Tea Talk 7: Kelsey Robson | PhD Student (Ireland)

Kelsey and I met in college my last year at Seattle Pacific. We lived on the same dorm floor (1st HILL!) and I am more than a little happy to introduce her to y’all. Right now this powerhouse woman is getting her PhD in Ireland (yes, IRELAND) and I love seeing her updates about living in my favorite country. We haven’t been able to meet up any of the times I’ve been in Ireland, but that’s the dream. Cheers to the future on the Emerald Isle! In the meantime, here’s Kelsey:

What started your passion for traveling?

My passion for traveling started with my first big trip. I was 17 and went to India for two months with one of my close friends and her family. The experience was eye opening, not only was the language, landscape, and food different. The entire style of life was something I had never imaged. It made me want to see more, and learn about various perspective and life styles around the world.

What’s one travel tip you think the world should know?

Don’t be scared to change your plans! Give yourself time to explore a new place, meet locals, and ask what they suggested to do. You can get suck in tourist traps easily, and I do enjoy tour and museums. Still my favorite adventures have been ones I haven’t planned.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up (ex. food dishes, lifestyle changes etc.)

Tea and biscuits! In Ireland and the UK people love their tea. I would have never had tea breaks before I moved. Now after a long day sitting down with a cup of tea and a chat is a must!

What would you suggest for other women who are thinking about traveling?

Don’t be scared to do it alone! The fear of traveling alone as a women can be very limiting. Be smart leave contact info for friends and family and make sure you check-in regularly. Traveling alone can be an empowering experience. You will meet more people and gain a sense of independence that is truly freeing.

What’s one failure that you learned a lot from, when it comes to travel?

I feel I fail to stay connected with others back home. It is something I truly struggle with, not from lack of love or caring. I simply get distracted and lose track of time.

I constantly set alarms to make calls and send messages to let people back home know what I am up to and check in on there lives, but it is a weakness I’m constantly trying ton improve.

What’s one fear that you overcame, while traveling?

Change, I’ve always hated change; I become complacent very easily. Now I feel that I crave constant change in my life. The thought of stagnancy now scares me more then constantly moving or traveling to new places.

What is your favorite way to travel (ex. plane, train, automobile?) and why?

Plane, two reasons. I love the fact that you can get on a plane, take a nap and wake up in a completely different place in no time! Also the view! Have you ever seen the sunset while in the air, or flown over the clouds, or seen city lights from above. It’s unreal!

What is one piece of advice that you wish you could give your past self?

Don’t be scared to do what you think is right. Advice given from others, no matter how good hearted, it may not be what is right for you. Sometimes you just need to jump on a plane and go exploring, no matter how impractical!

What is one place at the top of your bucket list that you’d like to visit?

Sicily, Sun, beaches and Italian cuisine, it may be cliché but that sounds like a perfect holiday!

Let’s talk about your current trip! What was your inspiration for your adventure?

I moved to Ireland almost three years ago to study, then stayed to work, with the advantage of being able to travel around Europe easily. Now I recently moved to Northern Ireland for a PhD program. I believe if you are career driven you still have plenty of opportunity to travel the world!
What has been the best/toughest part of your current trip?

Being away form family. I love hanging out with my parents and going to all my cousins birthday parties. But I only get home once or twice a year, its hard to be away from the people you love.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from your current trip?

I’ve learned how to drive on the other side of the road! Sometimes it’s still scary, especially for my passengers, but I’m getting the hang of it! haha

What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself from this trip?

You learn how strong you are when you are away for long periods of time. I’ve had to learn how to drive, medical systems, education systems etc which is frustrating when it is different from what you know. But you just keep going and realize everything can be resolved in strides.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t wait just do! I find myself over thinking my ‘next trip’ constantly. But sometimes you have to stop over analyzing if it is the right time, take a chance, and explore!

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Review: The Rolling Donut | Dublin, Ireland

(Photo courtesy of The Rolling Donut)

An American walks into an Irish donut shop…

It’s been a while since I’ve written a review, and there are a couple of reasons for that, but I’ve been sitting here for months thinking about a particular donut shop that I went to when I was in Dublin, last time I was there. Now, to start things off, you should know that I LOVE donuts. Of the five things I missed the most, when I was living in France, it was donuts—that’s how serious I am.

