PCH Road Trip: Seattle to San Diego

The Pacific Coast Highway, commonly known as the PCH, is a stretch of road that covers 656 miles along the Pacific Ocean.

And I want to drive that sucker from top to bottom.

A simple text from a friend ignited this specific trip planning. She merely said she wanted to travel somewhere together, but I got so excited at the thought of planning a vacay, I go into hypermode.

Immediately my mind is racing, “What can we do that is Covid Kosher?

Rooooad trip! Road trips are totally Covid Kosher, and if we travel somewhere that has consistently great weather, we have the option to camp (or glamp) to further minimize our impact.

Driving wise, I immediately think of the PCH.

I truly adore the West Coast. My first taste was a work trip to Seattle that lasted nearly three weeks, and I drank it all in. Mt. Rainier stole my heart, the Pacific Northwest Pine Trees gave every other tree I’ve ever seen in my life a run for their money. I was hooked and could easily see myself bouncing from NYC and shipping over to Seattle for a few years.

Then a few more work trips over the last few years have sent me to LA, Santa Monica, Malibu, & Santa Barbara causing me to get even more hooked on the West Coast. Basking in the beachy vibes, the views, but most importantly – the PCH drives through Malibu. Holy crap were these drives nothing short of enchanting. I often had a hard time focusing on the road and found myself distracted by the mountains to one side and the ocean to the other. It felt surreal, just to consistently be driving by such iconic views.

So in sorting out what made sense for this road trip, I took what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned from additional work-related research, and boom – the below locations were decided.

PRO TIP: make this trip international by making your start Vancouver and your end Baja

. . .

Now, here is where things get a bit different with this article. I’m not going to breakdown my personal plans for each city and give you insight on my research, blah, blah, blah. No, I’m going to ask you to come with me on this journey.

Whether it be metaphorically, or physically – I want you, curious reader, to help me plan out this trip.

I’ve started an excel document which you have full access to in order to make this a shared process. I encourage you to add in some links to must see spots in the cities we’re visiting – whether it’s tourist traps, hiking trails, cool shops, great bars, or hole in the wall restaurants… drop those links in! Maybe add in suggestions that some cities deserve a longer visit… it’s up to you!

You might be wondering, “Why would I meddle with her travel documents?” Guys, I have an original copy with my intended plans, but I want your recs too! Maybe this is the first step in your very own PCH road trip with friends or family and this can be a resource you guys use 😉

Click here to go to excel

**excel tip: in order to stay in the same box, but get text to drop (list like formatting) hit ALT+ENTER and it will start a new line within the same cell (best for if you want to add any notes to your recs)

Click here to go to google maps

The One Where She Went Skiing

Newsflash – Indiana is flat AF. Straight roads go on for miles and miles, the most exciting a road can get is if you hit a pothole that sends you flying.

Indiana is so flat you can watch your dog run away for two weeks.

Indiana is so flat

Okay, ok – done.

Indiana is flat, but something weird happens the farther south you go. The Earth begins to rise and these mounds of dirt begin to emerge. One of the more hilly towns of Indiana is that of Paoli – home of Paoli Peaks. Paoli Peaks is a ski resort in Orange County and built on a natural hill at a 900 ft. elevation with a vertical drop of 300 ft. For well traveled skiers, this may seem like a bunny hill of a feat, but for those who’d like to ski somewhere between Louisville and Indianapolis… I’d say Paoli is the Aspen of Indiana. If you want to get real fancy on this ski-escapade, you’d stay in the West Baden Springs Hotel and drink in that wealth before hopping over to the slopes – that hotel and its entire grounds are seriously impressive and sets the tone for a lush experience.

January 2014 is when I got my first taste of Paoli, and my one and only go at skiing – and my God, was that something to behold.

If I told you I excelled immediately and was a natural born skier, my pants would burst into flames because that would be one of the biggest lies of the century. The amount of times I fell, and cursed the children who were expertly skiing past me as I lie staring at the sky were insurmountable. The number of times I threatened the lives of others, both on purpose and accident, were shocking. But the amount of times I fell and got up either by myself, or with a helping hand… were impressive.

Clearly I learned some existential things during my time skiing in the Aspen of Indiana:

You can’t just waltz in somewhere and think you’ll be perfect right off the bat. Sometimes it happens, but a lot of the time… to be really good at something, it takes time. Not just several hours either, but days, weeks, months, years to be really good at something.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at something new. In fact, go in with the mindset of “I might suck now, but I’ll get better.”

I can’t emphasize enough how enraged I was, each time I fell to the snowy ground and saw these children just expertly skiing past me. It was unfair, I was older and supposed to inherently be better – it’s how it works.

But it’s actually not, is it?

Those children have been skiing as long as they could walk, maybe. But also the way young minds absorb new things is completely unparalleled to an older/adult brain.

In all walks of life, it is highly likely you will come across a younger person who simply knows more, or does something better, than you. Don’t be bitter about it, be better and maybe even ask them for help. Don’t let pride and ego stop you from being better.

I’m really, really terrible at asking for help. I’m an incredibly determined person and fairly confident in the fact that I can do anything. There’s not much I can’t do on my own, and I quite like it this way.

But do you know how much quicker something can get done if you invest in an extra hand? It took me a couple hours into skiing to just finally ask anyone and everyone for help on that slope. And it’s so crazy – the more people I asked, the more friends I made, and the more enjoyable the day went on to be.

It’s so important to try new things, but sometimes trying a bunch of new things all at once is too much. It sends your body into a bit of shock and can ruin the vibe pretty quick.

By the time I got the skiing “down”, down as in not falling every few minutes, I was quickly convinced by a friend to try snowboarding. I should’ve drawn the line and said, “No, thanks – I still want to focus on skiing and get this solidified before the days done.”

But no, I of course agreed and created this new obstacle for myself. Within moments of trying to snowboard, my body, well my mind really, was just like “Girl, you’re maxed out for the day. You’re done. Also, you now hate everyone.”

