Learning a Language Through Immersion

PC: rawlangs.com

For most of us, language class during high school was a chore. I took two years of Spanish while I was in high school, during which I felt like I was mastering the language. Fast forward five to six years and I feel like I can only remember about 20% of what I learned. How could so much time studying a language result in such a small vocabulary? I believe much of it has to do with the environment in which we learn.

When I was chose to study abroad in Brazil, I knew zero Portuguese. I didn’t even really know what a Portuguese accent sounded like. I bought a small book by Lonely Planet hoping that the series of plane rides would be long enough to allow me to learn the basics of the language. Although helpful, I soon found out that what I learned from my book didn’t help much in the real world. Sure I knew how to say what things were (car, restaurant, school, etc.) but I was unable to properly place those words into coherent sentences. It wasn’t until I began traveling the country that I truly began to understand the language that surrounded me. In a few weeks of being immersed in the language, I was able to strike up a conversation with locals and make my way around a grocery store. When it was time to head back to that states, I was completely able to navigate myself around the city and through the busy airport.

And as I type this blog, I am still able to speak Portuguese just as well, if not better than I could while I was there. Because I was forced into cultural situations where I needed to learn a language quickly, I can connect certain memories to times where I learned phrases. For example, I learned how to order food and drinks at the local bar, I learned how to shop and barter at the city flea market, and I learned common phrases while hanging out at the beach with locals. These physical memories help me put a location to when I learned something new in Portuguese and allow me to remember phrases I otherwise would have forgotten.

Of course there are plenty of good products on the market to help get you started with learning a new language as well. The most common product is Rosetta Stone, which actually allows you to speak to a live person in another country. Rosetta Stone will unfortunately set you back a few hundred dollars. To continue my Portuguese, I have been using Duolingo, which is a free and very well designed app. Whatever path you choose to learn a language, make sure you immerse yourself in the culture at some point in your life! You will find that it is the greatest way to learn and remember a countries language.

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How to keep the travel bug alive

Photo Credit: dawnkealing.com

I became introduced to traveling at a young age, which I am very grateful for. It started with camping and road trips across the United States and eventually evolved into more elaborate trips abroad. I cherished the road trips my family took me on because it taught me the importance of leaving “home” and experiencing a new area. At the age of fourteen, my family traveled to Europe where we visited the U.K, Italy, Switzerland, and France. This was the point in my life where the light switch flipped on: I love to travel. I loved the feel of being in a new culture and embracing a land that was vastly different from my home in the mountains of northern California.

So now the travel bug was embedded and all I wanted to do was see the world. As I got older, I realized that traveling takes a lot of two things; time and money. When you work a 40 hour a week job, it can be hard to find the time to take that dream trip you’ve always wanted. I am currently struggling with this problem as well, but have found ways to help motivate myself to continue chasing my travel passion. For people who are ready to take the real plunge, check out this blog for some great motivation on leaving the corporate world behind..

1. Create a travel fund.
This was something that my girlfriend actually showed me and is an option supplied by most employers. I created an account for “adventures” at my main bank where a certain percent of my weekly paycheck automatically gets deposited to. This means I don’t have to worry about transferring money over when I get my paycheck and I am less likely to spend it on frivolous items. This money is available for me to spend whenever i feel like going on a trip.

2. Take worthwhile vacations.
This means that you need to completely break away from your work life and enjoy yourself wherever you are. If you are constantly on your phone for work, do your best to turn off your email. Visit places that have a different feel and culture than where you live.Small worthwhile trips relieve stress and can help as a bandaid for the giant travel itch. For some cool cities to visit, check out this article.

3. Motivate yourself to make a change
If you feel stuck in a rut at your current job, actively look for a job that fits your lifestyle and travel wants. Remember to work to live, not live to work. Another alternative is saving up enough to take a long 6 month-1 year trip in between jobs. And as always, change takes effort!

Have any other ideas on how to keep the travel bug alive? Comment below!

How backpacking can help organization

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I think we can all agree that organization is pretty dang important. It lowers stress levels, helps us become more productive, and raises the overall quality of our lives. That said, I have never been a very organized person. During college I probably wasted a good amount of time on homework searching through binders, looking for the right notes. It wasn’t until I started my first real job that I realized how important organization actually is. Before, my lack of organization just made my life a little more difficult. Now my time spent searching for things equals money; which is not a good thing to waste.

