Hello, everyone! How was your Thanksgiving break? I was happy to get some rest and enjoy time with family. Now we've come back to school, and I am refreshed, and ready to work, work, work. 

It's hard to believe that I'm graduating in just a couple of weeks. The next seventeen days will be full of projects, presentations, and papers, but now that we've come to the end of November/beginning of December, I can start to see the finish line approaching, one project completed at a time. It still feels like I only just started college. When I graduated from high school, I spent the summer reflecting and thinking about what I wanted to do during the next level of school, things I didn't have time for in high school, or things I wanted to do and just didn't get to. Of course, there are many things I didn't have time for in college that I wanted to do as well, but I think in general, I crossed a lot of things off of my general "to see" and "to do" list. I think, in looking back, I can truly say that I was involved in my community, especially here at UMass in the CHC, and I am happy that I got to explore so many places in our area with friends.

Although much of the travel I write about is to places that are relatively far away, I think being in college also helped me understand the importance of traveling in local areas. I am glad to have been able to try out new restaurants and cafes in Amherst, Northampton, Hadley, Springfield, and many other local places. I consider myself very lucky to be in a place where so much of the produce is fresh, locally sourced, and of truly good quality. Traveling both far and near was important in helping me understand my likes and dislikes, too. Keeping an open mind and really observing and understanding the things around me has always been integral to me when I travel, and I think these recent experiences and trips I've had have helped me understand what I am looking for in my future environment.  

Many of my friends and family who have read my blog have wondered how I have the money to make these experiences happen. I'll answer honestly: Sometimes, I don't. There have certainly been times when I have taken a trip, come home, and looked at my bank statements only to wonder how I could have made the trip cheaper. It's part of life. Sometimes you spend more than you think you will. This is why I put such an emphasis on budgeting — and in the budget, allowing room for flexibility. Budgeting is another part of life. I really love to travel, but I have to be realistic, too. My trip to Arches National Park, which has been a destination I've wanted to visit for a long, long time, has been postponed a couple of times because I just don't have the funds. Part of this process of planning and spending is thinking about how to prioritize money and time, too. 

Money, as the old adage goes, doesn't grow on trees. It's tough to afford trips on a student's budget. But it helps to have part-time jobs and to save up from summer work. Much of my budget in the fall semester particularly comes from having saved up in the summer and waited. I'm sure there are plenty of articles detailing why getting a part-time job at school is a good idea, but I agree with the main point that if you're looking for money, simply put, a part-time job is one of the best ways to get it.

I also consider my options. During spring break in my freshman year, I really wanted to visit my sister in D.C., but I didn't have enough money for the flight. I was at UConn and did some research. I ended up taking three buses when I went to visit — one to Hartford, another to New York, and then an express bus from New York to D.C.. Altogether, I was on the buses for something like 10 hours, but I got to the city for much less cost than if I were to fly, which would have taken me a total of six hours or maybe more, given bus time to Hartford, then to Boston, and flight time. I weighed my options and decided I would be okay with sitting for a few more hours for a lower cost. I stayed in D.C. for a few days with my sister and then took a bus back to Boston for another 10 hours. I am not endorsing one way of travel over another here — I am simply trying to say that there may be cheaper options of traveling than first appear, depending on what you're comfortable with. I frequently take buses to New York and other cities close by, but I understand that this is not the best option for everyone, and if you're more comfortable traveling by other means, then that is okay, too. 

This week I added another $20 to my account. Not a huge amount, but not small either. At this point, I am happy with what I have in my savings account for the time being. 

I am so glad to have been able to chronicle both my literal and figurative journeys with you. I am proud of my accomplishments and grateful for the experiences I have had here at UMass. Thank you to the community here in CHC and here at UMass for being so absolutely welcoming and supportive of my goals and endeavors. I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunities I have, and I hope that you all find peace and happiness in your experiences, travels, journeys of all kinds, and in your lives. If you have any questions for me personally about traveling, budgeting, or any of the topics I have written about here, I do look at the comments sections of every blog post and would be happy to chat. I hope you all have an excellent rest of the semester and a wonderful winter break. 

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