Goodbye, London

My time in London has come to an end, and I’m not sure it’s set in yet.

When you look forward to something for so long, you don’t believe it when it finally comes to an end. Life in London was far beyond anything I ever imagined.

I remember the first day we got here, anxious and jet-lagged, we stumbled down Hammersmith Road in search of caffeine. The different currencies, the accents, the “you alright?”: it all seemed so foreign. How the hell were we going to survive for 8 weeks in this huge city?

It took some getting use to, but after this summer London has become my home. I know the people at the Italian café down the road; I know the shortcut you take at the King’s Cross tube stop to get to the Northern Line more quickly, and I know what combination of sauces I like best at Nando’s. In two short months I’ve seen and learned so much, and I have London to thank.

I know I’ve been posting pretty regularly with my Joy Lists so some of this may be repetitive, but I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on how much this summer has given me, and how much I’ve grown as a person because of it.

So thank you, London…

Thank you for introducing me to some of the most wonderful characters I’ve ever met with the most incredible stories. (the kind hearted street performer, the teenage producer with a passion for music, the Californian drag queen, the French au pair who snuck on to the red carpet, and the ex-football player who dreams of being a diver, just to name a few)

Thank you for teaching me that true travel isn’t taking guided tours every day. It’s about getting lost in the streets of a foreign country. It’s about eating the best food you can find & befriending strangers on a cross-country bus. It’s about walking 12 miles a day to explore, no matter how exhausted you are. It’s about laughing and learning with the people you love.

Thank you for teaching me that coffee should be about quality and not quantity. (Although that took some getting used to at first.)

Thank you for showing me that sometimes I’d rather go to a comedy club in Camden or a folk music pub in south London instead of going to a night club, and that’s ok.

Thank you for stroopwaffles, Rekorderlig, Yakult, tarte à la fraise, Dairy Milk bars and all the other snacks I’ll be heartbroken over losing when I go back to the States.

Thanks for the multiple passport stamps, because even though it’s slightly materialistic, it makes me happy to see them all.

Thank you for the wonderful batch of journalism nerds I was able to share this experience with, and thank you for Jimmy K, his selfie game is always going to be so much better than mine.

Thank you for showing me the beauty of traveling by train.

Thank you for teaching me that my age should not be an inhibitor. Ya, I’m a 20-year-old writer, and you know what? I’m a damn good one.

Thank you for always keeping me mesmerized. The day I become jaded in London is the day I’ve seen it all.

Thank you for giving me impossibly high standards for my future colleagues, and showing me your coworkers can be some of your best friends.

Thank you for Nando’s, it was rather cheeky.

On that note, thank you for Bailey’s, Pizza East, Byron’s, Picca and all the other great restaurants. I won’t even be angry you made me fat.

Thank you for your fantastic markets with vintage records. You’ve done immeasurable things for my collection.

Thank you for your unbelievable live music scene. You’ve made my heart incredibly happy.

Thank you for letting me take part in a week of love, acceptance, confidence, and rainbow cupcakes.

Thank you for giving me the chance to do what I love every day, with amazing people in an amazing city.

Thank you for the 50 minute bus rides home from Camden at 3 in the morning. Because even as painful as that sounds, I’d always meet the nicest, most fascinating people.

Thank you for showing me what I really want to do with my life. I’d convinced myself that I wanted to go in to fashion journalism, but now I know it has to be music. It’s always been music.

Thank you for the Sony Offices, Samsung Events, the UMAs, 5-star dinner reviews, professional interviews, and other opportunities I was probably woefully unworthy of.


Thank you for showing me that it’s ok to go without a phone for a few days. It’s liberating, even.

Thank you for showing me the glory that is street food. Food that is made from a tiny shack really shouldn’t taste that good, but OHMYGOD it does.

Thank you for making me laugh harder, sing louder, scream higher and dance weirder (I made up a word for the sake of symmetry) than I ever thought I could.

Thank you for showing me the unparalleled benefits that come from traveling. It’s more than Instagram photos and Bucket Lists. It’s about expanding our horizons and challenging ourselves in ways we never thought possible.

