If you have ever been a part of a program that allows you to teach abroad, you know the struggle. You work hard, for very little pay, and are somehow supposed to survive out there, 5,000 miles from your family and on your own. This has been the experience of almost everyone I have ever spoken to about teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Continue reading “How I Make Money While Living Abroad”
Paris has been long considered one of the most romantic cities in the world for more than obvious reasons. It’s the city of beautiful people (many of them look like Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet and it’s horrifically unfair to the rest of us gargoyles) and most importantly it is the city of wine, cheese, and bread- if that doesn’t scream romance at you then you and I are not romantically compatible. Which is fine, because that means more bread and cheese for me. Continue reading “How to Do Romance in Paris (on a budget)”
I posted this in last week’s version of the Present Perfect, but I wanted to give this post its own highlight because I am more than a little proud and I think it is good content. I may be biased. I currently have an internship over at Rue Rodier and I have been working on a few writing projects with her over the last few weeks and one of them is finally live!
The (belated) Birthday Week edition of the Present Perfect is here! In addition to procrastinating this post, I celebrated my birthday last Monday; while turning 29 was a little scary, I have ultimately concluded that it will be fine. Just keep repeating it over and over, 29 and feeling fine. 29 and feeling fine.
Despite that conclusion, 29 is weird. Continue reading “the Present Perfect: 3 – February 25th(ish)”
Last week I launched the first edition of the Present Perfect and while it wasn’t a huge traffic driver for my blog, I am realizing the benefit of having blog content that is easy to push out once a week, so here we are for edition 2.
Pictured: A little street view of the pretty Hausmannian architecture of Paris from a long walk a few weekends ago.
Listening: Oldies: California Dreamin’, Daydream Believer, Stand by Me, etc. 50’s and 60’s classics. I made an oldies Spotify playlist that you can listen to here. It has been getting me through cleaning, working on stuff and was the perfect backdrop to our Valentine’s Day get together with a couple friends of ours – it’s been perfect.
Watching: The End of the F***ing World on Netflix. This is a dark British comedy and so far, it’s actually pretty great. It centers on two teenagers, a boy who thinks he might be a psychopath and a girl who is really good at annoying people. The boy has decided that he is going to murder the girl when they run away from home together. It is a little bit intense in a way that makes it moderately over the top but I have been enjoying it.
Reading: the latest issue of Porter Magazine – loaned to me by Marissa, the editor at Rue Rodier. I wanted to be in fashion merchandising when I was in high school but I chose not to pursue that and moved away from my interests in fashion. Recently, my new internship has re-kindled that spark. Porter Magazine is cool, there are interviews with fantastic women from all walks of life (actresses, fashion designers, models, etc.) – it’s inspiring and interesting and my ‘need-to-buy’ list is now dangerously long.
Wearing: Pajamas! I am officially on vacation for the next two weeks. The French school system (my official employer) runs on a balanced school calendar, meaning for every 6 weeks of school, there is a 2-week school break. All my little kiddos packed their bags for the mountains and I get to enjoy 2 weeks of sleeping in. BUT when I’m not wearing pajamas, I’m really into Peter Pan collars and as always, VERY red lipstick.
Trying Out: Water coloring. Not just for kids in 3rd-grade art class anymore, water coloring is back. I’m not great at it, but I’m enjoying learning various techniques and taking the many different video classes that I can find on the internet. My southern line of Indiana is a little wonky… I eyeballed it, and not well. I’ll do better next time.
Obsessing Over: Pinterest. I used to be Pinterest insane when it first came out and as with most of my immediate obsessions, I slowly fell away from it, but I recently realized that not only is it great for creative ideas but it is also a vehicle for more blog traffic. DUH. Of course it is. I signed up for a business Pinterest account for this blog and have started pinning up a storm including all my travel hopes and dreams as well as my own blog posts- you can follow me here.
Writing: A blog post that was originally intended for Valentine’s Day but your girl is constantly behind so it is now a general post about my favorite ways to do romance in Paris. Hopefully pushing that out in the next few days for you all!
Aesthetic: RE: school shootings and the NRA being in many of our politicians’ pockets.
As always, let me know what you’re into this week so I can check it out!
