Remembrances: Your first time traveling abroad

The joys of traveling abroad on your own.

You find yourself alone on an international flight to Spain with a small traveler's guide you reluctantly bought at a Barnes & Noble. The pamphlet prepared you for basic cultural shocks like talking quietly, respecting historical churches by wearing shirts that cover your shoulders, and traveling in large groups to avoid harassment or incidents of theft. The reality is that when you arrive, you will be a stranger, a small dot of human matter now responsible for navigating yourself in a foreign culture, butchering the local language to an extent of embarrassment—thank goodness for being a stranger. Later, your friend arrives and you meet her at the airport.

Valencia, Spain

There is something oddly satisfying about being anonymous in a foreign country, sitting down to drink your first glass of Spanish wine, people watching the locals who are kind and gregarious. You repeatedly mumble "vale" and "gracias" to achieve a semblance of respect for the language and people around you, and they will appreciate that you tried. Bemused, you find yourself gravitating into stores, food markets, and candle shops just to smell and touch things, just to hear Spaniards buy their weekly share of meat and produce. You're warmed and elated by the children coming from their afternoon classes in their school uniforms, Spanish boys and girls running into ice cream shops as their parents walk behind. Normal people doing normal things will excite you as if you're a child on Christmas Eve, desperately waiting for the clock to strike 12:00 a.m..

Valencia, Spain

Waking up in a new Airbnb every morning, scheduling the next house you'll crash at while drinking espressos and smoking on a patio corner. Small things are delicate intimacies like seeing geckos on the sidewalk and recognizing florals and pastels worn by women around your age. You spend hours in a lingerie store with the softest lace and silk prints you've felt, secretly googling conversion charts for European sizes.

Valencia, Spain

You travel to Barcelona, the NYC of Spain, its cobblestone streets and wooden doors so intricate you think you're on a staged Hollywood set; every building standing like a poem as young men and women around you kiss, laugh, and eat. It will take a few days before you realize that lunch isn't at one or two, not even three. Meals are later in the evening, closer to night when the streets are filled with young women and men in large groups going off to dance and drink while you transfer more money into your checking account.

Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain

One night you enjoy seafood paella with tapas and sangria, another, black truffle pasta with red wine, and gelato for dessert. You run into a group of American students and share a round of beers, laughing about cultural nuances and the absence of tap water at bars and restaurants.

Barcelona, Spain

You and your traveling companion will bicker, exhausted and scared that you're both missing out on experiences and sights you're not privy to, stumbling upon a Flamenco show in the city. You buy your tickets last minute and end up in the very back. At the last moment, a host comes to your table offering to move you to the very front of the stage. A woman begins passionately tap dancing, elevating her arms like a ballerina, her body enacting the Spanish guitars and drums, her face solemn and beautiful as you sit mesmerized. Each dancer commands the floor, a new body, a new story, a new journey you're allowed to witness—"Olé!", the performers shout. You see a mixture of ballet, belly dancing, tap dancing, and flow art—you're seduced. Flamenco capturers the spirit of Spain—everything has led up to this performance. You spend the rest of the night recounting the wonders of Flamenco, its rich history in Spain, and its recent UNESCO recognition.

Flamenco in Barcelona, Spain

You send your friend off, and soon you get down to your last few days. You spend one night roaming the streets of Valencia, taking pictures of parks, doors, churches, cobblestone, and architectural embellishments you'll never see in the States. When the morning comes, your bags packed and souvenirs stuffed at the top of your luggage, it feels as though you need just one more week to metabolize Valencia and Barcelona. You reluctantly head to the airport stomaching the reality that you won't be able to return for some time, leaving as a lovestruck stranger. On your flight back to the States you watch a documentary about Federico García Lorca, followed by Carlos Saura's "Flamenco, Flamenco," (2010) followed by microwaved pasta and refreshments. A group of American high-schoolers behind you scream they're so happy to be in America again; one of them chanting "USA! USA!" You roll your eyes and think about ways to save for your next adventure, glad to be a stranger with a passport and the beginning of many stamps.

Valencia, Spain

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Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

Vacation VacationUniversity of Kentucky

Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!