A Fjord ing Scandinavia

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While most people are avoiding cold destinations in the dead of winter, Patrick and I decided Scandinavia in February was a great idea. For one, we usually do stay away from what other people do. We’re not exactly trendsetters, more-so bargain hunters. With Pat potentially coming to the US in March, we needed a destination to meet in the "middle" – somewhere between NYC and London.

After finding a bargain deal on a flight, Copenhagen became the destination. While known to be more expensive than most European spots, we planned to use the advantage of a cheap flight along with eating in and staying cozy in Airbnbs throughout the trip. Still, it was not cheap.

Scandinavian's prized herring

Scandinavian's prized herring

This should not take away from how gorgeous both Denmark and Norway are, however. We were there in the off-season for tourists, making it feel a bit more secluded and definitely less hectic. It added to our lazy holiday vibe, which we enjoyed. Most days were spent waking up late, grabbing unexpectedly great coffee at a local café, wandering around, stumbling upon a good bar or lunch spot, and even having an occasional nap. True vacations are restful after all, right?

On certain days we did plan outings. For instance on our last full day in Copenhagen, we took the train less than an hour away to a city recommended by our Airbnb host. The city was Helsingor, a quaint little port town with a castle, cobblestone streets, and again, delicious coffee. From Helsingor we went about 20 minutes by train to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, named after the original property owner who had wed three separate women all named Louise. The museum is situated in an old house, right on the edge of the sea. It was styled in the typical Danish Modern architecture, and housed some interesting exhibits, including a current one on the ceramics of Picasso. I would definitely recommend the day trip if you have the time while venturing through Denmark.

"When Louisiana opened its doors in 1958, ...it was Knud W. Jensen's vision to create a museum with soul, where the public could encounter artwork – not as something pretentious, but rather something that spoke directly to the viewer...From the start, Louisiana's exhibition practices followed the tradition at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which in the first half of the twentieth century had become famous – and notorious – for expanding the range of modern art to include architecture, design, photography, film and other genres". 

The food in Copenhagen was unbelievably good. It is so rare to find bad food that it will live on in my heart as one of the most foodie cities I’ve ever visited.

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Our best meal had to have been at Host, a restaurant I’d found out about simply by doing extensive research weeks before. Meaning, yes, I curated our days around when we could eat at certain places. Started by a former Noma chef, the venue is made up of dimly lit, minimalist, white-washed walls, retro Edison bulb lamps, potted plants and twiggy vases, rustic wooden tables, as many Danish restaurants seemed to be decorated.

Høst is the Danish word for harvest. As the name reveals, great Nordic ingredients and seasonal greens sets the agenda at Høst—served with a sense of both the rustic and the elegant, and always with big flavors.

Høst has won several International design awards, among them Worlds’ Best Designed Restaurant at Restaurant & Bar Design Awards and World’s Most Beautiful Restaurant in American travel magazine Travel + Leisure.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Top 3 Places to Eat

1.      Kroyers

2.      Warpigs

3.      Host

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Coffee

Coffee Collective (in Torvehallerne Market)

Casual

Torvehallerne Market – fish section with salads, bakery, coffee

I Love Fisk- Fried fish cake

Hija de Sanchez- super casual, small tacos by former Noma chef

Ma’ad Ethiopian – the only “cheap eats” we really found (delicious, too!)

Kroyers – tartines and AWESOME coffee

Christianshavns Faergecafe – herring and smorrebord

La Tigella- Italian, cozy, romantic

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Fancy

Host- Noma-style dishes, local ingredients, impeccable plating, unbelievably good

Ralae – recommended, didn’t visit

Noma

Attractions

Day Trip to Helsingor

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Bars

Warpigs – American BBQ and craft brews

Soernes Ol – craft beers, cave atmosphere

Barking Dog – quirky cocktail bar

Olsnedkeren – craft beers and games

La Fontaine – jazz club (Sunday jam sesh)

Not Your Mothers – low key wine bar owned by American (tastings, cheap, buzzy)

 

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10 Ways to Champagne Travel on a Beer Budget

Pagoda climbing in Bagan, Myanmar

Pagoda climbing in Bagan, Myanmar

In just under two weeks, I'll be taking my first trip to Scandinavia! Thanks to Norwegian, I’ll be flying a direct flight from New York to Bergen, Norway for only $195. No actually – a round-trip, nonstop flight to Norway for under $200!

