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New Year, New Adventures: Vienna, Austria

It’s officially a new year, and I’ve been fortunate enough to already have been on some adventures. To celebrate the new year and get out of town for a while, my husband and I decided to spend a couple of days in Vienna, Austria.

Some of my initial thoughts while planning this trip were:

Wow, the architecture!
Oh, thank goodness they speak German (so my husband can translate).
I want to know if this famous cake everyone keeps mentioning is really that great.

We decided to drive from our home in Southern Germany to Vienna, which took us somewhere around seven hours. We stayed in a very cute Airbnb outside of the city in a little town called Bad Vöslau, which upon leaving, we both regretted not exploring more. I would suggest looking in this area if you’re also someone who doesn’t want to stay in the rush of the city but wants to have quick access to the sites!

We only had two days in Vienna, and so we did not get to see everything on our list. Regardless, we had a beautiful time and I want to share some of the highlights of our time there.

 
The State Hall of the National Library of Austria

When one thinks of Vienna, I think most draw up an idea of opulence, intricate architecture, and awe-inspiring sights. The State Hall Library encapsulates this perfectly. Of course, I am a library lover, so nearly any room with books is likely to impress me to some degree. But this library was truly awe-inspiring. After walking the full length of the room— with its soaring painted ceiling and seemingly endless shelves of books— I just sat and stared in awed contentment.

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While this room is an amazing thing to witness, I want to be forward about the fact that entrance was rather expensive— though I found this to be the case with nearly every tourist destination in the city. Entry to this room cost 16 euro per person! So as a library lover, this was a location that I prioritized and therefor splurged on the entry. If you’re someone who loves the visual beauty but doesn’t have a particular affinity for libraries specifically, there are plenty of other breathtaking sites in the city that you may prefer instead!

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Schmetterlinghaus

It was freezing when we were in Vienna. The sky was white with a light sprinkling of snow, and the breezes that whipped across the large open city squares were chilling. Stepping into the large glass building that contains the Schmetterlinghaus felt like a blessing.

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For those who may not know, schmetterling is the German word for butterfly. Being from a tropical climate, paying to see butterflies is not usually something I would do, but a wonderful traveler friend of mine highly suggested it, so we figured it would be a worth while experience. Thankfully it was more affordable than the State Hall, at 7 euro per person. After buying our tickets we stepped through the large glass door, and pushed through the plastic blinds that separated the humid glory of the butterfly room from the rest of the world. It was just like suddenly stepping foot back in Hawaii— it was warm and full of flowers and even a waterfall at the center of the glass domed building.

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All I can say is that if you’re in Vienna, and want a few minutes to relax somewhere beautiful and warm, the Schmetterlinghaus may be the stop for you.

 
The Belvedere

The Belvedere is actually a set of palaces and the connecting garden. Both palaces have an art gallery inside, and tickets can be bought separately or as a pair which would allow you to see both palace galleries for a discounted price. My husband and I decided that we were only interested in seeing the Upper Belvedere due to the costliness of the tickets— which were 16 euro per person for the Upper Belvedere alone— and because this was the gallery that contained most of the work we were interested in seeing, such as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, as well as paintings by Monet, Munch, Van Gogh, and other illustrious artists.

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The Belvedere is said to be the most visited art museum in Austria, and from the length of the lines and the crowds, I would say this is not a false statement. If you are an art lover and would like to visit, I highly suggest that you get your ticket online beforehand to avoid the lines. I also suggest this approach because the Upper Belvedere uses time slots for entry. You buy a ticket for a particular time slot and can only enter the gallery when that time arrives. Sometimes this time can be set for hours after you arrive, if you haven’t ordered your tickets online beforehand. So don’t make the mistake that we did! (Though honestly I don’t regret it because we spent our two hour wait in a Greek restaurant eating pasta, listening to the many languages being passed back and forth, and embracing the warmth.)

Inside the Belvedere was all you would imagine an Austrian palace to be— chandeliers, marble, intricately painted and carves walls and ceilings, and an overall feeling of opulence. I would say it is worth the admission price as you could spend an entire day in this gallery, and we pretty much did.

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A heads up for my backpack travelers— if you enter the museum with anything more than a small purse you will be forced to check your bag in with the coat check or use a locker located in the basement (which takes one euro which you will get back upon returning the key to the slot of the locker). I personally did not feel comfortable with this, so I feel that others may have a similar feeling.

 
Friedhof der Namenlosen (The Cemetery of the Nameless)

This is not a tourist site but was one of the highlights of our time in Vienna for me. Located outside of the city— and rather difficult to get to without the use of a car— this cemetery was originally created for those who drowned in the nearby river or committed suicide. As suicides were not traditionally allowed in most religiously affiliated cemeteries, this plot of land was put aside to honor those who lost or took their lives. Many are nameless— hence the name of the cemetery— but all graves, those with names and those without— have graves decorated with a cross and candles, plants, and other forms of silent acknowledgement.

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I thought that this was beautiful. When we arrived it was lightly raining, and as we neared the graves we saw that many of the candles on the graves were lit, flickering in the gloom. On site there is also a small chapel, which was closed while we were there. If you are a sentimental person interested in things out of the ordinary, I believe that this is an excellent place to visit and pay your respects.

