Monday Check-in (Jan 16th, ’17)

Monday Check-in (Jan 16th, ’17)

As January tends to make us feel like we need new challenges and new goals, I’ve decided to start a check-in of sorts every other week. This idea is not my own, as I was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Monica of The Travel Hack, who post Weekend Reads on Fridays.

For me, I like the idea of gathering my thoughts over the weekend and sharing them with you on Mondays. As a part-time blogger, this works well for me and hopefully will be nice for you to be able to get home after the first day of the work week and relax while catching up with me, A Wanderlust For Life, and other interesting blog articles from others.

Let’s see how this goes!


Lennon Wall


Looking back

The first two weeks of the year have gone super fast. We’re making big decisions and planning for changes throughout the year–personally and with this blog. Everything we are doing in life we hope to ramp up in 2017 in a few different ways. More on that to come!

Getting thoughts and ideas organized is oh-so-important, especially when taking on more to-dos and making changes. As someone who loves lists (who doesn’t?) and someone who gets crazy anxious when there’s too much to do and no system in place, I’m getting my stuff together.

Personally, I use Wunderlist which is on my phone and my computer. It has my blog ideas, video ideas, wish lists of places and things all with notes so when I go to write, I have a starting point. It also has my grocery list 🙂 I love it and use it all.the.time.

In addition, for the larger stuff with the website, brands, travel, social media, I’ve just started to use OneNote (the free app). I love how sections are divided, but am not certain how it will work long term.

As far as all the systems I use, maybe I’ll write a post on that later…but that’s just blogger stuff and I mainly write for those expats in Europe who want to travel around Europe (and those who want to :). Not just bloggers. But if you’re super curious, tell me and I’m happy to put something together for you!

This past weekend we went to the Vakantie Beurs which is like a mini-World Travel Market, but in Utrecht. This cute city is just outside Amsterdam and has a convention center that holds some really cool events. For this event, countries and regions from around the world were represented and showcased to the Dutch market.

Our feet and legs are tired, but we came away with great travel ideas and contacts of people who work with bloggers. We connect with these people so we can get the most out of our travels and show you awesome places and experiences around Europe.


Sunrise from the plane


Looking ahead

Planning ahead is what keeps us motivated. There’s ALWAYS something to look forward to. Last year we did 14 trips in 12 months because of the #take12trips challenge which we are crazy proud of. This year we want to do the same, but with a few uncertainties in the first couple months of the year, we haven’t done much planning.

We are going somewhere awesome in March. Can’t say where yet because it’s a surprise for Sean–who edits all my posts 😉 We have started a fun tradition where each year one of us plans a surprise anniversary trip for the other and we alternate years. This is my year and I’m so excited because I know he’ll love it!

I hate this…so much I WANT to tell you, but I just can’t yet. But you know what? Even though the next few months are going to be a bit crazy on our side, it sure beats a routine of boring. We fought so hard to leave boring behind and I think we’ve done a good job.


In case you missed it

Take 12 Trips Challenge...are you up for it?

Prague at Christma

Interesting reads

Loving this post by Sophie about how life in Paris when living there is different than the fantasy

These spots with incredible views found by Danielle of Lisbon, Portugal will have you thinking, “Stop being so perfect all the time, Lisbon!” Or not, and be super appreciate.

As a couple who is horrible at getting great pictures of ourselves (usually resorting to selfies), this is an insanely helpful post from Renee on getting great couple-y photos.


Catch me on Snapchat


Have a GREAT week!

Our Christmas in Prague

Our Christmas in Prague

One of the best things about being an expat in Europe this time of year is that there are so many Christmas markets right at our fingertips! We’ve done the German thing a couple times in Cologne and Hannover, which were amazing. People refer to “German Christmas Markets” most of the time for a reason, because they set the bar high. But there are so many places in Europe that simply rock at Christmas, so how do you choose which one to visit?


Prague at Christmas


For Christmas this year, I wanted to be somewhere dreamy. Honestly, I’m a romantic, so I wanted to feel like I was in an old timey Christmas movie in a big poofy dress. I wanted to be somewhere everyone loves who has traveled there. And I wanted to be somewhere that isn’t insanely expensive.  I figured if we found a place that met all those requirements, we couldn’t go wrong. 

That’s how we ended up in Prague in the Czech Republic. Oh the city of spires. It’s skyline is unlike anywhere else. And it has famous Christmas markets!


Prague at Christmas


The thing is…we didn’t just do Christmas markets in Prague, we spent Christmas in Prague! This is the first we have traveled for Christmas, and quite frankly I didn’t know how it would go. Wrapping a holiday into travel was unknown to us. I mean…is it a holiday or vacation?  Are you taking in all that you can? It shouldn’t be this hard!


What Christmas is like in Prague

Prague at Christmas


What do you do? Are things open? Is public transit running? Can I get dinner reservations?

Prague is a great place to spend Christmas! Both Christmas day and the season leading up to it there is a great vibe everywhere with beautiful decorations and twinkling lights and of course massive Christmas trees. They have their fair share of Christmas markets, as well. The main one is in the Old Town Square but we loved the one in the Prague Castle too! It’s in the shadow of the Saint Vitus Cathedral, which is definitely worth going into for its amazing stained glass.


