Fond Memories

Last night after a relaxing, yet wonderful day one I began to be overwhelmed by some serious emotions. However the more I replayed my day and 2015 in my head the more they began to dissipate.
Yesterday after two flight delays, a cancelation and a rebooking, I actually made it to Oslo. I left Memphis, TN on the 29th. Flew into Newark. Took the bus to JFK where my amazing roommate met me with the rest of my things. I got on my Norwegian flight and made it safely to Oslo, on time and no worse for the wear. I checked into my adorable hotel and went out to see what I could see. I wandered around the old city and the new. I was famished so I ducked into a bar only to learn the only sustenance it offered were spirits. I allowed myself to be warmed by a glass of Jameson, made friends with a delightful bartender and then went off in search of something a bit more sustainable. I had a mediocre dinner and then returned to my room at 4 when the darkness had finally set in for the day.
After a two plus hour fight with my new selfie stick and the hotel internet, I finally gave up on my video log shenanigans for the time being and drifted into a slumber.
While I slept my, mind was full. It raced and I woke very often in the night. I kept springing awake from my slumber with questions or just a simple jolt. “What time is it?” “Did I miss my flight?” “Why does my phone have two times on it?” I wrestled with sleep and odd idiosyncrasies of the subconscious. When I awoke, I was excited, but also a tiny bit grumpy. However the grumpiness only lasted until I went downstairs and saw the hotel breakfast.
I was swept away to Prague four and a half years ago. The gigantic rolls with the little black seeds that I filled with salami and cheese. The meats and fruits and yogurts my friend and I would stick in our bags for later even though the sign clearly said we couldn’t.  It was a blissful deja vu and for a brief moment I was not in Norway, traveling alone for self reflection, but in the Hotel Europa in Prague, surrounded by the fantasmical ghosts of Prague society and the faint scent of parties and days truly gone by.
I ate my breakfast and was filled yet again with the wanderlust that has become as much a part of me as the heart beating inside my chest. Today I head farther North in Norway, to Tromso where I will dine in a gourmet restaurant in the center of town and explore; then tomorrow I will embark on my two day Arctic Cruise. I’m sure I will get tired eventually and weary, but no matter what, I am here and my spirit feels better than it did yesterday. Which I guess is more than anyone can hope for anyway.



When things go awry…

I was planning to begin this blog when I actually arrived in my first destination. However, I have been reminded today that life is a journey; not a destination. Even though I am still in an airport hundreds of miles from where I need to be in order to leave the country tonight, the journey has in fact already begun. This particular journey was planned after 2015 in its entirety went awry. In 2015 after a long battle on both sides, I lost both of my parents and my long term relationship. I planned what I would begin to call my healing journey. A journey to deal, heal, self reflect, and perhaps formulate a plan for my next 32 years. I am normally not a planner or even very prepared when I travel. I usually find comfort in booking a flight and my first night in a location and sort of winging it. This time I went against my own grain and planned almost every single detail. That is so unlike me.
Yesterday everything began to go awry. My flight from Memphis, TN to NYC was delayed and then eventually cancelled. I am still currently in the Memphis airport after spending the night with very good friends. I am waiting for a flight I’m not actually booked on and the gap between now and my flight to Norway is quickly closing. I have a tour booked and I am wondering now if I will make it.  I picked Norway as a starting point for many reasons, which I will eventually share. I have only cried a few tears this morning, which is also unlike me. I keep repeating my mother’s words in my head. “Don’t panic Shanna. Don’t panic”. I only threw one thing on the ground, not in anger so much as in defeat. I feel that 2015 has been trying to defeat me in the most brutal of ways, yet fortunately I generally shy away from defeat.
So. My adventure may not have officially started, but my journey to where I will be in a year has already begun. Everything has gone awry lately. Awry may actually become my new normal for awhile. If I am on a journey of self discovery then things going to help and back is a good way to start. If I haven’t broken down yet this year then I certainly can’t let a little, stupid, inconvenient flight delay shake my infrastructure now. So the journey has begun and I wonder where I’ll be in a year. It is quite possible that I’ll be sitting right here.

