Tag Archives: Travel

Things I learned In Ireland

I’m home. It’s taken me a week to feel like a human again, but I’m home.

Let me be clear: I did not think I’d survive this trip. I never think I’ll survive anything that’s outside my usual routine, so this trip was huge for me. I cleaned my car before I left in case I died. I also took my diary because I didn’t want to be remembered by my sad stories and bad jokes. I started my taxes but didn’t finish them, because I can’t afford them. And that was the one thing I felt comfortable burdening my family with.

Self-employment taxes aside, it was a real treat to come home alive.

As anticipated, my journey to the airport was a shit show. I couldn’t find the bus, and when I did, I had to find coins on the ground to pay for it. The bus driver was nice enough to help me. I am, it would seem, officially out of money.

This didn’t stop me from buying a grilled cheese, coffee and two scones at the airport. I am grateful for my credit card, though I fear it will be my undoing.

While at the airport, I reflected on my trip and found myself surprisingly sad to leave. Certainly, I missed my kitties, my roommates and my weekday sobriety. But I had an amazing time. And I’ve become addicted to the record-breaking likes on my Instagram photos.

I did not write every day as promised. But I did take notes of things I learned. Thus, I give you a rambling list of Things I Learned In Ireland:

Never ask for a “ride.” Ask for a “lift.” Apparently, asking for a ride is like asking for sex. Lesson learned.

Irish people are incredibly accommodating. When I met my friend Tony’s mom, she offered me some tea. I turned it down to be polite, and somehow ended up with tea, a plate of scones, cornbread and two shots of Poitín (Irish moonshine). The next day, Tony’s sister drove me — after having just met me! — to Derry because she is amazing, and –

Easter Monday is a thing. And everything shuts down, buses included.

Guinness really is better in Ireland. Something about pasteurization, idk. But you better believe I’m gonna brag about it every time you see me. “Ummm when I was in Ireland…”

In Ireland (see? It’s happening already) you don’t order drinks for yourself, you order drinks in rounds. This was a particularly hard rule for me to follow. I hate when people buy me drinks, especially men. I like to assert my dominance, and I don’t want anyone to think I owe them a ride. But I swallowed my pride for the sake of tradition. I don’t expect it to happen again.

Converters turn hairdryers into flame throwers.

Moms are amazing. I knew this already, as I love my mom to pieces. But seeing my friend Megan in mom-mode was something I’ll never forget. Kids are insane. They ride waves of manic elation and utter despair all day, every day. One moment, they’re laughing like crazy at “rock, paper, scissors, poop!” The next, they’re sobbing because they didn’t want sausage for lunch. At one point, Owen (Megan and Tony’s youngest boy) turned to me and said, “Jojo, I like you,” and I swear to God my heart fell out of my body. How anyone rides these waves is beyond me. But Megan does it without even batting an eye. She is unreal. I’ve always said that she hit the jackpot with those kids. But after this trip, I think the kids hit the jackpot with her.

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Baby sheep look like cats from afar.

 

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I like traveling alone. I was nervous to do this, but I’m so glad I did. I met a lot of great people and I never once felt lonely. I saw what I wanted to see, ate where I wanted to eat, slept when I wanted to sleep. I spent a lot of time sitting at bars, trying new beers, listening to music and eavesdropping on locals. It never felt weird. The only time I felt unsafe was my last day in Dublin, when some strange man approached me to tell me he liked my style (first red flag), asked if I was alone (second red flag) and kept following me after I brushed him off (all the fucking flags).

I like eating alone. I’m a monster when I eat, so it’s better this way. But I really enjoyed my fancy solo dinners.

I like being alone. Which bodes well for me, as I will be dying alone.

People hate Americans. Or maybe just me. Or maybe just Trump. Either way, next time I travel internationally, I’m wearing a Democrat lapel pin. Or Friend of The Pod shirt. Trump is the laughing stock of the world. We are the laughing stock of the world. And we should be ashamed. I know I am.

I don’t have a top lip when I smile.

