Three Crazy Trips I’m Planning For 2018

I’ve been pretty silent about my trips this year. I think it has to do with a little bit of burn-out surrounding the whole “travel blogger” thing. I started backpacking because I loved seeing the world and because I’m a writer who starts to lose their sanity if they aren’t writing every day—never to get attention. After traveling, and living abroad, I kind of hit a wall as far as what my motivation for travel was. Was it to get followers? Likes? Pad my portfolio?

There isn’t anything wrong with any of these things, but I needed to take a step back from the spotlight (if you will) and rediscover why I want to travel. The answer I came up with is that I want and need to travel for my own artistic inspiration and spiritual certainty.

As far as art goes, discovering the classic works of art has always been one of my number one goals with travel. I’m in love with the works of Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin and Monet. I also love seeing new illustrative styles and sculptures. As a writer, I’m also always looking to discover the literary backgrounds of the places I travel to. I’ve visited the hometowns of Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens just to name a few. I hope to see more.

All that being said, I’ve thought long and hard about the three trips I’ll be taking this year. These are where I’ve decided. FUN FACT: None of them are on the list of “Must Visit Spots for Millenials in 2018”. I didn’t choose them because of anything like that. I picked them because they speak to my heart.

1. Quebec City, Canada

When I was nine years old I went on a road trip with my family that lasted about a month. During the road trip I had my ninth birthday and we crossed over into Quebec, Canada. For those of you who don’t know, Quebec is the French speaking portion of Canada and from the moment I heard people speaking I was in love. Obviously now I know that French-Canadian and French are very different, but as a kid I had no idea. The minute I got back to Seattle I asked my mom to enroll me in French lessons, and I’ve been studying the language ever since. I absolutely adore it. Rather than Montreal, where I went last time, I’ve decided to stay in Quebec City. I’m super excited for this adventure, and for being able to see the Chatêau Frontenac! Cities with castles are just better.

2. London, England/Paris, France

For my birthday this year I’m planning on returning to the UK. The focus of this trip will probably be literary, since I’ve seen a lot of the main attractions. I may also try to stay in a beautiful spot by the water for my birthday. This trip will likely extend to Paris, as well, since I’ve always wanted to take the train across the channel and it’s been on my bucket list.

I think one of my favorite things about revisiting spots is that you get familiar with the cities and therefore you’re willing to take more risks. You feel comfortable enough to go into random pubs on the street, or to wander off the map a little. Funny enough, I really didn’t like London the first time I went…or really even the second time. But now that I’ve been there a few times it’s starting to grow on me.

3. Arcata, California

This is my least planned out trip because it will probably fall late in the year, but I’m planning on visiting some family in northern California, and exploring the Redwood Forest! I’ve wanted to head down there for a while, but I just haven’t been able to make it for various reasons. I’m super excited to go spend some time enjoying nature and seeing one of the natural wonders of the world.

BONUS: I’m also probably going to be taking a weekend trip to Vancouver, BC but stay tuned for more details!

Women’s History Month Highlight: R. Riveter Handbags

Let’s talk about some beautiful little bags. Most of you are probably aware that I’m a brand ambassador for R. Riveter bags, but one of the coolest things about this ambassador program is that this brand is the real deal. Since this month is National Women’s History Month I’ve decided to go a little more in-depth to tell you guys about the brand I’m so in love with. Don’t worry, this won’t feel like homework.

I personally own two bags from R.Riveter, The Otto and The Hobby. Now, other than these names just sounding cool they’re actually the names of two pretty incredible women who R. Riveter wanted to honor with their production.

Elinor Otto was one of the original Rosie the Riveters, and was actually the last surviving of the women who built America during WWII. In 1942 Otto joined a California aircraft manufacturer in order to take care of her young son. She made 65 cents per hour.”I’m a working person, I guess. I like to work. I like to be around people that work. I like to get up, get out of the house, get something accomplished during the day.”

