Today: The Natural World

Standard

This photo is from my favorite travel experience so far. Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to Marrakech and take a three day camel trek. This particular picture was taken in the morning after we spent the night in tents in the desert. On our way out, we stopped to watch the sunrise, and during my photo session with my camel this shot was taken. Camels are very interesting animals, and it still amazes me that people really use them in their everyday lives.

Camel in the Sahara Desert

Camel in the Sahara Desert

Today: Mystery

Standard

At first this was a tough one for me but after I thought about it for a  little while I came up with something that I’ve always wondered about. It is very popular in Europe to put a lock on a bridge to symbolize love. What I always wonder is where did the couple come from? Where are they now? Why were they here? Are they still together? Were they celebrating something special here? And so on. To me, the beauty lies in the mystery of their stories that I will never know.

???

???

Today: Connect

Standard

I’m slightly behind on posting but I am trying to catch up. Today I’m talking about connect. The image I chose was of the Charles Bridge in Prague. This bridge is particularly interesting as it’s not only a way to get across the river, but it’s also where people come to sell goods, take wedding photos, catch up with old friends, make new friends, laugh, cry and watch the world go by.

Charles Bridge in Prague

Charles Bridge in Prague

Today: Water and Solitude

Standard

Since I was unable to accomplish my water shot yesterday, I wanted to catch up with that first before heading into Solitude. Across the street from me is a great park always busy with fun activities. One of the coolest parts of this park in my eyes is the fountains. Tonight I was able to capture a few images as the sun was setting. Water has always been a big part of my life. From when I swam growing up, to our yearly vacations to Florida, and now living here, I have always enjoyed water.

FountainsFountains

The other topic for today is Solitude. To me, solitude is anytime I’m exploring a new place. As a traveler I find solitude in the unknown. The pictures I chose are from my recent trip to Austria. The countryside is unbelievably beautiful and serene, so much so, that it looks fake even in person.

Austrian Countryside Hallstatt

I’m a woman and I’m going to Europe. Now what the heck should I pack for two weeks?! Part 2 of 2

Standard

When I first had the idea for this series of posts I fully intended to complete the series before I left on my recent trip. However, things got busy and that never happened. But truth be told, I think that’s best because this post prior to my trip wouldn’t have been nearly as helpful.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you what I packed and then I’m going to tell you what I wished I had packed.

My suitcase for two weeks

My suitcase for two weeks

Originally I thought it was going to be cold while I was traveling this year.

So here is what I brought:

3 scarves
10 Pairs of socks and underwear
2 Shelf-bra tank tops (ladies I’m talking the amazing ones from Express)
4 T-shirts
3 3/4 length shirts
2 Long sleeve shirts
2 Heavier outer-layer zip-up hoodies
2 Pairs of jeans
1 Raincoat

This was also knowing I would do laundry halfway through my trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really cold at all. This was both nice and also somewhat annoying. Probably only annoying because I live in Florida and I was REALLY looking forward to colder weather. But it truly did change the way we functioned day-to-day. Instead of being able to walk around all day and not stop at our home base, we felt like we needed to go back in the afternoon and freshen up because we walked around sweating all day.

Since it was so warm (I SWEAR I checked and re-checked the weather) I wish I would have brought the following:

1 scarf
8 Pairs socks and underwear
3 Shelf-bra tank tops (ladies I’m talking the amazing ones from Express)
6 T-shirts
1 3/4 length shirt
1 Long sleeve shirt
2 Heavier outer-layer zip-up hoodies
2 Pairs of jeans
1 Raincoat

The heavier outer-layer hoodies worked out well, but I was very unequipped in the shirt department. I also felt like I brought far too many socks and underwear. In short, the main changes would have been to take out some scarves, add a tank top and a few t-shirts, take out some 3/4 length shirts, long sleeve shirts, and some socks and underwear. It seems insignificant but it would have made a huge difference.

Hoodie

One of my heavier hoodies-a fleece from The North Face

Ultimately I made it work, but it was frustrating to sweat everyday, especially since that made it harder to re-wear clothes!

