In Defense of Wanderlust!

The life of a travel blogger, or a travel-addicted nomad, posing as a travel blogger (shhh don’t tell anybody), is a lifestyle often accused of residing “out of the box”. The fact that I can live from a singular backpack for a year, or that I have been known to go without a permanent address for months at a time, can sometimes make folks uneasy. To live this lifestyle you find yourself sacrificing that night out again with your girlfriends, incessantly ‘instagraming,’ locking yourself away for hours on end to write (not good at this one yet), and my least favorite… missing lots of holidays. When people ask you “what’s your 10-year plan… or 5-year plan… or 2-year plan… ok, what the hell are you doing next month?!?” I usually giggle and give them the same response every time, “Something fun I suppose,” and throw my hands in the air the way I do caution to the wind.

I am certain at least a few of you have experienced that this lifestyle isn’t always well received by family and friends. I remember right out of college, after working my butt off at an Ivy League school (literally… cuz those hills on Cornell’s campus are no joke), my family was like… ok and next. They didn’t miss a beat, it was “where will you be going for your Ph.D.?”, I was in no shape to hop back into the term paper saddle, let alone begin a full-blown career. After 4 years at Cornell, I wanted to take a nap… like a nice year-long nap. My ‘gap year’ turned into two, and my family continued to freak. I continued to rebel… the wild child that I am, what else did they expect. Those 2 years turned into four, but it didn’t take all four years for them to get the picture that I would be living life in my own way and on my own timeline. Every single person came around to that idea, they saw the joy that traveling brought me, they saw that I wasn’t starving or homeless (except when I elected to live in and out of hostels and on stranger’s couches for months at a time in developing countries… but that is a technicality). I had the support of my family, which actually means everything to me… no matter how many times I tell my mom that I don’t care what she thinks.

Unfortunately, their acceptance wasn’t where the difficulties ended when it came to choosing a life of adventure over sitting complacently while being spoon-fed conformity (a tad dramatic, I know). There is a lesson I had to learn recently, one that I want to share with all those out there trying to make a name for themselves in the travel industry, the blogging sector, or really any field that goes against the traditional grain. There still may be people you actively choose to have in your life, who accept your lifestyle but resent you for it. They will ‘reason’ your love to travel away, by telling themselves that you are in a constant state of flux because you are somehow lost, and one day when you are found, then you will finally settle down. I guess it makes it easier for them to swallow the fact that I can pick up and go with such ease, if they label it with an alternative purpose, with an end game. I decided to stop letting people shame me into believing I was being selfish, I was taking too much time “discovering myself and soul-searching”. How dare I reject societal norms, how dare I not fit their mold… it must be because I am lacking, lacking something… and clearly, I am searching for it in places far and wide.

I have a secret to tell you… There is NO SHAME in spending time ‘finding yourself,’ but don’t let anyone convince you that just because you elect to live a life full to the brim with adventure and challenges, that you are lost. I am never going to stop ‘finding myself’ because that is who I AM. There is no rhyme or reason that can stand up to my love for exploration and my dedication to personal growth. I am a girl who loves to learn, to venture into the unknown, and if that unknown includes the depths of my soul, so be it. I don’t have to be lost, to adore flying to foreign cities and losing myself wandering on ancient cobblestone streets. Anyone who sees the road to self-discovery as a voyage with an actual destination has clearly never taken on the task of looking for themselves. Don’t let anyone write your life story for you, forge your own trail and love yourself every damn day that you have the courage to do so!

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Road Trip Checklist: Top 5 Tasks

If you are currently planning a road trip, or even just daydreaming about one, then this post is for you! Organizing travel can sometimes feel a little daunting, but preparing for a road trip is a special kind of hectic. Take your travel plans, then add a car into the mix, and you quadruple the “what if” factor. It’s far from an impossible feat though, and it doesn’t even have to be that stressful. People say the key to success is preparation, and this holds so true for travel, especially of the road trip variety. Below I have laid out the bare-bones list for the absolutely necessary tasks to complete before the pedal hits the metal. This is just the start for many, but if you, like me, can get easily overwhelmed by an excessive amount of tasks… then just start here.

