2016 Travel Recap

Honestly, I can’t say I’m sad to see 2016 go. I don’t remember ever hearing so many people talk about how awful an entire year was. For numerous reasons, I think it’s safe to say the world is looking forward to starting anew in 2017.

This year’s travels have been extra special to me. In the spring, I decided to make videos after each trip and take my loves on monthly digital vacations. The response has been overwhelming and as cliche as it sounds, I’m so thankful to be able to share my journeys with them.

Below is a recap of my 2016 weekend getaways. 2017 is already filling up, and I’m ecstatic for all that is to come. ❤

January: Philippines for LIG Marian Rose Mission Trip

February: Weekend in Rome

April: Weekend on Lake Como

June: Weekend in Peru to visit Machu Picchu

July: 24 short hours on the Amalfi Coast

August: Weekend in Norway and VV for my 2 year anniversary

September (trip 1 of 2): Weekend on the island of Ischia

September (trip 2 of 2): Weekend in Portugal

October: Weekend in Rome and Stockholm

November: Weekend in South Africa for a Kruger National Park safari

December: Weekend in Sweden and Poland for Christmas Markets

My Grandmother Was My Age

Despite last Thursday’s snow, ice, and horrifying plane-skidding incident at LaGuardia, we made it to Poland (almost) on schedule! We were a little delayed, but the four of us were happy to have dinner at our favorite EWR restaurant: terminal B’s McGinley’s Pub <3. We all slept most of the 8½ hour flight before arriving in Munich, where we’d missed our earlier connection but hopped on another a little while later.

Krakow, our final destination, blew me away. We landed and made it to our apartment by around 5PM on Friday, just in time to galavant around the city before sunset. Its center is spotless and incredibly charming; to me, it felt like a mix of Verona and Vienna, though inevitably laced with a more Eastern European don’t-bother-asking-anyone-for-help feel. We fell in love instantly.

The main purpose of the trip was to tour nearby concentration camps and ghettos. Chrissy and Briana are WWII buffs, and Les and I took a Holocaust class as juniors at the Mount. We’ve kept an eye on flights to Krakow for years but have never been able to find anything for under $950 or so. Warsaw is occasionally cheaper, but it’s much farther from Auschwitz and therefore wouldn’t make sense for our short weekend trips. By some act of God, however – and by “act of God” I mean a miracle called “Cyber Monday” – I unexpectedly came across flights for ~$600! I called Briana immediately (which is obviously indicative of some sort of crisis or emergency since I hate the phone), and we booked it on the spot, no hesitation. Les and Chrissy quickly followed suit. Is this what addiction feels like?! The rush of clicking “confirm booking” is undoubtedly like no other. 😉

I will spare you of a history lesson and let the photos below speak for themselves. I do want to include, however, a few facets of our trip that stuck with me most:

  • When prompted, our incredible tour guide and film director Paulina shared with us the survivor story that’s had the greatest impact on her. Specifically, she talked about the neighbor of a Polish man who’d been intellectually disabled (formerly “mentally retarded”) and picked on most of his life. One day, while the two were both in front of their homes, they saw an alarming amount of black crows screaming overhead. The boy remarked, “Oh no, how sad… the birds just told me that the soldiers are coming to kill all the children of Israel.” Over a month before there was even a slight indication of what was to come, his neighbor was more confused than disturbed: “What are you talking about?” He persisted: “Yes, how horribly sad. The birds just told me, they’re coming to murder the descendants of Abraham.” Che cazzo ?
  • In Krakow alone, there were over 70,000 Jews before the Holocaust. Now, there are maybe a few thousand. The actual amount is difficult to confirm because many Jewish people celebrate their faith in private, for they are afraid history will repeat itself. Truthfully, I don’t blame them.
  • 2015 marks 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, which means that all this occurred not that f’ing long ago AT ALL. This isn’t some distant, horrific event that dates back to before Christ. The accounts haven’t been translated and interpreted by ancient scholars over the course of centuries. There were no carrier pigeons or slaves. There were televisions, cars, technology, and airplanes. This was Europe, not some barbaric, uninhabitable third-world country. The Holocaust happened in our grandparents’ lifetime; my grandmother was my age when Auschwitz was liberated.

Płaszów Camp Memorial:

Creepy Amon Goeth’s House (the man who’d shoot people from his balcony in Schindler’s List):

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Auschwitz 1 Grounds & Crematorium:

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Belongings of Auschwitz 1 Victims (shoes, prosthetics, suitcases):

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Auschwitz 2 (Birkenau):

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PS: The trip wasn’t completely somber and educational. We also tried Krakow’s top fun activityLost Souls Alley. It was so terrifying that Les had to use the code word to exit mid-way. One missing Ugg, three panic attacks, and eight bruised shins later, we made it to safety. Be on the lookout for night-vision footage. B)

PPS: I did extend my trip (of course), but since I gave up sweets for Lent, I opted for some sun instead of tempting myself in the gelato capital of the world. Italy, I’ll see you exactly one month from today – after Easter. ❤


To Stay or Not to Stay…

I’m currently in the midst of a too-familiar dilemma. Set to take off for Poland and Germany in 8 hours, I’m feverishly adding up miles and calling airlines to possibly extend my stay in Europe. I’ve been notorious for doing this in the past, but have since stuck with weekend trips to avoid missing work or school (as I’ve written about before, I absolutely hate taking off). However… as it turns out, I’m already off next week. Truthfully, I haven’t worked since the day I left for Vienna.

This last-minute predicament pales in comparison to the one I faced in February. I’ve been meaning to post for days about Austria and my 24 short hours on the ground, but my thoughts have been preoccupied to say the least. After attending a networking event for work, I was approached and recruited by a nearby assisted living facility. Just four miles from my apartment, this new place – I’ll call it il Sogno for now – features an Alzheimer’s unit and offers considerably more patient/family interaction, tremendous room to grow, and a 401k. Davvero?! Are they reaching out to the right person?!!

No brainer, right? I wish.. I wish I hated Senior Helpers even a little bit. I wish my bosses were jerks or the girls I worked with were obnoxious. I wish I’d count down the minutes until Friday and dread waking up on Monday. This, however, was not nearly the case. I loved Senior Helpers. In the two short months I was there, I not only learned a tremendous amount, but also met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I was sick over the decision to be made, and even took a week to think about it after receiving my former offer letter (the nerve! I couldn’t help it!!).

Thankfully, despite the horrifying scenarios I had imagined I’d face, my decision was met with support and understanding. Il Sogno is not a competitor but rather a potential referral source, and I was adamant about SH being their primary referral. Not because I feel guilty, but because I truly believe they’re the best of the best. I’m beyond grateful for the knowledge, insight, and experience my bosses and colleagues were able to provide me with in such a short amount of time. You truly can’t predict the paths your journey will present to you, but you do decide which ones to take. I hope this weekend’s leads to Italy