#NerdAlert

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia

To recap last year, I'm looking back on all the books I finally had the chance to read. Whether they were enjoyed on excruciatingly long bus rides in Myanmar, in between people spewing on cramped vans amidst winding roads of Thailand, or while relaxing on a pristine beach in Bali, these books influenced the fantastic year that was 2015.

January

February

March

April

May

  • Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul / Howard Schultz
  • The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned It into a Global Brand / Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor
  • #GirlBoss / Sophia Amoruso 

June

July

  • Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman / Yvon Chouinard
  • E-CubedNine More Energy Experiments That Prove Manifesting Magic and Miracles Is Your Full-Time Gig / Pam Grout

August

  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How To Make the Most of Them Now / Meg Jay
  • Will Travel For Vegan Food:  A Young Woman's Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love / Kristin Lajeunesse 

September

October

November

December

Follow


HoustAtlantaVegas

Except really MelBrisbaLAsVegacticut... but the former sounds better.

Two weeks ago I left for one of the most epic trips I've made to date. 

The Urbon Vivant, as I've self-proclaimed myself, made MAD moves. When I first arrived in Australia, I looked into getting home for my cousin's wedding in September. Lucky for me, it was so far in advance that roundtrip flights to LAX (the more frequent route for Aus-US) were actually quite inexpensive. If I timed it right, I could even get home in time for Labor Day Weekend. Click- flight purchased. No need to think that one over.

Then, the pieces began to fall in to place (as they seem to be doing quite often lately!). I found out my girlfriends were all heading to Vegas for LDW. We usually go in winter for Sameea's birthday, but this time they didn't want to miss out on all the outdoor fun. To say I was suffering from severe FOMO is a complete understatement. I was freaking the f out. I couldn't miss this. And I had no idea when I'd ever get home again! So, on September 4th, I flew from Melbourne to Brisbane to LAX to Las Vegas to make one hell of a surprise visit. 

I left my apartment at the break of dawn. No seriously, I called an uber at 4am. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, I was too excited to sleep and too eager to get all 3 of my flights started. In case you ever fly to Australia, just know their airport security is NOTHING like the US. I should know by now that I don't need to arrive 3 hours ahead of my flight time to go through it, because you don't even have to take your shoes off, and check in takes all of 6 minutes, but like I said, I was the eagerest of beavers. I checked my bag, walked through security, and was sitting at my gate in approximately 13 minutes. Only 2 hours and 47 minutes to go before boarding started. HA. 

When I did board my flight, I was caught somewhere in between an anxiety attack from utter excitement, and half asleep from realizing it was only 7am and I had 16 more hours to go. I was a page and a half into a new book when I passed the F out, drool face and all. The flight attendant woke me up an hour later because of that stupid seat-back adjustment rule for landing and then suddenly we were off to take the tram to the international terminal. I took one step onto the tarmac only to realize I had left my Kindle in the seat pocket. Niiiiiice. You had ONE job to do Alex- keep your shit together. As I go to turn around, it was as if I had screamed the word bomb. No one would let me back on the plane, even if just for the nerdying need of Kindle reuniting. I had to run to the Virgin Australia desk to let them know I NEEDED my baby on my long flight to the US. I felt naked without it. What was I going to do for the next 14 hours???! Panic was flooding through my geeky veins. Between walky-talkies and code words given for what I swore was the sole purpose of not letting me know what was going on, the attendants at the desk were attempting to help me- but the outlook was looking dismal. I had approximately 10 minutes before my flight boarded and still had to get through customs. Luckily, that process is also nothing like that of the US. It doesn't take 7 years to get through the queue, it takes about 20 minutes. Unless you're me and constantly have issues with the photo identification computers (probably because you look like an insane asylum escapee from lack of sleep tied with Kindle separation anxiety).

Jake at the Virgin Aus desk took my contact info and said to hope for the best, as he sent me on my way. Though upset with myself, I couldn't stay bummed for long- I was headed home! And on the way I got to stop in Vegas to see my best friends- it was hard to stay depressed. Which reminded me, VEGAS WEEEEEE. Sin City has become one of my favorite destinations worldwide. Bottom line, the place just gets me. I get to dress up, head out with my gals, cut lines, dance on elevated surfaces, drink for $Free.99 and sometimes (this time) walk past famous people (story to be continued). 

Because I'm super famous myself and live a luxurious bon vivant lifestyle, I flew first class from LAX to Las Vegas. Meaning I lived the life for all of 40 minutes LOL. I ordered as much champagne as the steward would allow in the time period, ate all free snacks offered, and chatted with the family sitting next to me (from Calabasas, figures). 

By the time I landed, it was noon. I had 5 hours until Arlene, the only other friend aware of my surprise visit- and main coordinator of it- would get there. Luckily, my bestest from home, Molly, was flying in from Colorado for her first Vegas visit ever! After getting lost in the airport (didn't realize McCarren was so ginormous) I found her waiting at a baggage belt. Running off pure adrenaline (because my body definitely knew an entire day had passed without sleep), we hopped into a cab and asked the driver where the best pool party was on a Friday afternoon. He dropped us at Encore at Wynn and I made my first attempt at getting in somewhere without Arlene and the help of our favorite Vegas promoters. First try- immediate denial. Second try- Mol and I hopped in behind a big group of girls clearly on a Bachelorette holiday. Homegirl didn't understand girlcode and handed the bouncer her promoter ticket along with, "It's me plus these 10 girls, THOSE TWO aren't with us". Lolz thanks girlfriend. So, I finally gave in and paid for my first entry to a Vegas club ever. At this point it was like 90 degrees and I couldn't be bothered. 

Second hurdle of the day- security. Because Mol and I had literally come directly from the airport, we had checked our suitcases in with the front desk but I had held onto my purse. Though by purse, you should probably picture the bag Mary Poppins had where she could pull everything including umbrellas out. The bouncer immediately started searching and dove right on in. He must've felt like he had hit the jackpot because upon finding my cosmetics case he took LITERALLY every medicine I had- sleeping pills, advil, more sleeping pills (they were long flights!), pepto bismol, my women's one a day vitamins, probably more sleeping pills, and my UNOPENED pack of gum. And my Hydralyte (Australia's version of Alka seltzer + Airborne- aka my remedy for all future hangovers of the weekend)- I couldn't let that one go without a fight. "Seriously, why are you taking my hydralyte?" "It says right on the sign before you enter all of this isn't allowed" "Because everyone reads signs before they go into a giant pool party right?" "You can't have these" "I don't get it - do you think these are all illegal drugs or something? It says right there ELECTROLYTE SUPPLEMENTS. Cut me a break I just came from AUSTRALIA! Open that- it's giant orange tablets. Does that really look like ecstasy to you!???" Hearing the pure desperation in my voice, homeboy let me at least keep my hydralyte. But not before continuing to raid my back until I flat out asked- "why don't you just take my tampons, too?"

He didn't think it was as funny as I did. But he let me in- so I could finally release my inner basic bitch and scream WE MADE ITTTTTT.

http://www.videobash.com/video_show/comedian-chris-d-elia-perfectly-impersonates-every-drunk-girl-ever-2067711

http://www.videobash.com/video_show/comedian-chris-d-elia-perfectly-impersonates-every-drunk-girl-ever-2067711

Mol and I danced, met fellow Aussies (I can say fellow now because I'm a resident. TA.), accidentally purchased a $99 pitcher of Vodka & Lemonade, regretfully drank it, and then finally got the call from Leney to head to MGM Grand to check in with her. Aka the first pool party was a success.

A few hours later I was getting ready in the bathroom when I heard Sameea and Jeanette walk in (see above WOOO WE MADE IT meme). I quickly jumped behind the door and heard Arlene tell them to go into the bathroom. After a series of "What? Why" they reluctantly made it inside so I could pop out and scream SURPRISE!!!! Their reactions were brilliant- it took a full 5 seconds for them to comprehend that I wasn't a hologram and actually standing in front of them. But it was the best. I WAS SO HAPPY TO BE REUNITED AGAIN. A full nine months had passed since I'd last been with any of my biddies. 

Warning- biddies screaming.

Kai arrived a few hours later and luckily was equally surprised! I had been worried because when I first booked my flight to the states I had mentioned trying to come to Vegas. 

Then the wild rumpus began. For three whole days, we danced, and I will proudly admit I did not take off my heels for all three of those days. My feet, however, are not as proud. They make Frodo Baggins look pampered. 

We saw David Guetta, Cash Cash, other famous DJs I wasn't paying attention to, and then Major Lazer, aka I stalked Diplo one evening. He was done playing at Encore when I walked outside into the main casino lobby of the Wynn. In a series of hilarious events, suddenly Diplo was walking past me. My immediate reaction was to scream out Tom! as if I knew him well. When he didn't hear me, I just started walking with his entourage hoping to look incognito. They walked into a private room with a massive bouncer blockading, to which I tried to discreetly walk by. "EXCUSE ME MAM" ..."It's not me, I am Mrs. Iglesias" "Mam get back here" "Oh me? I'm with the group" (LOL) "I need you to step outside here" Desperate times call for desperate actions my friends..."Sir, have you ever been in love? I see you're married. I'm in love, please understand" "Mam, I will only ask you once more" He was fixed on the M word. "Just turn away and we'll pretend like you never even saw me" "DO YOU WANT TO GO TO JAIL MAM?" "OK OK don't get your panties in a twist!"

Needless to say, I didn't hang out with Major Lazer and crew that night HAHA. We did talk to RiffRaff, but that's nothing to brag about. 

Left = RiffRaff, Right = not RiffRaff. Need i say more?

Left = RiffRaff, Right = not RiffRaff. Need i say more?

For three days, we were so busy having the times of our lives being treated like princesses, we figured why not keep the act going? We ordered room service because #vegas, and we even bumped up our ride game from taking cabs to having full fledged limos drive us around. HAHA. Pretending to be famous is fun.

Our first pool party as a group was a reenactment of every MTV Spring Break I ever saw as a teen. It was half Project X, half P Diddy Yacht Party, and I couldn't get enough of it. I wore a onesie bathing suit for goodness sake- I was in my element. Upon entering we were summoned by a huge bouncer- to which my initial reaction was damn it we just got here what did we do now?? In a peculiarly serious manner he said "Come with me". And we did as we were told, as anyone would given the size of this beast. Next thing you know we're placed at a VIP table by the pool, and introduced to a charming group of gents from New Orleans celebrating a Bachelor Party. At the end of the day, I wanted to hug the giant beastly bouncer (actually I might've)- not only were the guys not creepy and overbearing, they were so much fun! We'd end up hanging out with them another night because in Vegas, we make friends.

Vegas for 3 full days was sufficient and I am happy to say I had the T. TIME. OF. MY. LIFE. I was with my best gals pretending to be famous and dancing our booties off. Half the fun was explaining to people where we were all from. Present in our group was technically 6 states and 1 country (I always make things complicated)- Hawaii, California, Colorado, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and... Australia. *~W3'Re D!v3R$E~*

On Labor Day I had the fine pleasure of waking up way too early, taking a cab to the airport, taking a flight to LA, just to take a flight from there to New York. It was a day I hope to never relive. After all the happy screaming and attempting to sing at clubs all weekend, I had absolutely no voice. The stewardess couldn't even understand me when I tried to request tea as my one beverage on my sweet six hour American flight that gave me ZERO SNACKS. I went from feeling like Queen B, to a straight-up peasant, or the 4th member of Destiny's Child that no one remembers. 

