Oh, the places you'll go

Oh, the places you'll go
Crete

Jamminnnn'

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being Alone is OK

Recently I met a nice attractive female who I planned to go on a date with. We arranged a day to go walk her bosses puppies on a trail. The day came and I was feeling "too tired" after a day of festing, so I took a rain check. A few days later, when we were supposed to go, I ditched again after work. We rescheduled. That day came around and I felt no desire to go on a date with this individual. Not because she isn't a good potential mate/date, but because I am in no stable place to date at this time. In a few months, I will be moving away and I will have to say goodbye to another good girl. I would rather not waste my time or hers. It is better for me to stay completely single and selfish focusing on myself until I am in a place where I can provide for a mate.

I imagine many millennial's may have similar experiences. Comment below.

Looking Back

I have consistently dated girls since I was about 16-17 years old. Around that age I discovered that my physical appearance was very important in attracting females. I became "popular" because I stayed physically fit, oh and my parents would go out of town so I would throw parties. Yay for utility friendships. I realize now that I attracted females, but I was never seriously trying to date, sometimes I just fell into it because the women were the pursuers. In doing so, I ended up breaking a lot of hearts and never being satisfied with a potential mate because I didn't really know what the hell I was doing. Even when I was consistently dating, I always felt that something was missing. What was it? I ask that in retrospect in order to understand and reflect on the situation.

I now realize that I was what was missing. I never truly engaged who I was dating. I was not present in all of the relationships I pursued. I was only half in/ half out on most of my relationships. Up until a particular one happened and I was totally involved. I actually felt true feelings for an organic relationship and I was so confused, because feelings are confusing if you have never had them for someone and then you realize BAM, you love someone. It is strange. Well, long story short; I really fucked that one up. Not only did I crush the girl I was involved with, but I was absolutely devastated. I never even got to say those three little words. Looking back, it wasn't that serious of a mistake, but I definitely could have done something different, like not told the truth, right? Just kidding, I may do some messed up things sometimes, but you won't catch me lying about them. A realistic change would be to not consume as much alcohol as I did and the problem is solved.

I am over this girl, and she is currently happily married. I am very happy for her. From that moment in life until the past few years, I have been completely hard on and critical of myself. Often times, this critical analysis is projected onto others and I hold them to the same standards I hold myself, and this is not at all fair. I make it very difficult for myself to develop organic relationships because I am hard on myself. I have recently learned to relax this standard, but old habits die hard. It is a work in progress.

During this time from my first heart break to recent years, I would bring some girls close enough to shut them down hard because I was lonely and I felt as if I had someone in my life then I would feel better about the past heartbreak. I never took the time to assess myself and the actual situation at hand. So I continued to try to bring girls just close enough, but not too close because I did not want to, for lack of better words, fuck shit up.

So, can you guess what happened?

I brought a few girls close. And you could say I fucked shit up. With every single one. Maybe not completely, but for the most part, my insecurities rubbed off on them and I ruined a potentially blossoming relationship because I never took the time to do some introspection and provide clarity as to why I act the way I act. I never took the time to truly provide myself with crucial alone time that would allow me to live without confusing feelings and discover what I am truly made of in order to provide more for someone else.

The most recent relationship I was in started off shortly after the one I ruined due to a bad decision, and it was a roller coaster from the start. We were on and off, up and down, stop and go. All because of me. I was the runner, her, the chaser. I was never satisfied and she just wanted me. Our love started off toxic from the beginning and it was because I was insecure. Insecure because I never understood why I was insecure. Insecure because I never took the time to reflect on mistakes and understand what I needed to do to ensure it would never happen again. I simply jumped into something that made me feel wanted and comfortable. Ultimately, our relationship ended after years of being on and off. After years of some good times, but also years of heartbreak and disappointment at my hand. After years of destroying each other. After years of repeating the same things over and over and feeling absolutely insane. But isn't that what love is? Am I being hard on myself? Maybe a little, but looking back, I fucking sucked, but I had found a girl who always put up with my insecurities out of pure desire for my happiness and she enabled me from advancing past this insecurity because she never held me accountable for my actions, so I would do like any addict does and repeat them, over and over again. I literally had to physically leave home in order to stop the downward spiral and toxic cycle that was us. I had to remove myself from her life if I wanted her to be happy because for whatever reason, I was not capable. Sometimes love just isn't enough in order to make a relationship work. Then comes the cliché question; what is love?

Looking Present

Flash forward to age 28, I am realizing it is okay to take time, date no one, and be truly alone. Of course friendships are welcomed and encouraged, but dating is no longer a necessity. By doing this, I am able to discover more about myself without feeling the need to have a mate in order to feel complete in life. It is okay to be alone. In doing so, an individual can be an individual. You can learn an abundance of information about yourself by not having a S/O in your life. I am not saying that dating is bad at all. I find it very fun and entertaining. I am saying that if you are wondering why it never works out with someone, or you just aren't satisfied with anyone or you are insecure about something, then it would benefit you to take a few months to find out what you can do on your own. I encourage things like reflection and understanding, writing, going on a solo trip, living abroad, getting into nature, putting your phone down, reading more, getting in touch with old friends, spending time with your family, getting in the best shape of your life, developing new hobbies, developing a morning routine, advancing in your career, volunteering, setting challenges for yourself, learning about your family history, learning new habits, learning how to fix something that breaks, etc. I could go on and on. But, when you start to do things on your own, and get away from toxic relationships (that you or others have caused), you begin to see them for what they were; a lesson. A lesson that teaches you the most valuable life lessons. Life lessons that hurt to think about, hurt to realize, but the hurt allows for healing and moving on. You might even find yourself stumbling across this mythical "soul mate" that many people believe exists. I am slightly skeptical.

