Fernweh – a crave for travel; being homesick for a place you’ve never been

Who knew a simple word like “fernweh” originated from the German language? I’m only joking. If you bear to be around me long enough to hear about my travel experiences, you’ll quickly realize how in love I am with all things German. After all, I’ve visited 7 cities over 4 separate trips to Germany in the past year. I’m not saying that’s an insane amount, but when I could’ve easily traveled to other places, my heart always gravitated towards Germany. I haven’t decided whether it’s due to the beautiful people, the food, the beer, or the sites. Whatever it may be, they’ve all proven worthy enough to return.

Anyway, it pains me that it’s been an entire week since I last blogged about anything. As you can imagine, life gets busy sometimes. It’s a shameful, but too true of an excuse. On top of that, my less than 2-year-old laptop has taken a turn for the worst and is currently getting a motherboard replacement. I’m hoping to get it back within the next couple of days to make blogging a bit easier. Until then, I wanted to write a little something. My post about Belgium is currently in the works. I know I keep dragging that idea along, but I promise I’ll release it as soon as possible. For now, I wanted to share with you my “fernweh” sentiments. Where do you want to go where you’ve never visited? I literally want to travel everywhere, but places that I’m dying to visit one day comprise of the following:

  1. The Amazon Rainforest
  2. The Everglades
  3. Greenland
  4. Arizona
  5. Turkey
  6. Antarctica
  7. Scotland
  8. Vietnam
  9. Tanzania
  10. Russia

If you’ve been to any of these places and have recommendations, I’d be thrilled to get your feedback.




Welcome to Belgium – Land of the disorganized, beer-loving souls

“Belgium? You studied the Belgian language there, huh? Wait, no, they speak German there because it’s that one city in Germany, right?”

You must forgive these people we call Americans. Don’t get me wrong; I love the United States a lot and as much as I joke about moving abroad, I can be certain that I’ll be living in the US for the remainder of my life according to my own liking. I suppose that my longtime fascination with Belgium put me under the assumption that everyone in this world knew that Belgium was at least its own country. Clearly, I was wrong about that. The amount of ignorance I came across with Belgium became so vast that I grew to be impressed when meeting people who actually knew it was its own country. They got brownie points if they knew it was the country that had a large population of French and Dutch-speaking people…and they garnered even more points if they knew that German was the third official language. Enough about this, let me move to the core subject: Belgium.


Photo above: There’s Belgium. That little green country neighboring Holland, France, Germany, & Luxembourg. The northern half is Flanders: the Dutch-speaking population. The southern half is Wallonia: the French-speaking population. They don’t get along quite well with each other. The tiny spot in the middle, where Flanders is located, is Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.

So what’s the fuss about Belgium? If you read my last post, you should know by now that I studied French in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at Université catholique de Louvain last January to May 2013. While in Belgium, I visited Brussels, Ixelles, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Wavre, Charleroi, & Namur. Though I said I’ll cover each city I visited, this little blog post will serve as yet another introductory post – this time, just on Belgium since I spent the majority of my time there. I wanted to cover the basics before I truly delved into the specifics.


Photo above: Map of Belgium. Louvain-la-Neuve is too small to even make it on this map, but to give you an idea of its location, it’s close to Namur, the city that’s kind of in the middle.

What is Belgium famous for?

  1. Beer – over 800 beers are produced in this tiny country, where the average Belgian consumes an average of 150 litres of beer per person per year.
  2. Chocolate – they produce over 220K tonnes of chocolate per year. The pralines were invented in Brussels by a man named Jean Neuhaus. I’ll eventually share my pretty interesting story about my recent visit to the first ever Neuhaus shop in the world. Stay tuned 😉
  3. Mussels – I never knew just how much I loved mussels until I studied in Belgium. I could eat it all day, everyday.
  4. Fries – I’m not the biggest fan of fries, but the Belgian fries are something else. You have to eat it with sauce andalouse – perfection. It’s quite unfortunate that the sauce isn’t sold in the US. Good thing I purchased enough to last me a few years.
  5. Lace – I don’t personally care too much for stuff like this, but it’s pretty.
  6. Tintin – You know, that famous comic with the boy and his dog? I actually had to create a Tintin comic for one of my classes.
  7. Going 589 days with no elected government – Yeah, shit got real.
  8. Cities – Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, & Antwerp

