Georgia– Mustang Avenue: A Travelogue

In my personal experience, roads have always organized a city. Back at home in Minneapolis, I’m able to type in an address on Google Maps and immediately visualize where in the city it’s located. That’s because back in the US, cities are mostly laid out in grids with streets alphabetized vertically by name and organized horizontally by number. But in Tbilisi, the streets run like lay lines– providing a route between the city’s highest points of energy. It’s set up like a functional labyrinth– catering to the whims of wanderlust tourists while also remaining expertly navigated by the many cab drivers.

In fact, it wasn’t a rare experience for our groups’ numerous cabs to all speed off in opposing directions– only to end up at the shared destination having taken completely different routes.

The most notable street in Tbilisi is easily the centralized (and commercialized) Rustaveli Avenue. Although the historicity of the street may be overlooked due to the now present Dunkin’ Donuts and Zara– Rustaveli Avenue is a living relic because it showcases how a newly renovated Radisson and an old Parliament Building can exist in the same place and simultaneously play an important role in Georgia’s narrative.Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 10.58.16 PM

I remember passing the Radisson on the first day, curious as to why our guide, David, decided to camp us there. The mildly tall glass building stuck out like a sore-thumb among the surrounding stone buildings, and over the constant buzz of car engines David began to speak.

The sleek Radisson was a relatively new addition to the street, he explained that before it existed in its current form, it had been overtaken by refugees fleeing conflict in the region. But the story didn’t stop there, as our Professor then went on to explain that he had actually stayed there back in the early 90s when it was the only hotel foreign visitors were allowed to stay at. He dove into anecdotes of bugging, espionage, and a black-market system where American denim was more valuable than fur. Standing there on Rustaveli Avenue, opposite that unexceptional glass structure, I had my first glimpse into the unconventional history that lay beneath my feet. I had long been accustomed to flashy art museums, well-funded historical centers, and long-standing architectural feats, but there, in Tbilisi, I gained an unexpected appreciation for a Radisson– and even more so for the bustling road separating me from it.

We paused briefly across from the Ballet and Opera Theatre of Tbilisi. It was a beautifully intricate building with a red and yellow color scheme, and ornate carvings on the facade. Although this structure wasn’t original, as it was reconstructed due to a fire, the builders were intent on recreating it exactly as it had been before. However, David pointed out that the original acoustics were so precise and complex that they weren’t able to be recreated, and so they remained an unfixable part of their history, one that was lost forever– a stark contrast to the food, language, and dance that had resurged and survived the country’s many occupations. Rustaveli has been paved and patched numerous times over the years, but it has always remained somewhat intact. It has withstood bombs, bullets, brawls, beatings– and in that sense unquestionably earned its place as a truly Georgian fixture.

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As we passed the Old Parliament Building, we saw a poster-filled chain-link fence and several accompanying protestors. David seemed to quickly brush over their qualms of police brutality and the uninvestigated deaths of several Georgian men, but it was hard not to notice their small encampment in the background of his speech. Even though presently bookended by shopping malls, the street clearly hasn’t shaken its reputation as a forum for the ongoing grievances of  mistreated Georgians.

Inside the Old Parliament building

We then made our way to Liberty Square, the aptly named (or re-named to be precise) starting point of the historic 2003 Rose Revolution. 99% of the time this roundabout functions as just that, a roundabout for cars making their way. But, as David talked, I could begin to see the other 1% of the square’s history. The hordes of marginalized citizens taking to the streets in order to make their voices heard. Armed only with roses back in 2003, they proved that transition of power could be peaceful, and the will for change fulfilled.

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Liberty Square

The group walking tour wasn’t the only time I found myself wandering down Rustaveli Avenue. In fact, it’s numerous attractions (both historical and commercial) allowed me to explore the best of Georgian culture while indulging in certain Western comforts (H&M, Dunkin’ Donuts).Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 11.00.21 AM

New experiences were juxtaposed to familiar ones, and all along one street. I was able to stop along the route to enjoy the delicious juicy, meat-filled khinkali, and then pop into the English bookstore, Prospero’s, just a block down.

Prospero’s Bookstore and adjoining cafe

Tbilisi is one of the safest cities in the world, so it’s no surprise that at night the avenue is crowded with restaurant patrons, youth, and eager tourists outside shops advertising “free wine tastings.”

However, there is a darker history behind this safety. Situated directly near the midpoint of Rustaveli is the infamously known Café Gallery. Popular among partyers (and police), Café Gallery was the subject of one of the numerous police raids on popular Tbilisi nightlife hubs in the Spring of 2018. Backlash from these crackdowns lead to scores of youth taking the street and protesting the oppressive and strict drug laws. As tourists, Google reviews warned us quite bluntly that we probably wouldn’t be let in. The nightlife spots in Tbilisi aren’t only for drinking and having a good time, but rather they serve as one of the few tolerant and accepting scenes for women and the LGBTQ+ community. Partying in Georgia is not merely a “fun time,” but actually a form of protesting. Both strict “face checks” and pre-registration online are used to weed out people who might be there to infiltrate and disrupt these late-night safe spaces for minorities. Just as roses were the tool in 2003, raving has more recently become a way to peacefully protest the police and government.

At around 10pm a few of us decided to leave Lolita, a bar across from our hotel (Rooms Tbilisi), and take our chance at seeing the notorious Café Gallery for ourselves.

Inside Lolita

After a short eight-minute walk, the four of us cautiously approached the bright blue door. There didn’t appear to be a bouncer, so we climbed a flight of stairs and found ourselves inside the bar area. The room was small, and other than the dormant disco ball hanging in the center I had no idea how the small space could possible function as one of the city’s most popular clubs. It was a Thursday, and the bar was mostly empty, save a few tables that were finishing their meals. The room was painted a stark white, but people had taken sharpies of various colors to the walls and inscribed pictures, sentences, and signatures. After a round a drinks we headed up to the patio area, and ran into the bulk of people there. A few groups of people huddled around their respective plastic-bottle-bongs and took turns enjoying what I can only describe as “Georgia’s newest legal activity.”

