Friday Five: 5 Reasons to Travel Solo

People always say, “you should travel alone!… You learn so much about yourself!…blah blah blah!!”.travelnoteVia Google

But I have always firmly been in the “Why Would You Travel ALONE When You Can Travel With People?” camp.  To me, traveling alone always sounded…lonely.  I’m someone that likes to experience things with people.  Look at this!  Taste this!  Let’s take a picture together!  I’m not the wander-around-alone-join-random-groups-or-be-extremely-social type.  Sure, I like to meet people, but those solo people that you meet in hostels always seemed courageous to me.  I don’t know.  They seem like the type of person that enjoys talking to random people and just learning about them, and then moving on and never seeing those people again.  Toootally NOT me.

Here were my reasons why you should never travel alone if you have the choice (or why I wouldn’t want to travel alone in Europe while living in Madrid):

  • I spend A LOT of my time in Madrid alone.  And some of that time that I am alone, I feel lonely, wishing I knew more people, wishing I had more family here, wishing I had more people just to do nothing with.  The thought of traveling to ANOTHER place just to be MORE ALONE sounded dumb and counterproductive.
  • Again, I like to experience things with people.  See new places, try new foods, capture the perfect instagram…you know- the usual.
  • I’m not someone that a) wants, or b) enjoys just casually chatting with random people that I will never see again.  I rather keep to myself or meet people that I will stay in touch with.  (Yes that sounds utterly stupid as how would I meet people without talking to them?)
  • I already know myself.  I don’t need to travel to discover more!!

Until….

I went to Lisbon, Portugal.  Alone.IMG_2854

So, if I was firmly against traveling alone, then why did I go to Lisbon alone?  Well, it turned out that I had an abundant number of days off from school with a) no plans, b) no roommates in Madrid (everyone was traveling), c) no friends in Madrid (everyone was traveling or working).  The thought or spending 7 full days alone in my apartment scared me and I knew I would not be happy.  So…I decided to take a 3 day trip somewhere close/ relatively inexpensive/ and somewhere I thought would be good to see alone.  I don’t think every city is meant to be explored alone, but some, like Lisbon por ejemplo, can be enjoyed sola.DSC_0562

My first day there, I was feeling so antisocial that I actually got up and moved away from some girls that sat near me.  (haaaaaha).  But my first night, a German guy sat down while I was eating dinner and chatted with me for awhile, and after dinner, I met a Bulgarian guy who I ended up traveling with the following day, and on the third day, I met some American girls that are also living in Madrid and it was so nice to be able to talk about American things…like big coffees 😉  All on all, I left Lisbon with a completely changed attitude towards traveling alone.

I am now firmly in the You Should Absolutely Travel Alone camp!!  Traveling alone is not better or worse than traveling with someone or people, it’s just completely DIFFERENT.DSC_0484

Five Reasons You Should Travel Alone (in no particular order)

1 // You can do whatever you want.  Obviously.DSC_0146

Want to sit in the plaza and read your book while drinking coffee?  Want to walk as high up on the mountain as you possibly can?  Want to sit by the beach and just look out and tan for a couple hours?  Want to stay in your bed and do nothing?  You can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!!!

2 // You can eat whatever you want.IMG_2905

For me, eating every meal out while traveling is unappealing, but it’s the norm.  When I travel with other people, I try to accept the fact that we will be eating at least two meals a day from a restaurant or somewhere else.  Personally, I like to have a taste of the local food and enjoy a good restaurant or bar for the experience, but spending a ton of money on mediocre food is not my cup of tea.  While in Lisbon, I only bought coffee while out and bought a fish cake and a couple pastries to try, since those are traditional foods.  Other than that, I enjoyed (included) breakfast at the hostel, snacks like peanuts, fruit, and yogurt (from the supermarket) during the day, and for dinner, I went to the supermarket and bought ingredients for a salad and ate Spanish tortilla.  I ate at the hostel while chatting with other guests and was perfectly content.

3 // You meet new people. DSC_0338

When you travel with your friends, you tend to stick to them, naturally.  When traveling alone, you’re forced to talk to other people if you want companionship.  When the German guy sat at my table the first night, I hoped he would get up soon, but we chatted for awhile and time passed quickly.  And then after meeting the Bulgarian guy and agreeing to go to Sintra, I realized that I was going on an adventure that I definitely wouldn’t had done had I been alone.  Also, my day in Sintra flew by thanks to having someone to talk to!!

