How Study Abroad Changed My Life-10 Years Later

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A lot has changed in the last ten years; my physical location, my career, my age (ick), my friends, my hair color, but one thing has remained constant; my desire to travel.

It’s hard to imagine that ten years ago I was just a scared College student about to fly across the pond to a world of unknowns. For many who know me, you would agree that I am more the type of person to have a plan and a back-up plan, and then probably another back-up plan. But for whatever reason I didn’t when I left and it all worked out beautifully.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how it felt arriving to campus majorly jet lagged and full of anxiety. I get almost choked up now thinking back to that day. I lugged my suitcases up the stairs ready to embark on what would become the journey of a lifetime.

Looking back over the four months I spent studying abroad in London, it isn’t necessarily the classes I remember so much of, it’s the people and the experiences.

At the time, I had no idea I would go through study abroad and come out a different person on the other side. I figured it would be fun, but I never expected it to shape who I became as an adult.

In the last ten years I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to more place than I ever thought possible. None of which would have ever happened had I not gotten on that plane to London and experienced the world outside my familiar walls.

I made friends that semester that I will have until I die. We can spend days, months, or years apart, but it never matters, because when we are together we pick up right where we left off.

To me London is one of the most magical places in the world. My heart is there and probably always will be in some ways. I learned so much about traveling, myself, life. One could argue I grew up there.

It’s funny to think about milestones in a way, because they are often insignificant. If I hadn’t continued to travel, then maybe I wouldn’t feel the same way I do now about my time studying abroad. It ignited a fire in my soul and that is something I will be eternally grateful for.

I’m literally about to fly to Peru with some great friends, one of whom I met during my time in London and I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate.

If you’ve ever thought about studying abroad, I cannot encourage it enough. Just take a leap of faith and go. You won’t regret it.

Happy Ten Years Richmond STABS!

Something Old and Something New

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The dawn of our last day in Delhi was bittersweet. We were excited to explore, but super sad that at the end of the day we had to leave. Plus we were without our friends and it just wasn’t the same.

Our tour in the morning was a student led subway tour of Old Delhi. We had no idea what to expect, but were excited to see the city like a local.

As it turned out, our guide Arun, had studied in the US and spent a good amount of time in the states. His English was great and he made us feel at ease. Walking into the subway station you would not know you were in India. It was seriously so nice. The only “different” thing was the sign asking people not to spit. Its cool I won’t, promise.

Arun bought our “tickets” for us after explaining how the zone map worked. The map had all these areas with big numbers in them. He explained that the numbers represented how many ruperts (as we so lovingly called the Rupee) it cost to ride. So if you were in a 5 zone, it was 5 ruperts or $0.07 dollars. Yes that math is correct. Or at least it was when this was written! They also don’t have tickets. They use these silly little chip coins. I’ve only ever seen the chip coin one other place in my life and it happens to be in a parking garage where I live. They are literally the dumbest things ever. Arun told us that if we were there longer than a few days, that a metro card would make sense. For this it did not. But you better hold on to that little coin because I’m pretty sure they’d never let you out if you lost it.

Once we made our way to the platform, Arun told us that the first two or three cars in each subway train were for women only. We thought that was really cool. You also had to go through security getting into the station. Again, totally okay with that.

Ascending the staircase into Old Delhi was almost like we had traveled back in time. No, that’s actually exactly what it was like. I don’t know what I thought we would see, but it wasn’t this.

So picture a narrow street lined with light poles or power poles. In a normal city these poles would mainly be for lights and you wouldn’t see any wires or anything attached to them. In Old Delhi, there were wires EVERYWHERE. To the extent that I thought if someone accidentally pushed on one of those poles hard enough, the whole web would come crashing down completely blacking out that part of the city. Like am I the only one seeing this? How is this even working?! The fact that anything has power in Old Delhi is extremely impressive. I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging wide open for at least the first five minutes we were there. Poor Arun, I have no idea what he was so passionately talking about.

We grabbed a rickshaw and the three of us climbed in. As we slowly made our way through the streets, we passed men getting haircuts, people arranging their produce to sell, shop owners setting up for the day, food being prepared, animals of all kinds, and people, lots of people. It was noisy, smelly, dirty and unbelievably fascinating. We couldn’t get enough.

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How is this working?!

Arun took us to three different temples that morning and each one was so totally different than the other. But one thing was the same. They were all playing super loud music and there were people everywhere. Some places you had to cover your hair, others you didn’t. It was a really cool experience.

