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Appreciation

Six months of my wild and crazy life wrapped up into one, simple, word.

sunny 45 °F

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Silverthorne, Colorado

The last six months of my life have been a wild roller coaster ride to say the least. I finished my junior year at University of Denver at the end of May, and packed up my things to move to Vail, Colorado for a 3 month internship. I was pretty excited with all the mountain stuff I do to live in such an awesome place, not to mention one of the most desirable places in the world for many people to live. While in Vail I met lots of awesome people, worked for an awesome company, lived out some of my dreams, hiked tons of 14ers, helped save a man's life, enjoyed more than my 15 minutes of fame, expanded my horizons, grew a lot as a person, and so on. After 3 months in Vail, I packed up my things to get on a plane and fly across the great pond to Paris where I took a train to Dijon to "study" for 3 months. I arrived safely in Dijon in early September with no lost luggage (imagine that!) ready to begin my studies here. I was a lost little island at first, not knowing anyone over here, not knowing where anything was, knowing enough French to do simple things but by no means enough, and the first few days were pretty rough for me and a bit challenging. I thought I was ready and totally prepared, packed smart, and was ready for this thing, but it ended up being so much more.

Before long I made lots of new and awesome friends from all over the world and began my classes. But before even going to a class, I started traveling. I have since then traveled all over Europe, visited Africa, and walked amongst and breathed in so many different, new, unique, and often times strange cultural experiences. I've traveled nearly everywhere by train, something that isn't common in the United States. My family spent one week in Paris and Dijon visiting me, and am now back in the US trying to resume life as normal, if there is such a thing anymore. All of these experiences have helped me grow and realize that I am not anywhere close to the person I was six months ago, I wouldn't be the person I am today if it weren't for these experiences, and I wouldn't change a thing. However, these experiences have also taught me to take a look back and examine life for what it is. That said, I think that I can sum all of my life's experiences over the last six months, no matter how crazy, drastic, bizarre, or otherwise into the simple word of Appreciation. A lot of this may sound really cliché, and I'm sorry if that's the case, but these six months have taught me to appreciate everything you have in life, including the things you wouldn't really expect. I'm writing this all down in the hopes that people might be able to learn to appreciate things in life as much as I have over these last 6 months.

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Dijon, France

Appreciate New Opportunities

Not everyone in life is as lucky as you. Moving to Vail was a gift, and one that I was incredibly fortunate to have. My dad has talked for years about "retiring in the mountains someday". Sometimes, it sounds like it might happen for him someday, and other times it just sounds like this dream, one that he shares with many other people. I was lucky enough to live and work in Vail for 3 months, and it helped me grow tremendously as a person. I was able to live in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I felt like I was taking advantage of it at the time, and I think I did, but I still don't think I appreciated it enough today.

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Sunset over Mt. Shavano from Salida, Colorado

Study Abroad. I was terrified when I was preparing for study abroad and I often questioned whether or not I'd make it. I convinced myself I'd be fine, and then got to Dijon and the first few days were really, really, tough. I was the only kid from Denver in Dijon and the only person I knew in the whole town. But I read a quote somewhere recently that we always fear what we don't know and what we don't understand, but those are always the experiences that we grow the most from. And as I sit here today, I am a walking, living, breathing testament to that. New opportunities in your life are something to be grateful for, even if they scare the crap out of you at first. Embrace them and make the most of them, and you'll be that much better of a person for it later.

Appreciate Life

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Sunrise on Mt. Antero from Mt. Princeton

I learned very quickly when moving to Vail how quickly life can change. When I was out hiking Mt. Antero one day, I ended up helping rescue a man who crashed his ATV and saving his life by taking care of the proper first aid steps and precautions after we pulled him from the river. It was a pretty scary experience and one I'll never forget. It changed me forever, that's for sure. Every time I think about things in the future now, banking on the idea that something will happen, or asking myself why I'm recertifying myself for CPR when I don't necessarily need it since I have most of those steps memorized now, I'm always reminded: Life can change in an instant and you could be dead tomorrow. I don't mean to be heavy with that, but it's true. I look at life differently these days because of what happened that day. So appreciate life and every moment of every day and make sure if you died tomorrow that you'd be happy with what you did today. (Don't kill yourself today in case you might die tomorrow though, that would be bad.)

