CultureTravel

I visited Iceland in May and I can’t lie— it’s the most fascinating country I’ve ever been to. Iceland is a land of lava and ice where geysers burst, glaciers glimmer, and valleys of all colors stretch into the horizon. Here is a list of some fascinating things about Iceland:

1. American and European Influence 

Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the underwater border where the tectonic plates of America and Eurasia are slowly spreading apart. Iceland is geographically part of Europe (not part of EU), but half of it lies on the American plate, which is gradually moving westward (estimated 1-2cm a year). Due to its geographical location, the country is culturally influenced both by the United States and Europe. Icelanders say that the cars, music, and television are more American, but fashion and architecture more European.

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2. One of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe

Almost four-fifths of the country is uninhabited. The population is only 320,000 and 200,000 of the people live in and around the capital, Reykjavik. The country’s size is disproportionally large given its small population. Iceland is 103,000 square km or 40,000 square mi. It’s approximately 25% larger than Ireland, or about the size of the state of Ohio.

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3. The world’s most eco-friendly country in terms of energy

Because Iceland has a substantial amount of volcanic activity, about 85% of the country’s energy comes from renewable resources. 30% of Iceland’s electricity is geothermal – the highest percentage worldwide. The rest of the nation’s electricity is generated by hydropower, making Iceland the world’s most eco-friendly country in terms of energy. Iceland has over 150 public swimming pools and most of them are heated by all-natural volcanic heat. 

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4. Swimming is a hobby

Icelanders go to the heated outdoor swimming pools, where the water either comes from the hot springs or the geothermal power plant, at least once a week. It’s a place for social interaction, where they discuss weather and politics with strangers. You must always take a shower before going into the pool — they have strict policies about this. Everyone highly recommends visiting the Blue Lagoon, a huge outdoor geothermal spa. 

Harpa- a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík

5. It’s not that cold

Despite the name suggesting otherwise, the coastal climate in Iceland is mild. Even though summers in Iceland don’t get hot, the winters don’t get cold either. The average temperature in the summer in Reykjavik is 10 – 13 °C (50–55 °F). The average temperature in the winter is about 0 °C (32 °F).

6. Bright or Dark All Day

During the peak of summer, the sun stays out for 24 hours.  During the middle of winter, there are only a few hours of daylight, but the northern lights fill the sky.  The best season to see the northern lights is from September to mid-April – the nights are darkest during these months.

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7. Icelanders Eat Puffins 

Puffins are small birds with black and white feathers, and they’re absolutely adorable. The puffin population in Iceland is around 8-10 million. Icelanders eat puffins all the time and a raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy. You can find a meal similar to this on a restaurant menu: “smoked puffin with blueberry sauce.”

There couldn’t have been a better advertisement for Iceland’s tourism industry than the volcano eruption in 2010 that resulted in the cancelation of thousands of flights. The number of visitors to Iceland more than doubled between 2010 and 2014. Tourism is currently country’s biggest source of export revenue, surpassing even fishing, which has dominated the nation’s economy since the Vikings first arrived in the ninth century. 

Icelandair has been crucial to this tourism boom because it offers travellers the option of stopping over in Iceland for up to seven days for no extra airfare. So next time you’re flying across the Atlantic, have a layover in Iceland for at least 24 hours— you won’t regret it and will collect memories for a lifetime. Every time I look at the photo I took of the Gullfoss Waterfall, it reminds me what it felt like to stand at the edge of the earth.

Images: Courtesy of Demi Vitkute

 

Travel

With the wind whipping, snow slipping under my feet, and a view of the plunging cliff to my left, I had a full-blown panic attack on the side of the Grand Canyon.

But before I get into that, let’s rewind a little bit. During my sophomore year, I decided to detour from the beachy college spring break that I initially wanted to one that would be a complete adventure. I had never been to the American southwest and was looking forward to experiencing the open skies I had heard about and seeing the Grand Canyon in its entire splendor. Anyone who knows me can tell you that nature, hiking, and the outdoors is way out of my comfort zone, but I figured, why not try something new?

After a few days of exploring the sites around Phoenix, such as the Heard Museum and the Superstition Mountains, the plan was to drive toward the canyon and tackle its Bright Angel Trail, which the brochures listed as a difficult trail. From our entry point into the canyon to our destination point called Indian Garden and back would be a 9-mile journey. Why we chose this trail as novices, I will never know. But, that was the plan.

Waking up the morning of, I was uneasy knowing what I was about to do. A girl who had never even camped in her backyard before was about to hike one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.  Before I had time to talk myself out of it, gear was on my back and spikes were on my shoes. Yes, spikes. Did I mention the Grand Canyon’s high elevation created snow and ice on the trails?

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Now, we’re back at the beginning of the story. The first mile down the canyon was simply treacherous. I was slipping across the icy, narrow trails and trying, but failing, to not look over the 4,380-foot cliff immediately to my left. The deafening gusts of cold wind were clouding the encouraging voices of the people I was with and intensifying my fear. I couldn’t master using the snow spikes and I was convinced this adventurous spring break was surely going to be my last. It was then I felt my face go hot and all I stopped dead in my tracks. I sat down right where I was and just cried.

