Happy May! Even as I am buried in outlining for final exams, recovering from strep throat, and preparing for a summer abroad in Uganda (!), I find myself reminiscing hard about this week last year–when I left NYC for 3.5 months backpacking around the world!
As part of my frolic down memory lane (and exam procrastination…) I’ve put together my top ten list of A Southern Yankee Abroad posts from last summer. Enjoy! ❤
#2- Being lost on the back of a motorcycle in the rain surrounded by people who don’t speak English in Ho Chi Minh City is a memory I could never have planned, but will always treasure. Adventures in Saigon
#1 – I turned 27 years old on top of a rainbow in Peru…literally! This trek up Vinicunca Mountain with Sarah, Rachele, our guide Abel, and Rainbow the dog was the highlight of the entire summer. A Birthday Trek to Vinicunca Mountain
It’s hard to even write about this past week in Provence (southeast France), because it was just that wonderful. As I planned the Europe portion of my trip months ago, I purposefully left it open and fluid so I could go wherever I felt led in the moment. I am so glad Nat (my good friend from my Asia travels 🙂 )invited me to experience Provence last week–otherwise I don’t think I would have explored this absolutely beautiful, peaceful, and amazing corner of the world. Nat’s grandparents live at Mas Subbaroques (“on the rocks”) in Viens, a small village in the hills of Provence near the (slightly larger) village of Apt. I was able to spend the week with Nat and his amazingly hospitable family, as well as several family friends who were visiting. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, but the lovely people I met and got to know there made it even more special.
As with anything in life, peace and happiness are states that we choose and are not just things that happen to us. Somewhere along the way between my starting point in the Berlin airport, my layover in Dusseldorf, and my final destination in Marseille, my checked backpack was lost. Needless to say, I had nothing on me except my phone, passport, wallet, laptop, and the clothes on my back (the essentials perhaps?) After my bag never appeared on the belt, I made my way to the lost and found office in baggage claim. Nat, who was waiting on me in arrivals wearing an Alabama shirt as a surprise (the best!), had to wait a bit longer as I tried to sort out the situation with the attendant who barely spoke English. They wouldn’t even allow Nat back to translate from French to English because it was behind security, so I tried my best on my own. I understood they had no idea where my bag was (it wasn’t even scanned into the system!) and was given a claim number to track the search process online.
After meeting up with Nat finally, we decided our top priority was to shop for some essentials in nearby Aix-en-Provence. I stocked up on a few toiletries, a bathing suit, and some staple clothing articles. We also enjoyed catching up over crepes in a sidewalk cafe next to a fountain where the cutest dog played in the water!
As we put the pieces back together, I felt completely at peace and like everything would be ok. Thanks Nat!
We then drove on to Viens, passing the most beautiful fields of lavender. After arriving at Nat’s grandparents’ place, I got to know the family over a delicious dinner of pizza and vino on the outdoor patio. It was stunning to watch the moon rise over the hills and the sunset cast a pink shadow (I don’t have a picture because I didn’t have my phone with me…what a great feeling!).
My 5 days there went by way too quickly. As we passed time laying by the pool, enjoying delicious food and wine, and walking about to take in the gorgeous views, I found myself forgetting about my lost bag in the best way. True–I had irreplaceable souvenirs from Asia and South America in the bag, as well as my contact lenses and retainers (yikes!) But somehow, this was the most relaxed I’ve been on my whole trip. We also slept in a giant Morroccan-style tent with Nat’s cousins and other family friends our age who were visiting (kind of like the kids’ table at Thanksgiving!) and it was such a fun experience.
After checking in with the airline again with no updates, it became apparent I would likely not be getting my bag back anytime soon. Nat’s grandfather was gracious enough to speak with them in French for me, so the communication went very smoothly. I also touched base with my travel insurance company back in the USA, who assured me that my policy covered purchases of replacement items (woo! new clothes!) As a result, Nat and I pulled ourselves away from the pool and took 2 excursions to nearby villages over the 5 days so I could pick up a few more clothing items and toiletries, as well as a replacement duffel bag so I could carry on with my travels. Even though these trips were born out of necessity, they ended up being some of the highlights of my time there. I found some dresses at the cutest boutique in Apt, and we once again enjoyed a drink at a sidewalk cafe there as we caught up and people-watched.
On the day before I was set to leave, we took a bigger trip to Avignon, where we explored some of the historic sites like the Palais des Papes and Pont d’Avignon. It was incredible to explore this beautiful and quirky town in the pouring rain.
Finally, on Saturday it was time to leave. I had booked a flight out from Marseille to Prague with a night’s layover in Brussels. It was very hard to say goodbye to Nat, who has become one of my closest friends over this summer since we traveled together in Asia, as well as the serenity of Provence. In a way, Provence reminded me so much of home (Alabama). We even got stuck behind a tractor a few times on the narrow roads! I had to remind myself I was in France and not in Marengo County, Alabama! In Provence, life is all about enjoying nature and those around you, without the stresses and noise of urban life. Even though I feel I’ve become even more grounded since leaving my finance job and over the summer as I’ve traveled, I needed this reminder to slow down, stop, and enjoy the moment. It was so hard to leave. Provence was the perfect blend of country and hippie for me, and I can’t wait to visit again someday.
I am now in Prague, still without my original bag. The airline has finally found it and has told me I should receive it by tomorrow! Stay tuned 🙂
Hi, I’m Gracie, a 28 year old New Yorker, native Alabamian, law student, and lover of travel. I’m excited to share my journey with you.
I started this blog to encourage and inspire people to travel, no matter their age, background, or prior travel experience. I left the US for the first time just a few years ago, and recently I’ve had the opportunity to travel across 5 different continents–just me and and my trusty backpack! I hope the information and stories I share will help readers travel with confidence and purpose. I also look forward to using this blog to share my thoughts about current events within the US and around the world in an effort to promote dialogue and understanding across the political spectrum.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” – Sylvia Plath