How to be Cheap When Traveling Within Another Country

Trav­el­ing can be quite expen­sive, espe­cially when work­ing with a col­lege bud­get. I’ve gath­ered a few tips on how I have tried to save money while trav­el­ing abroad. But fore­warn­ing, this doesn’t work in all coun­tries and all instances.

1. Choose a hotel with com­pli­men­tary services

A travel tip I learned from my mom is to always choose a hotel with a com­pli­men­tary con­ti­nen­tal break­fast and airport-hotel shut­tle. What would I do with­out my mother…

The Hol­i­day Inn Express is fairly well-known for break­fasts as well as a few oth­ers. Tourist areas tend to charge a lot more for meals so a com­pli­men­tary meal can go a long way. Espe­cially if its all-you-can-eat.

The free shut­tle is a big one, even more so if it goes to the city cen­ter where most activ­i­ties will be. It saves a lot of money that might oth­er­wise be spent on a spendy taxi. 

2. Shop at the gro­cery store instead of con­stantly eat­ing out

Eat­ing out is a large part of cul­tural expe­ri­ences, but the food from the gro­cery store can con­tribute to new expe­ri­ences as well and even cost less. Gladys and I decided to gather food from the gro­cery store for a few meals and snacks for the three days we would be at our hotel before the pro­gram started. It costed less than 25 euros for both of us dur­ing the three days and we only ate out once.

3. Wash your clothes in your own hotel room

Since we had a few days in hotels before meet­ing our host fam­i­lies, the lim­ited amount of cloth­ing that we all brought had its fair share of wear. In other words, it needed to be washed… and who wants to spend money on ridicu­lously priced hotel laun­dry ser­vice? We also didn’t want to show up meet­ing our host fam­i­lies and say “Hi it’s nice to meet you, now I have a full suit­case of laun­dry for you to wash”.

The only other (viable) option was to wash our laun­dry our­selves in our hotel rooms (tread lightly on this one because there are mul­ti­ple vari­ables that go into mak­ing this tip suc­cess­ful). Before I left for Spain, I did a whole lot of read­ing blogs, Google searches, Pin­ter­est post­ing, etc. to find the best tips I could. One that I found was to buy single-use Tide pack­ets (good luck find­ing these in the stores because I didn’t). Instead, Gladys and I washed our clothes in the sink and bath tub with sham­poo. Now our mis­takes were 1) we didn’t have much time for them to dry and 2) the ratio for clothes that needed to be hung and spaces to hang these clothes to dry effec­tively were about 10:1. Hence, most of our clothes remained damp for quite some time.

My advice? Try to find sin­gle use laun­dry pack­ets or just use sham­poo, make sure you have enough time and space for your clothes to dry, and don’t wash too many clothes at the same time.

4. Cost-efficient flights

If flights seem to be out­ra­geously priced at your nearby air­port, try fly­ing out of another des­ti­na­tion. Since I live in Wash­ing­ton state, it isn’t a great has­sle to fly out of Van­cou­ver, BC… espe­cially when those flights cost about $300 less (~$850 roundtrip) than those com­ing out of the United States. It was even eas­ier because Gladys lives in Belling­ham which is a lot closer to the Cana­dian bor­der than the Tri-Cities (or even Both­ell) is.

You also really have to weigh your pri­or­i­ties as well. Our trips to Spain and back were both about 30 hours (longer than aver­age) with about 3 con­nect­ing flights and long lay­overs because our flights were so cheap. If I were to do it again, I would con­sider pay­ing a lit­tle extra for a more com­fort­able trip.

5. Apply, apply, apply

Hon­estly, there is no way I could have stud­ied abroad with­out finan­cial aid or schol­ar­ships. For­tu­nately, my finan­cial aid cov­ered the cost of tuition/housing. That just left the travel expenses, insur­ance cov­er­age, food/activities, hotels not cov­ered in pro­gram and some of the mis­cel­la­neous costs. I applied for about 3 study abroad schol­ar­ships for this trip and received one for about $1,600 and the only con­di­tions are that I pro­mote study abroad as a Study Abroad Ambas­sador (talk about my amaz­ing expe­ri­ences abroad and encour­age oth­ers to join? Easy!). With an $850 air­fare, the rest of this really helped me with food and pay­ing part of the pro­gram so I didn’t have to take out as much of a loan.

Schol­ar­ships can be very dis­cour­ag­ing, espe­cially when you are some­one like me who doesn’t receive many. The good thing about study abroad schol­ar­ships is that there is a much smaller pool of appli­cants because not as many stu­dents study abroad and apply for schol­ar­ships com­pared to the larger amount of stu­dents who apply for gen­eral schol­ar­ships. There are even program/location spe­cific schol­ar­ships that give you a shoe-in. Still can’t afford to study abroad but want to travel to another coun­try? Try an intern­ship, work­ing, or teach­ing Eng­lish abroad.

6. Buy travel insurance

One of the best invest­ments I made for study­ing abroad was buy­ing the com­pre­hen­sive travel insur­ance for stu­dents (okay, it was a require­ment to go on the trip but still…). If any­thing, it gave me a piece of mind that if any­thing at all hap­pened I would be cov­ered. And some­thing did hap­pen. I got sick and ended up in the hos­pi­tal for some time. No wor­ries though because every­thing was cov­ered and it only costed $75 (the cost of the insurance)!