Thank you for making something so great that it hurts to say goodbye.

Goodbye, London. Thank you for everything.

Pride Week in London

I feel like I don’t have words to describe how amazing these past few days have been. That hurts me to admit as a writer, but the sentiments behind it are well worth my wounded pride.

I was sitting in class in Russell Square when I got a news notification on my phone from The Guardian. It was relaying the news that thousands of miles away, in my home country, the Supreme Court had just legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.

Thankfully I  was in a class with 20 other journalism nerds, meaning we all got news notifications from our various media platforms of choice, and the whole class lit up with exuberance. I’ll admit that I may have shed a few tears of happiness, and my attention span was completely shot for the rest of class.

On a completely coincidental and romantic note, it was also the first day of Pride weekend in London. I already had plans to go out for the parade on Saturday, then to Pride in the Park on Sunday afternoon. But the exciting news from back home was the cherry on top of the already beautiful weekend.

In light of some of the terrible things that have happened lately in the U.S. – including the sickening RFRA that was passed in Indiana not too long ago – I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of my country.

Now that Pride weekend is over, I can honestly say nothing compares to the energy of a Pride Weekend. I wish the entire world could find the love, compassion and acceptance that you find in the LGBTQ community.

You may not neccessarily agree with it, but just becaue you don’t understand something doesn’t mean you have the right to take away someone’s basic human rights. If everyone could just learn the total acceptance and happiness that London found this weekend, I think the world would be a pretty awesome place. LOVE WINS.

 Happy Pride Everybody!! So happy that love wins this weekend.

 

A Parisienne Weekend

We’re back from our weekend in Paris! I think I’d be pretty content if I could spend my entire life sitting at cafés eating cheese and bread and drinking wine.

Katie and I jetted off to Paris to meet with my publisher on Friday, and then we had the whole weekend to explore.

As with my Amsterdam post, I realize people would much rather look at photos than listen to me go on about how amazing my trip was. Luckily for you guys I am a very frequent and obnoxious traveling photographer, a skill I seem to have learned from my Uncle Jeff.

I’ll try to keep my rambling to a minimum. Alors, bon visionnement!!

Our first day was spent wandering around the city, which we always seem to be doing now that I think of it. These locks are one of my favorite parts of Paris. Here they are pictured by the Seine. Lovers from around the world come to secure their locks and throw the key into the Seine, sealing their fate forever. Although, I will point out that the city comes by every six months or so to clip them all off. Romantic.

We wandered our way around the Champs-Elysées to the famous Pâtisserie Ladurée. They’re known for their fabulous macaroons, among other sweet Parisienne treats. The vanilla ones were my favorite!

After exploring for a majority of the day, Katie and I got to spend a portion of our evening relaxing on the balcony of our hotel and writing. Maybe I’m super nerdy, but something about looking down on the streets of Paris and watching the sun set with one of my best friends had me feeling some kind of way. So, here’s some really cheesy pictures of it, and you’re going to like them.

We got to spend our last day with one of my friends and fellow interns from last year, Anne. Anne lives just outside the city, and was sweet enough to spend the day showing me some of her favorite sites around Paris.

Thanks to Anne, I got to see this really awesome little treasure of Paris, le mur des je t’aime. This one wall has the phrase “I love you” written on it in over 300 different languages. It acts as “a place of reconciliation, and a mirror which reflects an image of love and peace.” Such a hidden gem!

 

After the wall, we walked over to the hill Montmartre, which included the famous church Sacré-Coeur. Anne helped me practice some of my French in front of this stunning view of the city.

 

I love to mix travel with fabulous food. It’s pertinent. So, for lunch I grabbed one of my French favorites, une croque madame, best one I’ve had so far, I might add.

After lunch Anne and I wandered around the area Châtelet, which is the most perfect little piece of Europe if I’ve ever seen one. We were on the hunt for a patesserie so I could try her favorite French dessert – tarte aux fraises. Essentially it was a much lighter – very awesome – version of strawberry cheesecake. We took our desserts as a picnic in the Jardin du Forum des Halles.

