How I Took a Solo Trip to Europe- Packing

Friday, September 25, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

Half the fun of going on an adventure is preparing for it, right? Right??? Maybe that's just me. Anyways, I spent a good amount of time thinking about how to pack for my four week European vacation. Since I was traveling alone there would be no one to help me with my bags, keep me organized, or pick up the slack if I forgot to pack something essential. I'm a strong advocate for packing light and knew I didn't want to bring more than a backpack and a purse.

There are tons of reviews on travel backpacks out there and after lots (and I mean LOTS) of research, I decided to splurge and purchase the Tortuga travel backpack. I wanted something that opened flat like a suitcase, would be comfortable for long treks, and would fit in the overhead bin on most planes. The price was a bit steep, but I'm happy to report that I'm still getting plenty of use out of the pack and it is holding up really well.


How I Took a Solo Trip to Europe- Planning

Thursday, September 24, 2015 Emily Childers 1 Comments

I work for a pretty amazing company. One of the biggest perks is that employees get a six week fully paid sabbatical every four years. Yasss. I dreamt of how I'd use those six weeks from my first day in the office. Right before I passed my four year mark I got a save the date from a friend in England who was getting married. Perfect timing? I think so!

Nick was still deep in the throes of starting a business so he couldn't take more than a few days off work. I figured what the heck, why not travel alone? I've done smaller trips on my own, but never anything this long, let alone in a place where I don't speak the language. I was nervous, but honestly didn't think twice about going.
Morty thinks Rick Steves is awesome too

With six weeks off, I figured four weeks of travel would give me plenty of time at home to decompress and get over jet lag before heading back to work. Four weeks of travel wherever I wanted to go. On my own schedule. Holy crap. With that kind of freedom I was a little bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I knew I had to be in England at the end of March but had no idea where else to go. Enter: Rick Steves.

I ordered Rick Steves' Best of Europe 2014 since it was half the price of the 2015 edition and I figured there couldn't be too many changes in just one year (spoiler: I was right). I immediately scratched out cities I'd already visited and read through the remaining chapters. I narrowed it down to the following:

  • Paris
  • Amsterdam
  • Halstatt and Obertraun
  • The Berner Oberlands
  • Vienna

I was going to be like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. But fatter. And without
the spiritual bullshit. Or the boring plot. So basically not at all like that.
I figured if I spent a couple days in each city and with the wedding and bachelorette party each taking a weekend, I'd still have a few days to fit in one more location. Time to bust out the old bucket list... ICELAND. That's right, Iceland. Land of volcanoes, hot springs, hidden people, and crazy ass weather. I won't go into my specific schedule now, but will break it down in my weekly travel logs.

Once I had my locations, it was time to map out an itinerary. Some people like to travel without a strict schedule, but I am not those people. I pre-booked all of my train tickets based on price and length using a combination of Google, Eurail, and country-specific train provider websites. I considered buying a rail pass, but with my detailed pre-planning I ended up saving a bit of money by purchasing tickets individually. I reserved hostels, hotels, and apartments and printed out maps of each in relation to where I was arriving. Have I mentioned I like to plan? I had heard horror stories of bed bugs and burglaries in cheap hostels so I picked higher end hostels (about $30/night for a bed in a shared room) in expensive cities and found mid priced hotels and apartments in cheaper cities (around $40 per night). It's amazing how much the cost of lodging varied between locations.

A cheap hostel in Paris is just like the movie but with more bugs and less murder.

I organized all of my reservations and travel details in a google spreadsheet that I printed for quick reference. I also tracked costs and projected expenses, as I was definitely traveling on a budget. This was my travel bible.

Anal retentive much?

At this point I had my itinerary, transportation between cities, lodging, and a hefty credit card bill. Did I mention I put all of this onto a credit card? No? Well I did. I opened up a Chase Freedom credit card that offered 0% apr for the first 15 months so I could give myself an installment plan to pay off the trip without being charged interest. I'm still working on paying it off, but don't regret the debt at all.

Check out my other posts on packing and Paris.


Meat Rub Recipe

Friday, September 18, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

Ever since my sister in law served grilled meat with Spade L seasoning,  I've been dying to replicate it. It's a basic dry rub that leaves the meat tender and flavorful without being gooey. Delicious. I hate following recipes (they're like the pirate code, it's more of a guideline right?) so I decided to wing it and try and make my own.

