7 Share-Worthy Things To Inspire Your Friday

Welcome to Friday, one of my personal favorite days of the week, even though I know the general consensus is that Fridays are the devil. I’ve decided to start compiling some wonderful things that inspire me throughout the week so that I can share them with you beautiful people. This might be a book I’m reading, or a pair of shoes I’m obsessing over, or a new airline I tried out, or a coffee shop that I stumbled upon, or someone inspirational. It really can be anything. So hold onto your butts. It’s time to be inspired.

1. Avelynn by Marissa Campbell

It probably surprises absolutely no one that I’m starting off with a book, since I’m absolutely obsessed with books. I’m just now starting this book and I’m super excited to see where it goes. I found out about it because I saw it in a social media post from another geek girl on social media. I’ll be sure to post whether or not it’s a must-read!

2. Class Pass

As part of my “Don’t become a couch potato” initiative, I’ve started a workout schedule that allows me to veg over geek stuff while maintaining my healthy. This has meant saying hello to a couple of things. First off, I’ve started using online workouts at home, with Beachbody On Demand. I’ve also signed up for this awesome program that’s basically like Movie Pass, called (creatively) Class Pass. Basically you pay a set amount each month and you get points which you can use to attend classes at a ton of different workout places. This means you don’t have to pay $150/month on a gym membership to one place that has limited class options. Instead, you can pay as little as $35/month.

3. Jasmine Stacey Collection

I just learned about this amazing lingerie line that’s tailored to women who need just a little boost of confidence due to medical procedures. I love how the founder is from this community herself and that she’s filling a void for women to feel sexy and beautiful, no matter what life has thrown at them. I love the empowerment, and I love the vision behind this movement.

4. Badass Herstory

So this is a social/art project I just found out about that is about getting in touch with yourself through artistic expression, which is like my favorite thing ever. Basically this is all headed by the artist and craftivist Badass Crosstitch who is awesome in her own right. The challenge is this: Create a 12 x 12 square of fabric that tells who you are. It can be cross-stitched, but it can also be made out of anything. The idea is to then send all these pieces in to create on giant art installment. I love the idea of small pieces becoming one giant art installment and I will definitely be sending in my own little 12 x 12 square. Find out more HERE

5. Stitch Gawd 

This girl got ME to start cross-stitching. I’ve done pretty much every other type of stitching there is, but I always avoided cross-stitch before. I’d love to say I didn’t know why I never wanted to start doing it, but I know exactly why: it was boring. In my mind, cross-stitch was that boring thing you see in a diarrhea brown frame that says “Bless this home.” But THIS. This. Was. Different. I love the idea of combining hip-hop and cross-stitch and I’m currently working on combining my love of gaming with cross-stitch. Absolutely obsessed.

6. The Corbin backpack 

This past month I got to test out the newest backpack from R. Riveter, The Corbin, and I kinda sorta really loved it. This beautiful backpack is made by military spouses in the USA and is absolutely stunning. The straps are super silky, and the stitching feels like it’s going to last a million years. The backpack comes in all black, and brown and black (which is the one I tested). Check out more details by clicking HERE.

7. Since You’re Not Racist

This podcast is hosted by one of my lovely friends and is a great discussion of racial topics that most people wouldn’t approach because…well, they’re not racist. Tune in and check out the banter!

What’s inspiring you today? Let me know in the comments! 

Tea Talk 12: Paige Pilar | American Expat In Italy

Paige and I are part of the same travel group on Facebook. It’s a pretty awesome community of bad-ass babes who travel the world and support each other while padding their passports. Paige is a new resident to Italy, and has some seriously gorgeous photos over on her Instagram. Without further adieu, here’s Paige!

What started your passion for travel?

My passion for traveling began when I was younger, I always said I wanted to have a job where I can travel the world; because I knew there was more this world had to offer and then what I saw on a daily basis. When me and my husband moved to Italy a year ago, I just told myself that I was going to take advantage of this opportunity to see as much of Europe and the world as possible. So far I’ve seen 10 countries since last November.

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

One travel tip that I think the world should know is to wake up early. I think this is a good tip because so many people think they have so much time to do and see everything which isn’t true. I like getting up early when visiting another country because I want to try their breakfast foods if they have them and walk around a bit to feel like a local. Also Europeans start early as well so I personally like to get in before the crowd gets out of hand. Getting up early is also a must because a lot of places close between 2pm-5pm in Europe, this including restaurants and gas stations depending on where you’re visiting.

