Barcelona on a Time Crunch

Is eight hours enough?

There’s never enough time in a city, but here is how to make the most of it.

First things first, are you here on a layover? Do you have bags? Check them in somewhere! They will slow you down. Nannybag is what we used in Barcelona, but there are plenty of services similar.

Cabs aren’t too expensive in Barcelona, so we made sure to check our bags in somewhere we wanted to go anyway, no wasted time! Then first thing we did? Beach. (We stored our bags in this surf shop and headed straight there, it was so perfect).

We had been traveling through Amsterdam and Paris, which was chilly, so beach it was. We looked for sea glass for probably 30 minutes then had lunch at a tiny restaurant. AKA nachos and sangria. After that, we decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter and picked up gelato on the way. If you don’t know, this beach is famous in Barcelona for it’s sea glass. It’s a must sea!

We got to walk around and see some of the best architecture Barcelona has to offer. We did shop in a few little boutiques and I got a really pretty turquoise ring. We decided our number one in Barcelona, was getting lost. We didn’t want to rush this city because there is something beautiful on every corner.

Our game plan was basically walk as far away from our end destination as possible, then make our way back slowly. We did decide to head to our cruise ship early, which was the best decision because we got on quickly. But, we did have time if we wanted to go to La Sagrada Familia. We got an incredible view of it from the ship, but we decided against up close and personal.

Plus, I know I will be back to Barcelona one day, needed something special waiting for me.

Plane Fashion

Plane travel. But make it fashion.

Back in the day, people got dressed up for flying. Think about it, it’s a huge metal container propelling people through the air from one destination to the next. It’s kind of a big deal, so I understand making this an event. Now, I’m not saying you need to go to this extreme. Because, really, it was an extreme. But cute and comfortable travel fashion looks have been all the rage. I’m an advocate for looking your best while traveling, mainly because I have activities planned the second the plane lands, but also you see a lot of people and putting your best foot forward isn’t the worst idea.

The one day I decided to look like garbage for a quick hop from Spain to Portugal, my flight was cancelled and we ended up staying a night in Lisbon. AKA we got ready in the airport bathroom… Travel cute my friends.

Anyway, my plane “lewk” consists of a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

First, lets talk about things to avoid…

  1. Heels or backless shoes
  2. Anything constricting (tight jeans, etc.)
  3. Only shorts and a tshirt
  4. Lots of jewelry

Heels and backless shoes are kind of an obvious one but I still see it every time I travel. Think worst case scenario. Plane is going down and you have to go out the emergency exit or a slide into water. Are heels comfortable or efficient in a split second escape? Do you want to take your shoes off, or have someone step on your feet and you lose a shoe, and have to walk on who knows what? It’s better to be prepared. Plus, on long haul flights your feet can swell and if compressed in a shoe and socks, it’s gunna feel a lot better than if you were wearing flip flops.

This is similar to why you would avoid anything constricting. Free movement is essential if this worst case scenario occurs. Also, you can get blood clots in your legs if you’re not moving them for an extended period of time. Wearing leggings or something with compression that is comfortable, promotes a bit of wiggling.

Now, only shorts and a tshirt? What if you get cold? What if the plane catches on fire? Add a layer of protection people.

Lastly, lots of jewelry. I got stopped behind someone in security once that had on 10 Alex and Ani bracelets. While they’re cute, she had to sit there and take all of them off to go through the metal detector. Before you go through security, think, how can I make my life easier? Then do that.

Now, for my average plane “lewk”, I consistently have a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

As you can see, Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf, leather jacket, and layers. And you can bet your butt I’m wearing leggings and sneaks. My scarf, as I’ve said before, is my one must have. It’s so soft and comfortable and can be a blanket or a scarf or a wrap or a pillow. I easily get hot and cold on planes so layers is my best friend.

See, looking cute doesn’t mean an hour of hair and makeup and wearing high heels. It’s comfort and practicality that will save your sanity. Now remember, next time you’re getting ready for a flight, think, is this making my life easier or harder? If you have to really think about it, ditch it! You’ll thank me later.

