72 Hours in Bangkok: Scams, Surprises, and All the Stuff You Need to Know Before You Go

72 Hours in Bangkok; Scams, Surprises, and Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
The Grand Palace in Bangkok

The journey has begun! Andrew and I have spent about a week and a half in Southeast Asia and already have learned so much.

Our first stop was Bangkok.

It’s Bangkok! A view from the Golden Mountain.

This is Andrew’s first backpacking adventures and my first time in Thailand, so we certainly hit some bumps in the road. Luckily for you, I’m collecting all of those bumps and putting them in one place. This is all of the questions we had about Thailand, and all of the things we researched, frantically.

Continue reading “72 Hours in Bangkok: Scams, Surprises, and All the Stuff You Need to Know Before You Go”

We’re Going to Southeast Asia for Six Weeks. We Should Probably Chat About It.

Going to Southeast Asia would not have been possible, or even a real thought, without my best friend, Andrew. Andrew was the first person to suggest Southeast Asia to me, and about a year and a half ago, we told ourselves we would save up our money and go this summer. Now it’s happening!

andrew and I
Small freshmen children. I promise I will not be wearing any zebra tanks..anymore.

Here’s a little background on our friendship. We met the second day of college through mutual friends. We joined the same gender-inclusive fraternity together (go Phi Sigma Pi!) and lived together for two years. He is 100% my best friend and knows more about me, highs and lows, than anyone needs to know. We’ve seen it all from each other, especially first semester senior year. Yikes.

Continue reading “We’re Going to Southeast Asia for Six Weeks. We Should Probably Chat About It.”

Someone Stole My Bag in Berlin, Here’s What I Did (and How To Prevent it Happening to You!)

Hello! So as some of you may have noticed while reading my blog, my updates go up to Week 7 and then stop. Let me explain. Week 8 was spent in Berlin: Couchsurfing meetups, full days of waltzing into art galleries and free museums, street art tours, amazing bars. Unfortunately, my last night in Berlin wasn’t so wonderful.

Here’s the Story: At about 2 in the morning, I was sitting with a friend outside drinking a beer. There weren’t many people around and the area was well lit (it was a seating area outside a bunch of bars in a more or less decent neighborhood.) My day bag was sitting beneath my feet. One moment it was there, the next…gone. I looked down at my feet in disbelief. I thought it was a joke, and it took me a few minutes to grasp the situation. This was the bag I used to bring with me all day while I was wandering. It had my license, my credit cards, hairbrush and sunscreen (not the most stressful things to lose, but just so you have an idea of how much was in there), and my phone. My iPhone 6 with a Mophie charging case. I was distraught, mainly because I was so disappointed. The theft could have been so easily prevented, and I wanted to complete my trip proving that theft didn’t happen to every tourist who went abroad. Sigh.

What I Did: Oddly enough, my last night in Berlin was the most convenient night for all of my stuff to get stolen. I was leaving for a Workaway program in Warsaw the next day…my accommodation for the week and my transportation there had been planned months ahead of time. I was lucky enough to have Internet in my hostel. In my backpack, I had my train ticket to Warsaw, my passport, copies of all of my important documents, about 50 Euro, and 200 Zloty (Polish currency) from my previous trip to Poland. I immediately walked back to my hostel with my friend (ok, I cried and went to every bar I could find searching for my bag, and then walked back to my hostel with my friend), got on the Internet to tell my parents what had happened, and sent them my information so they could send me a new credit card that week. (Also, shout out and thank you to the **very cute** guys who worked at Sunflower Hostel that gave me free Internet/coffee after I told them what had happened.) The next morning, I filed a police report and sent a copy to my parents to replace my phone.

I was extremely lucky. When I had my bag stolen, I was with a friend, I wasn’t hurt or confronted for my bag, and I still was in possession of my passport. The following week, my dear friend Paul lent me his iPad for the week and an old iPhone 3 for the remainder of my trip so I could connect to Wi-Fi and use maps/take pictures/communicate with my parents. My friends and family helped me out enormously during the situation (even the friends that just reassured me that a lot of people have their phones stolen in Berlin too.) Theft is never fun, so I decided to make a list of tips to prevent it and tips on what to do if it happens to you!