I must add a note that this is a cemetery, where people actively mourn the loss of those who have passed. If you choose to visit, please be respectful and aware of your presence there.

 
Other Spots Worth Mentioning

If you want to avoid some of the heaviest tourist crowds but enjoy Vienna and what it has to offer, I suggest visiting the gardens, cafes, tea shops, and chocolate shops.

The gardens at the Belvedere were impressive even in the winter, and Vienna is known for having many gardens, those affiliated with its many palaces (such as Schönbrunn Palace) as well as public ones.

Demmer’s Teehaus— recommended to me by the same lovely friend that recommended the Schmetterlinghaus— is a tea shop with several locations in Vienna. One of these shops was a wonderful little place on the same road as the well known Naschmarkt, where we were able to pick from a wide selection of loose leaf teas for adorable prices.

We passed more than one chocolateria with vibrant window displays and racks brimming with delectable goodies. Confiserie de Vienne caught our eye, and stepping inside was similar to that candy shop scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The woman who owns the shop doesn’t use preservatives in her chocolates, and has wonderful flavors. I tried a pomegranate-white chocolate truffle and I can say with certainty that this stop is worth a visit if you’re a chocolate lover. (Though a heads up for those who may be thinking about buying these as gifts— since there are no preservatives these chocolates are meant to be eaten within a couple of days, so enjoy!)

Cafes are also abundant in Vienna, and are worth visiting if for no other reason than to get yourself a Sacher torte! We stopped by Demel, a fancy little café in the shopping area of Vienna. The cake was delicious, but be aware that this seems to be a very popular spot and the lines can be insane. Thankfully we just ordered a piece of cake to go, as the line was nearly out the door and there was a 45 minute wait minimum for a table!

 
Final Thoughts on Vienna

Vienna was gorgeous, busy, and expensive. The streets and buildings were works of art. The tourist attractions were all much pricier than what I am used to and extremely crowded, but as I joked with a friend of mine, I just chalked it up to being the tax you pay for all the breath-taking sights all around you.

If you are planning on visiting Vienna, research the places that you are thinking of visiting beforehand and see if you can get tickets online, as they may sometimes be cheaper and you can avoid the long lines that seemed to be absolutely everywhere. Even places like libraries and churches have entry fees, so budget accordingly.

Upon arrival I expected everything to be in German (or the Austrian equivalent) but I came to learn that Vienna is a very multicultural place in terms of culture and language. It seemed that every customer service representative I interacted with could speak at least German and English. Italian and French also seemed to be widely spoken.

The city itself was very confusing for me geographically, but many of the big tourist destinations are in a walkable distance. For the things that are not, Vienna has a pretty good intercity transportation system. We were able to get a 24 hour ticket (which included busses and trams) for less than 10 euro per person.

Lastly, I tried the famous Sacher Torte, the cake that Vienna is famous for. A chocolate cake with a thin layer of jam, often decorated with a little chocolate topping, I thought that the Sacher Torte would be a real treat, and it was amazing. Spongey, and not too sweet, it was a lovely way to end our time in Vienna. If you have the opportunity to pop into a café and try one, I highly suggest it!

There are so many places I wanted to visit that we didn’t get to this time, such as Prater, Café Central, and Schloss Schönbrunn . If you’ve been to any of these locations please feel free to leave a comment— I’d love to hear about your experience!

2019 Reflections

It’s officially the last day of the year, and though I’ve been rather absent for the last few months, this year has been full of new experiences, love, and more travels.
2018 was a bright, shining, adventurous year.

I visited Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Spain. I was traveling for nearly four months and by the end of it I was quite literally a different person. I finished that year by attending the wedding of one of my dearest friend’s and by returning home to a place that suddenly felt way too small for me.
2019 began with a lot of change.

I had to shift my entire world view. I began taking better care of my body by changing my diet (I became vegetarian) and brought yoga and meditation into my weekly routine. I began to reframe my situation from “trapped” to “on my way”. My new romantic relationship bloomed and I decided to move from my home in Hawaii to Germany. On my way, I stopped to spend a week with my best friend in LA. This was one of the highlights of my year.

By April I was in Germany, trying to adjust to life in a new country where I don’t speak the language or know the culture. It took a lot of trial and error, questions, awkward moments, and a bit of feeling utterly hopeless, but I finally had the experience that I had long dreamed of— living abroad.

In June, I did something I never expected to do in all my life, and got married! It was private, intimate, and perfect for us. The next day we headed out for Italy for a mini-family vacation, to the place where we first met. I spent my birthday looking out over the Atlantic Ocean while sipping espresso, eating pizza, swimming and lounging on the Italian seaside, and we had a beautiful dinner of pasta and chocolate cake.

In September I headed back to Hawaii, and spent a week with my aunts in Miami on the way. A wonderful week of family time, delicious food, and Miami sunshine. My time back in Hawaii for the visit was filled with so many emotions. Leaving your family behind is never easy, and for me it was nearly impossible in some ways. While I was there I embraced every moment— waking up at 6 am to watch the sunrise, tending to my tiny garden, hours of snuggles with my fur babies, and most importantly, seeing friends that I had missed and spending precious time with my loved ones.