1- Get your car serviced

If you ask me, the scariest part of a road trip is that I have a giant unpredictable hunk of steel tagging along when I am used to it just being me and a pack. There are so many things you can’t control out

Ready, Set, GO!

there on the road, but you can at least ensure that your vehicle is as prepared as possible for whatever comes your way. This means getting any outstanding mechanical work done, possibly a tune up, checking all the fluids, getting an oil change, and stocking your car with an emergency kit. Some great things to keep in your trunk are a can of Fix-a-flat, extra windshield wiping fluids, flashlight with batteries, a blanket, and reflective tape are a few things I personally like to keep in my car. If you aren’t driving, then get that car rented ASAP to get the best prices.

 

2- Budget

Don’t get caught with all your eggs in one basket!

Once you have all the crucial work completed on your car, then you can take a look at what’s left in your piggy bank… or wherever the kids keep their pocket change these days. Budgets do not have to be as detailed as you might think, especially if you aren’t on a super tight budget. I always round my costs up because it’s way better to be under budget than to run out of money on the road. The typical criteria for my budget is a daily food allowance, lodging allowance (I almost always stay with friends), expected gas expenses, souvenir allowance, and account for any specific activities you already know you want to do like rafting or city tours for example.

 

The actual allocation of funds will be different for everyone, but those are the 5 core elements to budget for. Typically my lodging, activities, and souvenir budget is almost zero, as I like to bring back just postcards and photographs, but I will research ahead of time to find the best local watering holes. The last two important aspects of a road trip budget are always having access to either a credit card or a savings just in case of an emergency, and accounting for any bills that will be withdrawn while you are away. Be careful not to double spend your money in the bank.

NOW FOR THE FUN PART!

3- Pick Core Stops

Got Georgia on your mind?

There are as many ways to plan a road trip as there are to… (Is there another colloquial phrase aside from the “skin a cat” saying, because that just freaks me out). Anyway! I think its best to first decide if you will do a loop, or rent a car one way and fly back. Either way, you need to pick some core stops, which are the places where you will absolutely be stopping. I am sure some of you are saying part of what makes road trips great is the spontaneity, and I agree. I usually only pick a few stops in cities where I know someone and plan to spend the night. It is important to factor in how much driving per day you realistically can do, and often that defines where your stops will be. So pull out that handy map, or hit up The Google and get excited!

4- Research Weather

Not too shabby…

My favorite! I get so excited to look up the weather in all my stops, especially if I am heading south. This is important beyond picking which swimsuit to pack, knowing the weather forecast is critical for planning out time. Be sure to give yourself extra time if you see the weather will be particularly bad. If you check the weather often before you leave and see rainy days ahead, you should have enough time to reroute a few of your stops… if you happen to be chasing the sun like myself.

 

5- Copy and Share Vital Documents

Once I am pretty much all set with my itinerary, I do this final step, which is far from least. It is really important to share your potential schedule with someone at home, even if it is a loose outline. I like to email a copy of my route and potential stops to my mom (I knoooow, but she is my BFF), and it helps that my loud mouth is forever on social media. In addition to my itinerary, I also make copies of my driver’s license, and I keep in my glovebox and another copy in my bag. This is also a great time to double-check you have current copies of your insurance and registration in your car. Lastly, be sure to write down contact info for a few people close to you and keep that in your car. I know with cell phones hardly anyone memorizes phone numbers anymore, so in the off-chance you need to make a call without your phone handy… a pen and paper might just be what saves your behind!

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Europe!

I am off again, galavanting. This time through Europe! It will be my first time solo traveling in Europe, and I plan to see somewhere around 8 countries. The thought of planning a 3 month trip through 8 different countries was frightening to say the least… but I did it! Here I am half way through my time in Europe, and starting to reflect. I put together a list of the 10 things I wish I knew while preparing for my trip. Getting ready for a big trip can be a mountain of a task, especially if it is a destination you have never been to. Hopefully this guide helps to point you in the right direction. Be warned some of them are totally embarrassing things, that I know good and well I should have known, but I am not here to be an expert. I am here to give you the honest truth, as I make my way on this journey. Giving it to you real: The Good, The Bad, and The ‘Wanderful’.

