Life Goal: To Adopt 3 European Cities

Life Goal: To Adopt 3 European Cities

I have a dream to be a citizen of the world. That sounds as vague as it does pompous, I know. I’ve only been on two continents, and right now I only focus my travel on one…Europe.

So, I’ve examined that dream and figured out that I really want to travel the world, but feel like a local in some key places. I want to feel like I really know cities where the tourists flock, where I can help direct someone to the metro, where I can feel like I know where I’m going. This was somewhat inspired by Edna, of Expat Edna, and how she travels and lives her life. She has quite a few spots around the world she could easily settle into because she knows them so well. Such a cool way to live!

 

Jordaan

 

Amsterdam is my home now. I love it. I even love the tourists that take over the city in the summer. Though, I love them much more when they aren’t on bikes. I can help direct them, I can teach them how to use the transportation system, and I can tell them where to get the best pancakes (Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs — which I learned about from Jessica Lipowski).

I want to be able to do that for Paris and London too. I’ve been to Paris 4 times now. Places sound familiar, I kind of have the geography down, and I know how to use the metro. But I don’t have my breakfast place, my bar, or my favorite spot yet. I do know that every time I visit, I see more, and find a new appreciation for the city. Falling in love with Paris is easy. It can seem like a fairytale. The thing is…I’m falling for the real Paris too. Not just the postcard perfect version.

 

Paris Bridge

 

London is big and interesting and has so many kinds of neighborhoods. There are double-decker buses, unmistakable bridges, and a culture that enjoys some afternoon tea. To ride a double-decker and feel like it’s no big thing or cross an internationally recognized bridge and not blink an eye might just make me feel like a local.

I want to be in central London and instantly recognize where I am and how to get to point B from point A. And I want to know exactly where the best fish and chips shop is and frequent it. I freaking love fish and chips!

 

London Fence

 

The dream is to not feel lost, but to be part of the city. To fit in and not need my GPS. Bonus points if I can be recognized at my favorite spot (that I haven’t found yet).

What I don’t want is to become jaded. I still appreciate the beauty of Amsterdam and I don’t want that to ever fade. While I don’t want to gawk at the Eiffel Tower every time I see it, I still want to appreciate how French it is and join in on the festivals that happen around it.

 

Eiffel Tower Paris

 

While these other cities will probably never feel like home, I want them to feel normal and a comfortable place to be in. Travel is an amazing thing to experience and to fall in love with cities is one of the best feelings. Can’t wait to adopt Paris and London and find spots that are my own!

Have you ever felt so comfortable somewhere that isn’t your home? Where is that place?

Pin it if you share that goal!

Life Goal: To Adopt 3 European Cities

 

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How to Survive Your First Trip Home as an Expat

How to Survive Your First Trip Home as an Expat

Planning your first trip home to visit after a year or two can be so many things! For me, it was exciting, stressful, scary, calming, familiar, and so much more that I couldn’t possibly explain, though I did try! I’m used to my new home, the customs, the food, the people, and I didn’t know how I would fit in back home or what the experience would be like.

Uncertainty is very normal. But I can assure you of two things: you will easily be able to adapt back to your home culture with your favorite foods and people, and it won’t be nearly as bad as you might think. Everyday habits and relationships you had might feel the exact same as when you left.

So, based on my experience on going home to visit about 2 years later, I give you my best advice on how to make it as awesome as possible!

Planning ahead is key

 

Euro Change

 

Money

If you still have an bank account at home, move some money into it so you can easily access ATMs and use a local debit card with no worries. We use Transferwise which is amazing! After using it for 2 years, I can say it only gets better! Just be sure you have a current debit card and know your PIN number.

 

plane wing

Travel Insurance

If you wouldn’t normally have access to health insurance, then I highly recommend getting some travel insurance. Not only will it cover things like lost luggage, but the right one can cover accidents or illness that happen to you! I almost used it in the United States…the land of absurdly high healthcare costs. But I got over-the-counter medicines instead. I did email them to ask if I would be covered in my case, and that assured me that I was, that I just needed to keep the receipts. That piece of mind was well worth (what I consider) a cheap price! World Nomads seems to have great reviews and is who we used for our coverage.

 

Cell Phone

Cell phone plan

After failing so miserably at this, I hope you learn from my mistakes! Figure out your phone situation before you leave. Are you okay with going WiFi only or will you need a SIM card with the ability to call and text while having data? The AT&T and Verizon options were so not helpful in the U.S. so I would look elsewhere to find the right plan for you. Personal hot spots are pretty popular, and I know The Planet D loves KnowRoaming, so everything is worth looking into what fits you best.

 

ebags luggage

Bag-in-a-bag

We left some things in storage when we left the United States because we didn’t know what kind of space we would have in our new place. So, we used the bag-in-a-bag trick! Pack a smaller bag in a bigger bag, then you have two suitcases to bring stuff back in. We also did some shopping for ourselves, and grabbed some food favorites as well. Those bags were certainly PACKED when we came back to Amsterdam.

 

Friendship Shot

Planning your time

This might be the hardest part and also the part that upsets people the most. Determine where you will be, and for how long and plan your visits around that. Just don’t overdo it!! You need time to yourself, and time to not be “on”. Honestly, it’s exhausting going from place to place and seeing almost everyone in your life within a week or two.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s an amazing thing to see so many people in a short time, it just takes a lot of energy. One way that helped us was to have a cookout at a local park and invited everyone to bring a side dish while we made hot dogs. It was a great way to see so many people, have a great event outside, and to see all the new babies! And since it was in the one town we spend most of our time, many people knew each other, so it was a great catch-up for them too. Win-win!

Of course family lunches and dinner are awesome, too. Seeing family and eating the home-cooked food you’ve probably been craving for as long as you’ve been gone is pretty much heaven! Don’t forget to add snuggle time for any pets that have missed you while you’ve been gone.

Tip: Don’t forget to take photos when you visit home!

Eggs and Grits

Do you need to prepare for culture shock?

 

I’ve asked around about this, and for us, after living in Europe, we did not experience culture shock. Quite the opposite actually! It was like we went on a month-long vacation and came back. EVERYTHING was normal.

I mean everything. From driving, to ordering my usual meal from Chick-Fil-A. Navigating the roads I grew up on and spend my adult life on took zero effort.

Many things were simply automatic…like muscle memory. Unconsciously when driving to where we were staying, I ended up making a wrong turn because I was going back to our old apartment. That’s how normal it all was.

As Sean said “The weirdest part is that nothing is weird!

However, I’ve had friends from the same area who spend a year in Asia and came back and experienced quite a bit of culture shock. It seems that when the culture is that different, then you may need to have some time to adjust. But it also depends on the person as well.

 

Friendships from home

What to talk about

So…you’re back! You’re excited to share your many adventures! But don’t spill everything all the time. I mean, you want to know what they’ve been up to as well, right? Take a breath and let your friends and family talk. I’m sure they will have plenty of specific questions for you!

I can almost guarantee one of those will be “Are you fluent yet?” You might also get “When are you moving home?” Yep, things can get heavy pretty quickly.

The best thing to do if you’re not sure, is just to say it! Being so far away is a big deal for the people who love you. Be honest. I’m not sure when or if I’ll move back. I mean, I’m happy now, and I have so much more traveling to do. That’s one of the reasons I moved, so that’s what I’m doing!