This year I vow to travel, even if I never leave New York

This year I vow to travel, even if I never leave New York

As anyone reading this may know, I love to travel. Last year I went on an amazing, two-week Ireland adventure. I certainly can’t afford that kind of trip every year, and some years I can’t even afford little tiny trips, but I am still burdened with wanderlust, whether my travel funds are low or not. My Gypsy blood starts boiling and then I just can’t continue until I have a new experience, a conversation with a stranger, a food I’ve never tasted before, or something that for a mere moment transports me to a mindset I’ve never been in before.  Even though my travel funds may be low as I jump head first into 2015, I have thought of a few ways that I might be able to at least create the illusion of travel.

This year I will:

Go to a coffee shop in a neighborhood I don’t ever go.

I live in New York City so an outsider would think that I am always surrounded by the newest, latest, hippest coffee shop. That is probably true considering we are the home of the cro-nut and apparently now something called a “bruffin” or something like that. We have amazing coffee shops here, the problem is that I live here, so I have a routine and standard neighborhoods and coffee shops that are near work and home. I rarely go off my own personal beaten path, so this year I will. I will go to Boerum Hill or Chelsea or some other neighborhood and I will drink its coffee and I will watch its people and I will expand my realm.

Go to a restaurant that I have never been to and will probably never be a “regular” at.

In NYC it is a very esteemed status to have become a “regular” at your bar. A tiny place in this vast mayhem of eateries where everybody really does know your name. You become a regular in bar or restaurant and even the customers who aren’t “regulars” know that your needs are simply more important than theirs. However, eventually I begin to feel uncomfortable with my comfortability. I love my status as a “regular” in “my” bar, but this year I am going to branch out. I am going to wander around and find a restaurant that I have never been in. I will not read a review or the menu before I go inside. I will find a restaurant and I will go in and order something off the menu that I have heard of or tried before.

Go to a town in the Hudson Valley and explore…

The Hudson Valley is full of quaint little towns that are full of history and charm. A few of them, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, and Cold Spring, I have had the pleasure of exploring in-depth. However, there are so many more that I haven’t explored yet. This year, I will pick one and take a day trip on the Metro North and go and explore. I Will have lunch, coffee and maybe even dessert. Perhaps I will find an antique store or a tiny little cove of artisans and buy their crafts. I will talk to a local, learn some of the town’s history and return to my Brooklyn abode refreshed and slightly satisfied.

Go to a no cover music venue in the village and listen to a band or artist I’ve never heard before.
I am fairly set in my music ways. I like what I like and I rarely branch out. This year I will take the plunge and force myself to listen to something new. I may hate it, but it may become my new favorite. Roger Clyne will be hard to top, but hey you never know unless you try.

These are just a few ways that I plan to experience the feeling of travel this year. What about you? Will you leave your comfort zone and have a new experience? I’d love to hear about it.

A tourist in my own town

A tourist in my own town

I live in New York City. Thousands upon thousands of people save for their entire lives to come to New York City once in a life time. When you live somewhere you often forget that where you live is amazing and people are dying to get there everyday. Even in NYC, a giant, bustling metropolis I forget that this place is great. I get caught in work and life and paying bills that I often overlook the tourist spots that I have access to 24 hours a day. Today I broke that trend. It is 32 degrees outside, though nice and sunny, and my friend and I went to Coney Island to go to the New York Aquarium. We had the best time. The aquarium is not one of the bigger aquariums that I have been to, but it was great. It is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy so the Shark and Jelly fish exhibits were not open, but everything else was. We saw sting rays and tons of beautiful salt water fish. The aquarium even has a program where it breeds species of fish that are now currently extinct in the wild with the plans to eventually return them to their natural habitats.

We met a walrus who we named Sam who was a bit shy, but very entertaining. We met two otters who we named Fred and Ginger and they were so cute I just wanted to bring them home with me. The we saw the sea lion show. It was fantastic. There was Bruiser who is 5 and weighs in at 350 pounds and Osborne who is 14 and weighs in at 450 pounds. Both were very excellent performers and surprisingly limber for weighing what they do. They did tricks and applauded themselves and flips and were very entertaining to watch. While watching the show we even indulged in Dippin Dots sundaes and man they were delicious. After the show we went to see the SpongeBob Great Jelly Rescue in 4D which was included in the $11.95 admission price to the aquarium. It was so much fun and there were a surprising number of people having an aquarium adventure despite the weather being so brisk.

