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. 

A Day In Bath: The Jane Austen Festival

One of the best decisions I’ve made on this trip was taking a sporadic trip west of London to a little city called Bath. Now, if you’re familiar with Jane Austen at all then you’ll probably recognize this city from a bunch of her books, most notably Persuasion, which is pretty much set entirely in the city. Jane Austen did not write Persuasion while she was in Bath but she did live in the city, so the reoccurring placement of the city in her books makes a lot of sense.

And it just so happens to be that Jane Austen was exactly the reason I went to Bath. A couple of years ago I’d heard about The Jane Austen festival and I wanted to go more than anything…but it didn’t really seem reasonable to fly to England just for that. So instead of booking a plane ticket I bookmarked the page on Facebook. And then I completely forgot about it—UNTIL a few days ago. It turns out that somehow I booked a trip during the festival this year. Happy accident, indeed. So on Sunday I jumped on the train and bought a ticket to a couple of events. I’d never been to bath before, or had it recommended to me by anyone so I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew were the Jane Austen references.

The good news is, I was more than pleasantly surprised by bath and how much it had to offer. Before I left for London I had been researching Jane Austen tours because I knew I wanted to do something focused on her, but I definitely didn’t want to sit on a bus for 5 hours just to see the house she wrote in. I also didn’t want to pay +$300 in order to sit on said bus. I also have a pretty strict rule that I don’t pay over $150 for a day tour, so Bath was a perfect substitution. The breakdown:

$70 – Train round trip

$15 – Jane Austen Centre

$20 – 1 Hour Jane Austen Walking Tour

$40 – Roman Baths + Fashion Museum

$20 – Theatrical performance of Northanger Abbey

Grand Total $165 for an experience that was completely one of a kind, didn’t involve me sitting for long periods of time, and gave me the flexibility to do what I wanted when I wanted. It also saved me over $100. Bam.

My first stop for the day were the Roman Baths which have been a tourist attraction for thousands of years. The Romans built them as a tribute to the gods and swore by their healing qualities. I don’t know about that, and by the smell I wouldn’t say there was any healing going on, but I definitely think they were beautiful.

After I went to the Roman Baths I stopped by The Jane Austen Centre which is a collection of memorabilia and information about Jane’s family life and time in Bath. It really is more of a fangirl’s dream than a museum, but it was a fun time and not very expensive so I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something fun to do. There was also a tea room adjoined which I didn’t have time to visit, but I would definitely suggest checking it out, since I heard good things from those who did go.

Next up was the Fashion Museum which was I knew was going to be my favorite part of the day before I even stepped into the building. As someone who has studied historical fashion since I was five years old, I allotted the most time of my day to this museum. And it was so worth it.

After the Fashion Museum I had a scheduled walking tour as part of The Jane Austen Festival. Little did I know that everyone on this tour was going to be in costume. But hey, you live and you learn. The actual tour was amazing. It was comedy themed with a script and continuing story line that allowed the tour group to “find” different characters around the city and interact with the city. It was like going to a walking theatre production. Which, for this ADHD mind was absolutely brilliant.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat I headed back over to The Pump Rooms for a theatre production of Northanger Abbey which was hilarious because there were only two people acting out the entire production…well, two people and six puppets to be precise. I guess you’d kind of have to be there to realize how mad genius it was.

Overall the day was a complete success that completely wiped me out. In other words, I fell asleep on the train on the way back. But it was worth it. I had so much fun and I would love to come back another year and bring a costume along with me.

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!

10 London Spots You Won’t Want To Miss

God save the Queen. I’ve been to London five times, and I definitely plan on going back, but the great thing about this beautiful city is that every time I go I have a completely different experience!

From food to museums to tours the UK has so much to offer, and I couldn’t be happier than to share with you guys some of my favorites, especially after my last trip where I spent almost a week just doing whatever popped into my mind. Ready to explore this beautiful city? Here are my top 10 spots you MUST visit.

