As promised, I am back to share with you the second day of our Istanbul adventure that we went on a few weeks ago. Anytime someone asks me to share with them about the trip, I just get so happy that I can hardly stand it ~ Istanbul was definitely a picture perfect trip, down to every cup of Turkish tea I drank and every plate of kebabs that I ate.

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When we woke up, we jumped on a Big Bus which was able to take us all over Istanbul. I really liked the aspect of it that you could hop on and off all over the city, even in some really far away locations.

The views that we say from this bus were just unexplainable. The Bosphorus Straight is beautiful, and it was also quite a great feeling to be in Europe in one moment and in Asia the next!

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Isn’t it just an incredible picture! This was just a picture I took from the bus window but I think, just a bit, it captures the color and beauty of some of the sights we say.

Next, we visited Taksim Square, a district of shopping, restaurants, and hotels that was tons of fun to explore. One of my favorite parts about it was to see all the different consulates of the different countries in this neighborhood. We went into the cutest coffee shop, TWINS Coffee Roasters, and heard about six different languages being spoken there, which was a really cool thing to hear. If you ever have the chance, head to this coffee shop when you are in Istanbul. It is perfect.

And, to end such a perfect trip, we cruised along the Bosphorus Straight in a boat that allowed us to take in the sights and sounds of traditional Turkish folk and belly dances as well as an incredible dinner. All that being said, I wouldn’t have needed all of the extra pizazz to be able to realize how incredibly beautiful Turkey really is at face value. Honestly, the culture and the people will overwhelm you with kindness and beauty, so much so that a lot of extra costs aren’t even really necessary because of how vibrant everything is.

Even though I’ve travelled many different places in life, I am really learning a lot about myself lately. I really connect with places with a vibrant, explosive culture, especially ones that have a rich history behind it as well. This is what I found in Istanbul and I am so glad for the opportunity to visit here! I’m already planning what I want to do the next time I visit!

Much love,

Olivia

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January 4th, Josh and I left for Istanbul, which was our layover city before arriving in Alicante.

Istanbul has always been at the top of my “must see” list, along with places like Norway, Brazil, and Italy. Upon landing in the Istanbul airport, I got so excited to see the incredible mix of cultures all in one place that really is quite the melting pot! The architecture, culture, and incredibly genuine people are just a few things that make Istanbul a one-of-a-kind place.

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From the moment that we put all of our things in the hotel and left to explore the city on the first night, I was obsessed. Istanbul ranks so high on my list of favorite places, I discovered even on the first night.

Since it was pretty late at night, we really only had time to grab a late dinner of kebabs and then found a great place for Turkish delights, where I ate waaaaay more than my fair share! Eating Turkish Delights was something that was on my Istanbul bucket list so this was perfect way to finish our first night.

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The next morning, we found a delicious bakery to have some pastries for breakfast and began exploring the city. We made our way to Sultanahmet Square, the heart of the Old City, filled with some incredible things that we were able to do for the rest of our day.

We decided to first visit the Blue Mosque, which went under construction starting in 1609. It really stands out in the Istanbul skyline because of the six minarets {towers that summon the calls to prayer and are echoed throughout the entire city} that the mosque features, as well as the 20,000 blue tiles that line the ceiling.

I was completely overwhelmed at the vast beauty of the mosque and how completely beautiful it was. It was quite an incredible experience to be there with Josh, stand back, and take it all in.

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After touring the Blue Mosque, we headed to the Aya Sophia, a former Byzantine church that was converted into a Ottoman mosque, and is now finally a museum. Like the Blue Mosque, it was just one of those moments standing inside where I just felt completely in awe of the beauty all around me.

Most of all, it was such a fun feeling to be able to explore such a different city, because knowing hardly anything about Istanbul almost made it all the more exciting, because I had no idea to expect at every turn.

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After the Aya Sophia, we explored the Grand Bazaar, a partially open-air market and indoor market where all kinds of vendors sell goods to locals and tourists alike. It was so much of a sensory overload, as we took in bright sights everywhere, a new language being spoken everywhere we went, and the smells of new foods and spices floating through the air.

