Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to be the WORST at Traveling (Specifically via Airplane)

Let me start by saying that I know I am privileged. I've been lucky enough to see lots of the world and spend much of my free time taking in new cities and new people. And I love it! Often what this means is that I have to fly. Again, honored that I get to fly at all, because I understand that it's not an option for everyone. BUT, that being said, there's a reason people hate flying. Flying is stressful for a number of reasons - large number of people also traveling at any given time, time consuming, restrictions on what you can bring, etc.

I just got back from an AMAZING two weeks in the UK with my favorite travel PIC.

This girl is the bee's knees when it comes to travel. She'll look everything up and plan all activities, but doesn't freak out if things don't go as planned. Everyone needs someone like this in their lives. She can attest that I despise advanced planning. I get bored/frustrated/distracted and inevitably give up on it. Not this girl. This girl is focused AND chill.

As the self-proclaimed travel weasel, I've had quite a bit of experience with airports and the hell that flying can be. I've been in scary customs situations where people speak a different language, have guns, and are yelling things you don't understand at 3am. Reasonably, that's a little scary.

However, flying back from this UK trip led to one of the most continuously horrific airport experiences I've been in.

Tired & sleep deprived & headache = ^^
Flight plan: LHR -> JFK -> ATL. Pretty simple.
People often only know Atlanta from the horrors they've experienced in either the airport or traffic through the city. ATL has nothing on the nonsense that was LHR & JFK today.

Heathrow - English-speaking airport. JFK - English-speaking airport. My confusion as an English-speaking native and frequent flyer: 10/10.

Simply, my experience felt like day 1 at the airport for everyone. First time ever at an airport for all travelers & staff and no one has even ever heard rumors of how airports are supposed to work.

Reason #1 I feel this way: When you get to Terminal 3 of the London Heathrow airport, you're greeted by a combined Delta/Virgin ticket counter area. There are approximately 20 self-serve kiosks for check-in & ticket printing, 20 bag drop lines, 4 physical ticket agent lines, a bunch of weird kiosks on wheels that say "Delta Security Check", and zero direction on where to go or what queue is for which line. So, like the experienced traveler I am, I decided to ask for help. Pro-tip: don't ask only one person for help, chances are they have as much idea as you have as to what's going on. Just keep asking people. Oh, and if you find yourself flying Delta out of LHR, you have to talk to a Delta staff member at the mobile security check kiosks for reasons I still don't understand.

Reason #2: Baggage drop at Heathrow had lines of ~20 people per kiosk - no big deal, it's a baggage drop. Line should move quickly. An hour later and still in line to drop my bag off, I make it to the front. Hand gate agent boarding pass & passport. She weighs the bag & prints off sticker - all good. Why did it take more than 10 minutes to get though everyone in front of me, no idea.

Reason #3: The flight I was on notified me while printing my pass that there was a call for volunteers. Knowing that I was flying to a connection, JFK versus directly to ATL, I figured I'd volunteer, only if they could book me direct to Atlanta that day. Go to talk to a ticketing agent about this. They have no idea. They direct me to a single man helping a family of 7 and a queue behind them to find out if this is an option. Wait in that queue for a while - quickly evident that he's going to be a while with the family. Find different info/ticketing agent that looks like same position as this guy to see if other person could maybe do it instead - no. They redirect me to the same guy still with the family and now a longer queue. Okay, willingness to volunteer has passed.

So, since a growing number of people are first time fliers - I've written up a little list to make sure you travel with ease! Oh and reasons 4-13 why I'm pretty sure today was international fly for the first time day.

1. Yell. It's irrelevant if you don't even have a reason to yell, yell anyway.

2. Have your 3 children under 4 years old hover next to you at the baggage carousel with hundreds of other people and the world's heaviest bags after being on a plane for 9hrs. No children? No problem! Borrow some.

3. Stand up in the plane aisle before you get to the gate, ensuring that no one near you can be comfortable for the next 20 minutes while you wait to deplane. Bonus points if your butt hovers in the face of the person next to you or if you continually elbow anyone.

4. Turn the volume on your iPad/iPod/radio/cellular device as loud as it can go - do NOT put your headphones in. Headphones are for squares.

5. Whatever you do, do not read any signs. Signs are mostly confusing pictures anyway, and I'm sure anything important on them will be told to you by a physical person at some point.