Top Tips for Preventing/Dealing with Theft Abroad:

1. Keep Your Items Separate

I was at a bar with friends the night before someone stole my bag. I made a joke about being ID’d and my host said, “What? No one ID’s here, leave your passport at home.” I had been carrying my passport around with me every day before the day my bag was stolen. That morning, I left my passport and half of my cash buried in my backpack. That night, I came back to them immensely relieved.(You’re the real MVP, Verena!) On a trip to Beijing, our chaperones told us to hide a few Yuan in our bras (sorry, boys). You can keep a key or IDs around your neck, different currency or credit cards in different pockets, etc. This way, if your stuff gets stolen, not all of it gets stolen.

2. Store Your Items on Your Person

When I think about my bag getting stolen, I bop myself on the head. I could have kept my bag on my back. I could have stashed my bag in my hostel before going out and kept my phone/credit cards/license in my fanny pack. (I know they’re dorky, but they’re one of the 5 Things You’ll Be Glad You Packed….) Similar to carrying items separately, carrying items on your person just makes theft that much harder. Stealing my stuff was easy, and I’d like to think if I had a fanny pack covered up by my shirt I’d still have my original iPhone 6 (and my photos of Berlin!) with me.

3. Make Copies Of Your Important Documents

I refused to take my passport anywhere with me on day trips, but I still had to identify myself somehow. Luckily, before my trip, my parents had told me to make copies of my license, passport, credit card, and school ID. I used the copies of my documents to verify my age, that I was in fact a passenger of most of the trains I had booked ahead of time, and that I was (ok, I had been, but in the case of free museums for students in Madrid, I still was) a student.

4. Bring an Extra Device to Connect to the Internet

This was a piece of advice I had received before my trip from someone who had all of his stuff stolen on a backpacking trip. Even though my accommodations had Internet and I eventually obtained an iPhone (thank you again, Paul), having my Kindle was great for connecting to the Internet on the go. I couldn’t just stay in my hostel all the time, so at the train station/wandering around Warsaw, I could find directions/reassure my parents that I was fine. I always kept my Kindle separate from my phone so I was happy to have it when I got back to my hostel room.

5. Remember that You’re Not Alone

I was disappointed to have my stuff stolen, but eventually I had to accept that it happens to a lot of travelers. My friends and family sympathized with my situation and were able to help me out, and the stuff that was stolen was just that…stuff. Overall, the incident didn’t define my trip; it was just one of the many learning experiences that made up my time in Europe. If it happens to you, just remember that the next few days of phone detox-ing and possibly even navigating a paper map (gasp) may not be fun, but it’s not the end of the world.

Have you ever had your stuff stolen abroad? Tell me your story in the comments! I promise next week’s post will be a little less serious and a little more fun!

“What Was Your Favorite City?” And Other Superlatives!

I got quite a few questions back in the States after my three-month backpacking trip through Europe. Number one question: “What was your favorite city?” What a loaded question, but a fun one. Based on that question, I decided to put together a list of superlatives for the cities I visited on my trip. Some are quirky, some are pretty serious, all play a big part in my travels. I’ll list the contenders and then we’ll start!

In the Running (grouped by country but not in any other particular order): London, Liverpool, Bristol, Devon (Somersault Music Festival), Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Gdansk, Gdynia (Open’er Music Festival), Poznan, Krakow, Warsaw, Vienna, Villach, Prague, Rome, Milan, Copenhagen, Berlin, Barcelona, Figueres, Madrid

Best Nightlife: 5. Dublin 4. Prague 3. Krakow 2. Warsaw 1. Berlin

Give it up for Eastern Europe! Krakow reminded me of a cheaper, less crowded Williamsburg. Warsaw had an amazing beach to party on (and Soplica. Lots of Soplica.) Berlin, however, had something for everyone. Sure, I was told to go to the craziest nightclubs for all the tourists. My lovely group of Couchsurfing friends, however, took me elsewhere (and I’m glad they did). Shout out to the music selection at the bars in Berlin….one played only Pearl Jam, the other spun Cat Stevens, The Pixies, and The Velvet Underground on vinyl.

Hippest Cities: 3. Poznan 2. Bristol 1. Berlin

Collection of Banksy street art I found in Bristol!

