A London Birthday To Remember: Royal Day Out

I’ve always been a little over the top when it comes to my birthday so it probably surprised no one that I went fanning into this one in an 18th century dress. One of the best travel resources I started using this trip were Airbnb experiences which are experiences that you can reserve with local artists, instructors, and experts to learn more about a city from the people who live there.

I really love the concept and the experiences because throwing money at a tourist trap is not exactly my idea of a good time. I really love that Airbnb is opening revenue streams for local artists, while providing travelers with unique experiences…like this one!

As I’ve written before, London hasn’t always been my favorite city but this trip has pretty much been a dream as far as experiences. I’m not sure exactly why, but something just clicked this time around…seventh time’s a charm I guess. But real talk. My time in London was absolutely beautiful. One of the main reasons, of course, being this photo shoot from Royal Day Out.

Not only was did this experience allow me to dress up in a eighteenth century dress (with my Vans on, ah yeah.) but it also allowed me to see more of London with a mini tour from my host/photographer, Lauren. Lauren was everything a photographer should be, and really captured the fun that taking these photos should be. She was an absolute ray of sunshine to walk around with, and we had tons of laughs as people gawked, waved and stopped us on the streets.

It was funny  how the whole experience turned out because I thought I would be in a group when I booked the photoshoot, but it turned out to be just me and Lauren. At first it was a little intimidating since she didn’t (for obvious photographer reasons) dress up as well but I got used to it as we walked our way to Kensington Park…which is where Harry and Meghan have their London residence. NBD.

It was funny because I really thought I was going to go for one of the white or light pink dresses and a subtle pink wig (or natural hair) but the moment I saw the blue dress I gravitated toward it. Yes I tried on some pink dresses as well, but it just wasn’t the same. The blue dress fit me like a glove and the rest of the outfit fell together flawlessly. One of my favorite parts was the fan which really helped me with the anxiety of walking around in London in costume. Ha. It also, of course, was a great addition to the look as a whole.

Other highlights of my birthday included having a banana chocolate cake baked for me by my Airbnb host and watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race which is currently my obsession. But I would definitely say that the photoshoot made this one of the most memorable birthdays to date. Someone asked me when the ball was going to be, and no joke-that’s my plan for my 30th birthday. 

London: A Writer’s Paradise

The first time I came to London I hated it. Like really hated it. The busy backwards streets, the millions of people, the high prices…it was all too much for my little introvert mind. And don’t even get me started on the Tube. At the time, the thought of commuting underground absolutely terrified me.

A lot has changed in the last five years. I’ve visited London more and it has started to feel more like my city. I started to feel more comfortable wandering beyond the tourist spots early in the morning. I learned to look both ways when I cross a street…just in case. And obviously after living in Paris taking an underground metro is second nature to me, now. It’s comical, when I think back, that this year I decided that London was going to be where I spent my birthday. My birthday is a really important day of the year, and I’m pretty particular about how I spend it. I’ve been in London less than 24 hours and I already know I made the right decision…but it’s still laughable.

I bought this plane ticket back in March when a lot of things were uncertain for me. I didn’t know where I was going to live, work or what direction I was headed. I didn’t even have my cat, which is a tragedy to think about. When I saw the non-stop tickets from Seattle to London I knew I needed to jump on the opportunity, but I also knew that with such an unknown future I didn’t know if I’d even be able to get the time off from whatever job I was working six months down that road. So naturally I bought a ticket.

And now I’m sitting in a café in London. Different job, different living situation, different life. The lesson to learn here is that when you make travel a priority you might be surprised how the universe moves to make it happen.

There’s another reason I decided to take this trip, beyond the fact that it’s my birthday on Wednesday and that’s because I wanted to really dive into a writing state of mind. What better place than London? While I’m here my #1 priority is to immerse myself in writing. That could mean learning about writers, sitting here writing while I’m severely jet-lagged or meeting up with other writers while I’m here. Also just having more experiences to write about. I want it all. And I need it.

The last couple years have been pretty intense and amidst those times my writing has dropped off in a lot of ways, which is tragic since all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid was to write. So here I am in one of the greatest cities in the world, soaking up as much knowledge as I can and typing away on my little blog. Let’s see what adventures we can have.

P.s. Tomorrow I’m going to Harry Potter Land…aka Warner Bros Studios London!

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 

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!