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.

4 Ways To Travel Without Leaving Home

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What if I told you that you can travel without ever leaving your neighborhood? 

Traveling is a big part of my life. Obviously. I spend hours each week blogging, researching and Tweeting about it. But the reality of the situation is that not everyone can just throw some stuff in a bag and hop on a plane, which is something I’ve been very fortunate to have done on multiple occasions. Right now, however, I’m in a bit of a hiatus for travel, or at least long trips, because I’m paying back the student loan gods and getting settled after a year of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But back to you. I know there are a lot of you who love travel, but may not be able to right now, so I thought I would share some of my tips for curing (at least temporarily) the travel blues. Ready? Okay, here we go:

Postcards

You know, those tiny little scraps of paper that you pray will go where they’re supposed to because, let’s face it, there’s no return address. Yep, those. I love postcards and I probably always will. When I was a kid I used to had a penpal, and that’s probably where my love for snail mail originates from, but I think I also just like being able to talk to people without talking to them (if I’m honest) #introvert.

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The best part of sending/receiving postcards is that you don’t have travel somewhere in order to send them. No joke! Try out a website like Postcrossing to send and receive postcards from people all over the world. How does this work?

1. You go to Postcrossing and sign up.

2. They send you the addresses of a few people to test your commitment.

3. Once those people receive your postcards (which you’ve written a little code from the website, on) you start getting postcards and so forth and so on.

One time I got a postcard from Germany that led me to making a new friend in the U.S. and it was awesome. You never know what you’re gonna get!

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The wall of my bedroom in Paris.

Read

I know, I know, now I sound like
5th grade.Outlander-TV_series-2014 But it’s TRUE! Reading is an amazing way to experience other cultures and places without ever having to leave your house (literally, just order them on Amazon – you don’t have to ever leave…except maybe health reasons).The best part of books (other than that they’re relatively cheap) is that they can actually inspire you to travel to other places, and make your trips more fun.
Right now I’m reading the Outlander series, and I’m seriously considering going to Scotland just so that I can visit all of the places. It makes you appreciate a place so much more when you’re able to associate happy reading memories with the real life places.

Have a Penpal

IMG_0389One of the best ways to get to know people who are different than yourself is to do just that…get to know people who are different from you. I’ve had a penpal for most of my childhood and again for the past year. She lives in Liverpool, England and due to the crazy of each letter taking 1-2 weeks to get from point A to point B, we don’t talk too often, but it’s the most exciting thing in the world to get a letter in the mail from England once a month!

If you’re still a little skeptical that pen pals are for kids, take a peek at the website that I used to get mine: Letter Writer’s Alliance. They’re dedicated to making sure snail mail stays in business, and it’s a pretty awesome community. Not only can you get matched with another member (lifetime membership is $5) but you can also check out their awesome letter writing merch (not required to write, just awesome) as well as local meet-ups and other events.

Social Media Groups

You know what they say: the people you surround yourself with influence your behavior. The best part of social media is that you can choose who you’re around and gain inspiration that way! Obviously, Twitter is my biggest inspiration with all +5,000 of my travel buds, but I also love Facebook groups, as well. Instagram is (obv) a really good source as well, but I’ve never really been in to Instagram, so that’s not as much my scene. Try looking at these Facebook Groups (or even join a couple!) for travel inspiration galore.

Travelettes : Launched in 2009, Travelettes is an online magazine/ travelblog/ network for and from girls who love to travel.

Nomadness Travel Tribe: The Nomad•ness Travel Tribe, created by Evita Robinson, stemming from her travel series Nomad•ness TV, is an online social community of travelers and expats all around the world. In the Tribe, they come together to share stories, advice, dos and don’ts, in an interpersonal setting. The majority of our members are bridged by an urban background.

Americans in France:

Irish Central: IrishCentral is America’s number one news website for Irish news with over 3.5 million readers a month. (Also one of my favorite newsletters to get!)

Mama Loves Paris: Brilliant ideas, inspiration, fun and fab photography for families living or loving Paris life.

Jetting Around: Jetting Around by Pola Henderson is a blog dedicated to cities and their culture. In addition to writing, Pola hosts a weekly city travel discussion on Twitter called #JAchat (Fridays, 1pm ET) and international networking events for travelers, JA Café: Travel Talk Over Coffee.

Travel Noire: Travel Noire is a digital publishing platform that creates tools and resources for the unconventional traveler.

The Exploress: Inspire | Share | Educate | Together we are a global community of young, creative and adventurous women who share a burning desire to travel.