Nathan’s famous hot dogs!

Sam the Walrus

Osborne the Sea Lion.

Lovely Auto Enhanced fish in the aquarium

After the show we wandered down the Coney Island Boardwalk and admired the ocean and the scenery. We headed to Nathan’s famous hot dogs and treated ourselves to a little lunch. A famous hot dog and cheese fries for me. It was a wonderful day to remember that no matter where you live, you should always take some time to be a tourist in your own town. You never know what you might be missing and this way you can make every day a new adventure. I even stopped by the gift shop for a key chain and a shot glass.

10 special souvenirs I have picked up while traveling.

A friendly blog post from my other blog, My Life is Intense.

My Life is inTENse

#1 A tartan hat and scarf in Dundee Scotland

I was 19 and I was on an essentially free trip to Scotland. While I was there I discovered the Sutherlands Tartan Shop which is basically Dundee’s version of any town’s major tourist store. I loved it and I wanted to buy everything.  I did find a tartan hat and scarf that I fell in love with. The tartan pattern I bought was the house of Fraiser. I knew nothing about houses and clans and tartans and at the time I just picked a pattern I liked. However, since then I have read Diana Gabaldon’s book series, Outlander, and I have fallen in love with a man named Jamie Fraiser. Now my tartan hat and scarf means a whole lot more than it did before.

#2 A pearl necklace in Maui, Hawaii

I was living in Hawaii for a year. They have those…

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10 Amazing places I have marveled at

There are many places that I have been and thought wow, this is incredible. Obviously, travelers can find beauty in just about any thing, place, are attraction. This is only a brief list of the amazing places I have stood before, or inside or near and thought to myself “wow, this is incredible.” These places, for me, evoke a type of emotion that you cannot explain unless it is to someone who has had a similar moment in time, that they also cannot describe because any word just doesn’t seem to do a particular place and time justice.

#1 The sunrise at Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, United States

In Maui, if you wake up around two in the morning and pile in car  that has been stocked with blankets and coats and hats and a thermos of coffee of hot chocolate, you are guaranteed to witness the most beautiful sunrise you may have ever witnessed. At the top of Haleakala, which is just over 10,000 feet above sea level there is an observatory where hundreds of people flock every morning, just to watch the sunrise above Hawaii and even above the clouds. You have to leave this early in order to beat the crowds, because the highest parking lot fills up early and then you can only gain access to the lower observatory. Why the blankets and coats you might ask? Because at two am it might still be 80 degrees down by the ocean, but as soon as you step out of your car at 10,000 plus feet above sea level it can be anywhere from 20 – 30 degrees and at certain times of year there is even snow on the ground. I have seen a few sunrises in my day, but this one definitely tops the charts. The clouds are below you as the sun begins to peak over the horizon and there are not enough words to describe it. Even the pictures do not do it justice.

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#2 The line on which the Berlin Wall stood, Berlin, Germany

This is one of those places that is amazing, but in a different way. It doesn’t evoke a warm fuzzy feeling. Instead when I was standing where the Berlin wall had stood, and when I saw the few pieces of it that still exist, I mentally froze for a moment. I obviously  knew at least the US version of the history of this horrific time in Berlin and in the world, but there is no way of actually understanding something, even a tiny bit until you are there. Clearly I will never be able to understand any of the emotions that the people in Berlin feel, but I was at least able to listen and have conversations with people who do live there and who do have very strong emotions regarding this wall and the day it officially came down.


#3 Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom

I love stone circles. I am borderline obsessed with stone circles. When I had the opportunity to stand and marvel at Stonehenge, I could have died happy, but thank goodness I didn’t. I would have missed so much since then. To stand in a spot, that has such a giant history and that no one can really truly explain is another moment that there are no words. All I really wanted to do was run through the center of the stones and hope that maybe somehow I could truly time travel, or that perhaps something even slightly magical might happen. I would have definitely run through the center if it were not roped off just far enough away to allow for the perfect picture, but to also allow the security guards to catch you just before you get to the center. Too bad I didn’t see it at sunset.