4 // You really do learn to be independent. DSC_0534

We are all adults here, but there is something about traveling to a new place completely alone that makes you realize how self-sufficient you are.  When you can’t find the hostel and don’t have a phone (true story), it’s up to YOU to figure it out.  You decide when to eat, to sleep, where to go, everything.  It’s all YOU.  And, it’s kind of exhilarating to know that you are the only person in the entire world, that knows where you are.  If you go missing, no one will know!!

5 // You are not really alone.DSC_0193

I had this big realization while I was in Lisbon:  When you travel alone, you are CHOOSING to be alone.  I feel alone (read: lonely) sometimes here and when I go outside and walk around, I feel marginally better, but when I look at those big groups of people sitting around, having beers and coffees with their families and friends, I have this feeling of “why do I live in this country FULL of people, yet I know none of them?”.  BUT when you travel alone, walking around and seeing those people does not make you feel like that.  Because you are a stranger!  A visitor!  You are not meant to know them!  So being alone in a new place is like walking around at the zoo and looking at all the animals and observing all the cool things they do while you take pictures that you will later load to Insta.  But walking around alone in your own city is like being one of the monkeys (maybe another breed of monkey, but still a monkey), but none of the other monkeys want to pick the bugs out of your hair or play with you.  Does that make sense?

So, travel alone.  Do it.DSC_0308

Food Lately.

Good morning! 

When I sat down to write this post, I was originally only going to do a breakfast lately post, but I am now realizing that I have so many random pictures of food that I might as well load here and delete from my phone.  So…

Breakfast (my favorite meal of the day!!)

IMG_3167

This has been my favorite breakfast for a couple weeks!! — oatmeal cooked with water // plain Greek yogurt // cooked apples that never made it to the sauce stage // sprinkle of chia seeds and peanuts.  Sweet and salty :)

IMG_3142

While the previous is usually my weekday breakfast, this is my weekend breakfast, which is eaten slowly while I browse the internet for a couple hours.  Multigrain toast // smear of cream cheese (sometimes with raspberry jam) // black coffee

IMG_3195

And this is the same thing, except that’s yogurt instead of cream cheese.  Tastes almost the same, but not quite.

IMG_3192

Two poached eggs // two rice cakes, hummus (remind me not to eat poached eggs anymore,  I didn’t like this a couple hours later)

Lunch (I’m usually completely starving and shove food into my mouth while other food cooks). 

My favorite go-to for the last couple of weeks has been….vegetables!IMG_3174

Steamed vegetables with salt and a ton of tahini

IMG_3201

Leftover chicken-rice soup, veggie plate: cucumbers // zucchini and carrots // broccoli // mushrooms // TAHINI

Dinner (Lately, I have been less hungry during this time and have been eating smaller meals.  When I do eat bigger meals, I have nightmares!)IMG_3176

Nice pic, I know.  Leftover arroz con pollo // steamed veggies // hummus // 1/2 sweet potato with some avocado, yogurt and hot sauce

IMG_3202

I didn’t finish all of this — ate about half.  Steamed veggies in soy sauce: corn // peas // carrots // zucchini // chick peas // broccoli // and quick cook chicken

 

IMG_3197

Chicken and Rice Soup via Iowa Girl Eats.  So easy to make (takes about 20 minutes) and so so so good!  I know that picture is atrocious, but I needed to show my mom that I was being a big kid. This rice thickens it a little bit, so it’s not just soup.  I made this last Saturday night and have been eating it all week.

And lastly, I do this every couple of days to add to lunches and dinners:IMG_3151

SnacksIMG_3160

At school, snacks = fruit (apple, banana, orange or strawberries) // COFFEE // sometimes rice cakes.

IMG_3173What an artistic picture, Tamara!!!  Thanks.

Dessert

For dessert, I almost always have a cup of tea and 3-4 pieces of chocolate, but sometimes I get a little wild 😉 — IMG_3178

Easy chocolate oatmeal: oats // tiny bit of milk // cocoa // cinnamon // a few chocolate chips // a tiny bit of sugar // one piece of chocolate.  Cook until it’s a little cooked, but still ooey-gooey.

Out to EatIMG_3200

Sangria

IMG_3141

Papas Arrugadas con Mojo, from a train festival here in Madrid!!!   Boiled potatoes with different types of mojo?  These were almond and cheese (I think!!)  Also, this dish comes from the Canary Islands.