Cathedral in Prague Castle


To answer the questions we had: most things are open until sometime on Christmas Eve, many regular stores shut down for Christmas Day and the day after Christmas (Second Christmas or Boxing Day depending on what you called it!). The Christmas markets are actually open on Christmas day, but they closed early on Christmas Eve.

Public transit does keep running, maybe a bit slower, but it’s there. However, Prague is a very walkable city. Stay on either side of the river and you can easily mosey around to the main attractions and sights. It’s worth the walk just to take it all in.

Dinner reservations are a MUST! Trust me on this one. We found a website that kept track of all the restaurants that were open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, what the menu was, and even took reservations. We used this service to make reservations. Unfortunately, both places we went to did not have our reservation. That was super disappointing, but I showed my confirmation and they kindly made room for us. So, if you find such a website, use it for the information, but make your own reservations directly with the restaurant. Lesson learned!

For all other meals, we mostly it Yelped everything or snacked at the markets. There is plenty of food at the markets! My favorite is a round pastry rolled in cinnamon sugar. It’s seriously drool-worthy. But if you like a bit more substantial food, the Prague ham is super tasty too. Here are just a couple foods we saw.


Ham over a fire at the Wenceslas Square Christmas market

Ham over a fire at the Wenceslas Square Christmas market




Food Tour

Before we arrived, I booked a food tour for our first day. You know we love our food tours! We do them everywhere. From London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Barcelona. It’s a must for us.

Duck with potato dumpling on Christmas food tour in Prague

Duck with potato dumpling

But this wasn’t any food tour. Nope. It was Christmas themed. Seemed like the right thing to do! We ate traditional Christmas dishes while learning about local culture around the holidays. It involved meaty dishes, tasty drinks (some alcoholic), and of course a sweet finish. I had never tried much of what we ate and drank which is one of the reasons I love these kinds of tours.

Christmas cookies in Prague

Traditional Czech Christmas cookies including one made with rum!

Czech beer

Our guide was Leona from Prague Food Tour, and as a Czech she was able to tell us the real story behind everything in Prague, the culture, and the food.  Our group was super small with only three of us plus Leona!

Old Town Hall and The Tower

Prague at Christmas

We were lucky enough to grab a spot on the Old Town Hall tour and go up in the tower. Sounds super boring, right? Why would you tour the Old Town Hall?

There are so many reasons…like history, cool spaces, and going underground. Best to show you, I think.


Old underground passages under the Old Town Hall in Prague

Weapons stored under the Old Town Hall


Going up in the Old City Hall Tower is a MUST. Don’t miss it or you’ll be upset with yourself. The view is incredible. Sadly we weren’t up there in the daylight which I’ve seen photos of and are amazing, but with the Christmas market right below, I wasn’t complaining.

Old Town Square Christmas Market

Concert in a Palace

We wanted Christmas 2016 to be the most Christmas-y Christmas ever. To that end, I booked us a concert in a palace. It was the Mozart Orchestra Prague and we got to listen to a string ensemble play heavenly Christmas music in the Clam-Gallas Palace. The acoustics were incredible. The room was breathtaking. And the music was perfect for the time of year. So glad I got that itch for a concert! It’s really made us want to attend more concerts and other performance art.


Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

Wenceslas Square on Christmas Day

Everything stops early on Christmas Eve so we missed out on one of the neighborhood Christmas market we wanted to visit in Namesti Miru. By the time we headed back to the main area of the city, the others were closing too. It’s like the world was conspiring to slow us down “Ok, force me to relax!”.

It had been days of long walks! Crazily enough, we had friends staying in the hotel across the street from us so we had planned to have Christmas Eve dinner together at Kolkovna Celnice Pub & Restaurant. It was delicious and the portions were quite generous. And get this…four entrees and multiple drinks and the bill was about 60 euros. Not per person, but TOTAL. Gotta love eating out in the Czech Republic!

Christmas day consisted of sleeping in and hanging out until we were hungry for lunch. We were excited the markets were back open so we pigged out on some ham and other snacks while sipping some hot mead (honey wine). Even though it’s not super traditional, we had a reservation at an Italian spot in town. Christmas or not, it was good Italian food. Definitely check out Corto Pizza & Pasta Restaurant if you’re in the mood for it in Prague.


Did it feel like Christmas?

Prague at Christmas


Prague was great. Exploring the city, the castle, the markets and more, was a nice experience. Yes, Prague was magical at Christmas and we can’t wait to get back when it’s warmer, but I’m just not sure if I want to travel over the Christmas holiday again.  Part of this is because we had a very specific Christmas routine in the U.S. with family.  This is our third Christmas abroad and I was a bit disappointed.  Our tiny tree with ornaments collected from our travels wasn’t with us, we didn’t have any Christmas movies to watch, and we weren’t home…where we are comfortable. A hotel room just didn’t do it for me. 

Do you travel this time of year? What makes it feel like Christmas for you? Do you love it? I really want to hear your stories!


Sean & Jessica in the Prague Castle on Christmas Eve


Pin for next Christmas!

Christmas in Prague can be magical. We take you through our experience of being in Prague at Christmas time.


Want lots more practical info on Prague? The Rick Steves Pocket Prague book is worth checking out for lots of local tips!

