I’m sitting here in London on day number 30-something of my 60 days of travel doing the most Americanly basic thing possible – profusely typing away on my MacBook Air at the corner Starbucks (Beats headphones ‘round my ears included). Before you start throwing balls of judgement too high, at least let me disclose that I had the decency to trade in my peppermint mocha for an English breakfast tea.
I do have a cultural traveller persona to maintain after all.
It’s just that laziness inevitably found me and searching for a place with above-average wifi that would let me work for a few hours felt the equivalent of a Herculean feat. So I condoned my choice by telling myself it had been a loooooooong 30 days on the road so one slip up was entirely admissible.
November was one of those months that seemed to stretch on For…Ev…Er. Albeit in one of those fantastically awesome ways where you have an epiphany along the lines of Holy s*** I did all that in 30 days? I must have supernatural powers just waiting to be untapped by some chemical spill or bite or whatever the cool kids are using to trigger special powers these days.
Until mapping out this post, I completely blanked on the fact that I spent the first 10 days of the month in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Flashbacks of sweat oh-so-unattractively dribbling down into body parts best left unmentioned mingled with recollections of frozen fingers and toes as I stood standing atop a mountain in Scotland just days later.
Then Thanksgiving memories appeared as I remembered finding myself alone at an “American Party” in London where Americans were noticeably absent. I charitably took the local Londoners I met under my wing and taught them how to have a proper Thanksgiving which pretty much revolved around deep fried turkey burgers and copious amounts of alcohol. The result was a sloppily-ended evening which left them yelling (87% incoherently) “Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever” – Score one for America.
But of all my experiences in November, there was just something about Scotland that had me thoroughly mesmerized. I was drawn back after visiting for the first time this past January and the pull continues to tug at my sleeve. So I’m doing something I never ever do – I’m making a promise. I hereby solemnly swear upon this blog that I will return to Scotland at least once a year. Then I’ll proceed to bore you with all the details.
Posts inspired by this most recent trip include:
- Day Hiking in the Scottish Lowlands – The Scottish Highlands may get all the attention but I personally love the more underrated area of the Lowlands. A place where you can find yourself alone atop a mountain with views of the Central Belt of Scotland below.
- The Towns of Stirling Scotland – Stirling is a region located in Central Scotland with a dense historical past that’s seen everything from Stone Age settlements to Scottish wars to established monarchies. The area holds a mix of old medieval villages, natural lochs and rivers, Renaissance architecture, and cobblestone streets that are all set in a landscape surrounded by rolling hills and valleys. This post is a guide to my favorite things to do and towns to visit in Stirling.
- 24 Hours in Edinburgh Without Any of the Sites – In only 24 hours, I knew I could never see all the famous sites in this alluring city. So I decided to not even try. The result was a day spent just ‘living’ in one of Europe’s most charming cities and following my every whim.
What’s Coming Up in December?
I managed to keep a relatively slow travel pace last month. However, that’s about to change in the upcoming weeks as I partake on shorter trips to both Italy and Hungary before heading back to the States for a brief 32 hours in NYC followed by a jaunt to the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Destination #1 – London, UK
It seems like I’ve been here forever right? Especially for those following me on Snapchat (notouristiswear) who watched my embarrassing first attempt at ice skating, saw my confusion over Christmas ‘crackers’ at high tea, and virtually explored the non-touristy side of the Thames with me as I wandered through the neighborhood of Richmond.
Well brace yourselves because I still have another 4 days in London and as Thanksgiving is officially over, I’m about to get full on Christmasy. I’m talking holiday markets, shopping on Oxford street, braving the crowds over at the light displays in Knightsbridge, and introducing eggnog to my British friends.
Two London posts are currently in the works so stayed tuned.
Destination #2 – Venice, Italy
Our relationship status is complicated at best.
You see, Italy was the first country I ever traveled too. I didn’t know the language; I was timid and wouldn’t explore without friends glued to my side; and I was on a college study abroad program so the only thing on my mind was wine and limoncello shots.
