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.

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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?

writing

Always Wanted to Go to Camp?

The start of April brings Camp NaNo! Yay!

For those who don’t know, there is this organization, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that encourages people to write an entire novel (50,000-60,000 words) each November. It is a fun, motivational organization that really makes people focus on writing, and creating that (horrible) first draft. That you can then build on. And edit. And edit. And edit. Until you are left with a semi-decent story.

This same organization has something similar going on for the month of April: Camp NaNoWriMo! This will be my first year participating in it, so I don’t know too much about things yet. It is set up as a writer’s retreat and we are sorted into cabins with other writers, giving us our own writer’s group.

If you have a creative personality, or want to be a more creative person, this is a great organization to encourage you to write it down. You don’t need to submit your writing, you do it on your own word document and just submit your word count. Every single word you write down is a win––and way more than you had yesterday. You set your own goal in Camp NaNo rather than trying to get yourself to write an entire novel.

Hopefully they can motivate me to push through my writers block that I already have from day 3. I am not counting my blog writing in it yet, so my current word count is a big fat 0. With a goal of 20,000 words. Yikes.

But in my defense, I was traveling the last couple of days (and re-reading ACOTAR again). And coming up with even more ACOTAR theories for the next book that comes out in May! (In exactly 28 days!) So maybe I will start another day, like tomorrow…

So, I just created my “camper profile,” added my project and just selected my “cabin settings” to be added into a writing group with up to 19 other writers. I will officially have a writing group! And I have to catch up on some of the messages from my cabin mates already! They all seem to be a really cool and very diverse group––with people from around the world, working on all sorts of different writing projects from poetry to novels to copy for their webpages. I think it will be really nice to get some feedback from other campers.

For those of you who are like me, and love to buy souvenirs from every minor activity I take part in, there is a gift shop too! You can purchase a winners shirt if you succeed (and any word that you write is a success) or a coffee mug to drink straight caffeine for when you need to push through the writing slump (like me).

Writing Resources: Camp Counselors and Events

An amazing feature of participating in NaNo or even Camp NaNo are all of their amazing features and programs to inspire writers. It is such an interactive and supportive community no matter your skills, involvement, or even fundraising ability.

There are “Prep” resources to assist in planning out your novel beforehand and then “Now What?” resources to help with the aftermath of your first draft––all complete with helpful tips, advice, and inspiration from authors, editors, and fellow participants. And you shouldn’t forget the inspirational power of having a group chat to connect with all sorts of writers! I know it will help to inspire me, when I see how real people are actually making progress. And we can even help each other by throwing ideas around. You never know when one word or comment or silly idea will jumpstart someone’s creative juices.

Twitter: @NaNoWriMo and @NaNoWordSprints

One of my favorite aspects of NaNo, and one that they have already brought back for Camp, is the word sprints on twitter. Anyone who follows my twitter will see me participate in these every once in a while, and now you can finally understand what my “WC” with a bunch of random numbers after means. (Hint: it stands for word count not water closet).

They occur at all times of the day for different lengths of time, allowing anyone to participate whatever their availability, free-time, or even time zone is. When I get inspired at 2am, it is motivating to be participating in a “sprint” with many other people around the world. The admins sometimes even provide a whole variety of prompts, that you can take and mold to inspire your own story.

And then after the organizers like to chat with us after about the favorite lines we wrote or most surprising thing our characters did. I really love the tweet chats.

Honestly I think I probably discovered NaNo because of Twitter. One of my favorite authors (I want to say it was Miranda Kenneally, but I don’t 100% remember) was participating in it while she was working on her next book. And I saw her tweeting about her word counts and about the sprint so I had to look up what she was talking about, and I think I signed up right there.

I hope that this blog post might inspire someone else to sign up too. The world needs your novel, but you really need to get it out there. So, sign up now! You have 27 days left to write!

And incase you need the link again at the bottom, the organization is Camp NaNoWriMo!

 

*Ok I am back to procrastinating my writing for fun.*