Posted in Fitness, Volleyball, & Motivation, Life Abroad

Tricks and Treats

When I initially thought of the idea for this post it was an acceptable few weeks after Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas were still in the near but kind of distant future. Fast forward to today and we are officially 9 days away from Christmas, seriously time is flying so fast. The benefit of me procrastinating with this post is that more tricks and treats have arose in the past month that I can share with you all. So here is my life for the past month or so separated into bitesize little tricks and treats.

Treat #1 – My best friend got engaged!!! I’ve had a number of friends and family get married in the past 5 or so years. I’ve been a bridesmaid 5 times now and have attended many weddings as a guest. All of those have been amazing experiences and I always cherish being a part of a loved ones special day but this time it’s a little different. Kelsie aka my little bit of heaven aka my Kelsie is getting married!!!! The pure joy and excitement that rushed upon me when she told me via FaceTime was seriously overwhelming. I cried. Not just because I’m so extremely happy that she is getting to marry the man of her dreams. But because my best friend is getting married. Crazy I really couldn’t get over it for a few weeks days. It is crazy how many emotions I felt but the overwhelming one was happiness. I’m so happy for her and can’t wait to plan and stand next to her on that most special day.

Treat #2 – Surprises from Topher Grace. One thing that is so much fun about being in a long distance relationship is the endless opportunities to surprise each other. Not only did I get one surprise in the past month but two. Surprise number one was arguably a failure due to my own suspicion. Chris was coming into town for the weekend but not until the wee hours of the morning due to practice on Friday night. He was acting odd that day and I got curious about his practice being cancelled and him making the trip up hours early. Despite my better judgement I cheated and decided to look on find my friends. I know I’m the worst. Low and behold Topher Grace was halfway into Sweden (YES!). I contemplated playing dumb but decided to make dinner for when he arrived instead, essentially a win win even though the surprise element was a failure. Ever since then we’ve vowed not to check find my friends when one or the other was acting suspect. I’m glad I stuck to the vow since he surprised me again a few weeks later by coming to a game about 2 hours away from Copenhagen (more about this game in the trick column). Long distance can have it’s challenges but there is always a way to make an unfortunate situation better.

Trick #1/#2 – We got our butts kicked by the #1 team in the league and then proceeded to lose to one of the teams sitting at the bottom. Ouch. Going into playing Engleholm (1) I felt pretty good and confident that we would compete if not win. Coming out of playing Engleholm I was disappointed that as a whole we didn’t show up and barely gave them a fight at all. The potential of our team is unlimited, when we play at our best I believe we can beat any team in our league and we have won and taken sets from the other two teams standing above us. The trick I suppose is showing up. We didn’t show up at Engleholm (1) and got our butts kicked, we didn’t show up agaisnt Svedala (7 at the time) and lost in 4. We have one more match tomorrow that can be significant moving forward in the second half of season. I for one plan on showing up and have confidence that my teammates will as well.

Trick/Treat #1 – The snow! Okay, if you follow me on snapchat (eege712) you know that I am absolutely obsessed with the winter wonderland that is my life. I really can’t decide if I love the snow or I am just so infatuated by it. Right now the entire town is topped with snow, the lake is halfway frozen over, Christmas lights and stars are hanging in every window, it’s absolutely picturesque. BUT with the snow comes ice and with ice comes broken hips. I have yet to fall completely which is a blessing since my rebel self has been risking it all on my bike but have endured a slight slip or skid every once and a while. Until it melts away I’ll continue to be the “Texan that’s never seen snow” among the village people that are used to their eyelashes freezing over.

Treat #3 – Thanksgiving in Copenhagen. Last month we just so happened to have Thanksgiving weekend off, which is also known as just another weekend in November here in Scandinavia. Topher happened to have it off of volleyball as well so I made the trip to CPH and attempted to host my very first Thanksgiving. In between the cooking and the cooking I managed to get together with one of my favorite girly pops aka sweater girl aka Sarah. Sarah and I spent some time shopping around in the mall and catching up over nachos and drinks the trip included me making fun of Sarah and Sarah wondering if I was always that mean. The answer is yes Sarah I haven’t changed, you’ve just missed me. But back to the cooking. Seeing as how I don’t come from a traditional “American” family and how everything in the states can be “instant” made, cooking a Thanksgiving meal was more of a challenge for me than I presumed. I literally spent at least 10 hours cooking. In the end there was a great meal on the table and good company around it with the help of Topher Grace and Bettina and the rest of the Staal Alstrup gang.