Don’t bug your friends and family to visit you. Of course you can mention it, but don’t pressure! Not everyone has the means or time to take a long or far trip. It might be a good idea to let people know if you can host them. We had a bit of a misunderstanding at some point, because we are currently not able to host in our tiny place, so just be clear about it!

Ask about them! Have they been on a trip recently? Have kids been born since you left? Marriages? New jobs? Have they moved homes? There is so much to ask them! See if you can find out 3 new things about them, and really listen.

 

TravelShoot_Amsterdam_Bench

Photo courtesy of TravelShoot

Prepare for the guilt

Do your best to not feel guilty for living the life you live.

This is so hard!

Yes, you are away from friends and family who love you and you love them. But I believe they want us to be happy. At least I hope so! This makes us happy. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes, but for the most part, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. If they know that, hopefully they will be happy for you.

Do your best to not feel guilty for living the life you live. Click To Tweet

How to Survive Your First Trip Home as an Expat

Have you already been back to visit? I’d love to know how it went for you on your first trip. Was it easy or did it feel weird?

5 Easy Day Trips from Amsterdam

5 Easy Day Trips from Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a pretty loveable city. When you visit the Netherlands, you should definitely spend time in this city, I’ve even created an entire city guide for you! While you’re based in Amsterdam, there are a few possible day trips that you shouldn’t overlook if you want a varied and enjoyable experience.

In the Netherlands as in the rest of Europe, it’s easy to hop from city to city and have an amazing trip. While there’s a bunch of things to do in Amsterdam when visiting, if you want to have a little more Dutch culture in your life, there are plenty of day trips to take. From the beautiful canals and houses of tiny Geithoorn, to the center of Dutch politics in The Hague, there are so many different varieties of day trip to choose from!

 

Giethoorn

House in Giethoorn

 

This town makes everyone fall head-over-heels. Make time when you visit Amsterdam to visit Giethoorn, especially in the spring or summer. It’s a little farther away from the city, but I promise it’s worth it! From every angle you could easily create a postcard…it really is that pretty! It’s the village with no roads, and in this part of the town, it’s all about the footpaths and canals. Take your time. It’s not very big!

Tip: If you’re an early bird, catch a train as early as you can. But if you’re a night owl, stay as late at you can. Tourists are mainly around between 10 am and 6 pm.

Related: Day Trip to Giethoorn

 

Alkmaar

Alkmaar Day Trip

 

This small town in North Holland is only about 35 minutes north of Amsterdam by train (which really is the best way to travel in the Netherlands). There are so many cute, adorable corners if you make your way from the central Cheese Market that makes Alkmaar so famous.

Tip: Take the canal cruise, just be aware of the super low bridges. We had to get on the bottom of the boat because the boat barely fit under some of the bridges!

Related: Alkmaar: Cheese Market in North Holland

Alkmaar: Canal Cruising in Low Places

 

Haarlem

Haarlem Houses on a Canal

 

I’ve heard Haarlem called the little sister to Amsterdam, but it really has it’s own personality. It’s beautiful, has a few of its own water ways, and a great market on the weekend. Haarlem is much quieter than Amsterdam, and there’s just something about it that exudes an incredible amount of charm. With a train trip that’s only 15-20 minutes, you can hop over to explore for an afternoon.

 

Tip: Haarlem has a beautiful Christmas market that is a must-visit if you’re in the area during the Christmas Season.

Related: Historic Haarlem

Utrecht

Utrecht Day Trip

 

If you adore canal-side drinking or dining, then you will love Utrecht! There is a lively area by the water with shopping and restaurants. Head down toward the water for a wonderful ambiance for a meal. For a different adventure, head up the 465 steps in the Dom Tower for an amazing view of the city!

Tip: For a unique experience, head to Belgisch Bier Café Olivier for a drink. It’s a bar that was converted from a church.

Related: Outside the Limits: Utrecht

The Hague

The Hague - De Passage

 

Seems like a lot of people overlook The Hague. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t seem like a place for tourists, but instead a place for politics. That couldn’t be further from the truth! There are beautiful quaint roads, awesome and unique shopping areas, great restaurants, and the nearby Scheveningen with its beach and The Pier.

Tip: Visit The Rough Kitchen in The Pier for amazing BBQ (American style)

Related: A Day in The Hague: Without The Politics

Rotterdam

Rotterdam Day Trip

 

This port town has some personality! Stunning bridges, eclectic buildings, split-level outdoor shopping areas, and fun food halls make Rotterdam a very interesting place to visit. You’ll find mostly modern buildings due to the destruction during World War II. This is definitely a place to walk a bit, take a tram or metro, then walk some more. Just take it all in!

Tip: Take a waterbus…it’s fun!

Related: YouTube – Exploring Rotterdam // Girls’ Day! 


Those are just 5 possible day trips from Amsterdam, and there are many more cool spots to visit in the Netherlands! Amsterdam is a great city to explore for a few days, and with so many day trips, you could easily spend a week or more in Holland. What are you waiting for?

5 Day Trips from Amsterdam Pin

Practical Gift Guide for Travelers

Practical Gift Guide for Travelers

I am the worst at picking out gifts. It’s just not a natural gift I was given (hehehe–pun intended!). Gift giving is super easy when you see something and it screams “Buy me for Sean!”, but honestly, that doesn’t happen all that often. Listening and taking notes when people intentionally or unintentionally give hints is the best way to figure out that gift that someone really wants and will actually use. I used to visit gift guide websites which were somewhat helpful but sometimes they just pick a theme and go after it…like maps.

I like maps like most travelers. They are a great representation of travel, as are planes and compasses. But if people travel a lot, they probably don’t want or need more “things”, they need practical travel items.

You can still get stuck trying to be practical! I’ve seen great gift guides for travelers but even my family probably wouldn’t pay the price for the premium items suggested. Who wouldn’t love a new camera or a $1,000 tripod? If you’re offering, I’m more than happy to accept 🙂 But I’m pretty sure most people aren’t giving $1,000 gifts.

So, here you go, the practical gift guide for travelers!

This post contains affiliate links that help keep this website running at no additional cost to you. Many of these items link I personally use and others are of great quality and have great reviews. Thank you for understanding!


Noise Canceling Headphones

Especially for long flights, noise canceling headphones are essential! There are many different kinds from in-ear (like ear buds), on ear that sit right on top but the surface is small, and around ear which basically encompasses the ear. There are many different brands as well, some of the best that I’ve seen and read about are Sennheiser, Bose, AudioTechnica, Samsung, Sony. Though the range is from $80-$350, I would try to spend at least $150 to get a quality pair of headphones.

If you really want to impress, get ones that have Bluetooth so you can ditch the cord, and a microphone so it can also be used with a phone or for Skype on the computer or tablet. Rechargeable or with a battery is a decision you’ll have to make. I have one with a AAA battery so when it dies, I can just get a new one and recharge the battery. Sean has to charge his headphones ahead of time and if he’s not near a USB charger, he’s out of luck if his battery dies.

 

Kindle e-reader


How many books can you fit on a Kindle? More than you can read on any trip! I know some people just love their paperback books and will take them with them no matter how heavy their bag gets. But for those who pack light, want to pack light, or prefer ebooks (as I do), this is a great gift! From travel guidebooks, to non-fiction, to fantasy, reading helps pass the time while in transit and can be calming after a frustrating day.

Don’t forget the amazon gift card so they can grab a couple books right away!

 

Luggage tag

 

This might not sound like a big deal, but if you ever get stuck at the check-in counter and have to fill in one of their luggage tags, then you know the pain. Get a nice, durable, even cute luggage tag for your traveler. Bonus points if it makes the bag more noticeable coming off the luggage belt!

