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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!

What I Learned About Myself From Travel

Wanderlust is the driving force behind some of my most life-changing experiences as well as my most frustrated moments. If I could afford— financially and emotionally— to be on the road all the time, I would be. There are a million places that I want to see, and it seems like every time I visit a place not only do I want to visit again, but it inspires in me a desire to see another dozen places that I may not have considered before.

So far, I have set foot in ten countries.

Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Spain.

Some of these places I only stayed in for hours, some a couple of days, and others for weeks. I feel like I learned something in almost all of them. One of my favorite things about travel in general is the myriad of opportunities to learn new things— tastes, history, culture, language, and so on. And of course, there are the things you learn about yourself.

This week I just wanted to reflect on some of the most useful things I learned about myself and the universe from traveling, primarily alone. I’m sure I will revisit this topic at some point and expand upon my knowledge, but for now, these are some of the most striking things I learned while traveling:

You can trust yourself

When you’re traveling alone, everything comes down to you. Meeting your food, accommodation, and transportation needs is something that you need to figure out yourself. You can’t rely on someone else to keep an eye out for you (or watch your bags while you run to the bathroom!) To many people that may sound daunting, but really, once you’re out there and experiencing the full freedom of being yourself, you realize how trustworthy and capable you really are.

People are generally kind

Now of course discretion should always be applied, but I learned that nine out of ten times, people are more likely to help you than hurt you when you’re traveling. Especially in the hostel and B&B circuits, you are primarily meeting people who share one major thing in common with you— they love to travel! In my experience, travelers tend to be people who are open-minded, kind, and willing to connect with those around them. This is the kind of traveler I aimed to be, and I can only hope that I succeeded. I am assuming that I did, as some of the most important people in my life I met while traveling, and we still remain connected. I literally cannot thank all of the people who helped me on my journey, because there are so many chance encounters and fleeting moments that are now only very fond memories. But all of those moments helped change my perspective on humanity as a whole, and I am so thankful for that.

Life is so, so short

Traveling bends time. Everything seems to go way too fast, and when you’re removed from your life, things take on a different sense of time. My most recent trip was almost four months, and sometimes it felt like it was an entire lifetime and looking back on it I feel that it was not even a fraction of what it really was. Now that I am back “home” in my normal life, everything has changed. It seems that the changes I waited years for happened in a matter of weeks. I look at my life stretching before me and have a whole new perspective on what my life means and how quickly it is all coming at me. Also, there’s so many places I need to go! When you have so much to look forward to and so much work to do to get there, it causes you to reflect on what that time actually means and how you’re going to make the most of it.

Things will be okay

I know this is a very general statement. Something I noticed while traveling was that things that didn’t make sense to me before— why did this happen, why didn’t that happen— came into focus. Things that haunted me dissipated, worries I had fell off my shoulders. And I just remember thinking, repeatedly, for literally the first time in my life with meaning: it’s going to be okay. I assume this is a feeling maybe not as related with travel as it is with doing what your heart is calling out for you to do. But I will never forget it and what it meant for me for that mantra to come breaking through.

Of course I learned so much from traveling— that is part of why I love it so much.
I plan to start a mini series of posts about what I learned in specific places abroad on my travels. Hopefully these posts will help inspire others a little and give them some cues for their own travels.

Currently, the travel bug is gnawing away at me. Wanderlust is at high tide. We’ll see what I end up doing about that.

(Image is of the place and time that I do the most daydreaming and wanderlusting currently— from my bed in the early morning hours.)

How To Create A Positivity Journal

I am a journal addict.
I have a journal for every reason you could imagine— lists, notes, diary entries, story ideas, and so on. I love to take notes and keep memories alive on the page. I also like to use the written word to help me focus, motivate myself, and inspire myself to reach my goals.

One of my favorite journal projects is my positivity journal.
I use this journal to write down my goals, dreams, affirmations, self-love reminders, and other positivity prompts that help me stay focused, motivated, and feeling good.
If I ever find myself discouraged about reaching my goals, I like to pull it out and reflect on how far I’ve come and reaffirm the positive things in my life.
I think there is something about seeing your dreams and accomplishments on the page that helps to keep it all in perspective.

Here is the layout of my personal positivity journal.

MANIFESTATION

Self: What are some things that you want to accomplish in regards to yourself? This is all about ways that you would like to improve yourself as a person, or to focus on who you want to be.
My example: “I will love myself”

Health: I am personally a rather unhealthy person, both physically and mentally. Sometimes dealing with my health can feel too overwhelming. So I set goals and intentions for where I want to be in my health journey.
My example: “I will reach a healthy place with my body and body image”

Family: My family is very dysfunctional, but also very important to me, so I set intentions for how I will handle the family dynamic and how I can bring positivity to it.
My example: “I will make my family proud”

Relationships: By this I mean all of the relationships in my life— romantic, platonic, work related; any and all relationships that I have with others.
My example: “I will accept that some days I cannot give as much to this relationship, and remember that there are days when I can give more”

Career: These are career goals that I am truly focused on achieving through hard work and dedication— but I don’t think some manifestation would hurt.
My example: “I will have my writing published and positively acknowledged”

GRATITUDE

Moments from the past year that made me feel thankful: Most of these for me revolved around little magical things that happened unexpectedly that made me smile.
My example: “A good friend came back into my life when I really needed some support”

Little kindnesses: These are little things that the people around me did to brighten my life. Being thankful has a lot of sources, but I find that when you are surrounded by the right people, there is so much to be thankful for.
My example: “When my friend gave me a hand-made gift”

Successes: I’m the sort of person who finds it easier to focus on my faults and losses than my successes. That is why I have a section in my positivity journal for this, though it falls between gratitude and self love.
My example: “ I went on a trip to Europe and really grew into myself”

SELF LOVE & HAPPINESS

Reasons to love yourself: Sometimes I need a reminder that I’m not some terrible human being.
My example: “You always do the best that you can in life”

Good things that you’ve done for others recently: This may seem a little self centered, but sometimes it is good to remind yourself of the effect that you have on others.
My example: “Gave a book to a fellow poetry lover”

Things that make you happy: I like to look at this list when I’m feeling down and even that makes me feel a little happier.
My example: “Books, the ocean, leaning new things, seeing someone reading a book that I love, deep discussions, remembering my dreams after I’ve woken up…” (and many others)

Things that you should do more to make you happy: This sort of ties in with the prompt before it, but focuses more on the actions of happiness. What specifically can you actively do to promote more happiness and positivity in your own life?
My example: “Go to the ocean, visit farmer’s markets, try new foods, believe people when they compliment me…”

Things you should do less to improve your happiness: I often have a tendency to do things that I don’t really want to do but either feel obligated to do or can’t help but to do… and who has got time for those sorts of things?
My example: “Putting myself down”

Acts of self love and self improvement that you’ve accomplished recently: This is a big one for me because I tend to just put self love on the back burner.
My example: “Going to therapy regularly”

POSITIVITY

Philosophies to remember in times of distress: These include thoughts or quotes and reminders that the world isn’t a terrible place (all the time).
My example: “Every time that you put something good out into the world there is just a little less room for the bad”

Notes and reminders: These are random thoughts and notes to keep me feeling positive.
My example: A note from a friend who was thanking me for buying her a book for our book club

There is no one way to make a positivity journal.
I actually plan to expand mine for this new year, so if you have any ideas for how to improve and expand a positivity journal, drop them in the comments!

Sending good vibes out to you all!

Image is of a page out of my positivity journal, accompanied by my 2019 motivation journal and Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way Every Day: A Year of Creative Living”.