My Dreams Brought Me Here

They say you can never forget your first love. Well, my first love was Spain. Do you remember Spanish “Rebelde Way” TV series? I couldn`t stop watching and dreaming about visiting Spain one day. I remember clearly the unlimited desire to see Sagrada Familia when I saw the picture in an old magazine.

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By that time I was around ten or eleven and being able to travel and see those places seemed to be unreal. The name of the journal was Liza, and I remember going through the pages to find the articles about traveling. The last one was about Venice, and there was a stunning picture of the canal. I cut the photo and kept it as a reminder that the world is much bigger than my country, and that if something is far away and seems impossible to reach, I must do whatever it takes to get there.

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Guess what?! This is the exact place where the picture from the magazine was taken, and this is the photo taken by me.

This may sound cheesy and cliché, but dare to dream big. Turn your dreams into goals and devote yourself to achieving them. I`ve adopted the rule of 30 minutes, that’s how I call it. No matter how tired or sick I am, I’ll spend 30 minutes every single day working on my goal(s). Half an hour is not a long time, as we spend hours scrolling through Facebook. But if every day you spend 30 minutes, let`s say, learning Italian, by the end of the year you will be fluent in it. 

Ok, ok, I didn`t forget the topic of this post: Spain. I just have so many feelings attached to it. If you follow my journey, my cousin and I went to Spain after France. The first city was Barcelona. We took a bus from Cannes to Barcelona (FlixBus, 29 EUROS). There were policemen checking our IDs on the border in their usual manner: if you don`t look European, you must be an illegal immigrant.

It was a fun road trip thanks to the strange Italian man, who was smoking weed in the small toilet of our bus and was eventually kicked out of the bus, a girl with torn tights, who was flirting with that man and bunch of other weirdos like us. 🙂 

During two weeks in Spain, we visited Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid and Toledo.

Barcelona: This city in Catalonia is for everyone! If you are fond of architecture, you will find the best creations of Gaudi. If you like partying, having fun, going out, this city is full of clubs, there are lots of festivals throughout the year, and people spend a lot of time outside enjoying their morning coffee or dining somewhere in the downtown. If you like spending your vacation near the sea, Balearic sea is right next to you. 

 

Usually, I don`t buy bus tickets and I prefer to walk in new cities, but Barcelona is pretty big, and many beautiful places are too far from each other. I would suggest buying a daily ticket and spending more than 4 days in Barcelona to enjoy the active, friendly and sunny city. Take into consideration that it is a very touristic city and you should be careful with your belongings. 

Barcelona is one of the best cities for life (according to my chart, of course). It is suitable for young people, for artists, students, travelers, and digital nomads. I wish I could stay there longer, but I had to continue my journey. My next blog post is coming soon, if you want to learn more about our experiences in Valencia, Madrid, and Toledo.

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Your Vaunted France

I`ve never been fond of France, I never had that special connection like I have with Italy or Hungary but it was my duty as a traveler to go and experience Gallia.

I was in Genoa, Italy and my next stop was supposed to be in Nice, France. I bought a train ticket which cost EUR 15 ( http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en ). When I got to Nice, it was dark and cold so I just went to check-in and have a rest. I was staying at Nice Art Hostel which was small, dirty, old, loud, the common area was closed all the time and I could smell weed in the toilets. The best thing was the view from the balcony. To be honest, I don`t really have the right to complain as France is very expensive and getting a room for 40 euros for 3 nights is not bad at all.

Talking about the prices, France is super-expensive even if you shop in supermarkets. I couldn`t find magnets for less than EUR 5-6, even Italy is cheaper.

SAFETY: I`ve been traveling alone for a while and I` ve never been afraid of anything (trust me, I had some creepy moments when I could totally be killed/ robbed/ raped or all together), but I didn’t feel safe in France! I was afraid to walk around after 10 PM as there were many people on drugs being weird and aggressive.

WEATHER: During those 4-5 days it was raining all the time, it was cold and windy. In Cannes all our clothes and pretty much everything we had got wet because of the heavy rain. When I think about France the non-stop rain is all I can recall. But Nice must be a warm and pleasant place during summer, I guess.

Before leaving I`m glad I managed to meet my classmate who moved to France more than 10 years ago when we were still at school. It was nice to sit and talk about us, what we have been through and how much we have grown and changed.

