A Southern Bohemian Barn Wedding in South Carolina!

Phew! The craziest 12 weeks of 2017 (granted, the only 12 weeks of 2017) are behind me, and a few weeks of working, relaxing, and exploring Austin are ahead. The calm before the storm, if you will. (fingers crossed that Andrew and I don’t encounter any storms when we are in Asia. I jinxed it, didn’t I?) The craziness has ended after a big roadtrip to Charleston, South Carolina, for a southern bohemian barn wedding!

When Devon, my friend from high school, asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, it was over the phone, and I thought I had misheard (still said, “yes,” obviously,) because we hadn’t been in touch for a while. Devon holds a very special place in my heart as a friend that I’ve known since I was 10. We don’t talk much (blame can be placed equally on both of us) but I was so relieved and ecstatic to arrive in Charleston and run into the same old Dev. Just, you know, with a diploma, a full-time job, a (now) husband, baby, and dog named Ernie. She’s the type of friend that you agree to drive 1,200 miles to even if you’re not exactly sure what they asked you to do for their wedding. (The bridesmaid thing was eventually cleared up and I emoted a second round of squeals of excitement.)

So my boyfriend and I packed up my yoga mat, some road trip snacks, and more Lush products than I will ever plan on bringing backpacking. (I decided to do my own hair.) A road trip sounded mighty fine to me after staying in the same city for three months straight.

First things first: No one will be able to top this wedding. 

If you’ve been on Pinterest, imagine a more beautiful wedding than you’ve ever pinned. I write with Stefon’s voice in my head: “this wedding had everything.” Chalkboards. Flowers in mason jars. String lights everywhere. A photobooth with a Polaroid camera. They had an old-fashioned car that we took photos with. Beers in wheelbarrows. Meat that had been smoked for 14 hours. (I didn’t partake, but my mouth did water.)

33683393255_53fd4694d5_o (1)
Pictures by fellow bridesmaid Caitlin LeMoine!

 

33526940762_5ae3cd3db8_o
Photo by Caitlin LeMoine.

God, I still can’t get over how picture-perfect this wedding was. It was in a barn next to a marsh that held an alligator (and six-eight babies, allegedly) but no babies or dogs were eaten on the big day.

(I’m writing this soon after the wedding, so the photographer’s pictures are not up yet. I’ll update this post later when they’re ready! There’s a very cute one where Devon and I recreate a picture from our junior prom, so get ready.)

What I’ve always loved about Devon is that while she is extremely smart, professional, and has her head on her shoulders, she still dances to the beat of her own drum (or strings of her own cello, which she played in high school.) I must admit, I worried that I wouldn’t know a wedding tradition that would be followed during the rehearsal dinner/ceremony, or that not doing my hair would leave me underdressed. Devon hasn’t changed, because to hell with (some) tradition.

I’ll leave it at this. Seeing a friend that I grew up with walk her own damn self down the aisle, in her grandmother’s wedding dress, wearing a flower crown in her hair was one of the most empowering and fantastic sights I’ve ever witnessed.

The ceremony was beautiful. The vows were beautiful. The bride and groom were bursting with love.

The mac n’ cheese was dope. The band was insane. The dancing was almost too much to handle.

This wedding was certainly one to beat, with a perfect mix of tradition, elegance, and downright fun. I would drive from Austin to Charleston and back again in a heartbeat for a few more Yuenglings and a swig of bourbon from one of the groomsmen.

I’ll cheers to that. Also, can we talk about this bridesmaid outfit? I’ve already decided that the skirt is coming with me when I go backpacking.

Speaking of the drive…

I drove for over 40 hours with my boyfriend and still think he’s pretty darn cute!

When I found out I was going to be a bridesmaid, I jokingly told my mom I had six months to find a +1 that would drive me to South Carolina. When you ask, you shall receive, I guess. I wouldn’t have agreed to date someone who didn’t like road trips, sleeping in cars, and stopping for the night or two in a tent, but I luckily in December I started dating the most patient, ~chill,~ fun guy in this part of Texas. Jeremy and I left Austin on a Tuesday night to check in at an AirBNB on a Thursday morning. We left Charleston on a Sunday morning and got home Monday night. We each camped for one night each way, first in South Carolina, and then in Mississippi.

