Tag Archives: budget travel

Smack dab in the middle of Texas, Part Two: Music and Culture

Back on track! Wondering a bit more about Fredericksburg, Texas? Get ready:

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Fredericksburg has such a vibrant and successful community that they represent a wide rainbow of faiths with beautiful places of worship. We took a peek inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which was built out of the popular and special stonework seen on many buildings downtown.

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The stone is seen here too at the cute Pioneer Museum. You can stroll through the complex and hang out in some wonderfully re-created and restored period houses full of antiques and charm.

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I mean, he just had to be included. I forgot to show off this photo when we chatted about the brewery, but it needed to be brought up. Before landing in the Austin airport and officially stepping onto Texas soil, I assumed I would just see a whole lot of this. I know, I’m sorry, but obviously everyone would be gun-totin’, cowboy hat wearin’, chew spittin Americans, right? TOTALLY WRONG. People tended to be wonderfully helpful, intelligent and hilarious. Not to mention, everyone dressed better than I did, so I digress.

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One of the best evenings was a drive down to the Luckenbach for some music and brews. Now I know next to nothing about country music, but a few new friends swore I just had to listen to some TEXAS country music, which apparently is a whole other thing. It was – slow, a little sad and mesmerizing. Legend has it Willie Nelson used to frequent this place back in the day.

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In the summertime and on warmer nights the adjacent dance hall is opened for hours of entertainment and special concerts or events. I would love to get back there and learn a little line dancing.

If you want to hear a quick clip of the singers/strummers in action, here’s a YouTube clip of the performance:

We’ll finish the Texas round-up next week with some history and everything else left I haven’t covered yet. Fredericksburg was fantastic, but it’s time to move onto Virginia! And on Wednesday I leave for Little Rock, Arkansas. Then two weeks from today I take a little adventure over to ASIA. So much is going on I’m just hold fast onto all the action and whatever else may come!

 

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Bi-Weekly World Traveler Interview – Erin from BrokeMillennials

I am well aware It’s been more than two weeks since the last one of this series, thankyouverymuch. I’ll get the hang of it, promise!

This post features a new blogger Erin over at BrokeMillennials, who was lucky enough to live in a bunch of different countries throughout her childhood and teens. She now resides in New York City and is scheming on her next global adventure with a twentysomething budget!

The rest is her words:

Tell us a little about your deal – who you are, where you come from!

My name is Erin Lowry, I’m 23 and 11 months old and I hail from, well that’s one of my least favorite questions. As an expat kid or TCK (third culture kid) as we call ourselves, answering that is a nightmare. My standard answer these days is North Carolina, even though I haven’t lived there in 13 years. I was born in Houston, TX and lived there for a solid three months before landing in Reno, Nevada and before I was speaking in proper sentences I had been taken to Gastonia, North Carolina (near Charlotte).

I spent my early years as a Southern Belle with Yankee parents until I was uprooted in February of 2000 at the age of 10 and we made the big move to Kobe, Japan. We were only supposed to stay for three years and have me back in time for my freshman year of high school. I didn’t come back to live in the US until college.

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Dressed up in traditional garb!

I fell in love with Japan and still consider it my home. So much growing up happened for me there from 10 (we moved in the middle of 5th grade for me) until 16 at the end of my sophomore year of high school. My family had been told we were heading back to North Carolina but when my parents were house-hunting in Charlotte in April my Dad received a call not to put an offer in on any houses. A few months later all our belongings were shipped to Shanghai, China.

I lived in China my junior and senior years of high school. I graduated high school from Shanghai American School in 2007, my sister graduated in June 2010 and my parents finally moved back to Charlotte in November of 2010, after a decade of life in Asia.

What are your earliest travel memories?
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The very earliest memories are of going to Florida for Easter vacation, but my first international excursion was at age 9. My Dad had been doing a substantial amount of international travel for work and had racked up quite the number of frequent flyer miles. For my 9th birthday he told me I could pick anywhere in the world to go and he’d take me as a father/daughter trip. Because he’d spent so much time traveling to Japan, that’s where I picked. When we ended up moving there a year later I demanded a refund.

