Category Archives: Books

3 Important Travel Lessons We Learned from Harry Potter

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There are many reasons why the Harry Potter series has resonated so strongly with fans. Since the first book was published in 1997 who could have foreseen that it would spawn 6 sequels and become revivified by a series of blockbuster films, a sell out West End play and a major tourist attraction just outside of London? There’s no denying that Harry and his world are a cultural phenomenon… But why do we love it so much? Perhaps it’s because it presents us with a painfully accurate depiction of our adolescence, glossed over with a little fairy dust and early 20th century anachronisms? Maybe it’s because it riffs on myths and legends that are part of our unconscious pop culture psyche? Or perhaps it’s because the stories help us to become better people. There are some potent life lessons to be learned from the world of Harry Potter that intrepid wanderers can take with them on their travels, including…

People are not always what they seem

A lot of stories aimed at children deal in fairly two dimensional characters based on mythic archetypes. Hence, the good guys look like bad guys and the bad guys wear their villainy very much on their sleeve. When we travel, it’s all too tempting to be wary of new and unfamiliar people locales and customers, but the saga teaches us the value of taking a closer look. It shows us that when we scratch the surface, we can often find a person to be very different to their outward appearances. Take Scabbers, the cuddly little rat who is later revealed to be the treacherous Peter Pettigrew or the jittery and unassuming Professor Quirrell who turns out to have been osmosed by Voldemort. Of course, there’s no better embodiment of this than Professor Snape who, despite having been depicted as a sneering villain is revealed to have made a series of brave sacrifices to protect Harry out of love for his mother, Lilly. When so much is new and strange, a traveller can see monsters lurking in every corner, but a little understanding can reveal that things are rarely as scary as they appear.

Home isn’t necessarily where you grew up

Harry Potter spent his formative years in an unloving home where he was made to feel unwanted, unloved and like a huge inconvenience. Tragically, this is the reality that millions of real children experience around the world. These stories show them that things do get better and that in time they’ll find a place where they belong. Of course, this applies to adults, too! A big part of why many of us travel is to feel a sense of belonging that we just don’t get at home. A lot of people who put down roots after vacationing abroad just feel that sense of belonging when they find the right place, just like Harry did at Hogwarts. Take yourself to Viaja Compara Vuelo and find your next holiday destination.  You may just find your new home on your next vacation… Even if you don’t you’ll still have a great time.

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Adventures are always better with friends

The mythology wouldn’t be half so compelling if Harry didn’t have Hermione and Ron at his side to share his adventures; to help him through the tough times and help him celebrate the good times. The same is true of travel. Whether you’re navigating the Canadian rockies or hugging Goofy at Disneyland, adventures are always better with friends.

The world is a big and sometimes scary place and having people you love and trust by your side can help you let go of your fear and trepidation and truly enjoy your travels!

Confession time: I have neither seen nor read a single Harry Potter book/movie in its entirety. So many thanks to my friends more knowledgeable in this subject who collabed on this post! I do enjoy traveling to new places through books and movies though. I took a virtual trip to Mexico by seeing Coco in theaters today. For adventurous book ideas,click here! 

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What to Expect with a Letter to Juliet

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Before even watching the movie “Letters to Juliet”, I was excited to go to Verona as part of my Mediterranean Trek. So I planned out my visit to this city mainly by borrowing the movie from a friend. The only mistake I made was that I booked a mere two nights in Verona, leaving me with just one full day to experience all that this quaint city has to offer.

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My first night in Verona was spent arriving by a delayed train, then struggling in the dusk to find where my BnB was before finally giving in and taking a cab, so I didn’t see much in the midst of that stress. I started the next day bright and early with a walk to Juliet’s courtyard. This is what you see in “Letters to Juliet”, and it’s the perfect place to write a letter to Juliet! Because I got there early enough, there were only a few other people there. I found a quiet place by the grafitti wall of love to write my letter. In the movie, you can see women sticking their letters into the cracks of a wall. You can still do that, however, to make sure that a secretary of Juliet receives your letter, there are better practices in place now. The best thing to do is stick your letter in the red mailbox. Alternatively, if you go inside the house, you’ll find computer kiosks where you can e-mail her!

