10 Movies That Will Make You Want To Travel

This time of year always makes me more restless than I usually am. I’m usually pretty good about embracing all four seasons and finding beauty in the winter; but the short days, bitter cold, and overall bleak landscape of a gray January day can make me a little stir crazy. I find myself looking up flights way more frequently than usual…

If you’re feeling like me, but could also use that extra “push” to actually follow through with some travel plans, below are nine movies that will inspire you to explore. I also threw in one movie that will definitely remind you of the chaos of travel, but sometimes that’s the fun of it…

Lost In Translation

A great movie about two Americans abroad in Japan who are at different chapters in their lives, but are both at a crossroads. Sofia Coppola’s movie both showcases the beauty and vibrant culture of Japan, while also highlighting the feel of culture shock one experiences when they are in a strange and foreign place. The movie also shows how travel throws you into situations where amazing friendships and bonds can be formed from the most unlikely people, no matter how illogical it may seem.

Amélie

A sort of love story like this only seems like it would be plausible in Paris, yeah? Amélie is a shy, young adult who finds an older man’s long forgotten treasure box filled with childhood relics. This prompts Amélie to track down the man and return it to him, anonymously. Along the way, Amélie meets the love of her life, but is too timid and shy to come forward and reveal her true self. It’s a great story about love and taking risks in life, but the whimsical cinematography and the beautiful (and very French) score composed by Yann Tiersen will probably send you over the edge and make you want to look up one-way flights to Paris…

The Darjeeling Limited

A movie about three estranged brothers who embark an a spiritual journey through India while they are still reeling from their father’s death. Wes Anderson seamlessly displays the many senses of India; from the chaotic hustle and bustle of the large cities, to the natural beauty of rural villages. Most of the film’s score features samples from classic Bollywood movies, which helps sets the tone and romanticism of the country.

See also: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Midnight in Paris

Is there any director who can romanticize a city like Woody Allen? I don’t think so. Woody Allen showcases everything that is beautiful about the magical city of Paris. In the movie, a young screenwriter is magically transported to Paris in the 1920s where he meets his literary heroes. While there, he meets a beautiful Parisian woman who longs to visit Paris in the 1890s, where she believes is when Paris must have been its most vibrant. The movie does a great job at reminding people that while it’s okay to fantasize and romanticize about a certain time and/or place, we must not forget to live in the moment and appreciate what we have.

See also: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Little Miss Sunshine

A lovely movie about a dysfunctional family who take a road trip out west so the youngest member can compete in a beauty pageant. The journey to the pageant proves to be difficult, as the family deals with everything from a broken down vehicle, a death, and a full blown meltdown. It’s a nice metaphor about how sometimes it’s more about the journey, not the destination. The movie also has breathtaking visuals of the American west that will tempt anyone to hop in their car and head out for the horizon.

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries is the film adaption of Che Guevara’s tale of taking a road trip through South America with his best friend. It was on this journey that he noticed injustices throughout the countries he visited, specifically with the indigenous populations. It’s an interesting look at such a well known figure right before he became the revolutionary he is known for today. Not only will this movie give you a glimpse into South America and a taste of the freedom that only a road trip via motorcycle could give you, but it also conveys how certain trips become so much more than fun adventures; sometimes the experience of these journeys stay with you for a long time and shape the rest of your future.

Manhattan

Another great Woody Allen film that showcases his love for Manhattan. The story revolves around a neurotic writer played by no other than Woody Allen himself, and his complicated relationships with women and his friends. While the characters are compelling by themselves, the story being set in Manhattan makes the NYC borough play a major role in the movie itself. Filmed in black and white with a musical score from George Gershwin, the movie fantastically portrays all of Manhattan’s grit and beauty. There really is no place quite like New York, and I think anyone could appreciate this movie, whether you’re a local, tourist, or someone who has still yet to check off New York City off their list of places to visit.

Fun fact: Three of Gershwin’s compositions that are featured in this movie were performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic! (The rest were performed by the New York Philharmonic, naturally.)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

If only more people were as adventurous as Ferris! Ferris Bueller decides one day to ditch school and head out for a day trip to Chicago, just because. He takes his willing girlfriend and apprehensive best friend along for the ride and they all have the time of their lives while experiencing all the great things Chicago has to offer.

The movie not only highlights the great city of Chicago, but Ferris’s spirit is something I think all travelers can relate to. Sure, not all of us might have an amazing city like Chicago as our backyard, but that shouldn’t deter you from taking spontaneous adventures for absolutely no reason at all other than to just live life to its fullest.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Okay, so maybe this movie could also make a list titled “Movies that will make you NOT want to travel”, but hear me out! Regardless of your travel experience or where you are traveling, you are always bound to run into some snags and downright terrible travel woes. It just goes with the territory. Whether it’s a missed flight, being pick-pocketed, being stranded somewhere, it happens to the best of us at some point or another. Sure, at the moment it’s terrible and awful and you are probably experiencing a whirlwind of emotions that certainly does not include happiness, BUT, who doesn’t love a good travel horror story after it’s all said and done?