It wasn’t long before last-call was announced and just after that we made our way out of the bar and back onto the street. It was about midnight and not surprisingly the only thing still open was McDonald’s. After a quick, obligatory burger pit-stop, we made our way back to the hotel. Taxis and cars whizzed by and although foot traffic was sparse at that hour, Rustaveli still felt oddly lively.

Neon signs in Tbilisi

It was at that moment, when I looked down the lightly-illuminated stretch pavement that something struck me. Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi, and even Georgia itself– they were all roads.

Say whaaaaaaaaaa?

Hear me out. Even before it was given borders, Georgia was an integral part of the Silk Road. Now, it serves as a byway for oil-pipelines from Azerbaijan to Turkey. Newly modernized and increasingly globalized, Georgia’s hospitality and friendliness has always fostered a culture of welcoming passers-through. Take for example the Soviet-Era statue of Mother Georgia: She holds wine in one hand, and a sword in the other. This is because if you greet Georgians with a sword they will fight back, but if you greet them with kindness then everyone can drink together.

Rustaveli isn’t the only important road in Georgia, or even Tbilisi for that matter. On our excursion to Stalin’s hometown of Gori (Yes! Stalin was actually GEORGIAN, not Russian), we were on one of Georgia’s busiest highways yet a stone’s throw away from an ongoing border dispute. Our guide David pointed out divided communities and restricted areas, all as we sailed by unobstructed on our bus. It felt like a hyperreal version of the country’s past, visible from the safety of our mobile cocoon.

Stalin’s childhood home in Gori. The tour guide really liked our group, so she actually let us take a look inside as well– a rarity!

On our way back to the airport, we drove on the President George W. Bush Street. A road that not only functions as a direct route to the airport, but also as a bridge between Georgia and the US. It’s easy to look at Georgia’s trade deals with the EU and China as focus points of the nations efforts to globalize– but a tangible road named after a former US President exemplifies a zeal and dedication in a wholly different capacity. This road must be traveled in route to the airport from central Tbilisi, so therefore it’s impossible to leave the country without first facing its goal of integrating not only into NATO, or the EU– but the global scene entirely.


As someone who spent just a week total in Georgia, I don’t feel qualified (or capable) of speaking completely of their oppression, struggle, or resilience. So for that I’ll defer to the experts– specifically Georgian poet and author, Guram Odisharia, who’s novel The Cyclops Bomb centers around a fictional Georgian news cameraman during a height of the country’s strife. Although fiction, this text opened my eyes to the turbulent lives of everyday people during conflict, and helped exemplify the danger and difficulty many press and media workers faced in pursuit of reporting the truth. In one passage he comments on the importance of Rustaveli Avenue, but as a visitor I found that it actually summed up Georgia’s entire transition quite well: “In this place– on the avenue in front of Parliament– any gathering at any time has a black leader colour, and it’s been like that for about twenty years. An untraversed, untamed space, a sort of mustang. Mustang Avenue.”

Submission, and its wicked spouse complacency, have long been seen as the most effective reigns of control. However, when a country’s identity stems from a unique culture and unbreakable sprint, those means of suppression grovel at the people’s unwillingness to be borne into compliance. The people of Georgia have consistently shown their need for independence. As a country that has constantly had to fight for its sovereignty it’s truly a marvel that, as a foreigner, I’ve never felt more welcomed by a country’s people.

As visitors and students we focused on steadfast staples of Georgian culture: Supra, dancing, wine, and language. These all exist in tandem to form a collective identity that defines Georgians. We also looked at the economy and international relations as signs of transition and growth. All of these topics proved to be worthy markers of progress, but I think if we had taken the time to simply admire the various roads we treaded everyday– I believe that we would’ve appreciated their own unique contributions to Georgia’s identity as an independent country, a growing country– a mustang country.

Roads: walked, paved, or constructed– they’re often seen as a cornerstone of mobility. They’re also often unfairly reduced to just a means for people, goods, and ideas to travel vast spaces– but roads, especially in Georgia, serve a much greater purpose. They themselves are vehicles for remembrance, protest, and even revolution.Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 11.05.27 AM.png

My reviews of popular European cities ~in Haiku form~

Because who has time for full length reviews anyway?!?!



Pristine alpen lake

Mountains surrounding it all

My money is gone

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Twenty dollar Pho

Great to walk the old town

Better when it’s warm




Like one giant line

But the history is nice

Barely worth it though

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So underrated

Day trip to Pompei by train

The food is unmatched

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Da Vinci’s David

The Uffizi museum

Is the best on earth



Let’s see the duomo!

Ok, what should we do next?

Hmm, I’m not so sure…..




This place is so grunge!

Yeah! And my money goes far

Let’s check out the wall!




Which way to the beach?

Straight, but let’s stop for tapas!

And some sangria!




Castle. Food. And drink.

And everything is so cheap!

Walking tour was great




Brick Lane Market. Go.

Royal Ballet was too cool

Pint and fish and chips



Legit my fav place

The highlands are so close by

Scotch Whiskey is great




The wine was too sweet

But that is kind of their thing

Beautiful landscape




Worthy of the hype

Do not go to the Louvre though

Try savory crepes


Best seafood around

Take bus line to Monaco

Beach is beautiful


Do you agree with all of my opinions? Let me know!


I was featured on a Business Insider Podcast! (For the DUMBEST reason)

Yes, you read that title correctly. I was indeed not only featured, but actually the go to “EXPERT” on a ~very niche~ subject.


Or, more specifically, the eating of Crocs…….yeah, so this is where it gets a little weird.

Back in highschool, I was a writer for our school’s student newspaper, The Knight Errant. There, I excelled at humiliating myself and alienating faculty with my witty, sardonic (damn, SAT word right there), and engaging stories.

You may have the (wrong) impression that traveling is what brought out my willingness to sacrifice my safety, reputation, and dignity for the sake of a good story, but that is not the case. I have been doing stupid shiz for years .