After arriving home to be picked up by my darling mother- who also couldn't understand my whispers- I fell asleep thinking about how my dad would react when I surprised him the next morning. My family (other than my mother, obviously) had no idea I was coming home for the week. My dad's reaction was hilarious at best. He was in full shock until he finally uttered- what, what happened? What did you do!? HAHA as if I had been deported from Aus. Even after I told him I had worked it out to come home for my cousin's wedding, he still couldn't comprehend the situation. "I'm just very confused". Lolz. Dads are funny.

When I got home to Newtown, it was time to surprise the Sissy. She was taking a nap after school when my dad went to wake her up. Then I rushed in screaming SURPRISE, to which she responded "HOLY S--T" hehe. I was skeptical she already knew I was coming home after a social media leak of a photo of Molly and I (and by leak I just mean someone posted it before I got home- not that serious). In the end, she hadn't a clue!

                                                       Friends who match their braces together, go to Vegas together.

                                                       Friends who match their braces together, go to Vegas together.

After finally settling in at home, I'm not exaggerating when I say I slept for 2 days straight. The voice-loss combined with all the flying done in such a short period of time led to a unenjoyable sinus infection and slight bedridden coma. Luckily, I was almost completely cured after my pops made Sancocho from scratch. I doused it with Tabasco and told my sinuses to GETOVERIT. 

Saturday was my cousin's wedding, on my Dominican side, so naturally it was held in Queens. It was so good to see the crazy fam, even if for a short time. And when I say crazy, I mean de verdad, loco. The bride's family was a bit more on the conservative side and for this reason, there was no alcohol being served. Which was fine for me as I was still in recovery, but a nice glass of wine is always appreciated. Suddenly, my mom, aunt and uncle were sneaking off in a secret mission to get booze. It was a legitimate episode of Modern Family, and my mother was (and is always) Gloria. In her words, "If I'm gonna be around this crazy family, I'm gonna need a drink". I decided to join in the adventure to the liquor store and hopped in the car. Next thing you know, a super creepy Korean man is telling us "Oh ya this size fit into purse. Hide very nice"- all the while smiling way too eagerly. We got outta there quick and headed back to the wedding. Now the party could begin.

P.S. Amazingly I got my Kindle back a week later <3333 Cheers to the universe.

Top 10 Things to Do In Melbourne

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The Winter Edition

(from an ex-pat’s perspective..aka if you’re poor)

1. Eat Asian food/Go to a Market/Go to a market & eat Asian food

It's all sooo00ooo good. And cheap. Heaps cheap!

Remembering warmer times...

Remembering warmer times...

Normally, I'd say the first thing to do here is go see all the laneway artwork, but it's too bloody cold out there for that right meow. But just for reference, super cool graphic art everywhere for $Free.99.

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2. Go on a 'Shtini* crawl

Drink espresso martinis until you can't actually call them by their full name anymore. No one wants to keep saying "espresso martini", and not many can say it accurately after having a few anyway. Hence was born the 'shtini.

*Trademarked...by me.

Meaning if you go into a bar and say, "I'll have a 'shtini", no one will know what the hell you are talking about, and 99% will immediately assume you're already slurring your words (unless you know the bartenders because you live nearby, crave a 'shtini every now and again, and have told them about your brilliant invention).

Make sure to do this during Happy Hour (otherwise they're $20 each)

As seen in exposed brick Morris Jones <3

As seen in exposed brick Morris Jones <3

As an avid 'shtini crawler I can recommend the following, depending on your day of crawl (*these are super biased as they're all either within, or close to, my neighborhood):

3. Drink the coffee

Each cup is a magical, life-changing experience. Save your money for this- it’s worth it.

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4. Go to an Australian Rules Football game

Understand it is different from Rugby.

If nothing else, go for the really, really, ridiculously fit men. And their man buns (Dad, this is a hair thing). 

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5. Find all the secret bars

It's like playing a hipster version of hide n seek. 

I can't give away recommendations here...because that would be cheating.

There's also puzzle bars. Yes, giant rooms of puzzles you have to figure out in order to advance to the actual bar. I'm going next week. #nerdsunite

6. Ride the trams

Because for most of this season, it's too bloody frigid to walk.

  • Don’t compare them to the NYC Subway, they're cleaner
  • Don't compare them to the DC metro, they’re actually reliable

7. Eat brekkie at all times of the day

a.     Poached eggs

b.    Beetroot smoked salmon

c.     Avo Smash

d.     All of the above

Washed down with a fresh 'ry. (Because I once told my roommates I wanted a "bloody" and they got grossed out). 

                                                                                      Hanoi Hannah.  The obsession is real.

                                                                                      Hanoi Hannah.  The obsession is real.

                                                                           Borsch, Vodka & Tears. The empty glass sadness is real.

                                                                           Borsch, Vodka & Tears. The empty glass sadness is real.

8. Wait an excessive amount of time to eat something you’ve heard about/read/seen on instagram

  •  I guarantee it will be worth it
  • And it’ll force you to find more secret bars

9. Go to the Yarra Valley (& Healesville Zoo)

 If the scenery isn’t enough to persuade, the free wine should do it. 

There's also 'roos, 'ualas, 'pus (platypus- get your heads outta the gutter), 'gos (dingos) and giant birds. 

AND beer.

AND cheese.

What else do you need???

10. Eat at Attica

Attica has been voted (for two years in a row) as one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. If you've ever seen the Chef's Table series on Netflix, there's an entire episode on Attica and head chef Ben Shewry. If you haven't, watch it. 

  •  I haven’t done this yet (see #8)

 

"Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty hearts and empty heads can do that."

- Norman Vincent Peale

NOW GO EXPLORE MY SLIM-POCKETED GYPSY FRIENDS!!!

The Arising of Life

Even though I wasssss sitting on this hill at one point, i didn't take this photo. 

Even though I wasssss sitting on this hill at one point, i didn't take this photo. 

People of tomorrow world

You are invited to experience

The arising

Of life

A new chapter begins

To start the essence of togetherness

 

 

Children of the past

Gather together

With the father of the present,

The grandmother of two days ago,

and the aunt of Christmas past.

 

Bahaha only slightly kidding

I didn't take this photo either. But I agree, it'd be cool if I did.

I didn't take this photo either. But I agree, it'd be cool if I did.

Yesterday is history

Today is a gift

Tomorrow is a mystery

 ^ The real TomorrowWorld motto.

That’s actually how the start of this epic adventure began. As we gathered practically a year’s worth of supplies from the trunk of the car, we began the mile long trek to….Dreamville, the land at the end of the rainbow. But really, there was a huge fake rainbow we walked under.

 Dreamville was like college dorms except replace dorm rooms with tents, and communal showers with portopotties, and dining halls with a big magical marketplace. Cash wasn’t allowed in Dreamville, only your wristband with previously uploaded with money that you forgot about, meaning it all seemed free. So yes, it was a dream. 

Assemble the Biddies

Meet Maggie, Sameea, randomspanishchick, Kelley, Jeanne (middle name Pika), Arlene, Kaimana, and Jess (Mary Jo not pictured).

Arlene and Kelley had gotten off work early that day in order to set up camp- literally. They had struggled a bit with the actual tent and whilst riding the strugglebus, ended up meeting the angels.

Meet Jake, Andrew, Ian, Colin, Louis, Cory, and Aaron. Ohio boys whose mamas raised them right. They were gentlemen and scholars, legends and heroes. They not only helped Arlene and Kelley set up the tent (something all 9 of us girls would’ve never been able to assemble ourselves), but they also shared their sublime tent location right next to the boardwalk. Aka PRIME people watching, or in this case, creatures-of-the-night watching.

Setting up for a night of boardwalk creature entertainment

Setting up for a night of boardwalk creature entertainment

 When I recollect our first encounter with the boys, I can only think of the scene from Stepbrothers.

On the count of three, name your favorite dinosaur. Don't even think about it- just name it. Ready? One, two, three

VELOCIRAPTOR

DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS?

YEP!

DO YOU WANNA GO TO KARATE IN THE GARAGE!?

YEP!

Because that’s what happened.

Tomorrowworld is a magical community of peace, love and happiness. Or if you’re a frequent raver, the world consists of PLUR- Peace, Love, Unity and Respect.

People give these types of music festivals a bad rap, but I saw firsthand, as a young professional living and working in the “real world” that it’s not just about deep house music, mind-altering concoctions and hippie dancing. It’s about having a time and a place to do whatever and be whoever you feel like at that moment.

Wanna wear a Pikachu outfit all day? Do it- everyone will love you.

Wanna wear just a bathing suit in the middle of a random field in Chatahoochie Hills? Go for it, it's a valley in the middle of GA in September. IT'S HOT.

Wanna not shower for 3 days straight? I don’t recommend it but it was definitely done by some.

Wanna start conversation over a sign that reads “F—K Real Life”? For time spent longer than your average weekend, it's the exact opposite of the real world. So why not? (It's also a clothing brand).

Wanna sit on someone’s shoulders and suddenly make eye contact with Diplo? Yes I did. Love at first sight I believe they call it.

In the end, Tomorrowworld was a onetime event for me- a life experience that I am absolutely gratified I could take part in, but also one I will probably never repeat. I danced until my legs became spaghetti. I was like Alex in Flashdance (not a coincidence). My body couldn’t keep up with how much my heart wanted to just dance.

Aside from the fact that I simply cannot hang like I used to, staying up till 3am took a toll on me. I am old and weary now, and need my vitamins sorted out in a daily container.

However, if you were to mention Tomorrowland in Belgium, that’s a different story.

I would, and just might, go to that.

I’m not completely decrepit…yet. 

 

And so I stand among you as one that offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence.
— Thomas Merton

Kieler Woche

Being the socialites that we are, Sameea and I take pride in our gregarious personalities, trying to make friends all the time, everywhere. So when we knew we were heading back to Europe, Sameea linked up with some old friends she met while studying abroad in Prague. It just so happened to be a group of four great looking Germans. Not bad, Shmee.

We said our goodbyes to the mermaid (and company) and headed out from Spain to Kiel, Germany, a place so far north it was practically Denmark. We were landing just in time for their Kiel Week (Kieler Woche), the largest sailing event in the world. Exhausted from the amount of fun we were constantly having, we stepped off the plane and began the trek through the airport. Suddenly Sameea’s name was called and two of the best looking men I’ve seen in a long time walk towards us. STFU Sameea. That is not our ride.

Oh but, it is.

Myyyyyyyy girl. Not only were they gorgeous in face, hair and fashion-sense, but, remember, they also have accents. And ich spreche Deustch. Ein bisschen.

Not really though- I studied abroad for a month in Munster, Germany approximately 3 years ago. So I was a bit rusty, to say the least.