8. Nego­ti­ate

Some­thing Amer­i­cans don’t do enough of. Many times we go to a store and think that the sticker price is the only price (which isn’t always nec­es­sar­ily true). Dif­fer­ent coun­tries have dif­fer­ent cus­toms, but I found hag­gling in Spain eas­ier than I ever have else­where. I actu­ally talked a guy down for a back­pack that was $15 to $10 (so proud).

9. Con­vert cur­rency before leav­ing (includ­ing any change)

I learned this one the hard way. I sim­ply didn’t make enough time to go to the bank before leav­ing and thought I would be fine. Boy was I wrong. So much has­sle could have been avoided if I had just con­verted cur­rency before­hand… plus con­ver­sion rates may be more expen­sive in other countries.

10. Find a bank that has the low­est with­drawal fees possible

I heard of some com­pa­nies charg­ing crazy fees for with­draw­ing money abroad. I also didn’t want to carry all of my money with me in fear of los­ing it all and hav­ing noth­ing. For­tu­nately, I had a BECU account and was able to use this abroad with only a 10% fee.

The over­all themes for being cheap in another coun­try is doing your research before­hand and know­ing when to spend a lit­tle more money for protection/comfort. It may not always be the best idea to go with the cheap­est pos­si­ble every­thing because you’ll get what you pay for: cheap. You still want to enjoy your time and feel pro­tected… but if you are some­one whom is okay with that, than by all means go for it!

9/20: Last Day in Cusco

Luck­ily, things were mostly packed from when we left for the Urubamba Val­ley so I didn’t have to do too much in the morn­ing. A big group of us had all agreed to meet at noon to coor­di­nate the rest of the day together. As we waited, I hit up the cafe/bakery next door with three other girls. Sit­ting there, sip­ping on espresso, it was weird to think about going home because it no longer felt like we were in a dif­fer­ent country–Cusco had started feel­ing like home already. I can imag­ine how much stranger it would be if we’d spent a whole quar­ter or half a year abroad.

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I’d been car­ry­ing all this around in my ‘day pack’ for the last month

At noon, we all took taxis to the Plaza de Armas because that’s where all our hos­tels were. Me and 3 other peo­ple were stay­ing at the same place, Pari­wana Hos­tel, so we trav­eled together with all of our stuff. It was a very cool hos­tel with nightly activ­i­ties and lots of cool ser­vices, and I wished I was stay­ing there longer. At 1pm we all met up and some of us went to the mar­ket for more sou­venirs. I went to exchange money then Tris­tan and I took a stroll to find food. We stum­bled on a street fair type event hap­pen­ing in front of the col­lege of sci­ences and we bought chicha to drink. The plan was for every­one to get back together at 3:30 to go to the foot­ball (fút­bol) game that started at 4, but when we got back together we learned that the game had actu­ally been at 11:45 in the morn­ing! The rest of the plan was to watch the Sea­hawks game after­wards at Paddy’s Irish Pub (yes, an Irish pub) so we all just agreed to meet at 7pm for that.

Hav­ing slept barely 4 hours the night before, I went back to the hos­tel for a nap. I got about an hour of sleep in between peo­ple com­ing in and out of the room. At 6:45pm I headed over to Paddy’s, met the group, and we spent the next 4 hours hang­ing out and watch­ing the slightly under­whelm­ing game. I was falling asleep in my seat by the time it was over and promptly returned to the hos­tel to pack my last minute things and get as much sleep as I could. I had to get up before 5am to check out and get to the air­port. It would be weird spend­ing the next day trav­el­ing all by myself but I had grown com­fort­able in Peru and con­fi­dent in my Span­ish. Plus it gave me time to reflect on the last month and get ready to jump back in to my reg­u­lar life again (I’ll never be ready, but who is?). On the 8 hour flight from Lima to Los Ange­les I dis­cov­ered that they had two Bob Mar­ley albums avail­able, which was the music I had been crav­ing the most. It’s funny that being in Peru made me love Bob more than when I was back in Seat­tle. Now this was the per­fect way to send me back home.

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9/19: Last Day of the Program

This time we could see on the train back to Ollan­tay­tambo. Most of the group was asleep, though. I, hav­ing got­ten 7 hours of sleep the past two nights, was able to stay awake. I spent most of the time fin­ish­ing a draw­ing of a man­dala that I had started on the bus ride back from Wayqecha. We got break­fast at a cute cafe that had a poster of Bob Mar­ley so I imme­di­ately liked it. A cou­ple of Colom­bian botanists that had been on the train with us (and appar­ently were also at the pizza restau­rant the night before) walked in to the cafe about a half hour after us–I don’t really have any­thing to say about them but the coin­ci­dence is worth point­ing out.

We got on our friendly bus back through the Urubamba Val­ley and vis­ited a giant white Incan corn farm. The corn is known as giant white corn. Ever buy “Inka corn” from Trader Joes? Well they farm and make it at this place. We heard about Incan agri­cul­tural tra­di­tions, watched the uncanny trot­ting prac­tice of the Peru­vian horse (“the Cadil­lac of horses”) and were sent on our way with bags of dried corn prod­ucts. Next we stopped at Ursula’s parent’s week­end house for an out­door lunch. Again, I ate the left­over pizza from the night before. We had a long dis­cus­sion to reflect on the sec­ond half of the course, and the course as a whole. It was a very empow­er­ing shar­ing of how each of us saw some­thing new in terms of con­ser­va­tion and new ways to be once back at home. As an absolutely per­fect end­ing, the uni­verse and pow­ers that be graced us with the appear­ance of 4 Andean con­dors fly­ing around the nearby cliffs. The Andean con­dor is the world’s largest non-seafaring bird, wor­shiped by the Incas as rep­re­sent­ing the realm of the sky, fea­tured in stat­ues around Peru, and is also incred­i­bly rare due to hunt­ing and poi­son­ing by humans. Basi­cally, it was a really big deal that we saw them. I actu­ally almost cried.

