I Traveled Out of My Comfort Zone, and it Changed My Worldview

Author: Nicole Chininis, Real Life Stories

Traveling truly does provide you with just about everything you need.

It allows you to expand your point of view, and expand your knowledge. Think of it as being completely nearsighted, and then putting on glasses for the first time in your life. You now can see not only what is in front of you, but the the things beyond what your hands can reach. Things are clearer, and you have a better understanding of what’s around you.

My time spent traveling abroad shaped who I am today because of the people I met, the food I ate, and the life that I lived. But, I felt like for a long time that I never really expanded outside of my true comfort zone. This is a big confession for a Study Abroad Advisor, but let me explain.

I’ve spent my fair share of time across Europe and some of Latin America, visiting friends who are living abroad, or living abroad myself. In Spain, I immediately felt at home, because I spoke the language, and the culture felt familiar, thanks to my Greek heritage. Of course, the cultures are different, but there was something about being in loud, friendly groups of people that made me feel at home.

Even though I felt at home in Spain, I still experienced culture shock, which mostly came from speaking Spanish as a second language. For instance, it was difficult to not be able to find the right words I wanted to use, or not fully being able to understand things my friends said. But after some time, I was able to blend in and adapt to Spanish culture and language like it was my own. 

After my time in Spain, I was then fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in South Africa, immersing myself in local culture, as I did in Spain. It was an experience unlike any other I have ever had. It was one of the first times that I didn’t know what to expect. I knew about some the history of Apartheid, a system of government that required segregation by race, but I had no idea of the tremendous impact it still has on the day to day lives of the people who live there.

I also didn’t know what to expect in terms of food while traveling, as South African cuisine is not something that is as internationally common as other cuisines, and I really had no idea of what to expect in the townships. I was constantly out of my comfort zone, but at the same time, I felt like I was taking in so much.

Over the course of the trip, I spoke with everyone I could, and I really reflected on my preconceived notions, stereotypes, and misconceptions that I had about South Africa prior to my trip. Without any expectations for the country, I was able to truly see things with clarity and open eyes.  

My trip to South Africa provided my ability to take a step back in my own life, and reflect on experiences here within the United States. South Africa ended Apartheid a little over 20 years ago. But, I felt like so many of the conversations we were having about racism, segregation, and where they were as a country were so similar to the conversations we are having here. It challenged my perceptions of where we are, and how far we have to go, and it made me truly admire the South African people. As much as they have to go, South Africa is incredibly resilient, strong, and mindful of the work that is ahead. It was inspiring and eye-opening.

I wouldn’t have had this moving experience if I stayed in my comfort zone. It made me more aware of my experiences, no matter where I travel to, because it has given me a different point of view. I learned that I need to take myself out of what I think I know, focus on what I don’t know, and challenge myself to find out. I challenge you to do the same.


7 Perks of Single Life

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, The Dating Game

There’s a lot to say about being single, starting with the fact that sometimes, it’s rough.

It’s very easy to look at the downsides of the “single struggle.” Online dating can be a minefield. Actual dates can be disastrous. You may be the only single friend left in your group. You get frustrated, angry, and upset.

But, what if we looked at the “single struggle” as not a struggle? Because not only is it okay to be single — sometimes, it’s downright convenient and easier. Take advantage of the single life, don’t dwell on it!


Your schedule is yours, and yours alone
Want to go to happy hour with your coworkers on a whim? Or to an all-day music festival with your friends? You don’t have to check any schedule other than your own. You can pick up and leave and do whatever you want, without having to think of someone else. You can be gone all day, every day. No significant other means truly getting to do what you want, when you want to do it.

You control the remote
If you want to watch Hey Arnold! reruns until you fall asleep every night for a week, go for it. If you want to rock out to *NSYNC every time you’re in the car, go right ahead. While compromise is important to any good and healthy relationship, it’s also nice to not have to compromise — even on something as trivial as what Netflix show to binge this week (hint: you get to pick). And sometimes, it’s nice not to have to compromise and only think about TV, movies, or music that makes you happy, without having to consider anyone else’s preferences.

