Permission to be Happy.

It’s 8:25pm on a Saturday in Singapore.
I’m typing away at The Port by Quarters, a hostel on the river in Boat Quay.


So, I’ve been thinking..

This is the 6th or 7th time that I’ve been to Singapore. To be honest, on the flight here, I found myself wondering why I’m off traveling again when there’s so much that I want to accomplish in Seattle with Music. I’ve been questioning myself. Rightfully so. I have the poor habit of thinking about all of the things that I want to be doing/achieving/working toward that I often neglect the moment at hand..

Today, I slept in. 10am. This is a big deal when you’re traveling. Usually, you’re up early to go site seeing or head to the next city.

Today, I went to the gym. This is a big deal when you’re traveling. Usually, there’s so much to go do and people inviting you on a day trip or urging you to come grab lunch.

Today, I went for a run, ate dinner by myself, played ukelele in a music shop, and just watched a terrible romcom on my laptop. And I feel really great about it all.

IMG_0558.jpg(the little things in Life.. like knowing your mom’s dog loves you)

You know that “high” that runners always talk about? Yeah.. I never get those. Still don’t. However, I did have a moment today about 10 minutes in where I felt myself really missing my friends and family and Life back in the United States. I started questioning what I was doing and worrying about all that I still want to accomplish.. and then something incredible happened:

I decided to stop feeling that way.

And I did. And I felt really happy.
And it was as surprising as it was relieving.

(after a day of paddle boarding at Sai Kung Beach in Hong Kong)

It reminded me of an important lesson that I have the tendency to forget: It’s okay to be Happy. I gave myself permission to be Happy. Shifting the focus from what I wasn’t doing allowed me to appreciate what I was doing. I was proud of myself! While traveling, I took the time to just do normal things like fitness and rest. Not every day has to be a Life Changing adventure.. In fact, it can’t. It is unfair to place such high expectations on myself and whatever skewed belief I have about what Travel should look like.

There’s such a difference between anticipating the outcome of what I’ve been working on and expecting certain outcomes for what I’ve been working on. It’s like that movie in theaters that everybodyyy tells you you’re supposed to love, and then you’re let down when you finally see it. Too high of expectations. The same is true of ourselves. Expectations are unfair to our Appreciation. (Not that you shouldn’t have standards and love yourself: like this Letter I wrote to myself)

I guess my point to all of this…
It’s okay to be Happy. Give yourself permission to be Happy.

IMG_8571_2(like being invited to a fake tea party by your niece)

I don’t think that I’m alone when it comes to carrying guilt. Sometimes I feel guilty for not getting my workout in for the day. Other times I feel guilty for not practicing enough with Music. On more serious notes, I feel really guilty for not being able to be there for friends and family when I’m off on whatever adventures I may be pursuing.. I feel guilty for not making the most of the little moments and trying to do too much in the big moments. However, whatever guilt that I’m carrying does not need to define who I am as a person.

I am more than the things I’m not doing.
And just like that moment today on that run when I chose to let go of that feeling of guilt. Even if it’s only for that moment, I feel powerful knowing that I can do that. (And just as powerful getting back and being productive.)

As always, I’m a work in Progress. A Proud Work in Progress.
And I give myself permission to be Happy about it.

Be Happy, Friends.
You have permission.


So, You Wanna Go to London?

And finally, the British portion of my So, You Wanna Go to Europe series! First and foremost, I was extremely lucky to have my long time friend, Luke Murphy, hosting and offering advice on how to best experience the city. It was one of the most expensive places I visited, but it is definitely one of those must-see places that you go through after Ireland. It is also one of those places with lots of advice already online on where to go and what to do.. So, based on my personal adventure there, here are the tips that helped (or would have helped) me out. And also, tons of pictures for all of the people who wanted to see more about the trip. (Here ya go, Mom!)

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London was one of the only places where we had a plan. Luke, having previously worked in student events coordinating (or something like that), was really familiar with telling visitors where to go and the potential walking path to take.


Here is a picture of one of the lists that we followed to find our way throughout the city centre of London. One thing that is great about this place is that it’s a walking city.. we were able to see most everything we wanted in one full day of moving about (assuming we followed the path we were given and excluding longer stops like museums/or the castle). Another great thing about London is that it’s expensive. Err, at least for us. The USD to pound conversion was atrocious, so it forced us to be conscious about not spending money. (This, of course, had nothing to do with the fact we spent much more money than we planned on going out in Ireland.) So, in lieu of spending money, we spent more time walking around and seeing all of the iconic sites that make this renowned city so famous.