Why Paris Should be on your Bucket List

The city of love.

And amazing food. I honestly never had any interest in going to Paris, until somehow, the flight was booked. Long story short, the cheapest way for my friends and I to get to Europe for our cruise starting in Barcelona, was flying to Paris. Another long story short, we ended up going to Amsterdam first, then Paris. So after an overnight flight to Amsterdam, spending a full day there, and a *late arriving* overnight bus to Paris, we made it. And then after an amazing Parisian breakfast, we fell asleep in the hotel lobby.

file2-6After also getting ready in the hotel lobby, we headed out for a self guided walking tour of the city. We walked around the Louvre buildings and gardens, strolled alone the Seine looking at little boutiques, and obviously looked for the best macaroons and crepes.

We made our way to the train with some mini bottles of wine and spent the rest of the day exploring the Palace of Versailles. Let me tell you, Versailles was unbelievably beautiful. Go there if you have the chance. And make sure to look up, my favorite part was the ceilings.

After our long day of walking through Marie Antoinette’s former place of residence, we ended up at Notre-Dame at night. The detail on this building was also incredible. When you see a new place like this, you almost get lost looking up. The sheer detail and intricacies and the age, it makes you fall in love. You feel that deep aching sensation in your chest because of it’s beauty and you feel just so lucky to be able to see this other side of the world. That’s how I felt in all of Paris. Every corner we turned, every monument we saw, every single second of exploration felt like bliss.file-10

Our second day was filled to the brim with Parisian delicacies, champagne, and gorgeous architecture. In the morning I roamed by myself and toured museums. After a few euphoric hours, I met my friends at the Arc de Triomphe while drinking amazing espresso. We got to eat bread and macaroons under the Eiffel Tour, we drank champagne around the city and on a cheesy tourist bus, and played bubble soccer on Tour Montparnasse. (Tip: Tour Montparnasse is the best view in the city and of the city. I’m sure the top of the Eiffel Tour is beautiful, but nothing beats being able to watch the Eiffel Tour sparkle from afar. And pro tip: go for sunset!)

We did eventually have to go, an early wake up call and a cold uber ride to the airport, and Paris was in our rear view. For a city I had no intention of ever visiting, I’m glad I went. Sometimes the places not on your list turn out to be your favorite. Je t’aime, Paris. I’ll see you soon.

 

 

Stand Under a Waterfall

Chasing waterfalls.

There are some incredible sites in Iceland, and this was one of my favorites. This waterfall is called Seljalandsfoss. What makes this fall so special, is that you can walk around and under it. Being able to get up close and personal with rushing glacial water is such an amazing experience. Mother nature is fierce.

If you can ever make it to Iceland, this should be number 1 on your list. We lucked out with some amazing weather which added some beautiful sparkling rainbows around the fall. Remember to wear some gore-tex or water resistant clothing, you will get wet. You’re getting up close and personal to a huge waterfall. Seriously, Iceland is magic. Don’t delay your trip here.

30 Before 30: 9 down, 21 to go!

Swim in a Hot Spring

Not one, but two.

Again, Iceland is MAGIC.  Not only did I swim in one geothermal hot spring, I got to swim in Iceland’s secret pool. I would highly recommend both because while the experiences were drastically different, they were incredible.

The Blue Lagoon is the first stop we had in Iceland right off the plane and it was amazing. The Blue Lagoon is a man made Geothermal Spa. file-7It is shaped by lava but the water is from the geothermal power plant next door. It is filled with natural minerals including silica and half fresh, half salt water. The lagoon is known to treat eczema and psoriasis because of the silica. And let me tell you, my skin felt incredible. Hair, not so much. Definitely tie your hair up and don’t get it wet – I had straw hair for a week. Some parts of the lagoon are hotter than others but there’s plenty to do. You will absolutely be occupied enough for however long you choose to spend here. I would recommend a half day, which is what we did. We had time for the saunas, steam rooms, the waterfall back massage, all the little coves, the face mask, and some drinks. We floated, met some awesome people, and relaxed. If you decide to do the Blue Lagoon in your trip, I absolutely recommend doing it how we did, straight from the airport. It was so nice to relax after an overnight flight.

