A Trip Down Memory Lane

Eight years ago, I took my first trip to the British Isles. It was a graduation gift from my parents (More like a graduation incentive–my mom begged me to finally graduate and going on an-all-expenses-paid trip was my motivation. You can bet your ass I made school my bitch after hearing I’d be sent across the pond after receiving my Bachelor’s).

The fact that my parents literally wrote me a $5000 check (that I had to pry out of my dad’s hands) to have the trip of a lifetime is something I can never adequately thank them enough for. It was a life-altering experience that I relive in my heart time and time again.

Now, forty five years after my mother went to England, herself, for the first time, she gets to go again. We get to go together.

I’m fully expecting a lot of laughs, maybe some tears, and for sure, some annoyances, but I only wish for this trip to be an experience we recall fondly for years to come.

In honor of my last trip, and in excitement and anticipation for the one coming up, I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures from The British Isles 2010.

Be aware that I’m not a photographer in the least, and my photos were taken with a $100 pink Samsung digital camera.

Some will be terrible. A few will be blurry. More than a couple will have random people or strange angles. None have filters. I also took these from my Facebook, so they’ll be terrible quality. But, aren’t semi-terrible photos all part of the fun?

Buckle your seatbelts, baby! Here we go!

Hands down, the coolest plane picture I’ve ever taken. I think this is the southern-most tip of Greenland.

A view of London from the window (that didn’t have a screen) of our hotel room. We stayed in Earl’s Court, which is a gorgeous district in Kensington.

Our hotel in London. It was definitely not a Marriott, but it was perfection.

Our London neighborhood. Those row houses, though.

I still crave Nando’s, and who knew you needed sunscreen in England??

This Maida Vale pub just screamed England to me. It was here we found out what Russel Brand meant when he sang, “Will you come for my bangers, my beans and mash”. Or, maybe he means something else.

I distinctly remember this was the moment I almost pooped my pants. I also recall thinking, “This is how we die.”

We took the train from Birmingham to Coventry, because driving was a big “NOPE” (I eventually got brave and became one of the most proficient American drivers the British Isles has ever had the good fortune to host). This is Coventry Cathedral. It was hauntingly beautiful.

Did ya’ll know Lady Godiva is one of my ancestors? It’s true. I was so excited to visit her statue, but, sadly…

…it’s not quite as grand as Primark.

Wait, y’all have dollar stores too, but everything is a pound (which is like a dollar, but not)? Mind blown.

British motorway rest stops are like freaking palaces!

The Conwy Castle ruins in Wales was my favorite castle. We were there, exploring, for hours.

The flowers growing out of the castle walls were almost too quaint.

I mean, just look at this!

Who knew one could find palm trees in Britain? Llandudno was exquisite.

I.did.not.want.to.leave.

WTF? I ate one. That’ll show them.

This was our one splurge stay. This is the Radisson Blu in Dublin. The grounds were my favorite part. This is where we discovered that Ireland’s air conditioning is not like “our” air conditioning. Hot.as.balls.

Kilkenny was quaint af. We wanted to stay at this hotel. It was way out of our budget, so the Pembroke Hotel was the lucky winner of hosting us for our barf-tastic wild Irish night.

TOO MUCH PRETTY

Y’all think this person likes Elvis?

It’s almost just as romantic as Italy. Except they were laying on the concrete in a pretty sketchy part of town outside an apartment building. Young love.

But, someone left kegs there. I found this way funnier than it really was.

Blarney Castle was awesome. I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, because Rick Steves said I’d get the herp if I did.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee

Seriously, I felt like I was on another planet while walking the grounds at Blarney Castle. It was otherworldly GORGEOUS.

The drive to Dingle Town, while poop-your-pants-scary was stunningly beautiful at the same time. It was a conflicting feeling.

Dingle Town! I couldn’t even with the adorableness!

I’ve never seen so much green.

Galway was a lively city full of sounds, smells and so many people. The energy was palpable.

Galway also has weird af people who put their gum on a public railing, that is literally right next people playing Scrabble, to eat their chips. She then just left it there.

Kinlay Hostel in Galway was our first dorm-style hostel and the entire night I was literally sweating profusely from the fear that people would come into our room and I’d have to share a room with…STRANGERS. No one came. THANK GOD.

Some ruins and a rainbow effect. No big

Some more ruins and some dark, foreboding clouds. This is like travel picture porn to me.

Ever been to Newgrange? They are prehistoric mounds that are older than the pyramids. Anyone else use the Egyptian pyramids as a gauge for how old something is?

A super narrow alley in Edinburgh we named “Stab Alley”. Not exactly sure why.

Edinburgh was my favorite. I have this one in black and white on my wall. Love.

Edinburgh Castle was too much. Too.much.

The views from the castle are AMAZING AF. Scotland is just the absolute best.