IMG_3146

Dinner at OjalaDetox salads // mac & cheese to share // hummus // sangria

Restaurants in Madrid: Lady Madonna

Lady MadonnaLM Collage

  • Address:  Calle Orellana, 6, 28004 Madrid
  • Atmosphere:  cozy, warm lights, intimate.  Very “clean” feeling, if that makes sense.  There is also a terrace, but it was raining when I was there, so not sure what it’s like.  Looked nice, though.
  • Type of food:  “small plates, big (ish) prices” is how I would describe it haha.  They had burgers, sandwiches, pasta, salads, seafood, meats, but everything was kind of done “with a twist”.  HERE is the menu.
  • What I ordered:  Red tuna with mango, sesame seeds and seaweed (algae) and the Hamburguesa de cebon which came with 3 cheeses, caramelized onion, tomato and arugula.  I thought they were both really, really good.  The burger came kind of rare even though we asked for medium, but I thought it was super tasty.  The tuna dish was on the (super) small size for the price, but it was light and fresh.

Rating:  8.5/10 for food, 7/10 for atmosphere.  The restaurant was cute!  but it was HOT and I was sweating.  Cute, no?

 

Restaurants in Madrid: Ojala

I have heard a bunch of people talking about “the bar with the beach” so I was excited to try this place with two friends!  I didn’t love the “beach” part, but the upstairs is light and bright and the food is delicious!!

OjalaOjala Collage

  • Address:  Calle de San Andrés, 1, 28004 Madrid
  • Atmosphere:  there are two floors to this restaurant.  The top floor is your basic “modern” type place with wood tables and cool lights and pretty walls, but the basement is what they call the “ojala beach”.  IMO, it’s a dungeon-like basement that they didn’t know what to do with, so they put sand on the floor with low seats and funky-colored lights and called it a beach.  I think the basement would be cool for drinks at night (in the winter), but otherwise you are sitting uncomfortably with sand in your shoes and your legs all cramped up.  I much prefer the upstairs.  See the above pictures to see what I mean.
  • Type of food: modern.  burgers, sandwiches, wraps and tacos salads, small plates to share.
  • What I had:  Detox: quinoa, lombarda, mix de hojas verdes, cebolla morada, cilantro, granada, pimiento rojo , lima y vinagreta de cacahuetes con jengibre.  I also shared the hummus with sweet potato chips and the order of the mac & cheese.  All of the plates were delicious and I especially loved the salad.  The prices were completely reasonable and while the portions are not huge, I was full for less than 10 Euros.
  • Tips:  Make a reservation, especially if you plan to go during a busy time or if you want to sit “at the beach”

Rating:  9/10 for food, 7.5/10 for atmosphere

Restaurants in Madrid: Ginos

I went to Ginos a few months ago for a friend’s birthday.  She wanted Italian, so without any better ideas, this is where we ended up!

GinosGinos Collage

  • Address:  Various locations.
  • Atmosphere:  It’s a chain (a franchise?) so each location is different.  It’s a nice place, but has that “TGI Fridays” canned feel.
  • Type of food:  Italian- pizza, pasta, meats, etc.
  • What I had: Gnocchi in a red sauce with pesto.  It was good because I love gnocchi, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.  But it was good!  I just don’t ever think a chain restaurant will have amazing food.  HERE is the menu.
  • Tip:  If you want to have real Italian food, go somewhere else.  But if you want a decent meal, Gino’s is fine.  They often run promotions, so take advantage of these!  I went there when they were offering a BOGO on entrees, so we got a lot of food for around 20 Euros.

Rating:  6/10 food, 6/10 atmosphere.

Restaurants in Madrid: Taxi a Manhattan

Taxi a Manhattantam collage

  • Address:  Calle de la Basílica, 17, 28020 Madrid
  • Atmosphere: like a taxi?  Like New York?  Not sure how to describe it.  It has a “cool” vibe inside the restaurant.  Not too fancy, but not too casual.  I went on a cold night, but there is a terrace that looks like it would be amazing in the summer.
  • Type of food:  The menu is a mix of “NY food” from Street Finger Food, to Soho, Brooklyn, Nolita and Chinatown.  HERE is the menu
  • What I had: Hamburguesa de cebon con pan a la cerveza.  Comes with three sauces (ketchup, mustard, mayo).  I also tried a trio of hummus (eggplant, regular, and one more) with pita and falafel.  Bother were decent, but not “out of this world”.  I liked the hummus appetizer.  (Also, there current online menu is a bit different than the current menu being offered in the restaurant)

Rating:  7/10 for the food, 9.5/10 for the atmosphere.

