Hometown Adventures: Barclay Lake, WA

Washington state is one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. and I’m not just saying that because I live here. One of the things that I’m trying to get better about is taking the time to experience my beautiful home state instead of taking for granted all the amazing nature. That being said, this past weekend seemed like the perfect time to start getting out on some of the trails. Or at least that’s what we thought.

Saturday morning @seattlebred and I had an early start, grabbed some Starbucks and drove NE of where I live (Seattle). The drive was pretty quick, and we’d worn warm clothes because we’d heard that there might be snow. In retrospect,  we probably should have checked the morning before whether there was snow that had fallen. As we were driving up the mountain road we quickly realized that things went (very quickly) from, “Hey look, some snow!” to, “Holy hell, the bottom of the car is dragging on the snow.”

Needless to say, by the time we reached the top of the mountain we were completely and hopelessly S-T-U-C-K. We also didn’t have cell phone reception. We ALSO couldn’t push the car as it slid on the compacted snow/ice. 

I finally got some cell service, after us trying to dig the car out/push it for a couple of hours. So we called 911, and asked them to send Search and Rescue to save our asses. In the meantime we sat in the car for about an hour wrapped in blankets and wishing we had chains and/or a shovel.

@seattlebred getting the blankets out of the car so we don’t freeze to death

In the meantime I also took a couple of pics of my new R.Riveter bag because what else are you going to do whilst waiting for help to come? I had been so excited because this bag came the night before the hike, so just in time for some snowy shots with the bag from their winter collection.

I was a little cold and didn’t notice until afterward that the focus was on the trees in the background…oh well.
Taking product shots while I’m in the car. FUN FACT: Each piece of R.Riveter bags is stamped with the number of the lady who made it!

The crazy part of all of this is that it was so beautiful outside, all around us…but it was a little bit hard to appreciate while trying to imagine how you’re going to not only get the car somehow turned around, but then going to drive DOWN the hill in all of the snow you barely cleared coming up the hill.

When you really have to pee, but the bathroom is locked for the winter.

Luckily, a big ‘ole Toyota Tacoma came up the hill after we’d been sitting in the car for about an hour and they helped to guide not only our car, but the next five cars (which also got stuck) as they turned around and also got pointed in the direction of going back down the hill. These people were complete lifesavers and knew how to kick some serious ass in the snow-driving department. They were from Minnesota.

And yes, I stayed in the car because I have a medical condition where if I get too cold my hands/feet loose circulation and we weren’t trying to call Search and Rescue AND visit the hospital in the same day.
My best friends.

The GOOD news is that I still got some beautiful shots with my bag. I mean, with this kind of beautiful how can you NOT get glamour shots. The moral of the story is to always have chains in your car, and to check the weather before you head up on a trail. We won’t be making that mistake again. Thanks R.Riveter for being the highlight of the day.

Me and The Hobby bag from R. Riveter. Photo cred IG: @seattlebred

February Goals: Spend Less, Live More

I wouldn’t consider myself a heavy spender. That being said, the last couple of months were way more expensive than my usual crazy, so I decided to take February to reevaluate my spending. This also came in the wake of 101 medical bills from October when pneumonia tried to kill me. Healthcare in America:

When I first got the idea to take a month off from unnecessary spending I wasn’t really sure what the outcome would be. I had to stay away from thrift stores because let’s be honest: #addicted, and I had to start making some changes to my routine. Here’s how this ish went down:

Think About Routine The Night Before

The LAST thing most people want to think about at night is the fact that they’re going back to work the next day. That being said, this actually can save quite a big of cash. Since I work in the middle of downtown Seattle there are a lot of temptations for food places that eat up your paycheck before it ever hits your back account. So, every night, while I’m cooking dinner (this has also helped to inspire my cooking haha) I pack a lunch. Just like good ‘ole K-12. It might seem childish, but it’s saving my adult monies so I can use them for adult things…like comicon tickets. Duh.

Start Caring About Other People More

One of the things I wanted to focus more on during this month was to start putting money toward other people. But I wanted this to be very intentional and targeted, not just passing out money on the street (although there is a time and place for that). For the past couple of years I’ve been following my friend Stella’s journey as she’s continued building her non-profit 22Stars. What they do in Uganda is absolutely incredible, and I’ve wanted to support them for so long…but I’ve never had finances to back that up. Well. I finally did it. I’m SO excited to now be a long-term education sponsor for a little Ugandan girl. I would HIGHLY suggest looking at the profiles of other children who still need sponsors. The fact that $20/month sends a child to school is just crazy.

