A Hop, Skip & a Jump Across the Pond: Europe, I’m Back!

Well, hello there fellow travelers! I know it’s been a while since I updated you on things and I apologize for that.. But I have good news! I’m currently in Wales.. That’s right, I’m back in Europe!

It all started six months ago, right after I got back from New Zealand – because obviously I already wanted to jet off somewhere again. I was in the shower and suddenly the idea to come back over for a surprise visit came to me. I immediately messaged Aimi & David and we started planning.

Originally the surprise was supposed to be for Gemma & Declan but Declan ended up finding out about it the week before I got here.. Oops. But it was still a surprise for Gem! And yep, she cried (love you, Gem!).

But anyway, I’ve been here a little over a week now. Why haven’t I blogged about it then, you ask? Well, to be honest I haven’t really had the desire.. After all the blogging I did in New Zealand about almost every thing Rowena and I did, I was discouraged because when you’re constantly planning what to write about the exciting things you’re doing, you lose sight of what’s actually happening in those exciting moments.

Buuuuuuut, I got over that, so here I am!
And I need to tell you all about my first week back! Because man have we been busy.

First off, we went on a three day camping trip throughout Wales. The first night we spent in Llyn Gwynant and I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve never seen such a beautiful campsite in my life. Surrounded by mountains and nestled next to a lake, I was in Heaven.


And you better believe I went off on some solo adventures and climbed those mountains next to us.


And early morning rock climbing.


And! Early morning kayaking.


Seriously, such a beautiful campsite.

We also spent time on the beach.. And oh my goodness, the Irish Sea is so so so so cold.

Overall, wonderful camping trip.

But then, guess what! I went zip lining on the longest zip line in the world & fastest in Europe, Zip World Velocity!


And hey look, a handy dandy video of me flying!

It was so amazing flying so high over bright blue water and zipping down that high cliff. So freeing.

Oh! And castles! We went to a castle.. Conwy Castle – a medieval fortress that was just as staggeringly beautiful as you could ever imagine.

And as if that all weren’t enough fun times, we also went to Alton Towers – a theme park that’s literally set inside and around a castle. I was quite impressed with how well they do theme parks here!

Three days of camping, a day of castles & ziplines & a day of roller coasters.. IT’S BEEN A GREAT FIRST WEEK BACK.

Back Stateside (For Now)

I’M HOME!

After one year, eight countries and 22 cities, I’m back in America!

It was one crazy ride of a year and I enjoyed every second. So much travel, so many foreigners, so much food. And now I’m back.

After wheeling my oversized monster suitcases through Dublin and the airport and then an exhausting and cramped seven hour plane ride, I’m now sitting in the Chicago airport awaiting my next flight to get me all the way home. Honestly, I can barely keep my eyes open to type this so I’ll keep it short. 

 First thing I did was eat Mexican. Of course. Now I’m sitting typing this. So basically all I’ve done since being back in America is eat Mexican.. Typical. 

 
So yeah, I’m home. Mexican. Sleepy..

Dublin: A Last Stop On a Road of Yearlong Adventures

What does a broke American girl with 24 hours in Dublin do? Drink Guinness. Lots and lots of Guinness. 

 I’m on my last stop of adventures here in Dublin before returning to the US after being gone a year and only had 24 hours here in this beer-drowned city.

To get here was quite a struggle. First, I had to figure out how to get my two 50 lbs (each) suitcases around with me along with a similarly heavy carry-on and large purse. Yes, I traveled from Wales to Dublin with four massive bags all by myself. And I didn’t even cry once! So, that’s cool. But anyway, in order to even get to Dublin I hitched a ride, took a train, rode a ferry and then caught a cab to my hostel. Yes, that’s four different means of transportation with four very large bags that weigh more than I do collectively. Again, I reiterate – I DID NOT CRY ONCE. It was easy once I put all my weight into picking up one case and stacking it on top of the other so that I could wheel them together (my 2nd suitcase is actually a duffle and doesn’t have wheels) – and by easy I mean immensely challenging. I wheeled my two massive cases along together while toting my carry-on strapped across my front and my big purse across my back.. I’m telling you guys, I was a comic relief of travel to anyone who saw me.

