writing

Back At It With Camp NaNo

I’m baaaaaaacck.

And trying to develop my writing routine for a regular basis. Though my past two weeks have been crazy, which is as-per-usual in my life.

The most recent forms of chaos have been from my new position at work (you are reading this blog from the newest page at the library), attempting to plan my next few travels, and even the return of my shows: Jane the Virgin and (eventually) Game of Thrones! I am really excited about all that my future has to offer, once again, which is a very nice feeling.

camp 2019

In addition to all of these changes, I am primarily writing this blog post to share about Camp NaNoWriMo and my writing progress.

The first day of April is not only known for April Fools, but also the first day of Camp NaNo, “An idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life,” as their slogan says.

Camp Nano is different than the actual NaNo as this event is run, inspired by the flexibility and lightheartedness of an actual summer camp, but still contains all of the writing inspiration and companionship of NaNo. Unlike NaNo, however, Camp does not have a rigid structure of needing to write 1,667 words per day in order to finish on time and declare yourself a winner. Instead you select your own writing goals, tracked in whatever format you choose from words, hours, minutes, lines, and pages, on whatever sort of project you wish…meaning it does not have to be only a novel to count.

My camp project this year is a revision of my last NaNo novel from 2018, Heroic Night. I set a goal to write 30 pages within the month…thinking that one page per day would be an achievable goal and one that would help me to write the missing scenes from my story without adding too much stress that could cause writer’s block.

The title is still a work in progress…as well as the entire plot, characters, and even the point of view. And especially the whole middle of my story. As of bedtime of April 3rd, I have ONE almost Full Page typed out.

Along with following many of the prompts and advice in Camp nano emails and messages, and sharing with my cabin mates (aka the chatroom of fellow writers I was sorted into), I have come up with a theory to resolve my stress from the enormity of the editing project I have set out for myself. Which is to start with a blank page and write the missing scenes for my story and then figure out where they fit into the huge manuscript later.

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Photo by NIKOLAY OSMACHKO on Pexels.com

Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.

Really not ready for a full read-through any time soon.

But, as I proceed with caution for this month’s brainstorming and writing and adding important details, I struggle to make this story something that is exciting to read and something that I look forward to reading and writing.

And while I get back to writing and finding the balance, I thought that I would share my latest addition to Heroic Night

NaNo Book Cover
This is around what my cover would look like… with the beautiful cover art found at Pulse Gallery and the text added by me.

[Days after sneaking into a ball that she was certainly not supposed to attend, Vivian discovers a present left for her inside her bedroom, with the fake name that she gave as her own…]

Worrying about any possible evidence was not the thing that stopped Vivian in her tracks while she was getting ready for bed later that evening.

What did stop her was the package left on the table in her room with a note wrapped in the ribbon. Before she opened the package, or before she even panicked, she tried to decipher the sloppy scrawl of who the note was addressed to.

And to her horror, her best guess at the writing was that it was addressed to the name “Grace”.

Exciting and kind of suspenseful, right?

 

For me too, especially since I am not even sure what is supposed to come next. Stay tuned and feel free to ask about more of what you want to know!

AND I would love to hear your thoughts or if anyone else is participating in Camp, too!?!?

 

Until next time…

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travel

Second Time’s the Charm in Edinburgh

Hello! I am finally back to sharing more about my trip!

My second major stop on my tour this summer was the beautiful Edinburgh. I was thrilled to make Scotland the first place I traveled for the start of my solo tour because, as many of you probably know, Scotland holds a special place in my heart. I studied abroad at the University of Glasgow, and so Scotland feels like a second home to me. And it is also the country where I, one day, plan to live.

And I sort of needed to start in a place I was comfortable with because I needed that confidence booster to stop letting everyone’s comments from back home get to me. And this really ended up being the perfect way to handle things.

Edinburgh (pronounced Eden-bra) is such a handsome, historical, and hilly city. And unlike many other parts of Scotland, you will actually be able to understand the English spoken here!

Similar to Ireland, this area of Scotland is a great place for new travelers, because culturally, things are not so different from those back in America, and as a very tourist geared city, you will always be able to find many comforts from home.

Top tourist attractions include hiking up to Arthur’s seat, visiting Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny both in the castle, the monuments on Calton Hill, the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard, and more! There are such diverse attractions in this city to appeal to athletes, historians, the royal family fans, foodies, and those who love to shop––all within walking distance of one another!