You never know who you’ll find on the streets of Edinburgh.

Loch Ness, my love. TOO BEAUTIFUL. Too.freaking.beautiful.

This path cutting through these delicate wildflowers led to the banks of Loch Ness. It was MAGICAL.

No words needed. Those are words, but, you know what I mean.

I could have stayed on the banks of this river in Inverness FOREVER.

This was taken somewhere between Inverness and Edinburgh. I didn’t realize Scotland was so green.

This was taken from Oxford Castle. Oh, England. You hurt my heart. You’re just too beautiful

Here I am in the haunted Oxford Castle. What haunts me to this day is how I thought I was fat. I wish I were as fat as I was when I thought I was fat, cuz, honey, now I’m fat.

The winding streets of Oxford. I felt studious and smart af in Oxford.

Oh my (said in a George Takei voice).

The River Thames. Le sigh.

The River Hotel was, bar none, the most *interesting* hotels we stayed at. There was the case of the stubborn pube (it was sitting there, on the bathroom floor waiting for us when we checked in and still there after the bathroom was “cleaned”). Then there was the fact every surface in the room had, at least, an inch of dust. Of course, I can’t forget the old lady receptionist who was meaner than a dog shitting tacks. And, of course that we were put in the Annexe, where all of the Americans and other unfavorables get a room. What a trip.

I was speechless the entire time we toured Westminster Abbey. If walls could talk.

When I first saw Big Ben, I knew I was finally in London (This is confusing as my pictures go in order, and I, obviously, was already in London. We started and ended in London. My second set of Big Ben pictures was much better than the ones I took three weeks prior, when I was still a London newbie).

Rick Steves told us not to waste our money on the London Eye, so we didn’t. I’m still not sure if I’m mad at Rick or not.

The only picture I got of the London Bridge.

I think this is Covent Garden. What I do know is we ate at a tiny Italian restaurant in this neighborhood. I had Chicken Carbonara. I never forget food.

One of my London “must dos” was to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. That was before a full day of walking. Also, before we realized that why our tickets were so cheap was because our “seats” were in the pit and we had to stand for all three hours of the play. Spoiler alert: we didn’t stay for the whole play.

Now I’m so excited for my trip and ya’ll are probably bored after looking through some random’s pictures.

So, tell me, what’s your favorite “take away” from a trip? Is it a souvenir, new knowledge, pictures, or something else? Tell me in the comments!

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: At Least We Didn’t End Up In the Black Pudding

We left off last time just barely arriving in Blackpool in one piece.

Despite having finally found Blackpool after what felt like 83 years of driving, it was now up to my car sick and useless-with-a-map travel companion to find our B&B.

We knew nothing about the B&B other than it had an available room with two twin beds and it was somewhere in Blackpool. Oh, and I guess we had an address. Duh.

We had no idea if it was near the shore or some other distinguishing landmark that might have served useful when explaining our dilemma to the 20th petrol station attendant we’d spoken to that day.

When we knew we’d be way past check-in time, we used our trusty Samsung Vodafone to get a hold of the woman managing the B&B to assure her we would be arriving, we just weren’t sure in what century.

She was super friendly and assured us she’d “keep the light on”. She even went so far as to ask where we were and tried to guide us that way.

“Oh, you’re by a brick building with white trim? Erm…”

“It’s by a fish and chips take away? Well…”

“What’s the street name? Egg Road? Dearie, I don’t think that’s a road…”

(It was Haig Road.)

After tons of miscommunication and a very poor explanation of our surroundings on our part, she eventually gave up and merrily predicted we’d be arriving in no time.

In no time, we still had no idea where the fuck we were.

When I recall this moment on my trip, I always wonder how we drove around Blackpool for a solid hour like complete imbeciles.

I guess the only real reason is that I have zero sense of direction. When I was in college, I’d leave one of the buildings, just blindly going in whatever direction felt right. My friend would have to run after me and steer me in the correct direction. Even after a year of being at the university, I had basically no idea where I was going every single day.

It comes naturally, as my dad is the same way. Except worse. So much worse. After a prime rib dinner at one of the downtown casinos one night when I was around ten, my dad and I left in his truck and lost the rest of the family convoy. Two hours later, we made it home, but not before circling the city three times and almost driving across the state line. My mom almost called search and rescue.

I’m not sure what my friend’s excuse was other than he must have been sniffing glue or picking boogers when they learned about maps in the 3rd grade, because somehow he was worse than me at directional intelligence, and that is saying a lot.

Perhaps the most stressful aspect of all of this was the fact that we were inconveniencing some poor woman. Had we made arrangements at a hostel, we’d likely have just accepted defeat and slept in the car.

After our 10th orbit in one particular roundabout that we were sure had to let out on the street we were looking for if only we went round enough times, we noticed a police car parked further up one of the streets.

In utter desperation (and I was getting really, really cranky at this point), I decided we should go ask for directions.

