Europe 2014

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Europe 2014

#TeamEurope2014

Enjoy my latest European Adventure in just over 3 minutes! 

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Today: The Natural World

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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

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.

Mass at Hofbrau

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!

5 Reasons Research is Important When Planning a Trip

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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.

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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.

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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!

Small ways Travel Connects you with the World

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When I began traveling while studying abroad, I never truly appreciated how my adventures would shape my life moving forward, or how they would connect me to strangers all over the globe. Still, the connections that I have made and continue to make because of traveling, always have a way of catching me off guard. Whether it’s someone you meet in an exotic location that grew up in your home town, or someone you strike up a conversation with that stayed in the same hotel you did in Florence, travel connections still shock me. The world can be a pretty small place.

I’m not exactly a shy person and I tend to talk to strangers a lot about their travel experiences, and I don’t have a problem giving my advice or opinion, even if it’s not asked for.

Let’s take this past Sunday for instance. I stopped by one of my favorite travel stores in the mall to try and find a replacement backpack for my old JanSport that finally died after my last trip. While I was in the store another lady was there shopping for her upcoming vacation. She was looking for a collapsable duffle bag. As it turned out, I had just been looking at those myself and told her where she could find them. And naturally I also asked where she would be traveling to. She said Ireland and Scotland. That was all the opening I needed to tell her about what to do when she got there. Luckily she welcomed my thoughts and advice. The store clerk was also helping her out and we all got to talking about travel.

I learned that the clerk was originally from Israel and like most of us, would love to travel full time. And the other woman has traveled a fair amount herself. We ended up having a 30 minute conversation about how people who don’t travel limit themselves, and tend not to want to adapt and move forward with the world. Who really knows if those things are related, but we did all agree that people who don’t leave home are more narrow minded than those who travel. I left the store (after purchasing a beautiful new collapsable duffle. Still no backpack) elated and invigorated by our conversation, grinning ear to ear. Kind of like that feeling you get when you go on a date with someone you really like.

Over the years I’ve had many conversations like the one I had Sunday and I’ve made quite a few good fiends because of shared travel experiences, but it never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can instantly give you a connection to a complete stranger.

Travel is awesome!

Sand from the Sahara Desert and a print from London with a globe

Sand from the Sahara Desert and a print from London