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Hostels aren’t so bad. I did not – and will not – publish a sequel to Hostel –Night 1, as the details of what followed are unfit to print. I will say, though, that I met a lot of cool people from all over the world. I made a friend from Holland, an enemy from Russia, a pub advisor from Dublin, and a whiskey tasting/donut eating companion from D.C. I met a German guy who offered me a ride (no, a lift! Dammit a LIFT!) to Dublin, and a welder from I forget but somewhere in England. The three handsome Lebanese men (who were delighted to hear themselves described as such) and my two girl roommates – Lauren and Shannon – were among the highlights of my trip. Like a Week 6 Bachelor contestant, I didn’t come to make friends, but I left with some nonetheless.

 

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Miriam, a new friend from Holland.

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Sweaty Galway hostel friends in Dublin.

 

Scones are the shit. I could (and did) live on scones.

People think American girls are bitchy and elitist. An Irish girl told me I was “so normal for an American.” When I asked what she meant, she said a lot of people think we’re like the girls from The Hills and Laguna Beach. I laughed and assured her that I wasn’t. But deep down, I was flattered. Part of me has always wanted to be a beautiful, snooty socialite. So this was quite pleasing to hear.

Craic (pronounced “crack”) is everywhere. Good gossip is good craic. Good fun is good craic. Good sex is . . . a craic ride? Who knows. But if you want to know where the party is, you ask, “Where’s the craic?” This does not translate in America for obvious reasons. Which is why I often worry for the reputation of our dear Tony Kelly.

My hands look dead in photographs. 

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From the Game of Thrones tour pamphlet: Coldhands drinks at local pub.

To tell 24-hour time, you just subtract 2 from the second number. I am impressive, I know.

All in all, it was a life changing experience. Something I never thought I would or could do. And I can’t wait to do it again in 40 years when I’ve recovered.

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Hostel – Night 1

I survived my first night in a hostel. I did not sleep well, but I did sleep.

My prep began hours in advance. I tapered my dairy intake, and I treated myself to two glasses of wine at dinner to assist my descent into unconsciousness. I claimed the top bunk, thinking it’d have better, cleaner air flow. This was my first mistake.

My second mistake was putting on my PJs at 8:30. My roommates, who turned out to be quite lovely, invited me out with them. I, however, being the curmudgeon I am, wanted to make it clear that under no circumstances was I there to socialize. So, on went the Kanye tankity top, off came the bra, and up I climbed to my sleeping perch.

Not 5 minutes later, more roommates arrived. Three men. Handsome men. From Lebanon.

The girls left to go out and I hung around and talked with the guys. We got along really well, which surprised me. I hardly ever enjoy talking to strangers.

They asked why I was in bed already. I told them I was tired. They told me I was lame. I told them this was not news.

“Why don’t you want to go out?” They’d ask.

“Because I don’t want to,” I’d respond.

And so on and so forth.

Eventually, they convinced me. I buttoned my pants (I’d undone them at dinner), threw on a hoodie and joined them for some beers.

Which brings us back to my first mistake. As you may recall, I’m strictly an aisle kinda girl. This is because I like to have easy access to the bathroom. The top bunk does not allow this. And at 4 am, full of Guinness, I had to pee.

The panic began when I couldn’t find my socks. I normally sleep with them on or nearby, just in case I need to make an emergency toe touchdown. But they were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t imagine traipsing across the hostel floor barefoot. So, I sat there for 30 minutes weighing the pros and cons of a foot infection vs. a bladder infection.

How many times have they cleaned this carpet? Is there a 5-second rule for foot fungi? Is there an OTC medication for UTIs? Or would I have to go to the hospital? And if so, would my health insurance work in Galway?

I decided to brave the floor. I saw my Keds not too far from my bed, so I figured I could jump and land nearby. The trick would be landing softly enough as to not shake the floor and wake my bunk mate.

In the end, I nailed it. If my bunk mate were awake, he’d have seen a flash of a gray sweatsuit leaping from the heavens. It was some of my best work.

Night 2 was #lit. More to come. Now, I’m in Dublin, blogging from my phone at a pub some dude on the bus told me to check out.

Carpool Karaoke

I don’t know what kind of person I am. I don’t think I’m a morning person, but I’m definitely not a night person. I like to be in bed by 10:30 but have been known to sleep well past noon. Also, I do not function without coffee. Like, at all.

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Not quite morning people. Not quite night people.