And on this *very* special occasion, I happened to eat a Croc.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Gunnar, why on earth would you eat a Croc?”

Well, the short answer is because I like attention. The long(er) answer is that it was in pursuit of a definitive answer to a highly scientific and Nobel Prize worthy question:

Are Crocs edible?

You may be aware of a certain urban legend that states Crocs can be eaten in a last ditch effort to survive if you’re ever stranded in the woods. The story goes that you boil them down over a fire until they’re soft enough to ingest, and then you eat them for life-saving ~sustenance~.

Naturally, I decided that this story must remain a myth no longer! And so I ate a Croc.

The full story is linked here. But this is the gist:

Pre-Consumption Research:

“Technically speaking, Crocs are made from a closed-cell resin called Croslite™. This soft, comfortable, lightweight, non-marking and odor-resistant foam gives Crocs their unique texture. Although not advertised as edible, Croslite™ is non-toxic, meaning theoretically no harm should come to you if consumed”


“In conclusion, Crocs may be non-toxic, but that definitely does not translate into them being *edible.* If you’re ever stranded on a deserted island with a friend, and Crocs appear to be your only food source, take my advice–– eat your friend before you eat your Crocs.”

I enjoyed a brief period of ~mild internet fame~ (thank you to all 6 people that commented on the OG piece), and then I assumed that, like all of my other stories, it would die.

Welp (shocker), I was wrong.

I had made one small miscalculation in my experiment. Not in my actual eating of the Croc, but in the reception of the findings. It turns out that I was not alone in my pursuit of answers and it wasn’t long before a fellow believer reached out (ok, so it was like three years later but whatever).


Refer to screen-shotted DM’s below:


I had a fruitful Skype interview and after hanging up and reflecting on my expert testimony, I immediately decided that in no world should I speak-of or listen to said podcast episode– ever.

I wasn’t embarrassed per say, but there is something (shame?) to be felt about the entire world learning of your Croc-eating history.

That decision lasted roughly 2 months. I knew the band-aid had to be ripped off eventually, so, armed with several shots and a (more than) willing support group– I gave the podcast a listen.


I speak at the 24 min mark. Click HERE for the link

If you want to save yourself the *cringe* factor I basically just recounted my Croc eating experience and answered any questions she had. I made sure to plug Rachel Ray and mention the E.V.O.O. I added to the water when boiling, and even compared the taste of boiled Croc to a plastic mouth guard!

My favorite gem is definitely when the co-host asks “Did he have any regrets?”

And then the other host loudly proclaims “Gunnar has NO regrets!” And honestly she couldn’t be more right! That being said, I did feel a *slight* sense of guilt when I convinced her that she too should try eating a Croc, AND THEN SHE DID (listen to the rest of the podcast if you want to see how it went)!


For better or for worse, I still get random people commenting on my Instagram asking if I’m “that guy that ate that Croc” and I have to awkwardly acknowledge that, indeed I am. The internet never dies folks. I mean you eat ONE Croc and suddenly you’re “that guy.”

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In conclusion, I shall die having not only survived ingesting a Croc, but also with the satisfaction of having convinced another human being to do the same. You can take me now Lorde.


Written by Gunnar Lundberg
Edited by Emily Weninger

One *FREE* Trick to Dodge All the Tourists in Rome

Rome. The city of dirt, grime, and that one Lizzie McGuire movie that somehow convinced an entire generation that they needed to go there.

I kid, I kid (kind of). Rome ~the eternal city~ is arguably the most learned about city in any US classroom. From Nero, to Caesar, to the senate, to the Colosseum, to the Vatican, to Latin, and yes, to that famed saying “all roads lead to Rome.” Although, in my case the “road” was a 30-euro round-trip ticket courtesy of I’m telling you, BOOK AHEAD! A same day one-way ticket from Milan to Rome (3hr ride) can cost up to 90 euro!

Side note! When you create an account on and use my code gunnal1s0x7x  you’ll get 10 euro off your first booking! Free dough, yo!

Any who, to borrow a line from T-Swift, the city’s reputation (as a cultural Mecca) proceeds it. Every person dreams of walking the ancient narrow streets and (after a blister or two), speeding through them instead on the back of a local’s Vespa *insert romantic sigh.* But there’s one inevitable thing that all visitors seem to overlook. And that is…………OTHER FREAKIN’ VISITORS.

Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world, which makes sense considering all of the various historical sites, but STILL, there are like a trillion people there. Streets are crowded, gelato is overpriced *tear*, and open spaces are few & far between. Well, that is unless you know this one *free* trick………..

Explore. At. Night.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking “Gunnar, that is insane, unsafe, inconvenient……….and positively genius.”

And to that I say: you are 100% correct.

But don’t take my word for it, the proof is in the pudding (this pudding happens to be in the form of photos).

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“But Gunnar, how did you come across this weird, awesome #travelhack?”

Well, it all started with a pub crawl, thirteen annoying “study abroads,” and an Adonis-like plumber from SoCal named Thad trying desperately to hold onto his youth (zoinks).

In my earlier days of traveling, I LOVED pub crawls. They’re a great way to meet other young, fun, budget travelers from all over the world. However, I’ve had some experiences that proved to be rather lackluster– Rome was the epitome of these experiences.

The pub crawl was sponsored by our hostel, Alessandro Palace Hostel & Bar. The hostel was $21 a night per person and was close to the train station (really good price for Rome).

Side note: For hostel booking, I always use It’s cheap, easy to use, and has flexible rules when it comes to cancelling a booking.

Anyway, back to the pub crawl. Rome was the first city I had been to where I really ran into other college students from the US, and when I say, “ran into,” I really mean “was completely inundated by.” Everywhere I turned I ran into an “Ashley” or “Lauren” who was having “Oh my god, like, honestly the best semester of [their] life *insert concerningly long sip of Long Island Iced Tea*.”  