So first things first, let’s get from Dublin to Ireland!


We left our friend’s house by catching a taxi to the port where we took a ferry over to Wales. The ferry ride was a great choice for us when considering money and luggage. Since Bosen and I both had our guitars, we were concerned that the cheap airlines would charge us crazy amounts since they’re bigger than typical carry-on size (which is never a problem for me in the States.. but not worth the hassle here). After doing some online research, we decided to go with for their package deal: ferry from Dublin to Holyhead (Wales) and then a bullet train to London. I loved the ferry ride because for the first time traveling, we had lots of space! Plenty of room to move around, but I definitely suggest riding at an obscure time or board early so that you can find a good place to sit. It takes a little over 3 hours to cross the water, but I was content in seats without a view of the water (after Galway, this was pretty standard scenery). For the last bit about this leg of travel, I would suggest bringing your own food and water.. The ferry has its own little cafe (average options with above average prices) and the train didn’t really offer anything unless you were riding in first/business class. If you want to be extra frugal, Bosen and I spent most of our trip buying deli meats with various rolls to make sandwiches along the way.. it’s definitely not the fanciest way to do things, but it always ebbed our hunger and kept us out exploring with more money to spend on more important things! (like a pint or whatever) Once we finally arrived in London, the London Underground was really easy to navigate (I would say even mores than subways in the States). And we met up with our friend, Luke Murphy.

IMG_2357(whom we made document much of our London adventure via GoPro)

I think the best way is to get up in the morning and try to see as much as you can.. for us, we woke up and took the Underground to Leicester Square Station and walked the block or so to see the area. Instantly, we were reminded that we were very much tourists. AccepIMG_2118t this fact. So, we took a picture with a police officer and kept journeying on.. next through Chinatown which is substantially less impressive if you’ve been to a Chinatown in ANY Asian country, but this one feels much cleaner and much more for show and tourism. Something about Chinese lanterns (right) hanging across streets is such a sight, regardless of wIMG_2186here I am. Next was SoHo, a fun area with bars and restaurants known as their gayborhood. Having gone out in San Diego and San Francisco (with their really fun gay neighborhoods), this area IMG_2132wasn’t super exciting for me.. but it definitely has a nightlife and plenty of places to go out. I think Piccadilly Circus (left) is the iconic small square to see in London. I’m not sure why, but this small section was the major “I’m in the center of London” moment for me.  We decided to skip Buckingham Palace, because I guess you can really only stand at the gate.. which I suppose is a lot like visiting the White House? We found other places where you can get more up close and personal with the guards, so we were content with this. From what we were told, I would only recommend going if you can see the changing of the guard, and even then, it’s such a tourist haven that you’ll mainly just get pictures of people taking pictures. Besides, we wanted more time to spend in the most lively tourist location: Trafalgar Square. This area is the must-see of tourist locations in London. The square itself is large and inviting with its two fountains, statue lions, statue admirals of war, the National Gallery, and a giant blue rooster. The center is called Nelson’s Column and can be identified by the 4 lion statues at the corners. The rooster, I believe, is just a work of Art that is both interesting and out of place. We spent the majority of our time here taking pictures and shooting video of the site and the street performers who gather here to make money off the tourists.


(It’s a good place to meet up with other travelers you’ve met, like Liz and Shelley!)

The last couple stops on our Day 1 London Experience brought us to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. We weren’t able to go inside of the former cathedral, but the giant gothic-style building was still such a sight to see. And, of course, Big Ben is Big Ben. This was pretty much all we could fit into our first day (as we decided to unwind over an overpriced pint somewhere near Westminster Abbey). After this, we went to bed early because we were going to uncover a global mystery the next day!