Navigation around the city is a breeze with the city compact enough that I was able to walk everywhere I wanted to go, even to the hiking trails, but the hills and stairs can be quite exhausting. (Learn from my mistakes: pack plenty of food and water in your day pack before trying to conquer Arthur’s seat.) Public transportation is available to and from the airport and runs 24/7 with tickets available to purchase at the bus terminal at the airport. It was super convenient purchasing my ticket ahead of time, so I could just board the bus when I was ready to leave.

As a part of the UK, Scotland’s currency is the Pound sterling (£) which is generally, consistently, stronger than the USD. So the prices in the store are not the prices that it would actually cost to an American, when every £1 would cost about $1.31. (And it is not always fun doing that math on the fly. I managed with help from a conversion app.)

And this is sort of the basics of what travelers should know and what they will learn during their time here.

Sightseeing over the summer was an incredible experience, and one that I cannot wait to repeat in the future.

My last visit to Edinburgh was during all of the excitement of the Christmas markets during the height of the holiday shopping season (and the low point on the thermometer). But I was also exploring with my flatmates after living with them for a whole semester.

So my visit in June was very different. Still pretty cold, even relative to Ireland, but much quieter and at much more of a relaxed pace, thanks to not needing to rush to catch a train at the end of the day. I very much enjoyed getting to explore another city in Scotland at my own pace with an itinerary that I did not have to compromise with anyone. I got to wake up early and take a full day to tour the Edinburgh Castle spending hours wandering the halls, walk all the way down the royal mile to see the Queen’s Gallery and stop in for a cup of tea, wherever I pleased.

The most rewarding part of my trip was getting to finally explore the Edinburgh Castle, something that I put off for most of my study abroad, until I returned to America without ever seeing it, so this was something that was at the very top of my list of things I needed to do before returning home.

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The Entrance to the Edinburgh Castle on a gloomy Scottish day

And after doing much research, I made my way up to the castle early in the morning to make sure I could get a ticket, and I had my student ID handy, like I did for most of my trip, to make sure that I could get all of the student discounts on all of my museum visits. Especially since, at this point, I did not know how far I would need to make my money stretch. And solo visits to the museums, I feel, are so much more rewarding than going with someone, or with a group of people. I was able to take it all in, and at my own pace. Things like waiting on a line to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (used at the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953), would probably not be something that I would subject others to doing, but it was something that I felt was worth the wait. And what a breathtaking site (even if photos were not allowed).

And if anyone is interested in a brief history of these Honours of Scotland, the Visit Scotland website is a perfect help. 

Some other highlights from the castle were taste-testing Scottish Whiskey right on the grounds, which was incredible, btw, and even visiting St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, that remains from the 12th Century. It is such a small building with small windows (a late add on) which is probably the reason for lasting so long.

And a stay in Scotland in never complete without visiting a historical site while there is a wedding going on. I will never forget the feeling of awe (and jealousy) in seeing couples get married in the most beautiful places, which are during this trip to the Edinburgh Castle, to later on in my trip where I almost accidentally interrupted a wedding procession in Cinque Terre, to all of the weddings we passed in Glasgow at my university or at Oran Mor––the church/bar on the way to my university. They were the most incredible, and accidental events I have stumbled on and ones that inspire my own future wedding plans––hope my future husband is on board.

Another major highlight of my trip, was the day I spend hiking up to Arthur’s seat, an ancient volcano visible even from the city center. (Which actually just went up in a blaze two days ago, so I hope that everything will be okay there!) The hike lead to extraordinary views of the city, especially because I just happened to go on a clear day, and I was able to meet some of my fellow hikers at the top of the hills who helped me take some of my favorite pictures from my trip.

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Standing before the Great Arthur’s Seat

The very same day, before or after my hike (I forget the order), I also was able to visit and sit in on some Parliament discussions, as I just happened to be passing by while it was in session.

And another highlight, that I won’t go into too much detail about because I have written much about it in the past, was my visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard, most recently known to house the inspiration to JK Rowling’s character names, but it is also well known for Greyfriars Bobby, the Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner for 14 years in the kirkyard, and who now can be seen in the statue in front of the entrance.