While I was in Hawaii we also took a trip to Maui, an island that holds so much nostalgia for me sometimes it makes me want to burst. Maui is the island where I was born, where I was raised, and where so much of the “what ifs” in my life reside.

Finally my time back home came to an end, and I set out on an exciting nightmare of an adventure to somewhere I had always wanted to visit— Edinburgh. After five flights, one of my airlines not allowing me on my flight, and much running from one busy terminal to the next, I made it to Edinburgh. I plan to write about my time there in greater detail in the near future, but I have to say that it was magical. If you are thinking about going to Edinburgh, do it!

Then, finally, after nearly two months apart, I returned to my love here in Germany. Since then, I have begun a German language integration course, been to a satisfactory amount of Christmas Markets, and celebrated my first Christmas and New Years without my loved ones on the other end of the globe.

This year was so fulfilling, and sometimes frustrating, and other times a little lonely. This year felt like a stepping stone, a breath between one great adventure and the next. I am so thankful for this year, and I am beyond excited for the next.

I’m ready 2020– may you bring me (and anybody reading this!) many travels, growth, and happiness.

Adjusting After The Move: A Hawaii Girl Living in Germany

I discuss my adjustments to living in a new country.

Germany was never a place that I thought that I would live.

My dreams of moving to Europe most often included fantasies of working in publishing and riding the underground daily in London, working at a bed and breakfast and eating pasta every day in Italy, or maybe even running an animal sanctuary in Greece. Germany— the supposed land of bratwurst, beer, and of course with an infamous history— never really crossed my mind.

Then I fell madly in love, and here I am.

Coming from Hawaii to Germany is perhaps one of the biggest jumps a person can make, culturally and physically. It’s taken some definite adjustments. Here are some of the major changes or thoughts I’ve encountered in my daily life since moving here.

Basic Geography: Where is the ocean?

Most of Germany is surrounded by other countries, with the exception of part of the northern coast. I’m currently living in the south, the saving grace of which is Lake Constance, a large body of water that separates Germany from Switzerland. Of course there are various rivers running through the area, but being from Hawaii, I need a large body of water nearby not to feel like I’m utterly lost.

In Hawaii, a person’s sense of direction has much less to do with the cardinal directions and much more to do with landmarks and of course, the sea. On the island, I have a general idea of where things are based on if they are mauka (towards the mountain) or makai (towards the sea). When we were driving towards Frankfurt recently, I realized that if I had needed to find my way home I probably would have died in the forest somewhere. It’s a strange feeling coming from somewhere where the chances of getting lost and staying lost permanently are rather slim, to being in a place where hundreds or thousands of kilometers could theoretically stand between me and civilization.

Of course, I’m also just a water baby, meaning that water is my safe place. Coming from a culture that is based in an appreciation and acknowledgement of the sea, to a place where the drowning statistics are often reported on the news during the summers and the water is heart-stoppingly cold for much of the year, is a serious adjustment for me.

So those stereotypes: Lifestyle Changes

There is a general idea in America that Germans are very orderly and somewhat gruff in nature. They are portrayed as annoyingly efficient and sticklers for the law. This is… a stereotype that is not necessarily completely true, but may hold some serious weight. If you spend an hour in a German grocery market you’ll see what I mean. The most poignant example of this that crosses my mind is their seriousness about recycling. Other countries in Europe may also have a similarly stringent recycling process, but all I can say is that in Germany it is serious. Plastics must be recycled separately from natural products and paper is also recycled on its own. The recyclables are then picked up once every week or every other week, but if you do not separate your recyclables properly then they will refuse to pick them up. A stray bottle or banana peel in the wrong bin could leave you with overflowing trash and recyclables for several weeks. I think that this is great in theory, if a bit intense. If the whole world was so serious about recycling, then maybe our pollution issue would be a fraction of what it is now.

This general way of being— and by this I mean the actual existence and enforcement of laws and social rules— is a very different experience from being in Hawaii. Most laws in Hawaii are viewed more like general guidelines and over all people are pretty laid back. Island life, beach culture, whatever you want to call it, does not put an emphasis on one’s ability to follow the rules.

I’m conflicted about this. I’m a rule follower, but only when the rules make sense and are ethical. Hawaii and Germany are on completely opposing ends of this spectrum. In Hawaii I wished people were more capable of following basic laws and social expectations, while in Germany there have been some cultural or legal rules that have me wondering “why would anyone abide by this?” So I’m still working on finding my balance.

Multiculturalism: Where are all my brown people at?

I am thankful to say that I have been treated very kindly by pretty much everyone I’ve met since arriving in Germany. That being said, it’s odd going from a place brimming with people of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds to being in a predominantly white (European) country. Of course, there is diversity present. Germany has brought in many immigrants and there is also a large Turkish presence here as well. While this is great, it has also served as a source of contention for some of the more “right wing” groups— much like how it has in America.

I have been fortunate enough to grow up in a place where I didn’t have to spend too much time thinking about my skin color or the ideas that may come attached to it. All I can say is, so far so good! I feel much more accepted here than I do in mainland America, even if I do occasionally wish to see more than one other brown person in the supermarket.

Language: Why didn’t I learn German?

I do not speak German. I had a sucky American public school education (which left me with next to no options for learning another language proficiently) and that aside, I never thought that I would need to know German. French, Spanish, maybe. German? It never would have crossed my mind. And yet again, here I am, in Germany, wishing I had learned some German.