  • Seasons Don’t Change Slowly in Europe

This lesson was a hard one to learn myself! I did not look closely enough at typical weather patterns for all the countries I was visiting, and for this I froze my buns off for the first half of my trip. I started in London and the weather was fantastic, warm and sunny every day around 80 degrees fahrenheit (Side-note, I just realized I have no idea how to spell fahrenheit, I was spelling it so badly even autocorrect had no idea what the hell I was trying to say, and so I had to google it). I figured I would have at least 3 weeks of “transitional weather” before it got really cold… wrong-o. The temperature dropped 30 degrees from when I left London to when I got to Germany, which was within a week. Despite the fact that I was wearing almost every article of clothing in my bag at once, I was still under-dressed for the weather in Amsterdam and Germany especially. If you are traveling in a transitional season, bring warm winter clothes. Better yet don’t travel in a transitional season! Its a pain in the butt. Pick a season, and you will thank me when you don’t have to pack both your bikini and your parka.

  • Not Everywhere in Europe Uses the Euro

Ok yes, this one is a little embarrassing… I knew not EVERY country used the Euro, but I thought all the Schengen Countries I was visiting on this trip did. First of all, this is great info to know when budgeting, and planning when and where you will exchange your home currency. I never exchange all my money at once, especially if my trip will last over several months because the rate can always change (hopefully in my favor). Also if you are bussing into another country, and you arrive late at night, and only have Euros… and they don’t use Euros, no bueno for you… Trust me I know. So here is what I learned, it has nothing to do with Schengen countries, it is much easier to think about it in terms of the EU. All of the European Union countries use the Euro except: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the UK (I knew this one!).

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Don’t forget to spend some GBP on the London Eye, its worth it!

 

  • WiFi is NOT Readily Available All Over Europe

This came as a surprise to me, it really depends on the country but I think it is best to prepare with the thought that you may need to hunt for wifi. I especially found this to be true in Germany. I would say to be on the safe side insure your accommodation has wifi, that way you know you will be able to use the world wide web at least once a day (for research, chatting, or working purposes). Typical places that have wifi: cafes, “coffee shops” (in Amsterdam), some restaurants, and large malls.

  • Laundry Facilities are NOT Always Easy to Find

If you are traveling for more than 2 weeks, the only way to pack light is to do laundry along the way (I guess you could also commit to wearing dirty clothes over and over… but for the sake of making new friends I went with the less smelly option). When traveling in South America I found this very easy to do, there was a ‘Launderia’ around every corner. Not so much in Europe. Most Europeans have washers in their apartments and hang their clothes to dry, and so a laundry mat in the city has been hard to come by. When booking accommodation I would say every 2-3 weeks attempt to find a place near a laundry mat or ask if they offer laundry services at your hostel/hotel/airB&B/etc.

  • Your Travel Schedule WILL Change… At Least Once

I know it can feel mildly stressful for some not knowing where you will be next, but that is half the fun of this! Over the course of 2 weeks I have added and subtracted at least 2 destinations from my itinerary. I would say have an “outline” of what you want to see and about how long you want to stay in each place, but don’t book transition-travel right away. If there is somewhere expensive (or not continental) it could be beneficial to book a flight in advance. For example, I knew I wanted to go to Greece, and the only cheap way to get from there to Spain was to fly and stop in Malta, so I booked that about 1 month ahead. For all the other places between Germany and Greece where I knew I was going to take a bus, I budgeted for the average price, but waited to book the ticket. I have added Budapest and Vienna to my trip since I booked my Greece flight and getting cheap bus tickets 2 days in advance has been no issue.

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I stubbled upon the Signal Festival in Prague! You never really know what is going on until you get there!

