Category: Travel

A Year of Adventuring: April through August

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As usual, I’ve gotten behind on blogging. The good news is that I have been keeping up with my resolution to visit new places, so I can still report on my results here (in a very shortened form, of course). So, without further ado, here’s five months of travel updates:

April

April was one of those crazy months that just flew by. Luckily I had a trip planned at the end of the month that I was really looking forward too, so it didn’t bother me too much! I spent April in the thick of my GrubStreet course, Master Novel in Progress. It was an incredibly intensive workshop, but it went really well and definitely deserves its own post (soon, I promise).

I visited a friend in London, which was a really amazing trip. I took an overnight flight Wednesday and came home Sunday (I know, everyone has been telling me how crazy I am). We went down to St. Ives, which is on the southern coast of England, and spent the weekend on the coast. We went to the beach, did some hiking, ate a ton of fish and chips, and drank some beer. It was pretty perfect, and honestly more relaxing and enjoyable than hanging out in London would have been. And I got my yearly fill of train rides and tea and scones (with clotted cream!), so that’s pretty much all I needed.

May

In May, I did a lot of things around Boston, since I knew that I was going to be traveling a lot over the summer. One cool thing is that I went to my first Red Sox game! To be honest, it was a slightly miserable experience, since it was cold and rainy, but I’ve since gone to games that were much more enjoyable, so it all kind of evens out in my head. I also visited Hammond Castle, a medieval-style castle on the North Shore of Massachusetts. It was interesting and a lot of fun, so I highly recommend it (also, Gloucester has beautiful beaches too, so you can make a day trip of it).

June

In June, I went camping with a few of my very best friends. It was amazing. We camped in Watkins Glen State Park, did some hiking, and then spent an absolutely perfect afternoon driving up and down the lake to different wineries.

I also made it up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for the first time. A friend and I went to the New England Brewfest, which is in Lincoln, NH, and decided to get some hiking in. It made for a really awesome day, and I really can’t wait to do it again next year!

July

At the end of July I took a trip to Colorado to visit some friends. I’d been before, mostly to Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, but it was winter then and we honestly didn’t do much other than sit inside, watch movies, and drink tea. This time I got to visit Denver, Boulder, and Estes Park! The weather was really nice (well, hot) most of the time I was there, so we also did some hiking too. Of course, when you’re visiting old friends you realize that what you do is less important than the fact that you’re together.

August

August was a pretty awesome month in terms of travels. I didn’t leave New England, but I went to a lot

of new places. I did a bunch of hiking, which allowed me to explore New Hampshire a bit more. I also took a ferry to Provincetown. I’d been to Cape Cod before, but Provincetown has an atmosphere that’s completely different from anywhere else I’ve ever been, so it was pretty awesome.

But probably the most exciting traveling I got to do in August was staying in a tiny house on Birch Island, off the coast of Brunswick, Maine. We did pretty much everything you can do on a tiny island: making s’mores, hiking, kayaking, hammocking–you name it, we did it.

 

A Year of Adventuring: March

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March was an exciting month. I presented at my first conference, ebookcraft, which was in Toronto. I’d never been to Toronto before, so that was a completely new adventure in itself!

As the months go by, I find myself feeling extremely lucky that I have a job where I’m supported and encouraged to do things like travel to conferences and share my experience. (Mostly because I’ve never really thought that I had anything worth sharing.) But just as in my travels, I find that the more I go places and talk, the more I realize how important it is to me. I love talking to people and . There’s a simple humanness to learning from each other that makes the hours of preparation and nerves worth it.

Now, the exciting part: Toronto!

I’ve been to Canada before, briefly, to visit Niagara Falls, but I really consider this my first Canadian experience. Something about exploring the city on foot makes it a completely new experience, and I’m thankful that I had the chance to spend some time in Toronto after the conference was done. I learned a lot about myself, as usual, and also about my boyfriend, who I was traveling with. For example, he loves trains. I know this because we spent many hours in a railroad museum while he drove the train simulator. We also took a tour of a local brewery (Steam Whistle Brewing) and saw The Book of Mormon, which was hilarious.

Mostly it was a welcoming and relaxing vacation, not too planned or hurried. I’ll admit I often try to pack too much into my short travels (as you’ll see in my entry for April), but this was pretty perfect.

A Year of Adventuring: February

LifeMonthly UpdateTravel

February always feels much shorter than it actually is, and as usual, this year it passed in the blink of an eye. Despite that, I still managed to pack in a ton of stuff–birthday celebrations, phone calls with old friends, conferences, and weekend trips. February was an exciting month.

Keeping up with my New Years resolution, this month I visited two new places: Washington, D.C. and Vermont!