One year later…The #Take12Trips Challenge

One year later…The #Take12Trips Challenge

2015 was our first full year in Amsterdam.  We traveled a bit, but not nearly as much as we hoped considering travel was one of the main reasons we moved to Europe.  We were still getting used to living in Europe, and while we knew we wanted to travel more, we had to get our feed under us first.  I first saw the #take12trips challenge on The Travel Hack and was truly inspired, and I think she was inspired by the original author on Need Another Holiday back in 2013.  Wherever it came from, it seemed like a great idea if we wanted to keep exploring Europe.  

Then came 2016 and we made our resolution, our goal, our challenge: We would take 12 trips throughout the year. It was unclear exactly how we’d do it or where we’d go, but we made it our number 1 priority.   #take12trips – Challenge Accepted!


Did we make it?!

Sean and Jessica in Italy 2016


Luckily we are given 26 vacation days each year which definitely helped with planning longer trips, but we also decided we would need to take single-day and weekend trips as well. It was a great mix! On the shorter trips we learned whether or not we wanted to go back to that destination (or just needed a Parisian fix), then on the longer trips we tried to live like locals and explored a bit more. All in all, we took 23 flights, 12 train trips, and spent 76 days traveling…and we did it!  Even we were surprised at how many trips we actually took because it was more than just 12!

Because we did about one trip a month, we’ll review the year in the easy way…month-by-month!


January (5 days) | Berlin, Germany



For a while, it seemed Berlin was all I kept hearing about. People loved it. Some even moved there because they loved it so much. I’m not sure that going in January was the best way for me to get a feel for the city because I just didn’t see what everyone saw in it. But I’ll give it another shot…in a warmer month! We did make a video of our trip where we experience some really emotional places in Berlin.


February (1 day) | The Hague, the Netherlands

The Hague - De Passage


This was our first day trip of the year! We decided to visit The Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands. But we were determined to not do all the political stuff, instead we wanted to see the beach, some art, and even a great view! What surprised us most was some of the streets in the old town…they felt a bit like Paris! Our video shows a different side of The Hague away from the embassies and politics.


March (11 days) | Amalfi Coast, Italy

Amalfi Coast, Italy


We spent our anniversary on the Amalfi Coast in Italy! It was a surprise trip from Sean and I certainly wasn’t disappointed! We stayed in Sorrento for a few days and even hung out on the island of Ischia. It’s a little-known island in the Bay of Naples where Italians like to holiday. Of course we squeezed in a trip to Capri and went to visit Pompeii while we were in the area. I can’t wait to go back to Italy!


April (3 days + 2 days) | Paris, France & Giethoorn, the Netherlands

Paris Bridge


In April, we got a visit from Sean’s mom! Because it was cheaper for her to fly into Paris, we figured we would take the opportunity to meet her there and have a weekend away. I mean, it’s Paris. We’ll take any excuse to go! Who am I kidding? I don’t need an excuse! We got to show her some touristy places for her first time in Europe and we enjoyed seeing Paris a little differently than we did the last time around.


giethoorn house


At the end of the month we really wanted to see Giethoorn in the springtime. It’s a tiny town with an idyllic section of walking and bike paths along small canals. Postcard-perfect is the best way to describe it! The trees weren’t in bloom yet, so I’d recommend late May for a visit, but it was still a beautiful place to stroll and take a boat tour.


May (9 days) | Barcelona, Spain + Mediterranean Cruise

Cannes, France


Barcelona seems to be on everyone’s list! The promise of sunshine, great food and wine, and fun is enough to entice anyone. Unfortunately, while we were there it rained.  A lot. I mean days of rain. I went on a cruise for a couple of those days…a Backstreet Boys cruise. Yep! I was on a cruise ship with a couple thousand women, a few men, and the Backstreet Boys. My favorite cruise port-of-call was Cannes, France, and I can’t wait to go back!


June (3 days) | Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland


At first we weren’t really sure what to get into in June.  The weather is almost perfect in most of Europe but it can also be quite crowded and touristy. We decided on a quick 3-day weekend trip to Basel. It was mainly to visit a family friend and to relax so we didn’t get into too much. Next time I want to spend more time in the region and explore…there’s so much culture to experience there!


July (9 days + 1 day) | Stockholm, Sweden + Rotterdam, Netherlands

Love this city view of Stockholm


TBEX in Stockholm. Yes. OMG, yes. The Travel Bloggers Exchange conference is amazing for a few reasons. The hosting city is a sponsor so you are given the opportunity to explore with complimentary transit and tourist passes, and there are a few other opportunities as well. We went on a food tour and I hopped on a roof to see the city from above. I fell in love with Stockholm. July is the PERFECT time to visit, I just wish I could buy a house on one of the islands in the lagoon. Later in the month we visited Rotterdam to see a friend who lives there. She played tour guide for the day and we even made a video!


August (5 days) | Virginia, United States

Mountains of the Shenandoah Valley


Technically I did travel in August. I went to the United States for my best friend’s wedding. But it was a whirlwind 3-day trip (not including the two travel days) and I focused my attention only on her and my family while I was there.  August is a beautiful time to be in the Shenandoah Valley and on the Skyline Drive, and I made sure I did get to see some of the amazing views I’ve missed since moving to a flat country!


September (12 days) | United States

Until our next trip to the US


So…I was back in the States again. This time Sean joined me as it was a trip we planned way back in February to visit friends and family. We really did try to pack it all in. The downside was I was sick for most of the trip. I spent days in bed or on a couch. Not sure what was wrong with me, but thank goodness I was in the land of Dayquil and Nyquil. I still rested but didn’t have to feel like death the whole time.