What can I say, in both Bristol and Berlin I went on street art tours and found a lot of vegan restaurants. From my brief visit in Poznan, I got a chill vibe from all the students that lived in the area. Bristol had a very strong passion for supporting local business, which got me very excited to move to Austin all over again. And Berlin…I mean, it’s Berlin.

Cities Where I Fell in Love with Just About Everyone on the Street: 3. Vienna 2. London 1. Copenhagen

I have no specific reasoning for choosing Vienna…maybe I was feeling extra romantic that day. In London, the accent and nostalgia definitely got me. I felt like I was in middle school again, drooling over guys who reminded me of Alex Turner and Jamie T. Copenhagen? Everyone’s beautiful in Copenhagen. Tall, blonde, perfectly groomed…I’ll stop writing before it gets weird.

stumbling into a screening of La Boheme in Vienna
Stumbling into a screening of La Boheme in Vienna

Happiest People: 3. Figueres 2. Madrid 1. Barcelona

There was something about Spain that felt so lovely. Happy families and happy couples were everywhere, and I don’t mean the kind of happy couples that you found PDA’ing in Prague. It made Spain was definitely great for people watching, especially in parks.

Best Performances: 3. Jeremy Loops (Somersault) 2. Major Lazer (Open’er) 1. Bombay Bicycle Club (Somersault)

Of course I had to add a little bit about the music I saw on my trip! The lineup at Open’er was the number one reason I voyaged to Poland, but the performances at Somersault did NOT disappoint. Maybe I’m a bit biased because I got to have a quick chat with Jeremy Loops and Motheo Moleko after their show, but if you have a chance to see them on their upcoming tour, you can judge for yourself.

Only performance that included raps, children's toys, and a freaking beautiful man from Cape Town, that's for sure.
Only performance that included rapping, children’s toys, and a freaking beautiful man from Cape Town, that’s for sure.

Top Three Songs on Repeat: 3. The Libertines – “Can’t Stand Me Now” 2. Disclosure – “Bang That” 1. George Ezra – “Barcelona”

If I had a dollar for every time I sat someone down and forced them to listen to “Barcelona”, I’d probably be able to afford another trip. George Ezra didn’t play at Open’er like The Libertines and Disclosure, but he wrote a song about one of my most anticipated cities. His album Wanted On Voyage came from a trip through Europe that he went on for creative inspiration. Sound familiar?

Questions I Got the Most As An American: 3. “Donald Trump, seriously?” 2. “What is cheese whiz?” 1. “Do you own a gun?”

Apparently only Americans spray cheese out of a can, go figure. I really have nothing else to say here, because most of the time, my response to these questions was to just bow my head and swear silently to myself. Anyway….

Most Beautiful Cities: 5. Krakow 4. Edinburgh 3. Prague 2. Tie Between Madrid and Rome 1. Barcelona

The squares in Krakow (or any city in Poland, it was a close race between Krakow and Gdansk) were absolutely stunning. Edinburgh’s old buildings and Arthur’s Seat are still calling my name. If it were a contest on the most beautiful views…there’s no question, Prague wins every time. Rome’s churches…I have no words. I never missed a sunset in El Retiro (and honestly, spent most of my time reading and writing in all of Madrid’s parks). Barcelona’s architecture, however, made this city a no-brainer for number one. Gaudi! I was inspired by every detail on every building throughout Barcelona.

View from Prague Castle
View from Prague Castle

Friendliest People: 3. German 2. Latvian 1. British

Couchsurfing hosts, Angloville friends, hostel drinking buddies…you crazy kids. I miss my Brits, I can’t wait to visit soon and watch an episode or five of Take Me Out. I dearly love my Couchsurfing friends in Berlin and my Open’er buds from Riga, but the Brits take the cake. (One of Mary Berry’s finest cakes, at that.)

