Wanderlust

This summer, Danny and I are taking a whirlwind tour of Europe. We will be flying into Dublin, renting a car to explore counties Galway and Kerry, skipping across to London, rocketing through the Chunnel to Paris, enjoying a visit with friends in Nice, soaking in the Riviera on a train ride to Cinque Terre, and completing our trip in Rome.

Planning to make this trip a reality has been years in the making… and it’s humbling to share our dream with others, knowing how completely blessed we are to have this experience. My grandfather has traveled all over the world and our most enjoyable conversations center around travel. I once told him that I had a deep desire to see the world and he told me, “I will pray that God will grant you the desires of your heart that he places within you for a purpose.”

Travel is a humbling experience, and we’re not even there yet.

The intended purpose of this post is to share some of the wonderful resources I have found with you, and hopefully, receive some of your tips and tricks in my comments.

1. Budgeting and saving. Nearly 9-10 months before our trip, we began saving like we had never saved before. The travel planner on Mint.com made it very simple to calculate a total budget. We use Mint to keep track of our finances regularly, so it was impossible to forget about our goal. The visual tracker and monthly projection of how close we were was extremely motivating.

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This is the “autofilled” version of Mint’s Travel Goal Planner. Obviously, we adjusted the individual amounts based on our budget and research.

We budgeted $100 for hotel, $50 for car (bus, plane, train, ect.), $75 for food and $50 for entertainment. With the trip 2/3 planned, we are right on track to stay within or below our daily budget!

2. Getting the Right Perspective: Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2013

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I requested a Europe guide book for Christmas, and my little sister, Diana, picked this one up at Barnes and Noble. An element of travel instilled in me by my father is the desire to experience a place like a native… blend in and explore beyond the tourist areas. This book features cultural information, packing tips, transportation tips for within Europe and local attractions and accommodations.

3. Booking the Flight: Skyscanner.com

ImageWe had heard from several people that flights in and out of Dublin would be least expensive (and indeed found this to be true by $200-400/ticket during the peak season). I monitored this site 5-6 months ahead of our travel date to find the best flights. Skyscanner has the best “fare round up” for international flights. We ended up booking RT tickets from SFO to DUB for about $1200 a piece through Cheapo Air. (This is also the site I use to book flights home as well. I have great luck with it.)

In addition to using Skyscanner for our flight to Europe, I used this site to book all of our smaller flights within Europe and had excellent results. My friend Robin, from Carry On Beautifully, was the first to turn me on to how inexpensive it is to fly within Europe. We are paying less than $80 per person per flight from Dublin to London and Paris to Nice.

4. Hitting the Books: Once the flights and basic itinerary was sketched out (we knew where we would be and for how long), I began looking for places to stay and things to see. Rick Steves elaborated on the importance of using guide books that were up to date, so there was no way I was going to blow our precious funds on buying books that wouldn’t be valuable the next time we travel to Europe.

My solution: snapping photos from travel books during our regular Barnes & Noble dates (shhh!!) or, more frequently, requesting books from my local library. Did you know that most libraries now allow you to search and reserve texts online, allowing you to stop in a pick up the books you want from the counter? Brilliant. I have probably borrowed 25 books on specific countries, regions and cities I am visiting. Eyewitness and Let’s Go were my favorite series.

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Written by Harvard college students, this series elaborates on cheap entertainment and inexpensive lodging and eats!

5. Finding Hotels: Our trip will provide a mix of bed and breakfasts, small inns, and mega chains. Tripadvisor.com is my go-to resource for reading reviews on potential accommodations. Hundreds of travelers offer their tips, photos and pros/cons. It takes time to sift through the many options, but it was completely worth it to me to get the best value. It’s possible to sort the reviews to find travelers like yourself; “couples”, “families”, “solo”, ect. For most of the trip, we are prioritizing location over amenities. Five star accommodations is not what we’re there for. 🙂

You can also build an itinerary on this site, but I found another tool more helpful…

6. Compile your tips, budget and itenerary on Evernote, an app for your iPhone or computer. Using a table and checkboxes, I can track our daily itenerary, budget, confirmation numbers, phone numbers and addresses.

