U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

I’m a West Coast girl through and through. I love the Pacific Ocean, living in a mountain surrounded city, and celebrating random Scandinavian holidays. But I’m also a huge advocate for exploring your own country. I’ve been to 42 U.S. states, and I’ll definitely be visiting all 50. In the meantime, I’ve started this series to explore other cities I think you should know about. You may have caught my last post about Richmond, Virginia. Today, I’m talking about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

History

One of the most interesting parts about Pittsburgh is its history of rebellions. Just reading about them made me want to write 10 historical fiction novels. Here are just a few facts:

Whiskey Rebellion: This ain’t no Boston Tea Party, but it’s a great example of how important alcohol was. In 1791, taxes were raised on whiskey to offset the debt from The Revolutionary War. Needless to say, peeps weren’t so happy to see their whiskey targeted by higher taxes, so they fought back. Ultimately, 500 farmers marched against the government, and George Washington himself headed over to calm them down. This rebellion is a defining factor in establishing U.S. political parties.

City of Steel: Starting in the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known for American manufacturing, including the production of iron, brass, tin, and glass. But what really sets Pittsburgh apart is the steel industry, which began in 1875.

Pittsburgh Railway Riots: Right on the tail of steel production were the Pittsburgh Railway Riots. They were a result of the government once again trying to offset debts from the Civil War. These riots were pretty rough, with burning buildings and dead people, but they started planting ideas for the workers’ unions of the future.

Cool Things to Do

As a pretty sassy city in its own right, there are some pretty cool things to do in Pittsburgh. Some of the coolest include:

Andy Warhol Museum: Ready for a splash of culture? The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the largest collection of the artist’s works, and it’s an absolute must if you’re in the area. The museum has everything from saturated prints to hands-on art creation techniques that you can try. Don’t miss out!

Robot Hall of Fame: If you’re geeky like me, then you’ll definitely want this one to be on your radar. It’s located in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld section and home to all types of robots, including C-3PO, Gort, and WALL-E.

Canton Avenue: Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in America? Honestly, since I’m from Seattle, this looks pretty normal. If you want to get a serious workout, then this just might be the spot for you.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pittsburgh, try an adorable Airbnb. If you’re in more of a hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Pittsburgh to find amazing spots like the Renaissance Pittsburgh. It was lifted stone by marble stone in 1906, before the invention of the crane. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India

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It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).

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2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.

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4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.

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7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.

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8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.

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10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.

 

Homesick For Somewhere

Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about not being here. Some may call it wanderlust, some may call it daydreaming, but I just CANNOT shake the feeling of needing to go somewhere. Not necessarily France, not necessarily anywhere particularly, but just the need to go.

In a weird way, I feel like I’ve outgrown my life, and appropriately, for my Slytherin (nerd alert!) nature, I need to shed my skin. I’ve always been a daydreamer. I stare out windows dreaming about places probably more often than I ought to. But the truth of the matter is, I’m homesick. Not in a depression way (although, PTD – or Post Travel Depression, is a real thing) but just in a wistful wonderment kind of way. In a way that makes you get goosebumps when you feel like an adventure is on the horizon.

Where have I been homesick for? Well, right now, it’s Scotland. Or, to be more specific, Scottish sheep farms. I don’t know why, but taking trains and buses along the coast of Scotland brought me more joy than is probably normal. I remember traveling in a bus, passing by old stone ruins – sheep dotted across fields of every color green, and thinking, “You know what, if I won the Lottery today, I would buy a Scottish sheep farm, paint all day every day and never look back.” Because, honestly, that’s what I would do with millions of dollars. Buy a farm, change my identity, and run away to Scotland with my paintbrushes. Standard.

But, in the meantime, to combat the devilish voice in my head telling me to pack everything up and run away, there are some tricks of the trade that I thought I’d pass on for the chronic travel nostalgic like me.

1. Never Travel.

Just kidding. Duh, you should travel! But the way you travel can really make or break your post traveling experience. When I travel, I make sure it’s never to run away from things. Because, no matter how much you wish, you’re probably going to have to come back at some point. It’s in my nature to want to throw all of my belongings in a suitcase and run away the moment something bad happens in my life, but I really try hard to only travel if I have all of my ‘ducks in a row’ on the home front. That way, I’m not dreading coming back the entire time I’m away. And it also gives me the motivation to keep a happy home life, in order to be in a healthy mental and spiritual place to travel beyond it.

2. Send Yourself Post Cards: 

This is something I’ve done for a while. First off, if you’re backpacking, it’s a good way to get yourself a souvenir without having to lug something around in your pack. Second, you get proof that you actually went somewhere, instead of owning something someone could find in a thrift shop where you’re from. Last, I just love writing – and writing myself is weirdly fun. Snail mail isn’t given enough credit.There’s something magical and priceless about finding a note from a place you loved in your mailbox when you get back home.

