Why I Don’t Blog About Traveling

I love traveling. A lot of people say that but it’s not something they do a lot. I actually traveled, mostly for work, at least once a month but usually more often. I’m really not trying to be pretentious but travel was a huge part of my life, I prioritized my money and days off for personal travel and I was lucky to have many perks from my constant work travel that I could then use for personal trips.

But in a cruel twist of irony, I had been working hard to separate myself from needing to travel so much for work. I approached my boss in the fall of 2017 wanting to leave auditing but saying I’d work one more busy season. I finally changed careers in May 2018. I still had to travel (4 weeks in Dublin in summer 2018) but it was going to be much less after the initial transition period.

I had two last work trips in October 2018 then had said no more travel that year. I was looking forward to my first January-May NOT being busy, and Kevin and were planning a trip to Hawaii in February 2019. I just had this medical thing I was finally home to put priority on, and we all know how that played out.

I wanted to decrease the amount I was traveling because it was hard to establish a routine and I craved more time in the home I had created. It’s not that I didn’t want to travel anymore, I just needed more balance.

I finally was “healed” enough to start traveling again but with MANY conditions and extremely different from how I defined travel pre-surgery.

There’s many factors that make it very stressful for me to travel. A big one is the logistics; I have to sit when I shower, I have to be more mindful that my bedroom is convenient (not down or upstairs), etc.

I went to Michigan for a week in June with Kevin and his family; it was my first trip post-surgery. It was very enjoyable, mostly because we took away those big stressors by bringing my shower chair and staying in a room on the first floor.

I took a road trip with Kevin a few weeks ago down to central Illinois. It was Friday-Sunday. It was a whole lot of emotions. Right away it was weird to be in a hotel. I had the thought of this was a very normal part of my life but it was the first time being in that environment with my new capabilities.

I was ok, happy and such, the first 24 hours. Then my mood turned, my whole perspective was negative and I just wanted to do the least possible. The constant being around “normal” people can majorly get me down. I’ve experienced this before; I plan all these social things because I love being busy and old Logan could handle it no problem but after 1-2 events I get overwhelmed.

I heard on a podcast something that’s so true and I will probably always remember. One of the hosts, her brother has some disability. She shared she recently took him on a trip and it was a disaster; like they had to go to the hospital. And then she said “all we want is to give them normal experiences, but really they thrive on routine.”

It’s so true. I know for everyone being away from home is hard. But for someone recovering it can be downright awful.

So, at least for now, I’m traveling much less and when I do really curtailing the kind of trip. It’s honestly heartbreaking but, compared to everything else I’m up again, quite minor.

I’m Back!

I took a much needed break from blogging. I went on my first post-surgery trip last week and it was amazing! To relax and go mostly technology free was a great feeling.

It was exactly what I needed my first trip to be. It allowed me to apply what I’ve been working on in real life, showed me I’m much more capable then I give myself credit and helped me identify what to work on for future trips. It also showed me what to pack to make for a comfortable time away from what I know, and reinforced that allowing for lots of time before something is key to me not getting stressed.

I’m so excited to get back to traveling and I have some ideas for the rest of the year!

Eating in Edinburgh

On our second day in Edinburgh we woke up with the goal to find a local bookshop. We figured out the best route via bus to get to a shop only to find upon arrival they didn’t sell what we were looking for. Frustrating and hungry we googled and picked a cafe at random to have breakfast. Fueled for the rest of the morning we took the bus back towards Old Town.

We had an awkward amount of time to kill before the main event of our day, a food tour with Eat Walk Edinburgh Tours! We stopped at another book shop and walked around before the meet up at 1.

The tour featured five venues and a great history of Edinburgh from our tour guide. The highlight for me was our middle stop at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We dined on haggis, the famed dish of Scotland (best to not look up what it’s made of). The society specializes in single cast whiskies that are each unique. The one we sampled was described as “a comforting hug in a mug”. We learned the trick is to sample your whisky then add a trickle of water and stir before sampling again. This process is repeated until you get to the ideal taste for you.

