Category Archives: Advice

Dressing While Traveling

I love to wear sweatpants. A lot. Anyone who has spent any time with me will know that. People used to be shocked to see me in anything else. Wearing jeans is still kind of dressing up for me.

I should mention that I’m an not exclusive to sweatpants. We are talking yoga/harem/hammertime/gypsy varieties as well.

I enjoy being comfortable.

This includes while I travel. I don’t care if it’s a 1 hour car ride or a 10 hour bus trip. I will wear leggings. I will wear any shoes and still bring nice, warm socks to put on for the trip.

My hair will be in the way that annoys me the least for that day. In a way that could allow for sleep if I were able to succeed in sleeping on a bus/train/plane/car.

The longer the travel time the less likely there will be make-up*. I hardly use it anyways. Who am I trying to impress on a red-eye to London anyways?

I don’t smell. I stay clean. But I will dress like a bum. And I will travel with my own snacks packed.

 

 

*I usually spent time putting on water-proof eye-liner the day before I travel as a way to procrastinate from the packing process. I don’t know why. It’s just something I sometimes do.

 

How to Live in a Beach Town, Part 2

Whether you are there short term or long-term, to live or to vacay, please, PLEASE avoid these things:

1. No posting pictures of any of these things:

a- your feet in the sand
b- your hot-dog legs on the beach
c- a picture of yourself taken while lying down so no one can see your face
d- sunsets
e- your fruity drink with a sunset in the background. or just, at all

Why, you ask?

a- feet are gross. sand is sand. done and done.
b- stupid
c- stupid and narcissistic
d- **unless you can light it properly
e- a mojito is a mojito everywhere. it only looks worse with a horribly lit sunset in the back

To put it simply- no one cares.

2. Don’t wear the same sandals everyday. Tan lines, hellooooo

3. DON’T stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Ever. As a tourist and as a human on planet Earth. Move. To. The.  Side.

4. Don’t forget to eat ice-cream at least once a day

5. Don’t judge me for eating so much ice-cream. It’s summer and I’m on holiday.  Seriously.

Now check out the things you SHOULD do🙂

How to Live in a Beach Town, Part 1

1. Find an easy job. Few hours, or at least with very flexible hours. Make sure you have a good boss. Good location (ie as close to the beach as possible). The goal is to be able to enjoy as much time as possible doing beach town-y things. Hostels are nice.

2. Or don’t. Who needs a job anyways?

3. Buy appropriate clothes. Baggy, light, comfy clothing with variations from ‘bum’ to ‘bohemian’. It’s best to look as though you never had and never will have a ‘real job’.

4. Be vague about your life before this life and what will come afterwards. This helps to create your image of being a long time beach bum.

5. Get tan. If my Casper-white skin can get tan, yours can too.

6. Don’t be afraid to be your true, weird self. This is the perfect opportunity. All of your friends will probably be short term back-packers, so why not? Speak your mind, discuss your nerdy/guilty pleasures**, just let it all out.

7. Eat ice-cream. And lots of it. Just because I said so.

8. Lastly, and most importantly. Slow. Down. Appreciate where you are and how you got there. Your only agenda now is to enjoy the life your leading, so do it. Days spent doing nothing can truly be experienced since all you have to do any given day is, nothing. Drink a beer, read a book, TAKE A NAP and don’t feel guilty about how you spend your time.

**I’ve made a few friends recently by discussing Disney/Musicals which every time results in  sing-a-long sessions and the Song of Ice and Fire book series (Game of Thrones TV show for those that don’t know). I did yoga in the hostel common room. And I am constantly freaking out to guests over the book The Count of Monte Cristo at random times, and probably against their will, because I just think it’s so good.

Making Friends as Grown-Ups

Recently I’ve been talking to a lot of friends about how to meet people now that we are grown-ups. I don’t have classmates and in my present position as an Au Pair, I don’t even have co-workers. Even if I did have co-workers that doesn’t mean we would be friends, or that I would even want to be with them outside of work.

Of course there is the chance of meeting, and actually liking, someone from a random conversation on the train or from a bar/cafe etc. But that’s not really an efficient way to gather a circle of people of whom you really enjoy and get along with. In my experience that’s a good way to practice making up lies to get out of the conversation.

*cough* 

I remember when online dating was such a weird, foreign concept and was looked down upon and judged harshly by others. Maybe that was just me? Well, I still haven’t tried online dating, but I must admit that nearly all of my friends in Munich I have met from the interweb. It’s almost something to laugh about (and feel a bit awkward about) until I realized that it’s becoming the norm nowadays and all of my new internet friends also made all of their other friends from the internet, too.