I like writing a blog but I often find myself without ideas for blog posts or a general lack of inspiration to write the articles I have already planned. In an attempt to curtail this phenomenon, I’m going to start doing a weekly blog series called “the Present Perfect” I may change this name, it’s the first thing that came to my sleep-deprived brain today, but basically, at least once a week, I’d like to share with you the things I’m currently watching, listening to, reading, obsessing over, etc. It’s not sponsored, but it’s easy and fun for me to put out and I’m hoping it does two things: gets me into more of a writing habit and 2. lets you get to know a little bit more about me, my style and my interests. I’m always open to suggestions for books/movies/etc so please let me know what you’re into right now as well!
The Present Perfect: 1 – February 10th
Pictured: Street flower market on Rue Levis in Paris.
Listening: Timeflies Spotify Radio
As far as Timeflies goes, check out:
- Taylor – for swifties with sass
- Semi-charmed – a great twist on the classic
- Amy – when you hate your ex but also like… don’t hate them
I have loved Timeflies since I used to have to search for them on youtube and hook up an aux cord to my iPhone 4 (gone but not forgotten). The Spotify radio station kills it with a mix of pop/dance/vanilla frat-basement music like Andy Grammar, Mike Posner, Hoodie Allen, Daya, MKTO, Sammy Adams, etc. Sometimes this However, it’s nice to just listen to something upbeat and poppy when the winter weather has me down. Plus…look at them. Handsome.
Watching: The Good Wife
I know, this is the MOST basic white girl show, but I don’t know how I didn’t watch the Good Wife before. It’s dramatic and funny at the same time and I find myself probably too personally invested in the life of Alicia Florrick. I seriously am watching at least one episode a day (but usually like 4 because I have no chill).
Reading: Fire and Fury
I wish I wasn’t reading this, but I’m too far in to stop. It’s stressful and puts me into a very negative headspace but I feel like I need to read it. I’m not a fan of the writing style, it is muddled and complicated and sometimes I have a hard time following because it’s so unbelievable. I’m ready to be done with it.
Wearing: Yes I Am by Cacharel
A few nights ago, as a cool perk of my internship, I was invited by my boss as her plus one to the launch of Cacharel’s newest perfume, Yes I Am. We got free champagne, we saw a concert, and most importantly, we were gifted samples. It’s described as spicy creamy, which sounds bad, but it smells fantastic actually. It’s got some darker notes from a combo of milk, sandalwood, and cardamon with some lighter floral and fruity notes. It’s light enough that I’m wearing it to school but I could absolutely wear it on a night out as well and it’s pretty unlike anything I’ve ever smelled. Also, it’s shaped like lipstick, which is adorable. Basically, it’s a win in my book.
Trying Out: Budgeting
I don’t even want to talk about how much I hate this. I hate budgets. I want to spend all the money on whatever I want all the time. Duh. That’s the dream. But your girl is broke and about to be 29 in a few short days and it’s time to at least make it look like I’m trying to be an adult. I downloaded a very basic budget example from Google and have filled it in after looking at my last 3 months of spending (dark days, my friends). I have cut out all unnecessary spending and allocated myself a 50 euro “fun” budget per week. This includes dinners with friends, drinks and even if I want to buy clothes etc. I give it a week.
Obsessing Over: This floral maxi from Monoprix
Monoprix is not where I normally buy clothes, but as I was walking through the ready to wear the other day, I spotted this beautiful dress and I decided it was a thneed (a thing I need). It doesn’t really fit into my 50 euro fun-fund (stupid budget) right now though, nor the snowy weather happening here, but I WANT IT.
Aesthetic: a dog that doesn’t want to go on a walk but gets dragged along by its owner anyway.
What are you into this week? Let me know some things I should be checking out!
More than collecting memories, many humans have a need to collect things. Either to remind themselves of the trips they have taken, to prove to others that they have seen the world, or maybe for some other instinctive and unexplainable reason. We bring things back. We are collectors. We gather. We assign meaning and memory to objects and they become part of our story. I really believe that what we collect says a lot about us. Every new place I go, I find myself wandering to the edges of the nearest city and buying a t-shirt. The trip continues and before it ends, I will find myself in a dingy touristy shop picking out magnets, and at least one shot glass. I try not to wait until the very last minute but odds are that I’m grabbing these things from the airport 5 minutes before boarding because of who I am as a person.
I started collecting shot glasses when I was younger. I thought it was unique, cool, and funny. I also vaguely remember a 90’s tv interview with Melissa Joan Hart and she also collected shot glasses. If it was good enough for Sabrina the Teenage Witch, it was good enough for me.
