One Flight Down, Two More to go: The New Zealand Adventure Has Begun

Well, it’s happening folks! Six months of planning, saving, working and waiting has finally come to a close and I’ve begun my trip to New Zealand! 

 It’s going to be a long next 24 hours but that’s okay, I have my LOTR books ready to go so I will not get bored!! I will not get bored.. I.. Will.. Not.. Get.. Bored..

Okay, so I’m already bored. First layover and it’s already too many. The next 24 hours of my life will be spent on planes and I could not be more thrilled.

*Exhausted.

As tradition goes, my entire family – parents, brother, future sis in law, grandparents and baby cousins/sisters/nieces/daughters (I’m only speaking of two individuals here, in case you didn’t know) – met up at Ihop for breakfast and then drove over to the airport together and they all watched me take off. 

   
We ate lots of food.

We ran around the airport.

I was tired from barely sleeping last night in anticipation for today.

Mom was sad.

That’s how the morning went and it was wonderful – aside from the immediate exhaustion and Mom being sad, of course.

 Now, I’m chillin’ alone in the airport, reading The Fellowship of the Ring and already wanting these next 24 hours to be over but it’s okay.. I’ll just kill the time on MY THIRTEEN HOURS STRAIGHT ACROSS THE OCEAN FLIGHT by watching as many scary movies as I can fit into one nonstop sitting.

Yeah, so the journey has begun.

Now, excuse me while I go eat all the McDonald’s that my wallet can handle.

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It’s Almost New Zealand Time!

Six months ago I downloaded the app, “Countdown,” and set my countdown for the day I leave for New Zealand to be reunited with my other half. Back then it was almost 200 days until the countdown ended but now here we are, mere days until I take off and I can’t believe it’s finally time!

I’ve been planning this trip since the day I returned home from Paris. It’s taken me half a year, three jobs at once, no social life and some sleepless nights but now that it’s time to go I know that it was all worth it. I’ve worked my booty off so much to be able to save up for this trip and it’ll be so fulfilling to finally step off that plane in Auckland and into the arms of my best friend.  

 Now that it’s finally time, I feel like it’s okay for me to talk about how I got here. Once I decided on New Zealand, I started saving immediately. I figured up my budget – for my flight, for all things in New Zealand and for my bills while I’m gone – and knew that I wouldn’t accept anything less and would somehow make it work so that in six months, I’d have this much saved up for when I left. I got three jobs (most days I worked all three in a day) and saved every penny I made.

I made myself a DIY adventure jar that I put all of my loose change in (it actually worked – I’ve saved up almost $200 through that adventure jar alone) and started hanging out with friends mainly just at home in my apartment. It was certainly a tough last six months. Every time anyone would ask me to go out for the night, my response would always be, “Sorry, I don’t have monies.. Wanna come hang out at my place?” It got old pretty quickly but I didn’t mind, I knew what I was working toward. 

 Now look! I made everything I needed for my budget and I’ve saved up $500 more than the goal I set for myself. I am certainly well off on everything we have planned to do in NZ – AND for all of my bills back here in the U.S. Yeah, I saved up enough for a month long trip to New Zealand in six months – in addition to paying all of my living expenses on time that I already have while living on my own. YOU COULD SAY I’M A LITTLE PROUD OF THIS ACCOMPLISHMENT.

It was tough.. And I’m exhausted after everything.. But I did it.

Travel is everything to me so once I set my mind to something and decide on a new place to go – I make it happen. No questions asked. If you work hard for what you love, you can make it happen, too.

NEW ZEALAND HERE I COME!

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.

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.