18/05/26-29 Not Enough Garden Gnomes in Roanoke, VA

Day 1: Wait, What Day Is It?

One thing you’d know about me if you’ve ever worked with me is that time has no meaning to me. It’s yet another reason in the “She’s probably an alien list,” time travels differently in space. And in my brain. So I decided to take a weekend trip to Roanoke, Virginia a couple weeks ago during this three-day weekend. Sadly, I had to work on the first day of the three-day weekend, but only for 4 hours, so the 2-hour drive to Roanoke was totally doable after work. So I did it. I didn’t leave immediately after work, taking pity on my sweet cat boy and spending a bit of time cleaning up the apartment a bit before I left (I’d gone to Kennedy Space Center the weekend previous, but was only gone for two days). Once in Roanoke, I checked in to the hotel (thanks dad!) and set out on foot for downtown to get dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, which was delicious. The hotel staff at the desk expressed some concern about the weather, but sure I would be fine, I had a waterproof backpack and a water resistant jacket in my backpack. And I was fine. That night……

After dinner, I walked back to the hotel to plan my weekend, which turned out to be a good idea because the museum I wanted to see the most doesn’t open on Sundays or Mondays, which were the only two days I was planning on being in Roanoke. Luckily, dad could extend my stay by another day and I didn’t have to be to work until 4 on Tuesday, which meant a trip to the museum on the horizon.

Day 2: Rain Rain Rain

So one of the problems with starting a trip on a Sunday in the southern United States is… things are closed. Or they don’t open until late. And they still close at 5. So I had plenty of time to get breakfast and tool around Roanoke waiting for the art museum to open up so I could visit it while waiting for the transportation museum to open. I visited the wire man who stands on the third floor of the art museum and keeps watch over the city, before heading to the transportation museum to check out the trains and old cars. The museum was pretty neat, but neither art museums nor transportation museums are “my thing,” but they were enjoyable all the same. Of course, when I left the transportation museum to walk the 20min back to the hotel, the sky opened up and… well, it turns out my jacket isn’t as water resistant as I’d like and my backpack, while still way more waterproof than other backpacks, not 100% waterproof. More like 80%.

I took a similar photo with my #analog #yashica365 and then I had to count out my photos again to make sure I didn’t accidentally double-expose it. “I took one inside and then 1-2-3 up here so I should be on frame 5 ok good” at Taubman Museum of Art

After hanging everything to dry and having a nice mug of tea, I went on a hunt to buy dry socks and rain boots (ended up with kids boots a size too big, but they’re better than completely wet leather Doc Martens!) before heading to the antique mall, which wasn’t as impressive as I was hoping. There was a lot of fine china and Star Trek books (which seemed weird to me. Did Roanoke have it bad for Star Trek more than other places I’ve been to? I’ll never know), but not a lot of old cameras and definitely no light meters, which is what I was looking for. So I decided to head to Black Dog Salvage to check it out in the, oh, 30min I had before it closed. That was a very cool visit, I was much more impressed with their goods than the antique mall. Sadly, they only had one garden gnome in all their concrete statuary. I love garden gnomes…

After a quick stop at the hotel to drop some stuff off, I headed to a burger and beer place for dinner on recommendation from the desk guy (who kindly lent me his umbrella as I was leaving to go shopping), which is a weird choice for me as I don’t eat red meat or drink beer. But I figured “why not, I’ll eat a cheeseburger.” The cheeseburger wasn’t amazing, I didn’t realize there weren’t any veggies on the burger, and the drink was bottled, but there was a regular standing near where I was sitting working towards 1,000 total beers (the place is like a motorcycle gang or the Girl Scouts, for every 100 beers you get a patch to put on your custom shirt and at 1,000, you get your own day and you can add a burger of your own creation). He was at about 890, which is a lot of beer. I ended up sitting and chatting with him, a couple of people who came in to eat, and the waiter for a while and it was really good company. I left a bit earlier than I otherwise might have because the plan for the next morning was to leave around 7:30am to go to the Green Bank Observatory.

Day 3: She’ll Be Going Up the Mountain When She Goes

After a very groggy re-check-in and a mediocre (but free) hotel breakfast, I started off towards the Green Bank Observatory in the Monongahela National Forest. I was a little worried about the drive, which was about 3hr and went through the National Radio Quiet Zone. Luckily, my GPS saved the anticipated directions because I had downloaded the map to my phone the night before, so I didn’t need to worry. I even had a “friend” driving behind me for 1.5-2 hr of the long trip. It was fun to see my “Truck Friend” behind me during the journey.

Once I got up to the Observatory, I was surprised at how not-busy it was. I figured it was a holiday weekend and that there would be more people, but there were maybe 10 people on the tour. It was an interesting trip and I’m glad I decided to go as part of the Roanoke trip, making the drive 3hr instead of the 5 it would have been from home, but by that point in the weekend, I was tired and kind of wanted to go home. If you’re interested in space science, the Green Bank Observatory has many very cool, very historic telescopes, and is worth a visit, but maybe not an all day one.

After driving back down the mountain, I ordered a pizza and watched Star Trek in the hotel room. I had one more stop to go before I could call my Roanoke trip complete and it was the reason I extended my stay by a day:
O. Winston Link Museum.