Okay, I did a bit more than cry. There was some hyperventilating and uncontrollable shaking, too. I finally understood what an “anxiety attack” was. There were hikers piling up behind me, but I didn’t care. I had no plans to move out of my fetal position and didn’t let anybody touch me. With the help of my then boyfriend, I realized there were only two choices: hike back up and let my fear get the best of me or keep going because we didn’t fly all the way to Arizona for nothing. Truth be told, I wanted to turn around, but something in me (likely, just my ego) told me I would regret it.

After about 20 minutes of calming and pep talk, I slowly got back up and continued on. Everything from this point was nearly smooth. At about two miles down, there was no more snow and, in fact, it was dessert-like and scorching. We made it to our picnic spot and turn around point, and headed back up on the same trail. Hiking back up had its own issues, but that story is for another time. What I will say, however, is once we reached the top of the canyon; we literally kissed the flat ground.

Hiking the Grand Canyon is surely the most terrifying, but rewarding, thing I have ever done. Its power is breathtaking, in all senses of the word, and humbling. You never realize how strong you are until you’re put into a challenging situation. Regardless of the temporary strife it caused me, the canyon was absolutely beautiful. What is beauty without a little bit of pain?

Images by Aysia Woods

Travel

There are endless ways to explore the world: solo, with family, as a volunteer, or with a program. No doubt each method offers its own unique perks and setbacks. Having the opportunity to travel more independently with family and friends and with larger organizations like People to People Student Ambassadors and Global Visions International (GVI), I’ve experienced a bit of what these various types of travel have to offer. If you’re considering signing-up with a traveling program, hopefully this little list of pros and cons of traveling in large groups will help you make your decision!

Pros

  1. Meeting people from all over the world is ten times easier in an organized setting. When you think about it, everyone is likely there for the same purpose – to gain invaluable experience in a foreign location and build relationships – so you already have something in common! Many times programs have semi-organized free time or group activities that promote casual socializing. Afterwards you will hopefully have great friends to visit (and who will let you crash on their couches) in other countries!
  1. Access to special deals, promotions, and events are common perks as organizations usually have deals with popular tourist sites and great relationships with the local community. I’m talking private tours, discounted tickets, and behind-the-scenes information that you would never have known about had you traveled independently. When I went on a three week South Pacific tour with People to People the summer of 2011, all of us students had a chance to meet the mayor of Rotorua, New Zealand, and enjoyed a night dancing our hearts out on a boat overlooking the Sydney Opera House. Could we have done this on our own? Maybe, but definitely not for free like we did!
  1. You’re going to learn so much. Most large travel organizations have a platform, activity, or issue they are addressing through their program – it could be education, sports, poverty, hunger, health, politics, or cross-cultural understanding, just to name a few. The program I volunteered with through GVI was focused on education. Had I never participated, I would know nothing about injustices that exist in the South African primary school system. The entire experience opens eyes to issues you know little about or, like me, never knew existed.

Cons

  1. Early mornings are part of the packaged deal when traveling with a large group. Depending on the type of program you travel with, schedules vary slightly, but more than likely participants are required to follow a schedule that starts early in the morning. It’s not always terrible, but when jet lag combined with simple travel exhaustion are combined, waking up could be a struggle.
  1. Yes, there will be some people you don’t care for in your program. But the good news is, there are many other people to focus on and you will not be with them forever. You never know, after your travels you may even miss that one annoying personality.

There are so many positives than negatives that come from traveling with a larger group or organization. I dare you to give it a shot!

Image: Flickr

Travel

Sometimes, you just need to get away. Get away from the monotony of your day-to-day school responsibilities, job, internships, and stresses. For most of us, it’s unlikely we can jet off to a beautiful, foreign land the second we feel bored. However, I believe it’s possible to experience some of the same awe and excitement of a real adventure by simply exploring some the numerous inspirational travel resources we have available. Here are three resources you can use to quench your wanderlust (for now, at least)!

EXPLORE: Munchies

The energetic, youth-driven media company, known as Vice Media, is one of my favorite tools to learn about something new and get inspired. There are many captivating Vice channels, like Noisey that covers the hip-hop/rap scene and Motherboard that keeps up with technology. My favorite channel is Munchies, which features the hottest hole-in-the-walls and trendiest restaurants while also providing a glimpse into different cities’ social and political culture. From underground Halal restaurants in Los Angeles to ancient fish-cooking traditions in England, Munchies covers it all.

WATCH: Parts Unknown

Produced by CNN and hosted by my celebrity crush/career idol, Anthony Bourdain, the television show Parts Unknown takes viewers across the globe exposing stories, culture, and cuisine from some of the world’s most unfamiliar places. A few of my favorite episodes include Bourdain eating at the top rated restaurant in the world (called Soma, in Copenhagen), exploring ice fishing and Canadian delicacies in Quebec, and stepping into the lives of Detroit natives to see how the city attempts to rebuild itself. The newest season of Parts Unknown airs April 26th at 9pm on CNN. I’ll surely be tuning in and I hope you do to!

