Day 2: Game of Thrones Tour | Girona, Spain 

Yesterday was such a fun day! I decided to spluge on this trip by booking a Game of Thrones tour north of Bardelona, in Girona, and it was such a good way to get out of my shell and hang out with other nerds. The Medeivel town of Girona is like 2,000 years old so it’s pretty incredible in its own rite, but Season 6 of Game of Thrones was also filmed there and so there’s this whole other dimension of awesome in the city.

Asking random strangers to take pics of me. As one does.

This building was used to stage the big bang that Cersei may or may not have done.

These Arabic baths were so beautiful but the bath house was also so cold. The last thing I’d be thinking about here would have been bath time.

In addition to movie locations we also got to see some real castle ruins that were 1500 years old!

True talent is that this picture was taken by a dad who was balancing one kid on his shoulders while his five year old daughter told him how to take the picture. Shoutout to R. Riveter for my new favorite travel bag!

This is our tour guide. He didn’t actually love Game of Thrones but he loved history and architecture so that made up for it. These are the stairs blind Arya sat on.

Hanging out with my Otto bag and enjoying my golden hand. #kingslayer

This popsicle was actually gross, but the cool thing was that it turned your lips metallic gold as you ate it!

In a way im going to count this as my Thanksgiving. I got to eat tapas and traditional Catalonian food with 20 strangers next to the Mediterranean Sea!

And speaking of the sea. There she is!

Tomorrow I’ll be doing a walking tour around Barcelona so that should be fun! Then tomorrow I’m off to Morocco!

Tea Talk 9: Chelsea Elzinga | English Teacher (Luxembourg)

Chelsea and I met in college, and honestly from the start I knew she was one of the coolest people I’d ever meet in my life. This girl is the definition of driven, passionate about life, and has a healthy sprinkle of Beyoncé swag. We both loved French culture, and years after college actually ended up living in France at the same time, which was such a beautifully weird coincidence! Now she resides in Luxembourg where she’s teaching English, as one does. I’m so excited to introduce this powerhouse woman to you all—here’s Chelsea!

What started your passion for traveling?

My passion for traveling has always been about moving beyond the limits of my comfort zone. It is an activity (or lifestyle, I suppose) closely tied to my love of language. For my first trip abroad, I went to France by myself at the age of eighteen. Living with a French exchange family was difficult even after five years of French classes because I often felt awkward when I couldn’t express myself. My happiest moments were when I got to explore alone. That was an important first-time travel experience and invaluable life lesson. Although I was a little pre-occupied by my linguistic insecurity at the time, it ended up transforming my confidence, pushing me to pursue French that fall at university, and has impacted every step of my journey since.


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

Make language learning part of your travel preparation and/or itinerary. While your ego may shrink with every butchered pronunciation that struggles out of your mouth, the synapses in your brain are beginning to form new paths of understanding. You become stronger! You don’t (and likely won’t) master another language for one trip, but knowing numbers, how to ask where the bathroom is, and basic phrases will serve you immensely while you travel.

On a recent day-trip in Germany, I was able to just barely communicate with the waiter after a few weeks of my beginner’s German class. It was my first time using German outside the classroom, and it was completely imperfect. Nevertheless, it’s a moment I feel really proud of thinking back on!

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Owning next to nothing. Hah! I can fit most of my possessions (save for about five massive boxes of books packed in my parent’s storage –sorry mom and dad!) into three suitcases. It can be scary to not have a stockpile of goods at your disposal but it is also freeing.

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

Pick your destination carefully – not just because it looks good on Instagram or somebody else wants to go there. Foster your interest in a travel location via passion-driven routes such as literature or travel writing, or perhaps through cuisine or film. It will make your trip especially meaningful if you’ve put a little sweat into learning to appreciate and contextualize the place before you’ve arrived.

The other side of this argument is that there’s something special about just showing up somewhere with no clue as to what you’re going to encounter! Having done it both ways, I’ve always been more surprised and delighted by a place after having invested in some pre-departure research, however.