But all of this is okay because I got to take a ferry from Wales to Ireland! It was so cool! I love the water and honestly could have sat there at the big windows staring off into the horizon daydreaming about the world for a full day. But I didn’t have a full day on the ferry – nope, I had a full day in Dublin! Literally just one full day. Actually, not even that because I arrived in the afternoon and am heading to the airport this morning.. So, technically more like 20 hours I guess but that’s okay! I made the most of it! While on the ferry, I met a fellow blonde American girl who I instantly connected with. She’s traveling with her dad and wanted some time away from him so we hung out on the ferry and exchanged info so that we could meet up together again later in the day. 

  

Minion voice: “He he, barf bags.”

 
Once finally arriving at my hostel – bags amassed in front of me towering above me – I checked in and left to get some grub. I wandered around the town center for a bit as I always do and then happened into a pub that my cabby had told me he likes and is pretty chill.

I walk in.

I cross the bar.

I look to a table to sit down.

I hear a man call out for me.

I turn and there’s a middle aged man sitting at the bar with an arm stretched out to shake my hand and he’s asking me where I’m from and what I’m doing there. Like seriously guy, I haven’t even looked at the entire pub yet and you’re already bugging me. But turns out he wasn’t really that annoying and he and his buddies were actually pretty cool.

They find out I’m from the US and traveling alone (shh, don’t tell my Mom that I told them that) and they are shocked. They can’t understand that an adventurous and independent woman wants to travel alone and experience the world. But that’s okay – a lot of people don’t understand it and I’ve grown used to it. The guys end up buying me a Guinness and we chat while I scarf down yummy fish and chips all afternoon. What started out as an encounter with an annoying dude in a pub, turned out to be quite the perfect Irish experience with beer and fish and chips. 

 Later my fellow blonde American friend, Robin, and I went out on the town together to Temple Bar. We ate, we drank, we were merry. It was so cool to just walk around and see the nightlife of Dublin. Cobblestones and neon lights take precedent at Temple Bar and there’s really nothing like it. We had ourselves a grand ole’ time. 

   
The only thing I’m bummed about is the fact that I wasn’t able to go to the Guinness factory. I arrived too late yesterday to make it in time and then have to head to the airport too early this morning to go today. But I know I’ll be back one day so it’s not the end of the world..

And now today, after countless adventures and memories over the past year, I’m leaving Europe and returning home.

Liverpool & Chester: A Day of Chasing Down The Beatles & Resting at Central Perk

“You say you want a revolutiooooon..”

I’m still in awe at what I did today.. Spending time walking down Mathew Street – Beatles capital of the world! I went into the iconic Cavern Club and listened to some live music, bought a Beatles’ hits record from the 60s and had the time of my life.

I seriously could live in Liverpool, it was gorgeous. The waterfront was spectacular and I mean, come on.. Who doesn’t want to spend their afternoon listening to Beatles’ hits while walking through town? 

    
    
 I love Liverpool.

Then, I headed to Chester – a city of Roman ruins, which also happens to have a Central Perk replica from Friends. The ruins were gorgeous and enchanting but not surprisingly, I spent almost the entirety of my time in Chester at Central Perk. Seriously this place was amazing. Massive mugs, endless Friends episodes, plush furniture, signature character drinks (I had the Joey Java Jolt) and even a signed Friends script from ’96. I had the best time wasting my night there like the gang did in the show. 

   
   
I really just had a magnificent day today.

Happy happy.

The Best Way to Travel – Advice From A Well-Traveled Traveler 

We travel the world to venture outside our own culture and absorb another. To travel is to gain knowledge like never before and to experience something outside of yourself. You expose yourself to the people around you and the vibrancy of whatever place you’re in at that time. Real travel means placing yourself in the shoes of the locals and truly becoming one.
When I travel, that’s exactly what I do – soak in something entirely new. It’s what I did in Paris.. Moved there to get a job and truly live the Parisian life.. It’s what I did in Bristol last week.. Worked all day scooping ice cream at a BBQ festival.. And since being in Wales, I’ve done just that once again.

I don’t like to just visit fancy places and do all of the tourist things. Quite the contrary, really. For example, in Wrexham, Wales I’ve been working in a pub serving up pints to the locals alongside Aimi. I’d much rather establish a relationship with the people who actually live in the city I’m visiting than just glance at them from a touristy bubble while walking down the street.

Since working in and actually living in the pub this week, I’ve befriended so many kind old men who frequent the pub and have truly seen how The North lives.