October (3 days) | Paris, France

Solo trip to Paris


By now I was itching to travel in Europe again. My friend and fellow blogger Edna was back in Paris and I wanted to be back there too. Hopping on a train to Paris is super easy from Amsterdam. If you want a cheap ticket, you have to buy a month or more in advance, but actually getting on the train is super easy and my favorite way to travel in Europe! I spent the weekend going solo for a bit, then hanging out with Edna and getting a taste of how to shop like a Parisian on a food tour was such a relaxing time.


November (5 days + 1 day) | London, England & Delft, the Netherlands

Costa Rica at the World Travel Market


We doubled up again this month! Sean went to London for work the first week of the month, and I went for the World Travel Market the second week of the month. We also took a day trip to Delft at the end of the month. Busy times! London was great as usual. There were some WTM events and some meetups as well, where I got to see some old friends and also made some new ones!  I was able to stay with friends in the city, which was great!  


December (6 days) | Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle, Czech Republic


Prague at Christmas! This was so exciting for me. It was the first time we’ve traveled for Christmas and I wasn’t sure how it would go. The Christmas markets gave off heavenly scents of mulled wine and grilled meat along with having the twinkly lights and greenery that lets you know it’s Christmas time in Europe. Prague is simply beautiful and I hope to go back with everything is in bloom too!

There it is! We exceeded 12 trips and made 14 trips in 2016. This makes me wonder if we can do it again in 2017 and I say we can! We did all this while working full-time in Amsterdam. We are grateful for our vacation days and we TAKE THEM! Living in Europe gives an excellent opportunity to explore for pretty cheap. Can’t wait to see what 2017 holds!


Expat’s Survival Guide to Christmas Abroad

Expat’s Survival Guide to Christmas Abroad

Ho, ho, ho…Merry Christmas!

Whether it’s your first year or 10th year living abroad, the holidays can be the hardest season to be away from family. Not everyone is able to fly during the holiday season, which is notorious for being a very high-stress time.

So, how do we — the bunch who chose to move away but still miss this special time of year — deal?

I suggest making the most of the lack of responsibilites while still being in touch!

Christmas Cards


Request Christmas cards from friends and family back home and make a nice display throughout December. They are usually quite beautiful and a great reminder of all the people who love you. I absolutely love when people write messages in them too…a little personalization is super sweet! But don’t forget to send some out as well. Set a date in your calendar to write and address your cards. Be sure to get all the addresses and stamps needed before starting. Then just breeze through and you get to put a smile on someone else’s face. Don’t you just LOVE that?! Warm fuzzies all over!




If your family went all out with Christmas decorations and that’s what will make you feel better about being away at Christmas, then deck those halls! Personally, I don’t like a lot of stuff to hold onto all year, but I do love to have our little 2 foot fake tree on the table with both our ornaments given to us by family and those we’ve collected through our travels. It’s a reminder of how life used to be, and how we are living now. Decorate however makes you feel happy!


Find a Christmas market

Christmas Market

In Europe, Christmas markets like the one in Cologne, Germany pop up all over the place! Some are just for a weekend and some are open for the season and even feature ice skating rinks. These help me find my Christmas spirit and once you have a glass of glühwein or hot cider and walk around to admire the evergreens and twinkling lights, hopefully you’ll be in the spirit too. These are the perfect places to find little gifts to send back home so your friends and family get a taste of how you spent the holidays.




Grab the mixer, eggs, butter and sugar and get your place smelling like holiday Heaven. I am lucky enough to have a grandmother who loves to bake, so that is something that reminds me of the holidays. There were SO MANY cookies. I never complained though. It was fun…and I got to lick the beaters 😀 Baking at the holidays is perfect for lots of reasons: it’s fun, creates gifts for friends, makes your house smell delicious, and can be a reminder of what makes you happy!


Take a trip

Paris Ferris Wheel

Do something completely different! Take a holiday for the holidays. We’re traveling at Christmas for the first time this year so I’ll have to update you on that later! But it feels right to try and celebrate in a way that we would have never done in the U.S. Not to mention, it’s an exciting adventure to see how Christmas will feel in a place you’ve never been.  Go somewhere super Christmas-y, or go somewhere sunny and warm. Pick somewhere super relaxing or a city you’ve always wanted to discover. This is all about new experiences!


A friends’ holiday


Friends are the family you choose, right? Some you’d do anything for and love like brothers or sisters. If they are around for the holidays too, why not do something together? For two years we met up with a fellow American who was also in Amsterdam and had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Then we walked around the center with its pretty lights along the canals. It was a different kind of Christmas, but made us happy all the same.


Video chat

If possible, call or video chat those you love back home. Between Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Hangouts, even Snapchat, there are so many free (or super cheap) ways to get in touch. Set a time so everyone is on the same page and has the appropriate tech handy and then enjoy celebrating Christmas together, even if only for a bit




Not being home for the holidays can be sad, frustrating, and even confusing because we don’t know what to do during that time. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Hopefully this has given you a few ideas on how to make the most of the season and truly enjoy the experience.

Making the Best of European Budget Airlines

Making the Best of European Budget Airlines

If you want to fly, Budget or Discount airlines are definitely the best way to get around Europe. They allow so many people, like us, to travel more frequently and to more places than we’d be able to get to otherwise.