1.Bronte London

Dubbed one of the best brunch spots in London this restaurant stole my heart away with it’s art-deco vibe and beautiful decor. Since Jane Eyre is my favorite book, I also (of course) loved the name of the spot. English breakfasts are one of my favorite things to eat when I’m in the UK, so that’s what I ordered here (and some tea) but there was a full menu of delicious options. I will definitely be going back in the future.

2. Harry Potter Walking Tour:

There are a few Harry Potter walking tours in London, but the one that I can recommend because I took it was the Tour For Muggles, which was a super fun way to see different parts of the city while also seeing famous filming locations from the Harry Potter movies. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and I could tell that she knew ALL the facts about HP. I was also really happy because we visited some BBC Sherlock filming locations, as well. Be still my heart.

3. Stonehenge Day Tour

I’m a huge fan of day tours, because they allow you to see the country-side, which is great especially if you don’t want to drive on the other side of the road and risk dying. The tour that I took in November, when I was in London, was one that went to Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor Castle. The tour was a lot of fun, and we even broke away at the end of it to visit the Eagle and the Child, which is the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met as part of their writing society. Pretty awesome history!

4. Museum of Natural History:

I’m a huge sucker for museums and London has some of the best. I had actually never been to the Museum of Natural History until last year, and I absolutely loved it. If you have even the slightest inclination toward science of any kind then you’ll probably find this museum fascinating. The giant whale skeleton attached to the ceiling is pretty impressive, as well. The best part, though, is that this museum is FREE (donations encouraged) which makes it a must see.

5. National Portrait Museum:

When I went to this museum I actually spent four consecutive hours in there. There are paintings from pretty much every point in British (and non-British) history including the famous portrait of Jane Austen and (my personal favorite) the full body portrait of Anne Boleyn. The centuries of history that this building holds is just absolutely incredible, and once again admission is free.

6. Oxford Street

This is the main shopping street in London and it’s absolute magic. Not only is shopping one of my favorite things to do, but the window displays for stores like Harrods are just incredible (especially during the holidays).

7. 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes Museum):

Another museum!? Hell yeah. I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and I was absolutely thrilled when I got to go to the real 221B. This museum is set up like a Victorian era model of Sherlock’s home complete with the appropriate props to fit each of his famous stories. You can, of course, also buy lots of fun Sherlock merchandise that’s exclusive to the museum, as well.

8. Platform 9 3/4

So, with a lot of walking tours Platform 9 3/4 is not included. This is mainly because it’s out of the way from most of the filming locations for Harry Potter, but the good news is that it’s not that hard to get to on your own. Just grab the tube and get off at the King’s Cross Station for all the fun.

9. The Queen’s Arms (Kensington):

This is a great spot to grab some lovely fish and chips and the spot looks just like it was taken out of a Jane Austen novel. To be honest, that’s one of the things I love about London the most. The history of the city spans back so far and so many famous works of literature stem from actual places within it.

10. Victoria and Albert Museum: 

To wrap things up, one more museum that I absolutely loved. This museum I also went to for the first time during my most recent trip. The museum is HUGE and tons of artifacts from all different points in history. My favorite exhibit was one all about the history of fashion…because, duh—it’s so me.

BONUS: Primark. Grab your Harry Potter gear! 

Okay so Primark is basically like the Forever21 of the UK buuuuuuuut if you’re looking for Harry Potter gear than you should definitely stop in. Not only do they have gear that’s not available outside of the UK, it’s also so much cheaper than if you bought it at a tourist trap.

What’s your favorite spot in London? Tell me in the comments below!

8 Things That Inspired Me When I Traveled In The UK

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I’ve been to the UK/Ireland quite a few times, and I’m going back in January. My mom’s family is very proudly Scottish, Irish and English so I grew up hearing a lot of stories about these magical places called Ireland and Scotland. I wanted to visit so much that three years I finally packed a backpack and headed out solo. I’m so incredibly glad I did. I’ve met so many amazing people throughout my travels, and I love how different and beautiful each trip proves to be. Here are some of my favorite things about traveling throughout the UK (we’ll do another one on Ireland, I promise).