P.S. as writing this Sameea and I are headed to Vegas, and talking about how we’re going to marry foreigners.

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Alright back to business- we’ve landed in Germany, we get picked up by German models, and immediately we head out onto the autobahn. Driving 180 kph, a casual 112 mph, we get from Hamburg to Kiel in a little under two hours. We ran inside to Farid’s (our new host’s) flat, which was uber hipster and artsy cool. It instilled within me a piercing desire to be German, speak English with a German accent, decorate my flat with old school knick-knacks I found at German thrift shops. Picture bikes hanging from the ceiling and posters of random graphics with cooler hand drawn designs splashed over them, and a map from the World War II era (literally, the Soviet Union was labeled). Farid had two roommates but only one, Roman, was ever around. Below him he had two neighbors that we hung out with, Alex and Tuto (also named Alex but called by his last name). What can I say, I am popular with the Germans.

Upon arrival, we dropped our bags in Farid’s room, went to a Panera-type bread shop (German’s have the best nutty, grainy breads- think multigrain, throw in pumpkin seeds and every other seed you’ve ever recognized, and layer with lots of cheese. Das ist gut), stuffed our faces and headed to the grocery store. Not for more food, but for beer. We were going to see the US vs Germany football game, just in time! As I’ve mentioned before, the Europeans LOVE their football, and they go all out to watch it. This time, seeing as it was a closer round and a bigger deal to Germany, we would watch it on a huge outdoor screen. The whole town seemed to be there- not to mention the festival occurring all around us from Kiel Week. 

After the US lost, no one heckled or yelled at us for wearing American colors. No one really minded, actually. It was the exact opposite of what would happen if a group of Germans came to watch the game in the US, sporting German colors. Because Deutschland ist das freundlichste.

 To celebrate the win, we all headed towards the town square. Per the Kiel tradition (or maybe just German) after a big win everyone stampedes through town and meets right in the center. Once gathered, you simply continue to drink. It’s all about celebrating in company after all.

After 2 weeks of using my DSLR, Germany was taken mostly by iphone ^ as you can tell.

After 2 weeks of using my DSLR, Germany was taken mostly by iphone ^ as you can tell.

The next day, Farid- the gem of all hosts- served us a breakfast of sliced meats and cheeses, jam, fruits, chocolate milk, orange juice, and everything heavenly. Being lazy and only slightly hungover, we hung out on cement steps that overlooked a wakeboarding competition. Enclosed in a small pool of water, it was made up of an electronic zipline rope that the boarders held on to as they rode the manmade waves.

After sloth-ily enjoying the day it was time to turn up. Cue the electronic dance. Germans loooove their music- they play it all hours of the day, and night, and they play it loud. And I love them for it.

Tonight we were going to an outdoor festival- a rave, really. In the middle of a park. In the daytime. Because in Germany, that is what you do- you enjoy your life. And music. And the company you keep. So Sameea and I blended right in, as we had gotten used to this lifestyle throughout our Eurotrip.

We danced into the wee hours, and I will not lie, some creatures of the night definitely appeared the darker it got outside. Once we made our way back to Farid’s, it was time for a food stop. Sameea got fries topped with kabob (gyro meat) and ketchup and other goodness, while I got das schnitzel. Not weinerschnitzel, just straight up schnitzel. Literally sausage in between a baguette. So simple, so good, so culturally uplifting. A Sonnet on Schnitzel by Al.

Our last night, Farid had a party downstairs. Twas awesome. His friends are DJs (obviously) but were actually super talented. We listened and danced to their music till we couldn’t listen and dance no’ mo’. If you’re me, you also attempted to regain any German language you once acquired, with no avail.

SO much Becks

SO much Becks

 Then it was gute nacht, and we were back to America in the morning.

 Back to cubefarms,

And migraines from a backtorealworld culture shock,

And credit card bills from the last two weeks,

And nostalgia from looking back at iphone pictures,

And heart pangs from missing all our new friends,

And heartburn from the accumulation of so many random eats,

And a recurring surge of gratefulness from experiencing so many incredible adventures,

And being young enough to know that this is just the start. 

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Trust me, it's paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven't tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It's probably worth it.

- The Beach

In the world of the dreamer there was solitude: all the exaltations and joys came in the moment of preparation for living. They took place in solitude. But with action came anxiety, and the sense of insuperable effort made to match the dream, and with it came weariness, discouragement, and the flight into solitude again. And then in solitude, in the opium den of remembrance, the possibility of pleasure again.

- Anaïs Nin

La Isla Bonita

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In the "real world", you leave one incredibly beautiful place (vacation) only to go back to a dreary home, wherever that reality may be (cubicle). But this is the life of a modern day bon vivant! There is no time to stop and sulk. No time to think that life is anything but a permanent vacation.

In the words of Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild,

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

Sameea and I were letting one sun set, only to see another rising in the distance. No actually- we were chasing the sun on our flight from Croatia to Spain. We were flying into Palma de Mallorca, an island off the eastern coast. Staying true to our promises of visiting friends abroad, we would be FINALLY reuniting with our long lost soul sister mermaidintheflesh Mary Kate. She had been teaching English on the island for a year by the time we reached her.

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Mary Kate lived with Dave and Teddy, who were kind enough to pick us up at the airport. The three amigos had even rented a car for our visit! ¡Que lujoso! The airport was on the other side of the island from their flat, so the ride home provided an hour long view of the mainland. Picture the standard dog-with-head-out-window, then replace the dog face you were envisioning with my face. :) There I am!

Upon arriving, Teddy began his artistry in the kitchen. A craftsman of sorts with the knife, Teddy was eager to please our palates, and we were just as eager to accept! We delightfully waited for the prized dinner whilst sipping on Riojas and eating olives. I was back in my element. We had a traditional meal of Pa'amb Oli, which in Mallorquin literally means "bread with oil". Do not let the literal translation sell itself short- some of the best dishes I've ever had have been in Spain, and have been just as simple. Pa'amb Oli is rustic bread drizzled with fresh olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, cheese, a heavenly pickled topping known as Mermaid Grass, peppers and jamón. Always jamón.

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Stuffed to the brim, it was time to go out! We were to have a night on the town in Porto Cristo. MK knew all the locals, Dave could speak Mallorquin, and Sameea was just along for the ride. All was fun and games until the creepiest man I've ever encountered decided to intervene.

I was speaking Spanish with one of MK's friends when I could feel the burn of someone's eyes on my neck. Side note for those who don't know- I have an extreme phobia of Prince (yes, the one who once called himself a symbol). I only recently saw the CARTOON Aladdin because Jafar has always reminded me of him. Anyway, I turn around to see what looks like a mix of David Bowie, Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin, and Prince, staring at me. As if it couldn't get any worse, my pet peeve (other than Prince-resemblances) was evident in this scary, scary man. A ponytail. Not to be confused with the harmless man-bun sported by such elite and already-good-looking men as Leonardo Dicaprio. This creature of the night had a looooong, slicked back, greasy PONYTAIL! All signs pointed to murderer.

Months earlier I could hardly bare a cartoon lookalike of Prince and suddenly there is one in real life STARING at me with CRAZY EYES nonetheless. So here I am tapping into my sixth sense- the sense of someone else's eyes on you- when Craig's List-killer-ponytail-man is burning a stare into my back. Eye contact occurs and - oh god- he starts walking towards me. Fight or flight response initiated- PANIC. RUN. GRAB DAVE. DO SOMETHING. Everyone else is too occupied either speaking the tongue of the land (Dave, Teddy, MK) or just occupied in their own world (Sameea). Trying to cue panic eyes with someone who actually speaks English, I frantically look back and forth between the four of them- with no luck whatsoever. In the end the following occurs:

"Angel." "Um, excuse me what?" "You are an angel"

*Oh god, this is not how I was supposed to die* "I have to go"

STEPS IN FRONT OF ME AS I TURN AROUND

*That's it. I'm done. He's going to abduct me and I'll just be another Law and Order episode*

"Where are you from?" "I don't speak Spanish" (BTW he's been speaking English) "Neither do I"

*WHY IS NO ONE NOTICING THIS GIANT SIX FOOT SCARY MAN TALKING TO ME*

"Ok well I don't want to talk to you. Bye" The heebie jeebies had exceeded their tolerable limit. I've never spoken to someone who gave me SUCH cringees. Luckily, Dave notices I'm in complete need of help. I grab him, we run away to the next bar. PSYCHOKILLER FOLLOWS US! I run straight to the dance floor- my safezone- and join the crowd, salsa-ing like no tomorrow. Because at one point I was pretty convinced there was no tomorrow.

I should also note I used to watch marathons of Law and Order SVU, which, combined with an overprotective Italian father who constantly thinks everyone is out to kill me, makes for some intense paranoia whilst traveling. For example, one time while studying in Germany, I saved a word document to my desktop titled "If I go missing", and listed out the details of a 6 ft 2 German man who scared the willies out of me in a forcefully-shared taxi ride from a train station. I also barricaded my door with my desk chair that night in the dorm room. But hey, I'm alive right!?

Chicken Soup for the Paranoid Soul

Thankfully, I made it out alive again in Palma and nothing bad happened. Except that might've been the night MK lost her phone. But it puts everything in perspective! We had our limbs, and a roof over our head! Fantastico!

The following morning we celebrated our splendid luck by heading to the beach. MK and her roommates had found a book with the 300+ beaches all over the island. They had checked off at least 50 in her year living there. We were driving to a "tourist" beach, and wound up walking at least 3 miles along it to find "the right spot". Basically, it was crowded and usually "tourist beaches" in Europe mean nudie spots. Out of personal preference, we were trying to sunbathe sans saggy old Euro men eyesores. We brought beers (Desperados MY FAV) that immediately turned steaming hot, but were enjoyable nonetheless. It's hard to complain when you have absolutely zero responsibilities, digging your toes in the sand on an island off the coast of Spain. With perfect weather. Paraíso. 

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After lounging around on the beach, people-watching and catching some rays, we walked to a little hut in the sand that suddenly had live music as the sun set. Que perfecto! We sat at eclectic dining tables in brightly colored plastic chairs, soaking in the ambiance and stuffing our faces with more Pa'amb Oli. None of us had any idea of portion sizes at this restaurant so we also ordered a tray of grilled, marinated veggies. Yet in true clueless-tourist form, we had ordered way too much food. But we finished it. Because in a setting like that, you have all the time in the world to enjoy yourself. 

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The next day called for a more secluded atmosphere. We cruised the inner freeway an hour until we had found "the spot", meaning, we drove till Teddy said "here!". Suddenly, we were hiking down a steep, rocky cliff housing a family of native goats. Don't worry, it wasn't that baaaa-d. See what I did there.

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It was a hidden gem of a beach, and more beautiful than I ever expected simply stumbling upon. On the drive over we even passed a house labeled "Casa Hokie", home to an engineer Dave once met who actually did graduate from VA Tech! He was well-off, with homes in Mallorca, Germany, and US to boot. ~Go Hokies~

For dinner, Teddy treated us to shrimp with platanos. A true chef in the making, Teddy was all about "the colors". He made me realize I, too, was all about "the colors". You never want ingredients of all the same shade on your plate- or else it'd be suuuuper un-instaworthy. Meaning you wouldn't take a picture of it then. And you know what they say, pic or it didn't happen! 