6. But if you are going to stop to read a sign, because you have a lot of free time and want to hone up on your sign interpretation skills, stop in the middle of pedestrian foot traffic in a crowded hall.

7. Do not pay attention to anyone talking. Customs agent ready for you? Important information regarding how to go through the ever so exclusive TSA-precheck line? Immigration needs your declaration? These are all probably just suggestions. Ignore at will anyone giving you instructions or further directions. You do you.

8. There will be an arm rest between you and the person next to you, this can go up. Definitely put it up if it isn't already. Extra barriers prevent friendship, and you're sure to bond over the next 9 jet lagged hours.

9. The Golden Rule - If all else fails, panic. This may combine any number of the aforementioned rules. Personally, I recommend yelling at the other passengers to "Hurry Up" and "Let's go". Especially if they're elderly. Oh, and then comment to no one in particular that the overhead bags should have already been down by now. Even if the plane hasn't reached the jet bridge. Irrelevant. When you finally get out of your seat, push up close to the people in front of you. You have a connecting flight in an hour, it's completely reasonable to panic. I'm sure nobody else has any time sensitive obligations.

Let me finish by saying, I wasn't the perfect traveler today either. I got frustrated and almost bitched out an entire family for being inconsiderate (see #2 on how to be the worst). When asked where my bag was going, I said Dallas. Um? No, it's definitely not going to Dallas, but for a full 15 seconds I was absolutely convinced it had to go to Dallas. This confused a gate agent which made her double check something which then delayed the line a bit - my B. I accidentally used a curse word with a customs agent. (Him - how was your trip? Me - it was good, but freezing! Him - really?? Me - it was winter, absolute bullshit weather.) No big deal, but there I go holding up a line again.

More tips on how to be the worst at traveling? I'd love to read them! Comment below.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fear the unknown (but go anyway)

Every time I go anywhere, and I mention it to extended family or friends, I'm confronted with fear.
Fear of a travel emergency happening to me.
Fear I'll be abducted, tortured, and killed.
(At least I'm assuming this is the reason for all the questions)

And fear (when traveling) is a good thing. 
Fear can keep you safe.
But it can also hold you back.
Don't be afraid to try something new, just because you're a little uncomfortable.

Eat the street food.
Visit rural areas.
Carry cash on you for shopping.
Talk to the locals.
 Take public transportation.
Stay in the part of town off the beaten path.
Take the road less traveled by.
Get a feel for the area you're going to by diving in and trying everything.

But be smart too.
We fear the above, and our families and friends fear for us, because the above are unknown.
If I eat the street food, will I get food poisoning?
What if I get stuck somewhere and can't get home?
What if I get robbed?

Yes, these things can happen and do happen.
You know what else happens?
We discover the best corn we've ever had.
And we fall in love with people and a city.
And the best part? We save money by doing it this way.
Versus falling into tourist traps and putting out the big bucks to build up a false sense of security.
(because you can still get food poisoning from a $200 meal)

Combat this fear by enlisting a friend whose also afraid.
Be brave together.
Embrace the culture & the experience recklessly.
Combat FOMO by doing it all.

If you were looking for someone to tell you it's okay, go ahead and do it. 
This is it.
You can do it.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to backpack in luxury

You may or may not know this about me, but I'm not really the outdoorsy type.
I mean.
I love adventure.
And traveling.
And experiencing the outdoors.

But I'm not one to rough it.
My idea of roughing it usually includes access to running water.
Hello, San Blas Islands
But I mean, if I have to live in paradise for a few days without, oh darn.

On that note though, I mentioned previously that I'm allotted one personal item for this trip.
After much deliberation with my travel PIC, Stas, we agreed it made sense to share a checked bag for liquids we wanted to bring.
(sharing body wash, sunscreen, etc)
But, we've primarily designated that for liquids and possible souvenirs

So anyways, I'm back to how to pack for 10 days in a backpack.

Here's my easy guide for packing.