I can’t tell you how much fun this day was, especially for me, someone who eats up beautiful architecture and rich history.

After finishing this, we had the incredible opportunity to visit a rug store where I actually was able to learn the Turkish style of making rugs, and was able to put several knots into a rug that, once completed, the store will sell one day! It was so fascinating to see the long, arduous, yet beautiful process of making a rug, and it opened my eyes so much to why rugs are worth the prices that they are. Some of these rugs take years to complete, even while the artisans spend long days working on them. This experience was accompanied by Turkish tea (as most of our experiences this trip were usually accompanied with). I could almost replace my coffee addiction with Turkish apple tea, I love it so much!

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The second day in Istanbul held even more adventures that I can’t wait to share with you! Stay tuned to check out my Part Two post coming to the blog soon!

Much love,

Olivia

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For as long as I can remember, I have had such an adventurous spirit, full of curiosity, exploring, and wandering. My longing to travel can never be satiated and I always have my head in some kind of travel book or magazine, planning the next thing. So, when I began planning this adventure, I couldn’t help but just constantly look forward to the day I left to start my semester abroad. Now, as I type this, it is real life. This is my daily reality. I can’t wait to share with you little excerpts about my daily life + I was also dying to share these photos with you that my beautiful friend Katie of Katie Prestemon Photography shot right before I left for Spain. They have to be some of the most perfectly descriptive photos of my burning desire to be a forever wanderer.

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January 20th. Wow. It seems like I’ve simultaneously been here for about a day and also a year. It’s one of those weird feelings where you can’t believe you were home in the U.S. just mere weeks ago, yet there is still so much to see and to learn.

Let’s take it back a bit, though.

Today, as I type this, I am sitting in one of my new favorite sidewalk cafes here in Alicante, Spain. The weather is a sunny 67 degrees, so it’s absolutely heavenly, especially in comparison to the snowstormy weather that St. Louis is getting hit with currently. Most of my friends even went to play volleyball at the beach today, if that puts this new life into perspective for you at all.

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Josh and I arrived here by way of St. Louis to Istanbul to Madrid to Alicante on January 8th after a few days of adventuring in Istanbul (A city guide of Istanbul is in the works of coming to the blog ASAP, I promise!). It was quite the long travel journey but it felt so good to settle in to the city and get a little more acquainted with our surroundings. The first weekend we were here, we stayed in a hotel near the Mediterranean in order to have our orientation for our program with all the other Mizzou students. That was a perfect amount of time because not only did we get a lot of real life lessons from our program directors but we also really got to bond with all the other students on the trip. I can already tell that this experience is going to bring with it some lifelong friends!

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So far, I have attended a week and a half’s worth of classes at my new school, La Universidad de Alicante. I love the abstract architecture and modern sculptures that grace the front lawns of each building, and I can’t wait until the weather gets a little bit warmer so I can spend my free afternoons studying in the grass.

For three hours every morning, I go to my Spanish intensive which is a classroom filled with students from around the world {specifically in my class I have met people from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakstan, Turkey, and Japan}. It’s a wonderful mix of people all here for different reasons, but with one goal in common ~ to become better Spanish speakers. It has already been such a great experience because the learning never truly ends. One minute, you’re learning grammar lessons in class, but the next minute, you’re outside walking on the streets, utilizing those same lessons you just learned. I am forever grateful for this opportunity to practice my language skills, because immersion is to me, so much more fulfilling than sitting in a classroom in Missouri and trying to retain this information for long periods of time.