We ended the morning with some lunch at a place that had a mixture of northern and southern Indian food and was very good.

That was the end of Old Delhi. Walking back to the subway I could have happily gotten lost in all of the streets and markets. By this time a few hours had passed and the number of people in the area had at least doubled. It was wall to wall. Old Delhi is seriously so captivating. And it’s a photographers dream. We will be back for you.

The last part of our day turned out to be a perfect ending to our trip. We went to Swaminarayan Akshardham, temple (I highly recommend clicking that link, especially since we couldn’t take pictures). So one interesting fact is that if you are Indian you can get into any of the heritage sites in the country for free. It’s really nice. And this one was actually free for us as well. Score!

Right, so this temple. First of all it’s HUGE. Second of all, you couldn’t bring anything in with you. No phone, camera, gum, jewelry, nothing. If you had those items with you, you had to check them. Not happening, I’ll just go with nothing. My friend carried our passports in a money belt and the last of the ruperts we had.

So as we were waiting in line to get in, it became very apparent that we were the ONLY white women around. Both of us realized at the same time that everyone was casually, or not so casually, staring at us. Thank goodness they couldn’t have cameras or we never would have made it. Finally after some more security we made it inside.

The temple itself was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But since there are no photos of it, or of me there, you’re just going to have to believe me on this.

There was still a lot of day left (well we assumed, not having a phone or watch) so we decided to check out the attractions. Yes there were attractions. The first one was a series of rooms with animatronics telling the story of the temples founder. It felt very Disney. The other “ride” we did was on a boat. You got on and it starting playing “It’s a Small World,” no it didn’t, but it may as well have.

The oddest part was at the end of the ride there was a room full of propaganda to stop eating meat. Like cutouts of animals with speech bubbles saying “we have feelings too” and things of that nature. It was pretty crazy. Not exactly something you’d see in America.

I will say snacks and drinks were silly cheap which was nice because it was about a million degrees out. We also got the most attention of the entire trip this day. It was Sunday, but there were tons of school groups. One group was staring at us (like mouths open, whispering and pointing) so intently that I waived at them. That was all it took for the group to run over to talk to us. They were so sweet and innocent, that it was cute. Again so glad they didn’t have cameras or phones.

After wandering around a little more we deemed it time to leave and headed to the airport. That was one quiet car ride. We were sad.

On the Road Again

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Our last full day together started out with yet another infamous India road trip back to Delhi. I’m not one to stay awake in cars, but there was SO MUCH happening the whole time that I couldn’t fall asleep.

India has the craziest trucks on the road I’ve ever seen. They are kind of like dump trucks, only smaller and they are totally decked out in bright paint, tassels, writing, everything. It’s super cool. And when they honk their horns (just like everyone else does) it plays a fun little song.

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Crazy decorated India truck and of course cows


Traffic on this road trip was literally insane. They diverted the highway onto a dirt road for part of the way and it was like four lanes of traffic all squeezed into one. We were completely surrounded by huge trucks for a vast majority of the time. Our driver got an A++ that day for sure. And some extra Ruperts for his efforts!

Lunch this afternoon was comical. We got delayed by quite a bit getting into Delhi, so I told our bus driver to just find somewhere quick and simple for us to eat. This is a moment where I wish I had spoken the language. We ended up at just the opposite. Walking in the front door of the restaurant where we were dropped off, the servers were in suits boarderinf on tuxes; there were linens on the tables and families all around. We roll up slathered in deet and sunscreen, in clothes that desperately need to be washed, just looking for a sandwich. It was a great lunch actually and the staff did not care at all what we looked like, so it worked out, but it was not a simple place for a sandwich at all.

Because it took longer to get into Delhi than it should have, we ended up having to kind of run through our tour that afternoon.

We saw Qutb Minar and Humayun’s Tomb right at golden hour, which made everything pretty beautiful. Plus they used that red sandstone I enjoy so much. Unfortunately none of us thought our tour guide brought much to the table, but we had fun all the same. After a whirlwind day, we went to check-in to our hotel before our friends had to go to the airport to leave. Insert super sad face here.

What surprised me about driving through Delhi during the daylight was how much traffic there was, yet how organized the city was. It felt very European to me. Come to find out, it was developed by the British, so duh it’s organized. But I had no idea. You can find me living under a giant rock. The one thing that set it apart (okay not the one thing, one of the things) was the fact that you would be driving by the embassies and there would be monkeys ALL around, just running and having a grand ole time. Hey Mr. Monkey!

