Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Normally, I am a huge advocate of not getting too personal on your blog. No one cares about the crap food you ate on the plane, the fact that the dude next to you kept touching your knee on the flight, or why you now regret traveling with your mom. However, 500+ followers and 137 posts later, I feel that it is time for you to hear a little bit more about the person who is always on the Life Aboard the Traveling Circus.

1. The first foreign country I visited was Norway, which I considered the Sears of the mall of Europe. When I was 17, my poor father toted my sister and I off to Norway to meet our family members in Bergen and get some culture in our blood. At first, we didn’t see it as such – it was effing cold in the pit of July, there was way too much hiking to be done, and we were sleeping in someone’s converted library. However, somewhere between the constant daylight and centuries-old city, the whole thing became kind of cool and Norway became our underdog of Europe instead of the store in the mall people never really want to go to unless they need a dishwasher. This trip spurred my need to see more; to get out of what was ordinary.


Voss, Norway

2. My second trip to Europe was a three-week backpacking tour of Europe… armed with one other 17-year-old. I literally have no idea why my parents let me do this – probably because they don’t like me that much. Most people end up visiting our neighbors across the pond via school trip with chaperons and respected adults – I went with my high school friend armed with a backpack from my grandmother and some clothes I knew I wouldn’t miss. This can be considered jumping in with both feet – I had never even gone camping before. Nevertheless, it was my first real taste of venturing outside my comfort zone and into London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia.


Loch Lomond, Scotland

3. I almost didn’t study abroad because I liked a boy. And then I signed up one day because I was feeling particularly adventurous. From my first year of college, I always thought about studying abroad, but it seemed like a far-off pipe dream with all the paperwork and planning that had to go into it – not easy considering my constantly changing majors and minors and over-analyzing nature (If this is you, go anyway. It’s gonna be OK). When I was getting ready to finally do it – sign up to go to London, England for the semester – something happened where I thought that the boy I liked throughout college was finally going to give me a chance (he didn’t). I hesitated and decided to give it another year to see what happened. The next year, I took a chance and moved in with my friend, which turned out awesome, and I figured why not give this one a go too? and that day, I put my name on the Florence, Italy list. I chose Florence based on a materialistic pro/con list my roommate and I made… that day.

4. I’ve never really lived anywhere for more than a short amount of time. Until I was in fifth grade, I had never been in the same school system for more than two years, and even after this, we continued to move around for various ridiculous reasons. Even if we weren’t getting ready for yet another move, I was rarely home; instead, I was constantly staying over friends’ houses and trying to create a home for myself and get on the ins with their families so I would always be welcome. I always spent a lot of time in cars… which is probably why I feel uncomfortable being in the same place for a long period of time now.

5. I crave the dirtiness of travel. I hate to admit it, and you probably wouldn’t guess it from following this blog, but I’m the most straitlaced and organized person you’ll ever meet. I am frequently picked on for my incessant list-making and perfectionism – I battle deep anxiety if everything isn’t in its place. However, this is why I am pulled towards travel – it is the precise opposite. I like not knowing, even if just for a bit, if I will be showering that day, what time I’m gonna crash into bed, where I will crash into bed, and even if my shoes will make it to see tomorrow.

What would people never guess about you?


The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Let’s Always Be Friends.

Since winter break kicked in and Italy booted me out back in December, my world traveling has unfortunately hit a standstill. For quite some time, there will be no European cities to conquer, no wild beasts to tame, and no languages to grasp. This is kind of depressing. But at the same time, I have realized that sometimes, here in the Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey, you can still have… fun?

The other night, I went bowling with my friends from high school, having connived my dear friend Paul to drive me the thirty minutes in exchange for a box of Christmas chocolate. We drove throughout the tiny back roads before we got to the bowling alley, where we drank White Russians (The Big Lebowsky), made fun of Dan’s dilapidated bowling stance, mercilessly harassed the other team, and scored less than 70s.

Is this hiking the towns of Cinque Terre, hovering on the edge of cliffs? No. Is this exploring the dark ruins of Pompeii? No. Is this running around Paris as it snows with a beret on your head? No.

But you know what? It’s not half bad, either. Can you have fun traveling alone? Yes, of course you can. But doing ordinary things with extraordinary people makes you remember that you don’t need a plane ticket to have an adventure. Go to trivia night. Go to the lame bowling alley. Show up for half price apps, even if all you order is a water because you’re still just as cheap as you were in high school. You don’t need a suitcase or a ridiculous budget or really anything else, for that matter. You just need a couple of friends. And this is what makes you richer than any world traveler.


Irlandia the Beautiful

Even though it is literally raining half of the days out of the year in Ireland, trust me, it does not bring anyone down. Instead, no matter what the weather, the season, or the occasion, you can find the Irish being their jolly selves… usually jollily getting drunk.

This is only one of many things that we found out about the little island almost immediately after our budget flight landed in Dublin with the sky basically falling down in big pellets of rain. Unlike in Italy, where we are often snubbed and usually pushed and/or lied to, everybody in Ireland just seems pretty psyched to be. As idiot tourists, we were often confused and lost, and at no point did the Irish ever express anything other than politeness and friendliness.

Oh wait, hold on. There was that one time where at the first night out, at The Temple Bar (one of oldest and most famous bars in Dublin) this waiter told me to fuck off after I asked for a glass of water. But see… this is because they would rather you drink the Guinness, since this means that you’re more likely to want to dance and sing to Galway Girl later in the evening, plus they’ve already assumed that you two are best friends.