“You can’t just drive up behind a police car and get out. It’s like the opposite of what’s supposed to happen. They pull up behind you and they get out to walk up to your car, so…,” replied super-helpful-friend.

“SAYS THE PERSON WHO CAN’T READ A MAP, WON’T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS AND HAS NO OTHER SOLUTIONS.”

I wanted to pummel him.

So, of course, since he was incapable of going into to the last 12 petrol stations to ask for directions, because he’d “for sure barf” if he did, I had to walk up to the police car after pulling up behind them like a total creep.

Turns out, they were very friendly (and pretty amused) and willing to take us in the correct direction as far as the edge of their beat. I totally didn’t feel like a moron asking for police assistance in finding our B&B. Not at all.

After the policemen got us going in the right direction, we very quickly found our B&B. It’s amazing what going in the correct cardinal direction will do for you.

The B&B was completely not what I had imagined. All of the B&Bs I’ve ever seen and stayed in have been older houses, with the rooms converted to accommodate for guests. This place looked exactly like the hotel in Fawlty Towers. I.shit.you.not.

The woman who we had gotten to know so well over the phone welcomed us in her robe, slippers, and, if I am remembering right, she even had rollers in.

She was really excited to see us.

She greeted us like long-lost, beloved family members. I think her overly-excited behavior had everything to do with the fact that she could now finally go to sleep.

I don’t even remember checking in. It was all a whirlwind of, “You both must be exhausted! Here, let me take that. Oh, it’s no bother! We’ll be going up the lift, if that’s all right. Well, not me, but you two. And your luggage.”

All I recall from check-in is her excitedly stuffing us and our four pieces of luggage into the smallest elevator in existence*.

We could barely utter, “Are you sure this is going to work?” before she used her entire body to push the rest of my fat still bulging out as the door tried to close.

Once the door was shut, we couldn’t move at all. I’m not even exaggerating when I say every square inch was taken up by our bodies and luggage. I had an elbow in my back, a suitcase handle in the neck, and a carry on bag somehow balancing on my head.

I risked decapitation by American Tourister to turn my head to get sight of my friend. He looked thrilled, his face smashed into my bright pink floral Vera Bradley carry on.

We were only going up two flights, but the ride TOOK FOREVER. Not only was this rickety contraption barely the size of a fucking refrigerator box, it moved about a millimeter a minute, and it sounded like it was dying a very painful and dramatic death the entire ride.

“WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?” I wanted to scream.

An hour later, the elevator stopped, the door slowly creaked open, and a cascade of bags, arms, legs, and a random shoe fell out of the elevator.

We stumbled, stunned and exhausted to our room.

After a few dazed moments, I asked, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Dude, I think this place is creepy as fuck, and she’s totally going to grind us up in her special human-sized meat grinder. We are going be served as black pudding tomorrow for breakfast, ” my friend asserted**.

Normally, I would have totally bought into the fear and would have been like, “OMG NO WAY HOW DO YOU KNOW ARE WE GONNA DIE?” but I was too tired to care that the place was a little off.

I told him he was ridiculous and rude and that was that.

Because we couldn’t even remember the last time we had eaten, we ventured out onto the boardwalk to find anything open at the ungodly hour it was.

I can’t even accurately describe Blackpool, other than to say it was exactly like my experience on the shore in New Jersey (other than the British accents). I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but I really have no idea.

The first open take away restaurant we found, we ordered, ate, and miraculously found our way back to the B&B in our exhausted stupor in short order.

My friend was so out of it, he thought he’d finally found his Irish goddess in all places- a dingy Blackpool fish and chip shop.

On our way up to the room, my friend noted that no one else was about in the B&B and for sure we were her only victims for the night. Or, the others had already been taken.

For once in my life (because I’m always the one who is sure a place is haunted and full of murderers), I was the rational one.

I told him he was crazy and that no one was around BECAUSE IT WAS ONE IN THE MORNING. I then promptly went to sleep while he stayed up, watching out for Norma Bates.

In the morning, after a full night’s rest (for me), all was right again. We saw the other guests (definitely none were murdered in their sleep) during our delicious full English breakfast in the dining room (just like the one in Fawlty Towers). But, we didn’t eat any of the black pudding. Just in case.

Instead of doing any sightseeing along the boardwalk, we decided to see the Irish Sea before heading off to Scotland.

We had no idea what these booger things were, but my friend had a pretty good guess.

For the end of June, it was really, really cold.

*How I didn’t feel it necessary to photograph said elevator is a total mystery.

**She was adorable. Don’t listen to him.

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: The Never-Ending Road Trip — Part 1

I was going to post a rant about airfare prices and the bullshit song and dance you have to go through to not be ripped off royally by the airline industry, but it wasn’t helping my eye twitch. Thus, I decided to write about the time a road trip from Gaerwen, Wales to Blackpool, England turned into one of the most memorable moments of my 2010 British Isles trip.