I’ll always have a deep appreciation for this trip as it was the catalyst for a life long love affair with travel that I’ll never recover from. Yet while I look back on that time with fond memories, I also look back with some regrets. I feel like I didn’t do the country justice. I traveled in large groups, only saw touristy sites and held no regard for the culture. Well, except for the local club and bar scene – which I excelled at getting to know.
Maybe that’s all an integral part of any travelers’ evolution process but I wish 19 year old Kristen knew what 28 year old Kristen now knows.
So Venice – in a way – is a chance at a redo. My blog is all about finding a deeper cultural meaning in travel and trying to see the world through the eyes of locals. As Venice is becoming an increasingly un-Venetian city, this may just be the biggest challenge of all. How do you find authentic culture in the most touristy place of them all?
I guess we’ll see next week.
Destination #3 – Budapest, Hungary
Budapest presents another interesting travel challenge this month. Not because of the fact that I’ve never been before or that I’ m s*** with languages (which I’m sure I’ll freak out over later) but rather because I’m partaking in a travel ritual I so rarely indulge in.
You see, this time I’m actually traveling with…..
For once I don’t have to pick accommodation, don’t have to study maps, don’t have to google Hungarian taxi scams, and don’t have to give any input over what to do or see.
The only problem is that, well…for once I don’t have to pick accommodation, don’t have to study maps, don’t have to google Hungarian taxi scams, and don’t have to give any input over what to do or see.
See my dilemma?
I’m literally the WORST at traveling with other people. I’m too independent. I like walking down sketchy alleyways trying to find the holiest hole-in-the-wall local bar there ever was. I like having no set agenda and not having to go on organized tours. I like eating street food and avoiding trendy restaurants tailor-made for tourists. I like sleeping in until noon knowing I can always come back if I don’t fit everything in.
For me, long term travel is a lifestyle. But for my friends? They’re just on a short vacation where they want to be pampered and escape the real world for a couple of days. They’re happy being on the cultural fringe and a small sample of something exotic is all they need. They’ll sit in a popular bathhouse, buy a souvenir at the market, snap a photo or two and go home happy.
And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone travels in their own way. It’s just that that’s not me. I like to be immersed in the culture and feel as if I’m wholly a part of it. I feel unsatisfied if I don’t come away with at least one tale of a crazy adventure with a local.
So this leg of my journey is going to be a test of my ability to compromise. It’ll be a lesson in letting go of control and realizing this trip isn’t about meeting new people. It’s about focusing on my relationship with my amazing friends and spending quality time with them. Albeit, in an incredibly cool new environment.
Besides, there’s a good chance adventure will find us anyway.
And if it doesn’t? Well, I did book my stay for one night longer than they did.
Hey, a girl’s gotta have a backup plan!
Destination #4 – Pensacola Beach, Florida, USA
Finally, it’s time for some R and R. After a quick turn-around in my rarely seen NYC apartment, (mainly to swap out dirty laundry for some much needed clean clothes) I’m headed to my hometown of Pensacola Beach to spend the holidays with my family and longtime childhood friends.
I’ll spend the week wandering along the beach, playing with my mom’s puppy, and going on self-made food crawls with my partner in crime who single-handedly makes sure I eat every local restaurant meal I crave when I’m away.
And of course there’s the main event of tracking Santa’s sleigh with the local weather team on Christmas Eve.
I then round out the year 2015 in the same place I started – New York City.
Blog News and Announcements
The Dec/Jan Issue of Coastal Lifestyle Magazine is now on stands throughout the Gulf Coast and the travel feature is written by none other than yours truly! I feel so incredibly honored and proud to be a part of this magazine. This is now my third travel feature for them and I’m looking forward to continuing to develop this wonderful relationship.
Phew! I’m exhausted just from writing down everything I’m about to get into this month. What about you? Fun holiday plans? Let me know in the comments below!
Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?
Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!