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

Learning how to rearrange my goals when traveling in a group versus solo-traveling. Sometimes the right group of people is magical and emphasizes everything about the trip without effort. Other times, the group encumbers each step of the journey. I’m still learning how to be more flexible when it comes to ‘getting the most’ out of a destination when traveling in groups. Maybe it means we’ll go to a crappy pub for the sake of accommodating eight people. Chances are, it’ll still be fun.

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

My fears around travel are usually related to social anxieties: Will anybody want to hang out with me? Will I be lonely? These are the same fears I’ve had since first-grade. Traveling alone has nurtured my sense of self. The people I’ve been fortunate to meet while traveling and living abroad have each impacted me and I’ve been surprised at how welcoming people are. Now, I’m much less concerned with maintaining a tight, insular social group where I feel understood, and instead I seek to meet a wide variety of people and hope to understand more about them. Inevitably, friendships form.

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

Whichever is the most convenient! In Europe, the train is often the simplest way to travel with much less hassle involved in comparison to airport travel. Planes have always felt a bit violent to me: they hurtle you so nightmarishly through the air and confuse your sense of being in the world! Plus, they’re just scary and I could fall out of the sky. (J) A calm, quiet train ride allows you to watch each mile of landscape as it goes by from your window. No turbulence, and no take-off or landing. Of course, trains can be a bit too slow if you’re trying to get from Rome to Paris, for example…

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

Take fewer pictures. (This is advice for my current self as well.) My automatic reaction is to grab for my phone before I even allow a moment to sink in. What am I even going to do with all of those pictures anyway??? One challenge I have for myself is to go on a trip and take, like, seven photos per day! I’d imagine the experience would be different if I wasn’t always preoccupied with getting a great shot.

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

I don’t have a bucket list! But, if I had to choose one place to visit say, tomorrow, I’d get on a plane and go to Dakar, Senegal. Because, in this scenario, I have a) decided that it would be a free plane ticket and b) I’m interested in doing something close but not too far from my Francophone tendencies. As a French lit student, I’ve read a lot by authors from Senegal and would love to visit and learn more about this West African country.


Let’s talk about your current trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure?

I’m living in Luxembourg this year as an English teaching assistant through the Fulbright program. I applied to the program in Luxembourg because it’s aligned with many of my own ideologies: encouraging cultural exchange, fostering international relations at the individual level, and providing language education. Next year, I’ll start my PhD in French literature and I wanted to take a pause beforehand to improve my French skills and to also recharge after finishing my Masters.

I chose Luxembourg because I wanted to think beyond the French hexagon and to expand my language skills. Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish, so I have opportunities to learn here that I don’t anywhere else. Luxembourg’s location between France, Belgium, and Germany make it a fascinating place to be linguistically, but also culturally and historically.

The intimate yet international characteristics to this country make it truly unique. For example, this morning on my way to teach at a high school in the Luxembourgish countryside, I accidentally got on the wrong train and went to Belgium. I still made it back for the last few minutes of class. It’s both embarrassing and hilarious that this was even possible.

After my morning in Belgium, I told the story to my English class of fifteen-year-old Luxembourgish students. Although an hour beforehand I had been completely frustrated and upset, the mishap ended with everyone laughing at my groggy-morning commuter fail. Only in Luxembourg are borders so permeable and morning commutes so transnational.

What has been the best/toughest part of your current trip?

Best: Integrating in Luxembourg has been surprisingly easy! It’s an extremely international and multilingual place. I live around a university campus so there are plenty of welcoming people and activities to take part in. I have truly enjoyed meeting people from Luxembourg and from all corners of the world while living here as an English teacher.

Toughest: Being away from people I love. This year is particularly full of “life events” for friends and family back home. The longer I live away from home, the more I realize that I don’t always want to be this far.

 

What’s one thing you’ve learned from your current trip?

