Summer Plans

It's weird to think about the fact that this is my last summer vacation... ever! So weird! I usually don't enjoy summers because of how hot they can get, and I definitely function better in routine, but it is bitter sweet knowing that I won't be able to waste away as many days at the pool ever again in my life. (Until I'm rich and famous and can do whatever I want, right?)

I've had pretty good summers all throughout college. After my freshman year, I went to Peru before interning at a local radio station (long story short: not my thing). Sophomore year I was abroad and then spent the summer backpacking around western Europe.

Figuring out what I'm doing this summer has been nothing short of frustrating. I applied to 10 internships...... and didn't get any of them. While it wasn't entirely all that surprising, it was still very disappointing! So after a lot of thinking, I have decided to stay in Columbia over the summer and stay with my current internship. I also have some fun things planned for this summer, including a trip to the beautiful Middle Eastern country of Oman! I am so excited for that. 

All in all, many of my friends are also staying in Columbia over the summer so it's not like it will be just me! Here's to the last summer vacation before the real world begins!

2 Fat 2 Fly

Even though I usually stick to the same 3 restaurants in Columbia, I'm always looking for new places to try. Before saying goodbye to one of my good friends for the summer, we decided to go out to eat somewhere. He suggested 2 Fat 2 Fly, which is a food truck turned restaurant that specializes in stuffed chicken wings. After looking at the menu and spotting the five magical words "mac and cheese stuffed wings" I was more than on board with the idea.

2 Fat 2 Fly began as a food truck, and then got so popular that they added a small restaurant to their business. They serve wings, both stuffed and seasoned, and burgers and melts.

Stuffed chicken wings, french fries, AND fried okra? I'm in.

We both got the rookie combos which includes two stuffed wings, three seasoned wings, and two sides.

Devon got stuffed jambalaya wings and lemon pepper regular wings. I got mac and cheese (of course) and sweetheat. We traded and tasted all of the flavors, but at the end of the day the mac and cheese wings won. They were just SO good.

I mean....

Ohhhhhh yeah. We left the restaurant also feeling 2 fat 2 fly! The stuffed flavors change all the time so I definitely can't wait to go back and try new flavors! The ones I'm really looking forward to are chicken parmesan, chicken and waffle, and thanksgiving (!!!).  

My Favorite Breakfast

I love breakfast foods. I'm always hungry when I wake up and like to eat something yummy that will keep me full for a long time! (This is a new development... I used to eat 2 toaster strudels in the morning, but recently I've decided that starting my morning with that many saturated fats and sugars was not the best thing for me!)

I now make this breakfast just about every day. It's a thin bagel with mashed avocados and scrambled egg whites! Super easy, super delicious. Avocados are great because they have so many good fats that are good for your brain and nervous systems. Egg whites are stacked full of protein and have so much less calories and fats than eggs with egg yolks. 

This breakfast, a cup of hot coffee, and the TODAY Show and I'm ready to start my day!

Backpacking Europe: Hostels

Hostels. Ahhh, hostels. Love them, hate them, you can't properly backpack Europe without them. When I was abroad, and when I was traveling with my friends, we only used hostels to stay in. There are pros and cons to hostels compared with other accommodations (namely Airbnb), but they are cost effective and when booked properly, have a lot of bang to their buck.

Searching for Hostels: Once you've decided where you want to go, start looking on Hostelworld.Com or Hostels.Com for available dates. This is also where you might want to consider Airbnb, especially if you have been to this destination before. HostelWorld and the like do a great job at ranking hostels, providing reviews, showing the location on the map, and listing amenities. Always, always, read the reviews!! Read all of them, if possible! Then decide what's most important to you based off them: a hostel with incredible amenities, but a higher price, right in the middle of the city? Or a cheaper hostel with a few less amenities a little bit outside of the city? (This will also depend on the transportation of the city).

