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.

Advertisements

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.

Wilbur Chocolate Co., A Last East Coast Adventure (For Now)

Well, my PA trip has come to an end, sadly. As I sit here in the Cincinnati airport I thought I’d tell all of you of the wondrous factory that is Wilbur chocolates. 

  
Yes, Pennsylvania is obviously known for Hershey’s chocolates, everyone knows that. But have you heard of the lesser known and – dare I say – BETTER tasting chocolates that can be found in Lititz, PA? Mandy took me to the factory/museum today and it was super tiny, but so. dang. delicious. They offer free samples of their “buds,” in both milk and dark chocolates and they were so creamy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious that I swear if there had been a chocolate fountain, I’d have swam in it – no hesitation. 
 The factory/museum was made up of only about three rooms but it was definitely enough to transform me into a lifetime fan of Wilbur.

The first room was the gift shop, full of all the chocolate your little mind could ever imagine. 

 The second room was an extension of that but with a closed off area featuring chocolate molds and chocolate sculptures – including a full carousel THAT IS MADE ENTIRELY OF RICE CRISPIES AND CHOCOLATE.

 The third room is where they make the chocolate and again, though small, it looked so fun. Maybe I’ll become a chocolatier next.. Who knows. 

 So there you have it, my last stop on the East Coast before flying back home to the Midwest. I’d say it was a pretty good stop indeed.

On Orange, the Chillest Cafe Experience in Lancaster

Anyone who knows me knows I love food. It’s almost all I ever think about.

What’re we going to eat for lunch?

What time is breakfast?

Can we do brunch too?

I know we just ate but when is dinner?

I’m like a hobbit.. “But what about second breakfast?”

And Orange Street in Lancaster, PA just so happens to house the cutest and yummiest little cafe around. If you happen to be in the area, On Orange is a must. 

 It was small and crowded when Mandy and I walked in but fret not! There’s a basement with wooden booths topped with paisley pillows all around. We waltzed down the stairs and found a cozy little booth in the corner by the fireplace and took a seat.

Immediately I saw the chilaquilies, a Mexican dish of tortilla chips soaked in a spicy chorizo sausage soup, topped with feta, avocado and eggs. I was hesitant, but decided it sounded weirded enough for me and oh my goodness! It was so delicious.. Like I’m sitting here writing this and wanting more. I think I’ve just found my new favorite breakfast go to. And maybe lunch go to. And probably even dinner go to. 

   
Even the service was wonderful and it completely topped off the experience. Our server, Alan, a bearded man-bunned dude covered in plaid was so kind and gave me that little push I needed to venture towards the chilaquilies. Oh, dude’s got dance moves too.. He kept dancing out of the kitchen and making us laugh. He was great and definitely left us with a smile.

If I haven’t convinced you yet of this place’s awesomeness, then I have one last treat to throw at you – literally. The checks come with a cookie on the plate. Free dessert! 

 So, there you have it.. I’ve found you all the perfect cafe experience within Lancaster. Now, go try it out for yourself!

A “Sunny” Day in Philadelphia; Hunting Down Mac & Sweet Dee

Today I decided I’m going to build a treehouse and live in the Pennsylvania forests.

The girls and I spent the day in Philly and the drive was stunning. “I mean, trees!? Everywhere trees!?” (Always Sunny reference, you’re welcome). This place is everything you’d imagine the East Coast in autumn to be. And I know that I keep rambling about East Coast autumn but THAT’S BECAUSE IT’S GORGEOUS. I mean, there are leaves floating across the highway from the treetops and it’s like I’m in a fantasy and I can’t handle it. 

 So yeah, treehouse life.

We did so many things today but our first stop in the city was at the Eastern State Penitentiary, famous as being the world’s first true penitentiary. The entire prison was laid out isolation-style, with inmates being unable to communicate and talk with each other during their sentences. It was incredibly rundown, having been abandoned in 1971. We saw Al Capone’s cell, walked the ruins and took pictures with the gargoyles guarding the gate. Definitely a highlight of my PA time. 

    
   
  
We also saw the Rocky statue. 

 
We walked down what is apparently the oldest street in America, Elfreth’s Alley. It was everything you’d expect to see in 1702, the year it was opened.

   
We also ate at the famous Geno’s Steaks, supposedly the best cheesesteaks in South Philly. It was the first Philly cheesesteak of my life and it was so delicious.. However, I haven’t eaten something so saturated in grease and fat in such a long time.. I could only eat half before having to throw in the towel.

But anyway.. The most important part of a trip to Philly..

These past few days I’ve been repeatedly tweeting at Mac and Dee from It’s Always Sunny and their restaurant they own together with an old friend on Market Street in Philly telling them I’m going to stalk them (as you all already know). All week I’ve been fantasizing over #thegangmeetsMegan and how they’d love me so much they’d ask me to join the show and my life would be forever changed..

So..

Did I meet Mac and Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny?

Well..

No.

Such a devastating realization that they wouldn’t be at Mac’s Tavern today. I felt like a kid whose lollipop had just been ripped out of its hands. But did it stop me from taking full advantage of the experience? Of course not. I ordered “Mac’s chili,” complete with guacamole and talked up the waiter about what they’re like in real life. He told me they drink just as much in real life as in the show and it’s everything I thought they’d be. Though they didn’t show up to make all my dreams come true, I still loved it. 