Case in point, I think I’m ready for my European citizenship now. I had a fantastic round two in Paris this weekend, but now I’m ready to relax a bit and spend the rest of my summer enjoying my newfound home in London!

Au revoir pour maintenent!

How I Found the Meaning of Travel in Amsterdam

On my first night in Amsterdam, I saw an interesting piece of street art through the window of the tram I was riding. It was written on the side of a building in huge letters: “Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I’ve seen.”

Part of me thinks this quote was my main takeaway from our weekend in The Netherlands, because it was the first time I felt like a true traveler.

When the bus driver unloaded me and my friends, Bryan and Katie, on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere at 6 in the morning – it really hit us how unprepared we were. Just five days earlier we had gathered in our flats back in London with the impulsive decision to go to Amsterdam. We could leave Friday after class and be back Monday morning before our class trip to Brighton. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

As we stood shivering on the road – only our backpacks, no cell service, and not even a basic understanding of Dutch – we started the think maybe we had been wrong.

We walked along the side of the road to seek shelter from the cold in Duivendrecht station. We sat huddled in the center of the station trying to figure out where we were and how to get anywhere.

By the grace of God, the station had Wi-Fi. So we were able to get ahold of Bryan’s friend Brigit, who lived in Holland. She and her mom picked us up and took us back to their picturesque Dutch cottage in Wassenaar.

They revived our travel-weary souls with showers, blankets and coffee. By the time they explained central Amsterdam to us – including the Dutch people’s natural distaste for foreigners and the lack of free tap water – we were reenergized and ready to see the city.

We spent the afternoon getting slightly lost on the public transit (with all of its directions being in Dutch) and wandering the streets of the red light district.

We ended up in a photographer’s gallery exhibit, taking selfies with a giant inflatable dog in the front of the canal and soaking in the sun in front of the Stedelijk Museum. For lunch we ate the best pancakes ever created (Dutch pancakes with stroopwafels, cinnamon ice cream, whipped topping and chocolate shavings). Then for dinner we ended up at an outdoor Turkish place with seating on the canal.

Brigit helped us exhaustedly find our hostel before leaving us for the night. We spent the rest of our evening listening to music and eating a bag of stroopwafels before swiftly passing out at 9 p.m.

On our second day, we woke with more life to us. We were well rested and felt slightly more confident in our navigation abilities. We were actually able to find our own way to the city from our hostel. We explored for a bit and stopped for breakfast before meeting Brigit at Amsterdam Central.

She took us back to her house in Wassenaar where her mom was planning a traditional Dutch dinner for us. We were greeted with fresh lattes, tomatoes roasting in the oven, and bags full of Dutch candies and cookies for our bus ride back home. It was all we could do not to cry from happiness.

We spent the rest of the evening with good conversation while stuffing our faces with lentil soup, pasta, tiramisu, ice cream and some phenomenal Dutch yogurt thing called Yakult.

After our feast and our never ending gratitude, Brigit and her mom dropped us back off at Duivendrecht.

The end of our journey in Amsterdam takes me back to the quote on the side of the building. I think it’s important to be a traveler, not a tourist. We didn’t take any guided tours of Amsterdam. We didn’t make any detailed lists of sights we wanted to see. We had nothing but our backpacks and our bus tickets, and I had an amazing time. I saw some of the most beautiful places; I met some of the most wonderful people, and I ate some of the most phenomenal food.

I think sometimes we tend to view travelling as a race to the finish line. We want to say we’ve seen as many places as possible. We want to document and plan every aspect to make sure we can get as many things checked off our Bucket Lists as possible. We’ve lost the sense of whimsy and chance that can go along with traveling.

Go somewhere without a plan. Pack only what you can fit in a backpack. Don’t feel the need to check Zagat for every meal.

Life can be so randomly beautiful, and it’s a lot easier to see if you let it unravel.  Don’t be afraid to remember more than you see.