Tag Archives: Travel Tips

The adventures of solo travel

by Margot Nelson ’20 // Professional Writing, Champlain College

Study abroad is full of opportunities for different types of traveling. From group field trips to Northern Ireland and the West of Ireland that Champlain Dublin organizes to weekend trips around Europe with friends, it’s so easy to hop around and explore during your time abroad. However, there is another option for an exciting travel experience, which Rachel Paskavitz, a third-year Social Work student, experienced for the first time during her semester in Dublin.

Rachel Paskavitz, Social Work ’20 at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Photo credit: Margot Nelson

“I hadn’t realized how accessible solo traveling was until I sat down and realized it would be silly for me not to take advantage of the opportunities I have while I’m here.”

Rachel spent the weekend in Killarney, County Kerry, which is about a three-hour train ride from Dublin.

“I felt like traveling in Ireland would be a good first step into solo traveling. There was still so much for me to see here in Ireland, and Killarney was a great place to experience both a small town and the beauty of the outdoors. It was far enough out of my comfort zone that I was confident I could do it but wouldn’t get stressed or overwhelmed.”

The Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Planning is essential to any kind of travel, but when you’re on your own it can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a stressful one. Rachel recommends having at least your accommodation and transportation pre-booked, and to keep all your important information in one place.

“I was able to navigate the train system for the first time, so I was pretty proud of myself for doing that.” Rachel took the Irish Rail to Killarney and stayed in a hostel. “The Black Sheep Hostel was amazing! So cute, clean, comfortable, and friendly. 10/10 would definitely recommend!”

Set aside half a day at least to explore the town center of Killarney. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Before going on your solo trip, Rachel also recommends making a list of activities and places you might want to visit but to avoid over-planning.

“Know what’s in the area but allow yourself free time to roam while you’re there,” she suggests. “In Killarney, definitely go to the National Park! It is literally right next to the town and you can walk right over to it. Explore as much as you can, and take a tour of Ross Castle in the park. It was really interesting and you can explore the whole castle instead of just seeing the outside. The town is also worth walking around, it’s really cute and small so you don’t need a lot of time to see it.”

Visit the Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

So what are Rachel’s thoughts on her first solo trip?

“Being in full control of my time was really nice. Traveling with other people can be stressful sometimes because everyone wants different things, but I didn’t have to compromise! I was able to eat where I wanted and do what I wanted.”

You never know what you’ll find during your solo travels. Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

Leave yourself enough time to explore wherever you decide to travel on your own! Photo credit: Rachel Paskavitz

“If you’re considering solo travel, just do it! Even if you feel nervous about it, when the time comes it’s so much more exciting than it is nerve-wracking. The best thing was the joy and excitement I felt over and over as I kept finding more beautiful things in the area as I explored, and the gratitude I felt for the opportunity to have that experience.”

Do you want to read more about independent travelling? Check out this gem of a blog post from Alumni Lindsay Maher. 

“I was leaving on a Thursday night, and the morning of, nerves settled into my stomach. Though I wasn’t leaving the country, the reality of embarking on this journey in a new area alone was sinking in. Needless worrying about whether or not I was going to forget or lose important items, then if I was going to truly enjoy going by myself.”

 

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Tales of a First Time Traveller

BY Erin Warner, ’20 // MANAGEMENT and Innovation, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

Hadley Roy is a third year Marketing major and Psychology minor at Champlain College. Though having never traveled overseas, she was inspired to come to Dublin because Champlain provided her with an easily accessible opportunity to live abroad long term. Coming to terms with the unknown is a huge barrier many prospective abroad students face before making the decision to commit.  In past situations, Hadley has found herself incredibly flustered when struggling to communicate with a heavy accented individual. Foreign environments tended to pull her out of her comfort zone, making the decision to commit to the Dublin Abroad program difficult.

