Tag: travel

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.

A Year of Adventuring: January

LifeMonthly UpdateOn Writing

I always make New Years resolutions – you can probably browse through my old blog posts and find a few posts about them. Normally they’re about writing or reading, but this year I’ve decided to do something different.

I spent 2016 experiencing new things. I moved to a new city, started a new job, met new people. I traveled everywhere (at least it feels like it). It was pretty perfect. So I want to carry that momentum into the new year. Just because I won’t be starting a new job or moving cities doesn’t mean that I can’t focus on trying new things and going new places. So this year, I’ve decided that I will go somewhere new every month. It doesn’t have to be big or crazy (like a new country), but it does have to be new.

When I explain this to people, they always think I’m a little crazy, or maybe just overzealous. Someone actually told me there couldn’t possibly be new things for me to do here in Boston. Well, after yesterday, I can confidently say that there are. I didn’t do anything amazing or extravagant, but I had a lot of fun and went to four (yes, four) places I’ve never been before.

1. Barre and Soul, Brookline

I’ve never been to a barre class before, mostly because I’m not a fan of paying $25 for a one-hour class. But my roommate introduced me to Classpass, so I’ve been able to take a lot of classes I couldn’t before. The barre class was amazing – not at all what I expected, which was probably for the better.  It was hard, and my legs were definitely shaking most of the time, but I didn’t feel the need to stop and give up. It was a successful experiment. 

2. Corey Hill Outlook

After barre, I decided to walk instead of taking the train home. It was in the high twenties, and windy, but the sun on my face felt warm so I enjoyed myself immensely. I stopped to grab a bagel and coffee and continued my walk when I stopped at the crosswalk at Summit Ave. It’s been on my list for a while to visit the outlook at the top of this street. People mention it as a great workout – run up the hill, look out over the city, do some push-up, run back. I had too much stuff with me to actually run, but the walk was enough of a workout, especially after barre. Luckily, the view was worth it. 

3. Coolidge Corner Theater

After living within a mile of this independent theater for a year, you’d think I’d have visited before. But no…. So when my roommates and I decided to go see La La Land yesterday, we made the choice to give our money to this cool, local place instead of the huge theater we normal frequent. That was a good choice on our part, not only because the movie was amazing, but because we were able to watch it in a place that captured the same old Hollywood charm as the movie.

4. GrubStreet

Technically, today wasn’t the first time I visited GrubStreet – it was the second. But I thought it was worth mentioning because I did visit it for the first time this month, and it was a big step for me, and will probably have a long term impact, unlike the others.

Sunday was a busy day, packed with lots of new, fun things. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend every day like that, it was a really great day that I’m hoping will set the tone for the rest of this year.

An Attitude of Adventure

LifeTravel

“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.

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

LifeThe Traveling FantasistTravel

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

LifeThe Traveling FantasistTravel

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

LifeThe Traveling FantasistTravel

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.

Why Re-Reading is Worth it

LifeReadingSchoolThe Traveling FantasistTravel

“Harry had never been to London before.”

One of my study abroad courses is called “Harry Potter and the English Fantasy Tradition.” Most of the people I tell this either don’t believe me, or think that it’s a thinly veiled excuse to read Harry Potter and pretend I’m taking a class.

The truth is, I can’t think of anything more fitting to read before studying abroad in the UK, despite the fact that I can’t possibly count the number of times I’ve read Harry Potter – it must be a couple dozen at the least. Yet I decided that, in the midst of packing and moving and working and writing, I was going to read the entire series.

Today, just a week and a half before I leave, I was finally able to sit down with the Sorcerer’s Stone. I had almost gotten to the point of convincing myself that I didn’t need to re-read the series, that I would be able to write and discuss Harry Potter because it’s such an intrinsic part of me. But I was wrong. By thinking that, I overlooked the reason why I’ve read Harry Potter so many times in the first place: the magic of re-reading. I forgot that the reason I love books so much is because you find something new every time.

Go back to the quote at the top of this post. You probably glossed over it, just like I did every time I read this book before. But today, as my eyes scanned down page 67 of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, that line caught my eye. Like me, “Harry had never been to London before.” And as I read the next few pages of Harry seeing the normal slowly change to the magical, I became excited to experience that myself. And I truly hope that I can enjoy just a little bit of Harry’s childish wonder as my eyes are opened to the newness of the people and culture that will surround me in just two short weeks.

Diverging Roads & Solo Travels

LifeThe Traveling FantasistTravel

During one of our long weekends in Oxford, a group of us have decided to make the trek to Paris. I was ecstatic when I found people who were just as interested as I was in exploring the city I fell in love with four years ago.

But as we were planning, I realized that our plans didn’t necessarily match up. One girl wanted to book a hotel room that was $300 a night. Another girl bought $60 tickets to skip the line and go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. And everyone eagerly bought advance tickets for the Louvre.

And I decided not to do any of those things.

I’m calling it an executive decision. A decision to to stay where I want, with who I want. A decision not to spend my time in the beautiful city that is Paris retracing my steps from four years ago. A decision to explore, experience, and live Paris the way I want to.

Instead of spending precious hours and money on a view that doesn’t even include the most beautiful part of the city, I’ll picnic with bread, cheese, and wine at the base of the tower. Instead of braving crowds of tourists to see paintings I’ve already seen (as iconic as they may be), I’ll discover a local cafe with a view.

It’s a little scary to make the decision, but I’ve done it. After all, I’m the executive in my life, so I should make the decisions, despite what anyone else says. The decision to diverge from the group is a decision to put myself above others for once and truly enjoy my time in the city I love.

And I feel the need to clarify that I’m not leaving the group. There are plenty of things that we’ve planned to do together. However, there are a few things that I’ve planned not to do, and I’ve talked to a few other people who have decided to do the same.

The Universal Experience of Writing

LifeOn WritingThe Traveling FantasistTravel

Writing is such an integral part of our society that it’s hard to imagine civilizations existed without it. Writing is a tangible method of communication, one that withstands the test of time and space – writing is universal.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I prepare to travel. There are so many unknowns that sometimes it seems like I’m heading to a new world, instead of just flying across an ocean. 

So as I prepare myself to live and thrive in Oxford, I know that there is always one thing I can lean back on: writing. 

No matter where I am, I’ll be able to write. It’s a universal experience I can carry with me anywhere. Even if I were going to a place where no one spoke English, I’d be able to take solace in the fact that I was still able to create something concrete and universal through writing. 

But the fact that Oxford is a place of inspiration for so many incredible writers is a bonus – I’m hoping that experience is universal, that the natural beauty of my surroundings will take me into the minds of the greats who also wrote there. 

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