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#4 The Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

About 45 minutes outside of Prague, there is the most amazing chapel. The Kutna Hora is a small chapel completely decorated with human bones. It sounds extremely macabre, and though it should be, it is actually stunning and beautiful. When the monks were excavating the land to build the chapel, they discovered piles and piles of human bones buried in the ground. They believed that these bones were from the victims of a plague that had swept over the land years before they arrived. So the monks took all of the bones and decorated the inside of the chapel. Some of them they even dipped in silver because the surrounding land around the chapel is rich with silver mines. Besides the skulls and crossbones that decorate the inside of the church, there are also simply piles of bones covering the corners of the building. It could be a bit creepy, but instead it is full of stories. Amazing and wonderful stories.

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#5 The Road to Hana Maui, Hawaii, United States

On Maui, there is also another amazing Marvel. The Road to Hana. When you arrive in the town of Hana, you will quickly realize that Hana is a tiny spot and in this case the journey is actually the destination. The road to Hana is a 64.4 mile trip through some of the most amazing scenery I have seen. There are approximately 620 around the winding mountain through the lush and vibrant rain forest. The road is filled with the most beautiful over looks and scenic moments. There are waterfalls and black sand beaches and red sand beaches and streams and pools and bamboo trees and the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. At the end of the highway is the ʻOheʻo Gulch, also known as the seven sacred pools. These are pools that you can swim in and even cliff dive in. There is also a camp ground where of course you can stay the night before waking up in the morning to hike to the Wailua Falls which is tall and massive. There is even a tiny sanctuary that you can drive through and take pictures while holding up too five parrots.

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#6 The Sonoran Desert,  Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico

When I was 24 I went to Mexico with some friends. I had never seen a desert before. I had never seen a cactus growing in its natural environment. We were driving from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco and I practically begged the man driving to pull over just so I could get a photo of my first time seeing a real honest cactus. I was in complete awe. While we were in Mexico I actually had the opportunity to ride for wheelers with my friends through the Sonoran Desert and I saw the place where the desert meets the ocean. Beauty in one of its finest forms.

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#7 The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France 

It was 1998, I was 14 and I took my first airplane ride on my first trip and it was to London and Paris. Upon arriving in Paris we headed almost immediately to the Eiffel Tower. WOW! If you can’t remember the first moment you saw something that you had heard about your whole life then I feel sorry for you. The Eiffel Tower! There was a count down on the front, counting down the days, hours and minutes to the millennium. I stood under the center and took a picture looking up into the tower. I took the elevator to the top and had a coffee at the tiny café. I bought my grandmother a copper plate with a 3D scene of the tower. I looked out over Paris and I knew at that moment that I was destined to travel. I had felt this before, but not until this moment did I understand how traveling actually changes your life. Then I walked down the 1,710 steps to the bottom before taking a sunset cruise on the Seine River.

#8 The Sacre-Coeur, Paris, France

I walked into this church and was immediately overcome with this emotion. I’m not sure what it was, because I feel it very rarely, but anyone who has felt it will understand. It is this beautiful white chapel on top of a hill with a beautiful green lawn in front and a balcony over looking Paris with an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. Inside is as close as I have ever felt to the face of God. The chapel was finished in 1914 and was consecrated in 1919 after the end of World War One. This is accessible by walking up a large amount of steps or a funicular car that takes you from the bottom of the hill to the chapel. It is stark white and the grounds are covered with street artists and buskers. I had my portrait painted and I didn’t have enough money to buy it so my sweet friend on the trip with me made up the difference. What an amazing day.