Being that the Temple Bar is a popular go (especially for tourists) we went there on our first Thursday in Dublin, hoping to escape some crowds. We didn’t. It seems that no matter what time of day (or night) that place is poppin with live music and people jumping and swigging bears and eating ham sandwiches (which is perfectly suited for me). Another great part of this pub atmosphere is that it doesn’t matter if it’s 10:00 am or 10:00 pm. People are still dressed the same, cozy warm in their layers and jackets, and they’re still doing the same things- smiling and drinking beers.

On our first full day in Dublin, we got acquainted with the city, obviously of course with a day of rain. Unlike in Italy where people dress for the tundra in 60 degree weather, during the day some people don’t bother wearing jackets and at night, girls run about in their short skirts and sky high heels, hoping that their straightened hair will escape the rain and that their goosebumps will subside under the warm 45 degree Fahrenheit weather.

Dublin reminds me a lot of Seattle, Washington, with its constant rain and thus sort of drabness, but in a more purposeful way. The gray buildings and forgotten cobblestone streets want to stay that way, and they don’t really care if you think they’re ugly. They actually think it’s kind of funny, which is obvious from the various jokes that embalm this city. For instance, apparently someone thought it would be nice to put up a plaque commemorating the death of a priest. After some searching, the City Council determined that this priest never even existed and it was just a kind of weird joke. The City removed the plaque (which is on River Liffy) but then they figured hey? Why not? and put the plaque back for everyone to have a laugh at.

Another example? Half of Dublin Castle looks pretty, for lack of a better term, castle-y. It’s made of brownish-grayish stone and looks pretty old and like it probably does something important. The other half of the castle looks like a giant pile of rainbow legos. Why did the architect do this? Because he felt like it, that’s why.

We also stopped by Trinity College (the Harvard of Ireland), where, if you pass nearly impossible tests, you can live and eat there for free… but everyone will most likely hate you, as well as the Forty Steps of Ireland, where a scene from PS I Love You was filmed. Plus, we strolled on through the Ha’Penny Bridge, which used to be owned by some guy who made everyone pay half a penny to pass, and St. Stephen’s Green, as well as a couple other sights.

That night, we went on a pub crawl in Dublin, a pretty typical Friday night anywhere, except for once we were going to actual pubs. Sketchy dive bars or places that dads and kids alike hang out, they were actually a pleasant change from nightclubs where creepy dudes try to feel you up when they think you’re not paying attention and you can’t even hear yourself think over the music. Instead, we danced to Irish music at O’Neill’s Pub as locals cheered us on for our poor Irish jigs and shared thick beers on the bars of places that looked like painted over basements, complete with sawdust and 80’s movies playing on the walls.

The next day, we woke up to drive the three hours to the Cliffs of Moher, a sight you have probably seen in quite a few movies, including Leap Year. My roommate and I, Vanessa, climbed the cliffs and breathed in the fresh, crisp air (along with some more rain), gazing over the cliffs and the Atlantic to the various islands that sit in between.

After the Cliffs, we drove another hour to Galway, where instead of driving through highways and street signs we drove through country roads filled with sheep where we had to actually stop and pull over if another car was coming. In Galway, an adorable old man named Liam showed us around the quaint city including how the town itself is built into the original outside walls of the place and the exact spot where Jane Joyce’s lover, Richard, killed himself and continued to haunt her and her new lover’s mind for the rest of his days.

So is Ireland all about getting drunk? No, not really. They love their beer, but probably because it makes them even more able to enjoy their beautiful country, their lively pubs, their springing music, their smiling neighbors.

When I Missed the Days of Regular Showering

“Now backpacking,” the random girl I met on the train begins, “…it’s all about the layers.” With a smile and a wink, the girl with the grown-out highlights and greasy roots lifts up her jacket only to find a dingy sweater, and then a long sleeved shirt that has a couple holes that look suspiciously like bite marks, and then another shirt that may or may not have been found on the ground. Although I’ll admit, a lot of backpacking has to do with layers, it also has a lot to do with being really dirty and hanging out with people who have a good chance of being serial killers.

After my first year of college when I was 18, my good friend Fiona called me up one day and asked, “Hey, would you want to backpack across Europe with me?” It’s probably a good thing that at this point in time, I wasn’t thinking very clearly, because I said yes. I had never been on a plane alone, never been to Europe, hell, I had never even been camping. I think that this can be categorized with jumping in with both feet. Even still, though, I stuffed my clothes in an old backpack my grandma gave to me and Fiona and I ventured off to London, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Rome, and Paris.

I remember before I left that I was complaining to my mother that I was sick of getting clean, getting dressed, and putting makeup on every day. AHA. I was lucky if I got a shower in every day when I was roaming abroad. Even though I am a big fan of yoga pants and lame t-shirts, I have never taken showers for granted since.

But I digress. Being backpacking is not like studying abroad, not in the least. As much as I love being abroad and having the chance to explore Italy, to live in beautiful Florence and walk by the Duomo each and every day, studying abroad is a pretty commercialized and is basically glorified tourism with a lot more drinking. If you haven’t noticed, sorority girls are all about going abroad (aka being international sluts) and mostly everything is planned out for you, from the study abroad student trips to the classes held all in English to your advisor being up your ass every ten minutes. In a way, this is nice. This is safe and it is stable. But it is not backpacking.

When someone tells me they studied abroad, my thoughts may wander to, Lucky for you that Daddy’s car sales have been good this year. But when someone tells me they backpacked, I know that they slept in a lot of dirty hostels. I know that they were lost most of the time, they washed their clothes in the sink, and they may have picked places to visit by picking up a map, closing their eyes, and pointing a finger. I know that instead of figuring out what the best drink specials were in their city of residence, they’re probably pretty good at falling asleep on cue in bus stations and don’t mind getting a little dirty.