 

Luggage scale

 

Nobody should pay more than they need to for baggage! This luggage scale helps prevent the overage charges. Whether flying a budget airline and want to be sure your carry-on doesn’t get taken away and put in the hold, or just don’t want to go over the allotted 23 kg for your checked bag and pay a ridiculous amount in fees, these are a must have! Takes all the guessing out of the luggage game, and as the opinion of someone who tried the hold-the-luggage-as-you-get-on-the-scale game, don’t let anyone go through that frustration. It’s not pretty and sometimes involves bruises.

 

Packing cubes

Packing cubes help your luggage stay oh-so-beautifully organized. Not to mention because you stuff the cubes, you can probably even fit more in the bag. You’ll probably even be helping TSA out when they randomly search your checked bag. Oh wait, is that just me who gets search every.single.time? I won’t even get into the story about when they un-bubble-wrapped my wine. Anyway, organization–yes, this is a luggage win.

 

Skype credits

skype

This can even be a selfish gift! Give Skype credits so they can call you while they are away…win-win? I think so. As long as they are on wi-fi, they can call a phone from their phone for super cheap when using Skype. OR if you are tech-savvy, video Skype and see their face! Huge bonus if they find wi-fi and video call you while at some cool spot that they get to show you!

 

Power bank

Techy travelers burn the battery life in their phones or tablets super fast. Grab them a good power bank to keep them going and updating social media with awesome photos that you can’t wait to see. I say “good” power bank because some hold more power than others and can even charge a phone multiple times on one charge.

 

RFID passport protector

You can never be too careful with your passport. This is a great accessory for any traveler. The RFID pouch can be used to hold a passport or two and a few credit or ID cards that also might have an RFID chip in them. My passport stays in one of these all the time because you just never know. If you are unfamiliar with RFID, here’s a post on it. But basically, these protectors block anyone from skimming the electronic information from anything inside that has RFID technology. Better safe than sorry!

 

EyeFi Wi-Fi SD memory card

 

This EyeFi memory card is a great gift for someone who loves social media and to share photos, but prefers to use an actual camera to take photos instead of their phone. You may need to do some investigating for this one because this memory card is for cameras who don’t already use wi-fi and many of the newer models do have this feature. If you can find out what camera they have and if this is handy, it’s an amazing gift! I adore mine because I can send photos without going through my computer…which I don’t usually travel with.

 

PacSafe Bags

Want your friend or family member to feel safe? Then PacSafe bags are what you should be looking at. Mine is always my day bag because it is the most secure bag I own. From slash-proof straps, an eXomesh skeleton, to a clip that lets you hook the bag to something heavy or immovable, it gives a crazy amount of peace of mind!

 

Experiences

Hot Air Balloon

When is a gift certificate a bad idea? I’m pretty sure that’s never! But this gift certificate from Tinggly is special, because it’s something they can experience rather than keep. Here at A Wanderlust For Life, we are all about having experiences that give you special memories. This is the gift for that! There are so many kinds to give, but Tinggly has so many options that the world is open to your giftee. And I’m certain they will love you for it!

Gifts should be thoughtful, personal, and Always have the person receiving the gift in mind. Many people are starting to want a smaller quantity of things and more things of quality or experiences! Give a gift that really puts a smile on their face!

I hope this is helpful for anyone doing the holiday or birthday shopping. Please let me know in the comments what the best gift you’ve ever been given has been, and maybe what the best gift you’ve given was. Would you like to add anything else to this list? Let me know!

Happy shopping!

 


gifts for travelers birthday

Nordic Flavors on a Stockholm Food Tour

Nordic Flavors on a Stockholm Food Tour

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the best way to experience a different culture is to eat the food! We’ve seen it in Berlin with the influence of Turkish food, in Barcelona with dishes I didn’t even know were Catalan, and even found cuisines that have snuck into London! Take a food tour on one of your first days because if you fall in love with a bite of something, you‘ll have time to go back and enjoy an entire meal!

Food Tours Stockholm

 

For this tour, we’re in Stockholm taking the Nordic Experience food tour from Food Tours Stockholm. While there’s a handful of tours available (I’m looking at how amazing the sweets tour looks), this tour gave an amazing overview of Nordic dishes. Not only that, we had some foods that people fight for tables over! Kind of felt like a VIP 😉

 

Food Tours Stockholm Fish Soup

 

We started at the Hötorgshallen which reminds me a bit of the Markt Hall in Rotterdam and the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. It was fun having five of our stops in one spot! It’s good to stick tightly with the group here and I felt like I was in the way a bit, but once you start eating, it’s easier to find yourself in your own little world!

 

Stockholm Food Tour Game Meat

 

Our first bites were game meat. I’m not one to usually enjoy game meat. My family always tried to get me to eat deer and I tried it once…never again! But I try it all while on the food tour, so I tried reindeer, moose, and even bear! I never thought I would eat bear, but it was delicious. I could have eaten everyone’s samples and been happy. This is the perfect time to try new things because you just never know if you’ll love it!

 

Stockholm Food Tour Cheese

 

From meat to cheese to a Finnish treat, we were still inside the market. The Karelian pasty (Finnish treat) was nothing like I’d ever seen before! A pastry with a rice pudding topped with an egg mousse. I didn’t know what to expect from the taste, but it was very mild with no strong egg flavor.

 

Stockholm Food Tour Finnish Treat

 

Then it all went fishy and the alcohol started to flow. Two types of herring that had completely different flavors and a piece of salmon that was delicious had my stomach ready for more. This fish stall knows how to do their thing…leaving you to wanting to buy some to take with you. We ate, drank, and sang at this stall and there were so many Instagram-worthy moments. But I do love my photo-in-a-photo with Skye Class.

 

stockholm_food_tours_pic_in_pic

 

When we left the market, I was a little sad because I knew there was so much more to try and buy! But my disappointment left as soon as the man at Urban Deli started talking. Sean and I instantly fell for this part store-part restaurant-part bar environment. They use fresh ingredients, make most things homemade and the staff is given a lot of freedom to experiment. So you could ask for something off-the-wall and get something amazing! They even have a butcher on site…and that’s why we had some beef tartare. It was beautiful and I kind of liked it…tartare isn’t my favorite thing because of the texture. But the flavor was on point and still made me want to go back (and we did!).

 

Food Tours Stockholm Tartare

 

I don’t want to give away the entire tour, but I will say that we discovered one of the best places for Swedish meatballs (better than IKEA!), some drool-worthy chocolate, cookies, more meats and cheeses, and even had a grande finale in a dungeon with coffee and tea and treats that I wished were much bigger because they were amazingly delicious!

 

Food Tours Stockholm Swedish Meatballs

 

Here are some photos so you get a peek at the tour…but watch that drool!

 

Food Tours Stockholm Meat Tray stockholm_food_tour_fish_tasting

Stockholm Food Tour with Bread Food Tours Stockholm Dessert

This was a complimentary tour thanks to Food Tours Stockholm, Visit Stockholm and TBEX, which we thoroughly enjoyed. All opinions are my own and we are so grateful for the opportunity to experience this food tour so we can share it with you!

 

Expat Life: Our First Trip Home

Expat Life: Our First Trip Home

After two years and many travels around Europe, we finally visited our friends and family in the United States. About 2 years and 3 months ago we decided Amsterdam would be our new home and had not set immediate plans to go back for a visit. We were looking ahead to our adventures (and struggles) and weren’t ready to get back to U.S. soil for a while. It had nothing to do with the people, and we weren’t escaping life, it was just that we had so much to do and see once we moved.  