A dry meat rub is basically just a combination of salt, sugar, and spices so I raided my pantry and got started. After a few iterations, I think I have a winner.

Ingredients: Brown sugar, garlic salt, black pepper, white pepper, chili powder, unsalted garlic seasoning, and thyme


Finally Friday

Friday, September 18, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

This week has been a doozy. We hosted a dinner for 12 people last night (and of course I took zero photos) and work was basically trying to kill me all week. Now that it's Friday I feel a weight lifting and am ready to immerse myself in the weekend.

Book Review- Hausfrau

On the flight home from Hawaii I finished reading Hausfrau... I'm torn. I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn't get behind it. I felt like the main character was weak when she needed to be strong and assertive when she needed to be passive. Maybe that was the point. There was a sense of doom throughout the book and I caught the foreshadowing early on so I guess I knew what I was getting into. Not to give anything away, don't expect the end of this book to leave you in a good mood.

Maybe my mistake was timing. I read this coming home from a wonderful vacation where I fell even more in love with my husband, deepened friendships with our co-vacationers, and generally felt a metric fuck-ton of joy. This book is probably better read on a rainy evening by yourself with a glass (or six) of wine. The beautiful prose and poetic tone just didn't resonate on a airplane surrounded by people I like.

The cover may be beautiful but the content is dark


September Spending Self Control

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

Dude. This no-spend September thing is hard. I've already loaded up and closed down three online shopping carts this week. Even harder, last night Nick and I were talking about good books and I desperately wanted to buy the next book in a series... But I held strong and settled on reading a paperback we've been lugging around with us for the past 3 moves without having read.

Okay maybe it doesn't sound like a big win, but I turned down buying a book. That's big time for me! I'm going to head over to the library this afternoon for a quick lunch break to sign up for a card that entitles me to free online lending. I've been using Freading and a temporary library card, but the good app (OverDrive) requires you to physically go in to a library to sign up. Psh. Preventing book fraud or whatever. Jerks. Anyhoo, have a wonderful Tuesday!


Back to Reality

Monday, September 14, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

Aaaand we're back! Hawaii was beautiful and as much fun as I'd hoped. We hit a few hiccups (high temperatures and humidity, bugs galore, and some delays in rental equipment) but nothing that could put a damper on the fun.

As soon as we arrived everyone made a beeline for the water.

The house was lovely but buggy and hot (no AC) so we spent most of our time outside. We were a quick 10 minute drive from Turtle Bay, which has a fancy resort and great snorkeling with open access to the public. We popped over one morning at 6:30am and had the place to ourselves. What a way to start a day.

Snorkeling at Turtle Bay
Holding hands like sea otters 

We rented four snorkels, two bikes, and four boogie boards for the full week, which turned out to be a great choice. We also spent countless hours floating around in the ocean, which was the perfect temperature. I miss it already. Here's a quick summary of some of the highlights.

Being photogenic in Maleakahana Bay

Peacock at the Proud Peacock in Waimea Valley
Shave ice in Laie at Angel's

Catamaran ride to Chinaman's Hat
800 year old fish pond in Kualoa Ranch



Friday, September 04, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

We leave for Hawaii tomorrow morning and I am STOKED. The house we rented is right on the beach and we are having surf boards, bikes, and a kayak delivered to us for use during the week. I can't wait to spend time lounging and playing in the water; I miss living by the beach big time.

Last night I couldn't fall asleep and flip flopped between giddy excitement and anxiety about all of the prep to do today. Then I started thinking about sharks, which did not help me relax. I'm now attempting to squash that thought and be ready to enjoy the ocean. My logical brain knows that sharks aren't a probable risk (and they're actually really majestic) but my lizard brain keeps triggering fear. Stupid brain. Stupid sharks.

" I don't wanna hurt ya, I just want some love!" -this shark

Anyhoo, I thought ahead and bought a couple books to bring along (before no spend September of course).
  • Hausfrau by Jill Esbaum- I read a nice review on this one, and the cover art was too pretty to pass up. What can I say, I definitely judge a book by its cover.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris- I don't know how I've gone this long without reading a David Sedaris book but I'm a huge fan of his contributions to NPR so I have high hopes.
  • What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman- I bought this one on a whim, so I'm going in blind. 
I'll check back in with reviews as I finish them. Unless a shark eats me. Happy weekend!