Aside from all of my sightseeing, perhaps the most memorable part of my visit to Edinburgh is all of the incredible friends that I made there.

I met up with an Australian lady from Girls Love Travel Facebook group at a cafe in town, and learned all about her life, and how she is on her year abroad, looking for work and to travel. Then in my hostel, I made so many friends from Canada, Columbia, and Germany who would all meet down at the hostel pub to share travel stories from like-minded travelers and drink together. And discuss Harry Potter, too! And my very last night in Scotland (for this trip) we all went on a pub crawl together and had a blast before I made my way to the airport, headed for Italy.

My next stop: Bologna.

book review

Throwback: Laguna Cove Review

I am trying to get into the groove of writing book reviews, and as I figure it out for my recent reads, I have been looking back at my old writing. (Aided by my current room decluttering.)

So I thought that today’s post would be a perfect time to share some of my old book reviews. So we can laugh together.

AKA The “Independent Reading Summer Worksheet”

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So today’s book reflection will be on Alyson Noel’s Laguna Cove,  which is in part thanks to my ‘summer reads’ phase when I was obsessed with all of the beachy romances and would get stacks of books by the same authors out from my library at a time.

Since then, my writing tastes have evolved towards messier and less contemporary stuff. And now I can’t get enough of fantasy books. (Although I still struggle with any time travel books.)

And boy this is also a reflection of myself, too. Thank god my writing has improved.

Anyway, let me share a brief (and current) summary of this book.

Laguna Cove, published in 2006, takes place in Laguna Beach, California, where a bunch of teenagers spend all of their free time on the beach hanging out and surfing, and just soaking up the sun. Anne is the new girl who moves cross country to live with her dad after her parents split up, and she is forced to deal with all of these changes at once, while learning the dynamic of a new school and new peers. Something really upsetting is that Anne had to give up being the captain of the diving team back home with the new move.

The real drama, though, is between Anne and Ellie over popularity and the cutest guy in school…Chris. Ellie is jealous and worried about Anne taking over her friends and her life that she lashes out at Anne. Anne learns to surf and dates Chris. Things get ugly. Everyone picks sides.

And like my original review says, the ending is left open ended…nothing is really concluded. From a quick search of other reviews, many readers feel the same way. That the ending sort of jipped us.

So with that, I would like to share some of my old review of this book. Here are some of the more notable questions and answers.

First:

Identify the AUTHOR. Provide jacket information (if it’s available.) What genre does the author usually adhere to? Have you read anything else by the author? How big an undertaking was the book? (How many pages? How accessible or dense was the author’s language?)

And my 2010 response:

Alyson Noel is the author who writes fictional books about teenage girls lives. I have not read her other books, but I plan to in the future. The book was 216 pages and became a little confusing at times because the phrases the characters use are from California and I am not familiar with it.

My 2019 thoughts are much different. I am trying to prevent myself from editing all of my old writing, but I am laughing. “I am not familiar” with the California phrases is my absolute favorite part, because really? This is coming from the same person who went on to live in Glasgow. Where people are much harder to understand than California. I think that I must have mentioned this to answer how accessible the book was, but present day Samantha would have a very different interpretation of this question, and a very different answer, too. I also think that it is so funny that the school bolded author, as if us 9th graders could not read and understand the whole question and we just needed a snippet.

Another of my favorite questions and answers is this one:

Is there anything special or noteworthy about the author’s handling of CHARACTERIZATION?

And my short response:

The characterization was good, but nothing special.

Bahaha.

How did I go from this to becoming an English major, I have no idea.

Like, okay, maybe I simply wasn’t understanding the deeper interpretations of the author question, but this is really funny. Like, zero effort.

I didn’t even explain, just a no. Maybe I was rushing to finish this? Maybe I was writing it the period before it was due. Maybe I meant to get back and finish this question? I guess we will never know if this came out of laziness, procrastination, or what.

And for the epic conclusion:

COMPARE or CONTRAST the book with a book that you’re read before, or a movie you’ve seen, or a short story, or a dramatic production. Or was the book a completely original experience?

And my 9th grade answer:

This book for me was a completely original experience. The way the characters interacted and the problems they faced was all new to me. The way the whole town spends their time at the beach and that surfing is the center of their lives is very strange to me.