Best Museums: 3. Madrid 2. Berlin 1. Copenhagen

SO. MANY. MUSEUMS. As a huge fan of contemporary art, I have to give it up to these three cities. I spent whole days in the museums in Madrid and Berlin, and I spent three hours in the National Gallery of Denmark alone. In the next few weeks, I hope to post snippets of the stories that were inspired by these museums, so keep an eye on the blog…

Rihards and I selfie'ing in one of the many museums of Copenhagen
Rihards and I selfie’ing in one of the many museums of Copenhagen

Favorite Places to Write: 3. Glasgow 2. Copenhagen 1. Edinburgh

I spent most of my writing time in parks or museums, which is why Copenhagen wins second prize. Scotland, however, took up many pages of my notebook. No surprise, because Edinburgh provided a lot of inspiration for the Harry Potter series. There’s something about the detail in all of the old buildings and the magic of the Fringe that just got me writing.

Some of Glasgow’s most famous sites include a huge botanical garden and a huge graveyard. How could I not spend some time with my notebook open?

Favorite City: 4. Krakow 3. Madrid 2. Dublin 1. A tie between Berlin and Edinburgh!

This is SUCH a hard question to answer, because honestly, I fell in love with pretty much every city I visited. I’m craving a whole summer to explore Krakow. Madrid had a little touch of everything I want in a city. I can see myself living in Dublin, and not just because I love a good Irish coffee. Berlin and Edinburgh though…there was something magical in each city. Berlin had EVERYTHING…but that everything was a bit overwhelming at times. Berlin is the perfect place to live young and crazy. Edinburgh is a little more romantic. I can see myself retiring here, studying here, or writing here. I’m not sure which yet…guess I’ll have to go back and see.

Arthur's Seat...from the bottom and the top!
Arthur’s Seat…from the bottom and the top!

That was fun! I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time now. Of course, when I visit more cities, my list may change! I want to hear your opinions…where would you fit in Budapest, Paris, Porto….where do you agree with me and where do you differ? Leave me comments and keep checking in for more posts! Thanks again for reading! Cheers!

Week 7: Scotland and Copenhagen!

Hello! Found a quick minute to write up a post, even though this week has been just as eventful as the past few. Here are the highlights from my time in Scotland and Copenhagen!

Glasgow: Brianna Fonti, this city was for you. I had a very lovely time in Glasgow and a very sweet Couchsurfing host named Andy. Toured the city, saw beautiful botanical gardens and a large, awesome graveyard. The Dali painting of Jesus may be the best painting I’ve seen on this trip and I’ve found my favorite store; at Missing, I picked up Bob Dylan’s Chronicles pt 1 for two quid and Trainspotting for one. I also did not do so well at quizzo with Andy and our new CS friend Johnny but that’s ok because I scored some veggie haggis in the meantime.

Edinburgh: In Kraków, I said Kraków was my favorite city. In Dublin, it was Dublin. But I’m serious this time, guys, it’s Edinburgh. Maybe it was because I stumbled on the largest arts festival in the world before it officially started (so I saw a few shows but didn’t have to deal with so much madness). Maybe it was the spontaneous hike up Arthur’s Seat, (shout out to meeting Teddy, who would be my touring friend for the rest of my time there). It could’ve been The Cow Shed, the mockumentaries, running into Savannah and Erich on The Royal Mile, or getting lost and giving a fake tour around Edinburgh. Or the exhibit at Scottish Parliament, where the most powerful photos from recent news stories were on display (still have chills from many of them). Anyway, can you tell I liked Edinburgh? I’ll be back for the fringe ASAP.

Copenhagen: One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new friends, and at Open’er, I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful Latvians. One of them, Rihards, goes to school in Copenhagen so I was able to visit him while checking out the city. He’s one of the nicest people EVER and it was great meeting his friends and hitting up Christiana and the bars with them as well. In Copenhagen I got to ride a bike to the city, visits the best art gallery I’ve been to all trip, finish Invisible Man in the botanic gardens (READ IT), and go to a clothes swap. As a part of the Copenhagen Fashion Festival, a pair of loose jeans I’ve had since the start of my trip got me three sweaters, three t shirts, and three pairs of pants. Shopping for the year = finished.

 And now…Berlin! An overnight bus took me to the #1 city I’ve been waiting to see. Just made a lovely dinner with my lovely host Verena, and 5 days of fun awaits!! Bonus picture for this week is a big inflatable cow behind where Teddy and I arrived very late to a show called Shit-Faced Shakespeare.

Week 5 and 6: Dublin, and UK Part 2! 

