The Perfect Travel Bag | The Otto From R. Riveter

On Saturday I got back from a two week backpacking trip through Western Europe and Northern Africa and throughout that time I developed a love connection with my newest bag, The Otto, from R. Riveter. Now, I am an ambassador for R. Riveter, but they did not sponsor this post, nor did they pay me to say beautiful things about them. This is, plain and simple, my honest opinion on a bag I think that every travel blogger should own.

Over the past five years of traveling I’ve definitely developed a routine for what works best for me. I have my favorite adaptor, my favorite travel document carrier, and my favorite pack. But I’ve never been able to pin down my favorite travel bag (you know, the one that goes UNDER the seat when you fly). And believe me, I’ve tried to find something that works. If you know me, you know I go through clothes and accessories like my life depends on it, so this is probably the sixth or seventh bag I’ve tried. Luckily, I’ve finally found something I can count on. Here’s why:

Heathrow Airport | London, England

The leather handles are one of my favorite feature with this bag because not only does it come with hand straps, but it also comes with a cross-body strap. This is pretty essential because when I already have a 30 lb pack on my back, the last thing I want is to be carrying a cross-body bag with more stuff in it, and when I’m riding the metro during rush hour (without my pack) the last thing I want is to have to hold on to handles.

Stonehenge | England

When I travel I generally pack very minimal, in regards to clothing. I go for muted colors and a few accessories that can get me through photos without looking like I’ve been cut and pasted into each place. It’s really important to me, therefore, to have a bag that shows quality and simplicity at the same time. The Otto is the perfect balance of chic and also something people notice.

Windsor Castle | England

Size really does matter when it comes to having the perfect travel bag, and The Otto wins this category in spades. The elongated rectangular shape is perfect for putting books, tablets, and other necessities in and I found this so helpful during day trips where I had to have everything I would need for 11 hours in one bag.

Natural History Museum | London, England

When you’re buying  a bag you want it to fit into every part of your lifestyle, and that includes being able to transform as a beautiful day bag for work, to a travel accessory fit for Indiana Jones.

The real question, of course, is how much can you ACTUALLY fit in this thing? Well, for science, I decided to try it out. As you can see, there’s quite a lot that can go in, including (but not limited to) my tablet, a novel, my passport, a water bottle, chapstick, my travel organizer, currency from four different countries, napkins, snacks and postcards. Whew! But honestly, one of the best features of this bag is that it comes with a sturdy zipper to seal all of this madness away. Especially when it comes to stowing it under airplane seats (which I did seven times during this trip), it’s invaluable to know your valuables aren’t going to be sliding back to row 33 during take-off.

Casablanca, Morocco

The pockets are another beautiful, and functional, things about this bag. And let me tell you how much I love beauty and functionality. There are two pockets on the outside of the bag that hug the shape so if you put little items like bus tickets in them they’re not going to blow away. In addition there are two slot pockets on the inside (where I kept my keys, chapstick and other little bits and pieces) and a zipper pocket that stretches almost the length of the back of the bag. This zip pocket I actually used as a wallet for change while I was traveling because I never travel with an actual wallet (story for another time).

Girona, Spain

Stylish, dependable and made by military spouses, there really isn’t a way to lose on this bag. I’m so happy to have mine for this and for all of my future expeditions. It really is the perfect travel companion. Until next time!

Girona, Spain

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U.S. Cities You Should Definitely Visit | Pittsburgh, PA

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links to hotelplanner.com. I received compensation in exchange for writing this blog post, although all opinions are my own. 

I’m a West Coast girl through and through. I love the Pacific Ocean, living in a mountain surrounded city, and celebrating random Scandinavian holidays. But I’m also a huge advocate for exploring your own country. I’ve been to 42 U.S. states, and I’ll definitely be visiting all 50. In the meantime, I’ve started this series to explore other cities I think you should know about. You may have caught my last post about Richmond, Virginia. Today, I’m talking about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

History

One of the most interesting parts about Pittsburgh is its history of rebellions. Just reading about them made me want to write 10 historical fiction novels. Here are just a few facts:

Whiskey Rebellion: This ain’t no Boston Tea Party, but it’s a great example of how important alcohol was. In 1791, taxes were raised on whiskey to offset the debt from The Revolutionary War. Needless to say, peeps weren’t so happy to see their whiskey targeted by higher taxes, so they fought back. Ultimately, 500 farmers marched against the government, and George Washington himself headed over to calm them down. This rebellion is a defining factor in establishing U.S. political parties.