Sipping down ales and gulping down chips, the men have constantly provided laughs and stories and contributed to my experience here. For instance, one of the old men used to know John Lennon and Paul McCartney. He went to school with both of them and told me how they were just regular ole’ down to earth lads. He would usually catch their empty shows in the pubs in Liverpool to support them before anyone ever knew them as “The 4 Lads Who Shook the World.” How crazy is that? And I’d have never gotten to know such a nice ole’ chap if I hadn’t wanted to dive head first in the Welsh life.

So if I could recommend a way to travel for everyone in the world, it would be not only to SEE places, but to actually LIVE them. 

 

An Abundance of Sheep

I’ve been in Wales one day.

I think I should live here.

I’ve never seen so much beautiful nature in my life. 

 I mean, mountainous hills and “TREES?! Everywhere trees?!!” (any It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans out there?)

Oh, and sheep. So many sheep.

I found that out tonight when I went on a drive with Aimi and her sisters and we drove to the top of one of the mountain-hills and parked. I wanted to pet a sheep so I was off on my merry way as soon as I jumped out of the car so I could catch a sheep and cuddle it.

I ran up the hill baaa-ing at the two that I saw but every time I’d look back at them, they’d be further away. I finally realized they were running away from me as soon as I baaa-ed at them.. And here I thought I could speak sheep..

Welcome to Wales

Good morning, Wales!

My current backpacking trip has led me to the beautiful and green country of Wales. So far I can deduce that the number of sheep greatly outweighs the number of humans and the company is already impressively kind – and I’ve only been here less than an hour! 

 This morning I gave a teary goodbye to Gem (bloody Brit making me cry.. ) and hopped on a train to Aimi in Wales. The train apparently had a slight mishap of scheduling because halfway through the trip I had to hop on a bus for the rest of the way.

But no matter, I have arrived! I’m now sat in a pub with a cheap pint of ale, taking in the company around me.

After about 15 minutes of sitting here, a nice chap came over to strike up a chat. We got on really well and he was asking me all about my travels thus far and where I’m headed now. After a few moments of conversation, he told me that he’d cross the world for me if I ever needed..

“Even if you’re somewhere in Alaska, I’ll be there if you need me. I’d go to the moon for you if you wanted.”

..well thank you random strange, kind man in Wales.

Already my time in this country is off to a banging start.

After he left me to finish off my pint, I could hear him across the room telling his mate about me..

Suddenly the mate yells across the pub, “HOW YOU DOIN’!? ..there’s a little bit of home for ya.”

So apparently that’s what the world thinks and sees of America – Joey from Friends. Although, can I complain? It definitely made me laugh hysterically and gave me a taste of how we’re perceived as Americans. Love it.

Anyway, I’m sat here waiting on my ride to pick me up from The Bull’s Head to drive me the rest of the way to my destination and can’t help but wear a smile all the while.

Welcome to Wales.

Grillstock – A Day of Serving Up Ice Cream in England

Alright so I cannot believe what I just spent my day doing. I woke up bright and early with Gem and then drove in to Bristol to work all day at a BBQ/music festival called Grillstock serving ice cream. And eating it. Okay, I did a lot more eating it than I did serving it but still.. 

 Yeah, so the whole day was spent taking in music and eating food and sipping down ales. And get this, the festival was insanely Americanized and everyone was trying to imitate amazing American BBQ – so being from Kansas City, THE BBQ CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, I was so into it. And guess what? Some of the English can prepare some surprisingly delicious brisket. I was quite impressed to say the least.

There were so many awesome people there, including a group of “Where’s Waldos,” that I snuck up to to take a picture with. I creeped up next to them and posed all happy with my thumbs up, only for Gem to tell me that the photo didn’t take. Soooo, as I prepared myself to be creepy again, they all turned around and started putting arms around me and asked if I wanted a picture.

I laughed, “Yeah, did you guys see me trying to sneak one already?”

“Uh yeah haha, let’s go ahead and take one.”

“Oh right, yeah let’s go the less creepy route..”

Aaaaand the photo was taken. 

 There was even a dance floor where everyone was boogyin’ around and I just couldn’t help myself – as I was passing through, I just passed my way through the dance floor and boogied myself along. You always have to take time to dance in life. If you don’t have dance, then what is life?