Stop Going To Thrift Stores

Okay, so obviously I love thrifting and there’s no way that I’ll stop entirely going to thrift stores. But for the month of February I decided to be more intentional about going, and so far I haven’t gone at all. There’s a simple reason for this fact: I don’t need anything. And while it’s more of a hobby than anything else for me, I always want to be really concious about managing my habit so it doesn’t go down the road to crazy. I’m not trying to star in Hoarders.

Reminders Of What ACTUALLY Makes Me Happy

While spending money is sometimes necessary for making some magic happen, a lot of the most beautiful things in life are free…or, at least, I already have what I need to make them happen. For example:

  • Hot cups of tea
  • Knitting
  • Cuddling up under blankets
  • Painting
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Writing
  • Reading

All of these things make me super happy, but don’t actually cost me a whole lot of money (if any). When I’m stressed, bored, or just looking for something to do out I’ve turned to doing one of these things, rather than surfing Amazon for useless Pusheen stuffies that I just don’t need…or do I?

Spend More Time With People

People. Gross. Yeah, so I’m a pretty hardcore introvert, so there are like seven people I like in the whole world. But, you know what? I’m still human…which means that interacting with people is a necessary part of my existence. What have I done to remedy this? Well, first off I’m trying to be more intentional about spending time with people I really enjoy, and I’ve also been spending time interacting with my lovely followers in the Twitter-verse and through various online groups I’m part of. I also got a new pen-pal which is awesome x 1000. What have I learned from this? Spending time with people who make you happy makes spending money a whole lot less of a priority. Because people are awesome! In small and manageable doses.

Now, February is only half-way done so I’m hoping and praying that I’m actually able to stick to this scheme, but we’ll see. I have fallen off the “eating out” bandwagon once already, but generally it’s going super well and I feel better balanced. Have any of you ever done a spending freeze? Let me know how it went in the comments!

6 Pre-Packing Tips For An International Trip

I travel internationally a lot. It’s kind of my thing. And while traveling has become a pretty important part of my life, I still have mini panic attacks every time I’m getting ready to go on a trip. You know what helps? Lists.

I am the queen of lists. I make them every weekend, I make them during the week, and I definitely make them when I’m getting ready to travel. Since I started solo backpacking, I’ve developed a checklist what to do before I leave on an international trip. And because I love you guys, I thought I’d share it so you can skip the stress.

1. Make Sure Bills Are Paid

You know what’s worse than having to come back from a vacation? Coming back to a bunch of fees and notices because you forgot to pay your bills. I usually take an hour  or two before my trip to take a mental inventory of monthly expenses, and then I pay them before my trip. Even if they’re due a couple days after I get back I still make sure to pay them because let’s be honest: My jet-lagged self can’t remember shit. (sorry, mom)

2. Set Up A Travel Notice With Your Bank

So lemme tell you, having your credit card put on hold when you’re overseas is pretty much the worst thing ever. Why? Because you have to call to get it off, and if you don’t have phone access/don’t want to pay a million dollars a minute for placing an international call…this can get tricky. Save yourself the crazy and set up a notice with your bank that you’ll be out of the country—it usually takes about 5 minutes.

3. Get Currency If You Can

I really like arriving in a country with currency, but that’s not always and option. There are countries, like Morocco, where their currency isn’t exchanged outside the country so you have to wait until you’re there to get it.  But for a lot of countries, especially in western Europe, you only need Euros, which you can get at your local bank. Believe me, this saves some serious stress when you arrive at your destination!

4. Sign Up For An International Phone Plan

I have Verizon, so the last time I took a trip I signed up with their TravelPass which was $10/day. This pass is cool because it still uses all the same data etc. on my usual phone plan. It was great! It was also cool because it would only charge me on days that I chose to use it during my trip.

5. Set Up Tours You Want To Take

I don’t usually plan a whole lot of my trip when I’m traveling, but it is really important for me to book any tours I want to take BEFORE I reach my designated country. The main reason for this is because I don’t travel with my laptop, and tours should have a lot of research to back them before you book. Obviously this is a personal preference, but I’ve found it helps so much more with planning once I’m there, when I already know what big events are happening.

