Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere // Q & A with K

So in hindsight I maaaaybe should have started with a post like this BUT I really wanted to highlight my love for London and Twitter poll told me London was in high demand and I was asked about it a few times so this is better late than never. I've been asked a lot of questions about travel over the past few years and while I am absolutely no expert and do not pretend to be I think my point of view might be a little more real than professional travel bloggers. I'm not getting paid to write this or promote certain hotels or brands, this is just the real deal of an American girl with a wicked case of wanderlust trying to see as much of the world as possible and how I do it. However, if there's anyone out there who wants to pay me to travel the world and write about it I'm not gonna turn it down. Ha, ok now that that fantasy is out of the way, let's do this. 





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Why 'Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere?'
I talked about this with Rachel when I was debating chaining the name because it is so long but I ultimately decided against it because it's a Beauty and the Beast reference! I thought it was obvious but that was stupid of me just because it's my favorite movie and words I have lived by since I was 5 doesn't mean everybody has the movie memorized. So because I have my BELLE of the Literati BatB reference, it seemed too perfect to name my travel posts 'Adventures in the Great Wide Somewhere' because I want them...more than I can tell. In case you don't know the song, it's when she sings her Little Town reprise in the field after Gaston proposes and she says, "I want adventures in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell." Which is basically my life motto, so there it was born.

How do you get time off to travel for such long periods of time?
I won't lie. It's extremely rare and very lucky the work schedules I've had since graduation college. My first nursing job out of school, where I worked for 4.5 years, had a schedule where I worked 7 days in a row and then had 7 days off. So if I took a week (7 days of work in a row) off for vacation, I really had 21 days because the off week buffering it. I'm pretty sure that's the only hospital that does that and it was extremely beneficial in my travel expeditions. If I had a "real" job, I would never get that much time off.

Now I work as a travel nurse which, yay, I get to travel and live in different parts of the country and see the USA while I work. I've been super fortunate to be able to take little day trips or short weekend getaways while travel nursing which is awesome. My nursing contracts are usually 13 weeks (I've always extended so I usually work longer) and after that contract ends, I'm not obligated to get a job right away unless I want to. I have the very fortunate luck and freedom to travel in between contract assignments. Which is how I've been able to go to South America for a month, Europe for 3.5 weeks, and take some extended US vacays with my friends and family.

In regards to time, please don't compare yourself to me. I'm convinced that while my family isn't Irish my first name is and it granted me some of their luck. I would never be able to travel like I do if it wasn't for the luck of my work schedules. I'm taking advantage of it now because I know I'm totally fucked when I settle down. One of my BFFs Alexa also loves to travel and she has a "normal" M-F job so further questions on that she would love to answer if you have questions!

How do you afford to travel?
This is probably the question I get asked most and what I assume people want to ask. The easiest answer? I live like an actual miser. I think critically about every dollar I spend because what is most important to me to spend money on is travel and travel expenses. Examples? I don't shop. Rarely do I go to the mall or Target and spend hundreds of dollars or even $50 if it's not living expenses. I love clothes and fashion but I'm so picky with it that it helps. I only buy fashion that I love and I know I will wear for a long time. That Michael Kors bag I bought for my bday? I've thought about that bag for years but always copped out of buying one because of the expense. For my birthday, I splurged. And by splurged I mean I bought on sale. And books? We all LOVE books but rarely do I buy books unless I've already read them, are part of a series, or is by a beloved author I know I will love. I am not a person who needs to be put on book buying bans. I have more self-control than anyone I know. Hmm, what else. Oh, I don't eat out. Rarely. Unless I'm rewarding myself for a good day or bad day or meeting friends. I cook all my food at home and always pack a lunch (this also because I'm so picky with food but that's another story). I don't go to Starbucks every day. It's a treat for me to go and get a coffee and talk with friends or blog. Serious miser. And I'm okay with not binge buying books or having the latest clothes. My personal priority is travel and I will sacrifice almost anything if it means a few bucks closer to a plane ticket.