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The Andean condor

As another witty play by the uni­verse, our next stop was a wildlife reha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter for injured and mis­treated wild ani­mals, many of which were kept as pets at one point. There were Andeans con­dors there, too. Up close I was stunned by how truly giant these birds are–they stand over 4 feet tall and have over a 9 ft. wingspan–which we wit­nessed as one of the work­ers chased the birds to get them to fly. All in all, the cen­ter was heart­break­ing to see but is an accu­rate depic­tion of the harsh real­ity that exists between humans and wild animals.

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The mag­nif­i­cent birds in [arti­fi­cial] flight.

On the bus from there to Cusco, we were all in a somber mood. But again fate came around to pro­vide us with the most stun­ning sun­set I’ve seen in a long time. We all got off the bus and with­stood the cold evening air to watch the day change to night. We were mostly silent for the shear beauty of what we were see­ing. The per­fect way to end our program.

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Sun­set on the last day of the Explo­ration Sem­i­nar: from Andes to Amazon

But we weren’t done yet; we still had the last sup­per. We had a lit­tle under an hour at Alfonso to put our stuff down and relax before catch­ing a taxi to Ursula’s brother’s restau­rant. It was a fancy place that played smooth jazz cov­ers of very not-smooth-jazz songs. We had the whole back sec­tion to our­selves which was good because there were sev­eral toasts and speeches (I actu­ally started off the set). We spent almost 3 hours there talk­ing and laugh­ing and gen­er­ally enjoy­ing being all together before going our sep­a­rate ways. But even­tu­ally things wound down and peo­ple started head­ing back to the hos­tel. It was around 10:30pm, and being the last night and all, I was going out dancing.

Oth­ers had gone out on var­i­ous nights and I’d been wait­ing for the last night this whole time. I walked directly to the plaza from the restau­rant to hit the town. It was Latin night at the place we went to, which I was happy about because it fit with being in Peru. The club also had a poster of Bob Mar­ley (brownie points!). That night I danced non-stop for 4 hours and by the time I got back to Alfonso I could barely make it up the stairs because I had no leg mus­cles left. But I made it to my room and spent my last night at Alfonso.


9/18: Machu Picchu

Sur­prise! We all had to be up by 5:15am to pack our lunch, eat break­fast, and catch a bus to Machu Pic­chu by 6am. In the bus line I was stand­ing with Kiley, a fel­low lover of reg­gae music, and he pointed out that one of the Peru­vian work­ers had a hat with the Rasta­far­ian lion of Judah on it. Upon com­ment­ing on it and ask­ing where he bought it (en Español, of course), we ended up telling him we were from the U.S. and were sur­prised and impressed when he responded by list­ing all of the states! He then told us how tourism to Machu Pic­chu has increased from 15 people/day in the ‘70s to the 4000 to 6000 peo­ple that cur­rently visit the park every day. With that stag­ger­ing fact, we loaded the bus for the 20 minute ride up the moun­tain to the site. On the way, we real­ized how truly incred­i­ble a loca­tion we were in.

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Unveil­ing of the Inca ruin

Machu Pic­chu is located on the East slope of the Andes in the cloud forests of the Ama­zon. Although we’d already vis­ited this ecosys­tem on our trip, the unbe­liev­ably sharp cliff faces and tall peaks of the sur­round­ing moun­tains were like we’d never seen before. Our group had hired a tour guide, Hec­tor, to show us around the ruins. He first took us to a ledge to get the shot of Machu Pic­chu that you men­tally pic­ture when you think of it. Watch­ing the clouds slowly reveal the city was mag­i­cal and excit­ing. Hec­tor also explained to us how the ‘Pic­chu’ in Machu Pic­chu is pro­nounced like ‘pic­ture,’ some­thing I had not known before.

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Me and the group get­ting our Machu Pic­chu pic­tures in

After­wards, Hec­tor walked us through the city, giv­ing us anthro­po­log­i­cal infor­ma­tion. Appar­ently every­thing is way cooler if you visit on June 21st, the Win­ter Sol­stice. The tour fin­ished at 11am and we had the rest of the day to wan­der and get back in town in time for din­ner. Kiley and I met up with Luke to go to the two eas­ily acces­si­ble hikes to the Inca Bridge and the Sun Gate which over­looks the ruin. Although the hikes weren’t long, hik­ing up the steep slopes at the 9,000 ft. alti­tude was very hard on my legs. The views were worth it though.

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What most peo­ple don’t real­ize being at Machu Pic­chu looks like.

Also, a sur­prise to us all were the sand­flies. We thought we were done with bit­ing bugs after leav­ing Manu, but we should have never let our guard down. Lots of peo­ple in short sleeves got torn up–I’m glad I stuck with the long-sleeves long-pants pro­to­col. I still got sev­eral bites that swelled up a lot, and even bites from flies that flew up my untucked pantlegs. Lit­tle bug­gers! I felt bad for all the unsus­pect­ing tourists; at least we were used to it.