Once everything is sorted out and fixed (and usually everything always ends up okay in the end!), we all love gathering around and laughing at our misfortunes at the end of the day. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles revels in travel snafus, which is partly why it’s such a hilarious movie; because we can all relate and appreciate it.

Up!

Damn you, Disney/Pixar. They always know how to make me cry. This adorable animated film is about an old widower named Carl who sets out for adventure to South America, to honor of his late wife, Ellie, who had always dreamed of going. Carl isn’t the exploring type, but his love for his wife inspires him to honor her adventurous spirit and fulfill her life-long dream. One of the best (and emotional) scenes is when Carl flips through Ellie’s scrapbook and feels dejected and full of shame because he feels as though he let Ellie down because she never made it to South America. However, he discovers Ellie had filled her scrapbook full of her biggest and exciting journey of her entire life; her marriage to Carl. It’s a sweet reminder that things don’t always turn out the way we imagine or plan them to be, but that doesn’t mean your life can’t be full of excitement and fulfillment. It also shows that it’s never too late to start a new chapter in your life and explore the world around you.

So what are you waiting for? Adventure awaits!

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Local Tourist: Playing Tour Guide In My City

A few months ago, I had an amazing opportunity to take three people from Indonesia around Buffalo, NY for the day. One of my best friends, Kim, is an anthropologist and has spent a lot of time in Indonesia for field work. While there, she’s met some pretty great people and has developed friendships with many of them.

One of them is a young woman named Ferra, who works as a tour guide in Indonesia. Ferra was in the US through the Fulbright Scholar Program, a prestigious program that awards grants to students to study internationally. Through this program, Ferra has met many people from all over the globe, including a few from her home country. She was able to travel all over the US during her time here, and she and two of her other Indonesian classmates/friends came to town to pay Kim a visit. Kim is an instructor at two colleges in Western New York, and she couldn’t get off work during one of the days everyone was here, so she gave me the honor of playing tour guide for the day and showing them around town. I was thrilled and flattered that she thought of me…

I immediately started thinking of things to do and places of interest; it can be a bit of challenge because I wanted to make sure I was giving them a nice blend of places a Buffalonian would go, but I also didn’t want to skip over any essential places that I think an out of towner should experience while they are in Western New York.

I picked up the trio at Kim’s parents’ house in the early afternoon, and I immediately knew we were going to get along great because they were so warm and upbeat to me the second I met them! Each of them were from different islands of Indonesia, which was neat, because I felt like I was gaining a pretty well-rounded perspective on the country and the different cultures and ways of life. Ferra is from Borneo, Bobby, a video producer, is from Papua, and Lenny, a travel writer, is from Sumatra.

After picking them up, I drove them straight to Niagara Falls, a most definite must see for anyone in town! It was a bright and sunny day, which made it perfect to roam around and take in the sights and sounds of Niagara River and the Falls. While driving on the 190 (a highway in Buffalo), I pointed to the land across the Niagara River to our left, which happens to be Canada! They really got a kick out of that. Due to visa restrictions, none of them were allowed to venture to other countries while they were in the US, so they loved to see how close they were to another country.

We made our way to the Falls, and I was so glad to be back…I really don’t visit the Falls enough, but I guess that is what happens when you live so close to something like that. I imagine Parisians only visit the Eiffel Tower when they have friends or family from out of town visiting, and it’s quite similar to Western New Yorkers and Niagara Falls. But there is no denying that the Falls and the raging rapids of the Niagara River are both breathtaking and worth the visit. The ride to the Falls is full of anticipation; you drive alongside the Niagara River the entire time, and the rapids grow more fierce the closer you get to the Falls, and in the distance you can see the mist of the Falls once you’re about to arrive. As soon as you park and get out of the car, you can hear the roar of the Falls before you see them, and you just follow the sound until BAM, there they are in all their glory. It was really fulfilling to be with a group of people who were experiencing it for the first time, it was almost as though I was living through them and experiencing the Falls for the first time as well.

We stayed there for quite a bit; we marveled at the Falls up close and on the observation deck, and then walked around Goat Island to get a good glimpse of the rapids. We met an interesting man who is originally from Brooklyn but is now living Buffalo, and he has been all over the world. We all had a nice chat with him and shared our stories of all the places we’ve traveled to.

After the Falls, we made our way back to the city for lunch, and I had to take them to get some wings. They’ve all had wings out in Arizona, but nothing can compare to chicken wings in Buffalo! Deciding where the best wings in Buffalo are is a never ending debate amongst Buffalonians, but I knew I didn’t want to take them to the Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the Buffalo wing, because honestly there are so many other great places to go. Ultimately I decided on the Pan-Am Grill at the Hotel Lafayette, and that largely had to do with the hotel itself. It’s a gorgeous and historical building inside and out, and I wanted them to experience that. Also, the Pan-Am Grill pays great homage to Buffalo’s history, so I thought that was a nice touch as well. Admittedly, I had never had the wings there before, so I was taking a bit of a gamble, but they turned out pretty good. My only complaint was that they were not spicy enough… Depending on where you get wings in Buffalo, they can be very deceptively hot, but I’m a huge fan of spice and heat, and so were my Indonesian friends. However, the wings weren’t as spicy as I’d hoped. Either way, they all devoured them and agreed, they were WAY better than any chicken wing they’ve eaten in Arizona.

