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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Day 2: Game of Thrones Tour | Girona, Spain 

Yesterday was such a fun day! I decided to spluge on this trip by booking a Game of Thrones tour north of Bardelona, in Girona, and it was such a good way to get out of my shell and hang out with other nerds. The Medeivel town of Girona is like 2,000 years old so it’s pretty incredible in its own rite, but Season 6 of Game of Thrones was also filmed there and so there’s this whole other dimension of awesome in the city. 

Asking random strangers to take pics of me. As one does. 

This building was used to stage the big bang that Cersei may or may not have done. 

These Arabic baths were so beautiful but the bath house was also so cold. The last thing I’d be thinking about here would have been bath time. 

In addition to movie locations we also got to see some real castle ruins that were 1500 years old! 

True talent is that this picture was taken by a dad who was balancing one kid on his shoulders while his five year old daughter told him how to take the picture. Shoutout to R. Riveter for my new favorite travel bag! 

This is our tour guide. He didn’t actually love Game of Thrones but he loved history and architecture so that made up for it. These are the stairs blind Arya sat on. 

Hanging out with my Otto bag and enjoying my golden hand. #kingslayer

This popsicle was actually gross, but the cool thing was that it turned your lips metallic gold as you ate it! 

In a way im going to count this as my Thanksgiving. I got to eat tapas and traditional Catalonian food with 20 strangers next to the Mediterranean Sea!

And speaking of the sea. There she is! 

Tomorrow I’ll be doing a walking tour around Barcelona so that should be fun! Then tomorrow I’m off to Morocco! 

10 Awesome Happenings From 2017…So Far

The last 6 months have been a sham. In today’s world it’s pretty easy to write a list of 10 terrible things that happened recently… in fact, you can probably write up 10 terrible things that have happened this week #America. But, in the spirit of being my opposite self (known pessimist) I’m going to encourage us to focus on the positive.

I think it can be really easy to focus on all of the not-so-great things in the world, and while I am not advocating for ignoring those (at all!) I am offering a 5 minute read break of some pretty cool things that have happened, but that can easily be overlooked. But don’t let it stop with me! I want to hear all the beautiful things that have happened in your lives, as well. In the spirit of celebration, share yours in the comments!

1. The apocalypse didn’t happen

Okay, so this one might seem a bit extreme. But, yo. Shit went down in January, and I think we can all agree on that (sorry for the swearing, mom). But can I just say something, really quick? I’m proud of you guys. I’m proud of my allies who post signs in their yards saying that they support people who look different from themselves. I’m proud of the people who don’t stand around ignoring homophobia or xenophobic remarks on public transportation. I’m proud of the women who take their daughters to protests with signs that say, “WE ARE HERE. WE ARE WATCHING. WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” I’m proud of my science friends who march for knowledge. I’m proud of my friends who sat in airports and said, “No. Fear will not rule how we treat our neighbors.” I’m proud of you guys.

2. I found out what I want to be when I grow up

This is the year when I finally figured it out. I know what I want to be when I grow up! And no, it’s not a brain surgeon—sorry mom. I graduated in 2010 with a Degree in Journalism and literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, other than have people stop asking me what my five year plan was.

I gave myself five years to do whatever the hell I wanted. I traveled the world, lived in another country and in different states. I worked for a non-profit, I took more internships than I can count. I was a nanny. Giving myself time to grow was one of the best gifts I think I could have ever given myself, and it works! I finally figured something out. Stay tuned for more details!

3. I took a trip to Europe 

Every year, since I started solo backpacking, I’ve tried to take a trip back to to Europe. Why Europe? Because it’s my heart. I don’t know how to describe it, really. But when I’m there (almost regardless of the country) I feel like I’m at home. Since 2013 I’m kept my promise to myself and this year I went to Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Belgium! I’m so excited because I’m actually going to get to go TWICE this year, which I do not take for granted, at all. What an insane and unimaginable gift. I’m so excited.

4. I went to a clothing exchange 

Hands up if you like clothes! As someone who has more than I probably should, and a Degree in Fashion Design, I’m a 100% clothing and shoe lover. This month I got the opportunity to meet up with some other stylish ladies, and we exchanged clothing and stories and laughs. The best part was that all the extra clothes got given to an awesome non-profit that helps out women coming out of domestic abuse situations!

