NOTE: Greetings travelers, I’d like to introduce Kayleigh, traveling linguist and future UN interpreter, to our Up Up and a Bear family. Come, Word Magician! And enthrall us with your tales!

Off to Madrid! Adventure awaits...

Off to Madrid! Adventure awaits…


Here’s the thing, folks: Spanish seems pretty easy. This is especially true when you’re sitting in class at a universidad in rural Indiana. And even more when you’re talking to your exclusively-English extended familia from Michigan during Thanksgiving. You’re translating things like “I am going to the mall to buy a coat,” or “The professor is really nice,” and let me tell ya, you feel so cool spouting out this foreign language. You’re on the top of the world as you ask “Where are my shoes?” in Spanish and your zapatos are right there, but you feel great because you didn’t use any English to find them. Life is muy bueno.

Then you move to Madrid.

Picture this: I’m on the 8-hour flight to Spain, having just left my family and my home to see another corner of the world, and I’m already hearing Spanish all around me. Excitement brews for an hour, but then I realize that I can’t bounce my knee and smile for 8 hours straight, so I sleep. A few uncomfortable hours pass and I regain some consciousness (I wish I could paint a picture for you of how wonderful my hair looked at that point- come and get it, chicos), and I sit up with my headphones still in my ears and Panic! At The Disco playing on repeat. As I fumble unsuccessfully with my glasses, I see a blurry figure in the seat in front of me turn around to face my direction and say something that is drowned out by Brendon Urie’s voice in my ears. I yank my headphones quickly and decide that my glasses sitting crookedly on face will have to suffice so I can see him, and this is how the conversation goes:

Me: “Lo siento… ¿Qué?” (Sorry, what?)

Him: “aksladgoiehpaobropueoihaepubaepbiunpkfhauegbpeaughpsdfkdh”

Or that’s how it sounds when you just woke up, you haven’t spoken Spanish since the end of fall semester, and you’re all-around socially flustered. Only a brief moment passes as the Spanish words are forming and catching up in my brain and I’m processing all of it and-

Him: Oh. No Spanish. You no Spanish.


I don’t know which dropped faster, my jaw or my self-esteem. Mr. Español turned back around to face front, chuckling to himself, and I sat there completely dejected. He didn’t even give me a chance! Then my mind starts racing. Why am I doing this? Do I know Spanish? Will I be okay in Madrid? What if I’m not fluent at the end? Can I flag down that flight attendant and ask her to turn the plane around and make a bee-line for my English comfort zone? WOULD I EVEN KNOW HOW TO SAY THAT IN SPANISH?

So I freak out for 3 hours and that’s basically the end of that anecdote. That was three months ago.

Here’s the gist of the story: That was my very first experience as someone pursuing fluency in a foreign country, and it was terrifying. I wanted to scream at that hombre, “NO. I SPANISH. I SPANISH!” But he did teach me two very important lessons:

1) I needed to get used to that kind of situation, because it would happen about 100 more times in the next two months.

2) He was entirely correct.

There was so much to be learned. At that time, I did not Spanish. I had no concept of the difficulties with dialect, accents, slang, speed of speech, idioms, nada. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Sure, 2016 is my sixth year of studying Spanish through school, and I was in an upper level class in college. I should be pretty proficient, right? Yeah, that’s what you would think. Then you meet a girl from France and she says she’s been studying Spanish for about a year and is completely fluent, and then goes on to talk about the 4 other languages she speaks.

I digress. This is not a rant about the American foreign language education system. That’s for another day.

Because today, we need to talk about how learning a foreign language sucks.

Learning a language is saying, “Lo siento, ¿qué? ¿Repite, por favor? ¿Otra vez?” over and over and over because you can’t catch all the words the first time something is said.

Learning a language is saying “muy bien” 200 times because you don’t remember any other adjectives when you’re under pressure.

Learning a language is having people hear you speak Spanish and then saying “Ohhh…. English?” and sometimes saying yes because you’re so frustrated.

Him: Oh. No Spanish. You no Spanish… That was my very first experience as someone pursuing fluency in a foreign country, and it was terrifying. I wanted to scream at that hombre, “NO. I SPANISH. I SPANISH!”


first glance of the majestic glass castle at Retiro Park

first glance of the majestic glass castle at Retiro Park


Your head hurts at the end of the day because your brain is always active as you contemplate an entirely new set of words. Hearing English is like a refreshing oasis for a split second before you return to slaving away at the Spanish that’s coming at your ears. There are days spent on the verge of tears because everybody in class is turning in an assignment about which you had no knowledge because it must’ve slipped through the cracks of your understanding. It’s similar to constantly banging your head against a wall, except the wall is constructed of vocabulary words and conjugations.

