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By recueroraquel.

During the fall semester I spent most of the time around my fellow exchange friends. We all lived in 1959 E St and that created such a great community that was like a bubble. I had dinner every single night at my apartment in the 7th floor or in the 5th where most of my friends lived, and each of us cooked one night. We went out together and we visited the city, traveled the country and even did our groceries together. It was a really nice time in which I felt like I had my own family here. However, when I came back from the winter break and most of them were gone I tried to force me to step out of my comfort zone and make more American friends. Now that my time here is so limited I’m trying to spend as much time as I can.

As every Friday or Sunday evening, we went to do our two-weeks groceries to Walmart
The guys of the 5th (Javier, Amine and Angus) being especially social
Still jet lagged, my ex-roommates and I went to Ikea and bought pretty much everything (believe it or no, that plant is still alive and looks wonderful)

On Friday I had dinner with some friends. Miren cooked Spanish croquetas and I made Spanish salmorejo. It was so good! I had to work 8am to 6pm on Saturday so I went straight to bed.

On Saturday night I went out with Steven, a friend from California I met in my last semester’s Human Trafficking class. Some of his friends where hosting a party in an apartment close to the campus. We went there and since the weather was so good we chatted and had some drinks in the yard. Later, we went to Shenanigan’s, an Irish pub in Adams Morgan which was so much fun.

Carmen, Steven, and me!

Then we went to the classic Johnny Pistolas, however we were a majority of Latinos and the music was not our favorite, so we decided to walk all the way to El Centro D.F. in 14th St. On the way some of my friends grabbed a jumbo slice, so the whole walk to the club including the pizza stop took sooooooo long. Finally, when we arrived we danced salsa and reggaeton until 3 AM, when the lights were turned on and we basically closed the place.

There are no words to describe what is like to walk 1.5 km like this

On Sunday, I went to the Georgetown campus with my friend Luca, because even though I’ve been in Georgetown many times, I never went to see the university (Georgetown recommendations). We walked around the streets of the neighborhood that were SO BEAUTIFUL with all the tulips and the petals everywhere. Finally, we went to a library that is at the beginning of the neighborhood (straight after the bridge and the Four Seasons hotel) that has the coolest books. We stayed for like an hour?!

I want to live here so bad

In the afternoon I went to see this soccer match in which some friends were playing. They scored 10 goals while the others scored just 2. Oops.

In the evening we played some music, cooked some couscous and had dinner while watching GAME OF THRONES (!!!!!) and making sure we were safe of any possible tornadoes. I was so scared I took a 4RIDE back home (hey, I’m sorry, there’s no tornado alerts where I’m from!)

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By recueroraquel.

Last Wednesday I went to New Orleans with my friend Miren. It took me just a few hours to realize NEW ORLEANS IS MY FAVORITE CITY IN THE US SO FAR! I’m so glad I had the chance to visit it before leaving in May.

So we took the MARC Train to Baltimore around 2 pm, getting to the airport at 3. Our flight departed at 4:30, and we landed in New Orleans around 6:30 pm. We got into our hostel at 8, straight after taking the StreetCar, a really old but cozy tram.

First impressions

We were staying in a hostel, called India House that was supposed to be 10 minutes far from the French Quarter (the old city downtown). However, 10 minutes were more like 25. The place was pretty weird, and the nicest guest was probably this obese cat.

The first thing we did was getting some seafood, poboys and walk around the famous Bourbon Street. I had so many oysters (Miren feels pretty disgusted by them, so even more for me!) and seafood and crab poboys, that are basically sandwiches with real bread. It was so good I wish I wasn’t so full to keep trying everything.

Happiness at its finest

Then, we went out and we were surprised about all the people drinking in the street. Apparently, New Orleans is the only city in the United States were public consumption of alcohol is allowed, to the point you can even order a drink and bring it to another bar. Also, it’s so warm and humid that most bars are completely open while there’s live music being played inside, so many people just walks around Bourbon street drinking, to the point that there is more people in street that inside of the bars. We had a grenade, one of the typical NOLA drinks, while many people in the balconies threw the classic Mardi Gras necklaces to the pedestrians.

