Tag Archives: travel

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Getting it Together Thursdays: Collect Moments, Not Things

stonehenge england | almost getting it together

What do you remember more – that amazing Spring Break trip you took with your girlfriends in college or the sweater you bought last week? If you’re anything like me, you don’t realize you own two-thirds of the things in your wardrobe, so it’s probably the trip.

I love to travel. I was bitten by the travel bug at an early age. I am very lucky and blessed that my family puts importance on spending time together doing things rather than buying things – while most people asked for a new MacBook for high school graduation, I schlepped my two-year old laptop to college and instead, asked for a trip to Europe. The laptop I eventually did have to purchase a week into school now lays forgotten and unused in my basement, but I still fondly remember visiting Versailles with my grandmother just about every day.

My friends often ask how I have money to travel so much – the simple answer is that I am really cautious about where my money goes: I pack my lunch everyday for work rather than buying it, I make my coffee instead of stopping at Starbucks for a latte every morning, I live at home (I know, this isn’t something to necessarily be proud of at 25, but I save so much money) and delete those sales e-mails. Think before you buy – do you really love it? If not, don’t buy it. That money could go to something more meaningful.

Maybe you don’t have the travel bug – you can still collect moments with your friends and family. Each birthday and holiday, I try to buy my friends and family something that requires us to spend time together. I bought my grandmother a spa package this Christmas, took Friend Emily (who seriously I have to have guest post about her Green Trekker) out to brunch and a mani/pedi for her birthday and bought tickets to a concert for Angela for all her hard work over the summer.

In college, I drove a beat-up Ford Taurus (because I was a terrible driver, it was purchased for me in perfect condition) and all I wanted was a new car. After a summer trip to Italy, my dad told me “I was going to buy you a new car this summer, but I decided the memories you would make in Italy would be worth more”. Think about that next time before you spend money – will you remember what you buy or will you remember that trip or event you are saving money for?

Chat with me:
Do you collect moments or things? (It’s okay to collect both :))

Getting it Together on the Road – Preparing for Travel to a Third World Country

mekong river delta |almost getting it together

While you’re reading this, I’m probably getting my butt kicked by some waves in Nicaragua. The WiFi situation is not good (i.e., third world country Internet) so sorry for my laziness/lack of photos. Also now you know why I’m not commenting on your blog. I’ll be back soon, I promise!

Can I even say Third World country? Is that politically correct? I think it’s developing nation but whatever, I majored in fashion, not poly sci. This post isn’t about how to act in a Third World country – act like a normal, respectable human being and be compassionate, duh – but rather, how to prepare so you can have an awesome, stress free trip and maximize your time doing cool things, not dying of food poisoning or getting Tom Hanks-ed at the terminal when you don’t have a visa.

I recently joked to my father while packing for Nicaragua that I couldn’t remember at what point in my life that I traveled somewhere so unprepared that it caused me such post traumatic stress disorder that I grossly over-pack every time I leave the house, let alone the country.

In college, I studied abroad in Hong Kong for 6 months, which is clearly not a third world country – it’s much cleaner and more advanced technologically than the US in many places. I literally had no idea what to expect especially since I didn’t even know where it was on the map (nerd alert: coming from a girl who competed at the State Geography Bee numerous times). So what did I do? I thought about every country in Southeast Asia I would potentially visit while there and prepared accordingly.

  • Check what vaccines you need.
mekong river delta |almost getting it together

Me five years ago in the Mekong River Delta, not dying of malaria because I was prepared.

If bugs are bad where you are going (so, basically everywhere in Central/South America, Africa, or Asia), and you can get anti-malarial pills, do it. Something in them definitely helps keep bugs away. Also use a bug repellent with 40% DEET. I don’t care about the chemicals, I care about scratching myself to death in my sleep and how I look with shorts on.

Make sure you get booster shots. One polio shot in the US as a child is good, but in places where it hasn’t been eradicated, it’s probably a good idea to get it. Same with hepatitis A – you can get it from contaminated food/water, and last I checked, kidney transplants aren’t fun.

If you’re going to South America or Africa, you’ll need a yellow fever shot. You can also get a typhoid shot for Central/South America and Africa. Five years ago I was able to take pills for typhoid, but allegedly according to my doctor now it’s shot-only.

  • Find out if you need a visa.

This should be self-explanatory – see if you need a visa in any of the countries you are traveling in. If you’re a US citizen, it’s more likely you’ll need one than your foreign pals. Take visa photos (you can get them taken at any pharmacy) for any country where you get a visa upon-arrival.

Always make sure you have at least 1-2 completely blank pages in your passport as well as at least 6 months’ validation left. If you’re traveling and about to run out, you can stop by the American Embassy (you usually have to make an appointment) and get more pages added.

  • Pack snacks.

I know, I live in fear of being hungry. I pack snacks for the drive to work basically at this point in my life. You never know what the food options are going to be where you’re going – I kind of remember one Sunday in Italy where everything was closed, including the grocery store, and I was literally about to eat my arm I was so hungry. I only kind of remember because we finally found an open bar and a bottle of wine on an empty stomach with our new 80 year old friend Rocco really did me in.