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To set the mood for Day 2, feel free to watch the video: “What’s the Meaning of Stonehenge” by Ylvis (the guy who did, What does the Fox say?) .. it’s ridiculous and hilarious and what Bosen and I kept singing to eacIMG_2200h other during our visit. We got up early and went to London’s Central Station to catch the tour bus for the Stonehenge/Bath tour. When you’re comparing prices for the various tours, I would recommend choosing one that also stops in Bath (with entrance to the Roman Baths). Stonehenge is great and all, but adding the city of Bath makes your full day more worth it. We ran into a little difficulty with booking our ticket and getting the matched advertised price from the website, but with a little Polite Persistence (a post for another time), we were able to persuade the ticketing counter to give us our deal. Regardless, this was still our most expensive tourist stop.. I think we spent around 60 pounds each for these tickets but knew that we’d never have another chance to see Stonehenge. While you’re there, make sure that you rid yourself of any embarrassment and take every type of picture you can think of! We were reluctant to do so, but as soon as we started taking silly pictures, we watched as every other person followed suit to do the same exact pictures!
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Bath wasn’t even on our radars as a place to visit. We were happy that we did because the Roman Bath tour was interesting and added a lot of value to our day. Had we only gone to Stonehenge, which is basically a large circle walking around the perimeter, it would have been a bit disappointing (despite how interesting the actual Stonehenge is). Bath was a quaint, little town good for shopping (something we didn’t do), grabbing food, and seeing the Roman baths.
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At the Roman baths, we learned a bit about Roman history and a lot about the worship of Minerva and Neptune. We were able to walk around the entire complex following the audio guided tour through the various rooms full of artifacts and information. I don’t have much to say about it, but I definitely feel like it is worth visiting if you’re already going to Stonehenge.

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On our final day in London, Luke suggested we go to St. Paul’s Cathedral, cross over Millennium Bridge, see Tate Modern and the old Globe Theatre, go on a bit of a trek toward Borough Market and London Bridge, then finally see Tower Bridge leading over to Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London. We got a later start to the day than we planned, so we were rushing a bit mainly just seeing the outsides of these locations. We had a delicious (and overpriced) lunch at a stand before crossing the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London where we bought tickets and actually walked around the grounds.

As I recap on the previous few days, some advice comes to mind:

Take the obvious pictures.. even if you feel stupid for it:
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because, who cares? These are pictures for You. They’re as fun and silly as you want them to be, because they are your tangible memories of the places you’ve visited. If there’s ever a place to be an annoying tourist, it’s London.

As always, bring friends or make friends:

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We were fortunate enough to have our good friend we know from San Diego, Ash Gallagher, passing back through London from the Middle East to meet up with us for some quick selfies and a couple pints. When we didn’t know people, we made a point to “cheers” strangers and chat with musicians to try to get a better feel for the people in the areas we visited.

Take pictures other than the tourist norms:

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There is so much beauty in the random buildings, statues, and art of London, that your picture opportunities are endless. I’ve found that I appreciate places (and people) more when I can find the beauty in the places where it’s not expected. My general go-to’s are anything man made in the foreground with clouds or the sun in the background. Haha, and I’m no photographer, but I’ve found when I’m out trying to think like a photographer, I notice so much more of my surroundings.

You obviously have to go see the Tower Bridge:

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I think Tower Bridge is more recognizable than Big Ben. I also feel like it is one of the most common bridges to call by the incorrect name .. (London Bridge) It’s a gorgeous structure that is impressive to witness when it raises for the larger passing boats. Walking over the bridge is an experience in itself. (There was a couple taking their wedding photos while we were there)

See the castle (Tower of London):

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Get there early enough that you can take the tour. Sadly, we were too late to do so, but it was still worth the 20 or so pounds that we paid to walk around the castle. Seeing the infamous ravens, the crown jewels, and all the exhibits that they have are worth seeing. They do not want you taking pictures/recording anything inside the jewel room, so don’t get yelled at (like I did).

Our final evening, we were excited to check out Camden Town. We had heard so much about Camden and its Market, Lock, and local music. During the day, the street market is known for the artsy vendors selling their touristy and creative wares. The energy of the market matches the colorful small shacks and stalls. In the evening, this area quickly fades into a darker version of the vibrant daytime that is much more vacant with nearly every person trying to sell you weed and sometimes other drugs. Regardless, I still felt relatively safe, and the view of the water in the Camden Lock is amazing (shown below).

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With much credit going to Amy Winehouse, the area is also known for live music. The night that we were there, we visited multiple open mics with a variety of talent hitting the stage. As with most music scenes, the sound catered to what the city (and area) is famous for.. British rock and Amy Winehouse musings. As always, I enjoy the unknown expectations of any open mic, and we even found ourselves on stage sharing a few of our own Bosen & Suede songs.

