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.

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. 

   

5 Things You Learn When You Explore the Entirety of Paris’ Louvre Museum

After being home from Paris for a little over a month, I’ve obviously been thinking about that marvelous city for a majority of my free time. I’m missing it more and more each day so I’ve decided that it’s finally time to now start posting my tips, useful facts and just favorite things about the city for others who might be traveling there soon, who might want to go one day or those who might just have a general inkling to know more about my time over there.

While living there, I compiled a list of tips and useful things I feel that people will be able benefit from that are drawn from my own experiences and adventures over there. One of my tip lists I want to share with the world is what happens when you take five days of your life to explore every inch and secret room within Paris’ famed Louvre museum. Exploring the whole Louvre was one of my top Paris Bucket List items and I accomplished it the week before leaving the city. I hope that my experience within the museum can help out anyone else wanting to explore it.. So without further ado, here we go!

1. No matter what you’ve heard about the gigantic size of the Louvre, it’s bigger than you ever could have imagined.

Standing outside the enormous palace, the size is intimidating. You’re thinking to yourself, “There’s no way I’ll ever actually see this whole thing.” You’re scared to even walk in, knowing how overwhelmed you’ll become within seconds. Yet, knowing all of this, you slowly descend the steps into the “secret” entrance of the Louvre. Immediately, the crowds overcome you and you’re lost within a sea of tourists, unable to even move. As they all shuffle through the short line into the underground entrance, you push past and finally break free of the camera flashes and jumbled combination of four different languages being screeched around you. You’re finally in. You’ve come through the carousel entrance, you’ve shoved past the crowds and you’ve finally made it inside the Louvre. You stand gazing at the three different museum entrance choices before you: Richelieu, Denon and Sully. Without thinking, you choose one and venture up the escalator inside. Map in hand, you clutch it tighter than your purse, knowing that this little paper map is your lifeline to the fantastical history that lies in waiting for you to discover. Slowly, you calm down knowing that you’ve made it inside and that you’re now exploring one of the largest collections of history in the world. You ease into yourself and get lost within the beauty that is the Louvre. Though it’s massive, each room is full of something new and the little map you’re clutching saves you from terror. After about two hours of exploring, you’ve finally conquered the first of three sections in the museum. You feel accomplished and ready to do anything. You know you’re a master Louvre patron already. One section down, two more to go! ..four days later, you’ve done it all. You’ve seen all three sections. You’ve battled thousands of tourists. You’ve won. You’ve seen the entire Louvre after five days of exploration. And it was glorious. The size was no match for your passion of art and you leave for the last time feeling a lightness and renewed passion for life. You have seen the entirety of Paris’ Louvre museum.

This is what I went through each day I dared to go back and see more. It took me five days, but by jove, I did it! 

   
2. Napoleon was a bigger jerk than the world leads you to believe.

You all know Napoleon, right? The guy who tried to conquer the world and actually did conquer many parts of Europe? Well anyway, at one point in history, Napoleon lived within the Louvre and his apartments within the palace are still present and perfectly preserved today. You can explore the entirety of them within the Richelieu section of the Louvre and they’re magnificent. Plush oversized furniture covers the floor below an enormous, elaborate diamond chandelier that hovers above the main living room; extravagant bedrooms flowing with diamonds and decorated with uncomfortable, yet gorgeous furniture. I’m telling you, this part of the Louvre will blow your mind. It’s phenomenally overdone and elaborate in ways that I never could have imagined possible in real life. It was extraordinary. But obviously, Napoleon was more full of himself than anyone could have imagined.. Or at least than I could have imagined. 

 3. The Egyptian section is one of immense magnitude and indescribable history.

Oh, the Egyptian section! Gah, it was marvelous. I’m so excited right now even just thinking about it again and writing about it. Okay, so I have to start off with telling you that all my life, I’ve wanted to visit Egypt. When I was in 6th grade, I did a school project on Nefertiti.. I regularly watched The Mummy movies.. To say I was obsessed with Egyptian culture and history is probably an understatement. So, getting to see a full collection of Egypt’s ancient history was of great excitement for me. This section houses many, many sarcophagus’ and ancient tablets depicting everything from royal day-to-day activities to farm life. The Louvre even holds the sarcophagus of Rameses III, pharaoh of Egypt from 1186 – 1155 BC.  The inscriptions on each tablet were mesmerizing and the sarcophagus’ were marvelous.. But none of it compared to the fact that I saw a real life mummy. WHAT! Yes, a real life mummy in a glass case on display for everyone to see. It was indisputably the most amazing thing in the Louvre for me. Complete with jars on the sides full of the organs from the deceased (just like I learned about from the Mummy movies!), the mummy was truly humbling for me. 