I am fascinated by language. I have studied English in depth my entire life (I even went to university for it). I have to say, I love English. It’s messy and the rules don’t always make sense, and it’s a little presumptuous, but I like English. It’s the sound of home and my inner monologue. So I have to say, German is kicking my butt. There are sounds my mouth literally refuses to make. ( I’ve got the scratchy hacking sound down though.) I will see words and memorize them only to realize they are pronounced nothing like they are written, and then I feel like I’m starting from scratch again. German is a language that sounds strong and sturdy until someone uses the slightest negative tone at which point it sounds immediately like a dastardly threat. It’s a difficult language to read through tone alone, unlike the “romantic” Latin based languages which seem to make so much more sense to my brain. English is mainly comprised of two branches of language— the Germanic and the Latin. That’s why we have words that are so similar to some German words, like apothecary (apotheker) and others that are more similar to languages like Spanish, such as collection (colección). Of course, language is much more complicated than that, but those are just some general ideas that I’ve noticed in my attempts to learn another language.

I also have to mention that there is also the process of learning not only the literal language but also the common language— the terms, sayings, and the words that have evolved past their textbook definition to mean something completely different in everyday language. The learning never ends! (In short, I need to get back on my Duolingo game!)

In conclusion…

There have been dozens of little changes that I’ve had to adjust to since moving. Everything from speaking and being misunderstood, to realizing it’s crazy difficult to get English books here, to trying to figure out the ingredients in something in the market when nothing is in English, to learning how to use the super European washing machine with too many buttons, it’s all been a learning experience. Sometimes I feel really stupid. Sometimes I feel a little frustrated that my brain and my education have failed to make this experience more seamless for me. Sometimes I get really excited about learning a new word and go around babbling it like a child. Sometimes I get to see something I’ve never seen before and just feel overwhelmingly thankful.

It hasn’t all been easy, but I have loved my time here. I feel like I am learning and improving in some small way every day, and I’m happy to do it in a place where I am safe and loved.

L.A Adventures

Some highlights from my time in LA

I touched down in Los Angeles just as dawn was breaking across the skyline. After a five hour night flight over the Pacific Ocean, I was more than ready to feel solid earth beneath my feet again. Even waiting in the breezy outer terminal in the early morning chill was a sort of small, dimly lit heaven. As I watched the taxis and buses make their rounds I took the first real breath I had in a long time. I was off the island, I hadn’t died on the plane, and I was about to see my best friend after roughly two years apart. I was a bit tired, still rattled from the flight, and a bit cold, but more than anything I was enormously thankful for that moment.

Then she pulled up and the back of my throat was already clenched in an attempt not to cry. There’s really no feeling like being reunited with someone who resides most of the time only in your heart and on the other end of a phone call. I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have many of these reunions, and this one was just as magical.

Los Angeles has never had much of a hold on me. I don’t like crowds, the idea of fame and expectations of physical beauty, or smog, so LA wasn’t really a place that was on my radar. What really brought me to LA was my best friend; the chance to reconnect, spend time together, and honestly, some much needed support for my big move. We could have spent the entire week laying in bed eating microwave pizzas and watching a combination of Hulu and Netflix, but because she is amazing, the entire week was full of adventures. So here I will recount some of our destinations and maybe inspire someone else to experience some of what we did.

The Last Bookstore

If you’re a book lover like me chances are that you’ve heard of The Last Bookstore. Despite being too aware of the lack of space in my baggage and a wallet that was already protesting my life choices, we went. It was all that I expected. A large first floor full of books, sitting spaces, and vinyl. The second floor was brimming with more books, as well as art installations, a book tunnel, and little one room artisan shops along one corridor. If you’re in LA and enjoy books and the literary scene, this is a must visit.

Side note: For those who are staying for a while it’s worth mentioning that The Last Bookstore has various book clubs— each touching on a different genre— that I personally was not around long enough to enjoy but would have LOVED to have attended.

The book tunnel at The Last Bookstore

The Original Farmer’s Market

Knick knacks, food, food, and food. We found a little “spirituality shop” with incense and candles galore, a dozen vendors with fruits or candy, some shops sporting little rotating racks full of postcards or silly bumper stickers, and most importantly (to me) there were so many options for a delicious hot meal. Though I was massively tempted by the Italian food— to be honest I am always tempted by any kind of Italian food— I turned to see the holy grail of “ethnic” foods to which I simply did not have access when I was living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean— Cajun and Creole food. So if you’re like me and enjoy the experience of browsing many different foods and maybe wanting to buy a silly postcard while you’re at it, this is a worthwhile stop.

Side note: The Cajun food place I mentioned is called The Gumbo Pot and their food was great. And they have vegetarian options!

Deliciousness courtesy of The Gumbo Pot

Da Poetry Lounge

Poetry! One of my great loves! We happened to be able to drop by on a night when they were having a workshop and an Open Mic session. It helped me understand why LA is a place where people come to reach their dreams. There were so many talented people performing, and the crowd was amped and supportive of every person who had the bravery to share their work on stage. We left with such a good feeling about life, while also being a little worried about our own writing skills… which I think is a great breeding ground for improvement and inspiration.