Oveta Culp Hobby was the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, first director of the Women’s Army Corps, and a chairperson of the board of the Houston Post. In other words…she kept busy. Something I love about Oveta is that she’s a go-getter. She didn’t have a formal education, but still became a journalist when she was 26 years old. During WWII she was the first woman to ever be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her efforts during the war. She went on to be an editor and politician and publisher. As a fellow writer, I admire Oveta as a pretty outstanding example of what one woman can do when she sets her mind to it.

Both of these women are such amazing examples of tenacity, but I also want to acknowledge the women who are hard at work making the gorgeous R.Riveter bags. One of the awesome things about these bags is that each piece is stamped by the woman who created and/or assembled it. Here’s who made my Hobby:

RR079: Amanda R. (Who you can find out more about by clicking HERE)

RR024: Jocelyn (Who you can find out more about by clicking HERE)

RR053: Danie H. (Who you can find out more about by clicking HERE)

These are just three of the strong, beautiful, independent women who assembled my bag, and I love that I’m able to find each of them on the R. Riveter site. That’s pretty incredible. I’m so happy to be part of the R. Riveter community, and to be working to provide stable income for military spouses throughout the U.S. Like the site says, it really isn’t about the bags at all. It’s about empowering women, and the people behind each and every bag that is sold.

If you would like to purchase a bag from R. Riveter, you can use the code RREMILEEM for 15% off your purchase. Because I love you.

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!

6 Pre-Packing Tips For An International Trip

I travel internationally a lot. It’s kind of my thing. And while traveling has become a pretty important part of my life, I still have mini panic attacks every time I’m getting ready to go on a trip. You know what helps? Lists.

I am the queen of lists. I make them every weekend, I make them during the week, and I definitely make them when I’m getting ready to travel. Since I started solo backpacking, I’ve developed a checklist what to do before I leave on an international trip. And because I love you guys, I thought I’d share it so you can skip the stress.

1. Make Sure Bills Are Paid

You know what’s worse than having to come back from a vacation? Coming back to a bunch of fees and notices because you forgot to pay your bills. I usually take an hour  or two before my trip to take a mental inventory of monthly expenses, and then I pay them before my trip. Even if they’re due a couple days after I get back I still make sure to pay them because let’s be honest: My jet-lagged self can’t remember shit. (sorry, mom)

2. Set Up A Travel Notice With Your Bank

So lemme tell you, having your credit card put on hold when you’re overseas is pretty much the worst thing ever. Why? Because you have to call to get it off, and if you don’t have phone access/don’t want to pay a million dollars a minute for placing an international call…this can get tricky. Save yourself the crazy and set up a notice with your bank that you’ll be out of the country—it usually takes about 5 minutes.

3. Get Currency If You Can

I really like arriving in a country with currency, but that’s not always and option. There are countries, like Morocco, where their currency isn’t exchanged outside the country so you have to wait until you’re there to get it.  But for a lot of countries, especially in western Europe, you only need Euros, which you can get at your local bank. Believe me, this saves some serious stress when you arrive at your destination!

4. Sign Up For An International Phone Plan

I have Verizon, so the last time I took a trip I signed up with their TravelPass which was $10/day. This pass is cool because it still uses all the same data etc. on my usual phone plan. It was great! It was also cool because it would only charge me on days that I chose to use it during my trip.

5. Set Up Tours You Want To Take

I don’t usually plan a whole lot of my trip when I’m traveling, but it is really important for me to book any tours I want to take BEFORE I reach my designated country. The main reason for this is because I don’t travel with my laptop, and tours should have a lot of research to back them before you book. Obviously this is a personal preference, but I’ve found it helps so much more with planning once I’m there, when I already know what big events are happening.

6. Print Out All Vouchers And Confirmation Numbers 

 

Finding a printer when you’re traveling is the worst. Not having wi-fi work while you’re trying to pull up a ticket is the worst-er. Not knowing what your ticket number while you’re running late to an event is the worst-est. I always always always print out everything that can possibly be printed before I leave home. This helps me know I have all the confirmations in one place, and saves so much time in the long-run.

What about you? What are your favorite pre-trip tips? Let me know in the comments below! 