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Alpacas on the trail to the Sun Gate

There was also the option to hike back down to Aguas Calientes from Machu Pic­chu which Kiley and I did as well, to the cha­grin of my shak­ing calves. On the way we ran into Jen and Ursula who told us about this restau­rant back in town that has the best fries. As we hiked back they sounded bet­ter and bet­ter so we had to stop and get some. The four of us sat and relaxed and ate fries for an hour then headed back to the hotel to shower before dinner.

They had planned a big din­ner at a fancy pizza place–we had to give our pizza orders a cou­ple days ear­lier. Before we got our food, a game of pic­tionary started up with me and Ash­lyn vs. Kiley and Kyle M. It was prob­a­bly  the most fun game of pic­tionary I’ve ever played, with top­ics rang­ing from Ama­zon­ian ani­mals to obscure sports to draw-other-people-in-our-group-using-only-accessories-that-represent-them. At the end of the meal I pro­posed that Luke make a toast. I had heard that the guys had taught him what a toast was and how to ‘cheers’ a few nights before and I thought this was a great oppor­tu­nity for him to try it out. I don’t know if I’ve already men­tioned that Luke is an inter­na­tional stu­dent from China and we took lots of oppor­tu­ni­ties to teach him Amer­i­can phrases and cul­ture, learn­ing Chi­nese (Man­darin) ones in return. Any­way, he made a really beau­ti­ful toast to the occa­sion and to all of us in the pro­gram. After that we all shouted out our own toasts to other things, like no more chig­gers and sand­flies [Cheers!].

That night, sev­eral peo­ple went out danc­ing but I was still very tired and went to bed, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing that we had to leave the hotel by 4:50am to catch our 5am train (remem­ber what I said about 8am being late?). In the mid­dle of the night, how­ever, I was awoken by drum­ming and shouts com­ing from the school court­yard out­side out win­dow. I looked out to see maybe 20 peo­ple per­form­ing a syn­chro­nized rou­tine while hold­ing what looked like short sticks and shout­ing rhyth­mi­cally. I looked at my watch at it read 12:02am… well that’s Peru for you.

9/15–9/17: The Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley of the Incas)

By this point, leav­ing at 8am was con­sid­ered ‘late’ and I had a very leisurely morn­ing as I show­ered, ate break­fast, and packed for our next depar­ture. It was an excit­ing morn­ing because Vic­tor met us and rode the bus out with us to the Urubamba Val­ley. This kicked off the cul­tural por­tion of the pro­gram and our trav­els would take us through the cul­tural his­tory of the Andes, instead of the nat­ural his­tory of the Ama­zon Rainforest.

Our first stop was at a school called Tika­p­ata, which is what is known as a ‘free school’, not because there is no tuition but because the stu­dents (rang­ing from age 7 to 17) are free to choose how their edu­ca­tion goes. The orig­i­nal model came from Barcelona, where it is known as “la casita,” or ‘lit­tle house.’ As some­one inter­ested in inno­v­a­tive approaches to edu­ca­tion that work for every­one, I loved hear­ing Marlise, the woman run­ning the school, talk about the meth­ods and ideas behind the ideology.

But our visit wasn’t just edu­ca­tional (pun intended), we were all given dif­fer­ent projects to work on around the prop­erty, which tra­di­tion­ally is what our group does at the school every year. I chose the task of dig­ging holes so that they could hang four ham­mocks beneath a tree. Every­one said this would be the hard­est job, but I really liked the idea of dig­ging. What I and the other dig­gers didn’t know is that we would have Vic­tor on our team! I swear that man is part machine–he would come by and fin­ish a hole we had started on in min­utes. I was glad to get to work with him and was able to talk with him and hold a min­i­mal con­ver­sa­tion in Span­ish. I learned that to say ‘big rock’ in Quechua is “hato rumi!” Any­way, we fin­ished first and us hole dig­gers went around and helped/chatted with the other groups doing their jobs.

Right before lunch, a group of the younger girls begged us to watch their dance rou­tine which was chore­o­graphed to One Direc­tion. It was adorable. We then all ate a lunch of sand­wiches (I also ate the last piece of the giant pizza from the day before) and watched some of the boys in our group play bas­ket­ball. It got real when Tim jumped in–he and Luke made a great team!

After lunch we con­tin­ued on our way and stopped at the site of an old Incan cas­tle court­yard where Vic­tor would per­form an earth-blessing cer­e­mony. Watch­ing Vic­tor con­duct the cer­e­mony was an honor; my favorite part was when he went to every per­son and jin­gled a bell over their heads and said Quechuan words of good bless­ing and for­tune. The whole cer­e­mony took about 40 min­utes, which was a short­ened ver­sion, as Vic­tor explained.