Because I’m long-winded, this’ll be a two-parter, folks!

My travel friend and I had seen a commercial for Britain’s “Jersey Shore” while in Ireland. We just looked at each other and it was decided*. After picking up our third and final rental car in Gaerwen, Wales, we’d stay a night in Blackpool on the way to Scotland.

(In hindsight, choosing where to go in a country with so many beautiful places to see based on its similarity to the reality TV show, Jersey Shore is kinda dumb.)

I’m fairly certain that some of the troubles we encountered can be blamed on the wild ferry ride from Dublin to Wales (well, and on my friend’s almost non-existent map reading skills). It was pouring rain and the waters were choppy. Actually, that’s an understatement. What’s 100 times worse than choppy?

Our Vegas showboat ferry swayed and groaned and rocked for the entire 3 hours and some odd minutes of the journey.

Go ahead and tell me this doesn’t look exactly like a showroom at the Flamingo.

I wasn’t too worse for wear, miraculously, but my travel friend never even attempted to lift his head off of my travel pillow that I so kindly lent him and watched over worriedly. I was pretty concerned he’d get pre-barf drool on the pillow I’d still need to use for the remainder of the trip.

To get my mind off of the potential demise of my pillow, I decided to head to the bathroom before it was filled with sea sick passengers. My attempt at *walking* to the toilets was pretty comical, because I’m fairly certain my body was completely sideways as I groped at chairs, walls, (and maybe one nice-looking lady), as I climbed to the bathrooms.

When we finally docked and set foot on land, it felt like we were still swaying for hours. Then we had to get in a car.

It was not my favorite.

(In fact, I’ve had to take a break from writing this as I’m literally feeling the nausea- kind of like reminiscent sympathy pains.)

We were picked up in Holyhead by Paul, the friendly, but erratic Enterprise driver who liked to test the limits of his passenger’s underwear. He had driven my boyfriend and I a week prior to the ferry when we were on our way to Ireland to meet our travel friend.

(In case you’re confused, this travel friend is the same one mentioned in this post. My boyfriend, the friend, and I all traveled together in Ireland. When my boyfriend had to go home, our friend continued to travel with me so I could stay longer and have a companion.)

He looked at me and then my friend, with a “I know what’s going on here” look on his face and said, “Got yourself an upgrade, eh?”

When he had us all ready to zip off in our feisty-looking cherry red Vauxhall, he asked, “Know how to drive one of these?”

Once I got the hang of it, I LOVED driving this thing!

I was confused as he very clearly remembered seeing me a week before when we dropped a car off that we had been driving for nearly a week.

“Well, yeah. I’m pretty much an expert now!” I responded, thinking he meant driving a car with the steering wheel on the other side of the car.

“Well, that’s good, because this is our last car.”

Still confused, but not too fazed, we got into the car, and I immediately realized what he had meant.

It was a fucking stick shift.

Now, I was taught to drive with a stick shift. I can drive one of those sonsabitches as good as any trucker, but to shift with my left hand?

I had specifically requested automatic cars for the entirety of the trip for the very credible reason that operating a steering wheel on the opposite side of the car while driving on the opposite side of the road was going to be no small feat in itself.

Almost hyperventilating, I checked to see if the clutch was also on the “wrong” side.

“Well, at least there’s that! The clutch appears to be the only thing I recognize in this car!”

My friend just responded with a quick dry heave.

I remember thinking, “We are going to die on the way to Blackpool. And, for what? To see the British Pauly D?”

The rain started pelting the roof and the Enterprise office turned off its lights.

It was time to get a move on.

Despite the nearly blinding rain, the not-so-subtle relentless swaying feeling from the boat, and the fear my friend would yak all over us, the actual driving wasn’t so bad.

What was bad was the fact that my friend was too sea sick and now car sick to even read the map properly.

(We could have switched drivers, but he felt he’d fare better as the passenger.)

A drive from Gaerwen to Blackpool is a 2.5 hour drive, give or take traffic and weather conditions.

It took us nearly five hours and I can’t even blame the weather, as the rain had let up a bit not long after leaving Gaerwen.

Every time he had to look at the map, WHICH WAS A LOT BECAUSE WE HAD NO IDEA WHERE WE WERE, he’d act all dramatic and pukey.

We missed exits off the motorway, got back on the motorway going in the opposite direction and didn’t realize for miles, and had to stop for rest breaks more often than is needed for an old lady with a nervous bladder.

He’d belch up a barely coherent set of directions and I’d yell, “DON’T TALK TO ME, I’M TRYING TO SHIFT/CHANGE LANES/BLINK!”

Somehow, and I don’t even know how, we made it into Blackpool in the pitch black dark of night.