I paint you this picture to illustrate my mindset the morning of Saturday, December 23. I had an early flight home for Christmas, so rather than take the train (which typically involves a few wrong trains before taking the right one), I decide to hail a Lyft.

At approximately 5:45 a.m., my driver pulls up, and, within seconds, I know I’m in trouble. He’s the chipper sort, and I can smell the sickly sweet remnants of Red Bull on his breath.

I sit in the front seat, not as to engage, but as to avoid vomiting all over his backseat. “I get carsick,” I tell him, setting the bar as low as humanly possible.

He asks what I do, where I’m going.

I tell him I’m a dog walker, and that I’m going home to Kentucky.

He asks if I’d like to start driving for Lyft. I say no, I get car sick. That I don’t like driving. And I don’t like driving with other people in the car. So, all around, a terrible fit.

He tells me it’s fun. That you get to talk to people – all kinds of people! – all night.

I cannot conjure a more perfect vision of hell, I think, so I nod and say, “Yeah, that must be interesting.”

He tells me I never asked him what he likes to do for fun.

I ask him what he likes to do for fun.

He says karaoke.

I ask him where he likes to do karaoke.

He says he’s never done it in public before.

I wonder how much longer I have until he abducts me.

He fiddles with some dials, and soon, his entire dash turns into a karaoke screen.

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The proof.

“This one’s my favorite,” he says, cuing up Shania Twain’s “Man I Feel Like A Woman.”

I laugh politely. He’s so happy. And I’m so tired.

He asks me to sing along. I oblige, barely – talking the words rather than singing them.

He notices.

“Come on!” he says. “You know it!”

I tell him I’m tone-deaf.

He tells me it doesn’t matter.

I give him my worst.

He loves it.

“Right there! See, I heard it! You DO have a good voice!” He’d say whenever I’d land in the general vicinity of the note at hand.

Soon, he drops out of the song all together. I’m singing solo. He’s backing me up with the chorus. Aside from a few “Oohs,” “Ahhs,” and “Let’s go girls,” I’m totally and utterly alone. I’m so very embarrassed. Which is odd for me, really. I love karaoke. But this feels different. It feels vulnerable.

I look around the car to see if there are any cameras. Surely there are. Surely this is some sort of prank. And, if so, surely I can refuse the use of my footage, right?

I decide the best way out is an honorable decrescendo — a slow descent into silence. I begin to soften my voice until it becomes no more than a whisper. I then sigh heartily, as if I’m pleased with our work, and I’m eager to end on a high note. I clap my hands on my thighs for a final touch – a nonverbal “Well! That was fun! I must be off now! Ta-ta!”

It doesn’t translate.

“You don’t like this one? We’ll find another.”

He finds Spice Girls. Then Christmas songs. Then Mariah Carey, which becomes the climax of our carpool concert.

Every time I stop and try to strike up a conversation, he sings at me. He looks at me, locks eyes, and sings right into my soul.

This continues for the entirety of our 35 minute trip. By the time I arrive at Midway, I’m hoarse, exhausted and car-sick from reading the lyrics on the screen. I’m a little annoyed, honestly, until I realize something: I’ve been strugging to come up with blog topics, and this guy just gave me a gem.

So, thank you, dear Lyft driver. I hope you get more willing passengers in the New Year.

 

 

Angry Elk, Rogue Newts and Battlestar Galactica

I’m finally home from my 10-day family vacation. All in all, I’d say it was a success… except for the trip home, which included a dead car battery at 2:00 am and someone trying to feed me a Philly cheese steak.

Hiking along Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains

The Olympic Peninsula turned out to be a great place to visit, although I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see more woodland creatures. On one of our hikes, we were warned numerous times to stay at least 100 yards away from any elk. Apparently the elk were getting annoyed with hikers and had resorted to charging people down. I’ve seen similar behavior in Buster when he was young and spry, and I remember bits and pieces from “The Horse Whisperer,” so I was confident that I’d be able to connect with the angry elk and come to some sort of truce. Unfortunately, we did not come across any elk so I did not get to test my theory.

Newt Warning

On another hike, we saw a poster that said, “WATCH OUT! Newts on the trail!” I’m not sure what’s so dangerous about a couple of rogue newts, but I imagine they were running some sort of pickpocketing business to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.