The real meaning of “staying positive.” At some level, it is a mental discipline that I must constantly remind myself of during tiring commutes that test my patience or when grey skies just won’t seem to clear away. If I can mentally remain positive, it completely improves the emotional and physical aspects of my life and—this is something I’m just realizing now—it will improve the lives of others around me. Nobody benefits from one more whiny expat stuck on making references to life back home where food is readily available for purchase at any hour of the day. “Living the dream” does not mean each day is dreamy. However, the more I keep myself from getting negative, the more I am able to appreciate everything about the experience.


What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from this trip?

I’m more adaptable to new situations and environments than I had realized, but I’m also not as independent as I thought. I need encouragement and community with other people to really succeed and enjoy life abroad. I feel blessed to have people from different areas of my life supporting me. I still don’t quite fully grasp how much I rely on the support and encouragement of others, but I’ve been learning that I’d rather ask for help and be vulnerable with people (e.g. Today, I’m worried about x, y, and z and I need to just cry on the phone) than to try and grit my teeth and go it alone.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Ultimately, the reason I travel isn’t because I want to have fun or even escape from day to day life. Traveling sharpens and refines my perspective on everyday life, while it also poses many financial, emotional, and mental challenges. I know it is a privilege to travel but it can also be a sacrifice. In the end, I believe travel is an investment. Traveling is an investment that returns ten-fold what you put into it. You’ll benefit personally, but also become a better global-citizen. I think the world needs more purposeful travelers who are willing to do things outside of their comfort zones. In an increasingly fearful climate, thoughtful travelers can become mini-ambassadors of resistance, hope, and cross-cultural understanding.

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 December for the next feature! 

 

Tea Talk 6: Hayden Wahlman | World Traveler

Hayden and I have known of each other practically our whole lives. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration…but our moms were both homeschool moms/friends and so we’ve been connected in the same homeschool circles since we were pretty young.

Hayden had the awesome opportunity to live in Germany, recently, and I’ve been following along on her adventures ever since our mutual friend suggested it! I love how so many of my homeschool friends have taken up their passports and traveled the world. It takes me back to that fact that homeschoolers are the best travelers. Meet Hayden!

1. What started your passion for traveling? 

I always wanted to travel, just like anyone. But I think it was joining the air force reserves that really got me motivated to see the world.

I had been at a minimum wage job for 3 years before joining the reserves and didn’t have many qualms about it. But once I signed the contract for the military I started getting anxious about being “stuck” in a contract. I took a trip to san francisco right before I left for bootcamp.

Once I was in the military my desire for traveling really caught on fire. I felt a little bit like a bird in a cage, which is something I never felt before I joined.

The day after my full-time training ended and I was going to just one weekend per month, I put a sleeping bag in my car and drove to the grand canyon. After that I planned my first eurotrip. I had 5 months to kill before school started and I had been waiting ever since I signed my contract to see the world. So I really felt like I needed to do it immediately.

It’s been 3 years since my first eurotrip and I haven’t been able to kick the habit of spontaneously traveling whenever I get the chance!


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

Packing light has been said over and over again, so I’ll skip that one.

One big one that people might overlook is your choice of hostel. You should choose one that is social and has a pub crawl or tours throughout the day, and also one that is in the city center (the price difference should only be a few dollars per night, and well worth it).

I highly recommend going on the free tours they offer and the pub crawl the first night you get there. That way you meet the people and see the highlights of the city. After that, you can kinda make your own way. But skipping the day tours in order to figure out the city for yourself can sometimes leave you missing out on some gem of the city you never would have found on your own.


3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Opening my widows. In Germany (and I’ve heard the rest of the….world..?) they open their windows daily, 365 days per year. I hated it at first, since I was there during the FREEZING winter. But once I got home I started leaving the windows a crack open in my bedroom and I swear it makes a huge difference. I actually hate being in a house with no window open now. I never thought I would get to that point.


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

FOLLOW YOUR GUT! Seriously.

I have definitely done some things during my travels that a lot of people would consider dangerous, but I followed my gut and ended up having the best times of my life. I have also avoided situations that some people would deem perfectly safe, because my gut was just not having it.