Because they are priced lower (sometimes MUCH lower) than traditional airlines, you can guess that you may not have all the comforts or services you expect from full-price airlines.  This post is all about managing your expectations on budget airlines in Europe to make the best of them!

Play their game and you can win!


eBags with Jess


Luggage really is the biggest elephant in the room. As a frequent traveler in Europe, I’m getting to know the budget airlines quite well. For example, I know that EasyJet gives you one bag to take as a carry-on…and they will stop you at the ticket check if you have more.  Transavia has the option for the tradition personal bag + one piece of carry-on luggage. BUT that luggage is not guaranteed to stay in the cabin! If there’s no more room, under the plane it goes! (This is one of the few planes I really want to be first in!)

Honestly, just reading through the airline’s website helps a lot but there’s also this super helpful post from Travel Made Simple with a carry-on size chart for over 150 airlines! Check the luggage restrictions and measure that bag. I’ve checked my rolling bag (eBags 21” Mother Lode Mini) in the smallest of carry-on brackets in the airport (when nobody was looking…just in case 😉 ) so I can confidently know it will fit. If there’s ever a doubt, I also have a 19” eBags convertible backpack that I’ll use.  If you’re looking for some good luggage, I’m happy to share why I love our bags.

Check-in online

If you’re flying carry-on only — which you totally should be doing if you’re flying within Europe — bypass that check-in counter and save yourself one less frustration. Just check-in ahead of time and put that boarding pass on your phone, or print it out for peace of mind (some airlines still require a printed boarding pass — check ahead!).


easyjet mobile boarding passes

Screenshot from the easyJet website (Dec 4, 2016)


So far, I’ve never had a problem with the service of European budget airlines, but I’m sure the day will come, and it’s good to be prepared. Follow all your regular airlines on Twitter now, and if you need them, reach out right away.

Once I went to the airport with my boarding pass which said  “Boarding time 08:45”. But when I got to the airport, the board said that was the departure time. Luckily, I was there well ahead of time, but the experience taught me not only to look at my ticket, but to also stay up-to-date using Google flights as well (which told me the gate number).

Actually, I had to ask someone for confirmation at the airport information desk because I just didn’t see my flight on the board…now that’s a scary thing.

Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help! Gates change, flights are delayed, connections are short, and sometimes things just get really messed up. If you need to get where you are going and you’re not sure, just ask someone what you need to know.


airplane window seat

Seat assignments

Some will care about this more than others. When traveling with someone you may want to sit together, so it might be worth the money to snatch up two seats wherever you want on the plane. Or maybe you’re a tall person and REALLY need the legroom. Or maybe you just have to “go” a lot and need an aisle seat. For whatever reason, grabbing your seat ahead of time can be a nice luxury …even on a 2 hour flight.


Really on any flight these are a must-have for frequent travelers. That plane sound…OMG. It can make me so angry! Add to that people who talk to loud, who are on the phone, or really any other audio annoyance and it’s nice to block it all out with some noise-cancelling headphones. You may not even use them to listen to anything except for the thoughts in your head.


mobile phone with headphones

Tablet or phone

Personally I love my tablet to watch videos or write when I’m on the plane. Put on headphones and some good music and it’s almost like you’re not squished in a tin can. Get your productivity on, or chill out with a movie. Your choice!

Battery pack

Do not expect outlets on a budget airline. I’ve been on a few flights that do have them…but never count on it! If it’s just your phone, then a lipstick charger is probably fine. But if you have rechargeable headphones, phone, tablet, etc, then get a good powerful one. I have an in-between one that’s solar-powered from Tespack and I love it. 


This is pretty self-explanatory I think. Bring snacks you know you’ll like that don’t cost an arm and a leg like they would on the plane. I usually go with granola bar type snacks, but grab those chips or gummies or whatever makes you happy. Because let’s be real…hangry is a real thing. Regardless if my computer is telling me that’s not a word.


You know to stay hydrated on the plane, right? Please do. Either bring a water bottle from home that you can fill after security or just buy a bottle of water when you’re near your gate. Besides, you’ll need it to wash down your snacks!



Jacket / Big scarf

To stay comfortable on a chilly plane, this is a must. I love to travel with my fleece jacket if it’s a warmer season, or I use my scarf if it’s cold outside and I don’t want to wear my winter jacket in the seat. But seriously, who doesn’t love a good, versatile scarf?

Is it going to feel like first class? Sadly, no. But at least you can be a bit more comfortable than if you didn’t plan ahead.

Get cheap flights. See amazing places. Make the most of life in Europe.

Want to save this advice? Pin it for later!

Making the Best of European Budget Airlines


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The Inevitable Bike Butt of a New Amsterdam Expat

The Inevitable Bike Butt of a New Amsterdam Expat

Part of traveling or becoming an expat is getting out of your comfort zone. That literally means being uncomfortable. It’s all part of the experience!

When you’re moving to Amsterdam (or any bike-loving city), and you are moving from a place where you rarely rode a bike, you may experience something I call “Bike Butt”.

I am so curious what your first impression of the term Bike Butt is…what do you think it could be? Remember that and then let me know in the comments what the first thing that popped into your head was!


bikes in Amsterdam


Bike Butt: n. Meaning the bruise-like feeling you get on your butt after riding a bike that only happens when you haven’t ridden in a long time.

Let me explain this a bit better…

I’ve spoken with expats in Amsterdam that won’t ride bikes because they say their bums just don’t want to be on the seat anymore. And it does hurt. Trust me.