Okay, so I want to try and defend this answer here. But first, I purposely kept in the spelling and grammar errors in the question and answer. Just so you know, current me recognizes those errors.

Now, in my defense, maybe this was the first book in this genre that I have actually read. And this is also from a time where I wasn’t exposed to the internet much. I don’t even think I had my own computer or anything more than a flip phone. And I didn’t watch any of those surfing movies?

Still, I could have compared it to Twilight, for crying out loud. For being completely opposite books, for dealing with problems from the sunny summer versus the school year in rainy Forks, Washington.

And yet, here we are. I could not think of anything to compare or contrast. And now that is my favorite thing to do. Talk about #transformationtuesday .

It is also important to note that I read a lot of books from this subsection of YA contemporary beach romance books, there must have been something drawing me into them. And yet I still only gave it two stars. I was a really tough critic, and for a book that I selected on my own, and for an independent summer reading assignment, no less.

And this is the part of me that I still identify with.  

writing

New Writing Space

Hi all,

I know that it has been a while since I have posted about my trip, and I am really sorry, I have a bunch of half written blog posts waiting for me. But this is honestly how I live my life, leaving a bunch of projects half done, as emphasized by the half finished Harry Potter puzzle that I moved off of my desk chair to give me space to sit down and share about my newest project (that I may never finish either). But I am very excited and optimistic that I will set out and do what I mean to this time.

Drumroll please.

Creating my very own writing space.

 

Yay.

I wish I actually got some pictures of the chaos from the very beginning…with my tearing up my brother’s room for the start to emptying out his dresser, to dragging it across the house (all by myself) to then getting stuck right before the stairs into my room.

My mom came home for that part, and she was furious.

But eventually, with help from my cousin and sister and then later my mom, too, we successfully switched dressers, so I could fit my clothes under my bed and have my desk next to the window…where I will feel less claustrophobic and therefore more inspired to write at my desk in my room.

Day 1: I am writing at my desk.

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We had a couple of casualties during this move. My brother’s casualties actually.

-His ceramic dragon that was hanging on his wall.

-His lego star wars AT-ST walker lost a few pieces in it’s fall from the shelf (I am a star wars fan but not going to lie…I had to look up that name)

-And, in a recent discovery, his door knob.

We are still not sure how we are going to break the news to him yet. Luckily for us, I am pretty sure he doesn’t read my blog.

Update: I messaged him on Snapchat. He has not reacted yet.

Update 2: He responded with the laughing/crying face. So all is good.

And like the rest of my life’s projects, this one has yet to be completed. Not pictured in the photo above is the pile of sweaters that I knocked off of my desk chair, nor the pile of clothes that I cannot fit into my new dresser. Turns out, my brother’s is smaller than mine was, and now I do not know what to do.

I have been watching some of the Marie Kondo show on Netflix, and was able to eliminate some things from my room, by exactly what she says, keep what “sparks joy” but it isn’t enough yet. Maybe I need to do another round? I wish I had the confidence of the woman who was clearing out her deceased husband’s clothes.

Baby steps, though.

The good news is that the big furniture is in place.

And that I actually completed a blog post.

The next thing on my To Do list is to read Outlander. And that way I can then go to the Outlander book club at my local library. (Which I really want to do.)

Stay tuned to see if I remain this motivated to hit my goal of one post per week.

And how do you all hit your goals? What motivates you? A gingerbread scented candle? A fresh cup of tea or coffee? A new desk location?

writing

NaNo Update

My NaNo is off to a good start!

I figured I would give people the opportunity to follow along with me if you would like.?.?

So here is a way to keep track of my total word count with a handy bar graph showing how many words I have out of 50,000.

 

And it is even possible to keep up with my daily writing goals as well. Aka don’t invite me to hang out when I am having a red or orange or yellow day.

So follow along with me if you would like to see where this goes. (I know I would sure like to.)

 

And finally, an excerpt of my latest scene (subject to change, of course, during my edits):

So she ran straight ahead, willing her body to not give away her thoughts and she pumped her arms and ran faster and faster towards the figure with the sword raised, ready to attack, and then at the last moment, she hooked her arm around a tree and flung her body in a new direction, willing her feet to stay planted beneath her and sprinted onwards, farther from her meeting place then she would like to be, but if she survived, then she could circle back and remain alive.