READ: The Best American Travel Writing

While visual media — like YouTube and Instagram — satisfy our wanderlust with beautiful images, sometimes words do an even better job. There are so many acclaimed books out there of complied travel essays that simply make you feel as if you’re exploring alongside the author — all you have to do is chose one! One of my favorites is The Best American Travel Writing series, a yearly anthology of travel essays published in Americans magazines. Each year a new guest editor chooses from nearly 100 of the best articles to compile a book full of moving, diverse literature. Talk about being taken on an adventure; this exciting book will do it for you. I urge you to visit your local bookstore and browse through the Travel section to find a book that captivates you!

As Millennials, we are so lucky enough to have the world at our fingertips… literally. Next time you feel like you’re in dire need of a retreat, I hope you can temporarily quench your wanderlust with some of these travel resources!

Image: Flickr

TravelVolunteerism

“Where am I?” is all that crossed my mind when I was volunteering in South Africa the summer before my freshman year of college. In honor of my high school graduation, my family and I decided to break out of our comfort zone and stray from our usual lounging vacations and plan one that exposed us to a different world. With an organization I would recommend to everyone – Global Vision International (GVI) –  I lived in a town outside of Cape Town called Gordon’s Bay to teach basic English and Math to children at a devastatingly poor, but dedicated school called A.C.J. Phakade Primary. It wasn’t until this remarkable experience that I realized how moving and important giving back, especially in a country as dynamic as South Africa, truly is.

Here are three main reasons you should highly consider “The Rainbow Nation” for your next volunteering venture.

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The children need your help.

Many primary schools around Cape Town require its students to take an entrance exam into high school. While this may seem easy enough, trouble arises for native Xhosa-speaking – one of the country’s 11 official languages, spoken primarily by the black population surrounding Cape Town – students when they have to take the English-only exam. English is not part of school curriculums, so the only way a student knows English is if their parents taught them or they picked it up from American movies. For many of the eager students, an English volunteer is the only chance they have to learn the language well enough to get into high school. If they don’t pass, sadly they are stuck in primary school until they get it right.

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Put your own problems into perspective.

In college, getting a D on a midterm, getting into arguments with friends, and not living in your preferred dorm might seem like the end of the world, but once you explore a slum you begin to see life differently. Surrounding Cape Town are “townships,” poor, rag-tag neighborhoods mainly inhabited by black South Africans who were kicked out of the city during Apartheid. After seeing children come to school wearing no shoes and a school with a rat problem and gaping holes in its walls, you’re bound to realize how fortunate you are.

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Meet people from all over the world.

With GVI, I had the opportunity to meet likeminded young people from all over Europe, Africa, and Australia. It turns out that South Africa is a hot destination for the millennial generation because of its stunning landscapes and Cape Town’s stylish appeal. Even about four years later, I keep in touch with the friends I made and now always have a couch to sleep on in case I visit any of their home countries!

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I urge you to consider all of these points if you are seriously thinking about doing a volunteer trip. Remember, as responsible citizens of the world and Carpe Juvenis enthusiasts, it is up to us to make a better tomorrow!

Image: Photos courtesy of Aysia Woods

CultureTravel

While it is true most travelers prefer non-stop flights to those with any layovers, I say, why not turn an inconvenient few hours into an opportunity to explore? The Greek capital city, Athens, is not only a common European layover stop, but also a beautiful fusion of ancient history with a youthful flair. Having been lucky enough to experience the spirited city a few times now, I’ve created the ultimate layover guide that will help you make the most of your quick pit stop in Athens. Let’s get into it; or as the Greeks would say, Opa!

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8 hours (7 am – 3pm)

As most flights from the States land in Europe bright and early in the morning, there is plenty of time to do all the necessary bits. By “necessary bits,” of course this means none other than the Acropolis. This massive ancient citadel hovers over the entire city, as you can see it from nearly anywhere in the city. Wind back and forth across the rocky outcrop for about 15 minutes until you reach the summit, and you are in for an unforgettable experience. While on top of the Acropolis, not only can you see a panoramic view of Athens, but you can also see the Parthenon and other architectural masterpieces that have been restored to look as proud as they did in 5th century BC. Take it all in and think about how much world history you are standing on top of…literally.

When you’re ready to move on from the beauty of the Acropolis, I recommend hiking down and walking just a few blocks to the Acropolis Museum, where hundreds of rescued, restored, and collected artifacts are housed from the ruins. Getting up close to each piece and examining its every intricate detail is a remarkable thing.

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12 Hours (7 am – 7 pm)

Spend time perusing and people watching in the animated, and ever loving Monastiraki Square, located near the historical Plaka neighborhood. To this day, I have never seen so much affection in one place. In the square, Greeks are often tightly hugging dear friends, passionately kissing their lovers, or jesting about with adorably dressed young children. Shop the windy side streets and browse all the flea markets, souvenirs, and trinkets. It’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy your company, and of course grab a quick bite!

Thanasis is a restaurant well known for their mouth-watering souvlakis, a popular Greek dish with your choice of grilled meat, tzatziki sauce, veggies, and sometime fries, tightly wrapped in a fluffy pita. It’s conveniently located right on Monastiraki Sqaure, so you can involve your taste buds in the love fest, as well.

