A Change of Plans

Aside from traveling, writing, and living in Minnesota, I also read a lot and watch much television. 

Since I've had such a difficult time with editing my Europe adventure after the fact, I thought I would rethink the blog and along with the very spaced out Europe blogs, post reviews here as well. 

I'm averaging about a book a week and watch six to ten hours of television so there should be plenty of material to draw on. 

Here's what you can expect:

 

1) TV reviews will probably have spoilers; books will be case by case. I will put a warning if a post contains spoilers. Promise.


2) Because my passion is for the words, the TV reviews will focus more on plot and script than acting, directing, design, or camera work but I will dive into other arenas if there is something particular I feel needs attention- good or bad.

3) I watch TV online, so this will not be the place to find the latest view of the most recent episode hours after it airs-- however I will probably get some reviews up 24 hours after release.

4) Along with currently running shows I will also review old shows. I'm currently re-watching The West Wing and HIMYM if you were curious. 

5) Occasionally I'll write about a series as a whole. Expect a post of Selfie, one of the best shows that no watched and was canceled before it's time because it was titled poorly and took a couple episodes to gain it's bearings. 

6) For books I'm going to focus on story and character development, since the next couple books on my reading list are nonfiction history books that span centuries and decades, it'll probably be a couple weeks before we get to a book. 

7) If I think the book would fit in a high school syllabus, I'll talk about that as well, since I spent too much time in high school being frustrated with reading lists and too little time in college trying to fix them. Gotta try and work some redemption into this blog somehow.

 

8) Apart from reading, I also listen to audiobooks, I'll make that distinction in my review. I'll also tell the quality of the reader- in my opinion of course. 

That's all I have for you today. I'm excited for these changes and I hope you will enjoy some of the media with me!

Best wishes, happy travels, & happy viewing.

 

Winter Wonderland: A Reflection on Minnesota after Six Months

 Winter in the Twin Cities

Winter in the Twin Cities

After moving here in July, I was worried about several things including employment, housing, and winter. My housing anxiety was quickly abated-- the first place we saw we fell in love with and signed a lease. Employment followed, I work various part-time theater related positions in Minneapolis. 

Winter is cold. Even being from Chicago, I'm amazed at how cold it is. For the first time in my life I'm wearing three pairs of socks in winter boots and still freezing. 

Also, it's been difficult to make friends. I spend a lot of time reading, some time writing -although not obviously I’ve been slacking on the blog posts- and the remaining time binge-watching Netflix because how do you make friends as an adult? You don't. You go home and eat pizza while watching Jessica Jones. 

There are a lot of nights, after looking at my Facebook feed filled with posts from Chicago friends, that I really questioned why I moved here to begin with. 

Then I get the opportunity to be part of a 24-hour play festival where a piece I co-wrote the night before is performed. Then I go to my writing group where I not only receive support and validation but valuable criticism on work that I actually have a chance to get produced here. Then I go to The Playwright Center and I remember. I'm here to work. I'm here to hone my craft and I'm here so my little world centered on Chicago gets a little bigger. 

I remember when I go to dinner with my boyfriend's family that I'm here to get to know them better. I remember when I go to a new museum that I'm here to explore a new city with a different history. I remember when I water my new fern that I'm here to grow roots, to create a life somewhere new, for a little while at least. I remember every time it snows how beautiful this place I chose to try really is. I came here to make my life fuller, even though there are moments that feel emptier, it's clear to me in other moments that is not the case.  

I miss friends, family, landmarks in Chicago. I miss the public transit. Sometimes the waves of homesickness are so strong that I miss my former place of employment. And I can say with certainty now the growing pains of becoming an adult reach well into your twenties. 

I'm glad to be here, most of the time equivocally, because who doesn't miss where they've been, but for now focusing on where I'm going in this winter wonderland is often enough to settle the storm inside me. And if there was a place to miss home, this is a pretty beautiful place to do it. 

Also, I've found the best peanut butter I've ever had here, so clearly, I'm staying forever. 

 

Best wishes & Happy Travels! 

Homes Away From Home

 The view from the AirBnb in Rome

The view from the AirBnb in Rome

With the exception of Amsterdam, our trip through Europe comprised of AirBnb accommodations. I’m not going to take a lot of time to talk about the different places we stayed, you can go and read my reviews on AirBnb’s site or message me if you want more information, but I would like to talk about the experience over all, since lodging was primarily my responsibility so I did a lot of research for each stop.

Price wise, since there were two of us, I almost always was able to find cheaper accommodations on AirBnb than a hostel – the other cost effective way to travel around Europe. Now in certain places this was because of location, not many people live in the touristy district where the hostels are, but in some stops, Toulouse for example, we were closer to the center of town than most of the hostels.

Like when looking at any accommodations, you have to take many things into account. One important thing that we discovered in Madrid is that you have to be sure that the host and you share a language. Apparently, the poster spoke/wrote to us in English, but they poster was not the host. Other things to think about are: location, amenities, room type (private room, whole house, or shared room) and the quality of the host. Weighing what is important to you, a choice can often easily be made.

For the most part our experiences with AirBnb were great. There were pros to all of the places we stayed and they almost always outweighed the cons. I also felt a lot more comfortable leaving my belongings because there is a mutual trust, the kind you don’t get at a hotel or hostel. The hosts open their homes to you, share their lives with you and want you to enjoy your time in their city. Most of the hosts have been guests themselves at one point or another and were happy to help in any way they could to make our stay comfortable.

