Tag Archives: study abroad

Travel Gap

I was on the couch one day with my Grampa. I had just returned from Europe. He says “I don’t understand why you women are always out of the house now. Always doing something.” I say “We are catching up on the years we couldn’t.”

“Fair enough,” is his response.

I haven’t traveled everywhere yet, but there’s time and I frequently use books to fuel my travel obsession. Yet there’s something that I’ve noticed that continues to bother me as I wander through the Barnes and Nobles travel section. This week looking for Miami and Thailand information. Where’s all the books from women? I find a total of two.

-Wanderful, a book about how to look good in various cities, i.e, Stevie Nicks type wraps in New Orleans. (P.S. having been to NOLA I don’t suggest those type wraps on Bourbon Street or Jackson Square)

-We’ll always have Paris, a book I can only assume is about the enigma that is the famous city and one girls romance with the city or a man or both.

This week I settle with the books Havana by Mark Kurlansky and Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. But I’m still perplexed. What is the system that is making it so there aren’t more books written by women in travel? Or simply more books of substance by women? Women have stories to tell. Especially about travel. Are women simply not writing about their experiences? Or are they being written and told by a publisher that unless it coincides with the typical gender expectations that it won’t make it to the shelves. The female gender has made it past the point of being able to write only home and garden type columns, or what to wear to fit a certain body type.

Now it may sound like I am bashing the women who have books on the shelves. My response is no I’m not. I am simply stating that the whole picture of female travel is incomplete. Yes, there are women who go to these places and make it a top priority to look good, you can take a look back to when I had photoshoots done in Paris and Barcelona. But there are also female travelers who run around wearing the same pants for days on end, whose hair is matted into dreads and has blades of grass wrapped inside. There are women who travel with children and raise families on the road while being a digital nomad and supporting her two loves. These are stories that could inspire an entirely different group to see the world.

Women have stories and they should be heard. In the past 5 years I have had the pleasure of meeting a variety of female travelers, they create their own maps and guides. Women who have sailed around the Caribbean at eighteen, women who have hiked to Machu Picchu, women that pack up and move to Japan all while raising a child, and women that move to Australia just because her instincts told her to. To miss out on these stories is to miss out on half of the big picture. We are out there and we are seeing the same countries as men, but from a woman’s perspective the same country could be a different world altogether.

Hostel or Hostile

So if you’ve traveled on a budget before you’ve probably used a hostel once or twice, or completely exclusively. Since my travel started when I was young I never had to worry about my accommodations, it was my parents responsibility. But times arrow marched forward and now I’m responsible for me. So when I started wanting to travel again this new word entered my vocabulary, Hostel. Now here I am, (only ever hearing this word once before in a scary movie title) trying to backpack Europe on a budget and figure out where I am going to lay my head. One of my best friends used to work in a hostel so she finally convinced me to try it and it changed everything.

My first stop in Europe was in Lisbon, Portugal. A beautiful city with stunning architecture and delicious food and gorgeous people. I landed mid-afternoon so I had to find my hostel before the night fall, which I learned later seems to be a bit late. I eventually found my hostel named appropriately Lost Inn Lisbon. I climbed the stairs and was greeted so warmly by the staff. They offered sangria which I got to try on my third night (it was amazing, total game changer for sangria) and I was showed to my shared room. The beds were the comfiest beds I’ve ever felt while traveling, the bunks were pretty private considering there were eight of us in a room, everything was so clean, the bathrooms were beautiful and roomy, which is weird to say but when traveling I suppose that’s one of the little things. I couldn’t believe how nice it was. They offered fantastic tours, and nightly in-hostel events like “Mama’s Soup” or Sangria. The free breakfast was so good and offered a pretty wide variety. Everything was so perfect! Lost Inn Lisbon set the standard for me in terms of hostels. Plus it made Lisbon a winner in my book. I didn’t expect anything out of Lisbon but when I left all I wanted was to go back.