That being said, I was so happy to find a donut shop the last time I was in Dublin. The sad news is that it was pretty empty every time I walked by (despite being located in a very busy area), and the workers looked like they hadn’t spoken to anyone in days. BUT, that didn’t stop me from popping in and having chat. The workers were SO nice, and they gave me not one, but two, delicious raspberry filled donuts that were out of this world.

I mean, really, I’m still sitting here thinking about them and that was almost six months ago. If you’re in Dublin, I would definitely recommend taking quick trip to this little shop. It’s one of my absolute favorites.

Ordered: Two raspberry filled donuts

Where: 34 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin 1, D01 YN15, Ireland

Went: January 2017

Wifi: No

Reservation Needed: No

Website: https://www.therollingdonut.ie/ 

Tip: All of the sourdough donuts are made fresh every day in the bakery with all fillings, glazes and toppings produced in-house. They use only fresh & locally sourced ingredients where possible. AND they have Vegan donuts!

Unicorn Horns and Dinosaur Tales: Adventures in Edinburgh, Scotland

In the land of unicorns, I needed a miracle. Two days ago I flew into Scotland and it has been such a relaxing and rejeuvenating time here. The first time I came to Edinburgh everything was kind of a whirlwind, so this time I switched things up to give it one more chance; different travel situation, different hostel, different part of town. I’m so glad I did because everything has been amazing.
To start things off, my hostel literally looks like I’m staying in 221B Baker Street, which of course makes me very happy. The carpet is gloriously red pepper red with beautifullly intricate floral wallpaper and red velvet curtains to the sides of each room’s windows. Every time I go up or down stairs there’s just a sort of magic that happens as I walk up the original (stunningly beautiful) spiral staircases. This hostel was advertised as “not a party hostel”and I’m so happy I jumped on that boat asap. The reception closes at 10pm. The common room closes at 10pm. And pretty much all of the lights on our residental street are out by 10pm.

This means that getting a goodnight’s rest is a lot easier. Although I’ve been fighting jet-lag more this trip than I usually do. This morning was the first “normal night of sleep.” And that means I went to bed at  9pm and woke up at 3:30am. Solid.

But I do feel much better, today. When I first flew into Edinburgh I checked into my hostel and then pretty much immediately went to  bed for 10 hours. It was a riveting day. By the time I woke up, it was 10pm and the entire world had shut down, so I spent some time online, then went back to sleep.

Yesterday was much more eventful, and brings me back to my need for a miracle.

The morning that I left Dublin I found out that my phone had stopped charging, but after trying a different cord it finally started. Which left me with a problem. How was I supposed to charge my phone? The obvious answer was that I wasn’t going to be able to, since I couldn’t take the working cord with me. So when I got to Edinburgh I bought a new one, thinking my problems were solved. Why are problems never easily solved, while traveling?

The cord didn’t work.

And since my phone is not only a communicative device, but something I use for music and photos while traveling, I was pretty upset. So I just left it plugged in the wall while I pouted, praying for a miracle (aka PLEASE CHARGE!). After a couple of minutes I saw that the battery had raised 4%. But there wasn’t a charging symbol on the phone. Weird. I checked back a while later and it had gone up a couple more – cool! Relief washed over me, but when I checked back an hour later it had only gone up 1%. Yeah, 1.

The moral of this story is be more specific in what you wish for. I got my miracle, my phone is charging, but at  rate of 1- 5% per hour. Yep. This is real life. In context, my phone is almost 4 years old and so it was time for a new one, but I was hoping to make it through this trip before shelling out for one. The phone had other plans.

Other than the phone crisis of 2017, yesterday was a lovely day. Scotland has been completely sunny (if windy) since I’ve been here and it has been glorious. Snow is on the forecast, but I’m hoping it won’t be enough to delay my flight out to Copenhagen tomorrow.