My trip to D.C. was short and sweet–I spent about 24 hours in the city for a day-long conference, but also managed to squeeze in some sightseeing and dinner with one of my best friends. (Note the picture of me grinning way too hard at the Lincoln Memorial at 6 am.)

Vermont was super exciting, partly because I’ve been wanting to visit Vermont forever (and it’s so close, you’d think I would have by now), but also because I got to go skiing for the first time! The trip itself was fun, though really weird, in a sitcom kind of way, and skiing was really the highlight. I won’t talk too much about what happened (spoiler alert: I fell a lot), but I did manage to make one run without falling, so I’m considering the entire thing a success.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this New England thing. (Though, to be honest, I stayed inside all day yesterday because the windchill was in the negative and I’m really just not into that.) Things have been a little crazy, particularly with writing (more on that soon) and work, but I’m figuring out the balance of everything and starting to realize just how excited I am for this year.

An Attitude of Adventure

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“You’re moving all the way to Boston?”

It’s the first thing people say, but it’s often followed by something else.

“It’s cold there.”

“I hope you’re ready for the snow.”

“Boston’s expensive!”

And they’re right, Boston is full of things I’m unfamiliar with, from the cold to Dunkin’ Donuts. But rather than see those as things that may prevent me from enjoying the city and my life there, I’ve chosen to see it all as an adventure.

I have lived my entire life in Texas, and I love it. But I also love to travel, meet new people, and explore new places. And because of that, I’ve learned to take the time and the effort to make other places feel like home as well. Sometimes it happens quickly, which is great, but other times it’s harder. I know that it will take time to get used to Boston and its weather (though the unseasonably mild weather is helping with that), and it will probably take a while to make some new friends as well. But it will happen eventually.

So no matter how hard it is, I’ve chosen to see every change as a new adventure. While it can be a challenge sometimes – especially when you’re sitting in your apartment thinking about how you don’t know anyone in this city – it’s also ridiculously worth it to appreciate the adventure of everyday life.

Writing Abroad

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Writing is something you have to make time for. I know this. What I didn’t know is how easy it is to make time for writing when you’re doing things like homework and laundry all the time…it’s much harder to make time in between traveling, eating out, and sightseeing.

IMG_3430During the five weeks I was in Oxford, I journaled every day. I made a conscious decision to do this, and it often involved writing late at night or on bumpy trains and buses. And I did this because I knew that otherwise, I wasn’t going to write everyday. The material was there, but honestly there wasn’t always time.

There were a few (amazing) moments when I was able to just sit down and write in the middle of a beautiful or inspiring location, and I doubt that the work produced then could ever be rivaled. But, when I wasn’t able to do that, I was glad that at least I would have my journal to look back on. It contains my thoughts, feelings, and a very subjective account of the days’ events.

writing in holyrood park

The one productive thing I did was buy a notebook with the intention of only writing stories in it. Stories based on places, situations – things I had experienced during my travels. It was a challenge, but definitely a fun one. I’ve written in it a few times since I’ve gotten home, but my best experience with it was a lovely writing-filled day in Edinburgh.

A few of us passed up the offers to go sightseeing, instead deciding to spend our time enjoying nature’s inspiration. We hiked in Holyrood Park and then sat for about an hour, just taking in the beautiful sights and writing. One of my friends even pulled out watercolors and painted the scene in front of us. It really was a testament to just how easy it is to be creative when you have so much material to work with, and I’m looking forward to seeing how inspired I can be when I have just my journal and memories to take me back to those amazing places.

 

 

Harry Potter Pilgrimage

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I have to say, there’s no better trip for Harry Potter fan than the one I just took (and I mean this in the most objective way possible). In the past five weeks, I’ve eaten breakfast and dinner in the Great Hall at Christ Church (the Inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall), stumbled across rooms and buildings used in the movies, written in the same place J.K. Rowling wrote most of the early books, and taken the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I’ve also spent a few hours a week taking a class where we do nothing but discuss Harry Potter (and sometimes we watch Potter Puppet Pals). 

It’s pretty amazing. As a Harry Potter fan, there’s not much better than getting to experience the things that are shown in the books and movies. And as a writer, it’s inspiring to see where Rowling wrote and where she got some of her ideas. 

Though every day was pretty much full of Harry Potter experiences, I have to say that there are some that stand out.

  
Stumbling Across the Hospital Wing

Normally finding yourself in a hospotal wing wouldn’t be a good thing. But when a few of us made our way inside the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library, we were ecstatic. We knew that some parts of the movie had been filmed in the area, but we had only gone inside to get some warm drinks during the intermission of Much Ado About Nothing and were therefore completely surprised. 