So touristy

The morning after we were planning to take a free walking tour around the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. However, we woke up at 7am because of the noise of a thunderstorm. It was raining as I never saw before and we kept hearing the sirens of the firefighters driving back and forth. Of course, the tour was cancelled, but we were encouraged to sign in for the one at 2:45 pm, and so we did, being hopeful. We went downtown to have breakfast Cafe du Monde, probably the oldest cafe in New Orleans, famous for its cafe au lait (people started having it because of war rationing) and beignets (like doughnuts, but way better). During breakfast the tour was again cancelled because of the storm, so we decided to go to the National WWII Museum, the 3rd most visited museum in the US!

One of the buildings was a recreation of the route of the Ally troops freed Paris and then Berlin

During the evening we went to have some more amazing food and listen to live jazz. We explored some Voodoo shops, where we found information about the religious tradition and its origin and we finally went home hoping the weather would get better the day after.

The weather didn’t really improve, but the show must go on! So we went on the walking tour (after 20 minutes Miren’s shoes were already flooded) and when we got to the Mississippi river I was so amazed by it! Then we went to a “Hot sauce shop” were we tried even one we had to sign a waiver for, and of course we ended crying and spitting all over the place. Disgusting. We also visited the Garden District, famous for its colonial architecture, and we finished our night taking a really funny tour about ghosts and vampires in New Orleans in which even the tour guide was having a drink! We had dinner and Frenchman Street, where the locals go out. The weather was finally good, so we were able to put our raincoats and umbrella in our bags and party like we didn’t have to catch a flight the morning after!

By recueroraquel.

Just kidding. It lasted a day. But that day was Saturday, I didn’t work and I had the chance to go both to the Kite Festival and the Cherry Blossoms around the mall and the Jefferson Memorial. I went with my friend Miren and we spent the morning going around families and kids playing with
their kites. We tried to go make one ourselves but the line was infinite. Then we went around the Martin Luther King Memorial to take the same pictures that flooded Instagram that same night. It was a really nice walk, however it was pretty crowded.

Miren giving me her best influencer face.
In my head I was like “Is that kite abandoned? Shit. No.”
There was a line to take this picture.

I went home for lunch and then I realized I didn’t want to study at all, so I texted my friend Luca to have a picnic in the mall, since he had already invited me to have dinner and grab some drinks later with Conor, his roommate, best friend, and definitely, my favorite American so far. We brought some drinks, prosciutto and bread, cookies and we played Uno and pet a dog that was around until it got dark. The weather was so nice I didn’t want to leave at all! After dinner and another Uno battle that of course I won we went to Johnny Pistolas (I know GWU students love it, but still, I need Latino music!) After a few gintonics and pretty much done for the day we walked all the way home enjoying the good weather that of course, didn’t last. Anyways, I'm heading to NOLA today! I'll keep you updated!

“Why on f*****g Earth I'm playing this stupid game?”
The most beautiful sunset in DC ever.

By recueroraquel.

I’m planning a trip to New Orleans in a few days so I have been working really hard in order to save some money to spend on seafood and jazz bars. Unfortunately this means that I’ve been working every single day since we came back from the break and it’s going to keep going like this until I leave next Wednesday. But I’m sure it’s all going to be worth it! At the same time, things are working really well at the OAS, where I’ve been working next to the Spanish Ambassador during a really interesting time for the Americas: the Venezuelan crisis.

This week, the OAS is celebrating African Descents and Afro heritage and because of that all the delegations were invited to visit the African American History Museum today. I felt so lucky since I have been trying to go for so long but getting tickets was an impossible mission! We had a guide that explained all to us, relating it perfectly to the current reality of the Americas. It kind of felt like going on a field trip with my fellow delegation, it was so much fun. If you haven’t had the chance to visit the museum yet, it’s a must. It’s the most recent Smithsonian and tickets are released the last Wednesday every month around 10AM. Be quick though, they vanish!

Some of the OAS tour members in the main room of the Museum.
The Panamanian and the Spanish Delegations members next to Chuck Berry’s Cadillac. ⅓ of the OAS members are women, and even though there’s still a long road to walk towards equal representation, it’s amazing to be surrounded and able to work with this amazing group of empowered women from every single corner of the American continent.
The African American History Museum lobby.
Some pictures in the gallery about Modern Civil Rights Claims.

