travel

The Best Places to Travel On July 4th

The Fourth of July is not too far away from now and that means it’s time to start planning out your celebration for this special day. There are many ways in which people choose to spend this day including a family BBQ at home, parties, community events, etc.  Each state celebrates the Fourth of July in different and unique ways. If you are looking to travel for this special occasion, grab your American flags and start packing because we put together a list of the best places to travel for the Fourth of July!

 

1.Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is known for having a more traditional celebration for July 4th. They not only throw a party for the holiday, but they also have a long festival to go with it! From June 30th-July 7th, the city hosts the National Cherry Festival. During the festival you can view the U.S. Navy Blue Angels air show over the West Grand Traverse Bay, enter a cherry pie eating contest and cherry pit spit contest, and many more traditional city events. On July 4th, they hold a large fireworks show hosted by the TC Boom Boom Club. If you are looking for a low key July 4th celebration, this is the place to go.

 

2. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is known to be called ‘Music City’. The city holds up its reputation on July 4th by throwing day long concerts. This year they have Lady Antebellum, Chris Janson, Lucie Silvas, and Shannon Sanders performing. As the grand finale, the Nashville Symphony will perform in synchronization with the fireworks show. If you’re a music lover, this is the place to celebrate July 4th.

 

3. New York City, New York

It’s no surprise that New York City makes the list of best places to visit on July 4th. After all, this is the city that never sleeps. During the day, people love to visit some of New York City’s Revolutionary War locations to get in the groove of this patriotic day. In the evening, people attend the water boat show, go to the Midsummer Night Swing dance party, and then finally Macy’s large fireworks show. You can view the show from many areas in the city including roof top bars, boats, hotels, and more. If you love large celebrations, New York City is known to hold one of the best in the United States.

 

4. Brooklyn, New York

Speaking of New York, another place that holds great July 4th celebrations is Coney Island in Brooklyn. Every year on July 4th, Coney Island hosts an annual Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Many gather around the famous boardwalk to view the event while sporting Nathan’s Famous hats. After that, you can visit the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. You’ll see Wendy Blades the blade swallower, Nola Star the fire dancer/fire eater, and a lot more. At night, Coney Island will have their fireworks show which can be viewed from the boardwalks.

 

5. Lake Tahoe, California

The fireworks display at South Lake Tahoe has been listed as one of the top five displays in the nation according to the American Pyrotechnics Association. If you are looking for a beautiful fireworks show, you can get the best vantage points from riding one of Lake Tahoe’s boats. The Safari Rose is an 80-foot long yacht known for their fireworks cruise. You’ll have access to unlimited beer, wine, champagne as well as a nice dinner. The M.S. Dixie is another excellent option for viewing the fireworks on the lake. If you are one for beautiful scenery, South Lake Tahoe is the place to go.

 

6. Keystone, South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore Fourth of July event takes two days to celebrate. On July 3rd, you’ll see performances from local musicians and dance troupes, the National Guard, local Navajo culture groups, and more. Mount Rushmore’s fireworks display takes place on the 3rd instead of the 4th. The fireworks are shot off right over the stone heads. On July 4th, you’ll have a full day of brass bands, military aircraft shows, presentations from American-Indian groups, and see performances from more local musicians and dancers.

 

7. Bristol, Rhode Island

The celebration of July 4th in Bristol is a great place for people who live in New England and others who want to visit Rhode Island. On July 3rd, you can view the local downtown concert series and watch the fireworks display over Bristol Harbor. On July 4th, the celebration includes a parade, Fourth of July ball, drum and bugle competition, a Miss and Little Miss pageant, and more.

 

8. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston has a plethora of Revolutionary War history, making it the ideal area for celebrating the Fourth of July. Every year the city holds a Boston Harborfest. This year it starts on June 28th and last until July 4th. During the festival you’ll witness Revolutionary War reenactments, go on boat tours/walking tours, and hear live entertainment. On July 4th, the Boston POP has a concert followed by a 23-minute fireworks show over Charles River.