If you live in the U.K. or you’ve been, you’ll know that it doesn’t get dark until like 10:30**at night in the dead of summer.

That’s how I knew we had been driving forever. It’s not like our car didn’t have a clock or my ass wasn’t entirely numb, but the fact that we were driving in darkness for the first time during our whole trip stood out to me.

We had made it into Blackpool, but we had yet to locate our B&B. Stay tuned to find out how we finally made it to our über strange B&B. It may or may not have involved some friendly policemen and a way-too-perky-is-she-going-to-kill-us-in-our-sleep B&B owner.

*I was in no way a fan of Jersey Shore (I may have watched just a couple episodes to see what it was all about. My friend never watched one single episode, nor did he ever even contemplate watching them, either. I’m sure he’d appreciate my clearing that up.

**Maybe it’s not that late, but it sure felt like it.

WTF Wednesdays: Travel Tag Edition

The lovely An Historian About Town nominated me for the travel tag. I was so excited to be nominated, because I love to travel and I love An Historian. Not only are her posts well-written, interesting, and positively filled with gorgeous photos of beautiful places and things, the girl behind it all is just fabulous. Go check out her blog-you’ll love it!

Now, without further ado, my responses to some fun travel-themed questions:

What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Hands down, the U.K. and Ireland. My trip was seven freaking years ago, but I still think about it everyday, and I have tried to get back to the U.K. on several different occasions.

Is it possible to look any more touristy?
My ancestor-Lady Godiva’s statue was dwarfed by a Primark. I felt equal parts let down and excited. I really wanted to buy a pair of £8 jean shorts.
 

I also loved NYC and have always dreamed of living it up a la every.single.chick.flick in all creation, as a Big Apple girl.

(All of my NYC pics are stored away on my external hard drive. Sad face.)

Large cities, with tons of energy and culture, are definitely my favorite places to visit, but I loved being in the middle of nowhere, amidst rolling green hills in England. I also adored driving through the otherworldly terrain of the Scottish Highlands, and even though the road to Dingle, Ireland is crap-your-pants scary, the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula is unmatched.

I feel like there should be an “I Survived the Road to Dingle” badge.
Somewhere between Inverness and Edinburgh

If you could visit anywhere tomorrow where would you go?

100% the U.K.! But, I mean, if someone wanted to take me to Japan or Italy or Brazil, I’d not argue one bit. *spastic winking*

Would you rather go on a city holiday or a beach holiday?

I’m such a city girl-the energy, the eclectic culture, the myriad languages, the food, the history… Also, I’m not a huge fan of sunburnt fat that turns into one big, ugly rash, because too much of my skin was exposed and rubbing together. Give me chilly weather, layered clothing, a coffee, and a walking trip around an historic city ANY DAY.

Buuuut, I won’t say ‘no’ to a beach holiday!

Just embrace the sand in your crotch and the sunburned everything!
Alcohol helps!

My top three travel essentials are: 

  • Obviously, my phone/camera is my number one travel must have. The best souvenirs I’ve ever gotten on a trip are the insane amount of pictures of every noteworthy (and, not so noteworthy-I have been known to photograph a random bench or ugly pigeon, because it’s a foreign bench and a foreign pigeon) sight and experience.
  • Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and a travel-size hand soap are essential. I’ve never traveled somewhere exotic enough to encounter squatty potties or lack of running water, but you just never know what kind of facilities or amenities a restroom will have. Also, the very first hostel I ever stayed at did not provide hand soap or even paper towels. You just never know what horrors you’ll encounter. You.never.know.
  • A versatile scarf and a pair of Wayfarers. I know these sound like lame “essentials”, but when I’m feeling ugly as hell on the 6th day of crap hair, because my flat iron refuses to work with the expensive adapter I bought, a scarf makes me feel a little more put together.


Can you even tell my hair is greasy and I’m wearing zero makeup? See what I mean? 

Are you an over packer or an under packer?
Literally, I used to bring three full suitcases for a weekend trip back home when I lived in Elko. The pressure that exists when you have to decide what you want to wear before the day(s) in question is just too much. I can’t even. Also, sometimes my favorite piece of clothing looks hideous on me for various reasons. You just never know.

Before the trip I took to the U.K., I obsessively researched light packing tips and practiced packing the one bag I took. It was a real trial, and it took a huge leap of faith to know I’d survive if I wore the same jeans two days in a row.


So, I lied. I took three bags…

What is your favorite thing about going on vacations?

When I’m on vacation, I feel whole. It’s an indescribable feeling of just being. When you’re on vacation, you get to live a life that would exist if daily stressors, like bills and other lame adult responsibilities didn’t exist.

Edinburgh
Edinburgh, my love!
I also love completely immersing myself in the culture and the history of wherever I am. There’s nothing more humbling than standing in a church built before your own country even existed.

Said church-St. Margaret’s Chapel

Would you rather go on vacation with family or friends?

