What Happens In Copenhagen, Stays In Copenhagen

What happens when you throw together 5 solo travelers: an American, an Aussie, 2 Londoners and a German, in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark?

Well I’ll tell you…or, at least, I’ll mostly tell you.

In case you’re confused about the timeline of this post, the answer is no, I’m not still in Copenhagen. I’m writing this one from Belgium, because honestly it took me a couple of days to get over Copenhagen and be in a mental state to write, again.

Hmm…where to start?

I guess it all started when we took a walking tour. Walking tours are one of my favorite things to do in a city, and I’d highly suggest the “free” ones (you pay what you have/want at the ed) when you’re out and about in Europe. Generally you can just look for the umbrellas that say “Free Tour” on them.

An accidental photo that turned out to be my favorite

Three of us met from my hostel, and we walked over to the main square with one of the guides. From there everyone was split into smaller groups, and we ended up all talking as the 2.5 hours went on. How crazy is it that we would all meet? 5 people traveling completely alone, having such an awesome day together.

The cast of this story:

  • 2 Erasmus students (one studying in Spain, the other in Sweden)
  • A medical professional that swears by carrying alcohol wipes while traveling (a practice I may adopt)
  • A British government worker who is basically a superhero or something
  • Me the writer/artist

Our walking tour was great, although I’d be lying if I called the weather anything other than frigid. But it had snowed that morning, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. On the topic of Scandinavian snow: I think everyone should experience it because it’s beautiful and serene and somehow just feels more authentic.

The Little Mermaid

Once the walking tour was over we bobbed our way around the city talking and taking tourist pictures. For lunch/dinner (not really sure which one to call it since it was only 4pm, but it was pitch black outside) we headed over to Christiania, which is a section of the city that is alternative to the country itself.

If you’ve ever been to a music festival in the U.S. (think Woodstock) then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this section of the city is like, except that the structures are more permanent. The first thing I noticed when I was there was how much it smelled like home. And by home I mean that it smelled like weed. Gosh I love Seattle.

We grabbed food at one of the bars there, and I couldn’t help inwardly giggling about the fact that this place is so “edgy” for supporting a drug people just walk into stores and buy, at home.

Dinner was great, though, and afterwards we walked our tall blonde and handsome German student friend back to the train station. It would been brilliant to collect contact information so we could all stay in touch, but nobody’s mind thought about that until long afterwards #tragedy.

After our one goodbye it was time to get ready for the next part of our day: the pub crawl.

Let me tell you something about pub crawls. I love them so incredibly much and even though I don’t drink (I’m allergic to alcohol – no joke) I still try to go on them as often as I can.

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The pub crawl in Copenhagen was one of the most chill pub crawls of my life. Mainly because the city is so small that the whole thing was on the same block. The first three spots I probably could have lived without visiting, although I did get to taste some awesome Danish drinks (and some not so awesome ones) but the fourth and fifth spot were killer.

Normally I go home before a pub crawl makes its way to the last spot, which is usually a dance club. The main reason for this is because I have no interest in “clubbing.” BUT there is an exception for every rule, and Copenhagen was the exception. We danced until 2am. I went to sleep at 3am. I woke up for my flight at 6am. It was a rather crazy 24 hours.

I was pretty sad to leave Copenhagen after only one day, but I already know that I’ll be back. Next time, though, I’d love to go during the spring or fall, so that it isn’t quite so cold and snowy. Although, I honestly wouldn’t change one thing about my trip this year.

Copenhagen 2017 will forever stay in my heart as one of the best days of my life. I’m so glad I made it back to “the motherland”, and my Dane roots, and I cannot wait for my next adventure there. Cheers to next time, Copenhagen. Cheeky little city.

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5 Things You Should Know About Hostel Bathrooms

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This morning I woke up at 5am, remembering that I forgot my washcloth in Scotland. One of the easier things to replace, I wasn’t that upset, but it got me thinking about how many different aspects there are to backpacking; one of the quirkiest being the bathrooms you’ll find. And toilet paper. Good grief, I could write an essay on how toilet paper varies around the world.

Obviously there isn’t a way to write a perfectly comprehensive guide to every bathroom in every hostel, because every single one is different, and people are different in what they think is necessary. But there are some tips I can give, based off my own experience. I wish I had a clue when I started backpacking, so think of this as your big sister giving you some tips and tricks of the trade. It should also be said that these tips pertain to women’s restrooms since obviously I haven’t had any  very much experience with men’s.