Appreciate What's Given to You

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Salida, Colorado

After all of this life saving heroism drama story stuff happened, I got more than my 15 minutes of fame. I'm not the kind of person who likes to be in the spotlight, so it was a little shocking and weird for me, but cool in some ways too I guess. Regardless, appreciate the things in life that are given to you. I only told three close friends and my family about what happened the day it happened, completely content with moving on with the rest of my life as though it never happened. But instead of staying out of the spotlight my story was covered by newspapers, blogs, and magazines over and over again. I was in the Vail Daily newspaper two or three times for it, the Salida newspaper twice, a couple online blogs I didn't even know about, the DU blog, and now in the DU magazine which gets sent to over 100,000 people this month. It all still blows my mind, and definitely isn't something I asked for or expected as a result of what happened while I was out hiking. So, appreciate what's given to you. Not everyone in this world is as lucky.

Appreciate the Little Things

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Lionshead during a hike in Vail, Colorado

Some of you reading this probably live in Colorado, where we receive over THREE HUNDRED days of sunshine every year. Not the case in Dijon, or most places in Europe for that matter. I didn't realize how much I would miss that when I came to Europe. The same is true for mountains. We are too lucky to have mountains like we do in Colorado, and you can see them whether you're in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, driving i70, or anywhere in between. I missed those in Dijon. If you're near a window or an open area, go look at the mountains or the blue sky we have. Not everyone gets to enjoy it like we do. And needless to say, I'll probably never want to live anywhere other than Colorado now. - Maybe I'm lucky, but I miss things like having cell service on my iPhone all the time, having access to a car regularly, fast internet, or having a reasonable bed at night to sleep in. All of these things changed when I went to Europe, and you don't realize how much you enjoy these things until you no longer have them at your disposal. So, appreciate the little things, because they make all the difference sometimes.

Appreciate the United States of America

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Double rainbows over Beaver Creek, Colorado

Yeah, I said it. And whether you love or hate the way our country is run these days, once you live outside the country for an extended period of time, you'll learn to appreciate how lucky we all are to have what we do in our country. I considered myself somewhat patriotic before I left, but having lived in Europe for 3.5 months, I'm incredibly proud to represent the country that I do. Our political system, though it may seem screwed up at times, isn't anywhere near as bad as some stuff is in Europe, Africa, or other areas of the world. Talking to international students has taught me that. Appreciate the fact that you live in a culture and language that you know and *fully* understand. I can speak French, sure, and I know enough to get around, ask questions, convey my ideas, etc, but I am no where near fluent. The social norms and customs in Europe are incredibly different sometimes, both in France and in other countries, and be thankful that every day you understand things around you. It's not always that easy. By living in a culture that you understand you often times have the ability to "predict" in some ways the next move a person is going to make based on the situation, and I didn't have that in Europe. So, appreciate the fact that you do understand everything, and when you want to ask for something in a restaurant or while traveling, you're able to understand everything. I didn't realize how much I would miss that when I left the US in September.

Appreciate Your Friends

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Hôtel Dieu, Beaunne, France

When you live on the other side of the world from all of your friends, life can be a bit challenging. You will always have friends you can turn to, but you won't always have friends you can go to. Make the most of those moments while you're at home or when you have the chance to spend time with your friends. Appreciate the ones who make an effort to keep in touch while you're gone, too, they're the ones who matter the most. Not all friends are that awesome. Appreciate the new friends you make too. All of my friends I've made over here in Europe have been awesome, and I'm lucky to have them. We've shared some pretty wild and incredible travel adventures together and some wild nights together in Dijon too. Appreciate the times you have with them while you've got them there. I know I'm going to miss all my friends I made during study abroad when we all fly back home to our different parts of the globe.

Appreciate Your Family

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With my brother at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

This kind of goes without saying, but I guess I always took it for granted that my family was a phone call away. It was always easy to call, text, get on the lightrail, drive, whatever, and see my family. When you're on the other side of the world, it's not quite so simple anymore, and the best you've got is Skype when you can find a way to line up the time differences. So make the most of the time that you have to spend with your family, whether they live close by or a 2 hour flight away. Having them visit me in France was awesome, and gave me a great appreciation for how important family is, something I undervalued while living at home and in Vail.