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The other thing that stood out to me in Camden were the tattoos.. for whatever reason, this area has turned into a known tattoo haven where people haphazardly get inked up in the back of the multiple shops that line the streets between clothes and tourist traps. In general, I found almost every tattoo horribly done and perfect examples for Spike TV’s Tattoo Nightmares. I recognize that I’m partially spoiled by the quality of San Diego tattoo artists, but I wouldn’t recommend anybody get a tattoo in Camden unless you’re only getting a Camden tattoo for the sake of getting a Camden tattoo.

Finally, after a long day of exploring and sightseeing.. go get kebabs. For real. Almost everyone knows a great late-night kebab shop, and I would highly recommend this over your typical fish n chips. For real. They’re so good. I can still picture myself standing there in line salivating over the meat being sliced off the vertical rack and placed directly into my food, whether chicken or lamb (or the healthier “shish”). It’s really good. Go get some. You can even be creepy about it:

IMG_2375All in all, London was a great time. If I was more into museums, shopping, and history, I imagine I would have appreciated it more than I did. There is very much a Life Force in the city that you feel as you walk around all of the historical buildings and pop culture references. My biggest advice for visiting would be to find some sort of lodging arrangements before you get there. Easily, we saved a lot of money during this leg of our trip by staying with a friend. Regardless, go experience London! There were (BY FAR) more sights/sites to see in the few days we were there than any other place we visited.

There’s so much to see out there, Friends.

A Quick Update from Singapore/Malaysia:

Hello, Friends!

I have been the worst at keeping everyone up to date.. (Trust me, my Mother knows this more than anyone!) As a quick update, since exploring Seattle, I played gigs in San Francisco, flew to Shanghai to see China for the first time and visit a good friend of mine. Then, I flew with her and a friend to go to Disneyland in Hong Kong and spent 3days venturing out into Hong Kong on my own. After that, I’ve been running an education camp in Singapore and about to start one in Malaysia after a few days of vacationing in Kuala Lumpur. Throughout this time, a number of conversations have come up that reference back to one of my original and most popular blog posts.. so, I thought it’d repost it here until I find the time to post up some new writing I’ve been revising. Some of the new posts I’m working on (and posting soon) are:

So, You Wanna Go to London? (for the So, You Wanna Go to Europe collection)
A Letter to the Girl of My Dreams
That Peter Pan Life
Ex Girlfriends and High School Sports
and a little rant about Millennials..

Until then, please go back and check out:

The Challenge with Break-ups in a Hyper Connected World

I’m finding some full circle revelations in re-reading this post recently. It had been awhile, and I gotta say.. I was kind of embarrassed at the transparency in my faults/shortcomings with my previous relationships. I can happily say that I’m feeling single and confident after a long time of feeling unsure and finding myself again. With that said, I am also the most confidently uncertain of my near Future than I’ve ever been.. and THAT, is also very exciting. I’m stoked to share some of my new learnings with you soon. And of course, I have a bunch of video editing to still go through from Europe, Cliff jumping in San Diego, and soon to be Krabi, Thailand for Christmas. So so so much happening in this crazy, fortunate Life of Mine. Thank you for sharing it with me!!


See you soon, Friends!

So, You Wanna Go to Ireland?

Adding to the series of posts about my travels, this post is all about my time in Ireland. If you’re looking for specific travel advice, check out these Overview tips I wrote here: So You Wanna Go To Europe? Admittedly, we (my traveling companion @BrianBosen and I) did not get to see ALL of Ireland, so most of this post will be about several nights in Dublin, one day in Galway, and a quick trip to Howth. Also, because this is the first chapter of SYWGTE and Ireland was our first (and last) visit in Europe, many of the tips will include first arriving in Europe.


(“cheers”, but.. more on this later)


Our first day in Dublin was purely figuring out our arrival and lodging. We mistakenly thought that Bosen’s phone would work on Wifi to keep communication on Facebook or WhatsApp. Not the case, so we had a bit of an adventure trying to figure out what we think the other person would do in the case of zero communication. WWBrianD ? (insert VideoGameHighSchool joke here) So the first piece of advice traveling with other people:

Have a solid plan when/where you’re meeting and what to do in the case of a delayed/canceled flight.

Luckily, we’ve traveled so extensively together that we were able to accurately guess each other’s actions despite planning on meeting at Temple Bar, which we thought was a bar, but is actually an entire area of bars. We would have definitely benefitted from having a better plan, so if you’re not meeting at the airport, make sure you have a solid meet up location (know the address, the area of town, and close by landmarks in case you have to explain yourself). Once you’re settled:

Visit Temple Bar area.

