5 Things I’m Happy I Paid Extra For


If you like to travel smart, like I do (aka with basically no money) then you probably want to be smart about the little “extras” you buy when you travel. It can be really hard to know what you should pay the additional price for when you’re out traveling the world, so I thought I would let you all in on some of the little somethings that I paid extra for, and that I didn’t regret! Ok, ready? Let’s go!


Walking Tour, Berlin: 

This was the highlight of my Berlin trip. Since I was traveling in an off season it was just me, one other girl and our Australian tour guide, who was amazing. The tour I took was about the Nazzi regime in Berlin, and was fascinating. I don’t know how my tour guide remembered all of the 3 HOURS worth of information, but he did. He also was the one who clued me in on the football match happening the next day, for which I am forever grateful. I just never would have known the history around the city without taking this tour, and I’m so happy I decided to do it! Oh, and the tour was FREE! (But, of course, you can tip your tour guide) Look for the blue umbrella!


Headset, Van Gogh & Ruks Museum, Amsterdam: 

I normally don’t pay the additional 5 or 10 euro to pay for the headsets at museums, but I decided to “splurge” while I was in Amsterdam, and I paid for them in 2 museums. I was SO happy I did. Mainly because when you’re in a museum like the Van Gogh Museum you really need (I think) to know the stories behind many of his paintings. I feel like I know Van Gogh so much more, now, having heard about the inspiration behind his works and the beautiful paintings that he created.


CitySightSeeing, Ride around London, London

The first day I was in London I was handed a pamphlet from the “Original Sightseeing Company.” I didn’t think much of it, but then I read that they were having a sale so I decided to buy a weekend (3 day) pass. SUCH A GOOD IDEA. The buses were hop-on-hop-off so I could catch them all over the city, meaning I used them for sightseeing and for regular transportation, too. I learned so much more about the city, and it was a great way to still be around people, while traveling alone. (It also came with a river tour ride – all for 25 pounds!)


Sail and Rail Pass, N. Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, England: 

Rather than just fly from place to place I like to see if I can find trains or boats, or other modes of transportation that allow me to see the countries I’m traveling through. Sail and Rail is a great option when going around the UK/Ireland because for one ticket you get all the different modes of transportation covered (whether that’s bus, train or ferry). Also the ferries from N. Ireland to Scotland are beautiful.


French lessons before moving to France: 

This is a little different from the others, but I still really think it’s important to put on here. I DO NOT know what I would have done without my French tutor before coming to France. I probably would have died. I had a really great teacher, so make sure you find the right one, but it was invaluable to pay for lessons before moving here. While I had taken years of French lessons, I hadn’t said a word in French for so long that it was really important to be able to work with someone who was French and brush up.

Lessons Learned In Amsterdam: Day 2

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I’m not in Amsterdam anymore, but I still thought I’d write a recap of what happened so you all don’t think I fell into a canal or never came back from Holland.
After going to bed at the beautifully early time of 10pm (I had been up at 5 am – and I had no kids there. Yes, I slept.) on Saturday night, I woke up the next morning at 7:30am and headed on a solo adventure around the city.

I admit that this was kind of intentional. The night before had gone from slightly sketchy to etch-a-sketch real quick and I decided to go home early. But Amsterdam in the morning light was lovely. I was basically the only one awake in the city, but the stores were just starting to open up and the coffee shops had been opened for a bit, already. I suspect they open early so that all the tourists who had a bit too much “fun” the night before can grab some caffeine before boarding their trains, planes and buses back to wherever they came from.

I love walking around cities when no one is on the streets, though. No matter where I am it’s always my favorite time of day. I feel like this time, whether early morning…or the other kind of early morning, allows you to really get to “meet” the city. Not the people, tourists or the culture that has grown out of whatever twisted ideas people of that generation have placed there, but the actual city.

You get to see the skeleton architecture without the forms and figures of other people shadowing them. And the thing about European architecture is that there really ARE things you should be looking at, when it comes to buildings. They are beautiful and intricate with carvings and embellishments that just do not exist in the modern world. The buildings carry stories. And, even if just for a few hours, I get to walk around and learn them. And THAT is one of the biggest reasons I travel.

Another reason I travel is because I’m obsessed with Van Gogh. Like if you saw my bedroom wall you would understand. I’ve always been in love with his paintings since I was 10 and saw The Starry Night for the first time. At the time I had no idea who had painted it, but I knew it was the first time I saw a “rule-less” art form that I could connect with freely.