You pick your meals 
As the saying goes, “a couple is just two people sitting there debating what they’re going to eat tonight.” Not single people! Try out that taco lasagna recipe you’ve been scouting on Pinterest for a week now. Order Chinese food one night and pizza the next. You’re picking for one, you’re preparing for one, you’re ordering for one, and you’re eating for one. Meals are significantly less complicated for single people. If you want breakfast for dinner, have breakfast for dinner. It’s all up to you.

You can enjoy your family even more 
When your family is the only family in the picture, you don’t have to split holidays and other important occasions. You won’t run into those potentially complicated situations, when your cousin’s high school graduation is the same day as your significant other’s cousin’s wedding. You’ll be able to attend graduation and enjoy it. Plus, you can take advantage of spending quality time with your family that you might not have otherwise.

You have more time for self-care
When you’re single, you get to focus on you. In a relationship, you’re very rarely alone except for those times when you’re both at work (and you’re not even really alone there). If you’re single, you’ll have more time to yourself — and since your schedule is yours to manage, you’ll be able to allot time to take care of yourself. You can stay in on a Friday night with your adult coloring book without having to feel like you need to spend time with anyone other than yourself.

You’re able to travel 
You can travel when you want, where you want, and when you want, and with who you want. You can travel with your friends, your family, or even yourself. You only have to plan for one, and you get to choose the location. You don’t have to coordinate vacations with a significant other. And since you’re not “tied down,” if you want to hop on a plane tomorrow and get lost for a little bit, you can (just check with work first). 

You teach yourself independence 
You are taking care of yourself, and you alone. And that’s truly a beautiful thing, and it’s truly a great skill to have. You also become very good at entertaining yourself, and you become comfortable with being by yourself. You build confidence just in knowing that you’re self-sufficient, and can handle life on your own.

Travel Secrets for Millennials: A Chat With a Travel Industry Expert

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

Millennials, we love to travel, right? Whether it’s for work, for vacation, for a break from work, or to find new adventures, the ability to travel is important to us.

With traveling comes making travel plans, and sometimes, there’s a lot of money and red tape involved. Well, we want to help make that a bit easier. We chatted with Deborah Orgel-Gordon, a travel professional and owner of Extravagant Travel, Inc.,  and asked her for some of her trade secrets.

Should millennials use a travel agent rather than booking online? Why?
When I book a hotel for my clients, that is not the end of it. I’ve then reached out to the managers of hotels to make sure they know my client is coming and to “VIP them.” My agency has over 1,000 hotels all over the world on our “Hotel Collection” program.  If one of these hotels are booked, even more benefits come like possible upgrades, amenities to the room, possible early and late check outs and many times, extra food and beverage credits or more. What millennials need to understand is travel professionals have connections to many of the destinations they go to. In a world where life is so busy, and everyone works longer hours to survive, why not use the professional who will go the extra mile to book restaurant reservations, transfers, tours, tickets to shows, and more?  The key is: that not all travel professionals are created equal just like other professions like attorney, accountant and doctor.  You need to find the right one by recommendations and possibly one that specializes in the destinations where you like to travel.

Are millennials better off with the booking process in person or through the internet?
I suggest finding a travel professional in person, rather than booking though the internet, to book vacations. Interview your travel professional like you would if you were looking for an attorney or accountant. Find someone from recommendations other friends and family have used. Travel professionals with years of experience have the knowledge of properties and destinations. Mistakes are easily made when booking on your own, and then really difficult to fix.  If you are booking airfare and want to skip the travel professional, I always recommend booking directly with the airline you choose so if there are changes or delays you go right to the source. I find many millennials are turning back to using a travel professional, especially for honeymoons. They want to make sure they are in good hands. A good travel professional can make sure you possible get an upgrade on a room, or extras of being treated special at a hotel or resort.