For me, it started off with a Couch Surfing post on the Munich page:

“Hello I’m an Au Pair from the US, just moved to Munich blah blah blah…”

Someone there told me of a Facebook group for Au Pairs in the Bayern area. From there I learned of a group for Au Pairs specifically in Munich. And from there I learned of a group thousands of people strong for all international people living in the city. I went to events, joined in conversations, and made plans to meet up for coffee/drinks. Sometimes I went alone (scary!) and sometimes I went with people I had already made friends with…also from the internet.

fb event in the park
fb event in the park

There is that terrifying time before you decide to go to a Facebook event hosted by a group of people you’ve never met before. Or decide to meet up with someone for the first time one-on-one that you briefly chatted to on FB the day before. Maybe it’s not safe. Maybe there won’t be that many people at the party. Maybe it won’t be fun and I should stay at home and be a hermit with no social life even though I live in a super awesome city…ummmno.

The thing is, when you find these groups, be it Couch Surfing, Facebook or some other online forum, there will be plenty of people in the same position as you. Maybe you are just traveling to a new city for a short period of time. Or maybe it’s the city you’ve been living in for years and are just looking for something new. Find a group that is a general page for the city or one specific to your interests such as biking or cooking and get involved.

we look goooood
we look goooood

Now, I say this coming from someone who is incredibly comfortable traveling alone. Even I still find it hard to do these social things alone. But never once has it been a bad decision for me. If anything, I can at least feel proud of myself for going out alone and not dying of humiliation as I always think I will. You will definitely have to repeat the same conversation a billion times- Where are you from? What are you doing here? How long have you been here? How long do you stay? etc. But once you get past all that you can start to enjoy the company of the people around you and get the most put of what the internet has brought you.

I’m not sure where I am going with this. Maybe I am just getting a bit nostalgic about leaving Munich soon. Of course I still make friends with people not from the internet- but that’s usually when I am traveling and so far those friends have not lived in the same city as me. They are more than just the short term hostel buddy, but we can’t exactly meet up for a hot chocolate on any given day either. I also think it’s fun to point out how all of the German friends I made are some of the only people I didn’t meet from these internet groups. Go me.

Traveling Without Technology

Well, mostly at least.

Let me preface this by admitting that I am already not the most technologically savvy person, especially for someone who likes to take trips as much as I do. I lost my iphone months ago and now have a cheap old Samsung that allows me to check email and facebook…aaand that’s it. No apps. No Maps. The Couch Surfing website doesn’t work and I can’t book any tickets. Worthless. My computer is a macbook from 2006 that has been upgraded over the years, but now has to be plugged in at all times to work. I have no Kindle/Ipad/Netbook or whatever else are convenient options for life in general.

Good right?

For these last 8 months I have been lugging around my incredibly heavy computer and it has not been fun. Plus, I find that traveling with my computer I feel compelled to USE it more. I’m already not a big party/club person, but if I’m alone at a hostel with my computer it’s much easier to be anti-social and tell myself I’ll research for the next city, or write a blog post, or maybe I’ll just watch a  movie and go to sleep. LAME.

That’s why, for my most recent trip to Ireland, I decided not to bring my computer and trust in the travel gods that everything would be ok. And guess what, it was. Before I left, I started my search for Couch Surfing hosts and had 2 set up with flexible arrival dates towards the end of the trip. I also booked my first few nights at a hostel in Dublin, which I would typically do anyways. After that, I was free and unbooked.

As I only had about 2 days in each city, I didn’t want to waste time sitting on my computer checking cheapest buses/trains. It stresses me out and I’m horrible at making decisions so I always put it off and then I waste more time doing the same thing the next day. This time I just went to the station and looked at the times and prices and purchased it right then and there. Took maybe 20 minutes max.

I did a ton a research about Ireland before leaving, too, so I had a whole list of things I could try to fit in. But again, instead of spending time trying to plan each day trip, prices, times etc I just went to the  tourist office and said “This is what I’m interested in, when can I go and how much does it cost?” Took away so much stress.

(This tactic is probably not ideal if you are traveling to remote places or in the off season)

I did need to get online to talk my my CS host and I made the mistake of not giving my regular email so we could contact each other. Funny story- instead of paying to use the computer at my hostel I used my phone (yay facebook) to ask a friend living in Texas to log into my account and send a message with my gmail address. Success!

Getting back to Munich was also a little dramatic- as it somehow always is. I didn’t book a shuttle from the airport to the city (my German ATM card didn’t work, I had no cash, there were no airport computers and the shuttle didn’t take credit cards) so again I used facebook. This time to contact my mom back in Illinois to find out the PIN # of my credit card so I could with drawl money. Messy, but it worked. And then I only had to wait 5 hours for the next shuttle…

Overall it was a very freeing experience. It left more time for me to explore and enjoy Ireland with my limited time. I didn’t have to worry about having my reservation number and finding places to print tickets. For longer trips I’m sure having a computer would be nice, but I now know it’s possible and actually easier for me to go without.

