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.

First Step Toward the Next Adventure

As my waiting time for New Zealand was winding down, I decided to do something crazy and have my first adventure right here at home in the U.S. in preparation for the big adventure.

I decided to dye my hair pastel purple and pink.

Now, this was a huge deal for me. I’d never even dyed my hair in my life until I was about 21 years old. I mean, granted I totally went for it when I finally did dye my hair and went from my natural brunette to an all over Barbie doll blonde. But still, this purple was going to be a huge adventure in itself. 

 ..but I love it! It’s so bright and fairy-like and perfect for the month I’ll be gone.

There we go, first New Zealand adventure done!

What to do When a Stranger Asks You to Bike Throughout Europe with Him

What would you do if a random stranger emailed you saying he’d just read a travel article you wrote for the paper and then told you he wanted to invite you on a 1,000 mile European bike ride and wanted to know if you’d like to get coffee in a couple days to discuss (Phewwww, loooong run on sentence!)?

Well, lemme tell ya what I did – because yes, this happened to me two weeks ago.

I went out for the coffee.

Yeah, the intrigue of such a different possible adventure was so exciting to me that I didn’t hesitate in accepting. In a world so afraid to live, I make sure not to miss out on life.

That being said, it’s not like I didn’t consider the consequences if this had gone poorly and didn’t make sure this was a real man reaching out to me – I did my homework. I’m always safe in my adventurous decisions.

So let’s get on to the story.. A few months back I wrote an article for the local paper about my time abroad as a nanny. This man found it online while visiting my town and apparently became intrigued with the way I choose to live my life. He asked me out to coffee and told me about these bike rides he does every other year and sent me links to his previous excursions that I could look into. I researched and decided it was a real opportunity, so I took it.

When meeting for coffee, this man bought me a latte and we sat down to chat about adventures. He told me how he’s been doing this for over 15 years and how he thinks it’d be right up my alley. He organizes these trips for people to just join him on – he gets nothing out of it other than the company of others for a month while biking throughout parts of Europe.

I’m not sure if this is something that I’ll for sure do but it’s definitely something I’m considering. And the only reason I’m able to consider it right now is because I said yes and took a chance.

So, there you have it.. I miiiiight have found yet another adventure that just so happened to fall in my lap. A perfect opportunity that I might have missed out on if I had been afraid to say yes. In life you have to take chances, put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid to live a vibrant and colorful life. You might look back to regret it if you are.

I’m Back! Just in Time for some New Zealand Updates!

Well, hey there adventurers! I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to post but I’m finally back with many updates for all of you!

First off, it’s almost New Zealand time! I absolutely cannot wait for the adventures lying in wait for me. In just a few short weeks, I’ll be climbing the mountains of Mordor, bungee jumping in Queenstown and whale watching on the ocean – just to name a few things. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough struggle getting ready for this trip to the other side of the world immediately following my move back to the States from Paris but soon these past five months will have been more than worth it.

Now, let me delve into why I’ve been gone for so long. In order to provide myself the funds for this trip, I’ve taken on three (3!!) jobs that I work pretty much every day. I save every penny I make and this past weekend was the first time I’d gone out since moving back and that was only because it was a friend’s birthday. Needless to say, right now I have no social life. But honestly, that’s okay with me because it’s truly hard work getting to travel the way I do so often and right now my whole life centers on exploration.

When I signed a one year lease back here at home, I knew I’d be saving for this huge trip and then another in another six months. I work hard to travel as much and for as long as I do and I love it but I also want to utilize this passion as a career and am currently looking into writing for a travel magazine or blog or such, which is also taking up my time right now.

Basically what I’m saying is that my life has been one heck of a roller coaster ride of work and stress for the past five months and now that it’s almost New Zealand time (finally!), I’m bursting with excitement and anticipation! And this morning I finally had a moment to go out and break in my beautiful new North Face  hiking boots on the trails and I was so insanely happy out in the beautiful snow and nature, surrounded by the chirping of birds and crunch of ice beneath my feet. So naturally, I decided to take a minute to talk with all of you on how things have been going lately. 

 So there you have it – I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long but working three jobs while planning a massive trip is killer – BUT SO WORTH IT.

Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse/My Golden Years

Today I did something I’ve never done before: I saw a film at the theater all by myself.