In case you want a more formal meal, only a block or so away from the square is an ultramodern, luxurious hotel called A for Athens. Take their terrifying small elevator (it’s worth it, I promise!) to the very top floor and get ready for more great views, food, and drinks. The magnificently lit Acropolis and Greek techno music serve as a backdrop while you sip on your beverage of choice and enjoy modern takes on traditional Greek cuisine. Keep an ear out for all of the languages you’re bound to hear surrounding you – it is remarkable how many international people flock to this great spot!

18 Hours (7 am – 1 am)

Make your way to the main square in Athens, Syntagma Square. This is often referred to as the “heart” of the city as Greek Parliament is located here, not to mention a common site for political demonstrations. In the square are various food vendors and a lovely park area, while the side streets contain some of Greece’s best shopping. For all the serious shoppers, this is a top priority before your layover comes to an end. There are international chain stores, but also boutiques unique to Greece, so you really get a taste of everything fashion-wise!

Finally wrap up your super quick layover in Athens by taking the metro to Soho Bar Athens in the Gazi neighborhood. This club and bar has a neat atmosphere, and is usually full of young professionals and or the “starving artist” type. Prepare for your next flight with a cold glass of ouzo and call it a day!

Image: Aysia Woods (Acropolis and Monastiraki Square); Carpe Juvenis (Greek Flag)

Travel

Many people love to travel. Yet some complain that they don’t have the time or money to do so. The truth is that there’s always a reason not to travel. We need to find some way to make it all work. A weekend trip could be the answer to all these problems. Here are some reasons why a weekend trip might work for you:

1. It’s Less Expensive

When you go on a week long trip for Christmas vacation or spring break, the costs can add up. However, if you are only traveling for a couple of days, you are also spending a lot less on food, hotels, and shopping.

2. It Takes Less Time Away From Your Regular Schedule

It’s hard to take off work or school to travel. You might miss something important or it might take you awhile to save up vacation days. With a weekend trip you can leave right after class. You might not need to take any time off, depending on your schedule. It may seem too short to be a good trip but frequent travelers say we must use every spare day we can. You can get a great experience in very little time.

3. It Forces You To Explore

Instead of saving up for popular destinations like Hawaii, New York, or California, weekend trips are convenient if you stay close. You could book a flight to parts unknown, but you could also take a train or a long drive to a neighboring state. Even if you are not at the most popular destinations, you are seeing a little more of the world.

4. It Takes Virtually No Planning

There are 52 weekends a year. That gives you plenty of opportunities to take off on an adventure. You may want to have a couple of sites in mind so that you can make the most of your time. Either way, the journey can often be the best part of traveling.

Take the time for a weekend trip. There are so many things out there to do. Make the effort to take a trip. You will be rewarded with an adventure and all the great memories that go with it.

What is your dream weekend trip destination? Let us know in the comments below!

Image: Joe Lodge

CultureTravel

Globe-trotting and sight-seeing may not always be within our reach. Sometimes our travel funds are running low or we don’t have a long enough break to really go anywhere. For those of you fresh off a semester at school or enjoying time off from work, turn your vacation into a staycation. Staying at home to create your own leisure moments is often times the best way to unwind and stay frugal during the holidays. Travel time: zero. Destination: relaxation.

Ramen and Rom Coms

You know you love it. Invite some friends and family over for a cozy night in. Supply the packages of ramen and have your guests choose their favorite romantic comedies to watch. It’s silly, it’s fun, and it’s an easy last minute hangout idea. (Life points to the person who chooses Crazy Stupid Love.)

Easy-Peasy Bath Salts

Here is what you’ll need for a luxurious and silky bath time experience. This does wonders for dry skin sufferers, especially in the winter time. It will calm your skin while the epsom salt can help ease joint pain and muscular aches.

 1 cup of sea salt
 ½ cup of baking soda
 2 cups of Epsom salt
 Mix well in a big bowl
 Add 10 drops of lavender essential oil
 Put your mix into a jar and add a few spoonfuls to your next bath!

Tea Party for One

If you’re looking for some solo time, enjoy a piping hot cup of tea and relax with a good book. It’s always refreshing to read for fun (and not for a grade), but if your brain feels fried from final exams and essay-writing, try audible.com to check out their great selection of audio books. Listen to your books instead and sip on some green tea mixed with fresh mint leaves and a dash of sugar.

Music and Mind

Free-writing is both a powerful and cathartic process. Allow yourself to free your conscience completely with 20 minutes of free-writing. There are no rules or prompts or deadlines, just your stream of thoughts put on paper. Play some music (preferably loudly) while you write to fuel your creativity. You never know, you might get a poem, a letter to self, a letter to a loved one, or the start of a series of journal entries. Tip: listening to music and rainymood.com simultaneously creates a wondrous audio experience that is definitely worth trying.