After lunch, I asked whether they would be interested in visiting the Albright Knox Art Gallery or Forest Lawn Cemetery, and they wanted to visit the cemetery, so off we went. Forest Lawn is a beautiful, 269-acre cemetery that has a lot of famous and important figures buried there. They taught me to say “permisi” before taking any photos, which is a way to say “excuse me” to the spirits to make sure they were OK with us photographing their graves. All three of them were really wowed by how large it was, and I took them to a few famous graves, one being the 13th President of the United States, Millard Filmore. I also wanted to show them Rick James’s grave, but none of them were familiar with him, despite my horrific attempt at singing Super Freak, so they weren’t too keen on venturing out to visit him.

After a bit of wandering, I decided to take them to see the grain elevators and silos. These are great relics of Buffalo’s past, as Buffalo was once the largest grain supplier in the entire world. They are now abandoned and rusted, very symbolic of Buffalo’s industrial past that has come and gone; however, they have since found new life…another great allegory of Buffalo’s recent renaissance. Art shows, festivals, kayaking, and rock climbing are just some of the things offered down by the grain elevators. The area has since been renamed Silo City, and it’s a pretty neat space to enjoy a range of activities. It’s most active in the summer, so when we were down there, not much was going on, but they still loved hearing my spiel about Buffalo’s past and I think they liked the eeriness of us being alone amongst the rusted giants that used to breathe so much life into Buffalo’s livelihood.

After the grain elevators, we met up with Kim, who was just wrapping up with her classes at Buff State. I made sure to drive up Delaware Ave and down Chapin Parkway to show them the extravagant and beautiful mansions and carriages houses that were built in the late 1880s. Many of the mansions on Delaware have since been converted into office spaces and country clubs, but the homes on Chapin are still residential and they are pretty breathtaking. Even though I’ve driven by them countless times, I still find myself slowing down in my car and staring every time I happen to be driving by. They are just incredible.

We eventually met up with Kim at the HH Richardson-Olmstead Complex, which is located right next to Buff State. It’s an abandoned insane asylum that was designed by famed American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and the outside was designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Olmstead. Olmstead created a vast park system in Buffalo, with its focus to incorporate nature into urban living. He based his designs on the park systems in Paris, and his parks are an integral part of Buffalo’s design. You may be more familiar with his contributions to New York City, as he designed Central Park.

Anyways, the Richardson Complex is an absolutely stunning building that has a strange history given that it was an insane asylum. Add in that it’s now abandoned, and it’s become quite a point of interest for tourists and locals alike. Tours of the interior are only conducted in the summer, but viewing it from the outside is just as intriguing because it’s beautiful, with all the classic “Richardsonian Romanesque” elements that Henry Hobson Richardson designed his buildings with.

We took some pictures outside of the building, and made sure to say “permisi” to ensure that no spirits would appear in any of our photos haha…and then we decided to grab a drink. Lenny said she was in the mood for something sweet, so we decided to head to the Chocolate Bar, a swanky dessert bar in Buffalo’s entertainment district. We all ordered dessert flavored martinis and some sweets to pass around. After drinking, we ventured a block down to a restaurant/bar called The Lodge, because it has a bunch of arcade games. We ordered some more drinks and started playing skeeball, air hockey, and the longest game of pool known to man!

After our games, I thought it would be fun to head up to Allentown, which is where I usually like to hang out to drink. Allentown is filled with an eclectic choice of bars; ranging from your typical dive bars, sports bars, more swanky places, and great bars that have live music. I chose Nietzsche’s; not only are the drinks cheap with an interesting crowd, but there happened to be burlesque girls that night which I thought would be a bit different. There was also a young guy covering Madonna songs on a piano which was pretty fun. The burlesque girls were great, it was the first burlesque show for Ferra, and she seemed pretty amused.

At that point, it was pretty late in the night, and it was time to say our goodbyes. They were all heading out the next morning to continue on to New York City. My new friends gifted me a guide book on Indonesia, along with some Indonesian trinkets and a very sweet thank you card which they all signed and wrote little messages. It was so nice! They were all so appreciative that I took them around, but honestly it didn’t feel like a task at all, I had a blast and they were so much fun to talk to. I felt full of pride showing them around my city, but I was having just as much fun asking them about their lives in Indonesia and what it’s like living there.

