London

I moved to London 7 years ago this week for a 4 month study abroad, but I had no idea that a little part of my soul would always miss it. Is it strange that I’ve only spent a small percentage of my life there, but in so many ways, I feel more at home there than any other city?

Whether it’s strange or not, it’s true. There’s just something about it that makes me feel alive and free. Every corner is lovely and interesting and I feel like I belong in the multi-cultural mix of pedestrians on the street hurrying to their destinations.

I really love living in Utah, but as I drive home each day, I miss the architectural beauty of living in a city, a big city, where you rarely escape the press of skyscrapers, except in the parks that interrupt the busy streets.

Which is why visiting for a few days last month was a dream. It felt like coming home.

Advertisements

Beach Appeal

I have to admit, I haven’t really seen the appeal of beaches for most of my life. I’m a swimmer who loves being in the water, but going to lakes or the ocean wasn’t really a regular occurrence for my family. The few times I did go, we always spent more time doing other things than actually swimming and sitting on the beach.

But this summer, we decided that we wanted to spend our last full day in Greece on one of the islands, and we took a ferry out to Poros. It’s not a large island. Mostly it’s time-shares and beaches with several restaurants and souvenir shops near the port. But it was perfect. I swam around and lay in the sun all day. Heaven!

I swam out about 20 feet from the beach as soon as we arrived and looked at the bay that surrounded the beach and the sailboats that had anchored themselves there and could barely comprehend that I was actually there seeing this with my own eyes and not just looking at a photograph someone else had taken. This was real!

My only regret is that I didn’t devote more time to being on the islands. Taking the ferry back to Athens that afternoon was so bittersweet. I wasn’t ready to leave, and could have used a few more days of sun and water.

Impressions of Athens

Athens wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be. You see pictures of the Greek islands and they’re all picturesque white buildings and tile roofs and you can always see the crystal clear ocean. What I realized was that Greece is about as close as you can get to paradise, but that perfect picture that I was expecting doesn’t really exist in the big city. It’s loud and dirty and there are tons of people.

Does that mean that I don’t think you should go to Athens. On the contrary. It’s a fun city with amazing history. And there’s something wonderful about history and real life coexisting.

The Acropolis took my breath away. It was amazing to know that I was standing in ancient theaters and temples that were used thousands of years ago. And the view of the sprawling city and sea was stunning. I loved the Olympic Stadium and the museums and eating fresh food on the warf.

Go to Greece, and don’t miss Athens. But if you want Pinterest picture of quaint streets, you’ll probably also want to go to some of the islands.

What to Do the Week Before You Travel

198kmabdjwuj4jpg

The week before you travel can be really stressful. You’re trying to finish up a bunch of things at work and at home before you go, and then you’re also trying to get everything you’ll need on your trip. So you don’t have to think of everything, here’s a list of my must do tasks the week before I leave.

  • Call your credit card company and bank. If you don’t call them, there’s a chance they’ll think your card has been stolen and shut it down once you make purchases in a new country.
  • Call your phone company. Find out what international packages and deals they have. See what the fees will be for calls, texts, and data usage.
  • Pack everything a couple days beforehand so that anything you’re missing can be picked up before you go, or if you’re luggage is over the allowed weight you can decide what not to bring.
  • Pick up cash in the currency you’ll need where you’re traveling. You don’t need to bring all the cash for your whole trip, in fact it’s better not to be carrying around that kind of money, but it’s good to have enough to get you through the first day.
  • Download apps for the public transit systems where you’re going.
  • Take a photo of your passport and keep it in a separate bag from your actual passport. If something happens and you loose it, having this picture might make the difference between you getting on a plane or not.
  • Take a deep breath. Just relax a little and let yourself get excited for the trip. It’s going to be great!

Packing for Europe

I have some big news. I’m going to Europe in two weeks! My mother has some work in Athens, and invited me to tag along. So obviously I said yes. It’s been a little bit of a last minute trip, so that means pulling a lot of things together very quickly. Last night, I literally woke up multiple times because I was having nightmares about packing. There are definitely worse things, but I’d like to not loose any more sleep over it. So I thought I’d share some of my travel wisdom at the same time that I put together  my packing list.

What to wear?

The first thing you need to do is research what kind of weather you can expect in the location you’re visiting. If it’s going to be hot, then you’re going to want light breathable fabrics and sandals. If it’s a colder climate, then a coat and boots need to go on your list. When it comes to Europe, it’s always a good idea to plan for both extremes. I did a week and a half trip with some friends visiting Prague and Vienna. The three days we were in Prague were blazing hot and humid. But as soon as we got to Vienna, the weather had changed and I was wearing a scarf and jacket the whole time. This was the beginning of July. So never assume, do your research, and plan for contingencies.