Treat #4 – I finished Grad School. Oh my goodness gracious mio I am so happy to be done with Grad School. After stressing out about a 45 minute presentation where I was expected to sum up 2 years of education, it is finally over. The presentation went somewhat smoothly and I am officially a Master. Yes I have been forcing friends to call me Master and yes feel free to do it too. Having gone on adventures to Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, and across Europe while having to worry about assignments and group discussions I am more than ecstatic to have homework-free adventures. I am extremely grateful for my parents supporting me through this journey of education and know that one day it will prove to be extremely beneficial. Anytime within the last two years any mention of grad school would’ve definitely fell under the Trick column but hallelujah it is such a treat to say, “I’m done”.

Well, there you have it, my past month summed up in tricks and treats. Throughout any season of life there will be both tricks and treats that come your way. If you can find a person that has gone through a period of time without any setbacks or disappointments I would say either you or they are liars. But hopefully your treats always outweigh your tricks. If that isn’t the case then I hope that sometime in your near future they will. Looking forward I’m only 1 day away from the start of my Holiday break including a fabulous Roman getaway. Although I am extremely bummed to be spending a second holiday season away from home, I am so blessed and fortunate to have found a home away from home in Copenhagen.

Wishing everyone the Happiest of Holidays, ever wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Fitness, Volleyball, & Motivation, Life Abroad

‘Tis the Season

Friends and Family,

It’s been entirely too long. The last time I wrote a blog it was beautiful and sunny outside, there were birds chirping (probably the ones living in my ceiling) and I was so excited about the new changes I had made to my blog site. Now as I write it is below negative each day with the ground covered in snow and I am still equally as excited about my beautiful new blog site. Boy how time has flown by the past few weeks ekk months. But the seasons outside aren’t the only ones to enjoy.

I’d love to say that the past two months have been so great causing me to be far too distracted with joy that I couldn’t share what has been going on. That would be a lie. It would actually be the opposite of the truth. The past few months have been a struggle for me but I’ve struggled less and less over time. I’ve never experienced anxiety and self-confidence issues like I have during the months of September and October. The worst part was that I was feeling these emotions towards volleyball, the one part of my life that has always been consistent. The one part of my life that has always come easy. The one part of my life that has been without a doubt my favorite thing to do in the world.

Recent conversations with a sweet friend of mine helped me realize that we need to do a better job enjoying the season of life that we are in and reminding others to do the same. Something that humans in general or maybe just me specifically struggle with is just that. When we are in HS we can’t wait to be independent and in college, when we are in college we can’t wait to be done with school—big mistake watch out for bills, when we are in the real world we are sad we are no longer in college constantly surrounded by friends, when we are single we can’t wait to be married, when we are married we wish we would’ve enjoyed our single life more or can’t wait to have babies, you catch my drift…

Through this conversation I realized that through all the anxiousness and doubts what I need to be doing is enjoying the season of life that I am in. I got so caught up with the results and my performance that I never even looked at the ball. The one thing that is important. Literally all I’ve wanted to do is play volleyball, it’s all I’ve ever known. Now that I am finally given the opportunity to do just that, play volleyball no strings attached, doubts crept into my mind telling me I was not good enough. What I challenge myself to do and others as well is to enjoy the season of life that we are in. How many more seasons will I get to play the sport that I love and call it my job? How much more time do you have in your current season of life no matter what that may be? I don’t know about you but I want to enjoy the season I’m in now and throw the worries out of the window. Long gone are the days of stressing over my worth, the future, or the results. Whether it be about your age, work status, martial status, baby status I urge you to enjoy exactly where you are because where you are is where you are supposed to be. 

Despite the struggles I’ve had on the court, there have still been some hygge times going on in bits and pieces. Our team is now 3-2 in the league sitting tied for fourth. We want to be within the top four of the league come Christmas time so that we get to compete in the Grand Prix Volleyball Tournament in January. We play the teams currently sitting in number 1 and number 2 within the next few weeks so wish us some luck!

