Welcome to Canada, eh?! As a New Yorker, Montreal was an easy trip to make. My ride on the LIRR to JFK was longer that my flight… (which probably isn’t shocking to all of you LIRR commuters out there!). If you have a long weekend, hop on a flight, a train, or drive on up to Montréal!
This year, I have jumped around the map quite a bit! Here are the most important pearls of wisdom from each city that I visited in 2016…
1. The key to surviving Mardi Gras is your squad. New Orleans, LA
My first adventure of 2016 was to New Orleans, LA to be part of the Mardi Gras madness. My college roommate and I were overdue for a reunion, and decided to go hard rather than going home. Mardi Gras is just as wild as it is said to be, so if you are going to fully indulge, make sure you’re surrounded by a squad that is just as ready as you are! More on surviving Mardi Gras…
2. Keep in touch with those you meet along the way. London, England
One of my favorite parts about traveling is the eclectic collection of friends I make along the way! Social media makes it easy to keep in touch with the people you’ve met all over the globe. In London, I met up with a friend from Wales that I met in Santa Monica. In New York, I met up with friends from London that I met in Miami. As unlikely as it may seem, you never know when you will cross paths with someone that you’ve met far, far away!
3. Go off the beaten path. Zaanse Schanse, Netherlands
Amsterdam was a tospy turvy city to visit. Its weird ways won my heart through their canals, coffee shops and eroticism. As much fun as I had, touring the land just north of the city was my favorite part of the Netherlands. Visiting the windmills was a unique experience, which made me feel like I have traveled back into the time of Van Gogh. Don’t hesitate to look at the tours offered within a city center- they will offer convenient, cost efficient ways to explore off the beaten path!
4. Thou shall be adaptable and flexible. Dublin, Ireland
My time in Dublin was split between two airbnbs. The first was a luxurious two bedroom apartment, with a balcony, two bathrooms, and hotel quality at home feel. The second one required an uphill battle to the top floor, and 2 hours notice if you wanted to use the hot water. Regardless of what the sleeping arrangements were, it didn’t take away from the fun that Dublin had to offer. From riches to rags, as long as you have good friends and good spirits you’ll have a good time!
5. Celebrate good times…come on! Bird Island, Antigua
I celebrated my quarter of a century birthday this year under the sun in Antigua. If I could relive one day out of this entire year, it would be the one pictured. Momentous occasions, such as a big birthday, should be celebrated! While I wish I could spend every day popping champagne on a catamaran, it is a day that I will look back on for the rest of my life. Another lesson I learned during this year’s adventures is the value of GoPro footage! Going into a trip with ideas in mind makes it easy to create a fun music video, like this one, that we made to the song HandClap!
6. The advice of locals is worth 1000 yelp reviews. Copenhagen, Denmark
I said it before and I’ll say it again… I love Airbnb. In Copenhagen, I stayed with a group of girls who were excited to give recommendations as soon as we arrived. If it weren’t for them, I would have never ended up checking out Paper Island – aka street food heaven. This artistic haven was one of my favorite spots in the entire city! Aside from my Airbnb hosts, great advice was imparted on me by the manager of a restaurant I stopped in for dinner. He wrote directions on the back of a napkin that led me to the beautiful gardens of Frederiksborg Castle, in the town of Hillerød.
7. Expect the unexpected (without panicking). Budapest, Hungary
Ok, I know I have proclaimed my love for Airbnb more than once in the post, but this year I experienced my very first home sharing hiccup. I arrived to my Budapest apartment in the cloak of night, and followed my host’s instructions to retrieve my key step by step… to no avail. After much back and forth (thank god for portable wifi!), and being scared out of my mind by the fact that there were people in the apartment that I have rented, I learned that I had been double booked. I was lucky to have a travel buddy that helped to keep me calm and laughing at our terrible luck, as we quickly readjusted, finding a hostel to stay for the night.
8. Oktoberfest is the best. Munich, Germany
I regret every year that I have not spent at Oktoberfest in Munich! At first, I thought this was a celebration that revolved around beer. While yes, this is true, I had no idea of the fun and games that take place outside of the beer tents! Growing up, rides were never my thing. In Six Flags, I’d rather go on the safari than go on a roller coaster. However, the spirit of Oktoberfest (and many liters of Spaten) have helped me to face my fears and go on every single ride the festival had to offer. Twice.