IMG_8975
Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina

The road trip consisted of lots of Radiolab podcasts, discussions about politics, stargazing, and eventually, leftover mac n’ cheese in take-home containers. On the way home, I randomly suggested stopping in Dallas for tacos before the last leg of the trip, and without any thought, Jeremy agreed. I don’t have much experience in relationships (despite, having been in, erm, some, I would like to think I have absolutely no experience in relationships) but I know that someone who doesn’t mind sitting with you in a coffee shop for a few hours while you send in some work (I have the pleasure of working remotely) or driving a bit out of the way to get tacos is a catch.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 12.50.11 PM
Of course, I’m going to add a picture of the tacos. Fried Paneer and Nashville Hot Tofu from Velvet Taco in Dallas. 10/10, worth every minute of trying to navigate the highways in Dallas.

I don’t know why I attempted to joke that the road trip would be in anyway a test of our relationship, because it was a great experience, there and back. (Ok, I got mad when he turned a little bit and sent the dirt of our succulents flying throughout the passenger seat, but we survived, didn’t we?)

It’s nice to reminisce. I promise. 

This post is getting to be way longer than I expected, even though it can’t fully encompass the fun I had during the road trip. I’ll leave you with this.

I may just have a bad memory, but I tend to block out my high school years. I feel like a completely different person sang at Carnegie Hall, drove a Subaru Outback, or played the oboe. I talk to my friends from high school occasionally, if not rarely. I feel detached, as I often allow myself to be. Revisiting such a close friendship was not only fun and silly, but reminded me of how lucky I am to have gone to the high school I went to, with the upbringing I had. I was given amazing opportunities by growing up in Doylestown. I left happy memories, and beautiful people, back in the town where I grew up. My friendship with Devon is one of many that shaped me to be who I am. I can only begin to acknowledge the privilege I hold from going to a fantastic school and being surrounded by wonderful people at an early age.

Don’t be afraid to find the people you’ve lost touch with; you may be surprised to find that despite the years and milestones that have come between your friendships, you can pick right back up.

I have more posts coming up, including my first online yoga flow! I thank you for reading, and hope to see you here in the future! Namaste.

 

 

 

January 15, 2017.

I apologize if this post reads as frantic or a bit rushed.

I’ve been pressuring myself to share the moment I’m living in with you; there’s no Beat Broke Backpacking without my loved ones, faraway friends, and anyone who stumbles upon this blog for whatever reason. The past few weeks I’ve been challenged to think about why I want to go further with this project. What are my intentions? What am I willing to compromise? Can I sum my mission for Beat Broke Backpacking up in a sentence? How has that changed?

(More on that below.)

I have also felt pressured to share because each moment disappears so quickly. Since the New Year, I’ve hit so many turning points that I need something for nausea.

I’m writing this from yoga teacher training (we’re on lunch break.) I could go on and on in additional posts about my love for yoga (and I will, and I have) but I’ll have to focus.

You know that beautiful feeling when you realize you’re actually taking the action you’ve been dreaming up for months, years, etc.? That was present in every moment and every pose during my first flow of my first class. Since I’ve moved to Austin I’ve been saving for this training by working two jobs (one was always full-time.) In hindsight, I could have flipped my thinking into appreciating every moment heading to and from work as taking action toward my daydreams, but hindsight’s 20/20. Every moment from now until July I’ll be taking action toward the big plan (or lack thereof) my thoughts have drummed up since I got back from backpacking in September 2015.

My best friend and I purchased plane tickets to Bangkok that leave on July 5. His ticket is roundtrip and mine is one-way. After six weeks backpacking around Southeast Asia, he’s going back to work. The pages in my planner are left blank.

I would still be doing teacher training if I planned on putting a down payment on a house in Austin and staying here for my foreseeable future. But I’ve known for a while that this training is going to take me across continents. Yoga is everywhere, and it serves as the one form of universal expression I am comfortable using to connect with and show my love for everyone I meet.

I don’t want to have set plans for after Andrew leaves Asia; maybe I’ll hit up all of the places I will hear about in hostels, maybe I’ll stay in Bangkok, maybe that’s when I’ll head to Australia.

I am almost finished applying for my working holiday visa…where I hear they have quite a decent market for yoga.

Up until now this post is anti-climactic; I’m going to Asia aaaaaand…then what?

That’s why I’m going to revisit this blog. I won’t be posting every week again at first…I’m still working 55 hours a week on top of teacher training. But I want to make myself vulnerable and share my plans for BBB. I write full-time. I would like to use BBB as a project and experiment with making it a full-time job, while still keeping the integrity of what I want to share and promote. I want to explore making a career out of writing, out of traveling, out of being a travel writer. The moment I first picked up travel guides I knew it was possible to pursue my passions and make it a living. So I’m going to give it a try.