Yeah, so the day was just spectacular and tonight I’m still so full from all of the yumminess that I indulged in today. But perhaps the best part of the day was the outrageously gorgeous manbun that was working the stand next to ours. I probably spent too much time watching him when I should have been serving ice cream but.. that’s alright with me.

BUT BACK TO THE POINT.

Today I got to serve ice cream, drink alcoholic iced tea and stuff my face with brisket.. Could I have asked for a better way to spend my last day in England? 

 ..nope.

Side note: Ivor’s Ice Cream is absolutely delicious and everyone needs it in their lives.

Long Walks & Slippery Stairs

I started my day out today by almost shattering my tail bone. Yup. Klutz McGee tried walking down the spiral stairs today in socks and ended up slipping down the entire staircase. I’m still sore tonight, over 12 hours later and still have a massive scrape down the length of my arm. But a perk of being a klutz is that I’m used to this by my 23rd year in life. A life of moving walls and shifting doorways prepared me for this slippery slope today. So that means that even after almost breaking my back I was able to go on a 5+ mile hike today with Gem and her grandfather.

The hike included four separate villages and the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in my life. One of the villages we walked through had a small river running through the middle of it, with walking bridges crossing it every so often. I seriously cannot get enough of this country and am already trying to figure out when I can move here. 

 It was my fourth full day in England today and tomorrow is my last and I plan to make the most of it! We’re going to a BBQ festival to serve ice cream and take in the music and culture. To say I’m excited would be an understatement..

Soaking up Bath

Roman ruins & bubbling brooks. That’s how I spent my day today in Bath, England. 

    
 It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Bath and see what all the bathtub hullabaloo is about and today I found out – and it’s totally a whole lot of hullabaloo to go crazy over. Gem and I caught the train and arrived around midday to explore the town. Immediately approaching, I was impressed. The buildings and the architecture itself were original, being made of a yellow tinted stone called “Bath stone.” Basically the entire town was constructed with this unique stone and so the entire town really pulls together in cohesiveness. Anyway, we stroll through town and get to the famous roman baths and I go in. It only took about 30 seconds for me to be blown away. The ruins were absolutely stunning and the water was mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the history placed right before my eyes. 

    
 Walking through the exact spot where so much happened 2,000 years ago really slows life down. I indulged in the peaceful stillness that came upon me while the wind whispered by and I swear I was almost taken back in time. I could see the Romans right before my eyes.. bathing, relaxing, chatting. The experience was one I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I was actually right in the middle of an extensive amount of history and it makes you feel so small, yet so incredibly grand all at once. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m really here living this life that I have and have to pinch myself to make sure. And sure enough, it’s always real.

So many different pools rested in this massive ancient building that I was able to explore today. I could almost feel the water splashing my face as an ancient Roman jumped in the pool to relax after a hard day’s work. Man, this really was an incredibly wonderful day for me. I never in my life thought I’d be doing the things I’m doing today. Backpacking the U.K.? If you’d have asked me five years ago if I thought this was a possibility, I’d have told you, “Yeah, in my dreams..” Because that’s all this ever was – a dream. Exploring this world and seeing the history that makes up our Earth and learning about the cultures that surround my own? I never thought I’d do any of this. 

 Anyway, back to the point.. I explored the hot springs and pools of the ancient Roman baths today. And after walking through the entirety of them, I came to the end and had the opportunity to drink the hot spring water. So, I did. Because I’m me and I never say no to an outrageous opportunity. And guess what? It was gross. Absolutely horrid. Like warm cream with a copper aftertaste. Yeah, nasty. But did I drink the entire full cup I had? Yes. Absolutely. You don’t get many opportunities like this so I took full advantage. I did it. 

 Then, after leaving the bath house, Gem and I went for this thing called a “pasty.” It’s a savory pastry thing and Gem said I HAD to get one. Apparently it’s a thing in England? I guess.. Anyway, we went to the best “pasty” shop in town and got me a traditional steak “pasty.” It was like a meat pie folded into a pocket shape and it was pretty delicious. But it had an odd aftertaste that I said tasted “something like a candle shop.” Gem told me that was some vegetable thing that tastes a bit like a pumpkin. Hmm makes sense.. So, anyway, those “pasty” things are pretty good. 

 And after a full day of hot spring copper water and steak pumpkin pockets, we headed home.. to a beautiful cottage in the gorgeous English countryside. Again, I’m pinching myself..