Setting goals is just as important as setting limits. Respect yourself enough to do both, and communicate your boundaries to those around you.

It really is as simple as that – don’t let one mistake keep you from trying again.

Epic fails = epic character building.

. . .

Emily at Paoli Peaks in 2014

Airport Tips and Tricks

It’s that time of year, folks! The holidays are coming, which means that most of us will soon be heading home. Maybe you’re lucky enough to be able to drive back to your hometown, but to those of you (like me) who cannot, you have a dreadful flight ahead of you. Not to mention the extra concerns you have to think about due to COVID. Here’s the truth: no matter how much fun it is when you get to your destination, you must first go through airport hell. I’ve compiled a list of tips that can make your trip a bit easier, internationally OR within your country.

1) Vegetarian


No, I’m not saying to stop eating meat.  That’s just crazy.  I like a good hamburger as much as the next person, but listen:  When you’re on an international flight with a hot meal included, resist the urge to order the meat.  When the lady comes around and asks, “Chicken or vegetarian?” ORDER THE VEGETARIAN.  You know why?  That chicken is going to have the consistency of rubber and the taste of plastic and your vegetarian lasagna is going to be cheesy and spinachy and everything good in the world.  So trust me, meat eaters, vegetarian plane food is worth it.

2) Window Seat


I’ve always chosen the window seat, but sometimes you can’t help what seat you’re given.  However, if you do have the option, GO FOR THE WINDOW. In this seat, you can decide when the blinds are closed or open (we all know that asshole that leaves the window blinds open the whole time and the sun shines perfectly into your retina when you finally get comfortable enough to sleep). Speaking of sleep, when you have the window seat, you are given more options to find that (limited) comfort you require to do so. There’s the wall to lean on, for one. You can also put down your tray table and lay your head on that, in the traditional school-desk-napping style, without blocking your neighbors from the bathroom. HOWEVER, if you have the pleasure to sit by the window, don’t look out the window when you’re over the ocean. I don’t care how macho you are…looking out into a vast sea of emptiness can make you hyperventilate faster than the amount of time it takes for that adorable baby next to you to stop being adorable because it’s screaming its head off.

3) The Security Line


I have a few pointers to help make the security line less annoying.


-Hats:  Don’t wear them for your flight.  I get it; they’re cute and cosy!  But as soon as you get in line you have to remove said hat and your hair is not going to be okay. Trust me.


-Shoes:  You have to remove your shoes in line and I’ve learned the hard way to never wear your lace up combat boots or your converse that are tied so tight that you can’t slip them on and off.  You’ll be holding up the line and fumbling and throwing things everywhere…just wear something easy to remove and put back on.

-Water Bottle: I always carry a water bottle with me because hydration is important (duh!), but I’ve made one mistake a thousand times– leaving water in my bottle when going through airport security.  I know you can’t have liquids, so I’m forced to chug an entire bottle of water in about a minute so that I can keep my reusable bottle.  It’s kind of like an episode of Fear Factor: drown yourself in drinking water in an airport.  So don’t do that.  Also, why don’t I just throw the bottle away?? Because buying a new one in the airport is going to cost me $20 and I’m not about to waste that.  Just bring an empty water bottle through and refill it on the other side.

-Carry on liquids: You should all know that there’s a limit to how much liquid you can have in your carry on. However, don’t forget to put them in a Ziplock before you leave home! Some airports keep these baggies on hand for you, but many do not. Therefore, say goodbye to your tiny hand sanitizer and lotions. OH and if you carry a purse or a small bag daily that you plan to bring on the flight, check for any over-sized bottles of liquid beforehand! I have lost SO many expensive creams, sprays and even cough syrups because I forgot they were in my purse and was forced to throw them away. Trust me, it’s not a good start to your travel experience.

4) Waiting to Board


This is so boring, right?  Sitting by yourself in an uncomfortable chair for hours is not something many people enjoy.  My advice is obvious:  take advantage of the wifi and for god’s sake remember your phone charger and head phones.  The most important thing I can tell you to do, though, is to talk to your traveling peers.  You’ll know who is willing to talk.  I’ve had many interesting conversations with people that I never would have met if it wasn’t for the waiting time at an airport.  It makes time go faster and also they’ll probably watch your bags so you can go pee without lugging your life along with you.  (PSA: don’t just trust anyone with your bags…use your intuition.  Most people have good intentions, like you.)

** 5) COVID

This section only applies to us “frequent fliers” while Coronavirus is a very real threat. Honestly though, I’m unsure if this will ever change. Anyway, in your taxi, in the airport and on the plane, WEAR YOUR F*%!ING MASK. Also, be sure to carry hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in your carry on. Oh, and keep your distance from others, please! I won’t go into detail about why this is so important because I’m not your mom. I’ll end it with this: follow the guidelines.

Safe travels and happy holidays! xx

UK Adventures: Beast from the East

Buckle your seatbelts everyone, I’m about to take you for a wild ride.

End of February going into March 2018, I made the ultra-fun decision to go visit one of my friends, Linus, in his home country ~ England. It would be my first time going there ever, and I hadn’t seen Linus since we’d studied abroad together in 2016, so this trip was revved up to be an ordeal. An amazing ordeal.

I did my research and the cheapest way, and really the most fun way, to get to Linus was to first fly to Paris and meet one of our mutual friends there, then together her and I would fly to London that same day, and then… you know what, I’m actually a psycho planner so below is what had been planned:

See my full excel here if you’re looking for planning inspo… LOL I AM NOT ASHAMED

As you can see, we get to do a fun trip hitting various cities. Our two days in London (really only one proper day) we went to Warner Brothers Studios and did the FULL Harry Potter shebang. It was bliss, I would easily pay the 40-50 bucks to go again, and again, and again. It was magic and everything I hoped it would be and more…

PRO TIP: You have to book your tickets for WB Studios in advance. Like as soon as possible, because depending on the time of year, they can be all booked up for several weeks out!