I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to meet Ferra, Bobby, and Lenny and I now consider them my friends…even though we come from very different parts of the world, we all have very similar interests, especially when it comes to traveling and exploring. They all seemed down for going on adventures, and I think I just found some more travel companions for future travels. I’m looking forward to visiting them in Indonesia so we can swap roles and they can take me around their towns.

Charleston, South Carolina: Quaint, Traditional, and…Icy?!

At the end of January, I took a semi-impromptu trip to Charleston, South Carolina. My cousin moved down there in April 2013, and my aunt followed a few months later. It’s funny, because prior to my cousin moving down there, I didn’t really know much about Charleston at all, but it seemed as though as soon as she moved there, I kept hearing about what a lovely town it is. And the more I researched it, the more eager I was to visit.

This winter has certainly been more brutal than recent winters, and even places in the south have been feeling its wrath. January is an awfully unpredictable month weather-wise, so I knew that I was taking a bit of a gamble traveling down there that time of year, but hey.

As soon as I stepped outside of Charleston’s airport, I was greeted with glorious sunshine and a temperature in the mid-60s; two things I hadn’t experienced in Buffalo in months. It was such a lovely and foreign feeling for me to experience such weather that time of year, and I got a good chuckle seeing the locals all bundled up in their hats and scarves because it was too mild for them. I’m really glad I arrived in the early afternoon, because my first day in Charleston was the only day I was going to experience warm(er) temperatures…

I was picked up by my cousin Chelsea and she took me straight to my hotel, an Embassy Suites located in downtown Charleston, which used to be the Citadel, a famous military college. The hotel was gorgeous inside and out; the outside is painted a pale pink and is reminiscent of an old castle.

The lobby of my hotel.

Charleston was really my first foray into the American South, I’ve been to Florida a few times, but I wouldn’t consider Florida the “traditional” south. As soon as my cousin and I cruised around town, I could see that Charleston is a great blend of history and contemporary; it’s a huge college town so downtown was filled with college students walking and biking, and the streets were lined with trendy shops  and upscale boutiques.

Seeing the Antebellum homes up close was such an experience! The homes were massive yet quaint and charming at the same time. Most of the homes still used gas lanterns for their porch lights, and many of them had these gorgeous open-air porches that stretched alongside the home with a doorway. My cousin told me those are iconic to Charleston homes and were designed to catch the breeze from the ocean to help beat the heat. The streets were narrow which made it difficult to navigate in a car, especially when you had to share the road with horse carriages pulling tourists. Chelsea said it can be a real pain to get caught behind them, but if you pulled up close enough with the windows rolled down, you could hear the tour guide, which was pretty neat.

After driving around a bit, my cousin drove me to Battery Park, a great spot near the waterfront filled with the iconic southern live oak trees. I’ve been dying to see these beautiful trees in person! They honestly were the things I’d been most excited to see, aside from the Antebellum homes…and my family. It felt so reinvigorating to be near the ocean again. I just love, love, love the ocean. Any body of water, really. I don’t know if it has anything to do with growing up next to a Great Lake, but I’ve always been drawn to the water and everything that living near it entails.

Visiting the south also means eating a lot of food, and I was so ready to indulge in some southern delicacies. I was lucky enough to have my aunt and cousin take me to some tried and true places, but I also reached out to Katka Lapelosová, a managing editor at Matador Network, to suggest some great places. Katka went to college in Charleston so she was full of great suggestions!

My first meal in Charleston was at a restaurant called Virginia’s on King, and we honestly chose this place because we were both pretty hungry and it was literally right outside of my hotel. The interior was beautiful and both the hostess and my waiter had thick southern accents, so it was easy for me to like it right off the bat. I got fried pickles and a shrimp po’boy, and they were both pretty damn good. I actually ordered a fried clam po’boy, but my waiter made a mistake putting in the order so I ended up with the shrimp po’boy. I really didn’t care that much and felt too bad saying something, but my cousin Chelsea spoke up for me. To apologize, he decided to send us a slice of pecan pie for dessert, and oh my god…it was to die for! I think I made out pretty well for my first southern meal, yeah?

My very healthy meal I ate at the famous Hominy Grill... Fried chicken in a biscuit with sausage gravy and stewed okra and tomatoes as a side.

My very healthy meal I ate at the famous Hominy Grill… Fried chicken in a biscuit with sausage gravy and stewed okra and tomatoes as a side.

It was so easy to fall in love with Charleston, and I wanted to kick myself because I kept saying the words “quaint” and “charming” over and over again, but those truly are the two best words to describe it. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side, and we were in for a quite unique experience over our upcoming days…

There was a huge ice storm brewing and many people were preparing for the worst. My mom and I got a chuckle out of this, being from Buffalo, but it really was a huge deal for the southerners. They simply do not have the resources to combat an ice storm, so all the schools and many businesses were shut down during our stay.  The weather itself didn’t bother me that much, as I’m from Buffalo, although many of the museums and places of interest I wanted to see were closed, so that wasn’t ideal. But what can you do? I’m SO grateful that we were staying at a hotel located right downtown, because almost everything was within walking distance. Had we been staying at a hotel near the airport, we really would have been screwed because many of the roads and highways were closed because of the ice.