Day 4: Flash Photography

As a vintage camera person, the main reason I came to Roanoke was its relatively convenient location and the O. Winston Link Museum.

Link and George Thom with Link’s Flash equipment, 1956 20 x 16 inch gelatin silver print

I started my morning at the O. Winston Link Museum and was the only person in the museum. Seeing the equipment and the black and white photography was amazing. My favorite photo was the photo above that had been blown up to be larger-than-full size, where O. Winston Link and his assistant were surrounded by their equipment. It’s amazing how many flash pieces it took to take the photos.

After my time in the museum, I drove home in time to freshen up before heading to work! Long-weekend trip, complete! Overall, I had a nice time, but I was very happy to be home.

18/02/19: Wow! Well… My bad….

It’s been a while since I last posted! At first, I thought it had been over a year, but that’s because I only just glanced at the date. It’s been over six months and, well, a lot has changed since then!

The last time I updated, I had just gotten two part time jobs at two different libraries in two different library systems. I started as a Library Page at Kernersville Branch Library in Forsyth County Public Libraries, which was a part-time, high-school minimum education position in the library system I wanted to work in (my family had been going to Kernersville Branch Library since I was in high school and I fondly remember hating shelving kids books there when I needed to get volunteer hours once). I also started as a Library Assistant at Hemphill Branch Library in Greensboro Public Libraries, which was a part-time, I’m-not-sure-of-the-minimum-education-but-it-wasn’t-a-masters-for-sure position in a library system that I’d interviewed in before (I actually realized later that my boss was at that original interview). I liked the location of the first and the duties of the second, but both helped me get my foot in the door for what would eventually lead to….

MY FIRST FULL TIME JOB.

I’m now the Youth Services Librarian at Walkertown Branch Library, which was my ideal job in the county I wanted to work in! It especially helped that, as the Kernersville Page, I went to Walkertown Library once a week to shelve books. It’s been an amazing opportunity, and I’m six months in now! I really cannot explain just how much I love my job. I get to hang out with toddlers, school-age kids, and teenagers while providing them low-stress education-adjacent activities while also caring for a collection of books that I don’t have to buy with my own money.

I also have the great fortune of having an amazing first boss (and coworkers!). Not too nitpicky, but still great at offering guidance, which I really need and appreciate since this is my first job. She’ll ask me to do something, but let me figure out how to actually do it myself. Sometimes, I’ll have to ask her the best way to do it because I’m not sure how to get something done, but then she knows how it’s been done successfully in the past. For her, our success is her success and you can really tell in the way she runs the library. (I still think my coworker should be able to count my questions in our daily statistics because I ask him a lot of questions and he always takes the time to show me the best methodology of getting something done or offers me his honest opinion, even if it’s not really what I was thinking. Sometimes, I’ll ask him questions just to work through things as a sound board, which he goes along with willingly. It works out awesome.)

I also have moved out of my parents house and into an apartment 1mi from work and about 5mi from mom and dad’s. Although it’s not exactly where I thought I would end up (FIVE MILES FROM HOME??? I KEEP SEEING PEOPLE I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH????? WHY), it’s a great first-start. It was especially great when I sliced my thumb while cooking and didn’t know what to do and mom and dad were at my apartment within 10min. I do plan to eventually get out of this small town, but for now it’s right where I should be. PLUS, I have a beautiful little cat now! And I wouldn’t have been able to adopt him if I immediately moved to some far-flung place.

You can’t see it in this photo, but Cleveland only has three legs!

Hope this is a good update, we’ll see if I can remember to update any other time… I did travel some last year but definitely didn’t blog about it…. My bad! I’ve been updating my Etsy shop again, which you can find a link to in the sidebar.

2017 Year in Review: Part One

January – February

  • I started working at Petco
  • Had a few interviews, didn’t get any of the jobs

March – April

  • Went to the Welcome to Night Vale live show in Raleigh with my friend Laura
  • Had a couple of interviews

May – June

  • Got those jobs!
  • Quit Petco & babysitting ( :'( )
  • Started two part time jobs in two different libraries
  • Visited Gage in NYC
    • MET MISTY COPELAND

2016 Year in Review

Well, the end of 2016 is here and with it comes the start of a new year, so here’s a recap of my 2016:

  • January
    • Spent most of Jan at home in NC
    • Started semester 2 of Master’s
  • February
    • Mentally prepared for March and April
  • Mar
    • Family friends visited Dublin
    • Went to Milan (same day the fam friends left)
    • Met family in London (a week after Milan) and then traveled Ireland with them
  • April
    • Met different family friends in London (less than a week after family visit)
    • Went to a Library of Ireland talk and met Eoin Colfer (he signed my Artemis Fowl book, but I really wish I’d had my slightly beat up copy from middle school)
    • 9 assignments due in 4 weeks
  • May
    • Created a digital repository as part of a class project, kept updating it throughout the year
    • Wrote the first book review of the year: Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (even though I didn’t start posting them on here until after I’d gone back and written them for Jan)
    • Lisa came to visit
  • June
    • A friend from China and her girlfriend came to visit Dublin
    • Came home for my bro’s graduation, resulting in the decision to move back to the US so I wouldn’t have to worry about missing big family events
    • Started a portfolio series called You Can Teach a Mouse to Click
  • July
    • Went to London to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
      • Met up with a comic artist I follow on Tumblr and a friend I used to work with at Best Buy in 2012 who I haven’t seen since then
    • Volunteered at the Festival of Curiosity
    • Final Capstone Thesis presentation
  • August
    • Finally wrote a follow-up to Fernweh called Heimweh
    • Went to a Gatsby party with some friends, wearing a dress I made myself
    • Started teaching myself to crochet
    • Wrote the article series Travel in (Relative) Style
    • Went to see friends in Killarney
    • Went to Barcelona (saw some friends there) and Paris
    • Celebrated my 25th birthday a few times
    • Submitted my Master’s Capstone Thesis
  • September
    • Visited a friend in Limerick
    • Katie came to visit Ireland and we went to Scotland
    • Moved back home
  • October
    • Started volunteering at the Kernersville Library and Körner’s Folly
    • Got my thesis grade & final transcript
    • Voted early
    • Opened my Etsy shop
  • November
    • Quit volunteering at Körner’s Folly, started volunteering at UNCG’s library, the local comic shop, and started babysitting
    • Thanksgiving with family friends!!
  • December
    • Made Christmas gifts for my family (took FOREVER)
    • Saw all of my US best friends within a week (one lives in NYC, one in SC, and one here at home)
    • Almost got a job (SO CLOSE)
    • Got my degree in the mail
    • Wrote the first book review of the year: Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (kind of perfect, right?)

So yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’m sure there’s a lot I missed, but there were a few months where I was really busy and a few where I didn’t seem to be very busy at all. Mostly, those months (at least in the Spring and Summer) were spent working on my Group Capstone Thesis project thing!

Anyway, happy new year!! HEllo 2017, pls be good to us!

31/08/16: Bonjour, Paris

Day 5 was my last day in Barcelona and I slept in the airport that night, so I spent Day 6 (green) sleeping and basking in the hotel room I was staying in.

Hated Barcelona el Prat, but I am LOVING this room upgrade. #Paris

A photo posted by Apers (@apparentlyapril) on

Day 7 (green-blue) started at the Eiffel Tower, since I had looked online and Sept 1-2 were the least busy days that I would be there. I also wanted to go in the morning because it would be less crowded, of course. I was amazed at the structure, it was so gorgeous and mostly because I was astounded at the engineering! I wanted to take the stairs up, but the stairs from the ground level to the next floor up were closed, so I had to get the elevator. I’m glad I did, since I got to walk from the toppest level down to the next levels, so I still got to see the views and such from the walk, but going down instead of up.

Goal: make it to the highest point that is possible as a tourist ✅

A photo posted by Apers (@apparentlyapril) on

After the tower, I went on a river cruise; I really enjoyed seeing Paris from a boat on the Seine. I like boats.

Goal: Be as water-adjacent as possible without being in the water ✅

A photo posted by Apers (@apparentlyapril) on

After the boat trip, I walked along the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay, which was amazing. It’s housed in a former train station that was built for the World’s Fair and from the clocks in its front face, you can look out and see the Louvre. An old couple told me about the museum when I was visiting London ages ago, so it was cool to go see. That, and the Degas dancers were there. Since I did ballet for 9 years, it was amazing to see the paintings and statues there in person.

Day 8 (light blue) turned into a Museum Expedition day, since I get into the museums for free I wasn’t too worried about getting my “money’s worth” since the money was 0. I started at the Louvre and got a ticket for the audio guide, but decided to start at Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée des Arts Décoratifs before heading back to the Louvre, since they’re smaller and I wouldn’t have to wait in line for any of them with my Irish ID. I was really excited to see the Barbie exhibit at Musé des Arts Décoratifs, since my mom sent me a link to an NPR article about the exhibition.

The exhibition was, honestly, the best one I saw all day! Mostly since the other places I went were museums, not exhibitions. I was surprised and a bit disappointed that the most common complain about Barbie, that her figure is outlandish and impossible, wasn’t addressed (it’s because the clothes when she was first made would literally not stay on her body otherwise), but I loved to see the evolution of Barbie, the diagram of her family and friends, and how they make the choices for new couture Barbie styles.

The highlight of the Louvre, for me, was to see one of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Young Beggar. I’ve been fascinated with Murillo’s paintings of street kids since I was a kid myself, sparked by three decorative plate-versions of the paintings my grandma had hanging in her dining room. I distinctly remember examining the paintings every time my grandpa put my shoes on, singing “Put Your Shoes on Lucy” since I always, and still, preferred to be barefoot.

My final day (Day 9, dark blue) started at Montmartre, where I saw the Moulin Rouge and the café from Amélie before walking up to Sacré-Cœur. I mostly walked around the streets for the first half of the day before hopping on the subway and heading for Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Just outside the cemetery walls was a little sidewalk market, where I, naturally, bought a new-old camera.

Lumière F:6,8 c1937
One of my fav photos I took of my new camera, but really I’m just trying to figure out what that little metal thing on the base is!

With my new camera in hand, I walked through the cemetery, amazed at what I call the Death Houses.

I visited a cemetery and decided I want a DEATH HOUSE when I die.

A photo posted by Apers (@apparentlyapril) on

Of course, I also hunted down Oscar Wilde’s resting place, but I found the Death Houses to be cooler. From the cemetery, I went and sat at the base of the Eiffel Tower, waiting for the light show when the lights turned on. Once the Eiffel Tower lights came on, I walked back towards the Louvre to head back to the hotel and grab my suitcase before heading to the hostel I was staying in before going to the airport the next morning.