When we weren’t in the mood to hike, we took day-trips to various towns along the Olympic Peninsula. On our day trip to Port Townsend, my sister and I stumbled upon a local brewery. Since we are both working on the beginnings of modest beer bellies, we wanted to go in for a beer tasting. My mom, trusting our judgment, gave us a couple bucks and sent us in to get a few bottles. Once inside, my sister and I decided it was of the utmost importance to support local businesses, and so we took it upon ourselves to contribute to the “Buy Local” cause by purchasing a gallon of home-brewed beer. It came in handy later that night when my Grandma made us all sit down and watch “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

We spent the last 3 days of our trip in Seattle. I finally got my wildlife fix at the Seattle Aquarium, which is by far one of the best aquariums I’ve ever visited. I have a slight obsession with aquariums/marine life in general, and I seem to have a twisted relationship with sharks. I refuse to swim in murky water or the deep-ends of pools for fear of being attacked, but I can’t tear my eyes away from Shark Week.

When I was little, I wanted to be a marine biologist and work at Sea World. My favorite tune was the Free Willy song by Michael Jackson, aka “Will you be there?” I didn’t understand the words, so I’d walk around singing, “Hold me, holy bologna,” instead of whatever they really say in the chorus. I distinctly remember my mom calling the phone number on the screen at the end of Free Willy, but I’m not sure if we ended up adopting a whale or not.

Mermaid rescue mission at the Seattle Aquarium

While we were at the Seattle Aquarium, I fantasized about working for Sea World, perhaps doing their advertising or event planning. On my weekends off, I’d saddle up a sea lion or whale and ride until my wetsuit began to chafe. I’ve always loved the sea lions, even though they scare me. When I was little, I leaned too far over the sea lion exhibit at the Louisville zoo. I dropped my pacifier into the water. It was traumatic.

The next thing we did while in Seattle will go down in history as the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done. My family and I were exploring the Seattle Center when we stumbled upon the Science Fiction Hall of Fame museum. My dad loves science fiction. When I was younger, he’d tell me and my sister bedtime stories about black holes, giant space worms and other imaginative alien creatures. It’s a wonder I’m not more screwed up than I already am. My sister and I grew up watching Star Trek episodes with him, so we both have a solid understanding of spaceship protocol and a deeply rooted appreciation for the Syfy channel. That being said, we were all fairly interested in buying tickets to the museum but couldn’t decide if it was worth the steep entrance fee.

A dream come true.

Our deliberation came to an abrupt halt when we saw a certain advertisement hanging outside the museum: they had a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. I almost peed my yoga pants when I saw the face of Captain Apollo smiling down at me. He’s my newest crush. If I was still in school, I’d most certainly make a Captain Apollo collage for my binder and/or locker. Since I’m supposed to be an adult now, I settled for making him the desktop background on my Mac.

Nerd Alert! Me with a Battlestar Galactica Viper

Anyways, the exhibit was awesome. I won’t go into great detail as I’m sure only a small portion of the population shares my Battlestar Galactica obsession. But I will say that I now have several photos with the actual spaceships used in filming the series. Jealous? I didn’t think so, but oh well.

Creeping on the Cullens

I might have sounded a little negative in my previous blog, but the Olympic Peninsula is actually incredibly beautiful. The weather is cool but comfortable, and the air is so clean that I rarely have to hit my inhaler. I’d consider moving here, but I’ve seen a lot of dreadlocks and I’m not quite ready to make such a large commitment to mountain men. My mom, who always speaks like she’s narrating a 19th century romance novel, keeps using uncomfortable words to describe everything. We saw a submarine the other day, and she described it as “utterly wonderful.”

We’re staying in a condo pretty close to where Twilight is set. Sunday, we drove through Forks on our way to the Hoh Rainforest. No one is willing to drive me to La Push so I can get my paws on some of Jacob’s half-naked wolf pack friends, but I’m not too upset; from what I saw in the last movie, I’d rather wait until they decide to put a little more effort into their grooming.

When we drove through Forks, I made my dad pull over so that I could have a photo shoot in front of the “Welcome to Forks” sign. I felt very judged by every car that drove by, like a high-schooler caught wearing a LtdToo graphic tee. After about 10 variations of my best Bella Swan pose, I was sure every local suspected me of being an active subscriber of J-14 magazine. I looked like a total preteen Twihard, and the glittery self-tanner I had on did nothing to help my situation. My faux glow sparkled in the sun, just as Edward’s sunlit vampire skin would after a long weekend in Florida.