#9 A Sea Turtle, The Pacific Ocean, Off the coast of Maui, Hawaii, United States

This may not seem like anything to be amazed at, but if you think that, then you clearly don’t know me. When I moved to Hawaii for the year I was there, I was literally terrified of the ocean. I couldn’t swim and I had never even been in the ocean above my knees. While I was living there I did things that I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of. I am pretty brave and have at least always considered myself to be, but something about the majestic ocean has always tackled me. While I was living there I finally got brave enough to go into the depths of the ocean (all 25-30 feet of it). While I was down there I saw a sea turtle. I Petted him and honestly forgot about my fear of the ocean and death by shark and death by drowning and I actually enjoyed myself.  Then I realized how far down I was, which to me was like clearly 500 hundred feet and I almost panicked. However, I did it. I went scuba diving, I saw a turtle in the Pacific Ocean while scuba diving and by god, I will never forget it.

#10 The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

I have said it before and I am sure I will say it again. The Cliffs of Moher was an experience that I will never forget and that I truly hope happens again in my life time. To stand on top of something that is naturally so high above sea level with nothing between you and the edge is completely and utterly breath taking. To stand and look out at the vast world around me and to realize for a moment how small I actually and that I am just this tiny molecule trying to see as much of this giant world as I can possibly can. It is these moments in life when we realize that perhaps our paths would be greater if we only took a giant leap of faith. Perhaps if we actually did stop working in a job that we hate, or if we did up and move to that city that has been haunting fro what ever reason, even though we have never been there, or if we just simply did that thing that for some reason we can’t or won’t or are scared to do. This was the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher


Six travel tips to help you get more bang for your buck on a tiny budget

#1 Skip the fancy meals

If the place you are visiting is not known for its cuisine and you are not on a “foodie retreat”, skip the fancy meals. Find the local grocery store. Stock up on a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a plastic knife. This, along with the family sized box of granola bars and cheese and crackers you bought at home before you left, will save you money for one more museum entry or one more amazing souvenir photo.

#2 Skip the bottled water.

Going to a new place, even a civilized place, can cause concern regarding drinking the water. If you buy even one bottled water every day on a two week vacation it can remove a minimum of $45 from your vacation budget. In Ireland, $45 dollars got me a bus tour to the Ring of Kerry, The Dingle Peninsula and admission to Blarney Castle. Instead, invest in an individual Brita filtered water bottle. You can pick one up from Amazon for fairly cheap and it will last far longer than the average trip.

#3 Go for the flight (of beer)

I love traveling and trying new beer. There are so many places in the world that have amazing little craft breweries popping up all over the place. You may see all of these beers that you have never heard of before and think “I must try them all. This place has four beers that I will never try again.” Stop. Before you order one beer right after another, and spend roughly $30-$45 trying all the beer that this one place has to offer, ask the bartender if they offer a sampler flight. Most craft breweries usually do whether it is advertised or not and you can try 3-5 of their beers for just over the price of one beer.

#4 Free walking tours

Almost every city, at least in most of Europe, offers a free walking tour. The key is finding it. Most hostels have the brocheurs and phamplets right up front so whether you are staying there or not you can access this information. Sometimes the free walking tours are even hosted by certain hostels, or local college students who are trying to earn a few dollars here and there in tips. There are plenty of amazing, expensive walking tours, but the free ones are gauranteed to have passionate tour guides, the same key stopping points and the tip (which, I mean, it was a free tour. The least you can do is tip your guide) will cost you way less than the paid walking tours plus that tip.

#5 Book Online or at the Official tourist office of the location

Many major points of interest offer discounts for booking tickets online. You can look into your major stopping points before leaving home or at all spots along the way with free WIFI. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin offers 10% off for booking online and another 10% off if you book an “early bird ticket” online which means you take the tour within the first two hours of opening. Also, the Official Tourist offices offer many discounts that are not in the printed literature and usually if you book more than one, the discount gets even better.

#6 The “True Traveler Discount”

I’m not positive this is a real thing, but I have received it more than once. I find that when I arrive in a new place, the first thing I do is hit up the tourism office. If I am loaded down with my backpack and all my gear, the person working the desk always seems to call the tour I am inquiring about and ask them if they offer the “True Traveler Discount.” Apparently all you have to do is ask. If I leave my things prior to heading to the tourism office, I have never once been offered the “True Traveler Discount.” It may not work every time, but it never hurts to try.