Side note: If you’re into poetry check them out online to see when their workshops are! For two of us to attend a writing workshop and the open mic it cost us $30 (all together), which really isn’t that bad, especially considering how much we enjoyed ourselves!

Waiting for our writing workshop to begin (ft. our instructor in the back)

Venice Beach Boardwalk

This is an obvious and much hailed LA must see, and now I see why. While much of LA feels like you’re in the public eye and need to look or act a certain way not to stand out too much, this was the place where people came to not care about those sorts of things. Eclectic may be an appropriate word to describe Venice Beach. What I really loved was seeing how creative people gathered there— we saw artists with their paintings, people making everything from little signs in glass bottles to random displays (which they charged you to take pictures of), and perhaps the most intriguing to me, a man who appeared to be homeless playing the piano so beautifully I literally do not think it would be possible to walk past without taking a moment to appreciate his talent. So if you want to see the artsy, slightly off beat side of LA, I think that this is the best place for you.

Side note: If you like Poke Bowls there’s a little poke bowl shop right next to the famous hanging sign and they were delicious!

I mean, look at that poke bowl!

Huntington Library

Again, as a book lover, libraries are my jam. So when we decided to go to Huntington Library I was picturing an old library full of antique books or something along these lines, which honestly sounds like a riveting afternoon to me. To my surprise, Huntington Library is not just a library. It is a massive set of buildings which include a library, multiple art galleries, a café or two, and seemingly endless beautiful gardens. As much as I love books it was the gardens that won me over. There’s something about flowers that can make you feel beautiful and magical. My favorite part of the gardens was a gorgeous stone fountain which rested at the end of a long grassy field, flanked by roses and statues of mythological figures. I could have sat there in the sunlight all day, basking like one of the flowers.

Side note: If you buy your ticket online you do not need to wait in the regular line. Their ticket windows at the entry are not well marked, so if you’re confused you’ll save a lot of time by asking someone.

My favorite part of the gardens

Medieval Times

Okay, so I’m pretty sure everyone has heard of Medieval Times. As someone who loves history and the allure of the King Arthur mythos, this has been on my bucket list as long as Disneyland. For about $60 (I know, that’s not super affordable but it was a lifelong dream!) you get your meal served to you and get to watch a show of knights jousting and performing other knightly duties. I think it’s a great thing to experience once in your life, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Side note: They did have vegetarian options if you’re not down for the usual chicken leg thing. Sadly they don’t have vegan options yet, but here’s hoping that they do soon!

I got a flower from a knight and I was absolutely jazzed about it

Universal Studios

So I’m a Disneyland kind of girl. Universal Studios was never on my mind until Harry Potter World became a thing (proud Ravenclaw here). I have to say, I’m so happy that we went! Of course when you visit any sort of theme park you have a certain set of concerns— crowds, everything is expensive, and you have to wait in long lines— but honestly I had a wonderful time regardless. I got to visit Hogwarts and I got groomed by Anubis outside of The Mummy ride, so how could I not have an excellent time? This is another thing that I think everyone deserves to experience once in their life.

Side note: The Waterworld show—which is amazing, for the record— brings in a lot of viewers, so during those show times you’re likely to find shorter lines at some of the other popular rides!

Getting groomed by Anubis

Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA)

I couldn’t be in a major city and not make the time to see an art museum. LACMA was a series of buildings that contained various kinds of art galleries, most separated by theme. Unfortunately a few of the exhibits were closed when we visited, but we still had a lovely time. I found one of my new favorite visual artists— Richard White— who beautifully captures the African American experience in his art with hints of surrealism. So if you visit, check out his work! Needless to say, if you love a quiet afternoon staring at art, this is an ideal place to visit.

Side note: I do need to mention that if you plan on visiting you should check their website first. There are certain days of the month when admission is free or can be purchased at a serious discount. I had to pay about $20 to get in! Entry is always free for LA residents, so bring your ID.

The famous outer installation at LACMA

In conclusion…

My week in LA came to a close way too soon. I realized how much there really was to see and why so many people have made LA a part of their dreamscape. I’m not sure if it was all the bomb Mexican food, endless opportunities for fun, or my best friend (i.e: it was all of those things) but I sort of fell in love with LA— crowds, judgey attitudes, smog and all. While I have to say that living there seems like a frightening prospect to me, LA has won me over in some small way and I look forward to visiting again.

Life Update: I’m Back in Germany

I’ve returned to Germany and am settling in.

After about two months of being away from blogging, I’ve returned!

When I last wrote I was just leaving my home in Hawaii.
I was experiencing a lot of emotions, especially in the week leading up to my flight (I’m utterly horrified of planes). Despite that I got on the plane after many tears and goodbyes.

I flew to LA to see my best friend for a week. I landed just before dawn, which is always a wonderful and terrible time to land in an airport. Overnight flights are the bane of my existence, but I’m always thankful when we land and there is a whole new day stretching out ahead of me. I spent an amazing week in which I actually sort of fell in love with Los Angeles adventuring with my best friend and checking off bucket list items (I’m talking about you Medieval Times!) It was everything that my heart needed before heading out to Germany.