Gone were the token Australians, physically-intimidating-female-German backpackers, and perennially chill Canadians. Oh no, I was surrounded by Lululemon and Vineyard Vine wearing, “No way bro!” shouting, and first-time legal drinking AMERICAN. COLLEGE. STUDENTS.

Now, I love a taste of home just as much as the next person, but this is *exactly* the type of “college culture” I wanted to avoid by going to university abroad. It was as if an entire frat party had been transplanted from a Big 10 University to a Roman dive bar (gross sticky floor included).

Side note: This in no way describes all study abroad students from the US. I know a lot that seek out a completely different “study abroad experience,” and in all honestly they hate these types of students just as much as I do (if not MORE! Considering they often have to do an entire program with them).

While I was completely out of my element, there was another pub crawl patron who seemed more than eager to supply the room with nearly endless Jager Bombs– and that, my friends, was Thad.

I’m not actually sure if his name really was Thad, but he bore an uncanny likeness to Thad Castle, the well-known Blue Mountain State star, so I’ll just call him that (picture attached below for reference).


Thad was a proud plumber (and he should be, they make bank!) but his constant boasting, pec flexing, and whipping out of hundred-euro bills, made even *the thirstiest* of attending sorority girls cringe.

I did end up making really good friends with the guide though! I asked her, in my very clear, confident, fluent Italian (wink wink) for recommendations of what to see in Rome, and she quickly confessed that she was actually from Florence– and what luck, I have been to Florence (and enjoyed it much more than Rome)! We spoke for a while and now I follow her on Instagram, nbd (still waiting for that follow back though).

Roman or not, she did give me an invaluable piece of advice before we went to our last planned bar– “The Trevi Fountain is right around the corner, just go out and explore.”

So, my travel partner @demetriawren and I linked up with two other fed-up pub crawlers, and we began our nighttime exploration of the city.

Despite what you may think, it really wasn’t that sketchy, and the Trevi fountain was still lit up and eerily empty– aka very pretty. The Spanish Steps were completely vacant, and with all the hordes gone it really was a sight to behold.


Side note: I still would not recommend exploring at night by yourself, Rome is a lot safer than people assume, but there is still crime– SO BRING A FRIEND (or two).

Rome reminded me a lot of a Six Flags theme park with its long lines and hurried, conveyor belt museum experiences. All of the historical significance seemed to take a back-row seat to my constant internal monologue saying, “Can’t this line move any faster?!?” (it took three hours just to get inside the Vatican Museum) or “My god, I just need to get OUT of this mob ASAP” (I actually muttered the latter while staring at Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling). My desire to see what I had previously only read about in textbooks was hindered by hours of waiting and a constant lack of water (so bring lots to drink!).

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In conclusion– pub crawls and paid tours be damned! I could never really marvel at the historical magic of Rome until I has some peace, quiet, and yes– darkness. If your main attraction to Rome is the historical and educational aspect, I highly recommend seeing the sights doused in moonlight (I just cringed typing that). If, however, your main attraction to Rome is to relive Lizzie McGuire’s 8th grade field trip, well, STAY HOME.  

So, that’s it. That’s my one *free* trick to explore Rome tourist free. It’s still by no means my favorite city– and I much prefer Naples and Florence to it, but we all know you’re going to go anyway (I mean it is Rome after all).

Other trip highlights include:

-Circumnavigating the Vatican City in an attempt to see the Sistine Chapel (note to all, it is inside the Vatican Museum)

-Watching (and recording) Demi do a drunken self-duet to “What Dreams are Made Of” at the Trevi Fountain

-When a pigeon pooped on Demi’s iPhone while we were eating gelato outside

-Walking for hours by the river because the weather was beautiful, and it was free to do

-The Roman Forum! Some of the best ruins I’ve ever seen, and a great panoramic view of Rome.

Got any questions, comments, suggestions? Feel free to reach out! And until next week,



Written by GunnarLundberg

Edited by Emily Weninger

Why I’m glad I didn’t get “The Internship of a Lifetime”

Hi all! I’m aware that I’ve taken long hiatus from posting, but university is stressful! Ya feel?

I just wrapped up my junior year at Franklin University Switzerland (wow how time flies), and in between the hustle and bustle of papers, readings, midterms, and group projects I also applied to many, many internships in the hopes of gaining some *professional* experience before *deep breath* entering the workforce next year.

In my search, I came across what was advertised as “The Best Internship……Ever” and after reading a job description that touted pay, free travel, and an opportunity to write– it really did seem perfect!

Verbatim this is what the posting listed: “Fly around the world reviewing flights, hotels, trains and more for our global audience. Awesome photography skills and design knowledge a plus.

Whoever thought you could get paid to write about “what I did on summer vacation?” All you have to do is share your experiences with the world in a series of written reviews with photos, videos and social media posts.”

It really sounded too good to be true (and tbh a lot fake)! But with the unique confidence that only follows half a bottle of wine, I decided to shoot my shot.

Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn too often (~alliteration~), BUT I am indeed what the kids would call *well-travelled* (and my parents would call spoiled). Either way, I have been blessed with incredible opportunities that younger me could only dream of:

-Working as a commercial salmon fisherman in the Bering Sea

-Running THE ORIGINAL Marathon from Marathon to Athens (without training)

-Hunting for the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland

-A rare guided tour of the Parliament in Azerbaijan

-Clubbing at Basiani in Tbilisi, Georgia (converted underground pool beneath their Soviet-Era Soccer Stadium)

-Sipping mojitos on the beach in Mykonos

These accomplishments(?) may not qualify me for much, BUT I AM A DAMN SEASONED TRAVELLER (parents please read as “ungrateful leech”). So, I sent in my resume and funky-fresh cover letter and dove back into the stresses of academia.

Flash forward a month later when in the peak of finals week, I got an email SAYING THAT I, GUNNAR LUNDBERG, HAD BEEN SELECTED FOR A PHONE INTERVIEW. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. My dreams of impending finals were suddenly replaced with enchanting visions of far off lands (and of course their accompanying foods).