That trip had a lot of really special memories for me. My Dad arranged for me to spend the day at a local Japanese school. I wore my St. Michael’s School uniform and just remember having to use sign language and drawings to express things to the other kids. We didn’t speak the same language, but we still had a really fun time at recess. Plus, at age 9 I’d already gone through a big growth spurt and towered over most of the Japanese kids at 5’1. I also had blond hair, blue eyes and extremely pale skin. They really enjoyed just staring at me. I remember learning extremely quickly that if I said I liked anything in a store one of my Dad’s Japanese business associates would immediately buy it for me. Japanese are really big into gift giving when trying to establish relationships. My Dad figured out pretty quickly what I was up to and put the kibosh on all my swag. The vending machines that dispensed ice cream were also extremely exciting.

But, the most vivid memory of all was one of the most traumatic experiences of my international life. There was one major flaw in my Dad’s father/daughter trip plan, he clearly couldn’t go into the public restrooms with me. On one of our drives through the Japanese countryside we stopped to use the bathroom. I walked into a stall and became very confused. There didn’t appear to be a toilet, just a porcelain hole in the floor. I opened the doors to all the stalls in the place and just saw floor toilets over and over again. Clearly, I couldn’t get my Dad’s help so I just attempted to squat down and use this strange contraption. Without too much graphic detail, I will say this was not particularly successful and my black, umbra gym shorts ended up a covered in my own body fluids. I ran out of the bathroom crying.

This was so scaring that I didn’t even attempt to use one again until I was 16 years old and on a Habitat for Humanity trip in the rural area of Yunan, China where western toilets absolutely do not exist. I am now an absolute master.

In case you don’t know what an Asian toilet looks like:

How did you perceive living in new places while young?

When we moved I was old enough to remember my “American culture” and have ties to my home country. Compared to most kids in my international school(s) I was a bit of an anomaly. Most kids started the expat experience much younger and had little to no understanding of their mother land (my sister was 7 when we moved and didn’t really “get” American culture until she moved back for college).

But, being 10 I was also adapted pretty quickly. The first few days included a lot of crying, door slamming and confusion but once I started school I got over that pretty quickly. Japan is a wonderland for kids. It’s safe and has public transit so at the age of 10 we were taking off to the movies, malls, pools and other hang out spots without needing our parents to pick us up or drop off us.

Being a Caucasian American in a homogeneous culture also put me in a huge minority both in public and at school, even though it was an international school. It was a strange feeling at first, but it also gave me the sense of being “special.” A common situation for European and American expat kids in Asia.

Moving to China was a bit of culture shock. It was so different from Japan and I missed the organized public transit and rigid structure of Japanese culture. I was 16 when we made that move though and had been to China a few times before so I wasn’t as baffled as the first move from America to Japan.

Bring us through a few day’s itinerary on one of your most memorable trips.

My mother was always the itinerary planner and I regret that I don’t have her detailed plans saved anywhere. I’m sure she does though.

I'm in the Duke sweatshirt!

I’m in the Duke sweatshirt!

My parents always took our requests and incorporated them into our plans. They also were dedicated to truly exploring countries. We didn’t just do Australia one, we did it six times and went to new cities and towns each time. I have a great memory of exploring Kangaroo Island in South Australia. First grade teacher went to Kangaroo Island and I thought that sounded like the coolest place in the whole world. About seven years after I first heard about Kangaroo Island my Mom put it in our itinerary per my request.

We explored the Great Barrier Reef, saw the New Years fireworks in Sydney, watched the Wizard of Oz on Australia’s Broadway with actors trying their hardest to sound American. We got to swim with dolphins in New Zealand, ride horses through the Outback and get up close and personal with puffins in Iceland. Clearly, we like animals.