Looking Forward

Now where does one go when they realize they need to be alone for a while? What is there to live for if not for someone else? How about the short and obvious answer; yourself. Get away from others. Meet new people. Embarrass yourself. Learn more. BE SELFISH! I encourage being selfish when you are alone and discovering more about yourself. This selfishness will allow you to take time learning more, when you learn more, you are actually building yourself up for your future. Not only are you building your future day in and day out with grinding life lessons, but you are creating space for your future potential mate. You are allowing yourself to understand your capabilities so you know what you are capable of providing for someone in the future. You are discovering what you want in your life, and what you are willing to compromise in order to provide for that mate. By being selfish now, you are creating space to be selfless later.

I had a friend ask me recently, "But, don't you want to get married?"

To which I responded, "If I get married, then I get married and have a family, if not then I travel more and help people in need." Either way is a win-win.

This is the chapter of my life where I am completely fine with being alone. I am discovering a plethora of information about myself. I am learning how to organize it in order to use it for my future. I am learning what I love to do. I am attempting to do things I have never done before. I am putting my ego aside and admitting I do not know it all, but I want to learn more. I want to learn more for myself, and for the future I am creating space for. I know sometimes it is a struggle, but there is strength in the discovery. Strength in the struggle...and low key, I am loving every minute of it.


One last thing: I encourage you to never settle. Compromise is good, but never ever EVER settle.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Unchained; Climbing to the Top of Germany

Do I have a death wish? Maybe.

"You're crazy." "That's stupid." "How dumb." "It looked beautiful though." Are all comments I heard when I told the story. Some people think I am a little insane, and I admit, I am. But in reality and opposition to a death wish, I am simply looking for ways to feel alive.

I reached the summit of 4 gruesome mountains in the past 2 days via challenging/risky routes and I have never felt more exhilarated, blissful, or ecstatic. Was it dangerous? Hell yes, and the adrenaline rush was worth every minute.

Mom, don't read this.

I climbed the tallest mountain in Germany via a Kettersteig Level C route without a harness (This essentially means you should have a harness and plan on chaining in in order to have insurance, otherwise a slip most likely means bye-bye). Trust me, this wasn't the plan, but I lived and I discovered a new German friend and hobby.
Hell Valley
I arrived at the end of the no gear hiking part of Hell Valley, aka Hollental, at 12:30pm. This is the part where you go from hiking to mountaineering. The part that separates the men from the boys. So to say. I noticed a young man staring up at the mountain assessing the situation, which was my full intention for the day. I just wanted to do a little hike, get some pics, and head back down, since I didn't have a harness.

They say a man doesn't really know what he is made of until he is thrown in the ring and tested out. Or maybe they don't say that and I made it up, either way, I was about to discover a lot more about my capabilities.

I began chatting with the young Ukrainian and I come to find out he didn't have a harness either and he just wanted to see if he might be able to head up to the Zugspitze this way. We both sat and stared up for what seemed like a very long time. We watched as little specks of people moved their way up, clipped in, clipped in, moved over, clip out, clip out, clip in, clip in, move, repeat. Until they got to a point where we could no longer see them. As they disappear, another man, roughly my age, in a bro tank comes up from behind us and starts talking to us. He realizes I'm American and begins chatting us up in English, as he puts on his harness.

"Is this route really difficult?" I ask.
"Well, it depends on your endurance and level of skill." He replies.

Obvious common answer I could have told myself. I would soon learn this guy's name to be Rob, and he didn't fully prepare for this adventure either, only his lack of preparation was minuscule compared to mine.

"Well, good luck." He says as he takes off up the ladder that scales straight up the mountainside. He's super fast too, hooking in and out and moving vertically to a section that takes him horizontally across the mountain, standing on nothing but an edge and holding onto a steel cable.

Now I had never done a hike or climb like this, so I admit I was incredibly intimidated as I stared up at him and the mountain. It looked so fun though, and I knew it would be incredibly easy with a harness and I would basically fly up the mountain.

"Are you going to do it?" Asks the Ukrainian.
"Well, I didn't come this far to turn back." I reply. We both laugh, easing the tension.

Now I realize I have to go, but if I do, this is the point of no return. I have no idea how difficult this gets. I know I am very physically capable and my endurance is through the roof, but not having that safety net could be crucial to success.

I begin up the ladder.

Rob clipping in and out across the mountainside

After you get up the ladder and over a horizontal part, you come to a mountainside that has these steel pegs protruding from the mountain as you grip the steel cable and shimmy over. Slipping here would certainly mean a long tumble to the afterlife. Although it was pretty natural and easy to me, I always had it in my mind that I needed to concentrate and not get too confident.

Me getting cocky before a harder part came
After you get pass this part, you continue on and upwards. The cables are sometimes there and sometimes not as you pass over giant boulder and scramble up hill sides. I thought the worst part was behind me, but I was incredibly and sorely mistaken.
After about an hour of hiking and scrambling, I reach a waterfall area where Rob is taking pictures. No idea how long he was there but he is about to leave as I am finishing a handful of trail mix.

"Where's the Ukrainian?" He asks.

We both laugh. Suddenly I realize I left him way back there but I knew he made it across the mountainside. Rob and I start chatting a bit about random things and we both admit we don't know how difficult this gets but we proceed on. The thrill of the unknown compels us forward as we continue our ascent toward a giant glacier.

I admit I am in very good shape, but Rob's pace is incredibly fast. My heart is beating, my legs are burning, sweat is dripping and still I proceed and push on, refusing to request him to stop since we technically aren't hiking together anyways, but we sort of are.I let him borrow one of my hiking poles and he retorted with saying he always had too much pride to give them a shot, after 30 minutes, he admitted he liked it. I would soon come to find out Rob is a marathon runner, and then it was obvious why his endurance was so fast. We arrive at the glacier at 3:00pm.