Steph and I had been on one food tour before in Seattle and knew it would be a great alternative way to see and experience the city. We spent a lot of time after the tour comparing this to our tour in Seattle. Both amazing, but different! We felt with this tour we got a lot more city history in addition to culinary facts. Additionally the tour in Edinburgh was a lot heavier on the booze provided at each stop.

We had a very very late dinner than evening and went to bed early for another early flight back to London the next day!

Logan’s Tips and Tricks

  • Sounds silly, but the bus is a great and cheap way to see different parts of the city! Even though our trek was a bust it was still nice to see parts of the University of Edinburgh and local streets.
  • Book your food tour in advance, especially if it is on the weekend as spots will sell out.
  • Steph and I realized how much of travel planners we are, and trying to play things by ear came back to bite us. There were a couple of things we didn’t manage to fit in because our timing was just off. Next time I’d love to climb Arthur’s Seat and see Holyrood House.

Edinburgh, Scotland

I’ve fallen in love with another city. After a rocky start (read: having to clarify the correct pronunciation of the town with a Scottish co-worker…) I was ready for a long weekend away with one of my favorite travel partners-in-crime Steph!

We were up early (too early) to grab the bus to Stansted. We bumped into some friends though once we arrived at the airport!

The flight to Edinburgh is an easy one: just over an hour and no customs since you are still within the UK. I warned Steph before we got on board that Ryanair (our airline carrier) has the ‘brilliant’ ritual of announcing your flight has arrived on time with a blaring trumpeting during the descent. My first Ryanair flight was at an ungodly time in the morning and said trumpet woke me up from a nap. Needless to say I’ve held that grudge against Ryanair for 8+ years!

Once we arrived we took a bus into town. Tickets can be purchased at the time from the ticket stand outside the airport. The ride was about 20 minutes and dropped us off just a few minutes walk from our hotel.

We stayed at Fraser Suites after reading Aspiring Kennedy’s travel tips for Edinburgh. This was an amazing spot and I would absolutely stay here again/recommend to anyone visiting. The rooms were luxurious, the staff friendly, the location prime and the price perfect!

It’s important to note that the shower was FANTASTIC.

Every room has tea and shortbread. Steph and I became obsessed with the shortbread (Brodies) and tried with no success to find the brand in shops. Every shortbread was compared to this over the weekend!

As it was noon by this point our first stop was for lunch!

Union of Genius is a delicious soup cafe located at 8 Forrest Road, Edinburgh EH1 2QN.

They change their soup menu daily, always offering an array which includes both creamy and broth based recipes, as well as vegetarian and vegan options. Excitingly they also offer soup flights where you can select three of the soups to have in smaller portions. Steph and I conferred and coordinated our ordering to be able to sample as many soups as possible!

After an amazing lunch our next stop was The Elephant House, where JK Rowling penned the early Harry Potter novels. We ordered hot drinks, and a millionaire shortbread to share.

Bathroom art.

Steph and I realized we had been in Edinburgh for several hours and all we had done was eat. We needed to remedy this, and trekked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle for the afternoon!

The castle looks over the whole town and is enriched in centuries upon centuries of history.

It was enjoyable and you could feel the history walking around. That being said as Steph aptly put it when we left “I’m not sure I know anything more than I did when I arrived”.

Feeling that we needed a little more culture for the day we made a very quick stop into the National Gallery.

Before we knew it the sun was setting and our tiredness from the early flight set in. It started raining and we made an impulse dinner decision for a pub that wasn’t very good. I did however get a bit of Oban scotch which was phenomenal! We returned to our hotel and had a great night sleep to prepare for our full Saturday in Edinburgh! 

Logan’s Tips and Tricks

  • You can book tickets in advance for the Edinburgh Castle online and collect upon arrival. This is especially smart during peak visitor times to save yourself from having to wait in line to buy tickets.
  • Wear good walking shoes! Edinburgh is hilly.
  • The Royal Mile is a bit touristy, especially when it comes to souvenirs. Do a little research before you arrive if you are eying a cashmere purchase.