    
  

And then I spent the rest of our time in Philly searching out different spots from the show’s credits and places they talk about.

I saw the Christmas light boathouses. 

 I climbed Lemon Hill, the place “where all the cool kids used to go.” 

   
I hung out in Fairmount Park and did not witness any crackheads. 

 I viewed the Schuylkill River, otherwise known as “the depository for all of the unsolved crimes and murders in Philadelphia.” 

   
I went down to the Wawa to “pick [Frank] up a hoagie.” 

 
And I had such a Sunny day in Philadelphia.

York, Lancaster & Gettysburg; Pennsylvania Autumn is Magnificent

Three days into Pennsylvania and I might not ever leave.

Philly, York, Lancaster & Gettysburg are the amazing places I’ve visited thus far and I have to say that Gettysburg took my breath away. The girls and I took the auto tour and drove through everything and it was just mesmerizing. Gettysburg in autumn is stunning and add to it the history of what occurred in that very spot, it’s quieting.

The color of the trees, the stillness of the fields, everything. I loved Gettysburg.

We also ate at markets, explored so many downtown shops and walked to our heart’s content these past two days.

If you’ve never visited this part of the U.S., please indulge in these photos. 

    
    
   

   

I’ve Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers; My First Day in Philly

I’m in Philly!

This long awaited trip to visit my best friends on the east coast has FINALLY arrived.

It’s been a long day of driving, flying, walking and now train-ing (I think I just made that verb up). Mom and I woke up around 3am to get ready to drive me to the airport for my early morning flight.. Have I mentioned how wonderful she is lately? I mean seriously, that lady got up at 2:30 this morning to take me to the airport and then had multiple hours stuck in the city before needing to be at work and now she’s been working all day.. She’s amazing. Love you, Momma. 

 Okay, anyway. I landed in Philly this morning and have spent the entirety of the day exploring the city on my own – exactly what I love. Since Caitie and Mandy had to work today (which they couldn’t focus on as soon as I’d told them I’d landed in PA) I did my own thing in the city. I truly can’t explain the feeling of excitement and anticipation I get every time I’m alone in a new city.. So fulfilling being on your own and smiling down the streets of some place new to you. Gah, I love it so much.

But before I go into details on what I spent my day doing, I have to start with what happened to me on the train from the airport to the city center. So, picture me standing on the train platform studying the subway map with my floral backpack strapped on and jacket tied around my waist, practically jumping I’m so happy to be here. I notice a guy kind of noticing me and I decide to ask him,

“Hey dude, where do I buy a ticket for this?”

“From the conductor,” he says with a kind smile that I certainly was NOT expecting from a Philadelphia native. After all the Always Sunny that I watch, I pretty much expected everyone to yell at me and steal from me (which I actually secretly hoped for too, considering I wanted to see fiction come to life before my eyes).

“Oh, great.. Thanks!”

And I shuffle quickly back to the massive map board and continue studying. The train arrives and we all pile inside one at a time, and the kind man from the platform sits right behind me.

The conductor comes through to charge tickets and I notice literally everyone handing him cash. Uh oh. I don’t have any of that..

I turn to the kind man.

“I hope he takes cards.. ”

*Awkward smile* “I don’t think he does.. ”

“Uh oh.. ”

*Conductor comes by*

“Do you take cards?”

“No.”

“Okay.. What will $4 get me?”

*Exasperated sigh* “I’ll be back for your driver’s license to bill you.”

“.. okay.”

Kind man interrupts.

“Where are you going?”

“Market street.. ?”

“Okay, I’ll pay the rest of her fare.”

He proceeds to pay for me and I get my ticket.

I blush intensely over the embarrassment of perfectly fitting the stereotype of a broke 20something traveling the world but also have a swelling and warmth in my heart over perfectly fitting the stereotype of a broke 20something traveling the world.

You see, when you live your life day to day going wherever the world takes you, you develop a sense of excitement over the unknown and a love for the people in the world who can surprise you.

And man, did that kind man surprise me.

After the conductor walks away, I turn to the kind man to ask his name to thank him.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says with a smile across his lips.

We continued to talk for the entirety of the ride and turns out he’s originally from the Midwest too. He talked to me about the city and gave me tips.

Apparently, I reminded him of someone.

He began my trip on the best note it could have started out on and now reflecting on the experience, I can’t help but think of Blanche from Streetcar..

http://youtu.be/DSTd1LuiVUs

I leapt off the train, gave him a quick wave and wide smile and turned toward Market Street.

After that kind of morning, the rest of my day was wonderful. Having lived in Paris, I have a deep love of walking so I decided to skip the subway and instead walk everywhere. I walked the entirety of Market Street, saw the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, toured Congress Hall, ate lunch in Washington Square Park, stopped by Mac’s Tavern (which I’ll be eating at on Sunday – and coincidentally stalking the Sunny cast) and explored the Mütter Museum

 
   
I had such a fantastic first day in PA and know it can only get better. As I sit here on the train, I’m counting down the minutes until I see my girls again (36, to be exact). They have a spectacular five days planned for us and I can’t wait.

Mainly though, I’m just excited to be with them again.