So how can we improve our organization skills? I’m sure there are plenty of life tips telling you use a planner more effectively or to place items back exactly where you found them, but none of these tips are very fun. If only there were a way to combine the outdoors and organizational learning skills…

That’s where backpacking comes in! And even camping for that matter. Backpacking helps train the mind by forcing it to think ahead and plan accurately. For example, when I go backpacking, I lay out all my gear the night before so I can make sure everything is accounted for. I will sometimes create a checklist if the trip requires more gear than normal. Consequently, I have learned to create checklists for large projects at work. This helps me remember what tasks I have already completed (items packed) and what tasks I still need to do (items that need to be packed).

Planning out food rations is another key aspect of backpacking that requires organizational skills. If you want to be extra prepared for the trip, you could always pack more food than necessary and deal with the heavy pack, but not everybody wants to carry those extra pounds. In order to maximize calories consumed and minimize weight, meals must be strategically thought out. You pack out what you pack in, so planning for waste is just as important as the food itself. Planning out my meals for the trip helps train my brain to organize small daily activities such as short projects or organizing weekend agendas.

Backpacking also helps with the obvious skill of cramming a bunch of items into a small bag. This is not so much an organization skill as it is a willpower skill, but it’s helpful nonetheless. Do you have any other ideas on how backpacking, camping, or travel has helped you organize? Comment below!


Stepping out of your comfort zone

credit brackenfellpersonaltrainer.com

If you absorb anything from my blog, I hope it’s the concept of stepping out of your comfort zone. I believe that stepping out of our comfort zones is the greatest skill that travel can teach us.Robert Quinn, author of Building the Bridge as you Walk on itdescribes this concept as adaptive confidence. Quinn states that, “The practice of adaptive confidence means that we are willing to enter uncertain situations because we have a higher purpose and we are confident that we can learn and adapt as we move forward.” Nothing helps us reach adaptive confidence like traveling.

By entering the unknown, we let go of the rational side of our mind and let the emotional side take control. This is when we are able to accept the new skills that travel is trying to teach us. I have been on a few trips that made me step out of my comfort zone, but the greatest learning experience for me was my time in Brazil.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I studied abroad in Brazil for a summer during my undergrad. I didn’t know the language, area, culture, and I didn’t travel with anybody that I knew. It was my first time traveling alone and I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was forced to make friends with people at the university and other students in my study abroad program. The fact that I didn’t have any of my at home comforts such as T.V., playstation, friends, or cellular data made me more open to random excursions. If somebody came to my apartment and asked if I wanted to do something, my answer was almost always “yes.”

At one point in my trip, my friend Dan and I hopped onto a bus, not knowing where it was going (since we couldn’t understand what the driver told us). We got off when the bus was near a beach and ended up having an awesome day with a few local students who were there surfing. To this day, I am still in contact with the people I met on that beach.

So get out there and step out of your comfort zone, it truly is where the magic happens.


The Wonderful World of Winter


For many people, winter is the worst time of the year. They just want to fast forward to ice-cold lemonade and poolside sunbathing. Being born and raised around the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I have come to love and accept all that winter has to offer…well maybe not all, but most of it. Don’t let cold weather keep you from getting outside! Here are a few ideas to help get your adventure started.

1.  Snowboarding/Skiing

I have been snowboarding since I was eight and it is by far my favorite winter activity. If there are snowy mountains, then there is probably a ski resort nearby. If you are new to the sport, most resorts will have rentals available and beginner lessons available for 1 hour, half day, or full day increments. Snowboarding has taught me great lessons in self-discipline and is a great sport to invest in. If you’re just starting, don’t give up after the first lessons! After a few months on the slope you’ll be glad you stuck with it.

Snowboarding at Mt. Rose, NV

2. Snowshoeing

If you have been reading my blog, then you know that I have already gone snowshoeing a few times this season. Snowshoeing a great way to experience the snow and wildness at a relatively low cost. Hiking the trails is free and a good pair of snowshoes can be rented for around $25 a day. There are more trails than I care to count around Lake Tahoe so you never have to do the same hike twice!

3. Snowmobiles

Snowmobiles are a great way to see a lot of land in a relatively small amount of time. Although a bit pricey, snowmobile tours and rentals are available around most major mountain ranges. Tours are great for beginners since they follow common trails where the risk of getting stuck is minimal. And trust me, getting a 450 lb machine unstuck out of fresh powder is not a fun experience. Around Lake Tahoe you can rent snowmobiles at laketahoesnowmobiling.com or zephyrcove.com

4. Ice skating and Ice fishing:

When extreme activities like skiing and snowmobiling are a bit overwhelming, it’s time to hit the ice. Ice skating is a fun event for all ages that is relatively cheap and always a good time. Can you remember the last time you saw somebody angrily ice skating? Yea me neither. Ice fishing is another great relaxing activity that is fun for both kids and adults. Just make sure you have the right ice auger and gear, otherwise this relaxing event could turn into a stressful day on the lake.