It just so happens that Amsterdam holds the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in its Van Gogh Museum, and I was not disappointed by the experience. I’ll also take this time to say that, if you go there, BUY THE MEDIA GUIDE. It was so worth the extra 5 euro to be able to hear the stories and extra information about each piece of his work. And yes, I almost started crying involuntarily when I saw “Sunflowers” not only because they’re my favorite flower, but also because that’s one of my favorite paintings… and if you watch Doctor Who you’ll know why.

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After that I went to the Ruks Museum and saw some Rembrandt (which, honestly, the museum was kind of obsessed with) and my first Vermeer, which was absolutely breathtaking, as I knew it would be. To be able to paint like that. Insane.

It also reminded me of this movie I saw when I was 12. It’s a Hallmark, so don’t watch it without some tissues.

Brush with fate – trailer

After that I really had only a couple of hours before my train came, so I dropped in on McDonalds (it’s tradition to try their food when I travel) and their french fries were spot on – better than the original fries in the US. Which is saying something since five countries later, I’ve tasted some pretty nasty non American McDonalds meals. Of course, the argument could be made that any meal from McDonalds is nasty, but I appreciate that European places seem to try harder to make healthy options available.

Next up was the train station and reading my new “The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh” book, which is such a good read, if you have any interest in art. So much snark from that man. The guy on the train kept looking over at me because I was holding this biographical book and giggling like a child. My life.

Public transportation was free in Paris on Sunday due to the Charlie Hedbo events, so getting back home was a lot easier than it might have been. And that was the end of my adventure.

Also a couple more lessons learned from Amsterdam:

1. If you’re not a bike you’re not important.

2. You can get lost in tiny cities too.

3. They aren’t homeless people, they’re postal workers.

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Lessons learned in Amsterdam: Day 1

My first impression of Amsterdam was that it smelled like home, AKA Seattle. Then I figured out that it was because the air was filled with a heavy mixture of rain and marijuana. And the further I walked into these streets, paved with green leaves, I realized what a (to quote a store owner) “relaxed” city Amsterdam really was.

While this weekend was supposed to be a sort of “girls get away” my travel companion, through no fault of her own, wasn’t able to make it. So, I’m flying solo…a fact that’s immensely apparent in my two bed room where the other one is sitting staring, still perfectly made, at me. But, we have to make the best out of these situations, right?!
And although today has been 50 shades of crazy, I’ve introduced myself to the city by means of wandering. Tomorrow is museum day (aka I get to see works by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer. I’m SO excited! But I’m getting ahead of myself..Here’s what I learned from today.

1. Just because the city name sounds the same as the place you,’re going, doesn’t mean it is. Sit back down on that train.

2. When there is a forecast for rain in Holland. It is going to RAIN. DO NOT run around yelling that the dam has been breached. Its not funny you history nerd.

3. It’s easier go find weed in Amsterdam than a souvenir Holland flag pin.

4. The Red Light District gets redder as the night gets later. Stay safe, yo.

5. Starbucks is taking over the world…and as a traveler I’m kind of okay with that. #freewifi

I found a couple new favorite places today also!

1.Stock: If Anthropologie was a coffee shop this is what it would be. Just the best atmosphere and such good food. I had some apple pie that was out of this world. I never wanted to leave!


2. PopCult: Every fangirl, fanboys and gamers dream this entire store is packed with superhero themed clothing, adventure time, TNMT, Assasins Creed…you name it, its there. Interestingly enough, this is right next door to Stock.




It’s A Small World, After All

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A few weeks ago, my roommate and I signed up for this website, Postcrossing, because we love snail mail. Apparently we’re not alone in our obsession, because half a million other people are signed up as well!

Much like Couchsurfing or other websites that work to bring people together, this website allows for you to communicate with people you would never speak to, otherwise. It’s such a beautiful idea to keep connected to people around the world!

How does it work!? Well, you sign up with an account and you are then sent the addresses of (up to) five other people from around the world (I got Russia, Germany, China, Bulgaria, and The Netherlands). After you send them off a postcard, with the little code that is emailed to you, they confirm they got it by entering the code on the website and you’re in! You are then added into the pot of endless possibilities. People can get your address, and you get theirs and it’s all extremely beautiful!

I sent off my postcards a couple of weeks ago and just got my first one back today from The Netherlands! It was such a great surprise in my mailbox. Basically, I’m in love with the entire concept of this website.

Snail mail for the win! I can’t wait to see where else I get mail from 🙂

Sign up for yourself by clicking HERE.