“Minding the Gap” and Other Things You Should Know About London

YAS. Another Europe blog post! I read this article recently and was like, omg I wish I would have known #3. Picture this: Two little Americans (Brandon and I) both carrying massive duffle bags in the busy London “tube” (that’s train system in London terms) and standing on an escalator that’s for real about 200 feet long. Terrifying, right?

It gets worse.

We’re lugging about 35 pounds of our stuff AND THEN people start budging us while walking up the escalator. Like, what the heck man? I’m about to fall to my death here if you knock me over.

Come to find out, it’s a thing. You’re supposed to stand on the right side so people can walk up the left on an escalator that’s about two feet wide. Sounds stupid, huh? IT IS. So be careful on that.

1. DON’T BLOCK THE ESCALATORS 

So, that’s number one. Don’t even think of standing in the middle, the left, or slightly into the middle. Still unsure how you can properly position luggage without breaking this rule. If anyone has a trick, please, fill me in.

2. YOUR MIXED DRINK COMES IN TWO

Now, this was a delightful surprise. They are so classy across the pond that when you order a mixed drink you get the alcohol on the rocks and the mix still in the glass bottle! I guess I’m too used to Barry’s $2 Fireball shots, but this made me feel ultra clazzy. It happened in Ireland too! The only downfall to this is that I did feel a bit gypped on the amount of alcohol I received because of this.

3. DON’T TREAT YOUR COINS LIKE PENNIES

Save them and don’t forget to use them! Their coins (AKA pence) are worth more than what we’re used to in The States. We kept forgetting to use them and we had about £6 worth of coins! That’s not a lot, I know, but seems like a ton when you’re used to your coins all creating a whopping $1.13. Also, the paper cash is actually called “notes”.

4. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU PAY

This is GENIUS. I actually despise the U.S. for not doing this once we came back home but over there the price you see listed is actually what you pay. The tax is already wrapped into the price tag, so you don’t have to worry about not knowing the exact amount of cash you need. Beware, though, I feel like it made me buy things easier because, to me, it looked cheap because of the currency difference and the fact that it’s the entire price up front. For example, an awesome souvenir would be £10 which seems like $10 to me but it’s actually almost $13! Which is not bad, but it’s totally deceiving.

5. IT MIGHT BE WEIRD TO ORDER SHOTS

Okay, take this one with a grain of salt but I was alerted about this before going to Europe and apparently (I could be totally wrong here) shots aren’t as common as they are in the U.S., especially what we’re used to good ole’ Nebraska. We never ordered a shot from a pub while abroad because it never felt like we were supposed to and I didn’t see anyone else getting them. Gotta say, we never had a hangover either. Wonder if that had anything to do with it… :smirk:

Don’t let this stop you, though! I’m sure it goes DOWN in the hostels!

6. THERE ARE A LOT OF TOURISTS AND YOU’RE ANOTHER ONE

I mean, this is a complete duh! but for real, it is crazy packed with tourists. We went in April which isn’t necessarily a slow time if they even have those, but it’s not the busy season. The thing about this though is that you really need to plan out where you’re going and when because there will be a ton of tourists like you thinking the same thing. The early bird totally gets the worm on the hot spots in London.

One other thing: Being from The U.S. I did feel like people would look at us when they would hear us talk (WE HAVE ACCENTS AND I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT THAT DISCOVERY). Sometimes when we were sitting at a restaurant I noticed people looking at us but then I thought, ya know what? I practically stare if I hear a British accent in Nebraska. So I get it. There was only one time that I felt like being from The States was a bad thing when I could hear someone in a bar loudly talking about how crappy America is, which I don’t believe but I felt like “hey man, I’m mad about the U.S. stuff you’re talking about too…” So it felt pretty crappy, but that only happened once. I’ve heard similar stories from friends traveling in other places but other than that everyone is really friendly! Even in London, I never felt that “snobby” vibe. It was actually quite the opposite!

7. THE FOOD MIGHT SOUND WEIRD

And I know travelers to the U.S. think the same thing about us! There were some weird things, though. Like the fact that french fries, ahem, I mean chips, came with the steak and I know that isn’t weird but how it was presented was by the steak basking on top of the fries which seems like a meal someone just threw together without even thinking. I also discovered gas station (without the gas) pre-made sandwiches made of tuna AND CORN. Hell yes. I loved this combo. Can’t believe I haven’t thought of that one myself. Also, they have some brands that are the same as they are in the U.S. but have different names. Like Lays potato chips and this isn’t food, but they have “T.K. Maxx” instead of T.J. Maxx and it’s totally the same store!

When you’re eating and order a soda, that’s gonna cost ya more than it does over here and oh, want water? You’re going to have to specify that you want “tap”, they will automatically assume you want bottled and remember the difference between still water and sparkling. I hate sparkling water and we accidentally bought it so many times because it’s right next to the still bottled water. It was pretty annoying. Why they so fancy?

In conclusion on the food topic, the food was on another level from what I’m used to, it was SO good! Loved every bit of it and those fish and chips really are somethin’ delicious.

OH!

I almost forgot to mention the meaning behind “Mind the gap”! It was a saying over the intercom on the train when there would be a gap between the tracks and the platform and omg one time, the gap was like a straight up foot and a half! Not sure how we survived that. I even hoisted up my big ole’ duffle bag across it!