 

1.   Showers

Here’s the thing: you can will get absolutely disgusting when you backpack. There are reasons such as the fact that you’re walking around strange cities and transportation spots, which just tend to be dirtier. And then there’s the fact that you have the equivalent of a toddler on your back. Sweat happens. That being said, showers are kind of a big deal. The thing is, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint when you’re going to get a “good”one. This is something to pay attention to when you’re booking spots, but you can also be a little more prepared by remembering:

  • This is not a hotel: Bring your own soap, shampoo, wash cloth, razor (which you CAN take on planes as long as they’re disposable) etc.
  • Bring flip-flops: They weigh pretty much nothing, and can help you feel a little bit better (or a lot) if it turns out that you get a sketchy shower situation. I just like using them in general when showering in places that aren’t home.
  • Towel: I have a really awesome backpacker’s towel that dries super fast and folds up into the tiniest little square bundle. I would definitely suggest going with something like this since most hostels won’t just give you towels. If they do provide you the option, you’ll usually pay a small fee for “renting” one. Obviously there are exceptions (such as the hostel I’m in right now, actually) but it’s better to just save the rent fee because it really does add up.


2. Toilets

First off, make sure that you understand what “toilets” means when you’re booking. In the U.S. a restroom usually has a toilet and shower, but in a lot of European countries the rooms are separate. In fact, sometimes (like in France) the “toilet” is actually outside the building. Or, if you’re in India, it might just be a hole in the ground.

The point is: know your country and do a little research before assuming what will be available to you. I also always travel with a mini pack of seat protectors (not much use while squatting in India) and a mini roll of toilet paper. You should be able to find both pretty easily at a local drug store or outdoor store like REI.


3. What You Should Bring:

I’m a lover of lists, so I thought I would let you know what I actually bring with ME, when I’m traveling (in regards to toiletries):

  • Shampoo
  • Razor
  • Leave-In Conditioner (because my hair gets really matted if I don’t use it #curlyhairproblems)
  • Washcloth
  • Soap bar
  • Shaving Cream (I bring it, and then if my pack gets too heavy, I throw it out and use soap.)
  • Mini TP
  • Seat Covers Mini Pack (2)
  • Easy Dry Towel
  • Makeup
  • Makeup Wipes
  • Mini Pack of Lysol Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Lotion
  • Flip-flops
  • Ziplock bags (if things are still wet when I leave somewhere these come in handy)


4. Shared vs. En Suite

What type of a bathroom you have, in a hostel, can be a game changer. You might be sharing one with 40 other people (usually there are multiple toilet and/or shower stalls in this type) or you might be sharing with just the people in your room (en suite). Or, if you have a private room, you might have your own (don’t assume this, some solo rooms still share).

Whichever type you have, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. If you get a room where you’re sharing with a lot of other people, it’s probably going to be a good idea for you to either wake up before everyone else, or take a shower mid-afternoon/evening. The busiest time I’ve found is right around 9am-10am. This is probably because most check-out times are around 10am and people don’t usually wake up early after partying all night. I usually shoot for 6am or 7am and I have the place to myself.

If you’re in an ensuite bathroom you should also pay attention to how much time you’re spending in there. I’d say 15 minutes should be the tops. Most people can hold it for 15 minutes, but if you’re being a 45 minute diva you’ll probably make some enemies real quick.


5. Leave It Better Than It Was

So here’s the deal: Unless you’re in your own room (and even then, sometimes), you’re going to be sharing with a lot of people. These are community spaces. Hostel workers are not your servants. Regardless of whether you’re in your own room or if you’re sharing with 40 other people, pick up after yourself. Whatever you do, don’t leave your stuff, or traces of yourself in bathrooms (you get what I mean) when you’re not in there. Take it back with you or throw it in the bin. Nobody likes a mess, and the hostel community is about being respectful of your surroundings.

 

Like I said, everybody and every hostel is different. What are your funny/horror bathroom stories. Or better yet, what do you pack so you’re prepared for any kind of toilet type? Let me know in the comment section, below!

I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Copenhagen, Denmark Day 1

I’ve probably heard more rap music in the last three hours than I have in the last 3 years. I’ve arrived at one of my most anticipated places on my trip and it’s already proving to be a pertty awesome stop: Copenhagen, Denmark.
A fun fact about me: I’m 1/8 Dane. Yep, it’s true. Whether you think I look it or not, my great-grandpa came straight off the boat, and to the American shores (eventually bringing his family to the beauiful Pacific Northwest). I’ve been on a quest for a few years, now, to visit all the countries that I’m from, ethnically, and I’m officially at 7/8. My last stop will be Norway, but I won’t be going there this trip.

Why?

Well, because today’s sunset happened at 3pm, and if I go any farther north I might just end up stumbling around in the dark the entirety of the day, which is not how I want to remember Norway. That being said, I’m pretty happy with how lively Copenhagen seems, already. Not that I’ve ventured that far from my hostel. But there’s a reason for that. My hostel is pretty much already the “it” spot in this part of town. Like, if I was looking for a cool bar or coffee shop to hangout in, I would end up here.