One. Know the purpose of your trip
Are you planning on going scuba diving? Downhill skiing? Hiking? City wandering? Exploring the night life? Sleeping? etc. The better prepared you are for activities pre-flight, the easier the trip will be! And the easier to pack!
For this trip, we're primarily enjoying the tropical climate and praying it doesn't rain (so, swimming), and getting to know the city (so, walking). Which means I need lightweight clothing, good walking shoes, and probably more than one swimsuit.
I ended up buying these in the light grey/blue option.
Two. Know what you can't live without
Mascara? Your teddy bear? Snapple? Slippers knit by your grandma? Your kindle? Medicine?
Whatever it is, bring it. You don't want to be miserable for any period of time without it. 
For me this is mascara, medicine, and something to do on the plane. I can't read on the plane, as I get that motion sick, but I can watch movies and listen to music, so forgetting my headphones would be a nightmare.
I have ones one step down from these, and they're incredible.
Three. Check the weather. Then check again. And recheck.
Are you going during prime blizzard season? Are you going to the alps or the equator? Will it rain? Is there even a chance of rain?
For me, I'm going to Panama during the rainy season. Okay, so close to the equator and probable rain. So light clothing and rain gear. I can "wear" a rain coat onto the plane to save space and double as a blanket for the occasionally freezing airplanes. I could also stick an umbrella into my backpack's cup holder. Try to wear the heaviest items that you want to bring on to the plane to save luggage space. So, for me, that'll be jeans, a sweatshirt, a dress tucked into my jeans (just kidding... probably), and a shirt. 
Four. Roll, roll, roll your clothes
Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
I think every travel guide in the history of guides has mentioned that rolling your clothes is the easiest way to save space. And roll tightly. 
If you really want to see a pro at work, check this guy out.

Five. Get crafty
Can you lift a ton? Use space bags to reduce the size of your carry on, but just be prepared to get a workout in.
Do you get cold in airports? Maybe wear three pairs of pants to the airport and double up on socks.
Pack jewelry and sunglasses either on your body (sorry security) or in your shoes.
And hey, there's no shame in wearing a mismatched outfit through security if it's everything bulky you're bringing. It's okay to be that person. The non-revs will hate you, but oh well.
Six. Know your accommodations
Are you staying in a 5-star hotel with towels and pillows? Are you pitching a tent? Are you couch surfing?
For us, we're traveling through different hostels. Really not too sure if they have towels or pillows for us. Since I know we're spending a lot of time at the beach, I'm going to bring a beach towel. This will double as a bath towel in a pinch. I'll be using the extra storage we bought via the checked bag to store this.
If you're really unsure of your accommodations, stash a pillow case in your bag. You can fill dirty (or clean) clothes in here to create a pillow and double as a laundry bag. (although, if you're hiking all day and they're smelly, maybe don't do that).

So these are the tips I'm going to be using. 
Maybe they'll work? Maybe they won't.
My schedule for the week has me packing Tuesday night & finishing Thursday (because you know, TRIPLE CHECKING THE WEATHER)
So, I'll let ya know how it goes :)

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Flying in Style

I’m traveling to Panama on one of those budget airlines that makes a 5hr direct flight into like… minimum 24hrs of traveling, but hey, it was cheap.
What it also means is that anything over a personal item requires some extra dough to get in on board.
 Now that I’m no longer flying non-rev, I have to think about these things…
like extra luggage.
I also realized while prepping, that I don’t have a “personal item” to really bring with me…
So, I came up with some options to purchase.

I kind of feel like if it’s strapped to me, they can’t tell me it’s a non-personal item.
Maybe that’s backwards logic, butttt whateva.

 Ideally, I want something stylish that looks like I’m a super cool globe trotter. But, it also needs to have quite a bit of space (while still being a “personal item”) and having lots of pockets would be excellent for stashing items.
So like, this is super cute.
But not really practical…

I'm also loving these:
Ooh leather
Herschel - obsessed!


Up next. How to pack for 10 days in a bag this size.

Which bag would you take on a "personal item only" trip?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Road Again

I realize that I left off in the middle of a story and never got back around to finishing it.
My apologies for being the worst.
Things that have happened in my hiatus:
  • Made it back to the states in one piece
  • Cried over the sight of a bagel
    • I mean like, bawled. In an airport. In front of people. Over a bagel.
  • Was reunited with this guy:
  • Moved back to New Orleans

  • Moved back to Wisconsin in what was the longest solo road trip without reason
So what's coming up in the next 6 months then?
Panama. Seattle. Alaska. Canada. Atlanta. London? Paris?
Oh.. yeah... and working on filling in the blanks from the last year.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wait... You're Still Here?