I also packed two dirndls for Oktoberfest, four pairs of shoes and a bathing suit. Four pairs of shoes sounds like a lot, and it is. But I had two pairs of walking/tennis shoes, one pair of TOMS for my dirndls and one pair of flip-flops for the baths in Budapest. And the bathing suit was for the baths as well. With a majority of these items being trip specific, they normally wouldn’t have ended up in my suitcase.

On the makeup front I paired down to the minimum. One set of eye shadow (Naked Pallet), one blush, one lipstick, etc. And as far as hair straighteners and curling irons, I brought both a straightener and a curling iron. I don’t think I would bring the curling iron again though since I only used it once.

I made due with a travel size hairspray (it lasted until my second to last day since it was an aerosol), travel size shampoo and conditioner and travel container full of my favorite hair serum instead of the two or three I generally use.

There are three things I brought this time that I hadn’t before, but would absolutely bring again. I got a travel duffle that folds up small and used it on the way home to hold souvenirs. It was great. I also ended up buying some travel dirty clothes bags at Target that were scented and they were perfect for dirty socks. Lastly I brought poo-pourri. With 8 people sharing bathrooms it was a life saver. It’s basically the best product ever and you should own it. Go to the store now and get some. I love it so much that this probably won’t be the last time you hear about it.

BEST Product EVER

BEST Product EVER

As you saw in the beginning, I pack in a backpack for two weeks. To accomplish this I utilize packing cubes. I most likely won’t be using my backpack again for a while just based on upcoming trips and personal preference, but I will always use the packing cubes since they are fantastic.

These are the best! And they come in tons of sizes

These are the best! And they come in tons of sizes

Overall, packing is tough, and there is no exact science but it does get easier the more you travel!

I’m a woman and I’m going to Europe. Now what the heck should I pack for two weeks?! Part 1 of 2

Standard

Packing. This is most likely everyone’s least favorite part of traveling and yet it’s one of the more important things to consider. As a woman traveler it can be extremely overwhelming to think about spending two weeks without unlimited choices everyday, but it is an absolute necessity. Since I started traveling I’ve gone from “that girl,” who had a suitcase you couldn’t lift, with a large carry-on duffel (this was back before strict weight restrictions), to someone who backpacks and has a small carry-on. Through my experiences I’ve learned a thing or two, so I wanted to share a few thoughts that might help you prepare for your next adventure.

One of the first things I do when traveling is check the weather. I’m a bit of a weather freak and look at averages months in advance. Part of the reason I plan so far ahead is because living in Florida we do not have access to colder weather clothes as often, and it is important to find things you need when they are available. It’s also partly because I love weather. Anyway, Europe can be tricky depending on where you are and what month it is. Just because it’s July, doesn’t mean it will be hot and dry. So I recommend checking the weather averages in advance, then start stalking the 10 day forecasts once it gets close enough.

After I’ve checked the weather, I start to gather things in my closet I might need. This is where living in Florida can be an advantage. Since I travel mostly in the fall, a lot of the clothes I travel with I wouldn’t be wearing here until late Fall or Winter, so I am able to put them aside. I also do this well in advance because it gives me a chance to cut items out. I pack knowing that I will do laundry while I’m away, which is helpful. It is not necessary to bring 14 shirts for 14 days. Doing laundry abroad is not a big deal. It’s also a good idea (and somewhat necessary when packing light) to try and coordinate your clothes for layering. So I make sure all my tops mix and match with each other and the scarves I bring, that way I feel like I’ve brought more with me.

This leads me into my next point; make a list. And when I say make a list, I mean a list of everything. From taking out the trash, to setting your out of office, to how many pairs of socks you need. This helps ensure that you have all the loose ends tied up State-side while you are gallivanting around the world. It also helps you to relax knowing you have all of the vital essentials packed and ready to go. I am a firm believer in light packing, but if you don’t have a plan it is impossible. Once you know what the weather is and what activities you will be participating in, sit down and make a list of everything you will need. Trust me this is key!

Knowing what your itinerary is, is also super important. If you know you will be attending specific events (Oktoberfest), hiking, or going into ice caves, you need to be prepared.