Now I have been here in Germany over a month and I’m still settling in. Being reunited with my love was more than worth the 16+ hours of flights and layovers, and that’s saying a lot coming from me. There’s so much to say about all of that but in short I’m madly in love and walking on a tight-wire of legalities and establishing an income while living my best life with the love of my life.

I plan to write more about my recent travels in the coming weeks but I wanted to finish this post with a gigantic thank you to all of the people in my life who made this move possible for me. There is so much that goes into moving (abroad)— goodbyes, what to take, how to save up for the move, establishing where you will live and how— and I have so many loving people in my life who encouraged me endlessly. So this post is for you! Thank you! <3

The Countdown

This is my last week at home.

Soon I will be off on another adventure and on my way home to the love of my life. Needless to say, the act of leaving home is full of emotions. I will miss my family. I’ll miss quiet moments at my favorite beach spots and being able to walk barefoot all year round. But soon I’ll be seeing my best friend, then wearing jackets and scarves, learning a new language and way of life, and most importantly cuddling with the man that makes my heart sing.

I’ll be a little quiet on this blog in the next coming weeks, but I have ideas that are brewing and a heart full of wanderlust close to exploding.

(Image is of my bedroom at home which I will soon be leaving behind)

Three Things I Learned in London

When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with England. I have to admit to you now that part of that obsession stemmed from a British boy-band (Busted fans where you at?!). But boy-bands aside, the idea of England glowed in my imagination. I knew that it was full of history, culture, and was a source of some of the world’s greatest literature. There was something proper, refined, and appealing about the idea of Britain, the supposed birthplace of modern America. I imagined streets filled with bookstores, tea shops, and historical sites. I wasn’t wrong.

When I visited London a couple of years ago on my first international trip, it was like a dream. A friend of mine and I arrived by ferry from Dublin and got a train through Wales and into London proper. Stepping out of the train station was like walking into a corner of my imagination. The streets were filled with well dressed people, kiosks of souvenirs, and stone buildings that stretched into the sky. After checking into our hostel— which was not so great, to be honest— we made our way to the London Bridge. Yes, the London Bridge. I was stoked. One of the only pictures that I truly love of myself is one that my friend took of me hugging the bridge, because I will always remember that as the first true moment when I realized that my life would never be the same. The travel bug had bitten me, hard.

London was a dream. Of course, there is a reality behind London. But in my couple of weeks there I explored endlessly and felt like I had never even scratched the surface of London, truly. We paraded in and out of bookshops, had tea with a dear friend of mine at Waterstones, visited all sorts of historical monuments, and even stumbled— completely coincidentally— into the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration outside Buckingham Palace. I cannot say my experience is like everyone else’s, but London won my heart.

I have seen some other places in England as well, including Bath and Ipswich, which were both lovely. Bath was dainty and beautiful, somewhere between being a little village and a world renown tourist destination. It is where the Roman Baths are (hence the name Bath), and they also hold a Jane Austen festival there every year. Ipswich was much more down to earth than London or Bath, but still beautiful. That is where I first saw traditional Shakespearean-styled buildings, with beams that look just crooked enough to be intriguing but not enough to startle you. These were wonderful adventures that I enjoyed, but I feel that I learned the most from the famous city of London.

Here I will share three of the (many) things I learned during my time there.

There is always something happening in London

I suppose this could be true of any large city, but as London was the first massive city I ever visited (Dublin being the next largest) this was amazing to me. Every single day that we left the hotel there was something exciting happening somewhere in London— plays, musicals, festivals, shows, celebrations, and on and on. Coming from a small town where most establishments close by 5 pm, it was almost shocking to see something always happening anywhere you went. This was one of the things that made me fall madly in love with this city.

It’s very cosmopolitan

Once again, this may have been obvious to other people, but for a girl from the middle of nowhere with a limited amount of information about the world as it actually is, I was in awe. I often judge the diversity of a place by the kinds of restaurants you can find. London had almost everything I could think of— Jamaican, Chinese, Italian, Lebanese, Indian, Thai, and the list goes on! Granted, the unfortunate history behind much of this diversity was based in colonization and slavery, which is not to be overlooked, but London was one of the first places where I didn’t feel truly out of place. I felt like I could blend into the multicolored crowds on the subways and in the streets, and I embraced that sort of anonymity.

The British just get it

Okay, this may be super vague, so let me explain a little. Much of what I appreciated and learned about London came in the little things. For example, when passing a library I was shocked to see people drinking coffee inside! The library actually had a café in it, where people could look at library books while enjoying a warm beverage. This seems so simple and sensible to me and yet where I come from drinks in a library is completely taboo.

When going to the grocery store I noticed little hooks outdoors where people could tie their dogs while they were in the shop. (I learned that this is popular in multiple places in Europe but had never seen it until my time in London.) This makes, once again, such sense, and yet would be completely unimaginable where I come from. Also within the grocery mart, I noticed that some of the cashiers had seats! In much of America, if you are not standing and losing feeling in your feet, or hunched over a computer in the case of an office job, you are not seen as really working. How sitting would impede the progress on a position where you would be simply standing at a register swiping groceries is beyond my understanding.

There were many moments while in London when I couldn’t help but think “So people actually think here!”