It’s a mess. That’s how one would describe learning a language.

With that being said, I should acknowledge that it is the most beautiful mess that I could ever imagine.

In spite of and including the former rant, I am completely head-over-heels in amor with the process that I’ve gone through in the past few months and that I continue to go through. Out of the frustration and struggle has come pride and tangible ability. There is no better feeling than realizing that there are MILLIONS of people in this world with whom you now have the power to comfortably communicate like you never could before.

Learning a language is incredible.

Learning a language is that moment when two people pull you aside in the airport to ask if you could translate between Spanish and English for them so they can communicate better.

Learning a language is the way you slip up using Spanish phrases during an English conversation, like saying “¿En serio?” to an American friend instead of “Are you serious?”

Learning a language is watching the transition in the attitude of Spanish natives when you adopt their accent and their mannerisms, and suddenly you are no longer a stranger, but simply someone who lives down the block.


embracing futbol at a Real Madrid game

embracing futbol at a Real Madrid game


I love Madrid, of that I have no doubt. It is a part of me now, it is a home. But when I return to the U.S. and I am missing Spain, my heart will simultaneously be aching for the Spanish language and for the experience of speaking and hearing it every day. It’s a beautiful, complex, rewarding language, and one about which I feel passionate. I identify the language with the culture and the people who have been so accepting and welcoming, and as a whole, I can’t help but have the utmost respect.

So as I scrawl dozens of new words in the margins of my notebook every day and torch my cell phone’s data by using the Google Translate app, I realize that this is exactly how I want to spend my life. One day I will be fluent in Spanish, and then I’ll move on to studying another language. I never want to be not learning all I can know about language. Because it’s a pretty amazing mess.

Ama lo que haces.

Love what you do.



For more stories related to learning a new language, check out these great articles:

Menorca reflects on the change in dialect in From German to Swiss-German: Getting around in Basel.

Want the best tips for learning a new language abroad? Read Els Mahieu’s guide: Tips for learning a language abroad.

Perhaps you’re thinking about going to Hungary; if that’s the case, check out 10 most useful Hungarian Phrases for Travelers by Shiv.

How to survive the language barrier is Jessica’s great guide – check it out!

You’ll be prepared to head to Finland with this great lesson from Shannon: Learn Finnish with me! The most useful Finnish words for travelers.

Es-tu Francais? I know a little French aussi, but not as much as Jennifer who will take you on a journey with her story: how I quit my day job and finally pursued my dream of speaking French.

Great resource for immersive language study abroad: language study abroad articles.


conquering one language at a time

“high” on life in Madrid



learning a new language

Travel on my friends…

Reading time: 7 min

I’m also going of the longest blog title but I’m probably not even close. NEXT TIME! Okay, what were we talking about again? Oh right, my amazing secret sauce for affording travel every month. Can you handle the truth? You CAN’T handle the truth!

If, after reading my tips, you are not satiated, I will be linking a collection of super useful articles at the end that includes great ideas like couch surfing and etc. There are a myriad of ways to make a living while on the road; you just need to accept that you’re probably not going to get rich in the process. But, a life rich with experiences, I would argue, is much better than one rich in material things.

I’ve been asked by many, Hung, how do you afford to travel all the time? And up until now I’ve held onto this secret like a belt on a fat man’s belly – but no more! It’s time to release it and let it fly downward like his pants after the belt is liberated from his Bulbasaurus waist. Yes, it’s true: I’m a professional GOLD DIGGER.

But here’s the rub, I only dig from my soon-to-be wife’s fertile yard. And it’s so subtle, I doubt she noticed. It’s okay you guys, she probably won’t even read this. And if she did, I can claim it all on April Fool’s Day. Honey, you thought I was serious? C’mon now, April Fools! It’s the perfect plan… except that I just told her, potentially, about the plan. Well, it’s too late. I can’t press delete now – I’m too lazy. The following tips are made for guys, but ladies, you can adapt as necessary.

Tip #1: Get a phone case that doubles as a wallet

Typically, these phone cases can only fit a few cards. Mine fits 4 cards. 3 of which are my medical card, AAA, and driver license. That leaves only 1 spot for a credit card, limiting your exposure to money spending when you’re out and about. This leads perfectly to my second tip.