A Geek Guide To Vancouver, BC: Part 2

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Okay, so after I wrote up my last post I realized that I had a few more things to say: like that THERE ARE MORE GEEKY THINGS IN VANCOUVER TO TALK ABOUT! And these things I’m super excited to share! So, here’s the part 2 to my post from this weekend. Who knew Vancouver could have so many geeky things – I actually ran out of time to explore them all!

If you have anything that I missed, feel free to let me know in the comment section, below!

TV shows filming in Vancouver:

Obviously there are tons of shows that are being filmed in Canada, but most notably for me are the ones listed below:

  • Arrow (currently)
  • Flash (currently)
  • iZombie (currently)
  • DC Legends (currently)
  • Once Upon A Time In Wonderland (not current, but one of my favorite shows of all-time)
  • Once Upon A Time (currently)
  • Supernatural (currently)

The best part? You can follow along with WHERE these shows (and more!) are filming by stalking them with this handy guide!

Where To Find Some Geeky Reads:

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Vancouver Public Library

The Vancouver library was built as a structure inspired by the colosseum, and it’s quite a spectacle. While I was a little bit skeptical from the outside, the inside of the library was stunning and SEVEN stories high! I’m not gonna lie, I felt a little sick when looking down through the all glass windows that surround one side. Every type of book you could imagine was there including some great titles that coincide with geek favorites, such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.

Albion Books

If you go to a bookstore for happy-go-lucky employees then you may want to stop by your local Barnes and Nobel, but if you’re there for the books this second hand book stop is amazing. Not only did I find a first edition copy of Outlander there for $5, but I also found some beautiful vintage Charles Dickens works for about $10. Some prices were weirdly high, but overall I think this is a great stop for book lovers. The best part? There are three other book stores within a two block distance that you can also walk to!

Even Heroes Get Homesick

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Paris, France

“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”

Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).

Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.

One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.

Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.

This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).

Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.

But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).

As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.

The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.

I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.

Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.

Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.

Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.

So why am I still longing for the past?

I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.

BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.

I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.

It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).

I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.

It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?

But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.

But that’s part of the adventure, right!?

I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.

Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.

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I found a beret at a Paris street fair. Needless to say: J’adore.

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Six Impossible Things

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Seattle, WA

This week I’ve challenged myself to finish a book.
Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, yes and no.

See, I have this thing about books. And TV shows. And life. I don’t like endings.

If you came over to my apartment, you would see an entire bookcase filled with books read ¾ of the way through. The bookmarks are still in them. It’s almost comical at this point. I’ve always had this thing about endings. I think I’m so terrified of reaching a “wasted-time ending” that, when I get close, I’d rather shut the book and imagine the rest.

The problem with this habit is that all endings aren’t bad. And when I choose to forgo the potentially bad ones, I’m also missing out on the potentially good ones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As a book reader, this is silly. But in life, it’s an all too real situation.

How often do we step back from something because of the potential for it going bad – shutting off the little voice in our minds that says, “But what if it works out?” Sure, by never taking chances, you can be safe and free from the embarrassment or disappointment of failure. But what about the rewards of succeeding in something that seemed impossible!?

If you know me well, you probably know I’m obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. It’s one of my favorite books/movies/tv shows. I love how it breaks conventional rules about how a story becomes relatable to readers, and when I was a kid I named my cat Dinah (the name of Alice’s cat). One of my favorite Lewis Caroll lines, from Alice in Wonderland, is about thinking up six impossible things before breakfast.

I actually do this.

At first it was just for fun, but after a while, I started to notice “impossible” things actually coming true; not that they were popping up out of nowhere, but that I was starting to notice them. Verbalizing, or writing things down, is an awesome way to be able to look back, and see your impossibilities becoming realities. These become milestones in our lives.

A few years ago, when I wanted to go to India, I was broke, I was a college student with a 20-credit load, I had never been out of the country and no one I knew had ever been to India before. But it felt right. And I’m a big believer in following gut feelings. When I found out how much the trip would cost, I sat down and wrote out how I could, even potentially, make enough money. It didn’t add up. It was impossible.

So, I wrote God a note. Classy, I know.

I said,

“Ok, God. I feel like this trip is something I’m supposed to go on. I have no independent travel experience, no idea what I’m doing, and financially this is ridiculous to even think about. But, if you want me to go, I’ll trust you. I have no idea where this money is going to come from, but I trust you to get me there.”

I folded up the note and stuck it in my journal. Then I went about my life, applying for visas and passports with money that seemed to come out of nowhere. I got offered a job that fit perfectly with my class schedule, and a raise at my other job completely spontaneously.The trip was going to cost me $2500 and, in addition, I needed probably $75 for spending money etc.

After buying all of my gear, getting shots and paying for passports/visas, I looked in my bank account: $2576.00

True story.