The thing is, this goes away! Time heals all.

It’s beyond my understanding, and the Dutch don’t seem to know about it since they’ve probably been riding bikes since they were in diapers, but it’s most common of those who aren’t used to riding bikes. I guess their butts just aren’t used to a bike seat.

Of course I went through this as well upon buying my bike. I was so frustrated and a bit angry. I started biking short distances but no more than that because after 10 minutes, my butt would hurt. Seriously, it was like it was telling me to never ride again! Then, the next day, I would hop on my bike, it felt like a bruise…way on the bottom part of my bottom. If you pushed on that spot, it felt like a bruise.

A bruise on the bottom of your butt…



work bike in Amsterdam


This is soooo annoying for someone who will be commuting on a bike! I could not bear the thought of this pain

Obviously this turns people off of biking. I mean, who wants to do something that constantly causes pain?! But when the alternatives are inconvenient, and I know it’s how I should be getting around, I stuck to it.


It stopped! About a week to a week and a half, it stopped hurting. I’ve gone about 3 weeks without biking and I got back on and it hurt a little. Now that I know it goes away, it’s much easier to get back on that saddle. *pun intended*

But I’m here to tell you, don’t stop riding! It gets better!!

bike on wall in Amsterdam

My friends told me I should write about this as people may be able to relate…so if you can relate, please share with a friend of yours that may need to read up on this phenomenon.

The inevitable bike butt of an Amsterdam expat

How to Move Abroad: The Basics

How to Move Abroad: The Basics

Moving to another country is a big deal. I mean, like a REALLY big deal. It’s not easy. Between emotions, red tape, practicalities, and making friends, it’s just plain hard and you have to be a little crazy to do it.

That being said, I don’t regret it one bit. We’ve already told our story about why we chose expat life, but you need to find your “why”. Just as importantly, you need to know your “how”.

While we live in a sometimes seemingly small global world, you can’t just pick up and move without a visa or passport that allows you to do so.  This post is meant to get you thinking about your motivations, your options, and your feelings about moving away from your home to start life anew as an expat. If you have anything to add, I hope you comment below so we can all help each other!


How to Move Abroad

Know your “why?”

I’ll try not to get too deep and mushy on you! But it’s a good question, right? Your “why” in everything you do is important, including this major life change.

Just a tip, you can’t move away from your problems. They will catch up to you and are probably harder to deal with if you’re away.  But if you are looking to enrich your life, try a new lifestyle, or even just to see what it’s like to live where wine is cheap and good, then go for it!

We wanted to experience life in Europe and be able to travel frequently and fairly cheaply. We did, and we love it. Best decision ever. But we knew our “why”.  


How to Move Abroad

Find a way to move legally

It’s easy enough to leave a country, but it’s not super easy to stay in one that isn’t your home country. I really think people forget the basics of this. You can’t go anywhere you want at anytime without preparation. And you certainly can’t just claim your residency without lots of paperwork and justification. Make sure you are legal!

The big question is then “how do I know where I can move?”

Do your research! This is not something I can answer for you…mainly because there are so many different ways you can move.

  • Can your company transfer you to an international office?
  • Would you like to join the Peace Corps?
  • Are you qualified to be part of Doctors without Borders or a traveling nurse?
  • Volunteer through many organizations that you can find if you Google “Volunteer Abroad”.
  • There are working holiday visas through countries like Australia and New Zealand. Not every country has this kind of visa available though, but here’s a list of those that do and who it is offered to.
  • If you enjoy being around children and have the experience and maybe even the education for it, becoming an au pair could be a great option.
  • Native English speakers are always wanted as teachers in many Asian countries.
  • Have your own business? The Netherlands has a Dutch-American Friendship Treaty that you can apply for to be able to live here for a few years. (Obviously, if you are American)
  • Some countries have a program for freelance visas as well (usually you need to prove guaranteed income).
  • There’s always the option of being a digital nomad and just going through tourist visa after tourist visa and not really settling anywhere as long as you can work from your computer.
  • Research your family history to see if you have a right to citizenship in another country. That’s what Sean did and it really paid off for us!


How to Move Abroad

Know yourself

It’s easy to say “I want to be free!” and travel far away to start a new life. Be real with yourself. Can you do it? Are you self-sufficient now? Are you a self sufficient adult? Do you pay your own bills? Basically, can you be independent?

I was pretty independent when I went to college. My parents were amazing enough to help pay for my college fees and all that went along with it. But other than that, I grew up fast in college and once I graduated, I got a car loan, rental apartment, and steady job on my own. My finances were all on me and I was responsible for my own life.

This is so important and I can’t stress it enough! You have to be able to take care of yourself, because these applications, fees, working on finding housing and jobs, is all on you.


How to Move Abroad

Be open to changes in friendships

Making friends doesn’t come easy for some people. We’ve figured out that we’re probably not the only ones, because our post about how to make friends as an expat is one of our most read! It’s not just about making friends, but leaving your current ones behind.

The internet is an amazing thing and can keep you in touch easily through Snapchat, Facebook, Skype, and all the other websites and apps that let you connect. People change, time zones are annoying, and life gets busy. While you don’t have to be okay with losing touch with people (that’s on you), you do have to be okay with their lives and yours going in separate directions.