Last Import - 1The offer­ing to the ‘apus’ (sacred mountains)

We then con­tin­ued to another town where Vic­tor dis­em­barked back to Cusco and we all got checked into our hotel. The Urubamba Val­ley is a big tourist attrac­tion and the hotel we stayed at was nice. So nice, in fact, that I could never fig­ure out at din­ner what to do with all the plates and uten­sils that were on the table. We used our time here to do a quick analy­sis of our data to present to the group, and also 3 groups had to lead dis­cus­sions (mine included) so a lot of free time was spent prepar­ing for that. The way the room­ing sit­u­a­tion worked out, I was shar­ing a room with 2 of the boys, which was actu­ally a ton of fun because I’d felt like I’d mainly only got­ten to know the girls so far (which is under­stand­able con­sid­er­ing there were 10 of us girls and only 5 guys, TA’s not included). We were out of the hotel most of the day any­way but it was cer­tainly a nice place to go back to in the evening. The break­fasts in the morn­ing actu­ally immo­bi­lized me momen­tar­ily because of the shear num­ber of options to choose from. I wasn’t the only one–we were all used to liv­ing on the min­i­mal­ist side of things.

The sec­ond day, we started by vis­it­ing a tra­di­tional women’s weav­ing co-op, some­thing I had been look­ing for­ward to since apply­ing for the pro­gram. I have always been fas­ci­nated by weav­ing and tapes­tries yet know absolutely noth­ing about how it’s done. We didn’t learn that, but we did spend the morn­ing learn­ing about the nat­ural dyes they use to color the sheep and alpaca yarn, and we spent most of the time actu­ally prepar­ing the dyes them­selves. Whether it was from pul­ver­iz­ing twigs for peach dye or lift­ing the huge quan­ti­ties of col­ored yard out of the boil­ing water, I used enough mus­cles that my shoul­ders were sore for the net two days. Expe­ri­enc­ing the process of dying wool gave me a lot of respect for the Quechuan women who do this for a liv­ing to help sup­port their families.

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All of us mak­ing dyes

Nilda, the woman who cre­ated the co-op, is actu­ally world renowned. She has pub­lished three books and led weav­ing work­shops as close to home as Whid­bey Island. I’m going to keep my eye out for those because they sent each of us home with a skein of dyed wool in each of the 7 col­ors we made. We were also given the oppor­tu­nity to buy tex­tiles from the women there and I bought the most beau­ti­ful table run­ner I’ve ever seen. It was 100% alpaca, hand-dyed and hand-woven, and prob­a­bly the most expen­sive thing I pur­chased on the trip, but I couldn’t be happier.

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Our fin­ished prod­ucts hang­ing to dry

Lunch was pro­vided for us and it was the most diverse and abun­dant col­lec­tion of dishes we had seen yet (in eco­log­i­cal terms, it would be con­sid­ered to be a very rich com­po­si­tion of foods). This was also our chance to try cuy, or guinea pig. If they hadn’t brought out the whole, roasted ani­mal first I might have been more recep­tive, but as it was, it was incred­i­bly salty and I didn’t care for it much. Oth­ers, how­ever, did enjoy it a lot. Good for them.

It started rain­ing just as we were leav­ing so we said good­bye to the women and made our way to our next des­ti­na­tion: the salt mines, or salt ponds. Tim told us about how the Incas, or even pre-Incas, were the first to divert the nat­u­rally salted water com­ing out of the moun­tain into ponds to evap­o­rate and leave salt. The two amaz­ing things about this water is that it is some­thing like 60x as salty as the ocean and that it comes out of the moun­tain­sides warm to the touch. The tourist trail walks along the top ridge of the expanse of over 7000 ponds and turns into a trail that goes all the way down to the Urubamba River. Need­less to say, we walked down see­ing some nice views along the way and becom­ing friends with a stray dog and the local chil­dren of the lit­tle vil­lage at the end of the trail. The bus was wait­ing for us there to take us back to the hotel where we had din­ner and also those data pre­sen­ta­tions to do.

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The salt mines reminded me of the Mam­moth Hot Springs at Yel­low­stone National Park

The next morn­ing was my group’s dis­cus­sion so we met after break­fast to pre­pare for that. I also took my last shower at the hotel whose water pres­sure and fine tem­per­a­ture adjust­ment made it hands-down the best shower of the trip, and def­i­nitely up there in all-time best show­ers of my life. Oth­ers agreed. We also were get­ting on a train that night so we packed up and took every­thing out to the bus in what was by then a very famil­iar ritual.

The first stop of this day was at a ceram­ics shop/workshop/museum which fol­lowed designs and prac­tices inspired by all of Peru’s ancient cul­tures. Unfor­tu­nately, I didn’t really enjoy my time there that much because, big sur­prise, I was dehy­drated, and after drink­ing pow­dered Gatorade I was feel­ing bet­ter. I for­got what lunch was that day but I do remem­ber we next stopped at a chicharia (where they make chicha, the tra­di­tional fer­mented corn drink). We received a very quick descrip­tion of the process, tried some chicha, and received din­ner in our Tup­per­wares to eat later. We quickly headed off to the town of Ollan­tay­tambo (“oh-JON-tay-tom-bo”) which is where we’d be catch­ing the train that evening.

Ollan­tay­tambo is a town built between the moun­tains with a sig­nif­i­cant role in the Span­ish con­quest of the Incas. As it is now, there is one road into and out of the town, paved in stone, and the town itself flour­ishes around tourism because it is a main stop on the way to Machu Pic­chu. We arrived with sev­eral hours to spare and the group went together to do a short hike up the moun­tain, but when we got there we weren’t allowed to go up because the trail closed at 4:30pm. Ursula was very sur­prised because it wasn’t that way last year but we learned that just a month ago, a woman hiked up at dusk and slipped and fell to her death, and that’s why they close the trail at 4:30pm now. So I guess that’s fair.