Yeesh.

Either choice has its share of positives and negatives. Traveling with family means that there’s a pretty good chance your mom might pay for some of the travel expenses. There’s also a fairly good chance she might forget you’re a grown adult and remind you to thank “the nice travel guide”. Or, she might feel the need to chastise you about your frivolous waste of money on name brand deodorant.

Traveling with friends has its benefits in that your friends are usually more in tune with your level of fun. That might mean an adventurous competition to see how many museums at the Smithsonian you can visit in one day.


This was the day after our Smithsonian challenge. Someone had a museum hangover #8thgradeugly. 

Or, maybe, that means buying every kind of foreign candy in the convenience store and then going back to your hotel room to see who can get diabetes first.

Diabetes!
When you travel with your friends, there’s also the potential for a complete WWIII, nuclear fallout, because after being together 24/7 you can’t stand the way they chew their food or breathe.

Whether traveling with a friend or family member, just drink. Their mouth breathing won’t matter near as much. 

Either way, memories are made and that’s all that matters. Right?

What is the most adventurous dish you have ever tried from another country?
Abso-freaking-lutely that would be haggis with ‘neeps and ‘tatties that my friend and her Scottish husband made for us while we stayed with them in Edinburgh.

It was actually amazingly delicious. No shit, I crave that dish on the regular.

My amazing Scottish friends! 

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers (please don’t feel obligated to participate):

The Wandering Flamingo
This girl is an amazing photographer, writer and blogger friend. She also lives in my favorite country, so I always feel I get to live vicariously through her photos and posts. Also, she is an avid traveler, so I’d love to know more about her envy-worthy travels. Please go check out her blog and beautiful photography-you won’t be disappointed!

A Walk and a Lark
Here’s another blogger bud who lives in one of my favorite cities-London! She’s become an amazing blogging supporter and friend, and I simply adore reading her blog! She is well-traveled, so I’d love the inside scoop on some of her favorite places! Check out Josy’s blog! I promise you’ll love it and her!

All Thoughts Work
This chick cracks me up. Every time I get a comment from her, I know I’ll end up practically peeing myself from laughter. I’ve gleaned that she’s an avid outdoors-woman and talented writer, but that’s all I know. I need to know more! Head on over to the funny lady’s blog-you won’t regret it!

Monday Musings

I’ve been feeling like I should be in England lately. I didn’t realize until just the other day that it’s been almost a year since I was offered a teaching position in England, and, after a really difficult decision-making process, declined the offer. 

I know, who decides against living abroad after being offered gainful employment? I know, right? 

I really struggled for some time after having made my final decision (I’m still struggling). I wondered how much of my choice was driven by my inate second-guessing, worry-wart, scared-to-jump mentality or legit financial concerns. 

I’m a huge fan of those girl-has-devastating-break-up-and-career-let-down-at-the-same-time-so-she-hops-on-a-plane-to-her-dream-get-away-locale-and-despite-having-eight-dollars-and-thirty-cents-and-no-change-of-underwear-she-somehow-lands-a-job-apartment-and-dreamy-new-man-chick-lit-books, because, duh. 

Isn’t that every girl’s dream-to move abroad on a whim and it’s just like in the Lindsey Kelk books? 

I’d like to hear of a real life situation where this scenario works out, because I had $800 in my pocket and I knew that would only get me as far as Toronto. 

When I first started seriously considering working on obtaining a teaching position in England, I didn’t think it would be so easy. Or quick. I figured it’d take a few dozen tries, I’d have time to really mull over legit moving to another country, and that I’d have plenty of time to save and get my finances in order. 

I was so mistaken. One minute I was dreamily planning how I’d decorate my make-believe tiny flat with decor from TK Maxx and the next I was using Skype for the first time, going over classroom management with a head teacher in Oxford (this was the first of two interviews I had. I didn’t end up getting the teaching position in Oxford). 

Let me just break it all down for you in an easy-to-read timeline:

4/17/16: Applied for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

5/3/16: Application for QTS was approved, received login to view/print certificate 


5/6/16: Emailed application to Stanwell Fields CE Primary School, among others 

5/9/16: Received email response from Stanwell Fields Business Support requesting I fill out application

5/13/16: Received email from headteacher inquiring about availability for phone interview

5/19/16: Phone interview with assistant headteacher 

5/23/16: Received voicemail from headteacher offering the job (I was too scared to pick up. What a noob)

I still have the voicemail…

So, in a little over a month, I had gained the necessary qualification to teach in England, interviewed at two schools, and was offered a position. 

Just typing this now, I’m feeling the excited, heady warmth in my stomach one gets when exciting things are on the horizon. 

It was all fun and games until shit got really real. 

Just in case the headteacher at Stanwell Fields ever reads this (though it’s highly unlikely), I’d like to make it clear that I was genuinely serious about teaching abroad. That is, until I realized I was crazy to think I’d ever be able to afford it. 