For weeks now ever since I saw the trailer for Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse/My Golden Years, I’ve been dying to see it. But to my dismay, every time I wanted to go, everyone was busy. So, I was left with a choice: don’t go OR go alone. I chose go alone. And maaaaan, am I glad I did.

This film was the first French film I’ve seen since living in Paris, which is very disappointing, I know. But it is.

I caught an early showing and walked into the cinema. It was so early that sadly the concession stand wasn’t even open; I was soooo looking forward to some salty popcorn and a refreshing Orangina but never mind. These things happen; you move on.. Without your pop and popcorn.. Humph..

Anyway, I purchased my ticket at the deserted kiosk and walked my lone self up to the ticket tearer guy and then headed to my film. Already proud of my decision, I pushed through the big doors with a grand smile expecting to enter an empty room.. But to my delight, there were at least five other Parisians there to view the film with me! All on their own, I might add.. Not a single person was accompanied by another. Maybe there’s something to be said for people who go to movies super early in the morning by themselves.. But never mind that!

So, the movie started and already I was overjoyed. As I sat in the theater, happily engaged in the film, I realized that this is definitely going to be an insanely French film – asides, melancholy music and lot of “openness” (if you get what I mean).

Anyway, this film (which I researched beforehand so as to be especially prepared for my first French film viewing in Paris) is the prequel to Arnaud Desplechin’s 1996 “Comment Je Me Suis Disputé (Ma Vie Sexuelle)/My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument.” Now I’ve never seen the former but that didn’t detract from my experience with the latter in any sense. It tells the tale of a boy’s childhood through three memories and delves into how those experiences affected who he is as an adult.

He gets into trouble and falls in love.

He explores the world and breaks his own heart.

Full of raw emotion and organic love, the story is brought to life through talented newcomers Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet. Seriously these two are wonderful. I truly felt the love of Paul and Esther, yet understood their betrayal and yearned for them to be together throughout the whole thing.

It doesn’t hurt that Quentin is pretty easy on the eyes..

But seriously, they had me watching their every move for the full two hours.

Throughout the whole of the film, I found myself growing more and more attached to Paul and then it hit me why – he’s me. Well, in one sense; he’s a wanderer. He aches to know the world and just wants to see the sun rise over a new horizon. I was proud and altogether distraught every time Paul left Esther and his familiarity, even when she begged him to stay – because I feel his yearning to go. I grew closer and closer to him.. Until the end.

I won’t spoil it for anyone, but the ending was so entirely saddening that I was left in disarray. In the end I realized I’m not Paul, that the only love that dictates my life is that of my family. I will never be Paul, can never be Paul.

I left the theater in a different kind of happiness than when I went in.. Filled with happiness of a story I was able to witness, whether it be finished or not.

This tragic French love story was definitely the best pick I could have made for my first solo theater experience.

Now, everyone go see it.

Paris through the eyes of an American

After almost five months of living in Paris, I feel it’s time to discuss how different it is from the States. So here it goes.

1. Everyone smokes. Seriously, I feel like I’m gonna get lung cancer just walking down the street for five minutes at a time. It’s quite ridiculous.

2. Everything is more expensive. This, however, is expected. I mean, obviously it’s Paris. But the recent decline of the euro is helping me out a bit in this aspect!

3. People are rude. It seems no matter where you go, you encounter some sour puss who’s completely adamant on shoving you out of their way on the sidewalk. This comes with living in any big city though, so I’ve learned to get over it and stop complaining (I’m willing to admit it took months to stop the complaining, though).

4. Harassment awaits around every corner. It seems like no matter where I go, I can feel eyes undressing me and it took a while to adjust to the point where I can finally say it doesn’t bother me anymore. In fact, I hardly notice now.

5. Crêpes are everywhere. Whether you’re shopping in your favorite district and want a quick lunch or you’re out late after the bars and want a midnight snack, you’re always within a short distance of crêpe territory.

6. The coffee is smaller. It’s no secret the French love their espresso. It’s everywhere. I even have a personal espresso maker in my shoebox apartment instead of a coffee maker. Espresso just makes sense in this city.

7. The scent of fresh baked croissants every morning can be inhaled from every corner. One of my favorite things about being up early every morning is this sweet, buttery aroma seeping through every street.

8. Ancient architecture is at every doorstep. Obviously America is a young country and France is much, much older but it’s still so strange to me as an American to live in a city with so much history. Even my apartment building was built hundreds of years ago and I live in the past servant quarters that were used long, long ago.