Booking Hostels: My friends and I learned the hard way that it is ALWAYS better to book a hostel directly through their own personal website rather than HostelWorld! HostelWorld does a great job at listing out hostels and their reviews, but they have an insanely complicated booking fee and refund policy (that my friends and I didn't read all the way through... It came back to bite us in Venice!). Booking directly through the hostel alleviates most of the booking fees, as well as gives all of the money to the hostel so they can spend it on things like more amenities for guests!

Personal Recommendations:
  • Mosquito Hostel in Krakow, Poland
    • Right in the middle of the old city
    • Free dinner!! (Let me just say it again... FREE DINNER)
    • Guided tours through the hostel of Auschwitz/Birkenau and the Polish salt mines
  • Hostel Blues in Bratislava, Slovakia
    • Free walking tours through the hostel
    • Fast wifi
    • Girls only rooms (I liked this option when I was traveling alone!)
  • Generator Hostel in Venice, Italy
    • Clean, spacious rooms
    • Delicious restaurant (unfortunately not free)
    • Right at the waterfront (some of my favorite memories are from this hostel... sitting by the water, drinking wine with my friends, and talking about life!)
    • (P.S. Generator is a chain of hostels! We stayed with them in Berlin as well; they also have locations in Paris and London just to name two!)
  • Ostello Bello in Milan, Italy
    • A little pricey, but SO WORTH IT
    • Best tiramisu I have ever had in my life
    • An amazing location right down the street from the famous Milano shopping district ;) 
Some of the things I liked about hostels compared to apartment renting include walking tours, pub crawls, and just the general atmosphere! I met people from all over the world in all stages of life at some of these hostels, and if I hadn't, my Europe experience just would not have been the same!

In my next backpacking Europe post, I'll try and tackle the biggest concern: packing.

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! I feel so lucky that at only 21 years old I have been able to see so much of this beautiful planet. I couldn't narrow it down, so below are some of my favorite pictures of this wonderful place that we get to call home.

Untersburg, Salzburg, Austria

Plitvice National Parks, Croatia

Columbia, South Carolina (Right on my own front porch!)

Athens, Greece

Capri, Italy

Berchtesgaden, Germany (this lake is one of the opening shots from the Sound of Music!)

Innsbruck, Austria

...I could go on! When I was abroad, specifically in this last picture, I remember looking out over the Alps and thinking, "We are so small." And how true that is.

Happy Earth Day!

Movie Review: Spotlight

When I was 17, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at Boston University for an investigative journalism intensive workshop. Although I spent most of the two weeks wishing I was at home, I did learn a lot, and it helped me to realize something very important about my future career: I hate investigative journalism.

I picked a story on food trucks. (This was 2012; food trucks were still new and exciting.) Basically, food trucks are health nightmares on wheels. They're insanely unsanitary and eating from them is a good way to get really sick. All in all, it was an interesting project but I still to this day can't eat out of food trucks. Then again, had I never researched the issue, I would never have known. And that's the beauty and necessity of investigative journalism.

Spotlight is everything that I wish my short-lived career as an investigative journalist had lead me too. It follows the investigative journalism unit of the Boston Globe as they work to prove of cover-up of sex abuse scandals by the Catholic Church.

If nothing else, this movie will make you go woah. The acting is spectacular, the directing is amazing, and the plot is unbelievable. 

Overall, I would definitely recommend this movie to a friend.

Backpacking Europe: Planning

Backpacking around Europe (read: traveling around Europe on trains while wearing a backpack) is easily one of my favorite memories thus far. I had so much fun, spent way to much money, and had so many new and exciting experiences. If you're ever considering traveling around Europe like that, do it!

That being said, there is a lot (a lot a lot) of planning that goes into a trip like this to make sure it all goes relatively smoothly. Here are some of the pre-departure tips I have:

Map it out: One of the first things my friends and I did was print out a giant map of Europe and circle all of the cities we wanted to hit while abroad. I think our list was something ridiculous like 25 or so cities, and obviously we couldn't see all of them, but having a map right in front of us made it so much easier to narrow it down. We ended up making somewhat of a circle (starting in Austria where I studied abroad and ending in Prague) based on Eurail pass lines.