Glasgow, Scotland: A bun can always go higher up on your head

I’m not really sure if there’s some kind of competition for buns in the UK, but they are no joke. Glasgow is one of the funniest cities you can go to on a winter Friday night because the girls are known for their high buns, and their short skirts. And since it’s Scotland, you can imagine how cold that kind of fashion becomes. As someone who wears their hair in a bun 80% of the time, I was inspired when I went to Glasgow for the first time.

London, England: Pastries as far as the eye can see

I adore bread in all of its many forms, and the UK has some of the best sugary (not savory – that all goes to the French) breads and pastries I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what the trick is, or how a country manages to tackle pastries with such perfection, but they are simply to die for. Something I’ve learned about Europe is that the flour there tastes so much better than what we have in the U.S. Even just from living in France, the recipes don’t work the same, and it’s so much more difficult to cook using French flour when you’re used to American. I assume there’s something similar in the UK and that what’s there is something from some mystical world, as well.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England : Tomatoes – a nutritious part of every breakfast

Okay, so I’m not sure how many people are already on this train, but I never ate tomatoes (or really vegetables) with my breakfast until I travelled around the UK. Now, I really prefer to have them with some eggs and toast and tea. It’s SO GOOD. English (or Scottish) breakfasts really are just the best, and again, I’m not sure what they do to make the food so good, there, but it really is out of this world.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Walk Through Cemeteries to Get Writing Inspiration

Okay, Harry Potter nerds. You knew this was coming. A fun fact that I learned when I was in Edinburgh was that JK Rowling stole. Yep. Flat our robbery…of names. It’s true! Many of JK Rowling’s character names come from dead people in Edinburgh cemeteries, including the notorious Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. Brilliant, huh? I’m really excited to go back this January and explore more of the geek side of Edinburgh. I was only there for a day and a half last time and it really was not enough time to satisfy my geekiness. Click the photo below for more info on the cemetery where Tom Riddle is buried.

 

London, England: Brown eggs are better

I grew up with chickens. And we ate their eggs. Thank god we didn’t slaughter them, as well, but my mom was pretty inclusive of the “fresh egg” policy. Unfortunately while having chickens, we also had a rooster who liked to get it on with the ladies. That being said, there were a couple of times when our lovely fresh brown eggs got cracked open into a pan with a underdeveloped chick coming out. Talk about trauma. It’s a wonder I’ve ever eaten eggs again. Luckily my mom had sympathy for me not wanting to eat brown eggs after that. The funny part was that the first time I went to London I realized there was nothing else but brown eggs in the store. Ha. Kill me. Needless to say, I got over my fear, found out brown is better, and now I won’t even buy white eggs.

Glasgow, Scotland: You will never forget the first time you see an original Van Gogh

I love Van Gogh. I always have, and I always will. Up until 2013, though, I had never seen an original (at least, not that I can remember). Scotland wouldn’t probably be the first place that you would look for an original, but that is (accidentally) the first place that I saw one. In fact there were two. And when I saw them I couldn’t believe they were real. It was a bit like that time I was in Rome and thought, “Wow, that looks just like the building from Gladiator,” as I was driving by the Colosseum.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: Always visit the worst club, with the best people

On the authority of three natives, I have (without a doubt) been to the worst club in Edinburgh. How did such a blessing come about, you may ask? Well, it really comes down to striking up conversations with the locals, rather than always staying with the group. I actually can’t remember the name of the club we went to, but my pesky memory could probably find it if I was back in Edinburgh (#photographicmemory) but I can assure you – it was all it claims to be.

All the UK: Cuppa Tea, Tea, Tea, Tea

I have an addiction to tea and I, first off, blame the BBC. But secondly I blame traveling around in countries where you basically get it shoved down your throat. Word from the wise: NEVER say no when you’re offered tea the UK. Even if you just barely sip it, just take the damn cup.