Restaurants in Madrid: Perrachica

PerrachicaPC Collage

  • Address:  Calle Eloy Gonzalo, 10, 28010 Madrid
  • Atmosphere:  like a really nice hotel lobby.  Seriously!  That’s what I thought when I went.  I loved the design of the resturant– it felt upscale and classy, but wasn’t crazy expensive…i don’t think?  Haha.  Look at those pictures!!
  • Type of food:  (They have brunch and dinner!  Have never been for brunch, but the menu looks good!)  Burgers, eggs, pasta, risotto, meats, fish, pizza.  HERE is the menu.
  • What I ordered:  Both to share-  Berenjenas, miel de caña y hummus (fried eggplant with honey and a hummus dip) and one of the fishes, but looking at the menu, I can’t figure out which it was.  Both were so, so good.
  • Tip:  MAKE A RESERVATION AND MAKE IT DAYS IN ADVANCE.

Rating:  10/10 for food.  10/10 for atmosphere

Restaurants in Madrid: Bosco de Lobo

Bosco de Lobobdl

  • Address: Calle de Hortaleza, 63, 28004 Madrid (it’s easy to miss.  Look for the )
  • Atmosphere:  I LOVED the design of this restaurant.  The outside has a really nice terrace and the inside feels like a library, if that makes sense.  The shelves are lined with books and each table has these big, crane-neck lamps like you would find in a library.  There is also an option to sit “at the bar” which overlooks the kitchen.  And the actual restaurant is located in a courtyard that is surrounded by a bunch of glass buildings.  Would have never known it was there!!
  • Type of food:  Pizza, pasta, carpaccio, risotto, meat, fish, etc.  HERE is the menu.
  • What I had:  Pizza- Verduras a la brasa con masa de harina integral.  I didn’t love it, but it was good.  My friends had the pappardelle con ragu de carne al vino tinto and raved about it.
  • Other observations:  the staff is super friendly, they have free wifi, and they charge for bread.  The portions are decent, but not huge.

Rating: 8/10 for food, 10/10 for atmosphere.  Would absolutely go back.

Restaurants in Madrid: Amargo

I first heard about Amargo from my roommate, Rachel, who has a coworker that continuosly raved about the burgers.  Then she went and came home raving about the burgers.  And thennnn, I went with my mom (on a Saturday, with no reservation, but got lucky and got a table!) and have been raving to the world ever since that if you are in Madrid, you must go to Amargo for the BURGER.  So good, so decadent, so big.  And comes with fries 😉

Amargo Place To Beamargo Collage

  • Address: Calle del Pez, 2, 28004 Madrid
  • Atmosphere:  Lively, modern but rustic?  I don’t know.  Look at the pictures^
  • Type of food:  Modern, contemporary, burgers, pasta
  • What you should order:  The Hamburguesa Madrilena (60% Kobe beef, 40% Spanish beef, cheese, carmalized onion, lettuce, pepper, egg, and bacon) or the Tagliatelle con hongos, trufos, y trigueros (pasta in a cream sauce with lots of mushrooms and asparagus).  Both are AMAZING and the portions are a good size.
  • Other comments:  friendly service, the bathroom floor is cool, they have live music entertainment at 10:00 on certain nights
  • Tip:  Make a reservation!  The place is always packed

Rating: 9.5/10 for food, 7/10 for atmosphere.  It kind of feels like a dungeon if you eat downstairs.

Friday Five: Difference in Customs in Madrid and Philadelphia/ the U.S.

**Not customs at the airport!  Not aduanas.

Hi!!!  I am so happy it’s Friday!  Actually, in general, I am just so happy.  This week was really, really, really, really, (really) good!  I think the rise in temps and sunshine has something to do with it.  And fresh produce…Salads collage

I have been spending more time outside, feeling like I am actually doing interesting things at school, enjoying my time with my private students (WHAT?  I know…) and just generally happy.  It also helps that one of my teachers no longer wants me to take groups of her students off privately and instead has me stay in her class and do presentations or help her with the activities she has planned.  The day flies by so much faster for me.  She is so, so nice so we spend a lot of time chatting and I would rather give a presentation than try to encourage mute children to speak in English.  1000x over.  “That makes you a bad English teacher!”  I’m an assistant and tooooo bad.  This week, I gave presentations on the differences between the American and Spanish education systems, and a presentation on healthy eating.  Ahhhhh, brought me back to my nutrition days.  I loved doing that presentation and it made me realize I miss teaching people about nutrition.  Hmmm.

