814^^who wouldn’t love this??IMG_5896

One thing that hasn’t struck much yet (and I’ve been expecting it to rear its ugly head) is homesickness. There was a flash on my birthday when I Skype-d with my family, and after a rough lesson (we have to practice teach several times a week, to an actual classroom full of ESL learners, and a mentor closely observing every move you make) when I had to cry in the street, I desperately missed the privacy of home.

Yet, as I sat there crying at a busy intersection of the city, I didn’t feel as uncomfortable as I thought. Partly because no one really cared (or if they did, I didn’t notice) nor did anyone really glance my way at all. In fact, I saw another girl crying as she walked past me. Maybe this is a city thing that I’m just not familiar with, but I also think it is just the attitude of Prague. Not unfriendly, but not nosy, either.

You be you, Prague, and I’ll be me.

Although I felt comfortable in Prague quickly, there have certainly been adjustments. Most of the people we have interacted with so far have a basic understanding of English, but really, most of the city mainly speaks Czech. My Czech still primarily consists of “hello” and “dark beer, please” (because you need to know the essentials), so there have been times where there was little or no communication to be had. For instance, when we tried to find SIM cards for our phones. While the lady spoke decent enough English, she could not figure out what we wanted. She finally handed us a brochure, but lo and behold, it was all in Czech! We eventually gave up and left–we’ll try another day. 

IMG_5928^^see? the essentials.

One lifestyle changed that I’ve loved to make  is the walking. We walk everywhere–to school, to the store, to restaurants, to all of the places in the city we want to see, and now we are starting to walk to potential apartments and jobs. There is a great public transportation system here in Prague, but I so prefer walking when we can. It’s great to move much more, but it’s also a much better way to soak up the city. Around every corner there is a new building to a discover, or a park, or a canal, or a glimpse of an old church.

IMG_5889^^we got stuck on this really busy street. being surrounded by millions of tourists wasn’t so fun, but we came across this building! no idea what it is but wow!

The weather is an adjustment, too. I thought living in the Rockies, both in Montana and Denver, where the saying is “if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes and it will change” would have prepared me for the capricious weather here, but it certainly hasn’t. I always bring an umbrella!

And that’s another thing–umbrellas. Everyone has one here! That’s just not something I saw very often in the States, at least in the areas I lived. Everyone preferred to look awesome and sporty in rain jackets. Here, everyone pulls out an umbrella! I actually find them very quaint, and I prefer an umbrella over a jacket most of the time, but I am terrible at working those things. I am constantly anxious about hitting E, hitting a stranger, hitting a wall, and more. Please tell me I will get the hang of umbrellas?!?

IMG_5875^^I look like I have this umbrella thing all figured out. but don’t believe it, I’m just fooling you.

Although I expected the living areas to be small, our student apartment is actually quite spacious. However, since we are on the hunt for a permanent one (we get kicked out of this one September 5!) we are getting a full orientation into just what a “small” apartment means in a European city. There are some fairly adorable ones, but many of them don’t have ovens, or full refrigerators, or full bathrooms. Many of the studios even have little lofts for the beds to gain more space! The one we are looking at today (!!!) looks clean, bright, and has a full separate bedroom–and, bonus, a bathtub! (There may be a strange, creepy picture of a face exactly eye-level in the bathtub, but a bathtub is a bathtub).

Now I need to stop talking about that place or I’ll jinx us–but come back tomorrow for my highlights from this week in Prague!

Linking up with Nicole!

Treasure Tromp