Her proud moment did not last too long, however, because she heard no commotion that she would have left behind. All she heard was, well, nothing.

No sword fight.

No heavy breathing.

No shouts.

No bodies fall to the floor.

Nothing.

And that left her mind racing in a hundred different directions.

She was thinking too much that she missed the figure standing ahead of her.

Are you wondering what is going to happen next? Me too. Join the club.

Being a pantser is loads of fun.

Back to writing.

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writing

It is Almost Time for NaNoWriMo

So November is coming, which means the start of another NaNoWriMo! And I am so excited and motivated this year to finally write an entire first draft of my novel.

If any of you have no clue what I am talking about, and think I just hit the keyboard with that weird string of letters…let me break it down for you.

Na: National

No: Novel

Wri: Writing

Mo: Month

NaNo is an organization that encourages people to write their entire first draft of their novel (50,000-60,000 words) within the month of November. And it is an organization that has been near and dear to my heart for the past five years, because it has lead me to a community of like-minded people at a time when I was really lost at the beginning of my studies. As silly and dramatic as it sounds, getting involved in a writing community has helped me discover and chase my writing dreams, no matter how impossible they will be.

You can check out NaNo’s website if you want to learn all about it, participate in it, or just have a clue about what the heck I am doing with my time!

Or if you would rather hear about NaNo in my own words, I even wrote an article describing the process for my college’s paper that you can check out here. 

But the reason I am writing this in a blog is because this year I am a serious participant. Before now, I was only writing for fun. I would join in on word sprints with some of my favorite authors on Twitter, frequently update my word count in between classes or my work schedule. I was never really concerned about doing more than just getting words on paper in my free time.

And now, things are different. My workload is light (aka still job hunting). I have no more classes (at the moment) that I need to focus on and write papers for. I have had a summer of adventures, meeting all new people from all different sorts of backgrounds in new environments, and unforgettable experiences that I would like to translate into some stories. And I want to continue my momentum from the summer to chase my dreams. So becoming a published author won’t happen if I don’t first put in the time and write the first draft.

And to prove how serious I am this year, I am going to share some of my story details on my blog…and that way all of my followers can hold me accountable and push me when I start running out of steam halfway through the month. Or even only a couple of days in.

This year I am working on a fantasy novel (and remember this is just a very rough draft that is all subject to change because I will probably hate it).

And my title is…

Drumroll please.

Heroic Night.

Totally lame, I know. I had some help from a fantasy title generator. And hopefully it will evolve when I have more written.  But I need a place to start.

Once I actually begin my writing (that will count towards my word count goals) November 1st, this story will be about adventure, romance, action, and drama––all of my favorite topics. And I am hear to write the book that I would want to read, so let’s see how this goes.

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So far, I have some basic characteristics for my characters:

Heroine is a doer, headstrong, solo traveler, independent, and questions everything around her.

Hero is fearless and reckless, lives without consequences.

A setting:

Medieval Fantasy World

Maybe the rest will come to me once I finally begin writing. Like their names maybe? Fingers crossed.

What I have so far may sound familiar to some of you, who have listened to me ramble on about my favorite series, because that author, Sarah J. Maas and Jane Austen (who are my two favorite authors) are my inspiration for my own writing. And at the moment, my genre probably comes from the TOG reread I have been participating in, in preparation for the final book release in a few days.

If you are interested in keeping up with my progress, and in holding me accountable, you can view my daily word count stats here. 

In addition, I could use some more writing buddies! So please share if you are participating, too, and we can push each other!

I’ll leave you with a small excerpt:

“And just before I curl up on my couch with my latest book, is there a firm and quiet knock on my door.

Not unusual for this time of day, just before everyone has made it home for dinner, the sun only just beginning it’s descent. But it was the actual knock that made her suspicious. Her friends yell through the door or barge in. Her neighbors are more hesitant to knock at all, and usually pair it with a chirped hello before barging in.”

Ok, now I am going back to my writing cave to start plotting. Wish me luck and no writer’s block! 

book review

What a Perfect Time for a TOG Reread

Hey all!

Since I got home from my trip, my life has been turned upside down with job hunting, dating dramas, and a whole bunch of other changes in my social life that now has me reevaluating things and I am sort of stuck in this creative rut. So bear with me while I slowly make my way out of it and back into the real world. And continue on with my travel posts.