How do you pick where to go?
Oooh, this is a favorite topic of mine to talk about! WHERE to travel! I'm a total weirdo, first of all. I love historical fiction and the Tudors and ever since my first Dear America book as a kid I've wanted to see the places I've read about. I wanted to see where Anne Boleyn lived and where she was executed and experience and be in all the places I've read about for so long. Almost every trip I've taken, especially Europe, has been inspired by a book. My first trip was a culmination of almost every history book I've read. My best friend from high school and I both decided to do something about wanting to go to Europe instead of just talking about it. We have a friend from high school who is a travel agent and told us about Topdeck Travel and group tours so we did that and added 5 days in Ireland as a stopover.

My next Europe trip was all because of Arcadia Awakens and Just One Day. And my bitch of a physical therapist but that's another story. My mother's family is from Sicily and I've wanted to go there since before I can remember. Italy is my soul. So after reading AA that takes place in Sicily, I legit said to myself, 'Well, why CAN'T I go??' I also had read JOD recently and from there I felt inspired to make it happen...so I did. I figured since I was going over to Sicily I would look up Topdeck tours that started in Rome and went through Eastern Europe because I hadn't been there yet. Add a few days in London at the end of the tour and boom.

While Africa and South America weren't inspired by books per say, more like I read a book involving travel or carpe diem'ing and wanted to plan my next trip to a place I've never been...so I did. I love to go with tour groups--there's a question on that below--so I usually have one or two places I know I want to go within a continent or region and most likely that tour goes to those places AND others. More details on the pros of that below. My last trip I knew I wanted to go to Europe, had just reread Love, in English so Spain was my destination especially because I hadn't been there before. And because I was leaving so close to NYE I figured I might as well spend it in a foreign city and Scotland was my other most lusted after destination but it was going to be January and way too cold to really see it like I wanted to so NYE it was!

Do you like to travel with people or go solo?
Honestly? Solo. But depending on the person, I can make an argument both ways. I met one of my closest friends, who is from Australia, on my first Europe trip and we have met up a few times in various countries to travel together and while it was great to see her and we travel very well together, once I had my first taste of solo travel, I was hooked. I went with a different friend on my second Europe trip and it was such a pain in the ass traveling with her I vowed to only go with my Aussie friend or by myself. I still wish I went on that Europe trip by myself because the person I went with was such a nightmare. But I digress. My friend Rachel--pictured below--and I have a great time traveling together, don't get me wrong but now that I've done both my preference is solo but I don't want to diminish the amazing times I've had with friends.

When I say I travel solo I mean that I usually always book a Topdeck tour. Which means I travel solo to the country it starts in and usually have a few days before and after to really be on my own and then I meet up with a group of people that then travel together. So I'm solo but not alone and this is the best of both worlds for me. Why? Because I'm by myself but still with a group albeit strangers. The Topdeck Travel company tour guides give you a brief history of the place or city you're going and I love this. I love history but its not plausible to carry a history book or tour book with you everywhere. Not my style. I love that they give you suggestions of where to go and then you're free to do what you want. I love the options. If there's a group of people wanting to do something I don't want to, I go off on my own but the option is there to be with people that start off as strangers but don't end up as strangers. And even if I'm with one other person and I can make my own decisions, there's still that pause of "well what does so-and-so want to do?'

And really, being completely alone in a city can be great, too! I've always done London solo and I had a few days in Madrid by myself and I love it. There is no better feeling to me than figuring out where to go, what to do, and taking my own pace. I love my own company. I am 100% an introvert and I feel invigorated being by myself and figuring things out on my own. It is a special kind of high. The two days I had in London by myself this last trip where I went to The Tower and Hampton Court Palace by myself is hands down, a top three day of my entire life. I didn't have to worry the person with me was getting bored by all the history stuff or explain something to have them look at me like I'm a weirdo. I took my time, I sat at the chapel in the Tower and cried, I lamented at the Execution Green, I stood in the Queen's box at the chapel at Hampton Court for a good 10 minutes.  AND while I get to be in cities alone, I have met some of the most amazing people on these tour groups and still stay in touch with at least one person from each trip I've been on so it's the best of both worlds to me. Plus, you get really good at taking selfies.