  Visiting Platform 9 3/4

Okay, so it’s no longer located between platforms 9 and 10, but that doesn’t keep the staff at Kings Cross from catering wholeheartedly to Harry Potter fans – including a designated scarf thrower to make your picture look super authentic. 

  Writing in The Elephant House

The Elephant House is one of the cafes where J.K. Rowling spent much of her time. During our visit to Edinburgh, a few of us took a few hours out of our sightseeing to just drink coffee, sit, and write where she wrote. Though it may not sound like it, this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the entire trip.

  

Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour

This was definitely the highlight of the trip. I will admit to tearing up a few times as I experienced the magic behind one of the most important literary experiences in my life. The best part was the model of Hogwarts that was used for fly-by shots in the movies. It was huge, at least twice my height, and its sheer grandness along with the music and lighting made for one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. 

  

Appreciating Oxford

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Sometimes, when you’re frantically trying to write papers or study for tests, it’s easy to forget that you’re in another country. It’s something I’ve had to remind myself of many times over the past four weeks, when I’ve realized I’m becoming complacent or am complaining about what I’m doing. 

While I do care about my grades, I have to say that making the most of this fleeting experience is even more important. So instead of holing up in our rooms to work, we’ve been exploring different cafes. Instead of staying inside and reading, we’ve taken our blankets out into the meadow and soaked in the beautiful scenery. 

It’s even harder when we return from amazing weekend trips. The thought of staying in Paris or Edinburgh for the rest of our time is incredibly appealing, but there’s no denying that after all this time, Oxford feels like home. 

Learning to appreciate where you live changes your outlook on life. 

There are plenty of bad things I could say about Oxford, if I thought hard enough. But they are so outweighed by the good that they honestly aren’t even worth mentioning. I could tell you about the annoying hordes of tourists, but then I’d have to say that you can easily escape them by renting a boat and going punting, or by taking a nice long walk along the Thames. 

  I could tell you that all the shops and restaurants close way too early, but that would remind me that this is the only reason you’ll end up running into everyone you know at the same ice cream shop. 

  
No city is perfect, but it only takes a little bit of work to find things that make it feel perfect. This is something I hope that I can bring back with me to Waco, and wherever I end up living after graduation. For now, though, I’ll focus on taking in Oxford.  

  

Cliffs of Dover

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Yesterday my roommate and I were talking about the limited amount of time we have left in Oxford, and since we don’t have class on Wednesdays, decided to plan a day trip to Dover. 

Since we have first class BritRail passes, the trip really isn’t costing us anything, and we knew it would be worth it. So we gathered our group (five adventurous travelers) and set off for the Oxford train station early this morning. (I’ll spare you the minute details of the train trip, because we’re kind of beginning to panic about work at this point and spent the whole time writing papers.)

It is interesting to note, though, that two very odd but completely unrelated things happened on our journey this morning. First, a fight broke out while we were on the tube, which consisted of the comedic scene of two men chasing each other through the cars, followed by a priest. Second, the train ahead of us derailed because it hit a herd of cows, destroying the section of track and a nearby bridge (apparently the bridge destruction was due to the cows and not the train). 

The good thing is that the fight delayed our tube, which made us miss our train by just a few minutes, preventing us from being on the train that derailed (no one was hurt, by the way, except for some cows).

Anyway, once we finally made it to Dover, we were escorted by a friendly passerby to the cliffs (she overheard us talking about how we had no clue where we were going). She walked us along the beach, then through the port, and finally to the bottom of the steps that led up to the cliffs.  

By the time we finally made it there, we had less than three hours for our walk (we wanted to be back at Christ Church for dinner at 7:15). 

Somehow we experienced everything in those three hours. 

We saw wild horses, took paths so steep we thought we might just slide down them, and enjoyed the beautiful view of the cliffs, the channel, and the hints of France across it.

 
   
I am a little ashamed to say that the horses were better at taking those steep paths than we were. They managed them calmly, while we had to take running starts and launch ourselves towards the top, watching every calculated footstep. But it was so much fun. By the end of it, our calves and thighs were burning, but we’d done what we’d come to do. 

(And then we basically ran back across town to get to the train station on time.)

The cliffs were utterly stunning. Even now as I write this, the image of the jagged chalk-white drop off heading down into the clear blue water is still seared into my mind. I can still feel the smile that came to my face when we discovered a particularly beautiful view, and happiness we gained from just spending time together in nature. 

It was a day well spent. 

    

For the love of Paris

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Today I finally made it to Paris. It’s been almost exactly four years since I’ve been here, and I’ve spent most of those four years dreaming about coming back. 