After our super fun Harry Potter escapade, we hopped in train up north to the main event: the visit with the lovely Linus in his humble abode located in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I’ll be real, the only Newcastle I had ever heard of was the one in Indiana, so I didn’t know what to expect when signing up to visit this town. But I’ll be quick to say Newcastle is a pretty major city that perfectly maintains the English quaintness I was craving. We had loads of fun seeing the town, great shopping, fun nights out. We went to this great bar called The Alchemist and the cocktails were so extravagant and hands on, I felt like a witch brewing potions – and lemme tell ya, the potions were working!

At this point you’re probably thinking, “This trip seems so nice! Way to be dramatic, Emily. So much for a wild ride…”

Well here we go… if you scroll back up to my lovely calendar, you’ll see that we had an unassuming day trip planned from Newcastle to Edinburgh. It made sense to do, it was a two hour journey via train, we could easily leave Newcastle early morning and leave Edinburgh late evening. Not to mention, the train tickets were stupid cheap. It was a great setup.

PRO TIP: Check the weather before you travel anywhere – near or far!

Our journey begins like most, tickets are bought, including surprise tickets for an unsuspecting Linus & his roommate as gratitude for letting us crash at theirs during our visit. We’re all buzzing with excitement to journey up to Edinburgh. I can’t wait to catch sight of the castle, more Harry Potter vibes, and of course catch some Scottish accents.

We’re nearly halfway through our train ride when we notice a light snow flurry begin to pick up intensity, and it’s not long before our train makes an unplanned stop. We’re at a standstill for nearly an hour, and it’s unknown when we will start moving. Linus’ roommate’s mother begins texting her frantically, “You guys are crazy to go to Edinburgh! Didn’t you check the weather?! You should turn around and come back…”

Upon the relay of the mother’s message, I speak quickly and firmly for us all, “No, this snow is nothing. We’re fine!”

Oh, those are the famous last words, aren’t they?

The snow certainly was nothing compared to the harsh winters experienced in Indiana, this weather would barely get us a 2-hr Delay from school! But what I had not taken into account is that the UK is not equipped for this kind of icy weather. It didn’t come often enough for it to be a problem, so when it did the country would just simply hold tight at home and wait out what they call a Beast from the East.

The ‘Beast from the East’ is a phrase used to describe cold and wintry conditions in the UK as a result of easterly winds from the near continent.

When pressure is high over Scandinavia, the UK tends to experience a polar continental air mass. 

When this happens in winter, cold air is drawn in from the Eurasian landmass, bringing the cold and wintry conditions that give rise to the ‘Beast from the East’ moniker.

Met office UK

So, basically it’s a crazy polar vortex that can be blamed on Scandinavia, ultimately. This is when the Beast from the East becomes a focal point of the story.

As we finally make it into a snowy Edinburgh, I’m awestruck. This is where some of my favorite film, TV, and literature is set – this is the backdrop of all of my daydreams – I’m in heaven. We wander around, snapping photos and trying not to slip in the quickly piling snow. Then we get to the castle…

Instantly I feel transported back in time – I can almost see the historical figures walking around. is this real life? Am I really here?

We continue, or mainly I continue, to snap photos and relish in the atmosphere before we soon declare it time to explore elsewhere – maybe grab a bite to eat before the train back, maybe finally try some Scotch because when in Rome… 😉

We don’t make it very far from the castle, when suddenly the wind picks up and snowflakes fall in thicker form. What had first felt like a gentle breeze with wisps of snow, now suddenly becomes a rioting force whiting out the landscape. We make a dash into the nearest pub to escape the beast, and quickly get cozy at the bar while we wait for a table to become available.

As we’re waiting, the chatty bartender quickly learns our story. Pouring scotch into a glass, she tells us very seriously, “Everything is closing down, I’ve never experienced anything like this. Even the castle is closed down, and it’s not been closed down in some 50 years! I’ll be surprised if the train will take you to Newcastle tonight…”

We nervously laugh in response and brush her off like idiots.

An hour or so later we’re stuffed to the brim with bangers & mash, scotch, and beer. Once the bill is paid, we begin to make our way through the now full blown blizzard towards the train station.

Well, reader, have you guessed what’s happened yet? Have you?

After a lengthy walk with many near-falls, we make it to the train station. We’re immediately met with a flustered conductor who tells us that all trains have been cancelled and that we should check back in the morning. He then points us to their office where they get us booked up in a complimentary hotel for the night and even equip us with meal vouchers for the inconvenience.

Im Fine GIF - Im Fine Friends GIFs

At this point, all we can do is exasperatedly sigh and get on with life. It’s just one night… I quickly google the hotel to find that it’s actually a 5-Star hotel anyway, so it’s totally fine. And it’s only one day of being the same clothes, luckily I always carry contact solution and spare contacts, so it’s fine. Seriously, I’m fine.

Chrissy Teigan GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

The next morning, Linus’ roommate checks with the train station and they tell her we need to check back later – nothing’s moving as of now. But they also quickly add that they are doing tickets on a first come first serve basis and in person only – so we need to be physically coming down to the station periodically to check the status...

Each morning and afternoon we dutifully check in at the station to see if there’s anything leaving Edinburgh, but always we get the same answer, “Nothin’ yet.”

Days quickly turn into weeks, weeks turn into months…

Just kidding 😉

We ended up being stranded in Edinburgh for four days in total. The trainline, Virgin, put us up in incredibly nice hotels each night and also provided us with breakfast and dinner vouchers each day. They were “perfectly splendid” and we lucked out with their hospitality.

Unfortunately though, due to the weather, everything in Edinburgh was closed down – all of the shops and museums and the castle – truly the only things open were the pubs. So we weren’t that put out, just drunk and stuck in the same clothing everyday LOL!