6. Print Out All Vouchers And Confirmation Numbers 

 

Finding a printer when you’re traveling is the worst. Not having wi-fi work while you’re trying to pull up a ticket is the worst-er. Not knowing what your ticket number while you’re running late to an event is the worst-est. I always always always print out everything that can possibly be printed before I leave home. This helps me know I have all the confirmations in one place, and saves so much time in the long-run.

What about you? What are your favorite pre-trip tips? Let me know in the comments below! 

5 Airbnb Hosts You’ll Meet While Traveling

Staying with strangers is fun! Don’t tell my mom. Today we’re going to talk about the wonderful world of Airbnb. I love Airbnb because it allows me to travel while I’m on a tight budget. In general, I can spend about the same amount of money as I would for a hostel room, while getting a room to myself #introvertparadise. I also love the freedom of being able to leave my clothes/books in my rented space, rather than needing to pack everything up like you would at a hostel.

All this being said, there are definitely some characters you meet when you’re house hopping. Here are some of the types I’ve found during my travels.

1. The parent

This person is probably a recent empty-nester and they want to treat you like the child they no longer have. This may mean checking in on you more than necessary, asking you what time you’ll be home (when it’s irrelevant to circumstances like locking a door etc.), and reminding you 657 times not to let the cat out of the house. Remember: Take your shoes off when you get in this house.

2. The single girl

This girl lives on her own, but she has an extra room in her house (and doesn’t want to deal with a roommate). She’s probably pretty worldly and uses Airbnb herself when she travels. She might not even be home when you get there, but she’s hidden a key and leaves you a hand written note on your bed stand to say welcome. By the end of your stay with this girl you’ll probably want to be actual friends, and will friend request her on Facebook.

3. The host that could care less

That $10 room you booked? Yeah, this is probably going to be the owner. This host just had some random space available, and threw a bed and some blankets in there to make a little side cash. They will not be checking in on at you at all. And to be honest, they might not even live in the same city. When it comes down to it: You get what you pay for.

4. The above and beyond host

This host leaves you little notes, makes sure space is clean and neat, and offers you little things like tea and bagels in the morning. This host may also provide soaps and shampoos in the bathroom and other little thoughtful amenities. Unfortunately, this host maaaaay overlap with the The Parent, since they often try (a little too hard?) to provide everything for their guests.

5. The grandparents

They might not speak your language, but they’re the cutest little couple you’ve ever seen. This couple will make you a full breakfast in the morning, and make sure you have maps to get around the city. You’ll feel more than a little welcome in their house, and you’ll probably wish they were your grandparents as they tell you stories about when they traveled, and show you pictures of their grandchildren.

Who did I miss? I want to hear you Airbnb stories in the comments below!

10 London Spots You Won’t Want To Miss

God save the Queen. I’ve been to London five times, and I definitely plan on going back, but the great thing about this beautiful city is that every time I go I have a completely different experience!

From food to museums to tours the UK has so much to offer, and I couldn’t be happier than to share with you guys some of my favorites, especially after my last trip where I spent almost a week just doing whatever popped into my mind. Ready to explore this beautiful city? Here are my top 10 spots you MUST visit.

1.Bronte London

Dubbed one of the best brunch spots in London this restaurant stole my heart away with it’s art-deco vibe and beautiful decor. Since Jane Eyre is my favorite book, I also (of course) loved the name of the spot. English breakfasts are one of my favorite things to eat when I’m in the UK, so that’s what I ordered here (and some tea) but there was a full menu of delicious options. I will definitely be going back in the future.

2. Harry Potter Walking Tour:

There are a few Harry Potter walking tours in London, but the one that I can recommend because I took it was the Tour For Muggles, which was a super fun way to see different parts of the city while also seeing famous filming locations from the Harry Potter movies. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and I could tell that she knew ALL the facts about HP. I was also really happy because we visited some BBC Sherlock filming locations, as well. Be still my heart.

3. Stonehenge Day Tour

I’m a huge fan of day tours, because they allow you to see the country-side, which is great especially if you don’t want to drive on the other side of the road and risk dying. The tour that I took in November, when I was in London, was one that went to Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor Castle. The tour was a lot of fun, and we even broke away at the end of it to visit the Eagle and the Child, which is the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met as part of their writing society. Pretty awesome history!