Hey friends! Couldn’t find the time to pop out a blog post after Somersault last week (aka I was passed out on a train through England), so here’s some of the highlights from the past two weeks!
Bristol: Bristol was awesome. Met some great couchsurfers and girls from Brighton, Banksy-hunted, drank cider in parks, and explored a city that made me so excited to move to Austin. Some neighborhoods are very similar to Austin; tons of street art, a focus on local business, and plenty of vegan restaurants. Thanks again to Anthony for finding me an awesome hostel and letting me stash my stuff at your job.

Somersault Festival: One festival this summer just wasn’t enough. Somersault took place in Devon, in the super south west of England. I stayed with Josh, who lived on the estate where Somersault was being held. Josh was an awesome host and festival companion, and staying inside during the downpours of the weekend was quite the convenience.

Somersault’s lineup was similar to an XPoNential Festival lineup (if you went, I’m jealous and hope that you enjoyed George Ezra and St Vincent and Pine Barons and Lord Huron and….) it included world music, local artists, and more alternative headliners. Bombay Bicycle Club’s set was probably the best one I’ve seen all summer, but I have to sit on that for a bit before I officially give them the prize. Big shout out to Jeremy Loops for being the reason I found out about the festival, and for being another one of the best sets I’ve seen a summer.

Back to Liverpool: Michael was my host in Liverpool and since we got along so well, I invited him to accompany me in Dublin. I stayed 2 nights at his before our early flight, enjoyed an It’s Always Sunny marathon and sharing my obsession for making spaghetti bread. His parents are saints as well, and I was really glad to see them again.

Dublin: You know it’s a good trip when you have a Guinness in your hand by 10 A.M. Michael and I did the tours of the Guinness storehouse and Jameson Distillery, went to the National Library, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Museum of Archaeology, wandered, and bar hopped. During our second night in Dublin we attended a huge Couchsurfing/English speaking meetup on the oldest street in Dublin (where Handel’s Messiah was first performed!!!). We met people from all over the world, and I was able to meet up with Savannah and Erich, who are from America. Savannah and Erich are Deaf and I was more than excited to practice signing with them. I could communicate pretty well and we had an awesome time, definitely one of my favorite nights out on my trip so far!

Cliffs of Moehr: I had one day to explore on my own, so I decided to do a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moehr. My bus stopped by Limerick, Kinvarra, and The Burren as well, but the Cliffs were definitely the highlight. Ocean water and beautiful views make for a perfect, calm day. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to!

I’m about halfway through my trip. I’ve walked though cities, jaw hanging in awe over their beauty. I’ve fallen asleep standing up. I danced, I made mistakes, I changed my plans, I still have decisions to make. I’ve been super homesick and ready to cancel my trip back to the U.S. I have about six weeks to go! Ready to learn from the experiences I have and make even more memories on this second leg of my trip!

Week 4: Afritz (and a night in Milan!)

The first three weeks of my trip were filled with long nights, rushed mornings and not a lot of sleep. I knew I would need to take some time every few weeks to relax and also make myself useful. That’s how I ended up on a farm in Afritz, Austria.

I found this farm through Workaway, a site that’s kind of like an expanded WWOOF. (What’s WWOOF, you ask? Well, thank goodness I wrote a blog post about it.) I arrived at the farm, which is located about 30 minutes from a southern Austrian city called Villach, and was immediately in awe of the surrounding mountains and view.

The family all spoke in German, and not everyone spoke English. Not going to lie, it was a bummer sitting at the table sometimes and not knowing what was going on, but I managed. Everyone was very patient and sweet throughout the week, a big “thank you” to Miriam and Tomas who did most of the translating. I mainly learned German words that would help me in my work (“clean”, “food”, “sweep”); my jobs were mainly housework and preparing lunch.

I worked from around 830-2ish every day with lunch around noon. Then the rest of the day was mine! In my downtime, I did yoga, read, napped, and hiked. Lots of hiking. The farm was below Wöllaner Nock, and on my last day I hiked to the top…pretty nice view, right?

It was a lovely week but I had to move on; Somersault Festival has been calling my name for months now. To get there, I took a train to Milan and stayed for a night before my flight to Bristol. I got in around 8 P.M. but my day was just beginning.