A Weekend In Casablanca, Morocco

In December I got the amazing opportunity to live out one of my dreams: travel to Casablanca, Morocco. It was funny because when I told my grandma that I was headed to Casablanca she gasped and said, “But Emilee! That’s just in a dream!”

Not true. Casablanca is, in fact, a very real place (although the 1940s movie she was referring to was not filmed there in any way shape or form). My trip to Casablanca took my continent count to four (Europe, N. American, Asia and now Africa!), and checked off country number 16 for me, as well. So, a lot of milestones were met.

I have a pretty strict policy not to stay in places I’m unsure about for long periods of time, so I only actually stayed in Morocco for three days. Of course, now that I know I love it I’m going to go back and stay longer, but you just never know how you’re going to vibe with a place.

It wasn’t until after I’d left Morocco that I realized that I’d completely forgot to actually write anything here about it. Bad Emilee. So, to remedy the situation, here are some of my thoughts on the whimsical city of Casablanca.

Shopping in Morocco is an absolute dream. Why? Because everyone there is brown. Like me. Which means that the color tones on all of the clothes are made for brown skin. Like mine. Which is pretty awesome because that just isn’t the case in a lot of stores where I love to shop.

Moroccan mosaics are something that I’ve always loved, even before I went there. When I lived in France the family I lived with loved this style and I miss all of the beautiful vases that we had. Also, this picture (above) is at a McDonalds. Step up, Seattle.

I feel like even the cats looked exotic. And there were A LOT of them. Cats run around like squirrels do, in Seattle. Except it’s even better…because they’re cats. I really loved seeing the relationship between having all of these felines walking the streets with people. Generally they were pretty well treated, and you could definitely tell that even though they’re wild they had human buddies who were used to seeing them on the street.

I would never make fun of someone who has English as their second language. But corporations? Eh. I saw so much clothing that had half written English phrases on it that I started taking photos. It was just hilariously bad. But then I realized that this is probably how other people feel when they come to the U.S. and see whatever “exotic” script is trending at the time. How about this? If you don’t speak the language, don’t buy clothing that has it written on it.

The Hassan II mosque was absolutely breath taking. I don’t even have words, so I’ll let you just look at the pics below.

To be perfectly honest, I could have probably continued laying in the sun for another week before even considering coming home. But I’m still happy I got a taste of what Morocco has to offer. Cheers to next time! 

2017 Reviewed By Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Welcome to the post every blogger writes, yet most readers don’t give a shit about: my year in review (sorry for the swearing, mom).

Being a travel blogger has been one of the most amazing adventures of my life, but sometimes I still look back at pictures and wonder if I really went there, or did that. Whose life is this? 2017 was a wild ride because I got to travel to eight…yes, EIGHT, different countries.

While I usually only take one big trip per year, I somehow fit two in, and it was an absolutely incredible privilege to check off big list items like Morocco and Denmark (two places I’ve been DYING to go). This year also took me from one of the most traumatic experiences, to some of the most beautiful I’ve ever had. I’m leaving some things behind in 2017 that I’m really going to miss but that’s part of moving forward, right? The end of a year always seems to close a chapter on some things you aren’t quite ready to let go of.

Such is life, I guess. This year has made me stronger, wiser, and as my mom says, “someday it won’t hurt so much.” Until then, let’s live a little stronger, a little more passionate, and really pursue the things that set our hearts on fire. 2018 is going to be such an amazing adventure. I’m already starting to plan some pretty epic road-trips, and I cannot wait to share all of the savory details with you guys. Until then, here is my blogger contribution to the madness of 2017. Happy New Year!!!

Backpacking trip: Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Belgium

I started out this year with a solo backpacking trip that was one for the books. Not only did I love going to Loch Ness and Inverness (Outlander fans!?), but I also just loved seeing the highlands of Scotland. During this trip I also had, singlehandedly, the best 48 hours of my life in Denmark (and made some amazing new friends!).