After dinner, we went out in a nearby town, specifically loved by zee Germans. It was easy to tell Mallorca is definitely a vacation spot for the Alemans- the six foot tall non-Spaniards were only slightly conspicuous. Surprisingly, or maybe not, we danced all night at an outdoor club, equipped with giant bucket drinks and a dance floor big enough to swing dance on. Yes, a group of Americans swung dance (swing-danced?), in Spain, with Germans. One, Dos, Drei!

Next stop- Magaluf, a tiny beach town is known for it's constant British inhabitants. AKA as soon as I arrived I didn't get out of British accent mode (I have one just like most GPS options). At the peak of a steep hill, our hostel was super cute- and thankfully more hotel-y than hostel-y. On our budgets that usually never happens. Hungry from the drive over, we dropped our bags, changed, and went off to find some ambiance and dinner (with the former outweighing the latter in priority). We had become experts on the hunt, and quickly found a cute outdoor Italian(ish) spot with live music and cute waiters (again, priorities). Like little European rabbits, we munched on cheese and olives, and of course gulped it down with cheap red wine. The weather was absolutely perfect and the ambi (ambiance) was superb. I could hear the waves crash as I tasted the earth through my rustic Tempranillo. 

Three glasses later, I could've slept on the earth. The red wine was making me sleepy- it was time for an environment change. We left the restaurant to go start the real fun of the night! As soon as we hit the main strip, we were bombarded by club promoters. Girls come here! Free drinks over here! British, Scottish, a rare Spanish few, came at us from every angle, begging us to be the ones to populate their bars. Had I fallen asleep during dinner? Was I dreaming? It was real life version of one of those promotional TV ads- act now and experience Magaluf's finest dance moves! BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE- We have accents! And good music! You just have to pay NOTHING!

                                                      And a street lined with bars named after you! Shmee's not interested, though.

                                                      And a street lined with bars named after you! Shmee's not interested, though.

Magaluf, what dreams are made of.

The next day, in full recovery mode, we sipped the country's finest beer, CruzCampo*, and ate paella while overlooking a río. Because hangovers simply are not allowed in Spain.

*CruzCampo smells like a fart and tastes like a Natty Light. But in Spain, everything is magical like in a dream.

CroatianKuna Matata

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Four days after landing at Heathrow International Airport, we were off again. Sameea and I were on our way to Croatia. Both for the first time. Both as far east in Europe we'd ever been. Pushing boundaries, crossing borders, living life. The daredevil dream.

Croatia has been on my Bucket List (along with the rest of the world, but higher up on the list) for some time now. My uncle is from a tiny village outside Dubrovnik, and is always returning in the off-season to avoid annoying tourists (me) so I've never been able to go with him. Nevertheless, Sameea and I, daredevil duo, were determined to visit. We flew into Split, a port city on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea, in the south of Croatia. Though we dreamed of visiting the Plitvice Lakes, our main destination was the island of Hvar. Being constrained to a two week vacation from cubicle nation, we simply wouldn't have enough time to visit all three sites. No worries- just an excuse to go back.

So in the wee hours of the night, we took a cab to Gatwick airport in London. Boarding the plane like zombies, we closed our eyes one minute and opened them the next in Split, Croatia. We told Sarah we had to Split. We didn't want to, but we Split up. I had money to Split the cab with Shmee. But it was British pounds not Croatian Kuna. HaKunaMatata. Just some Punshine to get your day started. 

Our bus from the airport to "Old Town" Split (though I'm not sure there is a Newer Town there) took us through windy roads, where tiny houses topped with clay tiled roofs scattered the mountains. Nowadays anytime I board a bus, I experience an immediate excitement. Most people absolutely loathe buses but I find them curiously invigorating. They bring a certain nostalgic vibe, like that of the elementary school days of simple excitement. But also reminiscent of the 10+ hours we'd spend crossing European borders while traveling abroad. The sole fact that they are usually bringing me somewhere I want to go never hurts either.

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Upon arriving to Old Town, we checked into our home for the next two nights- Hostel Sunseekers. Hungry to experience the city (and it's culinary fare, obv) we drop our backpacks and get on our way back outside. We found the main bell tower and climbed the stairs to it's top. Unfortunately somewhere in between being on ground level and the corridors on the tiny stairwell, it had started to rain. We took in the view, still breathtaking, just not as photographic as we had hoped. As soon as we stepped on the last stair, I swear the clouds cleared up again. Whattayagonnado. All the climbing gave us an excuse to go feast. So we found just that. See below.

Seafood was everywhere in Croatia, and therefore so was I. I couldn't get enough of it all- the smells, the sights, the language, and it was just the beginning of our time in the magical land. For dinner we had pizza deliciously topped with olives and anchovies, gulped down with red table wine. Inexpensive and exactly what we were craving. I wanted to melt into the stones of the street and never leave. 


As we walked home, every restaurant with it's outside patio was setting up canvases to project the World Cup games onto. The match tonight was Mexico vs Brazil. We sat underneath one of the tents, ordered two beers and faked having a favorite team. Before we knew it, a gush of rain and thunder came whirling at us- and a stampede to the inside of the bar was formed. So many people had made the exact same decision, that you could hardly move your elbows- if you were a peasant that is. Sameea and I snagged a leather couch and fit quite comfortably on it. 

The curious incident of the green door and roaming babushka

The curious incident of the green door and roaming babushka

On our way back to the hostel, thinking we were ready for bed, we suddenly heard, "West Virginiaaaaaaaaaaa mountain mama" to the tune of drunkamericanssinging. I probably clicked my heels like Dorothy I got so excited! We had found a backpackers bar of at least 60 Australians/Brits/Americans/Germans our age. So the obvious next step was to make friends and join in the fun. We barhopped, found a drink with sparklers shooting out of it, heard everyone's stories of ending up in Split, danced, barhopped some more, imitated accents, danced in the rain, and finally made it to our beds. It was a successful night in my book/blog.

Hungover from the neon kryptonite we drank, it was time to sail to the island of Hvar. And thanks be to my incredibly terrible navigation skills, we missed a side street while trying to crawl out of the inner cobble-stoned paths to the dock where our ferry would be. So we missed the morning boat. My b. We sat our booties down at an outdoor cafe, drinking espressos and reflecting on what is simply a wonderful life. 

And would only get better.

An hour after sailing the high seas of the Adriatic Sea, we arrived in heaven. Hvar is beautiful, but I know the true reason I think so highly of it is because of the people we met there. I believe it was the great poet Dave Matthews who once said/sang, "It's not where you are, but who you're with that really matters". Amen, brother. 

Upon docking our ferry, we took a few wrong turns, couple of circles, and finally found our hostel. Hostel Hvar Out. <<< I knew i'd like it because you can never go wrong with puns. I should mention that the reason this island was even on our radar, was the fact that I had become completely obsessed with the band Haim. I was desperate to see them live, and took at least 1-2 hours a day to look up their tour dates. Lo and behold, they were going to Europe the exact same time as us. Lo-er and beholder, they were going to Croatia the EXACT same time as us. They were playing in a festival called For, on an island called Hvar, in a place called notjustadream. 

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So after checking in, realizing our 4 bed hostel room was only occupied with us currently (high-five!), and having some time to kill before the hostel "happy hour" on the roof started, we went to explore. You could feel the energy of the festival everywhere, as if the imminent music was already buzzing in the air. Cue LIFECHANGINGSCENE

Sameea and I were walking back towards our hostel, right along the dock of the island, when I almost died of shock. Three feet in front of me was the coolest person I'd ever idolized, Este Haim, bass guitarist and badassbitch of the band Haim. SAMEEATHATSESTEHAIMHOLYCRAP

"So, go ask for a picture or something dude"

ICANTJUSTASKFORAPICIDONTWANTTOBEANNOYINGSHESSOCOOL

"Yo, you're freaking out"

So instead of rushing towards her and nerd-ily asking for a picture, I tried to keep my cool and let her continue walking the other direction. Immediate regret. We turned around and as I was que será, será-ing myself (whatever will be, will be), I saw her hanging out outside one of the patio restaurants. By the way, Este is super hard to miss- the girl is like 6 feet tall. 

Spitting out word vomit in the form of a stereotypical teenage girl meeting a boy band member circa 2001, I start talking to her. This is the part that literally makes Croatia the magical land of dreams. Este told us she was walking around with some random Croatian dude because her sisters were napping and she was bored, so we should all grab some wine and hangout. I could've passed out from heart palpitations right then. 

Then suddenly I was drinking wine, sitting on cobblestone steps on an island in Eastern Europe, shooting the breeze with Este Haim. Un. Real. If I described her previously as being cool, I was lying. She made the word cool instantly lame because she was so above it. She was hilarious, constantly cursed, and made fun of herself more than I would expect any semi-famous bassist to do. She was Este.F---ing.Haim

Eventually she headed back to her hotel, for reasons of "drunken-stupor-avoidance", and not only took care of the wine but made sure we had a table to eat dinner at the restaurant next-door. Already obsessed with the country, Sameea and I sipped more red wine while we ate our octopus salad and tomato-broth mussels. I can't recall higher highs in my life. 

After dinner, we drank on our hostel's rooftop, instantly making friends with a big group of British lads. I know they'll probably read this, so I'll be extra complimentary :). Pat, Adam, Joe, Andy, Max, Wendel, Sam, Ryan, Robbie and James we're, and still are of course, the funniest (and best looking) group of guys I've ever met. We all hung out together the rest of our days in Hvar, be it laying on the rocky beaches of the coast, dancing into the wee hours of the night, screaming at "teles" as England lost in the World Cup, playing "football" on the sandy cement paths, or eating Croatian pizza while recollecting the night before. I've literally never had so much fun in a four day period. Ever. So when we reunite, wherever it is, (Max's Barcelona villa or maybe London once they start making some real quid (NIBBLE)) we'll have to out-do our first reunion. Hear that lads!?

The first day of the festival, we all started at a beach bar called Hula Hula, drinking JUGS of mojitos and basking in the perfect weather. We made more friends, only ever-expanding our diverse group. At one point, maybe four hours later, I went to a tiny bathroom in the bar. I was washing my hands at the sink when I told the girl next to me, You look exactly like Kiera Knightley! To which she responded, "That's probably because I am". No eye contact, chin up, turned around, walked out. Super down to earth. Granted, I had had a few to drink but you recognize someone when you recognize someone. Plus, Ryan pointed out that Kiera Knightley was married to one of the guys playing in the festival. If you're still guessing, yes, it was her. 

Living like a true bon vivant

Living like a true bon vivant

The rest of the festival was the highlight of my life. Haim played and it started pouring rain, yet it didn't matter. Everyone was there for the experience, the rain only emphasized that. We took a water taxi to another island containing nothing but a stage, and danced with the sun as it rose.