Appreciate Loved Ones

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A candle burns for my grandfather in this small Church at the top of Zermatt, Switzerland

This one kind of took me by surprise and wasn't something I expected, but I've had a number of travel experiences across all parts of Europe, high and low, that have reminded me of my grandfather who passed a couple years ago. I referenced a man in Italy who I met who reminded me of my grandfather, and I felt something special and surreal come over me when I was in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps that reminded me of him. If I could put my finger on what that was, I would. There are a few churches in Europe (Italy, Zermatt, France) where I lit candles and said a few prayers, if you can call it that. I'm still skeptical at times of religion and it's place in my life, but something out there was calling, so I lit the candles and said thanks in a moment of thought. The moments that reminded me of my grandfather were something very special. I'm lucky that he's the only close family member I've lost, but don't take that time for granted. I certainly won't from this day forward. It makes me wonder sometimes what I would say to him about the last six months of my life, what he would think, and what kind of hilarious jokes I'm sure he would make about all kinds of things I would tell him about. I wish I could have that back sometimes, so appreciate it in your life while you've got it because those people won't always be there.

Appreciate New Experiences

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Sunset on Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Traveling Europe isn't like traveling like the United States. The cultures are richer, older, deeper, and so much more diverse than the US it's incredible. And then you go to Africa and it's something completely different too in its own right. Traveling Europe has become one of the greatest things I've ever done with my life. I realize that's a bold statement to make, but it's true. I'm thousands of dollars poorer because of it, but my life is infinitely richer thanks to the new experiences I've had from it. While these experiences will no doubt throw you into situations that you aren't prepared for, appreciate them for what they are. When traveling Europe and so many different cultures, you learn to kind of just go with the flow and act like a sponge absorbing everything you can and accepting the experience for what it is. You will inevitably miss a train here or there, screw up a hostel reservation by being late, and be forced to eat new foods or take the subway systems in a city with the rest of the people who call that city their home. While these experiences are foreign and sometimes bizarre, they also teach you the most by exposing you to new cultures and walks of life that you may never have known existed. New experiences will shock you, terrify you, and sometimes break you down, but you'll be a broader and richer person afterwards as a result, so embrace them.

Summary

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Sunset over the Vatican from Rome, Italy

So there you have it. If I could pick one lesson that I've learned from the last six months of my life, it's to appreciate everything you've got around you. Living in Vail for three months expanded my horizons and changed me more as a person than I could have ever imagined. And then I jumped inside a metal tube with a couple bags of belongings for Europe, and my world and horizons exploded even more. These six months have taught me to appreciate a lot, and I guess on the flip side who and what in my life really matters to me and what I can live without. It's all been invaluable information to have learned at such a young age, and I hope to carry it forward with me every day for the rest of my life. Appreciate every minute of every day and everything about each of those moments. In closing, I want to use one of my favorite quotes of all time. I spend a lot of downtime reading a big fat 800 page book of mine (no, it's not that really long Harry Potter book) called The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. In one of his works he writes,

"To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has it's own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour a picture which was never seen before and which shall never be seen again." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, appreciate every moment of every day of your life. You may never have back what you have in that moment, whether its a loved one, family, friends, the little things, or your own life, and learn as much as you can from what's around you and what you have. I hope everyone who reads this gets something from it, even if it's just one tiny little thing. Feedback is welcomed too! Enlightening? Boring? Funny? Too cliché? Let me know, and hopefully I'll see you all around now that I'm back in the United States of America!

Ciao, au revoir, and God Bless!

--Scooter
--@scott_treks

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Posted by la vita bella 13:29 Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains beaches bridges churches art skylines people parties snow boats trains castles beer cathedrals desert venice vienna tower paris hiking france culture history travel hotel bus colorado train trekking village river austria germany italy pisa backpack city aspen ski museum friends philippines florence garden cathedral life live country family africa love castle hostel creek rome photos language french hike roman wine torino smile morocco europe happiness painting camels gondola mtn vatican pantheon switzerland denver international pope housing schonbrunn tiergarten college dijon god united republic eye lionshead swiss colosseum student milano abroad alps munich forum business american vista bern panoramic boulder atv experiences sherman residence osprey trevi oktoberfest catholic ville cultures notre dame architechture potter marrakesh renaissance relationship eu buena lose caesar learn law gelato lyon scout solo study iphone agadir laugh learning strasbourg appreciation Comments (0)

Morocco

A Walk on the Wild Side

sunny 75 °F

Wow. What a trip is all I think I'll ever be able to really say about my 3 day trip in Morocco, but I want to share some of the experiences from the trip that have opened my eyes and affected me the most.