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View of Ollantaytambo

After that, we all wan­dered and a group of us found a cafe with upper bal­cony seat­ing and we stayed there until it was time to meet to catch the train to Aguas Calientes, the gate­way town to Machu Pic­chu. For most of us, the train left at 7:00pm, but four peo­ple had to catch the 9:00pm train, due to our “last minute,” 2-month in advance book­ing of the tick­ets. The ride took 2 hours, and I slept most of it because the night before I drank too much cof­fee and couldn’t get to sleep very well. The train to Machu Pic­chu is all win­dows but since it was dark out we didn’t see the amaz­ing land­scape to which we were entering.


9/13–9/14: Back in Cusco (again)

After mak­ing one last stop inside Manú National Park, we stopped at Pau­car­tambo to look at a museum of the cul­tures that were blended into the very Spanish-Catholic influ­enced town. When we made it back to Cusco in the after­noon, we had the rest of the day off. Unfor­tu­nately for us, it was Sun­day so all of the use­ful places like laun­dry ser­vices and inter­net cafes were closed. Tim and Ursula gave each of us money to go to din­ner on our own so at 6:00pm, Kyle K., Tris­tan, and I met up to head into the Plaza de Armas to treat our­selves. It being our first restau­rant meal in 17 days, we went a lit­tle all-out. If going all-out can be done in a ‘lit­tle’ fashion.

We all shared a big veg­e­tar­ian pizza (since I switched to being veg­e­tar­ian for the rest of the trip) which was a great way to con­serve money; money which Tris­tan and I then used to buy 2 pisco sours each. Kyle bought cheese­cake for dessert and then we went in search of choco­late. We ended up at a cafe where we all bought more dessert and Tris­tan and I got more pisco sours fla­vored with aguaymanto–we didn’t know what it was and it tasted kind of weird. After all this, we caught a taxi back to the hostal and Kyle and I went over to the dif­fer­ent hostal where Tris­tan was stay­ing and we played Span­ish Banana­grams for an hour. Kyle and I soon went back to our own hostal go to sleep.

Need­less to say, my stom­ach was a lit­tle upset the next day, which I mainly attribute to the large amount of sugar I’d consumed–the most I’d had since the pro­gram started. We had all been given a group assign­ment to pick up some items from the mar­ket, but most impor­tant was to drop off our laun­dry to have it done by the end of the day. For this, Kyle and I com­bined forces with another guy in the pro­gram and then she and I hit up the inter­net cafe to let our fam­i­lies know we were alive after being deep in the rain­for­est for 2 weeks.

Most of the group had signed up to get ceviche lunch with Ursula and Tim, but I didn’t really want seafood (or want to break my vow to veg­e­tar­i­an­ism) so I opted out. The four of us not going to the cevicheria instead got lunch together which con­sisted of a meter-long pizza. If that doesn’t sound atro­ciously large, then you should prob­a­bly review your met­ric lengths because it was a ridicu­lous amount of food. There were 4 of us at lunch and by some act of God we fin­ished all but one piece, which I took back with me. After that, my stom­ach was really unsure of itself but the show must go on, and my group had to go to the mar­ket still.

That assign­ment only took us about fif­teen min­utes to com­plete, but we had taken a taxi all the way up to the plaza and all of us wanted to shop around. Over the next cou­ple hours we found var­i­ous mem­bers of our UW group, I ended up buy­ing an alpaca sweater, and we even­tu­ally made it aback to Alfonso to meet up before going to din­ner, which was to be at Ursula’s parent’s house and made with the ingre­di­ents we all bought at the market.

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Ash­lyn and our fresh ingredients!

We made the short walk to the house and spent the next sev­eral hours shar­ing about our pur­chases and actu­ally mak­ing the din­ner itself. Even though we didn’t eat until about 8:30pm, it was a lot of fun prepar­ing all the fresh ingre­di­ents. Unfor­tu­nately, my diges­tive sys­tem still wasn’t in tip-top shape so I couldn’t eat the yummy fruit-flavored dessert. I was also about to fall asleep by the time we all left the house, which was after 10pm. We still had to pack to leave Cusco again but I was much too tired and just went to sleep and wound up pack­ing in the morning.

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Me mix­ing pota­toes and the kitchen cook­ing party

9/11–9/12: Wayqecha

We spent the morn­ing until lunch time at Villa Car­men tour­ing their med­i­c­i­nal herb gar­den where Kyle K. got par­tially stung by a bul­let ant; their sus­tain­able mandala-shaped veg­etable gar­den; the pineap­ple, banana, and water­melon plots where exper­i­ments using biochar were being con­ducted; and finally the oven where they made the biochar itself. By the end, lots of us were tired and dehy­drated and had to pee so I went back to the sta­tion to pack and get ready before lunch. Before lunchtime I bought some seed-jewelry made by local women that I wear all the time, now that I’m home.

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We got a lit­tle bit LOST at Villa Carmen

We then took the bus to the Wayqecha Bio­log­i­cal Sta­tion which was not a long trip at all (just about 3 hours). When we got there, about 10,000 ft. up the moun­tain, I was happy to feel the chill of being at high ele­va­tion again. The sta­tion is sit­u­ated on a hill­side with beau­ti­ful views of the expan­sive rain­for­est. We had a cou­ple hours to relax in our dorms before dinner–all the boys in one room, all the girls in another. It was a lot of fun bunk­ing with all the other girls for two nights.