A fountain outside of the Thoroughbred Club covered with icicles.

Even though the weather was putting a damper into what I wanted to do, it was pretty amusing seeing the city try to handle the elements. We even saw a business owner pour boiling water on his steps to try and melt the ice, and when we tried to tell him that was a terrible idea, he got annoyed with us and continued. Sometimes I’d encounter a few people originally from the north who were now living Charleston, and we would exchange winks and laughs at how the entire town was shut down because of some ice.

With a lot of businesses closed, it was a challenge finding places to go, but ironically, one of the few places open on King Street was a really cool bar called Closed For Business. Funny, right?! It turned out to be a really cool bar with an extensive beer menu, so it was a nice place to chill out instead of hanging out in my hotel room.

For the nightlife, I’m more of a dive bar/pub kind of girl, so I really enjoyed a bar called ACs which came at Katka’s recommendation and was really close to my hotel. It seemed like a perfect place for the college crowd to hang out, and I know if I lived in Charleston, it would be one of my haunts for sure. I also enjoyed Juanita Greenbergs (another one of Katka’s recommendations!) for my taco and margarita fix.

We also stopped at a very swanky steakhouse called Halls Chophouse, and what a kick that was. I got the vibe that when anyone who is famous/important rolls through Charleston, they definitely stop there. It’s pretty pricey, but it’s worth it to stop in for at least one drink to just experience the owner…he was hilarious! He literally comes up to every single person in the restaurant to shake their hand and thank them for stopping in. Talk about southern hospitality! We stopped in on our first night and then a few nights later, and he still remembered all of our names and that my mom and I were from Buffalo. When my cousin and I were standing at the crowded bar, he searched high and low for stools for us, and he eventually found some for us. I just got a kick out of watching him run around to make sure he stopped and talked with everyone.

I wasn’t able to see any of the plantations because of the weather, but I was able to tour the historic Aiken-Rhett House. It was very well preserved, with lots of original artifacts and pieces from its time, and I was glad to have toured at least one historical destination to gain some more knowledge of Charleston’s history and the Old South.

No, I'm not a fan of the University of South Carolina, but I just had to get a picture by the store given its lovely name...

No, I’m not a fan of the University of South Carolina, but I just had to get a picture by the store given its lovely name…

While the weather certainly wasn’t convenient, I still felt like I experienced a lot of Charleston and I still got a good feel of the city. I saw the beautiful architecture, the ocean, market vendors on Market Street, a museum, delicious southern food, and wonderful, hospitable people. I’m really excited to return to Charleston when it’s in full swing, when the poor palm trees aren’t being weighed down by icicles, and the locals aren’t using sand paper scrape ice off their car, or pouring boiling water on their front steps…

New Year, New Opportunities

Well hello there, 2014! Are we already in mid-February? Right, okay then… Life just keeps on moving, whether we’re ready for it or not.

2013 was a strange year for me, but I suppose all years tend to turn out that way. I would categorize 2013 as a “transitional year” for me; I graduated college in December 2012, and I didn’t feel quite ready to leap into the job hunting world, because I just had no idea what I truly wanted to do. I have a BA in Public Communication, and I can honestly say I loved my experience at Buffalo State and the program I was in. I felt like I was getting a good education and I enjoyed my classes and the content I was learning. A degree in the communications field can be great because it’s quite versatile, but what did I want to do with it?

I made sure to remind myself that I don’t have to be boxed in to my degree. All because I have a degree in Public Communication it doesn’t mean that I have to get a “traditional” PR job. In fact, traditional PR jobs is something that I never wanted. I’ve always been more interested in the writing aspect to public communication and I knew I wanted to pursue a career with a strong focus in writing. All I knew is that if I could find a job that would keep me surviving and happy, that is all I wanted. If it didn’t necessarily pertain to my degree, that was okay.

But…still. What did I want to do? It’s a question young adults are always asked, especially after they graduate college. I loved getting an education but I couldn’t imagine digging myself deeper into debt by pursuing grad school. Plus, I had that trip to Europe coming up in the summer, and I’m not sure if I wanted to head into any job interviews with me having to say, “Oh yeah, I will be in Europe for the month of July, I hope that’s okay.” For some reason I had a feeling that might put a strike against me during the hiring process. Plus, how could I think about getting a job and diving into the real world when I had Europe on my mind?

So Europe became my haven. Whenever I was asked the dreaded “So now what are you going to do?” question, I confidently answered, “Well, I am going to Europe for a month in the summer, so right now I’m just focusing on saving up money for that.”

And just like that, instead of being met with the quizzical-meets-judgmental stare that I usually got after I danced around that question, peoples’ faces instead lit up with smiles and enthusiasm.

“Europe! Oh my god, how exciting!”

“You are going to have a life changing experience!”

“I went to Europe when I was your age, it was the best time of my life!”

“You might never come home!”