A few days later there I sat, ready– poised in bed with my resume, cover letter, course catalog, and Wonder Woman-esq power pose.

Two minutes passed our scheduled 13:30pm call, the phone rang *gasp*


But let’s slow it down.

The interview began well, but the unenthusiastic and monotonous tone in the interviewer’s voice did raise a few red flags.

She asked about my school in Switzerland, why I choose to go there, and what about travelling I loved.

I spoke at length about the people I had met in $5 a night hostels, my favorite museums, and most importantly the impacts, both personal and external, that travel has (Because hello! Planes are one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions and unregulated tourism can literally DESTROY PARTS OF THE WORLD FOREVER).

To my surprise, the interviewer, who represented a business focused *solely* on travel, didn’t really seem to care.

She wanted to know about how many “miles” I had accumulated on respective loyalty programs in my lifetime, and how many “points” I had earned on my credit cards (yes, cards plural).

I told her that as a university student who lives abroad, I can’t afford to be loyal to an airline company, as I have to pick the cheapest one available. And yes, I’m aware that that means I won’t be eligible to be “upgraded” to business, or first class, but as a 21-year-old who lives Switzerland and travels regularly– I’m incredibly grateful to even fly coach (I also conveniently left out the fact that I actually *owe* money on my singular credit card).

The response? Well, it was along the lines of “So no miles then?”

This is where it became very clear that this company and I did not share the same definition of “travel” and more importantly the reason one travels.

So, no. I don’t have any airline miles, I have never been inside a lounge at an airport, I have never flown first class, and in all honesty I LOATHE AIRPORTS AND FLIGHTS.

I fly EasyJet and Ryanair because they get me round-trip to Brussels for $20, Paris for $30, Portugal for $60, and Sicily for $45 (all from Milan btw). And yes, it’s cramped, and I may only be able to bring a backpack– but that’s ok! Because, to contradict Miley Cyrus, IT IS ABOUT THE DESTINATION. And more importantly it’s about who you can meet there, what you can learn from them, and how little a footprint you can leave while doing it.   

Despite the flashy experiences I listed above I’ve also:

-Done countless free-walking-tours all over Europe

-Visited whiskey distilleries in Scotland to tour their craft

-Had a workshop at the former Gestapo headquarters in Berlin

-Visited Stalin’s hometown in Georgia

-Seen *the* lighthouse that Virginia Woolf wrote about in her novel

-Toured the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland

-And much more.

I left the phone interview disheartened, in shock, and wholly sure that I would not get the job.

And I was right.

I got this very email earlier today:

“I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation; however after much deliberation, we have decided not to move forward in the interview process with you at this time. I appreciate your interest in –––––––––, and I hope that we can reconnect in the future when our needs better align.”

And guys– I WAS SAD. Not that I didn’t get the job, but that one of the largest travel companies around didn’t think that thoughtful, sustainable travel was a “need” they were focused on! How whack is that?!?!

They also announced who they did pick, and as expected it was someone with a zeal for all things airports and airplanes, and of course– no noticeable sense of environmental impact as: “At Delta, [they] gained a reputation for taking the most indirect routings possible — think Atlanta to Miami via Los Angeles, or to Amsterdam via Seattle — just to spend more time in the air.”

Now I don’t want to hate, but again hello!!!!!! Fossil fuels!!!!!! Like excuse me CAROL (not said person’s real name) but do all those fancy “miles” pay off your carbon footprint from your first class flight with unnecessary legs that you added just to accumulate *more* miles?!?!?!

Now, in this company’s defense they are focused on helping people accumulate “points” and “miles” to help lessen (the incredibly high) cost of traveling. And that is a message I can get behind. But the purpose can’t stop there! Travel is one of the most polluting industries on our DYING planet. Socially consciousness and responsible travel is not a “need” for the future, it’s a necessity for now. With a platform as large as the one this company has, it’s a shame that they don’t use it to educate new travelers on the need to be thoughtful, respectful, and sustainable.

So, in the meantime I’ll be sticking it out in cramped, cheap, no baggage allowance EasyJet flights for my wallet, our planet, and frankly– my college-aged ego.

On an ~entirely~ unrelated note I am also looking for a summer job/internship. So, if you have anything (that doesn’t make my progressive, pro-choice, snowflake mind churn), HIT ME UP!

Thanks, Gunnar Lundberg


I Went to Loch Ness in Search of Nessie

Although many make the journey to Scotland in order to taste fine whiskey, or live out their Harry Potter fantasies, I went with only one real goal in mind– see the Loch Ness Monster.

Scotland is renowned for their sexy plaid kilts and slightly obnoxious bagpipes, but any true fan of the highland heritage is also undoubtedly familiar with one of the world’s most infamous myths– the Loch Ness Monster (please note that to be pronounced correctly, it’s not “lock” but rather “lo–and then pretend you’re about to hack a loogie from the back of your throat).

This is totally me (and not at all just my face on Jamie from Outlander).

Legend has it that the notoriously elusive monster lurks beneath the loch’s dark waters– evading sight and sonar detection by navigating the many caves and ridges of Scotland’s deepest loch. The origin of the myth is debated by many historians, but most agree that tales of the dinosaur-esque creature date back as early as the sixth century AD. Since than stories and sightings of Nessie have circulated countless newspapers and websites­, even surfacing in pop-culture through Scooby-Doo specials and blockbuster movies (like 2007’s The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep). As an avid lover of all things mythic and mystic, I knew that visiting Loch Ness and going on a boat tour/Nessie hunt was something I HAD TO DO in my lifetime.

So, having already planned a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, and friend and I were easily able to go online and book a ticket for a bus tour of the Scottish Highlands. I ended up shelling out about $50 for a day-long trip with Ness Buss Tours. Besides Loch Ness, the trip also included stops at a whiskey distillery and the ancient Scottish settlement Glencoe (note that the optional boat tour and whiskey tasting is extra on top of the $50 bus fee). It was a rather expensive purchase for me (considering I usually stick to free-walking tours), but I conceded that an opportunity to see Nessie was priceless.