Luckily, I’m already booked. My guess is that this hostel started off as some kind of hotel that was rennovated into the hostel that it is, today. The room arrangement and feel is exactly the same as I would expect from a hotel, except that it has hostel prices…and you’re sharing the room with other people. It’s pretty nice to have a bathroom in your room, though vs sharing with 30 girls.

I will say, though, that this hostel is the most expensive stop during my travels. There’s a couple reasons for this. First off it’s because I’m here near a weekend, which obviously is more expensive no matter where you are. Second because I’m in Denmark, which is notoriously expensive. Personally, I plan on finding every not expensive things to do in the city, but since I’m only here for 2 days, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep things simple.

In other news, it was a bit sad to leave Edinburgh behind today, not going to lie. But it was also pretty exciting to come to Copenhagen. As I said, my family lineage is from Denmark, so I love being back in another place I can claim heritage with. Also Vikings.

Not going to lie, the first thing I do tomorrow will be to hit up the national museum and geek over some Viking artifacts. Not just because I’m obsessed with the show, either. I was raised being told, “You’re descended from Vikings,” so in a way it’s like visiting family. Viking blood runs in my veins.

After this stop, I’ll be going to Brussels, which is a slight detour from my original plans. Budapest has been scratched off the itinerary, for various reasons, so I’ll be hitting up Bruges, Brussels and Paris instead. I’m pretty okay with the change in plans. As I’ve said before I think it’s really important to follow your gut when it comes to travel, and to be flexible, and this trip is no different. In fact this is the second time I’ve booked a plane ticket to Copenhagen. The first time I ended up missing the flight in favor of staying an extra week in Ireland. I do not, and would never, regret that decision.

If you guys have any cool shops or restaurant recommendations, don’t be shy to give a shout-out in the comment section, below! I’ll be here for the next couple days and would love to try them out!

Unicorn Horns and Dinosaur Tales: Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

In the land of unicorns, I needed a miracle. Two days ago I flew into Scotland and it has been such a relaxing and rejeuvenating time here. The first time I came to Edinburgh everything was kind of a whirlwind, so this time I switched things up to give it one more chance; different travel situation, different hostel, different part of town. I’m so glad I did because everything has been amazing.
To start things off, my hostel literally looks like I’m staying in 221B Baker Street, which of course makes me very happy. The carpet is gloriously red pepper red with beautifullly intricate floral wallpaper and red velvet curtains to the sides of each room’s windows. Every time I go up or down stairs there’s just a sort of magic that happens as I walk up the original (stunningly beautiful) spiral staircases. This hostel was advertised as “not a party hostel”and I’m so happy I jumped on that boat asap. The reception closes at 10pm. The common room closes at 10pm. And pretty much all of the lights on our residental street are out by 10pm.

This means that getting a goodnight’s rest is a lot easier. Although I’ve been fighting jet-lag more this trip than I usually do. This morning was the first “normal night of sleep.” And that means I went to bed at  9pm and woke up at 3:30am. Solid.

But I do feel much better, today. When I first flew into Edinburgh I checked into my hostel and then pretty much immediately went to  bed for 10 hours. It was a riveting day. By the time I woke up, it was 10pm and the entire world had shut down, so I spent some time online, then went back to sleep.

Yesterday was much more eventful, and brings me back to my need for a miracle.

The morning that I left Dublin I found out that my phone had stopped charging, but after trying a different cord it finally started. Which left me with a problem. How was I supposed to charge my phone? The obvious answer was that I wasn’t going to be able to, since I couldn’t take the working cord with me. So when I got to Edinburgh I bought a new one, thinking my problems were solved. Why are problems never easily solved, while traveling?

The cord didn’t work.

And since my phone is not only a communicative device, but something I use for music and photos while traveling, I was pretty upset. So I just left it plugged in the wall while I pouted, praying for a miracle (aka PLEASE CHARGE!). After a couple of minutes I saw that the battery had raised 4%. But there wasn’t a charging symbol on the phone. Weird. I checked back a while later and it had gone up a couple more – cool! Relief washed over me, but when I checked back an hour later it had only gone up 1%. Yeah, 1.

The moral of this story is be more specific in what you wish for. I got my miracle, my phone is charging, but at  rate of 1- 5% per hour. Yep. This is real life. In context, my phone is almost 4 years old and so it was time for a new one, but I was hoping to make it through this trip before shelling out for one. The phone had other plans.

Other than the phone crisis of 2017, yesterday was a lovely day. Scotland has been completely sunny (if windy) since I’ve been here and it has been glorious. Snow is on the forecast, but I’m hoping it won’t be enough to delay my flight out to Copenhagen tomorrow.

Yesterday I continued a project I started in Dublin, where I meet someone for coffee/tea in every city I go to. This has proven (already!) to make this trip amazingly more enjoyable and I definitely plan on writing up a blog post on the amazing women I’ve met. I already feel so inspired by them and I know you will, too!