Have an open mind and listen to your gut.

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

Not being organized. I have finally perfected backpack and am very comfortable with the items I choose to travel with and the placement of everything.

I lost my entire backpack while in Switzerland once because I had shoved so much stuff inside grocery bags and jumped off the train before realizing my backpack was not on my back! I blame having so many random bags to account for.

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

Talking to people! I am pretty shy, but getting lost in multiple cities around the world will definitely pry you out of your comfort zone and get you talking to whatever stranger is in sight!

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

I’d say train. The scenery is nice and they usually are really comfortable. I still travel by bus mostly, since it’s cheaper. But if there is a cheap train to somewhere I want to go, I’d take a train over everything.


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

To meet more people during my first Eurotrip. I was still pretty quiet my first time abroad.

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

I got a small taste of Turkey a few months ago and I’m aching to go back and see the rest of it…all of it!

10. Let’s talk about your most recent trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure? 

I got an internship at a company in Germany, it was arranged through my University. I minored in German because it seemed like the most logical language to learn for traveling Europe, which in turn got me this internship.

11. What has been the best/toughest part of your most recent trip? 

The toughest part was definitely making friends while trying to learn the language. I was not in the best state of mind when I moved to Germany and all I wanted was to talk to family and friends. But when you are meeting new people everyday, the only appropriate things to talk about are pretty small. A lot of my conversations revolved around the weather and politics, as my language skills were not advanced enough to speak of anything else.

As for the best part. I think learning how to LIVE in another country. Living and traveling to another country are very different things.

 

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned from your most recent trip? 

To be ready. I was NOT ready to leave for Germany, not by a longshot. Even with my constant desire to travel. I left very reluctantly.

In hindsight, I wish I would have spent the summer (I left for Germany in September) with more friends and got my life in the States more organized before I left.

13. What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from your most recent trip? 

I learned how quickly I shut down when I’m overwhelmed. I never knew this about myself at all. I think when you are in your own country, speaking your own language, it is easier to work through problems. I always felt like I was pretty resilient and could tackle most problems.

But man, I think living in a foreign country has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know how quickly I would give up on it. I think I cried daily while I was there, the smallest task could turn into such a chore. Everyone told me I would be homesick, which I scoffed at. But it was true, it was not the type of homesick you have as a child. It’s different. I can’t even explain it. But I really learned I need to go into my next move much more prepared.

If you are an American, keep in mind that there are a lot of people who have an opinion on America and American citizens (whether it be positive or negative). I had no idea how much Europeans knew about America and was not ready for all the questions they had for me concerning our politics and other things.

I highly recommend reading travel forums and learning about how the citizens of that specific country feel about americans. It’ll help you navigate some pretty common conversations you’ll be bound to have with the people you meet.

How I Paid Off My Plane Ticket To London…In 1 Week

Oh, travel, how I love thee. But my bank account does not. Sound familiar?

Let’s get real for a second: I do not make a lot of money. That being said, I’m pretty good at managing the money I do make. So much so that people often think I make a lot more than I actually do. How? I hack every single thing. ALL THE HACKS.

It all started back in my mom’s kitchen when my brother was explaining to my child self about “inherent value.” I guess there are advantages to having siblings that are five years older than you, because I actually learned a lot during that conversation. The main lesson was this: value is determined only by what people are willing to pay. Nothing is actually “worth” anything.

When it comes to travel, this is huge because I’ve decided that I just WILL NOT pay $1200 for a plane ticket to Europe. No.

But how do I do it? As a social experiment (because in another life I was an anthropologist), I bought a plane ticket about a week ago…and then decided to see if I could “pay for it” in a week. Here’s how I did it:

1. Price Alerts

I’m signed up for a couple different types of price alerts. I set price alerts on Skyscanner for specific cities I want to go to. This means that when cheap tickets are flying out of that specific city I get an alert! I also subscribe to Scotts Cheap Flights (email newsletter/price alerts) which periodically sends me “cheap ticket” alerts. The thing about these is that they aren’t always for flights going out of Seattle, so you have to sift through them a little, to find your city. But when you do find one? BAM! I just paid $350 for a round trip ticket to London.