Guest Post: Solo Travel

Hi! My bestie Steph is back today with a topic I love: solo travel. I believe it’s extremely important to experience traveling alone. It can be daunting but oh so rewarding. Over to Steph for her tips!

Hello again! I’m back to recap my amazing trip to visit Logan in London. Our friend Meg headed back to the States on Tuesday, and with Logan back at work for the week, I had a few days to wander London solo. I am a huge proponent of solo time, especially solo travel time. I’ve wandered Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego by myself. It can be a bit intimidating, but so rewarding. Here’s some tips I’ve learned as I’ve planned and explored solo.

5 Tips for Planning Solo Travel Days

 1. Plan variety for each day

Research is my thing. I love reading travel blogs and TripAdvisor reviews; I searched and searched for all the good things to do in London and then made a big list. There were many museums and markets and shops and cathedrals.  With three full days, I could have gone to all the museums on one day, then had a full shopping day the next. However, I’ve found variety each day is better. I split the museums across the days with one each day. I went to the shops I wanted to visit based on the area I was in. On my first day I took in history at The British Museum, got some fish & chips at a pub for lunch, explored a couple bookstores and wandered Covent Garden. The second day I explored Borough Market, walked by The Globe and St. Paul’s Cathedral, took in the beauty of the National Galleries and made a Boots run. Add a little culture, a little shopping and walks to each day. You’ll never get bored or too overwhelmed.

2. Highlight the things that bring you joy

The absolute best thing about solo travel is getting choose to only see the things that bring you joy. Hit up the nerdy museum that only you might find interesting. Eat the favorite food that no one else likes.

For me, I am an avid reader. It might be a slight addiction. Like Rory Gilmore, I always have a book on me. I knew I wanted to buy at least one book as a souvenir, so adding some bookstore explorations were at the top of my list.  I visited a few bookstores. First was The Folio Society. The Folio Society produces gorgeous copies of classic novels. The shop is slightly hidden away and small, but it was so fun to peruse the gorgeous editions in person that I’ve oogled online. I also went to Foyles. Foyles is a reader’s dream bookstore. There are six floors of books!!! I actually returned a second day for tea and a scone in their cafe on the fifth floor. I recommend it!

3. Don’t forget the food

Solo dining can be a bit intimidating, but don’t be scared of it. The worst thing you could do is only eat fast food because you’re afraid to say “table for one.” The food of a new city is just as much a part of the culture as a museum. If solo dining is still a bit intimidating, a good alternative (especially in Europe) is a market. I went to Borough Market one morning for a brunch of sorts. First was Monmouth for some coffee to sip as I took my first trip around the market. Then, I sampled a duck confit wrap, some cheese, homemade ravioli, and banana bread.  

4. Be completely flexible

I had a list of the places I wanted to visit each day. It evolved as I got closer to my trip, but I was fairly set once I got to London. Then, I wanted to sleep in one day, so I did and spent a little less time at V&A. I got a little hungry one afternoon, so I stopped in a cafe for a latte and a scone. No regrets. I really wanted to visit Harrod’s, but once I got inside I wasn’t feeling it, so I left. You might be walking to your next destination and see a shop you didn’t know about. Or stumble upon a unknown museum. Go in! You are in the driver’s seat. The unexpected can sometimes yield the best rewards.

5. Embrace the solo adventure

Take pictures, make memories and have fun.

Stephanie is twenty-something gal. When she’s not trying new restaurants in Chicago, she’s exploring a new city or kayaking at her lakehouse. She’s an avid reader, podcast listener and foodie. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @stephaniehermes.

St. Albans, England

One of my favorite things about life in London is how easy it is to jump on a train and day trip to another city in England. There are multiple rail stations in the heart of London with frequent train times, making it a cinch to travel.