The second lagoon/hot spring we went to was Seljavallalaug. It is a “secret” swimming pool in Iceland. This was built in 1923 to teach Icelandic people to swim. It is nestled in file1-7between two mountains and it’s a quick little hike out to the pool. This pool is filled with hot water that comes down from Eyjafjallajökull, which is a volcano covered by an ice cap.

(Quick tip, Jokull means glacier in Icelandic. Their words is a name first, descriptor second. Fjara – Beach, Fjall – Mountain).

This pool was not very crowded because we went early in the day and it was very cool. It was warm from the waters trickling down and the views were absolutely stunning. Again, I recommend this but go early. Earlier in the season the cleaner, earlier in the day the less crowded. The hike isn’t difficult and it’s maybe 20 minutes, if that. Definitely worth it!

Drop a comment below for any other amazing Icelandic hot springs! I’m dying to go back.

30 Before 30: 8 down, 22 to go!

See the Northern Lights

Iceland is Magic.

Seeing the Northern Lights has always been my DREAM. I live in Michigan and I have been trying to stalk them as long as I can remember. Summers on Harsen’s Island spent staring at the night sky, driving an hour north in the hopes the light pollution is low enough, sitting around bonfires in Traverse City checking the Aurora app… It’s been a real obsession of mine.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Iceland in September is the increased percentage of the aurora borealis having a high KPI index. The week we went, my friend even planned it so we would have a few days with no moon, giving us even more of a chance to see the magnetic ribbons. Another plus for us, not for the environment, was the solar activity. A few large flares occurred which made the magnetic fields even stronger. The first glimpse I had at the most magical site was on the plane to Iceland. While flying over Greenland we got to witness a few minutes of the dancing lights. It was bright and beautiful and filled me with excitement.

I was obviously hoping to see more throughout my trip  but was so seriously stunned, I would have been so happy even if that was it. Somehow, I racked up enough good karma to see them two more times. The third time was in a campground parking lot. It was cloudy, dark, rainy, cold… But we looked up and saw them dancing again for a few more minutes and again, it was pure magic.

The second time was the most incredible. They were so bright I even got some photos of them with the sunset on my iPhone – which getting a northern lights photo on a phone is nearly impossible. Anyway, after driving all day we decided to take the 2 mile hike out to the Sólheimasandur plane crash. Quick history lesson, this is a US Navy DC-3 airplane that was forced to land on the black sand beach after running out of fuel. It crashed and thankfully everyone survived. This happened in 1973 and it was difficult to get to in the past, therefore it remains in place. This spot has become famous to photographers from around the globe because of its unique characteristics and story. This is why my friend wanted to make the trek. I was very interested to see the scene so I excitedly agreed to tag along. We hiked out at sunset, took probably 40 minutes, and in the best stroke of luck, we ended up being joined by only one other couple, meaning all shots with no people. (Helllllls yeah).

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Me at the Sólheimasandur crash

After getting in some amazing light painting, we started to see the streaks. They came up so quick, just as we were saying “I hope we see the lights”. The appeared strong and moving rapidly. Everyone started shooting away and we were so excited when they decided to stay out and play for a while longer. My friend got his shot of the northern lights behind the plane, I got my shot of the lights and the mountains and the beach and the sunset and the plane and myself. You should absolutely check out Taylor’s work also. We were able to take in their beauty for hours uninterrupted and it’s the most beautiful vision I will ever see. The photos will never do it justice but I hope it inspires you to chase these lights.

30 Before 30: 7 down, 23 to go!

Zombie Pub Crawl

Night of the living dead.

Halloween is the best season, holiday, month, state of mind. When it’s Halloween season, I will seek out the best spooky experiences. I learned about the Zombie Pub Crawl from my cousin who lives in Downtown Minneapolis. This is the largest “zombie” gathering in the world and is a HUGE pub crawl. Previous years have been held in Downtown Minneapolis, this year it was held at Hall’s Island and the historic Grain Belt brewery complex.