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Getting There

I left Dijon in France early Saturday morning to meet up with my four American friends who I've had the pleasure of traveling Europe with this semester. When we all arrived at the train station, we were waiting to see the platform number for our train to Lyon, and in France it's totally normal to not know your gate until 15 minutes before your train leaves. Well, our train never really arrived, or never left, rather. We never did figure out if it was due to a typical French strike or if was just "supprimé" just because, but we now had to take a later train to Lyon to catch our flight, leaving us with a tighter window in Lyon. I've learned to just kind of let go when traveling and let the adventure happen, especially in Europe and unfamiliar places, because you never really know what'll happen. You just have to relax and kind of go with the flow, or you'll get too stressed out and possibly forget something important... We had to wait a few hours for the next train which we passed laughing at all our stories we've collected from this semester together. When we eventually made it to the Lyon train station we had to take a tram out to the St. Exupery aeroport, a 25 minute ride plus the usual airport nonsense. All went smoothly and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but because my friend had checked a bag in Lyon for his flight out, guess what he left at the train station? His passport. Of all things you can do without when flying from Europe to Africa, your plane ticket and passport are the two things you can't. So it was time to form a plan B.

We all decided that he would go back to Lyon station to get his passport and attempt to make it for the flight while we went and waited for him at the gate. At the airport we had to go through 2 or 3 security checkpoints, and the passport check was miserable. No line, mob chaos, 6 stations with only 2 open (typical French efficiency), and the four of us only made the flight with a few minutes to spare. We waited there on the plane twittling our thumbs hoping he'd show....but minutes later the flight was off and we were without our partner. I was pretty sad since I knew how bad he wanted to go on this trip, and the most frustrating part was none of us had means of contacting him to figure out where he was since we're not in our native country and phone service/wifi can be hard to get. It was a smooth flight with a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, and 3 hours later we landed at Al Massira Agadir airport in Morocco. I had officially landed on a fourth continent!

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We proceeded to take a cab to our hostel hotel only a few hundred yards away from the beach. This marks experience number one for me. If you've ever seen videos of traffic problems or wild traffic patterns in Africa in class or on the Internet, well, it really does look like that. There are medians and lanes, but no one uses them. Our cab driver drove right down the middle of the two lanes! Whenever he needed to pass he just flashed his brights and cars would move over. And most of the cars are old beat up clunkers that feel like they're going to break down every 5 seconds from the jerking while riding. All of the road signs were interesting too. Because Morocco (le Maroc) was a French colony once, all of the people there speak Arabic as their primary language but know French as well. Because Arabic is read right to left, all signs read French from left to right and Arabic from right to left. It was pretty cool to see. Half an hour later, we arrived at our hostel hotel (which was really nice and cheap too, pool, balcony, beach view, free wifi, 10€/night) and immediately jumped on the wifi to message our travel partner to figure out where he ended up. Very long story short, he ended up back in Dijon, never attempted to make the flight, and had already booked a flight out of Paris for Agadir for the next day. I was pretty excited to have him join us, but it meant that we needed to get all of our "forgetting something?" and "boom roasted!" jokes out before he arrived. We ordered room service for the night since the area around us looked kinda iffy at night and crashed, safely and soundly in Morocco, Africa.

The Moroccan Sun

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Sunday was a lazy day for the four of us, which was a really nice change from most of our travels. Europe is so packed with things to see and do that you can never really see everything, so being able to relax and hang out was really nice. We got up around 11am, and headed to the boardwalk and the beach. I haven't been to a beach in a while since I'm definitely more of a mountains and snow guy than a sand and the ocean guy, but let me tell you, this place was gorgeous. The sand was a little bit more orange colored than most of the beaches I've been too (from what I can remember), and of course I had to go stand in the ocean. I think I might have been the only of my friends who actually went and stood in the water, but I figured life is too short not to stand in the ocean on an African beach, and I'll probably never be back. So, Chaco flips in hand, I ran around in the waves on the beach. The pictures turned out really well too, which I've linked at the end of this entry. That afternoon our travel partner arrived, and now that we were a complete group, we decided to venture out a little bit.

The Souk

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This marked culture experience number two for me here. I'm sure most people don't even what a Souk is, but it's a traditional Moroccan market place of sorts where you can buy almost anything. It's partly open air, partly covered, loaded with souvenirs, trinkets, foods, black market goods, fake bags and shoes, and everyone is in complete Islamic attire. Wowee wowzers. I felt pretty uncomfortable in there at times, but I kept reminding myself that I didn't go to Africa and Morocco to feel comfortable, I went to take a step out of my comfort zone at times, eat weird foods, see a new part of the world, and learn and grow a little bit bigger as a person. The place was crazy. Agadir is loaded with shop vendors eager for your money, and it's not quite as easy to hide as in Europe since we're all white and obviously not Muslim, so we were hesitant to talk to people who approached us. But, a very nice man who works for the government of Morocco gave us a nice short tour of the Souk, and didn't ask for money afterwards. I also considered it an accomplishment that I spoke French to him initially and he didn't guess correctly that I was from the US until after trying France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand first. I was weary to let on to anyone we were Americans while we were there for fear of being judged, so I played the French card as much as possible on the trip. This brings me to another observation.