All I’m going to say about my airport experience is that Beauvais airport is the worst airport I have ever been to in my life, and I have been to a lot of airports.

And that’s the end of my trip! You can find all of my photos at my Eurotrip 2016 Flickr album and below is a map of where I went!

 

Travel in (Relative) Style: Making the Most of Making It

This post is part of a series called Travel in (Relative) Style. It is the third post in the series.


Alright, you’ve made it to your lodgings! Since we’re not planning a trip for the purpose of this series, hopefully you’ve figured that out already… Now, how to make the most of being where you are?

Tip #1: Don’t stress it.
Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fine. A lot of times, something not fine will happen. I have a theory about this: for every 7 days of travel, there must be 1 bad one. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, but if you think of it this way it’s a lot easier to shrug off the bad ones. Don’t stress even the worst ones (unless, like, you’ve been arrested and someone took all your stuff or something like that) because that’ll detract from the other 6 good days.

Tip #2: Embrace the tourism.
A lot of people will tell you not to look like a tourist. They’re full of shit. You’re gonna look like a tourist unless you keep your head down, ignore everything around you, and just go from point A to point B without looking at the sights. Just enjoy yourself. They’re not paying for your holiday, so why should they tell you how you should look?

Tip #3: Don’t be a dick.
That being said, you being a tourist is not a free pass for you to be a dick. Self-explanatory.

Tip #4: Ask for help.
Some people will say no and wave you off, whatever dude. Chances are, your best bet to find help is in a shop or something. If you’re in a big tourist city, especially in Europe, there’s going to be a tourist center somewhere, those people are literally paid to help you. A lot of times, if you’re somewhere where you don’t speak the language, people will be less helpful because they might be embarrassed by their English. Just be patient and reassuring, even though you’re the one who needs help. And don’t be afraid to ask for clarification about something. A lot of times, someone I’m talking to will use slightly the wrong word in English, so I’ll ask them what they just said but in native-English to double-check.

Tip #5: Travel cards.
A lot of cities (at least in Europe) have travel cards that tout discounts. They’re usually not worth it unless you’re traveling with a group and going to see everything they offer a discount for. Look at what the discounts are/are for and then check how many of them you were interested in and see if it’s cheaper that way. A lot of times, you’ll feel the need to “get the most of it” and spend the time crunching to see enough to get your money’s worth and that does not sound like fun to me.

Tip #6: Day tours.
Sometimes, day tours can be a pretty good deal. Dublin, for example, has some really good ones. They’re around 50EUR each in Dublin, but they include the bus there and back and to a couple of places. It would probably be about the same for a train ticket and you’d probably have to take a rounder way because of the travel method. If you’re spending a lot of time in a place and you’ve run out of things to do, check for day tours.

Tip #6: Everybody loves post cards.
Get people’s addresses before you go and send post cards if you can. You don’t need to write them a long letter, you’ve got limited space. If every post card is going somewhere different, you can write variations of the same simple “This card is from ____. Today I went to ____ and saw ___. The weather is ____. Miss you!” (NOW YOU KNOW MY SECRET TO HOW I WRITE TENS OF POST CARDS AT A TIME.) They’re a cheap souvenir, too. I love visiting people I’ve sent post cards to and seeing them hanging up on their wall. Plus, they’re everywhere. Finding stamps might be a bit harder, but usually a shop that sells post cards will also sell stamps, or at least know where the closest shop that sells stamps is located. You’re not the first tourist to ask and you won’t be the last.

Tip #7: Gifts.
A lot of people turn their noses up at tourists in tourist shops (refer back to #2 for how I feel about those kinds of people), but a lot of those places will have 2-for-whatever deals or something like that. Gifts that are small and pretty universal are a good idea. My brother, for example, collects shot glasses and I’ve only had trouble finding them in Milan and China, but everywhere else they’re everywhere. I collect pins and buttons, my cousin and I collected bracelets in every country we visited in 2012, etc. If you’re stuck on what to get someone, send them a post card.

Tip #8: Universals.
There will be some things you didn’t/couldn’t pack that you can buy when you get there, but just be aware it might be a little more expensive. Just today, the day I’m writing this, I had to buy a 100mL thing of sunscreen and it was more than buying a big bottle of sunscreen back home, I just couldn’t bring my big bottle with me. (I have so. many. bottles of sunscreen, I ALWAYS have to buy it when I travel….) You’ll be able to get pretty much whatever you forgot/couldn’t bring where you are, unless it’s something really specific. The actual details of whatever it is might be slightly different, but it’ll work.

Tip #9: Relax.
I’ll admit, I’m still working on this one. I always feel the need to get my money’s worth during a trip, so it’s hard for me to have a day where I didn’t “see anything” or whatever. It’s good to have some down-time though, it helps you enjoy the trip that much more. And you can use that time to write your journal/blog entry and those post cards you got!

Tip #10: Have fun, but be aware.
You don’t have to be paranoid, everything will probably be fine, but you should still be aware of where you are and what’s around you. Little things like turning your backpack around to the front when you’re in a crowd to keeping your wallet and phone in a zipped bag instead of your pockets might make things a little inconvenient, but safer. I am always fidgeting, so even in the most crowded Beijing subway, I could tell when someone was even lightly brushing against my backpack because I’m always shifting back and forth. Be aware, but seriously, don’t go overboard. Unless you’ve gone somewhere really dangerous, in which case, why are you even reading this, this is not that type of blog??