 

9. Key West, Florida

Key West’s Fourth of July celebration always lands on the week of their annual Key Lime Festival, making it the best of both worlds for a party. Even though Key West is a small island, there’s still a lot to do on this day. You can enter a key lime pie eating contest, go snorkeling, go on bike rides, and hop on board the Fury for a fireworks cruise. It’s said that if you want the best view of the fireworks show, then the Fury boat is the way to go.

 

10. Boulder, Colorado

For those who enjoy the great outdoors, fresh air, beer trails, and celebrations, Boulder is the place for you. For the past two years, Travel + Leisure has named Boulder, Colorado one of the five best towns in America for July 4th, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a wide array of events to attend during the Fourth of July including a fireworks show at the University of Colorado’s football stadium, Folsom Field. Over at the Boulder Reservoir, they hold a 5/10K Craig Towler  Freedom Run at 8am, have their beer garden open, invite families to picnic at their location, and more.

Unconventional Places to Spend Spring Break

The oh-so-anticipated spring break is just a ways away. It’s time to start thinking of ways to spend the week long hiatus from classes. With popular culture and travel agencies promoting college ‘spring break’ as a week of wild partying on tropical beaches, which by all means does seem fun, it’s easy to forget about other options. The Earth provides us with thousands of miles of adventure, beauty, and landscape to explore. Use this spring break to discover nature and the beautiful scenery available to us. Here are four suggestions of where to look:

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1) Lake Powell, Arizona/Utah

Lake Powell is located right on the border of Utah and Arizona, settled right on the Colorado River. This scenic area is colored by blue lakes broken and broken up by high rocky canyons. It is also only a short distance from Antelope Canyon and Glen Canyon Recreational Area. However, around spring break time the weather is still fairly cool, averaging around 61 degrees. This means swimming may not be an option. Luckily, the chilly temps make it the area’s offseason, meaning the prices for travel drop. This makes it perfect for college students on a tight budget. Additionally, the city of Flagstaff is a two hour drive away and passes Grand Canyon National Park. Make sure that road trip playlist is on point!

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2) Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park is a desert landscape teeming with wildlife of all sorts, surrounded by mountains that seemed to have popped up from the dusty ground by magic. The park is the ultimate dream destination for many travelers. The area houses multiple campgrounds and affordable vacation rentals. If you’re a Jack Kerouac junkie, the Jack Kerouac Cabin is located along the northern end of the park. Joshua Tree is also less than three hours away from both San Diego and Los Angeles, California… in case you’re also in need of some beach time.

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3) Canmore, Alberta, Canada

There are the Rockies, and then there are the Canadian Rockies. Located in the Canadian province of Alberta, Canmore is the destination for nature lovers. Nestled right beside Banff National Park, the area houses opportunities to hike, ski, and simply explore. For those still holding onto the the cold elements that make winter activities possible, this is the place for you. In between March and April, during most spring breaks, Canmore’s weather is still brisk. Unfortunately, this does make camping more difficult. Instead, check out the prices of lodges and ski resorts as they often fall that late in the season. Hot tub after the slopes, anyone?

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4) New Orleans, Louisiana

A city of culture and liveliness, New Orleans is the perfect spring break destination for those wishing to both enrich themselves and have some fun. While it isn’t the most unconventional place to spend spring break, it’s still worth every consideration. This melting pot of a city is home to around the clock entertainment, flavorful dishes, and amazing architecture. With a variety of festivals popping up constantly, popping up constantly, New Orleans always has something to fun to do. Check out the famous Bourbon Street for some of the best jazz music the United States has to offer, or dare to walk through the infamously haunted French Quarter.

Spring break doesn’t have to be a party in Cancun. While that might seem fun, consider using this free week to travel to some unforgettable places. By the way, feel free to invite me!

Best Food Places in NYC

Summer means it’s finally time to travel and explore a new place. If you decide to take a trip to the city that never sleeps I highly, highly, highly recommend stopping at some of these restaurants for a quick bite or a sit down meal! From my experience, here are what I’ve found to be the best food places in NYC.

Best Pizza: Artichoke Bastille’s

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Artichoke Basille’s Pizza is hands down the best pizza you can find in the city. If you couldn’t already tell by the name of the spot, their most popular pizza is the artichoke pizza. The giant slices and fresh cheeses is sure to make you believe New York has the best pizza in the country. The pizza is so good, it’s been nationally recognized. Owners were on The Chew and The Tonight show with Jay Leno. 