What’s great about this touristy area of bars is that there tends to be live music at most of the bars. It’s full of tourists. Who cares? Go grab a Smithwick’s, don’t pronounce it phonetically, and enjoy live music in an area that embraces it. (Bonus points to whoever can tell me why John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is so popular over there. Definitely caught me off guard.) Almost every bar we went to had talented musicians playing covers, several local drafts to choose from, and people out who are pretty friendly and like to drink beer. Dublin is the most expensive place to be in all of Ireland, so don’t be surprised if beer costs more than you would think. I was actually really really surprised that Jameson and Guinness wasn’t cheaper, but it definitely does not cost any less while you’re over there. Oh, and not really a tip, but:

Tipping is not the same as the United States.

The first night we were in Dublin, we tipped 4euro on a 12euro round of beers, and you would have thought we either transformed into small children who can’t be alone for more than 2 minutes or international VIP rock stars who must not be ignored by the bartender. This was a very normal tip for us in the States, but much more odd in Dublin (and when it happens, they love to bleed the tourists dry of their tipping cash). If the bar is really busy and you want to make sure you’ll continue getting service, tip away. Though, every time I chose not to tip, I could feel my American bartender friends smiling for every time a European has stiffed them tips.. From what people told me, bartenders in Ireland (and Europe?) are paid a “living wage” and tipping is not as socially normal as it is in the States. If you order food, then I think it was the standard 15-18% .. but feel free to ask for yourself.

Go tour the Guinness Storehouse

It’s worth it. It’s only 18euro (probably cheaper if you order online or go in the morning). It’s a 7-story brewery, museum, beer experience. Skip pass the massive, mall-sized merchandise and souvenir shop and get straight to the tour introduction. The rest of the tour is at your own leisure with multiple options of what you want to do. Armed with our single drink tickets, we trekked through the history of Guinness, the business, aromatics, tasting room, and rooftop bar. Definitely visit the aromatics and the tasting room, where they teach you what to look for in smell and how to appropriately drink/taste this stout. We had the option of getting an official pour certificate but didn’t feel like waiting in the long line. Furthermore, we were excited to get upstairs to the Gravity Bar, which has the best near-365degree view of Dublin in the entire city. I recommend grabbing your most delicious, best-tasting Guinness ever (I’m ruined. I don’t think I can ever drink it again.) while up there. And then write about! I met a New Zealander journalist taking pictures upstairs, and he mentioned how he gets paid to travel and write about his experiences.. (uhmmm.. *cough* dream job? Did I mention, please share this blog?) Anyway, since you’re spending money seeing the Storehouse and drinking beer, you should try to save money where you can:

Go to the Grocery Store and Cook Your Own Food

Sorry, Ireland (and most of our Eurotrip).. we found your food to be terribly underwhelming (why is there no hot sauce anywhere?). And fairly expensive compared to what we can get in the States. Going to any grocery store in any foreign country is already kind of a fun, so go do it to see what different products they have, how much price varies from us, and any unusual foods that you notice. There are definitely a handful of dishes you should try that locals can tell you about, like a traditional “fry” with black pudding (not what you think it is) and a late night trip to a Chipper (french fries.. and, you’ll notice a theme across Northern Europe). Otherwise, if it’s possible, go grab food and cook it up. It’s so much cheaper, and I think the cost of eating out isn’t worth the cost of the food you’ll get.. (at least during our budget-conscious trip). There is ONE food we ate that must be done:

Go get the Fish n Chips in Howth, Ireland

Some of the best food we had during our entire trip. We knew that we wanted to have authentic fish n chips, and we asked around for where that may be.. we were informed that a small fishing town north of Dublin is the place to go, and wow, we are so happy that we chose to do so. To get there, we were fortunate enough to get a ride from our wonderful friends, Emer and her boyfriend Garret. It was roughly a 40minute drive with quaint Irish roads with views of the water and little buildings.. It’s right on the harbor, which has countless postcard-esque picture opportunities, so walk along the seawall after you’ve enjoyed these daily caught breaded delights. You can choose the type of fish you want, how you want it cooked, and the dipping sauces that you want to come with it. There are no wrong answers. Other than the traditional cod fish n chips, we particularly liked the smoked haddock..