Cosplaying Rufio at Emerald City Comicon
I’ve only been cosplaying for a couple of years, but I’m so obsessed with it that I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. I love being able to represent characters that I love, and I love gender-bending (taking a male character and giving them a female twist). My Rufio cosplay was so fun to take to Emerald City Comicon. Honestly. I live for conventions.

Becoming a Schwinn/ R.Riveter ambassadorThis year I got to be an Ambassador for two different brands: Schwinn Bikes and R. Riveter bags. Both of these brands have a strong backing of supporting people who are out there really living their lives. Whether it’s taking city adventures with my bike, or traveling across the world (or to another world) with my R. Riveter bag, I’ve loved every minute.

Going to my first Renaissance Faire This was one of those last minute things where you’re less than prepared, but more than a little excited for an event. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, to be perfectly honest, but getting to experience my first joust (and ax throwing) was a pretty special event in my life. I also got to throw an axe…so that was cool. In 2018 I’m really looking forward to going again, and this time cosplaying.

Doing a live painting at BumbershootI’ve told this story a few times, but I was told a lot (growing up) that I wasn’t meant to be an artist. I wasn’t “called” to it. Well, this year not only did I continue painting shoes with my Etsy shop, but I got the amazing opportunity to do a live painting at Bumbeshoot, which is a huge music festival in Seattle. Even better? My painting sold!

Creating some super nerdy art projects (Sherlock + Jamie Fraser)There has seriously been so much nerding this year and I’ve loved it so much. From getting connected with my favorite podcast “Three patch problem” to crocheting little nerd dolls to send to friends, it really has just been the best. I’m also almost finished with all of my Harry Potter house scarves, so keep an eye out for those in my Etsy shop!

Going to the Skagit Valley Scottish Highland Games The Skagit Valley Highland Games has become a tradition that I don’t think I ever want to break. It’s so fun to go celebrate my Scottish heritage, eat amazing food and enjoy traditional Scottish dancing and music. It really is food for my soul and this year was great because I won my tickets for having the best photo from the 2016 Highland Games!

Dislocating my shoulder… the third day of summer campThis year was a year for injuries. This must mean I’m getting old. Not only did I dislocate my shoulder (resulting in weeks of physical therapy), but I also got pneumonia, sustained a 102 degree fever for a week, got my heart broken, and had my first ER visit. This year was kind of a constant progression of healing, but it taught me a lot about patience and about how amazing my little tribe of badass women is. Thank you every single person who held me up this year, despite the crazy.

Cosplaying Aquaman after months of planning I started planning this cosplay after ECCC in March and it came together beautifully. I loved being able to think of something and then actually see it materialize. Also, having a faux shoulder sleeve tattoo was pretty badass. Cosplay brings so much happiness to my life, I don’t even know how I ever went without doing it. Cheers to new ideas and great conventions in 2018! 2nd Photo credit to Aubrey Rebecca Photography.

Getting a new job…my dream job!2016 and 2017 I worked 60 hours a week (6am-6pm…every day) to build a resume that could get me my dream job. I’ve always been a writer, and what started as watching Mad Men resulted in me pinning down that ad agency work was the absolute ringer for what I wanted to do with my career. In October, my hard work finally paid, off thanks to some amazing women helping me along the way. I absolutely love my job, and I feel so incredibly thankful for it each and every day that I’m there.

Backpacking trip: Spain, Morocco, England, Iceland
I ended this year the same way I started it: with travel. 2018 will mark my five year anniversary of backpacking, and I can’t believe I ever let people tell me not to do something that brings so much life to my being. I love traveling, and visiting friends around the world added so much value to 2017. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to jump on planes and live out my passion. I don’t take this privilege lightly. For me traveling is the gateway to every other part of my life being inspired, and I can’t wait to see what adventures 2018 brings my way. 