We are hiking on a giant glacier but the most frozen part is straight ahead.
Notice the snow and ice from the glacier going up the mountain. The incline was insanely steep. We take a short rest here. As I am pulling out my crampons (these spikes that go around your boots to make it easier to walk on ice) Rob says he doesn't have any. I give him the same weary look he gave me when I told him I didn't have a harness. He reassures me it will be fine and he will get up the glacier.

As we are eating trail mix and sipping water, we notice the couple in front of us with a lot of gear. They look like they are about to hike Everest. Rob and I glance at each other and snicker at how much gear they have. Are we vastly under prepared or are they over prepared? All I brought was hiking poles, a helmet, crampons, and food. They brought a rescue team with a 100 foot rope and all!

We pass the couple and begin our way up. The trek up is a grueling and slow process. One foot forward, then the other, inching along as you barely get anywhere. The couple we passed eventually overtakes us and passes us and then we get to a point where Rob can't move. He tries to go up, but without crampons, he slips back down. He has 2 choices: give up and attempt to slide back down or try to continue struggling upward, which is not working. The couple, that we somewhat mocked, stops and asks Rob if he is okay. Rob says no he can't move. The mountain man German guy whips out his 100 ft rope and throws it to Rob and latches it to his waste and essentially pulls Rob the rest of the way up the freakin glacier. How much irony is this! We would laugh very hard at this later on.

Rob waiting on the mountain rope man
As we reach the end of the glacier. We laugh with mountain man and his S/O, then I notice there is no trail, just a steel cable going straight up the mountain for 25 feet. Oh, great, I think. It is at this very moment I ask myself, "What the f*$k have you gotten yourself into?"

"I don't have a harness." I say to mountain man and his S/O.
Rob clipping in and heading across the mountain ledge
"WHAT!" Says the woman.

She turns, says some things in German to mountain man to which I translate as "Wow, what a day, one of them doesn't have crampons, and the other idiot has no harness!" They laugh, Rob laughs, I laugh but I am not laughing because it's funny.

"Are you a good climber?" Asks mountain man. I shrug my shoulders and mutter something meaning 'We are about to find out'.

I begin up the mountainside. In order to begin this part you put your legs on the mountain and pull yourself up the mountain by the cable. You get to a part where you shimmy over horizontally and across a boulder while, like earlier, holding onto the cable as your feet are barely on a mountain ledge. The picture to the right will give you an idea of how the next 2 hours went.


About an hour into complete focus on my next move, I look down. Mistake. My hands get clammy, my heart starts pumping, my mind starts racing, my thoughts go wild and I curse myself for how much an idiot I am. I am going to die on this mountain because of a bad choice to be risky and adventurous. An anxiety attack right now would mean death.

Breathe. 10 seconds goes by, and another voice emerges.

"Would you shut the hell up? You are on a mountain and falling is imminent death, you got yourself into this situation because you love adventure. Now get yourself out. You know you are strong and this is a challenge but if it wasn't challenging then it wouldn't be rewarding. Now shut your mind down, focus on the present moment and take each step carefully as you ascend to the top of this mountain." I relax and focus. At one point I hooked my elbow in tight and snapped a selfie:
Good decision selfie
We go as slow as we need up each mountain edge. Grab, pull, step, move hand, grab, pull, step, move hand, repeat. Slowly moving up, we have been able to see the peak since the glacier, but now it looks in good view as we edge closer. Each move testing my body and pushing my mental capability to the max. If I live, then I am going to purchase a harness.

After what seems like an eternity of exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping adventure, we summit at 5:30pm! And of course, we have a beer at the top... and it tastes like sweet sweet heaven poured into a fine crystal glass ball that tells me the future is bright and tastes like gold.
Tallest point in Germany
Honestly, I would not have done this if Rob had not come by when he did. I was prepared to turn around and live to fight another day, but something compelled me to push forward. He had mentioned it was a "C-level Klettersteig", which means it's intermediate. The scale goes from A-G. I wanted a challenge, and I found one, even though I was stubborn, stupid, dumb, risky, idiotic, and whatever you want to call it, I rose to the occasion and discovered what I was made of. We both learned that maybe we should prepare a bit better next time. I wonder now though, would I have appreciated it as much if my life wasn't on the line for it? Needless to say, I believe I found a new hobby.

Rob and I decided to get a beer when we finished, and we made plans to go for another Klettersteig hike the very next day. It was only an A-B level, but it was along the Karwendel mountain range ridge that runs between the Austrian/Germany border. It was no less challenging and an absolutely satisfying and stunning adventure. I see more Klettersteig hikes in the near future. Stay tuned.
Germany Side

Austria Side
On the ridge/border

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Conquering Any European City on a Backpacker Budget

Planning a trip to Europe and not sure where to begin? Scroll through here to see what tidbits of info you can pick up. Unless you are rolling in the dough then we know how expensive traveling to Europe can be. If you are rolling in the dough, proceed on to the luxury travel sites. Money is the main reason travelers do not wish to travel to Europe until they have saved up the money to do so, but with a few easy tips, you can save a load of cash and time while doing the "coolest" activities wherever you go. I have developed this little guide to save myself money and maximize my experience and I intend in helping you with planning your adventure to a continent enshrined with history, art, and new age vibes. Follow along.

First thing, and most importantly, is booking a balanced trip. If you want to go to Venice, Berlin, and Paris in one trip, plan on spending a load of money and not saving much at all on anything. However, if you sandwich your trip with an inexpensive destination, like Prague, Bratislava, Porto, Budapest, Krakow, or pretty much anywhere in the Balkans in exception to Dubrovnik, then you can plan on saving a lot of money on that stretch of the trip while seeing a beautiful destination.

