It was once said by my favorite author, Paulo Coelho, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Ever since I was a child I wanted to explore this world to see what’s out there. Luckily, thanks to StudentUniverse, I won a life-changing free spring break trip from the Spring Break Bingo Contest!
As college graduation was nearing, I figured now would be the ideal time to follow my dream of traveling the world. On May 11, 2017, I graduated from Hawaii Pacific University. Five days later I embarked on the most amazing and interesting trip of my life. Because of StudentUniverse and their Spring Break Bingo Contest, I won a free spring break trip to Europe! This included a roundtrip flight to Madrid as well as $300 for accommodations. Now I’ll take you on a highlight reel of my 24-day journey across Europe!
The Trip of a Lifetime
I landed in Madrid at 11 am local time after two red-eye flights. This was my first time traveling solo so it was important to be mentally prepared for the language barriers. It was also a bit of a cultural change coming from Hawaii. Fortunately, after using the limited Spanish I knew, I figured out the Metro and made it to my hostel. I spent a total of three days in Madrid during which time I visited the Prado, numerous cafes and explored the city. Fortunately, it was International Museum Day on the day I decided to tour the Prado so I managed to get in there for free… common theme? The city also has the beautiful Retiro Park with lush gardens and a calm body of water overlooked by a glorious monument where I was able to relax a little bit.
Low and behold, my friend from University was also in Europe, so I messaged her and suggested we meet in Ibiza. I sent her a picture of the price of airfare from Paris to Ibiza and the next message I got was a screenshot of her flight confirmation. That’s someone you want to keep in your life, folks.
Fast forward two days when I catch a flight to Ibiza to enjoy the island life I have grown accustomed to. My friend and I planned to meet up later on when her flight arrived. To enjoy my brief alone time in Ibiza, I walked to the beach, relaxed, ate a few sandwiches and read. The following day, we went to a neighboring island, Formentera via ferry. The entire six hours in Formentera were spent at the beach. No surprise there because this was the most beautiful beach I have ever experienced. That’s saying something coming from Hawaii! The next day we rented a car and drove around the island of Ibiza. This was a blast as we drove with no set destination in mind, rather stop when either desired. We hit all the coasts of this stunning island and it was amazing. Believe it or not, we didn’t have the energy to go to a club in Ibiza! However, that’s a valid excuse to go back, right?!
Next Stop: Italy
Hello, Italy! We took a tour bus around the city which I highly recommend as Rome is an enormous city. During this tour, we explored Vatican City, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain (got our Lizzy McGuire on) and the Spanish Steps. When in Rome, we sipped wine, ate endless pasta and gelato and enjoyed the small city parks. On the third day in Rome, we had to say our farewells as I continued my journey to Florence. Fret not, we are to meet again in the days to come. In Florence, I explored the Piazza Del Duomo, Piazza San Lorenzo, Piazza Della Repubblica, Piazza Della Signoria, and Ponte Vecchio. The succeeding day consisted of seeing the renowned Statue of David at the Accademia Gallery and sipping wine at the Piazza Michelangelo. As I watched the sunset at Piazza Michelangelo I kept thinking to myself, “I really won a free spring break trip like this?!” It was a surreal feeling. On my third day, I woke up bright and early and hopped on the train to Venice.
I only had two days in Venice so I wanted to make the most of my time there. After arriving, I immediately got a pizza and began my exploration of this magical city. To make the pizza eating experience as glorious as possible, I, of course, had to eat along the main canal. Later, I met up with my friend from Florence and after spending 8+ hours in the city, I called it a night so I could make it to the train to Milan the next morning.
Milan, Italy was next. Here I met up with my friend from Hawaii. We arrived ready to inhale one pizza each (shocker), so we sat down at a pizzeria next to our Airbnb. Lucky for us, they gave us free limoncello shots which turned out to be a great decision at 3 pm! There’s also incredible, and I mean INCREDIBLE cafe in Milan called the Crazy Cat Cafe. We really enjoyed our food there and then had to part ways since my friend had to fly home the following day. May the solo trip commence (once again)!
This city was beautiful complete with a long stretch of beach, endless sunshine and warm weather. Here, I went on a free city tour (I highly recommend searching for these in each city you visit). During the tour, I made some new friends so we decided to take a bike ride along the French Riviera. With my new friends, I explored Monaco as well as a three-hour hike along the coast to Villefranche-sur-Mer. This hike wasn’t complete without a tub of ice cream so we went to the market afterward and shared a tub. Exploring a new city with new friends was an unexpected experience but one that I loved.
Lastly, I took a flight to Amsterdam and met up with none other than… my father! In this lively, modern city we did many things. One of the most notable was walking through the Red-Light District! ‘Nuff said. This is definitely a place to put on your bucket list. We also went to the Heineken Experience which fulfilled our obligatory international father-son brewery visit. While in Amsterdam, we took a day trip to Bruges, Belgium. This town was small, yet historical as it’s one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Sharing this experience with my Dad was extra special. After a few fun-filled days in Amsterdam, this European spring break trip had come to an end.
Thank you to StudentUniverse for fulfilling a life-long dream of mine by giving me this free spring break trip through the Spring Break Bingo Contest. I had the best time of my life and will always hold on to the countless memories I made!