2. Work yo’ butt off

We all have jobs. In my case I have about five jobs, but I always encourage people to find alternative incomes that they can tap into, if they need a spare buck. For me, it’s:

  • Selling my art in my Etsy shop
  • Babysitting (shoutout to care.com)
  • Picking up extra shifts at work
  • Freelancing (copywriting via UpWork)

For this past week I really called in the reserves on this one, because I needed to make some quick cash to meet my “deadline.”

3. Prioritize

I once heard a saying that the fastest way to make $5 is to fold it up and put it back in your pocket (or something like that) and I wholeheartedly agree. Making cutbacks is a great way to finance your passions, like travel. For this experiment, I didn’t count the money I saved, but I wanted to point out that being really intentional about purchasing groceries, clothing, coffee etc. really does add up!

The Breakdown:

Here’s how I paid off my $350 plane ticket, in vivid technicolor description: Drumroll, please!

  1. I babysat an awesome Star Wars obsessed 8 year old | $70
  2. I took a couple of freelance copywriting gigs | $157
  3. I took two extra shifts at work | $70
  4. I babysat a couple other cool kids | $90

TOTAL = $387

And with my extra $37 I might even buy a Starbucks travel mug while I’m in London.

Cheerio,

5 Tips for Traveling With Food Restrictions

I’m the girl who’s allergic to everything.

This isn’t an exaggeration, I often say that if I had been born in any other century I most certainly would be dead. My lungs are made of glass, my stomach can’t process milk protein and I have a combination of animal, seasonal and food allergies.

You may be asking why I would leave the house, if I’m constantly afflicted by such health conditions. But obviously I do. And obviously I go farther than the city I live in. The real key here is management. It’s not easy, but it’s easier once you’ve been coping with them for 26 years.

When I’m traveling, a big question I get is how on earth do I find things to eat?! Especially when I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language, it can be hard to navigate my food allergies, and keep out of hospitals.

Before we start, here’s a list of all the things my sickly self is allergic to.

  • Dairy
  • Soy (technically, but I’m growing out of this one)
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts (I will actually die)
  • Cantaloupe (true story)
  • Spinach (growing out of this one)
  • Cats
  • Horses
  • Dust, hay, mold, mildew
  • Also. I don’t eat pork (unless it’s insensitive not to)

With all of these restrictions things can get pretty tricky. But here are my top rules for traveling without starving.

Bring Snacks from Home

I never ever ever travel somewhere without around 10 granola bars, a package of beef jerky, almonds and some fruit snacks. Why? Because those three things are packaged, pretty small (since I backpack) and can help me get through a part of the trip where either I don’t want to forage for food, or I literally cannot find anything. I’m also a huge fan of bringing fruit and vegetables on flights to a place. I have lots of other healthy eating tips on my blog post: 5 Ways to Eat Healthy When Traveling

Don’t Eat

You’re might be thinking, “Haha Emilee, you’re so funny.” Which I am (duh). But I’m actually not joking about this one. I really limit the number of meals that I have while I’m traveling because food is not the focus of my travels. That being said, I realize that this isn’t the same for everyone. Some people travel just for the food. But if I can score a hefty breakfast at my hostel then I’ll try to make it to an early dinner (with just light snacks), cutting down the number of meals I have to “figure out.”

Go for the Basics

Every country has bread. This might sound like a no-brainer, but every country has their genius in each country that put together some grain, water and yeast (or even without yeast) and baked it. You know what else each country has? Fruit. Vegetables. Meat (although be careful with marinades and seasonings).
The point of this smart-assery is that if you stick to the basics, you can avoid having problems with the food that you’re eating. For me, I know that dairy is a problem, but I also know that I’m not going to find dairy in a banana. Sticking to the basic food groups, with just a little bit of experimentation, can help to cut out the risk of problems.