Best Family Restaurant: Carmine’s

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If you’re traveling with a big group of people stopping for a meal at Carmine’s is a must. The Italian restaurant is served family style and they aren’t joking about the portion sizes. When the waiter says a dish will feed four, the dish WILL feed four. Unlike Olive Garden, Carmine’s food is authentic Italian-American cuisine. Located in the heart of the city, you can either talk a stroll through Times Square or through the theatre district to work off the heavy meal you are bound to have.

Best After Bar Eats: Wo Hop

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For the college student who’s traveling on a budget Wo Hop is the place to go for late night eats. Open 10am-7am this Cantonese restaurant is perfect for post-bar food. In business for 72 years the low-key spot has barely changed, it’s still inexpensive and old fashioned. Be sure to have cash on you as they do not accept cards. Wo Hop is popular among locals and is not widely known to out-of-towners, so eating here is sure to make you feel like a true New Yorker.

Best Date Night Spot: Victor’s Cafe

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Next date night be sure to take your special someone to Victor’s Cafe for an intimate meal of New York’s finest Cuban cuisine. The restaurant, over a 50 year period, has been passed down through three generations but maintained the quality of the food. Favorited by celebs like Kate Upton, Cameron Diaz, Mike Tyson and Bryan Cranston this place is sure to impress your date. After dinner definitely order the flan, but be sure to each get one as you will probably not want to share.

If you recommend a restaurant in NYC comment below!

How to Prepare to Study Abroad

Studying abroad can be one of the best times in a student’s life. It gives you an opportunity to explore new places, try new foods, and experience new cultures. Many people see study abroad courses as trans-formative experiences that change the way that you view the world. However, there is much to think about and plan before getting up and moving to a different country for a semester, a year, or any extended time. Here are four important things to do and figure out before going abroad.

Prepare Proper Identification

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When traveling to another country you will likely need a passport. If you do not already have one, obtaining one can be a semi long process. It is important to think ahead and get your passport sorted out before it is too late. It is important while overseas to keep your passport and identification stored in a safe place. Losing your ID or passport can create massive problems while abroad.

Sort Out Your Money

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You will likely need a different currency when traveling abroad. It is necessary to either change your currency to the local one, or to find a credit or debit card that works overseas and has minimal charges that you can use. Airports tend to be an expensive place to exchange currency so seek out alternative places such as some banks.

Phone Plans

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Figuring out a phone plan is important for study abroad programs, as using a domestic phone overseas can really run up your telephone bill. Different carriers have different options and it is important to look through each one and figure out which one is the most cost efficient and works the best for you.

Safety Protocol

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It is important to be safe overseas as you will be in a place that is unfamiliar to you and will likely not have as much family and friends nearby to lean on if you need help. It is important to create a safety plan to ensure that you will be safe and able to enjoy your study abroad to the fullest!

Comment below with your study abroad tips and experiences!

4 Alternative Spring Break Ideas

With March just around the corner, Spring Break will be here before you know it. With more free time than usual, you may be tempted to spend the entire break watching cat videos but there are plenty of alternative Spring Break options to make the most of your time off.

1. Travel

Vacationing over spring break is an obvious and popular choice. Shake off your cabin fever from spending all winter indoors with a nice getaway. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or exotic (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) to be an amazing vacation. For any traveling needs like finding out flight, hotel or car rental prices, Kayak.com is one of the leading search websites in doing so. World Map

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2. Volunteer

Spending time helping others is always time well spent. Spring break is a fabulous time to help out around your community or in another city. Some colleges even offer programs to volunteer in communities abroad. Habitat for Humanity is a great organization to get involved in as a student, for more information, you can see if your college has a campus chapter at http://www.habitat.org.  

Habitat for Humanity

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3. Get Organized

The middle of the semester is a good time to get organized. Clearing out old papers from last semester and cleaning up your living space will make a huge difference in your work ethic and stress level. When you are throwing all those papers away, remember to recycle. Its a great option to take when getting organized because not only are you cleaning up, you are doing something good for the environment, and if you would like to know more about recycling check out Earth911.