In conclusion…

I spent about two weeks in London, and in that time I visited London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Borough Market, Foyles and Waterstones (bookshops!), the original Twinning’s tea store, Buckingham Palace, and had wandered down a hundred streets and passed through a dozen underground stations. London is where I first saw what a monarch can mean to her country, what it feels like to run through the infamous British rain, and what it was like being in a city that made you feel like literally anything could happen.

P.S: I’m sorry for the terrible quality of the photo, but it is the one I referenced previously. This was the moment that I realized I would always want to be a world traveler. <3

Life Update: I’m Leaving Hawaii!

I have been back home for about three months now, and it has been a vastly different experience from before I left for a few months. I am surrounded by most of the same people, visiting the same places, and doing virtually the same things as before, but everything has changed. I no longer dread sunny days, or find my body plagued by pains, and I feel like I am not always on the cusp of a mental breakdown. Yay for small miracles!

If I’m being honest, it’s not only the travel that lifted my spirits and helped me see past the wall of negativity that I built for myself, though that is what changed everything.

I’m also madly in love. The shout it to the world sort of love. (I’m an introvert so this is essentially my shouting it to the world moment.) And that leads me to the point of this post, which is that I’m leaving for Germany!

As a traveler there is always that moment when you book your next ticket and your heart flutters with the thought of new adventures. This time is a bit different though because the adventures that I’m looking forward to have a wonderful laugh, a kind heart, and the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen. (Lucky me!)

I have a million more things to say about it all, but I wanted to share it here because I believe that I should work on making this blog a little more personal. I love to share travel advice and lifestyle ideas, but at the end of the day a travel blog needs a traveler. I want to be authentic and open to whatever readers I have. So there’s the news!

Have any of you ever left the country for love? Or have you met someone who changed your life while traveling?

Five Things I Learned in Ireland

The first place that I ever visited outside of my home country was Ireland.

Since I was a child I had a calling towards the land of green. The first CD I ever bought was an album of Celtic Christmas music. I studied the mythology and history, read the works of their greatest poets, and spent hours looking at photos of vast landscapes online, feeling my heart reach out of my chest. Then when I was in university there was an opportunity for me to do a ten day study abroad program in Bundoran, Ireland. Being terrified of planes and having never left the country before, it was a huge step for me. But I got on the plane and made my way to the land of my dreams, and I was not disappointed.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, it felt like I was breathing for the first time. We walked down an airport hallway and I stared at the beautiful green signs written in English and Gaelic. We spent an evening in Dublin and I was close to tears at every street corner where something historic loomed above me, or at crosswalks where street art graced curbs and alley walls. As we drove north the next day, towards Bundoran, we passed miles and miles of green pastures, dotted with sheep, cows, and underbrush that I had never seen before.

When we arrived in Bundoran I was amazed by how similar it was to my small hometown by the sea back in Hawaii— surfer culture, but below 60 degrees (F). And yet, the streets were lined with pubs and gift shops, markets hosting unmistakably Irish goods, and there was a quietness that you would never find back home.

I spent the ten days and returned a couple of weeks later with a friend after a stint in London. We stayed in Dublin and visited the surrounding areas. By the time we left, I was madly in love with Ireland. You know that feeling when you get home after a long day of work, you take off your shoes, and you sit in your favorite couch or face plant onto your bed? That’s the feeling I got every second I was in Ireland.

I learned a lot about myself in Ireland— that I did in fact love it, that it felt like home, that I could travel abroad, that there was something magical about traveling, that people were innately kind, and that my soul did need adventure more than I had previously recognized. I left with a heavy heart.

I returned two years later and had the opportunity to spend more time in Dublin, as well as visit Galway, Belfast, and other beautiful areas such as Wicklow and Kells. Every day I fell more in love with Ireland. By the time I left for other adventures, my heart was already full to bursting. Ireland is the place I vow to visit again and again because there are a million reasons why it is such a magical place. Here I’ll share some of the things that I learned in Ireland and some of the things that make it such a special place.

Ireland is eerily similar to Hawaii

So this may not be something that would occur to many people, but when visiting Ireland for the first time it was nearly impossible for me not to notice the similarities between the beautiful land of the green and my home state, Hawaii.

Their political histories mirror one another— a larger political body arriving and trying to erase the language and culture, and religion playing a role in that destruction.

Both places are also soaked heavily in mythology, especially as it is tied to the land. The barren lava fields of Hawaii and the green hillsides of Ireland both hold mythical beings and warrant grand explanations of the workings of gods long ago.

Mainly, Hawaii and Ireland both have something engrained in their local people that comes from the heart. In Hawaii we call it the aloha spirit. I’ve heard it referred to as “Irish hospitality” in Ireland. No matter what it is called, it is my favorite thing about visiting Ireland.

Visas are complicated

Ever since I first stepped foot in Ireland I wanted to live there. Unfortunately, I learned that it is not an easy place to move to. I assume that this is largely due to the fact that Ireland is a country whose economy seems to run off of two primary things— tourism and their dairy industry (Irish butter is life!). Wide open green fields are wonderful for both happy tourists and happy cows, and if the country becomes more populated, well, people have to live somewhere. So as much as it breaks my heart that I cannot easily move there, I understand.

To move to Ireland you need a certain amount of money— so that you wont be taking from the local economy— or you need to be on track to becoming a citizen, the most common way of which is to have a grandparent or parent who was or is an Irish citizen. If you do, you can apply for citizenship! If you’re like me and you don’t, then you have to join me in dreaming from afar.