Pre my tea session I got terrifically lost trying to find a rather obvious statue of Sherlock Holmes. I’m not going to play coy here, I literally walked right past it. And while I can probably partially blame that on the jet-lag I think it’s also safe to say that I “saw but did not observe” my surroundings.

I did finally find the statue, after stopping in for a cup of tea at a literal hole in the wall coffee shop, and it was such a great feeling of accomplishment. If I had had mortime I would have loved to stop in at the Conan Doyle pub across the street, as well. I would also like to note how much I love that I can just order “a cup of tea” and everyone knows what I want, here. No fusions, no ice. Just a cup of tea (meaning black tea for those of you who are wondering what on earth I’m spouting on about).

Post my meeting with a lovely fellow traveller I stopped in at the National Museum of Scotland, which is just as impressive as it sounds. Good grief. I only had an hour and a half to go through, but I have a feeling I could have easily spent days in there and still have not fully seen the whole thing. My favorite parts that I did see, however, were the exhibits on the history of Scotland (which was basically just me fangirling over historical events that happen in Outlaner), the fashion exhibits (because I love clothes and I love stitchwork more than anything) and the natural history part of the museum, which was filled with animals that were stuffed and a t-rex skeleton that reminded me of Night at the Museum. Also it was absolutely free to visit, which is a trend that makes me extremely in love with Europe and extremely dissatified with American museums. I just don’t think people should have to pay an arm and a leg to learn about the history of their country, or art. End of rant.

I’m really lucky, this trip, because I’m staying on the other side of what’s called “The Meadows” (#creative) which is exactly what it sounds like, but is also the most serene thing ever. I love seeing miles of green every time I walk back to my hostel, and I love that there are acres of green between me and the tourist bustle of where I was staying last time. All in all I’ve very happy to be staying where I am.
Today I’m taking an adventure up to The Highlands of Scotland, which is probably going to melt my heart, I’ll be so in love with everything. They’re not for everyone, but I absolutely love bus tours around countries. With a good book and an insatiable curiousity for history, they’re one of my favorite things to do.

Have YOU been to Edinburgh (or Scotland)? I’d love to hear any fun stories or things you saw that made you love (or hate) the place. Comment below and share your story! (Like really, I wanna hear all about it.)

What I Pack for a Two Week Trip (Winter)

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Something I love about backpacking is there is no “right” way to do it. You do what works for you. You use the pack that works for you. You go where yuo want to go, and you pack what you want to pack. This blog is definitely not guide of how to be successful at backpacking, in the strict sense of the word. All I can do is tell you about what has made me successful, in my travels. That being said, I thought I would let you all in on what I’m traveling with. The key to packing successfully, when it comes to backpacking, is to remember 3 rules:

1. There are needs and then there are wants. Go with the needs.

2. Going monocromatic means creating more diversity in your outfits (really!).

3. Things seem much more disposable when every pound is strapped to your back for days.

Once again this is not the “how to guide” for success. But here’s what I have in my pack on this trip, so you can have an idea of what I bring when I go on a two week long backpacking trip.


Clothing: 

1 Puffer Vest

7 Pairs of Underwear: I usually pack half the amount of the number of days I’ll be gone…but obviously that’s for trips 2 weeks and less.

Two Tank Tops

2 Bras

3 Pairs of Wool Socks

5 Sweaters

1 Hoodie

1 Pair of Pajama Bottoms

2 Pairs of jeans

1 Dress

1 Pair of Insulated Tights

1 Rain Jacket

1 Wool Wrap around Poncho: So many uses! From being cold on the plane, to needing an extra layer over your bed to having  a great way to change up your outfits.

1 Scarf: Originally I packed 2 but I’d rather buy a new one as a souvenir and onlybring one on the trip.

Earmuffs: It’s supposed to be 17 degrees in one of the cities I’m visiting.

1 Rain Jacket

1 Puffer Jacket

1 Pair of flip-flops: For shower/easy access.
1 Pair of TOMS boots


Accessories: 

Phone

Umbrella

Camera

NeckPillow

Canvas Bag: These fold up tiny, but can be used for groceries and as a purse, when you don’t want to trek around carrying your whole pack.

Book: I know this isn’t exactly sensible for weight reasons, butI really like having something that’s not dependant on wifi or battery life. There’s also always the option of leaving it in a hostel, if you finish it on the trip

Rain cover for my pack

Eye Mask: Because there’s nothing like getting awoken at 4am by your hostel roommate.