“You might fall in love and get married over there!”

So maybe I didn’t get married (there’s always next time) and I ended up coming back home…but everything else certainly happened to me over there. Even though I knew it was going to be an amazing, life changing experience, nothing could prepare me for the profound impact traveling abroad left on me. Every single day I was there, I said to myself, “Yep. I need to keep traveling. I need to do this for the rest of my life.” I already knew that this wasn’t going to be my last big trip, and that I would somehow need to find a way to keep this going, well after this trip concluded.

I never expected or planned to have my trip to Europe help shape what I wanted to do when I came back home, and inevitably to the real world, but that’s exactly what it did. I kept a blog while I was there (this one, duh) and I loved recording everything that I had done while also reflecting on my experiences. Maybe I could do this for a living? Coming home from Europe, I discovered the vast and wonderful world of travel writing. I was inspired, encouraged, and motivated. I loved reading everyone’s experiences and I also loved seeing people making a living doing it.

While it still remains to be seen if I can or will make a living off my travel writing, I feel really happy and excited that I can more accurately pinpoint what I’m looking for when it comes to my career. I want to write and have the freedom to explore the world. I want to write meaningful content and inspire others, whether it’s to travel or to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. Now that we’ve turned the page to 2014, and I look at my “transitional year” in the rear-view mirror, I’m grateful that I can answer the question, “Now what do you want to do?” a little bit more accurately.

Travel Porn

Conversation with my good friend, Kim, another avid traveler.

 

Ah, yes. The desire to travel and see the world is something I’ve had my entire life, and for the most part, it seemed like such a fantasy world to live such a life. Being tied down with school, work, and crushing debt really puts a damper on those dreams, yeah? So what did I do?

I became a person with an obsessive desire to pore over maps, globes, travel magazines/websites/blogs, and everything else I could get my hands and eyes on. TripAdvisor.com and Kayak.com became my havens. Not only would I use sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet to research cities and countries I was interested in, I would then go to Kayak.com to find flights. It wasn’t enough to just see when and where these flights to my desired city were taking off, I went as far to look up what kind of plane it was. I looked up how long my layovers would be.

Once I reached my destination, I took to TripAdvisor to see where I would be staying. Where is the nearest train station from my hotel/hostel? I’d google subway maps in each city to try and familiarize myself with how each system works and what station I would get on and get off at depending on where I wanted to go. With the amount of time I’ve spent looking at street views via Google Earth and looking up public transportation maps in other cities, I’m surprised the NSA hasn’t contacted me yet for a job.*

By the time I went to London in July, I was already pretty familiar with how the tube worked and I already knew how to get to certain places I wanted to see. I was setting out for a specific location in London with a group of girls on my trip, and I was leading the way and explaining what station we were to get on and off at. I remember having this exchange with one of them:

 

“I thought you’ve never been to London before?”

“I haven’t.”

“Then how do you know how to get there already?”

“Oh, I looked up the London Underground map way before our trip and looked up stations and stuff.”

“…Oh.”

 

Hey, I never said my obsession was normal…

I know from the outside it seems like I must have OCD or I’m just super detail-oriented and I need to make sure everything is planned out perfectly, but honestly I’m not like that at all. I’m actually a pretty laid back, go with the flow kind of traveler. I enjoy doing these things and looking up these tiny details because it provides me comfort when I’m sitting at home daydreaming about when I’ll be able to travel and go places I’ve longed to see for my entire life.

It’s one thing for me to sit there and say, “Someday I’ll get to Japan.” But it’s an entirely different thing for me to imagine taking off in a Boeing 777 at 5:35 PM at JFK, finally landing in Tokyo 14 hours later, then knowing which train I need to take to get to my affordable and clean hostel located in the heart of Tokyo.

Sometimes looking up the specifics of my fantasy trips are the closest things I have to actually getting there and experiencing it in real life. Knowing the ins and outs of a city’s subway system, looking up Google street views of areas I’d like to visit, finding the booking availability of hostels, these are things that make it real to me when I’m sitting at home wishing I could just get up and go to the airport and be somewhere else in the world.

So while I’m not in a position in my life to have the ability to travel to these places, at least I can always rely on these travel porn sites to help curb my travel addiction. 😉

*Seriously though, don’t spy on me. I’m sadly really boring. You’d just be wasting everyone’s time.

Favorite Travel Songs

There’s something so calming and peaceful about being able to put in your headphones and get lost in your own private world that your personal musical playlist gives you.

We all have our favorite playlists to listen to depending on what we’re currently dealing with; whether it’s dealing with heartache/a break up, a playlist for working out, a playlist to motivate and inspire yourself, or a nostalgic playlist filled with old, cheesy songs from your youth (you know, before your music tastes had a real chance to evolve).