 

It Starts Scary

 

First Trip Home as an Expat

 

I read a lot about reverse culture shock, and how you don’t fit in with your family and friends anymore. How everything is strange and your culture doesn’t feel right anymore. I was terrified to drive considering I hadn’t driven in 2 years and had barely even been in a car!

Planning to see so many people who we weren’t sure if they cared enough to see us was nerve-wracking. What would people think of us? Would we be pressured to move back right away? Could we make time for everyone?

 

Then Gets Exciting

 

First trip home as an expat meeting up with friends

 

In the town we became adults and created our lives, we planned a potluck picnic in a park. I even had help from one of the most influential people in my life, my former boss. After 3 years of working together, she felt more like family than a colleague, and that showed with all she did for me. I was getting excited to see a bunch of friends from “our” town together in one place. I think we missed these people so much because this town and the people in it were part of our everyday life for 7 years!

 

Friendships

 

Friends would write and say how excited they were that we were visiting…and THAT made me excited. Everyone wants to be wanted, right? Yes. Absolutely.

Family was getting excited to see us too. We scheduled out where we would be and when to see as many people as we possibly could. It was so nice to see everyone and I was so happy we were able to visit!

 

Nothing’s Changed

 

Wildwood Park

 

The funny thing is, when we were in “our” town, nothing had really changed. The town is exactly how we left it…aside from a bit of construction. People had changed and families got bigger, but everything felt normal. The weirdest part about going home was that nothing felt weird. We’d eat where we’d normal eat, and go where we’d normally go.

 

Eggs and Grits

 

The best way I can describe it is that we were away for a month or two. We didn’t see family every weekend, so heading up to see them felt regular and the timing felt right Grandma’s and mom’s food tasted the same, the dogs remembered me, and I instinctively knew where everything was.

 

Autopilot

 

Sean and Jess at Wildwood

One of the strangest things that happened was that we were headed back to where we were staying and I was at a stop light in the left turn lane. I turned to Sean and said “I don’t know why I’m in the left turn lane, I need to go straight.” He said, “You are driving to our old apartment.” He was right! Autopilot took over and I was headed “home”!

Driving was an incredibly natural feeling, and my only issue was figuring out how to turn on the lights. But even then, once parked, I went to turn them off and I went to turn them off where my old car had its lights. Muscle memory had taken over.

We even easily navigated to the park where we took our first photo as a couple, and took a picture in the same spot about 12 years later. After visiting our alma mater, it seems like the right thing to do! I wish I had the first picture to show you, but I’m afraid that’s not digital and buried somewhere in a box in Virginia!

 

Finally Seeing the Family

Mountains of the Shenandoah ValleySeeing family is bittersweet. It’s amazing to see everyone, get hugs, and eat the amazing food we remembered. But, when you say goodbye, it’s hard.

Everyone has questions…though sometimes it felt like a quiz or the 20 questions game. Where are you working? What do you do? How do you like Amsterdam? When are you coming back? Obviously, some questions are harder than others. We are lucky enough that all of one side of my family came together for a family lunch just before we flew out again. It was awesome to see everyone in such a great mood and have everyone together under one roof.

 

Our Social Circle

Friendship Shot

 

Our picnic was awesome! We were surrounded by those who choose to be in our lives a long time ago…and they still like us! 🙂 We are so grateful to have friends that took time out of their inevitably busy schedules to spend an afternoon with us. Our friends-family grew while we were gone too! Three kids joined the party that had not been born yet when we left. How cool is that?! As one friend put it, *pointing to her daughter* “You’ve been gone that long!” since her daughter was born a week or so after we left.

 

Friendships from home

 

As with most parties, it is so hard to be able to spend time with everyone. I left feeling a bit guilty not talking long enough to some people. Since there was two of us, I had just hoped that Sean was able to spend time with those I didn’t get to talk to much. But, I love them all and look forward to seeing them again!

 

What We Brought Back

 

Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery

 

A suitcase in a suitcase. That’s the trick to going home and coming back with a bunch of stuff you left behind!  Never underestimate the shopping to be done where you know all the stores, the brands, and your size in everything! We hit clothing stores, shoe stores, and even some specialty stores while we were in the U.S. Let’s be real, it’s cheaper there and easier to get in and out when you know what you are looking for.

In addition to a shopping spree, we dug through our stuff that we store at my family’s house. Until we get a place with more space, it has to stay there. But we did leave without a lot of our memories. The one type of things we desperately wanted to bring back were our Christmas ornaments. They are so special to us and we hated not having them for 2 years. Now we’ll feel extra Christmasy this year!

This might surprise you, but we brought back wine. Before you go all crazy on us for bring wine from the U.S. to Europe where wine is relatively cheap, let me explain. In Virginia we have favorite wineries, some we visited every 4-6 months for a tasting and to see what was available for purchase since they are small and don’t sell everywhere. It was a great trip to spend a bit of time away from our town and into the back road of central Virginia. This winery is Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery where they make true to fruit wines and meads. I haven’t seen this stuff in Europe yet! If you know of any, let us know!

So, we brought melon wine, plum wine, and some spiced pumpkin mead. This is good stuff, and traditional wine lovers might not love this idea, but if it’s good, then why not? I don’t care what you call it, but we love it and are so glad we brought some back with us. A cool glass of melon wine on a super hot day in Amsterdam brings me back to a steamy day in the South. Super refreshing and absolutely perfect.

 

Until Next Time

 

Until our next trip to the US

 

I don’t know when our next trip to the U.S. will be and that’s okay. The hardest part about vacation days is when to use them for vacation or to go back and visit. Our move to Amsterdam is largely because we want to travel, so that is what we plan on doing. It is what makes us happy.

Life will always be full of adventure, excitement, frustrations, love, and friendship no matter where we go. We are just lucky enough to have people on two continents that love and support us and have our backs at any time. The downside is that at any moment, we are not with people we care about, and that may just be the hardest part of being an expat…living two lives.

Are you an expat, or traveled extensively, to return home and feel different? What’s your story?

 

That Time We Closed A Berlin Bar

That Time We Closed A Berlin Bar

Everyone’s travel experience is unique. You might want something different out of a visit to Berlin than I might want. Some people go for the nightlife, some for the history, and others for the monuments. And sometimes, things just happen…like that time we closed a Berlin bar.

This is one of those stories that is just a story. It’s a memory for me and a demonstration to you that when you keep your mind open, happy things can happen that you could have never imagined.


We went to see a lots of historical sights because they are part of recent history that we don’t want to see repeated. But after a day of hard core life, we decided to go to a local institution. It’s an old bar/restaurant with not much on the menu except delicious schnitzel and a bunch of German beers. It’s no secret we love food! I mean, we even did a Berlin Food Tour with Bite Berlin to get a taste of the city. But nothing can give you that authentic feel as much as wandering into a local dive bar on your own.

It all started innocently enough. We made a reservation, but showed up and they didn’t have it. We got lucky though and a table just opened up for four people and he asked if we minded sharing with two others (another couple). We wanted to eat and we’re used to tight restaurant spaces, so why not?

The whole meal was delicious but uneventful. We knew the woman was German but couldn’t quite figure out where the man she was with was from. A few times we asked her a question of what something was on the menu since she was speaking English to the man and knew she could understand us.