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

My favorite cultural habit that I’ve picked up would have to come from living in Italy. I always like pasta and wine but I eat it literally every time I go out now. I don’t have the desire to make pasta at home because I feel like Italy is known for pasta and amazing lasagna. So I eat out a lot which a lot of Italians do, they are very big on food. I also love wine tasting and going to winery’s and learning the history of it, which I wasn’t that interested in back when I was living in the states.

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

I would suggest to other women thinking about traveling, to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. I personally have never traveled alone but even if you go with someone this suggestion still applies, because everyone doesn’t have the best intentions. Example I and my friend went to Burano, Italy and we got some food but she had to take cash out. Now I waited at the restaurant while she went to the ATM and this man took a photo of her, she was a little freaked out because of course that’s not normal, but that just goes to show you that you never know who is watching you and their intentions.

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

One failure that I learned a lot from traveling is not taking out enough money to do everything I would have liked. I have been on some trips where I just didn’t save enough or didn’t prioritize my money right. I would recommend if you are traveling on a budget to look up prices of every place you may want to visit in that country, and covert the money into your currency so you know in advance how much to bring.

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

One of my fears that I have over came while traveling would have to be over thinking if a terrorist attack would happen while I’m in a country or not. I use to be so scared of traveling because you hear all these stories and stuff on the news. But I overcame that fear because I started to have the mindset that life is too short to let a “what If” thought determine if I was going to travel or not.

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

My favorite way to travel depends on what’s cheaper and what’s the driving distance. Usually for me a plane is cheaper then driving because Italy gas prices are ridiculous and Europeans are more impatient drivers than Americans. I do like driving but the traffic is horrible in Italy so I think that’s where my preference came from. When I’m in the states I usually drive from state to states because it’s less traffic and I get to my destination in a timely fashion.

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

One piece of advice I wish I could give my past self would have to be “not to wait”. I feel like life is so short and waits for nobody and if you want to travel then do it, “what’s the hold up?” Time waits on nobody and we only have one life so why not live it to our fullest with no regrets. I use to get caught up in hanging with my friends but if I knew what I know now, I would have travelled a lot sooner instead of clubbing or shopping.

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

One place at the top of my bucket list would have to be Thailand. Thailand is so gorgeous and plus I’ve always wanted to go to Asia. Also I love Thai food which is one of my favorites so it’s only right to visit. I will be making that dream come true next summer with my husband, we plan to take two weeks off to travel Thailand, Philippians, and Malaysia. I am pretty thrilled about that particular trip because it will be the longest one we have ever taken.

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

My current trip was to Burano which is in Italy it’s about an hour away from Venice. The inspiration for this trip was vibrant colors, I love pastel colors, colors alone especially bright colors just make me so happy and makes me think of a carefree spirit. I had been trying to go to Burano for the longest, but the weather was never right or something would come up, so I was excited to actually make that a day trip. It was one of my favorite trips and I didn’t even do a lot but just admired Burano’s beauty.

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

The best part of my Burano trip was the weather being perfect and the beautiful colored buildings. Also on the way to Burano you have to stop at Murano which is known for hand making glass so that detour made the trip amazing as well. In Murano they show you how the glass is made and have all these little stores filled of so many unique glass sculptures, chandeliers, watches, and more. The toughest part of my trip was having to wait in line for the ferry to get from Murano to Burano because the crowd was crazy packed. The line took about an hour because the ferries are only so big, so next time maybe getting down there earlier will help prevent that.

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

One thing I learned from my most recent trip is to not take offense to the locals that might stare a lot, because a heads up they will… and that to understand we all have different ways we was brought up, so what we may think is rude may be normal to other cultures. Another thing that I learned about myself during this recent trip was that I didn’t know how much I admired architect and colors as much as I do. Also that I love meeting new people and talking to them and getting to know their background and culture.

For anyone who would like to keep up on my travels I post on Instagram : @SunkissPilar and Facebook as well under Paige Pilar Henderson.

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 

Staying Grounded When Chaos Hits

I definitely don’t live a standard life. And the thing about being a risk taker is that sometimes things fall short. And other times, everything falls short at the same time. Which is pretty much what happened last week. Let’s just say a lot of things crashed and burned. But that’s life, isn’t it? One minute everything is one way, and in an instant shit changes.