4. Museum of Natural History:

I’m a huge sucker for museums and London has some of the best. I had actually never been to the Museum of Natural History until last year, and I absolutely loved it. If you have even the slightest inclination toward science of any kind then you’ll probably find this museum fascinating. The giant whale skeleton attached to the ceiling is pretty impressive, as well. The best part, though, is that this museum is FREE (donations encouraged) which makes it a must see.

5. National Portrait Museum:

When I went to this museum I actually spent four consecutive hours in there. There are paintings from pretty much every point in British (and non-British) history including the famous portrait of Jane Austen and (my personal favorite) the full body portrait of Anne Boleyn. The centuries of history that this building holds is just absolutely incredible, and once again admission is free.

6. Oxford Street

This is the main shopping street in London and it’s absolute magic. Not only is shopping one of my favorite things to do, but the window displays for stores like Harrods are just incredible (especially during the holidays).

7. 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes Museum):

Another museum!? Hell yeah. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and I was absolutely thrilled when I got to go to the real 221B. This museum is set up like a Victorian era model of Sherlock’s home complete with the appropriate props to fit each of his famous stories. You can, of course, also buy lots of fun Sherlock merchandise that’s exclusive to the museum, as well.

8. Platform 9 3/4

So, with a lot of walking tours Platform 9 3/4 is not included. This is mainly because it’s out of the way from most of the filming locations for Harry Potter, but the good news is that it’s not that hard to get to on your own. Just grab the tube and get off at the King’s Cross Station for all the fun.

9. The Queen’s Arms (Kensington):

This is a great spot to grab some lovely fish and chips and the spot looks just like it was taken out of a Jane Austen novel. To be honest, that’s one of the things I love about London the most. The history of the city spans back so far and so many famous works of literature stem from actual places within it.

10. Victoria and Albert Museum: 

To wrap things up, one more museum that I absolutely loved. This museum I also went to for the first time during my most recent trip. The museum is HUGE and tons of artifacts from all different points in history. My favorite exhibit was one all about the history of fashion…because, duh—it’s so me.

BONUS: Primark. Grab your Harry Potter gear! 

Okay so Primark is basically like the Forever21 of the UK buuuuuuuut if you’re looking for Harry Potter gear than you should definitely stop in. Not only do they have gear that’s not available outside of the UK, it’s also so much cheaper than if you bought it at a tourist trap.

What’s your favorite spot in London? Tell me in the comments below!

Tea Talk 10: Kirsten Nelson | Nurse & World Traveler

Kirsten and I grew up together in the weird and wonderful world of homeschooling and 4-H. For those of you who don’t know what 4-H is, it’s an educational program for kids to learn skills in everything from photography to public speaking to gardening to cooking. Those last two are where we met (and sewing—oops, forgot one). I also have Kirsten to thank for letting me crash her co-op’s balls since I was homeschooled and didn’t have anywhere else to experience the glory of a high school dance. We also ended up going to the same college, although we weren’t there at the same time (sadness).

Kirsten is a pretty amazing woman, to say the least. She’s travelled around the world helping people and using her nursing skills to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. The long and short of it: She’s pretty swell. I’m more than happy to introduce you all to another amazing woman who is very dear to me.

1. What started your passion for traveling?

Most of my traveling has been service trip/mission trip related. I love that I can explore new places and see new cultures from a close-up perspective instead of just as a tourist. In addition, it is really special to interact with local people with a giving mindset. Some of my favorite traveling memories have been sitting with a new mom and her baby in a village in Papua New Guinea or talking with a Syrian refugee outside of the U-Bahn in Frankfurt.

2. What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

If you are interested in traveling while also giving back to the place you are exploring, make sure you partner with a reliable organization that has local contacts in the area you are going. Nothing is worse than going on a service trip and finding out that you are working with an organization that has a poor reputation or is exploiting local communities.

3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

One of my favorite things to do when I visit new places is to buy locally made clothing, or clothing that is commonly worn in that area. This always enables me to feel more comfortable and acclimated, both physically (when its 90 degrees and humid in India you want to be wearing loose clothing!) and culturally.