Dressing up for this isn’t mandatory but don’t be lame. If you’re going, dress up. I honestly looked like such an amateur compared to 99.9% of people there! I went with m cousin and his girlfriend. Our makeup was slightly last minute but I was pretty proud of our accomplishments! You would absolutely feel left out if you didn’t participate. Plus, they have a costume contest with first place winning free VIP tickets to the crawl for LIFE.

So, because this is titled a Zombie Pub Crawl (ZPC), I assumed like last years it would befile-2 a pub crawl. As in, walking to different pubs/bars dressed as a zombie WITH other zombies. When we got to the entrance of the ZPC, it was in an enclosed park with three stages, roughly 15 food trucks, 4 bar tents, some entertainment in the form of costumed wrestlers in a ring, and a small carnival area. I did learn later that the ZPC was partnered with three local bars, staples of the surrounding area – and not inside the actual grounds. We didn’t get to explore these bars but we had an amazing time at the festival! (A more appropriate term for what it was). I was obviously a little bummed that it wasn’t a real “Pub Crawl” but the added bars and entertainment made up for it.

Drinks were fairly priced, entertainment was incredible, Shaq was the DJ so you can assume how that was… And the BEST part is that the iconic Grain Belt Brewery created a beer for the event called the Zombie Pub Crawl from the Brain Belt Brewery. Spoiler alert, it was amazing. I would absolutely recommend this event to anyone in the Minneapolis area or surrounding. It was definitely worth the trip from Michigan to experience this unique party.

Why you Should Road Trip Iceland

Driving through Europe.

I have been out of the US before, let’s be clear on that. Have I ever gone anywhere other than an all inclusive resort in Mexico or right across the border in Canada? No. (FYI I live in MI so getting to the Canadian border takes 30 minutes – not as exciting as other parts of Canada mostly because of how accessible it is.)

Anyway, long story short, I somehow ended up on a trip to Iceland with an old friend. We’ve known each other for 10 years but haven’t talked as much recently. Spoiler alert, felt like 0 time had passed. Basically, I was bit HARD by the travel bug last year. I recently looked at Skyscanner and found a cheap flight to Reykjavik. Not knowing ANYTHING about Iceland, I posted on Facebook and said, “I want to go to Reykjavik!”. (This was after googling Iceland and seeing the gorgeous country). A few people commented on it saying they were going to Iceland, a few said where the hell is that, and others said that’s on my bucket list! My friend, Taylor, messaged me and said “Hey, I’m planning on going in September for photography and northern lights and stuff. Wanna come? It will help me split my costs”. Um, yes. Basically we booked it a week later.

Votnajökull National ParkFirst thing you need to know about Iceland, transportation while in the country isn’t as expensive as you would think IF you’re renting. If you’re not, good luck. A bus, taxi, etc… all pricey. Plus, having a person waiting for us with the rental was so nice. We spent

almost $700 for a car and camper van for a week. We also added on WiFi and a plug extender. So $350 a person for a week of traveling, lodging, and internet, not bad.

Driving Iceland is also a plus because your plans can change at any minute. You have flexibility so you don’t have to be anywhere at any time. This was so helpful! We added things onto our trip that locals recommended and being able to drive a little further at night to a different campground, was so nice and easy. Wake up at Skogafoss and be the first person there. Eat breakfast while looking at Vatnajökull. Go to bed right next to a black sand beach… There’s nothing cooler.

So, cost, experience, and flexibility, makes driving Iceland worth it. I would recommend this over a hotel or AirBnB any day.

Getting to know Alyssa Ramos

Talking to my IDOL.

Alyssa Ramos is a full time travel blogger with more bucket list check marks than anyone I have ever met. Her startling list of press features will intimidate anyone – her most recent being in Cosmo. Her passion for travel and adventure has not only changed my life but has empowered me to want to see the world.AR3.png

In 2015, Ramos wrote a brilliant piece for Huffington Post that went viral and that’s how I found her. The post was titled, “Yes, I’m Pretty and I’m Traveling Alone“. The post is satirical, humorous, and inspiring. After that, I have been hooked. Her Instagram is filled with accomplishments from all over the world. If you’re lacking travel enthusiasm, look to her.