So our hotel for the night was really adorable. It was an old house that you have a room in, but it has a common room shared with other guests and then a rooftop “restaurant.” More like a kitchen on the roof, but hey a round of Kingfisher was like 600 ruperts or $9, yes $9. I miss you ruperts. I really miss you.

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Last Kingfishers


The only unfortunate thing was saying goodbye to our friends. It was awful. We absolutely did not want them to leave and they didn’t want to leave either. The four of us just got along so well it was perfect. Clearly if we had hated each other at this point we would have been like “okay, bye, see you later (or not).” But that was not the case.

It was an absolute fact that India had stolen our hearts.

To the Taj!

Grounds at ITC Mughal
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As an addition to our itinerary, we wanted to take the train from Delhi to Agra, instead of driving. We arrived at the train station well before sunrise since our departure was at 6:30 AM (ish). Driving the streets of Delhi at 5 AM was the quietest I would see the city and it was rather peaceful all things considered.

That peace was shattered the second we pulled into the train station parking lot. All of the station porters wanted to help us to the train, and we were pretty well surrounded. We sent our luggage with the van (thankfully) the night before and just had backpacks with us. Bye Porters. Our driver pulled into a spot and made his way with us to the train platform.

There were people everywhere, lots of them asleep amidst the hustle and bustle of the station. Some stared at us a bit, but no one bothered us at all. There was security at the station, which I appreciated. Then we stood on the platform taking it all in. A truly impossible feat at the end of the day.

Once the train arrived, our driver helped us find our seats. Since there were four of us, we fully expected to be in a little carriage or compartment. At the very least, two and two together. Nope, not the case. The seating was three and two. I’ve been on a lot of trains and haven’t seen that before. I sat “alone” with the girls across the aisle. We were also very clearly in the middle of a family, which was rather interesting.

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In our area we were served a giant bottle of water (yes!) and a meal. We had our hotel prepare a takeaway breakfast and ate that instead. Good recommendation travel company, because the train breakfast did not look appealing. Eek.

About ten minutes away from the Agra station people started lining up to get off the train and they were pushy. The train would stop for five minutes. Not a lot of time. In those ten minutes chugging into Agra, we saw everything. There was so much happening that I wasn’t even sure it was real. I will spare you the details, but I think you can use your imagination on this one. And if you can’t, feel free to ask me anything you want to know. Just remember that you can’t un-know it.

The train lurched to a stop, and we hopped off greeted right away by our driver and a liaison from our tour company. Immediately I noticed the much worse air quality in Agra and the smell, an unfortunately common theme throughout our time in the country.

We drove straight to the hotel from the train station.

As the gate to our hotel opened, I had no idea what to expect on the other side. Heaven, it was actually heaven. If I could live in a hotel it would be the ITC Mughal in Agra, India. This place was incredible. Google it, now. Then stay there in Agra. You are welcome.

It was interesting because we did go through security before entering the hotel, but I’m good with security. Super good.

Our rooms were not ready when we arrived, and we didn’t have anything on our dossier until 3 PM, so it was shopping time! We looked up an area to go to and had our driver take us over. As we walked through the streets, nothing was really open yet (it was before 10 AM) and it didn’t seem like we were in the best area. After a few minutes we all decided this wasn’t where we wanted to be and called our driver.

We drove across town and found a little plaza with two stores. Our goal was to find an outfit for our Taj Mahal outing the next morning. The first store we went to was nice and it gave us a good idea of what our options were, but we really wanted to shop at Fab India. And shop we did. I’m pretty sure between us all, we tried on everything in that store. The level of customer service we received was amazing, and everyone bought more than they expected. Fab India, Agra, you rock. Seriously. Beaming from ear to ear, we made our way back to the hotel to check-in.

This is when things went from awesome to amazing. Agra was already killing it and then they kicked it up a notch. We were upgraded to two Junior Suites. Yes, a free upgrade because of a conference that was in town. Thank you super international medical conference, thank you. Our rooms were spectacular. And the hotel staff was amazing. We hit the pool for a little bit, then got ready for our tour.

The first tour we had in Agra was to the Red Fort. I had zero expectation of this fort and was completely blown away. Red sandstone is actually super gorgeous. And we were there around 3PM so we started to get some of the golden hour. It was stunning.

