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..

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. 

 

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.

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.. 

 

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.