If you’re thinking, only crazy people who travel all the time can find deals like that, you’re very wrong. Norwegian is not only a budget airline already, but the airline has deals on top of their already discounted fares all the time. I recommend signing up for their email newsletter. I also recommend taking flights from the non-traditional airports. For instance, I’ll be flying out of Stewart Newburgh airport, about an hour’s drive from NYC. Norwegian has been increasing the amount of flights flown from STW and in doing so, has also paired up with a bus service to get you straight from Penn Station to the airport (almost every half hour). Find that here for only $40 round-trip. Also, I’ll be flying into Bergen, versus a big hub such as Norway.

I’ve been told Bergen is a cozy little Scandi town, but you could’ve told me there was only pickled herring there and I still would’ve gone for $200. I spend more on my subway fares going less than two miles every two months.

From Bergen, I'm flying to Copenhagen with Norwegian again. That round-trip flight costs $105 and will take only an hour. Patrick is meeting me in CPH, and we’ll stay there for 6 days, 5 nights. We’ll return to Bergen for a 2-night stay, and I fly out that Friday, one week later.

Though we’ve heard from multiple sources that both Norway and Denmark are very expensive, we’ve used our own resources to figure out the cheapest way to go.

Havana, Cuba (flown for free in September using Delta miles transferred from Chase card!)

Havana, Cuba (flown for free in September using Delta miles transferred from Chase card!)

When people ask me how I travel all the time, live in NYC and am not an investment banker:

1.     Fly budget airlines. It’s only a few hours of your life but will save you a few hundred Benjamins

2.     Fly out of non-traditional airports. You’ll also probably save hours of your life here (not as many people will be commuting there, going through security, checking in at the same time, etc)

3.     If your schedule allows, take the odd-timed flights. Red-eyes, or overnight flights, are my favorite. There are usually less people, and I feel like I’m multitasking by sleeping while traveling (and sometimes, no crying babies!)

4.     Stay in low cost accommodation (hostels, Airbnb, use hotel points)

4b. Keep in mind that most large hotel chains will allow you to convert your points with them into airline miles with certain partners. I.e. Marriott points can be converted into United Miles (8,000 Marriott = 2,000 United). Not recommended at the exchange rate, but still doable!

5.     If you stay in Airbnbs, take advantage of having a full kitchen at your hands. Use local ingredients for meals and feel like a true city native!

6.    Free Tours.

Google "Best free walking tours in" whichever city you're visiting - they are everywhere, usually run by locals, and integrate you into the city with other curious travelers. Sandemans is one of the most reliable, and can be found all over Europe!

7.     Budget ID cards (If you still have a student ID or email, you can still get student discounts!)

Or if you're simply a young traveler, there are ID cards that give you access to a range of discounts abroad. International Student Identity Card (ISIC) or International Youth Travel Card (IYTC)

8.    Save up for your trip with apps like Qapital, Acorns, or Stash

Get $5 towards your Acorns account with the link above! You can contribute a monthly debit, round up everyday purchases, and receive "found money" to put towards an investment account.

9.    Use a travel rewards credit card (!!!)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is how I’ve gotten the majority of my flights for free. (In December I booked my Air France NYC – London flight for free! Peak travel time and still managed a flight that cost a whopping $Free.99). 

a. Chase pairs with the following airlines for 1:1 point transfer: United, Southwest, Air France/KLM (which lets you book Delta and Alaska), British Airways (lets you book American Airlines)

10.   Carry-on your luggage. Most airlines (especially budget) will charge you to check your bag. I promise, you can fit all your stuff in a carry-on, and it will save you time and money

The essentials I keep close when traveling:

St. John, USVI

St. John, USVI

Reading List 2017

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In 2017 I had a goal of reading 50 books. I only made it to 44, but I WILL get to 50 this year!!! Below are my reads, spanning all categories and topics, with brief descriptions (and/or opinions :)). Let me know if you have any recommendations below!

1. Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance :  Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall is a phenomenal writer in that he makes you suddenly crave to do the things he's doing, which in this book is unreal battles against gravity by running up cliffs in Greece. But he also provides historical context. After closing his books I always feel a bit smarter and I usually don't complain as much at the gym...

2. Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness : Scott Jurek

Interesting story from the perspective of ultra marathon legend Scott Jurek. From being what calls a "talentless child" to becoming a champion of 50, 100, 150 mile races all the while becoming a vegan along the way. 

3. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo : Amy Schumer

This was a lot deeper than I expected from the hilarious Amy Schumer. It still had her sense of wit, but woven throughout were some intimate details and strong beliefs.

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Milan Kundera

A captivating philosophical novel. "This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places; brilliant and playful reflections; and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers."

5. The Shadow of the Wind : Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I read this just before leaving for Barcelona, where the story takes place. “It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”

6. The Geography of Bliss: Eric Weiner

"Part travel memoir, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader across the globe to investigate not what happiness is, but WHERE it is." An interesting, thought-provoking yet light read.

7. ¡Yo! : Julia Alvarez

Written by one of my favorite Dominican authors (the position tied with Junot Diaz!). "A zesty, exuberant follow-up to the wildly popular How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, full of Julia Alvarez's keen observations and tender affection for her characters."

8. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents: Julia Alvarez

9. Running with the Firm: James Bannon

Spending more and more time in London, and with a favorite movie of Green Street Hooligans, this book was not only interesting (it's nonfiction!) but keeps you on your toes throughout. James is a cop who tells firsthand his time undercover with a football hooligan gang.

10. SS-GB: Len Deighton

A well-written 'what-if?' thriller on the Second World War that is now a major BBC series. "In February 1941 British Command surrendered to the Nazis. Churchill has been executed, the King is in the Tower and the SS are in Whitehall…"

11. A Dog's Purpose: W. Bruce Cameron

After a recommendation from my animal-loving Nana, I had to give this book (also made into a movie) a try. The movie is not the best, but the book was heartwarming.

12. A Dog's Journey (the sequel): W Bruce Cameron

13. Notes from a Small Island: Bill Bryson

14. Let the Great World Spin: Colum McCann

What quickly became one of my favorite novels, this enthralling story takes place in 1974 as a tightrope walker attempts to cross between the Twin Towers. "A dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s."

15. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook: Anthony Bourdain

Another Bourdain best. If you haven't already, I recommend Kitchen Confidential. Life seen through Bourdain's somewhat-jaded eyes is just more fun.

16. You Will Not Have My Hate: Antoine Leiris

17. Thrive: Arianna Huffington 

Surprisingly, I did not like this book, and ended up skimming most pages towards the end. I just found it a bit redundant to all the "Lean In"-esque books out there these days.

18. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier : Ishmael Beah

Heart-wrenching and powerful; Very hard to read at times but as one reviewer was quoted, everyone in the world should read this book

19. A Handmaid's Tale : Margaret Atwood

Creepy and nightmarish but also a great current read. Recently made into a HULU TV series.

20. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World: Adam Grant

I liked Originals better than any Malcom Gladwell books I've read, combined! To me he doesn't seem as pretentious; he writes with data driven statements but without sounding condescending or boring, and the overall message was truly inspiring - fight groupthink, be original!

21. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future : Ashlee Vance

A great insight into one of the brilliant minds of our time.

22. Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front: Mary Jennings Hegar

23. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum

24. Rich20Something : Ditch Your Average Job, Start an Epic Business, and Score the Life You Want  by Daniel DiPiazza

25. Americanah : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

26. The Heart and The Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL

27. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: Mark Sullivan

Cannot say enough good things about this phenomenal book! "Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, the #1 Amazon Charts bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours."

28. Half of a Yellow Sun: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

29. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking: Malcolm Gladwell

30. Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey: Ernesto Che Guevara

31. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America: Erik Larson

32. X: Sue Grafton

33. Outliers: Malcolm Gladwell

34. A Thousand Splendid Suns: Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini is a beautiful writer. I've cried while reading his books and I always walk away with a greater understanding of an area I've never traveled- the Middle East. 

35. Lab Girl: Hope Jahren

36. Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner: Dean Karnazes

Karnazes has become one of the most famous ultra marathoners, and his book made going to the gym seem that much easier.

37. Girl in a Band: A Memoir: Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth)

38. The Vegetarian: Han Kang

Word of warning: This book was very strange and very disturbing.

39. The Dry: Jane Harper

40. Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light: John Baxter

The perfect read for the flight to Paris! (I would also recommend The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, about Hemingway's wife, Hadley)

41. Worth It: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms: Amanda Steinberg

Written by the founder of DailyWorth.com, this book gives an original take on your typical "self-help financial advice". "Worth It outlines the essential financial information women need—and everything the institutions and advisors don’t spell out. Steinberg gets to the bottom of why women are stressed and anxious when it comes to their finances and teaches them to stay away from strict budgeting and other harsh austerity practices."

42. The Kite Runner: Khaled Hosseini

43. Lilac Girls: Martha Hall Kelly

"Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances." It makes you think twice before complaining about your crowded subway commute...

44. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth: Jen Sincere

This was the perfect read to end the year and start 2018 with a fresh perspective. Jen speaks from personal experience and gives steps on how to trust the universe and manifest your happiness and wealth (don't knock it till you try it :)). If you like this read, I definitely recommend E-Squared by Pam Grout.

 
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I'd love to hear your recommendations to get started on the 2018 list! Let me know below :)

Traveling, Fur Sure.

Happy Hump Day

Happy Hump Day

Taking a break from the food posts and more glamorous side of travel to bring up a less glamorous subject: travel insurance.

As a twenty-something, I know for me it’s really not top of mind, even with all the traveling I do. I figure, hey I’ve got a travel credit card (Chase Sapphire Preferred), and it has some benefits. But truthfully, I didn’t even know how much it would actually cover me should something happen, until I recently read a comprehensive review.

After extensive research, the team behind Reviews.com found that the following companies offered the best travel insurance by category:

The Best Travel Insurance: Summed Up

Travelex: Best for Families

John Hancock: Best for Solo Travelers

IMG: Best for Adventurers

Allianz: Best for Long Trips

When I left in 2014 to travel through Southeast Asia, with an unknown end date, I used Allianz Global Assistance. They were easily accessible online, well-known, and insured trips up to one year in length (compared to the normal limit of 3 months at most other companies). Luckily, I had no real issues while abroad (I lost my phone but that was not exactly “travel-related”), so I didn’t need to file any claims through them.

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However, I do remember Allianz wouldn’t cover me in any scuba-related accidents, so if you are more on the adventurist side, definitely look into greater detail when it comes to your overall coverage.

For example, John Hancock offers three comprehensive tiers (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) with add-on options for each to include extreme sports/activities as well as cancelling for any reason. Additionally- and this is huge for those long backpacking trips, or really any sort of family vacation- the Silver and Gold tiers offer trip delay coverage up to $150/day for meals and other expenses if your flight is delayed by 3 hours! Most companies only offer that sort of coverage after 5 to 12 hours. It just makes me think of all the times I could’ve been cashing checks while sitting on tarmacs….

Which leads me to another topic: Claiming compensation for your flight delays/cancellation through the app AirHelp.

For more information on Travel Insurance check out this comprehensive guide!

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