Berlin_Bar_Adventure

After the last bite, something happened and we all got in a conversation. I don’t remember what any of it was about, but it lasted a long time! We learned about them, they learned about us and we just sat there refilling our drinks as we went. The server/bartender/manager guy loved interacting with us so we had no problem just hanging out. He would joke with us and with me about not drinking beer (I’m sorry, I just don’t like it!) and even joined us for a bit.

We all drank fairly slowly, but then, another German joined us. I honestly have no clue where he came from. Nobody knew him, but the woman we were with invited him to join our very enthusiastic table. Someone bought shots for the entire table, and not even 20 minutes later, someone else bought shots for the whole table.

I remember one tasted like mouthwash, and I couldn’t even tell you what the other was. About that time I realized that everyone else had left. It was just our table of five at the point hanging out with the server/bartender/manager guy. Obviously we were feeling good, full, and happy we made new friends, so of course we took a photo! So, here’s us, all behind the bar of this local German restaurant/bar in Berlin.

Berlin_Bar_Adventure

It’s seriously one of the best travel experiences. Lesson: Be open for random encounters. Obviously stay safe (and we were), but enjoy meeting new people and open for spontaneity.

Travel Lesson: Be open for random encounters. Click To Tweet

What is the best experience you’ve ever had with strangers while traveling?

The Ultimate Guide to the World Travel Market for Bloggers

The Ultimate Guide to the World Travel Market for Bloggers

Are you a travel blogger and ready to be incredibly inspired and educated? The World Travel Market (WTM) is the first place that helped me really think about my blog, inspired my content, opened up opportunities, and got me incredibly motivated to share stories and tips with you.

I did research before going to my first WTM, but nothing truly prepares you until you are there. It’s a place filled with opportunity, wonder, and excitement. I wrote all about my experience from 2015 if you want to read that as well.

Personally, I enjoy creating relationships and building friendships — both with fellow bloggers and with industry professionals. But as an introvert, the idea of going in and talking to people I didn’t know for four whole days was terrifying. Couple that with being a planner, I knew I had to get some things figured out.

To help other bloggers prepare for this grand event, I have created this Ultimate Guide to the World Travel Market for Bloggers. I’ll take you from the beginning to the end based on my experience. I truly hope it helps you, and please reach out on Twitter if you have any questions about it!

 

Prepare

Register as Press

To register as a member of the press (yep, that means bloggers too!), click here. You’ll need to take a photo of your business card and choose the areas you cover. They take about 3 days to confirm your acceptance, then you will receive your pass digitally which you’ll need to print out before you arrive. This is free, so take advantage of this awesome opportunity!

 

WTM Guide for bloggers View over floor

 

Join the Facebook group and the LinkedIn group to stay in the know and follow the #WTMLDN hashtags to be part of the conversation.

Check out the schedule and add the sessions you are interested in on your My WTM calendar so you can refer to it, and plan around those. I did find out that some of them are super popular (such as: How much money a travel blogger should make), so plan a good buffer, maybe 15-20 minutes beforehand so you can get in a get a seat.

Focus. Focus. Focus. I say this at work all the time and this is no different. Don’t go in thinking that everyone wants to talk to you or that you have something to offer every country in the building. We are focusing on Europe right now. Mainly our adopted home of the Netherlands, but we also enjoy exploring all of this beautiful continent. Then I narrowed it down even more. I figured that I’ve flown into Iceland twice and I want to see more of it. The Nordic countries don’t get enough love, so I’ll check them out, Germany, France, Belgium, and the UK are super close, so I’ll connect with those groups, and who doesn’t love Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece,and Croatia?

Group countries by importance to you, or maybe by likelihood of getting a meeting. Then plan your meetings around the sessions you choose. When asking for a meeting, be professional, polite, and respect their time.

 

Business Cards

You will definitely need business cards! Of course you can get business cards from many places, but my favorite (and I noticed a lot of people’s favorite) is MOO. They are amazing quality and come in a really handy box with a couple of dividers. Keep your cards in the front and add the ones you receive in the back. No confusion! Order your MOO business cards through that link and get 10% off and I get a little something too 😉

Don’t put these off until the last minute. Having them ordered at least one month before will make you feel a bit more prepared. One last piece of business card advice: go with a standard size and incorporate a bit of white space to give people a little spot to write a note about you. I know people want to stand out, but the half cards and square cards are annoying for people to handle. Find a different way to stand out!

I ordered 100 cards (that’s two MOO boxes) and handed out maybe 60 between other bloggers and industry contacts. Some handy them out like candy, and I guess I did as well, but I was also selective in the booths I went to so that I could keep my focus. So, I think 100 would be plenty–unless you are SUPER outgoing and talk to anyone who will talk back. Always keep a few in your pocket!

 

Press Kit (Media Kit)

Do some research to figure out how you should create your document, what the design should be, what information to put on it, and how to print it. I had a friend help with mine and we used Canva. She would have preferred InDesign, but I wanted to have access to it for changes. Use whatever is comfortable for you. We were told at WTM this year that bloggers are stepping up their game when it comes to press kits, so spend some time on it. Sadly, not many people asked for mine since they preferred digital. I hate wasting money and paper, but at least I was prepared. To be safe, I would suggest printing 20-30. Really though, nobody loves a ton of paper. You will find some booths staple it onto their form, so they already have a system in place to accept them.

Here’s a great guide from The Blog Maven on how to make an awesome Media Kit and here are some helpful examples.

 

WTM Egypt

 

WTM App

You’ll get an email about the WTM app that’s free to download. You should probably have it, though when it came to looking up vendors, I tended to look at the paper route planner that you pick up when you arrive. It’s just easier to read. Just test it out yourself before relying on it, and be prepared for multiple updates to the app.

 

Know What Makes You Special

Depending on the size of your blog, you may have already thought of this, but let’s get into it anyway. What makes you unique? Who is your market? Who is your target audience (this might be different than your market)? What’s your niche? You can have more than one. Do you have a unique view of the world? Are you a foodie? A wine or beer expert? Do you only stay at the homes of locals? Are you nomadic? Do you like the quirky stuff? Are you a stylish traveler? Are you a penny-pincher? An adrenaline junkie? Treehugger? Vegan? Volunteer? Or a luxury traveler? What geographical areas do you cover? Are you better at taking photos than writing? Are you sassy and tell it like it is? Maybe you’re everyone’s best friend?

Example: We are a couple who enjoys traveling and discovering the areas that tourists don’t bother to find in cities that everyone seems to flock to. Whether it’s a day trip from that city, enjoying a local festival, or finding the quirkiest thing to do, it’s probably not what everyone else is doing. We also love food and wine, so those regions known for that are very interesting to us and we want to explore them. And of course we love authenticity. Geographically, our focus is Europe.

Know your story and tailor it to the destination.

 

WTM Jessica

 

Packing

Part of being classified as international press and going to make professional contacts is looking the part. So, make sure your clothing reflects that. I saw outfits that ranged from “I wouldn’t have worn that” to (staring) “What the hell is she wearing?!”

Think business casual for women and suits for men. I wore a half-sleeve sweater one day, a button-up another, then a small v-neck sweater with a blazer, and a mock turtle-neck with a nice looking duster. I paired these with a straight-leg medium brown trouser and a medium grey relaxed-leg trouser.  All paired with a rounded tip black flat. Don’t wear jeans.

It is London, so you may want to pack an umbrella and be sure to have regular (non-conference) shoes with you too! I wore these on the plane. Though I learned the hard way that you might want to bring water-resistant shoes.