My grad school work is so close yet so so so so so far from being over. As I’ve mentioned I’m on my final capstone course and the finish line is near (Dec. 4) the only things standing in my way are a 50 page paper, a 15-20 page paper, and a 1 hour phone conversation about why I should pass featuring a slideshow. Oh my goodness finding the motivation to get all of that done is so tough but knowing I won’t EVER have to do homework again really helps. Seriously, if I ever mention starting any type of education again please tell me not to and starting Dec. 4th I will only answer to Master IJ. 

I’ve continued to enjoy getting to know my village people aka teammates over the past few months. One of the later additions to our team, Nette aka Nette Peit an Estonian outside, has an affinity for shrieking from time to time in practice when a ball doesn’t go quite her way. Literally the funniest thing ever. I’m talking, she thinks the ball is out, but then it ends up being super close and falling in, and as this process is happening in her mind all she can manage to do is scream at the top of her lungs at the horrible misjudgment she’s made. Thinking about it makes me laugh out loud and I’m really hoping we get one of these incidents on film. The world deserves to experience it first hand.

I also got to spend Election Day with two of the girls from the village up North Emilia & Rebecca aka CC aka Magic Hands aka Michael. Side Note: did everyone know the Arctic Circle was a real thing and people live above it????? Just a little fun fact these girls taught me that was an absolutely mind blowing revelation. Anyways, the late evening (around 11pm to 4am) was filled with fika aka Swedish snack time, hot chocolate, Swedish news, CNN, and some tasty glögg. The only disappointing part of the evening was the result of the election. Living overseas it really sucks to be judged by the decisions of “your” nation which technically isn’t “my” nation as a naturalized immigrant, right Trump? Today I am equally as confused as when this whole Trump running thing became a thing. I wish I had words of wisdom to share but really I’m speechless on the matter but hoping for unity and for the best whatever that may look like.

Lastly, I have exciting travel updates as I’ve booked my next adventure to the Ancient City of Rome! I’m SO excited to get to go not only because it’s freaking Rome but also because I’ll be going with Topher Grace. It’s our first trip together and from my previous experience traveling with someone, no matter who that person may be to you, helps you get to know them so much more. For example I learned that with Ricky Bobby we need to take a nap each day to function. Considering he is as into ice cream as I am I think the trip will be a complete success.

Here is to enjoying the season we’re in which will soon include stuffing our faces with some turkey!

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

P.S. A little something to make you laugh, I got hit in the face not once but twice in our previous game. That brings my total up to 3 times for getting hit in the face, the first of which was my freshman year of volleyball. Oh the joys of the sport I love.

 

Posted in Life Abroad

Villlage People

In the words of a wise friend aka D aka best ex roommate ever we have officially become, “zombies in real life, beasts on the court”.

I’ve been in Lindesberg for almost a full month now and I really couldn’t think of a better way to describe myself well okay maybe “aspiring beast on the court” would be more appropriate after shaking of the summer rust. I’ve finished COUNTLESS TV series and have become hooked on the “Married At First Sight” phenomenon. Once I ran out of the US version of the show I happily began to work through the AU version of the show and since I’ve run out of both (5 seasons total) I’ve started “Married At First Sight: The First Year”. Um you can see where the zombie in life thing comes into affect and that is definitely not the only TV series I’ve worked through. Getting motivated to focus on my grad school work and fixing up my blog has been more of a struggle than expected but I feel a tide turning.

The past few weeks here have been great, I’m living my dream of playing volleyball professionally practicing at least once a day and doing an additional practice or lift depending on the day. I have a quaint little apartment all to myself and although it’s about the size of my previous closet in Abilene, it’s become my little oasis after some decorating aka plastering motivational sayings from a coloring book and pictures of loved ones to the walls with washi tape. The town is super small as I’ve mentioned only 9000 people so getting around is easy with my bike that was stolen on Saturday night. Let me rephrase, getting around town was easy when I had a bike which was stolen on Saturday night, we’ll see how I feel about footing it for the next 6 months once the winter season begins.

The first weekend I was lucky enough to have my new boyfriend come visit, he made a small appearance in my blog this past year as Topher Grace and it is absolutely insane how big of a part he will now play in my real life life. He was feeling a little under the weather when he came so we didn’t to too much but eat pizza (literally three days in a row) and watch movies. This little binger of a weekend really got me motivated however to lose the 6kgs (please don’t look that up in pounds) that I’ve put on since moving to Europe last November. You would think the opposite would’ve happened with all the added volleyball practices and games but not having my healthy living partner Ricky Bobby by my side has really been a struggle plus let’s be honest the temptation of kebab is really irresistible. I’ve refocused however and I am so ready to start working hard on and off the court, physically and mentally, to make this my best professional season yet.