On the other hand, though, the final book by my favorite author (Sarah J. Maas) is coming out in October (maybe you noticed the KOA countdown on the side here) so I am joining in with the publishers and all of the other fans in a massive reread of all of the books in the series. And of course now I need to catch up since they started in July––meaning I am already 4 books behind schedule!!! Yikes!

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Currently working on reading Throne of Glass. And my goal of reading the whole thing in one sitting has already expanded to a few days. Hopefully not much longer than this.

So just a general note about this series is that it is so good and everyone should seriously give it a read. And I don’t want to spoil things (even though I hate people who say stuff like this and don’t share any of the juicy details) but the whole series is set up like a mystery where you literally do not know anything that is going on if you hear people talking about characters from later books when you are still in the beginning. And this is a hilarious fandom joke. So I am going to be very vague in my descriptions. It will be a lot of fun.

Favorite cover: Queen of Shadows. Without a doubt or hesitation. I love the colors. I love the armor. I love that she looks so badass and ready to take on the world. Which is good because that is actually what she has to do in this book.

Favorite title: The Assassin’s Blade

Favorite character: Sam or Aedion or Aelin with Fenrys as a close second (it literally depends on what scene I am reading at the moment)

Character I am most like: Aelin Ashyver Galathynius. Seriously just ask my sisters. They are the ones who told me this!

Most important chant: Aedion deserves his blood oath 2k18!

Favorite scene: In Rolf’s office when there are two of Aelin and they are complimenting each other and she is flirting with Rowan pretending she doesn’t know him and Rolf has no idea what is going on and everyone knows her by a different name/ personality/ identity and they are just all watching each other’s reactions. I promise you once you know all of the drama and characters it is so funny.

Favorite quote released from Kingdom of Ash:

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This is really a life changing series and I am so happy each time I get someone else to start reading it.

The main character has been through the ringer and back since she was young and we still don’t know if she will get her happily ever after in the end after she saves the rest of the world. Each book adds more to our beloved heroine while expanding the world of Erilea and the impending end of the world.

Add in all of the enemies that our girl makes and how she still gets them to ally with her and how some of her old enemies become her greatest and most trusted friends and that everyone always seems to come together in the biggest/ most epic battle scenes and you can’t even come close to all this series has to offer.

There are foreshadowing clues everywhere, minor characters from book 1 taking on major roles later in the series. Easter eggs galore. Even drama with the gods messing with fate and creating this giant mess in the first place––and making it worse by helping characters come to the beginning of the end.

I have never felt as excited and dreadful of an end of the series book as I do this one. Maas’s other series ACOTAR is such a lighthearted read in comparison to TOG––the main characters that die don’t actually stay dead in ACOTAR whereas everyone is fair game except Fleetfoot. The dog.

Everyone’s theories have me freaking out. And I am reading with a notebook beside me, taking notes so I can try my hand at my own detective work and guess about what is going to happen in the end.

My current reading intentions are that I just absorb all of the names and details that I can so that I will be completely prepared for anything that comes our way in Kingdom of Ash. Which means a lot of me writing down names of characters, gods, their swords, dates, rhymes, quotes and lots and lots of page numbers. I don’t want to have to go back through all 3,840 other pages to remind myself of a fuzzy detail. I will be totally prepared for the final 992 pages of this epic series.

Fantasy, romance, drama, arrogance, swagger, thrones, kingdoms, sacrifice, and a save-the-world plot…what more could you ever need in a good book?

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travel, writing

Travel is Good for the Soul

Sadly, all good things must come to a close.

But I feel that my trip was exactly the soul-searching opportunity that I needed. Not to be totally dramatic, but I feel like I have a direction in life again and goals that I am working towards both in my career and personal life.

And I am so looking forward to being reunited with all of the incredible & amazing people who I have met along my own journey.

Thank you to everyone I met for everything that you taught me––from the little things like “the restaurant around the corner has really good dumplings” to the helpful advice that saved me a lot of stress for the entirety of my trip (the GoEuro app) to just simply hearing people’s different world views. I don’t know if I can really put into words the impact that everyone I have met along the way has had on my life, but all I can say is that I will forever love meeting new people from all over the world and becoming more open-minded, culturally aware, and all of the other great things that come from conversing with other travelers.