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After the fort, it was to the other side of the river to see the Taj at sunset. It cost something like 100 ruperts ($1.50) to access the “park” where you can view the Taj.

Because we were all so enamored by the Red Fort we didn’t have a ton of time to look at the Taj before they came by and kicked us out. But it was worth the time we did have. It’s seriously so cool.

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First sighting of the Taj!

Back to the hotel for dinner and bed. Another super early morning for the Taj coming up!

The Wheels on the Bus

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Please enjoy part three of my Dubai adventures, adapted from emails sent in October 2016.

Monday morning, October 10th was our first morning in Dubai. We arrived at night, hadn’t gone anywhere but our hotel and we were bears looking for food in the winter hungry. We needed food/coffee before things got ugly. So what did we do? We went to the Dubai Mall. Not to be confused with the Mall of the Emirates (more on that later).

Yeah, I hear you saying to yourself she’s in mother f*ing Dubai, and she’s going to the MALL?!? But this my friends, is not just any mall. This is a combination of EVERY famous brand from around the world AND an aquarium and ice rink, all rolled into one hugely massive building. Guys, they have everything you could ever want. Including Ben’s Cookies! It’s phenomenal.

But let’s face it, we are American, (and why pretend to be someone else, when it’s just who you are) so we had some Caribou Coffee for breakfast. Yes, we did, and I’m not even ashamed. I did burn my tongue though, I hate that. As we were about to leave, I noticed a group of moms with their kids over in the corner. One had two children, both dressed in Ohio State gear, so I obviously had to say something to her. I learned the whole group is married to Emirates Pilots, and they are all living in Dubai. This lady of course was actually from Michigan, but her husband was from Ohio. The world is really so small.

You are probably wondering now what the weather is like. So I’m in the desert. But it’s a tropical desert. What the what does that even mean?!? Well it means it’s hot as F, but also humid as F. Fantastic. There is literally NO way to look good and be outdoors. Not possible.

So to continue on our path of being tourists/westerners, we got a ticket for the Big Bus tour. You know, the double-decker kind that go all over the place. Ruby was our sales lady and she cut us the best deal (right) for a week-long ticket. We got our headphones, free water (SCORE) and headed up to the top to see how long we’d last before actually turning into sand.

Not going to lie, this was a great choice. Dubai is SO spread out that it’s impossible to get a feel for the city before you come here, trust me we tried.
There are three lines to take, so we did one on Monday and ended back at the Dubai Mall. This is also where the Burj Khalifa is and the famous fountains. Think Bellagio in Vegas, but bigger. And they do two shows an hour. One set to traditional music and one set to a pop-song. Our first experience was a Celine and Andrea Bocelli duet, it was magical.
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And guys, I’m pretty sure we had Texas Roadhouse for dinner ‘merica!

Until the next time!

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?!?

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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!

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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.

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Quote from KLM

7 Things to Consider When Traveling to Oktoberfest

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With less than 70 days until my triumphant return to Oktoberfest in Munich, it’s starting to become all I can think about. And I may need to seek professional help soon, though I don’t think Oktoberfest Lovers Anonymous exists…Anyway, because I’ve been thinking so much about Oktoberfest, I thought I would offer you some things to ponder if you are planning a trip to attend this year, or sometime in the future. My perspective for the purposes of this post will be as someone who is an American, has been before and didn’t know a damn thing before the first time I went in 2012.

When you start to consider traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest, there are a lot of questions that come up. Things like: when is it, where to stay, how long should you go for, how do you get to the Oktoberfest grounds, how do you get into a tent, what should you wear and how expensive is it? The list could go on and on but you wouldn’t read all of that, so I’m going to answer the questions I mentioned above and hopefully you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. Ultimately, I want you to go to Oktoberfest and maybe this will help you get there!

So when exactly is Oktoberfest?
You may now think I’m crazy for even brining this up, but truthfully I had no idea when Oktoberfest started before I went the first time. A simple Internet search will reveal that it starts at the end of September and runs into the beginning of October. So plan accordingly. Also, October 3rd is a bank holiday in Germany (The Day of German Unity). Keep in mind that it’s extra crowded in Munich that day.