In Iceland my parents drove straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon where we got to relax after our flight and soak in the world’s best skin exfoliate.

It’s hard for me to remember full days from all our international adventures. Instead I have a highlight reel in my head of favorite moments, be it a water village in Halong Bay, Viet Nam, walking the Great Wall of China or dining in an old Irish castle.

What is the craziest person you’ve met while on the road?

I throughly enjoyed walking the beach in Viet Nam and a girl, no older than seven, telling my father she’d “bust a cap in his ass” if he didn’t buy the flowers she was selling. Got to love the lasting legacy American GIs left in “Nam.”

Truthfully, it isn’t so much the crazies that stay with me, but the faces of all the young children in various levels of poverty who wanted hugs, smiles, candy and just to speak with the strange-looking foreigners. My Dad’s blog has a post recapping some of our families best experiences:


Tell of a stereotype you thought about a place and how your perspective may have changed.

The cliche answer would be Paris. In a combination of expat kid and broke millennial fashion, I cashed in half my frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Paris my senior year of college. A good friend from my high school in Shanghai was taking a semester away from Cornell to study in Paris. I went to visit her prepared for all the American stereotypes of French people disliking us and identifying me immediately as an American before I even opened my mouth.

Truthfully, I had nothing but a grand time in Paris filled with pleasant people. I even tried my hand at ordering for myself in French at most restaurants and didn’t get a single sneer. Having never spoken a lick of French before visiting I knew my accent was atrocious, but everyone I interacted with seemed to at least appreciate the effort.

In my chances to travel I’ve really learned to always attempt to speak a few words of the native language.

With a friend in Versailles.

With a friend in Versailles.

Anything else you’d like!

Growing up as an expat is something I value and credit for a lot of who I am today. Even thought it meant constantly losing friends to moves and never really knowing when things could drastically change, I was able to have more travel and cultural experiences by 18 than most people experience in a lifetime. It’s also a lifestyle I hope to get back to one day. Even now, it’s hard for me to image staying in one place for longer than three or four years.

Thanks so much Erin! You can check her blog out here and follow her budget adventures at @BrokeMillennials. In the next few days the Texas series will continue. Feel free to reach out with your own great travel stories (even if they’re just dream right now!) I love chatting travel.


Top 3 travel things to do in Greenwich, England

My boyfriend (we’ll call him X) moved to the US from England when he was young, but always has been strongly drawn “back home”. When a business opportunity for him to train in the UK for three weeks came up, I immediately bought a ticket to join him.

Obviously London is just one of the coolest places on the planet, but X was itching for a day trip to Greenwich. This is where he was born and where he spent many summers exploring the town with Mom, Dad and his brothers. I was thrilled to experience it too, as I heard it was soaked in nautical history. I’m not crazy about the past, let’s be honest, but having X show me around was like hiring an expert tour guide without the price tag.

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After getting off the tube, we walked a few minutes through the streets of town and made it to the banks of the Thames. Here is the massive Cutty Sark ship, now encased in a display structure made of glass around its base. It’s the last surviving tea clipper ship and still looks magnificent as I’m sure it did decades ago.

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Honestly, I completely forget where we wandered after that, but X brought me to a museum in a massive columned white building. Maybe the Queen’s House? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because they had KNIGHT STUFF. Move over 8-year-olds, I have some imagination to do.

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Next stop was the Maritime Museum, full of shiny things and interactive exhibits. The highlight for me was the temporary Ansel Adams display, who was the reason I got into writing and snapping photos. Funnily enough the pictures were curated by a museum back home in Massachusetts and transported to Greenwich. I did love this place but started to glaze over a little when X went on a giant diatribe about the British hero, Horatio Lord Nelson.

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It was pretty unbelievable to see the actual jacket worn by this vice-admiral – the same one he was shot in while doing battle. You can easily see the bullet holes.

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Before wandering around the observatory, we waged a battle of our own to stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, which was established in the 1800s to help ships navigate the nearby waters.