5. I hosted a craft night…and it was f*cking awesome (sorry, mom)

Me and a friend tried to join a knitting group about a month ago and when we got to the damn coffee shop (sorry, mom) we found out that the group wasn’t meeting anymore. We had been waiting to go for weeks, so we were pretty upset to find out we couldn’t get our knit on.

Solution? Host a craft night at my house so we DEFINITELY have a place to create and geek out. AND IT WAS SO FUN. One of my passions in life is bringing together magnificent, strong, creative women and having them all meet and talk to each other. What an awesome event for us to get to craft and laugh and drink wine and just have a great time!

6. I’ve hung out with eight estranged friends

I’ve talked about this on here, before, but my New Years Resolution was to grab coffee with someone every month, who I hadn’t seen in a long time. So far we’re 5/5 and I already have a couple coffee hang times scheduled for June.

This has honestly been one of the coolest resolutions, because it is TOO easy to lose touch with awesome people who may even live close, but are just eternally busy. And I get it, we’re so busy with life that we don’t have time for relationships with people, anymore. But let’s swim against the tide and battle those loneliness statistics (looking at you, Seattle—we’re #5 on the list).

7. I went to an awesome birthday dinner for my Grandpa

My family is borderline insane. And the great part about saying that is that we all agree, so I don’t have to apologize. That being said, we still get together and we still celebrate the occasional event. This April, we had a glorious celebration for my Grandpa’s birthday, and it was the actually a lot of fun! Maybe we’re growing out of some of our crazy?

8. I had a sleepover with my friends

Yep. Like an old-school sleepover. The brainchild of my brilliant roommate, we built a blanket fort out of our living room, watched Knight’s Tale, and ate pizza. Of course we had all types of girl talk and tons of laughs as well. The best part? It was at my house, so I still got to go to sleep in my own bed. #adulting

9. I didn’t adopt a cat…but I did get a cat sitting job

In March I got out of a pretty long term/serious relationship and as all sane recent breakup-ees do, I immediately went on the hunt for a cat to distract me from all of my woes. Thank the universe that nobody let me get one (because practically speaking I am technically allergic to most of them…broken hearts make you do weird things). The GOOD news is that I got a job cat sitting, which is awesome because I get to play with cats, get paid, and I still can breathe at home! Win-win-win.

10. I took a personal finance class…and it was awesome

Call me crazy, but why is personal finance not a required class in college? I mean, no wonder this country has so many financial problems. Ask any millennial and all we know is that if we don’t pay the student loan gods we get in trouble. What about retirement? What about balancing a budget sheet? WHAT ABOUT TAXES!? Okay, so that last one is probably more important to me because I work at an accounting firm, but come on America, where are we supposed to figure this stuff out!?

Luckily there was a free personal finance class that was offered near me, and it was like four hours of empowerment. I highly recommend looking into your local community centers (or this one was at a church—shoutout to Quest) to see if you can take one. Believe me, it’s worth the time investment.

11. I have an art exhibit going up tomorrow! 

Bonus! I have an art exhibit going up at Irwin’s Bakery tomorrow and I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to have an exhibit for a while, and it’s so awesome that the dream bubbling around in my mind is actually becoming real. If you have a chance to stop by definitely do, if you can’t, you can check out more pics (and a video – woot!) on my Facebook page.

Tea Talk 4: Claudia Graf | Lifestyle Blogger & Photographer

Claudia and I are both part of this completely awesome Facebook group called Female Travel Bloggers, and I immediately knew I needed to reach out to her when I saw her adventures on her blog. Supporting, encouraging and highlighting other women who travel blog is such a huge priority for me, so collaborating with her for this Tea Talk was amazing.

Claudia started her blog A World Full Of Fairytales after a 6 week adventure in California, and she’s been photographing and writing her way around the world, ever since.

What started your passion for traveling? 

I went on a road trip in 2016 from San Francisco to Los Angeles what is one of the best road trips in the world. On my way from San Francisco to LA, I visited Carmel, Monterrey, Big Sur, Morro Bay and Santa Barbara. The beauty of the California coast hit me like a bolt out of the blue, and I fell in love with the magic of exploration.