Image: Mike

CultureTravel

The winter break for a native New Yorker can seem pretty uninteresting. After all, I’ve been hanging around the five boroughs for about two decades, and the crowded museums and expensive restaurants and confused tourists lose their luster. The best thing to do is to find a few friends and do some cool things together. Even a seemingly sad trip to a noodle restaurant can be great bonding time. Here are a few things that anyone, including local college students, can do this winter break in the city!

1. Ice skating

I know. I know. You go every year and you’ve given up trying to do a triple lutz years ago. But have you been to every ice skating rink in the city? People always go to Rockefeller or Central Park’s ice skating rinks, but there is one in all of the five boroughs. My personal favorite is Bryant Park because if you own your own pair it’s free admission, and because I get to gorge myself on food in the holiday markets outside. I also tend to go in the middle of the day so it isn’t terribly crowded. Each rink has its own vibe, so go on different skate days during the weekdays (less crowded) and see if you find your own favorite. Speaking of food…

2. Food Day in Flushing

While everyone thinks of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there’s also Queens. Specifically, Flushing. It is mainly a Chinese neighborhood, meaning there are tons of restaurants and shops to go to. Grab a few friends (vegetarian friendly!) and head up to Flushing via 7 train. Spend the day walking around, going to food courts, mulling over ­posted menus in the window, and dare your friends to try to eat something they can’t pronounce. You never know what you’ll find!

3. Bushwick Shopping

A lot of my friends live in Bushwick and commute to school via the L train. Along that line are a lot of new businesses, and with that, shopping opportunities. Whether they be thrift shops, jewelry shops, or small cafes, Bushwick is a good place to go explore. If you have a friend who lives there, make some plans to do a tour-­and-­explore day. A nice brunch and a girl’s shopping day, and since it’s the holidays, what better time to shop?

There are plenty of things to do in the city, even for the jaded New Yorker. Find some friends and explore the boroughs. You never know what you may find!

Image: AntheaAtlas

CultureSkills

Road trips may make some people roll their eyes, but there are actually so many wonderful things about it: traveling, decision-making, character building, relationship building, and the list goes on! Here are some of the reasons you just may want to start planning a college road trip:

  1. Time is of the Essence

We seem to always be running out of time. We are rushing to catch that last train, we are rushing to make our appointment, and running to get to the store before it closes. Traveling works the same way. It may seem like you don’t have time to do it now, but your days will only get busier later on in life. You never know what tomorrow may have in store for you. In turn, taking advantage of now is imperative. Traveling now means seizing your day and your youth! Unravel the possibilities and the memories. Say “yes” to that last minute invitation or start planning your next adventure today.

  1. Energy

One of the advantages of traveling ASAP is that you’re at the peak of your energies. Waiting to travel later for whatever reason reduces that motivation and that wish to explore more. Taking advantage of the moment only benefits you the most in terms of doing what you want to do with the adequate amount of energy and motivation. Who knows what will happen in the future – take the chance now!

  1. Spontaneity

Most people want to stay young forever, or at least hold on to their youth or their “glory days” for as long as possible. It is an understandable thing and let’s face it, it’s only going to get worse down the road. Ideally, later on in life when we all find ourselves more stable with our careers and families, we will begin to notice that our responsibilities are everything. We just may lose the drive to be spontaneous as we have more obligations and responsibilities tying us down.

  1. Bonds

They say the friends you make in college are the friends you keep for life. Road trips force you to stick with the people you are traveling with for, naturally, hours at a time. You play coffee’s assistant by talking to the driver for an extended period of time. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’re not wishing the people you’re with the ultimate death wish. Usually, being with people for an extended amount of time have a peak of I-Love-You stage, a downfall of the I’m-So-Sick-of-You-Go-Away stage, and hopefully the Never mind-You’re-Awesome stage. They only bring your friendships and relationships together and closer in the end and if not, well, at least you got a chance to see the true colors of the people you once had a different view on.

Traveling is a beautiful thing, an inspiring thing! College is the perfect time to take a road trip. One is old and mature enough, yet young enough to not have little things tie one down. Benefit from the free time you may have or have the potential to have.

Have you ever been on a road trip? Where would you go?

Image: Glass Duffle

Professional SpotlightSpotlightTravel

A guy who travels the world interning at cool companies in exchange for a place to sleep and something to eat? His name is Mark van der Heijden and he’s The Backpacker Intern. After spending years as a creative copywriter, Mark had an urge to do something different with his life and see the world. He had worked since graduation from school, and he felt that there was something missing.  Instead of just quitting his job to travel the world simply as a tourist, he came up with a creative solution. He would intern at companies for a couple of days in exchange for food and shelter.

The result? Companies such as Red Bull, the Adventure Film School, and Nile Rodgers Productions, just to name a few on a long list, have exchanged survival basics for Mark’s skills. Mark blogs, tweets, and posts on Facebook about all of his cool experiences, and it’s as if we were traveling right alongside him. It takes courage and an acceptance of the unknown to travel the world and leave the comforts of home.

During some stops along his journey, Mark didn’t know where he would be the following week, where he would be working, or if he would have a place to sleep. By utilizing friends, contacts, and social media, Mark has been able to accomplish something unique and inspiring. Mark paid attention to the voice in his head craving something more out of life, came up with a solution and plan, and has been creating his own path every single day. If that isn’t seizing your youth, we don’t know what is.