After I get done with Spanish classes in the morning, I head home for comida, which is the word in Spain for lunch. After eating comida with my absolutely wonderful host family, I have the afternoons free for homework, exploring, coffee dates, or…my favorite part of the Spanish lifestyle, siestas. Let’s just say that I can’t be trusted to take a siesta usually though, because the typical one hour siesta usually turns into a four hour one for me…

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Around 9pm, we eat cena (dinner). I absolutely love the dynamic of our family…my parents are both from Buenos Aires, Argentina, but now live in Spain, running their own travel agency right down the street from our apartment. They have five children, two of whom still live in the house. My two host sisters that live here are 13 and 15 and they are just super great to hang out with. I can’t believe their home, either. Since it is located right in the city center, it is an apartment, but unlike any apartment I have ever before seen. It is basically an entire floor of an apartment complex, with five bedrooms and two bathrooms, a huge living room, and a beautiful porch overlooking the city.

I went into this semester with a lot of high hopes, to be honest. Since I’ve arrived, I’ll be honest, I’ve had a few breakdowns. Unfortunately the first week I felt homesickness, which is something that I had never before experienced, so I didn’t exactly handle it as well as I could have. Several other situations definitely caused me to realize that not everything is going to go 100% to plan. However, it is absolutely up to me to make the most of every situation and realize that even if, in the moment, something seems frustrating, I have the power to turn it around.

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At risk of continuing to ramble on and on, I am going to sign off. But, I hope that you enjoyed hearing about my current living situation. Josh sent me a photo of a quiz he was taking the other day and it asked which country he resided in. It honestly is quite surreal to have the opportunity to answer that question with Spain.

Thanks for following along on this crazy ride and I can’t wait to share every piece of this journey here! Stay tuned.

Mucho amor (much love),

Olivia

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Hello lovelies!
Today I have the honor of posting over at The Root Collective, a company very near and dear to my heart. Bethany, the company’s founder, and I connected when I was living in Guatemala and we both understood each other’s hearts for the country as well as fair trade fashion. I would definitely encourage you to go check out the site and also read my post (which you can find HERE).
If that’s not enough to get you excited, just look at the beautiful ballet flats that were handcrafted in La Limonada, an extremely poverty-stricken area of Guatemala City. Bethany, along with the rest of her team at The Root Collective are shining the light of hope into an area that otherwise hadn’t seen too much of that. I’m so excited to be guest posting today & can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
Much love and xoxo,
Olivia
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Several weeks ago, I returned once more to Guatemala for a wedding for my dear friends Celina and Eleazar. The two of them are so in love, so I had been counting down the days until their wedding for as long as I can remember. Well, the day finally came and August 16th, these two got married. Eleazar had asked me to be the official wedding photographer, so I thought I would share some of the photos of their beautiful day with you. A Guatemalan wedding is unlike anything I had ever experienced, so I am so, so grateful that I was given this experience to know what a Guatemalan wedding consisted of. Here is basically a play-by-play of the day…

First, an unbelievable amount of decorating, vegetable chopping and tamale making took place. Side note ~ I learned how to make tamales and made 117 in one day. That was a proud moment for me! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Next, the groom’s family all walked to the bride’s house, where we all stayed for around an hour. There, the bride and groom shared some sweet stories and the bride gave the groom’s family gifts. After this, we all walked to the church where Celina and Eleazar got married! The ceremony was over two hours, but although very lengthy, it was the sweetest thing I have ever been a part of. Not only did they share more stories about how the Lord brought their relationship to be, but they even sang a love song to each other. Let’s just say that many guests shed some tears (yes, this means me!). After the ceremony, we all walked to the reception where everything was beautifully decorated and ready to go! There was confetti and flower petals everywhere!

 

 

SO many family members were there to congratulate Celina and Eleazar…we think around 400 people in total were in attendance! That is one large wedding!

 

 

 

Probably my most favorite part about the wedding was that there were mini hot air balloons that said “Celina y Eleazar” that we all kept lighting and sending up into the sky. It was the most unique thing ever! There was also a worship band for the beginning of the evening that was playing, and then a mariachi band came to end the evening. Even though I’ve been to several exquisite weddings for friends here in the United States, this was hands down the best. What an incredible experience! If you ever get the chance to go to a wedding in a different country, do it. Do it. I can’t encourage you enough to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and try the experience!
 Much love,
Olivia

 

 

 

 

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