City of Steel: Starting in the 19th century, Pittsburgh was known for American manufacturing, including the production of iron, brass, tin, and glass. But what really sets Pittsburgh apart is the steel industry, which began in 1875.

Pittsburgh Railway Riots: Right on the tail of steel production were the Pittsburgh Railway Riots. They were a result of the government once again trying to offset debts from the Civil War. These riots were pretty rough, with burning buildings and dead people, but they started planting ideas for the workers’ unions of the future.

Cool Things to Do

As a pretty sassy city in its own right, there are some pretty cool things to do in Pittsburgh. Some of the coolest include:

Andy Warhol Museum: Ready for a splash of culture? The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the largest collection of the artist’s works, and it’s an absolute must if you’re in the area. The museum has everything from saturated prints to hands-on art creation techniques that you can try. Don’t miss out!

Robot Hall of Fame: If you’re geeky like me, then you’ll definitely want this one to be on your radar. It’s located in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld section and home to all types of robots, including C-3PO, Gort, and WALL-E.

Canton Avenue: Did you know that Pittsburgh is home to the steepest street in America? Honestly, since I’m from Seattle, this looks pretty normal. If you want to get a serious workout, then this just might be the spot for you.

Accommodations

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Pittsburgh, try an adorable Airbnb. If you’re in more of a hotel mood, pop over to HotelPlanner Pittsburgh to find amazing spots like the Renaissance Pittsburgh. It was lifted stone by marble stone in 1906, before the invention of the crane. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Why My Blog Posts Came To A Screeching Stop

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything on my darling blog, and there’s a very practical reason for that. It has to do with a game of Marco Polo and a girl (me) who is entirely too competitive. Whilst playing said game with some kids, a few weeks back, I managed to dislocate my right shoulder. Like a champ (so I’m told) I popped the sucker back in, but my muscles were more than a little bit sore. Like it really flippin hurt, guys.

Needless to say, I’ve been laying around with a sling on, going to physical therapy and visiting the doctor more times than I would like. Have I ever told y’all how much I hate going to the doctor?

Anyway, I’ve only been able to start typing the past few days, and honestly right now my arm is hurting from even just writing this. But I wanted to let you all know that I’m alive. My mind is swirling with ideas for all types of new blog posts, and I can’t wait to get writing again! Not being able to write my mind has been pure torture. BUT here are some things I HAVE been able to do while my right arm has been on sabbatical:

  • Getting really good at using my left hand for things. I’m naturally left handed/slightly ambidextrous and lemme tell you, it’s never worked more in my favor.
  • Started watching new shows like Mad Men. I’m obsessed! I can’t believe I’ve never watched this show, before!
  • Going to the Scottish Highland Games for year #2. It was so much fun! I can’t wait to go back next year.
  • Daydreaming of cosplay ideas for when I can once again use both of my arms. I have more ideas than I can count!

    One of my cosplay ideas for next year’s ECCC 🙂
  • Reading books and getting caught up on all things literary.
  • Working with kids while trying not to re-injure my shoulder. It hasn’t been easy. But I must be doing something right because I got employee of the month!
  • Thrift shopping more selectively. ‘Cause hey, I can only use one arm to hold stuff.
  • Winning a contest with Schwinn bikes for best “throwback” cosplay with my bike the day after I stopped using my sling. Woot! Here’s a peek of the pic.
  • Being a little bored, but making it work. I LOVE working, and writing and making things. It’s been really hard to take some downtime. It almost killed me to take sick leave time off from work, and I had it all covered! But now that I’m getting better I’m really excited to get things rolling again.

What have you guys been up to? Anything summer-y and fantastic? Comment below! 

5 Reasons Being Homeschooled Makes Me Better At Traveling

“What the hell does homeschooling have to do with travel!?”