Leave room in your suitcase for papers! As much as you probably don’t want to carry home a bunch of brochures, you will get some that are beautiful, helpful, or that you simply need! I didn’t expect to get a lovely swag bag from Dubai with a wide brimmed hat, flip-flops and sunscreen, so packing that was unexpected!

 

Schedule

A schedule is always helpful, but in this case it can save you from thousands of steps. First, check the sessions you are interested in attending. That’s the easiest task to start with since the information will be available. Then, you can try to set up meetings with those you are serious about connecting with. Do it as early as possible, before their calendars fill up. Add in the events you want to attend (external and internal) and finally, prioritize the areas you want to visit. You can still meet with people if you didn’t get a preset time, you just need to catch them at their stand! Monday was the best day of getting around the stands for me. Tuesday and Wednesday everyone seemed extremely busy. Thursday was very quiet as many people had left and students come in to scope out work and internship opportunities.

 

Getting There and Getting Around

There may be discounts available for getting to London and then getting around the city. WTM also has official accommodation providers if you are interested. Of course, there is a DLR stop on either side of the ExCel Center so it’s relatively easy to get to. Just keep in mind that traveling in London seems to take quite a while no matter where you are coming from or going to. Whether you are staying close by or more into the center of the city, get an Oyster Card (their transit card)! It will make your life easier. Tap in and out for the metro and DLR (once when you start your journey and once when it’s over–not at transfers). And only tap in for the buses.

 

what to expect

Overwhelm

It’s a huge space, and it can be hard to think east-west/north-south. Luckily the signage is really well placed and there are maps all over. The hall is divided into continental areas, and then by countries, with the Global Village and the tech area at one end.

As soon as you arrive, head straight to the Press Centre to check your coat and any bags you won’t be needing. Take a minute to sit down and review your schedule for the day. Then take a deep breath and go for it!

 

WTM_Lunch_time

 

WTM Route Guide

This is your best friend. Really, have this, your cards and media kit and you are all set. The Route Guide has all the sessions listed in an easy-to-follow way and there is a fold-out map in the back with a directory inside. On your first day, you may want to circle/highlight/write the country name in the booklet to help you later because you aren’t going to remember that the Netherlands is EU500.

 

WTM_press_centre

 

Press Centre

I am so incredibly thankful for the Press Centre. It’s a refuge from the craziness. There’s a coat check that you can use for free, there’s extra wifi if you can’t get the main two to work, and there’s a coffee/tea/snack bar inside. Everyone listed as press is treated the same way which is really interesting. I sat with a member of the BBC and Euronews TV. Give them all your card! If you’re lucky, they will be handing out vouchers for coffee/tea. You will also find the Press Centre info desk, extra wifi, bathrooms, an office area, and a room with press kits and such from destinations along with other information. (Note: They moved the Press Centre in 2016 so this information may change)

 

wtm session

 

Sessions

There are so many sessions to choose from! Don’t feel like you have to go to all of them, but pick one or two that you will find interesting or that you think you will learn from. You can never learn too much! I went to three, all were incredibly interesting, and I came out with great notes from each. It can be easy to make connections in these sessions as well. You never know who you will meet and where.

Not all the categories will be relevant, so read the descriptions and even ask around if you aren’t sure if it’s for you. They have some that are labeled as “blogger” sessions that might be of interest, and I went to a couple of those. I also went to a session about the food/drink/travel industry which I found fascinating!  Don’t forget that sessions give you an opportunity to sit down which is awesome because you will be walking a ton!

 

WTM Guide for bloggers Sri Lanka stand

 

WTM Festivals

One night each year WTM is now hosting festivals. A handful of countries stay late (until around 7:00 pm) and showcase their music, personality, food, and drinks. These are open events for attendees and quite interesting to see. They do get very crowded, so I suggest figuring out which one you really want to see, and go there first.

In 2015, I saw a Mariachi Band, tasted coconut ice cream, and saw drunk trade people dancing to pop/rock tunes. Everyone was having a blast.  The Caribbean festival was the craziest with different types of food on trays constantly arriving. Because it is open to everyone, and we all like free stuff, people would swarm these servers to grab a bite to eat.

 

London Food Tour Tacos

 

Unofficial events

Many events are planned around the World Travel Market and make it a very well-rounded experience. There may be food tours offered, or parties hosted by destinations or other companies. Travel organizations host events as well–and are VERY well attended. Most are invitation only — so start tweeting the WTM hashtag, join Facebook groups, and get on mailing lists!

Traverse tends to host something the Friday before the event. This can be hard to get to if you aren’t based in London, but something to keep in mind. Travel Massive had an overly large event at a cool venue after the first event day. On the last event day, someone usually hosts a finale party somewhere in the host city.

 

WTM Guide for bloggers Chocolate tasting

 

Freebies

It’s a fact that some people go to these things just for the freebies. Some are after big ticket items like press trips and others are interested in the food. I’m sure they don’t come to London just for food samples, but I think you know what I mean.

There are lots of freebies to be had, but again, be respectful. Some of the fun ones were getting pictures taken “at the destination”. So I have a photo in Costa Rica, Portugal, and even Platform 9 ¾. There are chocolate tastings, beer and wine tastings, and the Festivals have quite a bit of food and drink as well. I got a neck and shoulder massage from Thailand for free which was heaven, and they offered free coffee as well. Sri Lanka had a tea bar and I’m pretty sure they were doing foot massages (can’t believe I missed that!). The Netherlands had Heineken and Ireland had Guinness.

I enjoyed the little candies and chocolates spread about and don’t forget to ask about them. Destinations are showing you what they are proud of, so let them explain. You can learn a lot about a culture through food, drink, and little candies! There are even some raffles you can enter and virtual reality you can experience. So much to do, right?!

 

 

to do

Pitching

I don’t personally go in the first time I meet someone and immediately throw my elevator pitch.  I know others who could pitch in their sleep and probably land a contract in 10 minutes. Just like everything, everyone has their own style. So, here’s mine:

First of all, stick with your focus, then it will flow better when you talk to people. Depending on your mood and the perceived mood of the person, you could start with simply introducing yourself. Though, I don’t say I’m a travel blogger at first. Maybe this is wrong, but I felt that it was easier to build a rapport before throwing that in there. I say that because I do hear bloggers say they feel like people perceive them as just wanting free things. Yes, I want experiences, but I genuinely want to experience that place and share it with the world. And that needs to show.

I tend to first gush over their region and use specifics. “Austria has some of the most beautiful buildings.” “I hear the food in Spain is incredible and that your area has a great food culture” “I’ve visited your embassy in D.C. and found the people so friendly and learned that you have some of the oldest ruins” You get the point. Just be real. If you are headed there soon, tell them that you are excited (hopefully you are if you are going!), and that you want to learn more so you don’t miss anything since you’re a travel blogger and want to share the love.

A different approach I used was mentioning my niches first, or asking something specific. For Switzerland, I mentioned I was a blogger and said I was interested in winter destinations because I think that people don’t take advantage of winter travel as much as they should. Or I would tell a destination how I loved finding the quirkier side of a city, or an experience outside of the main city, and what would they recommend.

Another segue into working with blogs could be “Do you have a blogger program?” or “Do you work with bloggers?” If you ask this question, you will likely be directed to the PR person or someone like that, so they can give you relevant information. Some are very straight-forward with what they offer and some will just add you to a list.