Since it seems like a lot of people in my life are experiencing chaos hitting the fan, I thought I would share some of my go-to techniques for staying grounded when life isn’t playing nice. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Gardening

I’ve loved gardening since I was born. No joke. I think my love of gardening came from my Irish/English grandpa who always had a massive garden and would teach me how to take care of each plant and honor the earth it was planted in. Being around plants soothes me. At the moment I’ve created a bit of a garden with some vegetables, roses, herbs and the most beautiful hydrangea ever. When I’m feeling super stressed out I go and sit out on my porch and just take in the reminder that growth will still happen, no matter what life feels like at the moment. Related image

2. Reading

I own more books than is probably healthy, and I try really hard to manage my addiction to buying them. This one I blame on my mom, since I grew up with an entire library to choose from. I love the wisdom and dependability of books. They’re still going to be there waiting for you to learn, or love, or let you leap into a fire pit to save an entire world. Who cares how your day way? There are adventures to be had. Right now I’m reading these books:
The First American
How We Got to Now
The Name of the WindImage result for hermione book gif

3. Meditation/Prayer

If you’ve followed along on this blog for a while, you know that I’m a Christian and my faith is a really important way for me to bring balance to my life and worldview. When things get hectic and chaotic I take time to step back. I turn off my electronics and meditate to recenter. I think this is a really important part of being human, whether you’re connecting religion to it or not. Because when we find peace in ourselves, the outside world has a way of falling together, as well. Image result for meditation gif

4. Art/Cooking

I’m an artist and I do art. A lot. Whether it’s knitting, crochet, painting, cross-stitch (my latest craze), sewing, or making a recipe from scratch, creating with my hands brings me back to my center and calms me. I’ve always been like this, and I think it’s the same for a lot of people in my family. We’re makers. It’s in our DNA. We couldn’t stop even if we wanted to. Image result for cook little mermaid gif

5. Standing on my bed and lip syncing to Miley Cyrus

Ha. Ha. You thought these were all going to be adult and normal. Gotcha! I’m a huge Miley Cyrus fan (judge me if you must, you scoundrel) and I’ve found that her album Bangerz is just about the perfect lip syncing music to get that “F U” attitude off your heart. Be thou warned, that these are explicit lyrics. But, ya know, sometimes you need so yell a few swear words to get your mind back on track. The point is, have fun. You’ll be amazed how much of a difference it makes.

What do you do to re-center yourself? I’d love to hear about it! 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

A while back I got nominated for a blog award and I’ve been so busy with work that I never got a chance to react to it. So, first off, I’m so sorry for the delay but a huge thank you to Jordyn at Living on the Upbeat!

As you all know, I kind of fell into blogging as a way for me to handle all the crazy that is solo travel, and it’s been a crazy four years as I’ve met people around the world and through the internet who have inspired me to do better, live better, and open my mind to new ideas.

Here are the questions Jordyn had for me:

My answers:

1) If you could travel back in time, what time period would you visit? Probably the late 1800s-early 1900s because I’m obsessed with that time period and the clothing.

2) What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

3) Are you a morning person or a night person? I think I’m naturally a night person, but because of work I’ve had to adapt to being a morning person.

4) Who do you look up to? Any woman who has taken a little and made a lot from it.

5) If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Reading people’s minds

6) Coffee, tea, or neither? Definitely a tea person.

7) What is the most interesting place you have visited? Interesting? Hmmm probably Morocco. I would love to go back!

8) Something on your bucket list? Buy a house.

9) What are some small things that make your day better? I love being able to be in my own space. I’m a true introvert, and being in my room/house/garden make me feel so much more alive.

10) Dream car? Don’t know, don’t care.

11) Who’s your go-to band/artist when you can’t decide what to listen to? Classical music.

My Nominations:

  1. Samantha Deubel Photography
  2. Joy Filled Wander
  3. Traveling The World Solo
  4. Celeste Noche
  5. The Wandering Ginger
  6. The Bearded Genderqueer
  7. Camino Casamel
  8. Life of Fairy Tales
  9. Mikayla Jane Travels
  10. Madison McGhee 

Questions:

1) Favorite summer activity? 

2) Favorite book of all time? 