A few hours later we were saying goodbye and getting back on the ferry. We were headed to Spain to see a real life mermaid.


Everything Sounds Better With A British Accent

Some people graduate and immediately embark on life-altering trips.

Sameea and I had a version of that with our cross country trip, but it was more eye-opening and ignorance-reducing than really life-altering. We both knew we had a countdown to the cubicle nation, and we were basking in the freedom until then. But with our already-slim funds depleting, we began to crave the paycheck. *Slowly fade in the murder scene music*

While Sameea had flown from Denver back home to DC, I went on to Des Moines and then Chicago. I ended my trip by cancelling my flight from Chicago, extending my stay one more night (because I’m a greedy gypsy), and booking, you guessed it, a train ride home. It was a 14 hour ride into reality, but nothing to write home about. Get it.

Nevertheless, being the nomads that we are, we couldn’t stay put for long.

We went to Vegas in November, NYC in December, Atlanta in February, Cabo in April, and, drumroll please, England, Croatia, Spain and Germany in June!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! While normal people put their incomes into bizarre, completely beneficial acronymic numberletter investments like 401ks, Shmee and I invest our money into 03i4jm09abc, or whatever our frequent flyer number may be.

This is the part where I start crying out of pure nostalgic bliss.

Our eurotrip was similar to both of our study abroad trips, except crammed into only 15 days of travel and this time- watch out world- we had money!!! It’s travels like these that make me continuously crave adventure. So many more friends to meet, paths to cross, foods to taste, sights to steal our breath away and sights to lose our breath to realizing how out of shape we've become.

England

Whether or not you know already, I will state one of my most notorious traits- I love the Brits. I love their accents, their dry sarcastic humor, their wit, their vocab, Jude Law, Gordon Ramsey, Arctic Monkeys and the movie Green Street Hooligans. And London. I love London. But definitely Jude Law.

So when my best friend from home took a job teaching in Ascot, a suburb right outside London, my brain already began cranking out plans to visit.

What Friday the 13th flights look like. But don't worry *SPOILER ALERT* we made it.

What Friday the 13th flights look like. But don't worry *SPOILER ALERT* we made it.

Sameea and I planned to start our trip in the UK, grabbing a one way nonstop Virgin Atlantic flight for only $600. Virgin Atlantic made me feel famous, gave me socks AND a toothbrush, all the while speaking in my favorite accent. Best.Airline.Ever. We took the tube from the Airport to central London, where we were meeting Sarah at our fancy hotel (Sarah doesn't "do hostels"- lol). If we weren't already polar opposites in every other form of life- she's a finicky-eating tall, skinny, blonde who's running stride is the length of my body- we were also opposites when it came to things like hostels versus hotels, too. I honestly can't complain, it was a nice way to start a two week trek through Europe, but we were definitely eating it. If you know London, you know how god-awful expensive it is...and we were pretending to live like the Queen already. The first night we went out we met up with Sameea's friend who was studying there. We all had one too many a pint and headed back to our proper quarters. 

In the morning we walked around and went to the Burough Market. Sameea got a sandwich with lamb and halloumi cheese (soft goat & sheep's milk cheese usually fried to make extra mouth-watering) while I got a homemade veggie burger that was delish. There was an abundance of food stands I wanted to try on top of already being overwhelmed hearing British accents that I probably looked like a tweaked out cat, scanning my eyes all over the place (looking for Jude, of course). 

Yes.

Yes.

Sarah had a bird poop on her head at the market. "That means good luck!"

Sarah had a bird poop on her head at the market. "That means good luck!"

Right after stuffing our faces with food and lots of Pimms, we stumbled upon a hilarious NUDIST cycle parade outside the Big Ben. LITCHRALLY thousands of people riding their bikes naked. It was both amusing and hard to watch.

This picture will forever make me laugh. Make sure not to miss Gramps & booty

This picture will forever make me laugh. Make sure not to miss Gramps & booty

Most of our time in London was spent exploring. Since Sarah still had to teach during the day, Sameea and I took a cab ride over to Windsor. The weather was stereotypical of England, bleak with random sprinkles of rain ruining my permanently frizzy curls. Inside The Duchess Pub we feasted on fish and chips, naturally, with a pint of local brew. Since we never order two of the same thing (for palate-expanding purposes of course), I also ordered the Meat Pie, per the waitress's rec (Brits love meat pies). It was tasty but in no way did it outdo the fish and chips.

After walking around a bit, posing for pics and seeing all of what we came to see (Windsor Castle), we got out of the rain and into The Crooked House of Windsor- a cute little tea house from the golden ages. And by golden ages i just mean really old, as in *RE*built in 1687. Suddenly lots of commotion occurred outside and a parade seemed to pass by. Or at least that's what we thought at the time. Only to get back and have Sarah ask us, "DID YOU SEE WILLIAM AND KATE?!" Apparently, they had been at the castle LITERALLY the same time as us, we were just too busy having tea time to know. As celebrity-loving as I am, I was only mad for a second. Though I admit it would've been cool to see them, the tea at this place was more of what I fancied.

Another day in Londontown we went over to Camden, the grungier, punk-rock hipster area. Think Sex Pistols. We shopped through more markets where I found a groovy hat that makes me feel famous and took pictures of donuts because, why not? We heard live music and stopped by an outside bar to listen and have a pint.

We take vacation very seriously. All hours of the day MUST be enjoyed, preferably with high energy ambiance and social bliss. Exactly what we found! After making friends with our super fun bartender, Jonny, we migrated to another venue with bands jamming out. Jonny ended up joining us there on the bean bags. Yes- it was a concert-type venue, with bean bags on the floor. BRILLIANT. The rest of the bar had been an old horse stable, and each stall had been converted into individual rooms with different settings (and some with stripper poles LOL). Though he didn't play there that night, Jonny Fears is a dexterous *singing* guitarist. So when he becomes famous you can say you already knew about him. You're welcome.

The legend himself

The legend himself

London is one of those places I know I'll return to. Those accents, or maybe just the people, have a hold on my heart.

And I still need to try the Indian food.

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Cabo San Luxurious

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Lately life has been crazier than my curly hair on a mid-summer's afternoon in the humid swamp of my current residence, Washington, District of Complicated.

But as I sit, tucked in a tiny cafe I've discovered near my apartment, listening to their Parisian tunes, drinking an espresso and pretending I'm working on an extremely important deadline-ridden document, I can't decide what's the next trip to write about. I'm still about a year behind, however, at least I've caught up to AFTER the epic post-graduation trip! AM I RIGHT!?

I could talk about Vegas but that's not PG.

I could talk about moving to DC but that's just boring...

as someone definitely working on their own blog sits at the table next to me. Fashionista. Or, dare i say, Maxxinista?!

Sometimes (all the time) I walk into a Starbucks or a random coffee shop, and every person my age is in their with their laptops. And then I go again four hours later when I feel like I'm about to jump out the office window, and MORE people are on their computers. WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE DO HOW DO THEY MAKE MONEY IS ENTITLED HIPSTER WITH MACBOOK A NEW CAREER POSITION!??? Because I want in. I have a macbook. And like Fair Trade Coffee. And would ride a sweet bike if I had one.

I digress. I'll talk about Cabo!

My friends and I are big on certain days of the year. The days in which we all graced this planet with our lovely selves. Yes, our birthdays. I’ve always been one to celebrate birthdays and I hope to maintain this tradition even when I’m old and wrinkly. So since we went to Vegas for Sameea’s day of birth, and since Kaimana and I share the same birthday, we had to outdo her. Just kidding, but we did have to double the fun.

The obvious choice Cabo San Lucas, Mexico! I say obvious because one morning i opened my email to a beautiful, luxurious, peaceful picture of a cabana in Mexico. It was a Groupon whispering, "destiny awaits". So I snagged that badboy (the email) and forwarded it to my main biddies. And then together, we snagged that badboy (the deal).

Groupon should pay us for our pics

Groupon should pay us for our pics

I should preface this story with how Blacksburg, home of the Hokies, contains one of my favorite local spots- then, now and forever. I'm referring, of course, to Cabo Fish Taco. So it would make sense then, that once I've graduated and entered the "Real" world to go to the  "Real" Cabo and eat "Real" Cabo fish tacos.

You catch my drift? Pickin' up my lines? Fishin for what I'm "Realin" in?

Taco bout delicious

Taco bout delicious

For five luxuuuurious nights at the Finisterra Los Cabos Resort, we each spent less than half a month's rent. Our room not only came with 2 huge beds, a pullout couch and a balcony overlooking the pool, but it came with room service. 24 hour all you can eat whatever your heart desires Mexican fare for FREE.99. EVERYTHING TASTED SO MUCH BETTER BECAUSE IT WAS SOOOO FREEEEEEEE

If you’re asking if I had a great 23rd birthday I would reply

CLARO QUE SI I DID!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was lounging by the pool with FREE margaritas and FREE guacamole basking in the FREE sun

Alright it wasn’t all technically free, but it felt like it and that’s what really matters. I was a FREE bird with my FREE spirited friends!!! LIKE, YA!

The staff at our resort were the best. Not only friendly, they were constantly going above and beyond what any of us expected (which I can’t help but admit was also lowered because it was, after all, found off a Groupon). On our actual birthdate, Kaimana, Sameea, Jeanette and I (we are an ethnically diverse bunch) went to one of the fancier restaurants on the resort. When the waiter found out it was both of our birthdays, he came back with cake and a platter of liquor bottles, indicating we could pick one as our very own gift. Granted, we already had drinks all-inclusive but the gesture was heartwarming, and it didn’t hurt to have extra party favors to take to the beach.

Having been to Cancun before, I already had certain expectations of the downtown clubs. But my friends had no idea. Upon arrival, just downtown mind you- not at a specific bar- we were bombarded with club promoters. All you can drink here for free, VIP tables over there for free, the luxury of free at our every whim based on just being a group of gals. I didn’t hate it.

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The next morning Jeanette (aka Nutter) and I woke up and went running along the beach. I cant remember if this was at the same time Kaimana and Sameea went to the spa but I wouldn't doubt it. Nutter and I aren't self-deprecating, we just had a half-marathon coming up. Winners don't quit. We can rest when we die. Just do it. and other inspiring quotes to not sound like such a dweeb exercising on vacation. Nutter and I suffered mild to severe heat strokes (depends which one of us you ask), collapsing in the sand under the 100 degree heat while Kai and Shmee basked comfortably in a sauna of similar heat. 

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Later that day, we all checked an item off our Bucket Lists. At Cabo Adventures, all four of us swam with Phinny the dolphin (just made her name up- it's been awhile). It was entertaining, intriguing, and at times, hilariously awkward. For example, when my time came to ride Phinny- the moment we've all been waiting for- my swimsuit bottoms woosh off of me almost immediately. So while you're supposed to grab both hands on her fin and elegantly glide along, I was choking on water laughing as I held on tight with one hand and tried to rearrange my bikini with the other. Typical. 