Yesterday I continued a project I started in Dublin, where I meet someone for coffee/tea in every city I go to. This has proven (already!) to make this trip amazingly more enjoyable and I definitely plan on writing up a blog post on the amazing women I’ve met. I already feel so inspired by them and I know you will, too!

Pre my tea session I got terrifically lost trying to find a rather obvious statue of Sherlock Holmes. I’m not going to play coy here, I literally walked right past it. And while I can probably partially blame that on the jet-lag I think it’s also safe to say that I “saw but did not observe” my surroundings.

I did finally find the statue, after stopping in for a cup of tea at a literal hole in the wall coffee shop, and it was such a great feeling of accomplishment. If I had had mortime I would have loved to stop in at the Conan Doyle pub across the street, as well. I would also like to note how much I love that I can just order “a cup of tea” and everyone knows what I want, here. No fusions, no ice. Just a cup of tea (meaning black tea for those of you who are wondering what on earth I’m spouting on about).

Post my meeting with a lovely fellow traveller I stopped in at the National Museum of Scotland, which is just as impressive as it sounds. Good grief. I only had an hour and a half to go through, but I have a feeling I could have easily spent days in there and still have not fully seen the whole thing. My favorite parts that I did see, however, were the exhibits on the history of Scotland (which was basically just me fangirling over historical events that happen in Outlaner), the fashion exhibits (because I love clothes and I love stitchwork more than anything) and the natural history part of the museum, which was filled with animals that were stuffed and a t-rex skeleton that reminded me of Night at the Museum. Also it was absolutely free to visit, which is a trend that makes me extremely in love with Europe and extremely dissatified with American museums. I just don’t think people should have to pay an arm and a leg to learn about the history of their country, or art. End of rant.

I’m really lucky, this trip, because I’m staying on the other side of what’s called “The Meadows” (#creative) which is exactly what it sounds like, but is also the most serene thing ever. I love seeing miles of green every time I walk back to my hostel, and I love that there are acres of green between me and the tourist bustle of where I was staying last time. All in all I’ve very happy to be staying where I am.
Today I’m taking an adventure up to The Highlands of Scotland, which is probably going to melt my heart, I’ll be so in love with everything. They’re not for everyone, but I absolutely love bus tours around countries. With a good book and an insatiable curiousity for history, they’re one of my favorite things to do.

Have YOU been to Edinburgh (or Scotland)? I’d love to hear any fun stories or things you saw that made you love (or hate) the place. Comment below and share your story! (Like really, I wanna hear all about it.)

What I Pack for a Two Week Trip (Winter)

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Something I love about backpacking is there is no “right” way to do it. You do what works for you. You use the pack that works for you. You go where yuo want to go, and you pack what you want to pack. This blog is definitely not guide of how to be successful at backpacking, in the strict sense of the word. All I can do is tell you about what has made me successful, in my travels. That being said, I thought I would let you all in on what I’m traveling with. The key to packing successfully, when it comes to backpacking, is to remember 3 rules:

1. There are needs and then there are wants. Go with the needs.

2. Going monocromatic means creating more diversity in your outfits (really!).

3. Things seem much more disposable when every pound is strapped to your back for days.

Once again this is not the “how to guide” for success. But here’s what I have in my pack on this trip, so you can have an idea of what I bring when I go on a two week long backpacking trip.


Clothing: 

1 Puffer Vest

7 Pairs of Underwear: I usually pack half the amount of the number of days I’ll be gone…but obviously that’s for trips 2 weeks and less.

Two Tank Tops

2 Bras

3 Pairs of Wool Socks

5 Sweaters

1 Hoodie

1 Pair of Pajama Bottoms

2 Pairs of jeans

1 Dress

1 Pair of Insulated Tights

1 Rain Jacket

1 Wool Wrap around Poncho: So many uses! From being cold on the plane, to needing an extra layer over your bed to having  a great way to change up your outfits.

1 Scarf: Originally I packed 2 but I’d rather buy a new one as a souvenir and onlybring one on the trip.

Earmuffs: It’s supposed to be 17 degrees in one of the cities I’m visiting.