Winter can offer amazing opportunities to go outside and explore, so don’t let the snow keep you inside! Have a favorite winter activity? Comment below and let me know!


Studying Abroad

credit: nytimes.com

One of the most beneficial things I have ever done in my life is study abroad. In 2013 I decided (somewhat on a whim) to spend the summer abroad in Brazil. I didn’t have friends that were going with me and I knew I would have to take out a fairly large loan to afford it, but in a way I knew it was something I needed to do. As my blog progresses, I will be pulling many stories from my time in Brazil, but first I think it’s important to understand the concept of studying abroad.

If you ask somebody who studied abroad in college, “what was the best thing you did during those four years?” I would guess that around 99.99% of the answers will be “studying abroad.” After my time in Brazil I can say with confidence it was the best thing I did while obtaining my undergrad. Once you have decided that you want to take on the challenge of living in another country, the first step (and arguably the most important) is deciding your country of study. I chose Brazil based on three criteria: my Portuguese heritage, the amount of outdoor activities that Florianopolis had to offer, and the available classes. If you are an outdoor person, maybe a major bustling city isn’t the perfect place for you to study.

Another important thing to think about is cultural immersion. Studying abroad in a country like Brazil or China will have a much larger culture shock than countries such as the United Kingdom or Australia. There were numerous students in Brazil with me who couldn’t handle the cultural difference and rarely left their apartment. I always lean more toward the “just go for it!” mindset because I believe cultural immersion is important but it’s definitely something to think about when planning. Wherever you go, keep an open mind when it comes to change and be ready to go out of your comfort zone.

Another tip I would give for studying abroad is to go alone. It might seem scary but I am completely sold that it is the best way to experience another country. Don’t get me wrong, exploring Germany with three of your best friends will probably be a great trip that leaves you with fond memories, but there are vast differences in group and solo travel. Traveling without friends truly pushes you out of your comfort zone and into a new culture. It forces you to interact with strangers and locals that you otherwise might not have talked to.

I could probably write ten pages right now about studying abroad but that will have to wait. If you are still deciding on whether or not you should study abroad, just remember that opportunities like these wont be around forever. So get up, walk to you nearest study abroad consortium, sign up, and prepare to have the time of your life.

Have an opinion on studying abroad? Comment below!

How Traveling Helps Time Management

credit: womackcompany.com

In one of my previous blogs, I stated that many of the trips and adventures I have experienced have helped me in daily activities. One of those crucial activities is something we all have to deal with; time management. Now I am not claiming I am a time managing wizard, but I have definitely improved my time management skills through activities like backpacking, road trips, and airline travel.

As a kid, my parents were pretty good at teaching me time management. Through extracurricular activities, like sports and guitar lessons, I learned that people who show up on time make good impressions. As I grew older I learned that time management is more than just showing up somewhere at a specific time. Complicated projects at work and long road trips all require some form of time management forecast. One of the most important concepts that I learned through travel was strategically planning out certain events to give me the most rounded trip possible. Now some may argue that trips are not meant to be planned out, they are meant to be spontaneous and fun. This is true to a certain extent but in my experience, it is totally acceptable to do both. Plan out day trips in advance but leave room for spontaneous adventures. I digress…Planning trips like these help grow the skills necessary for planning ahead. Anticipating the amount of time something will take or forecasting the length of a project is absolutely crucial in a professional career.

Recently, my girlfriend and I took a trip to Maui. We had certain set events planned out so we knew that we had to plan day trips around those. We sat down one night and outlined some of our trips based on the estimated travel time and amount of things to do at the destination. By doing this, we were able to see nearly everything the island had to offer and always made it back to our pre-planned evening events. And to all you spontaneous trip people out there, yes, we left three days for miscellaneous adventures. Backpacking is another great way to learn how to estimate time. You can set a goal, lets say its reaching the base of a certain mountain by nightfall, and plan out your day accordingly so that you meet said goal. This concept can be applied to almost any project that requires individual tasks.

We will all deal with time management at some point in our career so next time you go on a trip, think about how you can use your planning skills in other aspects of your life. Have any examples of how traveling helped you manage time? Comment below!