  • Budget for Public Transportation

For some reason I did not factor into my budget getting around, once I got there… Silly me. Do not make my same mistake. While public transport is reasonable easy (depending on the country) and affordable, it still adds up! If you are going to be staying in a city for any more than 2 days, it might be worth looking up prices per trip for their metro system and making a per day budget for transportation. Even if it is just 5 euros a day, that is an extra 280 euros needed for a 2 month trip. Most cities have a 1/2/3 day pass, and some even week long passes geared towards tourists.

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Always worth it, even if you aren’t counting pennies. Public transport in Europe is an awesome experience!

Hope these help you while preparing for your big trip! Any tips you have for pre-trip planning? Let me know in the comments, or if you have specific questions about… anything, ask away!

With Love From PRAGUE,

Olivia

6 Things to Expect When Traveling with your Sister!

I am known to travel alone, I love the experience of traveling solo and the freedom that comes with being entirely responsible for just yourself. Yet, when I do travel with someone, which is a rare case scenario, making the choice of travel partner is a serious task and not to be taken lightly. The only person who has survived the test of time, and traveled by my side more than once would be my lifelong partner in crime, my little sis. Having now taken two big trips with my little sister, I have some words of wisdom to share before you take the plunge into sister-travel! This will be helpful for any sister traveling, it doesn’t matter if you are the bossy-pants, overprotective, extremely prepared sibling, or if you are the easy-going but secretly sensitive, always trusting, party animal, usually younger sibling (Full disclosure: I am indeed that bossy-pants sister!).

 

1.You will want to wring her neck… at least once, ok maybe twice.

I am just going to jump right in the deep end with this one. There will come a time where she says lets go left and you say right, or she loses the hostel key, or gets too drunk, or gets scammed while changing your money and brings back way less colones than she should have (these are just hypotheticals of course). There is no way around the fact that most sisters piss each other off every once in a while, and no amount of miles between where you go and your home will change that fact. You will absolutely spend some of the trip not getting along, but how you deal with that conflict is key. You didn’t spend a bunch of money to travel halfway across the world (or even the next state over, for that matter) to do what you can do at your Nonna’s house over the holidays, save the arguing for Thanksgiving! Drop the argument like it’s hot, and get back to making memories!

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Save the drama for when you’re home with ya Mama!

2.Expect your parents to worry twice as much.

From my personal experience… moms are particularly prone to worrying. When I travel solo I don’t hear much from my mom, she only begins to worry after maybe a week or so without an update. Now put two of her babies far away in the same place, and for some reason the worrying begins to multiply. I swear there must be some type of mathematical formula, but the more children away together the more they want to hear from you! The best way to tackle this phenomenon, is to share the burden… I mean the blessing of caring parents 😉 Take turns updating your folks about what you are up to, and where you are headed next. One of the best ways is with photos, and that brings me to my next point…

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“You are going to hike a volca-what!”

3.Expect to take the silliest selfies!

One of the best things about traveling with your sister, is that she already knows how impossibly weird you are! No reason to hold back with her, you can be goofy and raw and real and she won’t be the least bit surprised. Usually discovering new places, and new people, you can feel reserved or filtered until you get your bearings, traveling with my sister is the only time I have felt free to be my silliest-self 100% of the time.

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Only with the sis…

4.There will be things you want to do, that she just isn’t into. 

No big deal! Actually this is a good thing. It is important, especially when traveling with someone you are so emotionally attached to, that you take some time to yourself. It doesn’t matter if you just spend a couple hours checking out an art museum while she sleeps in, or you take a weekend and go learn to scuba dive. Having a little bit of time to reflect alone is healthy for you both, so don’t worry if she doesn’t share every interest you have.

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Take some time to yourself!

5.Expect to share your clothes.

When I was younger, this was not my favorite thing about having a sister… lets get real, in high school it was my least favorite thing in the world! Yet, it never is going to change so eventually you give in… and release the vice grip on that adorable mini skirt you secretly wish she couldn’t fit, but she magically fits in everything you own no matter what size it is! If you haven’t learned to share with your sister yet, you will learn it on this trip. Actually traveling together was the first time I realized it was fun to share clothes with my sister, it instantly doubled my available outfit possibilities!