Also, on Sunday, when the weather was so good that I could put down my coat for the first time since probably...November, I asked my best American friend, Luca, if he wanted to go grab some food in a place with a TERRACE. He told me about a place called Barcelona and although I’m kind of reluctant to go to Spanish places for food since it’s generally pretty disappointing I said yes. OMG. OMG. It’s so real I felt like I was eating at my grandma’s. We had simple but delicious tapas and some Spanish wine, the place was full but it didn’t feel crowded. Here are some pictures. It’s on 14th St, order albondigas, arroz caldoso and olive oil cake. De nada.

My friend Luca enjoying some Spanish wine (he's originally French and we always fight over which one is better)

By recueroraquel.


For spring break I went back home (home is Madrid for those of you who don't know!) because my grandpa was sick and since my family is mostly abroad we try to go visit as much as we can. Apart of making my grandparents really happy I was able to see my friends and fly for a couple
days to Morocco (Fact: the shortest border between Europe and Africa is the Gibraltar Strait that separates Spain and Morocco by 14 kilometers and where both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet).

Madrid is a really beautiful city located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, where Spain and Portugal are. With around 6 million inhabitants, Madrid is one of the most important European
cities and an really welcoming hub for immigrants from Latin America and North and Sub- Saharan African countries, as well as Eastern Europeans. This has enriched Madrid, turning it into a multicultural, diverse and unique spot loved by tourists from all around the world.

What I loved the most about going back for the break was definitely the weather. Since the moment I landed I was able to get rid of my coat and my scarf, enjoy the early spring, make a barbecue with my friends and just lay down in my yard with my bunny pet. (Who doesn't want a
picture of a bunny?!)

Also, even though I didn't know about it when I bought the plane tickets, I was able to attend my Masters graduation that was scheduled for the same day I arrived! As some of you might know, this is my second BA program and during my junior and sophomore years I studied a MA in
Madrid, for which I just graduated. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to bring much luggage and my mom decided to be my stylist. This was the result.

Another great thing I was able to do was to lecture in my home university. A professor requested me to lecture his two hours course in “Security Models” on Monday and so I did. I prepared a lecture about the differences between Spain and the US when talking about prisons, gun control and incarceration. (I highly recommend a documentary in Netflix called 13th about mass incarceration in the US and slavery). I had 62 students and I had so much fun. Here you can see me faking it until I make it.

After this exhausting vacation I went to Fes, in Morocco to visit Amine, a friend I actually met at GW during the fall semester. Although I barely had two days there we drove (just him, to be honest I shit my pants just by thinking about driving in Morocco) 1,000 kilometers! We went to Ifrane, where his university is, and then we went to Rabat, which is by the coast since I'm a sea lover. There I was able to lie in the sand and nap while just relaxing which is something I miss so much when in DC. Then we came back to Fes, one of the oldest cities in Morocco, from where I flew back to Madrid before heading back to DC. Here are some pictures.

By recueroraquel.

As many of you have probably seen, I’ve been working at Gelman library since the beginning of the semester. It’s a really nice job, it’s pretty chill and allows me to make money enough to cover all my expenses. My tasks are basically check people in, mostly patrons from other universities or institutions, students that forget their Gworld, prospective students and people that come to attend events that take place in the library. When I’m at the check-out desk I check books for people, I find the books they requested from other universities or the ones the want to get from the reserves and I help them to find books in the stacks. Sometimes, I also help people who need an appointment with a specialized librarian for research. I love being at the check-out because it’s when I’m interacting with people and friends come say hi and bring coffee which is so nice. Some other times I’m shelving books back to the stacks or discharging them. My coworkers are so funny, there’s a really good vibe and we all help each other. If you are looking for a job and they open any position on Handshake don’t hesitate to apply, it’s such a great place to work in!

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So professional. Trust me, I work at Gelman Library!

 

Also, a couple weeks ago I got an internship in the Permanent Mission of Spain to the Organization of American States. I work directly with the Ambassador, attending meetings in the OAS itself or visiting other representing Embassies on behalf of our delegation. Then I write reports that are send straight to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. I have my own office in the Embassy, that is located in Massachusets Avenue in front of the Islamic Center of DC. On Fridays, when usually Muslims gather for the prayer in the afternoon the athmosphere is really good and I love watching from my window. Last Friday I also went to the Embassy of Canada for a meeting, and to a council in the headquarters of the OAS where the Secretary General Luis Almagro gave a speech. I feel so happy I got this opportunity, it’s a dream internship!