On Saturday Gail and I headed to St. Albans, a quiet picturesque town just 20 miles north of London. Despite being overcast and windy it was a lovely day! 

St. Albans Cathedral is noted to be the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain, built approximately circa 250 AD. The history is fascinating along with the architectural design and the inside is downright inspiring. We just don’t have locations like this in the States. 

The Clock Tower amongst the medieval town stands facing the Cathedral and is another highlight. Tours are available during the warmer months, however in the winter just observing the Tower is enjoyable! When we visited a local band was performing at the base of the tower. 

Ye Old Fighting Cocks is reputably the oldest pub in Britain and cock fighting occurred in the main bar, hence the name! The main bar is an octagon shape, with low ceilings, an elaborate fire place, dark wood paneling and adorable little spots tucked off to the side. This was a lovely spot to warm up from the wind and enjoy a delicious meal! 

Steak and ale stew Steak and ale stew

Our last stop of the day was The Pudding Shop, the brain child of former competitor Johnny Shepherd of the Great British Bake Off. It’s a great local spot that’s low key and cosy, the perfect place for a pot of tea and a sweet treat! 

Sticky Toffee Pudding Sticky Toffee Pudding

I really loved St. Albans. London is amazing but at the end of the day it’s a bustling city. It’s nice to get away from the fast paced life and enjoy a bit of quant Britishness. The 20 minute train ride makes it really easy to get away for the day. Just walking the streets of the town and observing other people was enjoyable. The town is a very dog-friendly place; dogs are welcome in all shops and in the pubs, and I made several friends (as evidenced early on in this post!). There is a large market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and currently a Christmas Market nearby the Cathedral for the holidays. Overall an affordable great get away! 

The necessities-

  • Wear your best walking shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. St. Albans is experienced on foot with the occasional slanted street and muddy grass. 
  • Trains run every 15 minutes or so from St. Pancreas International rail station and cost around £8. 
    . Check out the train schedule here and simply buy your ticket when you arrive at the station.
  • Opt for the travel anytime option so you can depart and return whenever you please. 
  • Make sure you check out opening times and any special events prior to going to avoid surprises. 

Hampton Court Palace

This post is part of a throwback series to my semester abroad in London in 2007! 

Oh be still my heart; another beloved London site! This one might be a bit further down your list, but I’m completely enamored by Hampton Court Palace.

If you’re a history buff or perhaps simply a fan of ‘The Tudors‘ (NO shame), you’re probably familiar with the history of Hampton Court. The palace was built in the early 1500’s by Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York. After numerous years of building quite a fine palace Wolsey, recognizing his downfall from favor, gifted the palace to King Henry VIII. He died two years later in 1530.

Upon receiving the property Henry rebuilt and expanded to fit his particular requirements of a palace as well as to fit his court of over one thousand people. 

Hampton Court is well seeped in the Tudor history up until 1603, when Queen Elizabeth I died and the monarchy passed to the Stuarts. Continued fame in the British history books and renovation after renovation to fit the family and style of the time occurred through the 1700’s, the last time at which the British royal family inhibited Hampton Court Palace. 

Today the location is open to the public and located approximately 11 miles from central London, upstream of the River Thames. 

A few other fun facts:

  • Hampton Court Palace is celebrating it’s 500th anniversary this year, as building at the palace commenced on February 13th, 1515.
  • The palace was featured during the 2012 Olympic games for the road cycling time trial. Temporary structures were installed on the grounds for this event. 
  • You can spot Hampton Court Palace in several historical films, as well as in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. 

Visitors are able to tour the palace both through guided walks as well as on your own (audio guides are provided). 

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves of my experience at Hampton Court! 

Find everything you need to plan your own visit here

Flight Problems

When I started working full time, I started traveling more. My job entails a fair amount of travel out of town, not to mention the trips for fun I choose to take. With this increase in trips came something not so fun: an increase in experiencing flight problems. I can tell you countless stories of delays, close calls to the gate, and unfortunately flight cancellations from the last several years.