*Please note: I’ve only traveled to London once in my life so my opinion is one to take lightly. I could be totally wrong about some of the things I mentioned. If you’ve been there, you already know, but if you haven’t you should probably go book your plane ticket ASAP! 

Book Review: Szen Zone

The Szen Zone: Reaching a State of Positive Change by Gary Szenderski was honestly unlike any other book I’ve read before, minus the Chicken Soup for the Soul books because it was similar to that! Szen Zone is basically just a bunch of short stories each put together for one purpose – to make you think and feel inspired. At first, I started reading the book from front to back then quickly realized you didn’t need to do that! Just search for a topic you want to feel inspiration or motivation in (i.e. productivity, work life, improving life, and more) and then read one of the dozen or so stories. Each story is short, only a couple or few paragraphs, so it’s a handy little book to keep on hand anywhere you might need a quick positive boost!

The best part is after each short story there’s a “Szenippet” (ha, get it?) for a recap of what you should reflect on after reading that specific story. I love this book, I can tell I’ll be keeping it around for probably ever because there are so many stories you could keep re-reading them over and over again! This should be a bookshelf staple… So many great mini nuggets of inspo! Here are a few of my faves:

“Willpower is desire in motion.”

“Selective memory is our best weapon in fighting failure.”

“The wink of a single thought holds the power to illuminate our path. One single, elegant, clear-minded thought is all we need to change our world.”

Looking for more inspiring reads? Here are a few others I LOVE:

The Secret

The 5 Love Languages

The Alchemist

What’s your go-to inspo read?

Doin’ Vegas with My Mom

If anyone knows Sheryl, you know what a real treat it was to experience her in her natural element in Viva Las Vegas. For a quick backstory, my mom’s perfect night is going to play keno and maybe even end up at the casino *GASP*. Scandalous that one. The best part is, she doesn’t drink and spends at tops $40 a night. She might correct me on this but seriously she plays on $20 for hours at a slot machine. She also thrives on the free pop you receive. Oh, that wild woman.

Anyway, I knew going to Vegas with my mom would be entertaining. She lets me do my own thang (drink *cough*) and she just goes off on her own little adventures. Sheryl ended up at the pool almost every morning before us youngins were even awake. She walked miles up and down the strip searching for her next “lucky slot” and enjoyed grabbing an ice cold Coke from the nearest McDonald’s. Things would be so much simpler if we just did Vegas like Sheryl, I swear. While we felt like near death on the plane ride home she was excited and full of energy.

Her most entertaining evening was at Ellis Island; it was a match made in gamble heaven. Not only did she find her “lucky slot”, she also discovered a CHEAP and delicious steak for dinner. She was on FIRE. I don’t know if it was the exhaustion or what but we about peed our pants laughing at her. To give you some context here, we were finally seated at a table to eat but Sheryl was nowhere to be found so we just waited for about 10 minutes. Finally, I went on the hunt for her and found her right outside of the restaurant on that lucky slot. She wasn’t done playing yet and brushed me away and said order whenever, she’ll be there soon. Ohhh kay, Sheryl, jeez. 

Finally, she arrived with guns blazing. I swear, if you didn’t know her, you would have thought she was drunk! But nope, just high on Ellis Island and winning. She couldn’t stop talking about her new Ellis Island rewards card and that slot machine. Then came the steak and omg, you would have thought it was her 21st Birthday. The woman was loving life.

Here she is on her “glory night” at Ellis Island. Look at her texting all of her friends!

Oh, she also got back to her hotel room at the same time or later than us every night! She was unstoppable!

If Sheryl was to write this post and give you her recommendations on the best places to go, I think this is what she would say…

Ellis Island, DUH

This is actually a total crowd pleaser. We go here every trip. It’s cheap, fun, great food, and… THEY HAVE KARAOKE!!! If you go, tell them that Sheryl sent you. I’m sure they know who she is – she’s one of the top fans for sure.

Bellagio 

One of the best places to bet on horses! One thing Sheryl taught me at a tender age was how to box those exactas and win those trifectas!

O’Shea’s 

This is where Sheryl played roulette for the first time and WON! They also have beer pong. It’s located right in the Linq area.

You can also grab a refreshing, cold frozen Bailey’s. Even Sheryl had one!

WINNING! With a side of soda.

MGM Grand

This was a place Sheryl wanted to take us through (I had never been in) so we HAD TO GO. Then, when we got there the hidden surprise of a real lion was gone. Sheryl was pretty disappointed in that. Here she is asking security where the heck that lion went : joy:

Harrah’s

This is where Sheryl stayed (and so did we one night). They have a pretty nice Keno setup and the rooms are pretty nice!!

It’s tradition to put $20 into the $1 slot machine when you get to the casino.

Margaritaville 

We love this place! Sheryl did too! Had one of her two alcoholic beverages of the trip there!

 

Fremont Street / Golden Nugget

I better throw this up on Sheryl’s list because she has stayed here before and really loved it!

I’m sure I’m missing plenty of other gems but maybe if we get lucky enough one day, Sheryl will highlight her Vegas favorites on this blog! Also, feel free to check out my Twitter account for the best of Sheryl in Vegas!

Until next time, Vegas! 