 

Toiletries: 

Makeup/ makeup wipes

Mini conditioner, face wash

Earplugs

All the Chapstick

2 Tea bags

Sunglasses

Hand Warmers

Mini deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrush

Travel size laundry detergent (dry)

Matches/First Aid Kit

Whistle and Grapling Hook

Mini Case of Advil

Disposable razor, nail clippers, tweezers

Washcloth

Travel Towel

 

Electronics: 

Adapters for each country

Tablet

Keyboard: I have a keyboard that connects via bluetooth to my tablet. It’s super light, hot pink and my favorite thing ever.

Charging cords for everything…and I mean everything

Extra batteries

Mini flashlight

 

What are some things that you love to travel with? Comment below with your “must haves”!

Why I Stopped Lying about being American when I Travel

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When I was a kid we spent every Memorial Day Weekend at a magical lake. Okay, so the lake wasn’t magical, but the memories I have there, are. Three whole days were filled to the brim with canoeing, archery, finding newts and beaver dams and building “survival fires.”

But one of the best memories I have from those trips, happened at the end. It was a tradition we called, “Stone Soup.” You might have been told the story when you were a kid, or been read the book, but in case you’re not aware of the tale, here’s a recap:

Once upon a time there was a boy who came to a village, seperated by differences. He promised the villagers he could make a soup that would amaze and astound them, because he had a magic stone. Since he was a stranger, and they had trust issues, they thought about kicking him out of the town. But they were kinda sorta also bored from village life, so magic sounded like a welcome distraction. So…they let him try out his magic, and probably whispered some threats about what would happen if he didn’t live up to his promises (but they wouldn’t put that in a children’s book, now would they?).

Anyhoo, he told the villagers that the only way the magic would work is if he had the right ingredients. Those went something like this: vegetables, meat, spices, flour etc. 

Sound familiar? Yeah, those are all the ingredients people use for soup. 

But the villagers weren’t so bright, so they each offered up what they had, and threw it in the pot, and they were amazed by the bubbling, beautiful soup that came out of all of his efforts. 

The point isn’t that the boy was kind of a fraud. It’s that, when everyone comes together, and brings what they have, magic happens. When I was a kid, this meant making some pretty delicious soup.

Now, as an adult, I kind of feel this way about hostels. I know, I know, that was a jump. But hear me out.

When I get to a hostel, I literally have no idea who I’m going to meet. I’ve been coming to the hostel I’m in right now for over 3 years, and the experiences have never once been the same. For instance, this time I’m up writing at 3am, because jet-lag is a monster that’s trying to ruin my life.

Yesterday was the first day of my backpacking trip (#Europe2017) and last night I got to talk to some of the girls in my hostel room. I’m a pretty strong introvert, but I absolutely love meeting new people when I travel. Two of the girls in my room are from South America, and one is from Mexico.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t tension when she when she found out I was American, and I said,”We’re neighbors!” Because there definitely was.

As we talked more, though, we figured out we had a lot in common. Like we’re both hostel jumpers on the second act of our twenties. We both like going to bed early. We like to laugh at drunk people on pub crawls, rather than being the drunk people. And we both love to travel.

Travel brings people together. It’s the “magic stone” in the pot of life that requires nothing except that you contribute an open mind, and your own experiencs. It’s amazing to think back on the people I’ve met, even in this one hostel. People from literally all over the world who are brought together to learn, laugh and make some (sometimes embarassing) memories.

This is also the reason I’ve decided not to lie and tell people I’m Canadian on this trip. I know, you might snort thinking,”Why would she lie?” Well, little ducks, it’s because not all Americans are the golden children we wish they could be. And Canadians are hella chill. Seriously. I could hug the whole country.

Despite it being a pretty easy thing to pull off, because my accent sounds pretty similar, (especially to people with English as a second language), I think it’s more important than ever for me to say I’m American.

Why?

Because the reality is that our country has showed the world a very dark side of itself. And while I know that we can spit quotes about majorities, the reality of the situation is that the rest of the world is not exactly thrilled with our choices. Heck, I’m not exactly thrilled.

That being said, I really do think it’s so important for Americans who travel to claim their country (and yes, I know I’m not the only one who’s lied). It’s important for us to show people that Americans are not represented by the hate they see in media.

It’s important for us to take time to laugh and talk and make weird secret handshakes with people from all over the word. Because the reality is, you could be the only American they ever meet. Think about that for a second.

You represent your entire country. Obviously not all of the time, but I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say it’s probaby more often than you think.

In each country I’m visiting, this trip, I’m making it my goal to sit down with someone who lives there, to just talk about life. That might not sound groundbreaking. But if you can change someone’s life and the lens they view the world through, I’d say that’s pretty huge.

So take time to listen, and take time to tell your story. More now than ever. Because you might never know the impact that late night bunkbed chats in hostel rooms might have.