Another big things us women struggle with is our hair and makeup. Believe it or not gentleman it takes a bit of work for us to look so beautiful all the time, and it can be really daunting to figure out how to accomplish this while abroad. Fist and foremost, do some research to find out what the voltage and plug type is where you are traveling. Once you know that, if you plan to bring any heat tools be sure the are DUAL voltage. I killed a chi straightener in Ireland because you cannot use them with a converter. Be sure to check and see if you will have access to a hairdryer as well, because they are a pain to travel with! If you are like me and you use products and specific shampoo, try and find them in travel size, or invest in some travel containers because you don’t want to be lugging around full size products.

On the makeup side of things, see what colors you use the most and do some practices to make the whole process as simple as possible. You really do not need all those lipsticks and eyeshadows, I promise!

Overall, my main tips are: know your itinerary, check the weather, pack early (then take items out), pack light, get travel sizes of your favorite products, check your voltage, and remember simple! LESS IS MORE! Good luck ladies, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it! Check back for a follow-up of what I’m actually bringing on my trip!

6 Reasons I look Forward to Traveling

Standard

It’s hard to imagine that in six weeks I’ll be embarking on my next European adventure! With that said, I felt like it was time to share some of my favorite things about traveling. So here are six reasons I look forward to traveling:

1. The Challenge. This might seem odd, but I find that some of the most rewarding experiences often come from the challenge of it all. From booking international flights, to in-country transportation, to lodging, to tours and everything in-between, the challenge of figuring it all out is exhilarating to me. I also think you grow the most when you are challenged and you learn a lot about your own limits which is invaluable.

boarding

2. Time Off. I’m a huge advocate of taking time off of work. As an HR professional I understand the value of detaching from your job and actually taking the time to relax and get away. You always come back refreshed and ultimately your work is better. I especially like traveling abroad with my time off because it also gives me a chance to un-plug. We are so hyper-connected these days that it is refreshing not to turn on a TV, or be attached to your phone 24/7 for a couple of weeks every year.

phone

3. Making Memories. I love the memories made with each new and different experience I have. In my mind, traveling makes the best memories. Both good and sometimes bad. Nothing brings people closer than shared travel memories. I try my hardest to document everything like the paparazzi and take pride in creating movies or photo books of my experiences, but the memory is something I know I’ll have forever and that means the world to me.

NY

Brooklyn Bridge

4. Passport Stamps. Yes, it’s shallow I understand that, but let me try and explain how much joy it brings me to go through customs or passport control…As I approach the somewhat scary passport agent, and they ask me all of the questions on their checklist, I stand in intense anticipation for that moment where they’ve decided to grant me access into their country. When they grab for the stamp and get ready place a new permanent fixture in my passport, my heart races and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Getting a stamp in my passport is like ripping the paper off that gift you’ve wanted all year long. In that moment I feel pure elation and what could be better than that?!?

pass

Passport

5. Exploring new Places. Don’t get me wrong, I have favorite destinations, but I LOVE the thrill and excitement of being somewhere new and unfamiliar. Somehow I feel more alive and awake, almost like I’m seeing everyday things for the first time. Maybe this relates back to being un-plugged, who knows. But whatever the reason, new cities and places inspire me!

beer

Castle Tour Outside Munich

6. Learning. Even if you don’t travel with the intention to learn, ultimately you will pick up a few things here and there. I enjoy learning simple things, but I also like to learn what the heartbeat of a place is and what makes the destination unique. If you don’t travel with an open mind you won’t learn and frankly you shouldn’t travel. But if you do have an open mind I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what you’ll learn on your next trip!

Traveling fuels my soul and I have no doubt that I will continue to do it as long as I am able.

quote

Quote from KLM

My 4th of July Holiday Weekend in South Carolina

Standard

One of the ways I like to travel is by taking advantage of a long weekend to go visit friends or family. By doing this, I don’t have to pay for lodging! Since the 4th of July is near my birthday, I decided to go up to see my parents in South Carolina.

There is also a discount airline that runs from Florida to North or South Carolina (depending which airport I chose to fly into) with great ticket prices and direct flights. The only real downside is that they don’t offer a huge selection in terms of dates or flight times, but it’s completely worth it. Check out Allegiant Air for more information.