After Nice, my duty was to visit Cannes which is a small and quiet city for old rich couples…but we all know what that place is famous for. The weather wouldn`t let me enjoy my time there and I couldn`t wait to leave that place as soon as possible. The world is crazy about France, I know, but I `m not amongst them, je suis désolée!

My next destination was Barcelona, Spain. I`ll tell you about my unforgettable days in Spain in my next post.

P.S. Some people were checked at the Italian-French and French-Spanish borders, so just be prepared and have your passport/ tickets ready…and don`t be…you know…NON-WHITE or MUSLIM…

 

Let`s Talk About Italy

I have been away for a while and haven`t updated my blog due to my​ busy schedule ( I know, I know…these are just excuses). During this time I visited Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland and I`m ready to tell you about my experience. My plan was to visit 5 countries in a month. I can`t wait to tell you about all the crazy things that happened to me on my way.

First of all, let​`s talk about Italy. People can`t understand how I can afford ​traveling with a small amount of cash in my wallet and still enjoy all the the things the country can offer. It`s easier than you think! For example, this time I started preparing for my trip in advance and applied for my visa 3 months earlier in January. That was done on purpose because people travel during December and they fly back at the beginning of January, so if you apply for your visa the, Embassy will not be busy and the flights will not cost an arm and a leg.

 

I planned every detail of my trip, which was a bad idea. When your trip is 100% planned your hands are tied. Me and my cousin wanted to stay longer in Spain and visit nearby cities, but we already had the tickets for Portugal. I recommend making a hostel/ hotel/ airbnb reservation for 2-3 days and when you get there you can decide how long to stay. If you are not traveling alone, Airbnb will cost you less and you can find very good last-minute deals even in the peak season.

In Florence I stayed in Florence Experience. The hostel was cheap, not really clean, the beds were uncomfortable….but it was close to the center.

I can`t say the same about Victoria House in Genoa. It`s a new hostel with very clean rooms and nice people at front desk. The view from the balcony is mesmerizing and a tasty breakfast is included in the price. Genoa is not popular among the tourists, so we could live and experience real Italian lifestyle.

 

 

Inside the country I was traveling by train, which was pretty cheap and fast ( http://www.trenitalia.com/trenitalia.html ). I started from Bologna, then I went to Florence, Pisa and Genoa.

About the prices: Italy is not cheap, but you can travel without spending a fortune: try to avoid tourist traps and buy food from the supermarkets. You will buy that tasty and expensive jellato, of course, but don`t waste your money on eating out in the center.

I faced some problems in Florence when I was trying to use one of their ATM machines. It swallowed my card, and I had to call their customer support and talk for 10 minutes. Eventually, I had to block my card.

I`v learned one thing during my trips: you have to keep the copies of your passport, insurance, cards  and photos with you and always, always, always keep some cash in your suitcase or somewhere else in case of emergency.

Overall, we spent a great time. We got lucky with the weather, we visited a lot of beautiful parks and had some time to chit-chat over a cup of Italian coffee….ohhh Italian coffee….

 

P.S. Find additional information about the routs, train tickets and hostel prices bellow:

Flight from Tbilisi to Bologna: EUR 106, Pegasus Airlines, + 20kg baggage

Bologna-Florence: EUR 9.35 by train

Hostel Florence Experience: EUR 36 for 4 nights (if you book early)

Florence-Pisa: EUR 8.40

Pisa-Genoa: EUR 9.90

Hostel Victoria House: EUR 21 for 1 night (if you book early)

Coffee: from EUR 1.50

 

 

 

 

Tips For Solo Travelers

There are two kinds of people: tourists and travelers. I will never be a tourist since for me it`s boring as hell. If you are a traveler, a brave person who wants to explore Europe spend some time reading this post as I`m going to give you some tips about traveling (like a pro).

VISA: The worst time to apply for Schengen visa is summer since people prefer to go on a vacation at that time and there is a big chance you won`t get your visa on time. I usually travel during spring and autumn. There are less tourists traveling at that time, the prices are lower, it`s not too hot or cold and plus a lot of festivals are organized during spring/ autumn. If you want the cheapest tickets and you are not afraid of cold you should travel during winter. Last year I was able to find a flight from Budapest to Brussels for around €10.