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got so far. Feel free to comment on any of the posts if you think I missed something or if you have a question. I might make a separate series about packing and maybe another about planning trips, if that’s of interest to literally anyone. Or maybe I’ll do it because it’s my site and I’ll write what I want to!!

Travel in (Relative) Style: On Your Way

This post is part of a series called Travel in (Relative) Style. It is the second post in the series.


Your trip is booked, your bags are packed, your ride to the airport is here. The panic starts to set in, a lot in airports has changed in the past few years, maybe even the past few months. I’m here to tell you Rule #1 of travel:

HHGTTG
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. Perhaps the most remarkable, certainly the most successful book ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor – of which no Earthman had ever heard of. … it has the words DON’T PANIC printed in large friendly letters on its cover.

Well, ok, at least don’t visibly panic. It’ll be fine. Airports can be confusing lines and lanes and terminals, but you’ll be fine. If something goes wrong (which it usually doesn’t), there’s always a way to fix it.

Step #1: Arrive on time and dress appropriately.
I always wear a lot of layers when I travel. Sometimes one part of the airport will be freezing and another part will be hot. If you have a delay while you’re on the plane, it’ll get hot because they’ll shut the system off to save fuel. A lot of times, the plane is freezing once they get the facilities back on.
Most airports have suggested arrival cushions for how long you should arrive before your flight. They usually give you extra time, which is good. They know what they’re talking about, but if you have the option of arriving 2.5hrs early or 1.5hrs early and the airport suggests 2, go for that 2.5hrs. You definitely won’t need more than what they recommend, though.

Step #2: Check-in and check your bags.
Chances are, you’ve checked in online (or tried to), but if not, don’t worry. There’s plenty of places to check you in and you have plenty of time. It’s best to have some kind of ID handy (driver’s license or the like if you’re traveling domestically; passport if you’re traveling internationally) and the reference number from your booking. Also make sure your tags have the information for where you’re going. If you’re staying at a hostel or hotel, put their number on there.
If you’re checking a bag, you’ll need to make sure you haven’t got stuff they won’t let you have in your carry-ons and that kind of thing, but you should’ve at least thought about it before you left the house anyways. A lot of airlines have weight limits where they literally will not take your bag if it weighs too much. The number of people I see who think “oh, it’s extra heavy, it’ll just be oversized” and then find out that it’s extra, extra heavy and the airline won’t take it at all.

Step #3: Security.
This can be like WOAH, super anxiety-inducing. Here’s a tip: if you have nothing to hide, don’t sweat it! You’ll be fine. You’ll have time to fuss around with your things as you’re standing in line, so use that time to:

  • Get your laptop, iPad, and liquids out of your bags (not every airport will have you take out the iPad, but it’s better to take it out now than have to do it later)
  • Empty your pockets into your bag
  • Same thing with jewelry and the like, just pop em in your bag
  • Put your passport, ID, and boarding pass somewhere in your bag (you’ll need it at the gate)
  • If it’s winter, you can shove all this stuff into your coat pocket because you’ll have to remove your coat anyways

One trick I do is to take my coat off with my backpack. Then, when I go to grab my stuff again, I just slide my arms in the sleeves and go! I did that once with my sweater AND my coat and a little boy getting his shoes back on next to me went “Woah…” Yeah, buddy, I do this a lot.

Step #4: Find your gate.
Sometimes, you’ll arrive earlier than you have a gate, which is fine. It just means you’ll spend some extra time in the food area. Don’t worry about food or snacks just yet. Figure out which terminal you need to get to and get there. A lot of airports will have designated international terminals, so that should be pretty easy. Other airports are the central hub for a particular airline, so you’ll go there. Chances are, your terminal and gate are on your boarding pass, but if the gate isn’t there, the terminal definitely should be.

Step #5: Get some water and go to the bathroom.
If you brought an empty water bottle, fill it. Unless you’re flying to/from Asia, they’ll probably make you dump it out. Or buy a water. Again, unless you’re flying to/from Asia. I’ve gotten bloody noses on flights before, so to avoid that: stay hydrated!
Now that you’re near your gate, go to the bathroom. Airplane bathrooms are tiny and I always have to pee while we’re taxing or the fasten seatbelt sign is on or there’s a line. It’s the worst.

Step #6: Have a breather.
Have a seat! Relax! I like to sit on the floor during this part of the journey because I’m going to be sitting on a plane for the next however long and then the transport to where I’m going. Also, I like sitting on floors.

Step #7: Time to board.
Have your boarding pass and ID out and ready. They’ll board by zone, so if you aren’t worried about there being enough room for your carry-on luggage above you, there’s no need to be That Person standing really close to the gate desk. Seriously, no reason. You’ll just get in the way of people who are boarding or people with stroller or BOTH. Don’t do it. There’s time. They’re not going to leave without you.
When it’s time to board your zone, hand the person your boarding pass and ID at the same time. They might not need the ID, but it’s better to just hand it to them. Sometimes, they’ll tell you to board through a certain door because of where your row is. Sometimes, you’ll have to take a bus to the plane or walk outside for it, so be ready for that.

