I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Follow me as I try to balance "real life" with exploring the world, all while trying to conquer a wickedly ironic case of homesickness.



Many people miss Big Ben and the British Museum after their visits to London. But do you ever wonder what little things an Anglophiliac Yank misses about London when she closes her eyes?

The soft clunking of hundreds of feet climbing the stairs out of the Tube.

The way all the city noise simply disappears the moment you step into the park or down a quiet side street.

The creak of old water pipes inside old walls.

Mature onion and aged cheddar crisps.

The compulsion to whisper inside older buildings, like you’d be disturbing the edifice itself to speak any louder.

Pushing the light switch down to turn the light on and up to turn it off again.

The soft beep of the Oyster Card reader followed by the forceful clunk of the turnstile doors.

The eery silence of a nearly empty Tube platform.

“Fuh heah or takeaway?”

The coo of four million pigeons.

Taking the lift to the first floor.

Clouds in a thousand different grays moving with haste along the sky, as if they’re late to something.

"Look Right"

A solid line of red buses, nearly touching nose to bum.

The milky green-brown of the Thames churning and chopping its way down the river.

A building façade elegantly encrusted in hundreds of years of dirt and grime, lending a sense of something bigger than yourself.

Carefully avoiding puddles gently cradled in uneven cobblestone and brick alleyways, quietly reflecting the sky above.

Odd, small, square door handles that inevitably confuse every American.

“Next on BBC One...”

Red light. Red and yellow light. Green light. Cars pour into the roundabout like water.

Befuddlement at travel agencies that sell packages to Athens, Dubai, Moscow and Capetown as weekend destinations.

Topping up your mobile so you can ring your mate.

Four Bella Italias in a single block.

Half-gallons of milk.

Curiously inquiring what it is about a certain street performer that has caused his crowd to be four times bigger than the others.

The gradual increase and decrease in the volume of a busker as you pass him in an underground Tube walkway.

Emptying your wallet of coins and carefully counting them, determined that this time you won’t just give up and break yet another 20 pound note.

Yanking the handle of a bathroom light dangling on the end of the cord.

The squeak of the brakes on buses you can’t even see.

Catching yourself on a brightly painted rail as the Tube lurches forward.

The rhythmic chu-chunk of the Tube train on the tracks.

Simultaneously feeling a breeze and the sun on your face as you walk through the park.

Peeling off the round sticker on the back of a Pret sandwich.

Riding a crowded Tube escalator, holding on with your right hand, digging for your Oyster card with your left, feeling the escalator l-l-lurch just a little bit.

Picking up a random abandoned newspaper on an upholstered Tube seat.

Forcefully pushing down the odd little button toilet flusher.

That weighty Tube exhaust that hangs in the air. (Yes, I actually miss that smell.)

M&S cereal.

A right cuppa tea, absolutely anywhere you might want one.


"In Defense of Tourism"

I just read a brilliant article entitled "In Defense of Tourism" by Peter Jon Lindberg in the January '09 issue of Travel and Leisure. In it, he delves intelligently into a topic I've grumbled about several times in this blog: tourist is not a four-letter word.

"In the urge to legitimize, singularize, and privatize our travel experiences, we trade the proverbial hell of other people for the hell of trying in vain to avoid other people. That's a terribly cool way to travel, and when I say cool I mean chilly, and when I say chilly I mean obnoxious." The travel industry, millions of travel bloggers and people proud to live by the "Be a traveler, not a tourist" motto are so quick to point out how travel-naive Americans can be. Only 28% of us have passports, and that is a sad statistic. Yet, instead of encouraging the home-bound to venture beyond their own borders, this industry chooses instead to establish some sort of elitist caste system ruled by the most hardcore, multilingual, back-door, off-the-beaten-path travelers out there. And I just don't agree that anyone less than this isn't allowed to hold the title of a legitimate traveler. To steal a phrase from the article, "Doesn't every traveler start out as a tourist?"

Lindberg goes on to point out that as he slowly let go of this high and mighty belief and allowed himself to join a few groups with his fellow tourists, he began to realize that certain touristy spots became that way for a reason: they had something to offer. And there were indeed advantages as well as fabulous experiences to be had when allowing yourself to accept the amazing community that is made up of your fellow travelers. For example, tour guides frequently know more about the history of a place than the average local, which in turn gives more substance to your personal understanding of the place. Additionally, group travel is inclusive as opposed to exclusive. While traveling throughout Europe with someone from South Africa, you're gaining not only a friend for life, but a taste of a whole new part of the world through their eyes. When it comes down to it, tourists and travelers really are after the same thing in the long run.