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

Be fast when it comes to booking of flights, cars and hotels. It’s always hard for me to decide on times and places. I never know how long I want to stay somewhere. Unfortunately prices can rise after days or weeks of research. If I had been faster now and then, I definitely could have saved some money.

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

It sounds like a cliche but it’s the lifestyle credo ’Don’t worry, be happy’. During a vacation in Argentina and Chile I met and stayed with different local people. All of them were very relaxed and spontaneous. Nobody cared about time, nothing was stressful. That can be annoying (e.g. when you have to catch your flight ;-)), but overall I loved it.

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

Every woman should ask herself a few questions: Would I like to spend a whole day on my own? Would I like to go out for breakfast or dinner on my own? Would I like to go to the movies on my own? If everything is a yes, go for it. If you don’t feel comfortable, travel with a friend and plan a short solo trip for two, three or up to five days during that vacation. That’s a good way to find out, if you would love to be a solo traveler.

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

Sometimes, I despaired while reading too many hotel or Airbnb reviews. I mean, reviews are great and I appreciate them. However, it can be exhausting. Now, I try to check reviews only for a few requirements like cleanliness, friendly host or hotel staff. In the end, I rely on my gut instinct.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo? 

The best part is that you meet and get to know a lot of new people and friends. I made so many new contacts during my solo trips in the last year and have made new friends in LA, New York, Dubai, Italy, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. For me there is no worse part, I love it 100%.

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

I have much less fear in general when it comes to areas of a city and crazy people. 

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

I love flying. It’s calm, you can watch movies or listen to music. You don’t have to do anything else and nobody can call you. However, a road trip is still the best way to explore a country. You can stop wherever and whenever you want to and you see so much more.

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

I should have started earlier to travel the world. It really changed my life and mind. It gave me the conviction that everything is possible and I started my travel blog and Instagram account.

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

Oh, that’s hard. I have so many places on my list and almost everyday I add a new destination. I would love to do a trip with the Trans-Sibirian Railway from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. That trip must be an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing? 

I want to go to Iceland to visit blue lagoons, do horse riding and visit Reykjavik. A lot of people told me that this is an amazing city.

Looking for more travel inspiration? You can also follow Claudia on her adventures on her blog, or at any of the links below! 

Tea Talk 3: Mikayla Jane | Travel Blogger

Mikayla and I met through an random email she sent to my inbox. True story. It really was some kind of divine out-of-the-blue experience, and I’m so glad she contacted me, because she’s awesome! Originally from near Sydney, Australia, Mikayla started her travel journey when she taught English in Cambodia. Now she travels the world blogging and sharing her travel advice and adventures!

1. What started your passion for traveling?

My family has always travelled and so I was exposed to a life of adventure and various cultures young. My first flight was when I was just 9 months old. My own personal journey started with a year teaching English in a Kindergarten in Cambodia. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel all over the country on my holiday breaks and taste test Vietnam, The Philippines and Singapore as well. This kick started my traveling dreams, got my wanderlust juices flowing and encouraged my stubborn independence.

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

Just do it. Now, right now. You will never be as young as you are today. No excuses, just make it work. BUT maintain (or gain) your common sense. Spontaneity doesn’t mean stupidity.

3. What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

I’ve eaten the best Indian food of my life in Cambodia! I would order from my favourite restaurant at least once a week, and it got to the wonderful (yet slightly embarrassing) stage where when they answered, they already knew my name, address and regular order. Now, back home in Australia I can’t go more than 2 weeks without a good curry! Those lentils and naan bread just get me every time!

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

Again, just do it! You will gain so so much. You’ll blossom into a wonderfully independent, strong, witty, cultured woman. Educated far beyond what any university could have taught you. Please, don’t be afraid. Use your common sense, and listen to your intuition. My biggest lesson in living in a third world country for 12 months is now knowing when it’s time to move on. I was well and done with Cambodia at the 6 month mark. I don’t regret a single moment, but if I was to re-do it, I certainly would be wise enough to know when to quit and strong enough to do so. If you don’t feel safe, happy or stable, move on, there’s no shame in quitting for your health and well being. Also, question everything.