Step #8: In-flight.
By this point, you’re on the plane! You’ve made it halfway. There’s a few ways this can go:

  • You leave on-time and land a few minutes early!
  • You’re a little delayed on the runway before leaving and/or in the air before taxying and arrive on time (airlines usually add a bit of time to the estimated landing time for this very reason)
  • You’re very delayed on the runway before leaving and/or in the air before taxying and arrive late.
  • Everything is so delayed they offer you the chance to reschedule your flight.

In case of the last one, don’t panic. They’ll reschedule you for a flight or figure out a way to compensate you for the flight cost, but they probably won’t get you a hotel for the night. The airline isn’t on the hook for weather.
Once you’ve taken off, there will be a drinks/snack cart coming around. There will be complimentary things (if you’re not flying super cheap) and the longer flights will have a meal. When you booked your ticket, there’s the option to pay extra for the better meals and you’ll be able to buy alcohol, just don’t imbibe TOO much, it’s expensive.
Finally, for plane etiquette:
Don’t be a dick.
There’s going to be people in your space, people making noise, children who are screaming, etc. Don’t be a dick about it, that just makes it worse for everyone. Try to be aware of where you are in relation to those around you, too. Yes, sometimes it’s a long flight, but it’s a long flight for everyone around you. Also, the babies on the planes are literally in the worst pain they’ve ever experienced in their lives, try to have a little compassion for the babies and their parents.

Step #9: Disembarking.
Listen, friends, if you don’t have a connection to make or a screaming baby or a really pressing engagement, sit tight. People are always in such a rush to get off a plane, but then they end up standing there like doofuses for 10min waiting for the plane door to open. Plus, if you checked a bag, you’re going to have to wait for that eventually anyways, so just hang tight. There might be some people in a hurry to catch their next flight or get their poor baby off the plane. If you’re expecting someone to pick you up, they’ll understand.

Step #10: Connections.
Most of the time, you’ll have plenty of time. Sometimes, it’ll be a little tight. It’ll be fine. The gate agents once you disembark can sometimes let you know which gate you need to go to for your connection flight, but your best bet is to check one of the boards. Getting to the next terminal might be a little difficult (LOOKING AT YOU CHICAGO), but you can ask someone who works at the airport for directions. If you’re flying with the same airline and you’re worried about making it to the next flight, you can ask the gate agents to call the connecting gate.

Step #11: Customs and Border Patrol.
If you flew internationally, you might have to go through customs and/or border patrol. There’ll be signs about “EU Passport” or “Non-EU Passport” or something like that, just get in line! Also, be patient. There’s nothing you can do to speed this up and you can’t skip it. Have your passport and any other documents you need ready to hand to the person. They’ll ask things like “What’re you here for? Where are you staying?” That sort of thing.

Step #12: Baggage Claim.
From the plane, follow the signs to baggage claim. Once you’re there, your flight will have a turnstyle that might be shared with another flight. Because of the number of bags you’ll have to glance at to find your own, my family always puts colored duct tape on the handles. Make sure that there’s at least one kind of tape visible no matter which way the bag is laying. I have some striped duct tape on the top, side, and bottom handles of all of my suitcases.

Step #12: Leaving.
However you’re getting where you’re going, this is that time. You might have to go through customs at this point, it depends on the airport. A lot of the airports I travel through Europe have a little like customs box with automatic doors and it’s a breeze. If you’re meeting someone, they’re probably waiting out past baggage claim or out where cars wait. If you need a bus or train, there should be signs. SHOULD BE. There might not be, though, but you can ask airport staff for help.

The takeaways here are:
Don’t panic.
Don’t be a dick.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

30/08/16: Adíos, Barcelona

The weather has cooled and it’s raining. It’s been hot the past few days and I’ve spent most of them outside, walking the streets of Barcelona, so the light breeze that comes through the open door is nice.

When I first arrived, I didn’t have plans for much, I just knew that I wanted to go to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and that I wanted to get my feet wet. Day 1 (red) was spent getting acclimated to the heat, getting food since Alex’s fridge was almost completely empty, and figuring out what else I wanted to see and the best way to do it. I ended up going to the supermarket up the street from Alex’s apartment twice and I used my (limited) Spanish to find whole milk and sandwich bags. It was at that supermarket that I discovered I can’t read Catalan. I also needed to buy sunscreen, since I didn’t bring enough with me, and the pharmacy was right by the water, so I took a walk along the beach. While researching, I found info that some of the museums were free after three on Sundays and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya was free after three on Saturdays, which was the following day.

My days all pretty much started off the same, I would get up around 10am (I’m on holiday and Ireland is an hour behind), have a bowl of cereal and a cup of chai, get my things together and slather on a layer of sunscreen, then walk along the beach to Montgat Nord train station. Saturday (Day 2, orange), I got off at the Arc de Triomf station, which was the first Barcelona station on the R1. I walked through the nearby park before heading to La Central bookstore to pick up a Catalan edition of Harry Potter, then to Plaça de Catalunya to eat my sandwich before making my way up up up to the museum. It was a hike, but it was gorgeous and worth it when I finally made it. The art in the museum was absolutely gorgeous and apparently I was also near the olympic stadium, which I discovered later when I was looking at a map and because I found the Font Magica.