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The views from my office, the Embassy of Canada and the Headquarters of the OAS

 

By recueroraquel.

Even though I’ve been studying at GWU for around six months now, there are several thinks that keep shocking me. Education in Spain is way different than in the US and that determines a lot how we are and how we understand the world. Here are some of the things that shocked me the most:

  • University is SO EXPENSIVE: Most universities in my country are public, meaning that around 80% of the cost of tuition fees is covered by the state through taxes. For this reason, many people independently of their background can access university. To enter a university in Spain you have to take a public exam during your senior year of high school, and the highest the grade you get, the greater number of degrees you have access too. Private universities don’t require people to take this exam and accept people that got a bad grade or failed, and because of that private universities are generally considered bad quality, while public ones seem to be more competitive and have a higher prestige. For me, the fact that people take loans that they are going to be paying for years just to go to school scares me and makes me think that education is only accessible to those who are privileged enough.
  • Living so far from home: In Spain, as in many other places in Europe college education is a natural extension of high school, so most people live with their parents and attend the closest university. In the US, a lot of people leave their parents’ home as soon as the finish high school and they study really far away. I’m so jealous of that!
  • Masters program: Generally in Europe we get our Masters degree straight after our degree, and only then we start working. I guess since university is so expensive people need to find a job before going to college again.
  • “Hiring all majors”: That’s something I love from the US. One of my business professors got a Bachelors in Electronic Engineering and after a few years she started working for the World Bank. Then she got an MBA and now she’s lecturing at GWU. In Europe, it’s really hard to find a job out of what is considered your area of study.
  • Courses:  When you study a Bachelors degree in Spain, all courses are fixed until the spring semester of senior year, and everybody is supposed to graduate at the end of their fourth year. This means that everybody has a fixed schedule, let's say Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 2 pm, and the same people you start the first day with is the people you are going to be with for the next four years. In the US it is completely different and for me it was really shocking when I had to create my own schedule and I realized that I saw my classmates just once or twice a week!
  • Majors and minors: They don’t exist in Spain, just “Bachelor in…” and to be honest I still don’t know how many credits are each or how they exactly work.
  • Internships: In Spain, an internship is a compulsory course in every degree. Every Bachelor program has agreements with different companies or public organisms that take interns during the spring semester of senior year. Internships are unpaid in almost every case. During the rest of our degree, we don’t intern. I never questioned myself why, because we had the chance but however nobody does it. I loved the idea, and that’s why I’m interning now in DC!
  • Police presence: This one is what shocked me the most. While GW has its own university, the Police in Spain needs the written permission of a judge to even enter the campus! There’s no way you can spot a policeman in a university campus. This law exists to protect freedom of speech, discourse and the right of reunion of students and professors since Spain was a dictatorship during 40 years and university students and professors suffered constant censorship and persecution.
  • Cafeterias and beers: In Spanish universities every building has its own cafeteria. These places are so cheap because they are supposed to be student-friendly and they offer lots of different food. Since the legal drinking age there is 18, usually before, after or in gaps between classes students go grab some beers and play cards or just chill in the open areas of the campus. Yeah, you can buy beers in a university cafeteria at 9 AM and everyone is okay with it. Now I see how weird it is.

Anyways, even though there are some things that I miss from my home institution and the university environment in Europe, I feel like college in the US is way more enriching and a more holistic experience. If I had to choose a system I would definitely prefer to study in the US for the remaining time until I graduate!

 

By recueroraquel.

Georgetown is a must. It doesn’t matter if you go to visit the University (tip: their library is open to the public and it’s such a good chance to switch from Gelman!) or to buy clothes, books or antiquities, just walk around, get lost, grab some food and enjoy yourselves. There’s a lot of places I love to go:

-Georgetown Waterfront: best views for the sunset, you can eat your ice cream there and until mid February you will be able to ice skate in the ice rink! That’s what I did last Friday.

