Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Confessions of a Traveler


When I read articles or blog posts about traveling, there are always a number of things that I kind of laugh to myself on, things that never happen the way they say they are going to happen or things that you suggest doing that really can't be helped most of the time.  And with the amount that I travel, I've come to learn that sometimes you just have to "live and let live" while on the go.  Whether you are running through airports to catch flights or embarking on a road trip, there are some things that just can't be helped, hence, here's my list of my own confessions as a traveler.

It's totally ok...

To eat super unhealthy while traveling.
I'm not saying throw everything you know out the window about eating healthy while traveling, but on the other hand, sometimes it's almost impossible to do everything you're supposed to with your eating habits on airplanes or in airports.  I go with what's available and don't worry too much about it.

To not look like a celebrity when you land.
You know those paparazzi pictures of the stars when they land in an airport and their outfits are impeccable and their makeup is amazing?  Yea, that doesn't happen to the rest of us.  My outfits are usually wrinkled and my makeup and hair definitely look like I've been on a flight for 10 hours.  Don't worry about it, that's life.

To ask the flight attendant to move if there is something wrong with your seat.
Seat doesn't recline, even though they said it would?  Large neighbor next store taking up your arm rest?  Screaming baby right next to you?  Believe me, I've been there.  It's totally ok to ask the flight attendant nicely if there is possibly another seat you can move to.  Often times, even if it's a full flight, they might have some options, so it never hurts to ask.

To ask at the gate if there are any upgrades available.
99% of the time they are going to say no, but you never know, you might get lucky.  But be nice!  The nicer you are, the better chance you have of getting one.

To not disinfect your entire airplane seat.
I've read countless articles about everything you're supposed to do when you get to your seat on an airplane.  You're supposed to wipe down the seat, the armrests, the window shades, and believe me, I've been on flights where people do this.  But seriously?  You get on a plane full of people and can barely move most of the time anyways, this is one of those things I say "live and let live."

To laugh at the "gorilla bags" people come on the plane with.
Nick and I have come up with the term "gorilla bags" to explain the bags people come on the plane with.  They have so much luggage they look like they might have brought their entire wardrobe with them.  I get it, it's costly to check bags and everyone wants to bring everything on board with them, but for the hassle of how long it takes for them to get those massive overfilled bags into the overhead bins while everyone watches, either get a better bag that holds all your stuff or take out half and don't overfill it.

To ask for an extra snack or refill of your drink.
There are certain airlines that I love their particular snacks or sometimes want a refill on my diet coke after the flight attendant comes through.  Most of the time, if you ask nicely, they will be more than happy to comply with your request.  I've had flight attendants give me all sorts of free food and drinks on flights when I've gone back and asked for it.  They are more than happy to help you if you ask nicely!

To not always have an amazing experience.
It's ok to not enjoy every trip you take or every experience that comes your way.  Believe me, I've had some trips that I look back on now and am not sure how I survived them.  But those are the travels that make you stronger, that push you further and that you aim to not repeat.  It's ok to have places that you don't love or trips that you wouldn't wish upon anyone, but at the end of the day it's what you take from those experiences that matters most.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day Trip to Astoria


Last weekend Nick and I headed North to Astoria, a coastal town about two hours from us here in Portland.  We like to escape to the Coast every once in a while and it had been years since either of us had to been to Astoria, so we decided to spend the day up North in the cooler weather.  Turns out, we both fell in love with cute little Astoria and by far, turns out to be our favorite Oregon coastal town close to us.  This most Northern spot in Oregon sits on the opening of the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean and has stunning views of Washington State across the river as well as out to sea.

We'll definitely be making repeat visits in the future, but for now, here's a look at our day on the Oregon coast.

Photo by Nick
Photo by Nick
Photo by Nick
Photo by Nick


Photo by Nick

Photo by Nick

Friday, July 25, 2014

Destinations : Paraguay & Tromso

We're back today with my monthly series called Destinations.  Each month I am interviewing travelers all over the world near and far about destinations they've been to, what they packed, how they got there and so much more. 

Today I have 2 amazing bloggers sharing their chosen destinations with you.  I'm so excited to welcome Kelley and Vanessa to share some amazing places in the world with you today!



