The Definition Of A Culture Hound

The Definition Of A Culture Hound

An intro on adventure enthusiasts.
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If you've been keeping up with my articles so far, you know that 1) I love to travel; 2) I love to eat; and 3) I am always down for an adventure. So, I thought I'd shed some light on my nickname (a name I'm sure most of you embody too): Culture Hound.

Before I do this, though, you need some background on me.

I’m your average 21-year-old hot mess of a college student, hailing from the greatest city on earth (if you didn’t catch that, I’m from New York City), with a serious case of wanderlust. It all began at the age of 5, when my dad picked me up one day (divorced parents, y'know?) and said, “Pick anywhere in the world you want to go and we will go right now.” I said Paris (if you asked me today, I would probably not choose Paris — too many cooler places to visit), and off we went. From then on, I traversed Europe with him and our entourage of a crazy uncle (everyone has one), a nanny, and whoever was my father’s current girlfriend at the time. We were a motley crew, to say the least.

Traveling was something I shared with my dad and, after he died, was something that I needed to continue to keep his memory alive. Since then, I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, I have lived on farms in rural South Africa and in Tuscany, I have surfed in Brazil, I have biked all of New Zealand, I have studied abroad in Rome, I have escaped arrest in countless European countries with just a backpack, I have survived an overnight train from Florence to Vienna, I have crashed an ATV on a Greek Island, I have lived and worked in Phnom Penh, D.C., New York, and Houston — and I'm still alive. Shocking, I know.

Now let me get back to what this article is really about.

A Culture Hound can be defined as someone who is constantly in awe of his/her surroundings and seeks to soak up every aspect of any culture he/she comes into contact with. If you break down the phrase, a hound is an aggressive dog, one that, in this case, will pursue culture relentlessly. That’s me. People will say that my best and subsequently worst quality is my hunger for life; 99.9 percent of the time, I will never say no. I'm interesting, adaptable, and hungry — hungry for stories, hungry for answers, and hungry for adventures. And I am relentless in pursuing that hunger. My thirst for life is insatiable. I am always down for a new adventure.

When people ask me what I want to do with my life, I tell them honestly that I just want to learn. Since I was a little girl I have been obsessed with learning, always trying to soak up information to relay to mostly uninterested family and friends, who would often respond with the usual “mhmm,” “oh really?” and “that’s crazy!”

This love of gathering and imparting information has evolved. As I matured, my passion for learning and my hunger for life grew. When a subject captured my attention, I became totally consumed by it, immersing myself in current topics ranging from North Korea to GMOs and agribusiness, and from Mexican politics to the history of cacio e pepe (a Roman pasta dish).

My Culture Hound tendencies also include finding the best things each city has to offer and then telling everyone I know about them: best foods, restaurants, bars, clubs, museums, neighborhoods — you get it. Whenever I arrive in a new place, I walk for hours to orient myself (my feet have literally bled from this), and then I start reading up on places and talking to locals.

When I was in Rome I was lucky enough to live with a Roman student who introduced me to all of her friends, some of whom I am still friends with. Silvia, the roommate, was a springboard. I also always find a compadre. After two weeks in Rome I met Amanda, the compadre, and my traveling, eating, exploring, man-finding, and drinking buddy. The two of us were unstoppable. There were no hesitations, no inhibitions, no uncertainties. Amanda and I were addicted to having a good time and to being as "Roman" as possible.

Unfortunately, this often reckless and impulsive behavior has gotten me into my fair share of trouble. Let's take the most recent example of this. In honor of the 10-year anniversary of my dad's death, my best friend and I decided that we needed to do something "life affirming." First she suggested sky-diving, which I vetoed, and then we settled on paragliding. Have you heard of paragliding? It's when you literally jump off the side of a cliff, attached to another human being and a parachute, and pray to God you catch some wind and float down. For some strange reason, we thought that this was safer than sky-diving. The best friend went off just fine. And I crashed — attached to a 200-plus-pound man — and landed on rocks and trees and next to a hornets nest. Suffice to say, I spent the next eight days in the hospital with 10 fractures and a bed pan.