Name: Mark van der Heijden
Age: 28
Education: Bachelor, Creative Communication (Copy, Concept & Strategy) at Fontys Hogeschool Communicatie
Follow: TwitterThe Backpacker Intern

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Never put yourself in a situation where you are following the common track. Create your own path. Don’t listen to what people think you should do. Do what’s best for you.

What did you study at Fontys Hogeschool Communicatie and how did you determine what to study?

I studied Communications. I specialized in copy concept and strategy. After two years you could choose a direction, and I chose that because you could make a TV commercial. I wasn’t thinking too much about the future, but that major felt good. During my studies I did an internship and sold my first creative idea. It gave me goosebumps, and it was cool to be able to use my talents.

How did your journey as The Backpacker Intern begin?

I used to work in advertising in Amsterdam for six years as a creative copywriter. I had a good job, great friends, lived in a great apartment, and Amsterdam was amazing. I couldn’t complain, but still I had the urge of some kind of feeling. I wanted to see more of the world and do more. Right after school I had a job, so I never had a big break to see the world like other people sometimes do. I had a feeling that I was missing that, and thought that I needed to do it. I wanted to do it all the way and see where I would end up, so I quit my job and started The Backpacker Intern.

I booked seven tickets for six months. That was the original plan. I realized I didn’t have enough money to do all the things I wanted to do. I thought I could come up with an idea or two to make some money along the way. Then I discovered that it wasn’t about the money, but it was about the experience instead. The only things I actually need on a trip are food and a bed. I came up with the idea to exchange my skills for those things. Not money, but the things I need to survive.

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How long was the process from when you had the idea to actually leaving?

I had the idea six months before and worked towards the departure date. In that time I crafted my idea and made it better. I procrastinated along the way, but the idea was too cool to pass up. I came up with a lot of names, but The Backpacker Intern stuck. I talked to a lot of people in creative industries and they helped me through my ideas and look at them with a different perspective. I bought the URL, and that made it official. The best feeling was when I had the logo. It was something. It wasn’t there yet, but it was alive.

As the departure date got closer, it became more real. One of my best friends and I brainstormed about making a video, and then we came up with the idea to use my cardboard sign in a film. We told the message in one take. I spread the video through my social media channels. I didn’t expect the project to get this big.

How did you determine your route?

I wanted to go to Asia, so I booked a ticket from Amsterdam to Bangkok. Then I wanted to go to San Francisco and Hawaii because I have friends there. From Asia I could go to Hawaii and San Francisco. I saw that I could go to Iceland from New York, and then from Iceland I’d go back to Amsterdam. The route is based on things I haven’t seen yet, the rates for the travel season, and where my friends live. It’s like an endless summer. I only have one sweater with me.

What have been the greatest challenges in your journey so far?

Planning everything is a challenge. I can now imagine why people who do a lot of things have an assistant. Usually in the daytime I’m working somewhere, but I also get a lot of emails throughout the day. I also want to stay in touch with my friends and family. I need to keep people updated with blog posts. If I don’t have a new internship, I have to decide what to do. I don’t sleep a lot, maybe three hours a day. I enjoy every minute, but it’s also work.

What would you do differently if you could start the journey over?

Nothing because then it would be a totally different journey. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that you learn from your mistakes.

A lot of companies have reached out to you. How do you choose which companies to work with?

I try to do a mix of work. I work at agencies, brands, and charities. Big companies and small companies. If I’m almost to a new city, I’ll coordinate with companies that have emailed me and arrange the internship. I Googled charity organizations in San Francisco because I wanted to work with dogs. I worked with Mutville Senior Dog Rescue, which was so cool. I emailed them and the owner replied. I worked there for two days and stayed at the owner’s house. It was so different.

What kinds of things do you do at your internships?

It’s like I’m a human pocketknife. I can do a lot of things. My profession is creative and advertising. I’m best at making concepts, ideas, and solutions for brands, companies, and people. I can originate concepts, write copy, and create strategies. I make films, but I also clean dog poop.

I worked at a soup kitchen in Malaysia and I was making food for homeless people and drug addicts. That was the internship and nothing else. I’ve enjoyed many different experiences. The whole goal is to help people and to learn from them at the same time. I’ve enjoyed working with people from different professions and cultures.

Leaving your comfort zone in Holland must not have been easy. What did you do to prepare yourself for this adventure?

I am not scared about stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m used to eating crazy foods and jumping out of airplanes. I’m not a rebel but I enjoy trying new things. I enjoy traveling so much that I don’t get homesick. My longest trip was four weeks, but I still wanted to do more. Of course I miss my friends and family, but with Skype I can still stay in contact. The best friends will always stay with you even if you don’t talk for a while. You can pick back up where you left off.

Have you experienced any major culture shocks after traveling the world?

I was pretty shocked by the amount of homeless people in the U.S. Especially in Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. I wasn’t aware of how big of a problem it is.

Mark photo backpacker intern

What advice do you have for youth who are interested in advertising?