I dreamt about something impossible. And ended up half way around the world as a result. I tried something that had little to no chance of being able to happen, and trusted that the money would come if it was meant to be. It was blind faith, an unknown ending. I could have ended up getting to the end of the whole process and not having enough money. I could have failed. I could have wasted hours working my butt off, only to fall flat on my face. I had no idea, until the week I was flying out, that there would be a “happy ending”.

But there was.

That trip changed my life, in so many ways, that I couldn’t even possibly begin to write them here. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. Seeing the impossible become possible changes you.

My brother used to always say, “Fear isn’t in the present. It’s only something that lives in the future.”

When we allow it to overcome us, we’re, essentially, being crippled before we’ve even met our opponent.

For each of us, our fears are different. Maybe it’s something huge like traveling around the world. Maybe it’s small, like finishing a book. But, regardless, it’s so much more rewarding to fight for the impossibilities that we’re drawn to. We don’t know the future, so why fear it?

Instead, today, let’s think up some impossible things, dream a little bigger, and blindly take a leap of faith – or just finish a book.

“Throw yourself to the edge that you’re always scared of. Try being independent; do it your way. You’ll love it.”

Ameerah Al-Taweel

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Exploring Your Own Backyard

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When I was in college, I forced myself to discover new parts of Seattle by intentionally “getting lost” in my hometown. I would hop on a bus – any bus,  and with barely any cash and no GPS, I would explore. I found some pretty awesome places, and tried some new things I would never have tried during my day to day routine; I made some new friends and got to know my hometown so much more than I ever had before.

Taking these trips, I think, was the first stepping-stone to exploring the world outside of where I lived. It allowed me to gain the confidence to try new experiences, and to be ok with being a little uncomfortable (or a lot). I started to realize that asking people for directions was ok, and that eating at restaurants I’d never been to before could turn out to be awesome. I started to look around me, instead of walking with tunnel vision to my next destination. I started noticing things.

It’s a pretty well known fact that Seattle runs in my veins. I’m madly in love with my city.  I grew up going to Mariners games, rooting for the Sonics and eating Dick’s hamburgers. Rain storms are like lullabies to me.  I am a Seattleite born and raised, but I still find adventures in my home city all the time. Because, contrary to popular opinion, being an adventurer doesn’t mean that you have to travel half way across the world in order to explore. More than likely there are stories, traditions and secret spots in your hometown that you’d never discover, unless you took the time to look for them.

And, you know what? A funny thing happens when you start to let the world show you it’s beauty. Yes, you start to see it differently, but you also begin to see yourself in a different light. You aren’t just a pedestrian anymore. You become a bird watcher, an architect, an art spectator, a food connoisseur, a friend to random strangers, a meteorologist, a cartographer, or a humanitarian. By opening yourself up to the beauty around you, you take part in a conversational exchange that allows you to enrich the world, while you, in turn, are enriched.

If you’re wondering where to start on your travel journey, get out and explore your own city!  Not only will you be building skills that allow you to interact once you’re on your international adventures, but you’ll also appreciate so much more of the world you travel in by learning to appreciate the virtue of what is already around you. So get out there! Find some awesome somethings in your hometown and then share your stories with someone. Let’s encourage a culture of exploration – even if it’s within our own communities!

Here are five of my favorite places I’ve stumbled across in Seattle:

1. Waterfall Garden (Pioneer Square): Did you know that Seattle has a waterfall IN the city? Neither did I, until I started asking around and discovered this one! Not only is this mini slice of nature beautiful, but this is a great way to take a break from the noise of the busy city for a bit and just relax.

2. ReStyle for Ryther Thrift Shop (Ballard): Missing those good old fashioned thrift shop experiences. This little baby shop may be just the thing you’ve been looking for. I love this little shop with all my heart and it really is as “hole-in-the-wall” as you can get.

3. The Backdoor at Roxy’s (Fremont): A little bit more well known amongst the locals, but still an unmarked door in a dark parking lot. This is one of my absolute favorite bars. The atmosphere is 1920’s speak-easy and, from the murals to the amazing food, it really is a great place to just sit back and relax with friends.

4. Magus Books (University District): I’m such a sucker for old books. I love the smell, I love the feel of the pages. It’s all part of the experience. This is such a great used book store and one that I love visiting

5. Street Bean Coffee (Downtown): Favorite coffee shop for their rice milk hot cocoa. So many coffee shops only offer soy alternatives to dairy, that it was extremely refreshing to be able to order my drinks with rice milk. This coffee shop is special because they offer jobs to homeless/transitioning street youth and also host some of the best Open Mic nights around.

Ciao!

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 “Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” – Franz Kafka