Take the Bus

Take public transit in general. The experience alone is a comfort zone expanding adventure. It’s definitely more difficult than just jumping into a cab or Uber, but what’s the fun in that? Try challenging yourself to get around and risk getting lost. Who cares? You’re on vacation.. you’re on an expedition. And it’s cheaper. With phone apps and the internet, it’s relatively easy to figure out how to get around and how much transportation costs. I was suggested to use CityMapper, but mainly just used Google Maps.. Ideally, order your ticket from a bus stop kiosk/machine/stand, or keep a little cash on hand and be ready to drop it in the counter up front for the driver. Even if you hold up the line like the tourist that you are, whatever. Go find a spot to sit in the middle (fairly close to the door), smile as you fight the urge to take selfies, and offer your seat if someone elderly gets on the bus. And if you get to a stop that looks like a fun place to explore, by all means.. Go make memories.

Party with Locals

If you’ve ever partied with me before, you know that I love a good “cheers” and take this part of social drinking a huge priority of my #PartyLife experience (excessively so, at times). When you go to the Guinness Factory, they’ll teach you to say “slainte” (sounds like “slahn-cha” kinda?). And this is great and all, but if you just yell cheers and smile and clink glasses, you’re pretty much always going to be okay. I’m pretty sure that this “cheers to good health” is in old Irish (Gaelic), but is more just novelty than actual usage. If you meet fun people, strike up a conversation, buy them a beer, and ask them what pub you should all head to next. We met so many fun, wonderful (funderful?) people while out and about.

Fall in Love

I made the decision to fall in Love every chance I got in Europe. Sometimes with fellow travelers, or from people we meet out at the bars, or sometimes with a certain place that made my decision to travel seem right, even sometimes from a 5minute conversation with a server at a pub. Keep falling in Love. I think it opens up your heart/mind for the experience of travel whether from a certain beer or food that reminds you you’re on an adventure or maybe from that beautiful blonde in Dublin whom you have a great connection with.. Love is openness, travel is experience, so I chose to Love the experience and all the people/places that came with it (more on this in a future post). While out on a Thursday night, we were told we had to do this:

 Go to Galway

So the next day, we took a bus and checked out Galway for a night and day. Do it! It’s smaller and feels like a more authentic Ireland experience. All of the restaurants, bars, hostels, and everything are all within walking distance of each other, and everyone is really friendly and on vacation. It’s very much a weekend destination, so be aware of what day it is and book your hostel early (or couch surf). We met a number of incredible people and laughed the evening away. The night life is fun, but remember that partying can be done anywhere.. make sure you get rest so that you can:

Go see the Cliffs of Moher

By far, this was the most breath-taking natural wonder that I witnessed during my trip. There is some amazing footage of the cliffs that I’ll post another time (Thanks GoPro!), but you must go see it for yourself. These cliffs are the second tallest in all of Europe, and from what we were told, they have the most spectacular view. (Though, we did almost go to the Aran Isles instead of Cliffs of Moher solely because it sounded like people were saying “Iron Isles” and we love Game of Thrones, so yea.) Anyway, these cliffs are gorgeous and at the top of my list for something you must see while in Ireland. Seeing these cliffs and listening to all the history and stories that we were told on the tour bus rides definitely felt touristy but felt right. Go see the Cliffs of Moher!

If you’ve been to Ireland and have any other suggestions, please add them in a comment or contact me!

 Travel Safe. Travel Fun.
Love Life. Live Your Dream.

Go check out Ireland, Friends!

So, You Wanna Go to Europe? (Overview)

This is the first of many installments documenting my travels, decisions I made, and what I wish I would have known..


It’s 8:47am at a coffee shop in the City Centre of Dublin, Ireland. I’ve never been here before. In fact, I’ve never been to Europe before. This entire concept both frightens and fascinates me, and I’m surprised by how these are the two words that describe how I’m feeling right now.. From the entire spectrum of what I could be feeling, I have fear and fascination. (As I double-check the definition of fascination, I realize I may just be fascinated with the use of alliteration.)