 

10 Things You Should Bring with You to Harry Potter World

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If there was one thing we learned when we were in Harry Potter World (LA) it’s that stuff is reeeaaaalllly expensive, in a kind of unnecessary way. Not that we didn’t expect for things to be expensive in an amusement park, but the price of things in Harry Potter World were just ridiculous (with the exception of the food which seemed to be pretty similar to what you’d expect).

I guess I just don’t feel like I should be hearing kids ask their parents for allowance from the past 6 months so they can buy a journal, a pen and a pin. That really happened. I’m not kidding. The 8 year old kid paid $90 of his own money for three things. This is wrong.

Needless to say, I didn’t end up buying much of anything there. And once I reached my house, I actually breathed a sigh of relief because I DID THE RIGHT THING. There is no reason to spend those prices at the park itself. We had an amazing time running around the grounds with our wands and my Harry Potter glasses (both of which got a whole lot of compliments from the people who worked there — in total I had bought them both before the trip for $15).

Before you, or your family, venture to Harry Potter World I thought I would make a list of a few things so that you can shop like a Malfoy on a Weasley budget. Because hey, I want you to look amazing and I believe we all deserve to be able to look straight outta Hogwarts.

Phew, that video gets me every time. But here they are, 10 things that I found for way cheaper than when we were at Harry Potter World (click on the images for links). Let’s start off with the things I bought before going:

Where to Buy Your Wand: 

I bought my wand on Etsy at the shop: Osbornes Wand Shop. And this was my best purchase…maybe ever — definitely in regards to my Harry Potter fandom. I got so many compliments on it while I was in Harry Potter World! The best part? It’s not some mass produced item – it’s customized to me!

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Harry Potter’s Glasses: 

Here’s a fun fact, these aren’t even sold at Harry Potter World. Which is such a missed opportunity, I feel. I still don’t understand why they weren’t there. I also got a lot of compliments on these. In fact, one of the ladies who worked there was like, “Where did you get those!? I’ve been looking for a pair everywhere!”  You can snag your pair by visiting this shop: Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4

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Everything Else:

*Disclosure* I am a very proud Slytherin and hence all of this gear will be Slytherin based. If you participate in a Hogwarts house that has a problem with that…

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Mugs:

I really wanted a mug because I sit at a desk 8 hours a day and having a Harry Potter mid-day reminder is never a bad idea. But I was a bit shocked when I turned the mug at HPW upside down and saw the $40 price tag! That was just a no-go. Buying something that will potentially break during the transfer back home, for $40, was just not going to happen. Luckily, I found literally the cutest Hedwig mug the world has ever known AND a Slytherin mug both of which could be purchased for less than that price. At $10 for one and $18 for the other it’s an investment I can definitely swing.

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Sweatshirt: 

I’m not even going to tell you how much I wanted to buy a Slytherin sweatshirt when I was in HPW but with prices at $60 – $80 that just wasn’t going to happen. BUT I found some beautiful sweaters online that don’t break the bank, and actually look better! In love. Check out this beautiful Slytherin Quidditch sweatshirt from Etsy!

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Journals:

I’m a writer, so obviously I can never have too many notebooks, journals etc. I pretty much always carry one with me, so it was kind of disappointing to find out that the journals for sale in HPW were like $40. I mean, come on, they didn’t even have real leather covers. I was trés sad. When I got home I found this beautiful journal for $13 from Amazon that looks pretty much exactly on point with what I was holding in my hands at HPW, at a fraction of the price.

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Passport Cover:

Obviously I travel a lot. So when I saw that HPW was selling passport holders I kind of lost my mind. Then I looked at the price $25…not bad. But then I looked at the quality: shit (sorry mom – but it WAS). The passport cover wasn’t real leather and the stitching wasn’t even in a straight line. So, for this one, it’s not even about the price, just about the terrible quality. I found a beautiful leather (customizable!) passport case on Etsy that is just about the stuff of dreams…for the same price.

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Banner: 

Wall banners were a really big thing at HPW and I really wanted one. Maybe it’s because I’m a Slytherin and want everybody to know it (we tend to be very pro-us). Who knows? All I know is that there was a big green thing on the wall with a snake that said “I’m better than you” (that’s what the Latin translates to, right?) and I wanted it. Good thing I waited. Those bad boys were pushing $40 and I found a much prettier adult one, for $20 (by adult I just mean that I can actually hang in my house without people staring).  P.s. If you want a more colorful one, you can find them on Amazon for much cheaper, as well.

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BONUS!

One of the best things we saw someone wearing at Harry Potter World couldn’t even be bought there. We were obsessed with a Gryffindor letterman jacket of British girl in front of us was wearing and seeing the Slytherin version is even better! Right now you can grab one at HotTopic for under $40!

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Fantastic Beasts…Anything:

The most disappointing part of HPW was that there was absolutely no mention or anything close to purchase from Fantastic Beasts. I was so sad because I had planned on buying the screenplay there, and then it wasn’t even for sale. I did find it for sale at the airport for $30 but even that was a stretch. Luckily Amazon has it right now for $15, so it’s a must buy.