9. Wine is a staple item in every diet. Does this need anymore description? I live in Paris. Of course wine is abundant and a part of every day life. It’s not even a question at meal time whether or not you’ll have wine.

10. Museums are hiding all throughout the city. Okay, you’ve heard of The Louvre, but there are dozens of museums everywhere that I’d never even heard about until moving here. For instance, there’s a perfume museum right down the street from me.. That’s pretty cool.

11. Frenchmen are more likely to harass you in the street than actually strike up a conversation at a bar. This goes back to the harassment thing – I don’t know what it is but for some reason Frenchmen don’t get the concept of women. They just don’t. They’d rather yell at you on the sidewalk than talk with you at the bar. But if they do talk to you at the bar, they automatically assume that if you show ANY interest, they’re automatically entitled to your phone number, body & entire life from there on out.

12. The homeless are everywhere. It’s so sad to walk down the street and pass by hoards of homeless sleeping in their tents along the sidewalk. It’s literally heartbreaking and really opens your eyes to how different your own life could be within an instant.

13. Public transportation can either be the best or worst thing in your life. It’s the best thing in the world when you’re trying to figure out a safe way home at the end of a long night out on the town. It’s the worst thing in the world when you’re wanting to stay out later but don’t want to miss your last metro but also don’t want to stay out till 6am when the metros start back up again. It’s an internal dilemma every time.

14. Every area of the city has a different significance from history. Every single metro stop in the city is named after a different event from history and it’s mind boggling to try and comprehend a city with so much depth to it.

15. Fashion is huge. Again, obviously it’s Paris so it’s the leader in the fashion world. Black is the main color scheme within every Parisian’s wardrobe but this doesn’t stop me from being the blatant American who stands out in yoga pants and floral dresses.

All of these things make Paris what it is and it’s wonderful to view the city from foreign eyes. I love this beautiful city and love the home it’s become in the past five months of my life.

Paris, never change darling.

Christmas Break in a Nutshell

So, it has come to my attention that I should probably update some of you on my Parisian shenanigans since we last spoke. The following is my attempt to sum up all the craziness I’ve encountered lately.

Here it goes.

Over Christmas break, one of my best friends, Caitie, came to visit me. We had such a blast and I don’t think I would have been able to get through Christmas in Paris without her. She was a blessing.. So thank you Cait! During the second week that she was here, we went on a backpacking trip from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam to Berlin to Zweibrücken back to Paris. It was a crazy eight days, to say the least. No matter what, Caitie and I always seem to find ourselves in weird travel situations wherever we go. For instance, during a road trip back from New York City to watch the ball drop on NYE three years ago, we blew a tire and got stranded on the Ohio turnpike and had to drive back to Chicago (about six more hours) on a donut. Another time we went to Vegas for NYE (last year) and ended up all having to take different flights home due to weather. This trip was no exception. I’ll start from the beginning.

We decided to just spend one day in Brussels because we’d been told that’s all we needed. So we arrived at noon and then had reservations for a bus at 4am the following morning. We didn’t get a hostel because, “What’s the big deal? We’re young, we can stay up till four and bar hop!” ..We were tired by 3pm and ended up seeing a movie to just chill out. We’re older than we thought..

Well, 1am rolls around and we decide to go back to the train station, get our bags out of the lockers and just sit and maybe nap till our 4am bus. As soon as we sit down, our stuff in hand, a security guard comes around to tell us that the station is now closed and we need to get out. UM OKAY SIR, WE’LL GO WANDER THE STREETS OF BRUSSELS FOR THE NEXT THREE HOURS UNTIL OUR BUS ARRIVES. So rude. I mean, who closes a train station!? I bet his name was Stove.. “Stove.. Whatakinda name is that?” ..Anyway, we start walking around the city with all of our bags and see this guy wandering around aimlessly as well and it was obvious the he was in the same situation as us and decide to follow him without him knowing. After about five minutes, Caitie runs up to him, “Tu parles français?” “No.” “English?” “Yes.” “YAY!”