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Have you been to the UK? Comment below with what inspired or shocked you! 

Stratford-upon-Avon, England: The Birthplace of English Literature

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If you’ve ever wanted to time travel, Stratford-upon-Avon may be the right spot for you. While the little town is filled with modern conveniences, much of the century old history is still preserved within the town where Shakespeare was born, lived and died. From the buildings, to the food, to the Shakespearean quotes and statues, Stratford-upon-Avon is truly one of a kind.

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I got a bit excited about seeing Shakespeare’s house.

I’d be lying if I said this city existed prior to me buying a plane ticket there. But I have a lovely friend who is studying Shakespeare there, and visiting friends who are living abroad, while traveling, is an absolute must. I have a strict rule that every time I travel I have to go somewhere new, and even though I had been to Ireland, Scotland and England before this trip, I tried to visit places that were new in each one.

Our trip over to Stratford was right after our time in Dublin, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crying my way through the airport on my way there. But, such is life. Leaving Ireland is never easy.

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Photo Credit: Victoriana Dan while we were on the train to somewhere.

The plane ride over was the tiniest plane I’ve ever been on, but luckily I got my row to myself. We initially touched down in Birmingham, England which (I’m so sorry to anyone from Birmingham who might be reading this) honestly has the most bizarre British accent I’ve ever heard. Once we commuted a bit, we hopped on the train and were off! I honestly love taking trains across the English country side. It’s just miles and miles of green hills and sheep. If you ever just want to relax for 9 hours, take a train from Scotland to London.

When we arrived at Stratford we met up with our friend, Heidi and spent the evening getting a bit of a tour, watching a movie and ordering Indian food. We were I was pretty tired, so there may or may not have been some unplanned naps on the couch, as well.

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I wish I had a photo of our food, but the meal AND the tea was lovely.

The next morning we started out things right with a trip to Benson’s for a true English breakfast and then a stroll around the town for me and Victoriana, after Heidi went to work. During this time we actually (consciously) got to see the town. I’m not gonna lie, one of my favorite parts was the Beatrix Potter themed shop, Timeless Tales where I bought a Peter Rabbit book and a silver spoon for my mom (who collects them, not just for funzies).

We also ventured over to Church of the Holy Trinity, which is where Shakespeare is buried. The overall beauty of the churches in Europe get me every time. Even in the smallest towns, the loveliest structures stand. I don’t think I ever would have guessed how storybook like a town could be, but I guess that’s the nature Stratford. We walked along the river and saw swans everywhere we looked (and they are scary – don’t get any magical ideas). The brick houses had ivy climbing the walls and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stood off looming gloriously in the background. It was magic, and I couldn’t help but imagine it in spring when all of the trees have their leaves and the weather is warmer. I think it would be the perfect spot for a writer’s retreat, and I definitely have it on my list of places I would love to go back to, to stay for a while.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: 1.5 Days Of Chilly Beauty

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Our lovely hostel is in the bottom left hand corner of this picture .

For those of you who have been following along, you’ll know that I was on a backpacking trip from Dec 24th – Jan 4th. I was traveling with two friends, on and off throughout the trip, and I we travelled two four cities along the way. While this wasn’t my first trip around the UK/Ireland, I wanted to make sure to hit some new places, so we went to Edinburgh, Scotland (I had stayed in Glasgow before) and we visited the adorable town of Stratford-upon-Avon. I didn’t have much time to post on the blog while we were traveling, so I’ll fill you all in on what happened in the upcoming weeks.

Our first stop (after me sleeping in Heathrow on Christmas night with my Elf on the Shelf) was
DSC_0047Edinburgh. We took a Megabus up to Edinburgh because the UK takes Boxing Day very serious, and decided to close down all public transportation to prove the point. So, instead of being able to take a train up to Scotland, we hopped on a bus. Little did we know, the floods had cut off many of the routes that the buses usually used to get around, so the initial 9 hour trip ended up taking about 11 hours.