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This is just a beautiful area. You hike up some stairs or come through the park at a gentler slope and are rewarded with a vista of the city below. Alongside the prime meridian is the observatory, with London’s only planetarium.

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I have a French macaron problem/addiction/obsession. This is only exacerbated because there’s none to be found in Boston. So when I’m anywhere else I drop everything at the sight, including buying one of these blue ones at an outdoor market that cost 7 DOLLARS, but I digress. Totally worth it.

When you make it out to Greenwich and have a sunny day to spare, don’t miss these three spots:

1. Cutty Sark

2. National Maritime Museum

3. Royal Observatory

It’s a charming detour for its marketplaces, museums and pubs off the beaten path. It’s not the suburbs, but it’s a lot slower paced and offers stunning views of the greenery below when you stroll through the hilly parks. I’m a little jealous X comes from such an amazing little place.

Have you ventured outside central London on your trips? Find anything cool?

Next week I’m taking a little road trip to New Jersey. Let me say, I can’t get enough of my car and the open road. PS, his name is Jose, he’s a little black coupe, Latin and bisexual. Which suits me perfectly for a quality, reliable road trip partner.


San Francisco on the Blogs

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Pondering a trip to San Francisco in the near future? Absorb some inspiration from fellow bloggers. They have you covered when it comes to picking what to experience in this crazy seaside city. Read up on my synopsis of the best City by the Bay posts so far for the New Year:

San Francisco on the Blogs on SF Travel.com

This weekend I’ll be making my way back to NYC, this time for a little relaxation instead of a chaotic press trip. HOWEVER, I am always on the lookout for fantastic story inspiration so I’ll be sure to snag some stories while on the road. Any advice on the best eats and things to see there? I’ve been a zillion times but always try to experience something new every adventure!


A joyful journey to the end of the world – travel in Lagos, Portugal

I have a lot to see on this planet, which often deters me from stepping in the same place twice. But when the chance to go back to Lagos, Portugal, I couldn’t resist the crazy perfect beaches, cliffside views and vibrant nightlife that pulses through the cobblestone streets. Historically it’s been a busy port city, and now it’s a hub of Portuguese culture, food and fun. Last time I was there I was 21 years old and out of my mind, so this round was a little more subdued. But let’s be honest, it was still a carnival ride of hazy colors, breezy shores and the friendliest people around. I went for a long weekend with the party boys at Discover Sevilla and my new au pair friends from the U.S. and Denmark.

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If you find yourself in this southwestern corner of Europe, you have to see the sunset at “The End of the World” in nearby Sangres. The wind is so strong you can barely hear yourself think but it adds to the excitement of being hundreds of feet off the ocean floor. If you are going to jump an let the wind catch you like these two are doing, for the love of God, do it far away from the cliff.

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Photo fans can’t miss the chance to capture this endless view of sea and sky and some memories with their friends. Everyone was keeping it pretty classy here, but I certainly saw people let loose later on. A definite stop on your nighttime magical mystery tour should be Joe’s Garage downtown. It has a spring break vibe but it small enough to feel personal. Either get ready to take shots on fire and dance on the bar throughout the weekend, or grab a calmer cocktail during the week when the crowds usually head home.

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A lighthouse marks the cliffs to avoid some serious damage.

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Beach all day, dance all night. Some of the areas are a little run down with abandoned buildings. But everything is clean and sunny, so you barely notice. I personally think it distinguishes it from some of the other resort towns. This image was on the way to the beach where we swam and played volleyball all day in the heavenly weather. Plenty of restaurants are located along the ocean as well, stocked with seafood specials and drinks to help handle the heat. If you speak a little Spanish or Portuguese it’s helpful, but you’ll be more than fine getting by without it – pointing and smiling is pretty universal.

PS – Happy Valentine’s Day all you crazy lovebirds! I’m going to partake in the madness and enjoy some lovey gushy stuff myself, but you do you today and own that bowl of ice cream or hot date, whichever it may be. In fact, I am going to indulge both.