Places to Stay:

1. Hostel it up!- This is by far the best way to travel when it comes to socializing and meeting people who are like minded and like to travel. Some people say their hostels are loud and there isn't much privacy, but you can still have a comfortable experience. Bring earplugs and wear them every night, you sleep like a baby even though you have a wild Snorlax next to you. Hostels will save you the most money by far, and the attendants usually know a lot about the city and provide you with city maps.

2. Airbnb- Not a dirty heathen who enjoys her sleep? Airbnb's are the way to go, the hosts are a local and have insight into what the city can provide, ask for some recommendations outside of the norm and pick their brain a little. They might not meet with you, but a simple message can go a long way.

3. Couchsurf- More adventurous and cheap as hell? Get a couch surf account going and stay on local's couches. You can get verified for about $20 and start reaching out to hosts. They usually provide a little gift, some food, and a couch to crash on for free, but you should bring a small gift in return and plan on experiencing a true local.

Those are currently the best and only ways budget travelers should be considering. Hotels are too expensive, non-social, and simply a splurge on comfort. Get out of that comfort thing and try something new.

Transportation:

There is no doubt that the metro systems are a little intimidating when you encounter them in these foreign lands, but if you do it right, this will be your lifeline to seeing the entire city. The bus system is sort of a dice roll without knowing the routes, and in my opinion takes entirely too long to research online to find out where you are going. You want to take the subway. The map may look like a maze of some sort, but it's rather straight forward. You hop on a certain color line and get off at your color connector to another destination. Everyone around here seems to be in a hurry, don't get in their way while you figure it out, but take your time and try to understand it before you jump on a line. Or simply buy a day pass for a few extra euro and figure it out with some trial and error. Within an a few hours, you will be a pro hopping on and off and blending in with all the other important busy people running around. You will be able to get to anything in the city that you have wanted to see, let the sightseeing commence.

*Pro tip: Never take a cab, they can smell your foreign and uninformed scent and will proceed to take advantage of you and typically charge 3x or 4x the price- still might seem cheap comparatively, but we are here to be frugal and save every penny we can while maximizing our experience. Locals take the tram or subway.

Sites:

Everyone wants to see everything when they go to a city. Usually we feel as if we do not have enough time, and may never return. Life is happening right now so we have to do everything in a short amount of time. This is typically the case with cities you may only visit once- Eastern Europe, smaller western cities, Russia. But, cities like Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Dublin, Venice, and Barcelona, are major cities that will provide you with memories for life, and if done right, you can return to because you enjoyed it, not because you missed something.

What to do in major cities with a few days of adventure:

1. Stay at a hostel- Hostels typically provide great information about the city because locals work there and know a lot about their city. Put your pride aside and ask what they recommend and then go do that! It is most likely much less touristy and will show you a side of the city you may never have considered seeing (Also it could provide you some excellent Instagram pics that few others have seen).

2. Go on the free walking tours- The tours are setup and ran by locals for tips (About 5 euro should be adequate, or more if they are great to you). These tours last for about 2 hours and they highlight the major attractions and history behind them, as well as tell you things you never would have read about. I recently did one in Bratislava and learned about an Easter tradition the Slovakian people go through to express health and wellness for their women (the men beat them with small branches and dump water on them, the guide assured us that it was a "soft whipping").

3. Don't do every museum or tour that is provided- There are many ridiculously lame tourist traps that suck you in with OK marketing and "the world's oldest, biggest, wildest, etc" anything. These are usually traps to sucker you out of a few dollars and they add up. They will have a few bits of information that took minimal effort to set up, but none of the actual artifacts from history. Usually these are harder to see from the outside because you have to pay to go inside to see that you wasted your money. Stick to a museum. When you go to the museums, pick one that really interests you and do that. It may cost you 15-20 euro, but you should be able to spend several hours here. From here you will most likely work up an appetite.

Eating Out:

Eating out and eating in general is a tricky thing when it comes to saving money, we simply want to try everything that is offered, and before we know it we have spent $100 in a day on a ton of junk food and a stomach ache. Here is what you do to combat this.

Research- You want to try the local cultures cuisine. The main dishes and desserts. But there is no need to eat these for every meal. Break it up, one day you eat a breakfast dish, the next a lunch, the next a dinner. For the in between meals, eat small. Head to Aldi or a local grocery store and get a 1 euro sandwich and proceed on to the next spot. Research the current cities cuisine you want to try and find out if Gelato is actually a specialty of Ireland or if these guys just want some money. (It's not, stick to getting it in Italy). "But Evan, Gelato is so good!" Then splurge, but just be aware of all the gelato you are eating in a city that is not known for it. Look up the local food, and enjoy that, the other meals are where you save money to use on other important things. You know, like bars/ clubbing, and souvenirs. 

Going Out:
Everyone enjoys some kind of nightlife every now and then, whether it be hitting the clubs or a local theatre to see a show. You can go to a local theatre for an opera show, musical, fests, or play, but these are not budget events. These are your splurge events that must be seen sparingly, they will eat away at your entertainment budget very quickly. Plan on spending anywhere from 50-300 euro. You will certainly enjoy a show like this and I do recommend going at least once!

For the club goers- How can you save money? Well, if you're going out in major cities like Berlin, Paris, Munich, you can't expect to save much if you are trying to get a buzz. I would recommend staying at a social hostel and researching what events they have going on throughout the week. Many hostels have bars in them and they will have a 1 euro beer night or they will provide you a deal for $20 all you can drink and free cover at clubs, or something along these lines. Look for these deals and you will save yourself $40-50 in a night.