Research

That being said, nobody wants to live off of bananas and bread for weeks on end, so research the country you’re visiting and see what food they are known for. If you can find an ingredient list (which you probably can #Google), then you’ll be that much closer to knowing it’s something that you can eat. DO NOT assume that people in other countries are going to know, or care, about your allergies. You might find someone, somewhere, but I spent an entire year living in France trying to convince anyone that dairy allergies are real, so good luck.

Be Prepared

I am deathly allergic to peanuts. Like I will die if I eat them. So it’s important for me to bring along medication or my EpiPen, if I’m traveling to somewhere where this might be a problem. Western Europe isn’t really as much of an issue. But let’s say that I wanted to go to Thailand. Or as I like to call it, the land where Emilee will never go because she doesn’t want to die. In that case, I would definitely have Benadryl with me, as well as my EpiPen, in case something went south. It never hurts to be over prepared, but can cost you big if you don’t take these things into consideration.

On the flip side, know what you CAN eat. Coming from the U.S. I have access to a ton of different food options, so when I travel I can have somewhat of an idea of what I can have. For instance, Indian food works great for me because most of it is non-dairy, and they don’t really use peanuts, and rarely use pork. If I can find an Indian restaurant I’m pretty good to go.

What about you? What are your tips for getting around food restrictions? Leave them in the comments, below! 

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”!

8 Things That Inspired Me When I Traveled In The UK

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I’ve been to the UK/Ireland quite a few times, and I’m going back in January. My mom’s family is very proudly Scottish, Irish and English so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about these magical places called Ireland and Scotland. I wanted to visit so much that three years I finally packed a backpack and headed out solo. I’m so incredibly glad I did. I’ve met so many amazing people throughout my travels, and I love how different and beautiful each trip proves to be. Here are some of my favorite things about traveling throughout the UK (we’ll do another one on Ireland, I promise).

Glasgow, Scotland: A bun can always go higher up on your head

I’m not really sure if there’s some kind of competition for buns in the UK, but they are no joke. Glasgow is one of the funniest cities you can go to on a winter Friday night because the girls are known for their high buns, and their short skirts. And since it’s Scotland, you can imagine how cold that kind of fashion becomes. As someone who wears their hair in a bun 80% of the time, I was inspired when I went to Glasgow for the first time.

London, England: Pastries as far as the eye can see

I adore bread in all of its many forms, and the UK has some of the best sugary (not savory – that all goes to the French) breads and pastries I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what the trick is, or how a country manages to tackle pastries with such perfection, but they are simply to die for. Something I’ve learned about Europe is that the flour there tastes so much better than what we have in the U.S. Even just from living in France, the recipes don’t work the same, and it’s so much more difficult to cook using French flour when you’re used to American. I assume there’s something similar in the UK and that what’s there is something from some mystical world, as well.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England : Tomatoes – a nutritious part of every breakfast

Okay, so I’m not sure how many people are already on this train, but I never ate tomatoes (or really vegetables) with my breakfast until I travelled around the UK. Now, I really prefer to have them with some eggs and toast and tea. It’s SO GOOD. English (or Scottish) breakfasts really are just the best, and again, I’m not sure what they do to make the food so good, there, but it really is out of this world.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Walk Through Cemeteries to Get Writing Inspiration

Okay, Harry Potter nerds. You knew this was coming. A fun fact that I learned when I was in Edinburgh was that JK Rowling stole. Yep. Flat our robbery…of names. It’s true! Many of JK Rowling’s character names come from dead people in Edinburgh cemeteries, including the notorious Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. Brilliant, huh? I’m really excited to go back this January and explore more of the geek side of Edinburgh. I was only there for a day and a half last time and it really was not enough time to satisfy my geekiness. Click the photo below for more info on the cemetery where Tom Riddle is buried.