On our way to the Souk when we refused to take directions from a Moroccan (since he was probably going to ask for money after), he called us all racists. It's really depressing me that the world feels the need to judge people, anyone for that matter, in any way. You either talk to the man and take his directions to get to the Souk where he asks for money and you lose, or you refuse and he calls you racists for refusing to talk to him. Saying no isn't an option with these people either, it's more of an invitation for them to try harder to sell you. The media today plays up stereotypes and creates false perceptions of people often times in areas of the world that they don't understand. You always fear what you don't understand, but that doesn't mean it's bad for you or even wrong in any way. I wish people would stop judging. We met plenty of very helpful and nice Moroccan people who were delighted to talk to us about America and why we had chosen to visit their country. It's too bad, really. Not all Americans think every turban wearing guy or woman in full Muslim dress is sent to blow up a car in a town near you these days. I should add that it's pretty fascinating to spend time in a country where Islam is the national religion too. Every room has a sign somewhere that points the direction to Mecca, and during the day you can hear loudspeakers come on with a call to prayer and sometimes people just stop to pray. It's a pretty mind blowing experience to me. I don't agree with their religion necessarily, but to see someone's devotion to their faith can be a powerful thing sometimes, and I think it's always important to understand where someone is coming from too because it helps you better understand why you believe what you believe. And if you can't justify why you believe what you believe, then, well, what do you really believe in anyways?

The Camel Ride

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Monday afternoon we had reserved a 5 person camel tour, since we all thought it would be insanely cool to "ride camels in Africa". And, it was. And, we took tons of hilarious pictures that I'm sure will soon be on Facebook... But the camel experience was something pretty special in a lot of other ways too. We rode the camels through a little bit of a desert, national park, to a bird estuary, and through some small African villages. First, the bird estuary and national park on the Sous River was gorgeous. I've never been anywhere quite like it. It was kind of like the stuff you see in Planet Earth in some ways, but to actually be there was amazing. And the African sky is just...unique. It's different and unlike anywhere I've ever been, too. We rode through some African villages on our way back too, which was eye popping in an incredible way. On our left side we had a walled up lush, green, golf course with gorgeous sweeping views of the mountains near Agadir, on our right we had fences where African villages were, and around our path there was trash. Tons of trash. It was striking to me how polar the world is sometimes. We continued forward into another village where kids were kicking around a soccer ball, women were hang drying clothes, and men we in shops. Buildings were just concrete and cement blocks, most of which had wavy tin rooftops held down by more concrete blocks. And around all of it - was trash. It was a, although brief, look into the world that some people live in. I mean, it wasn't your typical commercial of starving kids in Africa who are paper thin and dying where they ask you to call and make a donation, but it was pretty eye opening. It fascinates me to think that that's the way of life for some people, and yet we listen to people in American complain sometimes about stuff. Never again. It's a reminder to how lucky some of us really are. At the end of the ride we parked our camels at a fence, yes- parked our camels, and enjoyed some traditional Moroccan tea before heading back to our hostel hotel.

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Meals with Friends

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We headed out for dinner on the boardwalk shortly after arriving back at our place (and after posting our obnoxious camel pictures on Facebook and Twitter, of course). I decided that for dinner I should probably try some traditional Moroccan food, so I ordered a Tajine, which ended up being really good. We were able to watch the African sun set over the water on our way to the beach too, which was gorgeous. We had had lunch earlier in the day on the boardwalk as well, so the dinner topped off one hell of an amazing day with friends. It hit me again how polar the world can be though, it's all happy and fun on the beach and the boardwalk (minus the panhandlers) but half an hour away it's poverty and a fight to live day to day. I was awesome to enjoy such good meals and scenery on the beach with friends though, since we all have to part ways tonight to fly home this week. I'm going to miss these kids, that's for sure, but hopefully we'll all be able to visit each other though, since we all live in the same country at least.

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The Journey Home, or, Europe, Rather.