I think I was asked for my numbers twice and had 60 press kits printed (not cheap!) then gave maybe 5. They rest just preferred it to be digital. So do I!

Here’s a great article on pitching from Travel Blog Success that might help you even more.

 

WTM guide for bloggers

 

Network

You are networking all the time. Always have your own cards handy. I made great connections while sharing a lunch table, sitting next to people in sessions, and other random spots. Always be open to meet people and chat.

First thing on Monday morning, you are welcomed with a breakfast where you can network with other members of the press. This might be for magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs. Never turn down an opportunity to network…especially if it involves food!

Take business cards! I immediately put the contact info in a spreadsheet and ad them on Twitter to a WTM list so that I remember where I met them and maybe a fun fact about our conversation.

Take photos during WTM and upload them as you go, or wait until the evening and schedule posts for the next day. That way you can be sure to tag the right people and use the right hashtags! Tweet the people who on are panels at the sessions you are attending. Connect however possible to be noticed!

Hootsuite: Follow #WTMLDN, #WTM16 (unofficial), @WTM_London and check them throughout the day to see if there’s anything interesting you should check out or to engage with even if just on Twitter.

Be polite, professional, and genuine!

 

Don’t be all “Gimme-Gimme”

Respect is a reoccurring theme in this port for good reason. Just because you have big numbers or you think you are super special does not mean that people should feel honored to work with you. Go into meetings with a mutually beneficial attitude and you’ll get much more out of it. Bloggers seem to have a reputation of going to booths just to ask for free things. So let’s all help change that stereotype to one of friendliness, professionalism, and being easy to work with. Start with building relationships and you’ll go much farther!

 

WTM_Malta_table

 

Take Care of Yourself

Try to take food with you so you can eat on the go when you realize you are hungry. Maybe that’s energy bars, fruit, a packed sandwich, just something to keep you going. I kept water, food bars, and peanuts in my bag which helped a lot.

Wear decent shoes. Yes, you should look professional, but maybe bring some light/comfy shoes in your bag with you for when you need to get out of the nice shoes. I went with Toms shoes since they are light and very comfortable.

 

Follow Up

After this crazy whirlwind of an event, you’ll want to follow up with the contacts you made. This might just be a polite “Thanks for meeting with me. Hope to work with you soon.” Or something more productive, like hashing out a contract. Either way, it’s good to connect soon after and try to add something personal to make your contact remember you. Maybe you spoke about their dog, or they had a tough flight, or anything you remember from that meeting, bring it up and they know you weren’t just making the rounds.

 

Congratulations!

Going to the World Travel Market as a blogger is an awesome experience that can boost your blogging social circle, your motivation, and your understanding of working with brands and destinations. Embrace it! You are going to come out with so much knowledge and so many contacts that you won’t be able to help but to start taking yourself seriously as a blogger. If you are able to make connections with fellow bloggers before you leave, definitely schedule a meetup to give you a head-start on networking.


If you are going to WTM this year, tweet me and I’ll put you in my WTM ‘16 list. Maybe we can even meet up! Have other questions? Leave them below, or just let me know what you are most excited about! Catch ya in London 🙂


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ultimate-guide-world-travel-market-bloggers

The Best In-Flight Essentials To Keep You Happy and Prepared

The Best In-Flight Essentials To Keep You Happy and Prepared

Whether you are flying carry-on only, or you checked everything you didn’t need or want on the plane, it’s so important to have everything in one place and easily accessible while flying. It helps with stress, patience, happiness, and hunger…and on long flights, be prepared can feel like a life-saver! So, let’s get into this:

 

What you need

What you need for in flight essentials

In case of an emergency and you have an emergency landing, you can not take your large bag with you, but if are able to stick your passport in your pocket or jacket, it’s best to grab it! So keep it close.

Of course you want to keep your ticket for any references you may need to refer to. For customs forms you will need your flight number and other information. Just best to keep with you.

Credit cards and cash are important if you want to buy things on board. Full service airlines will include some food and beverages not the budget airlines will not. Some take cash, but many will only use credit cards. Be sure you’ve let your bank know you are traveling first!

A pen is for any documents you need to fill out, such as customs forms. You’ll be your entire row’s best friend if you have a pen. On my last flight, the guys were so sweet to me and even got me another customs form when I messed up. Next thing I know they asked to use my pen, which I was happy to oblige and be that nice person 🙂

 

What you want

What you want for in flight essentials

These ideas depend on how long your flight is, but good to keep in mind as a checklist.

Having a sleep mask is self-explanatory; as is a neck pillow which is everything on long flights. I have to have mine. I never forget it, it’s essential for me! It goes around my neck as I board to keep my hands free and to not have to fiddle with my bag. Not just for necks, I often put mine behind my lower back when I don’t need it to sleep. My eBags carry-on has a little strap at the top for another pack, but it’s also the perfect size for a neck pillow.

Along these same lines, a scarf, hoodie, sweater to keep you warm if needed, and a little extra softness if you need that as well. It’s really amazing how flexible simple items can be!

Noise cancelling headphones are everything. They come in so many sizes, types, and price ranges. I was skeptical at first, then I tried my husband’s and it’s like you’re in your own little world. When you take them off, you realize how loud the plane really is.

I get hangry, and I need to eat something every few hours. Little bars are perfect and a great size for travel and no mess. You can even make your own! Just a quick Pinterest search gives you a ton of options. I’ve made a few tasty bars in my time, but honestly I usually just buy a pack before I leave.

Water keeps you hydrated of course, but it’s good just to have when you need a sip of something, need to take a pill, or want to eat your snack and it’s a bit dry. I’m a huge fan of CamelBak bottles but they are a bit bulky, so you’ll need to find what works for you. If on a long flight, throwing a couple tablets of Uppy in your pack is helpful. If you have your own water, just ask for a cup to get the right serving size. It really helped me adjust after my flight from the U.S. Basically, it seems to help with jetlag and dehydration.

Gum is great to help with that annoying ear-popping annoyingness. When they happen as they should it’s not a problem. But if you fly with any sort of sinus issue or cold, it can be a nightmare! Gum can help a bit, and drinking some water can as well.

Things are dirty, so one thing to think about is to grab some alcohol pads before you head out and toss them in your bag. They barely take up any space and can give peace of mind when you’re around so many people sneezing and coughing.

Lastly…the thing that rarely leaves your hand…something you might feel naked without…your phone! There’s probably music or games or educational material on that thing that will make life a little bit better on the plane. I put most stuff I will use on my Galaxy Tab, because I love the larger screen and I don’t drain my phone battery since I’ll need it when I’m off the plane. To go along with this, an portable battery charger and charging cables are super handy too!

 

How to pack

How to pack the in flight essentials

If I’m carry-on only, I have a large pouch that hangs out in the front pocket of my main bag and I take it out just before boarding. This can’t fit everything, especially not the headphones, but I just make them super easy to grab.

A small backpack is great and super flexible. If I’m checking everything, I’ll just use my Pacsafe backpack which is small enough to go under the seat, has a water bottle pockets and lots of other small pockets to organize everything. Somehow this bag seems like a Mary Poppins bag…you can fit a TON inside. I still use the pouch I mentioned above for my tablet, keyboard, and notebook, just to keep it all together.


Pin for later or to share!

In flight essentials Pin

 

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10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Stockholm

10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Stockholm

Stockholm was always on my list of places to visit, but never super high. I didn’t know what to expect, what was there, or what would interest me. Then I went, and everything changed.