It was some time and several countries later before I realized that I don’t actually want a shot glass from wherever I go. I now have around 8 shot glasses sitting in my Parisian apartment that I now have to figure out how to transport from place to place in an eventual move. They sit on my shelf, unused and looking sad that no one in my apartment is really ripping shots anymore but god help us, we are almost 30.
As these shot glasses sit and gather dust, I can’t help but be reminded not only of college and Burnett’s in Fort Lauderdale but of my first trip to Paris when I was young and dumb. I have collected them since the beginning of my traveling life and so I feel like I have to keep going. Despite having no use for them, I am emotionally attached to this ritual of buying shot glasses and feel that I can’t go back and start collecting something else because then I will be missing 12 of whatever new thing I start collecting.
Once, on television, I saw a story about this girl who would search out her favorite book in every new country’s native language and I thought that was amazing and wanted to steal that idea. The book was Le Petit Prince by Antoine Saint-Exupery and I remember thinking how creative and cool it was and immediately wishing that my shot glass collection would morph into something equally intellectual. It hasn’t.
On my trip to Greece, I decided that I would start to collect a nice piece of handmade jewelry from each new place I traveled. I congratulated myself and held onto this new and self-proclaimed brilliant idea up until I got to the airport at 5am. A sinking realization set in that I forgot to actually buy any jewelry despite having looked and so I grabbed a really cheap beaded bracelet from the airport kiosk that I didn’t particularly like and rarely wear. Another disappointing start to what I had hoped was my new collectible. It didn’t stick.
The t-shirt is something that I don’t collect for myself, but I get it for my dad and bring back to him. He collects Harley Davidson shirts and has ever since I can remember. It’s funny for me to go into a Harley Davidson store in a country whose language I don’t speak and find that the vibe, the people, and the merchandise is more or less the same. This sounds like a strange thing to collect, but each Harley Davidson retailer designs their own artwork to put on the back of their shirts, so each shirt is different, unique and reflective of the individual culture of the city or country. My favorite HD purchase is the shirt I picked up in Dublin with a giant Celtic-knot skull on the back. The people in the store usually love the idea that I have come from America and am buying their shirt to take back to my dad and although it sometimes takes a half a day, I commit to getting one if it’s possible. I only have missed Italy, they don’t have streets in Venice so they don’t sell motorcycles (duh), and Belgium, which I have missed twice because it’s so far from the city center of Brussels, but other than that, my dad has one from every country I have ever been to.
My mom is harder- because, as she is a mother, she never wants anything. “What can I bring you?” “Nothing, just come home to visit.” I usually bring her a magnet and a really big hug, but sometimes I find something that reminds me of her and so I buy that; earrings in Venice, a scarf in Dublin, sometimes old books or whatever strikes my fancy.
I try to keep a little bit of foreign currency from wherever I go because that’s kind of fun, but it’s not something that is ‘make or break’ for me and I often buy overpriced snacks at the airport with it instead of saving it because: food. I also dream of sending myself a postcard from wherever I am, but I literally can’t seem to ever get around to it.
Despite my desire to collect something better, more interesting, or nicer, the only things I have successfully brought home for myself from each country I have ever been to are shot glasses. I guess that’s okay.
The shot glasses will forever serve as a reminder that once I was young and stupid and despite having ever barely traveled out of the country, booked an impulsive ticket to Paris and bought a shot glass when I got there. I look forward to being 100 and giggling as I buy shot glasses from a tacky souvenir shop in a brand new country. Maybe I can also start to collect nice art or something but that’s a problem for future Amanda.
What things do you collect on your travels and why? Let me know in the comments!
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m not a big planner when it comes to my travel. I like to have the ticket and accommodation booked and maybe a vague idea of one thing I HAVE to do when I go, but other than that, I like to let my trip take me where it wants to. Mostly, I love to go places that locals suggest because I like to get a feel for how people really live.
Before heading to Australia, I asked two friends who have lived down under for suggestions of restaurants/bars/tourist attractions to go to and let me tell you, they did not disappoint.
The one thing that we knew we wanted to do in Melbourne was to get to the Great Ocean Road, so when it popped up on my friend’s lists, I felt good. We planned to rent a car and drive it ourselves over two days so that we could stop and see everything that we wanted to, but one day in Melbourne turned into 5 and suddenly we had 2 days left before flying to Sydney and rental cars were really expensive so we booked a one day tour through Sightseeing Tours Australia.