Tuesday morning we all woke up much too early to catch a cab to the airport, which again was somewhat eye opening. We got to see the sunrise from the cab, but drove through some pretty rough looking areas. Again, concrete apartment buildings, many without windows. Trash was everywhere, and people were all standing around at what appeared to be a bus stop. The apartment buildings were unfinished concrete walls, and in some ways resembled a bird coop in ways, grey, dull, dirty, boring, and darkness inside the window without a window pane. It was amazing to see something like that. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the airport, passed all security and passport check points (yippee! no more visa drama or Préfécture visits!) and are now sitting on board a plane back to Lyon. Hopefully we have smooth travels from here back to Dijon where we'll all have to say our goodbyes and part ways to head back to the good ole US of A in a couple days (Africa today, Europe tomorrow, North America Thursday...woo!). It's going to feel good to be home, no doubt, but I wanted to write an entry on my short time in Africa that has taught me so much more than I expected. I left Dijon knowing next to nothing about Morocco and Agadir and attempted to let down all walls and become a sponge to absorb as much as I could from the new cultural experience. I think I succeeded, and I hope you've gotten a few things out of my experiences too.

Cheers!

--Scooter
--@scott_treks

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Picture Gallery

Photo Album

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Stand on the beach in Agadir

The camel tour at the estuary and National Park

Posted by la vita bella 10:22 Archived in Morocco Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches bridges churches buildings skylines people animals birds sky snow night planes boats trains rivers desert paris hiking france culture history travel hotel bus train trekking village river backpack friends garden life live country family africa love hostel photos language french bike morocco europe happiness camels mtn graduation denver international college dijon eye student abroad american chapel panoramic atv experiences residence osprey catholic cultures marrakesh relationship lose learn lyon scout study teva iphone agadir laugh learning euros 360 scouting scouts nigeria girlfriend esc camera+ francophone sncf listen Comments (1)

Time Flies

rain 45 °F

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With so much to talk about, I really don't even know where to begin to write this post, but I guess the title says it all. Time flies by so much faster than you ever think it will. I remember when I moved to Vail at the beginning of June this summer thinking, man, I have 3 months ahead of me of living in one of the most beautiful and most desireable places to live on Earth! This is going to be amazing! And then at the end of August, I began to realize how quickly that time had passed. Here I am now, with only 12 days left of my study abroad experience, and 4 of those will be spent in Agadir, Morocco, and one of those is the travel day home. So really, I only have one week left here in Dijon. I am absolutely positively ready to come home, but that's not without a bittersweet feeling of everything here that I'll miss. The people I've met here have been amazing, and the friendships I've made are incredible. I'm going to miss the moments and memories I've shared with every single person here, especially the wild travel adventures. All of that said, here's what I've been up to for the last couple weeks as well as everything that's on the horizon.

Paris

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After I wrote my last entry, I headed off to Paris for a few days to join my family. I can't believe they flew all the way across the world to spend a week here with me. It was great to see them, spend time with them, and have them on this side of the great pond for a bit. In Paris we spent time seeing most of the major attractions, the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs d'Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Mont Parnasse Tower, Musée d'Orsay, as well as a few other highlights. I had a few interesting observations too. First of all, the Notre Dame in Paris is no doubt impressive, but I've seen plenty of Cathedrals in Europe now ("oh god, we're going to see another cathedral in <insert city name here> tomorrow?") because that's just the way Europe is and it is by no means the most impressive cathedral in Europe. My travel advice would be to see the cathedral in Strasbourg instead, which is much more impressive and equally as ancient... or old, rather. The Louvre was pretty impressive too, and the amount of famous artworks in there is phenomenal. The Mona Lisa? Not as phenomenal as everyone thinks. It's small, has a room dedicated to it, is dark, you can't get close, is behind bulletproof glass, and is surrounded by a horde of people. It was cool to see the world's most famous painting, don't get me wrong, and the thing is invaluable, but it's not nearly as impressive as I thought it would be. The artwork at the Vatican Museum in Rome or the Uffizi Museum in Florence is much more impressive to me. Everything really is better in Italy.

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The Eiffel Tower was pretty cool to visit, and it's cool that I can now say I've been up to the top of it. We were pretty lucky to have such a great day for weather when we visited it too since almost every other day was foggy or gray. The disappointing thing with the Eiffel Tower to me was the sheer number of Asian tourists that were there. It's not really the Paris or France experience I was looking for. I'm really glad my brother can say he's been to the Eiffel Tower now though since he's always talked about it like it existed in some far off place. The Champs d'Elysées and Arc de Triomphe were also pretty cool, though we didn't go up inside the Arc. The Mont Parnasse tower was cool too but we had terrible weather so the view from the landing pad on top wasn't very impressive (and cold!). The Musée d'Orsay was probably one of my favorite things we did actually. The artwork in there from van Gogh, Renoir, and other famous painters was cool to finally get to see, and I got some awesome pictures from inside there too.