My plans in Milan were to wander at night, but not before I went to Bar Luce. A few months ago, Wes Anderson designed Bar Luce for the Fondazione Prada, saying it was the perfect place to write a movie in. Considering my recent Wes Anderson kick and constant need for inspiration, I needed to go. Unfortunately I got there too late to check out the Fondazione Prada, but Bar Luce was still open. Look at how wonderful this place is! (Didn’t hurt that the bartenders were all beautiful, too.)

After my glass of wine and dose of whimsy, I decided to wander around the Duomo and the center of Milan. There’s something romantic about seeing these places at night.

I also had my first Italian gelato! I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap Milan was, considering my expectations. And so lively for a Monday night! Milan is officially on my list of places-I-must-go-back-to.

Every time I come to a new place, even if for a night, I keep thinking of that Hozier song “Someone New“. I’ve been falling in love just a little bit every day with somewhere new…whether it’s a cocktail bar in Milan or the lake Miriam took me to in Afritz. I’ve finally booked my ticket home (see you all September 13th!) but in the meantime, I’m going to keep exploring and keep falling in love with every place I go. Next stops, Bristol, Devon, Dublin, Glasgow….

Bonus picture for this week is a shot of how comfortable cows are with cars.

Week 3: Prague and Vienna!

Before my trip, Monday nights were reserved for The Bachelorette (Team Jared), but now I hope I can consistently post updates. Here are the highlights from Prague and Vienna!
Prague: Originally I had blocked out these 3 days for Budapest, but getting to Prague was cheaper and I was going to do it with friends. So why not? Mackenzie, Erin and I somehow got ourselves together after a night in Kraków to get on a minibus and then a train to Prague. Despite being 25 minutes late to the bus, it got to the train station an hour and a half early (thank you, maniac Polish driver). We made it to their flat via a beautiful train and soon enough, I had a beer in hand. Shout out to Chapeau Rouge, it was a great welcome to Prague.

Exploring: I’m a professional wanderer, so I spent my first full day in Prague doing just that. While reading the wrong directions for the Prague Castle, I stumbled upon a very lovely vegan restaurant so obviously, that’s where I had lunch. It gave me the energy to check out all the views around the Prague Castle, including one from the very top of said castle. It cost a few bucks and it required a claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase, but it was totally worth it.

More exploring!
: Next were checking out the obligatory John Lennon wall, St. Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square. Tucked away in the square was a museum with Dali and Warhol exhibits, so obviously I had to give a little look.


Segway Day:
Back in Kraków, Mackenzie and I discussed how necessary it was for us to take a Segway tour. My last day in Prague was the day. I could “czech” (I mean, I’m laughing) it off the bucket list. Bundled with the Segway tour was a ticket to a wax museum; I’m absolutely terrified of wax museums after some teacher had the wonderful idea of taking 4th graders to a Civil War wax museum, so obviously I had to go. I made it out fine and since Mackenzie lived in Prague, we told the Segway tour guide to skip the tour and let us ride around for 30 minutes. It. Was. Awesome.

Vienna!: It was super sad to depart from my friends, but Erin and I are going to meet up in Barcelona in a few weeks and I know I’ll run into Mackenzie soon. If my trip has taught me anything, it’s how small the freaking world is.
Vienna provided me the chance to fly solo — for a bit. I found a pay-what-you-wish, all-you-can-eat, vegan, Pakistani buffet, and then wandered into a film festival where they played La Boheme. As I enjoyed the free Wi-Fi and thought, “yup, this is indeed the opera that RENT is based off of”, I discovered that one of my fraternity brothers Vanessa AND Open’er pal Sam were both in Vienna. Naturally, we all met up and wandered into an Australian bar and a karaoke place. Pakistani dinner, Italian movie, Australian bar, American music (Sam performed “Me and Mrs. Jones”, Vanessa performed “Bad Touch”). Sounds about right?

Actual Austrian Attractions: The next morning, I was back to wandering. Nearby the hotel I stayed at was Statdpark, which was absolutely beautiful, and what I thought was one of the Wein Museums but actually a contemporary art museum displaying (from what I gathered) senior showcases from an art school in Vienna. Interesting stuff, and more my style anyway.