The Ultimate London Tour Guide

I feel like I’m taking on a lot to even begin writing this post. Once I got back home from our England and Ireland trip I quickly realized that London is probably my favorite city in the whole world. This is no shocker considering I’ve been obsessed with it since I could remember. I used to have aspirations of attending Oxford (get out of your laughs out now…) and I proudly hung the U.K. flag in my bedroom. I also watched What a Girl Wants religiously one summer and decided I would live that London life one day.

So it’s not a shocker that I feel like I’m unqualified to even write this post because I barely skimmed the surface of everything you can do in London. I’m already getting ready to book that plane ticket back there so I can go to all the places I didn’t have time for! I’m going to share with you what we did do along with other things we were told about but didn’t have the time to try! I’m also including all of the tips I learned along the way!

The London Tower

This is No. 1 for a reason. It was my favorite stop on our Day Tour of London and now I’m completely obsessed with the Tudor family. I just finished the book Three Sisters, Three Queens and if you’re into scandals (who isn’t?), I highly suggest reading up on this royal family. Everyone is familiar with King Henry VIII…well this is the place where he beheaded a couple of his wives. It’s a pretty spooky place. If it wasn’t a sunny day and full of tourists I’m not sure how long I would’ve lasted on the London Tower grounds.

Tip: Speaking of tourists, the place gets very, very busy. We even went during the off-season of tourism but it was on the weekend of Easter, which we quickly discovered they celebrate hardcore across the pond. Pretty much everyone has a long weekend and spends it with family. I would suggest getting there early (we went right after lunch) and getting in line for the Crown Jewels first. It seems like that is the place that fills up the quickest. We didn’t even get to see them because our tour guide said it would be at least a 45-minute wait, so we just explored all the other places.

But everything that we did see was amazing – the torture chamber, The White Tower, Ravens, it was all extremely interesting. It was hard to believe that the history you have been told happened on the same ground you were standing on.

 

London Eye

The London Eye is sort of one of those things you have to do as a tourist. Now, I will say it’s not easy on your wallet and the entire experience only lasts about 30 minutes, but it’s pretty cool! If you’re trying to budget, I think you could skip it. If you’re going all out, then definitely add this to your list of things to do!

Tip: Book your ticket in advance online and take caution that the place gets extremely busy and it’s a very congested area when it does. It was one of those times that I actually didn’t like all the people. There were SO MANY people it was bit annoying. We ended up going on one of the last rides around 7:30 pm and it cleared out so much that I highly recommend going later if you’re not into crowds of people. See pic below.

 

Buckingham Palace

One of Her Majesty’s homely abode… Buckingham Palace was so cool to see (even though I did feel like it was a bit smaller than I had anticipated, I for real thought it was Kensington Palace when we rolled up to it). We were supposed to go on the day that they did the Changing of the Guards (this is scheduled and doesn’t happen every day, so plan accordingly), but it ended up getting moved to the next day due to security. You know what, though? I think I liked it better the way that I saw Buckingham Palace because we went early in the morning around 8 am and there was barely anyone there! We could get all of the pics we wanted right up to the gate – which does not happen once the day gets going, that place gets really busy. Now, imagine it with the Changing of the Guards ceremony. Talk about a storm of people!

Tip: My tip here is like above, just get there early if you really want to spectate and maybe plan a different day to come back and watch the Changing of the Guards. I hear they play Katy Perry songs during it (seriously).

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral 

Did you know that this is where Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married at?! You can literally walk down the “aisle” like she did! St. Paul’s Cathedral is breathtaking, it’s huge and full of so much art and history. We went on a guided tour that we purchased through Viator, but you can also go by yourself and rent a listening guide and walk through St. Paul’s on your own.

Tip: My only tip for this is if you are interested in going during an actual service, you can! Just check their schedule and join a Sunday service or a special chorus performance, I think they have those often.

 

Trafalgar Square

I loved Trafalgar Square, there is always so much stuff going on. We were there on Easter weekend and they were doing a free play for everyone. It’s a cool place to walk around and just hang out and admire all of the statues and architecture. If this tells you anything how cool it is; I had no idea we were in Trafalgar Square and I took like 150 pictures then realized where I was. There was so much to look at!

Tip: Grab some food and take it Trafalgar Square for a picnic!

 

Boat Ride on River Thames 

This is an easy way to see a lot of London in a fun way! Pro tips: You can use your Oyster card ( the same card you use for the train system) on some of the boats and I *think* all boats have food and drinks aboard. One we went on even had an option to have afternoon tea!

Tip: Try to go with a tour guide if you can (Viator has options) because then they will be able to point places out to you and tell you more history.

 

Westminster Abbey

This place completely took my breath away. I seriously felt like I had a spiritual awakening when viewing this masterpiece. It’s the grave to many extremely prominent humans who have graced this earth and it’s also a place where someone like Princess Diana has had her funeral held. I was standing in front of the door that they carried her coffin in and I remember watching that on TV when I was little. We were only able to view the outside, but it’s at the top of my list for the next London visit.

Tip: Go early! This is a busy tourist spot. The doors open at a different time each day, you can find the times here. The day we went, we were there around 8:45 – 9 am and there was hardly anyone around. Right around 9:15 I looked back at where we were and there was a huge line! It fills up quick, so I highly suggest going right when they open. It’s a place not to miss.