I’m always kind of surprised when I feel fear or hesitance to do something.. especially when it’s something exciting that I know I want to be doing. I guess this whole new concept (at least for me) of being more open to my mind/heart is revealing a wider range of emotions that I’ve previously been suppressing. I often feel like I live in a bit of a fantastical version of Life where I believe everything works out, I’m confused and devastated when things don’t, and my way of preserving this image of Life is to downplay the negatives.. (think Wolf of Wall Street and how Belfort narrates his Life in this unrealistic fairytale where the reality moments are just two-sentence, quiet narratives, and the exaggerations are as Hollywood huge and unbelievable as his ego would have us believe)

I am excited for what is to come, as I am entirely unsure of what may unfold over the next three weeks. We (traveling companion, Bosen) haven’t planned out our day to day activities. We have a general idea of what cities we would like to visit, but have not limited ourselves with pre-booked flights/trains/buses that force us to leave a city on a particular day. All we know is that we’re in Dublin today on September 2nd, 2014 (started travel yesterday) and we fly back to Dublin from Copenhagen on September 20th (with flight back to the States on 9/21). We have a number of friends we would like to see along the way, and we have several cities where we don’t know anyone there or the main language that is spoken.. With an open mind and an open heart, I welcome this adventure and hope that I have enough money left over at the end that I can start facing the decisions that need to be made when I get back to the States. Until then, FIWIE.. This ought to be interesting. Let’s have fun.

The above was written when I first arrived in Ireland and took a bus to a coffee shop in the Temple Bar area. In an effort to stay grounded with myself and my experiences, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my travel, my decisions, and the notes I wrote along the way to come up with this advice for anyone wanting to go to Northern Europe. In future posts, I’m going to break down specific countries, cities, and personal experiences, but for this first installment, here is a general Overview of Travel Tips:

(if you’re interested in specifics, here are my thoughts on Ireland and London.)


Tips from What We Did:

Credit Card with no Foreign Transaction Fees: The week before I left, I realized that my credit card was charging me percentages for all of my foreign transaction fees. It adds up very quickly, so one way that we saved so much money was by calling the credit card company and double-checking if our cards had foreign transaction fees, and then choosing to sign-up for a card that doesn’t. Since I’m with Chase, I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and I’m so happy that I did. As an additional note, often when you use your card in Europe, they’ll ask if you want to use $USD or whatever currency they use in the country you’re in (Euros, Pounds, Kroner, etc), ALWAYS choose the currency for the country you’re in. The exchange rates are murderous.

Stay with people you know, people you meet, couchsurfing, hostels (in that order): We saved so much money by staying with friends we knew before traveling and friends we met along the way. We attempted to couch surf, and though we didn’t actually get to stay with anyone (mainly because of our flexible schedule), we were still able to meet up with a number of people who were amazing company while in those places. Now, your money options: hostels, hotels, Air BnB, vacation rental, etc. Unless you are looking for a private, romantic getaway, I strongly suggest going with hostels. Yes, it can be strange staying on bunk beds with 6 other people, but it is the easiest way to meet people and find things to do. It’s like being in the Freshman dorms in college all over again, full of people who are traveling and wanting to experience the city and make new memories. Also, the hostels in Northern Europe(on average) are really nice. Bosen has traveled in Central America and myself in Southeast Asia, and these particular hostels we saw in Europe were all significantly nicer than what we expected. Consider this over isolating yourself in a hotel.

Meet people! (Get everyone’s contact info)

Everyone. I specifically used WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. I would grab contact info from other travelers at hostels, tourists from our day trips, friendly bartenders and servers along the way, random people we’d “cheers’ in pubs, helpful strangers we’d ask directions from on the street, and anyone else who seemed positive and fun. Some of these people I may never talk to again. Others I hope to remain friends with that I would love to have come visit or go see again! Regardless, these connections provide opportunity and experience, and I was surprised at how much more “at home” I felt as I made more connections. This comfort really eased any uncertainty I was feeling, and ultimately, made me feel more connected and enjoy that city even more.

Smile a lot

I can’t stress this enough. Language, culture, customs, style all vary from country to country.. but genuine positivity and smiling is understood across borders. I smile because I love to smile and it makes me feel good. It opens lines of communication and offers opportunity for interaction. From smiling and positive vibes alone, we met countless new friends, got invaluable travel advice, received several discounts, food and drinks, and even free places to stay. Do it for free stuff. Do it for your soul. SMILE!

Attempt to Speak the Language

Do it horribly. It’s okay. Say whatever polite phrase you learned and follow it up with, “Do you speak English?” It was surprising how much more receptive people were when we would stumble through simple statements. We made a point to always try to learn “Hello”, “Cheers”, and “Thank you”. From there, we also learned all sorts of other ridiculous phrases, and made a game out of asking locals to do their best American accent with whatever they think an American would say.. haha, more on the European general opinion of Americans in another post. Anyway, at least learn, “Hello” and “Thanks”.