BUT, when we finally did make it to our final destination, we found our Australian filled hostel, more than welcoming and headed out to that night’s Pub Crawl. While usually I wouldn’t go out after sleeping in an airport, riding buses for over 12 hours total and being jet-lagged, I’m so glad we did because we had a great time hanging out with some Scots, and going to (without a doubt) the worst club in Scotland.
DSC_0032After a 10 hour exhaustion induced slumber, I was up and ready to go at the bright and early time of 11am. Thankful that my hostel didn’t charge me for checking out late, and even more thankful that they showed me the best spots for me to visit, I joined one of my friends on a walking tour and we galavanted around the hilly city of Edinburgh.

Our walking tour was more than a little bit entertaining, filled with Scottish anecdotes and history lessons, such as where the term “shit faced” comes from (referencing a saying doesn’t count as swearing, mom). We also got to see the grave site of the infamous “Greyfriars Bobby” which, you may know about if you’ve spent time watching the vintage Disney film, or are obsessed with stories about loyal little dogs, (both of which my mother is) which is why I was one of the few people in our tour to recognize the reference of it.  DSC_0048

The trip ended by a trip to the National gallery and a walk around the Christmas markets, and Edinburgh at night (which is a holiday scene you don’t want to miss out on!). A quick pop back to the hostel (luckily, Edinburgh has most of it’s main attractions within a pretty condensed area) to grab my pack, and it was off to the airport – next stop, Ireland.

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Oh! And did I mention that our hostel was right next to a CASTLE!?

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Visiting the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter!

 

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The graveyard where the real Tom Riddle (amongst other characters from Harry Potter) were buried.

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The history of the phrase “Shit faced” comes from Edinburgh. Apparently early in the morning, when pubs closed and men were stumbling homes, households would dispose of their chamber pots for the day (it was illegal to throw out your windows…but only if you got caught) and the unfortunate drunks were unable to (often) get out of the way – resulting in them, quite literally, getting “shit faced.”

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Just the three of us.

Broken Hearts And New Beginnings

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When I was a kid I had this idea for my life. I thought I would grow up, go to college, graduate, meet this perfect person who would change my life, fall in love and check that off my list of successes – next step, world domination. Needless to say, life didn’t happen that way.

It got messy. Relationships got messy. And I got my heart broken.

I remember sitting in my room and wondering what I had done to have brought this upon myself!? I felt tainted. I felt like I should never be accepted or loved again. I remember my heart feeling like it had been put through a shredder. I remember feeling so much shame and so much despair.

But I shouldn’t have.

Because human heartbreak is something we all experience. Whether it’s from people, circumstances or the realization that dreams we once had aren’t turning out the way we had hoped. It’s a fact of life – and it’s one that I don’t think is talked about, enough.

Heartbreak is something you can write books about, warn people about, lecture about and it will still happen. And it will still hurt just as much.

But the story doesn’t have to stop there.

Heartbreak isn’t the end. It’s merely an evolution and transformation of who we are, to who we will are meant to become.

When I went through my first particularly bad break-up I remember calling my mom, snot-nosed and weeping, and her saying, “Emilee. This does not define you.”

I’m pretty sure those were the best words she could have said. In all of her Scandinavian directness (*cue Elsa singing “Conceal, don’t feel.”*) she hit on a valid, logical and very poignant point.

At the moment I wanted her to weep with me. I wanted her to pity me. But now I realize the wisdom of those words. My current situation didn’t define me. What did, was what I did with it. And THAT is what the conversations about heartbreak should be about.

Fast forward two years. Life is a lot better.

I took my heartache and I bought a plane ticket. I wrote about the journey. I found a community and met people who changed my perspective on life. I got some tattoos. I lived in a different country. I joined Twitter. I wrote about my travels. I rediscovered my love for writing and story telling – and you know what?

I did meet a “perfect” person who changed my life. And I did learn, slowly but surely, how to fall in love with them – the only thing was, the person I learned to love was me.