For those who would like to live in Ireland for a while (as an American citizen) you can apply for a one year visa, especially if you have recently graduated from university. So if you want to spend twelve months in literally the most beautiful place I have ever seen, then there are opportunities out there for you!

Every city has its own identity

Ireland has such a character to it, and so does each individual city. I think this may particularly have to do with the fact that most Irish families tend to live in the very same county for all of their lives, and their children’s lives, and so on. This is such an interesting concept to me as someone who wants to get as far away from home as possible, but it makes my heart warm to think about. Anyway, as far as the cities go…

Dublin is a fun loving city, the hub and capital of Ireland. Its pubs and clubs are open all night and tourists are always milling about. It is much more cosmopolitan than some may expect. It’s full to the brim with street art, museums, galleries, pubs, shops, and parks. I’ve spent more time in this little city than any other, and it is still my favorite.

Galway is also very artsy and lively, but in a more small town way. Street performers line the main streets, artists pin up their art for sale, and jewelers sell their famous Claddagh rings. Like Dublin, Galway rests along a water way, so a block or so from the heart of things you can watch gulls fly out over the water and daydream. Galway is not too far from the famous Cliffs of Moher, which is an absolute must if you find yourself in Ireland.

Belfast was the biggest surprise during my entire trip abroad. The capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast is a city that still struggles with identity. Irish or British? True to the green or the crown? The vibrance and friendliness that I encountered in the other Irish cities was absent here, in my experience. After a day of touring to Giant’s Causeway and the Dark Hedges— Belfast being the nearest large city to those famous and very worthy attractions!— I returned to the city only to discover that by 8 pm everything was closed— markets, most fast food places, everything! Thank goodness for that one open Burger King with that delicious veggie burger or I would have gone hungry that night! I didn’t dislike Belfast, but I wasn’t disappointed when it was time to leave. And on that note…

Northern Ireland and Ireland are DIFFERENT

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, meaning it is ruled by the crown of England. Ireland has a long and painful history with the invasions of the British over several centuries. With many efforts to take their language, histories, and religion from them, the Irish persevered. Even now there is tension between the two nations, and visiting areas like Derry and Belfast make it obvious that there is still an undercurrent of unrest present.

Really though, there’s no one like the Irish

A large part of the Irish identity has come out of centuries of rebellion, hardship, and national pride. I am continuously amazed by the Irish people in a way that is difficult to put into words. They are proud without being pompous, they are enormously friendly and kind despite the turmoil of their collective past, they hold the arts in an enviably high respect, and they may be cold all the time but they have a roaring good time and love life. Of course, no nation can be summed up in such simple terms and nothing I could say would apply to everyone. But overall, the Irish are lovers of a good time, of creativity and culture, and are some of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

In conclusion…

If you are looking for somewhere fun, safe, artsy, historical, full of nature and cityscapes, and alive, Ireland will always be my number one suggestion. Maybe I just have a soft spot in my heart for it, but even with my high hopes it has never let me down.

And I just want to say thank you to Ireland and everyone I met there— for keeping my belief in the innate kindness of people, magic, and adventure alive.

(Image is of me hanging out with Oscar Wilde in Galway. )

My Top Five Places I Must Visit (ASAP)

This week has been a tough one.
Staying positive is important, but accepting your limits is as well.
Between obligations, missing someone so terribly it feels like the sky is falling, and pining for adventure, my energy reserves have been quite low.

When I feel this way I like to daydream.
I love to create vision boards and lists and set goals and intentions.

The post this week will just be a list of the top places that I want to visit and why.
Maybe it’s just to help inspire myself!

Scotland

It’s capital city, Edinburgh is considered the literary capital of Europe and they have a giant book festival there every year! How could this book-loving heart not want to go? I’m also a sucker for stone architecture, castles, and sweeping landscapes… and I 95% believe in the Loch Ness “monster”. (Sorry, it’s true.)

Greece

This is one of the roots of the modern world. The literature, philosophy, politics, culture, and mythology are some of the stepping stones into the modern “Western” world. I want to see the ruins, visit temples to ancient gods, and yes, make friends with cats along the docks and stare out over that stunning Mediterranean Sea.

Morocco

This seems to be one of the great hubs between Africa and Europe. With influences from various African cultures as well as Portuguese, Spanish, and other European influence, how could a person who loves culture, food, and language not want to go?

Egypt

Much of the true greatness of African history has been silenced or eradicated in previous generations by settlers and colonizers who would not believe in the humanity of the African people. (I’m mainly referring to the African land grab in the age of imperialism.) Egypt is so magical because its glory could not be silenced. Pyramids still stand, cultures still thrive.

Italy (Again!)

The thing with Italy is that there is an impossible amount of things to see. Cinque Terre, Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Pompeii, Pisa, Rome, and on and on. The modern world is also partly built upon the stones of the Roman Empire, its accomplishments and its failures. And then of course there is the vibrancy, the food, the language, and the sheer magic of ancient cities still so alive.

These are my top five must visit places at the moment. That may change, but really, I want to see the whole world.

Where are the places that you most want to visit and why?
No matter where they are, I hope that you make it there!