I’m glad you asked. I know you probably have your doubts…but you’d be surprised how often I pull out my homeschooling skills in order to successfully navigate the world. I was homeschooled from 3rd grade to high school graduation, and it really shaped who I am, as a person. No, I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons, but there are some stereotypes that are true…

NOT THOSE. Sheesh, guys, when was the last time you met an actual homeschooler!? Trick question, because when would you meet someone who never leaves home? Hahahaha — just me? Okay, moving on. Here are five reasons I think that being homeschooled makes me better at traveling.

1. Alone Time:

Okay, so when I was homeschooled I went to a resource center a few times a week. And it was great. Basically it was structured like a regular school, except most of us had parents hanging out in the halls or library, while we went to classes. All the teachers were certified through the state (except for special workshops) and it’s very important for my homeschool cred to note that our parents weren’t the teachers. This was not a co-op. Got it? Good. Moving on.Having a place to spend 2-3 days a week was great, but it still meant that there were entire days where I saw only my siblings/mom. This meant I had to be okay with rollin’ solo. I’m an introvert, so it’s a little bit easier for me, but the reality of travel (especially solo travel, which I do) is that you spend a lot of time alone. Whether it’s transportation from one place to another, or just walking around a city, there are a lot of times when you’re going to feel like one very out of place person in a sea of faces. Luckily, a homeschooler knows how to capitalize on that time. And an introvert knows it’s great for books, journaling, blogging or just thinking about life.

2. Making Random Friends:

On the flip-side, you probably should talk to people when you’re traveling alone. Because otherwise a) Why are you even there?

b) You’ll probably start to go slightly mad.That being said, you know the Homeschool mantra, “Say hi now, because you might not see another soul for days!” It’s on our flag. Moving on.

In all seriousness, it’s really important to connect with people. Hang out with people in hostels, talk to people on tours and really get to know the strangers around you. This is easy for me to do, because I’ve had to choose to make friends pretty much my whole life. There was no luxury of “assigned seating” or “class periods together.” It was talk to this person right now, or forever hold your peace.

3. Self Motivation:

Not to brag, but I basically put myself through the entire educational system from 3rd grade on. Yeah, I had my mom there to give me piles of books, but I think anyone can pretty much vouch that I made myself actually get things d-o-n-e. I’ve always been pretty self-motivated, which is really good, because I work remotely and it’s really important for me to make sure deadlines and projects get done on time. Yes, I have a boss. But luckily I know how to kick myself into action.That being said, I constantly make deadlines for myself when I’m planning to travel, traveling or working on the road. I make it happen because when you’re on the road, as a solo traveler, you either get yourself there, or you don’t get there. There’s nobody to tell you where to go, or wake you up if you sleep through your alarm clock. It’s all about you. Just the way I like it.


4. A Love of Learning:

If I won the lottery, I would become a professional student at Oxford. I love learning more than anything in the world. Which is why I have tutors “for fun,” subscribe to PBS instead of Netflix and have accounts with every online learning site. I love history and science and geography and art and writing and languages. That’s just me (and Hermione, who I share a birthday with – fun fact).This comes in handy when I’m traveling because it makes me infinitely curious about the places I go. It also makes the places hold a lot of value for me, and when other people see that, I think it’s a lot easier to make friends with the locals (unless you’re in Paris, where they hate everyone – jk…sort of). This also has helped me to learn the “secrets” about places, because when you make friends with locals you get taken places tourists never get told about.

5. Trying New Things: 

There is a disclaimer on this one, because I’m not a huge fan of trying new food. That has more to do with me being allergic to everything on the planet, though, and less to do with a lack of interest or willingness to try.What I do love to do is weird things that nobody else will do. I travel with a pretty open “yes” policy for trying new things (safety first, of course) and that’s led me to have some pretty interesting stories. I’d share them now, but where would the fun be in that? You’ll have to keep reading along on the blog to find out.

BONUS

Not taking ‘no’ for an answer:

I wasn’t ever shut down by teachers growing up. There weren’t “dumb questions,” because the only person I could ask was myself, or my mom (who is, in fact, a certified teacher).  I love proving people wrong, and I love finding ways to do things that people say can’t be done. I think a lot of this has to do with the way I was raised… and it probably also has something to do with the hotheaded Scottish blood in my veins.

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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White House Travel Blogger Summit

“It is crucial for our country’s next generation to travel, live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order to gain the skills needed to understand and operate within the global, political and economic landscape of the 21st century.”

-Evan Ryan (Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs)

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