 Blog 9:11-9:12 - 2Tris­tan enjoy­ing the view

The din­ner they treated us to–as with the rest of the meals, as we’d find out–was fan­ci­ful and deli­cious. The din­ing room was also beau­ti­ful. After din­ner we heard a pre­sen­ta­tion on birds by a researcher stay­ing at the sta­tion. By the end we were all very tired and went to bed. In the morn­ing, we got up before break­fast time to look at the mist nets we’d set up the day before. It was hard hav­ing the whole group there so Kramer took a small vol­un­tary group on a hike on the moun­tain­side trails. We wan­dered for awhile and when we got back for break­fast we were super hun­gry and exhausted. It was weird hik­ing down the moun­tain first, only to have to hike back up it later. Totally the oppo­site of all hik­ing expe­ri­ences here in Wash­ing­ton State.

After break­fast, Tim and Ursula took groups on another hike to look at the nat­ural his­tory of the ecosys­tems of Wayqecha. We hiked back up for lunch, then had a break before our sec­ond (or in my case, third) hike to the canopy walk­way. I took a nap dur­ing this time. The canopy walk­way hike was absolutely beautiful–I think being in the damp, misty elfin for­est was my favorite expe­ri­ence so far. They walk­way itself was a metal path­way sus­pended in the air above a small for­est val­ley. It was rain­ing by the time I got to it and con­tin­ued until we returned to the sta­tion around 5:00pm.

Blog 9:11-9:12 - 6Gath­ered around the break­fast table

Before din­ner, me and two other girls bought pisco sours from the kitchen and the man mak­ing them invited us all into the kitchen to see how it’s done. We also used fla­vored pisco that he makes him­self at the sta­tion with the local black­ber­ries. They were deli­cious! We also had the most delec­table dessert too, which Ursula told me was called ‘leche asada.’ It was bas­cially a souf­fle with the fla­vors of flan.

That night we had two pre­sen­ta­tions after din­ner which ended around 9pm. I used the oppor­tu­nity of being so close to the sky to take more star pic­tures and a group of us spent an hour out­side just goof­ing around with what’s pos­si­ble when tak­ing pic­tures at night. In the morn­ing all the girls got up early to pack before break­fast, which was a glo­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion of pancake-berry stacks and egg sand­wiches. We were given lunch in our tup­per­ware and were sent back on the road to Cusco.

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Wayqecha dur­ing the day

Blog 9:11-9:12 - 4Wayqecha at night

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Me under the stars!


Sep­tem­ber 2, 2015 , Blog by Jamie Voigt,Society Ethics and Human Behav­ior, Inter­na­tional Stud­ies Ire­land & The Hague — Chal­lenges of Inter­na­tional Jus­tice (Explo­ration Seminar)

Leav­ing Seat­tle to embark on a new jour­ney in Ire­land for 21 days. The feel­ings are that of excite­ment and ner­vous­ness. This will be my first inter­na­tional travel expe­ri­ence, and although I feel pre­pared I am sure there will be many things I will encounter than I had not thought about.

In Rome

My class, in Rome con­sisted of only 13 stu­dents, we were a very small group of peo­ple, and because of that all of us really got to know each other and got along with one another really well. Many of the peo­ple in our group took advan­tage of the fact that we were in Italy and had the week­ends off, there­fore we would go and travel on they days we had off. While I was in Italy a cou­ple of class­mates and I decided to go to Flo­rence as well as Venice. There were six of us who decided to got Flo­rence, and nine of us who decided to go to Venice. Book­ing tick­ets for all of us online was quite a strug­gle; we ended up hav­ing to walk over to the train sta­tion and book­ing them in per­son. My over­all expe­ri­ence with trains in Italy was really great, We did run into a few prob­lems, but most of them were rel­a­tively minor. While we were in Flo­rence, we decided that we should make a short trip out to Pisa, because it was only a ten euro train ride, and we thought that it would be worth it, and it was. The only thing was that we hadn’t done our research and thought that it was going to be a short train ride, in a train with AC sim­i­lar to the one that we arrived to Flo­rence in. Though in a way I’m glad that we didn’t do our research before going to Pisa, because if we had I’m not sure we would of gone, because train ride ended up being an hour long and was extremely hot. Although the train ride was uncom­fort­able, it was com­pletely worth it because Pisa was absolutely breath­tak­ing. We had a lot of fun tak­ing pic­tures push­ing up the lean­ing tower of Pisa and explor­ing the square that the tower was located in. Its impor­tant to know the train sys­tem before get­ting on the train, this was a les­son we learned the hard way on our way to Venice. Nine of us decided to go to Venice and on our way to Venice we learned that we needed to get off at the Bologna train sta­tion to catch another train. After we got off at Bologna we had about five min­utes to catch the next train to Venice. We made it to the plat­form with two min­utes to spare, but were then told by peo­ple work­ing at the sta­tion that we needed to go val­i­date our tick­ets by scan­ning them through these machines at the bot­tom of the stairs, oth­er­wise we would end up hav­ing to pay 30 more euros while on the train. The nine of us ran down the stairs and started to val­i­date our tick­ets, my friend Jenny and I saw another machine and decided that we would go val­i­date our tick­ets at the other one, to speed up the process so that we would be able to make the train. Jenny and I were hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties val­i­dat­ing our tick­ets, so a worker came to help us. By the time we fin­ished val­i­dat­ing our tick­ets we looked over and saw that our entire group had already left and were prob­a­bly on the train. We booked it up the stairs and saw that our entire group was on the train, and the train doors were clos­ing. With­out think­ing my friend Vin­cent stuck his arms out while the doors were clos­ing (don’t ever do this, there will always be another train) and Jenny man­aged to grab on and both us were able to board the train. That was prob­a­bly one of the scari­est moments while I was in Italy, but luck­ily one that I can laugh about now. I learned two lessons that day, always val­i­date your ticket and to always stick with the group, even if you think you are being help­ful by sep­a­rat­ing for a lit­tle bit.
While on your study abroad trip I encour­age every­one to travel, and expe­ri­ence the cul­ture the coun­try puts for­ward. Our entire class had a field trip to the Amalfi coast a place that I had never even heard about prior to vis­it­ing it. It was mind-blowingly beau­ti­ful. I defi­antly rec­om­mend going to smaller cities as well as the larger more pop­u­lar ones while study­ing abroad. Addi­tion­ally while we were in Italy our class decided that we wanted to go to a soc­cer game, because soc­cer is huge in Europe. It was a great expe­ri­ence that was very dif­fer­ent from games in the United States; they had an entire sec­tion blocked off for the fans of the vis­it­ing team.
One regret that I have about my study abroad expe­ri­ence is not inter­act­ing with the locals as much as I would of liked to. Because our class got to know one another really well, I think that I didn’t feel as much of a need dur­ing that time to reach out and have long con­ver­sa­tions with the locals. I wish I had spent some more time try­ing to do that, because the peo­ple in Italy were very friendly and approach­able.
A piece of advice that I have for those con­sid­er­ing a study abroad pro­gram is to make sure to be your­self and be open to try­ing new things and experiences.