*Pro tip: Most cities allow for drinking on the street (check before you go), why not stop by a local store and pick up a drink on your way to the club? Save dat money.

Souvenirs:

Souvenirs. Everywhere. So many. We have magnets, postcards, bottle openers, stickers, water bottles, shirts, pants, hats, wallets, birdhouses, toy houses, trinkets, splinkets, splockets, etc. The list goes on for millennia. You could spend quite a bit of money and end up with a plethora of junk that will be tossed in your basement in the future, or you can have a plan. Pick one thing. Buy it everywhere you go.

I have chosen to buy a postcard or 2 from every city I visit, this way I can look back on all the memories I had from looking at the postcard. My plan is to make a customized table for my future study room with all of my postcards under the glass. Postcards are cheap and easy to transport (typically 2 for 1 euro). I have seen many people collect magnets, while these are nice, magnets are not budget friendly. Typically running some 5-10 euro, if you go to a lot of cities, this could easily become 100 euro real quick. For budget sake, stick to postcards!

Safety:

This is close to last, but should always remain a forefront in traveling. Not everyone is out to be your friend, even if they act like it. There are snakes among the grass that lurk to take advantage of you in your vulnerable trusting state. If something seems sketchy, it most likely is. This doesn't mean to not have fun, but trusting your hunches is a good thing. I, and other friends of mine, have been robbed and swindled in more ways than one. These instances are not going away, there will always be people out to get the best of you as long as mankind exists, but by keeping an eye out for these people and watching your friends, you can ensure a much safer adventure. If you are traveling solo, don't drink as much and always make sure you watch where your drink came from. Stick to more populated areas when partaking in activities. If all else fails, run when you feel like you're about to be in a shit situation. No shame as long as you're safe. If you're in a group, set meet points and check on each other. Try not to wander off, we know it happens, but there are plenty of stories of people wandering off to get robbed, or worse. Just stay vigilant and remember there are a few shit people out there amongst the myriad of good people. Safe travels!
Fougeres

Miscellaneous and extra:

Luggage - Reduce it.

Problem: It is cumbersome and you can get hit with a lot of fees simply for checking a bag. Anywhere from 25-50 euro for an extra bag. Imagine spending that for a few round trips. Nope.

Solution: Get one bag you can carry on that you can strap to your back and has plenty of space. Get travel size liquids. Roll your clothes (super space saver). Reevaluate what you actually need for the trip you are going on. When all else fails, take a little less, you will most likely come across a washer/dryer at a hostel.

*Pro tip: Getting to Europe from America in the most economical way. Everyone wants a deal on a flight to Europe, but they seldom happen. A few tricks you can consider when planning a trip that will save you a few headaches and a lot of money.

1. Visit in the off season: Peak seasons for Europe tourism travel is from May-August (and September for Oktoberfest in Germany). Do everything you can to avoid these months. Going in April or September/October are just as good, if not better, than going during the peak times. The reason for this: you will not have to deal with the incredibly vast crowds and lines the summer tourists experience. You will be less likely to be in the midst of a potential terrorist attack. You won't pay peak prices. You won't have to deal with extremely hot climates with minimal A/C. For some, these are weak reasons to not visit in the summer due to the hype of a European summer, but if you want to save money and reduce stress, visit in the offseason.

2. Plan ahead: Months ahead. Narrow down some dates, request off work, and start researching. If you live somewhere that doesn't have an international airport hub (i.e., Kansas City), your aim is to book a flight to New York or Philly and fly to Ireland or somewhere inexpensive from there. Flights from NY to Dublin are around $500 roundtrip in October. Score.

3. Look 3rd party: There are plenty of flight websites that literally do the work for you to get the cheapest and most convenient flights. Find them. Use them. Take advantage. Here are a few for you to get started:

https://scottscheapflights.com/ - Put your email in and this guy crawls the net in order to find ridiculously cheap international flights for people like you.

Google flights - Let Google do the work for you.

Skyscanner - Incredibly popular and convenient for planning flights in Europe. I have found direct flights for 30 euro plenty of times.  Yes, please.


I would apologize for the length of this blog post, but I believe the information to be relevant and very helpful. Most of this is what I have realized and gathered over the years, and I wish I had known half of it when I started because I could have a few more hundred $$$ in order to spend on another trip. But now, I stick to a good regimen that works within my budget without trying to meander too far from that plan. It works well and I get by with great experiences to take into the future. Good luck with your endeavors and keep traveling on!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chapter 28: Europe Living

Life...

... is a plethora of adjectives right now. Boring isn't really one of them. Even at work, I always know the means to my end. It's on to the next city, exploring the next castle, hiking the next trail or mountain, seeing the sights this beautiful planet has to offer. Feeling extremely grateful for the privilege to do so along the way. Although it is a privilege, I have to sacrifice many comforts in life in order to travel as much as I'd like to at this point in life. With these sacrifices, I have realized that not many people get the opportunity to travel so abundantly and I remember that this opportunity is once in a life time and the benefits of doing so and fulfilling life goals will stick with me for life. Having said that, I am taking full advantage. I am going everywhere possible. My goal to start this chapter in life was 25 countries, I have since reevaluated to 20 countries. I am at 11, I may hit more or less than 20, who knows.