9. Be carefree and confident. Savannah, GA
My adventures in the South began with a reunion with my college BFF & cat’s namesake, Jordan. I can go on and on with what I love about Savannah *cough cough, open container laws*, but the highlight of my trip was crashing a 1986 high school reunion. Not only did we mingle with Effingham County’s finest alumni, we left a lasting impression on the dance floor. The memory of this night is 100x greater than times we would have looked back on if we had decided to just go to a bar instead…
10. Solo travel is good for the soul. Charleston, SC
I have such great memories with all of my friends and family that I have traveled with this year, but the experience of traveling alone is incomparable. Traveling alone reminds you what you are capable of. It forces you to make time to put yourself first. After a solo adventure, you are left feeling confident and empowered. In our day to day lives, self-love often falls to the back burner. Don’t neglect to spend some time with the greatest travel buddy there is… yourself!
This year, I crossed Mardi Gras in New Orleans off of my bucket list…
Any holiday with the word “fat” in the title has to be celebrated to the fullest! I have never been to New Orleans before, and thought this would be the perfect city to kick off another year of adventures.
Here are my 5 tips on surviving the wild experience of Mardi Gras!
1. Squad: have a great one.
My college roommate Patty and I made a New Years Resolution to reunite… deciding to go hard rather than to go home. An old roommate is the perfect travel buddy, because sharing a small space is nothing new. You’re already 100% comfortable being around them, down to the very last *sllllurp* of a retainer. Dorm life has prepared us for anything– even sharing a queen size bed with a Ryan Neumann sized friend!
Reuniting with college friends after graduation can be difficult, but it’s even more of a challenge when they’re in the Marines! But, when you have friends as awesome the Neumdawg himself, you make it happen. Now, we have the most fun memories from Bridgeport, to San Diego, to New Orleans!
2. Fuel: consume it.
There is no shortage of delicious food options here, so there is no excuse to drink on an empty stomach. Banana foster pancakes at Monty’s on the Square were exactly what I needed to kick off National Pancake Day. While you’re there, get the Bloody Mary with pickle vodka… and then get another one in a to go cup.
I couldn’t leave New Orleans without trying some local flavor. The Jazz Cafe on Decatur filled me up with all the jambalayaaa my heart could desiyaaa!
If you’re looking for something quick to keep you going, there are Willie’s Chicken Shacks everywhere! But, the most important fuel you need to keep you going: water! Don’t forget to hydrate… or you may actually die.
3. Drive Thru Daiquiris: tread easily.
We had a little time to kill before heading to our airbnb, so our New Orleans tour guide Ryan suggested we go to the drive thru Daiquiri place. What a foreign concept. There are a hundred reasons why this makes no sense at all, and I think that was kind of the beauty of it.
None of the flavors had the name of an actual flavor, so we ordered at random and called it all fruit punch (…with a hint of mango). Drinking them, we figured there couldn’t possibly be any alcohol in them. I mean, they were served from a drive thru!
Then, Patty and I got out of the car and realized how we were terribly wrong and these daiquiris were essentially frozen 4lokos. (That’s Ryan’s “I told you so” face in the picture…) (GO BRONCOS!)
This warning goes for any drink you get on Bourbon St, from Hurricanes to Jesters: tread easily. They’ll getchya.
4. Jams: turn up the funk.
Keep track of the songs that get you hyped during your adventure. A good playlist sets the tone- literally! Our taste went from funk, to hip hop, to alice in chains (yo whaddup!). It is hard to make a trip playlist ahead of time, because you never really know the songs that are going to make an impact on the journey. You could hear a song on a parade float, and not get it out of your head for days!
I love saving playlists for each of the trips I go on. It’s so interesting to see the type of music you end up listening to with different travel buddies, in different locations. They make for a great memory when you’re back home reminiscing!
If you’re coming to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, be prepared to fully commit. If you nap, you’re done. There are too many parades to see, beads to catch, and fireball shots to take out of bowls because you have no cups.