Culture Hounds may never learn their lesson. But you can always count on us to have a good time.

(Shout-out to Elisabeth for giving me this nickname; she is my art mutt.)

Cover Image Credit: me

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To The Girl Who Hasn't Been Herself Lately

Your spark return, and you will shine like you were meant to.
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Life gets tough. Life gets too much to handle sometimes, and those times make you stronger. However, right now, it seems like you have lost yourself.

It’s difficult when you catch yourself not being you. When you do something or act a certain way and just wonder, “what did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? When will it get better?” The way you’re feeling is not so much that you’re unhappy, you just feel weird.

Your day will come. I promise you. This is just a phase.

The day you realize how much you have grown from this point in time will be your reward. It is so hard to see now, and I feel your pain.

Your light will return to you. Your pure bliss moments, they are seeking you. Your laughter where your tummy aches is in your reach.

Our moods change far too often for us as humans to understand why, but the encounters you make every day have this effect on us.

You must remember the pure happiness you experienced before your first heartbreak, before the first friend became someone you thought they weren’t, before you lost your innocence. That was a time of true joy as you had not a care in the world for the things that would harm you. Better yet, you didn’t have the option to experience them because you were just a child.

The world can be an ugly place, and your attitude towards life can change every day. One thing is for certain: you did not lose who you are internally. We all put on a face for the world. For the people who we try to impress. For the life we want to live. For the things we want to achieve.

Your definitive personality is still in the works. Believe it or not, it always will be. Times like this change us for the better even though we can’t see it.

Your happiness will return. You will be a better, stronger version of you. In fact, you will be the best version of you yet.

Once this phase is over, you will be okay. This I promise you.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Sutton

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What It's Like Being A West Coaster Attending College On The East Coast

From California to New Jersey, here are changes I've encountered and how I've handled them.

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Aside from better pizza and bagels, I've encountered a lot of changes since I've moved to New Jersey. I'm from the coastal side of Los Angeles where rain doesn't exist and you could wear either shorts and a tank top almost everyday of the year and be comfortable.

There's an abundance of coffee shops and little boutiques that occupy some of the coastal front. We don't go "down the shore," we don't have to pay to get on the beach, and we don't have debates on whether it's called pork roll or Taylor Ham. It was nice knowing that the weather ranges from 65 to 75 about eighty percent of the year. But, at the same time, I like having a variety of seasons.

Apparently leaves falling from trees is an annual thing. Southern California has a small number of deciduous trees, so I experienced a real fall last year. I picked a pumpkin from the vine instead of from a tub at the grocery store and got farm fresh donuts from an actual farm with fields and animals.

I was able to witness a first snow and how pretty the trees look when they're covered. I made a snowman in the back of campus and had a snowball fight with some friends.

I also experienced a terrible snowstorm where my umbrella turned inside out and smacked me in the face and then hit the person behind me. I then tried to go after my umbrella and slipped on some ice which the person also saw...so after that I died of embarrassment in my dorm for the rest of the weekend. There were a lot of ups and downs.

Everything in suburban New Jersey is spread out, so it's been a struggle not having access to a car. Back home in California, a CVS, Target, Office Depot, and even a Spencer's (if you're in that weird shopping mood,) was right around the corner. The other night I tried looking up the nearest Mexican restaurant and it was 15 miles away. The Uber was expensive so I canceled it and decided my basic white girl order of plain chicken tacos with a side of guac wasn't worth the trip.

I've tried remembering major cities in Jersey so that when I meet someone and they talk about where they are from I can say, "Oh, I know where that is!" I try asking about their town, how school was, or their family. The only question I've been asked when telling someone I'm from LA is, "do you know any celebrities?"

I don't really mind the question, I've actually come up with some pretty good fake stories on the spot. I just can't believe people think that the famous actors of Beverly Hills just randomly walk the streets. But just for the record, one time I met Wee-Man from "Jack-Ass" at his chronic taco shop. And yes, I got plain chicken tacos.

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