Other items included on my Euro bucket list (no particular order):

-Drive a car...Check
-Visit 40 cities
-St. Pats in Ireland...Check
-The Venetian Carnivale (2018)
-Run with the bulls...(Most likely not)
-Visit the D-day memorial in Normandy...Check
-Eat everything...In progress
-Paraglide or Skydive in the mountains
-Hike 5-10 mountains...In Progress
-See orcas or the northern lights in Norway or Sweden
-Oktoberfest
-3 day hike from Hutte to Hutte in Switzerland Alps...Soon
-Not get locked up abroad...In progress
-Drunkenly argue with a German about how America is the best country in the world to the point he cusses me out in Deutsche  ... Searching

One thing that wasn't on my bucket list at all was getting robbed at knife point in Budapest. I'll have to tell you about this in person sometime because it is a little embarrassing and could have been avoided. (Don't worry Mom, I'm alive). Sometimes I venture off on my own and I meet amazing people and have these wild nights that are like movie scenes, and then an outlier situation like this happens, but it is still movie scene worthy. 

Ok, so far I have hit 11 countries:

Germany
Austria
France
Belgium
Netherlands
Portugal
Ireland
Slovenia
Hungary
Slovakia
Greece

I won't make this too long for you to read, so I will jump into it.

Austria:

Schönbrunn palace 
I have visited Innsbruck and Vienna. Very different cities. Innsbruck is a little underrated mountain town on the border of Germany and Austria. It is a nice day trip away from where we live and they have a lot to offer in terms of fests, beer, and scenery. Vienna is the cafe shop capital of the world and I cafe hopped one day. I was told to stop by a cafe called "Phil", short for Philosophy. The reason for this is all the books you can read for free while you're there. I killed several hours reading a book about why WWI started before I got on with my day. I did the other touristy things, but also explored random back alleys that usual tourists stay away from. This was an excellent way to see things some may never see, such as the flat where Wolfgang Mozart died. Interesting, right? After seeing all of this and exploring cafes, I hopped a train to Schönbrunn and saw the palace that has a zoo on the grounds. Absolutely fascinating. The elites of the time really liked to show off how everyone's fealty was paying off for the good of society! However pretentious, nonetheless stunning architecture.

France:

Omaha Beach
I did a road trip through France with 4 wonderful young women. We explored northern France and Paris. We got the honor of visiting the WWII memorial at Omaha Beach and saw thousands of graves designated for young men that fought and died so I could take a picture of it post it on Instagram. Ok, well not really, but they did die for the concept of freedom and I felt absolutely humbled to be experiencing an area that was a pivotal point in history for the world.

Frolicking in Fougeres
We also explored the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey. This abbey is incredible architecture and would have made it impossible for anyone to infiltrate from land or sea. It's no wonder it is rather pristine from the day it was built. Must see!

Mont-Saint-Michel







I can't remember the name of the town we stayed in, but it was relatively close to the abbey. Alicia, who turned 25, made Ratatouille for us one night and we all drank wine into the wee hours of the night and enjoyed each other's company.  

We had to head back to Paris so we did a cider distillery tour in the Calvados area and climbed in giant barrels and had a grand ole time before we headed back to Paris and partied the night away. But not before we stopped in a quaint French town called Fougeres. This is a small town untouched by the war and completely unknown to normal tourists. France was a good time.
Dutch Canals




Belgium:

Don't tell the Germans, but Belgium has better beer. There I said it.

Belgium Beer
I did a road trip with a delightful young woman named Meghan. We left from Amsterdam. We visited Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. Antwerp and Ghent were only for a day and we saw the main points. We saw Bruges for 2 nights and one day we did our own pub crawl we made up as we went along. We had a different beer at each one and drunkenly stumbled around Bruges. Along our pub crawl, we stumbled across a chocolate place and the way the Dutch do their hot chocolate is by sticking chocolate on a stick and giving you steaming milk, as you dip the chocolate it melts slowly and you have a wonderful cup of awesomeness. What geniuses! We also got to see the "Madonna and Child" sculpture that is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that made it out of Italy, guess the Dutch just wanted to keep it.







Netherlands:

This section is censored. Although I will say: if you ever go to Amsterdam, make sure it is on King's Day/Night. Woo!

Portugal:

Wine and walking. Met some Aussies here and explored the city and nightlife with them. I also met a young Spanish lady who invited me to the Canary Islands, might be taking her up on that soon. Porto is a very underrated and inexpensive city that should not be overlooked on a Euro trip.













Ireland:

Found Trump
I can't say enough good things about this country. I love it here. The people, the green, the beer, everything about this country is amazing to me. I made it here on St. Pats. We went to Galway for a wild and wet day. St. Pats is the time anyone should make it to Ireland. Dublin is full of tourists most of the time, so it is best to venture off to a different county. Typically, you can be safe to go west or southwest. I have heard northern Irelander's aren't as friendly to foreigners, but I had no problems in the west or southwest. Now, I will say, you should be aware of the subtle demeanor and personality of the Irish; they are usually thicker skinned and very sarcastic, but that means they expect you to give some banter in return. I have never met an Irishman that didn't ridicule me for something within the first 5 minutes of meeting me only to be impressed with the ease as to which I take it and give it in return. Once you realize this, you can get along with ease and have more fun in the Emerald Isle. I wrote an entire blog post on Ireland, feel free to go check it out if you want to know more




















Slovenia/Slovakia/Hungary:

I also did a road trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia and Lake Bled with Meghan. It was pretty cold at the time so we essentially skated on Lake Bled and enjoyed more indoor activities. I did a little day trip from Vienna to Bratislava, Slovakia and saw an interesting castle ruin ground that would have been amazing to see if that a-hole Napoleon hadn't destroyed it for no reason. In Budapest, Hungary I had a good time walking around the city and exploring the main sights and a free walking tour. Unfortunately I did not make it to a thermal baths, so this gives me a good reason to go back in the future. I did get robbed here on my way back from the bars, I should've just taken a cab but I like walking places. I'm ok, but they made away with a few hundred euro. Ouch.
Devin Castle ruins




















Greece:

Greek Salad
My most recent solo trip was to Crete. It was a cheap flight for an impromptu trip that turned out to be quite a trip. I met some young doctors that will be practicing in London, along with a recent American grad and we ventured out to Matala to see some beaches one day, ended up getting a gyro and watching the sunset and heading back. The next day we essentially did the same thing but to a beach called Elafonisi. We stopped at a local Greek restaurant that was so inexpensive but rich in deliciousness and quantity of food. We called it a day after a few hours at the beach and eventually we said our goodbyes. I hope to go visit some new doctor friends in London in the near future. Greece is beautiful!