 

Side note: my first 4 months in Europe in 2012 I also did not have my computer and things went just fine, but once habits and dependencies are built it’s hard to let them go. HOWEVER surviving without technology is in fact quite possible, and enjoyable

Why You Can’t Travel Solo

I’m going to make a huge generalization here, so bare with me. I think there are 2 types of people in this world:

Group People and Solo People.

Group People need to have someone with them to go grocery shopping. They’ve probably always had a ‘core’ group of friends from high school and college. The group parties together. Hangs out every day together. Went on “Spring Break  2010 wooooo!!” together.

Solo People go to dinner and a movie by themselves just for fun. They have friends, but none of them are connected to each other. They hang out, just the 2 or 3 of them, when their schedules match up. Solo people can be quite introverted, but are not always.

Now, I realize that everyone has their days/weeks/years in the opposite group, but I think you are basically one or the other. One is not better or worse, it just affects how you are going to travel.

I travel to experience the culture of the country and to connect with the people I meet, be them locals or travelers like myself. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by people from school and work and just pick out 1 or 2 as friends. And once I’ve found you, that’s it, we’re friends for life. No matter how many miles separate us or how long it’s been since we’ve met, why would travel be any different for me?

I was once told, by a group person in reference to me taking a solo trip to Europe, that fun is only real when shared. Meaning, why take a huge trip like that alone? When I come back I will have no one to share those memories with and then…what’s the point?

UM NO. No. At the time it just brushed over me. But now it really bothers me. I am clearly a Solo Person. I’ll admit it took some time to accept, I mean, having a constant group of friends around my life sounds great, but it’s not me. But just because I start a trip alone doesn’t mean it will end that way.

I will always enjoy those single-serve-we-stayed-in-the-same-hostel friends; they are great fun. But along the way I have also found some really special people I consider true friends. I have met them all when I was on my own; making those close connections becomes much harder when you are already with some one (though not impossible). To me, it doesn’t matter if we live in the same city or country, they are the people I share these memories with.

So no, when I go back to the US I won’t have someone to call up to reminisce about our time together in Europe. But who’s to say I will end up in the US anyways? I’m used to having a scattering of friends around the world, why put off taking a trip just because I can’t find someone to go with me?

So for the Group People out there, I hope that someday you can find the courage to take even the smallest of trips on your own to see what you can learn about yourself and the world around you. Your group will be there for you when you return.

 

 

**Side note:  I have taken planned trips with friends before and have loved EVERY minute of them. I am not against people traveling with friends, I’m just saying it’s ok and wonderful and fantastic and thrilling to venture out alone as well and see where life takes you.

 

Solo Travel vs. Travel with Friends

As travelers we come across many of the same situations and difficulties on  a regular basis. Some of these things need to be handled differently depending on if we are solo or with friends.

Here is my advice for how to manage in a few of these instances. Or maybe it’s just what I actually do…

1.) Becoming tired while exploring a city:

Friend: Keep walking as long as you can and when it feels like a sufficient amount of time has passed, casually throw out a “Hey wanna sit for a minute?” at the next bench you pass

Solo: Stop and sit on every 3rd bench you see because your feet frickin hurt!

2.) You have a major sweet tooth

SF Pride: I love funnel cake!

Friend: Have one local delicacy a day and maybe you and your friends also stop for a gelato together, at their suggestion of course

Solo: Gorge yourself in every bakery you pass and eat as much gelato as you want because let’s face it, it’s basically it’s own food group in Europe anyways

3.) You’re not sure if you want to go out drinking after a long day walking or just go to bed ASAP

3-way arm link Prost

Friend: Try to make it sound as much as possible that you want to go out and not be lame without actually being the one to rally and go

Solo: In a hostel with no bar? Bed it is. Hostel has a bar but there aren’t many people or everyone is being anti-social? Bed. No bar crawl that night? Definitely bed.

4.) You want to stop a get a beer, potentially at a time on, around, or before noon…

Friend: Mention in an off-hand way that you could use a beer, gage reaction from there. “Yeah, let’s totally wait until lunch” …*crap*

freisingbeer

Solo: Find a cafe, probably get a pastry (sweet tooth kicking in again), and of course your alcoholic beverage of choice. Having a book to read and attempting to look as sophisticated as possible adds a nice touch

5.) You don’t know where to travel to next

Friend: Let them decide.

Solo: Keep rebooking at your present hostel until you finally hop on a bus and just go somewhere

 

Anyone else do things differently when they travel alone or with friends??