Buying my plane ticket to Asia was not as scary as writing this post because in July, it’s pretty set in stone that I’ll be on that plane. (Andrew and I even got seats next to each other after a hot mess of trying to book through different sites.) Trying to manifest my vision for this blog is terrifying because there is so much gray area. What will I consider “successful?” Can a blog that I completely control even “fail?” I know what the end result should look like, but I don’t even know how to begin.

The road ahead is foggy. I’ve been told to expect a lot of rain in July in Southeast Asia. But I’ve made a promise to myself since the beginning of teacher training that I would appreciate each moment and my effort to run (work, stand, fold, plank, downward dog, whatever) toward this new adventure.

So I move forward.

Finding Balance in the Windy City

Revisiting Chicago has always been something on my travel to-do list and luckily, I have an excuse to go whenever I want. My lovely sister lives in Lincoln Park, and she was moving into a new apartment when I went to visit.

Best sister ever, right? I flew over 1,000 miles to help her move.

I was able to get back into the travel groove with an old vice: art museum hopping. And guys, Chicago did not disappoint. I managed to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art the day before “Surrealism: The Conjured Life” ended its run. (If you’ve heard me talk about my trip to Figueres, you’ll know I’d go to any lengths to immerse myself in some good Surrealism.) My sister led me through the Art Institute of Chicago, which may have bumped a museum in my Top 5 out of its place. Hearing how much my father and grandmother enjoyed this museum when they visited was also super sweet.

13412859_10153664174304786_1859427424180022670_n
I also took a trip around Lincoln Park and played around with my travel camera! This is my favorite shot from the week.

Chicago was also a test of sorts. Since I can write for my job anywhere (with Wi-Fi), I wanted to see how I could manage working and traveling. I also tried to squeeze in as many yoga classes as I could, and shows, visiting friends who happened to be in Chicago, touristy food spots, buying stuff for my sister’s apartment…

Picking my “real life” up and moving it to a chilly, windy city was a little jolting. I was trying to live the working life while playing tourist and also big sister. At times, I couldn’t find the right balance and felt like I was letting myself or my sister down.

13335610_10153664175684786_671330036205251992_n
Sneaking into DePaul’s library to finish assignments and grab Wi-Fi was actually quite lovely….

Shit really hit the fan when I went to a yoga class that I did not vibe with, at all. It wasn’t a bad class by any means; there were different poses and sequences that I really enjoyed! But here I was again, caught finding the perfect balance of separate lovely and stressful experiences. I felt wobbly. Not a good feeling when you know you’ve got to head into tree pose.

To ride out the tipping scales, I found myself going back to a little nugget of yoga knowledge that I’ve heard in various ways the past couple weeks: accept the pose. Whether you’re in a passive child’s pose or an excruciating chair, you’ve got to accept it. You’re here. I found myself using, “This is where I am” as a mantra in yoga, and throughout my day. In a bagel shop, on the train observing Chicago’s beautiful buildings, or enjoying some quality time with my sister, “This is where I am.”

It makes stressful moments bearable and sweet moments even more enjoyable.

Chicago was a learning experience and a great trip; I became more confident in my ability to balance work, travel, and life simultaneously. For now I’m back in Austin, but stay tuned for where I find myself next…

13335881_10153664175254786_7970956063694838737_n
Bonus Picture: I spent two days working at this coffee shop called the Bourgeois Pig and gushed with a barista over Father John Misty because what else are you going to do at a place called Bourgeois Pig?

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!!

imageimageimage

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:

image

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….

 image

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.

imageimage

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!!

imageimage

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!

“What are your plans for after graduation?”

That’s a great question, professors/parents/relatives at Christmas/concerned friends/bosses.

As of right now, I have 15 weeks until my graduation from Temple University, one class left to complete a degree in Strategic Communications, a few personal statements desperate for a review, and a one-way plane ticket from Newark to London that leaves on June 22.

I have a Couchsurfing account and a WWOOF subscription. I have three open tabs on Chrome titled, “The Best Camping Accessory….”, “Syllabus Spanish 1001”, and “Eurail Pass”. I don’t have a lot of savings (currently), I don’t have much of a plan, and I don’t have any experience living or traveling in Europe.

I have to remind myself as I step out into what is apparently only called the “real” world post-diploma, that this “real” life isn’t measured by your “haves”.

Instead.

I enjoy storytelling, reading, writing; I enjoy hiking, meeting new people, helping people, coffee, vegetables, and getting my hands dirty working outside. I enjoy writing a blog. As of right now, these are my plans for after graduation.

A roundabout way of saying I don’t have employment in the near future.

Follow this blog to follow my journey figuring out how to grab a backpack and a notebook to make the most of Europe. Tips, comments, messages are appreciated!