I had naively assumed that since England was in need of teachers, they would possibly offer a sign on bonus, much like many districts do in the U.S. when they have a teacher shortage. Or, they would assist with getting a visa. 

Nope.

Schools aren’t profit-driven, and the sad reality is that many are in desperate need of teachers, but have no extra funds to entice educators to move countries. 

Not that I needed enticing. No, I just had no money and thought I could move my life abroad with $800 and my already-reaching-the-limit credit cards. 

So, after researching the cost of a work visa (roughly $800, currently) and the cost to rent a one bedroom flat in the south of England (around $1000 a month), I realized I was in over my head. 

Despite the fact that the school offered me an extremely nice pay raise, the cost of living in south England, coupled with my current bills, that would be traveling with me, made it so I simply could not afford to live. 

Not only would I need enough money to live once settled, I’d need at least $800 for a one way ticket to London, money for a hotel or hostel once in England, a deposit for a flat, and funds for many other travel and moving expenses. 

My mom and I estimated that I’d need at least $3000 to move and get settled (and it always ends up being more costly than you calculate beforehand). 

Did I mention I had $800 in my savings? I’m amazing at adulting. 

It was really depressing. Really, really dismaying, and not at all like my favorite chick lit books. 

These were some of my biggest concerns:

  • The cost of living in the area was too high (I’d be paying triple what I was currently paying in rent)
  • Many available flats were unfurnished-I’d need to buy furniture (at minimum, a bed)
  • Despite the pay raise, due to certain taxes in the U.K., the pay would be roughly the same or less than my current pay, yet cost of living tripled 
  • I’d be too strapped for cash to travel (travelling to other parts of Europe was a big reason I desired to live abroad)
  • It would have been necessary to drain my savings and rack up further debt for moving expenses (I was already in a significant amount of debt to begin with)
  • I would have needed to sell my car after having it less than a year (if I couldn’t sell it, it would have been another expense I couldn’t afford)
  • I’d barely make enough to save for a plane ticket back home, had that been necessary or desired 
  • I’d have zero teaching supplies and shipping them over would have been too pricey

Regardless of the fact that I had very real financial concerns, I still feel like I let an amazing opportunity go. It didn’t help that I had so many people telling me that debt didn’t matter. YOLO and all that crap. 

Big decisions and I have never been friends. Usually, when faced with a big, life-altering decision, I just bury my head in red sand and fail to make a decision, if at all possible. 

I’m a master of the what-if discourse. I can go all day and go circles around anyone. 

Yet, deep down, I know I made the right decision for me and my present financial situation. 

I also know that I’ll never stop dreaming of England and doing what must be done to make it back. 

For real though, how do most people move abroad? Are you in a better paying field than me or did your company pay for your move? Did you get a huge inheritance?  Are you just in massive debt due to the move? Do you know some magic trick to making fast travel cash? If anyone who’s done it cares to spill the beans, I’m all ears! 


Decision Made

Well, I did it. I sent the email declining the job offer. Before anyone tells me I just lost an incredible opportunity, let me first be clear about a few things:

1. I’ve learned throughout this process that I need to stop taking to heart how others feel when what I really need to be doing is listening more intently to my own beat.

2. It’s really fucking expensive to move to another country, and until you know my finances intimately, you don’t really know. You know?

I don’t mean to sound rude, but it’s really, really hard to make such a huge decision when left and right you’re told that money doesn’t matter, or that you’re wussing out because you don’t want to be going down the road to bankruptcy town. All of my young adult years I went about my business as if money didn’t matter and it led to serious problems. I cannot continue down that path.

Continue reading “Decision Made”

Decisions-Not My Forte

Happy Friday Eve, beautiful people.

This past Monday I was offered a teaching position at a school in Surrey. Surrey in freaking ENGLAND.

I can’t even put into words how I felt, but I can say, it was a mix of insane excitement and utter fear.

The rest of this week I have been a mess of decision-making-crazy.

Most of you are probably wondering what decision I even have to make. HELLO? ENGLAND?

Well, after several email correspondences, I have been given my final salary offer, and well…

I am disappointed to say the least.

I had wrongly assumed that the cost of living would be pretty relative to here in the U.S. and that is just plain not the case. The cost of flats in Southern England is astronomical. I mean, twice the cost of apartments in my area. For me, paying half of the rent, the costs I am looking at are more than three times what I am currently paying.

This wouldn’t be too horrible except for the fact that I will be taking a $3000 pay cut. What is absolutely insane is that the salary they offered me was incredibly generous and a HUGE step up from what I am currently making, but with the high tax amount taken out, I will be paid significantly less.

I don’t even know what to say.

I will have to some more crunching of numbers, but so far, it isn’t looking good.