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As a side note, you definitely should buy some butter beer and have a meal at The Three Brooms restaurant. Comment below with your favorite Harry Potter themed items, and let me know if you end up buying any of these awesome pieces above! 🙂

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Los Angeles Day 1-2

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It’s pretty hard for me to rest when I travel. In fact, even though it’s called a “vacation” I usually generally end up trying to fit in as many things as possible. This trip is no exception.

When we first bought tickets to LA, for a trip to Harry Potter World, it was pretty spur of the moment. And by that I mean there was no plan or thought that went into that purchase at all. We saw cheap tickets, we bought them. And after that I pretty much forgot about the trip, with the exception of buying a wand and knitting my roommate a Gryffindor scarf.

Usually I plan out trips pretty crazily with mile long lists of what I want to do and see in each place. This trip didn’t start with a list, but one somehow one manifested itself by the time we checked into our Airbnb. So here we are, at the end of the second day, and I haven’t had one moment of down time. Luckily LA is a huge city filled with awesome things to do – how could we NOT fill our itinerary?

Yesterday
We boarded our plane from Seattle to LA pretty early yesterday, and were lucky enough to get seats next to each other (despite Spirit airlines trying to up-sell us for the exact same seats we got for nothing). The flight itself was perfectly fine once we took off into the air. But, true to their reputation, Spirit airlines made us wait a full hour on the plane before taking off. Needless to say, we arrived quite a bit later in California.

Nothing could dampen our spirits, though…except, perhaps, the impossible task of getting from the airport to downtown LA. We finally (and by finally I mean after asking three people) we were told that the “only way” to get there was via taxi. This was a lie. And I guess we should have seen it coming, since we were asking someone who worked for the taxi company. After stumbling around we finally figured out you can take a shuttle to the metro from the airport, or a bus to the transit center and then go to the metro.

We met an all too happy bus driver who exchanged his life story for every transportation related or directional related question we asked. With his help, figured out that the best way to get around on the metro and the buses is to buy a day pass and use that, unlimited, for the whole day. It’s definitely a good deal once you’re jumping from bus to bus from each tourist attraction to the next.

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Once we finally found our way to downtown LA we visited Last Bookstore which is a bit like Powell’s Books (for those of you from the PNW) but with pillars, book art and a mammoth head on the wall. It was fun, but most of the books were priced higher than my budget. Not to mention that, in order not to be charged $60 for our backpacks (thanks again Spirit Airlines) we needed to keep them under certain restrictions, such as size and weight.

After the bookstore, we headed to our Airbnb, which was described to us as an “up and coming” neighborhood. For those of you who don’t know what that means in LA, if means that it probably could be considered the ghetto, but slowly people with higher incomes are moving in…house by house. Sadly it’s still a bit scary to walk around in the dark or anything, but the house itself is a converted residence to now almost dorm with somewhere around 10 sparsely decorated rooms. Oh, and the walls have absolutely no sound proofing…and I do mean none.

Once we got to our house yesterday we were just about to call it a night when we saw an add for a museum we wanted to hit up. Buuuuuut it was closed. So we started brainstorming other ideas. I thought of Roller Derby for absolutely no particular reason (except that it’s awesome – duh) and it turned out that not only is there Roller Derby in LA but their Championship game was last night.

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Let me tell you something about Roller Derby: those girls are insane. The energy was an A+ in the warehouse turned Roller racing rink (or is it called a race track?). The language was definitely rated PG-13, and there was a gloriously bizarre amount of black lipstick and face paint. Throw that in with some short shorts, fish nets and tight tight clothing and you’re in for business!

A few highlights from the night:
– That time a girl triple lapped the other team
– When one of the teams literally had more than 100 points on their opponents
– When one of the smaller players got slammed over the railing by the elbow of an opponent…which by the way is against the rules (although I don’t feel like that girl gave a shit that she was breaking them)

All in all I left the place grinning from ear to ear. What a night. The energy was insane. If you ever have the chance to go see a Roller Derby or go to the LA ‘Dolloseum’ do it.

And…I was planning on including day 2 in this post but I’m falling asleep so I’ll write it up tomorrow. Time for some sleep!

How to Plan the Perfect Trip without Being Perfect

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I wish you could see my bedroom floor right now.

Not very many people understand how many hours, days, weeks and months it takes to pull together a truly amazing trip. The myth that you “just go” is one that I think leaves a lot of people disappointed, and wishing they had spent more pre-planning time on their trips. Instagram can be a tricky lens to look through.

I’m planning two trips right now, one in December (to HARRY POTTER WORLD!) and the other one in January (Europe 2017!). Both are completely different, since one is international and on is right here on the west coast of the U.S., but I’ve reached the point where I can use similar styles of planning on both.