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

It’s hard to put down just one thing. I’d like to say, though, that through every fail I’ve made, it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Nothing (so far) has been so bad that I regretted a situation or decision. Yeah I may have made a wrong move here or there, or may have forgotten a passport in Paris…. but it never turned out so bad that i couldn’t smile or even laugh about it later.

6. What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Best: You can do WHATEVER you want, WHENEVER you want. You want to shop for 12 hours, do it. You want to lounge by a pool all day, do it. You want to cram 6 activities into 24 hours, do it. You want to take silly selfies and staged pics for a travel blog, DO IT.

Worst: Alone time can be very very very very…. lonely. Sometimes all you’ll want to do is go out with girlfriends and laugh the night away, but instead you’re all alone in a hostel dorm with nobody wanting to talk to you. Don’t be too disheartened by this though, it’s truly a blessing in disguise. Oh, the lessons you’ll learn….

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

Traveling alone on motos. It took me 9 months on tuk-tuks before I got up the courage to jump on a strangers bike, straddle him, wrap my arms around their waist and completely put my life in their hands. It was cheaper, and much more fun, and sometimes I actually felt safer. But the stories I heard, could easily have been my name instead.

8. What is your favorite way to travel and why?

A plane. The feeling of take off and landing is beyond words! I get a stupidly large grin across my face just thinking about it. SO many emotions in these tiny few seconds of the journey. Happiness, wanderlust, fear, excitement, nerves, adrenaline, yearning, homesickness, all bundled up in that lurch of the wings grabbing onto the wind.

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

Life doesn’t have to be a mission to complete and judge yourself on. Just enjoy it. Though 22 year old Mikayla is still grasping this, I hope some day she learns it and completely lives in the present, enjoying every ray of sun the days have to offer.

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

Oh, so so many….hmmmm… well i guess the experience that sits at the top of my bucket list is cuddling a Highland Cow. OMG they are just so adorable and I just want to squeeze it so tightly!! So I need to go to Scotland very soon to tick this one off!

11. Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing?

A cruise to the Pacific Islands. Myself and Curtis (my partner) plan on doing nothing but eating, napping, drinking Pina Coladas and repeating. I mean it, I hope absolutely nothing interrupts that routine. After such a hectic couple of months over the Christmas break, we just want 5 minutes to relax and enjoy each others company.

12. Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?

I am no one special. I always get asked ‘how did you do that all by yourself?’ You can do it. You can travel. You can learn. You can run. You can soar. You can achieve. You can succeed and you can exceed all expectations. Go out and smash your goals! Chase your dreams and never stop creating more! Be you. You are your biggest asset. You have nothing stopping you, but you.

Follow Mikayla along on her adventures on her blog, or at any of the links below! 

If you, or someone you know, would like to be featured on a Tea Talk, comment below! Tea Talk is a monthly series that is published on the 15th of each month. Join me again on April 15th for our next feature! – Emilee

Review: Gregory Jade 50 Pack – Women’s

A lot can get lost in translation while I’m traveling. For instance, when I’m traveling you get to see the beautiful sites through the lens of my DSLR, but you usually won’t see the 30lb pack strapped to my back.

Well that’s all about to change. I’m starting this series on the gear that gets me around the world. Because a) I love sharing what actually works and b) you deserve to know what’s out there! This week I’m starting with one of the most important things when backpacking: your pack.

When I first started backpacking I bought one of the cheapest packs I could find. This wasn’t because I didn’t want a nicer pack (duh.), it was because I was broke as a joke and just needed to get out there. I didn’t care about comfort, or if I my spine would scream at me the whole time I was wearing it. What mattered was that I had something I could throw my stuff in.

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Old backpack, meet new backpack. This was right before I switched all of my patches over to my new pack (right).

Things aren’t quite the same, now. I have a full time job, and I’m no spring chicken. It was time for me to invest in a pack that would allow my back/body to breathe, while allowing my essentials to be easily accessible. Last year the answer came with the Gregory Jade 50 pack *insert heavenly music*.