 

The Tower Bridge

View from The Tower of London

This is a place we didn’t get to visit (only saw it from afar) but I hear it’s really cool! You can walk at the top and walk over glass to see below!

Tip: Schedule your visit and book online ahead of time, this was partly why we weren’t able to visit because we couldn’t get in!

 

Visit London’s Oldest Wine Bar: Gordon’s

This was a place recommended to us by a friend and I’m so glad we were told about this gem! Grabbing a bottle of wine, or half (you can buy half a bottle!) then sitting outside on the large patio or if you’re lucky, find a spot in the inside, it’s an old cave-looking place. You’ll feel like you’re going back in time there. It’s fairly priced too, a glass is around 5 pounds and snacks are reasonable as well.

Tip: It gets pretty busy around 6 pm during the weekdays because of everyone getting off work and grabbing a drink. We went around this time and it was so busy that we had to make a makeshift table out of a lawn chair…  

 

British Museum & National Gallery Art Museum 

Sadly, this is one place that we tried to go to but the line was about 2 miles long (okay, that might be exaggerating just a tad) but it was so busy. The next time we’re in London, I’m waking up bright and early and getting my butt in line. This museum holds some of the most fascinating and rare things in the world – including the Rosetta Stone. This place is huge too, you probably won’t be able to see everything so map out your plan ahead of time.

Tip: All museums in London are free – YAY! They do, however, have tours and special events that you can pay to see and are usually still cheap!

Even though we were bummed about not being able to go to the British Museum, we just headed to the next museum we could find. That’s the beauty of them having free admission! You can go to all of them without spending a dime! We ended up walking through the National Gallery art museum, which did NOT disappoint! We saw art by Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Leonardo, Monet, among many others.

 

London Olympic Stadium Tour

For all you Olympic fanatics, this one is for you! You can still visit the grounds of the 2012 Summer Olympics! The stadium is now home to West Ham United soccer team and the tour is a little focused on them but they do a great job of focusing on the Olympics too. The tour was so great, it’s a self-guided tour with a mobile device and headphones to listen to different parts of the stadium to highlight Olympic moments and to explain what it’s used for now.

Tip: For any swimmer fans, you can visit the pool but it’s not part of the stadium tour. The pool is just a short walk from the stadium and it’s now a rec center and gym so you’ll have to pay just 1 pound to get in and see it. They also have little peddling boats outside too! There’s randomly a lot to do around there and there’s a huge outdoor shopping center close by too.

 

Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

First, I just want to say one thing: If you are not a fan of Harry Potter, it doesn’t matter. This is still worth a visit. This tour was everything I thought it would be and MORE! I’ve visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando so I expected it to be similar but a bit on steroids. Well, it is! But even more intense than that! The tour will give you props galore (including major props like the house on Privet Drive, parts of the castle, and more). You will quickly see how much intricate detail the design team put into everything. Even books that will go unnoticed on stage have every detail imaginable. Another cool part: This is the same studio where the movies were actually filmed at too!

You could spend so many hours at this place. Just when you think you’re done with the tour you walk into a brand new section of the place. It’s amazing!

Tip: The Studio Tour is actually in Watford, so it’s about a 30-min train ride outside of London. You can book your train ticket in advance and once you get there, they have a Harry Potter double-decker bus to pick you up for a few pounds and it will bring you back.

 

Oxford Street

This place feels like the Europen Times Square! There’s a ton of shops and places to eat here. We spent an evening walking around here and then ate at Masala Zone, a popular Indian restaurant in London.

 

Isn’t London just a beaut?! 

I can’t wait to return.

Moving Away Gift Ideas

Who doesn’t love a thoughtful gift?! I like giving gifts on those random occasions when someone hits a milestone or begins a new life change. With graduations happening left and right and people getting hitched all ’round, there’s a lot of people moving away from home. Here are some of my fave gift ideas!

 

1. A Cute Notebook

Moving to a new city is a new chapter in someone’s life so why not give them a beautiful place to write about it at?

Shop Above: Kate Spade Notebook | $14

2. Wall Print

This is my favorite gift idea because I love, love, love, a good wall print, and major bonuses if it’s a map. Even better when it’s a map of where I’m from or have lived!

Shop Above: Kohl’s | $114

BONUS! Check out my favorite wall print from Modern Map Art that’s proudly hung in our apartment! (I set this up on our window sill for a better view FYI 😉

Pricing starts at only $29.99 –  Shop them here!

3. A Good Book

A travel coffee book is always a great idea for someone! It doubles as home decor and something to read on a lazy day.

Shop Above: Urban Outfitter’s | $35

4. Letters to Open When… 

Now, this is a creative one! This gift idea would be so cool to have to remember memories with!

Shop Above: Urban Outfitter’s | $15

5. Fun Photo Album

We own this photo album! It’s one of my favorites, it’s a perfect size and super cute!

Shop Above: Kate Spade | $20

6. Beauty Supplies

A lot of moving requires even more R&R. Put together a relaxing basket with goods like this face mask…

Shop Above: Sephora Collection | $4

7. Friendship Bracelet

Because we’re always in 4th grade and need a good friendship bracelet, right?! I’ve been wearing one for 3+ years now! Unfortunately, mine isn’t as fancy as Dogeared but it still works 😉

Shop Above: Nordstrom | $22-24

8. Map of Hearts

I’m obsessed with these! Etsy makes a lot of them too. I think they are the perfect gift for newlyweds who are from different places or moving to a new city.