I spent the day just wandering around and enjoying the city, getting familiar with the metro, and scoping out places I’d like to return to. (I walked 9 miles today, and since about 5 hours of the day was spent on trains, I think that’s pretty impressive.)  I didn’t do anything particularly exciting or special, but it was an amazing day. 

I know many people who don’t enjoy Paris and don’t understand why people get so excited to go there. I’m not going to try to dispute any of their reasons – because I don’t think I’ll be able to – but I will explain why I love the city and why it means so much to me. 

Paris is a city of learning

Not only is the city filled with history and museums, it has one of the most worldly cultures I’ve ever experienced. Everywhere you go are people who speak different languages than you (especially if you don’t speak French) and it requires adapting and is endlessly interesting. 

Paris was my first experience abroad

This was the city that first introduced me to international travel, and it’s entirely possible that’s why it holds such a special place in my heart. I made memories here that will never be replaced, and that leaves an impression. 

Paris makes me happy

I believe that you should never ignore something that makes you happy. Something about being in Paris and just experiencing the city makes me completely giddy, and I have accepted that. 

I don’t know if other people feel this way about Paris (or other cities), but I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend the rest of my life longing to fully experience this city – three days will never be enough. 

my first time seeing the eiffel tower at night!

The Lake District: A 24-hour Adventure

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This weekend was an adventure. In addition to figuring out how to make a five hour trip up to the Lake District (it included three different trains and a bus), we went on two different hikes and visited William Wordsworth’s home – all within about 24 hours.

We left Oxford at 9:30 Saturday morning, and made it to Grasmere, a small town in the center of the Lake District, around 3. We dropped our bags off at the hotel (an adorable house with a garden, sheep, and great views of the mountains) and then asked around for directions to a good path to hike. Despite the directions, we ended up getting lost trying to get to Loughrigg Fell. So when we did finally come across a path (which probably was not the one we wanted, I’ll admit), we decided to just take it.

We ended up venturing into the hills, though we didn’t go too far because it was rainy, a little cold, and pretty muddy. Still, we got a great view from the top of the hill and enjoyed the physical activity and breathing in the cool mountain air.

After our hike we showered off and grabbed dinner at a pub (which was pretty much the only thing open at that time). I had my first Yorkshire pudding, which was good but not anything like pudding (those silly British…). We went to bed early that night – we had planned to hike again in the morning and wanted to be prepared.

After breakfast in the hotel, we set off on our adventure. This time we were better prepared – we bought a small card of directions for a hike someone recommended we take. Around 10:30, we headed up to Easedale Tarn.01bb8e670e851123a5f986371c12cb0351343413f0 First, let me say that before this trip I would not have considered myself a hiker – an adventurer, maybe, but never a hiker. But I have to say that it’s this hike that changed my mind.

Even with the directions, we really didn’t know where we were going. Occasionally we saw signs that told us we were going in the right direction, but mostly we just followed the path. Even before we started up the mountain, the view was beautiful. We made our way across the rolling hills tucked into the valleys of the towering mountains. We climbed past rivers and waterfalls and hopped on rocks to keep from getting wet. And then finally we made it to the top (after saying “I think this is it” about five or six times).

Easedale Tarn is a small lake (basically), nestled in the top of Easedale Crag (don’t worry, I also have no clue what those words mean…). Supposedly it was created by a glacier melting, and the water that runs down from it creates the waterfalls we could see all down the mountains.

01c1cecc1506545d1b2e685ceae42d7cdb5923726cIt was breathtaking. When the tarn finally came into view, we all paused and took in the sparkling blue water pooled in between the green peaks. The water looked clear and calm before it bubbled over the rocks and began to pour down the mountain. After spending plenty of time posing for pictures and just taking in the scenery, we decided that the quickest way to get back down was to cross the water. There were rocks all the way across, so we just rolled up our pants and took the plunge. The water, though not very strong, was freezing, and came up past our ankles. But it was clear enough that we could see the rocks we needed to step on and everyone made it across safe and sound!

The way back down was just as pretty, and a little bit easier since we were headed down the mountain and not up. We were in a little bit of a hurry, though, since we were starving and wanted to grab lunch before heading to Dove Cottage (Wordsworth’s house).

By the time we made it back to Grasmere, it was about 1:30. We had planned to start the train journey home around 3, but we knew that we needed to go to Dove Cottage or we would regret it. So we decided that instead of missing something we might later regret, we would just take a later train. Of course, then we missed the train we wanted to take and ended up having to wait an hour, but that’s not the point.

The point is that this weekend was a great example of taking advantage of every moment, and choosing to do the things that you know will make you happy.

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