Whew, now that you know when Oktoberfest is, where the heck should you stay?
Munich is a very easy city to navigate. Despite this fact it is still a good idea to pull up a map when looking at hotels/places to stay to see where the property is in relationship to the Oktoberfest grounds. If you can manage it, staying somewhere within walking distance is ideal. We were a quick 10 minutes walking last time and that worked out wonderfully. If you are booking closer to when Oktoberfest starts, there may not be as many choices, but there are plenty of public transportation options to get you to the grounds as well. Another thing to be aware of is that this is high tourist season for Munich so don’t be surprised when there aren’t great lodging deals out there. But trust me, it is absolutely worth every penny spent!  

So you know the dates and you have a place to sleep, but how long should you stay for?
The length of time spent at Oktoberfest comes down to how long you want to be traveling and what your budget is. We ended up in Munich for about 3.5 days our first time around and we didn’t feel like we had enough time. Oktoberfest can be like a black hole. You might try to just “swing by,” but before you know it, an entire morning or afternoon has passed and you didn’t make it anywhere else. I wouldn’t change anything we did in 2012, but beware of the black hole!

We are rolling now! You have your dates, you’ve figured out where to sleep and how long you’re staying, but what on earth should you wear? What are those silly outfits everyone has on?!?
If anyone tells you not to dress the part when attending Oktoberfest, they are dead wrong. Lederhosen for the guys and Dirndls for the girls are seen in abundance at Oktoberfest. Now I will say this; ladies, please, please, please DO NOT wear any type of sexy beer maiden outfit seen at every Halloween party here in the states. It is considered disrespectful and rude. But if you don’t come with an outfit, you’ll want to buy one in Munich and that can be really expensive. We saw some that were 300 euros! My suggestion would be to check out eBay. There are plenty to choose from and they range in price. All us girls got traditional knee length dirndls on eBay and we were so glad to have them. It is also ok to wear tights with the dirndl, which is awesome, since it can be kind of cold that time of year. The guys did not wear lederhosen last time, but ultimately admitted they wished that they had.

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Enjoying a Mass at Oktoberfest, LOVING my dirndl!

Listen up! If you’ve fallen asleep, this is the time to pay attention!

How on earth do you get a spot at a tent?
Ok, I’m going to be honest with you. We did A TON of reading and researching on this before our first trip, so here’s an abridged version of what we learned. There are 14 tents (both big and small) at Oktoberfest and I’m pretty sure we saw maybe 4. But that’s beside the point, the fact is, getting into a tent can be tricky. We had 5 people last time and didn’t want to try and get a reservation. This is because you have to reserve and pay for 10 people, even if your group is smaller than that. Most of the time a reservation involves drinks and food so it’s not inexpensive. Instead of going the reservation route, we decided to go down to the Oktoberfest grounds early to try and get a seat. The deal is, if you don’t have a seat you can’t get any beer (which is the entire reason you’re there). Therefore, at least one member of the party has to be sitting. If you are going to try this tactic, get there early and take the first open spot you find. Our group got REALLY lucky and we found a table at Hacker-Festzelt. Our luck did run out in the late afternoon, when they clear everyone out for evening reservations. This is ok though because sometimes you might find spots outside, or you can wonder through the Oktoberfest grounds enjoying tasty treats and fun rides. Last but not least, if you go at night, a lot of the time you will find the doors to the tents closed. This is because they are full. If you happen to pass by one that’s open, RUN in and grab a spot because luck is on your side! This happened to our group one night and we got EXTREMELY lucky and got into the Hofbrau tent!

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Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent during the day

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Outside of the Hofbräu-Festzelt during the day

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Inside the Hofbräu-Festzelt at night

Wow, that was a lot of work! You’ve made it into a tent, hooray! But how much is it going to cost you?
Every year the price of a Mass (beer at Oktoberfest) goes up. Shocking I know. But the official prices (these are 2014 prices) are released in advance, so you do have time to plan accordingly. Also keep in mind a Mass is a liter of beer, so even if the price feels high, just think about the last tall boy you bought at a football game and you’ll feel much better. This is important to think about though especially since the tents are CASH ONLY. Let me repeat, CASH ONLY. And if you tip your waitress well the first time she brings you beer, chances are she will come back more frequently. Tipping is generally done by rounding up to the next whole number. Again, bigger tip upfront = generally more frequent and better service. Traditional German food is also available at the tents and it’s usually really good. They all sell pretzels too, but those can leave a rather dry taste in your mouth. Guess that’s what the beer is for! PROST!

Auf Wiedersehen!

My 4th of July Holiday Weekend in South Carolina

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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!