At that point, I met up with another CS host and got a list of Austrian tourist magnets (had to go to one or two, right?) I checked out the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, doing the Imperial Tour and becoming way more fascinated with Austrian royalty than I thought I would be. I checked out Prater, a free and very old amusement park (unfortunately the rides were around 4 euro. In my mind, paying 4 euro to ride a log flume alone would be admitting some form of defeat. I bought an ice cream cone and people-watched instead.) I also visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, because I have Catholic parents/guilt, it was Sunday, and ever since Chamber Choir in high school….in new cities, I have to check out the cathedrals. Night ended with an interesting talk with my host about Europe, Greece, and American stereotypes. Yet another shout out to Couchsurfing, you learn so much from the people in this community.

 After Vienna is Villach, where I’m currently spending my first night. Thanks to Workaway (and my friend Stacie who told me about Workaway), I’m spending the week gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and meditating in the hills of Austria. Outside of my window I can see Italy and Slovenia. I’ll post on my way back, when I’m en route to Somersault (!!!!) This week’s bonus picture is me in the most touristy outfit I could find. Unfortunately, if I had worn this out of the house, I would have had to Segway alone (fair enough).

Week 2 (and a half?): Poland, part 1!

I originally had no intentions of going to Poland – nothing against it, but I was looking toward more popular tourist cities like London, Barcelona, etc. Then the lineup for Open’er Festival came out and all of a sudden, I roadtripped down the west side of Poland. Here are some highlights from each city:

Gdansk: First stop was Gdansk. I knew nothing about this city, but it was a good meeting point before the festival. Turns out, it was the perfect place to start checking out all of the beautiful town squares that Poland has. The only real sightseeing I did was checking out the Old Town (and getting my first order of Polish pierogi), but it was beautiful.

I was totally fine with hanging out at the hostel, The Mamas and Papas hostel. It’s run by Mama, who was a savior when it came to navigating the city, and Papa, a Deadhead who has pretty much convinced me to go to Polish Woodstock during this trip. I spent two nights in, talking with the other travelers in the hostel and meeting Sam and Erin, who would accompany me and my friend Mackenzie to Open’er. (Erin is Mackenzie’s flatmate in Prague, Mackenzie and I have mutual friends from Temple, we met Sam on Reddit.) Good group for sure.

Open’er Festival: At the request of my crew, I’ll refrain from drooling profusely over Chet Faker (ok but he covered Moondance and No Diggity and was absolutely beautiful and fanta….), so I can talk about all the other artists at this festival in Gdynia. The Libertines, Alabama Shakes, Hozier, Major Lazer, The Prodigy, Tom Odell, Swans, Disclosure…..the lineup was killer and the vibes were good. Everyone was super friendly (special shoutout to our Latvian friends) and no one was too wild. Overall, one of the top festivals I’ve been to.

We also went to the seaside one day! Music didn’t start until 4 PM, and the insane heat got us up pretty early so we had time to kill. (The music also lasted until 4 AM….saw a lot of sunrises in Poland.)

Poznan: Sam lives in Poznan, so we hitched a ride down there and stayed for a night to have even more pierogi and grab drinks in the Town Square. We stumbled upon a Jack Daniel’s bar and got red white and blue jars by accident….USA! Poznan is a hip little city and if I could go to their juice bar every day I would. Shout out to Juice Drinkers.

Kraków: After grabbing a ride from the most fun BlaBlaCar driver ever, (it’s a ridesharing app) we made it to Kraków. If I could spend a summer in any city, so far it’d have to be Kraków. It’s beautiful, it’s a nice size (not huge, but with tons of things to do), the bars are great and it seems like there’s a ton of music festivals. We stayed with David, who is quite a character but really interesting to talk to. Nights were spent exploring the city, and the one full day we were there Mackenzie and I went on a big tourist tour.

Auschwitz and the Salt Mines: These were the two main attractions I wanted to see near Kraków. Auschwitz was powerful. I tried to ignore the idiots who thought it was appropriate to use Selfie Sticks and pose in front of the gate — honestly, I understand wanting to document the experience but I’ll remember the day without instagramming it. The massive amount of human hair shaved off after the selection, the ruins of the gas chambers, the massive size of Birkenau, the constant feelings of nausea from the tour…they’ll stick.