3. Write About It:

Blog or journal about your experiences! I love finding just the right journal to keep with me while I’m traveling. I generally go for the ones without lines on the paper, so I can sketch, paint or tape in little extra bits I find around when I’m traveling. Blogging is also a fun way to keep a day by day account of where you’re traveling, if you have access to a computer.

4.  Tell Your Friends: 

Sharing your knowledge is one of the best things you can do for travel nostalgia. There’s something about sharing stories and inspiration with those around you that not only builds you up, but helps the rest of your friends to get on the train with traveling as well. Inspiration goes a long way. One of the only reasons I’ve had the guts to travel in the past is that some of my friends did it before me. Sitting down to coffee, and hearing one of your peers talk about their experiences, really makes you want to go out and make your own memories!

5. Start Planning Your Next Adventure:

No matter how often I travel, the minute I get back I start planning my next trip. Not necessarily in the way of  buying a plane ticket as soon as I touch ground, but I really love having maps, dream boards, Pinterest inspiration boards and thoughts stashed away for where I want to go next. Before I went to the UK I had  (still have) a giant map of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales taped to the back of my bedroom door. I guess that could be partially blamed for my nostalgia every night before I go to bed, but I also like looking at it and remembering all of the great adventures I had.

Bon Voyage!

Me and my mom adventuring per usual
Me and my mom adventuring per usual

 

Five Reasons I Love Traveling Solo

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I’m a loner by nature and I love exploring the world in a way that I can fully soak in everything around me. Most of the time that means traveling alone. Not convinced? Here’s why:


1.  You can do Whatever You Want…Whenever You Want

I am unashamed to say that I’ve spent four hours sitting in a museum before. During that time I’m pretty sure I viewed ever single piece of art on all four stories, sat in on a mini lecture about Eleanor of Aquitaine and bought post cards of all of my favorite dead British people. It was glorious – nobody saying they needed to go to the bathroom, they were bored or that they were hungry.

2. You Get to Make New Friends Along the Way and Network

Even beyond Couchsurfing buddies, you can make friends on buses, planes and trains so much easier if you’re traveling alone. It allows you to talk to people who are actually from the places you travel, and to learn more about the culture around you by experiencing it through the eyes of the people who live there. I’ve met so many awesome people in hostels that I hung out with because I didn’t have the crutch of only talking with people I knew. I love the incentive to come out of my shell and have the opportunity to get to make connections with people all around the world!

3. People are More Helpful to a Single Person than Groups

As sad as it sounds, when you’re in a group you’re generally viewed as a nuisance/tourist. When you travel alone you’re a stranger people are much more likely to help with directions, advice etc. There’s something about traveling solitary that I’ve found makes getting help from people around you so much more accessible.

4. No Curfew/Wake up Time

Even if it’s not about having a “bed time”, usually if you’re in a group there’s some kind of mentality that you need to be tucked in at some point, or, at least, that someone needs to know where you are at all times. I love the freedom of being able to go out and not have to check in with anyone whether I want to stay out late or go to bed at 6pm (but, really, when I was in Dublin I slept for 14 hours once).

5.  You Can Try Random Things Sporadically

One of my favorite memories will always be meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, in London. While we were there, we found out about a concert that was going on in the city and just HAPPENED to have one of my absolute favorite artists, James Arthur, performing at it. I loved being able to just drop everything and go…because there wasn’t an “agenda” that I had to stick to or other plans that I needed to keep in mind.

All these things being said, there are a TON of reasons why it’s fun to travel with people as well. But, either way I think it’s important not to have a mentality that you “can’t” travel somewhere without having an entourage. Having a good time is completely up to you, no matter which situation you’re in!

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Me during my first solo backpacking trip. I was a tad bit excited to see James Arthur.

15 Favorite…

Things I cant travel without

As a fashion grad, and travel addict, I require myself to look like a “normal” person while I go on adventures. It’s bad enough knowing that you don’t belong to your surroundings, but advertising it to the world is like painting a bullseye on your forehead.

Whenever I take a trip I make sure I pack some favorite gear no matter where I’m going. Beyond the basics (toothbrush, underwear, passport etc.) these are some things that specifically make my own travel experience 10x better.

1. An insulated rain jacket: These bad boys can be a bit pricy, so keep an eye out for one on sale off season, or invest in one that will last you a while. I bought mine at REI and I love it because it has cross body buttons, which makes it cute, but it’s also a rain jacket that will keep you warm. Especially since I normally travel in the Fall, it’s a super good idea bring one of these along if the climate where you’re going will even potentially need it. *The yellow arrow is pointing to an inside zip pocket. I bought this coat before I went to the UK and I wanted to make sure all of my valuables were safe while I was walking around London and bigger cities. In this jacket there is also a back bottom zippered pocket and the outside pockets zip and button when they’re closed. Pick-pockets never stood a chance.