3) What is your biggest goal for the year? 

4) Do you have any pets?

5) What are your hobbies? 

6) Favorite holiday? 

7) Best vacation you’ve had? 

8) Favorite quote? 

9) How many languages do you speak? 

10) What’s a nonprofit you support/love?

The Rules:

1) Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
2) Answer the 10 questions the blogger asked you.
3) Nominate 10 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4) List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Tea Talk 11: Diana Anderson | Travel Enthusiast

Meet Diana, goddess of travel. This girl has known me since…since, probably longer than anyone outside my family. We met at church when we were like five (I don’t know honestly know the exact time we met, but it pretty much spans my memory) and we were best buds right away. After high school we didn’t get to see each other nearly as much, but a few years ago we accidentally reunited in London and had an awesome time. Thank god we both grew up to love traveling and all things British. The best. I’m so excited to introduce you all to my friend, and travel aficionado, Diana!

What started your passion for travel?

My parents took me on my first 22 hour road trip when I was 11 months old down to Southern California. We went once a year every year for the following twenty years. Between those, we travelled to two countries and thirty eight states both by car and plane. I guess I never stopped.

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

Be nice! I’ve received countless upgrades just by being patient and understanding. I’ve witnessed people in the customer service industry – especially at airports – get yelled at for trivial problems that are completely out of their control and, being as they’re human, they tend to be more generous with those that don’t threaten them.

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

The essence of relationships being above all else. Seattle is known for the Seattle Freeze so that’s what I’ve been used to, but in moving to the East Coast and traveling throughout Europe and Australia it is apparent how much other cultures value their relationships with their families and friends. This has significantly enhanced my quality of life.

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

Do it. Be smart, but go for it. I started traveling solo when there wasn’t a lot of information or groups so I felt like I was flying blind. Luckily times have changed and at this point there are so many resources and people that have gone before you that are willing to answer any questions. And if it’s fear that’s holding you back, my motto has always been “The worst thing that can happen to you, can happen in your backyard”. Sounds bleak, but don’t let your delusions of comfort lull you into complacency.

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

No amount of planning is going to prepare you. I’ve passed out in the streets of Paris due to dehydration, gotten a concussion in several theme parks, sprained an ankle, lost all means of contact to family back home, been stranded with no money, been robbed. You just have to roll with it and get inventive.

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

Speaking to other people. The first time I went international, I was alone and didn’t speak to hardly anyone despite it being an English speaking country. That fear has absolutely worn off.

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

Train! I have a love affair with airports but any airplane trip longer than three hours makes me crazy. I once took the TGV from Cannes to Paris and instantly fell in love.

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

Keep going. Don’t let other people get in the way of traveling because it feeds your soul and you can’t help others if you’re not helping yourself first.

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

Belize. At the start of my traveling, I spun a globe and my finger landed on Belize. I have to go just to say that I have.

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

I have this delusional habit in which I decide to go somewhere but don’t lock down any logistics until the last minute. I’m going to Europe in May, with at least a stop in London to see my sister and niece, but other than that, I have no idea yet. When I know I need to get away, I start planning and let it figure itself out.

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

I was with someone else. I’m a planner and I’m stubborn so this was not going to be easy from the get-go.

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

Not everyone likes to travel the way that I do. Up until this trip, I’d only gone on trips with my family – who taught me how to travel – and church groups – who dictated how I travel. Traveling with one other person for fun was difficult not only when we had personal arguments but when we realized we wanted to do things differently. Traveling, like relationships, is something you have to compromise on if you want to do it with someone else.

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

I learned that I still need to improve how I visit new cities. I let my jet lag or my willful ignorance keep me from exploring and that has been a big hinderance. Since then, I’ve taken several small trips and tried to force myself out of my comfort zones. It’s been very rewarding!

Anything else you’d like to add?  

Travel isn’t how Instagram models make it out to be. It’s not all pretty pictures from glamorous hotel rooms, but it’s in the gritty sleeping-in-the-tub-to-avoid-bedbugs that you gain the real benefits. Solo travel teaches a person a lot about themselves and that’s why it’s so incredibly important to do.

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 April for the next feature!