We played our first few matches last weekend in the tiny town of Kohila, Estonia. It was a very cool experience getting to play against two National teams, the Estonian National Team and the Latvian National Team (accidentally said Lithuanian in my previous blog) as well as the local Kohila Team that competes in the top division in Estonia. We ended up getting second which was really nice and I think will give us more confidence going into future games. Competing in the matches and playing sixes was definitely enjoyable and needed but I think the extended time with teammates was just as beneficial.

This was really the first significant amount of time I’ve spent with my new teammates aka the village people and it was so great getting to know them. Our first little adventure came when we were told to follow one of the Kohila players in a car to our “hotel”. When we left the gym we talked about walking back since the town was so small but 10km later we finally made it to our home for the weekend. It ended up being a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. All the other girls thought it was relatively normal since the majority of them are LITERALLY FROM VILLAGES. But I felt as though I was in the twilight zone. There was a garden with like lettuce, and carrots, and other vegetables that people apparently grow in their backyards equipped with scarecrows and CDs hanging (all the cool villagers are doing it) to frighten the birds away. There was also a sheep chained up a few meters away from our cabin that the girls would go out to pet and feed. Literally all I could think is where am I and what am I doing here. However by the end of the weekend I felt hopeful and excited about the upcoming season and the time I’ll get to spend with my new village people aka teammates.

We had this past weekend off from games so we got to do a team sauna after two-a-days on Saturday. So when I, or any of my Americaner friends, envision a sauna we would typically imagine a big square room inside a locker room or some sort of spa facility with a controlled temperature and a lot of steam. Well this was a different type of experience. This sauna was, first of all outdoors and second of all run by like a fireplace or something? We walk outside of the gym in our swimsuits and tennis shoes (quite the fashion show) towards a little blue hut sitting on a creek leading into Lindesberg lake, apparently you can detach the sauna and float it in the middle of the lake. We go inside of the sauna and in the corner is a big dutch oven contraption with burning logs inside of it and hot stones on top of it. To control the temperature you manually pour water over the stones to make it hotter inside the sauna. I don’t want to say this was my first sauna experience but now that I think back on my life I don’t ever remember feeling so uncomfortably hot and sweaty while being unable to breathe due to the burning hot air that would singe the inside of my nostrils and throat. One of the girls asked me to rank my experience afterwards and I surprisingly gave it a 7 due to the whole, I constantly do things that make me uncomfortable thing I have going (reference Thailand adventure aka cliff diving and trekking through jungles or Australia adventure when I sky dove? sky dived…).

All in all my first few weeks here have been so great. This was the first year in a long time I celebrated my birthday away from my close girl friends and family. Topher Grace, his family, and my village people all did such a great job of making me feel just as special as I would’ve back home. I even got a surprise visit from two of the girls on the team Freja and Rebecka aka Milky aka Milky Milky Fresh Fresh, with presents in hand which were a map of Lindesberg so I could get around the bustling city and a Swedish reading and writing book for 6 year olds. The perfect gifts. I’m excited to get started with the upcoming season and do some very necessary work to spiffy up my blog and to finish up grad school. There is so much in store for this year and my goal and aim will be to live in the moment and to be intentional, a word I used as a coach numerous times with my baby wild cats.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Travel

Home Sweet Home?

Almost 9 months, 7 countries, and countless new memories later and I’m back on American soil (well was). The amount of joy I felt when I woke up to my babies’ aka Deja and Afam aka niece and nephew after that first night is indescribable. And to think that I considered going a over a year without seeing their faces! Waking up in my own bed was definitely worth it but that doesn’t mean it happened without trial.

The voyage over was probably my worst travel experience to date. 2 stops from Copenhagen to DFW in London and Washington with a 5 hour layover made for a 21 hour trip. Barring the 4 a.m. wake up call and saying goodbye to my best/boyfriend the flight from CPH to London was not that bad, we even got breakfast vouchers at CPH since the flight wouldn’t have food on board which I probably would have slept through service anyways. The layover in London was about 3 hours which flew by between customs, going back through security, and the second breakfast. The journey once I got to the states however was a different story. Our flight from Washington to Dallas ended up being delayed due to weather by about 4 hours meaning I would be landing in in Texas close to midnight. Once I finally made it to Texas I was exhausted, tired, and ready to be home in my bed. Those of you that have travelled with me before know how horrible my luck is when it comes to baggage. This time however my luck had changed my bag was one of the first onto the carousel, which is a big deviant from last or lost. I got my baggage with only 2% battery left on my phone and no SIM and proceeded outside expecting to see my father waiting.