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go inside the house at the time, so I headed over to the area where you can find Juliet’s tomb. It turns out that you can get a discount by getting a combination ticket to Casa de Giulietta and the museum with her tomb, so I did that. The tomb was the best feature of the museum it’s housed in, but there are other art and artifacts to enjoy as well.

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I eventually went back to the house, Casa de Giulietta. Inside were a lot of artifacts from some of the Romeo and Juliet movies, such as costumes and a prop bed.

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But the best part of the Casa was getting to stand on Juliet’s balcony, and pondering “Wherefore art thou?”

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While foot traffic inside the Casa wasn’t so bad, the courtyard was getting jam-packed with tour groups and other visitors. Here’s a tip: If you want a truly magical and meaningful experience with Juliet, go in the morning before the day trippers roll in!

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I went to the courtyard for a third time in the evening, and it was even more crowded then! But this is when I enjoyed putting my own graffiti on the wall entering the courtyard. I’m not a vandal, it’s actually encouraged!

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In another spot of the courtyard is the only place in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to place a love lock, as it will eventually become a part of an art piece. (But seriously, don’t put a love lock anywhere else! I saw locks on every fence and bridge in every city I went to, and it just looked inconsiderate and trashy.)

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There are a lot of other things to do in Verona, such as go to the Arena, walk by the river, or explore the castles. I did some of these things, but since none of them are directly related to Juliet, I’m going to fast forward to today.

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I had heard it would take a long time to get my letter back from Juliet. I was hoping it would arrive to my house around the time that I came back from the Mediterranean, but such was not the case. I kept it in the back of my mind, and thought about it sometimes when I went to get the mail. But today, I was totally not expecting it!

I opened the mailbox and grabbed the letters out. One had an Italian postmark, and the return address said it was from “Club di Giulietta”! I squealed in excitement. I scared my dog by my squealing. I hope the neighbors didn’t hear me squealing. I raced back to the house so I could carefully open the envelope.

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I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to Juliet, but it was a decent-sized letter that could be summed up as “where is he?” I was honestly just expecting the response to be a canned sentence on an index card. I was surprised at how much thought was put into the letter I received! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter.

“Finding love isn’t easy. In fact, it should be something they teach in school along with how to manage your finance and finding a job that you like.”

“Some people fall in love quickly- others warm to it slowly. But there is one common thing about it- that love doesn’t happen if you don’t take action.”

“Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.”

By the way, while I would definitely encourage a trip to Verona if you can, you don’t need to go there in order to get a letter from Juliet. Just send your letter to:

Club di Giulietta
Corso Sant’Anastasia, 29
37121 Verona, Italy

In an age where it’s rare to receive a beautifully handwritten letter, it’s even more special to receive one from a fictional character!

Letter from Juliet

A Simple Song

Here’s a fast thought for your Friday:

Books are great. If I’m not exploring the world, I’m probably at home with a good book. Today was one of those days, as I am currently rereading this:

A Simple Song

Melody Carlson has been my favorite author for a long time, ever since I first read Diary of a Teenage Girl in middle school. She’s written over 200 books, and it would be wonderful if I have the opportunity to read all of them throughout my life. Because I get Melody Carlson’s monthly newsletter that features announcements and contests, I won a prize from her last April for sharing a story about an April Fool’s joke that was pulled on me. (I may share that prank with all of you later…) My prize was a box of her books, and A Simple Song was one of them. It’s a story about an Amish girl, Katrina, who lives in Holmes County, which was relevant to me since I only lived an hour’s drive from there!

Now that I’m on the other side of the country, this book has even more meaning as a read it for a second time. Katrina has the opportunity to go to Hollywood and compete on an American Idol style of show. She goes back and forth on this decision, but eventually leaves for the West Coast. Although I’m not Amish, and I would probably only be brought onto a singing competition as the comic relief, I feel like I have a lot in common with this fictional Katrina Yoder. We both left Central Ohio for a more promising west. It was a difficult decision, and while we know it was for the best, it still makes us uneasy even to this day. Being in locations close to Katrina’s journey really brought this story to life. Also, Melody Carlson lives in Oregon, so that makes this book even more relevant to my life. I hope I can run into her someday.

A good book is typically less costly than a trip, but it can take you on an even wilder adventure!