Do you feel safe traveling, especially alone?
I do. I've never felt unsafe or uneasy about taking an international trip. Terrorism is everywhere and I'm of the firm belief that the Lord takes you when He's gonna take you. If, God forbid, I ever die while traveling, to me it just means if I didn't go I would have died in a car accident or something here on US soil. I don't live my life in fear or asking the what if's. I do always check travel alerts and travel warning, I'm not stupid. There are some places I'll avoid for awhile. Egypt, Turkey is questionable to me right now as well because they seem to be having a lot of terrorist activity and while it is everywhere you have to be smart.

You also have to be aware of your surroundings. I'm cautions and untrusting to a fault. I don't talk to anyone I don't have to. I make minimal eye contact with people on the street. I don't stop if random people try to get me to buy something. My resting bitch face is on point if I'm by myself and even if I'm not. I'm going to be doing a Do's and Don't's post talking a little more about this but I've always had the intuition to act like I know where I'm going even if I'm lost as hell. I use my phone and Google Maps to watch where I'm going on my route but everyone walks with their phone out so it doesn't look like I'm following a map. My best advice if you're looking to travel solo is be confident and fake it till you make it. I've only had one gut check moment of unease when I landed in Kenya at 11 pm at their shanty of an airport and couldn't see my ride. I was by myself obviously and had a small panic moment for abut 5 second because I mentally bitch slapped myself, told myself to calm down, and look more carefully and I found them. Crisis averted as most usually are.


How do you pack for a trip?
Oh, this is such a good one that I'll be breaking down my packing habits into 3 posts coming soon--checked luggage, backpack, and carryon. Stay tuned.

Do you keep a journal while traveling?
Yes! I do! It is another ritual of mine before every trip I take to design a new May Book to take with me as my journal. They've evolved over time as you can see in the picture. That questionable looking green plaid one in the upper left corner was my first travel journal *tear*. And they get a little prettier from that point on. While it can become somewhat of a burden to write in it every day or catch up if I miss a day, it is SO totally worth it in the end. It is so amazing to go back and read random pages of what I was feeling and what I did that day. I also turn them into instant scrapbooks. I take brochures or travel guide pamphlets from whatever I did that day, cut it out, and tape it in. Hindsight, it is the best idea I've ever had and I cherish those journals. My poor kids will probably read them on day in horror of all the shit I've done abroad. Oops.

Is there anything you won't do while traveling?
Ha. Um, my close friends and close travel companions know I have three rules when I travel and while they're a little crass and TMI I will share them because I do think they're important rules for anyone to follow. While I totally urge people to keep an open mind when traveling and open themselves up to new experiences there are a few hard and fast rules I follow on every trip.

1. Don't Do Anything Illegal or Anything That Could Get You Arrested
I mean, this one should be obvious as all fuck but people do stupid things. While I will admit to kicking a guy in the chest at a Florence karaoke bar, that was mostly in good fun. What was not in good fun was when, out of nowhere, I got felt up by a stranger at a bar and seconds before punching him in the actual face, I remembered this rule and really didn't want to get arrested for assault in Amsterdam. Betty, Hannah, and Alexa joke that I will one day be on Locked Up Abroad but most likely not actually because the not doing anything illegal includes drugs; legal Amsterdam special brownies or not, no drugs will be partaken in ever. 

2. Don't Get Any Tattoos
Not so obvious. While the idea of getting inked in a foreign country seems whimsical and romantic, I have zero knowledge about health codes in foreign countries, First World Country or not, I don't trust any needles outside the US of A. A girl I met in South America wanted to get a tattoo in Brazil and me and the girl she was traveling with both looked at her like she had 3 heads. I cannot think of a worse idea (ok I can think of a few but still) than letting a foreign country stick a needle repeatedly into my skin. Nobody wants to find out the hard way that this country or that country doesn't sterilize their needles as well as they should. Congrats, you now have Hepatits B for the rest of your life. 