Decide on a travel format: We used a 10-leg Eurail pass that had a 2 month expiration date, meaning that we had two months to make 10 legs of our trip. Each leg could be 24 hours before it counted as two. This also helped in narrowing down cities. Doing it again, I would definitely look at flying between certain cities (namely Florence and Paris... a 12 hour day of traveling on 4 different trains is not something I would want to do again) and using the pass to see more cities (Prague to Budapest, specifically).

Don't neglect the backpack: When your life is on your back, it is extremely important to have a well-fitting backpack. I got mine at REI and got it professionally measured to fit my back. (For reference, I'm 5' 5" and my backpack is an extra small.) The store employees also helped me figure out where the backpack is supposed to fit: the majority of the weight should be right around your waist, so the straps fit nicely on top of your hips. This seriously relieves soooo much pressure from your back, and when your pack weighs 30 pounds, you can feel the difference.

Check your passport and visa requirements: If you're staying more than 90 days in the Schengen area of Europe (the EU and then some), you need a visa to travel past the 90 days. If you're not, then congratulations, you don't need to go through the hassle of getting a travel visa!

In my next backpacking post I'll be talking about choosing hostels: what to look for, how to book them, and my personal recommendations!

Getting Out of a Rut

March was, without a doubt, the most difficult month I've faced so far. It seems like almost everything went wrong: from friends to getting rejected from my dream internship... It was hard to carry on. Some days felt like a million hours and some days I couldn't even convince myself to get out of bed. Being in a rut, to put it simply, sucks. But there are several ways to get out of even the deepest, darkest of moods.

Listen to your emotions: If you're sitting at your desk trying to study but all you can think about is that one thing that went wrong, or the future conversation you're going to have, or how much you are annoyed by that event or person or thing, don't try to force yourself to focus. Take a second and redirect your focus to handling your emotions. Write about them, go on a run or a walk, or productively take out your anger on something. (Some suggestions: splatter paint, breaking plates (if you live near a railroad track, run until you puke, etc.)

Let yourself grieve: One morning I woke up to the news that I didn't get my dream internship. I was, of course, extremely upset about it, but I naively pushed those feelings down until they bubbled over at an even worse time. I wish I had considered giving myself a grieving period: a time to be upset and cry and be disappointed. When things don't go as planned or as hoped, it can be really hard and that is okay. Listen to your emotions and needs and take a step back to handle them.

Laugh more: This one sounds silly, but it really is true that laughter is the best medicine. Even if you can find one thing to make you laugh I pinky promise that you will feel better. First you force yourself to laugh, then it just comes naturally. It really makes a world of difference.

Look forward to things: I am one of those crazy people that has a calendar filled out all the way through December 2016. I've found personally that when I have at least one day in the future that I"m looking forward to getting through the rough days is a little bit easier.

Go outside: Especially now that it's finally warmer outside, I'm taking my stress outdoors. I go on walks, open up my windows, or even just sit out for a short time and soak up some vitamin C. I really feel so refreshed afterwards and ready to accomplish whatever I need to get done.

Treat yourself: The biggest lesson from Parks and Recreation: treat yo'self. Whether it's Sonic milkshakes or one episode of your favorite show... Take a second and think about what you want or need in the moment and give in. 

Talk to a professional: It is so hard to reach out to a professional for help. It's awkward and uncomfortable, but trust me when I say: it is worth it. To have a third party trained to read your brain and help you communicate better and to make better choices makes it so much more worth it. They can give you more help than any of your friends and family, because they are paid to do so. 

Ruts are the worst thing ever, but trust me, you can get out of them! And remember, sometimes in life there are minor setbacks for major comebacks.