-House of Sweden: the Swedish Embassy is way more than a beautiful building. You can enter as a visitor and wonder through their temporary expositions for free. It’s by the waterfront so they have amazing views.

-Thomas Sweet: is it the best ice cream in DC? Probably! Get a whole bucket of ice cream there combining as many flavors as you want (and they have so many) and toppings! Btw, they say Obama loved it.

-Flamenco live? Yes! Bodega, one of the most famous Spanish restaurants in DC hosts live flamenco and guitar every Thursday 7:30 to 10:30. Although going to a Flamenco show in DC without being Spanish could be weird, it’s a good chance to see something new and get some amazing food.

-Craving sweet but still too cold for the 2 kilos of ice cream? Then go to Georgetown Cupcake. It’s so good! Cupcakes are around 3 or 4 dollars and they come in so many flavors. They have also lactose and gluten free cupcakes. Just be aware that you might have to wait during the weekends, it’s so popular!

-El Centro, DF: If you are 21 and you have been going out in DC you might have felt like our beloved Americans are not especially gifted for dancing and you are too shy to show them your best performance. No worries! El Centro DF is a Latino club, where the only music played is reggaeton, salsa, bachata...You are welcome! Also, it's an amazing Mexican restaurant during daytime!

-Paper Source: it might be just me, but I’m sure you also love brand new notebooks and incredibly original but useless gifts. Also, you get cards for your friends, there's a million themes in Paper Source.

-Dating? Impress them! Chez Billy Sud must have be the best food I had in DC. It’s a small cozy restaurant delicately decorated. French food at its finest. Dress formal.

-Not really into French food? In the same street you will find Flavio, a really popular Italian restaurant where you can find the most amazing seafood pizza ever!

-3 sisters: this great bakery has pies you can buy by the slice or whole. Perfect for a coffee stop or if you have people over and you want to impress them with that fantastic pie you made

-Escape rooms! Perfect for bonding and groups. IQ PanEscape Room is super famous. Although I ended up in another one in Alexandria, you can find really affordable packages in Groupon.

-American food: Yeah, you came all the way to the US and you still don’t know what “American food” is exactly, apart of hot dogs and mac & cheese. No problem, try Clyde’s of Georgetown. It’s a really famous local chain, but has nothing to do with fast food. Try the spicy-fried chicken!!

-The Tudor’s Place: don’t miss this amazing landmark. This house and its yards belonged for the family of Martha Washington for 6 generations!

-The Blues Alley: It’s the most famous Jazz and Blues bar in Georgetown. It hosts live music every single night. Although most nights shows are programmed and require the purchase of tickets, you can walk in anytime! Enjoy!

By recueroraquel

PLANNING TO TRAVEL FOR SPRINGBREAK BUT YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO START?

Ok, ok, don’t panic!! So, at this point you probably know that there’s a break between Monday 11th March and Friday 16th March, which means that we get 10 days of holiday (YAAAAASSSSS!) You must be wondering what you can do since there are too many options and too much stuff to plan. Here’s a little bit of help!

  1. OMG...WHERE TO GO?! Well...this depends a lot on your budget and how many days are you planning to travel.
  • My personal advice: During the fall I went to Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, New York, West Virginia and California. Although I loved every single place, if I had to recommend something I would tell you all: fly to California, rent a car, drive all over the state and please, please, please, don’t miss the chance to cross to Tijuana (Mexico) from San Diego! (If you need more info about this, I’m happy to help!)
  • Budget: Here’s a list showing how much does it cost to fly to some destinations during the break if tickets were bought today (27th January) Remember to add the costs of transportation to/from the airport. Also these prices are probably higher than usual because of flying on the weekend. I’m not telling you to go to class straight from the airport on Monday or to skip one day in order to get more affordable tickets but...
    • Boston: $103
    • Tampa: $152
    • Houston or Dallas: $178
    • Toronto: $178
    • Atlanta: $188
    • New Orleans: $229
    • Los Angeles: $242
    • Chicago: $262
    • Las Vegas: $320
    • Montreal: $322
    • Jamaica: $358
    • San Diego: $365
    • Cancun: $376
    • Puerto Rico $383
    • San Francisco: $394
    • Austin: $400
    • Colombia: $401
    • Mexico City: $423

KEEP IN MIND THAT IF YOU ARE FLYING OUTSIDE OF THE US YOU WILL NEED TO GET YOUR DS-2019 SIGNED AT THE ISO AND YOU WILL HAVE TO CARRY IT WITH YOU TO ENTER BACK THE US!!!