Shop Above: Uncommon Goods | $130

*This post contains affiliate links

Am I missing any other good gift ideas? What would you want if you were moving away?

9 Years Later… What I Would Tell Myself Graduating High School

I’m not so sure it’s a secret that loved my high school experience (BTW, I won the “Most Likely to Show Up to the 50 Year Reunion” award), so when I attended my nephew’s high school graduation I couldn’t help but get emotional. Not just emotional because my cheesy Aunt side was showing, but because this is such an amazing time in these graduates’ lives and they have so much ahead of them! Next year is my 10-year reunion (SAY WHAT) and man, how much things have changed! it’s weird to realize how fast life moves. 2017 doesn’t sound bad until I realize 2007 was 10 years ago. That’s a little unsettling, not gonna lie. But of course, what comes with age is… wiseness. HA! JK but I can tell you that I’ve learned a thing or two since graduating high school in 2008. Here’s what I would tell myself back then if I could…

tips-for-high-school-grads

“A lot of things that matter to you right now will not matter later.”

This is the most important piece to the growing up puzzle and everyone who has been out of school for awhile knows it. That boy that you think is everything right now is not. You’re going to meet so many people in your lifetime and you’re only at the beginning, especially if you’re heading off to college. You’re about to experience four more years that you think will be similar to high school but it’s actually the high school experience completely on steroids. Oh, and you have to learn how to live on your own, even when that means all you can afford to eat sometimes is bread and soda. True story, one of my college roommates can attest to this.

To think about how much I grew in just college alone is amazing. Then you tack on a few more years and it’s crazy to think about how much you cared about something before and now you’ve forgotten all about it. Like those times you lay awake at night thinking your life is over because you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up. Life will guide you where you need to be and you will be okay no matter what happens, I can promise you that.

“Don’t let money stop you but be wise about finances.”

Here I am… 9 years later… with a lot of student loan debt. Do I regret taking out these loans so I could attend college? Absolutely not. But I do wish I would’ve worked more in college and saved money to help pay for my loans.

To all of the kids graduating high school: If you want to attend a four-year university, then do it…but I would also advise you to help your parents wherever you can and start saving for things that you can pay for now like books, rent, school supplies, etc. For me, I wanted the complete college experience, but for some, money comes first. Maybe you choose a more affordable path, then work your way up to paying for it instead of accruing the debt. Post-high school grad life is different for everyone. I wish I would’ve tried harder to help my parents pay for things. If I would’ve, I might be on a 5-year plan or under instead of a 10+ year plan. Think of it this way, the quicker you get rid of those loans, the faster you can travel the world or buy your dream house.

Side note: Don’t let money hold you back from doing things, though. For example, I technically couldn’t afford spring break trips in college but I still went and I wouldn’t trade that for anything!

Last side note: I regret one thing from college and that’s not studying abroad. I tried to my final year but couldn’t pull the money together and my grades weren’t good enough for scholarships. I’ll always think about what could have been. Please don’t be like me if you want to travel the world!

“Parties are fun but decent grades are cool too.”

I know this will be different for everyone, but I had quite a bit of fun in college if ya know what I mean ;). I do, however, I wish that I would’ve balanced my social life out with my academics a little better. I had grades that suffered, not as a direct result of going out, but I didn’t prioritize studies as high as social events most of the time. I did graduate and that’s all that matters, though I did stumble along the way a few times with some rocky classes.

I also didn’t understand how different college studies would be from high school. Before entering college, I honestly never really studied for a test, minus once or twice, so I didn’t have a previous strong skillset to work off. It especially doesn’t help that I’m not the most studious human ever, either. I wish I would’ve tried harder right away to learn how to be a better student. Now, I’m almost 27 and I can finally say that I truly enjoy reading and learning. Definitely took a little longer than others to gain that grounding and that’s okay – it’s who I am, but if you’re going into college now, try harder and know that school is V. important, not to mention you could lose a lot of money if you fail a class. One time I figured out how much each class cost me and that was terrifying.

“Adopt healthy habits NOW”

One of the life-changing things that happened to me when I went off to college was learning how to be healthy. I had only been a pescatarian for a year when I started college and was still learning how to eat nutritionally because apparently eating pasta and Little Debbies didn’t suffice. If you’re attending a university and living on campus, adopting a healthy lifestyle couldn’t be easier at that time. You have food prepared for you every day (you just have to make the healthy choices of what you eat) and you have a free gym or rec available to you at all times. Also, take advantage of the intramurals if you’re interested! They are a ton of fun and an easy way to keep yourself movin’!

I still think the healthiest I’ve ever been was my freshman year of college. People try and tell you about the “freshman 15” but you can easily banish that myth!

“Take advantage of summers!”

If you’re going to school to become a teacher, this probably won’t apply to you, but if you’re like me, you can kiss summer vacation goodbye after college! Summer is already a great time to be alive, but if you’re graduating high school right now, take advantage of the fact that this might be the last time EVER that you have nothing to worry about school-wise. You might have more summers like this in college if you don’t take summer classes, but seriously, have fun and do all the things you never had time for in the summer. You won’t regret it.