The stop at the whiskey distillery was really fun! Especially being able to get my drink on at around 11 in the morning (also worth mentioning is that my friend and the tour guide had some flirty chemistry happenin’ between ‘em). So even when she nearly held up the bus talking to him afterwards, I harbored no ill wishes. Honestly I still felt a little bad for making her circumnavigate the old town of Edinburgh with me the night prior in search of McDonald’s and a drunken Big Mac. Although, we did meet two awesome Dutch girls, one of whom I managed to take a picture with. I may or may not have cried when we said goodbye to them after the pub crawl ended.


I rode through the Scottish Highlands with a slight buzz, and maybe it was just my whiskey tinted vision, but the highlands are truly one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life. The rolling hills, open plains, and slight fog gave the wilderness an incredibly unique composition– one I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world.


Upon arriving at Loch Ness, we disembarked the bus and the group of us riding the boat made our way to the docks. The Loch itself isn’t very wide, and you’re easily able to see both sides of it. However, the length of the loch is incredible, and when looking out the horizon easily vanishes into the water.


The boat cruise began and our Captain spoke over the loud speaker, giving us various facts and figures about the loch. The first half of the tour is devoted entirely to the natural, geological aspects of the loch– which in my opinion acted as a scientific and educational backdrop for the second half A.K.A main event A.K.A THE FREAKING SEARCH FOR NESSIE. I was so excited I honestly thought I might have an aneurism.

Our boat was equipped with a sonar depth-measuring system, so we all huddled around the live-screen feed hooked up to a TV and watched for any sudden or large objects to appear beneath us. Our Capitan explained how all of the equipment worked (sound bouncing through the water and off the loch’s floor back the receiver– all that sort of jazz). My eyes were glued to the screen, ready for any drastic change.

To answer your question– no, our Captain was not a firm believer in the monster. Although he wasn’t opposed to the idea, and had indeed seen a few large, foreign objects appear on the screen throughout his lengthy career. But he preferred to believe in the more scientific explanations, such as large gas bubbles escaping from crevasses deep within the loch. He did however admit that there was something creepy and mysterious about Loch Ness– perhaps it was the aura of darkness it seemed to exude, pairing ominously with the usually overcast sky and constant light rain.

After about 30 minutes the tour was beginning to come to a close, and we slowly made our way back to the small harbor to dock up. I hadn’t seen anything startling on the sonar screen, and decided to make my way to the stern of the boat to look out once more on the vast, choppy waters of Loch Ness.

I gazed out onto the loch, arms outstretched before me (literally picture Rose from Titanic, that was me). I called to Nessie with all of my heart, begging her give me some sort of definitive sign of her presence. I didn’t see anything in the water– but I kid you not, the soft tune of a bagpipe melody filled the wind around me, entering my ears and filling me with pure hope of her existence. Well, at least until I recognized the tune as the much-overplayed Outlander theme song, then I just felt obligated to reduce Nessie to something the believer in me never accepted– a tourist trap.


On the real, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Scottish Highlands. Even if you aren’t a Nessie fan, the picturesque landscapes and fascinating natural history is enough to keep any cynic entertained. However, if you’re like me and therefore willing to defend Nessie’s existence until your dying breath, it truly is an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the myth– and revel momentarily in the possibility of seeing her yourself.

Also, at this point you may be like “But what went wrong?!” Or “Where’s the major road bump in the trip?!”

Well, basically it’s the fact that I didn’t see Nessie, and the completely-unrealted death of the greatest dream of my childhood. Is that catastrophic enough for ya!

Sleeping On the Street for Monte Carlo…

Ever since the 2011 masterpiece Monte Carlo starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, and Katie Cassidy was first gifted to us mere mortal by the gods– I have dreamed of visiting the nation of Monaco, and dipping my toe into the high-life.

For all the plebs out there unfamiliar with the plot of this oscar-snubbed gem, basically Selena’s character discovers she looks *exactly* like a snobby rich heiress named Cordelia. Selena then casually assumes her rich-counterpart’s identity (via an incredibly terrible, generically “European” accent) for free lobster and an all-expenses paid trip to Monte Carlo with her two best gal pals.

Unfortunately for me there were just two *slight* obstacles standing in my way of having said experience:

  1. I have no money.
  2. I don’t (to my knowledge) have a identical-looking billionaire whose life I can hijack at will.  

So, despite the dominos being stacked against me, I decided to recruit a friend and make the journey to the mecca of class and sophistication that is…….Monte Carlo.

*Spoiler alert* Unless you’re a fan of really hard mattresses– like concrete level hard– the trip wasn’t exactly “nice.”

You see how I put the word “nice” in parenthesis? Yeah, well that’s basically as close to a pun as you can get in the written-language– don’t worry it’s about to make sense, I promise.

Staying in Monaco itself is outrageously expensive, and in my broke opinion just not an option for students trying to pinch every penny. Luckily, the French city of Nice (pronounced like “niece”) is just a short 30 min train or bus ride away– get the pun now?!?

Nice is also full of hostels that cater towards travelers on a budget, so by logging onto HostelWorld, my travel partner (Lucy “Juice” Johnson) and I were able to score beds in a shared dormitory for about $12 per night per person!

Geographically speaking, Monaco isn’t the easiest place to get to (unless you have a private jet), but by using one of my favorite train searching websites, GoEuro, I was able to find a series of trains that would allow us to get there and back for about $70 roundtrip– a price well worth paying to see how the lavish live.

In fact, I even thought $70 round trip seemed a little too good to be true! But the optimistic-dumbass inside lurched yet again at the “opportunity of a lifetime!”

So, as it turns out, the reason the tickets were so cheap is that we had a rather long layover (is it still a layover for train travel?) in the small Italian border town of Ventimiglia. Have you ever heard of it? No? Well neither had we– and that would prove to be our demise.

We arrived in Ventimiglia at around 10pm on a Thursday night, and gingerly awaited for the departure of our next headed to Nice– at 5:30am the next morning.

