U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

I’m a West Coast girl through and through. I love the Pacific Ocean, living in a mountain surrounded city, and celebrating random Scandinavian holidays. But I’m also a huge advocate for exploring your own country. I’ve been to 42 U.S. states, and I’ll definitely be visiting all 50. In the meantime, I’ve started this series to explore other cities I think you should know about. You may have caught my last post about Richmond, Virginia. Today, I’m talking about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

History

One of the most interesting parts about Pittsburgh is its history of rebellions. Just reading about them made me want to write 10 historical fiction novels. Here are just a few facts:

Whiskey Rebellion: This ain’t no Boston Tea Party, but it’s a great example of how important alcohol was. In 1791, taxes were raised on whiskey to offset the debt from The Revolutionary War. Needless to say, peeps weren’t so happy to see their whiskey targeted by higher taxes, so they fought back. Ultimately, 500 farmers marched against the government, and George Washington himself headed over to calm them down. This rebellion is a defining factor in establishing U.S. political parties.

City of Steel: Starting in the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known for American manufacturing, including the production of iron, brass, tin, and glass. But what really sets Pittsburgh apart is the steel industry, which began in 1875.

Pittsburgh Railway Riots: Right on the tail of steel production were the Pittsburgh Railway Riots. They were a result of the government once again trying to offset debts from the Civil War. These riots were pretty rough, with burning buildings and dead people, but they started planting ideas for the workers’ unions of the future.

Cool Things to Do

As a pretty sassy city in its own right, there are some pretty cool things to do in Pittsburgh. Some of the coolest include:

Andy Warhol Museum: Ready for a splash of culture? The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the largest collection of the artist’s works, and it’s an absolute must if you’re in the area. The museum has everything from saturated prints to hands-on art creation techniques that you can try. Don’t miss out!

Robot Hall of Fame: If you’re geeky like me, then you’ll definitely want this one to be on your radar. It’s located in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld section and home to all types of robots, including C-3PO, Gort, and WALL-E.

Canton Avenue: Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in America? Honestly, since I’m from Seattle, this looks pretty normal. If you want to get a serious workout, then this just might be the spot for you.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pittsburgh, try an adorable Airbnb. If you’re in more of a hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Pittsburgh to find amazing spots like the Renaissance Pittsburgh. It was lifted stone by marble stone in 1906, before the invention of the crane. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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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.

My Au Pair Story

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I realized today that I haven’t ever formally shared my story about how I became/am becoming an au pair in France. It’s pretty brilliant, so hold on to your seat. As all good stories do mine starts with:

“Once upon a time …”

I got laid off from my job. Ha. They gave me one week notice, which is insane and possibly illegal (at least morally). Needless to say,  I hit panic mode. I applied for any and every job I could even remotely be qualified for. Then, when nothing happened, I started applying for jobs I was only meagerly qualified for.

This is when I stumbled on adds for taking care of kids. “I can do that,” I thought, “how hard can it be?” I was raised in a family of 5, with a hard working teacher for a mother, and the responsibility of partially raising my younger siblings, so becoming a second “mother” to random kids seemed like a natural enough transition. While applying, I decided I only wanted to work with larger families (3+ kids) so I didn’t get bored. And when I found one that said 5 kids, I knew it was perfect. I don’t know why, but in my mind I convinced myself that the more kids, the busier I would be, which would make working so much easier.

So I emailed off my resume. And got a response! I went in for an interview that week and it went great. They said they would email me back that week. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I think it was somewhere around a month later that I heard back that I got the job. It was nerve wrecking to say the least – mainly because, after months of no work, I had eaten through my savings and didn’t have the next months rent.

When I first started working as a nanny I thought I would work there for 1 year tops, since that was what my contract was for. As the months went by, though, I realized I may need to stick around for a bit longer. See, the family only consisted of 3 kids when I started, all biological children to the parents. Within 6 months there were two more who had been adopted from Africa.

For those who know about adoption, you know it’s a huge transition. There are a lot of aspects that have to come together to make it work, and one of them is the stability of the people around the kids. So I gave myself the time limit of 2 years. After that I would have to move on. It wasn’t that I hated my job, but I’ve seen people get comfortable in “good” jobs that are going nowhere and only realize 5 years later that they’ve wasted their time.

This year, at about 1.5 years I started wondering what I was going to do next. I love my job, and I was determined not to leave it unless something amazing came up. There was no way I was ever going back into the world of zombies, windowless cubicles or retail.

One day, while I was making dinner, my roommate asked me about whether or not I was still thinking about becoming an au pair. I had completely forgotten that I ever wanted to do that (although I have since I was a kid), or that I had told her about it being on my bucket list. But I thought, “What the hell? I have nothing else going on in my life right now. Why not see what happens?”

I hopped on Google and typed in “Becoming an au pair” and clicked on the first link that came up – a site called AuPairWorld. When I first started filling out the profile, I did it as kind of joke. I didn’t think I would get any responses, and I had no hopes about finding a family. But, within 24 hours, I had three families asking for more information and whether I would Skype with them. I couldn’t believe it!

I set up some interviews with families and found some amazing people, but it wasn’t until a few days later that a family in a little town south of Paris sent me a message. They seemed like the sweetest family on earth, and as soon as I had Skyped with them I was sure that they were the family for me. Although the glamour of living directly in Paris seemed like it would be a great experience, I remembered how overwhelming London was for me, and I knew that the countryside was a better fit.

Becoming an au pair in France is a lot harder than it sounds. There are mountains of paperwork, hurdles to jump over and red tape to tangle yourself in. But, through it all, I’ve been so lucky to have an amazing French family to work with. I feel so empowered knowing that I’m taking a directional step in my life; one that is going to produce boat loads of stories to tell my kids someday.

If you’ve ever considered becoming an au pair, I would highly suggest the website I went through. It’s completely free to make a profile, and provides a platform for you to meet families, and for you to talk to them beforehand in a safe space. If nothing else, it’s an awesome opportunity to see what your options are!

It’s crazy to think that six months ago I had no idea where my life was headed, and now I’m on my way to Europe. Sometimes crazy things, like getting laid off, land you in places you never thought you’d be. But the beauty of life, is that those places sometimes lead to better opportunities than you could have imagined.

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Seattle, WA