1 Rain Jacket

1 Puffer Jacket

1 Pair of flip-flops: For shower/easy access.
1 Pair of TOMS boots


Accessories: 

Phone

Umbrella

Camera

NeckPillow

Canvas Bag: These fold up tiny, but can be used for groceries and as a purse, when you don’t want to trek around carrying your whole pack.

Book: I know this isn’t exactly sensible for weight reasons, butI really like having something that’s not dependant on wifi or battery life. There’s also always the option of leaving it in a hostel, if you finish it on the trip

Rain cover for my pack

Eye Mask: Because there’s nothing like getting awoken at 4am by your hostel roommate.

 

Toiletries: 

Makeup/ makeup wipes

Mini conditioner, face wash

Earplugs

All the Chapstick

2 Tea bags

Sunglasses

Hand Warmers

Mini deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrush

Travel size laundry detergent (dry)

Matches/First Aid Kit

Whistle and Grapling Hook

Mini Case of Advil

Disposable razor, nail clippers, tweezers

Washcloth

Travel Towel

 

Electronics: 

Adapters for each country

Tablet

Keyboard: I have a keyboard that connects via bluetooth to my tablet. It’s super light, hot pink and my favorite thing ever.

Charging cords for everything…and I mean everything

Extra batteries

Mini flashlight

 

What are some things that you love to travel with? Comment below with your “must haves”!

Why I Stopped Lying about being American when I Travel

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When I was a kid we spent every Memorial Day Weekend at a magical lake. Okay, so the lake wasn’t magical, but the memories I have there, are. Three whole days were filled to the brim with canoeing, archery, finding newts and beaver dams and building “survival fires.”

But one of the best memories I have from those trips, happened at the end. It was a tradition we called, “Stone Soup.” You might have been told the story when you were a kid, or been read the book, but in case you’re not aware of the tale, here’s a recap:

Once upon a time there was a boy who came to a village, seperated by differences. He promised the villagers he could make a soup that would amaze and astound them, because he had a magic stone. Since he was a stranger, and they had trust issues, they thought about kicking him out of the town. But they were kinda sorta also bored from village life, so magic sounded like a welcome distraction. So…they let him try out his magic, and probably whispered some threats about what would happen if he didn’t live up to his promises (but they wouldn’t put that in a children’s book, now would they?).

Anyhoo, he told the villagers that the only way the magic would work is if he had the right ingredients. Those went something like this: vegetables, meat, spices, flour etc. 

Sound familiar? Yeah, those are all the ingredients people use for soup. 

But the villagers weren’t so bright, so they each offered up what they had, and threw it in the pot, and they were amazed by the bubbling, beautiful soup that came out of all of his efforts. 

The point isn’t that the boy was kind of a fraud. It’s that, when everyone comes together, and brings what they have, magic happens. When I was a kid, this meant making some pretty delicious soup.

Now, as an adult, I kind of feel this way about hostels. I know, I know, that was a jump. But hear me out.

When I get to a hostel, I literally have no idea who I’m going to meet. I’ve been coming to the hostel I’m in right now for over 3 years, and the experiences have never once been the same. For instance, this time I’m up writing at 3am, because jet-lag is a monster that’s trying to ruin my life.

Yesterday was the first day of my backpacking trip (#Europe2017) and last night I got to talk to some of the girls in my hostel room. I’m a pretty strong introvert, but I absolutely love meeting new people when I travel. Two of the girls in my room are from South America, and one is from Mexico.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t tension when she when she found out I was American, and I said,”We’re neighbors!” Because there definitely was.

As we talked more, though, we figured out we had a lot in common. Like we’re both hostel jumpers on the second act of our twenties. We both like going to bed early. We like to laugh at drunk people on pub crawls, rather than being the drunk people. And we both love to travel.

Travel brings people together. It’s the “magic stone” in the pot of life that requires nothing except that you contribute an open mind, and your own experiencs. It’s amazing to think back on the people I’ve met, even in this one hostel. People from literally all over the world who are brought together to learn, laugh and make some (sometimes embarassing) memories.

This is also the reason I’ve decided not to lie and tell people I’m Canadian on this trip. I know, you might snort thinking,”Why would she lie?” Well, little ducks, it’s because not all Americans are the golden children we wish they could be. And Canadians are hella chill. Seriously. I could hug the whole country.