4. What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?

Do it! My favorite place I have ever traveled is Papua New Guinea. I went with an organization that sails around the coast providing medical care to remote villages. Many of the people in this village only see a doctor once or twice a year when the ship comes by. I am a nurse and I loved getting to provide medical care while also seeing an amazing part of the world that is extremely remote and I probably would have not seen any other way!


5. What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

Wear comfy shoes that you have already broken in. Wanting to enjoy a new place and fully experience a new culture is hard to do when you have blisters.

6. What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

Going to countries that are generally labeled as “unsafe” to travel i.e. Papua New Guinea

7. What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

I love taking local transportation once I arrive at my destination. In India, the primary mode of public transportation is an auto-rickshaw, usually just called an “auto.” They are bright yellow motorized three-wheelers that zip in and out of traffic. When I first tried to figure out the system (hint, there really isn’t one) I was pretty overwhelmed, but by the end of my trip I felt comfortable bartering for my fare and knowing I was getting a fair deal.

8. What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Add on extra days to the end of any service trip – you have already gone so far, explore the area you have been in for a while! On my way back from Papua New Guinea I had a 12 hour layover in Sydney, Australia. I wish I had stayed a few extra days!

9. What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

Greece!

Tea Talk is a monthly series featuring extraordinary women who travel around the world! If you know someone who should be featured, or would like to be featured yourself, shoot me an email at morehouseemilee@gmail.com or post a message on this blog post! Join me again in February for the next feature!

5 Reasons Why The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Is Life

In case you haven’t seen it, yet, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the show you SHOULD be watching. And it’s one of my absolute favorites for a few prime reasons. The show starts off with Midge (aka Mrs. Maisel), a gorgeous upper-westside 1950s housewife, getting dumped by her weak-ass husband. But, never fear, what starts out as madness ends in…well, madness. But madness of a different kind. And I think that’s why I like this show so much. It really is such a refreshing take on what it means to be a woman. And to be perfectly honest, it taps into some pretty big items that are still very relevant today.

Since promoting the stories of strong, independent women is kind of my passion, I thought I would share my reasons for loving this show so much (if you haven’t watched it yet, you can find it on Amazon Prime). Even beyond the laugh-out-loud humor and fast-paced banter, here are five reasons that you really need to be watching:

1. This show highlights women…and they aren’t all the same

Let’s face it, we can all tell when a man is making a movie about women. Why? Because all the female characters fall into cringeworthy categories/stereotypes. I love how this show highlights women ranging from Midge’s manager (who is constantly being referred to as a man), to her best friend/front-row-at-yoga mom of the year, to her mother who is perfectionistic (yet sensitive), to herself: Miriam Maisel, the comic. One of my favorite things about these characters is that nobody is “right.” The show doesn’t try to show one type of woman as better than the others. Like I said: trés refreshing.

2. Midge makes mistakes

I love how Midge is written, because her character doesn’t always get things right. In fact, she gets things wrong all the time AND THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES. But she’s grounded enough to know when extreme measures need to be taken (ex. When she barges into a managers office, after failing an interview, to ask for another job). She’s persistent in finding out who she is, and what she wants. At one point in the show her husband tells Midge that she’s “a lot.” She asks, “A lot of what?” and he then goes into telling her that some girls are pretty, some are funny, some your parents like…but you don’t usually find a girl who checks all the boxes.

This discussion is huge. Why? Because I think this is STILL a problem in today’s society. Women are expected to do everything, be it all, but when we work our asses off to reach that peak of perfection we’re told that we’re too much. We’re too intimidating. We’re too strong-willed. We need to smile more, and tone it back so men can feel comfortable (my grandmother’s actual words). I love Midge for not standing down, despite being told she’s “a lot.”

3. Midge experiences real life situations

From dealing with her parents, to dealing with bras, to taking yoga classes, to taking off her makeup, to cooking brisket, to measuring her body to make sure she’s “still got it,” Midge brings a really beautiful slice of humanity to this show. Let’s face it: girls deal with a lot of problems that never get put on television. They’re invisible. We don’t talk about them.

We’re all just walking around trying to keep it together while putting in 120% more effort than we should have to. My favorite example of this is when Midge and her husband are talking about the indents on her skin from her bra. He says he never noticed them before, and she responds that it’s because she used to powder her back to make it less red. He asks how long they’ll stay there and she says, “They’ll go away by morning…just in time for me to wear the thing again. It’s a vicious cycle.” The struggle is real.