. Fly cheap: the cheapest airlines, like Spirit fly to many destinations in the US and abroad, but keep in mind that they generally fly from Baltimore, 55 km far from DC. There’s two ways to get to the airport:

  • MARC Train: departs from Union Station in DC (an Uber/Lyft shouldn’t be more than $7 from Foggy Bottom) and goes straight to the airport. Takes around 40 minutes, costs $7 (one way) departs every 15 minutes and works from really early in the morning until 11PM. There’s a free shuttle between the station and the airport. You don’t need to book in advance, but in the station. Times are available here.

Buses: there are so many buses during the entire day from Union Station in DC to Baltimore. You can compare prices and buy in Wanderu. The bus is a little bit more expensive, and unfortunately Baltimore Downtown Bus Station is pretty far from the airport, so you can either take an Uber/Lyft from the bus station to BWI Airport ($20) or take a lyft to the closest Light Train Station and catch it there, depends a lot on your timing. I would only do the bus if my flight departed or arrived during times when the MARC train is not operating.

Do you want to cover long distances and reach the unreachable? Sure! Rent a car! Driving in the US is pretty easy. If you are used to manual cars, you are gonna be so bored. However, it’s completely worth it. If you guys are a group of people and want to travel without the stress of catching buses it’s the best option, plus come on! Who doesn’t want to go on a roadtrip in the US? However, if you guys check mainstream rental agencies you probably have realized that it’s really expensive. No worries, you can use Turo. So Turo is an app/website where people post their cars and works exactly as Airbnb, meaning that particulars rent their cars. You will need to register and scan your driving license and you will have access to many cars with different mileage and consumption for a fixed rate daily, no hidden costs. I used it for a roadtrip in California, it’s the best!

. Where to stay? Yeah, probably that’s giving you headaches. I offer you three options.

  • Airbnb: Do I seriously need to explain this?! Just in case you never used it, here is a discount.
  • Hostelworld: You have probably have heard about what a hostel is before, no?! Okay, a hostel is basically a place with several rooms that fit a bunch of people in bunk bed for a fixed price per bed and night. You can find luxurious hostels or terrible ones, depending on your budget. They include wifi, maybe breakfast, the use of common bathrooms and are really great if you travel solo (you meet tons of travelers!) or with a group of friends, but maybe they are not the love nest your just-met exchange boyfriend and you were looking for.
  • Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is my favorite but it would only be useful for you if you are one, two, or maximum three people. Basically, it’s an app that puts in touch people who altruistically offer their houses for people to stay and travelers. I use it a lot when I travel on my own and it’s great since you have the chance to stay with locals in a real house, and lets be honest, FOR FREE!! However, if you want to explore this option you have to create a profile that looks good and trustable, and people probably require reviews for them to open their doors, so contact me, I’ll leave you one!

. Keep it cheap: here’s some advice not to spend the rest of March eating plain noodles and wondering how on Earth you spent a thousand dollars in 10 days.

  • Check for flights using Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak. Use the incognito mode of your browser in order to avoid prices to increase and try to book straight in the airline site once you have found the flight you want.
  • Keep track of you expenses! Especially when traveling with people, it’s really easy to lose track of how much you are spending and who owes to who. The app Tricount would keep track of everything so easily!
  • Use the public transport!! Don’t be afraid of catching the metro or the bus in the main cities. You can find the closest station or stop, routes and waiting times in Google Maps. If you are going to spend more than a couple days in the same city consider buying a pass rather than single tickets.
  • Eat CHEAP AND GOOD: Wherever you are, you can just go to Tripadvisor and find cheap, excellent and open restaurants around you. No more dissapointments and no more surpises with the bill! (Still, the tipping thing sucks, I know!) Also, if you are in an Airbnb or a hostel and you have access to a kitchen, you can save some dollars cooking!

 

Let me know if you need any advice or have any questions. Have fun and safe travels!!!!!!

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