6 Of My Favorite European Museums

I am an unapologetic nerd. I was born and raised into a nerdy family, and it’s just who I am as a person. When I travel, this spills over into my itinerary. I love visiting places that have literary significance, historical significance, or just allow me to buff my nerd knowledge. MOST of the time these places are museums, so I thought I would share my top five favs so if you happen to be planning a trip to Europe you can stop by some of my favorite spots. Tell them Emilee sent you. JK I definitely don’t have that kind of sway…yet.

1. Parlamentarium | Brussels, Belgium | FREE

This museum is AMAZING. And that’s coming from someone who isn’t even a part of the EU. At the beginning of your tour you’re given a headset that walks you through the history of the EU, where it came from and how it functions today. I honestly never knew any of this information and it was such an amazing lesson in world history, and also in current economic situations in Europe. There’s obviously a bit of a bias, but I felt like overall the structure of the museum was amazing and very interactive. I think I spent 2-3 hours in there.


2. The Louvre | Paris, France | $18.50

I’m sure all of you are SO SURPRISED to see this one on the list. But, really. The Louvre is one of my favorite places on the planet and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for people to visit it. It honestly will change your life. One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make about The Louvre is that they go in for an hour, walk around two floors and say they’ve “been” to the Louvre. You’re cheating yourself with this approach. I would say take a couple of days to go to the Louvre. Go a morning on one day and just sit and look at paintings. Go an evening another day and walk through the lower levels of The Louvre. Look at the Middle Eastern exhibits (which, by the way, barely anyone knows about). There is so much history in this museum it really is a must-see multi day/hour visit. While I lived in France I think I went 6 or 7 times at 2-3 hours a pop…and I still haven’t seen everything.

3. The Sherlock Holmes Museum | London, England | $21

This might be the nerdiest one on the list, but I’m a pretty hard core Sherlockian, and I absolutely loved being able to visit the real 221B during my first trip to London. This museum is essentially set up as the house of Sherlock Holmes with a Victorian style guard at the front door, three levels of Sherlock Holmes related artifacts, and an over-priced gift shop. Everything you could ever want, right!? If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan like I am I would definitely recommend visiting the museum for photos if nothing else. The whole museum takes about 30 minutes to an hour to go through.


4. Titanic Museum | Belfast, N. Ireland | $25

You think you know about the Titanic because you’ve seen the movie? Ha. Try reliving the entire experience from day one as an immigrant in the early twentieth century to the day the ship sinks. WARNING: This museum is REALLY emotional and there is a really high chance of you feeling feels. One of the coolest parts of this museum is that the admission ticket is made to look like the tickets that were originally made for the Titanic’s maiden voyage. Since I’ve been obsessed with the Titanic since I could read, this museum was absolutely amazing to go through. It’s several floors and takes about 2-3 hours (at least) to walk through.

5. Van Gogh Museum | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | $22

Can I tell you how much I love Van Gogh? If you know me well, I probably already have…but here we are again. I distinctly remember the first time I saw an image of a Van Gogh painting. It was the same feeling I had when I first heard French. So right, and a forever part of my identity. The Van Gogh museum was a sacred space for me. From the first moment I slipped on the headphones for the self-guided tour I was completely immersed and could have been in that world of Van Gogh for forever. Not only is this museum the world’s largest installment of Van Gogh paintings, but it’s also such a personal experience since it’s in the home country of the artist. Must see. I think I spent 2-3 hours in the museum.

6. Natural History Museum | London, England | FREE

This is actually one of my most recent visits, and GUYS, THEY HAVE DINOSAURS! I’ve been to London three or four times before, but I had never visited this museum until November and it was so cool. Basically everything natural history related is in this museum, and it’s broken down into geology, biology and just general awesome. We actually got kicked out of this museum because it was closing, to be sure to get there early. You could easily spend 3 hours in this spot.

And that’s the best of the best! What are your favorite museums? Let me know in the comments!

February Goals: Spend Less, Live More

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

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

Think About Routine The Night Before

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

Start Caring About Other People More

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

Stop Going To Thrift Stores

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

Reminders Of What ACTUALLY Makes Me Happy

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

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

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

Spend More Time With People

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

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

The Perfect Travel Bag | The Otto From R. Riveter

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

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

Heathrow Airport | London, England

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

Stonehenge | England

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

Windsor Castle | England

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

Natural History Museum | London, England

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

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

Casablanca, Morocco

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

Girona, Spain

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

Girona, Spain

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!