Living in eastern Europe has been an incredible experience. I have traveled to many places and have learned so much from my experiences abroad. As my days in Portugal come to a close, and I look to continue onwards; I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate all of the ‘Onwards’ photos we have taken thus far! Enjoy!
Author Archives: Mike
Pura vida, a characteristic Costa Rican phrase, literally means ‘pure life’, with other connotations suggesting translations such as ‘full of life’, ‘this is living!’, ‘going great’, or ‘real living’. It is something you will hear at every waking second if amongst local Costa Ricans and is somewhat uplifting to experience such a lighthearted and kind culture.
Costa Rica is a very interesting country — it has everything from mountains and volcanoes to rain forests and white water rapids (not to mention the extensive beauty of its landscapes). The country has a strong emphasis on education and anyone who visits the country can immediately tell. They have one of the highest literacy rates in all of central and south America and consider it mandatory for children to attend school until the 12th grade. Pretty interesting aspect for any country let alone one in the middle of central America.
Anyways, the story of our travels to Costa Rica centers around a birthday celebration for my closest friend, Ryan. This year he wanted to do something a bit different for his birthday celebration so we headed down to central America for a very outdoor-intensive weekend. The second we got off the plane in San Jose we chose to experience the famous Costa Rican coffee beans by visiting a local coffee farm where we learned some pretty incredible facts about some of these family businesses.
The coffee produced by this country accounts for about 1% of global coffee distribution; the atmosphere makes you think that the country thrives on it, but the opposite is actually what is at play — local coffee farmers, with the advent of technology and increasing global competition, make little to no money by selling their crops that they spend years cultivating! Pretty fascinating stuff.
The next day we drove a few hours to a beach town situated on the Pacific Ocean where we ventured through jungles via zip line and climbed a waterfall … Yes, I climbed a waterfall. It may have taken a while, but I did it! 🙂
After flying through the jungle we went to check into our house, which was called (oddly enough) Casa Exotica. Just when I thought I had some time to catch up on my rest, I had all of 20 minutes before our next expedition of horseback riding through the jungle and onto the pristine beaches.
Our last adventure was white water rafting through the jungles of Costa Rica, and this was my favorite activity we did the entire time. I have been able to white water raft in a few other places, but this was by far my favorite experience. We were literally rafting through the rain forests as it was raining. Let me correct that — it was a down pour, so much so that flash floods were forming which created makeshift waterfalls into the river. It was incredible. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of this adventure, but stay tuned for the video!
I am in the HEAT of MBA applications…
It has been a very big undertaking and I know that if I get into the university of my choice, my future will take on a whole new shape.
However — Round 2 application deadlines are also in the heat of family time, and I am a huge family guy, but that is a post for another day. There is my father’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Noche Buena (the night before Christmas), Christmas, New Years, and last but definitely not least my girlfriend Gesy’s birthday. Of all ages to be turning… she was about to hit the big 3-0.
I didn’t have much time to spare as I had been focusing on everything else in life, but I knew I had to make something special for her as she has done SO much for me through the years.
This is where the fun begins… I played the card of being fully committed to my work, and I told her that I wouldn’t be able to do much more than a dinner. Believe it or not, she was in complete agreement, and she let me tend to my work because she knew the gravity of the situation. Little did she know… I had a few tricks up my sleeve.
I planned a surprise dinner party for her, brought her into a restaurant full of people while blindfolded, and sat her down at a table of 17 of her friends. She was completely shocked and we had a very memorable dinner — not to mention the surprise video I also made for her!
Disclaimer: It is a pretty long video, but don’t be deterred from the boring intro — make it to at least minute 3 🙂
Video: Quick Stop in Rome
We visited Rome with a lot on our to-do lists, but I was more focused on getting photos instead of video. This is a little touch on what we were able to see while in Rome!
Parents in Portugal
It is crazy to say, but I have been living in Portugal for months now! It has been an incredible experience, and I have even been able to pick up a new language while out here — not to mention a few extra pounds.
With all of the good news I have been reporting back to the homeland, I have finally convinced my parents to join in on the fun. They came out here for 10 days, and they had an incredible time. We explored through Lisbon together and enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine, but the best part about the visit was when we ventured out. We wanted to see what Portuguese wine country was all about so we chose to visit Alentejo, a well-known wine and culinary capital to the local Portuguese.
Upon our arrival to Evora, a city within Alentejo, we approached our hotel with utter amazement. I found this hotel, which seemed to be in the middle of no where, on the SPG site and booked it without thinking too much, so I didn’t expect too much from it. We quickly found out that it was a converted 15th century convent! It was one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in —hands down. After checking in, we were taken on a tour of the property and were then escorted to a wine tasting in the ancient wine cellar that used to house monks!
After the wine tasting we were then shown the church grounds, where they regularly hold weddings and other events. We enjoyed learning about the hotel and indulging in some of the best Portuguese cuisine ever, but the following day was only going to raise the bar.
We drove about another hour from the hotel to arrive at one of our favorite Portuguese vineyards, Herdade Esporao, where we spent the entire afternoon. Esporao is one of the largest and most well known vineyards in all of Portugal, and we were lucky enough to take advantage of it before we all left the beautiful countryside. We went on gastronomic adventures, wine flights, and even olive oil tastings.
Everything was perfect. I don’t think I have ever had such an immersive culinary adventure. It was really an unforgettable experience, and I am so glad my parents were able to be there to share it with us. (That, and I am also thoroughly happy that I had my camera to memorialize it all!)
Rekindling Old Memories in Milan
So, we took a last minute train ride to Milan for a few reasons: 1) It is an amazing city that Gesy and I spent some time in almost 6 years ago when both of us had been studying abroad in Europe, 2) the little sisters had never seen Milan before, and 3) we needed to catch a flight out of Milan the next day.
Milan is a really fascinating European city! Primarily because it doesn’t “really” feel like a European city. It is hit or miss, I have spoken to people who hate it and never want to return, and I have also spoken to people who rave about it (me included). One of the biggest things I have learned throughout my travels: You must be prepared, both mentally and physically, to travel anywhere in the world. If your expectations dictate something that is not consistent with how you prepared yourself then no matter where you have gone or will go — you will not have an optimal experience.
When coming to Milan, one needs to prepare for a large New York-type city. Although there is much culture, fashion, shopping, food, etc. Milan has the “big city” stigma associated to it, and that is the main reason it is not frequented by many tourists.
Milan is the financial hub of Italy and, more interestingly, the fashion hub. It is like no other place I have experienced in this world. When you land in the airport there are more Armani signs around the landing strip than runway status lights! Whether it is going to dinner, grocery shopping, or just relaxing with friends, you will be surrounded by models at every step of the way. There were many instances where I felt that I was the only person in a place that wasn’t a model! Was a pretty unique feeling!
If you like big cities definitely check out Milan — it is a place you will never forget.