3. Don't *ahem* Do...Anybody 
 I debated adding this one because it's a little crass but for real, it's important. I'm all about beautiful foreign men *cough* but be smart. I know friends who don't play by this rule and some have been fine and some who have had to take a few Plan B doses. Granted, there's a big gray area here. I myself have landed in the gray are a few times but um...let's just say a home run is never on the table. You can run the other bases as you see fit but home base should be reserved just for that...at home. 

OK and on that note, I think that's a wrap! I would love to answer any and all questions you guys might have in the future or that I haven't answered! I love talking travel and sharing my tips and tricks I've learned along the way.

Don't forget to post on Instagram with the hashtag #WanderlustWednesday! It can be anything--a throwback travel photo of a place you've been, a Google image of where you want to go, an inspirational quote, a travel themed trinket you have, anything that inspires your wanderlust. 



7 comments:

  1. I love this Q&A post so much! (And I'm certainly up for answering anyone's questions about having a regular 9-5, M-F job and still traveling.) I'm actually of the same mindset about fear when I'm traveling. I truly believe when it's our time, God is going to take us home, and that helps offset the anxiety I can sometimes experience! Also, I'm going to be sharing packing tips too once I get back from Europe ;)

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    1. Exactly! It totally helps my anxiety when leaving home! Can't wait for your packing tips!

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  2. I've always been nervous about traveling alone but your tips gave me some confidence!

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    1. Oh, that makes me so happy! If you can do I definitely say you should! It is such an enlightening and invigorating experience! It's like a competition I have against myself to see how much I can do on my own! I'm so weird but it's true! :)

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  3. "However, if there's anyone out there who wants to pay me to travel the world and write about it I'm not gonna turn it down." <-- Truth. I would NEVER turn that down.

    A friend of mine is looking into travel nursing, as it kills two birds with one stone: 1) still employed, 2) get to see more of the country. I'll have to tell them about the 3rd benefit: traveling between contracts! I wonder if that's occurred to them!

    We are going to need to chat about your spending habits. I'm usually pretty good with self-control, but I really don't think I'm near as miserly as you. Share your wisdom!

    Your logic with where you choose to travel -- "I wanted to...so I did" -- is so damn perfect. Seriously, though, why not? If you want to go there, it doesn't matter the reason. Just pick up and go.

    I've never heard of Topdeck before. *bookmarks*

    "I'm of the firm belief that the Lord takes you when He's gonna take you." <--THIIIIIIS. No matter what your belief system is, if you even have one, you shouldn't live in fear. That's not LIVING. Go wherever you want to go and live how you want to live. In a weird way, death can be such a motivator for positive experiences. (If that makes any sort of morbid sense.)

    "All the shit I've done abroad" LOL oh man, haha. "Our mom's scandalous!"

    OH MY GOD RULE #3. HAHA. But really though, make good choices! Just because he's foreign doesn't mean you should forget your own values. And if you're someone who is far more freer than others here at home, then...just be smart about those activities abroad. Those guys know they're one-hit-wonders, and they can easily lie about stuff.

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    1. Right? Please can somebody just pay me to travel and write my opinions? That'd be great! She should totally look into it! It's why its hard to imagine letting it go because its SO easy to take long trips in between travel assignments! Top deck is AMAZING! They are my favorite tour company ever and I plan to do a post on them in the future. I am so scandalous, haha. Not as bad as most but I've got some stories *smirks and shrugs* Your comments absolutely make my entire day and I love so hard that you write so much and actually read them! It keeps me motivated to keep turning out posts I love to write! :)

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  4. The first time I read the title for this feature I KNEW where it was from. B&B is my favorite fairy tale and I LOVE the quote too. It's just such a me quote. I think I need to gain some more self control and live more like a miser than I currently do lol. It's funny you say that most of your travels were inspired by books. My love for England and wanting to study abroad there came about when I read Pride and Prejudice. As I've grown older more and more of my needs to visit places have to do with my favorite books and movies and even actors/actresses I love.

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