Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

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Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

adventure of the week, Allergen-free eating on the road, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, europe, Florida, France, Iowa, Ireland, italy, mexico, Nebraska, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States, wyoming

So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Travel Is More Than Checklists

France, Ireland, italy, musings, Scotland, Travel

In my work, and my passion, there is a lot of talk about “bucket lists”. Bucket Lists, for those unaware, are lists of things and places one wants to go to before they “kick the bucket” aka drop dead.

While it’s great to have lists and goals, dreams and wishes, it’s also important not to lose track of all the other reasons one should travel.

No doubt I have my own goals I want to accomplish, and a bucket list a mile long, yet I know in my heart of hearts I travel for much more than checking off places.

When I was 19 and I took off to Europe by myself, I kept thinking “if I die now I will feel fulfilled”. I felt this when I saw Paris. Then again in London. Again in Edinburgh. Once again in Ireland….and I have felt it so many more times in eight and a half years. Yet I have not run out of places I want to visit, things I want to experiences, beauty I want to absorb. This is because the act of traveling is much more than coming home and saying “I have been here” it’s the stories, the people, and the moments that make traveling whole.

Some of my more vivid memories have nothing to do with making it to a place I always wanted to see. While seeing the Eiffel Tower was spectacular. I remember the same wonder at a funeral procession in the Orkney Islands. Something about those moments connected me deeper to humanity that I was witnessing, and the glory that was our existence. I laughed as much at a comedy show in Dublin as I did a little girl in a park in Blarney who was trying to talk me out of my crackers as I ate a picnic. I have wept seeing the Mona Lisa and the Birth of Venus, surrounded by hundreds of people, because of the connection we all felt through time and to ourselves and those around us in awe. I have also cried sitting alone on mountain tops, flabbergasted at the insignificance of my own size and existence.

My point is that travel is an emotional experience. Travel is a humanitarian experience. I travel to be more in love with the people I share earth with. I travel to be humbled at the beauty of nature. I have traveled to get closer to family and friends. I have traveled to escape family. Traveling means pushing my comfort levels to a breaking point. Traveling means eating food I never would try otherwise (hello escargot). Travel means drinking and eating at totally bizarre places and falling in love with it. Traveling means looking other people in the face and feeling connected to them, even if they are a complete stranger.

Because checking off lists holds you to a form, and the earth is far better explored in its natural chaos.

Travel is to live your life to its highest value.

Travel, in its pure form, is magic.

Happy Travels!

The Best Lessons Have Been My Mistakes

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, Colorado Events, family, Ireland, italy, love, mexico, musings, outdoors, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

I have been traveling internationally for 8 1/2 years. Mostly by myself. Always on a budget. And with a few struggles along the way. Some have been all my fault. Others I can blame on fellow travelers. All of them are important.

Here are 10 of the best/worst lessons to learn on the road.

  1. Carry a phone-
    A part of me hates this but it has saved my butt more times than I can count. For instance, when you forget to learn out to read bus schedules, you can call a cab.

2. Buy good maps

    I don’t know how many tines having a bad or outdated or confusing map has messed up a day, turned me around, or got me lost. So, investing in a good map is an important way to preemptively save the day.
  • 3. self care!
    • I have become sick 2 out of 3 extended trips. If I had used more hand sanitizer, brought some vitamins, and got more sleep, I would have had an easier time with everything.

    4. Pack Light/Buy light

    • I have always made this mistake on longer trips. I pack too much, and immediately regret it. The other side is buying too much. When my aunt went with me to Europe in 2015 she bought so many souvenirs that we had to mail two large boxes home AND a suitcase. Because of the weight and international shipping fees, she spent almost $800 to mail home about $3,000 worth of merchandise. The moral of the story is that it’s better to buy the few things you REALLY want, leave room in your suitcase to bring it home, and consider purchasing some items when you get home. Pro tip- many companies get GREAT shipping discounts if you buy say $100 of merchandise.
  • 5. Eat Well
    • Don’t eat expensive, eat well. Eat your veggies like mamma told you. Don’t drink too much. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and enjoy delicacies in moderation.