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All apparel compliments of “Olivia’s Suitcase”.

6.Finally, expect to laugh your ass off!

I laugh more than I do anywhere else I go, when I have my sister by my side. I love to travel, but I will be the first to tell you it is far from easy. Yet, with your sis along for the ride, all those slip-ups and bloopers you usually have to navigate alone, are nonstop fodder for the collection of “inside jokes” you will be able to share forever.

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Here is to those times all your photos come out blurry, because you just can’t stop laughing!

Thanks for reading! Comment below, and let us know any tips you have for traveling with family. Like, Follow, Share!

Peace and Safe Travels!

Olivia

 

 

R&R at a B&B 

This past weekend I took an extra couple days off for some R&R at the BEST bed and breakfast in Virginia. OK I am slightly biased but very rightfully so. In Hillsboro, Virginia a quiet town of 88 residents there is a magnificent bed and breakfast, owned and operated by my great aunt. I grew up with it as a family home and it’s now been converted into this amazing Inn in an equally awesome location. Gourmet farm-to-table bistro’s and wineries producing bold flavors are beginning to pop up in towns surrounding Hillsboro. The tiny town of Hillsboro, and the surrounding countryside, are slowly but steadily becoming more commonly known as wine country for the socialites of the Washington area. For me to refer to this rural slice of Virginia as “wine country” says a lot coming from a girl living in the finger Lakes!

 

Fieldstone Farm

 

I’m just going to give you the highlights of the trip, but for you to get the whole picture, I first have to tell you about the B&B. To say the Fieldstone Farm bed and breakfast is luxurious would be an understatement, to say it’s inviting another understatement, and to call it inspiring yet again an understatement. My aunt’s property will always just be a family home to me, but it’s now equipped with all the modern amenities you would find in a hotel with even fancier soaps and an outdoor pool! Watching this family home evolve into this “resort like” country-get-away, has been such a fun journey. The grounds which I have had many a Easter-egg hunt on, are now home to magnificent flower, herb, and vegetable gardens, perfect places for reflection. One thing that hasn’t changed is my aunt’s love to decorate, every season gets its fair share! When I was just there, every room smelled like cinnamony-goodness and my aunt was ushering in Fall in the best ways. Despite all the modern amenities it can still feel like a trip through time to 1770, with fires blazing and antique furnishings. My Aunt has done a fabulous job keeping most of the decor to date, as this property is one of the premier historical homes in Virginia. This trip I brought my partner, and maybe if I haven’t done a sufficient job getting across how amazing this place is his words will do it best. According to him, Fieldstone Farm is an antique store mixed with a Hilton hotel… or what it would look like if a colonial museum had a baby with a luxury spa, so eloquent that man of mine!

 

Welcome Home

 

Tranquility Anyone?

 

Felt like summer for a day

My Aunt recommends the best places around to all of her guests, so we are always in good hands when we go out with her. This trip she took us to one of her favorites, Market Table Bistro. This is a place one would expect to find in NYC or DC, it is hip to the local farm-to-table food scene and delivers at the highest quality. The premise of the restaurant is comfort food in a gourmet fashion… I couldn’t ask for more! Considering myself a “global gourmand” I feel arbitrarily qualified to judge this eatery, and I give it an A+. The flavors are absolutely delivered as promised, highly evolved yet familiar. I am a huge fan of restaurants with the “fancy comfort food” philosophy, it creates a space where unique and complex flavors become available to those not so comfortable outside of their comfort zone.

 

Shrimp and Grits!

 

Quail and Kale… YUM

 

The potato flight (potatoes done 6 ways)

Visiting Fieldstone Farm and my Aunt Amy is always such a treat, and since I’m back on the writing wagon I wanted to share just a bit of that magic with you. Having the chance to relax in such a positive space played a huge role in me renewing my dedication to follow my dream of travel writing. If you are ever in the Northern Virginia area, my aunt would love to have you at the Inn, and maybe some of the magic of that place will inspire you as well!!