 

London, England: Brown eggs are better

I grew up with chickens. And we ate their eggs. Thank god we didn’t slaughter them, as well, but my mom was pretty inclusive of the “fresh egg” policy. Unfortunately while having chickens, we also had a rooster who liked to get it on with the ladies. That being said, there were a couple of times when our lovely fresh brown eggs got cracked open into a pan with a underdeveloped chick coming out. Talk about trauma. It’s a wonder I’ve ever eaten eggs again. Luckily my mom had sympathy for me not wanting to eat brown eggs after that. The funny part was that the first time I went to London I realized there was nothing else but brown eggs in the store. Ha. Kill me. Needless to say, I got over my fear, found out brown is better, and now I won’t even buy white eggs.

Glasgow, Scotland: You will never forget the first time you see an original Van Gogh

I love Van Gogh. I always have, and I always will. Up until 2013, though, I had never seen an original (at least, not that I can remember). Scotland wouldn’t probably be the first place that you would look for an original, but that is (accidentally) the first place that I saw one. In fact there were two. And when I saw them I couldn’t believe they were real. It was a bit like that time I was in Rome and thought, “Wow, that looks just like the building from Gladiator,” as I was driving by the Colosseum.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Always visit the worst club, with the best people

On the authority of three natives, I have (without a doubt) been to the worst club in Edinburgh. How did such a blessing come about, you may ask? Well, it really comes down to striking up conversations with the locals, rather than always staying with the group. I actually can’t remember the name of the club we went to, but my pesky memory could probably find it if I was back in Edinburgh (#photographicmemory) but I can assure you – it was all it claims to be.

All the UK: Cuppa Tea, Tea, Tea, Tea

I have an addiction to tea and I, first off, blame the BBC. But secondly I blame traveling around in countries where you basically get it shoved down your throat. Word from the wise: NEVER say no when you’re offered tea the UK. Even if you just barely sip it, just take the damn cup.


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Have you been to the UK? Comment below with what inspired or shocked you! 

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.

Why I Cut ‘Jealous’ Out Of My Travel Vocabulary

Last week I bought a plane ticket to Europe. In January I’m going to be taking a trip through 5 countries and honestly I’m so excited to be going to my second “home,” again.

With every trip/travel experience I’ve taken, I come across people who say that they’re “jealous.” And while I know it’s not generally meant negatively, I wanted to have a quick housekeeping talk about it.jealousy-quoteObviously I’m not immune to the green monster that is jealousy, but I’ve noticed this conversation happening a lot, lately. I had to stop and think: Do we know what we’re saying?

Note for the love of linguistics: When we say, “I’m jealous!” what we’re actually saying is that we’re afraid of losing something.

“Jealousy is an anticipatory emotion. It seeks to prevent loss,” said Ralph Hupka, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at California State University at Long Beach.

Despite the common misuse of the word (what’s new? #English) what we generally mean is that we’re envious of what the other person has. For this piece we’ll move forwards with the common knowledge that we, as a society, use the words synonymously, and that ‘jealous’ is interchangeable with the meaning of envy.

And now, back to your regular program/rant…

Why am I even talking about this? Well, in the travel community I think it can be easy to look over at someone else’s accomplishments (I’m lookin’ at you Mr. 153 countries in 2 years) and feel a certain tinge of green.

When you see that someone bought a plane ticket to a place you’ve always wanted to go, your initial reaction, as you’re sitting in your cubicle typing, probably isn’t going to be to high-five them. But guess what? You should. Why? Because that’s how we build community. You have to CELEBRATE.

As a woman, I think a lot of us grew up being pitted against each other. For some reason we’re supposed to be in competition with every other woman on the planet, and we’re supposed to sit in a corner moping, if we don’t sing like Taylor Swift, and have moves like Beyoncé.

When have we EVER been encouraged to throw a party when one of us kicks ass and conquers?!

Three years ago, after a rather tragic and heart breaking experience (#storyforanothertime) I decided to stop using the word “jealous” in my conversations with people (and to be honest, even in my mental conversations).