The Jade pack is amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision to purchase it, even though it meant saying goodbye to my other pack that had been with me for three years, through thick and thin (and living in France, which is a whole ‘nother story).

Want to see it in action? Click below:

So what’s so great about my new pack? Well the “LTS suspension” which is a fancy way of saying air can reach your back while you’re sweating like a sinner in church. Because that’s a huge reality, and not one that gets caught on the the other side of my Nikon. Carrying 30 lbs on your back makes you sweat. Like a lot.

The great news is that it isn’t as much of a problem with this Gregory pack because the back portion of the pack is shaped to support your back, while giving you the proper aeration.

This pack also has a multitude of pockets. Like, so many. In fact, there were so many that I didn’t even use some. Which is huge, because I usually stuff every possible tiny pocket. This pack also has an expandable front bucket pocket, which you can see in the photo and side and bottom compression, which is perfect for when you’re losing weight (#snacks) or gaining weight (#souvenirs).

One of my favorite features is that the zippers are welded, so they’re actually water proof. Which means if it rains (which it will) there isn’t water seeping into your pack. Glory.

The pack is also just incredibly comfy, which is saying a lot for having pounds and pounds of living supplies on your back. The handles are padded, and the fit system includes a pretty great harness, so that you don’t feel like you’re going to fall backwards…or down to the earth’s core.

In short, this pack is everything a pack should be. It’s intuitive, organized and easy to love. I’m not going to lie, I was reluctant to move on from my last pack…but this one won me over.

Cheers to the next adventure.

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See those flag pins on the top? Those lasted all of two plane trips before I had to take them off.

 

Travel Inspiration: My Crazy Life In Textiles

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7 years ago I graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a four year Degree in Journalism. But something I don’t talk about very much is that my initial major was actually Apparel Design (it then became my minor). Clothing and textiles have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been sewing them together into my own designs since I was 5 years old. The daughter of a seamstress, it’s not shocking that I would have an interest in sewing or design. But as I’ve grown older I’ve become more and more interested in the cultures behind the textiles I’m drawn to.

I have a pretty broad ethnic heritage, so there’s a lot to draw off within my own family history. But more than anything, I love seeing the history and stories of textiles when I’m traveling. When I was in Scotland, a couple months ago, I was mesmerized by the National Museum‘s textile exhibits in Edinburgh. If you haven’t been, I would highly suggest visiting, especially if you have an interest in fashion, textiles or the history of women’s clothing.

This week I thought it would be fun to do a bit more research into some of my favorite textile trends. All of these textiles are from cultures that I’m descended from, and they’re each very important to me. The beauty of being tri-racial (it’s a word, just go with it) is that I get to enjoy all of these beautiful cultures, simultaneously. Luckiest girl? I like to think so.

 

Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway) 
scandinavian-textiles

If you know me you know that I love floral patterns more than life. Maybe it has to do with my hippy 4-H childhood, or maybe just my love for nature and the beauty of plant life, but I have too many floral dresses in my closet to count. I’ll attribute some of this, from the artistic point of view, to the Scandinavian side of my family.

My mom’s side of the family is very proud (like seriously, they never stop talking about it) Norwegian and Dane. I haven’t been to Norway before, but I did go to Denmark about a month ago and I guess I kind of understand the hype, now. After all, it’s literally one of the happiest places on earth. Another great way of experiencing a “next best thing to authentic” Scandinavian experience, for those of you in the PNW, is for your to visit the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. Like seriously, it’s amazing and definitely worth carving our a few hours to walk through.

Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations

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It’s probably not shocking to you that Native American textiles are something that can (and probably will) take your breath away. They’re some of the oldest and most brilliant designs we know of, and I’m proud that this is a part of my heritage. Native American textiles have always been something I’ve been in love with, and it’s a large part of my personal style, as well as the aesthetic I bring to my art. I love bold colors, and I love intricate details that take hours and hours and hours to complete.

Although I’m quite a bit Native American, these are the cultures I talk about the least. There’s a reason for that. Since I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, with my mom’s family, I haven’t had as much exposure to a lot of my southern roots. Ethnically, however, I have DNA ties back to both Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) tribes.

