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The Joys of Hiking

Tomorrow it will have been 2 months since I left the United States and landed in Spain! 2 MONTHS! I can hardly believe how fast this semester is going. Midterms are just around the corner and then after that it’s a mere 5 weeks until finals! When studying abroad for a semester, you think you have so much time, but in reality it really does zip by.

Anywhere you are – traveling, moving to a new city, at school, at home, it is important to find something that fills your heart and that makes you feel connected with your environment. For me this semester that something has been hiking. It never fails to make me feel at peace and rejuvenated. Granada’s population is more than 230,000 inhabitants, whereas my hometown, Liberty MO, has roughly 31,000. Not only is the population greater in Granada but also the city is much more condensed. You can easily see from the city by walking in 1-2 hours, but Liberty is much more spread out than that. Additionally, I live in an apartment, with my host mom and roommate, that is about the size of my main floor at home in Missouri. It gets to feeling a little crowded at times, in the streets and at my host home.

When I need some space to myself, hiking is a lifesaver. I don’t dislike the city or my apartment, but there is nothing quite like the silence, solitude, fresh air, and the openness and freedom found in the mountains. No traces of cigarette smoke or exhaust are smelled. The air is crisp and inviting. The view of the large mountains on the horizon and the tiny cars of the city in comparison remind you just how small you are, how small your problems are, and how much more there is in the world beyond your minuscule and often clouded perspective.

I can’t express how much I love the mountains and the joy that they bring me! There are no mountains in Missouri, which may be why I love them so much: it’s extra special when I am near them. I take every opportunity I can here to explore the vast trails of the mountains while I have them in my backyard. From my apartment to the start of the trails is about a 45 minute walk; at home it’s a 9 hour drive to Colorado to find the best mountains. I am so grateful to be studying where I am.

What I have particularly enjoyed is the two times my friend and I went hiking at 6:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It is truly magical. For starters, the walk through the city to the mountains is quite tranquil: the only people in the street are those returning home after a night out at the club (it’s very common to stay out all night here… I can’t keep up!) When we get to the mountains, I love how the sun first lights up the surrounding peaks before fully revealing itself to you. After hiking for an hour or two, my friend and I are of course very sweaty. As we sit and wait for the light to break over the peaks, our sweat is drying and it is quite chilly. Through this experience I realized how often I take the sun for granted. As my friend and I were shivering from the brisk wind and cool air, we jokingly contemplated would happen if the sun just decided not to rise that day: we would miss out on the beauty that it brings with it and we would also still be very cold. When the sun finally shines over the crests, I instantly feel its warmth and began to thaw. Mmm, I could just bask in the sun all day. With the sunrise, the world rises around us. What a treasure is the new day that the sun brings. And in the mountains it is even more magical.

I didn’t expect to be able to write so much about hiking, mountains and nature, and I could definitely go on. However, I will conclude with a thought I had on one of my hikes. This activity lends itself well to somewhat cheesy (yet profound) metaphors for life, and I love that. Here is my most recent one:

When hiking, it’s okay, and even encouraged, to look back at how far you’ve come and all that you’ve passed through. But if you turn around and walk back the way you came, focusing too much on that path (your past), you will never know what views and experiences lie ahead, where life will take you moving forward. Occasionally when hiking, through the mountains and through life, you will get lost and you’ll be forced to go back and retrace your steps (to spend a short time in the past), but this is only so that you can find a better path forward the next time around.

Go out and experience the nature around you! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


Camille Meeks is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the Fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Travel is fun but rest, food, and homesick cures are important!

Last weekend my classmates and I went to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.  At that point I’d been in Prague for a little over a week and had been busy every day since (including an 8 mile hike the weekend before).  I was excited for our trip and optimistic about my energy level for the adventure.  Oh how naive I was. Now, don’t get me wrong.  The trip was beautiful.  Some examples of the beauty.

We hiked up to these castle ruins directly from the train station.
Then we hiked from the ruins to Český Krumlov. Beautiful, right?! (SO tired by this point.)

My classmate Val and I had a mission.  Must find fried cheese.  Fried cheese is a Czech thing.  You HAVE to get fried cheese if and or when you visit.  We HAD to find it.  Our mission began around 8.  We left our beautiful bed and breakfast and headed toward the many restaurants we passed on our way to the hotel.