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Sunday (Day 3, yellow-orange) a lot of the museums were free after 3pm, so I started at Plaça de Catalunya again and this time walked down La Rambla towards the water. At the end of the big walking street was a huge monument to Christopher Columbus, the Mirador de Colom, but I kept meandering past him along the water, admiring my proximity to it. I love to be near/on water but not necessarily in water. So I like to be on piers and boats and the like. Once it was close enough to 3pm, I made my way to Museu Frederic Marès, which I thought was going to be like Ed’s Museum in Wykoff, MN based on its description, but instead it was a bunch of creepy wooden religious statues. A lot of versions of the same statue of Jesus on the crucifix and Mary and Jesus. There were four floors, but I left after three…

Museu Frederic Marès, Barcelona, Spain

From there, I went the Picasso Museum because it was also free but the line was way too long and I knew I would see something of Picasso’s again. Instead, I went to the Museu d’Història de Barcelona, which had a cool underground archaeology area that was the old city that they built the new one on top of. The coolest thing, though, was part of their temporary exhibit:

Museu d'Història de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Her skull had been trepanned THREE TIMES.

At the end of the day, I had a ticket to the Palau de la Música Catalana tour and miniconcert and, honestly, you just have to look through the photos of this one. It was absolutely gorgeous. The detail work in every part of the theatre was incredible and the sun skylight/chandelier in the middle was amazing.

Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona, Spain

Monday (Day 4, yellow), I started back at Plaça de Catalunya and went down La Rambla again, this time because I was heading to the Oficina de Correos. At the Mirador de Colom, I wondered which way he pointed.

I was MONUMENTALLY disappointed that it wasn’t towards America or even India. After that disappointment, I got my stamps, went to a café called Clandestina, and finished writing/stamping my post cards.

My last day in Barcelona (Day 5, green) I spent at Platja Montgat. I had to pack and plan for Paris and finish writing my post cards before I left, plus I was spending the night in the airport…

You can find all of my photos at my Eurotrip 2016 Flickr album and below is a map of where I went!

Travel in (Relative) Style: Before You Go

This post is part of a series called Travel in (Relative) Style. It is the first post in the series.


For the past three years, I’ve lived out of two suitcases. For the four years before that, I was back and forth between college and home, so I can pack my things up pretty quickly and go. Well, now. It’s taken a lot of practice and packcrastination (procrastinating on packing, which I do frequently enough to name), but I’ve finally sorted out the best ways to get ready to travel.

Tip #1: Sort yourself before you go.
There are a few things I always make sure I have sorted out:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. How am I getting there?
  3. Where am I staying when I get there?
  4. How do I get from how I got there to how I’m staying and back?
  5. How do I get around once I’m there?

These are all things that I list as the utmost important parts of travel. A lot of times, I’ll need to plan for something like sleeping in an airport because I’m flying the 6:30am RyanAir flight (not only is the flight cheap, but sleeping in an airport is free). Sometimes, the airport isn’t open 24-hours (LOOKING AT YOU PARIS), but luckily I’m not the only one trying to sleep in airports.
The point of this anecdote, is that I need to make sure I know that I’m not going to end up without a place to stay when I’m traveling and that I’ll be able to get around (to and from the airport/train, to and from attractions). If I’m in a familiar country, it’s not a big deal, but if I’m traveling pretty far and can’t change my flights, then I need to make sure I check these things before I book.

Tip #2: Don’t worry about it.
I know, I know, I literally just listed things to worry about before you go. However, chances are if you’re going somewhere, you already have a reason you’re going. Maybe you’re visiting a friend or family, maybe there’s something you really want to see there, maybe you’ve always been interested in visiting this place. These are all things that you already know. If you try to make Big Plans for your trip, you won’t be as flexible when you get there and you’ll start to feel sort of guilty if you can’t get done everything you thought you would.
One of the best trips I’ve ever had came because I was in Shanghai with no plans. When I went, it was just because I was living near Beijing and Shanghai is “one of those places” (you know, the ones you have to visit). Since I had no plans, I was flexible to spend the week with Lisa, Alex, and Victor. That was over a year ago, and I’ve made plans to see all of them again! If I’d had Goals or Big Plans when I went to Shanghai, that never would have happened.

Tip #3: Make a list of what to pack, then cut it in half.
First, count up how many days you’re going to be gone. Then, think about your laziest days around the house. How many days in a row are you comfortable wearing the same clothes? How often do you change your pants/shirts? After living in China, I started wearing the same two pairs of leggings until I got camel knees or there was something spilled on them. Sounds gross, right? Well, it means that now when I pack, if I’m only going for a week, I only need one pair of leggings! See how great that works out for me? LESS LUGGAGE IS BEST LUGGAGE.
I also always bring a “Bag o Stuff” with me:

  • Medication(s)
    • Allergy meds
    • Aspirin
    • Alka Seltzer Cold Plus
    • Lemsip
  • Bandaids
  • Feminine products
  • Chapstick
  • Hair ties + Bobby pins
  • Small thing of vaseline (HEAT RASH IS NO JOKE)
  • Deodorant (get the rolly kind, it’s not a liquid and it won’t break)
  • Tissues (I started carrying these in China because the bathrooms never had TP)
  • Pen + something to write on
  • Napkins
  • Tape
  • Gum

These are things I always used to go “DANG I WISH I HAD THAT” and now? NOW I DO.
As for electronics and things, think about what you absolutely need. How long are you going to spend with dead time (layovers, getting to the airport early, etc)? I bring a paper book and my iPad with books on it (sometimes there’s no plugs nearby), my wall-to-USB, a power pack, and my headphones. Some airports won’t have WiFi (looking at you London, 1hr WiFi in airports people frequently sleep?? Madness).