I’m also a complete psychopath and pack oatmeal, nut butter packets, Kind bars, chia seeds and protein powder with me whenever I go anywhere. Then I know I at least have some nutrients in the form of fiber, protein and healthy fats. My family actually packed a suitcase full of American food for me every time they came to Hong Kong (then took back a suitcase full of crap I was over).

  • Get currency before you leave.

Third world countries are great at ripping you off with fees and awful exchange rates. Some countries I’ve visited, like Cambodia, take American money – but it has to be in PRISTINE condition because counterfeiting is rampant. If you give your bank enough notice, they can order any currency for you for free – you just pay the exchange rate.

Also – tell your bank you’re leaving or they’ll cut off your card.

  • Don’t flaunt your wealth.

Leave the good jewelry at home. I don’t care if you feel naked without your [insert jewelry here]. So do I, but I’d rather feel naked for a week or two rather than never see it again. There’s pickpockets everywhere, even in Pittsburgh, I’m sure, but you don’t want someone to cut off your wrist for your diamond tennis bracelet. Also it just makes you feel guilty. This tip is also especially good for Europe, especially Southern Europe. A gypsy once stole my grandmother’s wallet when we were in Barcelona (still hasn’t turned me off from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding).

Chat with me:
Have you ever traveled to a Third World country? How did you prepare? Would you ever want to visit one?

What I Ate Wednesday [3]: 24 Hours in NYC

blueberry crumble overnight oats | almost getting it together

This past weekend, as part of my 6 week travel bender, I was in NYC. I was supposed to be in town a more substantial amount of time – 48 hours – but between a cancelled flight on Friday and changing my flight on Sunday because of the 1 millionth polar vortex of the year, I was in town for approximately 24 hours. It was for Carly’s birthday and I hadn’t seen her since Montreal so any amount of time was good time in my book.

The benefit of getting on an early morning flight last minute means you get upgraded to first class. I hadn’t sat in first class on such a short flight in such a long time (WOW I sound like a brat), so I forgot you get better snacks than peanuts or Biscoff cookies (not that I don’t love Biscoff cookies). Isn’t it annoying how on United you don’t even get any snacks? RIP Continental. Okay, flight rant over.

I didn’t eat anything from the snack basket but I did judge others around me for eating chips and Twix at 7:30 a.m. I had packed blueberry crumble overnight oats (recipe still being perfected, look for it soon). Yeah, I’m that freak who packs food for the plane. (#sorryimnotsorry) I did have a funny encounter getting off the train between terminals in Pittsburgh where a woman in sweats proclaimed, “I already smell ‘dem taters”. So basically my only airport breakfast option is McDonalds which clearly will never happen ever.

blueberry crumble overnight oats | almost getting it together

Overnight oats with a side of book and destroyed denim jeans.

After a short nap in NYC, I set out for a 10 mile run since the sun was shining and I knew #snowpocalapyse was upon me once again. I listened to two podcasts – both Dinner Party Download. About six or seven miles in I had half a coconut cream pie Larabar for a little extra fuel. I didn’t take a photo since I was running (obv) and I also think the other half is still in my jacket pocket. (The title of this blog is Almost Getting It Together, do you seriously expect more from me?)

coconut cream pie larabar | almost getting it together

Stolen coconut cream pie larabar photo from Larabar.com.

After my run, I set out on a mission to score Carly some much-needed birthday ginger ale and coconut water. The only store I know near her apartment is a Gourmet Garage so I made a huge salad to refuel incase she didn’t feel up to getting lunch.

gourmet garage salad bar salad  | almost getting it together

Huge salad: greens, grilled veggies, grilled chicken, artichokes & feta.

Before dinner I was obviously hungry again and Carly is the best and keeps yogurt at her place for me, so I had a yogurt with quinoa granola. The below photo is not the actual yogurt I ate because I forgot, but a yogurt from a few days before with blueberries.

 

yogurt mess | almost getting it together

Favorite thing to eat ever – yogurt with stuff on top.

We went to dinner at an Italian place called Morandi. I wanted yet another salad but since they couldn’t add protein and I knew I would be hungry in an hour without it, I went with lamb chops. They were a little heavy for me, especially because I had red meat already last week, but they were good. They came with roasted vegetables which definitely had bread crumbs which was totally unnecessary and not gluten-free friendly.

morandi nyc lamb chops | almost getting it together

Lamb chops from Morandi.

Later after we went to see Young the Giant in concert I had half a Kind chocolate and sea salt bar I found in my purse – craving chocolate, obviously.

Kind Chocolate & Sea Salt bar | almost getting it together

Stolen Kind Chocolate & Sea Salt bar photo from kind snacks.com

I vaguely feel like I don’t eat a balanced diet. Whoops. This is pretty decent for me when I’m traveling. Look for a post on how to eat healthy when traveling coming soon! (Monday night I ended up out late with Angela so it didn’t get written.)

Special thanks to Jenn from Peas & Crayons for hosting one of my favorite link-ups to read during the week!

Chat with me:
Have you been to NYC? Do you have any places you love to eat when you’re there?

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