10/06/2015, Blog by Gur­min­der Sandhu, Com­mu­nity Psy­chol­ogy, Ital­ian Stud­ies / Cin­ema Stud­ies in Italy — Fram­ing Rome

I always knew that I wanted to do a study aboard pro­gram; I just never knew when I would do it and where I wanted to go. My deci­sion to apply for the Fram­ing Rome study abroad pro­gram was spon­ta­neous; one of my good friends was apply­ing for it and sug­gested that I apply for it as well. I had noth­ing to lose and the tim­ing seemed right, there­fore I applied. Apply­ing for the pro­gram was a lit­tle stress­ful for me, because by the time I became aware of the pro­gram; I only had a week left to apply before the due date. Luck­ily I was able to com­plete the appli­ca­tion for the pro­gram in time and was accepted.
After I was accepted into the pro­gram I delayed prepar­ing to leave until I had about a month left. Pack­ing wasn’t as much of a strug­gle that I ini­tially antic­i­pated it to be. Though it was hard to deter­mine how much clothes I should take with me, I ended up pack­ing sum­mer clothes, because Rome was expected to be hot dur­ing the period of time that I was plan­ning on being their I ended up pack­ing a lot of sum­mer clothes. I also packed a cou­ple of light jack­ets. What I failed to pack how­ever was a rain jacket. In late august, early Sep­tem­ber it begins to rain in Rome and I was not pre­pared for that, there­fore I rec­om­mend that when pack­ing for your study abroad to check what the weather is going to like before leav­ing. One of the best things that I packed for my trip to Rome has to be my pair of ten­nis shoes, they were the only pair of shoes that were com­fort­able for the amount of walk­ing I did in Rome, there­fore I rec­om­mend that every­one packs a com­fort­able pair of shoes that they would be able to walk in for a while, espe­cially if they are trav­el­ing to Rome, because the cob­ble­stone roads lead to painful feet by the end of the day. Per­son­ally I think that I over packed, because I ended up need­ing to check in a bag, even though it was only some­what full. This actu­ally turned out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise though, because on my way back from Rome, I had many sou­venirs and presents to bring back for my fam­ily and friends, and ended up using up the extra space that I had in my sec­ond bag to bring all of that back home.
One thing that I was wor­ried about before leav­ing for my study aboard pro­gram was becom­ing home­sick. I tend to be a home­body and very fam­ily ori­ented, there­fore I was con­cerned about how I would stay in touch with my fam­ily. My fam­ily and I ended up com­mu­ni­cat­ing through Face time as well as What­sapp. With these dif­fer­ent meth­ods of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my loved ones at home, I was able to avoid feel­ing home­sick. Addi­tion­ally there was so much to see and do in Rome, there­fore I would keep myself busy to avoid feel­ing home­sick.
A con­cern for many when con­sid­er­ing if they want to have a study abroad expe­ri­ence tends to be money. Study abroad pro­grams can get expen­sive, but with the help of finan­cial aid and schol­ar­ships, it becomes afford­able. There are many schol­ar­ships that are aimed at stu­dents that are plan­ning on study­ing abroad; some are based on GPA, and oth­ers on finan­cial need. I rec­om­mend vis­it­ing the study abroad office, and meet­ing with an advi­sor, so that they can help you select which schol­ar­ships apply towards you. From a finan­cial stand­point it is com­pletely pos­si­ble to com­plete a study abroad pro­gram with