What are the perks to using a travel agent?
Travel professionals have the connections to many places traveled to. Most have relationships with hotels and airlines. For instance, as an example, I booked a honeymoon couple on Delta Vacations package to Italy for a honeymoon and they made a deposit on — air and hotels — and I always watch carefully all my bookings to see if a price drops before final payment. In this case, it dropped $700.00.  I contacted my sales rep and they honored the drop in price and I saved them the $700!

What do you think is a great low-budget option for a weekend trip?
Traveling off-season to a destination can get you some better low-budget vacations. I have planned some low-budget trips to Dominican Republic off-season for quick three-night getaways. Also some shorter cruises can sometimes over very low prices for three-night sailings.

Based on your clientele, where are millennials traveling?
The top destination I book for millennials is Italy.

Where can you find the best deals?
Stick with a travel professional. Do your homework on the internet, and many times, the travel agent can get you these same deals.

Depending on where you’re going, is it worth it to join a tour group?
If you are the type that wants to make new friends, or be with others, then it is worth considering a tour group. Not everyone is set up to be their own tour guide, and tour groups hit all the highlights that one would see at a destination. Not everyone likes to travel this way, so if you are more adventurous type or like to be more flexible when traveling, I would not recommend a tour group.

What’s the best month to travel?
That is based on the destination that is picked. For instance, if you’d like to go to Europe, the high season is summer, and low season would be winter. Spring and fall would be called “Shoulder Season,” which sometimes offers good deals. With the Caribbean, from September to mid-December, you can usually grab great deals. So, it all depends on the destination.

Is “booking a flight at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night” really the cheapest? 
Sometimes, but if you have your heart set on a specific flight and exact date, and there are limited seats on those flights because they are popular, “booking on a Tuesday,” as they say, would not matter.

Do you think travel agency is a dying business?
Definitely not. I am very busy and my company that I am an Independent Contractor (IC) specialist for has thousands of agents all over the world. They actually started a travel school to now train the millennial generation in the travel industry because there was a need for it. The millennial generation likes services, and once they try a great travel agent they are very loyal and recommend that agent to other millennials. If you want a quick Florida flight or one night somewhere, sure, use an app or a website, but when you want to go away and know you will be in good hands from A to Z, seek out that recommended travel professional. I have no doubt everyone would become a loyal client.


Deborah Orgel-Gordon is the proud owner of Extravagant Travel Corp., a boutique travel agency in Glen Head, NY, committed to offering standout, customized service. As a successful travel consultant/agent for over 17 years, Deborah has enjoyed traveling the globe, jetting to destinations around the world. She specializes in booking travel to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, as well as honeymoons, senior travel, family travel, inter-generational travel, cruises, and escorted tours. Extravagant Travel offers customized concierge services for personal leisure travel needs including spas, restaurants, theater/concert tickets, golf vacations, limousines, personal jets, meetings, and more. Deborah is also a certified IC specialist with a reputable international travel company. 


“I Left My Heart In…”: A Millennial’s Love Story With Travel

Author: Nicole Chininis, Real Life Stories

I’ve always thought that when it comes to being a millennial, the biggest burden we carry is our love of travel. We have found ease and comfort with travel — something our parents and grandparents did not have before us. Things like study abroad have become a norm for most college students, and we establish ourselves as global citizens as we have adventures in places like England, China, Argentina, or South Africa. We have found our independence and in turn, found ourselves. But like any good love story, our hearts have also been broken into a million pieces.

My first love story was not with a boy, a slice of pizza, or even my dog. I fell truly, madly, deeply (a la Savage Garden) in love with “my place” the summer going into my senior year in high school. I had decided to spend a month in Spain in a Spanish immersion program, but little did I know how much it was going to change my life.

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Me (left) with my friend at the Feria de Sevilla in 2011.