However, the ability to lean on the Champlain abroad community for support empowered her to remain optimistic about the experience. Having peers with a range of travel backgrounds provides any first-time traveler with both the wisdom and empathy needed to feel comfortable abroad. In addition, staff members such as Tony Langan, International Student Life Manager, and Lilly Johnsson, Assistant Director, have been noted to be extremely encouraging during the transition. Tony and Lilly have answered any and all questions about the city to help Hadley make safe and smart choices while abroad.

“The tight-knit Champlain community follows you to Dublin and you realize how kind and caring your fellow students are. Everyone looks out for each other and we have become a family here.” -Hadley Roy

A piece of advice Hadley would give to another prospective first-time traveler is to accept and embrace that the unknown is scary. Once you embrace the unknown, the excitement and awe of travel is right around the corner! A great way to tackle the unknown is to bring some items of comfort from home with you. A recommendation from the first-time traveler is to bring a pillowcase that smells like your family’s detergent or a box of Annie’s Mac & Cheese. Packing something that can keep you grounded during the lows of culture shock can make it easier to transition into an environment outside your comfort zone.

“Try as much as you can, be as bold as you can, and enjoy every second of it.” – Hadley Roy

After a few weeks of being abroad in Ireland, Hadley has learned to embrace the unknown. She has mastered the Dublin bus system, visited a series of castles, and danced Irish step in a local pub. This month, with the help of some friends a weekend trip has been planned to Copenhagen, Denmark. She is even daring enough to attempt a four-country Spring Break to Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and Bratislava. While first-time travelers may find the Dublin Abroad program daunting, a close-knit community, supportive faculty, and a little bravery can allow any student to flourish.

If you want to read more about how to break out of your comfort zone, check out this blog post from Rachael Elmy, ’19. She describes her trip to the caves of Keash as “probably the most uncomfortable (and best) day trip ever!”.

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Hostels aren’t as scary as your parents think

BY RACHAEL ELMY, ’19 // PROFESSIONAL WRITING, CHAMPLAIN COLLEGE

My parents weren’t exactly thrilled when they learned that I’d be staying in a hostel for Champlain Abroad’s Northern Ireland tour. The first thing that came into their minds was probably unwashed sheets, unlocked doors, and people sneaking into the room late at night to steal my stuff.

Probably from that influence, I had no idea what to expect from my first stay in a hostel. I figured since our program director Stephen was staying there with his family, it most likely was somewhat safe and decent. 

staying in a hostel

Staying in a hostel is a new experience to many study abroad students.

I imagined all 53 of us staying in one big room full of bunk beds, some peacefully snoring and others using pillows to block out the sound. However, I learned that there were separate rooms that could house 3-10 people when room assignments were sent out. That was a bit of a relief, knowing that there was some organization (and doors!). I was roomed with six other girls who luckily, ended up being very quiet sleepers. My sensitive ears were grateful.

When we arrived at the hostel, my first thought was; “This looks a bit hokey.” There was a statue of a man dressed in red pointing at the hostel, and a picture of horrified-looking sheep on the sign. I did check this place out online a few days before we left and saw that it had good reviews, so I tried to keep my hoity-toity self optimistic.

The room I shared was small, no bigger than an average triple back at Champlain, or maybe even a large double. The ceiling was slanted with one foggy window smack-dab in the middle. At the end of each bed was a set of folded sheets and blankets. To my relief, they actually seemed freshly washed. Later on, the hostel owner came in with clean pillowcases for the pillows that waited for us against the radiator. The only downside was the mattress. It felt like it wanted to be memory foam, but you could probably break your tailbone if you sat down too hard.

game of pool

Ready for a game of pool?

Downstairs was the mess hall/gaming area, where there was a pink ping-pong table and a free pool table. For a while, it was just us girls being super competitive and silly at the same time. Most of us were terrible at ping-pong especially. Every time the paddle hit the ball, you had to duck and cover, praying it wouldn’t smack you in the forehead.

ping pong match

Ping-pong matches can get serious!

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