    6. Say no

    • Say no to people that annoy you. Say no to drunk guys in bars. Say no to pushy “tour guides”. Say no to flirtatious Italians. Say no when it seems wrong, sketchy, scary, or if your gut tells you so.

    7. Ask Questions

    • So many mistakes and mishaps could have been prevented for myself and others if I had asked more questions, asked for directions, asked for a better map or bus schedule. See 1 and 2.

    8. Bring a Towel

    • It sounds silly, but if you have read Hitchhiker’s Guide (or seen the movie) you know towels are helpful. Truth is having a good towel on the road is also helpful.

    9. Bring a Sweater

    • Weather conditions can change in most places without warning. The times I have needed a sweater I have been so grateful to have one. When I have forgot one, boy did chattering teeth regret it.

    10. Make sure you are physically ready

    • Travel can be thoroughly miserable if you are not in shape. Being tired from long walks, or just carrying luggage can make the trip a miserable time. See 4 for extra help!

    What have you learned on the road?

    Losing Bourdain

    documentary, Florida, food, geek, italy, mexico, musings, new mexico, Scotland, Travel

    I started watching Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations when I was a teenager. He had a wit about him, and an elegant but no nonsense means of writing about the world. He sucked me into his journeys in Ireland or Kenya and he did everything from drinking cow’s blood in Kenya to vegetarian dishes in India with humor, grace, and intelligence.

    Bourdain moved through the world as something of an enigma. He was fully engaged with his location, yet he had a distance, a perspective, an observer’s mind as he met people and filmed a story. He existed in and out of the scene all at once, which made for a compelling look into his mind and craft.

    Sure, he condemned vegetarians and Colorado, both which are near to my heart, but I forgave the grumpy uncle figure that could WRITE.

    6913803975_2c38ec0090_o

    He could WRITE. Bourdain pieced together vignettes that made the viewer stop and think, or day dream, or question their perspective on the world. He spun tales and myths and legend on his own that no one dared question. They were eloquent and smart, thick with descriptors and layers of thought and depth that many of his peers could never match.

    I loved watching Bourdain in his element, elbows deep in meat and alcohol, talking with a local chef about the importance of animal innards to make distinct flavors and dishes. Bourdain was a compelling force, a person that could not be tamed or cut down, he just existed, and he shared with the world what that looked like.

    “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.” 

    Packing for the Unpredictable

    Caribbean, Cruising, Florida, Ireland, italy, mexico, new mexico, Scotland, Travel, wyoming

    Colorado winters overlap with spring in an unusual way. This week has gone from 70° to 25° and everywhere in between. Today it is snowing. It’s April 6, 2018 and it’s snowing.

    I try to not get discouraged on these wintery days, after all we need the moisture and the snow has a charm to it. Yet, I do wish it was rain instead of the ice and freezing cold. It also reminds me of the importance of clothing with unpredictable weather patterns. While I have lived my whole life in the Colorado and I am fully aware of wacky weather, I have also been the victim of my own poor planning.  Therefore, it’s imperative that one puts together smart outfits for the unpredictable.

    Here are the things I never leave home without:

    • Long pants or jeans
      • You never know when the weather will get cold, especially in the evening, even in tropical areas. Also, if you plan on any outdoor sports of hiking, long pants help with mud, cuts, and other facts of the journey.
    • Hoodie/Sweater
      • Every trip I have taken, whether a warm or cold climate, my hoodie comes in handy. I may not use it everyday, but when airport air-conditioning is too high, or a cold snap hits in Mexico, I am so thankful that I have it.
    • Sandals
      • Depending on how you travel, I have found sandals are a must have. For instance, going through airport security is easier when shoes slip on and off. If I want an impromptu visit to a swimming pool, I’m covered. Finally, if you are hosteling or staying at a number of places with a shared bathroom, sandals make trips down the hall much easier. My personal favorites are Birkenstocks or Chaco’s
    • A nice outfit
      • maybe someone will ask you on a date, or to a club. Or maybe you will want to dine at a fine restaurant. Research what seems appropriate for where you may go, and pack for it. I strongly believe it’s hard to be over dressed (okay maybe a ball gown is too much) so bring something pretty, easy to keep clean/wrinkle free, and a good pair of dress shoes.
    • Boots/Water Resistant Shoes
      • Rain, mud, and floods happen. Maybe I have bad luck, but I have always have had a need for something water resistant on my feet. Make sure you research what you may need, because warm monsoons in India are going to be far different from Spring showers in London.
    • Umbrella
      • I have lost, broken, and bought endless numbers of umbrellas. My biggest issue was not buying a high quality umbrella to deal with the torrential downpours that sometimes hit Scotland in January. My advice is that you should buy the best umbrella you can find and treasure it. Also, sometimes it’s better to just get wet than fight with gale-force winds.
    • Jogging pants, not pajama pants
      • If you don’t plan to do a normal workout routine, then I suggest you bring some warm and comfy jogging pants. These make life more comfortable, and are warmer when evenings get cold. While pajama pants are nice, jogging pants create much needed warmth, especially in winter and spring. Same goes for them as the hoodie, sometimes air conditioning and cold snaps freeze one out. Extra plush makes the day better.
    • Leggings
      • This rule is maybe not for men, or maybe, you do you. Leggings are my go to for flights, and extra layers in the cold. On flights they are more comfortable if you swell like I do with flights. Leggings are also great backups if your other pants are dirty, and they are usually easier to clean in a sink than a pair of jeans.
    • Reusable Shopping Bag
      • It sounds silly, but seriously invest in a shopping bag that is easy to fold up and stuff in a pocket or purse. This is a major convenience as more and more countries have moved from giving out plastic or disposable bags. So having a bag for shopping, or even just to lug around laundry, water bottles, snacks etc. is worth it.
    • Backpack or larger purse
      • Now don’t bring a small suitcase, but a day bag or day pack is what is needed for the day to day travels around the city or town. This can hold your water bottle, sun screen, camera, phone, snack, money and other necessities. Ladies, make sure you get a bag with an over shoulder strap. Backpack lovers, maybe carry it in front in busy areas.

    What do you not leave home without?

    Happy Travels!

    unpreditable

    Spring Foods from Around the World

    europe, History, italy, mexico, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

    Have you noticed how with each season come certain holidays and with said holidays comes certain food?

    Naturally, this is not purely American (though we tend to take it above and beyond). Other countries in the world celebrate holidays in their own way and with certain dishes. Here are some of my favorite spring treats.

     

    North America

    • Easter candy- this is a given, with Easter on its way and the end of lent, food looks mighty tasty that’s full of all the bad stuff you maybe gave up for 6 weeks.

    pexels-photo-730848.jpeg

    • Fruit on everything- Though we live in world with fruit available almost year round, when berry and cherry season arrive everything has a touch of blueberries or cherries to make life more colorful.
    • Meat- pair your fruit and chocolate with some lamb….somehow this makes sense.

    South America

    Due to the flipping of seasons south of the border, most of South America is entering fall. Here are some of their preferred treats for their Easter Season

    • Easter Bread Ring “rosca de Pascuahas roots in Spain, king of like a King cake in the French tradition, it’s a sweet and tasty bread.

    pexels-photo-940838.jpeg

    • Spanish Fasting Soup “potaje de la vigilia is popular this time of year. The main ingredients are codfish, spinach, and chickpeas.
    • Ceviche is a popular dish in Peru, and that means Easter week it becomes a necessity for home and celebration

    Europe

    Many of our “American” traditions have European roots; here are some of the better or more surprising foods.