One of the highlights was when Linus and I stumbled upon this secret little pub off the beaten path, it was so cozy and felt so unapologetically Scottish – it was truly a highlight of the stranding. We were even encouraged to take off our shoes to dry them by the fire – it felt surreal and as if everything was a purposeful vacation in that moment.

So now we’ve hit a super fun part, and I’m curious if you’ve done the math and caught what’s about to go down next!

Not only had my return flight to Paris been missed, but by the time we made it back to Newcastle, so had my return flight back to the US 🙂

PRO TIP: Book all of your travel (flights and hotel) with a CREDIT CARD! Most credit cards have some of the best travel protection imaginable and will refund you for nearly everything – as long as it’s a valid excuse like sickness or weather, etc.

Nope GIFs | Tenor

But did ya homegurl use a credit card to book her travels? Or at the very least get traveler protection?

I was able to rebook my flight to Paris just fine since the UK was so greatly affected by the winter weather, but France was completely unaffected… so I was out a good chunk of change for my flight back to the US.

Needless to say, major lessons were learned, incredibly unique experiences were had… yet out of everything, there’s only one thing I would change. That’s right, after all that chaos I only have one thing to change.

My attitude.

Due to everything constantly changing, being completely out of control of the situation, additional vacation days being used that I had originally allotted for other things throughout the year… it was all eating at me and a lot of the time I struggled to properly enjoy what was put in front of me: an extended, nearly free, vacation with friends I don’t get to see very often. I wish that I embraced it all a bit more openly and accepted that the situation was out of my control, and just lived in the freaking moment. Clearly, there were definitely times I was able to get outside of my own head and enjoy myself, but can you just imagine what more experiences could’ve been added to the list if I just let go?

PRO TIP: Let go & live in the moment.

Tips From A Serial Wanderer

Long-time traveler and friend, Agnieszka, sat down with me to discuss everything she’s learned from a life of traveling. Currently residing and studying in Germany, she splits her time with her family in California. Agnieszka has traveled to roughly 45 countries since childhood including: Canada, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Greece, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Monaco, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania , Kenya, China, Nepal, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic


Tanzania, 2012

Where did your desire/love of travel come from?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been raised by a father with an insatiable passion and love for traveling. Since I can remember, he was constantly trying to find any opportunity for an adventure and almost always trying to bring his family along. Traveling with him were and still are the most fun and exciting experiences of my life. 

So where did your dad’s love of travel come from?
It was really his inability to travel. My parents grew up in Poland – which was then a communist country under (official/unofficial?) control of the Soviet Union. Traveling to another country was heavily restricted… people could essentially only travel to other communist/soviet eastern European countries. And when something is forbidden from you, usually that’s something you then really want. Growing up my father actually thought about becoming a sailer because that was then one of the very few opportunities to actually travel and see the world. Instead he immigrated at 23 years old to the US and as soon as he was able to afford it, his (and our) world adventures began.

Nepal, 2017

Do you prefer traveling alone or with others?
That’s a difficult question for me. There is a lot of good in both and I’ve enjoyed both tremendously. Traveling alone is – at least for me – a huge challenge. But it was a challenge that allowed me to learn a lot about myself and how to positively develop as a person. I’m self-conscious and antisocial and really quite nervous around people and so I had a lot of difficulty opening up to incredible people I was meeting during my travels alone and probably missed out on a lot of amazing experiences. But the occasions when someone was brave enough to push through my barriers and invite me along on their adventures or show me kindness and love are memories I will always always always cherish – and I would have probably also never experienced those had I been traveling with others. 

So I am grateful for the times I traveled alone and hope to travel alone again in the future… I had freedom to do and see what I pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted but I then also had the freedom to meet and spend time with whatever wonderful person I meant along the way and experience so many other awesome things beyond just visiting the next famous site. Traveling with others is wonderful because I then have someone to share not only the incredible moments with but also the difficult times. It is not as lonely and therefore is not as mentally challenging.

Machu Picchu, 2012

Stereotypically, society says that women should not travel alone. Have you also experienced that stigma? Or do you feel that it is equally as safe as long as you’re smart about it?
Of course. As a women I’ve experienced sexism and many kinds of sexual harassment. There are countries I probably would not have traveled to had I been alone and don’t have the desire to visit in the future without a male companion. It is not as equally safe for women to travel in several parts of the world. But that has not and will not prevent me from traveling alone – and I don’t think it should prevent any other woman from doing so. Horrible things happen to people everywhere – even of course in the most “modern” and “safe” countries. In the end, it’s important to be as cautious as possible, avoid any possibly dangerous situations as much as humanly possible, and to always try to plan how to keep yourself safe in any given situation. Also I find that one should also try to respect the culture and customs of whatever place they’re visiting… if you’re visiting a country in which women generally cover their bodies in loose clothing, or cover their hair, or avoid doing a certain thing then I think it’s not only respectful to try to do the same, it also avoids more attention on you and hopefully then keeps you a little more safe.

Do you have any tips for staying in hostels?
I am not particularly easy-going about where or how I sleep, so I spend quite a lot of time and effort in choosing which hostels I will stay at – I proably spend more time on that than on actually planning what I will do outside the hostel once I’m there. I’ve only ever stayed in hostels in Europe and I would find and reserve them on “hostelworld.com.” I would base my decision on reviews, whether they provided breakfast, whether it was located close to the places I wanted to visit but also in a safe area, and of course on price. If you are like me and have a deep dislike of sleeping in dirty beds and showering in disgusting showers, these are my suggestions:

France, 2018
  • Book the hostel in advance. Give yourself time to do research and find the best one… This may however unfortunately require you to not take the cheapest bed in the cheapest hostel. 
  • Try to stay in a hostel in or at least near the areas you’d really like to visit or at least in an area that is said to be safe. I’ve stayed in hostels that fulfilled neither requirement and it made my time in that city/area much less enjoyable. 
  • Unless you can sleep through literally everything, bring earplugs and something to cover your eyes!
  • Bring a bedsheet or a sleeping bag! I am very sensitive about sleeping in unclean sheets and so bringing my own definitely allowed me to sleep much better. (I always brought a thin bedsheet with me which took up very little space in my backpack and which I used to wrap around me while I slept, serving as a mattress & pillow cover and as a blanket.
  • Bring flip flops to wear in the shower and a fast-drying towel!
  • Bring a lock! Oftentimes the hostels would provide lockers or similar to store your baggage but they would rarely come with locks and were of course always in public areas so a lock is great for additional security and sense of peace.
Dubai, 2016

What are 5 must-have essentials when traveling? (Besides the obvious)
I don’t really know if there are essentials other than the obvious. I find more people overpack and worry about bringing so much unnecessary things… unless you plan to go deep into no-man’s-land, you will be able to find and buy soap and other basic essentials. I’ve also never been one to travel and actually try to look attractive so I have no suggestions on essentials for when that is a goal of yours… But I suppose some things that I do try to always bring with me are: a comfortable day backpack/bag that closes all the way, medication for the basic pains and aches that you know works well for you, comfortable shoes, a rain jacket, and some secure way to keep my passport and money on me at all times.

Where is the favorite place/places that you’ve traveled?
I have never had nor will I ever have an answer to this question. I truly have difficulty trying to think of one place that I enjoyed more than the others. I have loved and appreciated every single place I’ve ever been to – even the places where I had unpleasant experiences and the places I’d never want to visit again. From every single adventure I learned something and experienced something good and I am grateful for them all. 

India, 2015

Where’s the most underrated or surprising place you’ve been?
Hmmm… this is also difficult. I suppose I am particularly grateful for my experiences in the economically/systematically “poorer” parts of the world. I am often thinking about my experiences in Tanzania where my father and I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will never forget how kind the people were to us and how many huge, happy, beautiful smiles I saw and how much laughter I heard. This memory is something I always try to protect in my heart to remind myself to be grateful, to smile, and to just be freaking kind.

How important is the planning before a trip?
Well… I guess that depends on how easy-going you are, what is important for you to achieve from this trip and what you know you want to see or do. I do always try to plan enough in advance so that I can at least book where I will be sleeping and know what I can do the next day, but I have never planned all details of an entire trip. So it’s not necessarily important… I’ve learned that it is much easier and more enjoyable if you allow yourself to “go with the flow”.

Argentina, 2014

How do you find the less touristy places?
I google and read through a lot of blogs and travel websites, I always ask hotel/hostel staff for recommendations, I ask anyone and everyone I meet along the way for their suggestions, and I always try to get a map of the area from the hotel/hostel and I go through all the sites that are usually marked on them. But… I don’t purposely try to avoid the “touristy” places… they’re often touristy for a reason and I think they are worth seeing if it is indeed something you’re interested in. 

Where’s the next place you’re traveling?
I am deeply saddened to say that I have no idea when or where I will be able to travel next. Not only because of the pandemic, but also because my studies allow me to have very little life or time outside of it and when I do have any time free, I am utilizing it to visit my parents in California. I have lots of ideas and dreams and I hope I’ll be able to make one of them a reality sometime soon. With my boyfriend perhaps Norway or South Africa. My father’s next ambitions are exploring Bhutan and Madagascar, snowboarding in Japan and in the Andes, and kitesurfing in Zanzibar.I also would like to try to find an opportunity to travel a little bit alone again.


Travel Tips for First Time Travelers:

  • Be open-minded. Be open to new experiences (foods, languages, customs, behavior, people) and try to find the good in them all.
  • Be ready to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling often includes stressful, frustrating, uncomfortable situations. Breathe through them. It will be OK and it really is all worth it in the end. Either way, it’s a story to tell for later.
  • Be respectful of other cultures. Do your research about what is illegal and what is considered disrepectful in the area you plan to explore. That is also perhaps involves adapting your behavior/appearance. 
  • Please don’t assume everyone speaks english. I find it more respectful to ask if the person speaks english before beginning to speak to them in it. Perhaps even try to at least pick up some basic words – especially the word “thank you” or “please”. And if you’re American, please do try to speak more quietly… we are really generally quite loud and it really can be quite annoying.
  • Don’t pack too much. You can always wash your clothes while traveling or buy essentials like shampoo at a store.
  • Look into local transport – some cities have apps available for subway lines, buses, etc. And it’s good to know a little bit about what is available in an area so you can always try to find the best and cheapest traveling solution. Find a map of the local area and embrace it! And most importantly – try to walk a little! Some of the coolest things I’ve discovered in a city have just been things I’ve walked past on my way to somewhere else.
  • Go with the flow and be flexible. It will make life much easier for you and you’ll discover incredible things. I promise.
  • Don’t keep important or expensive items in the back pocket of your pants or in the front pockets or the very bottom of a backpack. I’ve met so many people who have had things stolen from them and I’ve seen it in action as well. 
  • Try to be cautious and attentive about everything around you. Be aware of your surroundings so you can try to better protect yourself from possible dangerous situations. Err on the side of safety.
  • Traveling doesn’t have to be unaffordable. Try to be flexible with where and when you travel. Spend time looking at multiple websites for flights and hotels/hostels and try out every single date/location combination you can think of and you’ll be surprised what kind of possibilities you’ll find.

As my father always says, “traveling is the best teacher.” You’ll not only learn about other people and ways of life, but also about yourself and how you can be a better you. You’ll find so much gratitude and love for yourself, for others, and for this planet. Don’t be afraid – be open to the challenges that come with traveling and adventuring and embrace what you learn from them. Follow your heart, find what you want from your life, and just go for it. All in. 

If I Could Redo My Study Abroad

I studied abroad in 2016, it was the spring semester of my junior year in college, and I was posted up in Caen, Normandy, France.