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Dijon

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After visiting Paris for a few days, my family and I took a TGV to Dijon, which was their first real train experience. It's kind of a weird thought to me since I've traveled all over Europe on nothing but trains, so the train station drill is normal too me. My dad has also never taken the Denver lightrail, so it was his first actual train experience too. I explained to my parents how gates are announced just 15 minutes before departure most of the time and is pretty normal in France, which is a totally foreign idea to us Americans who are used to getting to the airport hours before a flight and knowing exactly which gate to go to. We spent the next few days in Dijon, which was nice. It was actually kind of funny when my parents asked me what there is to do in Dijon and I felt kind of clueless because I've been traveling Europe so much this semester. I'm really only in Dijon when I have class or on weekends when I feel the need to stay here to get classwork done (which has only occurred in November). But it was nice, we did part of the owl tour around the town, visited a few cathedrals, yes, more cathedrals, and just kind of explored Dijon. We also rented a car, which was quite the experience... With all of the tram construction going on in Dijon right now, the entire city is screwed up for traffic purposes, so driving is far from ideal. We took the car out to the Burgundy wine region though, which was fun for the day, even if there were moments where I thought we were going to die. We drove part of the Rue des Grands Crus, and actually had a really sunny day for it, which was great. After a few days in Dijon, my parents boarded their TGV train back to Paris to fly out the next day. All in all it was a fun few days in Dijon and great to spend time with my family again.

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What's Next?

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I've spend the last few days since they left wrapping up school papers and projects and random ends trying to get ready for the end of the semester. I've said it already but I'll say it again, time flies and I can't believe I only have one week left here. I finished my last paper last night which leaves just a French language exam this week and a French Culture exam this week. After that, it's off to beautiful Agadir in Morocco for a few days with my American friends to send off the semester the same way it began and then a quick turn around in Dijon to Paris and a flight home. I have a few odds and ends things left to take care of here in Dijon like the OFII forms (that I was supposed to do months ago), close up my French bank account, and hopefully finally resolve things at the residence, but then it's time to go home. I'm going to miss this here, no question about that, but it will be nice to go home and return to a life and culture that I fully understand, and hopefully I can make use of everything I've learned here back home and in future adventures.

That's all I've got for now, and this may be one of my last real entries, but make sure to stay tuned for my blog that sums up 6 months into one word, which I'm planning to start working on today. I'm really pouring my heart into it in the hopes that others will be able to get as much out of it as I have writing and living it. Looking forward to seeing everyone back home soon!

Au revoir!

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Pictures
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2755652452477.2148433.1292672395&type=1&l=a3693937bc

360s
http://360.io/EhT3vt Burgundy wine region
http://360.io/CkKFkE Dijon mustard store
http://360.io/jUZmMv Paris old military courtyard
http://360.io/2RzAn8 Near Napoleon's tomb
http://360.io/4vHKdv Standing under the Eiffel Tower
http://360.io/kaXxQ5 Standing inside the Louvre pyramid (my favorite!)
http://360.io/hHXhpx Standing outside the Paris Notre Dame

Posted by la vita bella 03:06 Archived in France Tagged landscapes mountains beaches bridges churches skylines people animals snow trains castles cathedrals paris france travel hotel colorado train trekking austria italy pisa backpack city aspen ski museum friends philippines florence garden cathedral family africa castle hostel rome photos language french morocco europe painting camels vatican pantheon denver international housing college dijon united eye swiss student abroad alps michelangelo american panoramic experiences residence catholic cultures notre dame architechture marrakesh renaissance relationship massive law jardin study iphone agadir learning strasbourg euros 360 emerson scouting nigeria beaune esc dieu camera+ francophone uffizi Comments (0)

Paris, Morocco, Home.

All good things must come to an end...for now.

overcast 50 °F

A lot of things have transpired since my last entry, so here's everything you need to know about what's changed and what's coming up in the next few weeks.