Mardi Gras was one of the most outrageous festivities I’ve ever been a part of. I most definitely feel that I have to revisit New Orleans to fully experience the city, aside from the craziness of the celebrations. Being able to reunite with two of my favorite fellow Pioneers made this adventure amazing before it even began. I will be laughing about the new memories we’ve made for the rest of my life… and by memories, I mean GoPro footage, because who really remembers anything from Mardi Gras any way?
Here are 20 things I learned from 10 different cities this year…
1. Miami, Florida:
Do: talk to strangers
This goes against everything we were taught as kids. It’s ok to talk to strangers as long as you’re smart about it. Be careful of the information you give, especially when traveling alone! If you don’t talk to strangers, then how do you make new friends?
Don’t: eat your sandwich on the beach.
I’m so serious about this, I even wrote a poem. The seagulls are ferocious and out for blood. Expect a scene similar to Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
2. Cancun, Mexico:
Do: drink the tequila
It’s always 5:00 in Cancun… Don Julio or bust.
Don’t: drink the water.
Or eat the salad, or anything else washed by the water.
3. Seattle, Washington:
Do: Turn your phone off
I realized how refreshing this was in a town that is literally named “Paradise.” My day exploring Mt. Rainier with no service bars was one of the best I had in 2015. In a job where social media and technology is the foundation, it feels so nice to fully disconnect every once in a while.
Don’t: Miss brunch at Citizen
Prepare to be in crepe heaven. If I could chose one place to sum up “Seattle Chill”, this would be it. Order the flatliner coffee. Order all of the coffee… It’s Seattle.
4. Portland, Oregon:
Do: Yield to pedestrians.
The spirit of safe driving is alive in Portland. Drivers cautiously yield to pedestrians with smiles on their faces. If New York City is “yin”, Portland is “yang.”
Don’t: Go to the Japanese Gardens
Save the $10 and go to the International Rose Testing Garden instead. They’re both located in Washington Park, but if you’re traveling on a budget, choose the authentic beauty of the Rose Garden rather than the over-hyped Japanese Gardens.
5. Chicago, Illinois:
Do: Eat carbs.
All of the pizza, and all of the hot dogs. You’ll do plenty of walking around the city, so don’t feel afraid to indulge!
Don’t: Be afraid to be touristy
Go see the big bean, and take a picture on the SkyDeck of the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower). Don’t be too touristy, though. Learn to use public transportation like a local, it will be way cheaper than an Uber.
Don’t: Turn on your travel buddy
Travel can bring forth some high stress situations. While this can bring out the worst in people, it also is a great teacher in working together, problem solving, and peace building.
7. Omaha, Nebraska:
Do: Go to Omaha.
This city is underrated, and I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s quaint, rustic, and fun spirited. I found it on a list of places in the US every 20-something-year-old should visit, and couldn’t agree more
Don’t: Neglect the slide
Omaha was described to me as a playground for adults, and I didn’t realize how literal that was until I got there. Go to the Gene Leahy Mall and go down the slide as many times as you can.
8. Des Moines, Iowa:
Do: Visit the Capitol
I feel like it should be a requirement for all wanderers to visit a state’s capitol building if they are in that city. It gives me a strange, historical connection with the destination afterwards.
Don’t: Expect anything less than amazing hospitality
Des Moinesians were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. Going to a place so overwhelmingly friendly reinforced how far a smile, or buying someone a beer goes.
9. San Diego, California:
Do: Follow Your Heart
Certain places you visit will leave a lasting impression. When you belong somewhere, your soul will feel it. Something a traveler struggles with is planning trips to new cities, or revisiting ones they love so dearly. San Diego is the city my sun loving soul will always go back to.
Don’t: Jump the Gun “If you love San Diego so much, why don’t you move there?” Everything in good time. There are many things I want to accomplish in life, and have learned the best route to take is patience. If you set realistic goals, and put effort towards achieving them, things will eventually happen as they should.
10. New York, New York:
Do: Explore Close to Home
Suffering from chronic wanderlust is an expensive itch to scratch. There were times this year when I wanted to explore somewhere new, so I would hop on the LIRR, satisfy my need for adventure for the day, and still be able to come home and sleep in my own bed.
Don’t: Limit yourself to Manhattan
Advice from a Brooklyn Born Baby: If you’re planning to explore New York City, don’t forget about the other boroughs! There are so many different vibes all over the city– Brooklyn being different from Queens, being different from Manhattan.