I’m extremely grateful to say I was able to interview Alyssa about her “alternative” lifestyle. And she assured me, after 86 countries and 7 continents, she isn’t settling down.

What sparked your passion for travel?

AR: “I wanted to do and see more than just have fun living in LA, so at 26 I decided to take my first solo trip to volunteer in South Africa, then go to Thailand and Australia, and I was hooked ever since.”

What is your number one travel tip for solo adventurers?

AR: “Do your research, make sure you’re well planned — not because you need to be, but because it’ll make you feel more assured, confident, and excited. Also remember that the world is NOT a scary place! I feel safer abroad than I do in the U.S.!”

What country have you found to be the most inviting?

AR: “Indonesia… it’s basically a mix of locals and expats living in harmony these days.”

AR2.pngWhy did you take your first solo trip?

AR: “I ended up going solo because I couldn’t get anyone to go with me!”

What is the number one thing you have learned from traveling?

AR: “What an amazing freaking world this is, and that I was never meant to stay in one place.”

What’s something you’ve learned about yourself from traveling?

AR: “That I am a chameleon and can easily adapt to any location and situation. I also have learned that just by living a life filled with taking chances, risks, and leaps of faith, I can inspire others to be better people and do more with their lives.”

What has been your most successful blog post to date?

AR: “According to Google Analytics it’s “10 Best Stops for an Arizona/Utah Road Trip” and “25 Awesome Things to do in Havana, Cuba!””

What is your favorite mode of transportation and why?

AR: “Whatever gets me there fastest, so probably planes, although I have a lot of fun on trains and motorbikes. Definitely not cars or buses since I’ve been in two roll-over accidents in them recently.” *She’s okay everyone!

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What has been your most rewarding travel moment?

AR: “Stepping foot on Antarctica, my 7th continent, and recently succeeding at raising over $6.5k to buy disaster relief supplies for Lombok earthquake victims, and seeing them delivered.”

Lastly, window or aisle?

AR: “Window 100%. Flights are my prime designated blog post writing time!”

If you would like to know more about Alyssa Ramos [My Life’s a Travel Movie]  – and you should, check out her about page on her blog or follow her on social media. Or both. And can I just say again how awesome it was to talk to her?! You probably wouldn’t guess that travel bloggers working 16 hour days every day of the week would be so willing to help out the newbies, yet, here she is.

Here’s her Instagram, Facebook, YouTube account, and Website. I hope you find her as incredible as I do!

 

How to Eat Alone

Table for One.

Are you someone who cannot stand silence? I personally love my alone time but also love meeting new people and enjoying the company of my friends. Solo travel means sometimes, you will have to eat alone.

First thing you have to get over; weird looks. Honestly, it happens. I would love to say people don’t find solo travelers odd but that’s not true. Traveling alone and getting a table for one in a restaurant is still pretty taboo. But once you realize it’s going to file (1).jpeghappen, it’s easy to get over. I’ve never gotten any direct comments on my unattended restaurant adventures, however, I have heard one indirect comment. One couple said just within earshot, “Why isn’t she at the bar alone instead?”. I didn’t respond because 1. valid, 2. it may not have been about me. Traveling by your lonesome doesn’t mean you have to sit at the tiny tables in the back corner or the crowded bar if you don’t want to. While yeah, it makes sense to take up as little space as possible, you’re a valued customer with just as much right to be there.

When I’m alone I like to get light meals, maybe an app and a drink at the bar, maybe bring a book and sit in a back corner by request. This is all your choice. Sometimes, it’s fun to sit with a stranger at a coffee shop. I’m currently doing that because of a shortage of tables. Her name is Angie and she’s super nice and bought me a coffee because she saw I was applying for jobs.

If you’re uncomfortable sitting alone, bring a book, listen to a podcast, bring a computer and get some work done, scroll Instagram. You have options to keep yourself occupied. But also, take solo dining as an opportunity to be okay with silence. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Learn to find comfort in your own company.