Month: January 2014

For the Pursuit of Fun

When I was in school, everyday was another day. Every single day and every single hour was different, exciting, unexpected, fun. When I came home at the end of a long day, it would be hard for me to run out of stories to tell my roommates as we sat in our dark room on the shoreline, listening to the waves come in and our old crappy apartment rattle in the wind.

Those days, fun came pretty naturally, because even the work you did involved all of your friends. I guess because you’re surrounded by kids all day, you kind of feel like you deserve to have fun, like it’s just an expected everyday occurrence. Even still, you knew it was special. You knew you were happy, you knew this was the life, and you also knew it wasn’t going to last forever.

The moment I graduated, everything switched around. All of a sudden I felt guilty for having fun, even for just spending a lazy day having breakfast with friends and bsing with the neighbors and harassing the cat. As I peer over at my looming to-do list, I always feel like I should be doing something else. 

This is an easy mindset to fall into once we quietly tiptoe into the real world – it’s easy to get caught up in running errands and making sure the laundry is done and you took your vitamins and the car has a full tank of gas. Soon, you’re spending everyday just preparing for the next, and you’re not even really sure what the point of preparing is if you’re just going to do the same thing tomorrow.

I miss the days where I lived life for the pursuit of fun. I miss when I felt like it was normal to hop on a bus to go to another country, or spend the day window shopping on the streets of Florence, the most beautiful city in the world, or it was just another day when you turned off your shower radio in the morning to listen to the man playing the accordion in the piazza outside the window.

So you know what? Let’s forget about the laundry and a dish in the sink never killed anyone. It may be a while before I’m out of my parent’s house and back in a real live city again and, oddly, actually live in the real world and maintain a real life, but I’m sick of that being the reason that I feel bad for wanting to remember what I did yesterday.

Never get so busy living that you forget to make a life. 

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How To Haggle Like a Pro

One pretty cool part of traveling the world is that instead of wandering the mall on an otherwise boring Sunday, you can cruise the local markets of the world instead, whether it be the San Lorenzo Market of Florence, Italy, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Turkey, or the German Christmas Markets. However, unlike the mall, you need to learn how to haggle like a pro in order to score some cool stuff without accidentally spending your dinner money. And, you need to do it while having fun – there’s no reason to be nervous about wanting to pay a price you think is reasonable and not being afraid to ask for it.

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1. Make someone laugh. Everyone, even seemingly conniving shopkeepers, are looking for a laugh, especially at their day jobs. So while haggling, if you can get a little personal with the shopkeeper; talk to him about the cool stuff he’s got or entertain his lame pickup lines with a friendly smile, you’re golden. He will be more willing to entertain your offers if he sees you as a friend instead of just another tourist.

2. Never be the first to name a price. There’s been many times when I was willing to offer a much higher initial price but then I heard the shopkeeper’s price before I even said a word. For this reason, don’t be afraid to ask, in a non-desperate way, how much something costs. And if they ask you in return how much you want to pay, either go for a major low-ball or ask, “Well how much are you looking to sell it for?”

3. Don’t be afraid to walk away. The best move you can make, even for an item you’re absolutely in love with, is to walk away when a haggle is totally not going your way because the shopkeeper isn’t budging. There will be times you will walk away, seemingly without a care, and no one will call you back. Guess what? Come back around in ten minutes and no one is going to remember you anyway. However, more often than not, you’ll get a frantic Wait! Wait! Trust me, they want to sell that crap just as much as you want to buy it.

4. Enlist a partner. It’s always good to have someone on your side who is as awesome at haggling as you are to say, only to strengthen your case, “Come on, that’s too much money. It’s not worth it.” There’s strength in numbers. If a shopkeeper knows it’s going to be two against one he is more likely to compromise. Pick a code to signal to your partner when you’re in need of some help.

5. Don’t be stupid. In Canal Street, especially if you’re a dumb looking girl with a fancy bag, people are going to mob you and try to get you to follow them for blocks and blocks to come to their shop (one that most likely is hidden in a basement or behind a fake wall). Be careful with this kind of stuff. Never get too close to a van, no matter how cute those bags are, and never wander down those sketchy stairwells. It’s never going to be worth it.

6. Lie. Twenty bucks too much for that crappy bracelet? Yes, I agree. Because you saw it down the street for $10… except not really. Don’t be afraid to make up a little white lie to get the price you want. No one is ever gonna know that you haven’t even seen the item yet besides in this shop.

7. Don’t allow yourself to be charmed. Obviously, it’s OK to flirt – this goes hand-in-hand with haggling. However, don’t think you’re the only one who is trying to charm – usually these suave shopkeepers know their game just as well and will tell you anything you want to hear to get you to buy that $300 leather jacket. Keep in mind that yes, laugh, smile, and be friendly, but you’re also the 18th person today that they have told has beautiful eyes.

8. Take your time. If you feel like you may be getting too caught up in the fun and are going to make a regrettable purchase, you can always say you’re going to think about it and come back later. I particularly like doing this for huge, overwhelming markets, because I don’t want to spend a ton on one item only to see it ten minutes later being sported for half the price. Take your time. Trust me, it isn’t going anywhere, especially if they tell you that it is.