Tip #4: Bring a camera (or don’t).
Good question. I have a digital camera, but I pretty much just use my phone camera. I used to take a bunch of pictures until I lost my camera and then realized I spent more time looking through my camera screen than looking around. I know some people like to make scrapbooks or have prints, I kind of want an instant camera, but I don’t NEED one. I do like that my digital camera is good for low-light photography, though, since I spend a lot of times in museums taking pictures inside without flash.

Tip #5: You don’t need to be pretty. Also, your hair dryer/straightener/curler is going to blow up anyways (if you’re traveling abroad).
Think of it this way: You’ll likely never see these people again in your life. And they’ve never seen you before in their lives. Save space in your luggage and leave your cosmetics behind. Otherwise, you have to deal with the liquids rules and plus, it means you’d get to sleep later while you’re traveling, which will be especially important if you’re jetlagged.

Tip #6: Bring a pillow.
Airplanes will have blankets and pillows, but the pillows might as well be non-existant. They’re great for lumbar support if you fold them in half, but they’re not great for sleeping. Plus, you might end up in a hostel that has super flat pillows you can’t sleep with, but hey, good thing you brought that neck pillow with you!

Tip #7: Bring a journal.
I always forget what I’ve done on trips. It’s best to write down what you did, even if it’s just a bulleted list, that day. You can fluff it out into more of a piece later, but the reason all of my travel posts are rambly and lengthy is because I’m literally typing out things as I remember them. And sometimes, I never write a post because I waited too long and then I forgot what I did.
You don’t need anything fancy, just make sure it’s not going to fall apart. If you’re worried you won’t be creative enough, don’t. But like if you’re really worried about it, there are some “premade” travel journals. Find something you like that will work for you and won’t fall apart.

Tip #8: Start a blog.
If you’re going to be traveling for a while, start a blog! Take that journal and… type it. People you know will be excited to read about your adventures, although I’m still convinced the only people who read this are my parents. (My dad is, like, the only person who comments on my posts, even though I know people are seeing my posts on Facebook and Twitter!)
This website started as a journal that got typed. May 2012, I went on a river cruise with my gramma, aunt, and cousin, so I started a blog to keep my family up-to-date on our trip, then I studied abroad Fall 2012, moved to China in 2014, and moved to Ireland in 2015. Now, it’s 2016 and this is post #125, so who knows. Maybe you’ll stick with it. (Still convinced it’s just my parents read. HI MOM)

Tip #9: Have some sort of fitness tracker.
Most smartphones have this feature (not sure about Android, but Apple Health will do it and I know that Fitbit’s iOS app will use your phone to track how far you’ve walked), so you don’t need a fancy fitness tracker. But trust me, when you climb the Great Wall of China, you’ll be curious to know how many flights you climbed (227).

Tip #10: Packcrastinate.
Seriously, this links back to #2. Don’t worry about it, packcrastinate. If you forget something, you forgot it, not a big deal. You’ll be able to buy a new one and it’ll be a story later. Make sure you check the airline’s luggage regulations, I usually travel with a large suitcase (checked), a small suitcase, and a small backpack (which is basically a two-strapped, large purse) because most airlines don’t care! The cheaper the flight, the more they’ll care about your luggage. You didn’t pay them that much, so you’ll just have to suffer. But if you stick with the “calculate what you might need, then cut it in half”, you’ll be fine.

And that’s the final takeaway here:
You’ll be fine.

You might have some bad travel days (I have a theory on that I’ll cover later), but it’ll be fine. You’re going somewhere new, so don’t hold on to the “Oh no, this isn’t working out” and keep in mind the “even the shittiest experience will be a great story.” It might just take a (few) month(s) for it to be a great story.

Article Series: Travel in (Relative) Style

So as my time in Ireland nears its end, I have a lot to get done. A lot of traveling, some thesis writing, and my best friend from high school is coming to visit! She’s been asking me a lot of questions about traveling, so I’m going to compile a list of travel tips and tricks that I’ve picked up since I started this blog (and started traveling internationally) in 2012.

The way I travel has vastly changed since then, and only part of it is due to my increased experience! (Most of it is due to my decreased budget since I primarily travel alone and out of my own pocket…)

So, to ease my friend’s travel anxieties and to sort of compile some of my travel tips, the posts will start tomorrow and post every other day. They are split up into the following categories:

  • Before You Go [scheduled for 29 Aug 16:30] – This will primarily cover packing, since that can be so hard to do!
  • On Your Way [scheduled for 31 Aug 16:30] – From check-in to leaving the airport, this will cover the journey through the airport
  • Making the Most of Making It [scheduled for 2 Sep 16:30] – This will cover what happens after you have gotten to your accommodation, although some of these things will be useful to look up before you leave

As of the time of writing and on the post date for the entire series, I am on holiday. I have my computer with me, but y’know, Barcelona and Paris beckon!