I did take a summer class almost every year and that was a great decision for me and I highly suggest it for other college students! Summer classes are much more laid back and you only have to worry about one or two classes at a time – which is awesome.

graduation-college

Now go out there and explore the WORLD!!!

DSC_0648

Well, That Was Fun!

It’s been… 23 days since we’ve landed back in the states (did anyone else think I was going here or just me?)

I don’t even have my all of our pictures organized and I have strong ambitions to create one of those Shutterfly photo book things and a video from our adventures. But it’s been almost a month and I don’t even have all of my pictures loaded on Dropbox! Who knew this stuff would be so much work? Kinda reminds me of post-wedding. So many ideas, so much time, but so little motivation (because shows like The Handmaid’s Tale comes out and I can never say no to a happy hour…)

I’m feelin’ pretty ambitious today, though and I really want to share our trip to Europe. I’m going for tons of posts on here because I want to share everything (seriously, I took pictures of every meal I ate and made Brandon real embarrassed almost every time).

So to keep it somewhat short, here’s where we went and what we did in a nutshell and then I’ll go way more in-depth soon to come!

First stop: Minneapolis

No, really. Our layover was here and we boarded the plane to complete decadence. This was my first international flight and man do they treat you good! I was a kid in a candy store – you get food brought to you so many times (YUS), TONS of movie options (including brand new ones and Titanic, ahem), a warm washcloth to wash your face, and complimentary eye masks, earplugs, and headphones. WHAT. A. LUXURY. And we were in the cheapest seats avail. Can you tell it doesn’t take much to impress this princess? (Kidding)

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London!

Well, I’ve only waited my entire life to visit!!!!! I’m still shocked that I didn’t cry when we landed because I was so happy. London was incredible and I also need to be on the next flight out of the states to London ASAP. I can’t wait to return someday. The city is amazing and there’s so much to do, it’s the one place I really feel like I didn’t get to do everything – there’s just so much to see!

I will go way more in depth at a later time but I will tell you that The Tower of London was probably my favorite place to visit. I’m addicted to learning about the Royal Tudor family now. I’m reading a book that I’ll probably share later. Talk about scandal! I mean, King Henry VIII, amiright? Wowzas.

Also, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. They took my breath away!

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Southampton, England

You will quickly find out this turned into a personal Titanic experience… We went here because it’s a such a prominent place for the Titanic. It’s where Rose boards… Okay, so I know she’s not real but it really was where elites like Mr. Andrews boarded and the White Star Line headquarters was here as well. This was a huge docking spot for Titanic and a ton of the workers were from Southampton. We got to stay in the White Star Hotel, a restaurant/hotel that was once where some of the Titanic passengers stayed the night before their fateful journey began. Down the street from our hotel was the hotel where many of the first class passengers stayed (like Mr. Andrews), and across the street is an infamous bar called The Grapes where a couple passengers missed their boarding time from drinking and wasn’t able to board at all (lucky for them).

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Back to London… AKA Harry Potter Tour!!

Oh yes, this happened. And it was magical!!!! The whole entire thing was a pinch-me experience.

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What’s a trip to Europe without a soccer game?! I’m proudly a newfound Hotspur fan now.

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Ireland!!!

We flew into Cork, rented a car (that was fun), and drove in Cork, to Cobh, then Kinsale where we stayed a couple nights and let me tell you, that is one postcard-perfect-looking town!

Important to note: Cobh was the final boarding stop for Titanic (see the boarding dock below).

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Ireland: Blarney Castle, Fanore, Cliffs of Moher, and places in between

The Blarney Castle was one of my favorite places to visit on the entire trip! I kissed the stone!!! We stayed in Fanore which is where I’m going to retire. We also ate at the famous Durty Nelly’s along the way!

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Inis Oirr AKA Islands off the west coast of Ireland

Oh do I have a story for YOU! This island was great, about 200-some people reside here so when we got dropped off we found a pub! I had a few Guinnesses and… it didn’t end the best for me. Aparently there’s a lot of iron in a pint of Guinness and I’m pescatarian so iron isn’t really something I’m high in, so I’m blaming that! ; )

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There is SO much more from where this came from but I just overdid it on blogging for one day and I’m now pooped.

Ni night!! 🙂

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What Happens in Vegas… When You Get Sick?

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Last week I was in Vegas from Sunday to Wednesday for work. It was a great time, not to mention had a major career moment when I spoke on my very first panel during the conference!! Here’s where it goes from THIS IS AWESOME to WUT. I got sick. I NEVER get sick. Seriously, I really don’t. I can’t tell you the last time I was sick (besides last week). Well anywho, I start feeling a little sluggish on Sunday, but I also got about 4 hours of sleep thanks to a few libations on Saturday night so I figured that was the cause.

Monday morning I wake up with a sore throat but figured it was from all of the smoke in the casinos. After being up for a couple hours I started to get the chills and my head/nose started to hurt. CRAP. It was happening.

I got some DayQuil and slowly began to feel alive again until about 4 hours later when it wore off and I had to slug back a couple more DayQuils as I talked to hundreds of people. It was brutal.