If you are traveling during spring apply for your visa in January. That`s when there are almost no applicants. Book cheap flights several months before your trip, show where you are going to stay and even if your are going from one city to another show the bus ticket. Show all the details to have better chances.

TICKETS: Once you get the visa you can check this webpage to compare and find the best flights for you: skyscanner.com . If you are traveling from one city to another or from one country to another you can check busradar.com to compare and find bus/train tickets. My favorite bus company in Europe is FlixBus. They have comfortable buses, good Internet connection and sockets.

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ACCOMMODATION: When you are backpacking and you are young the best places to stay are the hostels. You will have to share the room with several people but it will cost you 3-4 times less than a hotel room. I use booking.com to find good hostels/ hotels in Europe. You can make the booking and pay when you arrive to the venue.

If you are traveling alone staying at a hostel is a good decision as you can meet a lot of travelers. But be careful and use the lockers or ask the receptionist to keep your expensive stuff.

SAFETY: The worst thing is to be robbed when you are traveling alone. There are robbers everywhere even in developed and rich countries. I advise you to keep your money not only in your wallet but also somewhere else. Keep your bank cards and ID/passport separated, take a photo of your passport and keep it in your google drive. I have one more trick I put my wallet in a plastic bag. When the robber opens your bag to steal something the last thing he/she will take will be that plastic bag. 😉

I hope this post was helpful for you and I hope you guys never stop traveling. Don`t be afraid to go solo and don`t be afraid to do something wrong…practice makes perfect!

A Year Later

So last year on this day I moved to Hungary….OK, It was September 15 and I was too busy to write this post earlier! 😀 I remember the feeling when I got to Georgia: it was late night, the airport was full, there were lots of students flying to Budapest with me. I can`t forget the moment when I fastened the seat belt and I understood that from that moment on I was on my own. There will be no one to solve problems for me, to help me when I`m lost, to offer his/her shoulder when I`m down. But I was so ready for that. It was a chance to grow up, to become 100% independent. Challenge accomplished! I was traveling all alone, booking and buying tickets, finding the roads and living alone. Now when my parents tell me to come back home earlier or to be careful in YEREVAN, it sounds funny for me. After all those countries, Yerevan is the safest place to live in! Pecs is also safe! I had lived there for 10 months and nothing happened to me, though there were creepy stories about some killed students.

I know that one year is not a long time, but I miss Budapest, I miss traveling and I miss my friends! I hope to see them after 5-6 months: I`m planning a new trip to Western Europe.

I returned to my beloved company PicsArt and my new mission is to make people happy! 😀 Sounds good, right? It`s really fun working here. The company is really big, it`s like one small city in a city, and you have all the needed things to live in there: lots of cool people, your interesting job, lots of tasty things to eat and you get a massage! Remember that you spend most of your time at your workplace. Make sure you are happy there! I promised myself that I`ll never do any job I don`t like or work at a company I don`t like.

I`m involved in several projects as well. Once a volunteer, always a volunteer! I became EVS mentor for the second time. My sending organization is hosting some German volunteers. Being a mentor after my project is more exciting and important for me, since now I know more about volunteers` needs. I also took part in a photography project which was organized by Armenian and Moldovan photographers. We were there to lead photography master classes for those who wanted to improve their skills. At the end of the project we had an exhibition in Armenia and Moldova.

The only bad thing is that because of my work I don`t have much time to go out to take photos or travel. In Europe it`s so easy and cheap: you get up on Saturday morning and decide to go to Slovenia, Austria or somewhere else. I can`t understand Hungarians who don`t want to travel. It costs nothing and takes 2-3 hours to get to the nearest country. In Armenia the nearest country I can travel to is Georgia.

I like anniversaries since it`s the time when you remember everything you have been trough, all the bad and good things. If I had a chance, I would do some things different and I would spend my EVS year abroad in a different way. But I don`t regret anything and I`m happy to have all the memories and tens of thousands of photos in my dropbox. When people ask me about EVS I answer without any hesitation that they should go for it! For me it`s in the past and I move on and make new plans for my future… 🙂

20150926_023308Budapest, Szimpla Ruin Bar, 2015