Days later we walk towards the marina in town. In Cabo, most of the touristy restaurants are set along the marina's dock. Half exploring, half nosying-around to find a cheap boat tour, we stumble upon Juan. Juan Pablo from the Bachelor! Just kidding. Juan was a boat driver who spoke English, seemed normal, and promised a cheap boat tour with a glass-bottom boat. CHACHING JACKPOT. We paid $10 to get a tour around the rocks you see in every picture of Cabo San Lucas, got close enough to the colony of sea lions to know they smell like mildow-y cat pee, and even got dropped off Lover's Beach at Land's End. Lover's Beach is calm and inviting, across from Divorce Beach- the one with nasty and precarious waves, naturally.

Another day we asked a water taxi to drop us off at Mango Deck, a bar along the beach known for it's ridiculous spring break parties, and for those not fortunate enough to be there for spring break, ridiculous parties. They were famous for their 2 for 1 all day happy hour and impromptu contests. Us mature 23 year old ladies arrived just as a men's push-up contest was beginning. There was also a booty shaking contest that made me question the morals of everyone in the world. 

Leaving Cabo, and all of our lovely hotel staff, couldn't be done without ordering one more round of 4am guacamole. I remember us all trying hard to stay awake all night so that tomorrow wouldn't really ever come. But being 23 and losing our youthful traits, we all passed out. I have zero complaints about Sandos Finisterra (rare) and I'm delighted to say I had an awesome 23rd birthday with my chicas. 

Until next time, stay interesting Mexico!

DenMoinesCago

Colorado is a place I’ve always thought of as Cool. Almost as if it should’ve been spelled Coolorado.

Cool because of its mountains, and the way Coors Light seems ice cold and refreshing in all its commercials (and on its cans with the new mountains-change-color-indicating-your-beer-is-cold-incase-you-lost-feeling-in-your-hands). Cool because I pictured everyone living there being super active, climbing the mountains and camping out, biking down unnervingly steep paths and steering past mountain lions, casually. I swear I’ll stop writing the word mountain right after I just did.

The next stop on our cross country adventure was Denver to see my long lost friend, Claire. She graduated a year before me and started working as a teacher in Colorado. Claire and I met along with Charlotte, Jill and Steph, on my first study abroad program the summer of 2011, appropriately titled “Doing Business in Europe.” The four of us, along with two dozen other rambunctious (American) hooligans, studied everything from Finance to Business IT to French in Dijon, France and Muenster, Germany. To say we had fun that summer is an understatement- like saying China is a big country.

We were the new generation of go-getters. Gregarious globetrotters! Vivacious vagabonds! MagnumIceCreamBar maniacs! 

(PS Magnum bars are now sold in America! Go forth and savor the delectably rich chocolate shell covering creamy vanilla (and instantaneous obesity) simultaneously packed into one frozen package of scrumptiousness).

Naturally, Sameea and I figured since we already ventured out as far as the Pacific, we had to stop by and see Claire in Denver!

Arriving late in the afternoon, we ate at a quaint little Mexican restaurant downtown, got sassy off tequila (always), and went out to see a friend perform at a local venue. While most of us just danced our booties (or lackthereof) off, Sameea got extra sassy. Cue the presence of her alter ego- Sameetard. Homegirl elevated her cheeky levels so high she got kicked out by one of the bouncers. No worries though, Sameetard never lets one altercation get her down- she ended up at a rooftop bar on their Ladies’ Night.

To which our British friends would rightfully jab, “staaaaaaaaaaaaaandard Sameeatard”.

The next day we attempted to get up early, which never works out for Sameea, to go explore Boulder- a quaint college town situation at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The whole time I was there I just wanted to relive my college years (which had expired maybe 8 days before), not accept a full-time real-adult job and instead become a real-life hippie. Like I said, everyone was just so cooooool.

For dinner we went to a somewhat famous pizza place for their trivia night. I say somewhat famous because ya boi Guy Fieri and his stupid white spikes had visited the restaurant on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: see Fat Sully’s Pizza. From what I remember it was suuuuper delish and I knew nooone of the trivia answers.

The next day we hiked over to the Red Rocks venue, climbed up the painfully steep stairs alongside hundreds of ripped beasts. While we huffed and puffed our way to the top, still probably the youngest crew there, men and women with muscles I didn’t even know existed sprinted past us, doubling two, three steps at a time. All muscle observations aside, when we finally reached the top I was still craving a FAT burger.

As we stared down at the cave-like structure of the Red Rocks stage, I couldn’t help but think HOW COOL it would be on that stage. Situated literally IN the mountain, it was such a distinct place to play. Oh how I wish I was talented. In something. Anything. Instead I was out of breath, thinking about toppings for the burger in my head.

We ended the day at the Coors Brewery, taking a tour and finding to my surprise that Coors produces Blue Moon. The coolest part of the tour, of course, was the free beer at the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good explanation of the hops fermentation process, but once you’ve heard it one way, you’ve heard it all ways. This particular tour included 3 full brews and all of us girls chose Blue Moon varieties. Because why would I have a standard coors light when I could have a tangy Belgian white (I’m so fancy I called it by its real type. You already know). 

Iowatched a concert here. No i didn't.

Iowatched a concert here. No i didn't.

From Denver I flew to Iowa. Yes, Iowa. On the plane I sat next to what may have been the most interesting man alive (not the Dos Equis guy, much younger). We chatted the whole plane ride- about life, my recent trip, his job as a US Open coordinator, how he let people couchsurf at his home in San Diego, everything. At one point he turned and said, “Ok I have to say it- what is someone like YOU doing on a plane to Des Moines, Iowa???” I laughed and asked him what he meant by that. He said, “I mean look around. It’s a retirement home in here! You might be the youngest one here besides that grandma’s dog.” I told him I was meeting a friend from my study abroad in Spain, and we were taking a bus to Chicago for the weekend (and that I didn’t mind stopping in Iowa- I wanted to see all 50 states, after all).

Des Moines was predictably quite stereotypical- it was made up of corn fields. But I’m not knocking it- I thought it was an adorable city. I stayed in the suburbs with my friend Steven and the night I arrived we went out to a two story bar with his friends. Lemme tell ya, Iowans get rowdy! The weather was perfect that night, no humidity like here in DC and the bar had my fav, a rooftop. We had too much fun per usual and were up early to catch the six hour bus to Chicago.

Begin: MY NEW FAVORITE CITY

Chicago in the summer is everything. It’s beautiful, sunny, lively, clean, and flawless. Ever since I went that summer I find myself constantly noting on the soul I found in Chicago- it wasn’t just a city, it had a heart. There was a culture to it, just like in Sevilla. But where Sevilla was unique in its antiquity, ChiTown felt young and urban, vivacious and eccentric. I would 100% live in Chicago ….except I would migrate every winter. Which, obviously, isn’t a realistic concept. But this is my blog and I’ll dream if I want to.

Because when I travel I bring my personal travel luck- the one you’ve read about before where I get broken chairs or screaming babies or people defecating themselves- our bus ride to the windy city came with some issues. We got to the bus station about 20 minutes early and watched as one of the only buses in the lot drove away. Awkward. So naturally Steven headed to the front desk.

Where’s our bus? Overbooked, just left.

SWEEEEEEEET.

Next bus? 8 hours.

SIIIIIICK.

Refund? 3 weeks.

GNARRRRLYYYY.

I was on my last hundred dollars (literally- $113.00 in my bank account) and I couldn’t afford this mess of a $60 loss. But Steven is a trooper and knew how excited I had been to get to Chicago for the first time. We had been planning this trip ever since we studied in Sevilla together! It HAD to happen. So he offered to drive us there. We added two other normal-looking backpackers to our own bus (they were also on the overbooked one) and got ta movin’. The result- a much more entertaining six hour trip! The backpackers had just been to Thailand (heart eyes) and not gonna lie, they were both easy on the eyes (heart eyes). Plus, Steven and I had so much catching up to do that the time flew by.

Soon we were arriving at our hostel. Which was 2legit2quit. No seriously, hostels in America exist, and they’re normal. We were right next to the Lake, in the heart of the city (don’t ask me where though I haven’t a clue) and we paid around $40 a night or less.

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Obviously our first stop was a walk to the Bean. I had to see what all these Instagram celebs (and randos) were posting in real life. We acted like goons in our reflection for a solid 20 mins and then were on our way. We walked all over the city with no plans, my favorite way to explore. If I’m not rushing I have zero anxiety and if I have zero anxiety I finally get to appreciate my surroundings. I like to think I’m a sloth-traveler.

Winter is Coming...Send a Raven

Luckily enough for us, the Coastal Starlight did not end up being our last train.

Our next stop was Seattle, and within the city our first stop would be Pike Market. It was a beeeeautiful day in Seattle- nothing like the rainy days it’s known for.

We walked around the market, drooled on the glass separating us from the vat of ooey gooey cheese being stirred at Beecher’s, proceeded to order mac n cheese from the ooey gooey vat, looked at paintings by local artists we were dying to purchase, had Piroshkys (Piroshkies?) at the infamous self-titled bakery, and sat on a bench along the water, reflecting on what beautiful weather we were having (insert joke about being an old married couple).

This would be our second stay at a US hostel. And we loved it! City Hostel Seattle was cozy, tucked in a cute neighborhood called Belltown. After we checked in we went exploring, as we almost always do. The funny part about this exploration, however, happened as we walked by a bar. I happened to look up at the exact moment we passed the open window, only to spot a herd of Hokies. Yes we do not flock, we are not gaggles, we are herds. At least that’s what I’m using as of now.

You “herd” it here first. Ba dum tisssssss

Anyway, we ended up running in to some old friends from school who were in Seattle for the summer, interning at Boeing. We had a few beers at the bar and then decided to meet up a bit later, at a magical place that changed my life forever. My first dueling piano bar- Howl at the Moon. I.LOVED.EVERY.MOMENT.

For those who don’t already know, I am the reincarnated Selena. Except that in no way shape or form can I actually sing. And I don’t have a big ol’ booty. But I wish. For both.

Anyway my point is EVERYONE can sing at a piano bar. Even us terrible, glass-shattering folk. The music is loud enough and the songs are hilarious enough (at one point Ludacris’ Fantasy was requested. And played). So tone-deaf Sameea and I had a GRAND (piano) time.

The next day we went to the Space Needle, because who doesn’t want to see the introduction of Grey’s Anatomy in real life. I won’t lie, I even looked for McSteamy. Got a McDouble instead.

Literally I just need a drummer next to me to cue the BaDumTiss-es.

Ok ok I can’t wait any longer I have to tell this story-

So whether or not you’re superstitious, if you've ever seen A movie you know that crows are creepy, mysterious little buggers. Basically black crows are a sign of impending doom. AM I RIGHT?! Just wait.

One day after exploring the area around our hostel, Sameea and I decided we wanted to try sushi. We were in Seattle, fresh seafood all around, the sushi has to be phenomenal. We find a cute little place down the street and sit outside at a tall barstool-type table. Our waiter was hot. He was urban punk-y hot like the grunge we experienced in Portland but more high society- sexy punk rock meets sophisticated sushi (he was tatted, obv). His name was probably something like Benjamin but went by Benji, not Ben. So Benji (lol) starts serving our edamame, and seeing as we’re technically on vacation, we order Saki. This is when things got weird.