I could blanket statement my whole experience by simply saying: I had the time of my life.

I made life long friendships, had unforgettable nights, traipsed around Europe chasing one adventure and sleepless night after the next… It was truly magical and amazing, I’m a huge advocate for study abroad programs due to my experience.

But now, 4 years later, I’ve reflected and there were definitely some things I wish I did a bit differently to further enhance my experience.

Maintained a relationship with my host family.

When I first arrived in France, I did a “Welcome Weekend” program where I stayed with an older French couple and they helped get me settled in the city. They also took me to a rather large dinner party their family hosted and honestly it was the most culturally overwhelming thing I’ve ever experienced. My French was mediocre at best and I spent the whole event near tears, guzzling wine the whole time. I would directly link this overwhelming experience as to why the minute the host family moved me into my dorm I practically blew them off. Even though they were nothing but overwhelmingly kind to me, it was exactly that – overwhelming. I was in culture shock, overwhelmed, and completely shut down. I proceeded to stick with mostly English speakers most of my time abroad when outside of the classroom.

In reality, I should have powered through this culture shock a bit better; perhaps reached out to my french professor in the US and talk through what I was going through with her, and embraced my host family (no matter how temporary they were hosting me) a bit more openly. I know that if I had, I would have great relations with them to this day, but now that is something that has blown like dust in the wind.

Saved more money prior to study abroad.

The best way to explain how I am with money is to say that I can make $5 last a lot longer than $100. So essentially all the money I brought with me was money I had earned only the summer before, which I worked three part time minimum wage jobs (I even gave a fourth job a go for about two weeks) and managed to put away around $1200. Which would be a fine amount if you cooked more than you ate out, didn’t travel as much, and rarely went shopping. But that’s literally the opposite of me. I went out like crazy, I traveled like crazy, and don’t even get me started on the shopping. Even piled with scholarships and the saved money that had me coming to Europe with close to $2,000… my family ended up needing to send me more money halfway through my time abroad because I ran bone dry.

So really if I had a do over, I would either be more frugal with my money while abroad or started saving maybe two or three summers prior to study abroad…

Traveled to more countries.

Ok, so I guess with this point I could really say being more frugal with my money is not in the cards for me – saving more and planning is though. When I was living in France, I traveled to Rome, Athens, Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Believe it or not, I wish I saw more, went to more countries, and planned my trips more wisely. A part of me almost wishes instead of the Germany trip that I vacayed with other friends who tackled way more countries in a similar amount of time.

But at the same time, I also believe everything happens for a reason.

I don’t regret visiting those cities in Germany, and even though the people I traveled with caused me headaches like no other… that shorter trip also resulted in me going back to Caen with an extra week to hang out before classes started up again, and it led to cementing friendships with others who were in a similar boat as me – low on cash and spending a chunk of the holiday in Caen.

SO

Even though I have these do overs, they aren’t really do overs.

Everything happens for a reason; even though it seems like ties are severed with my host family I know I could reach out to them even today and spark up a conversation – they really were that kind – and while money makes the world go round, what good is it if you just have it all locked away? Use your money to experience, to aid in creating memories, and to expand your horizons.

Am I saying to blow all of your money?

You know what, if your bills are paid, freaking blow it.

And if you need help on how to blow your money to create memories, hit ya girl up. I got you.

Weekend Escape: Road trip to Salem

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”
“Oh, look. Another glorious morning. Makes me sick!”
“Vanquish demon first, kill husband later.”
“Relax…it’s only magic. Now who’s pathetic?”

Witchy quotes to intro into a witchy post. October 2019 Zoe and I decided we absolutely had to embrace our witchy vibes and head to Salem, Massachusetts. Our souls were craving magic, spooks, and to be smacked in the face with with the crunchy smell of fall.

Salem delivered.

Our journey starts on a Friday afternoon, we’re a bit more organized for this trip than the Montreal weekend trip – we leave about the time we say we’re going to and we get to the hostel at a decent time that evening. The drive time was a little over 4-hrs with traffic.

So this is where I’ll level with you, our hostel in all reality is more or less a halfway house. We picked up on those vibes rather quickly as nearly all of the lodgers are an older crowd of folks that are a bit…permanent to the property. That being said, this place was so cheap – and available – that I’ll stop complaining there.

Wait, one last complaint – the old dudes smoked right outside our window shootin’ the shit at all hours and it was near impossible to sleep…that was actually the worst part.

Now back to the fun parts 🙂

The weekend we were in Salem was the weekend before Halloween so you bet that it was crowded and had a plethora of stuff going on. There was a sick Dark Arts Festival held in the evening in the Old Salem Village, and my god it was Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vibes to the max.

I mean just check these vibes:

We also attended a witch trial reenactment, learned about our past lives, our futures, and we went to a midnight seance hosted by mentalist Jon Stetson.

I will say, the seance was cool, but Zoe and I spent like $60 each and thought it was a real seance we were going to. We completely overlooked the keyword “mentalist” which basically is a dude who is incredibly observant of human behavior and has set up specific situations which have a guaranteed result.

He ended with openly saying everything was fake and then used his platform to talk about his life struggles and perseverance.

Which kudos to him, but we thought we were going to be talking to dead people, not messed with mentally and then lectured at the end.

So major advice – don’t rush-book a seance if you want to experience something quality. But totally book this guy, or others of the like, if you’re a scaredy cat but still want to feel like you did something spooky.

Weekend Escape: Road Trip to Montreal

Sometimes New York is just too much.

It’s too busy, too hectic, the amount of people can be suffocating.

Did you think that I never get tired of the city? That I don’t miss the rolling hills of corn you pass while flying down country roads, windows rolled all the way down? A quietness so immense you can hear a mouse fart?

Of course there are days that I miss it, it’s where I was born and raised.