So I went to bed early (in Vegas, who does that?) and hoped I would wake up better. I tossed and turned throughout the night and woke up sweaty then freezing. Basically, the apocalypse was happening inside of me. It was so bad and to make matters worse I knew people were having the time of their lives outside my hotel window. The next morning my fever broke and I was just a sore throat, stuffy nose gal. Much better than the previous day. But through this entire fiasco I learned how to be sick in Vegas and now I’m going to share it with you in case you find yourself in this position some day (I hope you don’t). This is also being created for that one lucky person who someday Googles “what to do when you’re sick in Vegas”. 😉

Look, Vegas is a hard city to be sick in people! It’s full of dry air, smoke, lots of walking, heat, and good food and lots of water is more work to come by then it needs to be. Here are my tips:

1. Get DayQuil. 

I can’t stress this one enough. DayQuil is my go-to. It’s the medicine you need to take if you still have to try and function while being sick. You can go for NyQuil too but I usually just stick to DayQuil unless I know I can get a lot of sleep in. You can get it anywhere in the convenience stores within the casinos or at Walgreens or CVS.

Zicam is another winner, this stuff is AWESOME! If you’re havin’ nose problems I feel bad for you son, I got Zicam and… yeah, I got nothing. I thought I had a better line for this. 

2. Drink Liquids: The not-fun kind.

Keep drinking water and warm water with honey if possible! I made a horrible mistake of drinking a hardcore cold brew on Monday morning and I swear it escalated my cold times a hundred. Drink tea only if it’s non-caffeinated. It’s so tempting to get drinks there even if it’s not alcoholic because everyone has a drink in their hand. Also, realized how hard free water can be to come by in Vegas. Get a large water bottle somewhere and then just find places to fill it up. This might be a hard task because water fountains are practically non-existant but I found them in the meeting areas of hotels. So look around and go deep into the hallways of the hotels way past the casino part and you might get lucky. Or just keep buying water but you’re already sick so you might as well try to save money.

If you can get your hands on a humidifier go for that too! You need all the hydration you can get in that city!

3. Rest. 

Look, I know it’s Vegas but if you need to lay down for a couple hours DO IT. I was lucky that I had my own hotel room so I could just go to sleep early but if you’re with a ton of people this might get rough. Try to push through and sleep as much as you can. I also understand if you just want to YOLO and deal with it when you get home…

and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Feel free to get a shake if ice cream helps your throat too 😉 My go-to was Johnny Rockets! I also ate a massive pizza and delicious pasta. And In-and-Out. Not sure if that helped or not…

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A Honeymoon in Aruba: Where to Stay and What to Do

I’m only about two years late on this post but it’s finally here! A recap of our honeymoon to Aruba! First, let me tell you why you should choose Aruba! Aruba is “The Happy Island” and it really does live up to its slogan, everyone is super nice and it’s one of the few Carribean islands where you don’t have to stay on a resort. It’s extremely safe so you can go all over the island and explore.

Where to Stay

While there are resorts on Aruba, staying on a resort isn’t required in Aruba since it’s so safe. We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris Hotel and Casino. They have normal rooms but the top floor is reserved as the “Tradewinds Club” that costs extra but gets you amazing views and lots of food and drinks! I felt like it was pretty close to a resort vibe with the upgrade to the Tradewinds Club. We ended up staying there and it was awesome. They had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch and dinner were a sample of food from the restaurants at the hotel and this is what we ate every day (minus one night) and it totally fills you up! They also have free cocktails every evening with a fully stocked bar where you can just make your own drinks (this part was the best!!!). They had good booze too, think Grey Goose, Jack Daniels, etc. They also had a stocked fridge with pop and the local beer that you could get throughout the entire day. So if you wanted to drink for free all day, your options would just be the beer and then wait for the hard liquor in the evening.

All the “Chill” beer you want! 

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The Marriot Stellaris also had an awesome pool, great restaurants, and a casino! We only went to the casino for a bit but it was cool to walk from the beach and into a casino and feel like you’re in Vegas!

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If you want another option, there are tons of hotels along the beach all side-by-side and they all seemed pretty similar. Next door to the Marriot was The Ritz-Carlton and holy crap that place was really nice. We walked around the hotel and it was beautiful. Very upscale. If that’s the style you are looking for, I would recommend The Ritz.

We almost stayed at The Renaissance Resort but the only downside is that it’s not on the beach, however, they do have a private island that you can go on and there are even flamingos on it! Chances are you have seen a video of this on your Facebook timeline, it’s that magical looking paradise with flamingos walking around!

What to Do

Safe to say there are lots to do on the 19.6-mile long island of Aruba. Here’s what we did below!

Snorkeling Tour

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The waters are crystal blue and amazing! Neither of us had snorkeled before which a pro tip on this one; if you have never snorkeled before, try practicing before you go! I ended up swallowing so much salt water that my stomach did not feel so hot.

We went on the Mi Dushi snorkel tour (they also offer other boat rides, but we did the “Taste of Aruba”) and it was a great experience! We went to 3 different locations, the first one was an easy one for beginners and the other one was easy too then we did one hard snorkel dive in the deep waters where there was a shipwreck! If you’re an experienced snorkeler, you could’ve dove down and saw it since it’s not too far from the surface. On our tour we got lunch and I think it was my favorite meal there. My mouth is watering thinking about it. It was fish, rice, and I think veggies with a dessert. They also had alcoholic beverages for all you could drink, but not going to lie, I barely had any it didn’t seem like the others were really drinking either. You’re in the water most of the time.