For instance, I’ll be in Athens for almost a week where it’ll be sunny, hot, and have little rain. But then we’re stopping in London for several days on the way home where it’ll be about 20 degrees cooler and most likely rain a few times while we’re there. I have to pack for both climates. I need short sleeved shirts and skirts and shorts. But I also need a rain coat and cardigans.

The Right Shoes

If you miscalculate the clothing you pack for a trip, the worst case scenario is that you end up buying something there. Hopefully it’s something you like and it’ll always remind you of the city you bought it in. But shoes are another matter. Visiting Europe means a lot of walking and you don’t want to be breaking in a new pair while sightseeing. Pick a pair or two that you’re going to take on the trip and then wear them any chance you get for the weeks leading up to your vacation. Having retired my favorite pair of sandals at the end of last summer, I went out and bought a few pairs to try this year. The first two were really uncomfortable after walking around in them for a couple hours. So I went out and got a third. Keeping your feet happy is worth the investment.

Also, always have at least one pair of shoes that can handle rain. One of my friends only packed TOMS for our Prague/Vienna trip and sorely regretted it when it started raining. Though comfy and breathable, they don’t dry fast and she spent three or four days with perpetually wet feet.

Getting ready

A week or two before you leave, you should do an inventory of the items you use during your regular morning routine. Toothpaste, face wash, make up, blow dryer. Everything. Write it down. Cross off anything that you can live without for a week or two. Then make a plan for how you’ll have access to everything once you’re across the pond.

If you’re like me, you’re only bringing a carry-on and so you have to comply with liquid requirements by airlines. Figure out what is worth buying specialized bottles for and what you’ll just buy once you arrive. Personally, if I’m going to be somewhere for a few months or if I’m traveling with multiple people, I tend to buy a lot of the essentials there.

Electronics

If you’re using a blow dryer, straightener, curling iron, or electric razor, you’ll need to bring an adapter and a converter. They have different voltages in different countries. If you’re going to be there for several months, it’s probably better to just buy something cheap once you arrive. Most of the girls with American electronics on my study abroad blew them out even though they were using adapters.

This becomes even more important when you’re dealing with a phone or laptop. You don’t want to fry your machine, so do your research and buy what you need before you go.

Books

This is a very important part of the packing list. I’ve been pondering for a week or so now what books to bring on this trip. Everyone’s different in their readings tastes. I have friends who take Tolstoy on the plane with them which I personally cannot do. I need something a little lighter when I’m traveling. Something I can come and enjoy when I need a distraction from the long customs line, but that I can put down when it’s time to go explore a new place. Also, I always bring at least 2 so that I can see what I’m in the mood for once I get there.

Seeing London Through New Eyes

2553c1cffb00f260e96dd98d70077e8f

It’s been almost five years since I last walked the streets of London. Coming here was such a defining experience in my life. It changed me and educated me and helped me fall in love with the world. Having spent almost my entire 18 years in the Western US, it was a vision of history and culture and beauty. Everything was green and lovely and I never wanted to leave.

The last five years have held a lot more learning experiences for me. And I’ve been really blessed to grow in important ways. But sadly, it’s changed the streets of London for me. You see, I’ve seen other beautiful and historical streets in other countries. I’ve also recognized that I can live a meaningful life walking down streets that are ugly or generic, if need be. As wonderful as it is to live in beautiful places, a place is only what you make of it.

London will always be an important place for me, but never quite as much as it was for my 19 year old self.

Poland is the land of learning

Image

Yes everyone, feel jealous because this is the view from my balcony in Wroclaw. I’m pretty darn lucky.

Things I’ve learned about myself:

1. If I’ve ever just moved somewhere or started something new and am feeling unsure or lonely, just tell me to wait out the first week or two. That’s about how long it takes for me to adjust to new things. After a week or two, whatever made me feel nervous seems a lot easier to handle.

2. I don’t have to do what everyone else does to be happy. I live with some wonderful people who are great roommates and always make an effort to invite me out with them every night. Going out and drinking isn’t exactly my thing, and this has really showed me that I can say no and not offend anyone. People respect others’ decisions and don’t take it personally. It’s great!

3. I need lists to be productive. Sometimes I try to wing it and then a week goes by and I look back and haven’t accomplished anything. Five minutes sitting down and deciding what I want to get done makes all the difference.

4. When it comes to speaking a language, one of the best qualities you can have is fearlessness. It’s so easy to silence yourself because you’re afraid of making mistakes. Realizing that you’re going to make millions of language mistakes before you are fluent is important to remember. Just say what you can say and accept the imperfection. That’s how you get better.