  • I received cooking lessons from a new Polish friend in my hostel kitchen in Salzburg.
  • Cultural lessons from a Parisian woman whose parents are from Tunisia and Morocco over dinner in Dubrovnik.
  • Dining (and wedding) etiquette from my best friends in Italy.
  • Tours of all different cities and castles, cooking lessons, gardening lessons, and even apartment hunting from my cousin in Germany.
  • The world cup excitement from every European person from bus drivers, to bartenders, to people I passed along the street.

I became more outgoing––able to hold a conversation, ask anyone for directions, or to ask someone to take a picture for me or with me. I learned how to navigate any city’s public transportation (though I still get lost with public busses) and cultural differences or at least where to learn if I couldn’t figure it out on my own.

I also learned a lot about the things that I should and should not have packed. Good news is anything that I forgot at home, I would have been able to buy in almost any city that I visited. Bad news is I way, way, overpacked. And even though it was a small carry-on bag, there were some clothing items that I still didn’t even wear.

The unnecessary items:

  • I had 3 UK adaptors and only 1 European adaptor. And even though I did not know if I was going to make it back to the UK before the end of my trip, I could have sent some of those home with my family. I learned you only need 1 adaptor for each type of outlet. And if you forget one, they are pretty cheap to buy. I spent way more time using my European adaptor and really just carried the other ones around from city to city.
  • Also related to chargers, I brought 2 portable chargers with me. I only really used the more powerful one––which saved me many times during my trip because it was able to recharge my phone 3-4 times. And it was so convenient in my hostels when I didn’t want to leave my phone across the room charging––I only had to leave my portable charger there and then in the morning I could charge my phone while I got started with my day.

The extra items:

  • My clothes. And yes, it is true that you don’t know what types of clothes you will need when you don’t even have a solid plan for where the day will take you, but no matter how long you are traveling for, you won’t need more than a week’s worth of clothes. I didn’t need more than a couple of shorts, a couple of pants, a few shirts, a sweater, sweatshirt, hat, and scarf. Everything that can be worn together and layered. I even made a friend who actually only brought 2 pairs of shorts…and then he lost one of them. I also regretted bringing so much because then I couldn’t justify getting the latest European fashion if it couldn’t fit into my bag.
  • Also (and I fear I may get some heat for this one) I brought way too many toiletries. I had some packages of sunblock, shampoo, and even an extra soap bar that I did not touch at all. I had a shampoo bar that my sister got it for me as an early birthday present––an organic and eco friendly shampoo bar, like the ones that seem to be so popular at Lush, but this one is from her environmental school’s craft fair––which was/is a very long lasting product and I still came home with a big chunk of that left over as well. My very long winded point here is to pack the very bare essentials. Because when you run out (which you will want to happen) you could always purchase more almost anywhere you go. I did chose to forgo the conditioner, though, and that was a good decision that I just had to deal without that luxury for a couple of months.

And now for the big question: Would you do this again? Hell yeah! Now that I have done it once, I know for a fact I can handle this kind of crazy, tiring, invigorating, spontaneous, (insert any more adjectives) travel. And that I love it.

I am not sure where exactly my next journey will take place (South America and Southeast Asia are both at the top of my list) but I am excited and looking forward to all of what is to come.

And now that I am home, I will go back and complete my blog posts for every city that I visited. So stay tuned…

 

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My visit to the Salzburg Castle.

(You never know how good someone is at photography until it is too late––notice the woman’s finger in the corner. LOL!)

travel

Greetings from Europe

Hello. It’s European me, just checking in during the first stop on my summer of adventures.

(Warning: I wrote this on my phone during a bus trip which means there might be typeos or other grammatical/editing errors. And as I am not really leaving time during my travel to thoroughly edit everything I post…please don’t judge me on the mistakes from now on. Maybe I will dedicate time when I get back to America for editing. But feel free to let me know of anything you catch!)

So first I will start with my final packing count. I ended up departing New York after much chaos the moments before leaving our house with me trying to get my suitcase under the 10 kilo/22lb limit for Norwegian Airlines. (Side note for anyone flying Norwegian–they were very strict with the weight limit and weighed everything I was trying to take on the plane in one batch–and I was still over. Oops.) My sister helped me with my last minute scrambling and was, of course, entertained with my panic. That made one of us.