Why was it that when those people accomplished their dreams, I felt like I needed to protect myself from losing my own. Sound ridiculous? Sound familiar?

Hint: That’s not how it works.

I started my little vocab experiment when I realized how terrible I felt after I said I was jealous of someone. Even if it was meant to be light-hearted, it didn’t feel right. And generally speaking (unless the person was a smug-ass) I noticed that nobody was reacting positively to me expressing my jealousy.

At first it was really hard, I’m not going to lie. And to be more honest, it still is. Sometimes the words bubble up to my lips before I even get a chance to think about them and I have to push them back down. It’s a bit like trying to get a rolled sleeping bag back in its bag.

The Results: What I noticed when I stopped using “jealous” to describe my feelings is that my mindset changed. I started to replace stagnant thoughts with questions like, “How can I do that?”
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A few years ago I wanted to do a lot of things that I didn’t have the courage to do. Mainly because I spent hours on Pintrest/travel websites drooling over what other people were posting.

That’s no way to live.

When you start to ask yourself “how” you can make things happen, you start to open doors, and you start pushing yourself forward. Believe me, the universe knows when you’ve opened yourself up to new experiences. You might even land in another country, attempting to speak somewhat fluent French.

I’m just saying. It’s happened before.

The part that breaks my heart is that society is (generally) not on our side. Spend 5 minutes looking at ads on your TV and you’ll quickly see that we, as Americans, are constantly in competition with each other. MAKE the grass on your side greener so the Jones’ (and everyone else!) has to drool in envy. Go on a Caribbean cruise so your coworkers are envious (not to spend time with your family, don’t be ridiculous). The list goes on and on.

Fight it.

Get off your couch and go DO something. Buy a plane ticket, or start saving to buy one. And stop saying you can’t. Before I really even knew how to budget (or anything about travel), I would put away the tiniest amount of money every month, daring not to hope. When I finally had the guts to buy a plane ticket I had the backup that I needed. Literally EVERY SINGLE person told me not to, but I did anyway. Why? Because that was MY dream.

And now it’s time for yours to start.

Jealousy is a stagnant emotion. It doesn’t move you forward. It’s like one of those stupid gumdrop traps in Candyland that makes you lose a turn.

Stop jealously looking at what others are doing, and start making things happen in your own life. You’re so much more powerful than you know.

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Dublin, Ireland: Part 2 – City Life

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While I was living in France I visited Ireland a lot. It was a cheap getaway, at about 30 euro a pop, and I loved being able to see my favorite country so often. On my last trip to Dublin, before I moved back to the U.S. I remember thinking, “This city would be so beautiful to see around the Christmas holidays.” And I was right. I didn’t quite get there in time for Christmas, but I did get to Dublin for the next best thing – New Years Eve.

After spending a couple nights solo, my travel companions joined me in my favorite city and we had some fun traipsing around the city, visiting the National Gallery, walking around Trinity College trying to (unsuccessfully) find the Oscar Wilde museum, and eating some damn good food at 300 hundred year old pubs. All in all, there were definitely still things that were on my list, that didn’t get done – but I guess that just means I have to do it next time!

New Years Eve, itself, was spent working (one of the beauties of having a job that is remote) and finally making our way over to Temple Bar ( a pretty touristy, but none the less charming part of Dublin where a plethora of bars and pubs are located), to hang out in one of the pubs. The thing about Dublin, I’ve learned, is that it’s not where you are in the city, it’s who you know. And luckily I know some pretty amazing people from the area, so we had a great time.

Also, can we talk about the holiday decorations in Ireland!? Talk about beauty. The best part about going late, is that people don’t rip down their Christmas decorations the second Christmas is over – the 12 days of Christmas don’t end until January 6th, so the Christmas spirit is alive and well, and the pubs are decked out like something out of a Charles Dickens story.

Something  I noticed from the past times that I’ve been in Dublin has been that I never take pictures just of the city. Which is crazy. So, this time, I tried to take a few just of the everyday, walking around, scopes – here are some of my favorite pics from this part of our journey!

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