Note: This is not a post on how to pack for a trip, or not forget your toothbrush. It’s how to ensure that you get the most from your time spent in a place. 

So, since none of you lovelies can be here, amidst my organized chaos, I’ve decided to share some of my trip planning tips with you! After five years of circling the globe, I’ve learned a thing or two…


Dream BIG

Don’t limit yourself when you’re planning your trip. I always say this because you never know what you might find along the way. I usually have a list of about 50 things that I want to do in a given city, but then I only do about 5. Why? Because some things might be closed on the dates you’re there, some might be under construction. You might miss a bus or a train or get off at the wrong stop (#ohthetalesIcouldtell). And THAT is why it’s a good idea to have a list. Even before you leave, and you’re planning your trip out, have a notebook where you write down any and everything that peaks your interest. This is also a great way to keep track of all the suggestions people give you!


Know What You Love 

Take a moment and write down some things that interest you. Shoot for 5-10 things, but if you’re feeling inspired, go ahead and keep on writing. Done? Great! So, now that you’ve decided on your interests, start Googling. Yep, that’s write. Literally write the name of the interest with a comma and the place you’re visiting. The Google gods are more than generous when it comes to providing you information about the things you love. Here are my go-to’s:

  • Art Museums
  • Van Gogh
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Geek (I usually branch out to things like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Star Trek etc.)
  • Books (famous authors)
  • Famous movies (filming locations)


Connect with People

I have a pretty strict rule that I connect with people who actually live in the places where I travel. I love touristy things as much as the next person, but there’s something amazingly fulfilling about chatting with people who know a place inside-out. My biggest tip on this one is to either use a site like Couchsurfing or Airbnb for meet-ups, or for finding a place to stay, OR just start talking to people. As an introvert I usually do the first, but I’ve also found myself making really amazing friends on tours, just by striking up a conversation. Oh, and don’t be afraid to go on tours, adventures and touristy things alone – that can be one of the best ways for you to meet new people in the city! Just remember, safety first.

 

Spread Your Net WIDE

If you’ve seen the movie “Yes Man” then think of this step like that. Say yes to things you normally wouldn’t. Things that are safe obviously, but things that challenge you to stretch beyond who you currently are. If you’re planning a trip to Europe and someone offers you a place to stay in a little town near the big city you wanted to go to – GO. When you’re first planning out your trip, post your plans on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. The first time I ever backpacked, I ended up staying a week with a complete stranger (friend of a friend) via my Instagram post on the plane ride to London. Travel is all about getting out of your comfort zone!


Make a Mess

Guess what? Your trip is not going to go as planned. You might miss a plane. You might have lodging plans fall through or you might just straight up hate a city you thought you would love. It happens. It’s called life, and it’s OKAY. Pick yourself up, mark it off to “travel bingo” and move on. Traveling around the world isn’t always easy. If it was, then everyone would do it. But if you’re passionate about learning and growing as a person, it’s more worth it than you might ever know.

Adventures at 7,800 ft: Ouray, Colorado

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This past summer was crazy busy, and even though I went on quite a few adventures, it was hard to find the time to put together blog posts. Which is so sad, and terrible. Buuuuuut that’s the way the cookie crumbled. Now, three months later, I have a little bit more time to put together some pics of my adventures!

One of the big trips that we took, this past summer, was to Colorado. We started off by flying from Seattle to Denver, and then popped down (or was it up?) to Ouray, Colorado.

The best way to describe Ouray is to think of an old 1950s western movie, somehow time capsuled. Like John Wayne actually filmed a western in Ouray. No joke.

One of the best parts of this little town was that they had a vintage photo-shoot place where we got to take old western style photos. Needless to say, I’m not allowed to post any of those photos because soooooooomeone would be embarrassed (#rude).

I did, however think I would include some of my other photos from the trip, because it was an absolutely beautiful trip that included Jeep 4-wheeling, great meals and s’mores every night.

 

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Our thoughts: “Imagine coming up to this when you’re driving a covered wagon?”
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There were these little cabins all over, that were left from the old miners. It’s crazy how everyone just up and left.
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Jeep! I love how smooth this road looks. DON’T BE DECEIVED! Half of the driving was over piled of rocks and boulders.
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The wildflowers in the mountains were so beautiful! It was like walking through the book Heidi. I have a whole book full of pressed flowers, now. 🙂
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Me and him. ❤
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Hundred year old buildings. This one used to be a barn for horses.
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That old western vibe.

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While starting off at 7,000 ft (which was crazy) – we actually drove (four-wheeled) up the mountains to 13,000 ft, to Imogene Pass!!
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I LOVE FLOWERS

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That moment when you just want to start singing songs from The Sound of Music.