I have to admit to you, I was not happy about it. I didn’t want to be packed onto a bus with other tourists – I don’t like crowds and I usually don’t like tours where I can’t decide what I want to do or what I want to see, but we were quickly running out of options so I went along with it.
We chose to take this day-long tour that would take us to see all of the big sites along the scenic highway on New Year’s Eve. I was really skeptical about taking this tour because of a negative review on TripAdvisor that was left semi-recently but I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
The day started out gray and windy and as I waited for the bus to pick us up, I was a little nervous, not only because of that review, but I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to see anything good because of the weather and that the whole day would be a waste. But, our tour guide got us on the road quickly and was very sweet, telling us lots of stories, jokes, and information about the various things we were passing and he included lots of interesting Australian history, which I appreciated. At a certain point, he told a story about a shipwreck at Loch Ard Gorge and I found myself shouting “what happened next?” at the end because I wanted to hear more. History nerd. It is worth noting here that the entire tour was in English, so a solid level of English might be helpful if you want to understand and appreciate a lot of the history that you’re being given.
We stopped in a beachside park for a morning tea in Anglesea. Boyfriend and I chose not to stick around at the picnic tables, but instead, we took our coffee and walked along the beach, which was pretty, despite being completely gray. We piled back on to the bus for a little while longer until we arrived at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch for a photo op. I probably could have done without this stop, but I understand why it was made – and I did get a photo or two.
After this, we piled back into the van and soldiered on. The view out of the left side of the bus was incredible. If you can sit on the left side, you should. We were sitting on the right side, and while I could still kind of see across the aisle to the fantastic view, I was more than a little jealous of the 8-year-old sleeping with his face pressed against the window.
Our next stop was in Kennett River where we got to take around 45 minutes to try and spot some koalas out in their natural habitat. I was literally so excited about this, I could have died. I don’t like zoos and all of the animal sanctuaries were too far from where we were staying to make it worth it to go, so this was my first (and only) koala spotting and I couldn’t have been happier. We saw 3 koalas sleeping in trees in the park and we were lucky enough to have one wake up and move around a little bit when we got there. My heart. His ears were so fluffy. He looked so sleepy. I love him.
There was also a tree full of parrots that you could feed but I gave that a miss because birds freak me out.
While checking out the koalas and taking some pictures of the lovely coastline, a local on a hike advised us to hike a little bit further up for an even better view and that was the best advice we took all day. It was incredible. Judge for yourself.
After koala heaven, we went to Apollo Bay for lunch (included in the price of the tour). You could eat in the restaurant or take away a pizza. Pro tip: take away a pizza. We sat in the lovely park and got to enjoy the sunshine, and we had enough time afterward to get an ice cream from the award-winning ice-creamery on the main strip. Is ice-creamery a word?
We got back onto the bus and drove to the Maits Rest Rainforest where we went on a semi-guided tour. I wished I had been wearing actual shoes instead of my Birkenstocks because some sort of bug bit my foot and it got kind of swollen and I was immediately thinking about how Martyn would have to tell my parents that I died in Australia and they would be mad at him and at me for not wearing real shoes in the rainforest. I didn’t die, my foot is back to normal size and all is well, so, it really ended up fine and the hike was very cool.
With the rainforest behind us, the next stop was Port Campbell to see the 12 Apostles (of which, there are actually only 9). I had seen photos of these before, and despite the absolute throngs of people with selfie sticks and seemingly no regard for other people (don’t be this person), nothing could compare to being there and seeing these with my eyes. Nature is incredible, my friends.
We ended our day at Loch Ard Gorge which was arguably more beautiful than the 12 Apostles. I got to stick my feet in the water, take some incredible photos and then Martyn lost his phone. Win some, lose some.
We were back in Melbourne by 7:30 and back to our apartment by 8, with plenty of time to watch the New Years Eve fireworks over the city in our pajamas. It was perfect.
Overall, I would 100% recommend the trip that we took and the company that we took it with. It wasn’t the fanciest trip and it was a long day, but for the price we paid, we saw quite a bit, learned a lot, had a nice lunch, and had the added convenience of someone ELSE driving (I haven’t driven since last August and it’s been even longer for boyfriend so it might have gone poorly if we drove it ourselves).
Moral of this story: don’t always believe every angry French woman on TripAdvisor.
Take the tour.
Welcome back to the first blog post on Presque Perfection for 2018!
This year I am all about honesty, growth and being real with you guys, so I thought I would start here. I have been wanting to write this post for a while, and figured there is no time like the present- a little something new and different.