20 minutes passed without any reply from all 5 family members (including the one that was supposed to be picking me up).  My phone finally died and all I could think to myself is “why me”. Like I said 9 months, 7 countries, countless memories, to come back home and be forgotten. A number of different scenarios flooded my mind all involving my sleeping father. He’s either asleep at home, asleep in the car, or heaven forbid fallen asleep in the car while driving. I wandered down the airport halls looking for a phone to use in order to call somebody, anybody. With tears welling up in my eyes finally an airport employee with encouragement from a fellow employee leant me his phone. I called all possible cell phone numbers and lastly our house number which was finally answered by my father. Might I add the airport is 45 minutes away from home. SO 45 minutes later my father picked me up and the last leg of my journey home commenced. Fast forward through the night and insert a smiling niece and nephew and three happy hearts making the journey well worth it.

Despite my entire family forgetting about my arrival to the states the trip was one of my favorites of the year. No beaches, mountains, temples, historic landmarks, or castles but just as enjoyable as the aforementioned. Countless slumber parties with Deja and Afam, meals with my mother and father, a slumber party with Paix and Hobbes aka nephews #2 & 3, and catching up with my sisters and friends made for a great trip home. Needless to saying, trying to see and do all of the people and things I wanted to in my short time there was a challenge. With all of the traveling and social events occurring some of you that have been keeping up with me for a while may be wondering, hey isn’t she still in grad school?

Yes, yes I am. The answer to this question is one I have to remind myself of constantly. But during this trip I did not have to remind myself due to the rude wake up call I received. The class I had been close to completing during the time of the trip was called HR Training & Development. The entire course we had been creating a training seminar that would have to be recorded at the end of the class and uploaded for review. Being the intelligent woman I am I did not put together that this seminar would need to be implemented in real life to a real organization in front of real people until the week before it was due. (Yes I will graduate in December and yes I will be going by Master IJ). Long story short I thank Jesus for my man J-beibs aka Jason Bibler aka ACU Volleyball Head Coach aka my brother friend. I had planned a short trip to Abilene to visit the girls on the team and friends still living there ever so graciously Jason added my seminar into the girls’ schedule as a mandatory meeting. Without this training session done I would’ve failed the class and in turn failed the entire masters program while being only 2 courses away from graduating. The seminar took place on the day it was actually due and was uploaded a few hours late but better late then never. Although there were countless mistakes with my presentation (half of the pages were unprinted in half of the packets) the girls had my back and I ended up with a B in the course. It is people like Jason and the girls on the team and countless others in that community that make my memories of Abilene so fond and the reason why it will always have a special place in my heart and on my arm.

Fast forward to present day and I’ve been an official Swede (ok not really a Swede but resident) for almost two weeks now. My first full week has passed and my first visitor come and gone. I’m settling in and am excited for the months to come. Lindesberg is a beautiful and tiny town (9000 pop to be exact) that I am excited to call my new home. This weekend we’ll be traveling to Estonia to play their National team as well as Lithuania’s in our first matches of the season. I hope that you will chose to make the move with me and continue to support my adventure in this next season of volleyball and life.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Thailand Smells of Rain and Curry: Part 3

Once again I’ve skipped out on another week of posts. Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve been enjoying life entirely too much to keep everyone posted. But don’t you worry because once the move to Sweden happens (Thursday) I’ll have a lot more time on my hands. Moving to a town with 9000 is sure to provide plenty of time to blog/Netflix/read/grad school.

BUT I have for you such a treat, Ricky Bobby aka the bestie has graciously written her hilarious rendition of our Thailand adventures and or fails. So sit back and laugh/enjoy/mentally picture all of the below.