Now, at this point in our globe-trekking careers Juice and I had already grown accustomed to “roughing it” for the sake of a cheap bus, plane, train etc. So we were completely prepared to claim our corner of the station and plop down for a few hours of sleep.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t realize was that the train station in Ventimiglia also serves another function during the chilly month of February (oh, did I forget to mention this was all taking place in WINTER). The entirety of the small train station transforms at night, and not into some retro underground club, or teenage drinking spot– no. The train station becomes the sole shelter for the entire homeless population of the town.

Juice and I were quickly packed like sardines between dirty mattresses that wreaked of urine and and colorful characters shouting at us in a Italian. I feel obligated to say that I’m sure most of these people were very nice, and one man even offered us some of his potato chips, but the few belligerently drunk ones made me, and Juice in particular (a petite woman) feel sufficiently unsafe.

This would normally be the point of the story where all of you are like, “Oh, thank god they’re going to leave and get a hotel room,” but ‘tis not the case.

Our cheap asses still decided to try and sleep there, and believe it or not I was able to get about 2 hours of shut-eye until Juice woke me with a slight jab to the ribs at about 1am.

“Gunnar,” she whispered under her breath. “We have to get out of here.”  I sat up and noticed that she looked concerned, but also like she was about to burst into laughter.

“Ok,” I said while quickly beginning to pack up our few unpacked clothes were we had used as makeshift blankets, “why, what happened?”

“There was a man in a parka,” she whispered.

“What?” I asked, obviously very confused.

“I wasn’t really sleeping, but when I looked up from the ground there was a man in a parka standing like a foot away– just staring straight at me.” She was laughing, but we both knew that this was no joke.

“Lucy!” I exclaimed, “why didn’t you wake me up sooner!”

“I didn’t want to make a scene! I had no idea if he was drunk, or senile, but I was freaked out!” I accepted her answer, but also felt bad that I had dozed off and left her alone in the uncomfortable gaze of “parka man.”

We quickly gathered our things and decided to just walk around the small town. It wasn’t actually that bad! The streets were empty and the buildings were pretty, not to mention the walking kept us warm. We even made out way all the way to the beach and dipped our feet into the Mediterranean sea.

After about two more hours of walking aimlessly we realized that we had no clue where we were, and more importantly no idea where the train station was. The next hour was spent wandering up various streets, until thankfully we once again stumbled onto the train station.IMG_9795

However, this time we opted for the colder outside, as opposed to joining our homeless friends and “parka man” in the slightly warmer inside. I said that I would stay up this time, and let her get some sleep, as I had already gotten about two hours worth earlier.

The next hour was cold, but uneventful, and soon enough it was time to board our 5:30 train to Nice. This was where we would encounter our second frightful character of the night– “Trena Man”.

We immediately boarded the train when it arrived at the platform, and grabbed a row of seats in an empty car. I took the window and left Juice the aisle.

The first 10 min of the 30 min train ride were uneventful, but then that things got a little out of hand. A man, who appeared to be extremely intoxicated, entered our train car and loudly proclaimed, “TrEEEEEEEEEEEna.” Juice and I turned to look at each other and I immediately told her to switch spots with me so she’d be by the window.

“TRENNNNNNNNNNNNA,” He yelled even louder. Juice and I didn’t know if we should burst out laughing or say our final prayers. “TREEEEEEEEEENA,” he yelled one last time before sitting two rows in front of us.

Yep, the entire car was empty and he chose to sit right in front of us. To make matters worse, HE TURNED AND PUT HIS HEAD BETWEEN THE SEATS AND JUST LOOKED AT US.

He remained like that for about 5 minutes, and then just got up, stood right next to us, yelled “TRENNNNNNNA,” a few more times. The situation was so awkward and I felt so uncomfortable that I started laughing uncontrollably. Juice totally thought I was going to pee my pants right thereI was laughing so much. Eventually “Trena Man” just walked out of the car. 

We arrived in Nice at about 6am, and of course our hostel didn’t allow check in until 11am. So, we did want any person would do– bought some chocolate and decided to take a nap on the beach.  


The rest of the trip went fairly smoothly! Nice remains one of my favorite cities, mainly due to their stellar Matisse Museum, delicious moules and frites (mussels and french fries), decent prices, and picturesque landscape.


Monte Carlo proved to be a wonderful experience, but utimatley a let down. We didn’t have enough money (or nice enough clothes) to get into any of the boujee icons from the movie.  Though we did ultimately worked up the courage to ask for a table at the iconic Paris Cafe, we stuck out like sore thumbs, Juice in particular with her socks and birkenstocks. We ordered daiquiris ($25 per drink!) and left as quickly as possible.  


*Side note* for anyone who’s as confused as I was about the whole “Monaco” vs “Monte Carlo” naming system, basically “Monaco” is the entire lil country, and “Monte Carlo” is area inside it with the casinos, beach, and some shopping.

Ok, so now for my professional opinion– visit Monaco for a day because it’s fun to see the old town and castle, as well as walk through the ritzy Monte Carlo, but budget most of your time (and money) for Nice.

Nice is full of museums, parks, hikes, and their beach is honestly a lot prettier. All Monaco has is an over-priced aquarium and rich snobs who judge you for bringing a backpack into the Paris Cafe (I’m talking about you old man with the designer aviators).


That all being said, there are two conditions under which I *highly* recommend going to Monte Carlo:

  1. You have a lot of money.
  2. You have an identical-looking billionaire whose life you can hijack at will.  


Please enjoy these photos of Juice when she ordered like 4 entrees of Chinese food in Nice and couldn’t finish it all.