It might sound like the corny line at the end of a Disney Channel original movie, but when I look back, I’m not sure that I would have changed the way things happened (except I might not have stopped myself from slashing the tires of my ex). Life had a way of pushing me in the right direction, and I’m happier on this path than I ever was before.

Heartbreak taught me to love myself. It taught me to push forward even when I felt like I was being sucked backward into a vortex of despair. I didn’t know it at the time, but those experiences were paving a way for me to find my own purpose and meaning.

It’s been a while since I took that first backpacking trip. I had no idea what I was doing as I stepped on an airplane, headed to the UK. All I knew was that I was worn out emotionally, and I needed to get away. And now, just a month after my two-year anniversary of that trip, I’m headed back in the same direction.

It’s amazing how much can change in such a short period of time. This time the plane ticket wasn’t bought because of heartache; it was bought out of love. I’m not traveling alone I’m traveling with two of my closest friends, and I know quite a bit more about what the travel experience will be like, having now lived in, and travelled frequently around Europe.

Life has changed. It has kept moving forward. And the dreams that I have now are so much bigger and deeper and so much stronger than they ever were before. Heartbreak is not tarnish; it’s a badge of honor. It means you risked. You dared to love, dared to dream and dared to ask life for more.

So risk. Risk your heart, risk your dreams, risk your expectations and then rise. Regardless of the outcome of your daring ventures, make the outcome excel you to new heights. Because heartbreak is merely a transformation. And, like a phoenix, your circumstances only prove that you now have the opportunity to soar.

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When Life Pelts You With Lemons…

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I won’t apologize this time, for the weeks I’ve been silent on my blog. Mainly because life has been serving me a platter of lemons, which I’ve had to skillfully squeeze and mix into some very spontaneous lemonade. To make a long story short, I got laid off from my job a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely abrupt and unexpected. The result was buckling down into “go mode” and starting to figure out how I would pay my tribute to the student loan gods (among other bills etc.).

I’m very happy to say that things have worked out well enough that my bills are covered, and although there is a pay cut involved with now supporting myself – I am considerably happier in my new job and more inspired to create, write and wake up in the morning.

So, what else have I been up to?

Well we relaunched our beautiful website The Exploress, which was a lot of collaboration and a lot of hard work – but we did it! I’m so proud of my beautiful team of writers and photographers and I absolutely love being able to work alongside them to tell their stories of travel and adventures.

And speaking of adventures – in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be headed out on my very own (with two of my best friends!) backpacking adventure around England, Ireland and Scotland. I’m so happy I could cry. Our itinerary consists of four stops, at the moment. We’ll be starting out in London, jumping on a bus up to Edinburgh (no trains – thanks boxing day), flying over to Dublin and then flying over to Stratford Upon Avon (where Shakespeare is buried!).

This trip is coming at the perfect time, and I’m so happy for it to be a bit of respite from my American life. It has been kind of hard to get back in the swing of fast-paced crazy U.S. life, but I’m doing my best and overall I’d say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, right now.

I’ve started a new job, which is remote, so I’m working today from a beautiful coffee shop near my house. I’m working on social media and marketing with them – which is a bit of a dream come true, because I get to write and come up with marketing schemes. I love being able to take both branches of work and really dedicate myself to the overall mission of the company.

Oh! And I do have a couple of upcoming trips, apart from my UK one, that I’m really excited about:

I recently took a road trip to the Olympic peninsula and that was both beautiful and balming for my soul. You can see some of those lovely pictures below. And NEXT weekend I’m taking a snowy adventure to Leavenworth! I’m so excited for so much beautiful snowy goodness.

Oh! And I’ll be headed over to San Francisco, for a week, in January! So really the whole travel life style is working beautifully, at the moment. The thing I’ve learned about travel is that if you make it a priority (and better, if people know you’re the type to jump at the opportunity), the adventures will come to you. I promise to keep up more on the blog, since the storm seems to have calmed for the moment *knock on wood*. Especially while I’m backpacking – I plan on smothering you all with stories and whimsy about my adventures.

