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!)

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travel

Dublin, Ireland

My first stop on my summer of adventures.

This is a perfect city for those novice travelers. Everyone is super friendly. Navigation is a breeze, as the city is small enough that you can walk everywhere. And English is the primary language.

Although now the city appears to be overrun with tourists, and you will have to visit the touristy parts of town, you can experience traditional Irish culture throughout your visit.

Top tourist attraction are the Guinness and Jameson breweries, jail museum, cathedrals, and Irish history museums.

If you are visiting the city for any length of time, I highly recommend you pick up a leap card right at the airport and ride the bus into the city–making your navigation around the city a breeze. It was €40 for an unlimited 7 day pass as opposed to our only taxi ride that cost that much just to get us to our house the first day.

So that is the general what travelers need to know, but here is how our trip went…

We arrived after an overnight flight from New York (we being me and my family) running on very little sleep, because no one really took me seriously when I explained how important it is to sleep as much as you can on the plane. Everyone was so cranky. And uncoordinated with everything from wheeling the luggage to taking bathroom breaks to paying attention to what it is that we are actually trying to find. Then the icing on the cake was finding out ED SHEERAN had performances in Dublin and was staying in Dublin when we would have been able to attend his concerts, except they were all sold out. Apparently the Irish really love Ed as all of his performances in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, and Galway were all sold out! Devastating.

Not my ideal first day of my holiday…but thank god it all got better.

Aside from visiting many of the sights in Dublin including the Oscar Wilde statue, Trinity college, Temple bar nightlife, and many of the cathedral ruins, we were all completely captivated with the (oftentimes depressing) history and especially the remnants of the pagan belief system.

Like I probably mention in every post, I am obsessed with this book series called A Court of Thorns and Roses and the Throne of Glass series fantasy books about fae and fairies, that all come from CELTIC MYTHOLOGY. And we are literally in the birthplace of these mythologies and legends so me and my sisters were living in our glory. So any ACOTAR or fantasy fans, this is definitely a city or country you should check out.

We did a couple of bus tours to see other parts of Ireland. Our first was a mythology based tour to ancient burial grounds in the midlands such as the Hill of Tara, Boyne Valley, Newgrange, and ????. We got to see faerie trees up close and saw where the still practicing druids tie ribbons on the trees as offerings to the fae. Our tour guide was amazing sharing both legends and true history about each of the places we drove past. And at one point during the tour he handed us off to such a charismatic character, Marty, who shared stories about the fae, changelings, and origin stories of the ancient ones who were banished under the Earth. He was hilarious–inventing new plots to the Irish legends about legendary heroes Finn MacCool, Cu Chulainn, the Ulster Cycle, and more! (which are all totally interesting if you have the time and want to check them out!) Plus we got to go hiking & get up close and personal with the sheep! (Maybe my favorite part…I mean they are just so cute!)

The other big tour we did was a Game of Thrones/ Giant’s Causeway based tour to the Northern Ireland. Our first stop on this tour was to the Dark Hedges aka the King’s Road where Arya escapes with the night’s watch after losing her father in Season 1. Then we visited a couple of very small coastal villages where all of the scenes from the Iron Isles were filmed and some of Melisandre’s crazier schemes…like the cave she gave birth in. Those moments were the highlight of the trip for me because, like, we stood exactly where they did. Those places are actually real places. No green screens were necessary. Incredible. And I really hope I never forget the smell of the coastal city so I can get the full effect for when I re-watch the show again.

But the Giant’s Causeway was just as cool. And as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it means that it is a site of cultural value for the world, because it is a visual display of how incredible our earth is. The entire cliffside formed millions of hexagons all from a volcanic eruption and has inspired legends and cultures since it’s creation millions of years ago! But my description does it no justice–brush up on your Earth Science knowledge and visit it for yourself!

My next stop is Edinburgh, Scotland!!!

 

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!

travel

Preparing for my First Solo Female Travel Adventure

So as many of you already know, I am going backpacking this summer––for the whole 4 months of the summer, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Currently, I am in the beginning of my planning and packing stage. Still. With T minus 32 days until I start my adventure. I feel the butterflies in my stomach just thinking about my plans this summer, like a kid counting down until Christmas morning. I. Can. Not. Wait.

And then I am going to rattle the stars

  1. My last minute shopping includes things that I have learned are necessities to take on a big trip like the one I will be going on.

I just ordered a pair of very comfortable sneakers. I know I will need to opt for comfort over style because I know that I will rather walk all day to see and do everything instead of needing to take lots of breaks to rest my feet.

So, I am awaiting my pair of You Inspire by Skechers to arrive in the mail. I think they are actually cute and I got a nice, neutral color that will match with my clothes from Ireland to Italy, but more importantly, they are so comfortable. It literally feels like you are walking on a cloud when you wear these. And they are so lightweight too!

At least it won’t be my sneakers weighing down my carry on-sized suitcase. My only concern with these shoes is that the laces are just for show––you can’t tighten them or anything. My plan is to break them in before I leave to know for sure.

(You can check out my shoes if you would like.)

Next thing on my list is towels. I have been doing a lot of research on what kind of towel I should bring with me (because if you don’t know, hostels do not provide you with any basic hotel amenities, like towels) and I have found a lot of people recommend these quick dry towels that a lot of swimmers and other athletes use. These microfiber, compact, fast-absorbent towels only weigh about 9oz and take up very little room in your suitcase.

This Sunland towel from Amazon even comes with a hook attached so I can hang it to dry in my hostel (?) and it comes with the best reviews out of the tons of microfiber towels. I am still deciding on a color, though. 

My next shopping list item is getting a haircut. My intention is to be a practical traveler, and I definitely do not want my hair getting in the way of that. Plus then I can cut down on styling tools that I would otherwise want to bring to the wedding. I think that shoulder length hair will be perfect, require little maintenance, and will keep my natural curls looking healthy. Maybe I won’t even have to stock up on shampoos as often.

  1. And finally in spite of my normal procrastinating self, the last thing on my priority list is me actually planning. A plan to make plans––ironic, isn’t it?

I have already renewed the library guidebooks a few times because I keep putting off reading them and picking out the things I really want to do. I have also been putting off making my itinerary that I am making more to ease my parents’ worries than for me to actually follow.

I am definitely a fly by the seat of my pants type of person in my life as well as in the stories I write.

Along with picking out the places I am going, I have a mental checklist of the clothes and items that I need to bring. I am also considering this a part of the planning stage because I am planning on what clothes to bring. And planning on how much shampoo to take. And what suitcase to put it in. Clearly this is going to take more time.

And these ⇧ are my goals for the week.

But the good news is that I can do a Solo Female Traveler: Part 2 when I solidify my plans. So stay tuned for more updates!

(All of my packing and planning has to get done before ACOFAS release date. I am giving myself those 2 weeks before I leave to be crazy obsessed with Sarah J. Maas’s latest novella and my favorite characters)

But I actually have accomplished some things already:

✓ 3 of my 4 jobs are aware of my travel dates

✓ I own all of the travel accessories I will need (i.e. a travel scale, travel sized bottles, adaptors and converters)

✓ Mentally prepared family and friends already––some are more enthusiastic than others

✓ Checked out various European guidebooks from the library

✓ Contacted European friends to start planning a meet up

✓ Began working out so I can lift my suitcase on my own
So I am off to a good start…

What do you guys do to prepare for travel? Any advice/tips/favorite travels blogs you want to share?