Outlander

If you’re a fan of Starz’s “Outlander” series, a trip to Scotland, the land that inspired the show, is a must.

Outlander is a British-American television drama series that is based on the series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. The Starz show started three years ago and it is currently in its third season. “Outlander” follows Claire Randall, a nurse who travels back in time to 18th-century Scotland and meets the warrior Jamie.

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GLOBAL IDENTITIES

According to Oscar Wilde, my spring break was filled with some of the most rare, beautiful “living.”

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I spent ten days traveling throughout Ireland and England, experiencing the cultures where some of my favorite literature comes from, stopping on almost every street corner to appreciate the local live musicians, and immersing myself in the beauty of the blooming spring that constantly surrounded us.

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NO WORDS

I apologize if the title of this post was misleading and you were expecting a page full of pictures instead of my weekly ramblings. Rather this post will contain my best attempt to capture just a small glimpse of the magic we experienced in the past two days, though words will likely fail to do this justice. This past weekend I was in the breathtaking city of Paris, experiencing some of the best moments of my life. Our two days were so jam packed with beautiful blessings and God moments that I had to start a list on my phone halfway through the weekend so I made sure to remember each and every single precious moment. Throughout several parts of the weekend my fellow travel companions and I found ourselves at a loss for words, completely speechless at the life we were living and how we had gotten to this moment of such grace and peace. The phrases “What is our life right now?” “This is the peak of my existence” and “How can life get any better than this?” were uttered every hour.

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HAY QUE GOZAR DE LA VIDA

“Hay que gozar de la vida” is a Spanish saying common in Latin America that means “Life is to be enjoyed.” This saying could not be more fitting for the people of Spain as well. This past weekend included a weekend trip to the small, coastal town of Valencia in southeast Spain. The people of Valencia have a unique way of living that can best be described through their food and festivals. In two weeks, Valencia will throw one of the biggest festivals in Spain, called Las Fallas. This festival is essentially a city-wide party that includes a LOT of firecracker explosions. This past weekend the city was busy preparing for this huge festival, evident in the lights that lined all the streets, the constant explosion of firecrackers, and the random parade we stumbled across on Saturday. From what I understand, the food is the second most important part of this festival. This includes their famous paella (Valencia is the birthplace of Paella), bunyols (fried pumpkin donuts typically served with chocolate), horchata (sweet rice milk drink), and aqua de Valencia (a drink that doesn’t actually have any water at all but rather orange juice, gin, vodka, champagne, and lots of sugar…I can confirm it is delicious). The Spanish know how to live a life of enjoyment and my time here has been spent trying to adopt this way of life. Our time in Valencia included laughter and hearts as full as our bellies as we wandered the streets enjoying the food and the culture. The trip was complete with walks on the beach, toes dipped in the ocean, shopping in food markets and vintage stores, and lots and lots of sweets. It was one of the easiest, most peaceful, lovely weekend trips I’ve had because since Valencia isn’t one of the most famous cities in Europe we didn’t feel pressured to see anything in particular and took our time to enjoy the culture instead. Some of my most favorite moments from the weekend include: seeing my friend Maddie, who is studying abroad in Italy right now,  at the bus station for the first time since we left SLU, eating the best paella I’ve had yet under umbrellas on a small side street of Valencia, sampling fresh squeezed juice from the Valencia food market, watching Maria take a selfie with some random famous teenager video star, stumbling across the world’s cutest children’s parade, and dipping my toes in the ocean despite the freezing water.

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JOURNEY’S MEASURED IN FRIENDS

Caitlin attends St. Louis University

It has been four weeks since I last posted about our travels to Barcelona. In that time, I have experienced the wonderfully different culture of Morocco, started a language exchange with a student from my English as a second language course I’m teaching with my roommate, been reminded that I am actually here for school through six different exams, and drank more beer than I thought possible in Germany. With it being March in two days some of my friends have begun to panic because our time in Madrid is already going so quickly. I, on the other hand, am just starting to feel comfortable in my home with our señora and in the Spanish culture. A few weeks ago I started counting my daily “Spanish wins.” For example, right now I am in a coffee shop typing this and was able to successfully order a café con leche and converse with the barista with no problems. Spanish win. Though some may be worried our journey here is halfway over, I am not worried because 1. I miss my friends and family a whole heck of a lot, 2. we’ve already done so much, and 3. we still have so much to do! In the less than two months that I have been in Europe I have travelled to Toledo, Segovia, La Granja, Loyola, and Barcelona, Spain, Morocco, and Berlin and Munich, Germany. I have plans to go to Valencia, Paris, England, Ireland, Portugal, and Amsterdam still. Oh and then meet my family in Rome and travel around Europe with those I miss the most. You could say life is pretty good and understand why I’m not that worried. Each day here holds it’s own small blessings which I am trying to appreciate each day.

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THE BEAUTY OF DISCOMFORT

Caitlin attends St. Louis University

No one tells you how hard the first few days of study abroad are, between the numerous days spent in airports and on delayed flights, the immediate language barrier that presents a problem everywhere I go, and the feeling of discomfort that is associated with living as a guest in someone else’s home. If I’m being honest, my first few days in Madrid were not filled with beautiful experiences of a different culture but rather harsh realizations of all the differences between their culture and my own. These few days of hardship are what made today, and moments like this, extra special.

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THE ART OF BEING LOST

Caitlin attends St. Louis University

I have been lost more times than I can count since landing in Madrid two weeks ago (don’t worry Mom, it’s always been a very safe sort of lost, surrounded by good friends in good places), but nonetheless, I am always lost. Whenever I find myself hopelessly wandering the streets of Spain, with a destination in mind but no real direction of how to get there, I always stumble across some sort of beauty. These beauties include street musicians performing next to a rainbow of flowers, a quiet church filled with the peace of praying locals, and the rolling countryside where my friends acted as my rock climbing models. And all of this was just found in Toledo, Spain during the course of one day.

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GOD’S GRANDEUR

Caitlin attends St. Louis University

This past weekend in Barcelona was three full days spent in breathtaking awe of all that surrounded me; my incredible friends and travel companions, the natural beauty of this earth, and the majestic art and architecture that dotted the city of Barcelona. Upon reflection of an amazing first weekend trip I found myself unable to formulate words to express the beauty of the places we visit, particularly La Sagrada Familia. I think Gerard Manley Hopkins sums up this beauty better than I ever could, stating “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” I could not agree more.

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