 Messy desk

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4. Revamp and Refresh

With winter gone, a new fitness routine is in order. Spring break is the perfect time to trade in your treadmill run for a run in the park or on the beach. Fresh air and sunshine are sure-fire ways to motivate your workout (and let’s face it, summer is getting dangerously close). If you would like some work out encouragement, check out some of the videos on Fitness Magazines website that you can use during your routine.

Running

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Try out this list and you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the semester by the end of the break!

WARNING: By the end of your awesome spring break you may feel an urge to start a countdown to summer break. Side effects include procrastination, loss of motivation, and an urge to burn textbooks.

The Hardest Part About Studying Abroad

Our planet is beautiful. Everywhere you look you can find awe-inspiring natural wonders, amazing cultural icons, or huge testaments to the brilliance of mankind. I firmly believe that all college students should spend some amount of time studying abroad (if they can afford it). Being immersed in an entirely different culture can be terrifying, but at the same time, it can teach you so much about the world around you. But that’s not even the best part of traveling the world. Learning about others, helping others, and being forced to adapt to new areas can teach you things about yourself that you never would have learned otherwise. For most students the hardest question is actually quite a difficult one: Where should I go? As much as I’d like to answer that by saying you should go everywhere, that advice wouldn’t really be feasible. That being said, here’s my attempt to help any students along with their destination decision.

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Europe: I, myself, would LOVE to study abroad in Europe at some point. I’ve already been to Italy, Greece, and England, myself. An AMAZING advantage to traveling to Europe, is that every country is so close, and every cultural area you could possibly want to see is literally a two hour drive away at most. You can easily just decide that you want to go to the Edinburgh castle in Ireland, even if you’re staying in Italy! One drawback to this, however, is that a short summer or winter session might not be enough for you. I highly recommend staying for a full fall or spring semester to truly experience all that you can. 

Asia: I will start off with a warning. Many cultures and traditions in Asian countries WILL be quite….hard to understand at first. If you’re ever to experience culture shock, it’ll occur when you make the transition between America, and, for example, Japan. I’m not saying this is a bad transition at all! However, for a little while, you probably will feel out of place. The time I spent in Japan was possibly one of the coolest and most interesting, but at the same time, I had NO CLUE what I was doing. If you ever want to experience a culture that is completely different from our own, DEFINITELY go to Asia. I guarantee you will come back with a different perspective on life, in addition to some fun stories!

Africa/Middle East: At this time, unless you’re planning on going to help other people, traveling to this area might not be the best idea. Unfortunately, it’s become dangerous to travel in the Middle East, and being American isn’t exactly the best label you could have. However, nothing helps you grow as a person better than helping others in need. There are many college organizations, such as Engineers Without Borders, that help villages and towns that are suffering. This might be a great way for you to really expand your horizons and do some good for the world!

Just remember, be prepared when traveling abroad! There are lots of resources for inexpensive travel plans for students and tips on traveling safe, so read up! Also, try to learn as much of the language as you can. It will definitely help you, and locals always seem to like it when you actually try to speak their language. Hopefully this will help with any decisions you might be making in the near future!

I would say “Bon Voyage!” but I would never forgive myself for being so cliché.

The Travel Bug: Tips and Tricks for Saving Money Abroad

Lately, I have had the absolute worst case of wanderlust.  Instead of directing my energy towards my senior portfolio like a good little journalism student should, I’m daydreaming about sipping café con leche in Madrid, and sailing the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean in a fabulous white boat.  The travel bug has taken over, and I think it’s here to stay.  That is, until I can afford a one-way ticket to Europe.

Ever since I took my first trip abroad at the age of ten, I have always had a longing to see what that great big world has to offer.  Europe was first, and in the years to follow, I found myself in Asia and Africa, each trip making me more and more eager to travel.  My desire is now at an all time high, but unfortunately, my savings account is at an all time low.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you too have little money, due to something I like to call the poor college kid syndrome.  Luckily, traveling doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, if you do it right.  Consider these money saving tips next time the travel bug comes over you.