Fall, Jump, Repeat: Directions for a Thailand Adventure

Step 1: Fall

Let me start by saying, I would consider myself a person of average balance and athletic abilities—not necessarily graceful or efficient with movement strategies but definitely safe. With this is in mind, I signed IJ, Al, and myself up for a 3-day trek to be full of elephants, waterfalls, bamboo huts, and whitewater rafting. My last experience with a trek, about 14 weeks ago, was in the rainforest off the Gold Coast of Australia. An elderly gentleman with a single-tip cane and a gait pattern that suggested a history of falls safely accompanied us on that “trek.” This man would not have made it onto the covered truck bed the Chiang Mai adventure company was trying to pass off as a bus.

I realize there are unpleasant things about being outdoors. I’m perfectly capable of handling a bug or two and believe it or not I don’t melt in the rain. These small pains are tolerable especially when rewarded with enchanting views. The hike up the mountain took approximately 3 hours. A fellow trekker broke out her inhaler at least 10 times. Tommy our guide and flip-flop enthusiast slowed the pace to allow for medical rest breaks. At every rest break IJ and I were eaten alive by mosquitos until the torrential downpour. At this point in time, I noticed my well-researched and highly-rated hiking sandals were shit in slick conditions. An hour later, we made it to our bamboo hut. We all sat in awe staring out from the top of the world at peace on earth.

With the memory of the asthma-inducing hike up the mountain fresh on our minds we decided to opt out of the extra day of hiking and modify our trek to 2 days. I quickly realized the hike down the mountain was going to be unpleasant. I fell and fell and fell. After the third fall, Douglas, a Dutch boy with 5 walking sticks in hand and elephant pants on body, decided to comment on the poor traction of my researched hiking sandals. I did not appreciate his feedback. After my fifth fall, we made it to the elephant sanctuary/whitewater rafting venue. The elephants were majestic and the rafting was enjoyable in a “this might not be entirely safe” kind of way.

Step 2:

From the edge of the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, you hear your subconscious say back the truck away from this cliff. The Chiang Mai Grand Canyon is a red quarry where tourists with go-pros jump, flip, and occasionally die off of cliffs. Seriously, the 10m cliff was closed due to a recent death. Luckily for us the 7m cliff was available.

I was the first to jump. After minutes of tip-toeing to the edge and multiple heart attacks, I half-heartedly hopped off the cliff with the worst form imaginable. I broke water in a sitting position with my left elbow winging. Despite the instant bruising of my elbow and my recent enema, I felt proud. Do you know what separates the proud and heckling from the terrified and frozen? 7 meters. Ij jumped next. She was followed by the heard of bleached Aussies and their go-pros. An hour later a kind gentleman talked Al off the ledge. We all agreed once was enough for a lifetime and left the cliff to the fearless and quite possibly crazy.

**When I say my adventures with Ricky are always a good time I mean it. We’ve been so lucky to travel as much as we have already and I’m so looking forward to so many more trips. Hopefully within the year we’ll be telling you tales of beautiful Greecian Islands.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ & Ricky

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Thailand Smells of Rain and Curry Pt. 2

Almost two weeks late is better than never. The second half of our Thailand Adventure consisted of traveling through the bustling city of Bangkok and beautiful island of Koh Samui. After a successful few days in Chiang Mai we felt as though we had this backpacking thing under control. Little did we know what was in store for us the days ahead. Quickly knocking myself back down to novice traveller status, this post will be all about must don’ts when traveling through Thailand.

  1. Don’t Get Scammed.

Okay so apparently this is a pretty common occurrence in the bustling city of Bangkok that all three of us (Ricky, Cousin Al, and I) were blatantly unaware of. After getting a tuk tuk (open-air cab) to our hostel (Here Hostel 9.5 out of 10 stars) we quickly set out to get some breakfast and wander around town on our own agenda. Walking towards our first destination we stumbled upon a huge temple we wanted to go check out. As we walked into the temple, a man that seemed to be a guard informed us that the temple was closed due to the death of it’s monk. He told us to instead go take a boat ride through the canals, see a “floating market”, then hop off and go to the Grand Temple and Big Buddha. It sounded too good to be true, he even hailed a tuk tuk for us and advised us to ask the boat driver about stopping by the original “Black Buddha” during our ride. So off we went on a new adventure seeking out the Black Buddha. Halfway through our boat ride Cousin Al started to get a little suspicious of the situation. Once the reluctant driver stopped at the “Black Buddha” after we agreed to tip him, Al did some investigating and found another group that got scammed into seeing “Black Buddha” as well. The picture of the fake temple he was looking at on his phone was the exact thing we were seeing before us with our very own eyes. The “Black Buddha” we saw was literally painted black then back to gold and the floating market turned out to be one lady in a boat trying to sell us awful souvenirs. All this to say, don’t get scammed in bangkok. People will try to turn you away from temples or offer rides to temples far off. Do your research, plan your day, and stick to the plan! Although this scam really wasn’t the worst in the world we could’ve used the extra 1500 baht on a drink for the hot summer day.