4. The costumes are to die for

Okay, so from a purely design/artist point of view I love this show because of the costumes which are absolutely ravishing. Midge is always on point, and completely pulled together and it reminds me why I spent 15 years of my life obsessed with 1940s fashion (let’s be honest, I still am). The costumes in this show bring a whole different, and beautiful, dimension to the story and I love the narratives that are told just by which dress she chooses to wear.

5. Midge has a side-hustle

Or, rather, she has a 9-5. Whichever way you look at it, I love that Midge is juggling working retail, while still pursuing her dreams at night. All while wearing the perfect shade of red lipstick. When Midge first gets a job, there’s a general feeling of shock and horror from her family, but she doesn’t let that get to her. She goes for it, realizing that the only way she can truly gain her freedom is by bringing in some kind of income. I think a lot of us (#millenials) can relate to this feeling of trying to stay in the green while pursuing what we’re passionate about. Those sleepless nights, and early mornings, are a little too real. But I love that Midge sticks with it, and keeps pressing on toward her ultimate goal of owning the stage (while following her rules).

Haven’t seen the show, yet? Check out the trailer here:

2017 Reviewed By Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Welcome to the post every blogger writes, yet most readers don’t give a shit about: my year in review (sorry for the swearing, mom).

Being a travel blogger has been one of the most amazing adventures of my life, but sometimes I still look back at pictures and wonder if I really went there, or did that. Whose life is this? 2017 was a wild ride because I got to travel to eight…yes, EIGHT, different countries.

While I usually only take one big trip per year, I somehow fit two in, and it was an absolutely incredible privilege to check off big list items like Morocco and Denmark (two places I’ve been DYING to go). This year also took me from one of the most traumatic experiences, to some of the most beautiful I’ve ever had. I’m leaving some things behind in 2017 that I’m really going to miss but that’s part of moving forward, right? The end of a year always seems to close a chapter on some things you aren’t quite ready to let go of.

Such is life, I guess. This year has made me stronger, wiser, and as my mom says, “someday it won’t hurt so much.” Until then, let’s live a little stronger, a little more passionate, and really pursue the things that set our hearts on fire. 2018 is going to be such an amazing adventure. I’m already starting to plan some pretty epic road-trips, and I cannot wait to share all of the savory details with you guys. Until then, here is my blogger contribution to the madness of 2017. Happy New Year!!!

Backpacking trip: Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Belgium

I started out this year with a solo backpacking trip that was one for the books. Not only did I love going to Loch Ness and Inverness (Outlander fans!?), but I also just loved seeing the highlands of Scotland. During this trip I also had, singlehandedly, the best 48 hours of my life in Denmark (and made some amazing new friends!).

Cosplaying Rufio at Emerald City Comicon
I’ve only been cosplaying for a couple of years, but I’m so obsessed with it that I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. I love being able to represent characters that I love, and I love gender-bending (taking a male character and giving them a female twist). My Rufio cosplay was so fun to take to Emerald City Comicon. Honestly. I live for conventions.

Becoming a Schwinn/ R.Riveter ambassadorThis year I got to be an Ambassador for two different brands: Schwinn Bikes and R. Riveter bags. Both of these brands have a strong backing of supporting people who are out there really living their lives. Whether it’s taking city adventures with my bike, or traveling across the world (or to another world) with my R. Riveter bag, I’ve loved every minute.

Going to my first Renaissance Faire This was one of those last minute things where you’re less than prepared, but more than a little excited for an event. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, to be perfectly honest, but getting to experience my first joust (and ax throwing) was a pretty special event in my life. I also got to throw an axe…so that was cool. In 2018 I’m really looking forward to going again, and this time cosplaying.

Doing a live painting at BumbershootI’ve told this story a few times, but I was told a lot (growing up) that I wasn’t meant to be an artist. I wasn’t “called” to it. Well, this year not only did I continue painting shoes with my Etsy shop, but I got the amazing opportunity to do a live painting at Bumbeshoot, which is a huge music festival in Seattle. Even better? My painting sold!

Creating some super nerdy art projects (Sherlock + Jamie Fraser)There has seriously been so much nerding this year and I’ve loved it so much. From getting connected with my favorite podcast “Three patch problem” to crocheting little nerd dolls to send to friends, it really has just been the best. I’m also almost finished with all of my Harry Potter house scarves, so keep an eye out for those in my Etsy shop!