Just start and make a lot of ideas. It’s all about your portfolio, so show how creative you are. There are a lot of creative competitions you can attend. It’ll help to win a competition and have people notice you.

It’s good if you try to find a mentor, someone you find inspiring. Just reach out to him or her and ask for 30 minutes of time to talk. If he or she says no, then move on to the next one. Sometimes you need advice from people who are way more up the ladder. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Don’t be scared that your ideas are not good enough. I failed a lot and made a lot of campaigns that weren’t approved. I’ve worked for six months on a project and then the week before have it pulled. Just keep on going and keep on trying.

What are the top three traits that make a great intern?

Be open-minded. Don’t judge. Be crazy.

What motivates you?

I read a lot of books about creativity, watch great films and check out new and interesting products. It inspires me to make great things like that. It’s a really great feeling to make something.

The best feeling is if you create something that didn’t exist before and you can improve people’s lives. It’s so cool to make a change in people’s lives just by a thought you came up with.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Do as many internships as possible without getting paid. Besides school and a part-time job, learn as much as you can from inspiring and successful people. Offer your help for free. Work at places for free to learn new skills. Knock on the doors of Apple, Nike, Red Bull and ask to work for free because you want to learn. Learn how to help people without doing it for money.

Mark van der Qs

CultureSkillsTravel

Road trips are a fun way to spend the summer. If you have the free time and the gas money, it is a great choice. It gives you the opportunity to spend time with family, friends or a significant other. Here’s how you can plan one:

1. Pick a Location

The trick here is to pick a place you want to go, as well as finding the right time to go. If it takes three days to drive to your destination, you have to also factor in breaks for meals and using the restroom. Plus, if there are not enough people and little desire to drive continuously, you may need to spend a few nights in hotels. That will make the entire trip take longer. You want to make sure you have enough time to and from your destination. 

2. Figure Out Who To Invite

Traveling is fun but it can also be hard. If you are stuck in a car with someone for hours or days on end, make sure you like that person. More importantly, how many people you invite can mean different cars. Keep in mind that if you are the only one with a driver’s license, you will be the only one driving. That will mean more work for you. You also need to find people who can go on the trip at the same time as you.

3. Logistics

Timing can be everything on a road trip. You have to factor in times to stop for food, gas, and rest. You should also make reservations somewhere if you need them. Sleeping in your car is not always safe. You do not want to end up in an unfamiliar area and not be able to find a place to sleep. Above all things you should find out how much time you want to spend at your destination. That might determine how many breaks you take.

4. Pack Well

You want to bring everything you need. Gas and food money are a must. However, you do not want to over-pack. There needs to be enough room in the car for everyone.

Lastly, remember to have fun! These memories can last a lifetime.

Image: Unsplash

SkillsTravel

The jet lag struggle is real. Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you cross two or more time zones. When we travel quickly and go from one time zone to another in a short time frame, the rhythm of our biological clock is thrown off. Jet lag can be overwhelming, exhausting, and frustrating, especially when all you want to do is get out and explore new cities and sights. Instead of sitting around in a hazy state of mind, use these tips to prevent and get over jet lag during your travels. This is the time to seize your youth and explore new cultures, landmarks, languages, and to meet new people. You’ve come this far and traveled great distances; you want to make the most of your time traveling. Don’t let your valuable time be monopolized by jet lag.

Pre-Trip Prep

Make Small Adjustments

Figure out what time it is in the country you will be traveling to. A week before you leave for your trip, start slowly adjusting to that time zone. Go to sleep earlier or wake up earlier and schedule your meals for later or earlier in the evening. Small adjustments like this will get your body used to doing things a bit differently, so when you are all of a sudden functioning to a new clock you won’t experience as much shock. When you advance or delay your body clock ahead of time, studies show that you will adjust faster and can reduce the effect of jet lag.

Hydrate

This is just good advice for every day of your life. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. While you can’t bring liquids through security, as soon as you make it to the other side, purchase a big bottle of water or fill your water bottle up. Planes can be very dehydrating, and you don’t want to have to wait for the drink cart to roll past to get your fill of H20.

Use Plane Time Wisely

If you are traveling somewhere far away, use this long plane ride to catch up with the time zone you are flying into. As soon as you sit down in your seat, set your watch. If where you’re going is midnight, sleep on the plane so when you arrive in the morning you feel fresh and awake. Use a sleep mask and earplugs if the light and noise bothers you.

If you need to sleep on the plane, avoid caffeine and sugar as best you can. If it’s the daytime, even if you are tired, try your best to stay awake and keep yourself busy. Get up and walk up and down the aisles and stretch. You can sleep when you arrive, since it will then be nighttime.

During the Trip

Make Wise Food Choices

During the first couple of days of your trip, make wise food choices. Your body will already be trying to catch up with a different time zone and won’t be metabolizing as efficiently, so go easy on spicy foods and large meals in the evening.

Prepare Your Room

Before you drift off to sleep, prepare your hotel, hostel, guest room in a way that will be conducive to a great night’s rest. Shut down your electronics and television an hour before bedtime, close the curtains or blinds, dim the lights, turn the temperature down if you can, wash up and get ready for sleep, and get cozy in bed with a book, magazine, or your gratitude journal.