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My Heart Lies Over The Sea

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I haven’t posted in a million years, and there’s a couple of reasons why.

Life is moving by at the speed of light, compared to what it used to be (even before I moved to France). I’m working my 8-5, M-F, saving up for my next big adventure and planning out my (very quickly approaching) next temporary one – backpacking though Scotland, England and Ireland!

All of this being said, things are pretty hectic, in general. I’m taking French lessons, again, and I’m getting ready to relaunch the website I’m an editor for (The Exploress)! In addition, I’m painting away to my little heart’s content, with orders coming in to my Etsy shop – which is so much fun – but MAN, life is hectic.

Lucky for me, my little holiday adventure back to the UK/Ireland is fast approaching – we’re only a little over a month away! I CANNOT wait until my feet touch ground again in Ireland. I’ll probably just have to spend a couple hours sitting by the Liffey and staring at Dublin (which I do pretty much every time I’m there, since I can never wrap my mind around the fact that I’m there for real…seventh time’s the charm?).

But most of all, I just want to have time to read and to write and to think straight without any distractions. American life is so much faster than I remember. It’s so crazy and a bit like an animal stampede for fresh feeding grounds. I don’t know if it’s always been like this, or if it just seems like this more after how slow my European life was, but I don’t think I like it.

I do love my life, and all of the activities. But there’s something very concerning about the constant mad rush FORWARD! FORWARD! FORWARD! It seems to me, that in our lust for progress, Americans have forgotten to ever enjoy what they have achieved – no matter how great it is.

Exhibit A: I have an iPhone 4s. It works fine, with the exception of the battery starting to wane, but no other problems. It takes perfectly nice photos, it makes great phone calls, it works with all the apps that I need, and yet (somehow) I’ve managed to slip FOUR generations behind in iPhones, while living abroad, and boy would you know it here. I’m not sure exactly at what point the piece of technology gripped so preciously between our finger tips, became our token of success, intelligence and forward thinking but it has. And I find that disturbing. Why? Well, I do think there are some people who actually use a phone as advanced as the iPhone 7 – but let’s face it, 98% of us barely knew any of the features on our 4’s. So why are we in this constant upgrade mode? Most people would be better off spending the money on a vacation to somewhere beautiful, but instead we stampede to the closest phone store and set up a payment plan to put us even more in debt. Why?

I read an article the other day about how science shows that we’re wired to actually gain more enjoyment from spending our money on experiences (ex. travel) than we are spending it on objects (ex. phones) – but how is it that this information does little to nothing to actually inspire change in our spending habits?

A lot of questions, I guess. But I would like you all to know that when I originally sat down to write out this blog post I only intended on posting pretty pictures of Ireland, and leaving it at that. So much for the plan. As life continues to tell us to rev our engines louder and louder in the ears of our neighbor, I guess I just needed to sit down for a moment, with my little blog family, and talk about how odd it is to seem to be so in between worlds. I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully feel like I’m home in the US or in Europe, but my heart (to steal a phrase from the movie Brooklyn – which you should all see) is now, at least, halfway over the ocean, isn’t that better than nothing?

When I called my grandma to wish her a happy anniversary, last week, she asked me why I could never be content. I don’t know the answer. And maybe the reason for not having one, is because my heart feels so flooded with questions. I’m not sure if out there, someone, is perfectly content with where they are, how their life has shaped and why things are the way they are – but I know I’m not that person. My heart longs for other places more than I can ever describe. I don’t know how to explain the feeling of happiness and fulfillment that I’ve tasted, but that I’ve never been able to hang on to. The reality of this life is that I may not ever know the answer to any of this.

In the mad dashery I’m left simply wondering how to ever find balance with the knowledge of what’s out there and the present position of being planted here…at least, for the moment. Ignorance is bliss, or so they say. And maybe it is, but part of me hopes that somewhere, sometime, I’ll remember how to feel at home, again.