Suddenly this GIANT black crow who was perched on a tree branch hanging above our heads, starts freaking out. No seriously, freaking the F out- cawing like the world was about to end at any second. People in tables around us can’t even talk because it’s so loud you have to yell to be heard above the shrill. Sameea and I cannot stop laughing.

“WHAT is wrong with this bird?”

“I don’t know but what if he starts pecking at my head because he thinks my curly hair is worms?!”

“I think I would pee myself laughing”

“You’re such a good friend, Sameea”

The manager of the sushi restaurant comes out, probably to just ask us how the food was, but instead notices this bird. THEN- the angry crow swoops down and starts ATTACKING the lady at the table next to us. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE THIS IS HAPPENING IN FRONT OF US. The woman is screaming and doesn’t know what to do to get the crazy thing off her so she starts swatting her plastic menu. The manager runs over to help and the bird stops attacking to casually PERCH upon the manager’s arm. If I were a comic strip there would be a HUGE word bubble above my head reading “WTF!?” I ask if it’s his bird (because how else does one explain that?) and he responds that no, it is not, but now he’s freaking out because it has LATCHED onto HIM. By the way, at no point has this bird done anything to try and steal food or something that, I don’t know, NORMAL birds do!? So here we are trying to recuperate from our BIZARRE train ride on the west coast, when a Game of Thrones raven is delivering us a message. Winter was coming…aka maybe it was warning us from entering Cube Nation (real jobs).

When the crow finally ditched, probably to go warn other post-grads not to sell their souls to The Man, Benji reemerged. Which is when I decided he wasn’t hot anymore. I mean, we were real life damsels in distress and homeboy was probably watching from inside the comfort of an ENCLOSED SPACE. SMH. Men these days.

Don’t worry, we left the sushi restaurant unscathed, but in dire need of a stronger drink. So we stopped by a highly rated Yelp spot, known for its Old Fashioneds. The Whiskey Bar in Belltown was trendy without trying too hard, an unhipster hipster spot. These instantly became my new favorite drink. Since Seattle, I’ve dabbled in Old Fashioneds, but only when I feel fancy (aka every pay day).

Sometimes you just gotta treat yo’ self!

While in the city we reunited with our Hokie friends again at their apartment conveniently found on Craig’sList (apparently everyone in the world can do this except me. When I do it, we get a notice of eviction from the town. Although that is another story for another time). We drank PBR tallboys on their rooftop terrace, all the while taking in the spaceneedle a mile away, the tangerine sunset, and once again, the incredible weather.

The next afternoon, Sean, Peter, Sameea and I went out to a Yankee game on yet another cloudless, sunny day. Considering we scalped tickets 15 minutes before the game, we had awesome seats! Seated high above everyone, VIP as I like to call it, Nosebleeds as others deem it, we could see everything and had a close reach to the beer. In other words, we were all happy. Anytime I watch my Yanks I fall back into nostalgia to the times my pops and I would go- back when I had buck teeth and all.

As we left the game, and you can guess who won (MY BOYS IN BLUE), we couldn’t help but notice the million food trucks parked outside. We ate at The People’s Burger- meaning we stuffed our faces into the huge buckets of fries. Then, in our normal routine, Sameea and I went back to the hostel, changed, put our faces on, and went out for dinner part deux.

If my memory serves me correctly, we Yelped a place nearby with great reviews. Local360 was exactly what you’d think it was- delicious, locally prepared food served seasonally. And by hipsters. Dressed in crisp gingham plaid shirts with natural, hemp-looking aprons draped around their waists, they served us overly priced (probably organic) red wine with our dinner. Unfortunately i can't remember what we ate anymore (and it was dimly lit by candles, as most hipster places are, so I didn't take any food pics from my cam). 

All in all Seattle exceeded my expectations completely, and I would more than love to go back. The free spirits and delightfully fresh food made me wonder if I could maybe even get used to the constant drizzle of rain. And it's crazy crows. 

No Me Ha Dejado

Before I go on about our past summer’s travels, I need to announce something. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been talking about it even more than usual. So, one would think I need to write about it to get it out of my system. In reality, I just want to keep talking about it. I’m referring to my favorite place in the world: Sevilla, Spain.

All things considered, I haven’t been around the world (YET) but SO FAR my favorite place, a city that gives me butterflies at the thought of it, makes my heart pound while glancing at a photo, and instantly brightens my day, is Sevilla. “Seville” as you may hear it in the states, but never from my mouth. The Spanish make everything sound sexier.

My only prior experience in Spain was in Barcelona in high school. And I absolutely loved it. There was a vibrancy in the air, a buzzing ambiance that I couldn’t get enough of. Suddenly I had an insatiable appetite for traveling, especially in Europe. So I studied abroad in France and Germany one summer in college. And then I studied abroad again for a semester.

But this time I was heading back to the vivacity of Espana. I lived the best six months of my life (again THUS far) in one of the most culturally distinct European cities I’ve ever encountered. All those Spanish stereotypes you think of like flamenco dancing, bullfighting, tapas plates, jamon y queso, womanizing dark haired Antonio Banderas lookalikes, all originated in Sevilla. The capital of Andalusia, it was the absolute ideal place to study the Spanish language. And no I didn’t pick up the lisp.

Butttt if you ever want to sound cool, pronounce it like the Sevillanas do: Seh-bee-jya

I traveled to the incredible city in January of 2012 with the program International Studies Abroad and my new partner in travel (we don’t do crime), Ray Gartlan. Look out for her own blog coming to webpages soon, Ray Steves (the new Rick Steve’s of travel).

I remember the days leading up to the flight over to Madrid quite vividly considering my deteriorating memory. I was flying on January 29th, and packed and repacked my suitcase from January 1 up to an hour before leaving. Before this trip I had no idea how to pack like a normal human. I am a woman and therefore I cannot leave for a trip without a minimum of 5 pairs of shoes. And then there’s the accessories, don’t get me started. I would be experiencing a change of seasons while abroad- aka utter havoc for narrowing down scarf and sweater choices. Thus I invented the hashtag, #FirstWorldProblems.

Anyway once I got through packing, I was off to JFK where I squealed and woo-ed the whole time, even through security.

“Mam, please step aside to be individually scanned.”

“WEEE OKAY! Ahhhh SO EXCITED!!”

“Mam, please hold still while we pat you down”

“SORRY OKAY!!!!!!!! I’M GOING TO SPAIN! FOR SIX MONTHS!”

“Ugh, you’re cleared- just go.”

“WOOOO!! NOW I’M HALFWAY THERE!”

The poster child of Woo Girls International, I woo for everything and anything exciting. Such as, but not limited to: freshly baked cookies, the sun appearing, puppies, trip planning, work emails about free food, regular cookies, anything related to thanksgiving, more cookies, definitely donuts, kitties, hot guys shirtless, more dogs, and the list-topper, Spain.

For the record, the act of “wooing” is defined (by me) as raising one’s arms above one’s head and waving them around manically like a wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man. Also a nickname of mine.

You could even say Flamenco dancers are woo girls. Thereby making myself a FLAMENCO WOO GIRL! The ultimate screenname if AIM was still relevant.

Right so where was I?

Sevilla. Ahhh heart eyes <3. Believe me, I'm not the only one who feels this away. The city's official motto is "Sevilla No Me Ha Dejado" meaning "Sevilla you have not left me". It stays a part of you once you visit. Extra heart eyes.

When Ray and I first landed at the airport, we found each other at the main point of group contact via ISA’s huge packet of instructions. It was labeled Super Detailed Instructions in Bold and Extra Large Font Because Americans Won’t Follow Them Anyway. Not really, pero se podria haber sido. Half the group was late or missing at the port of call (aka the exit gate at Madrid International Airport l.o.l.). We were then loaded onto a bus and herded off to a hotel in downtown Madrid. We would be exploring the capital of Espana for the next 3 days, before busing it down to our homestays in Sevilla. Literally just thinking of these memories my heart has skipped a beat every other sentence (such a loser).

Just those 3 days in Madrid is another story. So I’ll hold off on that and continue on my Andalusia-obsession.

We were dropped off the bus on a random street in what we would come to know as the heart of Sevilla. Here our homestay Madres would pick us up (I could say families but if you want the real picture- they were all women: mothers whose children had grown up and moved away, widows, or just women who had never had children but fostered international students for the money, the company, or both). Thus the introduction of Maribel. Maribel had been recommended to me by a friend in a Spanish class the semester before. Katie had stayed with her during her time abroad and absolutely could not say enough good things. Some call it fate :)

Maribel is one of the kindest souls I’ve ever encountered. She was a widow with three grown children, and had been housing students for nine years. She fed us constantly, complemented us enthusiastically, and cared for us whole-heartedly. I know for a fact my view of Spain would not be encased in such admiration if not for Maribel as our initial cultural introduction. Te amo muchisimo, Maribel!

Even if you never did tell us the type of meat we were eating para cena... (everything was just "carne". "pero que tipo de carne?" "Chicas, es Carne!" like we were loca for asking)

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Alas, in Spain everyone sticks to their routine. They eat the same foods on repeat, and they pride themselves in how little sleep they get. This is how Ray and I came to be called Pajaritos, or little birds, by Maribel.

We could no longer function for 5-6 hours of class off a bowl of the Spanish version of Cornflakes. Four months into living there, we realized the ENTIRE time our loving madre had been giving us DECAF coffee. I think we laughed until we cried when we found out (I brought up falling asleep in class to Rachel and she said she had done the exact same thing- even though that morning we both consumed 3-4 cups of “coffee”).

Nevertheless, we got back from a trip to Amsterdam where I, like a kid staring wide-eyed into a candy shop, discovered a “Gourmet” food store. Indeed it was gourmet because it had- gasp- OATMEAL. I had been searching high and low in the aisles of Spanish markets for anything similar to my carb-loading magic fuel I consumed so often back in the states. When I picked up the box of 5 packet instant Quaker oatmeal, I found out it was a whopping 14 euros. Yes that’s right- the normally $3 container of oats and sugar was practically $20. I couldn’t. Instead I opted for the ugly stepchild, a generic no-name brand of Muesli, the Netherlands go to cardboard-y and definitely bird food-y cereal. And thus, Pajaritos was (were?) born.

It’s funny how every tangent I go off on has to do with food.

Back in Andalusia, Ray and I could never stop talking about how grateful we were to be in such a beautiful city. Situated in what I considered to be the quaintest part of town, Triana, was the stunning iron gated bridge, Puente de Isabel II, or as we internationals called it, Triana Bridge. On this side of the Rio (the Guadalquivir- no you don’t swim in it) was also Calle Betis, the hip and young scene when the sunset. We would sometimes bring a 40oz of Cruz Campo- even the Spanish do 40s- and sit along the rio drinking with friends before heading out to baila the rest of the noche away. #espanglish

Instead of having hot dog carts all around street corners like in NYC, the tourists (and the drunks) have the pleasure of CHURRO STANDS at all hours of the night. Churros con chocolate are just one of the millions of reasons Sevilla is DAT NUMBA ONE CITAY. EL.NUMERO.UNO. Churros are baaaasically donuts + if you don't love melted chocolate you can gtfo + you've just been bailando-ing all night and worked up an appetite + maybe you also had some chupitos (shots) and cervezas (dont make me define that) = you suddenly found the key to happiness.