Unfortunately…..there’s also hostels that are more on the hostile side. When I was in Barcelona, my hostel there was Casa Kessler and it was awful. Everyone was cramped, whether it was the bathrooms, the kitchen, the common room, or quarters. I got the dreaded top bunk and I didn’t have enough space in it to even sit up. My locker was teeny tiny so I used it only to hold my dirty laundry. The staff there was unapologetically rude. They couldn’t be bothered by anything, not even to check me in. I stood waiting for at least 30 minutes before the staff finished their discussion in front of me, to check me in. This made what I had hoped to be my favorite destination, awful. Even my fellow bunkmates were rude, and I can’t blame them. When we were piled on top of each other night after night with zero privacy, I’d be rude too. Also don’t get me wrong Barcelona is a stunning city with incredible history, and who could miss out on Gaudi’s architecture? Everyone should see Barcelona once, but boy was it tough for me to love it the same way as Lisbon.

My most recent hostel experience was in New Orleans, I stayed at Site 61. This was an interesting hostel because appearance wise and location wasn’t the best, it wasn’t as high tech as Lost Inn Lisbon, but the people were a million times more friendly then in Barcelona. So much so that staying in for a day was sometimes the best thing to do. I would grab my morning coffee and sit in the common room and chat with the staff as they would come by, some would sit down with me and we’d laugh at commercials and whatever else was on the tv. It’s that damn southern hospitality it’s somethings so incredible I have even thought of going back down to New Orleans to just visit them.

Where you lay your head matters. In some cases it can make or break a trip. Now obviously always check reviews before going and remember that there will always be things that are completely out of control i.e. snoring bunkmates, bad bunk placement, but the rest can always be avoided by checking the places reviews. Use your tools, google is your friend. But the important thing to do in hostels is socialize, everyone there has one thing in common, travel. Talk about it.

Bienvenidos a Turabo

What did I want to do with my life. 18 year old shannon sat there saying “well I don’t know”. You see I was the rock of the family at that time. The oldest child who helped out a lot while my mom was at work. I maintained good grades, and worked, and watched my sister. So from ages 14-18 my life was based on that. I didn’t think of the future because it seemed so far off. Plus the idea of potentially abandoning my family was daunting. I had ideas of what I wanted to study and be but they just seemed like ideas nothing to shoot for. I thought maybe I could work in business, or as a translator, or a ESL teacher. But I couldn’t think of following any of those things. However when my grandfather showed up for my graduation the idea of becoming an engineer was put into my mothers head, and with me being agreeable to a fault. I agreed. Being awful at math never seemed like it would be a problem. Anyway off I went. The big trick was I wouldn’t be going to school in my hometown, not even my home state. I was moving to Puerto Rico. Where I was born, and where my family was from. This was done for financial reasons. I had no chance of getting out of college without racking up massive amounts of debt, Puerto Rico offered the same quality of education at a drastically different price point.

So I broke up with my high school boyfriend, packed up my shit, and quit my job after graduation. I was spiteful for awhile, but had a job immediately. Which helped a lot. Waitressing and bartending was easily the best way to make friends fast.

But work is another story. My college was all in Spanish. What language do I speak? English. My first day of college I was so nervous I threw up my entire breakfast. The idea of being so different and not just a little bit but to the point where communication couldn’t even be done. Soon I had realized some of those fears were completely unfounded. But others helped me…. a lot. Through the four years in college my skin had to get tough. Despite being Puerto Rican I had to face becoming the “gringa”. My professors for the most part hated me. I was an inconvenience. And in typical Puerto Rican behavior they had no problem letting me know I was an inconvenience to them. Within the first semester each of my professors told me to get out of their class, to go home, or that I was “special”. It was completely discouraging. But I persisted. Of course as most college students do I changed my major to psychology.

Four years later, I have my degree. I had shocked many of my professors by graduating and spending a good amount of my free time doing speeches about accepting each other’s differences and how diversity improves the quality of lives. Through my years in school I made some great connections, even in different countries.

So what seemed like a daunting task at the time turnt out to be one of the best things I could’ve done. As typical Shannon I proved people wrong. Mostly out of spite. But whatever.

Also even though I’m doing my masters in this school, I don’t recommend Universidad Del Turabo.