On my trip to New York in June I experienced one of the worst flight fiascoes in my life. My flight home was delayed by six plus hours due to weather back home, I witnessed flights to Chicago being cancelled left and right, and ultimately I made the choice to rebook my flight for the following day before my original flight ended up being cancelled a few hours later.

No one likes to alter their plans due to something like this; I’d had a nice relaxing evening planned out before going back to work the next day. This turned to a hurried evening then one wrought with a late arrival home and smaller sleep time before being ruled out completely.

We’ll call a spade a spade here; flight problems suck. When you are organized enough to book a flight at a specific time, and then it doesn’t take off/land when it’s supposed to? The nerve. Unfortunately in times like this it is what it is, and I’ve pulled together a few lessons to better approach situations such as these in life.  

Packing: a whole other story. 
Packing: a whole other story. 

1.       Some things are out of your control

When I planned my trip I booked flights to line up with how I wanted to bookend the trip; a not too early departure on a Thursday at 11 AM, and a flight that would get me home on a Monday in time to cook dinner and decompress before unpacking and preparing for work the next day.  The cancellation of my flight meant two pretty crappy things: taking another day off of work and incurring a handful of unexpected expenses from additional time away from home.

Did this frustrate me? You bet. But after freaking out for a few minutes I took a deep breath and told myself this was out of my control. Unless I wanted to rent a car and drive through the night, I physically could not be in Chicago for work the next day. I emailed my boss (a perk of having your work email on your phone) to explain the situation. Then I let. It. Go. Why worry over something you cannot control?

2.       Everything in life costs more than you think it will

As I mentioned above, I had a fair amount of unexpected expenses from this experience. There were extra food costs for my prolonged time in the airport and additional night out of town. The cab fares to get out of then back to the airport the following day. And the big one; the bill to stay in a hotel overnight.  

Now I’ll stop here to say this wasn’t a must. I certainly could have roughed it and slept in the airport overnight. But here’s how it went down. My friend and I looked at each other and agreed to stay at the airport for another 18 hours would be pure hell. Maybe if the time frame was shorter, or we weren’t in one of the worst airports in America (seriously I hate you, LaGuardia). In a situation like this there’s being money savvy and then just being stupid for the sake of saving cash. Did I like paying an extra $200 on my trip (because of course the hotel options were not cheap)? Of course not. That completely blew. But thinking back I would still make the same decision to get out of the airport and have a quiet place to sleep before returning the next day.

I wish I had better advice for a situation like this. I’m not afraid to admit here that in my position, a financial pull like this one is something serious. I’m someone that tries to stick to a pretty tight budget, and I financially plan for bigger events like weddings and vacations. Really what it boils down to is-it is what it is. Praise be for savings, and you better believe I was cutting expenses for a few weeks after to recoup for the extra spending.

3.       Plan ahead

Pack an extra book, or better yet, have a few options on your kindle. Put games like heads up and trivia crack on your phone (and always pack your charger in your carry on). On that note  fly only with carry on whenever you can as it cuts down on costs, time spent at the airport once you reach your destination, and hassle if you end up changing flights. Trust me you don’t need all those shoes! Throw a few travel friendly snacks in your bag to cut out unhealthy airport meals. I love homemade trail mixes, Larabars, and bananas.

Some may call it jinxing the situation, but it’s a comfort to be prepared if your flight is delayed. If anything you’ll have a book to read down the road and some extra eats for later on in your day!

When all else fails, booze it out! 
When all else fails, booze it out! 

This wasn’t my first flight cancellation and unfortunately I feel that it won’t be my last. The flight I took a week after this one was delayed three and a half hours. I just read a terrifying story on another blog about an engine malfunction during a flight (which thankfully worked out just fine). Traveling can look glamorous (I blame carryover of the glamour of a destination, which isn’t always so glamorous after all. And travel photos from the 60’s) but it really can be the worst.

I choose to look at flying as a necessary evil to get to someplace exciting. The next time you have flight problems, just try to stay calm and remember this will pass.