For your next trip, I recommend checking out AirBnb as an option. Maybe, like we found in Amsterdam, a hotel or hostel is a better option because of location, price, or whatever reason but it can’t hurt to check out the site and see who might take you in and help guide you on your adventure.

 

Next time I'll talk a little about my time in Rome. Until then, Best Wishes & Happy Travels!

 

Packing Advice

 Rocking my double backpack travel style in France

Rocking my double backpack travel style in France

Being the person I am, I have read a lot of travel blogs. Now that I am composing a blog in the same vein, I feel obligated to write about packing. Instead of making a list of everything I brought and why I chose it, since I am composing this in hindsight, I am going to talk about the mistakes I made while packing so that when you go on a two-month adventure you will make your own mistakes instead of the ones I made.

 

1.)   Don’t wait too long to get your backpack – You can’t pack until you have your backpack and it’s great to spend six months researching backpack sizes and weights and all but all the research in the world won’t matter if you wait until a month before your trip and the backpack of your choice is sold out at REI, Amazon, and the company website until a week into your trip. That is what happened to me. I got so wrapped up in making sure that I got the prefect backpack for the trip that once I made my choice I couldn’t find it anywhere. I ended up going with the smaller version of the ideal pack and while it worked well I really missed the extra 10 liters.

2.)   Pack a book, an actual paperback book – Now, this advice probably isn’t for everyone. I read a lot but my boyfriend does not so in order to save space (because I had 10 liters less than I planned) I had an iPod mini with very little music and 20+ audio books. It was a good solution but there we times when I wanted words on a page. There were train rides that were too long for the battery of the iPod. And it was very hard to find a book in English before we got to Paris, which was halfway through the trip. Maybe you do not feel as strongly about books as I do, maybe this is a piece of advice you can ignore. I’m just saying, next time I travel, I’m making sure to bring a book.

3.)   Don’t worry about bringing EVERYTHING you might need – This is the simplest and most important piece of advice I can give. Aside from certain important things like prescriptions and your passport and, if you are traveling to a country with a language you don’t know many words a phrasebook, you can get stuff there. I spent a lot of time making and remaking decisions about what clothes to bring when I should have been taking notes from the travel books we weren’t going to get to pack or trying to convince my boyfriend that a paperback was a worthwhile use of space. Make a list, check it twice, and then pack. Don’t stress. It will all be fine. And if you don’t pack enough clothes for warm weather you can buy a cool skirt like the one I got in Florence. Why did I get a skirt? Because even though I thought and rethought all my clothing options I still made a mistake in not packing enough warm weather clothes. So, yeah, worrying doesn’t even work. 

 The skirt I bought during my trip. 

The skirt I bought during my trip. 

4.)   Purse v. Day Pack – Purse. Now, if you are doing a lot of hiking and general sport-like things, a day pack might be a better option for you, but we were mostly in cities and towns and I would have felt much less like a tourist and felt a lot more comfortable if I was wandering around the Louvre with a purse than a daypack. Not to mention I would have looked a lot less ridiculous with a purse and my pack than I do in the picture at the top of this post.  

5.)   Remember to leave space – I actually do this, so I did make some good choices. Remember you will want to get souvenirs, you might need to get extra clothing and you will want to have room to accommodate your purchases. There is another option, which I will discuss once the blog gets to Paris, but if you leave space for souvenirs, there is also the added benefit that your pack will be lighter! For a little while at least. 

Hope this advice helps you on your own adventures! Please feel free to share your own packing advice so we can all become better packers and travelers. Best Wishes & Happy Travels! 

Hellos & Beginnings

 The Tree Outside My Childhood Home

The Tree Outside My Childhood Home

Before starting college I lived in the same little green-roofed house, in the same little neighborhood (Andersonville) of the same big city (Chicago) my entire life.

While I could have (and looking at my college loans, I think should have) stayed in that home for another four years until eternity, I moved in to the dorms my freshman year. My sophomore year I got an apartment with a couple of friends, one zip code closer to that green-roofed home. My junior year- a different apartment, a little closer to home. Senior year, same situation. After graduating, I almost returned to my little room in the little green-roofed house, but instead I did what my parents considered the next best thing. I moved in to an apartment in the same zip code as my parents.

I love Chicago and I’m proud to be a native of the magnificent Second City. But I also had this pull toward other places. Seattle, where I visited for a grand total of three hours in my teenage years, became my Orlando equivalent – Book of Mormon the Musical reference – and almost anywhere I visited felt like a place I could make my home.

I was bit by the wanderlust bug. I needed to get out of my home city and I needed to live somewhere else.

There is another person who was affected by my desire. My boyfriend, who I lived with in that apartment in the same zip code as my parents. We discussed it and decided to move to his home city-- The Twin Cities.

But before this move, before moving all of our worldly possessions (admittedly, mostly books) we went on a trip. 8 countries, 19 cities, 2 months in Europe. We planned it so our stuff would be in storage in the US while we traveled and could have it waiting in the Twin Cities when we got back.

This blog is going to be many things, but for now it will primarily be a mix of edited journal entries from that two month trip and posts about my transition to this new set of cities. 

So hello. Happy you are here to experience this beginning with me.