We took a few trips to various cities, and when we arrived in Sevilla I knew I was done for. I remember walking in the neighborhood around our hotel and feeling at home but utterly confused. I had never been here before, so how did I feel so connected to this place? When we saw a flamenco show for the first time, I cried. I didn’t cry because the performance moved me. I cried because I knew that my short time in Sevilla was soon coming to an end, and I was missing a place that I hadn’t even left yet.

I returned to “my place” in college when I studied abroad for a spring semester. I felt more at home than ever. When my parents came to visit me, I remember feeling like they actually understood me now. It was then when I mentioned I wanted to go back, and about a year and a half later after graduation, I returned to teach English. I felt like I never wanted to leave.

As much as I missed my family every time I was gone, I was at my happiest because I was truly in love with who I was when I was in “my place.” I could walk down the streets like I had known them all my life, I danced flamenco in my flamenco dress at the annual Feria de Abril, and I now speak Spanish with a Sevillana accent. My friends from Sevilla lovingly call me “la Gitana de Boston,” a term which signifies my ability to blend in like a local. I was, and continue to be, changed for the better.

However, as millennials, our burden with our love to travel and ability to connect to a place is very much a blessing in disguise. I came back because I felt that’s what I needed to do: to start “the real world.”

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My most recent trip to Sevilla in 2016

Now that I’m back in the states, I never feel truly myself even though I’m surrounded by people I love and in the place where I grew up. I continue having a hard time finding the balance between regretting my decision to come “home” and believing that this is my path that was chosen for me. I feel like I leave a part of myself every time I go back and it’s painful. Half of my heart is left in “my place” and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with it. I ask myself: could my life have been different if I stayed? Would I continue to feel the same happiness I feel now? Should I just pick up and leave?

Let me tell you, millennials, however hard it is, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. This is life. We make decisions and hope we make the right ones. Although it’s hard sometimes, my experiences have given my life a richness I cannot explain. I remind myself how lucky I am that I have friends that treat me like family across an ocean. I am reminded that Sevilla is not going anywhere and that I am always welcome.

So go! Get on a plane, train, or in a car and leave your heart somewhere. Maybe if you’re lucky enough, you too will find your place.

How Traveling Helped My Resume (and My Life)

Author: Gauri Bhatia, Career Advice

Well, hello there, fellow wanderlusting millennials! In case you didn’t already know, I have visited over 70 countries in my 20-something years on this planet. So now I am going to help you understand how those experiences have helped me enhance my life and my resume.

Potential employers love to see that you have an appreciation for and an understanding of other countries, especially if they are countries in which the company operates. For example, I have worked for several months in Italy, the United Kingdom and India, and these experiences have impressed graduate school acceptance boards, professors, advisors, professional organizations and potential employers.

Another way they have helped is that they emphasize my expanded worldview. This can apply to travel within the United States, not only abroad. By experiencing other places and other cultures, your own understanding of self is improved, and that really impresses potential employers.


Perhaps the biggest way traveling has impacted my resume is that it has inspired me to learn new languages and develop new skills. By traveling to different places with vastly different economies and systems of governance: I have discovered my passions for economics, international relations, and philanthropy.

The last way that traveling helped my resume is by enabling me to have an increased level of empathy for the rest of the world, and that is reflected through my charitable experiences (which employers really value). When I was younger, I got the chance to visit Egypt, which was truly a life-changing experience. Because I was able to see Egypt before the War in the Middle East, I had a great fondness for the region.

When I see news about the destruction and chaos currently going on in the Middle East (particularly in Syria, currently), it inspires me to try to give back in whichever ways I can. Those pursuits have impressed a multitude of important people, including: graduate school acceptance boards, professors, advisers, professional organizations and potential employers.

I understand it can sometimes be hard to actually travel and gain those experiences firsthand. But I think having a better understanding about the world gives your resume that “something extra” that leads to the next great thing in your life. To that point, I say even “armchair travel” through a good book, a documentary, a new movie, or even just the Internet can help that resume really shine!