Despite it being a pretty easy thing to pull off, because my accent sounds pretty similar, (especially to people with English as a second language), I think it’s more important than ever for me to say I’m American.

Why?

Because the reality is that our country has showed the world a very dark side of itself. And while I know that we can spit quotes about majorities, the reality of the situation is that the rest of the world is not exactly thrilled with our choices. Heck, I’m not exactly thrilled.

That being said, I really do think it’s so important for Americans who travel to claim their country (and yes, I know I’m not the only one who’s lied). It’s important for us to show people that Americans are not represented by the hate they see in media.

It’s important for us to take time to laugh and talk and make weird secret handshakes with people from all over the word. Because the reality is, you could be the only American they ever meet. Think about that for a second.

You represent your entire country. Obviously not all of the time, but I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say it’s probaby more often than you think.

In each country I’m visiting, this trip, I’m making it my goal to sit down with someone who lives there, to just talk about life. That might not sound groundbreaking. But if you can change someone’s life and the lens they view the world through, I’d say that’s pretty huge.

So take time to listen, and take time to tell your story. More now than ever. Because you might never know the impact that late night bunkbed chats in hostel rooms might have.

 

10 Things You Should do the Week Before Taking a Solo Backpacking Trip

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Next Saturday I’ll be taking off on a jet-plane. Literally. The time has come for my yearly trip to Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Hungary, Belgium) and I could not be more excited to be going back to my second “home.” I’ve taken somewhere around 15 backpacking trips, so I definitely have a routine of how I get ready for them. My number one rule of advice? Don’t wait until the last minute. It might seem sexy to pack the night before, but you must resist. A smart traveler knows that to have peace of mind you need a good system to get things checked off bit by bit.

This weekend I started my “week before takeoff” routine and after getting everything booked up, I’ve started to get the ball rolling on pre-packing. Didn’t know that was a thing? Well, it definitely is. Especially when you work as much as I do, it’s important for you to plan things out well. Here’s my list of six things I make sure to have done one week before take-off, for an international solo backpacking trip.

Copy Passport, Drivers License, Credit and Debit Cards to Leave

Obviously I don’t anticipate anything going south during my trip, but if you’re smart then you’ll always have in the back of your mind that it could. The best way to keep this type of thing from turning into a really big bad problem is for you to be prepared. This is why I always copy, and then hand off, prints of my passport (and other important cards/documents) that I’ll have with me on my trip. This way, if they get stolen, I’ll have all the numbers and information I need to replace them… or at least get back on a plane ride home.

Print Maps and Directions from the Airport to the Hostel

I know that this is the information age, and that many places have wifi for free. I also know that data plans allow you to talk and pop on GoogleMaps whilst abroad. But the reality of the situation is that phone signals and wifi are not reliable, and if you solely depend on them you could end up stranded in a city you don’t know, surrounded by a language you don’t understand. If you have a physical map you not only can find directions easier, but a lot of the time you can ask for directions easier. People in a city know their city. And even if they can’t speak your language, seeing things in written form (with a map) can make a world of difference when communicating.

Learn Basic Words if You don’t Speak the Language 

The reality of traveling to Europe is that most people have some knowledge of English, especially since most of the places I’ll be visiting will be major cities and capitals. That being said, a native word can go a long way, when you’re making your way through pretty much any part Europe. Even if you try to say a word, and totally botch it up, most people will appreciate the attempt. Unless you’re trying to speak Irish in Ireland, in which case you’ll probably just get laughed at. Let’s all try to be a little less like the stereotype of walking into every country like English is the official language of the world. Especially if you’re an American, like me, you should at least know how to say:

  • Please
  • Sorry
  • Goodbye
  • Hello
  • Thank you

Make an Address List for People who want Postcards

This one is really near and dear to my heart because I adore getting postcards, so I think it’s really important to send them out, while I’m traveling, as well. I usually travel with a physical list of all the names I want to send postcards to. Obviously there are ways to make this digitalized, but what can I say? I’m an old fashioned kinda girl.