Because I am someone who thinks with their heart and far too often I am idealistic in how I view the world, I had assumed that I could move to a different country, do the same work I do here, and it would work swimmingly. Well, that is not the real world. Not even close.

Not only am I a heart-thinker, I am also one who has a lot of debt and minimal savings.

Just to get my fat ass and my few possessions across the pond it will cost a fortune. And I am a broke as a joke teacher.

It isn’t over yet, I may be able to figure something out (like, maybe I can sell a kidney).

So, now I ask you all, what would you do? Would you go into further debt to move to another country? Would you be OK with being seriously broke just to experience another culture? Would you live well under your normal comfort zone in order to experience a serious adventure?

I need opinions and maybe some moral support. Something. Anything.

 

 

 

Heart Palpitations

All I want to do is eat. Eat.all.the.things. I want cake, cookies, salty chips, whole avocados. This is how I get when I am stressed, excited, nervous, feeling in limbo, feeling settled… Basically, all the time. However, the need to eat my feelings is therapy-edition-bad  when I have big decisions to make.

I am a horrible decision maker.

In that, I will avoid making major life decisions at all costs. Most days, I hope life will just happen and I won’t have to make any rash/huge/scary decisions myself.

The most inane, ridiculous aspect of this is that currently I am stressing about making a decision I don’t even have to make right now. I am stressing about stressing about a scenario that has not even happened.

What the?

As most of you know, I am attempting to make the big move to England (just writing that makes my eye twitch and heart palpitate). I had an interview last Wednesday with a school in Oxford. It was so cool. I would say it went well, and I learned a lot about the school, the school system in England, and that “fab” is my new favorite expression.

They expressed their disappointment that they wouldn’t be able to see me teach. I offered to send a video ASAP. They were thrilled. Then, I was down for the count with bronchitis for 4 days. This is how my life usually responds to time-sensitive things.

The woman I have been communicating with has been super nice and understanding, and insisted it was not a rush. So, after a depressing three days of missed work and a weekend, I came back to work, found a video on my school iPad I had already done, and sent it off.

I look hideous in this video, and it could be debated that I am about 6 months along due to the wonderful angle it was taken in. I mean, I am not even lying. The still of the beginning of the video makes me look like Sloth after a stroke. I am not kidding. So, I sincerely hope they disregard my RCF (resting crazy face) and just concentrate on the excellent teaching (if I do say so myself).

So, the point of my post is that I am stressing about a job I have yet to attain.

I was actually stressing about whether or not I should sell my Keurig, or not. I actually looked up shipping costs to ship a Keurig.

What the actual hell?

I don’t even have a job offer, but I am already homesick and sweating over the cost of public transportation.

What the fuck?

For real though, if this happens, it will be huge. Scary, exciting, expensive, and life-altering. Despite the exciting aspect of this, anything that is this huge of a change is terrifying.

I am also quite surprised by how expensive it is over there. I read somewhere that the cost of living is something like 33% higher in the U.K. than in the U.S. Yikes. There is a very real possibility I won’t even be able to afford this.

So, nothing other than stress to report.

 

 

 

 

Keen-An Update and a Request

Hello, fabulous blog buddies. I have a Skype interview with a school in England. The email I received said they were, “very keen” to interview me. This just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I love the word ‘keen’ and seeing that, very British, word just reminds me of why I am working on moving there. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH.

OK, I am better now.

Now, for the update…Go Fund Me will match my donations up to $100 for Teacher Appreciation week. The catch is that I have to have at least $100 donated by five different donors before May 13th.

If you all could share my post or just get the word out about what I am trying to accomplish, I would be very grateful. I hate asking for money (and I am still questioning my decision to even continue pushing my agenda), but this is a great opportunity that I can’t not at least try to participate in. Many, many thanks.

Here is my link:

U.K. or Bust

U.K. or (Literally) Bust

Loch Ness

Friends, I hardly ever ask for help. OK, that is a boldfaced lie. I ask for it all the time in the form of comments over at Shopper Lottie. However, this is different. For some time (like, 10 years), I have wanted to move abroad (get in line, sister). I have always had a crazy love affair with the U.K. and since visiting way back in 2010, I have never been able to forget about my one, true love.

For those who don’t know, I am at teacher in the U.S. I teach 3rd grade. I would love to be able to do something similar somewhere, anywhere in the U.K. I have friends in Scotland, so that would probably be preferable. I have heard that the education system is really very different when comparing England with Scotland, so one may be possible and the other out of my reach. I really don’t know.

I have contacted a couple of agencies, but the wait to hear a response is making me certifiably insane. I am not even sure they are legit or the correct way to go about this. HELP.

Long story short, can someone familiar with these parts give me any information they have that could help me in my endeavor? Even better, does anyone have connections that would better enable me to have even the slightest chance to attempt to live one of my dreams?

My loving thanks in advance.