Going to the Skagit Valley Scottish Highland Games The Skagit Valley Highland Games has become a tradition that I don’t think I ever want to break. It’s so fun to go celebrate my Scottish heritage, eat amazing food and enjoy traditional Scottish dancing and music. It really is food for my soul and this year was great because I won my tickets for having the best photo from the 2016 Highland Games!

Dislocating my shoulder… the third day of summer campThis year was a year for injuries. This must mean I’m getting old. Not only did I dislocate my shoulder (resulting in weeks of physical therapy), but I also got pneumonia, sustained a 102 degree fever for a week, got my heart broken, and had my first ER visit. This year was kind of a constant progression of healing, but it taught me a lot about patience and about how amazing my little tribe of badass women is. Thank you every single person who held me up this year, despite the crazy.

Cosplaying Aquaman after months of planning I started planning this cosplay after ECCC in March and it came together beautifully. I loved being able to think of something and then actually see it materialize. Also, having a faux shoulder sleeve tattoo was pretty badass. Cosplay brings so much happiness to my life, I don’t even know how I ever went without doing it. Cheers to new ideas and great conventions in 2018! 2nd Photo credit to Aubrey Rebecca Photography.

Getting a new job…my dream job!2016 and 2017 I worked 60 hours a week (6am-6pm…every day) to build a resume that could get me my dream job. I’ve always been a writer, and what started as watching Mad Men resulted in me pinning down that ad agency work was the absolute ringer for what I wanted to do with my career. In October, my hard work finally paid, off thanks to some amazing women helping me along the way. I absolutely love my job, and I feel so incredibly thankful for it each and every day that I’m there.

Backpacking trip: Spain, Morocco, England, Iceland
I ended this year the same way I started it: with travel. 2018 will mark my five year anniversary of backpacking, and I can’t believe I ever let people tell me not to do something that brings so much life to my being. I love traveling, and visiting friends around the world added so much value to 2017. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to jump on planes and live out my passion. I don’t take this privilege lightly. For me traveling is the gateway to every other part of my life being inspired, and I can’t wait to see what adventures 2018 brings my way. 

How 2017 Helped My Millennial Problem

December 31st, 2016 I gave up on something I had done for the past 20 years of my life—I gave up on New Years Resolutions. I decided I had enough of telling myself I couldn’t do things. I was sick of trying to break habits, and pick up skills that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my life.

January 2nd, 2017 I was sitting at my desk realizing how alone I felt. I had been working 60 hours for the past year, and I had managed to isolate myself in a toxic relationship, and away from people who valued me. I remember sitting at my desk and thinking, “It’s been so long since I’ve seen my friends.” And when I say long, I mean years.

After living abroad for a year, I had lost contact with a lot of people. In addition to the fact that we were all living our adult lives, I was 5,000 miles away. Not exactly the recipe for strong friendships. When I moved back to the U.S. I pretty immediately began working like a maniac, to make up for some debt from living in Paris, and I started dating someone a month after being back. It was insane.

So here I am, starting a new year and feeling like shit. Hello, 2017. All I wanted to do was hang out with people who made me happy. So I made a promise. Not a resolution, but a promise to myself. I didn’t have a whole lot of extra time (re:working 60 hours a week), but I did have an hour a month. I decided that once a month I was going to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. I made a list, and got real with myself. This needed to happen.

And it did.

Every month this year I have grabbed coffee, tea, Skyped, or hung out with someone I hadn’t seen in forever. People who make me happy. People who get me. People who I would be friends with, even if the sky fell. No agenda, I didn’t get anything out of it—I just sat down and had coffee.

Now let me tell you how this changed my life.

My generation (millenials) is one of the loneliest to ever exist, despite the fact that we have more access to people than humanity has ever had before. Think about it—I have access to connect and talk to millions of people every day. It’s insane. And despite that fact, we have higher rates of depression, anxiety and just general unhappiness.

Slight detour: Remember those people who made you happy as a kid. I’m talking about the friends who you raced worms with. The puddle jumping buddies. The non-agenda I just like you friends? Okay, cool—hold onto that thought for a minute. 