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 8: Jane Streicher | English Teacher (Seoul, Korea)

Jane and I have known each other pretty much our whole lives, and I love that we both have a passion for traveling. Something I’ve written about before is how homeschooling opens up your mind to being able to do things like live in other cultures, or travel the world, because it encourages that sense of constant curiosity. Jane and I both had that as kids, growing up, and I love seeing her adventures as she lives and works in Korea. I’m so honored to have such amazing women surrounding my life, and being able to share their stories with you all! Without further adieu, here’s Jane:

1. What started your passion for traveling?

I grew up going on family road trips every summer including camping for a week a few hours away on the coast or cross country trips to visit relatives in the midwest. Because of these trips, I learned to love going places and experiencing new things from a young age.

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

Stay with locals. One of my favorite things to do is to find an Airbnb or hostel run by locals and get their advice on where to go and what to eat. They will usually have secret spots that I could have never found without their insight.

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

One simple thing I do subconsciously now after living in Asia for four years, is taking my shoes off whenever I am inside a home. I remember in high school and college, I would wear boots inside all day long but now I feel so unsettled if I have my shoes on for more than a few minutes.

Another thing I have learned to appreciate is gift giving. It’s a simple way to show someone you care about them or respect them after taking a trip or visiting their home. Obviously this is done in the US too but I never truly saw its purpose until living in Asia.

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

Don’t over think things. Be open and flexible to what can happen. Make plans and be smart but also have an open mind so if/when things go wrong you can still have fun and enjoy yourself.

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

Always check times (especially if its military time). When I was leaving Vietnam last winter, I accidentally missed my flight completely by 12 hours because I thought my flight was in the afternoon when it was actually late at night. Luckily I could buy another flight for $100 but I now make sure to triple check all times.

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

Being alone. When I first moved to Vietnam in 2013, I preferred doing things with other people and felt a little bit intimidated going places alone. Over the years I was there, I learned to navigate going out alone and now I love going to coffee shops alone to read or work. My introverted side as defiantly become much more dominate as I have traveled and lived abroad.

Accepting help. As an American, I think it’s ingrained in me to want to do things without help from other people. Living in Vietnam and South Korea, there have been countless times when I have had to rely on my friends from those places to help me get simple things done like going to the doctor or fixing a flat tire on my motorbike.

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

Plane. There is always such an excitement I feel when taking a flight. I love the whole process and especially enjoy the meals (?! I know most people think they are gross.)

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

Money will come and go. So much of the time when traveling and living abroad, money can be a huge worry. I am still learning how to be smart about it but as an expat I think I have to expect times when money is tighter.

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

Japan! I am hoping to take a trip to see the cherry blossoms there next spring.

10. Let’s talk about your current adventure! What was your inspiration?

I was really curious about South Korean culture and learning the language. I had met lots of Koreans in Vietnam and decided it was time for a new challenge. Instead of wondering what life was like there, I wanted to experience it first hand.

11. What has been the best/toughest part?

One of the best parts is my job teaching English to kindergarteners and elementary students. I spend most of my work day with four and five year olds and they are so precious and curious. They make it fun to come to work!

I have also been loving all the food and places to discover here. There are so many tasty things to try and new coffee shops to go to! A tough thing is starting over and everything that comes with it – making new friends, learning a new language and new city.

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned?

Being uncomfortable is okay, especially when going through change.

I came to Seoul after living in Vietnam for three years. I loved my time in Da Nang and by the time I left last winter, I had a comfortable life with so many special friends and connections. I knew the city so well and everything was fairly easy and simple.

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Seoul of all the cities in South Korea was because it scared me a little bit. It sounded so big and intimidating and I loved that idea. I wanted a new challenge of living in a highly developed city and learning a new language but what that meant didn’t fully sink in until I got here.

The last six months have been exciting and fun but also awkward and challenging. I have been able to study Korean with two amazing teachers and have also made friends and have a good job. But there have also been days where things aren’t perfect and feel uncomfortable.

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

I truly love to learn. I have always know this but over the last few years, it’s really hit me that I am a life long learner. In Vietnam, I was a part of a Christmas choir and also took a dance class. I had never done those things well but decided if I was interested I could do it.

14. Anything else you’d like to add?!

The experience of traveling and doing new things is always worth it, even if you have to budget or rearrange things!

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 November for the next feature!