Tip #2: Carry the most unaccepted card everywhere

Mastercard and Visa are universally accepted – so don’t carry these with you at any cost. My card of choice is the Discover or American Express, preferably with a maximum credit less than $500. Keep the balance as high as you can to minimize buying power. If it gets rejected at the counter, just look over to your partner with fear and anxiety. She surely will step in, pat you on the back, and pay for it. Vow to call the credit card company and find out what’s up. Then follow it up by getting an equivalent card with similar credit.

Tip #3: Go grocery shopping at stores that don’t accept credit cards

Yes, these do exist. The perfect example is WinCo. It’s actually an amazing grocery chain with a great selection and incredible prices because they have abolished credit card fees. You know what they also abolished – the need for you to pay for your groceries. Obviously, you should claim that you forgot to bring your debit card; you only have room for 4 cards for goodness’ sake. And how are you supposed to remember to switch out a credit card for a debit card? How dare WinCo not accept credit cards?! should be your primary argument when confronted.

Tip #4: Only carry enough cash for 2 McChicken sandwiches

This is about $2. Here’s the trick though: carry $22 but tuck the $20 away for extreme emergencies only like when you’re super hungry and you need 3 McChicken sandwiches.

Tip #5: Claim ownership of bills you don’t have

This is critical. My technique works primarily because of this strategy. And it works extremely well in conjunction with a mortgage as you can basically claim half your salary to this one behemoth. Now start adding bills from all sources. Ask your friends what kind of bills they normally receive in the mail and claim the same.

Tip #6: Buy cheap wallets and lose them often

This great tip is brought to you by Frank from BBQ Boy whose article Lady, can you please shut the F*ck up? made me laugh until I cried. And his tip is awesome and works very well. Not only will your friends chip in to help you out, they’ll feel sympathetic towards your bad luck. To make this work, you’ll need to purchase a LOT of wallets like this deal for bulk 2000 wallets at 30 cents a piece. It’s a big investment, but you’ll soon never have to pay for anything again! IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not put real cards into this wallet as that would entirely destroy everything you’ve worked for. You could also “lose” your wallet and not have to buy the 2000 bulk wallets but I think if you’re going to do this, you need to really sell it and commit to it.

Well, I can provide more tips but these 6 have worked incredibly well for me thus far. If you’re a gold digger like me, what are some strategies you’ve used? Don’t be an information digger and share.

For more great tips on how to travel the world on a budget, read these great articles:

Who wants free hotel stays? Everyone! Let Dana guide you with her article on how to get free accommodation.

Janet provides an awesome first-hand account on couch surfing in How Couchsurfing Changed My Life.

In his Travel Budget Guide, Tal gives you excellent resources for an inexpensive getaway.

Kate’s Vagabonding on a Budget post will give you chills and the confidence to travel on a budget.

5 secrets to travel & dive more is Florine’s excellent practical tips for saving money so you can travel and dive more often.

Going to Japan? Read Amie’s 10 budget hacks: Japan before you do.

Again, who wants free hotel stays? I DON’T don’t want that. Anne comes to the rescue: how to earn free hotel nights.

Sick of money saving tips? How about some useful tips to make your China trip awesome? Here it is: 10 useful tips for traveling in China; thanks Svet.

I wonder what it’d be like to travel for free? Or how about almost free? Brittany shows you how to travel for (almost) free!

Anita has even more tips on how to get free accommodation and get a ridiculously cheap flight around the world.

More advice for those couch surfers from Alex and Bell: couch surfing: not just a “free” place to stay.

Still want more? Stop being so greedy! Well… if you’d like me to share your gold digging strategies or an article you wrote on this topic, please comment below with the link and I’ll add it to the list.

Travel on my friends!




Reading time: 5 min

If you really think about it, we don’t have a lot of time on this Earth. And there’s just too much to see and do. While some people have found the courage to leave everything behind to wander the world, not all of us can do that. We need to strike a balance between having fun and being responsible; however, I think that most of us are tilted too much on the responsible side, neglecting our inner child yearning to see the world. We put having fun on the back burner: “I’ll do it later.” But before you know it, time has slipped away and there’s no way of getting it back.

I created this simple infographic to tell you to enjoy life as you go because there’s really never a perfect time. The time is now!

If you agree with my sentiment, please share then comment below to let me know your thoughts.



If you agree with this message, please share and spread the joy. To inspire you even more, check out 99 epic travel quotes that will inspire you to travel.

Travel on my friends.

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