The Mi Dushi tour was also a great deal for 4 hours of snorkeling and lunch! They also stop and let you jump off the boat and have some fun.

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There I go!

Road Trip!

Again, one of the great things about Aruba is how safe it is! You can rent a car and go off and explore the island on your own! As fun as it was, we got super lost and it made my pretty car sick thanks to all of the small, winding turns up hills and the road signs are not the same as in the states… But it was still great! Might be the highlight of the trip actually because it was just us two navigating our way around this island. The island is barely 20 miles long so you can go to both ends and stop numerous times in one day. We found ourselves in a lot of places… like a random baseball game, the cliffs by the ocean, even PIZZA HUT! Side note: They have Pizza Hut and Taco Bell so we ate at both to taste test it. Spoiler alert: It tastes exactly as it does in America. Lol

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Also, are you ready for one of the best parts of this mini road trip? The car. And it’s even better if you know Brandon and I (we’re both small people, and this car was perfect for us).

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Just look at that beaut!

We did drive to my favorite place in all of Aruba, rock wish gardens next to the coolest cliff I’ve ever seen.

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Now here’s something you HAVE to do if you visit Aruba. Leave your “wish rocks” on the beach. There were piles of rocks all over the place, and they are left from others who have visited. You are supposed to pick flat rocks (as many as you want), and then start your “tower of devotion” they can contain a wish each.

Here’s mine!

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We also stopped at a couple of other beaches and even went snorkeling again (by this point we were practically pros)!

Archaelogoical Museum of Aruba

For all my history buffs out there! It’s a small museum and free of charge. It’s close to downtown so I would suggest getting dropped off there by a taxi then walking around to the shops. You shouldn’t have to plan a ton of time at this museum since it is smaller, but it’s fun to see everything and learn more about the history of this island. It’s definitely a place they don’t teach you about in school!

The outside of it is beautiful too. Just look at the colors of these buildings!

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Go Shopping!

They have a mall and the downtown area (aka Oranjestad) that is perfect for shopping and getting street food! I even got a coconut drink that a guy cut with a machete and even let me have a whack at it! The shops are great and something for everyone. They have typical souvenir stores, beach stores (think: like Pacsun), grocery stores, and basically everything. It’s a cruise ship stop so you’ll probably see a lot of people purchasing things they need. I actually bought a straightener at one of the electronic stores because I forgot mine at home #FirstWorldProblems.

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The Kukookunuko Party Bus

Saving the best for last on this one. YOU GUYS THIS IS SO MUCH FUN! The Kukoo Kanuku is a party bus that takes you around to bars of Aruba and they have a tour that includes a dinner as well. We did the dinner one and it was awesome, it’s a great opportunity to make friends on your trip. We made a few friends that we saw throughout the trip (a couple even gave us their snorkel gear because they didn’t want to take it on the plane – and now we own snorkeling gear! BOOM)

But for real, please go on this if you like to have a good time. They start off by picking up everyone at their hotels. Then, we went to the beach for a kick-off champagne toast and then to our first bar.

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Next up, we ate dinner at some random place (if you do this option, don’t be afraid when they take some backroads to a dark place…) The food was awesome and it gave you the chance to meet everyone on the bus. Keep in mind, if you aren’t interested in meeting new people and you’re just hanging with your sig. other, that’s okay! You won’t feel pressured to talk to other people. But once the drinks get flowing you might think otherwise…

They have a special deal where you can purchase a small water bottle from them for like $10 and then when you go to the bars, you can get really cheap drinks in your water bottle (think $3 and under) – this also brings up an important point: They will accept American money and debit cards at some places.

Highly suggest purchasing the water bottle, though, it’s a great deal!

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I would love to flood this post with pics from this night, it was EPIC. Please promise me you will consider this if you visit Aruba!

Save this post for later by pinning it!

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Are We Really Empowering Women?

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I feel like I’m beginning a Carrie Bradshaw-inspired article by making the title up there a question. I had an experience the other day that made me think about feminism and empowering women. A millennial women’s blog reached out to my work interested in featuring our product and sharing tips on trip planning – keep in mind, coming from a female because it’s a women’s blog. I thought it was pretty cool! Then realized they were fishing for a woman CEO and I’m the only girl at my work so I never heard back.

It made me disappointed that a place whose purpose to empower women had zero interest in sharing a woman’s perspective that lacked a big title next to their name. I totally understand that getting a CEO for an article is way better than just a random person, but is it really when it’s a female talking to other females?

But it made me realize that we all do this even if we really want to raise women up. Think about it, if you had the opportunity to take a CEO out for coffee or the behind-the-scenes hard worker, you would take the CEO because it’s a “CEO”. However, many strong-willed women aren’t the one who’s the face of a company, many are secret power workers. Stay at home moms for example… that job is a tough one. But where’s the excitement towards them?

I mean, I do it too. I automatically turn my head at what looks like an “average person” but if that’s how we work this world, we have a problem on our hands. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Am I making a big deal out of nothing or am I on to something?