Gyro's and sunsets

Red Beach in Matala




















Plans coming up:


Ok, not much set in stone, well maybe a few things. I am going on a 3 day solo hiking trip through the Swiss alps at the end of the month. The goal is to start in the morning, hike to a hutte, stay over night, and do it again to the next hutte. You basically sleep on bunks next to hikers from around the world. I am very excited for this solo trip. Next, I am planning a trip to do some hiking and see some fjords in Norway in August. In September, my boys are coming to visit for about 2 weeks and we have a wild one planned. So far, the plan is to do some hiking, hit Oktoberfest, head to Barcelona, then Milan, then Copenhagen... I'll withhold the details for now ;) - October plans include heading to London and hopefully Dracula's castle in Romania for Halloween. This winter, I will be traveling less (def not stopping), and learning how to ski or snowboard as I save money for after Germany. In February, I hope to make my way to Kenya to see a friend doing a med project there and go on a safari. Then my contract will be up after that....But does that mean the adventure is over? Never.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Living Abroad Will Change You

We all change as we go through this life. 

We are constantly being molded into a new being as time goes on. The person we were last year is different from the person we are now, and who we will be in a year's time. We are the summation of every day we live, every circumstance we go through, every challenge we face, every moment we experience. We are the epitome of every thought that enters our minds, the food that enters our body, and chemicals that reach our blood. We essentially become what we allow ourselves to do throughout time. There are external factors, but nothing and no one can force you to eat one thing or think one way. You decide your reactions and thoughts and you complete your actions. Once this responsibility is realized, you can begin taking initiative in life and excuses come less often. You can either choose to focus on your worries and should've or could've been's, or you can focus on each moment as it comes and be happier for it. As of right now, there is no past or future, there is only this moment that we have. Don't let your mind run away with your moment.

I have changed.

7 months abroad so far. I feel as if nothing and everything has changed about my life. I still have another 8 months of living in Germany to go and I know there is A LOT of room for growth. I have come to realize that the process is my destination and I will never quit trying to become a better person. Some would say this is due to dissatisfaction with life, but I see it as a passion of being in love with the process of my life. In the words of Matthew McConaughey, "My idol is me 10 years from now, and in 10 years from now, my idol will be me 10 years from then." I am a work in progress. Always. As long as I continue advancing myself without remaining stagnant then I will consider myself a success and that mindset will perpetuate my ability to continue advancing in life. You may think I am too serious about this life that inevitably ends, but it's all I have so I will make the best of it by enjoying each moment of getting better.


This acceptance speech is always a good reminder to keep it moving forward.

Some lessons I have learned:

1. Recent loss - 

Recently I lost the support of a majorly significant person in my life, and I never realized how much I cherished that support from her until I lost it completely. On the flip side, if it was meant to work out with her then I would not have left her back in the states and she would not have quit talking to me while I am here. I was feeling completely sorry for myself for a while until I realized that I do not have time to do that. I fell off of my meditation during this time and my negative thoughts carried my emotions off onto a rollercoaster ride dreamed up by Hades. I eventually came to my senses and remembered my meditations and realized what is will be and I have this moment. I am better than that. I have always cared a lot about that woman but I have done very little to prove it and I now believe this is truly an opportunity for her to move on and be happy away from me. This is the least I can do if I could never be there for her. One day, sooner or later, we will both find someone who will make us realize why it never worked in the first place. All I know now is that my future wife better be up for some extreme adventures or we are doomed.

2. Lost in Thought - 

I have been better about mindfulness lately. I have been practicing almost religiously. I used to find myself lost in thought for a long time thinking about who knows what from the moment I wake up until sleep that night, only to start the cycle over again the next day. I was not truly enjoying any moments because my thoughts were consuming my time. These small thoughts might start my day off "on the wrong side of the bed", and I would be in a mood because of it. I have began curiously noting my thoughts from the moment I wake up in order to file thoughts and feelings into categories that help me understand why I am thinking that, then I can move on from the thought and carry on with my day. I have realized I am much more relaxed when I do this, I am mindful to the moment, and I am overall slightly happier because the worries no longer consume me. It has not been easy and it has taken a lot of practice, but it is paying off tremendously.

3. Goal or Relationship Oriented - 

This is a tough lesson to learn. I have always had goals in my life, but I didn't realize how much I lean on the support of the relationships I have developed. That whole not knowing what you have until it is gone quote is a real thing when you deprive yourself for months. I truly care about my friends and family more than anyone or anything in my life, and if I do not have them then I do not have anything and my goals do not matter. I understand that I would like to be close to them (at least, you know, a plane ride away), and being away has helped me realize I can accomplish my goals while focusing on the relationships I have always taken for granted.

4. Time Spent Alone - 

I am slightly older than the median age here. I have done what majority of people are doing here and most people believe they need a big group of friends. I used to think this as well. But now I know I have no one to impress but myself and the ones I truly care about. I spend a lot of time reading, writing, hiking, and doing things on my own and it helps me consider what I truly feel passionate about. I know I love to travel and I would really like to help those in need. I have discovered something I can do to incorporate both of these foundational needs into a passion, and the best part is I can pursue this venture on my own back home in Kansas City when I return. I have been working on it in my spare time to get things squared away. I am very excited about this!