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Of course, this plan is just my way of organizing what is available and possible at these locations. We LOVE to travel spontaneously and stay true to our energy and mood that day. Ironically, I’m told that if you’re willing to plan up front, your spontaneity will be much more successful on-site.

7. Other random tips:

  • Reach out to friends and family who have traveled in the area for recommendations! Most people are happy to share their experiences with you! (But don’t be surprised if you get conflicting information!)
  • Rick Steves’ travel podcasts, free audio tours, and video clips. (I am completely obsessed.)
  • Pinterest, of course, is a visual way to remember what you plan to see.
  • A money conversion site is helpful to have bookmarked!

I can’t wait to hear about your travel experiences and planning tips. Broadening this pink-tinged perspective is sure a lot of work, but oh, the fun!

Quarter Life Crisis

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a quarter-life crisis is “a period of life following the major changes of adolescence usually ranging from the late teens to the early thirties, in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult”.

I can’t identify a pivotal “crisis” stage of my twenties thus far, but I will admit that time seems to be gaining momentum whether or not I have checked off the ever-growing to-do-before-baby list I keep stashed in some corner of my prefrontal cortex*. Actually, I think I’ve been so caught up in the “doing” of life that I was looking for a pause button, and when I found one, I managed to read a few books “for fun”, including…

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The most valuable aspect of this book was the copious amount of reflective questions that centered around what the author terms “The Twenties Triangle”: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get what I want?

She highlights the notion of “having it all” that many Millennials** are all too familiar with, as well as providing reflections from older women about the danger of “not enough-ness” and discontent.

As a self-proclaimed control junkie, the reflective questions in this book helped me to recognize the value of “out-of-control” experiences in my life. After all, the notion that we are in the driver’s seat of our destiny is mostly an illusion. I can now appreciate that, because of those experiences, I have a clear notion of who I am, what I want, and what I am willing (or unwilling) to sacrifice in order to attain it.

…Bringing the pink-tinged perspective right back into focus.

 

 

*Cain’t nobody say I don’t use that psychology degree now, kin they?

** a.k.a Gen Y, or those of us coming of age year 2000ish, reeling from hyper-consumerism, body-image saturation and little-to-no concept of L.B.I. (life before internet)

What Did I Do Wrong?: Why female relationships are tricky.

what did i do wrong

I recently devoured a book by Liz Pryor written about the mysterious, complex and sometimes brutal friendships between women. In her book she identifies the common, yet unexplored phenomena of female-breakups. You know what I mean… when that lady you’ve been sharing coffee, yoga mats and intimate life details with suddenly drops off the radar. I imagine that if you haven’t been on the receiving end, you may have been on the leaving end. The one left behind feels confused, ashamed, betrayed and sometimes reaches out to her closest friend asking “Why?”, usually only to be met with “I’m just soooo busy right now.”

This, my dears, is the classic, keep-your-hands-clean, passive-aggressive ending to so many of our female relationships. Many of us can appreciate both sides of this story, because really, how do you break away from a friendship that started wonderfully, but just hasn’t evolved the way you wanted it to? Plus you hate the way she says “croissant” like she’s teaching a French class and how every accomplishment of your own needs to be met by her like some crazy grade-school competition.

Sometimes we just need to move on. Sometimes they need to move on. But how?

I must admit that my primary appreciation of this text was simply knowing that I’m not the only one that has been “dumped” by a close friend. It’s amazing, really, that we feel so ashamed and want to badly to put that experience behind us that it NEVER comes up when we talk to other women, regardless of the fact that nearly all of us have experienced it at one point or another.

Well, dearie, the dozens of stories shared in this book will relieve the burn with the soothing salve of normalcy, which might just encourage you to reflect on the less-than-kind ways you treated women that thought of you as the jelly to their peanut butter.

How is that for some rose-tinged reality?