Most New Yorkers also hit a point when they need out of the city, just a little break, and three day weekends are the perfect opportunity to do just that.

President’s Day weekend 2019 Zoe and I decided to rent a car and road trip it up to Montreal with a few New England stops on the way. Seems like a great, straight forward endeavor right?

LOL.

We had this perfectly planned out trip where we depart at 12.00 p.m. on Friday, hit Providence, RI [drive time of 2 hours from my apartment] to take a peek at what it’s all about, then we go to Boston [drive time of 1.5hrs from Providence] for dinner, then Montreal [drive time of 5.5hrs].

So in total, this trip should’ve taken 9 hours, plus 1.5 for dinner and stops. I created a mapped out google doc that said so.

How long did it actually take us?

OVER THIRTEEN HOURS.

So what caused this delay?

Let’s list it off:

  • Right off the bat, our start time was off, we didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m.
  • Traffic. Traffic. Traffic.
  • Boston has a massive underground tunnel system not for the weak of heart or sensitive GPS systems. I kid you not Boston might as well have its own world underground – it felt kin to that of a Purgatory. Will you make it out of the tunnels? Only if God allows.
  • Last but not least, we took quite a few fresh air stops to awaken our tiring souls

Boston was such a hot mess getting to, realistically we should’ve given up [we really were tangled in those tunnels for so long..] but the level of determination to see Boston was intense.

That being said, when we finally made it, we were enchanted. It was so quaint.. so charming.. it’s been decided a formal trip needs planned there asap. Boston is deserving of it’s own weekend.

Now.. the next moment to highlight the level of delirium..

THE BORDER.

Picture it: It’s 4:00 a.m. and two twenty-somethings, who have been driving for nearly 12 hours, approach the border.

It’s intimidating and doesn’t make sense.

As we approach, there is a sign that says, “WAIT TO PULL FORWARD UNTIL SIGNAL

Frantically, we’re both looking for a signal of sorts – a light maybe??

Then we see an arm extend out of the building ahead, motioning us forward.

Signal?!” we whisper to each other frantically.

So I inch the vehicle forward and we’re faced with a stern looking officer who quickly bombards us with the questions, “Where are you coming from? Why are you visiting? Who are you visiting? Where are you staying? Whose car is this? When are you leaving?

We answer them all reasonably enough, then we get our passports back – all good to go!

So I hit the gas, but the car isn’t moving…

I push the pedal harder, harder, to the floor. The engine is revving so loud in the sleek Dodge Charger but we aren’t moving…

What kind of Canadian border magic is this?!” I wonder.

Then, I assess the car in more detail.

I 100% forgot that I put it in park.

Then it clicks – I just revved my engine at a Canadian Border Patrol Police Officer.

Oh my god.

In the US, a rev of the engine is considered a challenge – what if it’s the same in Canada or what if it’s worse??

I turn to look at him, my mouth open and eyes wide in shock, I owe him some kind of explanation for my weird behavior, right?

I, uh, forgot the, uh” I say rather intelligently while looking between him and my dashboard.

It’s okay.” he stifles a laugh.

While Zoe is next to me whisper-yelling, “DUDE GO GO GO GO BEFORE HE DOESN’T LET US IN!

Queue my zoom out of there.

So that’s how we made it into Canada.

The rest of the weekend was spent stuffing face with various poutines, all the coffees, beaucoup de franglais, hating the way they all say deux [they say it like dur], too much wind in the arctic tundra for us to handle at times, more shopping than our bank accounts would like, and we both got tattoos.

Below are key locations of our weekend 🙂

STAY

Samesun Hostel book on HostelWorld

Samesun Hostel | Montreal, QB

We stayed at Samesun Hostel which was incredibly affordable and if it cost anymore than what we paid I’d be bitter af.

We arrived around 4AM, the guy seemed to have a hard time understanding what was going on and why we were arriving when we did – even though we literally gave them a heads up that afternoon what our latest ETA would be. But he finally got it together and gave us our towels and room keys.

We journey down some stairs and a corridor, before we make it to our room. We open the door and we’re hit with it.

We are hit with the nastiest smell you could ever imagine, and we immediately begin gagging uncontrollably. We frantically glance around the room both looking for a free bed and the source of the smell.

Zoe frantically whispers, “Those are dudes in those beds.

Aw hell nah.

No way are staying in a room with 10 nasty-smellin-ass boys – especially when we paid for an all girls dorm. No, no, no. Not happening sorry.

We rapidly evacuate the room – still gagging – and force the front desk dude to change our room to what we booked.

After that, it was smooth sailing. The beds were hostel-level fine, the breakfast was pretty decent, and it was located in a decent spot where we could walk nearly everywhere.

EATS

Clam Chowder + Lobster Mac & Cheese

The Aviary | Swansea, MA

The Aviary was our New England dinner stop on the way up, and all I have to say is wow, did this place live up to our expectations of everything we thought traditional New England cuisine would be.

The lobster in the lobster mac was so fresh it quite literally got us all hot and bothered.

This poutine was either the duck or the pulled pork…I think it was the duck…

Hippi Poutine | Montreal, QB

This place was straight fire from top to bottom.

The poutine was everything we wanted and then some, and they had the cutest french children’s books everywhere.

It also was incredibly close to the hostel – approx. 10 min walk.

Pain Perdu

Café Chat L’Heureux | Montreal, QB

This is a cat cafe – need I say more?!

I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I won’t 🙂

Café Chat L’Heureux has you remove your shoes upon entering to keep the place clean and cozy for the cats. They also serve a great cappuccino and decadent desserts – each table also has a detailed paper with the cat’s photos, names, zodiac signs, and if they’re available for adoption :’)

Biscuits & Gravy + Breakfast Potatoes

Penny Cluse Cafe | Burlington, VT

Penny Cluse was our exit brunch of the journey. This place echoed the New England quintessential charm and had such a homey diner vibe. It had major Luke’s from Gilmore Girls vibes now that I think about it.