Running *THE* Marathon (26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens)

(Please note that the word “running” in the title is an umbrella term, encompassing the various “genres of movement” of which I used in order to finish the race)

After returning home from my summer in Alaska, I decided that I needed to pick another “big adventure” to follow it up with. Alaska had pushed my mental and physical limits to near-exhaustion, so it wasn’t an easy task finding something that would prove an even larger challenge. Naturally, I decided that there was really only one challenge hard enough– a marathon. But not just any marathon, I decided that if I was going to do this– I was going to do it right. After some light googling I discovered the “Athens Authentic Marathon,” a modern-day race that traces the original journey made back in ancient Greece– yes, the original 26.2 miles from the city of Marathon to the center of Athens. The very course that every other marathon in the world today is based on.

Let it be made abundantly clear that any amount of athletic ability I had at one time possesed earlier in life evaporated the second I started college. The freshman 15 was no joke for me, especially considering the local cuisine at my school consists entirely of pasta, pizza, and red wine.

Per usual, without any realistic expectations (or even basic reasoning), I decided the opportunity was “once in a lifetime,” and therefore found it necessary to immediately shell out 400 dollars for the race registration, lodging at a hostel, and a round-trip flight from Milan to Athens. I booked all of this stuff on August 8th 2017. The marathon was on November 12th of that same year– leaving me a window of 3 MONTHS TO PREPARE, a timeframe my optimistic-dumbass thought more than necessary– as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, ’twas not.

It’s no surprise that I stopped training in any form the moment I returned to school (two weeks after registering for the race). But in my defense, Lugano is SURROUNDED BY MOUNTAINS, so it’s practically impossible to go for a long run without half of it being at an incredibly steep incline.

Before I knew it the marathon was right around the corner (one week away to be precise) and I had run a collective total of 0 miles in the past two months. I decided it was crunch-time and begrudgingly went for a 3 mile jog, of which I made it about ⅔ of the way before stopping to walk the remainder.

My friends, and even some professors, were all very-much concerned for me, asking not-so-cryptically if I still planned to run the race.

“Oh yes,” I would tell them, “and I’m sure it won’t be too hard.” I’d say whilst raising a large chalice of wine to my quivering lips. Because in reality I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew that if I had any hope of finishing the marathon– I needed to push absolutely every doubt out of my head.

In true university-student fashion, I decided that the final step in my “lengthy” preparation process was to get sufficiently drunk the night before my flight to Athens. But to be fair, there was a belated Halloween party with free booze, so I mean it was really the most economical decision.

I boarded my flight the next day hungover, but ready to race. I had planned the 3-day trip Saturday to Monday, with the race falling on the Sunday. I arrived in Athens around 1pm on Saturday, and hopped on the metro to the city-center. I had to stop by an arena to sign-in and pick-up my bib, fill out final papers, and receive my too-small free t-shirt (because of course August me thought I would slim down enough to fit into it– you know with all the training I was going to have to do…..) Afterwards, I stopped for a falafel on the street as I walked to my hostel, adamant about getting a good night of sleep.

I woke up at 5am the next morning and had to walk about a mile to the nearest shuttle stop. There were shuttles stationed all over the city responsible for taking racers to the starting line in Marathon.

I boarded the bus and tried to hype myself up as much as possible– I was going to finish this race. I got to the starting area and had to mill around for about an hour until my wave was called to the official starting line. There were a lot of people running the marathon– about 15,000 in total– but before that gun went off there was a slight fear inside that I would somehow manage to be the last one, or worse yet get booted from the course for taking too long.

Bang! The gun went off for my wave and suddenly I was running, “Hey!” I thought to myself, “this isn’t too bad!”

And in all honesty it really wasn’t, well not at first. Much to my surprise (and I’m sure yours, too) I was able to jog the entire first half of the race, 12.7 miles, without stopping to walk. But just as I passed that marker, I made an awful mistake.

As I passed the half-way mark, I decided that it would be a good idea to walk a little so I could conserve my energy for later– BIG MISTAKE. As any seasoned runner would probably guess, my legs immediately locked up and I found it incredibly hard to even walk.

The next 12.7 miles were full of swearing, a lot of walking, and some light crying dispersed between the two. I flat-out refused to run up any hills, so if I saw an incline I literally just started to walked. This was also the part of the race where I was passed by the people who run ironically in full costume– I was no joke passed by someone in a giant Pacman suit and his pack of four friends dressed up as the colorful ghosts.

But it wasn’t until the power-walkers started to pass me that I really got discouraged. Trust me when I say nothing’s worse than watching an elderly woman in leg warmers breeze past you. I also got comically large cramp in my calf, and had to pull over to the side of the road to stretch it out. I writhed in pain as I watched the entire muscle continually suck itself into my leg, and then sporadically shoot back out.

I do have to commend the people of Athens for their incredible turnout on the sidelines to support the runners coming through. However, that being said, there were a couple of times when the constant shouts of “Bravo!” “Stop walking, you can run!” “Bravo!” “Pick up the pace!” literally made me stop, look piercingly into the eyes of a large-breasted Greek grandma, and then walk even slower.

Eventually, after about 6 hours and 10 minutes, I was about to reach the ancient stadium in the city-center of Athens. The finish line is at the far end of the stadium, and I have to admit that nothing would’ve been more fulfilling than sprinting to the finish line as the full-stadium cheered me on, but that wasn’t really how it happened for me.

Most everyone had already finished that race, so the stadium was practically empty. While people around me had started to pick up their pace, smile, and even withdraw their phones for selfies– I was hobbling like a maniac, desperate to put an end to the misery that had been the last 6 hours of my life.


I left that stadium with a banana, an awesome medal, and much to my despair a mile-long walk to the nearest metro stop. But I had done it, and I was ecstatic.

Looking back on it, I am glad that I ran *the* marathon. Mostly because there’s really no cooler marathon to run (in my book at least) and so on the bright side, I’ll never have to run one again.

I highly recommend “running” a marathon at some point in your life, but given the chance again I would definitely log some more miles before the big day. It is my humble opinion that anyone is capable of finishing a marathon, because if I can do it cold-turkey after months of gorging on wine and pizza, certainly anyone else can do it too.

Side-note: I still have to go back to Athens because after finishing the marathon I refused to walk up the stairs to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, which I feel obligated to visit in my lifetime.