 

African American 

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African American heritage, of course, is a mixture of African culture and the resources that were available in the land slaves were brought to. While it’s harder to pinpoint specific designs as being part of my family’s history, there has always been a part of me in love with the intricate simplicity behind designs I do have access to. African designs, as well, are something I love, especially the boldness of of the textiles. As a seamstress is the culture of quilts and quilting and storytelling has also captivated me from childhood. Although I am definitely “beginner status” I love quilting, and if I had more time it would definitely make into my life, more.

I may not be able to trace my roots back to exact spots in Africa (yet), but I am able to love and reflect on the culture that arose from the ashes of slavery.

 

Have a favorite textile, pattern or period of clothing? Comment in the section below and let me know! 

Tea Talk 1: Jessica | Travel Blogger, Artist

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Welcome to the very first “Tea Talk”! I’m so excited to introduce you, twice a month, to inspirational women who share my passion for travel. From artists to bloggers to moms to videographers, these posts are meant to highlight the lives of women who dared to strike out and explore the world around them. If you feel inspired, share this post with your friends!

First up: Jessica.

Jessica and I met while working at a childcare center a couple years ago and found common ground around the issues of feminism, social justice and teaching kids the rules of consent. Having worked in childcare for the past 4 years, I’ve always found it interesting how many childcare workers are simultaneously world travelers (whether they know it yet, or not). Last year Jessica set out on a solo adventure around southeast Asia. An epic journey that left her with buckets of stories to tell, and me without her as a roommate (#shameonyou). But now that she’s back, I couldn’t be more proud of her exploits, and adventures. Be sure to check out her blog where you can find stories, travel tips and art!

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What started your passion for traveling?

I have always been a huge book nerd ever since I can remember, and it wasn’t until high school that I really started thinking, “Hey, I could actually visit some of these places one day.” The more I read, the more the wanderlust started to take hold. I began reading more biographies and memoirs and dreaming about place outside of Washington State. I just knew I needed to see as much of the world as I can.

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

Give yourself freedom. In that, I mean don’t schedule everything out to a T. Sometimes things don’t always go according to plan, and if you budget in a little flexibility, it usually ends up being okay. Or, you may get to a place that you absolutely love and want to stay longer than planned. If you get so wrapped up in the little pieces, you are more likely to be disappointed when things don’t go exactly “right”.

What’s your favorite cultural habit you’ve picked up?

This is probably less of a cultural habit and more of a “travel habit” but I care a lot less about how I look now. After trekking around in all kinds of weather, meeting strangers you are not likely to see again, it is easy to forget about makeup, smooth hair, and put-together outfits. Now I hardly ever wear makeup at all (my last trip I didn’t bring any with me) and I let my curly hair go free.

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

Trust yourself. I think one of the biggest things holding women back from traveling solo is fear: fear of getting hurt, getting lost, or worse. In reality, those things can happen in any part of the world. What makes the difference is that you are going to a new place, so it’s expected that you will feel less confident and prepared than you usually do back home. If you carry yourself with pride and trust in your own strength and abilities, you won’t have time to be scared and paranoid. Solo travel is such a great experience because this can be a great way for women to realize their strengths and how capable they are.

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

When I traveled solo for the first time, I tried to make friends with as many people as I could right away. I think it was my own insecurity about being alone and unprepared. I quickly got a reminder that I am not that person – I am an introvert who likes her “Me Time”. I met great people along the way, but I couldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I started feeling burned out from trying to be a socialite party animal fashionista. I decided to stick with a few people I got close to and skip the daily bar crawls.

What’s the best and worst part about traveling solo?

Best: the freedom to do what you want, where, when, and how you want. I like being my own boss lady.

Worst: Getting tired and/or sick without your mommy or best friend to take care of you L

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

On my last trip I tried rock climbing for the first time. I am TERRIFIED of heights. I just sucked it up and did it. Now I love it.

What is your favorite way to travel and why?

I love traveling by boat. I think it is because I grew up on two islands and have always lived closed to the ocean. I love being on the sea. It’s is calming and usually not as crowed at a bus or a plane.

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

Be patient. Good things will come.

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

Morocco

Do you have any upcoming trips? Where to and what will you be doing?