I arrived in Greenville on Friday afternoon with a few hours to relax before people came over for the 4th. We enjoyed a great evening grilling, drinking and hanging out.

Morning view at my parents house

Morning view at my parents house

Saturday we got up (slightly hungover) and made our way to Hendersonville. It was very clear when we got there that we needed to eat! And it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy a pint over lunch at The Black Rose, one of our favorite pubs.

Refueled, we headed over to Mast General Store to do some shopping. See, for me living in Florida is great, but we never have a really good selection of cold weather gear and that makes traveling in cooler months much more difficult sometimes. I ended up hitting the jackpot and got some great pieces on sale! Ok, ok I’ll be honest, since it was near my birthday I got some great presents and I personally didn’t buy a thing. But everything WAS on sale! Thanks mom and dad!

I’m also always searching for the next greatest travel accessory or gadget and after the disappointing performance of my last travel purse, I really wanted to find a new one. Luck was on my side and I found a great one (I hope)!

Before leaving Hendersonville we had to make a pit stop at McFarlan bakery. They have the best treats and the line is always out the door, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

McFarlan Bakery

McFarlan Bakery

On Sunday we went to brunch before making our way up to The Highlands. This was my first time visiting the area, but I can’t wait to go back. We did some shopping and walked around enjoying the weather.

Old Edward's Inn The Highlands, NC

Old Edward’s Inn The Highlands, NC

The drive to and from The Highlands is really pretty, but make sure to bring water with you! Especially since I live below sea level in Florida, the altitude really got to me this time.

Our plan Sunday night was to get pizza at one of our favorite spots back in Hendersonville, but sadly they were closed, so instead we had a dinner at Mezzaluna in town. The restaurant was packed but we had amazing service and good food!

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

The rest of the evening was spent on the porch watching TV and relaxing. Overall it was a great trip with beautiful and cool weather, just what I needed.

Don’t worry, I’m already scheming my next quick trip destination!

5 Reasons Research is Important When Planning a Trip

Standard

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary, here are 5 reasons research is important.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Research is the single most important tool you can arm yourself with when traveling.

Because research is such a vital part of travel, and people often forget its value, here are five quick and simple reasons why research is so important.

1. Culture. When you travel abroad it is extremely critical to learn about the culture where you will be staying. Take Italy for instance. Many of the churches require you to cover your shoulders to enter, even in the dead of summer when it’s sweltering outside, while other countries have laws about words you can and can’t say. Learning about the culture of your destination will help you immensely. And respecting the culture of other countries is an important aspect of helping to maintain the integrity of traveling and also to make sure you don’t put yourself in an unwelcome situation.

2. Itinerary Activities. After you’ve planned your itinerary, how do you figure out what to do when you get there? Research! If you don’t research your destination you won’t know if there are any local festivals, holiday celebrations or must see attractions. How sad would it be if you left Rome without seeing the Vatican? Or you missed the Mona Lisa in Paris? And if you don’t do a little bit of research you may not know that Oktoberfest actually starts in September.

IMG_1289

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Immunizations. When traveling abroad there are many foreign things you can encounter. An easy way to make sure nothing compromises your adventure is by arming yourself with proper vaccines. Just go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what exactly is needed or recommended before traveling. Some vaccines are not carried at your regular general practitioner, but it is generally pretty easy to find a travel doctor in your area and it is well worth the time and potential expense!

4 & 5. Language and Currency. Knowing simple things like what language is spoken, or what currency is used where you will be traveling is also important. Some currencies are closed, meaning you can’t get them until you are physically in the country, while other places may accept multiple currencies. It is also helpful to know what the primary language is in each of your destinations. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a couple of quick phrases in that language. People are always more willing to help you if they hear their native tongue. Bonjour, Ciao, Hola and Guten Tag can go a long way.

Euros

There are many, many, many more reasons it is important to research where you will be traveling, but these are just a few quick and simple reasons why I am so passionate about research. Even if you take 10 minutes to do some last minute googling in the airport, knowledge is power!

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks about how to plan your next adventure!