1.  Rethink your strategy.  It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a glamorous vacation.  You know, that first class ticket to Paris, expensive hotel suite with a million dollar view of the sparkly Eiffel Tower, and a nightly dinner of caviar and champagne delivered to your room by a handsome Frenchman dressed in a Louis Vuitton tuxedo.  Well I got news for you sister: Your budget won’t even get you past security if this is what you’re expecting!  Remember, you’re there to explore a new culture, not to see how many designer botiques you can visit in a week.  Change your expectations and stay open-minded, and you’ll find an endless number of affordable options!

2.  Try Couch Surfing.  Yes, this really does exist and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Pick a country, or five, and browse thousands of profiles of friendly people eager to host you for FREE in their home.  I know it sounds sketchy, but millions have done it in over 193,000 cities around the world.  The best part?  Instead of paying big bucks to stay in a stuffy hotel, you get to learn all about the cultural and area attractions from a friendly local, and you can spend your money on delicious eats instead! Visit couchsurfing.org to learn all about it!

3.   Booking your flight.  You can never be too prepared when it comes to traveling.  As soon as you start considering a trip abroad, begin checking airlines for flight prices.  Websites like cheapflights.com lets you compare several different airlines to find the best rate.  Look for reservations months in advance, and continue checking back every few days.  As soon as you see a drop in the price, snag that seat.  It’s common for travelers to wait for prices to drop dramatically, and then end up missing out on great deal.  As long as you check those prices regularly, you’ll recognize a price decrease when you see it!

Bon Voyage you world travelers!

New City, New Sites: Salt Lake Travels

When I moved to Salt Lake City for the summer I set big expectations for myself. I was going to be outdoorsy, hike, and climb mountains.

I’ve been here for a month.

I’ve barely seen the salt lake (Does from the plane count?!). I haven’t climbed any mountains. I have hiked or even seen any trails.

I’m clearly lagging behind.

Utah is beautiful—home to parks, mountains and wildlife. A photographers dream! Yet here I am, working full time and missing the “sites”.

Or am I?

I came here for an internship. I should definitely take advantage of the scenery. I have to. But just because I haven’t camped in the mountains doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced some of the best things about being here.

I’ve created a routine.

I go to work. I head to the gym. I shop for groceries. I drive around singing and dancing to Call Me Maybe while looking at the mountains.

Sounds like fun to me.

I will definitely do things more “Utah”. But I think it’s cool that I fit in. I feel like a local—I could really live here. I’m not site seeing or trying to fit everything in all at once.

I’m relaxed. I’m enjoying the scenery, even if it’s from a distance. (It’s hard to miss the landscape—just look out a window!)

Internships are semi-permanent. The work isn’t always fascinating but then again, there’s more to life than your 9 to 5. I’m learning that now by being here.

I know I’ll get around to everything else, but for now, I love the little things—Like making dinner (not from a dining hall), and going to dollar movies, and experiencing the heat, minus sticky humidity!

I have a month left here, I’ll be curious to see what takes priority—the sites, or the lifestyle.

Only time will tell!

When in Italy…go to the Amalfi Coast!

One of the best parts of studying abroad is having the opportunity to travel—even more than you ever anticipated. Different countries, different cities, there are no limits to where you can go if you can find the time. In Florence, there are several agencies to help plan weekend and day trips wherever you can imagine—in and outside the country. After one week in Florence and learning our way around our smaller city, seven of us (among like 100 total) took a three day trip to Amalfi Coast through Florence for Fun. If you’re in Italy and can only take one trip, this is the one I’d recommend.

 After an eight hour bus trip from Florence (this part isn’t so fun, but sleep will make it go faster) and a short night in a hotel, we traveled to Capri via another short bus ride and a 45 minute long ferry. Once off one boat, we quickly got on another for an hour and a half long tour around the island. But at the beginning of our tour, we had the opportunity to enter the Blue Grotto. The grotto is famous for its crystal clear blue waters, made even more special with the boat guides singing opera that echoed off the small cave walls around us. If you’re claustrophobic and considering this trip, I’d carefully consider this part: to get into the grotto, you need to lie on your back or risk losing your head—seriously (well, sort of…it probably wouldn’t come off, but it wouldn’t be a fun injury!). Besides the Blue Grotto, tons of other grottos are around the island with many homes of the famous, like Armani, tucked into the hills. If you’re interested in shopping, walk around the designer stores, like Missoni and Chanel, for the season’s latest. And don’t forget a fantastic seafood lunch at Isidora’s—their spaghetti with clams is to die for.