Once you make new friends, it’s amazing how many more people you’ll meet…from all over the world! As long as you are open to new experiences and new people, your life will burst with enrichment and possibilities.


How to Move Abroad

Save that money!

Unless your company is moving you or someone is taking care of everything for you, then savings is a must! Depending on how you get into the country, you may have to prove how much you have so that you will not fall back on their social welfare system.

We planned savings for about 3 months of living before we moved (probably should have planned for 6 months, if we’re honest). Always save more than you think you need. The first month may feel like a vacation, but try not to blow all your money during that period. This is definitely a “learn from our mistake” situation. Use that time to feel out your new city.


How to Move Abroad


We shipped only a couple of boxes and took everything else in suitcases. There are services to ship your entire house full of stuff if you need it, but less is more in this case. Remember, many places don’t typically live in homes as big as they are in the U.S. and Canada. We’ve known many people that had to sell their stuff once they got to Europe because all their belongings wouldn’t fit!

If you have little furry family members (pets), you will likely need documents before the pet is allowed to enter the country. While you’re at it, see what kind of medical and dental records you can grab before you leave as well. Better to have them than not!

Know how you and your stuff will arrive. Have a place lined up to stay…even if temporary. Buy that ticket and know any limitations on weight or luggage allowance of your airline. The actual move might be the most stressful part, but you WILL get through it!


These are the basics and this is nowhere near a comprehensive list. But I hope this helps get your started in your journey to try a life abroad wherever that may be. I can promise you that it’s an experience that will enrich your life and force you to grow as a person. You may even learn things about yourself you never knew.

Best of luck and let us know how it goes!!

Picture Perfect Amsterdam in Autumn

Picture Perfect Amsterdam in Autumn

The air is becoming crisp, the leaves are starting to change, and the heavy jackets are emerging once again. It must be autumn in Amsterdam!


The city of canals and stunning canal houses has a gift for those who visit after the high season and a treat for those who live here and have to live through the winter. The Elm trees that line the canals in the center of the city start turning the recognizable shades of red, orange, and yellow that you expect to see in autumn.

Though the Elm tree is the most common along the main canals in Amsterdam, there are many more varieties of trees all around the city. It’s a very green place in the spring and summer!

Amsterdam is my favorite city for so many reasons. It’s a major European capital that only has about 800,000 residents and feels like a village. And then autumn comes…

Stunning. Inspiring. Calming. Instagram-worthy.

So many more words could describe Amsterdam in autumn. But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s get to the good stuff.

For your viewing pleasure, I hope these make you yearn to visit my city!


Amsterdam bridge in Autumn

Amsterdam in Autumn

Beautiful Amsterdam autumn tree

Pin to share the autumn beauty!

Amsterdam in Autumn Pin

My Solo Trip to Paris

My Solo Trip to Paris

This may be controversial to say, but solo travel is not for everyone. I’m not a huge fan of it myself. I’ve read all the articles about how it can help with anxiety, build self-esteem, and how freeing it can be. But, I just really don’t know what to do with myself.


Solo trip to Paris


Yeah, I can wander around whenever and wherever I want. That part I like quite a bit. There is nobody to slow you down or wait around for. There’s also nobody to eat with, share a great sunrise with, or just figure out what to do next. It’s all on you.


Solo trip to Paris


I get bored and really just don’t know what to do next. I did learn that quick-to-eat food is what I prefer when I’m alone. Even just sitting and eating noodles was easy and quick with little time for waiting. A street-side crepe is really the way to go though. Quick, cheap, and super easy to eat on the go!


Solo trip to Paris


So, what did I get up to? I walked. A lot. Like 12 miles in 3 days. I ate noodles and bread and macarons (I did not eat healthy on this trip!). And I hung out with Edna who practically lives in Paris. Having a local with you is pretty much the best thing ever. Although, having some girl time might just trump the “local” part.


Solo trip to Paris


Girl friends can be amazing or they can be catty. I make a sincere effort to surround myself with people who are supportive, friendly, and genuine. But some girl time with the right person who can chat AND listen is so important to be able to let anything and everything out. Add some good French wine and the evening is made.


Solo trip to Paris


It was so funny. I planned on going to Paris solo and then I found out six other people from Amsterdam were going too! I wasn’t able to meet up with any of them, but probably for the best. I can see them anytime in Amsterdam, but Paris is a different world with a different vibe. I think a mini chill and girl time was what I needed.


Solo trip to Paris


After 3 days in Paris, hanging out with a fun person, going to places I’ve never been, eating my way through a food tour, and wandering around on my own, I still know that solo travel itself in not something I will actively plan or strive for. However, meeting up or traveling with others can be fun!

Final verdict: I had a great time. With no set schedule and a handful of metro tickets, I felt free as a bird! But I really enjoyed spending time with someone else, and I think that is just who I am…a social introvert.


Solo trip to Paris

Anyone else really not love to travel by yourself? Who is your favorite travel partner?

For practical Paris information, a guidebook can be super handy! The Rick Steves’ Pocket Paris book is a great companion to blogs and is a great read in paperback or Kindle (my preference) on the trip into Paris!

Learning to Shop for Food like a Parisian

Learning to Shop for Food like a Parisian

Recently I shared my secret life goal of adopted 3 European cities. It felt silly at first, but once I wrote it all down, it felt so true. And Paris, of course, is on that list!