If you find yourself in Burlington, Vermont – this has to be on your list.

Irish English Oddities

I read in a book once that American English is technically closer to what Shakespeare would have spoken than British English today.  This goes back to, of course, the settlement of the first American colonies.  We kept the same style of English as our forefathers (mostly) while it later changed over in England.  This is why there are different words for the same thing in England, for example, “tap” versus “faucet.”  Now this is really interesting but…what about Irish English?

Although you may not realize this, Irish English has loads of different expressions, pronunciations and quirks that standard British English does not have, and even more so when comparing it to American English!  So, since I’m an American who’s obsessed with linguistics and used to live in Ireland, I figured it would be silly for me to not write an entry about the oddities I’ve heard over there from my lovely Irish friends.

1) The “like” tag

My fellow Americans and I are very aware of the word “like” and whether we like it or not, we use this word probably way too often than ever necessary.  The Irish, however, also use “like” quite often, but in a very different way!  Instead of weaving “like” several times into a sentence, they add it on just at the end of sentences.  Here are some examples:

American: “I know that I, like, did this myself and, like, probably should have studied more.”

Irish: “I know I should have studied more.  I did it to myself, like.

This “like” tag sounds VERY weird at first to an American ear, but you adjust to it and honestly, if I heard an Irish person using “like” the same way I did, it would feel like it was forced.  Just like when an American tries to use the “like” tag in order to assimilate into Ireland…it just doesn’t seem to work.

2) The “so” tag

I’m going to be honest, I’m not 100% sure about when this can be used.  I’ve tried finding an American equivalent, but it’s difficult.  Basically, Irish people like to add “so” to the end of sentences sometimes.  One case I’ve heard it used is something like an American adding “then” to the end of a sentence.

American: Maybe I’ll do that then.

Irish: Maybe I’ll do that so.

This could be wrong, however.  If anyone understands this phenomenon, please explain.

3) “C’mere” (come here)

My closest friend here uses this all the time (actually she uses all of the things I’m pointing out, so sorry to pick on ya).  When getting someone’s attention to say something, they’ll say, “c’mere” as if you need to come closer but, really, you don’t need to.  I was so confused by this at first because I’d be sitting right next to my friend and she’d be like “but c’mere what do you think of the assignment so far?”  And I’d awkwardly move closer as if she’s about to tell me some big secret.  But nope.  It’s just a statement opener, I suppose.

4) “Now!”

This is one of those things that you never notice but when you do, you can never un-notice it.  It’s adorable.  Basically, at the start of any given sentence or action, and Irish person might say, “now!”

For example:

Now! Where do you want to go for lunch?”

“Now!” *stands up to buy coffee.*

*sits back down and opens laptop* “Now!” *starts reading emails*

Literally, this can be used for anything and has no particular meaning other than the start of a phrase or action.

5) “Sure didn’t (he)”

Yet another confusing oddity of Irish English is the “sure didn’t.”  Okay, the way that Irish people use this is confusing to an American ear because it almost sounds like they’re asking you for clarity or reassurance…but it also doesn’t make sense for them to need to ask.  Let me just show an example:

Irish: “I worked so hard on that essay and sure didn’t the professor go and fail me.”

American: “did he?  I think that’s what you told me earlier…or did he not? Wait, why are you asking me???”

My Irish friend and I discovered the use of this expression, though.  It’s kind of like, “…and can you believe he went and failed me?” or “…and he went and failed me anyway!”  I guess, it’s an expression of shock or disbelief of the sort.

6) “Ye”

I don’t believe that this one is difficult for an American ear to understand, because we’ve heard this used in old-timey movies and whatnot. “Hear ye! Hear ye!” <– ring a bell?

Anyway, “ye” is the pronoun for plural you.  American English doesn’t use “ye” but we realize that it can be confusing to say “you” when referring to more than one person.  This is why Americans will say “you guys” or “you all” or the ever-beloved, “y’all.”

This is the correct pronoun for plural you in old English, so really I suppose it’s just something they never got rid of.  I love it though!

7) “You alright?”

This is only odd for Americans to hear because of the circumstances.  When you enter a bar or sit down at a table at a pub, the bartender or server asks, “you alright?”

This used to bother me because it always caught me off guard and I’d forget how to order a beer.  I’d be like “oh yea I’m fine thanks uhhh Guinness??”  It’s like in America when someone is walking past you and shouts “what’s up?” as if you can tell them what you’re about to go do while walking AWAY from them.  How do you respond??  I always want to tell waitresses that I’m not-so-alright because I’m hangry and don’t wanna talk about my feelings although they’ve insisted you tell them your current state of being, or alrightness.

I’m honestly still a bit taken aback when they ask “you alright” but I’ve gotten used to ignoring their question and just politely ordering.

8) “Ju”

This doesn’t need to much explaining.  Basically, “did you” or “do you” just squishes together into “ju.”  They not only use this orally, but they also text it.

9) “Your man” or “Your one”

This phrase still makes me giggle. So, say you’re in a bar and you’ve told your friends that a guy sitting a table over is total jackass. They might say something like “How did you meet your man?”

As an American, I’d be like, “my MAN??” He’s the farthest thing from being MY MAN!! However, when an Irish person uses the phrase “your man” or “your one,” they’re only referencing someone. It doesn’t even have to be a reference to someone you’ve already talked about. Maybe your Irish friend sees someone wearing a tacky outfit and says “Your one looks ready for the circus.”

_______________________________________________

I realize that I could write forever on this topic and there are also so many things I could say about pronunciations and accents, but I feel like the 9 things listed got my point across.  Irish English is indeed different from American English and can be rather puzzling sometimes!  I hope this helps you all understand someone if you’re traveling to Ireland or maybe you can fake a few of these to make Irish people think you’re Irish. (Trust me, they will not fall for that, but give it a go).

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