Our bed and breakfast is the adorable yellow building between the two adorable blue buildings.
The view from outside our hotel.  Love!

We made our way back over the bridge into the middle of the town.  I thought to myself,”This is the Europe I signed up for.”  I was overcome with excitement that I was exactly where I wanted to be! (forgetting that all I had to eat that day was two almond bars, yogurt, and a bag of chips…)

The town center. Complete with a phone booth!!

 

Phone booth! (I was way too excited about this.)

Eventually we remembered how hungry we were and how far we’d wandered from the hotel not finding fried cheese!

I’m so hungry-excited!

So, my classmate Val, messages our professor who recommended a place.  Where was this place, you ask?  Here…

Recognize these view?

Yes.  There was fried cheese in the restaurant below our room.  At this point it was about 9:30 and I was feeling the lack of food setting in.  I hoped that my experience with slow service in Prague did not translate to Český Krumlov.  I was wrong.  Just after the sunset Val and I got our fried cheese!

Victory is ours!!

We ate, laughed, shared stories about our lives, and awkwardly interacted with our server.

After dinner, around 10:30, I was fading fast and needed to sleep.  I didn’t quite feel like my usual self, but I thought all I needed was a good night’s sleep.  I happily made it through the first part of the day, seeing art and old telescopes at an old monastery. (I am an astrophysics major.)

Telescope used to look at the sun!

Fun, right?  For a while on this early 7AM day I enjoyed the art, the history, and the physics relics.  After another hike back down to Český Krumlov and up to another castle (twice) I hit an emotional wall.  I needed a break.  I needed to be alone.  I needed to do nothing.  So, I broke from the group, quietly sobbed, and found a calm little cafe.  Through my tears I timidly ordered an espresso and a tiramisu from a barista with an extremely uncomfortable look on her face.

The remains of my sorrowful but delicious snack.

We eventually got on a bus to return to Prague.  I cried half of the way there, missing home, and messaging my friends and my boyfriend.  After words of love and support from the people I love the most I felt a bit better.  New mission: Rest when I need rest!  Now, 4 days later, I feel back to normal.  Plans for this weekend?  I will take it easy and stay in Prague.

Also, when you’re home sick, find a Starbucks.

Homesickness cure.

Lauren Higgins is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Physics with emphasis in Astronomy.  Lauren is spending the summer abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Sierra Mariola mountains and Granada

It’s difficult to know where to start with the last ten days of my life in Spain. Time feels like it’s evaporating. Lately, I’ve been stopping at different moments to think about what I would be doing at that time if I were at home in Kansas City. My lifestyle here is very different; it’s certainly more relaxed, even though my days have been so full.

Last weekend, I travelled with a few friends to the Sierra Mariola mountains. I’ve been wanting to go to the mountains ever since I arrived, so I was thrilled when we planned a very short notice adventure. The entire weekend was so much fun, and it was really interesting seeing the less cosmopolitan side of Spain. I felt a distinct increase in how much we stood out as foreigners in the small towns we stopped in. Also, the regional dialect here, Valenciano, was much more prevalent. We took a train and a bus to get to Bocairent, a small and historic town nestled at the base of the mountains. We took a hike right outside the town and were rewarded with a spectacular view.

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The next day, we took a hike from the campgrounds we stayed at to the tallest mountain in the Mariola range, Montcabrer. We got a bit lost at first, but ultimately it added to the experience. The ascent took about two hours. I still don’t know how to describe the feeling when I reached the top. The view, hidden until the very end, was breathtaking.

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Our hiking day has been one of my favorite experiences in Spain so far. I was also thrilled to get out of the city for the stargazing. The stars are spectacular, when you can see them! It was so clear we could see the Milky Way running through the sky. It was a weekend of pure magic.

On another high note, I went to Granada this weekend with the ISA group. Granada may be my favorite city I’ve been to in Spain. There’s a diverse mix of culture that creates such a distinct atmosphere. Also, the city is in the mountains, which thrilled me to no end.

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I can’t really talk about Granada without talking about La Alhambra, a Moorish palace/fortress that was primarily built in the 14th century. There are spectacular gardens, fountains, engravings, arches….everything. If you find yourself in Spain, you need to go here. Photos can’t do it any justice. Also, it’s up on a big hill, so you get a panoramic view of Granada.

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