I can’t quite describe why I have such a fascination with ancient Egypt (it could have something to do with adventure – because I’d go ahead and be so bold as to say that I have a bit of a passion for it) but I can tell you that 6th-grade-Nefertiti-project-wielding Megan would have cried her eyes out and fainted at knowing that present day Megan had the privilege of viewing a real life actual ancient mummy in Paris. Man, sometimes I just have to re-read sentences like that that I type out and breathe, still unable to comprehend some of the things I’ve been blessed to do in my life. 6th grade Megan certainly never would have guessed I’d do most of the things I’ve been able to do thus far in my life.

4. “Dead ends” due to construction or other mishaps are not definite; there’s always a secret way to get to the section you need to see.

During the five days it took me to explore the Louvre, I was turned away from multiple sections due to construction closings on staircases and hallways, yet wasn’t deterred. I was on a mission that I needed to accomplish and I wasn’t going to let a little hallway construction stop me from doing what I needed to do. Again, handy little paper map in hand, I studied the layout of the museum multiple times and always found smaller, hidden staircases or passageways still accessible to get me where I needed to go. So, if you are turned away for these reasons, fret not! If you’re determined enough and sneaky enough to search out these smaller, lesser known entryways, you can see everything you need to see. However, that being said, if there are certain entire sections closed off for things like this or art restoration, there is actually no way around it. This was something I encountered on the 2nd floor of the Denon section. The entire top level of this section was closed off for restoration and I’m sorry to say that that is final. Though you can find ways around closed off staircases and such, you certainly can’t sneak into places and do anything illegal. So, don’t take this advice as me telling you to pull off some sort of National Treasure stunt! Nic Cage won’t help you out if you decide to break laws.

5. The provided maps are actual lifesavers and your connection to the museum world.

As I’ve mentioned in almost the entirety of this post, the Louvre provides handy dandy paper maps in every language for you to use to your advantage while exploring the Louvre. The maps contain a floor plan of the museum complete with color coded sections and suggestions on what is most famous in that section and on that floor. They seriously are so helpful if you’re wanting to find a way to conquer the Louvre like I did or if you’re just wanting to find the Mona Lisa. Make sure to grab one as you pass by the information center, I promise you won’t regret it.

*Bonus* There is a “secret” entrance as mentioned above that allows you to skip the crowds and get inside within seconds.

This little tidbit of information that I possessed as a Parisian is probably the thing that my Dad was most thankful for when he and my Mom came to visit. As you can imagine, the Louvre is almost always stuffed full of humans and if you can believe it, my Dad is not a big crowd person. I know I love new things and meeting gaggles of new people, but I certainly didn’t get that from my Dad because he’s the exact opposite.  If he could avoid all human contact outside of those he loves, I think he’d live his happiest life. So, for him, coming to Paris was a definite culture shock in the way of people. He previously thought that a crowd was the ironic wave of people leaving a Royals game early during the 8th inning to avoid everyone else, all the while ensuring their inevitable encounter with all other patrons from the game. Paris is definitely not the ironic wave of people from a Royals game. I’m pretty sure my poor Dad was in a state of shock and anxiety the whole time we were in the city and the Louvre was no exception. Though I couldn’t disperse the crowds within the museum for him, I could ensure that Dad didn’t have a heart attack while just entering it. The “secret” entrance is called the carousel and is a side staircase behind the pyramid that leads to the shopping center and also the entrance to the museum itself. It’s highly less frequented than the main entrance and a nice welcome for the father of a daughter who loves the city but appreciates her dad’s hatred of people.. Love you, Dad!

So, there you have it! Just a few tidbits and facts that I can provide for you beautiful readers and fellow adventurers who hope to some day visit the Louvre for the first time or maybe return for another visit. I hope I was helpful! There’s certainly so much more to learn about this fantastical place though, so if you have any questions or comments for me, don’t hesitate to ask! As you can tell, I obviously miss Paris with a burning passion and would love to talk about it even more.

My Newest Adventure

I think it’s about time I updated everyone on what my latest adventure is. Get this, it’s so huge.. I’ve moved into my own real life big apartment.

That’s right, I no longer live in a shoebox.. I have an apartment with a balcony the size of my old room. It’s so nice to have space again! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I would ever have changed about my Paris apartment – it was home. But now that I’m back Stateside, I have my very own massive place.

I’m back in Columbia and living with the world’s greatest roommate yet again, Amy. We moved in a couple days ago and everything is all set up and perfect. For our first night back together, we had our three favorites: HuHot, wine & Pitch Perfect. We’d been planning it for months and I’m so happy to finally be all set up in my own space.

Now, you remember how I’ve talked about not being made for the 9-5 life? How I want more out of my life? Well, now that I’m back that still hasn’t changed. I have a multitude of jobs that I love to support me and am also going to be volunteering while here. While I’m home and working a bazillion jobs, I’ll be saving up for my next grand adventure – a month-long backpacking trip throughout New Zealand with my other half, Rowena! I cannot wait.

So basically, I’ve figured out that my environment doesn’t affect who I am – I am who I am and that’ll never change. I’m a wanderer who just wants to go on my next adventure while wearing wild flowers in my hair. So, wish me luck on this next stage in my life! Establishing a “wanderful” life no matter where I am. 

 

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.