Paris Food Tour Sacre Coeur


I don’t just want to adopt the city. I want to walk, talk, eat, and shop like a Parisian. Totally wish I had the fashion sense that would make me fit right in too. Who wouldn’t?!

To start the adoption process, I reached out to Secret Food Tours Paris and scheduled a tour in the Montmartre neighborhood–that area right by Sacre Coeur. The best thing about food tours is that you never know exactly what you’ll get. But what I did know I was going to get a lesson in how to be Parisian!


Paris Food Tour Montmartre

Visitor Tip: Ideally, you should take a food tour when you arrive to a new city.


A Different Kind of Food Tour

This Montmartre food tour from Secret Food Tours was much different than the tours I’ve taken in Berlin, Barcelona, and London. They were all different companies, but that’s not what I mean. Typically, I’ve been taken to various restaurants to have a bite and learn a little bit about the restaurant and the area, then you walk a few minutes until you get to the next one.

I like this “normal” way. The food is well spaced out and we get time to chat amongst ourselves which is always fun since we’re all travelers!


Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Parisian street


On this Paris food tour, it was more about how to shop for yourself when you venture out on your own. While I was first quite confused as to what was going on, it soon became obvious…

Our guide, P.J., was really showing us how to shop like a Parisian!

One of the last things we did was to sit in a cafe to relax and inspect all the delicious bites (and drinks) we collected along the way. And then devour them.


Learning to Shop

On the tour itself, we visited a popular cheese shop so P.J. could explain how you can pick out a great cheese for yourself and why the French can’t get enough of certain kinds of cheese. Learning about cheese in this way was really helpful! Our guide made it feel like a class (in the best kind of way) because he gave information that would actually help you. All while we’re drooling over the different varieties and smells. Ohhhh the cheese smells! My stomach started growling at this stop.


Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Cheese shop


The history was fascinating, too! Did you know that the metro lines 2 & 6 lie directly behind where the old city wall was for Paris? Or that Paris all started on the island that Notre Dame sits on? Yeah…neither did I! These random facts are so interesting and the perfect tidbits to show off with at parties 😉

We hit up a Boulangerie (bakery) for some beautiful and fragrant baguettes. The French take baking bread so seriously that if you call yourself a Boulangerie and you don’t bake the bread on site, you can lose your business! We confirmed it was the real deal when we saw the many ovens churning out various types of bread. There’s really nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread…one of life’s great pleasures. Am I right?!


Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Bakery


Would it be a food tour in France if we did not go to a wine shop? Nah, not to me at least! Wine is really a funny thing. Regions matter, and specific farms and terra matters. That’s why some wines are so expensive. We were given a lot of great information on how to choose a good wine, but I’m probably going to still ask the people that run the wine shops because I didn’t get THAT good.


Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Wine


Going to a butcher isn’t for everyone, I realize that. But fresh meat is amazing in my world. P.J. picked us up lots of things to try…and some weren’t my cup of tea. But I tried them because I’m trying to push my comfort zone a bit. I’m getting so much better with trying foods since I moved to Europe. Maybe already being outside of my comfort zone helps. I don’t know. But I encourage you to try everything too! If I can do, you can too.


Paris Food Tour Montmartre |Butcher


*pats self on back* I even tried a grasshopper once! Here’s the video…and yes, I am proud of it.


The Group Comes Together for the Tasting

Paris Food Tour Montmartre | Final Tasting


Just around the time we were all enjoying the tour but tired of the teasing of all the good food we’ve seen, we hopped into a cafe with a bunch of seats waiting for us with wine glasses at the ready. P.J. wasted no time in supplying us with bread and wine while he, um, cut sliced the cheese up for us.

Every time I thought the tasting was over, there was more coming! We tasted so many kinds of cheeses. I was shocked he grabbed so much from the cheese shop. It really felt like we were getting a tasting platter of France. Amazing!


Paris Food Tour Montmartre


The meats went from mild (as in, you may have had it before and nothing “weird”) to me staring at it trying to figure out if I’m actually going to take a bite. That scary piece of meat was head cheese. Click the link to look it up. It’s not something I would normally eat, much less consider trying.

But here’s the evidence that I tried it:

I didn’t eat all of it and I still wouldn’t order it for myself, but I’m glad I tried it! I even convinced the woman next to me to try it. She immediately said “no!” when she heard what it was. I’m such a good food influence now apparently 😛 Would you try it?

Once all the bites from the shops had been eaten, there was still MORE! We were given crêpes before we left our seats and then went to a chocolate and macaron shop. But I was so stuffed that I kept those little treats for the train ride back to Amsterdam.


Final Thoughts

The tour seems to have a different agenda than most I take. It teaches you to shop in the small locally owned shops rather than taste food at various restaurants. Which is pretty awesome if you’ll spend time in France where you can use the knowledge. Maybe you can even impress a certain someone? 😉

The food was great, the wine was excellent and the tour guide was super informative. My main critique is that it would have been nice to have more socializing time with the group itself. It was almost so full of information that it was overwhelming! I would often get sucked into what he was saying and not take notes. But I also really love getting to know the others in the group, and there wasn’t too much time for that. It was a PACKED and delicious few hours.


What do you think of this format? Have 4-5 stops before you get to taste anything…but then you get to chow down for an hour or so? There are pros and cons to everything, for sure!

Big thanks to Secret Food Tours Paris for hosting me with this complimentary tour! Of course all views and opinions are my own.