The days were long this week, but I feel like I did a lot of fun and relaxing things, as well, like running outside (in a t-shirt!), sitting in the park…IMG_3108outside collage

Getting drinks with my roommate, and dinner last night with Kristen and Annie…Food Collage1

I don’t have any major plans for the weekend!  Not sure what Friday will bring other than glorious time in the sun.  Saturday- not sure, and Sunday- possibly hiking?  We shall see and I will report back.  Wherever you are, and whatever you do, I hope you have a wonderful spring weekend!

This is totally random, but I’m eating watermelon as I type this!  Summer is coming!  Summer is cooooming!  It was only E.50 at the fruteria and besides the fact that I will probably get malaria from it, it’s good!IMG_3128


 

// 5 Differences in Cultural Customs Between Madrid and Philly //

*For all intensive purposes, I am going to say the U.S., but since I can’t vouch for the entire country, I really mean Philadelphia.

1 // The greeting.  In Madrid (and Spain), when you meet someone new or meet with a friend/ acquaintance / anyone, the proper greeting is a kiss on each cheek.  Children, adults, elderly- everyone does it.  When you are being introduced, it can be expected.  And when you meet with someone (like a friend), it is also expected.  People also do a kiss on each cheek as a farewell and if it’s a special occasion, like someone’s birthday.  I have been here almost 8 months and I still feel awkward with the double kiss.  It’s not that doing it is weird, it’s just I don’t know WHEN to do it.  Like…my students parents!  Some kiss me and others don’t.  (That sounds inappropriate haha)

The the U.S., the greeting when you meet someone for the first time is a handshake (especially for men).  If you don’t do the handshake, you might wave, give a huge, give a nod in their general direction, or ignore them all together.  All are common.

2 // Smoking. cig People smoke cigarettes here.  A lot.  But they smoke a lot of hand-rolled cigarettes and it’s common to see people rolling them in public, like on the metro.

In the U.S., I think people smoke less.  And hand-rolled cigs are definitely a hipster thing to do.  Sometimes I wished I smoke so I could smoke out my window or sit at a cafe and look cool.  But then I remember that I like clean lungs, so, that won’t be happening.

3 // Dressing for the season, not for the weather.coat

Ok, it’s the beginning of April, temps are reaching 70* F, and Spaniards are stills BUNDLED up.  Coats!  Scarves!  Gloves!  Everything.  And I am in a light coat and sweating.  I have heard that Spaniards dress for the season, meaning since it’s early April, it is not appropriate to wear sundresses and sandals.  My observations say this is true.  Or they just really aren’t hot.  How?  It’s a mystery!

On the other hand, I know every American young girl (20s) is wearing sundresses and sandals and every young guy is in his shorts and polos.  Even if it’s not that warm.  You just dress for what you are wishing for (warmer temps), I guess.

I went to a concert last weekend with my roommates and it was fuuuuuulllll of Hispanic people (and SO MUCH FUN!), except for two girls that were in line ahead of us.  They were 1) loud 2) holding big cups of gin&tonic and 3) wearing sundresses in 63* F weather.  AMERICANS.

4 // Saying Hello and Goodbye in some way OFTEN.  You walk into your building and see the guy that works downstairs.  He says ‘hola’/ ‘buenas dias, tardes, noches’, and then you walk up the steps and he says ‘hasta luego!!’ even though he said ‘hola’ 5 seconds before.

I noticed this immediately when I came to Spain.  People always, always, always say hello (in stores, restaurants, etc.) and goodbye when they leave.

In the U.S., if you walk into a store, you might say hi to the girl working there if she says something to you, but not in the same way they do it here.

5 // Walking on the sidewalk.corte  This is an ad for a large department store here. This walking in a line on the sidewalk has been happening for over 75 years!  Haha.

This is a total generalization, but Spaniards walk on the sidewalk, block the entire thing, and walk SLOWLY.

In the U.S., people always have somewhere to be, even if they really have no where to be- they walk like they do.

*Any pictures on the bottom half of this post are c/o Google.