When I’m traveling, I’ve got a handy selection of go-to songs I like to listen to. The combination of listening to familiar songs coupled with being in a strange, new place is very comforting to me. I found that listening to my music in certain situations really helped ease me and enjoy my travels so much more, especially during uneasy or restless moments that everyone is bound to experience when traveling. During long stretches riding on the bus, sitting in crowded and hot subways, or times when I was in a crowded hostel room and I just needed “alone” time. Listening to music helped me relax and instead of me thinking, “Are we there yet??” or “Get me OFF this fucking subway”, I would think, “Hey, I’m en route to Italy right now…I can’t believe I can actually say that.” or, “I’m in London riding the tube…this is AWESOME.”

Below is a list I’ve compiled of my favorite travel songs. Some are songs very specific to my most recent trip to Europe, but some are songs that I will always love to listen to, no matter where I’m traveling.

This Time Tomorrow by The Kinks

Well this one is a bit obvious, isn’t it? The song is about traveling on a plane and wondering what will come tomorrow, after he arrives to his destination. The song even includes sound effects of a plane engine! How could you not enjoy this right before you’re about to embark on an adventure?

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire

The opening verse is my favorite of the entire song:

 

They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock,
These days, my life, I feel it has no purpose,
But late at night the feelings swim to the surface.
‘Cause on the surface the city lights shine,
They’re calling at me, “come and find your kind.”

Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small,
That we can never get away from the sprawl.

The lyrics reminds me of someone who is a bit of a wandering soul, someone who doesn’t want to be tied down to the typical, corporate 9-5 lifestyle that we are often fed into believing is the only way to thrive… I think the lyrics are about someone looking for something more out of life, although they aren’t totally sure where or exactly what that is. Reminds me of…me.

 

We Own The Sky by M83

The title says it all. This song is about freedom and independence, things I’ve found the most in myself when traveling.

 

LDN by Lily Allen

This song falls into the category of songs specific to my last trip. Lily has been one of my favorite singers since her debut, and I still listen to her music pretty much every day. I got unbelievably giddy on the bus ride from Wales to London, and as soon as we were within city limits of London, I could barely sit still in my seat. I was so excited to be seeing all of London’s famous sites in person, and listening to Lily, a Londoner, while looking out the window and taking in London for the very first time was spectacular.

 

I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li

Another song that speaks to my wanderlust. The song is about following someone who is wild and unpredictable, like a river. Whomever, or whatever, you may be pursuing might be impossible, but there’s still the journey, right?

 

Going to California by Led Zeppelin

Probably my favorite song of all-time. I’ve never been to California, but the message still remains the same. Going somewhere that you’ve romanticized and idealized about, even if your fantasies about the destination aren’t always realistic or what they turn out to be. Took my chances on a big jet plane…

The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel

Another beautiful song about a lost and wandering soul drifting about…

 

Time To Pretend by MGMT

I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw in the prime of my life. A coming of age song reminiscing about simpler times in childhood, and the uncertainty of growing up and making your way in the “real world”.

 

Such Great Heights by The Postal Service

Yeah, yeah…say what you want. But it’s a great song, and remember this was probably your favorite song at some point in your life.


In My Life by The Beatles

Pretty self explanatory, just listen to the lyrics. Gotta love The Beatles and their beautiful and simple music.

BONUS:

Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg

This one is most definitely specific to my time in Paris… I was laying in bed sleeping one night with the balcony door open to get a nice breeze, when someone driving was stopped at a light and this song was BLARING from the car. It woke me up instantly, and I laid there in dark, in my little apartment in Paris, listening to Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg serenade each other in French. C’était magnifique!

Saying Goodbye and Decompressing

In my very first post, on the eve of my departure, I wrote about how I knew I’d be making strong bonds and friendships with the people I’d be traveling with. Little did I know how strong and powerful those bonds would be, so soon into my trip. It sounds so cliché to say, I know, but truly, my life has been changed from the 25 days I spent abroad. And most of it has to do with how I did it, and who I traveled with.

The night of our farewell dinner started off in the hostel bar where we all had some drinks before walking to the restaurant. One by one, we all eventually made our way down there and we started talking about our trip, our favorite memories, and our flights home. I didn’t want to believe that this really was our last night together, I was having so much fun chatting with everyone but it was hard to ignore the fact because it was the topic of our discussions.

We made it to the restaurant, and the dinner went by as fast as the trip! I remember talking to my table about what our favorite cities were, how much we enjoyed our group, and everything else you would talk about at a farewell dinner. Later in the night a lot of us got up and mingled at other tables, then we walked back to the hostel. The night was still early (especially for Barcelona), and I know none of us wanted the night to end, so we ended up straight back at the hostel bar! The bar was a lot more crowded than it was when we left, and we all just hung out and drank some more.

The night was winding down, and my heart was getting sadder. I had been dreading our last night for at least a week, and I tried my best to shove it out of my mind and to live in the moment, so when the actual moment came for our last night, I had no choice but to live in it. I started crying when two girls, Gabby and Carly, left for the night. I really did start to lose it when I was outside with Megan, Darren, and Kevin. Kevin was being so cute and sweet and was telling Darren how much fun and amazing our trip was, and as I was listening to him talk, I started crying more and more. It was one of the very few times in my life that I’ve cried in front of people, but I didn’t care. I just had to.