I.e. Churros con chocolate en Sevilla = PURE BLISS. CCC^SVA= :-))))))))

Take that Einstein. Ps that's either a super smiling face or a lot of double chins. Both appropriate. 

The food in Spain is everything. Sevilla is everything. Omg i haven't even talked about the olives. Or the wine. Or bullfighting. 
To be continued...

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silver linings

I don't want to wait anymore, 

I'm tired of looking for answers

Take me some place where there's music

and there's laughter.

I don't know if I'm scared of dying 

but I'm scared of living too fast,

too slow

Regret, remorse, hold on,

no I've got to go.
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings,

time races on

And you've just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going

looking straight out on the road

Can't worry about what's behind you

or what's coming for you

further up the road

I try not to hold on to what is gone

I try to do right what is wrong

I try to keep on keeping on,
I just keep on keeping on

I won't take the easy road.

Show me my silver lining

I try to keep on keeping on.

Donut worry, Be happy.

Portlandia

Portlandia

As I continue to summarize the past summer’s adventures, I have to consult my almost non-existent memory, old photos, and of course, my assistant and rememberer of all things, the great Confucius Baig. Aka Sameea.

So my apologies for the delay on these last cross-country destination stories.

Picture this- you’ve just stepped off the most ridiculous train ride of your entire 22 years of existence. To compare it to a rollercoaster is cliché, and frankly just inappropriate, as there were exactly zero highs the entire time, and countless lows. Your body aches from 17 hours of awkward, uncomfortable maneuvering into different fetal positions in a broken chair. Your eyes are bloodshot like you’ve been smoking pot the entire day and a half. The only thing you’ve consumed was some sort of styrofoam-tasting pasta dish, along with gusts of sweating Oregon-ian hippie body odor. You feel as though you’ve hit rock bottom (dramatic).

But then you remember:

There is a famous place here that sells famous donuts.

If there’s one important fact about myself, it’s that I love donuts. No, love isn’t the right word. I ADORE donuts. I am a donut aficionado. An enthusiast. A promoter. If I could look at pictures of donuts on Instagram all day, it would be the only thing I would do. On top of eating them. If a genie granted me 3 wishes the first would be that the more donuts I ate, the skinnier I got. But then I would probably become invisible. So I would ask that donuts were healthy, and grew on trees, both like apples.  Ah, what a dream

The funny thing is how basic donuts are. Literally, they are just fried dough. But with colorful icings. And sprinkles. And sometimes even delicious surprise fillings! See I can’t even denounce my announcing.

Anyway my point is that I was ECSTATIC to go to Voodoo Donut Shop in Portland. And it delivered. Sameea got one of the LEGIT voodoo doll shaped donuts (with Bavarian crème inside maybe?) and I had a regular and then I even got one WITH BACON ON IT. Mom, I can hear you already- gee that is like really killing it Alex. And yes, I may have been gilding the lilly, but just as much as I like saying giiiiiilding the lilly, I liked that donut. A lot.

You don’t hear the phrase/see that type of donut often.

And that is the story of our trip to Portland.

Just kidding.

Back to getting off the train. We thought we had endured the worst of it. Little did we know we’d get a call from the girl we were staying with (a friend of Sameea’s), letting us know we could no longer stay at her place for the night. Staaaaaandard. So now were homeless in a rando city. With big, nerdy camping backpacks on our backs and faces that looked like we had been run over by the train, not riding it.  

Sorry Nana

Sorry Nana

Whenever predicaments like this happens to Sameea and I, we turn that frown upside down and say WHY NOT. Cue scene:

There’s a fancy hotel with a room available right near the center of town. We can’t afford it. But that’s why God invented credit cards. WHY NOT!?

There’s alcohol in our mini fridge and it’s outrageously priced. WHY NOT!?

There’s a robe in the closet. I don’t have a reason to wear it. WHY NOT!?

Should we get room service too? It’s only $7 million dollars. WHY NOT!? No we didn’t get room service. But we thought about, that counts right?

So after our ordeal of getting to the city and finding a place to sleep that robbed us blind, there was only one thing we could do: have a drink. We ended up at a concert in a venue downtown that had a bar. And a lot of young people who couldn’t get into the bar section. So we could at least could maintain our positions near the dispensary of all things heavenly (beer on tap). We made friends with some guys from Montana (talk about a random state!) and ended up talking about it being a random state.

The next day we walked around Portland, to what we would normally refer to as “seeing the city sights”. Except that, honestly, there were no sights to see. And the more we walked, the more confused we got. I felt like I was time traveling back into a music video from the 90s. Specifically something by Nirvana. Where everyone was wearing grungy jean jackets and flannels tied around their waists. But not like British punk rock grungy, more like not-showering-for-days-grungy. But still cool, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Then we stumbled upon a food truck congregation of sorts and went wild! We heard about a Czech food cart we HAD to try so we stopped their first. The cart was called Tabor, known for their Schniztelwich (sp?) but we had their Eggplant Sandwich, Baklažán: roasted, breaded & pan fried eggplant on a Ciabatta with paprika spread, fresh parsley, lettuce & horse radish. Let me just say the dang thang hit the spot. Seeing as we are food entrepreneurs, we then tried some Indian food from another truck. The weather was killin it, and the food was on point. So, naturally, we were in good spirits.

Then we headed back to the train for round 2 of what-in-the-world-is-happening.com. 

I encourage you all to watch the first episode in the show Portlandia. Then, maybe you will understand.

PS i love you, donuts.

Coast Starlight, Star Bright, Last train I take tonight

“This is a reminder that all customers must keep their shoes on at all times while riding the train”

To avoid the price of continuing to use a rental car charging us an arm, leg, three fingers and our luggage (because we were under 25/they probably knew I would get annoyed with driving and make Sameea drive..dundundunnnnn) we decided to take a train from California to Oregon.

The "Coast Starlight" leaving from SF to Portland takes 14 hours. Says the Amtrak ticket.

Our train took 17 hours, 39 minutes, and 7 screaming babies.

Approximately 655 miles of pure absurdity

Approximately 655 miles of pure absurdity

In no way, shape or form am I exaggerating. 18 hours. Overnight. Screaming. Babies.

This is the story of that train ride through Oregon, no doubt the weirdest state I’ve ever visited because of it. I’m copyrighting this for future use as a sitcom. I’d title it “AmTrash”- no offense to Oregonians, but keep reading for true understanding.

When we boarded the Coast Starlight (suitably sounding like a bunk on the Titanic) it was 1:15am, when in reality we should’ve been getting on it around 11:30pm. It was an overnight ride running extremely behind schedule, which oooobviously we bought using our super-efficient Low Cost Strategy. Ask us how far the concept has gotten us in life: many places, some unfortunate, all occupied by ludicrous characters.

Sameea and I were wide awake and had the sole priority of passing out to wake up in a new city. Just to reference- my main traveling compadre could fall asleep during the Apocolypse. There could be helicopters crashing, earthquakes splitting the middle of her room in half, zombies growling in her window, and the b-tch would snore through it all. So homegirl passes out as soon as her chair is reclined.

Meanwhile, I go to recline my chair and the part that should hold up my knees and below, so for my shrimp size should hold up my entire legs, is completely broken. I’m immediately annoyed. I move over to the open seats across the aisle and get comfortable laying across both seats like I own the place. Let the madness begin.

Not even 40 minutes in, I’m shaken awake by a larger woman of sorts who is LITCHRALLY (insert British accent) screaming in my face. It’s 2am at this point, I’ve been traveling for days now, your breath stinks lady, this is not ideal. I don’t understand what she’s saying because I’m half-awake but I’m pretty sure it’s something about her seat so I move back to unconscious-Sameea’s side and attempt once more to peace out. Instead, two toddlers arrive onboard (4am) obviously PISSED their parents moved them onto an aggressively-wobbly moving contraption. Sounds erupt from their tiny mouthholes that could be confused with the train brakes SCREECHING to a halt. I have 15 more hours of this to go.

By now, my human instinct kicks in and my normally-non-existent memory kicks in. I realized I packed Melatonin for this exact occasion. I pop 1-4 and pretend they’re going to make the children sleep at the same time. I drift into a nightmare of sorts where I can’t fall asleep and the woman next to me has turned on music on her cellphone, without headphones. Meaning I didn’t fall asleep and the woman next to me turned on music on her cellphone, without headphones. I’m at the tipping point. PLEASE use HEADPHONES if you’re going to listen to HARDCORE RAP at 5 IN THE MORNING, I say calmly.

Lifeless Sameea has now been startled awake- more from my abrupt movements than my soothing voice I’m sure- and grumpily advises, “Dude, just go to bed”. I want to laugh but I think I cry…myself to sleep.

We wake up a few hours later to realize it’s daytime now and everyone is up and about doing nameless things. Which is when we heard the loudspeaker announcement, “This is a reminder that all customers must keep their shoes on at all times while riding the train”. Followed by “There is no smoking allowed anywhere on this train” and your standard “Please remember to flush the toilet after using the lavatory”. But wait- there’s more! We go downstairs to get some lunch, and maybe a much-needed beer, only to find the snack car is being blocked off by a train steward (?). “Excuse me, where can we get food?”

“Not on this train honey, somebody had an accident in the bathroom down here. Let’s just say they didn’t make it into the toilet.”

Dear God, get me off this train. Seriously though, the story keeps going.

We go upstairs to the look-out car where normally people can take their snacks they just purchased and look out the all window-ed section of the train, and sit down, contemplating what to do with our remaining 8 or so hours. We start talking to a guy next to us, also amused by the snack car situation. As we start to chat the following announcement is heard, “To the Amish couple who was just eating in the dining car,” (separate from the snack car by the way) “could you please come back and retrieve the ticking device you left behind. Not sure what it is- it’s ticking though-“. Now, I’ve never worked on a train, and hopefully I never will, but I’m pretty sure the first thing they teach is to never make an announcement about an unknown ticking device that basically describes a bomb. The funny part is, we end up joining the two Oregonian guys we were talking to in the dining car as the Amish man comes back for his tickerbomb. I immediately stop him to ask what it was in the end. He describes some part of a car and I think to myself, in the sitcom I write for this train he will be the ironic Amish Electrician. As he walks away, the train comes to an awkward, jolting stop. “Literally, we’re never getting out of here”. Announcer, “Excuse the stop customers, there seems to be a…uh…situation on the side of the train tracks”.

Basically, someone was naked walking next to the train. Casually. Walking. #ICant

When we finally do get off the train, and back to what we think will be civilization, I feel like I’ve traveled back in time into an episode of the Twilight Zone. Or the Twilight Saga (the one with the vampires in love). 

portland.png

Both would be fitting in Portland.

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