As we drove through the small Twilight town, I positioned myself so that my good side was facing the window, just in case a Cullen was out-and-about. I glossed up my lips, looked out the window and tried to look depressed and sullen, as I imagine Kristen Stewart would have done (minus the lip gloss). I muttered incoherent sentences in a monotone voice to really seal the deal on my KStew impression. Unfortunately, no Cullens or shirtless werewolves showed themselves. In my state of disappointment, I briefly thought about settling for a rendezvous with Mike Newton, but then I remembered his frosted tips and immediately regretted even considering it.

In regards to Twilight men, I’m not yet sure who I’ll chose as my mate. I’d be crazy to deny any attraction to Edward Cullen, but I have to say that he’s a little too sappy and romantic for my taste. Also, it’s obvious that he’s into pasty white skin, so I don’t think he’d approve of my weekly spray tan appointments. I’m much more looking forward to running into Emmett or Jacob while we’re here. I always like a good meat-head– werewolf or vamp, I’m not too picky. I like the Twilight books way better than the movies, but I can’t complain one bit about any movie scene that involves Emmett in a track suit. I’m still not sure how I feel about Jacob’s extensive jean-short collection, but I’m not ready to rule anything out just yet.

Use Caution, as Children May Shi(f)t in Flight

I won’t be blogging much lately because I’m on vacation. Actually, it’s the first family vacation in 4 years that my sister and I are allowed to come on. When most people think “family vaca”, they think Florida, Hawaii, or somewhere tropical or beachy. Our last family trip was on a cruise…. to Alaska. This year we’re in Washington State, on the North Olympic Peninsula. I can’t wait for our family reunion in Antarctica.

The trip here was quite an experience. I’m a very cranky traveler, so much so that I should probably be prescribed something for it. The flight from Louisville to Baltimore was fairly decent, and I managed not to burst into tears over taking my shoes off for security. However, on our 5+ hour flight to Seattle, things got a little hairy. As we were waiting to board the plane, I scoped out our future plane-mates. A large number of them did not reach my minimum age requirement, and so I knew there would be a high probability that I’d spend the next 5 hours dodging fruit snacks and slobbery goldfish. Before I could ask anyone for some precautionary wet-naps and a few Ambien, our boarding group was called.

My dad held back and let a few families go in front of us. I was surprised by his chivalry, until he turned to me and said, “Better let the kids on first. Then head aft to avoid them.” From the extensive spaceship knowledge I’ve acquired through Battlestar Galactica, I fortunately understood exactly where aft was.

Taking my dad’s advice into consideration, we chose our seats and got settled in. The flight attendants began cracking jokes over the intercom, obviously trying to make up for the fact that the only thing they had to feed us for the next 6 hours were peanuts. My mom sighed and said, “Oooohhh, this is going to be such a fun crew,” as if we were sailing across the Atlantic with the cast of Friends.

A woman plopped down in front of us with a 4ish year-old- girl and an infant. The infant crawled over the seat and looked at me, as if he expected me to give him a treat. I glared at him to discourage this behavior. I wordlessly put in my ear plugs and strapped on my eye shades to let him know that under no circumstances would this sort of interaction be tolerated during the flight.

30 minutes into the trip, things got ugly. The infant had a serious situation going on in his diaper, and unfortunately, since we had taken my dad’s advice, we were indeed sitting aft of the child. After realizing that this woman was not going to be doing anything to fix the situation, I decided I’d best find a way to defend myself. I moved my black silk eye mask down to cover my nose and mouth, pulled my hood over my head and tied it tightly around my face. I stayed like this for the rest of the flight, receiving several questionable glances from concerned passengers and suspicious flight attendants.

I’d like to say this diaper situation was an isolated incident, but it was not. I’m considering reporting this woman to child protective services, because clearly she had her infant on the Master Cleanse diet. Her other child was not as bad, but she did drop a few grapes and sticky snacks onto my carry-on bag. She kept looking out the window and asking, “Are we in the air?” And 5 minutes later, “are we still in the air?” I  don’t see any academic scholarships in this girl’s future.