When I started to meet up with people who I had no “reason” to meet up with, I started to see myself different. The people I chose are all people who have inspired something in me, when I met them. Maybe it was creativity, or drive, or laughter, or (to be honest) just plain geekery. Whatever it was, it was those people who I just click with—Kindergarten style.

Every time I met up with one of these people I re-discovered a part of myself…and I had a lot of fun. Like, so much fun. Honestly, I am so honored to have these people in my life. This project also spurred on other community creating ideas, like a monthly girls “crafternoon” which honestly gives me so much life.

What I’ve learned from this “project” is that so often we get too busy for people, and we forget how much value they can bring to our lives. I know there’s a huge emphasis on maintaining certain lifelong relationships, like romantic or family…but you know what? Don’t undervalue friendship. Don’t undervalue how rich your life can be from being around people who just get you.

Collaborate with them, grab coffee with them, plan movie nights with them. Create the opportunities to have your life enriched and I guarantee you’ll see results. And anyway, this is so much better than starving yourself for some crazy weight-loss goal. 

The Perfect Travel Bag | The Otto From R. Riveter

On Saturday I got back from a two week backpacking trip through Western Europe and Northern Africa and throughout that time I developed a love connection with my newest bag, The Otto, from R. Riveter. Now, I am an ambassador for R. Riveter, but they did not sponsor this post, nor did they pay me to say beautiful things about them. This is, plain and simple, my honest opinion on a bag I think that every travel blogger should own.

Over the past five years of traveling I’ve definitely developed a routine for what works best for me. I have my favorite adaptor, my favorite travel document carrier, and my favorite pack. But I’ve never been able to pin down my favorite travel bag (you know, the one that goes UNDER the seat when you fly). And believe me, I’ve tried to find something that works. If you know me, you know I go through clothes and accessories like my life depends on it, so this is probably the sixth or seventh bag I’ve tried. Luckily, I’ve finally found something I can count on. Here’s why:

Heathrow Airport | London, England

The leather handles are one of my favorite feature with this bag because not only does it come with hand straps, but it also comes with a cross-body strap. This is pretty essential because when I already have a 30 lb pack on my back, the last thing I want is to be carrying a cross-body bag with more stuff in it, and when I’m riding the metro during rush hour (without my pack) the last thing I want is to have to hold on to handles.

Stonehenge | England

When I travel I generally pack very minimal, in regards to clothing. I go for muted colors and a few accessories that can get me through photos without looking like I’ve been cut and pasted into each place. It’s really important to me, therefore, to have a bag that shows quality and simplicity at the same time. The Otto is the perfect balance of chic and also something people notice.

Windsor Castle | England

Size really does matter when it comes to having the perfect travel bag, and The Otto wins this category in spades. The elongated rectangular shape is perfect for putting books, tablets, and other necessities in and I found this so helpful during day trips where I had to have everything I would need for 11 hours in one bag.

Natural History Museum | London, England

When you’re buying  a bag you want it to fit into every part of your lifestyle, and that includes being able to transform as a beautiful day bag for work, to a travel accessory fit for Indiana Jones.

The real question, of course, is how much can you ACTUALLY fit in this thing? Well, for science, I decided to try it out. As you can see, there’s quite a lot that can go in, including (but not limited to) my tablet, a novel, my passport, a water bottle, chapstick, my travel organizer, currency from four different countries, napkins, snacks and postcards. Whew! But honestly, one of the best features of this bag is that it comes with a sturdy zipper to seal all of this madness away. Especially when it comes to stowing it under airplane seats (which I did seven times during this trip), it’s invaluable to know your valuables aren’t going to be sliding back to row 33 during take-off.

Casablanca, Morocco

The pockets are another beautiful, and functional, things about this bag. And let me tell you how much I love beauty and functionality. There are two pockets on the outside of the bag that hug the shape so if you put little items like bus tickets in them they’re not going to blow away. In addition there are two slot pockets on the inside (where I kept my keys, chapstick and other little bits and pieces) and a zipper pocket that stretches almost the length of the back of the bag. This zip pocket I actually used as a wallet for change while I was traveling because I never travel with an actual wallet (story for another time).

Girona, Spain

Stylish, dependable and made by military spouses, there really isn’t a way to lose on this bag. I’m so happy to have mine for this and for all of my future expeditions. It really is the perfect travel companion. Until next time!

Girona, Spain