The next country I am likely going to is Nepal. Otherwise, I hope to go on a longer backpacking trip through South America once I save up enough money. For now, I have a few connections in Nepal and really want to explore more of Asia.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourself?

When I was in high school I planned on taking my first trip to Thailand, but was unable to because my grandma passed away (she was going to pay for the trip). I went on my first trip to Thailand in memory of her.20170127_092943
Want to learn more about Jessica’s adventures? Hop over to her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram!
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What Happens In Copenhagen, Stays In Copenhagen

What happens when you throw together 5 solo travelers: an American, an Aussie, 2 Londoners and a German, in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark?

Well I’ll tell you…or, at least, I’ll mostly tell you.

In case you’re confused about the timeline of this post, the answer is no, I’m not still in Copenhagen. I’m writing this one from Belgium, because honestly it took me a couple of days to get over Copenhagen and be in a mental state to write, again.

Hmm…where to start?

I guess it all started when we took a walking tour. Walking tours are one of my favorite things to do in a city, and I’d highly suggest the “free” ones (you pay what you have/want at the ed) when you’re out and about in Europe. Generally you can just look for the umbrellas that say “Free Tour” on them.

An accidental photo that turned out to be my favorite

Three of us met from my hostel, and we walked over to the main square with one of the guides. From there everyone was split into smaller groups, and we ended up all talking as the 2.5 hours went on. How crazy is it that we would all meet? 5 people traveling completely alone, having such an awesome day together.

The cast of this story:

  • 2 Erasmus students (one studying in Spain, the other in Sweden)
  • A medical professional that swears by carrying alcohol wipes while traveling (a practice I may adopt)
  • A British government worker who is basically a superhero or something
  • Me the writer/artist

Our walking tour was great, although I’d be lying if I called the weather anything other than frigid. But it had snowed that morning, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. On the topic of Scandinavian snow: I think everyone should experience it because it’s beautiful and serene and somehow just feels more authentic.

The Little Mermaid

Once the walking tour was over we bobbed our way around the city talking and taking tourist pictures. For lunch/dinner (not really sure which one to call it since it was only 4pm, but it was pitch black outside) we headed over to Christiania, which is a section of the city that is alternative to the country itself.

If you’ve ever been to a music festival in the U.S. (think Woodstock) then you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this section of the city is like, except that the structures are more permanent. The first thing I noticed when I was there was how much it smelled like home. And by home I mean that it smelled like weed. Gosh I love Seattle.

We grabbed food at one of the bars there, and I couldn’t help inwardly giggling about the fact that this place is so “edgy” for supporting a drug people just walk into stores and buy, at home.

Dinner was great, though, and afterwards we walked our tall blonde and handsome German student friend back to the train station. It would been brilliant to collect contact information so we could all stay in touch, but nobody’s mind thought about that until long afterwards #tragedy.

After our one goodbye it was time to get ready for the next part of our day: the pub crawl.

Let me tell you something about pub crawls. I love them so incredibly much and even though I don’t drink (I’m allergic to alcohol – no joke) I still try to go on them as often as I can.

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The pub crawl in Copenhagen was one of the most chill pub crawls of my life. Mainly because the city is so small that the whole thing was on the same block. The first three spots I probably could have lived without visiting, although I did get to taste some awesome Danish drinks (and some not so awesome ones) but the fourth and fifth spot were killer.

Normally I go home before a pub crawl makes its way to the last spot, which is usually a dance club. The main reason for this is because I have no interest in “clubbing.” BUT there is an exception for every rule, and Copenhagen was the exception. We danced until 2am. I went to sleep at 3am. I woke up for my flight at 6am. It was a rather crazy 24 hours.

I was pretty sad to leave Copenhagen after only one day, but I already know that I’ll be back. Next time, though, I’d love to go during the spring or fall, so that it isn’t quite so cold and snowy. Although, I honestly wouldn’t change one thing about my trip this year.

Copenhagen 2017 will forever stay in my heart as one of the best days of my life. I’m so glad I made it back to “the motherland”, and my Dane roots, and I cannot wait for my next adventure there. Cheers to next time, Copenhagen. Cheeky little city.

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.