Instagram is weird.
I have so much to say about the year 2017. Despite it being a dumpster fire of a year for politics, women, minorities, foreign policy, the environment, the economy… (I could keep going but I’m really bumming myself out) 2017 was actually pretty good to me when it comes to travel. When 2017 ends, it will have included trips on 3 continents, 6 different countries, and 10 brand new cities, so it feels really hard to complain about my year knowing what an absolute privilege I have to be able to travel this way. 2018 will hopefully be just as epic as I continue towards my goal of 35 countries in 35 years, if you would like to know what I’m hoping 2018 has in store for me, you can find out here.
So without further ado, here is the down and dirty on my 2017 travel:
My 2017 year in travel started by me hopping off a train in Geneva, Switzerland where I got to see the Jet d’Eau before boarding my next train (as we have previously discussed, I’m counting this as a new visited country, deal with it). I accidentally racked up a 20 euro data charge because of Snapchat in the 3 hours I was there. Cool.
I then went skiing in the French Alps in Flaine, France. Skiing is hard. I fell down a lot, cried, and walked down a mountain despite the persistence of the mountain ranger telling me I would be fine if I skied down. This story belongs in its own blog post and will have one in due time.
I finished up January by laugh-crying my way through my maid of honor speech and then catching the bouquet at my best friends wedding in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’m still not married. In case you were wondering.
February included a surprise vacation to Venice, Italy for Valentine’s Day/my birthday with the best travel companion any girl could ask for. I drank 2 euro prosecco and watched men fix gondolas. It was amazing.
March saw me back home again in Indiana getting to watch another one of my best friends walk down the aisle with my best friends from college and then somehow leaving the after-party with 10 mini bottles of champagne.
April had a chilly and windy but ultimately sunny weekend trip to Deauville in the north of France. I did my first cartwheel in years on the beach. It really hurt.
We also had a quick little weekend in London, England – we tested out some new beer, tried an American Barbeque joint (mixed reviews from the American judge) and got to cheer on the London Marathon.
June had the most wonderful midweek trip to Montpellier, France where we stayed at what I have decided is officially the cutest Bed and Breakfast in the world (proof here ) and we got sunburn at the beach.
The first weekend of July blessed us with a gorgeous wedding in the countryside in Normandie, France with my lovely au pair girls. The weekend was made complete with champagne, fireworks and a pushing our car out of the mud in heels at 3am.
The weekend after that I did a day trip to taste champagne and chocolate in Reims, France where we (myself & a group of interns) almost all died a bubbly and glass shardy death when Sabrage went wrong. Photos here (of location, not of our brush with death)
Right before heading back to the states, we were able to squeeze in a mini-break in the fairy-tale paradise and crystal clear blue waters of Annecy, France. This trip included a two-hour boat tour, kayaking and forcing boyfriend to do a pedal boat twice because I loved it so much.
The rest of August saw me catching a return flight home to the states for a few months for visa renewal but mostly for long hugs with friends and family.
When in Indiana, do as the Hoosiers: we fit in a weekend at the family lake house in North Webster, Indiana full of fishing, boating, and being an old woman and doing a needlepoint while enjoying a beer from New Glarus.
August wrapped up with a day spent in the most magical place in the world, Bloomington, Indiana; where I spent the day inexplicably talking peoples ears off and stealing beer glasses.
Labor Day weekend was spent celebrating a beautiful bride to be in some equally beautiful vineyards in Sawyer, Michigan. Our itinerary here.
The following weekend I was able to celebrate another beautiful bride-to-be while still nursing a hangover in Nashville, Tennessee. A vague write-up here.
I also squeezed in a trip to Chicago to actually apply for my visa, but mostly to eat Portillos.
September ended with a return flight back to Paris, France where strangers on the airplane gave me free champagne and I complained about the in-flight entertainment system because I have no chill or perspective.
Another cheeky weekend in London, celebrating the 30th of a friend and eating far too many doughnuts.
Currently writing this from the beautiful, warm, and sunny Melbourne where so far we celebrated Christmas with boyfriends family, watched the famous Ashes, mini-golfed, did a walking tour and went to an outdoor movie theatre. We have a few more days here before we head to Sydney which will not include any sunburn because my mom would kill me, but will most definitely include lots of sunny beers and a beach or two.
All in all, 2017 definitely had a lot of travel high points for me and I am feeling really lucky to be able to share all of them with you.
Where did you go in 2017?
Where should I go next?