The magnificent vehicle featured in the photo below is my dad’s 1973 Volkswagen Camper Van. I spent a great deal of my childhood cruising around and camping in this blazing beauty and it absolutely kills me to see it sitting in the woods untouched. Well, that’s not completely true–the rodents have definitely been keeping it company on cold and lonely nights, burrowing into the seat cushions, creating nests for their little ones.
So why do I even care about this hunk of junk? It’s rusting, rotting, and completely falling apart! The inspection sticker even dates back to the year 2000. That means this van has been sitting in the woods for 12 YEARS. I can’t believe it. Most people have told me I need to give up on this “camper van idea” and that it is a lost cause. I see potential, even if it does cost a lot of time and money. I am willing to pay the price to revive some of the best days of my life and to bring back my childhood again.
It has been my dream for eight years now to start assessing the damage and repairing this van. For eight summers in a row, I have started the month of May with optimism and hope of finally working on my project! For eight years I have dreamed of driving this car across the country, stopping in every state to camp along the way. Eight years is long enough. It’s time to bring this baby back to life!
This will not be an easy task to take on, so stay tuned for future updates and developments!
Champlain College graduation falls on May 5, 2012. This daunting date is only 5 weeks away, so naturally I’m having thoughts of moving out of my current apartment and into some unknown future location that I will eventually call my home. How have I prepared for this unnerving life event? As I mentioned in my last post, studying abroad helped me gain skills in many areas including the ability and stamina to just get up and leave without a lot of ‘stuff’ weighing me down.
This was all the 'stuff' I packed to live in Amsterdam for four months during my fall 2010 semester.
These days, I walk around my apartment and cringe at all the ‘stuff’ I will need to lug with me when I leave. I completely regressed when I came back to live in Vermont because I found comfort in having many different options for clothes, bedding, furniture, decorations, and entertainment. I have even more ‘stuff’ stored throughout my mother’s house in Massachusetts that I have long forgotten about. What typically happens, year to year, is most of this ‘stuff’ gets stored while I bring the absolute necessities with me to my new location. As years passed, I continued collecting because I became detached to the things I forgot existed in the attic abyss of childhood nostalgia or under my bed full of high school reminiscence. I’ve decided that this is no longer an option. Do I really need all this ‘stuff?’ It’s time to let go. I will no longer be hopping around every four or eight months and it’s my mother’s turn to have a nice house without my clutter getting in her way. Drastic changes will be occurring from this point forward, and it is my decision to actively embrace the change from every direction possible.
This was all the 'stuff' I had coming home from my spring semester 2011 at Champlain College. The back seats were down and the front seat was completely filled up.
The Two Suitcase Project is an initiative that developed after a conversation with my roommate (find her on Twitter: @alyssamneville) about studying abroad. What exactly does this mean? Well, we were both elated by the fact that we could just pick up and go anywhere without a lot of baggage. We felt so free and alive while adventuring abroad, much more so than we do now in our settled, comfortable environment. It’s time to bring those feelings back with the Two Suitcase Project. The challenge: can we fit everything we own in just two suitcases?
Stay tuned for future developments with this project and my journey to simplifying and finding freedom as an independent college graduate.
It has been over a year since I was living and studying in Amsterdam, and though I’m no longer living in Europe, I find myself constantly using the skills that I learned and am more comfortable with overcoming challenges on a regular basis. Studying abroad was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made—not just because of the travel, but because of what I learned and who I met in the process.
Collage I made for my apartment in Amsterdam, using free stuff I found around the city & things I created myself.
So what did I learn from studying abroad that is transferrable to my life in the US today? To list a few, I gained skills in…
- Establishing rapport quickly and building self-reliance
- Adaptability, flexibility, and patience in an unfamiliar environment
- Embracing cultural differences
- Achieving goals despite obstacles and gaining appreciation of diversity
- Ability to function with a high level of ambiguity
- Problem solving skills
- Independence and enthusiasm
- Ability to learn quickly, gaining inquisitiveness
- Strong listening, communication, and organization skills across language and cultural barriers to navigate through new cities
- Language and cultural interactivity skills through observation
- Assertiveness by communicating despite barriers
- Time management skills
- Management of finances in varying currencies
- Managing stress and building self-knowledge
- Comfort in working on a team with people from different cultures and educational backgrounds
- Self-confidence by handling difficult situations
- Tolerance/open-mindedness by accepting responsibility
- Awareness of global issues
- Perseverance by taking initiative and taking calculated risks
These are all excellent skills to have, and in order to keep practicing these skills I must continue to put myself in study abroad-like situations. Since my return, I have remained connected with those I met abroad both in person and online. I was even able to test my hospitality skills when a couple of them came to visit me in Burlington. Aside from cultural experiences, I can use my skills of adaptability, flexibility, and problem solving to navigate a new city or job when I graduate.
My study abroad experience was invaluable and I plan to mirror this experience in the future in every situation I’m faced with.