I eventually made it up to bed, I had to be up really early for my flight home the next day. I woke up the next day feeling as depressed as ever, but I can only chalk that up to being a good thing because it meant that I had the best time of my life. We all said our goodbyes at the airport, which was honestly a blur and I don’t think I said goodbye to everyone which I feel bad about. Luckily, Ashlee was on my flight to Atlanta, and we both had long layovers there, so we hung out for a bit before we had to part ways for our flights home.

Now that I’ve had a few days to decompress and reflect on my trip, it absolutely was, hands down, the best time of my life. Every single day I felt happier than the last, and I found myself laughing at new memories every day. I’ve yearned to travel for as long as I can remember, and most of the time it felt impossible, especially the past few years. Having finally got the opportunity to do so, I honestly can’t imagine it could have been any more perfect than it was. The trip fulfilled every thing I could have possibly wanted it to, and then some. It sounds so lame, but there were so many times in my trip where it felt like the stars aligned and things just seemed too perfect for me.

Obviously visiting so many amazing places was what made my trip so magical, but I feel so grateful and lucky that I got to experience those moments with the people I was traveling with. I completely underestimated how great it is to travel and bond with a bunch of strangers and become so close to them in such a short amount of time. I decided to travel with a group for the convenience, little did I know what a great decision it was because I made so many new friends.

Many of us were traveling solo, and it’s funny how quickly you will bond with people when you are forced to. I am normally a pretty guarded person when you first get to know me, but I felt myself getting so close and comfortable with everyone really quickly, and it felt like we had known each other for years and years. I was telling and sharing things with my new friends that I haven’t even shared with my friends back home. There were so many different personalities in my group, and we all came from very different backgrounds, but we all got along together so well and I loved spending time with everyone. I didn’t feel weird or out of place with a single person in my group, there was always someone to talk to or hang out with. During our free time, it was always so easy to find a person to go out with because there was at least one person interested in doing something that you wanted to do.

There were times where I thought it was just too crazy how similar I was with certain people in my group and how, by chance, we ended up signing up for the same trip and ended up traveling together. Ashlee and I were roommates together in Dublin, and we roomed together in every other city after that because we just had so much in common and we got along so well. We were always on the same page, and we were just great travel companions. I don’t know how it worked out so well, but it really did! It just felt like the stars aligned and we were supposed to meet and become roommates in our first city. I had so many of those “We were supposed to meet!” moments on my trip with many other people, I don’t know if I believe in a higher power, but it’s times like that where it’s hard not to.

Another reason why my trip was so great was because of my tour director! Darren was just so awesome! He was so funny, cool, and he really made sure we were all prepared and ready to take on each city. It felt like we were traveling with a close friend, rather than a chaperone taking us around place to place. Darren made sure we were always at the right place at the right time for certain events, and was always so patient with us when he was explaining important details like public transportation, directions, meeting points, etc. He was so casual about everything, but he worked really hard behind the scenes to make sure everything was seamless for us. He would circle important points on all of our maps, write down the addresses of our hotels on the maps, and he always had interesting facts and anecdotes about each city or monument we were visiting. He also set up some optional excursions for us in each place that were so much fun and a lot of them were the highlights of my trip. Going to Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris was definitely one of my favorites, and Darren read us quotes from Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, which was a real nice touch.

Darren was also such a good sport with our crazy group too, dealing with us messing with him on a constant basis, whether it was hijacking his phone and updating his Facebook status, trying (and failing) repeatedly to impersonate his English accent and British speak (swimming costumes?), or all of us wondering why the hell he was so obsessed with Notting Hill… But Darren also had his fun at our expense too! Making fun of our American accents (Feck off! Ehkwerddddd.), constantly pulling pranks on us and messing with us with his straight-faced sarcasm. I’ve never been on an EF tour before, but it’s hard to imagine there are any better tour directors than Darren!



The memories made on this trip will stay with me forever, and going on this trip only solidified what I always knew, that I need to travel and see the world. I know my traveling adventures are far from over, and new memories will be made, but I don’t think anything I will do will be able replicate how amazing my first time overseas was, for the reasons I just wrote about. Yes, seeing the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and going to the top of Mt. Pilatus were amazing and life changing, but the small moments of me getting to know everyone on my trip and having intimate conversations with them was what set this tour apart from any other tour across Europe. Whenever I told people back home that I was going to Europe for a month, everyone responded the same way, saying that I was about to have a life changing experience. Of course I believed them, but it was hard to truly grasp what they meant until I came home and realized how much my life has been changed and enriched. I fell in love with so many things while I was there, and learned so much. Now I just can’t wait to move onto the next chapter in my life which hopefully includes a lot of traveling, and coming back in contact with all of my new friends.

Message from our hostel in Barcelona
 

 Our trip’s theme song!