    • German Eggs – This one surprised me on my first trip out of the country. As Germany was my first stop my friends there had received an Easter basket from their landlord. To my surprise, eggs are not refrigerated in Europe before purchase AND sometimes after. So boiled Easter eggs are often just left out for a few days, fully decorated and then consumed. The cool thing about eggs in the shell is that they don’t really rot and eggs don’t rot in general until they are very old or exposed to oxygen.

    pexels-photo-372167.jpeg

    • British- Guess where that odd 1994 Cadbury commercial came from, the Brits. Who make and developed those delicious, sickly sweet fill eggs that are popular this season.
    • Italian- The Italian menu for this holiday moves away form heavy and sweet into fresh and tasty. Though lamb is also common asparagus side dishes are popular, so is an egg and rice soup, and for a finish many enjoy Columba cake.

    Asia

    With the seasons come new foods, and Asian cuisine is all about embracing what is fresh and seasonal. Many parts of China and into Korea love to eat dumplings starting from Lunar New Year into the summer as a hearty cold weather treat and for traditions around the food. Here are some other tasty treats.

    • Japanese- As blossoms and spring plant life leads to many spring traditions in Japan, they whole-heartedly embrace it with their food. Mochi with cherry blossom leaves are common, strawberries don many treats, and mugwort comes into popularity in mochi and other treats.

    pexels-photo-76997.jpeg

    • Chinese- Asparagus stir-fries with beef, vegetable pot stickers, and lamb when available.
    • Southeast Asia- Much of this region does not have the seasons that we associate with in the west, but that doesn’t mean some food is not seasonal. Thai Basil is popular to make refreshing drinks as temperatures rise. Rice paper spring rolls, served cool make for a crisp treat with a tasty sauce and shrimp. Indonesian cuisine embraces fried crispy spring rolls full of tasty veggies and light meats.

    Australia

    While food in Australia is not too obscure for the holiday, and while they are very British culturally, Australia has their chocolate eggs, hot cross buns etc. BUT in Australia instead of a bunny bringing treats, kids get a visit from a Bilby…

    Bilby critters are nocturnal insect, snake- eating rodent things, with giant claws. It’s really not any weirder than someone making up a rabbit that leaves/lays eggs. So while the food is not too weird, I leave you with the Bilby.

    easter_bilby_by_arabidopsis-d3entpc.png

    AMENDED March 19, 2018

    So I actually asked a friend about the Bilby, he is from Australia and said they have the Easter bunny in Australia and that the Bilby is a new twist on the classic. Maybe, just maybe to confuse foreigners.

     

    Happy Travels!

     

    Seven Wonders of the World

    History, italy, mexico, Travel
    The “new” Seven Wonders of the World are not exactly “new” in any sense of the world. In fact the list makes up wonders and beautiful creations from cultures and peoples in the past. Which maybe makes them more impressive and engaging than if it were a list of mega stadiums and mansions from today. Not that engineering feats from the last 100 years are not important or impressive, but there is something whimsical and magical about those buildings that were created for a purpose centuries before we had cranes, automobiles. trains and other modern technologies that make building significantly easier.
    What inspires me is that I am slowly, but surely, marking locations off of the list and I currently stand at two out of seven in my 26 years on planet earth. With two being seen in the last four and a half years! #killingIt
    The list is as follows:
    1. The Great Wall of China- China
    2. Christ the Redeemer- Brazil
    3. Machu Picchu- Peru
    4. Chichen Itza- Mexico
    5. The Roman Colosseum- Italy
    6. Taj Mahal- India
    7. Petra- Jordan
     