Accept the Fact that You’re a Tourist

It makes such a difference. And to be fair, we would say that we are travelers and not tourists, but the point remains the same.. we’re not from here. And there were many times early on (especially in Ireland) when I found myself trying to talk a certain way or act a certain way, trying not to be stereotypical loud Americans (which you still shouldn’t) or reconsidering how I was dressed, until I finally had to make peace with the fact that YEA, I’m not from around here. Everybody knows it. The way I walk, how I dress, when I talk, when I move, how I interact, even when I laugh, and that unsure look on every tourist’s face when they’re looking for somewhere.. it’s all a dead giveaway. Once you accept it, then you can just enjoy yourself and own it. Maybe a small percentage of people will be rude (much less if you do the above two tips), but it was very surprising how friendly and helpful people were everywhere we went. Just Be You (unless you fit the European’s stereotype of an American jerk who yells and makes fun of other cultures.. in that case, don’t be you. Be someone nicer. Or at least tell them you’re Canadian).

cliffs of Moher

Tips from What We Should Have Done:

Bring a Water Bottle

We were often dehydrated. Not just from drinking, but just from all of the walking and traveling and non-stop sightseeing. It’s so simple to just carry a water bottle and fill it up when you can. We wasted so much money buying water when we should have had a water bottle. Also, water is expensive in Europe! Like everywhere. The old joke everybody says, “Beer is cheaper than water, so you may as well drink the beer!” Which is true, but not because the beer is cheap, it’s because the water is also expensive! So yea, bring a water bottle.

Know the Day of the Week

Haha, I laughed at myself when I came up with this one. Seriously though, every day we would ask each other what day it is.. and we would never know. Normally, I wouldn’t care about silly things like what day it is, because on vacation, everyday is a Saturday, or Sunday, or whatever day it is that you do whatever you want. However, since we were booking all of our lodging and travel last second, knowing the day of the week would have drastically helped us prepare for how busy hostels are on the weekends, travel deals that happen during the week, changing bus/train schedules, and drink specials at bars (in order of importance). I imagine better planners would have been on top of this, but had I found this blog before I left and had this advice, then I would have been more on top of it!

Plan a Little Bit

If you know me, I tend not to be the best at planning.. I’m more about preparing, but I’ll talk about this concept in another post called Preparation > Planning. However, if you want to cut your costs a bit, planning can drastically help that. This mainly pertains to transportation, whether flights, ferry, train, bus, taxi, Uber, bikes, whatever.. had we at least known which cities/countries we wanted to visit, we could have better planned out the cheapest options for how to get to each(and booked them earlier for cheaper). Obviously, the only downside for planning is the direction correlation with flexibility to stay as long (or as short) as you want in each place. We were happy that we could stay longer in Brussels because we made such amazing friends and had a free place to stay.. I’m also glad that we chose to stay a shorter time in London because of how expensive it was. However, our largest single expense after flights was a night train from Amsterdam to Copenhagen because we booked it 3 hours before.. had we booked it 3 weeks before, we could have saved over 200euro. So, plan a bit.

Know Who You’re Traveling With

I suppose I could have titled this, know what you want to do, but after chatting with other travelers and seeing how smoothly Bosen and my trip went, knowing who you’re traveling with is makes for a much more enjoyable trip. We met with a number of groups of travelers (typically female) who were annoyed with one another for any number of reasons. Typically, this always stemmed from everyone wanting to do something else.. specifically, it’s most important to know that everyone is on the same page about spending: Do we want to stay in hostels or hotels? Do we plan on eating out at nice places or stay cheaper? How are we traveling between cities? Are we here to sightsee or party or take pictures of buildings or what? I was fortunate because Bosen and I have traveled fairly extensively in the States from going on tour together.. and after multiple several week trips with each other in the car all day playing gigs at night, you pretty much learn about each person’s general habits. Where I should have been different for the trip is knowing what I wanted to do/get out of the experience. I didn’t really know much about any city, therefore, I didn’t really have an opinion on where to go or what to do. This, I’m sure, got annoying like asking a date where they want to go eat and everyone keeps saying “I dunno..” So, know who you’re traveling with and know what you want. (Thanks for being patient, Bosen)

There are so many more great tips out there about travel, so as more come up, I may consider making a second “Overview” of European travel. Also, this is an ongoing guide to traveling Europe, Suede Style, so I’ll add more of the tips/tricks and specifics for some of the places we visited like Ireland, London, Belgium, Amsterdam, and so on.

Make Experiences and Travel, Friends!