Dijon

Since my previous entry, I still have not managed to leave this country, or this town for that matter. It's been kind of weird not being constantly on the run with traveling like the first two months of my stay here, but definitely nice also. I was talking to one of my Filipino friends this week who traveled with me those 8 weekends in a row and the 12 day European Excursion (http://lavitabella.travellerspoint.com/29/) and he's been traveling every weekend still. It was interesting to hear him say that he's starting to feel a little "jaded" now with all the traveling going on. It's an awesome like and I wouldn't trade being able to travel like this for anything, but it wears on you more than you ever think it will. That said, resting in Dijon isn't half bad either. It's allowed me to go out to the bars and clubs more with friends here, which is a cultural experience in itself. I've also learned a ton about Dijon weather... Fog. And more fog. Since arriving home in Dijon on November 2, I have seen the sun twice. Today and two days ago. As a Coloradan, we get over 300 days of sun every year. You really learn to appreciate that sun when you don't see it for days and days on end. It was starting to drive me crazy even on some days when you couldn't see more than 10 meters in front of you. So, I'm thankful I don't have to live in places like San Francisco or Seattle.

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Travel

My favorite part of every entry is writing about travel, so here's what's coming up since I haven't been anywhere recently. This week I am headed to Paris on Thursday morning to be reunited with my family for Thanksgiving. I think it has the potential to be the best Thanksgiving of my life to date, too. I can't imagine a better way to spend the holiday than with family and to have them fly around the globe to celebrate it here is incredible. I am so lucky and thankful for that, and I plan on giving them all a huge hug when I see them on Thursday. I'm spending the following few days with them around Paris visiting all the sites like the Notre Dame, the Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower, before heading down to Dijon for a few days here with them. In Dijon I think we'll just enjoy the little town and it's Notre Dame, do some wine tours of the Burgundy region, and possibly visit Beaunne, which is an absolutely awesome tiny little town outside of Dijon.

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After they leave, I have about 10 days more of classes to conclude the semester and then my American friends and I are flying to Agadir in Morocco for a few days on the beach down there. This trip still blows my mind. I've never been to Africa. It will mark my 4th continent I've visited, it looks absolutely gorgeous, and it should be an incredibly different cultural experience than anything else I've ever walked or breathed in. So, I'm super excited, and the trip isn't even very expensive ($170 roundtrip plus hostels!). I am still slightly worried about safety and water and stuff, but the more research I do the more my fears are lessened. I'm pretty excited to end this study abroad trip the same way I started it to. Four American friends of mine and I spent 3 days in Rome together during our first week abroad, and we're ending it together too, complete with African beaches and camel rides to a wild bird reserve. Feels pretty awesome. It'll be pretty weird to travel from Africa to Europe on December 13, and then Europe to North America on December 15 too, 3 continents in 3 days. That blows my mind over and over again. That all said though, it's also time to start thinking about home.

Home

I can't believe it's already here. While I'm certainly ready to go home to familiarity and a culture and language I fully understand, I've enjoyed my time here too and learned a ton. I learned everything I didn't expect to learn and nothing I expected to learn. This past week, I've been in touch with my boss back home working out my schedule for work when I get home, which will be gladly welcomed since I'm starting to feel the pressure on my wallet after no paychecks since June 1. This past week I also registered for graduation. Good lord, how did that come up so fast?! I guess people really aren't kidding when they tell you college will be the best and fastest four years of your life. It's a surreal feeling, but also one of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that I've made it this far and successfully completed the major and double language minor I aimed for the day I accepted my letter from DU. It's weird that now I have to start thinking about the future, the real world, and planning for the rest of my life. I won't rest until I find a job in the mountains somewhere working in the ski industry, but I don't know exactly how I'll get there yet. I've explored the ideas of coming back to the French Alps or Italy to work in the ski industry as well, but who knows where I'll end up yet. First up is completing the Colorado Trail this summer after graduation, a goal I've had for a long time. It's amazing how fast time really does fly sometimes. Only 25 days left until I'm home in beautiful sunny Colorado! Thanks for reading, and I'm looking forward to seeing all you all soon!

PS. I'm working on two epic blogs currently, one to wrap up all of study abroad with tons of pictures and my favorite experiences, and another to take the last six months of my life and sum them all up into one, simple, word. Props to anyone who can figure out the word!

Au revoir!

--Scooter

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Posted by la vita bella 10:31 Archived in France Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains beaches bridges buildings people parties trees animals snow night planes trains beer cathedrals desert tower paris hiking france culture travel hotel bus colorado train trekking metro river backpack city ski friends philippines cathedral sculpture family africa castle hostel photos language french hike eagle wine morocco europe camels gondola mtn graduation switzerland denver international housing college dijon swiss student abroad alps american panoramic experiences residence osprey catholic cultures notre dame architechture marrakesh relationship law lyon scout study iphone agadir learning euros 360 prepared rmvr scouting scouts città nigeria beaune girlfriend esc dieu camera+ Comments (0)

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