Print Confirmations, Tickets, Hostel Booking etc.

Not all confirmations need to be printed, but if I’m feeling nervous about going to a country I’ve never been to before I usually do, just to be on the safe side of things. I always travel with a pocket binder so I can slip things like this in there. It’s also great for slipping things in for the scrapbook I’ve been saying I’d make for the past 10 years (#DontJudgeMe). Like I said above, use your best judgment, but when it comes down to it, wifi should never be depended on.

Make a List of Places for Roommates, Significant Others

I always leave a list of places I’ll be staying, when I leave on a backpacking trip. On this list I write hostels, cities and any other relevant information people might need to know if an emergency happens. Once again, it’s always better to be prepared!

Pay Bills in Advance

One of the easiest things to forget, when you’re abroad, is to pay bills that fall on the dates that you’re traveling. For this reason, I try really hard to pay everything before I even head to the airport. This way I have peace of mind that I’m not late on a payment, and I don’t have to worry about coming back to a house where the electricity has been cut off. Everybody wins.

Arrange for Pets to be Fed

Whether you’re a plant mom/dad, or you have a more cuddly animal, it’s important to make sure that your pets are fed and good to go before you embark on your adventure. For me, this means buying fish feeders that my roommate can drop into the tank periodically, but for a cat if obviously would be more involved. The long and short of it is, be sure to say thank you for roommates helping out. Just ’cause they live with you, doesn’t mean it’s somehow their obligation.

Make a List of Things to See in Each Location 

I love lists. And when it comes to travel I try to compile a (rough) list of places I want to go, and things I want to see beforehand. When I’m on my trip I don’t want to spend the time looking up local attractions, so it makes it a lot easier to have a fall-back plan. I also want to emphasize that this is a list that’s extremely flexible. I usually only end up doing half (at most) of the things I write on there, but it’s good to have options!

Change Out Currency

Some currencies are easier to come by than others, so you’ll want to make sure you have what you need before you leave on your trip. You should also make sure that your hostel (or wherever you’re staying) accepts payments with cards, since that definitely is not always the case, and you don’t want to be caught off-guard.

When it comes to currency, you should also make sure that you do your research on which currency is best for which country. I definitely have a horror story of thinking that Northern Ireland and Ireland rolled with the same money. A mistake that earned me some very angry glares on my first trip. You can exchange money, beforehand with banks (as long as you have an account with them) and with businesses that specialize in currency exchange. You can also exchange money in airports, but I’ve generally found that to be a pain.

Have a pre-packing tip or routine that helps you keep your sanity? Share it in the comments section below! 

Dublin, Ireland: Part 2 – City Life

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While I was living in France I visited Ireland a lot. It was a cheap getaway, at about 30 euro a pop, and I loved being able to see my favorite country so often. On my last trip to Dublin, before I moved back to the U.S. I remember thinking, “This city would be so beautiful to see around the Christmas holidays.” And I was right. I didn’t quite get there in time for Christmas, but I did get to Dublin for the next best thing – New Years Eve.

After spending a couple nights solo, my travel companions joined me in my favorite city and we had some fun traipsing around the city, visiting the National Gallery, walking around Trinity College trying to (unsuccessfully) find the Oscar Wilde museum, and eating some damn good food at 300 hundred year old pubs. All in all, there were definitely still things that were on my list, that didn’t get done – but I guess that just means I have to do it next time!

New Years Eve, itself, was spent working (one of the beauties of having a job that is remote) and finally making our way over to Temple Bar ( a pretty touristy, but none the less charming part of Dublin where a plethora of bars and pubs are located), to hang out in one of the pubs. The thing about Dublin, I’ve learned, is that it’s not where you are in the city, it’s who you know. And luckily I know some pretty amazing people from the area, so we had a great time.

Also, can we talk about the holiday decorations in Ireland!? Talk about beauty. The best part about going late, is that people don’t rip down their Christmas decorations the second Christmas is over – the 12 days of Christmas don’t end until January 6th, so the Christmas spirit is alive and well, and the pubs are decked out like something out of a Charles Dickens story.