9. Keep those wandering hands at bay. It may seem easy enough to grab something off a table when the keeper isn’t looking, but this is a really bad idea. All of these shopkeepers are friends, people, and even if yours doesn’t spot you lifting, somebody else will, and trust me, you’re going to be wishing there was a cop around if you get mixed up in this kind of sketchy business.

10. Never be taken for a schlub. Especially when you’re a girl, people think that you have money to spend and it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Show them that this is not the case. Speak confidently, don’t be afraid to bargain or walk away, and hold tight to the price that you want.

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How To Pass The Time In the Skies

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have a thirst for the world. You have a need to try the oddest looking foods, ravage the most dangerous cities, run from the scariest thieves, and see the most stunning sights. However, getting to these places costs a high price. And that price; besides giving up the security of a 9 to 5 job and a cushy salary and any semblance of a normal life, would be that you have to spend a lot of hours stuck in a boring airport, complete with recycled air and screaming babies and freeze-wrapped food.

Passing all of these hours in the airport isn’t easy. Finding things to entertain you takes real effort and it’s hard to give up so much time accomplishing nothing. However, I have some answers to your woes. Read below for ways to pass the time in productive ways at the airport and on the plane.

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1. Pick up some books on tape before you go. Since I have the work commute from Hell, I have been spending a lot of time at the library scoring books on tape. Reading Steve Jobs may be a little boring to actually flip through, but listening to it in the relaxing voice of whoever got paid to read that is much easier to get through and enjoy while you zone out on the airplane and fall into another world. Some that I have been particularly enjoying recently are America by Jon Stewart, Tough Shit by Kevin Smith, and Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore.

2. Read your guidebook. Before you’re blindly wandering around your next destination wondering where you can find a bathroom, read through a guidebook beforehand so you have a grasp on the secrets of the city, the top destinations, and the top restaurants to hit. The airplane, a hole of a place where there isn’t much else to do anyway, is a perfect time and place to get this done.

3. Download some podcasts. In realm with grabbing your books on tape, downloading podcasts is a cool way to listen to some of your favorite radio stations, find some new material, and generally expand your horizons besides listening to the same albums over and over again.

4. Write down your thoughts. Especially if you are embarking on a true journey such as visiting a new continent for the first time, studying abroad, traveling with a new person, or maybe roaming alone for the first time, writing is a great way to get your thoughts down so that one day when you’re a worn traveler, you can look back and remember how you felt before it all even started. Plus, since you’re gonna be jammed on that plane for awhile, you have all the time in the world so you aren’t rushed to get it all down on paper without really feeling it through.

5. Get drunk. On European flights, wine is generally given out as lax (and free) as soda is, even it tastes like toilet water. However, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to getting a little free buzz pre-adventure. Plus you’re gonna need a confidence boost before going to try to pick up that guy in the seat in front of you.

How To Be a Winter Wanderer

This morning, I was fully committed to getting to work. I am aware that most of the time when people tell you that a huuuuge storm is coming, it probably isn’t.

I woke up on time, took a shower, put on my carefully planned outfit, and walked outside ten minutes early so that I could warm up my car and shovel off some snow. This plan was all going accordingly until I abruptly fell off my own porch because I couldn’t see the steps under the piles of snow. Well the effort was there.

Regardless of the fact that I get to work in my pajamas today, it is imperative that travelers of all shapes and sizes, including commuters and cross-country wanderers, complete the basic necessities to make it through when there is an actual blizzard outside.

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This is Norway… in September

1. What to Pack – I’m a neat freak and my car is always pretty empty, besides a few basic necessities. In your car, make sure you always have:

  • A small first-aid kit
  • Tissues
  • An extra pair of pants, shirt, underwear, socks, boots, and sweatshirt (never know where you’ll be sleeping tonight)
  • Ice scraper (duh)
  • Collapsable snow shovel (these are awesome)
  • A water bottle
  • A couple granola bars
  • Bag of kitty litter
  • Jumper cables

2. What to Clean – Trust me, I want to get out the door too. But now that I have a beautiful gem of a vehicle, I now am very strict about cleaning off all of my car before driving after a snowstorm. This means making sure there aren’t snow and ice chunks waiting to fall off the roof of your car and the headlights and taillights are cleared well. Don’t be lazy!

3. How to Drive – SLOW. Once again, I’m probably just as late as you are. However, when you lose control of your car on what looks like a clean road, you’re going to wish you had some more space between the car in front of you and yourself.

4. How to Maneuver – When people lose control of their vehicles on black ice, their first instinct is to pound on the breaks and veer the other direction. However, this is the worst thing you can do. Think about it – you have the least amount of control of your car when you’re braking. Instead, turn the wheel in the direction that your wheels are turning to regain control.

5. How to Stay Alive – If you get stuck, put on your emergency lights (even though they look dumb), park in a reasonable spot that is visible but not obstructing a busy road, and stay in your car. You may be tempted to get out and try to find help, but a cop or someone will come by eventually and you probably have a cell phone anyway. There are some crazies out there.