Don't get me wrong; I completely understand the difference between experiencing the true identity of a location and "National Lampoon's European Vacation". I'm most certainly not condoning standing in a museum line for five hours at a time and asking way too loudly and in English why no one has hamburgers. Those people drive me crazy, too. But I am also easily fed up with someone that writes off an entire chapter of travel just because they consider it too touristy. Some of my most treasured travel memories were in the company of other tourists: feasting and dancing under the stars outside Rome with a group of fellow tourists and newly cherished friends from Australia; standing over the fogged-in city of Stirling while hearing the empassioned story of the Battle of Bannockburn from an incredibly proud and rather misty-eyed Scottish tour guide; running my fingers over some of the oldest prisoner graffiti inside a Venetian prison, that I most certainly would have missed if my guide hadn't pointed it out. These are experiences you simply can't put a price on.

As Lindberg offers, "Rather than resenting your compatriots for the audacity of choosing the same vacation spot as you, cynical travelers...can learn, or relearn, something from the wide-eyed 'tourist' - from the sense of wonder and unmitigated joy he brings to those...moments that all travelers, no matter how jaded, long for. This involves surrendering to the inherent awkwardness of being a stranger in a foreign land, yet somehow losing yourself - and your self consciousness - at the same time. It means letting go of the suspicion, letting down the defenses, and allowing for a genuine response, even if that response is simply, 'Wow.'"


Merry Christmas to all

Happy Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka
Glædelig Jul
Joyeux Noel
Nollaig Shona
Froehliche Weihnachten
Kala Christouyenna
Buon Natale
Meri Kirihimete
Feliz Natal
C Pождеством Xристовом
Feliz Navidad
Boze Narodzenie
Felix dies Nativitatis
Nadolig Llawen
Gesëende Kersfees
Vesele Vanoce
Vrolijk Kerstfeest
Nollaig Chridheil

Or wherever else in the world you might be,
I wish the Merriest Christmas
to you and yours!


Racking up the miles

The mile-accruing is well under way! And it's a good thing; we're facing a major change in our financial situation, so we're going to need to use all the possible clever ways to keep a-traveling that we can find.

After a few phone calls to Alaska Airlines, we've ironed out some issues and determined we have a combined total of 36,000 miles. And we should be earning 2,000 more every month. That is 24,000 a year plus whatever miles are actually flown. And since we're looking at the East Coast of the US and Europe, those earned flown miles should hopefully be significant, as well. Provided we can avoid overly restrictive red tape, that is!

So now that we have the earning confirmed, I have to learn the ins and outs of redeeming said mileage. Thank God for my travel agent!


Robin Larkins update

Robin Larkins with Real World Rental in London, still withholding my deposit that was contractually due to me nine months ago, may have managed to shut down one website shining light on his company's fraudulent activity, but there is now a new site being run by yet another person awaiting even more money than the one before.

You can click on the Robin Larkins tag on this blog to read bits and pieces of my experience, but this gentleman's story and details are far more telling of this scam than mine. Anyone considering Real World Rentals needs to read every word on that site before signing on any dotted line.

And to think Mr. Larkins became indignant and threatening when his shady business practices were referred to as "fraudulent".


My travel list just grew exponentially

I just found TripBase. Someone has actually created a site for those travelers who ask themselves, "Where to next?" At first I was skeptical, but when I entered my parameters into the search engine and it spit out every single city on my to-visit list, I became a believer. I foresee myself wasting a great deal of time on this site...

Then I visited this site and found a whole mess of spots I want to visit, if for nothing more than to stay in these amazing hotels.


Venice afloat

I'm certainly not one to say whether or not Venice is actually sinking. Some say yes, some say no. I wouldn't be surprised if it is simply experiencing the same cycles it always has. But just in case, I will admit I've made donations to restoration nonprofits like Save Venice. This is a city worth preserving.

Flooding is common to Venetians and shouldn't come as a surprise to winter visitors to the beautiful city on the water, and this season is no different. With flood levels higher than they've been in the last twenty years, my heart goes out to those residents and shop owners that have a big cleanup job ahead of them and those visitors finding themselves just a little stuck.

But on the flipside, I can't help but find the quiet water-filled piazzas and back alleys serenely beautiful.

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