    So far I have been able to visit 4 and 5 on my adventures and they have been nothing short of remarkable!
    My first visit was in the summer of 2013 to The Roman Colosseum on my study abroad in Italy, where….well when in Rome, I had to take an absurd photo.
    6517_10151552749594177_976764909_n
    The Colosseum was one of those odd locations where when you are fully aware of the blood and sacrifice that went into the stones you are standing on, it’s kind of eerie. This is also true for location five…
    However, The Roman Colosseum is a fantastic gateway int the history of the region, especially when paired with the Roman forum which offers a full explanation on the life and times of the nobility in Rome. Besides the fact that the Colosseum was used for a bloody display of “sport” it is also an engineering marvel. Beyond that, did you know that the majority of the damage has nothing to do with time and wear over two millenia? Instead it is a reflection of thievery and people stealing materials in the middle ages, renaissance and into the 19th century for new buildings and moments. Which is pretty damn cool, and impressive that their skills and abilities have stood so greatly through the test of time.
    Additionally, it is a part of Rome that is impossible to miss, a testament to the vastness and power of the Roman Empire, and the eternal city, showing the strength of the empire at its height. 
    However, like all great things, they come to an end eventually. Which also brings us to Chichen Itza. 
    Chichen Itza was found by Western explorers in the 19th century covered in jungle and abandoned for centuries.  Here it is in the 1890s:
     Castillo_Maler.jpg
    Due to being covered oh so romantically in greenery, some believed that the Maya people had lived “as one” with the planet and had a somewhat Utopian society. However, upon further research going into the next 100 years it was learned that they in fact had been a society that utilized slash and burn techniques and other methods to clear forests. This meant land for growing crops of corn and beans along with building an extensive road network that connected places like Chichen Itza with the rest of the Maya Empire.
    Anyway, not to bore you with too much history, but the reality is that this city and subsequent cities in the area were home to a vast and powerful society. Additionally the use of sound techniques for spying, entertainment, religion and building the entirety of the area with the solar system, equinoxes, and celestial events in mind make it even more exciting. 

    Photo Dec 08, 8 46 47 AM.jpg

    Chichen Itza circa 2017

    Naturally, the list of “wows” go on. Such as depictions of North American tribes that were visiting the area, such as the Mohicans. Then, there are mysterious pieces such as a man depicted with a long beard (most Native peoples don’t grow facial hair) and others showing a Star of David. Additionally, the auditory nature of the buildings is still somewhat puzzling and no one is positive how bird whistles and rattle snack sounds could be replicated. These aspects leave more questions than answers, that I look forward to hearing about in the future. 
    To wrap up on the Maya, it’s important to remember this city also acted as a sacrificial area to the gods and especially Kukulkan. Many times slaves, prisoners, and even the “strongest” warriors and gamers were sacrificed for the benefit of all people in a bloody removal of organs, or sometimes drowning in a cenote.
    Anyway, I’ll share more on Chichen Itza shortly, but I want to mostly say, it’s always a thrill to work through a list of exciting places in the world.
    I do believe my next stop will be Peru and Machu Picchu where I am planning to hike the Inca trail and walk in the foot steps of another great civilization.

    When in Rome…

    italy, Travel

    Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

    If you are studying in Florence it is likely you will find yourself in Rome for at least one weekend. This is a must for any trip to Italy and an absolutely wonderful experience.

    So, when in Rome…

    DSC_0552

    DO take photos with the men in Gladiator or Roman Guard uniforms. They will give you a fond memory and make your family and friends laugh!

    DON’T eat in the heavy tourist areas, if you have the time seek out a place off the beaten path, do it. This is a reality for all of Italy, look around and find a smaller family-owned “locals eat here” place. The food, service, and most likely the prices will be much better!

    DO join a tour, if you go to the big tourist areas, especially on the weekends the guides will be a bit more, BUT they get you in much sooner, and you learn…

    View original post 108 more words

    Anyone for a Joust?

    italy, Travel

    Study Abroad in Florence at SRISA

    On Saturday I got the treat of watching a medieval reenactment group hold a jousting and sword fighting competition. Which, unlike the Renaissance festival I go to in Colorado, which is a staged theatrical performance, this was actually a competition of skill, training, horsemanship, patience, armor and elegance. Image

    By dumb luck I saw a poster around town advertising the event on Friday, and jumped for the chance to go see such a sight. A €10 donation to a local charity got me and a friend in with prime seats for photography and to see all the action. Of course everything was in Italian, but we were just happy to watch the event which was preceded by a parade, dance, drum music and plenty of costumes.

    The next day was my second trip to Lucca, my friend and I rented and rode bikes along the Renaissance walls taking in a quiet…

    View original post 133 more words