 

In love with Stockholm

 

I am head-over-heels in love with Stockholm. So much so, that if we were able to have a summer home somewhere, it would be there. Because I don’t want you to miss out on the amaziness that is this delightful city, I’m making a list of reasons you’ll fall in love too.

 

So Much Green

Green Space in Stockholm

 

It’s definitely a city, but it’s a city that’s made room for some serious green spaces. Spread over 14 islands, some have more green space than others, but when you fly into the airport, you’ll instantly see what I’m talking about!

Stockholm has regular city-like parks with fountains, some gardens, walking paths and such which make for a quick break from walking the streets in search of the next museum or perfect photo. Though, I would need to live there for a while to explore every nook and cranny, I’d love to share my favorite area. It’s on the island of Djurgården. While this island has some of the most famous museums like the Vasa Museum and the ABBA Museum, it also has an amazing green space called Waldemarsudde that brought us to tears. I’m not even exaggerating here. Standing on rocks by the water with a park behind us and an incredible view in front of us with a marina and other islands, it felt like the perfect moment.

Being in nature brings calmness. There’s just something about it that more people should experience more often. I’m trying to head to the park or the forest more often, and maybe it’s something you’d like to do too!

 

Perfect for Strolling

Strolling along the streets of Stockholm

 

This is such a walkable city with something to discover around each corner. I’m a sucker for a cute street — interesting doors, old timey signs, and some surprising views can all be found down cute streets! And those are the best places to find some local restaurants too, so don’t be scared to explore a bit.

Larger and more populated areas can be awesome too. They can come with great shopping, large parks, and restaurants made for people watching. There are so many possibilities…and so many islands to stroll around to discover your spot in Stockholm.

 

The Water

Cruising in Stockholm

 

Ohhh! I love being near the water. Like the green areas, it’s calming for me. And with boats coming and going, or people swimming, there’s usually something to keep my attention. But even if it’s just the natural scenery and the sound of the waves, I’m in my happy place.

People on boats look so happy! There are a lot of different ways to get on the water. There are ferries that can go really far out from the main city, tour boats that meander around Stockholm or through the Archipelago, and shuttles as part of the 24 hour bus + boat passes. If you grab the Stockholm Pass, available in 1, 2, 3, or 5 days increments, you get a bunch of options to get on the water included in the pass. We did the Archipelago Boat Tour and were in awe of how beautiful it was and how idyllic life seems to those living on the islands. With their stunning homes, boats parked out front with a dock that kids were jumping into the water from, and what we assume was a sauna with steps right down to the water, it seemed like the definition of perfection…at least in the summer!

 

Cleanliness

Love Stockholm's Clean Parks

 

Clean cities are something I appreciate. I just like it when there isn’t trash everywhere, graffiti all over every wall, and buildings and public spaces looking taken care of. It makes for a pleasant experience and great photos! Of course this isn’t possible everywhere, but it’s just something I noticed while in Stockholm.

With old cities, it’s nice to see as much of the original city as possible. Of course cars ruin that more than anything, but the kind of trash we have today and graffiti as it is today just wasn’t there one-, two-, or three-hundred years ago and changes the image. I like to imagine how it was then and how it is now.

 

The Archipelago

In Love with Stockholm's Archipelago

 

30,000 islands. Need I say more?

Yes? Ok, well the Swedes that have a little extra cash used to have their summer homes on these islands. Pretty sure people live on some of these islands all year now. It’s easy to see why — it’s absolutely stunning. As in, it’s unfair that so few people see this area but it also helps keep it as pristine as possible.

Take a cruise around, take a ferry to an island, take a tour. However you do you, make sure you see this part of the Earth. There’s no way you’ll regret it. In fact, you can come back here and tell me how much you loved it and share your pictures with me because I can’t get enough either!

 

Public Transit

Love the Stockholm Metro

 

Easy peasy. Bus, tram, metro, boat. That’s all you need aside from your own two feet. Some are even crazy fun and cool to explore. The photo above is INSIDE a metro station!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re on an island because everything is so well connected. I’m a big fan of grabbing a transit pass that’s valid for as long as you might need it. It’s a bit pricey but saves a lot of piece of mind when you’re not trying to figure out how much cash you need to get on a bus or if you need a ticket ahead of time.

As a bonus, some of the metro stations are way down underground and look like caves. Some have amazing artwork inside just like above. Ashlea from A Globe Well Travelled has an awesome post on how to visit all the coolest metro artwork with just one ticket for the metro. I’ve only seen a few, but they are an experience in themselves. Definitely worth the time!

 

Beautiful Buildings

Love Stockholm's beautiful buildings

 

While buildings throughout Stockholm have a similar color scheme, the buildings still feel colorful and vibrant with their oranges and yellows. Sometimes it feels like walking through a story about old Sweden as I look up at the old buildings with their unique doors and their old windows. From afar, a block of houses could easily be seen as little homes you put with your train set under the Christmas Tree. There’s just something so special about their appearance.

Even looking down at the buildings from a roof tour (super cool thing to do!), every building seems to fit perfectly with its surroundings. They are purpose-built, not meant to be pretty, but somehow seem to charm all the visitors as we daydream about old Stockholm.

 

Great Atmosphere

Love Stockholm's street scene

 

The vibe is good. It’s one of the reasons I love Stockholm. Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world and it shows! You won’t see people arguing and you won’t see pushy people. What you’ll experience are people just living their lives, going to and fro and maybe enjoying an evening out. Might sound boring, but this might also involve a stroll through the park, a bike ride, a boat ride, or a drink on a terrace.

It’s hard to really pinpoint why it’s so pleasant, but it’s just a feeling. That feeling of pure happiness when you don’t know why. Have you had that feeling before? I don’t have a lot of complaints, but I can’t say I often feel that pure happiness with nothing else is hanging on my mind. In Stockholm, though, I would just smile for no reason. And this was every day. If you explore this city for no other reason, do it for the smiles!

 

Cityscape

Love this city view of Stockholm

 

It’s hilly, it’s green, it’s islands, it’s water, it’s so many things at once! Looking at Stockholm you might think that it was made so everyone would be happy. There’s high points to view the city, a theme park, and of course there’s the water where you just look up at everything. The personality of this city is so strong and so diverse that it just draws you in as though you need to be a part of it.

No matter what point of view you are looking for, you can have it easily. Find the highest bar, the most wooded area, the most remote island and snap a picture that’s uniquely yours. The photo ops are literally endless! I’d love to see your photos! If you have a website or Flickr, leave a link below so I can see one of my favorite cities through your eyes.

 

Easy to Find Your own Corner

My happy place in Stockholm

 

As I mentioned, I found my happy place on Djurgården, but with the variety of islands and neighborhoods, it’s easy to find your own corner of Stockholm. I like peaceful places where I can be alone with my thoughts…even if they are empty as I watch over the water. But I also fell for Gamla Stan, the old town and super charming part of the city and home to Barrels: Burgers, and Beer.

What would your happy place or favorite corner of Stockholm look like? A market with food surrounding you on every side? Maybe a picnic spot in a wooded area overlooking the water? Or the park in the middle of the buzz of the city so you can get anywhere super quick? We’d love to know!


My happy place in Stockholm

We visited in July and the weather was pretty great. It did rain just a bit, but nothing too bad and the crowds weren’t bad either. Stockholm is a very enjoyable city that we truly hope you have the ability to visit because it really kept us smiling and that’s what we wish for you!

Until next time, enjoy life and have fun!

10 Reasons Why You'll Love Stockholm Pin