5. Traveling is Cool, but... - 

Traveling is a huge part of my life. I believe it helps people develop new synapses in the brain that allow for more learning. I believe experiencing new cultures and trying to learn a new language is a challenge that everyone should give a chance at some point. I believe the only way people are going to truly be less scared of the world and the news they consume online is to get out of their comfort zone and talk to their neighbor in a different country and realize that the world is not as bad of a place as one may think. Quite the opposite. Travel is cool in so many ways, but it's not as enjoyable unless you are doing it with people you know or care about. This goes back to goal/relationship oriented. Don't get me wrong, I love traveling solo- I learn so much about myself and I meet so many amazing people I never would have got the chance to meet. While solo travel is nice, I thoroughly miss the enjoyment of going somewhere new with someone I already know, it helps me learn more about that person and the walls come down even further. Also, being the travel agent of my friends, it allows me to satisfy them with my awesome logistical planning skills (ha ha). Either way, travel is cool, it's just a preference as to what you want to experience while you do it.


These are a just a few lessons I have learned in a short amount of time and the growth is exponential in this environment of being away from comfort. I understand my mindset is constantly changing, molding, and adapting into the person I want to be. This experience is humbling me. I am enjoying the rest of it and accomplishing my goals, but I am making less selfish plans that will last the rest of my life.

Oh, I hope you all are ready for my next post. It is all about where I have been and what I have done so far during this chapter in life. If you don't like being jealous, then I would skip it :D

Sunday, May 7, 2017

When You Are Missing Home

I never thought I would miss home this much. I am completely homesick and I cannot seem to get it out of my mind. I constantly imagine how things are going back home, I wonder how my friends are doing in their careers, I wonder what's new within my city, I miss the food, and I haven't hugged my mom in over 5 months- and most likely will not get to for at least another 10 months. I am completely out of my element and it is difficult to focus on things I love to do- like traveling and writing.

The homesickness is causing a slight depression and I have been in a little down funk for a few weeks now. I am trying to stay as focused as possible, but often times, I revert back to thinking about things I cannot control. I have been doing so well with meditation, working out, journaling, positive affirmations, doing things I love to do, but I would just really like to chow down on an OG 24 wrap from Longboards, or go grill out before a Royal's game, or ride the street car around and hit up a First Friday's.

I know some people back home will just say I am not missing very much, but it's easier to feel like I am when I am 4000+ miles away. People are getting married, doing well in their careers, moving along in life. Don't get me wrong, I love the traveling bit and seeing parts of the world I probably never would have if I didn't take this opportunity, but I have come to realize the type of person I am in these past 5 months. I have grown a lot already, and have a lot of room for more improvement, but I also want to be able to grow relationships I have with friends and family- the art of accomplishing both is in the balancing act.

I seem to always focus on things I don't have, instead of things I do, which is something I have been attempting to change. I write down things I am grateful for, I remind myself how lucky I am, I try to smile when I really don't want to because I have way more to smile for than I have to frown about.

While writing this, I have had an epiphany. All of these negative and sad emotions I have been having are for a reason. I clearly miss where I am from and everything it provides. I have left my heart in KC and I will be back one day, but that day is not today, nor tomorrow. I can either sulk in the fact I am missing home, or I can use this time as opportunity for growth. I can remain down and bitter and let my homesickness spiral me down to the point of making very poor decisions, or I can continue to learn and progress and smash some life goals of mine. Without self awareness, the former would be the easier path in the short term, but long term it would destroy my psyche, and ain't nobody got time for dat.

Here are some things you can focus on if you are ever feeling homesick:

1. Yourself: We all have goals and plans for our lives, never forget them. Focus on them and why you are away from home. It is for a reason. You might not always feel like working on your goals due to feeling down, but building the momentum and continuing to focus on your goals will allow you to work your way out of the funk you are in.

2. Writing and meditation: You all know I am a big fan of these two and I will push them to the day I die. They help your mind relax by clearing itself, and then you can relax and have less anxiety about any given situation. For example, I already feel slightly better just because I am putting built up thoughts on paper and sharing it with you. You don't write? Try painting, drawing, playing an instrument, or anything that will allow you put some emotional expression on paper.

3. Let your emotions out when they happen: This one is mainly for my fella's out there. Don't hold back your emotions for some macho reason. That is plain dumb. If you are feeling sad, cry. Let it out. Don't feel like crying but you are sad? Watch a sad really sad movie alone and let the water works flow. It really can help you overcome anything you are uneasy about. Oh, and here's more on why you should cry instead of repressing emotions: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/11884611/Why-men-need-to-learn-how-to-cry.html

4. Break a sweat: Get in the gym and workout. Or just walk somewhere for a while. Release some endorphins and your body will help relax your mind for you.

5. Talk. To. People: Even introverts are social beings. You have someone who cares about you. Talk to them. If you think no one cares about you, talk to a stranger and share some common interests and if you get into a deeper conversation then share how you miss home, they could potentially have some insight into your situation. Just don't do it in a weird uncontrollable way. Talk to family back home- mainly so when you tell them you are homesick, they can tell you that you aren't missing anything and you can be reassured of your decision.

6. Cut out the stimulants for a bit: The alcohol, caffeine, drugs, social media, etc., it is all changing the way your brain functions and how your mind views things. You may feel great while doing it and you are no longer homesick at the time, but it is a roller coaster for your emotions and will only perpetuate the period of feeling down. Or you know, just stay perpetually drunk and you will be just fine as well!

All of these are things I am attempting to do while feeling this period of homesickness. I understand it is a phase and it will pass, but I also need to understand it is happening for a reason. I miss you and love you KC and I will be home soon, but I have some things to accomplish first.