No Spend September

Wednesday, September 02, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

I really like to shop. I know. I'm one of those girls and it hurts me inside to admit it. Working from home can be an exercise in self control and one of my biggest distractions is checking my favorite sites for sales. It all starts to add up; $20 here and $50 there and all of sudden my credit card bill is out of control.

Outside of daily necessities (food, toilet paper, gas, etc.) I'm putting a moratorium on spending for the rest of September. This will be extra hard since we're going to Hawaii for a week and I won't be able to buy any mementos. I'm pretty good about avoiding souvenirs when I travel, but this is the first time I'll be drawing the line at zero purchases.

If you feel like you've been overspending, try and play along with me as I can use all of the camaraderie and support I can get. I've heard that it takes 30 days to create or break a habit, here's hoping that's true!


Preparing for Hawaii

Tuesday, September 01, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

We are leaving for Hawaii on Saturday and I couldn't be more excited. My mind has been on packing and prep and for once I thought ahead and ordered some essentials instead of scrambling the day before takeoff. I'm fair skinned (read: pasty as F) and the first item on my list was high SPF sunscreen. I am picky about sunscreen smells, so I did a little research and settled on Sun Bum SPF 50 and Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch SPF 30 as they had the best reviews. Also just in case, I threw in a bottle of aloe vera.
Sun Bum SPF 50 smells like fresh coconut (amazing), and goes on a little white but that fades quickly. I didn't get any color in my test run, so the SPF works well. It's a little expensive so I probably won't buy it often, but based solely on quality I give it a 9 out of 10.

The Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch SPF 30 surprised me. It smells more like scented lotion than sunscreen which was nice. It goes on really smoothly with more than a little shimmer to it. It's a sheer bronze sparkle, but you can definitely notice it. My brother thought it was hilarious to model his shiny new tan when he tried it out for me. No one got burnt so the SPF 30 was great. With a reasonable price point ad solid results I give it an 8/10.

For leisure I decided to splurge and bring a hammock and a floaty. Usually I prefer to pack light, but in this case we are bringing a checked bag anyways and I figured I'd rather have some toys than extra clothing. I'll circle back after the trip and confirm if my over packing actually paid off!

The view from our vacation rental. Here's hoping it actually looks like that!


Picking up the Ukulele

Tuesday, September 01, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

When we first moved to Vegas I didn't have any friends or hobbies, so I signed up for an adult ed guitar class at UNLV. I didn't practice much or get any good, but it got me out of the house. I definitely let my skills lapse once the classes ended and didn't touch my guitar for over a year. I've recently picked it back up and it has been an exercise in futility. My fingers are still working up strength and calluses and every practice session is painful. Basically, I suck.

Then I saw a post about the ukulele. On a whim I ordered a mid priced ukulele from Amazon and even sprung for one day shipping. I was excited.

Since the ukulele arrived I haven't been able to put it down. After struggling with the guitar, the ukulele is a breeze. From six strings down to four without the pain of having to press so hard on metal strings, the uke is infinitely simpler. I've spent mornings, evenings, coffee breaks, and muted conference calls strumming away and softly singing. I'm not great yet, but I'm having a blast.

If you're feeling inspired, I highly recommend splurging for the instrument I purchased, the mahogany looks gorgeous and it sounds great to boot. The cheaper options are all painted and don't hold tune as well (at least according to reviews). I went through some youtube tutorials by Jeff Burton, he's really fun and easy to follow. After the first three lessons I just jumped right into a couple songs with easy chords. Here are my favorites, ordered from easiest to most difficult (which isn't saying much as they're all really simple):

  1. I'm Yours by Jason Mraz- I don't know why the D7 chord is on there, you don't need it. This repeats the same four chords over and over again without being boring.
  2. Almost Lover by A Fine Frenzy- This uses the same chords as I'm Yours
  3. Mad World by Gary Jules- this adds in D and E minor
  4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Iz- this is a classic, the chord progression is really beautiful
  5. Fireflies by Own City
  6. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers- throws in B minor which takes some practice
  7. Creep by Radiohead
  8. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
  9. Santeria by Sublime- I avoid F7 by playing F; this is my favorite to sing thus far
Happy strumming!