WHERE DO YOU BLOG?
Hey everyone! I’m Kelley and I blog over at Move By Yourself.

WHERE CAN I CONNECT WITH YOU?
WHAT DESTINATION ARE YOU SHARING?
Today I’m going to tell you all about the wonderful country of Paraguay.



WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THIS DESTINATION FOR YOUR TRAVELS?
Well technically, I didn't choose it. I was placed here for the Peace Corps and I’m so glad I was. Ever since I’ve been trying to prove to people that you shouldn't skip over Paraguay in your South American travels.

HOW DID YOU GET THERE?  
There is an international airport in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. You can also take a bus if you are already in South America. There are direct buses from Buenos Aires and other Argentine and Brazilian cities.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?
The 3 largest cities in Paraguay are Asunción, Encarnación and Ciudad de Este and all three have several lodging options. Hostels, budget hotels or more high class hotels at still affordable prices. Don’t be surprised if a Paraguayan you just met invites you to stay at their house; that is just the kind of people they are.

TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS TO THIS DESTINATION?
Two of my biggest tips for travelers to Paraguay relate to weather and language. Summer time in Paraguay which is between November and February can get incredibly hot so I would recommend avoiding those months. Also, the two languages spoken in Paraguay are Spanish and Guarani and you should try and speak a little bit of Spanish before you come here as not very many people speak English.


TIPS FOR PACKING FOR THIS DESTINATION?
I recommend light and airy clothing, Paraguay can be warm and humid all year round. You can wear shorts if you want, but you will stick out like sore thumb. I tend to wear dresses or skirts when it’s warm. Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray!

MUST SEE SPOTS?
When it comes to cities, Encarnación and Asunción are two of my favorites in Paraguay! There are some great nature-related places to visit in Paraguay – the Sand Dune Islands of San Cosme, Salto Cristal, a large waterfall near Ybycui National park, the Pantanal area in the northern part of Paraguay where you can do a lot of animal spotting and the Jesuit Ruins in Trinidad.




FINAL TIPS FOR THIS DESTINATION?
The best tip I can give you when it comes to Paraguay is that the people of Paraguay are the biggest and most important tourist attraction. That may sound weird, but, the people of Paraguay are genuinely the nicest people I’ve ever met. So make an effort to meet the locals!






WHERE DO YOU BLOG?
I blog over at Snow in Tromso which is my travel and expat blog situated in the Arctic of Norway.

WHERE CAN I CONNECT WITH YOU?
WHAT DESTINATION ARE YOU SHARING?
I'm sharing Tromso in Northern Norway with you as this is the city I'll be moving to in a couple of weeks. 



WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THIS DESTINATION FOR YOUR TRAVELS?
Back in September 2013 I graduated uni and took a gap year to figure out what I really want to do in life. I've always been fascinated by the North and found a one year distance program in Northern Studies at the University of Tromso which I started immediately. I also discovered their Master program in Indigenous Studies which I found really interesting and for which I applied. However I've never been to the Arctic before at that point so I wanted to travel to that area before making the decision on whether or not I really wanted to move there. 


HOW DID YOU GET THERE?  
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Tromso is by plane. I booked my flights with Lufthansa and went from Frankfurt, Germany to Oslo, Norway and afterwards to Tromso.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?
I stayed in the Viking Hotell which is situated right in the middle of the city centre and from which you have an amazing view on the mountain Storsteinen. It's also one of the cheaper hotels in Tromso and I felt completely at ease there. The rooms are very modern and clean and the breakfast buffet is delicious! Furthermore you can make your own waffles every afternoon in the common area which is absolutely great!

TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS TO THIS DESTINATION?
Tromso and Norway in general is quite expensive so it's important to book your flights well in advance. Norwegian and Wideroe are the cheapest airlines but SAS offers you a discount if you're under 26. Also if you're a group of 3 or more people it's cheaper to book a flat rather than several hotel rooms as that way you can also cook meals yourself instead of eating out. Furthermore you don't really have to book an expensive guided tour (whether that is a Northern Lights or a hiking tour) as you can easily explore the area by yourself. Take the cable car Fjellheisen up to mountain Storsteinen and go hiking or just explore the wonderful view on Tromso from above.