Turns out he was, in fact, kicked out of the station too and had nowhere to go either. I announced to him that we’d be sticking with him now and hoped he didn’t mind.. He didn’t. Good thing too, because I would have continued to follow him anyway. So we all start walking around and stumble upon an open Quick (kind of a European McDonald’s) that was staying open until 6am. We happily stroll inside and buy some fries and get settled. We were going to be there for the next three hours, after all. Anyway, Caitie goes to the bathroom and Richie (that’s our new friend’s name) and I move tables to a more comfortable area. Right as I’m about to turn around to grab the fries, the last thing left on the table to transfer, a man comes up to the table, inspects the fries and then grabs an entire handful and walks out. I MEAN WHY DOES THIS STUFF HAPPEN TO US? But oh well, I’m assuming he needed them more than us.

We all settle into our little booth and start a game of 20 questions to get better acquainted for the three hours we have together and before we know it, our peace has been disturbed. A little woman comes in with a young couple and starts throwing french fries and sauce packets at everyone in the restaurant and ends up in a fist fight with just about everyone there, including the innocent Christmas tree in the restaurant window. I mean, the tree didn’t even do anything to her. It was just an innocent bystander in this tiny woman’s he-man strength psychotic break. She ends up being escorted out by police and we’re left sitting in awe at what just happened. Again, I’m telling ya, this kind of stuff happens on every trip we have, no lie.IMG_6159

After the Christmas tree fiasco, we find ourselves realizing it’s almost time for our bus and we start to head back to the bus stop. Richie walked us safely there (even carrying my bag for me, such a gentleman) and we parted ways to head to Amsterdam where even more turmoil was awaiting us, we just didn’t know it yet. But that’s a story I’m not quite willing to tell yet..

Cait and I spent NYE in Berlin at Brandenburger T’or and had a crazy, wild night filled with music, fireworks and champagne. We had a wonderful, yet somewhat crazy time, as usual, throughout the whole trip.IMG_6284

After Berlin, we found ourselves riding the train to Zweibrücken, where Cait’s wonderful family was awaiting our arrival to show us all around the southern region of Germany and spoil us like crazy for three days. We had such a fantastic time getting to know all about Germany’s history, eating hearty German food and drinking dark German beer. We can’t thank the Kerfins enough for all that they did for us those few days – they were wonderful and so amazing to us.IMG_6362

And to finish off our time together, we came back to Paris where we slept like babies for the night until Cait had to be at the airport the next morning to return to the good ole’ US of A. I had an unforgettable time with her and am so thankful she took the time and money it cost to see me for the holidays. I’m already dreaming up our next trip and can’t wait to see where we go next!

Since then, I’ve been kinda chillin’ out in Paris just hanging out with my favorite ladies, doing quiz night at The Highlander, you know.. the usual. I had a great trip but I also realized how much of my home Paris has become.

I’m happy to be back in my little shoebox of an apartment. I’m happy to be able to waste time at my favorite bar (The Highlander, in case you guys didn’t already catch that) again. I’m happy to spend time with my girls before some of them leave soon. I’m happy to be home.

Nick Offerman performs at MU’s Jesse Hall

The Parks and Recreation actor took the stage April 4 at Jesse Auditorium.

Whitney Hayward/Senior Staff Photographer "Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman performed Wednesday at Jesse Auditorium. Offerman portrays Ron Swanson on the popular NBC program.

By Megan Suddarth

Published April 10, 2012

Offensive profanity and vulgarity galore.

The lights come up and a half-naked Nick Offerman darts to center stage, pauses and then darts across the rest of the stage to disappear. Then, after a couple seconds, he crawled out from under the curtain at center stage. He steps to the mic, “Minor nudity was advertised, minor nudity was achieved.”

Offerman’s performance at Jesse Auditorium last Wednesday night seemed to go the same way — vulgar humor that had part of the audience in constant laughter and the other part sitting in disbelief, with some even getting up to leave. The show combined simple jokes that had everyone chuckling, hilarious songs written and performed by Offerman himself and also offensive pokes at religion throughout his show.

Offerman came prepared with what he believes to be 10 Tips for a Prosperous Life and presented each with a joke, anecdote or even a song.

  1. “Engage in romantic love.”
  2. “Please and thank you.”
  3. “Carry a handkerchief.”
  4. “Eat red meat.”
  5. “Get a hobby.”
  6. “Go outside.”
  7. “Avoid mirrors.”
  8. “Maintain a relationship with Jesus Christ, as long as it’s getting you sex.”
  9. “Use intoxicants.”
  10. “Paddle your own canoe.”