Something  I noticed from the past times that I’ve been in Dublin has been that I never take pictures just of the city. Which is crazy. So, this time, I tried to take a few just of the everyday, walking around, scopes – here are some of my favorite pics from this part of our journey!

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Dublin, Ireland: Part 1 – Malahide Castle

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My next stop, on our two week backpacking adventure (and after leaving Edinburgh) was Dublin. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t doing a happy dance in the airport line. While I had been in Scotland with my two companions, we split up a bit during this leg of the adventure, and I flew to Ireland while both of them stayed in Scotland. While it would have been fun to stay in Edinburgh a bit longer, we all had to be honest – there was only one place my heart and mind were.

So, I flew away solo, and arrived at Isaacs Hostel, the night of December 26th. Let me tell you a little bit about Isaacs. If you are in Dublin, and you stay anywhere other than Isaacs, you are a fool. It is, without a doubt, the best hostel in Dublin (I’ve tested other ones and they haven’t even come close). I’ve been staying at Isaacs for a few years, now, and the community and staff always makes it feel like a second home to me.

During my first couple of days in Dublin, I wanted to make sure I saw something new in Ireland, and I really wanted to do a bus tour. SO. I booked one with CitySightSeeing and headed out to explore a castle…at least that was the plan, but the original 9am tour got cancelled because there was only me and one other lady who wanted to go, which meant waiting until the 2:30pm tour. Normally this wouldn’t be a big disappointment, but one thing to note here is that I was in Ireland, and Ireland is very far north, and you definitely become aware of that fact in the month of January, when you’re in the dark at 3:30pm. But, nevertheless, I still jumped onboard with the tour, and had a great time looking around castles, and hanging out with a bunch of girls who were on holiday from New Zealand. The best part (per usual) was our bus driver, though. He was absolutely hilarious, and that really makes the whole experience so much better when a) The tour guide is Irish and b) He’s hilarious and makes your trip amazing.

Here are some pictures from the castle (Malahide Castle, in case you’re thinking about going to visit). Sorry about how dark the photos are, but the castle was definitely built with the cold climate in mind, and in a true medieval fashion, was quite dark to start with (and no flash photography was allowed).

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By the time we got done with the tour (at the late night hour of 3:30pm) the whole place was dark, but I wanted to grab one more shot for the night.
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There’s me, a tiny little dot on the premise. But I had such a lovely time, that who even cares that you can barely see me?
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Two favorite flags.

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7 Days And Counting: UK/Ireland Backpacking Trip 2015

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Quick updates seem to be the theme of my life, right now, but I want to catch all of you lovely people up with the chaotic beauty that my life is right now!

I absolutely CANNOT believe that it’s Christmas next week! When did that happen!?

Another thing that I can’t believe is that I’m going to be flying out to Europe next week. It’s absolute madness. With all of the chaos of changing jobs and holiday busy, I’ve basically just felt like this trip is an oncoming train that I’m about the get hit with. But that’s okay, I like the excitement.

Okay, so I haven’t really told you all very much about this trip (mainly because I haven’t really prepared AT ALL for the trip itself). I’ve been trying to book places to stay in my spare time, bugging friends in the UK/Ireland to help me book places and generally trying to piece together as many things as possible, in the meantime.

One of the best things I can think of, though, is going to be all of the spare time I’ll have for reading. It’s going to be insane. I have an 8 hour layover in Washington DC on my way to London, and then I get to spend Christmas night in Heathrow airport, waiting for my 6am bus because drumroll the ENTIRE city of London shuts down for Christmas and boxing day.

Honestly, there are a lot of things I love about Europe, but the country/city closures are not one of them. I love being able to go to the grocery store on Sundays, in Seattle. In fact, I think I purposely go shopping on Sundays, now, as some sort of completely ineffective way to rebel against “the man.”

I am really looking forward to the holiday, though. I can’t even believe that it’s coming up so quick! Here’s what our itinerary looks like, for now:

12/25-12/26: London

12/26-12/27: Edinburgh, Scotland (Be still my heart.)

12/27-1/1: Dublin, Ireland (I can’t even. I’m SO EXCITED!)