TIPS FOR PACKING FOR THIS DESTINATION?
As Tromso is situated in the Arctic of Norway, warm clothes are a must year round. Temperatures can reach 25 degrees in summer but it can also snow in June so you want to be prepared for everything. Bring layers, that is to say thermal underwear and a good winter jacket in winter; shirts, pullovers, hiking shoes, a water resistant jacket and trousers as well as a fleece jacket year round. Wellies in summer as well as spikes and winter boots in winter are also necessary. 

MUST SEE SPOTS?
The cable car Fjellheisen is definitely a must for everyone visiting Tromso. The view from the mountain is amazing, no matter which season you're visiting the city in. If you happen to visit the city on one of those rare warm summer days you might want to spend some time at the beach. Telegrafbukta at the very end of Tromso island is the perfect place for that. If you're into museums, I can only recommend you to visit Tromso University Museum which is divided into the Polar Museum in the city centre and Tromso Museum 10mins from the city centre by bus, which focusses on the indigenous people of Norway. Polaria, an aquarium where you can also see bearded seals and where you can watch a film about the Northern Lights in a panoramic cinema, and Perspektivet, an art museum which focusses on cultural photography are also must-sees. 




FINAL TIPS FOR THIS DESTINATION?
Don't be undeterred by Norwegian prices. I promise, the landscape you'll see in Northern Norway is unique and stunning and totally makes up for the amount of money you have to pay for your holiday!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moments in the Rear View


Lately, after a few different conversations with different people in my life, I've been thinking a lot about what's really important, what we base our lives on and how differently we all equate wealth and success in our own lives.  For me, it's never about the money, it's never about how much I can make or how much someone is willing to pay me, and while I work really hard on many different platforms to make a decent living, the money that comes in isn't what makes me get up everyday, it's not what drives me, it's not what propels me forward.  

For me, when I look around at my life, wealth is in the experiences I've lived, in the memories I've made with people I love, in the pins on my world map, in the tea kettle from Marrakech and the wooden elephants from India.  When I look around my little apartment, I don't see just five-hundred square feet, I see love, I see pictures on the walls from our travels and I see moments.  Moments and memories that are worth more than any dollar anyone could pay me, moments that have made me who I am, moments that will forever define me and move me forward.

Sometimes in life we tend to forget what's under the surface, what really makes the world go round, what really defines our lives.  It's not money, it's not the powerful jobs and the corner offices, it's not the giant house in the suburbs or the designer clothes, what really defines our lives are the moments that we live them.  When we look back on our lives, what will we remember?  Will we remember the bosses the had, the bank accounts that fluctuated?  Personally I hope not, I want to look back on a life I know that was lived with purpose, a life filled with love and laughter and memories.  I want to look back on a life that stood for something, that wasn't just the cookie-cutter version of what so many people do, I want to look back on a life full of things that weren't material.  I want to see moments in the rear-view, not what money bought.

I came across the quote above on Pinterest the other day and it was one of those moments when you're thinking about something and then a quote happens to appear along the same lines.  It's those serendipitous moments in our lives that often propel us to do something, write something, be someone.  And as I read the quote, I kept coming back to the last line, "It's about our hearts and who they beat for."  It's so easy in life to get caught up in everything around us, in the bills, in the jobs, in responsibilities, to forget what we really should be chasing.  We should be chasing those people we love and those life defining moments that really make us happy.  We should be chasing a life full of love and memories.

I was speaking to someone close to me not long ago about life choices, about jobs he was deciding on, about a girl he loves but that lives far away, and I could hear the the struggle to choose between them in his words.  And as I thought about it more, why is that even a choice for us as humans and when did that happen?  Why wouldn't love always win out over a job?  Why wouldn't someone that means so much to us always come over anything else that comes our way?  I know that for me at the end of the day, when I look around at my little five-hundred square foot apartment, I don't think of my job or the money I could be making, I see what I have built around me and I see the moments with my husband, the things we've done together, the places we've seen, the life we've built, not of material things but of love and moments together.

And so I challenge you today, what do you want to look back on and see at the end?  Personally, I don't want to remember the jobs and the money made, I want to see moments in the rear-view.