Offerman wrote these tips when United Talent Agency told him that they could get him speaking engagements at college campuses, where he could put on a show for students.

“I’m flirting with doing a book deal right now,” Offerman said. “And so there’s always a lot of, even around Ron Swanson, there’s always a lot of rules, like the Pyramid of Greatness. I just naturally took that structure when I thought ‘What do I want to tell the students?’ I thought I want to give them tips and some of them have little anecdotes to go with them.”

After he presented his 10 tips, Offerman took questions from the audience. Questions ranged from tips on how to support yourself through acting to whether he’s tried some famous Kansas City BBQ to one man asking if Offerman would give his number to Aubrey Plaza, one of his co-stars on Parks and Recreation.

Offerman’s response to the phone number? He got his phone and called her right there on stage. Sadly, she didn’t answer but Offerman left her a detailed message saying he was at MU and describing the guy that wanted her to have his number. He ended the call with, “He’s good to go.” That got a good laugh out of everyone.

After finishing his performance and answering every question, Offerman left the stage with a closing line that every true Tiger can love.

“Fuck Kansas,” he said as he disappeared offstage.

For more Maneater content, click here.

The closing of Devil’s Icebox is impacting hikers

On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, Devil’s Icebox is still closed. The closing of the cave, located at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, is affecting hikers. The cave is closed due to white nose syndrome, a deadly fungal disease that affects bats, within the cave. Though the disease is spread through bat-to-bat contact, experts believe that humans who visit infected caves can spread the disease.


Devil's Icebox, located at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 is closed due to white nose syndrome infecting the bats inhabiting the cave.

Reagan Nielsen, MU sophomore, frequents the area.

“Hiking is a pastime for my friends and I,” Nielsen said. “The cave is usually the highlight of our hike. The fact that it has closed is very sad because it’s really cool to go in. It’s unfortunate that this is a disease that the bats have to deal with.”


Reagan Nielsen, a sophomore at MU, looks at the sign at Devil's Icebox, located at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in Columbia, Mo. on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, that indicates that the cave is still closed off.

The closing of the cave is temporary while experts work to stop the spreading of this disease.

The Way of the Future – Helpful or Harmful?

This week in 2150 lab, we learned how to do a mobile journalism assignment with our Smartphones. This got me thinking about just how much technology affects our lives. After some thinking, I scared myself a little as I remembered a recent article I’d read this week about Google. (For article, click here.)

This article gave me two major thoughts: 1. Wow, this is awesome. Our society is going to be like the movies. 2. Oh, crap. We’re all going to be robots one day.

These thoughts were on opposite ends of the spectrum, yet both completely legitimate. I mean, it’s so awesome that these new Google glasses can do so much for us. Before you know it, we’re gonna have flying cars (I actually read something about these being made right now), hovercrafts, appliances that prepare food out of nothing in an instant, voice controlled housing, etc – pretty much the lives of people in movies like Star Wars or Minority Report or some other fictional society. All of these improvements in technology will make life so much easier and advance us toward multiple horizons in the future.

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However, all of these improvements also add to the convenience of life. Sooner or later (rather sooner, apparently), we aren’t going to have much incentive to get up and do anything because all things can be done by the touch of a button or even easier, through the sound of our voice. This is what I meant when I thought we will all become robots – everyone will become so lazy that we’ll be like the people in Wall-E. That’s a scary thought, honestly. I also realize this is a drastic thought and that I’m thinking to the extreme, but Smartphones and tablets and gaming consoles have contributed to my thought on this already. People no longer go out and use their hands and get dirty. Kids don’t go play catch outside or even just tag for hours on end anymore; they sit inside on Xbox and scream at other kids sitting at home at their Xbox’s. People no longer have hobbies like gardening or knitting. Instead, hobbies include Twitter and Facebook.

Come on, really think about what you would be like if you had everything available for you with the sound of your voice. Do you think you’d still be the person you are today? Will we still have innovators? Will we still have dreamers? Will we still have those people that you can count on for anything and everything? Or will these types of inventions change our society as a whole?

I’m not saying that these inventions are horrible, by any means; they are wonderful advancements toward the future of our world. I’m just saying that I hope that in the future, kids still go outside to pick flowers for their moms or that they still run through creek waters to catch crawdads. I hope that in the future, adults still take time to take their families out on picnics or take walks on the beach.

All I want is for people to still take advantage of the beautiful world that God created.