1/1-1/2: Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare!)

1/2 – 1/3: London

Overall, you can see where the majority of my heart/time will be (#IRISHTILIDIE), but I’m so excited to get to see some awesome new places along the way, as well!

Here are some of the suggestions we’ve had for our time in Edinburgh (feel free to add suggestions in the comments section, below!):

  • Edinburgh Castle, Royal Mile
  • Holyrood Palace and Abbey, Royal Mile (with a walk up to the top of Arthur’s Seat for a great view)
  • The Grassmarket for food
  • The National Gallery
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • Cramond Island (get the 41 bus from Prince’s St and ask the driver to let you know when to get off for Cramond Village. Make sure you check the tide times so that when the tide is out you can walk across the causeway to the island in the middle of the estuary. It’s amazing! Suggested lunch in the cafe in the harbour for Cullen Skink (fish broth) and homemade bread, Scottish food).

I did want to throw out an inquiry to the world of travel, though. I’m going to be in Dublin for quite some time and I’ve done most of the “tourist” things to do, so what are your suggestions!? What have I missed? Literary stops? Old libraries/bookshops? Geekery? Art? Let me know in the comments section, below!

Having this trip to look forward to has really helped me along with the transition of moving jobs and with getting settled in Seattle, in general. There’s something that really settles my mind about knowing that I have a plane ticket to the UK/Ireland. It hasn’t mattered, over the past months that I wasn’t going to be going back for months. What mattered was that I was going to be going back! And I couldn’t be more excited as I set off with two of my closest friends.

 

When Life Pelts You With Lemons…

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I won’t apologize this time, for the weeks I’ve been silent on my blog. Mainly because life has been serving me a platter of lemons, which I’ve had to skillfully squeeze and mix into some very spontaneous lemonade. To make a long story short, I got laid off from my job a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely abrupt and unexpected. The result was buckling down into “go mode” and starting to figure out how I would pay my tribute to the student loan gods (among other bills etc.).

I’m very happy to say that things have worked out well enough that my bills are covered, and although there is a pay cut involved with now supporting myself – I am considerably happier in my new job and more inspired to create, write and wake up in the morning.

So, what else have I been up to?

Well we relaunched our beautiful website The Exploress, which was a lot of collaboration and a lot of hard work – but we did it! I’m so proud of my beautiful team of writers and photographers and I absolutely love being able to work alongside them to tell their stories of travel and adventures.

And speaking of adventures – in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be headed out on my very own (with two of my best friends!) backpacking adventure around England, Ireland and Scotland. I’m so happy I could cry. Our itinerary consists of four stops, at the moment. We’ll be starting out in London, jumping on a bus up to Edinburgh (no trains – thanks boxing day), flying over to Dublin and then flying over to Stratford Upon Avon (where Shakespeare is buried!).

This trip is coming at the perfect time, and I’m so happy for it to be a bit of respite from my American life. It has been kind of hard to get back in the swing of fast-paced crazy U.S. life, but I’m doing my best and overall I’d say I’m pretty happy with where I’m at, right now.

I’ve started a new job, which is remote, so I’m working today from a beautiful coffee shop near my house. I’m working on social media and marketing with them – which is a bit of a dream come true, because I get to write and come up with marketing schemes. I love being able to take both branches of work and really dedicate myself to the overall mission of the company.

Oh! And I do have a couple of upcoming trips, apart from my UK one, that I’m really excited about:

I recently took a road trip to the Olympic peninsula and that was both beautiful and balming for my soul. You can see some of those lovely pictures below. And NEXT weekend I’m taking a snowy adventure to Leavenworth! I’m so excited for so much beautiful snowy goodness.

Oh! And I’ll be headed over to San Francisco, for a week, in January! So really the whole travel life style is working beautifully, at the moment. The thing I’ve learned about travel is that if you make it a priority (and better, if people know you’re the type to jump at the opportunity), the adventures will come to you. I promise to keep up more on the blog, since the storm seems to have calmed for the moment *knock on wood*. Especially while I’m backpacking – I plan on smothering you all with stories and whimsy about my adventures.

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