Anyway, the salt mines. Those were breathtaking. I didn’t get too many pictures of the massive chapel carved out of salt (by 3 people, mind you), but I did grab a few. Don’t be alarmed, since bacteria apparently can’t grow on salt (or something like that), the walls were totally lickable. Tasted pretty good. (Wish we had brought tequila and lime, but then again, Mackenzie and I got lost in the salt mines regardless and ended up with a Polish tour group.)

Currently, I’m on a train to Prague with Mackenzie and Erin. Big shout out to these girls for hanging out with me the past week, through all the shows, all the pierogi, all the awful pronunciation of Poznan (by me). Shout out to Sam for driving and bringing that umbrella and jumping around during Disclosure and seeing Swans with me. Latvians are really awesome, Columbians have a strange sense of humor, and Julia from Kraków was the best bar hopping tour guide/fairy. Even though I’m technically on this trip alone, I haven’t spent more than a day by myself since the first two days in London. I’ll post more updates after Prague, Vienna, and Villach! Here’s a bonus photo of a fantastic billboard in Poland.

Week 1: UK, Part 1!!

hey all! It’s been quite crazy the past few days (and wifi is not always around), but I figured I’d give a quick update before starting the day. I’ve been in Europe for about a week, and what a week it was. Here are some highlights:

Regent’s Park – London : Upon leaving my beautiful hostel, I knew I wanted to walk down to lush oxford street. It was quite a walk, and with no wifi, I just had to depend on the signs and maps throughout London. Thank god there are plenty of them! On the way to Oxford Street, I stumbled upon the enormous Regent’s Park. Beautiful! Seeing such a large park on such a beautiful day was the perfect welcome to London. And the St Mary’s Garden….breathtaking!!


Lush Oxford Street – London: I made it!!! After months of looking at the 250 new lush products from 1,000 miles away, I found new Lush flagship store on Oxford Street!! Bath oils, dusting powders, new perfumes…I was in heaven. This picture of me in the Stayin’ Alive (perfume room) perfectly captures how I looked throughout the entire store:


I even got my hair done! I was freaking out over the Jersey Bounce shampoo (similar to Big) and the Avocado Co-Wash (with the best smell I’ve ever smelled) and Abby offered to do my hair. It was her first hair demo….look at all that volume!!! I smelled my hair constantly for the next day. Yup, I was one of those customers….


Royal Tour – London: for the lovely price of free + donation, I got up bright and early for a tour of all the royal touristy stuff. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square. Oddly enough, my tour guide had lived in Lancaster County for three years.


After the tour, I had a lovely lunch with two tourists from Wisconsin and then I headed off to the museums. If my most recent traveling excursions have taught me anything, it’s that I’m perfectly content museum-hopping. I went to the National Gallery and the Tate Modern museums. For me, they’re just amazing places for inspiration. I write a lot in museums, and always make sure to jot down my favorite paintings/artists for future reference.

imageLiverpool! – Ok, everything in Liverpool was a highlight. For one, it was my first time Couchsurfing, so that was a huge part of my trip. I stayed with a Couchsurfer named Michael and his family – the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Avid travelers themselves, they had tons of great stories and good advice. Micheal took me around the parks in Liverpool, the bars in Liverpool, and then we did all of the touristy things. The last night I stayed, his parents made an awesome dinner and of all things, watched a bunch of throwback music videos over a bottle or two (or three) of wine. Couchsurfing is a really cool way to travel – it’s a lot more personal than hostels or hotels, and you’re constantly social. I intend to couchsurf for most of my trip, honestly. The people I’ve met so far Couchsurfing always have great stories and a similar outlook on the world. It’s an amazing community.

imageimageNatural History Museum and Hyde Park London: As my flight to Gdansk was leaving from London, I went back for another day to finish my roaming. I saved the Natural History Museum and Hyde Park for the last day….what a finale!! I’m a huge environmental nerd, so seeing a museum with the focus of teaching us about the earth (and how we can help preserve it!!!) was wonderful. And Hyde park was gorgeous. Best statues by far!!


This was just a quick update, as I’m headed off now into Gdansk. Currently I’m staying in a Grateful Dead hostel with a bunch of Open’er goers…but more to come on that later!! I’ll be posting after my trip through Poland is over!