A look back on a fall travel tradition – Amesbury, Massachusetts

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It’s just so cold and blustery and blah here that all I can accomplish today is hiding under blankets and reflecting on warmer days of the past. While I do get great joy out of stick my freezing feet onto unsuspecting passer-by that can only get me so far. Instead, I look back to cheery fall and remember the encounter I had in northern Massachusetts on a kitschy and charming farm.

Apple picking is so. New. England. That is, if you’re a girlfriend who spends too much time on Pinterest and feel you NEED to drag your poor boyfriend to an orchard. Or, if you are a parent with easily amused children (what child ISN’T easily amused?) that have slight ADHD tendencies who want to blow off some steam by running around an orchard.

But why can’t just a couple of twenty-something gals also grab a cider donut and haul home a hundred pounds of apples?! We decided to break through the stereotypes and have a mini trip adventure to Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury last October after a Zorbing plan went awry. No worries, we went with plan B and ended up at this apple picking paradise, complete with bee hives for honey, flowers, a corn field, general store and even a few strawberries left over from the summer. Oh and those crack donuts, AKA fresh and hot cider donuts from heaven.

Is is proper to spell donut like that, or must it be doughnuts?! Has Dunkin’ Donuts ruined my spelling so bad that I think this is grammatically acceptable? Anyway I digress.

This farm had every type of apple under the sun, which we sampled (for science!) until I thought I might go into a diabetic coma. Yes we did get a few odd stares on the hayride from families and couples wondering if we were in some weird lesbian polygamous situation, but other than that it was a blast.

I was high on apple hunting and didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but here’s a few of the scenery. I love visiting farms in general, so I think I’m going to make an effort to experience more nature next time I get to Europe, South America, wherever. Is apple picking only a thing in the northeast? Can you do this elsewhere in the world?

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A clueless walk around London’s art scene

I don’t know the difference between a Monet and Matisse. Alright I do a little, but go with it.

While in London I was on complete sensory overload and was trying to keep my mind distracted from the bitter cold. Of course I visited the museum and got an eye-full of naked marble statues, but right out on the streets is where some of the city’s hidden creative jewels lie. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was looking for, others popped right out of the scenery like magic. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and it can be seen all day, everyday, especially when in a fresh location.

This isn’t exactly the “scene”, but from an untrained, unhipster viewpoint this is what drew me in at a glance.

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Throughout Box Park there are posters and installations up for the visual taking. Not only is this entire complex in Shoreditch made of old shipping containers, the restaurants, shops and consumers themselves are all canvases. This print in particular really did make me snort aloud, as it’s a deer wearing a tiger onesie proclaiming “Thanks Mum!” Hoot.

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Art students sketching fashion inside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. I wish I could draw myself, but I’ll leave it to the experts.

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Statues are obviously a staple in cities, but they can often be overlooked. These horses were running through Piccadilly Circus. How a sculptor can catch movement in stone and metal is beyond me. I could have stared at the details for hours, but tourists were climbing all over them so I moved along quickly.

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Of all the things to see at the Wellcome Collection museum and exhibit, the visitor made mini-drawings were my favorite. The entire wall was lined with these, stored behind two white tables filled with colored pencils, as twenty-somethings furiously scribbled away to add to the installation. I’m not sure there was a rhythm or reason, but I found them to be a small, small window into the mind on a whim.

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Some more highlights from the visitor installation and the Wellcome Center in Camden.

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And yes, here you go. A marble man from the V&A museum, bits covered for the young viewers. All the same, London’s streets, museums, people, food, dirt, performers, lights, sounds – all of it is art. It all adds to the city equally and nothing would be the same without each part playing a role. Cities like London are the best, because no matter how many times I return, things will change and it will be new, as I venture to alleyways, exhibits and into the night.

Who else has been to London? I adore the idea that we all take in things completely differently. What caught your eye?


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