Oh hey.

Sorry for such a long hiatus...

And for now the world's worst apology post.

It's not that I haven't been traveling. I've definitely been traveling.
I just ran out of free time. 
Or I was too busy living.
Or school...
Or some other equally lame excuse.

And now I'm about to again be without internet for the next five or so days...


But, rest assured, I haven't forgotten about all of you readers (family that may still be keeping track of me)!
I feel like leaving my last post on the note of essentially binge drinking for a semester would be worrisome.
So, fear not! I'm still kickin'.

While I catching up on the last month and a half, enjoy this picture of me chillin' with a monkey...

Back soon, loves.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How to Drink your way through a Country.

Let me preface this post by saying, I do not condone excessive drinking or alcoholism or underage drinking or drinking under many medical conditions, WHICH MEANS YOU SHOULDN'T ACTUALLY TAKE THE TITLE SERIOUSLY IF YOU FALL UNDER ANY OF THE AFOREMENTIONED CATEGORIES.

I also fully support abstaining from drinking while also living every day to the fullest. Drinking doesn't mean you'll have a good time, and is in no way necessary to have a good time.

Anyways, let me continue.

Living out in Western Australia to some extent is like living in wine country in Napa Valley. When there is so much local variety available, how could one not try all the area has to offer?
(Again, see paragraphs one & two)

So here are some photos of vineyards and wineries and cider drinking and such.

Gambling & drinking with 50 lashes cider.
A note on cider: if you like apples or pears, this is the stuff for you. Alcoholic, bubbly, and usually reasonably priced pints. But, it's also usually too sweet and bubbly for more than a midi. 

Then there are all the meaderies. Hello fantastico.
Love honey? Prefer sweet wine? You've come to the right place.
I ended up buying a bottle of which the name escapes me.. But this was easily one of the most delicious places I've ever been to.
Full of honey and wine and bee paraphernalia.

And then there was the cutest darn winery down south of all time.
Winery/garden/cafe combo.
It was a little slice of heaven this side of Mount Barker.

Welcome to Gilbert's Winery.
This family owned & operated quaint little place was fantastic.
While waiting to start a tasting, Mrs. Gilbert suggested we wander through the garden and try a fig.
Easily one of the most delicious pieces of fruit I've ever eaten.
Where can one obtain fresh figs?
Does anyone have a fig tree I can bum from them?
Side note: can you tell that we're a bunch of tourists from this photo?
Gilbert's was adorable and delicious. And an incredibly inviting experience.
Each of us ended up buying a bottle of something sweet.
The best part was that the Gilberts didn't hesitate on giving a bunch of weary travelers the star treatment.
The most interesting story we heard? Behind the naming process of the Three Devils wines -
appropriately named after their three sons.
Three Lads developed after they had all matured some.
How adorable is that?!
If you happen to be down south, consider this a must do.

In stark contrast to our experience there was the following weekend in Swan Valley.
We stopped at a place where the first red flag should've been a charge on the tasting.
My expectations were already too high.
With each sip, I regretted every (figurative) penny spent.
**Note, pennies don't actually exist here. Numbers are rounded to the 5. Unless you're the bus. The bus does what the bus wants on the bus pass**
Upon first glance, the venue was overwhelmingly beautiful.
While the wine was overwhelmingly disappointing.

There were numerous times throughout the tasting where I legitimately started gagging.
The spit bucket was mostly full by the time our gang was done.
Beyond that, we were given negative attention by the sommelier. 
There were quite a few other parties looking to try wine, but you could see we were bottom on the priority list of being treated and he didn't even bother asking if we were interested in anything after our tasting had finished.
A slight rant, but an experience in stark contrast to the others.

But, back to a more positive note.
I'm not fond of beer.
Let me rephrase, I don't like the taste of beer. In theory I like beer. I like the imagery of hangin' out and crackin' a few open. I even mostly enjoy the smell of beer.
But man, can I not get over how awful it can taste.

So, maybe somebody should've stopped me from ordering the sampling tray at this super cool restaurant?

But that would completely ruin the point of drinking for the sake of drinking in order to fully live by the when in Rome philosophy.

So, carpe diem, bitches?


Major photo cred to Anastasia and Kelsey <3