The following day was all about the beach and Italian shoes! We drove down to Positano, about 45 minutes from our hotel in Sorrento. After trekking down thousands of stairs and all complaining about shaky legs, we immediately headed into La Botteguccia, famous for its beautiful handmade leather shoes. You can customize your shoes however you’d like, with a wide variety of colors and styles—it took forever for all of us to decide! The shoes are higher in price, starting at 45 euro for the most basic design, but it’s completely worth it: the shoes are fitted perfectly to your feet for ultimate comfort—a necessary when walking all over Florence. After an exhausting morning of shoe shopping, we headed to the free beach with black sand that turned into rocks—without our new sandals made yet, our feet got hot, hot, hot! But the Mediterranean has crystal blue water, tons of sea glass to collect, and a mild temperature perfectly suited to counteract the scorching sun.

To round out our long weekend, the group headed to Pompeii first for an intense history lesson. Reading about what happened at Pompeii is bizarre enough. Going there and trying to believe your eyes is even more difficult to grasp. So much, from the original marble floors, a mosaic in the entrance to a now mostly destroyed palace, pottery and even bodies have been completely preserved in almost perfect form. All the ruins were beautiful—even the brothels with strange frescoes of different sexual acts and the stone genitalia to signal these places of the night.

Topping off the amazing weekend, we traveled for another 45 minutes to Mount Vesuvius, or Mount Vesuvio as they call it here. The hike is only about 20 minutes all the way to the top, but what they don’t tell you is you need to make it up pretty steep, soft gravel—no matter what shoes you’re wearing, you’re going to slide a bit on the way up, and definitely on the way down! The views are so worth the effort though. Make sure you have plenty of water and take a bathroom trip before hand (they only have port-a-potties), to stay comfortable during your hike. And definitely don’t grab any of the rocks on your journey, unless you’re ready for some majorly bad juju.

All in all, the Amalfi Coast is a must-see when in Italy. You can’t go wrong with beach time and handmade shoes, that’s for sure!

Summertime: What a Trip!

I love to travel. There is something about taking a trip that gets me so excited. Whether it’s by plane, or train, I absolutely love going places. A trip means one of two things, you get to explore and see a new place that you’ve never been to before, or you get to revisit a favorite spot and revel in memories and past times. Traveling is an automatic win-win.

In fact, truth be told, one of the major reasons why I chose to go to college so far away from home was based on the possibility of adventure and exploring. My college mascot turned out to be the “Explorer”, but that was just a huge coincidence! Every semester I hop on a plane and head to school. Then once classes end, and my bags are packed, I head right back. However, the last two summers have been different.

Instead of staying home, which is a trip in it of itself, I decided to spread my wings a little further and explore some new territory. Last summer I went to London. When I wasn’t working or taking classes I was exploring and taking in everything the city had to offer. This summer I bounced around again. A few weeks ago I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for an internship. It’s completely different than anything I have ever experienced. I’m from Kansas, go to school in Pennsylvania, and had never stepped foot in Utah until this summer. It’s an adjustment, but it’s also an adventure.

The summer is a perfect time to branch from the norm and experience something new, even if it’s just a vacation. You can take a road trip, book a cheap flight, or grab a group of friends and find a new adventure ground. And what’s the best part? You won’t be there forever. School starts in August. You can have your fun, see if you like it, and if not, be back in time for class.

So how do you decide where to go?

Your destination will depend on a couple of things. My travel spots have always been related to work. However, they don’t have to be! If you want to find an internship or job away for the summer, I would recommend searching early. Make arrangements in place that’s new, but also has connections—if you know people there it will at least make your summer transition smooth, and less lonely!

If work isn’t your priority but you’re looking for a summer getaway or fun place to explore, check out the bookstore. Look at books, search websites, and most importantly, check your budget. Does it make sense to road trip with your roommates across the country, or can you pick an equally fun spot closer to home?
Whatever you choose, I advise you use the summer break to your advantage. Once you graduate and pick a place to live it will get harder and harder to take trips and explore for the sake of exploring.

– Ring Queen