2. A sturdy pair of leather boots: For these, I generally look for American made leather boots that look like they’ll last until Jesus comes back, again. Since you may/most likely will be walking for longer distances, these are a great thing to have to keep your feet covered and warm while still looking cute and comfortable. For the insides, I generally get some kind of heavenly insert, and the outside I use bees wax rain repellant to keep them solid and waterproof.

3. Thick infinity scarf: These are nice because you can throw them on and now worry about chocking yourself with the ends, like a regular scarf. This was especially important for me, because I was backpacking and didn’t have the time/energy to be checking my scarf while I was running through cities with 30lbs on my back.

4. An accordion folder with tabs: This. Saved. My. Life. I generally like to spontaneously travel, but there are some things such as hostels for the first night, when you’re severely jet-lagged, and train rides to your end of the day flight, that are important to keep organized. This little folder is perfect for putting maps, tickets and information in so that it’s all fully accessible at a moments notice. It cuts down on stress/freaking out that you lost something, and if you’re traveling alone, like me, it’s a MUST.

5. A FRESH journal: I like to give each adventure its space. I never use the same journal twice when traveling, because I don’t want to feel like I’m going to run out of pages, or if I lose it I lose memories from the past four years. I also generally grab one with non-lined pages so I can sketch/tape things in/write on whatever part of the paper I feel like.

6. My camera: AKA my child. I love having a nice camera to take with me and get decent shots of my surroundings. That being said, there is a lot more responsibility when you have one. My camera is not small, and was expensive, so I always have to find a way to keep it safe, while making sure it’s accessible at a moments notice – this can be hard if you’re traveling with a lot of bags, but it is so worth it!

7. Wipes! Sometimes, when you travel, you don’t have access to a restroom – or if you do, the bathroom available is not the ritz. So, it’s nice to be able to freshen up and not smell like a backpacker once in a while you’re running around. These are also pretty compact and light (while being so valuable on a hard day) so they’re great for backpacking.

8. Eye mask: Oh, my word. If you’ve ever stayed in a shared room hostel you know how essential these are. With people constantly coming in and out of the room at all hours of the night/morning, an eyemask might be the only way you get enough sleep to function the next day. Also, they’re nice to have if you want to sleep on the plane.

9. Head light: These are nice if you’re traveling at night and end up in a situation that’s less than sketchy, but higher on the freak out level than safe ( I also accompany this with a panic whistle if I’m traveling alone…just in case). It also can be great when you’re trying to find something in the dark and you can’t turn the light on etc. It’s just always nice to have some kind of light source.

10. Messenger bag/backpack: I really love this bag in the picture because it turns into a backpack, or can be a messenger bag. This is important to have when you’re looking around the city, because items you don’t want to leave in a hostel, or that you just would like to have with you are much easier to carry this way – rather than lugging your big bag/luggage with you.

11. EARPLUGS. *refer to #8

12. Mini sewing kit: This is one of those simple things that you never think you’ll use, until something breaks and you need it the most. It’s a good idea to bring a little kit along just in case any pack problems/clothes problems occur.

13. First Aid kit: Again, you might not think you’ll use it. But if you find yourself somewhere you can’t get medical attention and need some supplies, it’s good to keep one of these handy.

 14. Wool head wear: If you’re traveling to Hawaii for vacation, obviously you don’t need this. But, if you’re traveling to Europe in the fall/winter, you probably will want it. I try to stay away from any kind of acrylic/synthetic headwear mainly because it doesn’t actually keep cold out. It just keeps you a little less cold. Pictured is a wool head wrap that I’m in love with wearing. It’s also red, so easy to find and a pop of color since I normally dress in black/white/gray when I travel. *Same rule goes for gloves – find a good wool pair, you’ll thank me.

15. An awesome book: I always bring a book with me that I’ve started but haven’t had time to finish. This is great for when you’re stuck waiting somewhere and don’t have any phone reception, you want to just relax in a coffee shop or you need to avoid eye contact with an awkward stranger. It’s also great because, at the end of the journey, you’ve accomplished a home task as well!

*16. CHOCOLATE: I didn’t have a chocolate bar to put in the picture, but this is one of the best pieces of travel advice I’ve received in my life. I was pretty skeptical when a friend handed me a chocolate bar on my way to a trip, but that chocolate bar saved my life when I was jet lagged and falling asleep on a train, when I was dying of hunger from missing a lunch cart on a train and sometimes when I just needed a pick up from being tired. The thing to remember is, this is for emergency low blood sugar, so it stays in your bag only for those reasons.

What are some must have’s you guys can’t travel without?? Let’s make a list. 🙂

À bientôt!

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Buckingham Palace, London, England