Obviously I wouldn’t recommend the absolute last second packing routine that I follow…especially when I realized all of the important things I forgot. Like the wedding card.

But I am still impressed with all that I did accomplish. A summer’s worth of clothes, shoes, accessories, toiletries, and more, that all fit into just 1 rolling duffel and very small backpack. Like many who backpack frequently and know how difficult it can be to lug all your unnecessary shit from one place to another, I tried to keep my items down to the bare minimum.

So here is all that I brought:

Sundress, skirt, romper
Teeshirts and tanktops
Shorts, leggings, jeans
Dress for my friend’s wedding

And once arriving in Dublin, I realized I could still cut some things out, and I sent home my bulky european adaptors (in favor of my brother’s smaller one), a few shirts, credit card receipts, and my souvenir shopping.

(Like this cute travel savings collection box that I just couldn’t pass up from New Look):

So now that I made it all the way to Ireland, my new challenge is making sure all of my clothing items and other stuff that I brought remains functional and accessible. I will be trying really hard to live off of the bare minimum…necessities only for the rest of my summer.

Wish me luck!

travel, writing

Is This May Going To Be The Best Time of My Life? Yes!

Honestly I think this is going to be the best month of my life. A Court of Frost and Starlight was finally released (May 1st––if you didn’t notice from my countdown) so I can finally read more of Feysand AND I am getting ready to head out for the adventure of my lifetime!

I cannot believe this moment is finally here. If you asked me years ago, or even months ago, if I thought I would ever be doing this, then I would have said absolutely not. But plans change. Our priorities change. And I will do nothing less than live my life to the fullest. There is so much out there in the world to see and do, and I can’t sit around anymore hoping that one day someone will finally be able and willing to see the world with me.

For those of you worried about me going on a solo adventure, I am and will do everything to reassure you that I will be fine, however, I will not let your fears slow me down. Plenty of people do what I am about to all of the time. I am comfortable navigating the old towns and more modern sections of European cities. I already have experience using public transportation in cities where I don’t even speak the language.

It is invigorating to know that I am capable of figuring out where to go and how to get there all on my own and that I will finally be able to see some of the most magical places in the world. And I am absolutely thrilled just thinking about it.

So please be excited for me rather than scared––I have been gifted this wonderful opportunity while I am figuring the rest of my life out & that I am not afraid to take it as the gift that it is. Maybe one day I will finally land my dream job & life…but for today, I will not pass up any more opportunities to enjoy the world.

The travel gives me the knowledge and experience unlike anything else. It is why people like me catch the “travel bug” and feel a need to continue seeing, learning, experiencing, and are never completely done as the world is ever-changing and so are we. We never see the same place twice because we never are the same person twice.

With all of that being said, I figured some people might be interested in hearing about how I plan to do this and what prep-work has gone into my plans.

My current shopping list keeps growing even though I keep checking things off my list. Today alone I picked up toothpaste, facial moisturizer, mascara, UPF protective clothes, and I even attempted to exchange my Sketchers for another size, but the woman ordered me the same size I returned by mistake, so now I have two pairs of shoes coming in and another return that I will need to do. It is never ending.

In addition, I have finally established my final day at all of my jobs as May 11th, which leaves me the weekend, Monday and Tuesday before my trip to say my goodbyes, pack, and get myself mentally settled.

I really have so many MAJOR things left to do. Actually sitting down to write my itinerary. And packing.

I am still not entirely sure whether I should take my new backpacking-backpack or my actual rolling suitcase.

Do I really need to buy the ticket where I can travel every day for two or three months?

Maybe these decisions would be a lot easier if and when I finish planning out and writing my itinerary…

Here is what my current thought process is looking like:

(Just wait until I crack open my growing pile of guidebooks. Then I will really get it going.)

And then I am trying to figure out how I will keep up with my blog while I am away! I will be bringing my journal to document and remember everything that I see and do…but should I share that information on here too? Or would it be better to feature one thing? Or share a single story? I don’t know. (Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts/votes/suggestions/opinions in the comments section! I could use someone to bounce my ideas off of.)

Clearly I have too many decisions to make and too little time left. And pretty much all I want to do is reread ACOFAS. Which may be my favorite in the series––but I will get a review of that one up. Hopefully before I leave.

And as a final note, I am still welcoming any travel companions! So please get in touch with me ASAP!