Schedule Activities

When you are exhausted and feeling jet lagged on a trip, it is unbelievably tempting to just sleep until you feel awake and ready to explore. However, this temptation might get the best of you, one hour turns into five, and then all of a sudden your day of exploring is gone. If you purposely schedule activities at times you want to try to stay awake, you can mentally adjust faster than if you know you have the entire day free. Scheduled activities are a great way to keep you going because you are held accountable for paying and showing up.

Get Moving

Try to exercise as much as you can when you travel. By keeping your body active, you’ll feel much more alert and ready for the day. Exercise first thing in the morning or when you feel sluggishness coming on midday. It can be as simple as walking the block a few extra times, slipping a jump rope into your suitcase, or doing some push-ups and crunches on the floor. Anything to get your heart rate up will be sufficient.

Enjoy a Breakfast of Champions

Start your day with a breakfast of champions. Water, protein, and fruit are great breakfast staples. Don’t forget to try some of the local food if you’re abroad. Just because you’re not hungry now (maybe back home it’s the middle of the night), try to get something in your system so you can start the day on an energetic note. Live by the rules of the time zone you are in.

How do you prevent and overcome jet lag?

Image: Picjumbo

EducationExploreSkillsSpotlightTravel

Alternative Education Highlight: High Mountain Institute

Education comes in all shapes and sizes; there has never been a “one size fits all” when it comes to learning. Figuring out how you learn best is a challenge that you should continue to tackle until you discover what works best for you personally. Carpe Juvenis recently sat down with Megan Morrow, High Mountain Institute (HMI) alum, to talk about the high school semester program she took part in her junior year. Megan now studies at Johns Hopkins University where she majors in Global Environmental Change & Sustainability.

HMI is a program for academically driven high school students interested in an outdoor educational experience. HMI focuses on building students’ relationships with nature and their community through full physical and emotional integration. Based in Colorado, students take AP level place-based classes in tangent with learning survival and camping skills. There is a campus with off-the-grid cabins and fully functioning classrooms where students live and study when they are not busy leading hiking expeditions and camping explorations.

HMI offers a range of programs: Semester, Summer team, Apprentice Program, High Peaks Adventure, and Wilderness Medicine and Avalanche Safety courses. If you’re interested in applying to HMI, click here – applications for Fall 2014, Spring 2015, and Summer Term 2014 are due February 15, 2014.

Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to Megan Morrow. Read on to learn more about her experiences at High Mountain Institute!

Carpe Juvenis: What exactly is High Mountain Institute?

Megan Morrow: High Mountain Institute (HMI) is an outdoor education program combined with experiential education. There are around fifty students from around the United States and you go on a set of three backpacking expeditions that are interspersed throughout the semester. You take normal classes that you would in school but you continue them when you’re on your hiking trips.

CJ: Would you recommend that someone apply to HMI and why?

MM: Yes, definitely! I was really hesitant to go and spent the entire month after I got in deciding whether or not I wanted to go. I actually replied late saying I would. But [HMI] helps prepare you for going away to college because you’ve already done it before for four months, and being in a small community forces you to deal with people. But [the staff] also teaches you about conflict resolution, getting along with people, and working with group dynamics. Its something I never thought I would be able to do … but being able to spend more than a month in the Colorado and Utah wilderness is amazing. I would have never been able to do that in my regular high school.

CJ: What is a challenge or difficulty you faced that took you by surprise?

MM: I expected that I would be homesick – and I was – but I got over it. The hardest struggle for me that I didn’t expect was that it took me a really long time to adjust back into real life again. I got so close to the people [at HMI] that I had a really hard time going back to school.

CJ: How did you feel about the academic aspect of HMI?

MM: The academics I think are really, really good. You have scheduled time to do work every night for two hours. [And work is continued on hiking trips] so you’ll have English class discussing Henry David Thoreau, or you have to do a science lab on your expedition walking around looking at trees, collecting data, writing essays, and all that. The other component is leadership training; you go over types of leadership, how to be a good leader, and you have to be “leader of the day” twice throughout an expedition where you lead your small group of students and you have to use topographical maps and make decisions about when to rest and how far to walk. As expeditions go by you become more and more independent.

CJ: Is there a certain “type” of student that should go to HMI?

MM: I think it definitely helps to be an outdoorsy person, but it was a mixture of people. It’s been interesting to see how [the students in my semester] have all grown up through college because we’re not all the same type of person. I think what’s interesting about something that [happens] in high school is that I was still young enough that it helped mold me. I was young enough to not come into it with such a strong identity that I wasn’t willing to be changed by it. I was sixteen when I went.

CJ: Has HMI stuck with you in any way?

MM: That’s actually where I started getting interested in environmental science. It’s a natural science program there so we would do water tests near old mines and learn about pollution and go to logging areas and learn about the succession.

Carpe Juvenis would like to thank Megan for her time and insight about HMI! For more information about this awesome person, check out her study abroad blog, as well as her professional blog

Photos courtesy of Megan Morrow