Austria Adventures: trip planning, expectations and Slovenia

Melissa SolanoBY MELISSA SOLANO
AUSTRIA COLUMNIST

I survived the first weekend of free travel.

This weekend was absolutely wonderful. I feel like all the anxiety I had related to planning and executing a free-travel weekend was completely obliterated, which is a relief.

A group of seven other girls and I traveled four hours south of Austria to Lake Bled, Slovenia. The town of Lake Bled was incredibly breathtaking and so, so peaceful. It is surrounded by unreal-looking mountains encircling a deep blue lake. The lake itself only has one small island in the center, and on the island is a Catholic church. It was a beautiful place to visit, and I’d highly recommend it.

Gorgeous scenery aside, I think that I took a lot away from this weekend in terms of expectations. Most people, I think, would agree that when preparing to study abroad, your head is filled with expectations and inevitable comparisons. I felt a certain amount of pressure to follow people’s advice to a T in hopes of having the same amazing experiences.

But this trip really helped me see that your semester is what you make of it, and that taking a step into adventure — as cheesy as it sounds — really makes for the best memories.

I would have never thought to travel to Slovenia. It’s one of those quieter countries that don’t seem to hold as much weight as others like France or Spain. I don’t think I would have ever thought to explore a small country so close to us here in Austria. But I decided to let go and join in on the weekend excursion.

I think that it was the fact that Slovenia is so uncommon that I didn’t really have any expectations going into it and that’s what made it so great. I was able to have my own independent experience.

Now, what I was envisioning as a free-travel weekend (at least the first few) was long and confusing train/bus rides, misunderstandings, traffic and, hopefully, safe hostels.

It was nothing like that. By researching and discovering the closeness of Lake Bled, we were actually able to rent a van at a great price. Driving through the Austrian and Slovenian countryside in a van full of girls with endless snacks and blasting music was an absolute joy that I think will probably be one of my favorite memories from the semester.

We also strayed from the traditional hostel route and were able to locate a small, family-owned bed-and-breakfast. The owners were so sweet and the rooms were cozy and gave a really comforting and homey feel. They also served us actual breakfast in bed, so we were all able to come together and eat in our pajamas and just have a lazy morning to sip coffee and look at the lake.

Of course, we did some sightseeing, took out some boats and went shopping. But what I really enjoyed was getting to kind of slow down after the hectic first few weeks. We were able to enjoy Slovenia how we wanted, without feeling any pressure or rushing from place to place. It was a great weekend trip, and we all really bonded.

Now coming up this weekend will be the 10-day Rome and Assisi trip! Crazy, right? Despite the hectic itinerary, I am really looking forward to this school trip, and I can’t wait to share our experiences with you all!

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