I’ll write soon to let you know why you should spare a few days out of your next European adventure to enjoy Belgium. If anything, you’ll be happy you tasted any of the food/drink items listed above.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about this tiny country, please take a few extra minutes to watch this YouTube clip. You won’t be disappointed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceg6NQKHd70



Allow me to introduce you to my Europe

Last year, I studied abroad in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium at Université catholique de Louvain between January and May 2013 aka snowmageddon as Belgium experienced its coldest winter in decades. I left for the US on May 24, 2013 wearing a thick jacket, scarf, gloves, boots, and a hat. If you’re anyone who’s anyone in my life, you should be fully aware that the harsh winter didn’t stop me from enjoying one of the best decisions I could’ve made in my life. Why Belgium, though? The following three reasons pretty much sum it all:

  1. Since I was 10, I’d always wanted to further my education in the French language and culture; however, when I was 14, the age when I decided I was going to study abroad in college, I knew I didn’t want to go to France as I considered it to be “cliché.” I knew I still wanted to be in Europe and with Belgium having a significant French-speaking population, I was adamant on studying abroad there.
  2. Belgium is situated in the heart of Europe, providing easy access to travel around the continent.
  3. I befriended numerous Belgians, including one of my roommates and now best friends, who studied abroad at my home school, Clemson University, while I was a sophomore in college.


Now, let me tell you a little more about my actual study abroad experience. My program consisted of a whopping 14 Clemson girls, who were all taking French classes to advance their French education. We had 4 classes all taught in French: 2 with just the Clemson girls and 2 with students from around the world. The international classes had people from every continent in the world…well, except for Antarctica 😉 None of us had Friday classes, so I made sure to take advantage of that…whether it meant I’d be traveling with friends or solo, which I did a couple of times. For the most part, I traveled with friends nearly every single weekend. I can only remember spending two full weekends in Belgium and one of those weekends was spent traveling somewhere interesting outside of Louvain-la-Neuve.


 Photo above:  Louvain-la-Neuve town centre

In total, I traveled throughout 10 different countries:

  1. Belgium – Brussels, Ixelles, Louvain-la-Neuve, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Wavre, Charleroi, & Namur.
  2. England – London
  3. Ireland – Dublin & Bray
  4. Spain – Barcelona
  5. Germany – Köln, Freiburg, Berlin, & Dresden
  6. Switzerland – Basel
  7. France – Paris
  8. Italy – Rome, Florence, & Venice
  9. The Netherlands – Amsterdam & Maastricht
  10. The Czech Republic – Prague

In my blog posts, I’ll recapture my moments in each city as much as I can. Why didn’t I start this blog earlier? As in, why wasn’t I blogging when I was actually traveling last year? To be honest with you, I was simply lazy and thought I would remember everything forever, but now, I realize how much I’m forgetting the little things. I keep telling myself that I just cannot afford to forget some of the best months of my life. Not only that, but I’ve come to realize that I’ve received a lot of travel advice by reading through other people’s blogs that I thought I’d create my own to share with whoever stumbles across my page.


 Photo above: Happy as can be in front of the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Spain in May 2014

Since coming back to the States in May 2013, I was itching to go back to Europe as soon as I could, so what did I do? After I graduated from college last month, I spent the last two weeks of May 2014 traveling throughout Europe again. I revisited many of the places I went to last year, mainly because the friend I was traveling with had never visited Europe and wanted to go to the cities I had already seen. Honestly, I wasn’t complaining. My weekend trips didn’t quite cut it last year, so I used this year’s trip as an excuse to discover things I’d missed in the past. Don’t worry, I also visited new places. The following locations will also be discussed in future blog posts from different perspectives than last year’s journey. 14 days, 11 cities, 8 flights, 5 countries, and 2 girls. Here’s the jam-packed list:

  1. Ireland – Dublin
  2. The Czech Republic – Prague, Český Krumlov, Hluboká nad Vltavou, Telč, & Holašovice
  3. Germany – Munich, Schwangau, & Füssen
  4. Spain – Barcelona
  5. Belgium – Brussels

For more domestic travel advice, I also visited NYC for the second time and Asheville, NC between the big Euro trips. I’ll be back to actually blog about all of these cities as much as I can soon. Just wanted to give you all an introduction for what’s in store!



My life motto in a nutshell

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
-Anthony Bourdain

A close friend of mine recently pointed out that Anthony Bourdain is my spirit animal. With a quote this simple, yet powerful, there’s no kidding about that.