  1. Don’t bargain with Taxi Drivers.

Getting around bangkok on public transportation depending on your location can be difficult. Most tourists rely on tuk tuks or taxis to tote them around. 99.9 percent of the time these drivers will give you a price that is inflated 3 or 4 times over what the meter should tell you. When getting a taxi, always ask the driver if they’ll use the meter, if they won’t they are pretty much trying to rip you off. Depending on the time of day, your patience level, and your bank account, of course bargaining for a taxi ride might do. But for “backpacking” always stick to meter taxis or try your luck with the public buses and metro.

  1. Don’t miss out of the Night Markets.

Night markets are filled with the best food and shopping you could ever imagine. We decided to try out the Ratchada Night Train Market and were not disappointed by our choice. Delicious and cheap food followed by shopping galore. Anything that you could ever want to get as a souvenir or a knock off whatever is at the night market. Don’t miss out on the deals and make sure you bring an empty stomach to match.

4. Don’t skip Ayutthaya

It was 7am when our van came to pick us up for the tour we booked through Here Hostel to Ayutthaya. The van was already packed full and Ericka and I got the pleasure of riding shottie for what we thought would be an hour long drive. 10 minutes later we stopped and our Thai hosts told us to get out. We stood on a curb and waited. And waited. They filled up a van that was headed to Ayutthaya but for some reason our party of three didn’t make the cut so we waited so more as it began to rain. About 20-30 minutes later another van came that we were graciously allowed to embark upon. Low and behold Ericka and I were picked as the chosen ones once more to sit in the front “seats”. After a 45 minute or so drive we finally arrived in Ayutthaya. The stress of the morning was more than worth it because of it’s beauty. The city was once the capital of Thailand but had been burned down after multiple attacks. If you are traveling through Thailand and making a stop in Bangkok a day trip to Ayutthaya is more than worth it, the only advice I would have would be to make the trip on your own. The “tour” that we paid for started late and ended early, was not in the least bit professional and I think making the trip on our own would have been better money wise and time wise.

  1. Don’t go to China Town on an Empty Stomach.

After a long day of adventuring and not having so much time in bangkok, we decided to spend one of our evenings in China Town before hitting up a night market. We planned to go to a very high rated but local Thai restaurant near our hotel and then walk down to China Town. Dinner was delicious but we were more than stuffed. After our mile or two walk down to China Town we were expecting to see market stalls and things to buy. Low and behold China Town is more of a eating toursit spot than a shopping one. The food stalls and open air restaurants looked absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the only thing Cousin Al and I had room for in our stomachs was durian. (If you go to Thailand or Asia in general you have to try Durian and let me know your thoughts!). All this to say when making the trip to China Town go with an empty stomach and prepare to stuff it full with delicious oriental food.

6. Don’t miss out on the last Resort.

After 3 days of being bamboozled in Bangkok Ericka and I (Cousin Al had to cut his vacation short and go back to real life) were so looking forward to our time on the beautiful island of Koh Samui. We (and by we I mean I) chose the cheaper option of flying into Surat Thani taking a bus to the ferry, taking a ferry ride to Koh Samui, and then taking a van to our hostel. This resulted in a 7 or so hour voyage from Bangkok to the Island which was building up our expectations even more. Upon arrival at the hostel our mouths dropped. We pulled up to what looked like a run down shop and was greeted by a boy with an Ipod. He found our reservations and walked us through the office out into what looked like peoples’ homes and into one building with a finger print lock. He walked us into our newest dorm room and my heart sank. The room was huge with numerous beds all empty aside from one other fellow traveller who was out at the time. There was however a guy “fixing” the bathroom/shower that informed us that the shower was broken and everyone would be sharing the bathroom upstairs (the terror). We sat on our beds and Ericka’s mattress was literally the height of a piece of paper, there was dirt all over the floor, and once Ericka returned from the run down bathroom she had been eaten alive by a mosquito. After 7 hours of traveling to get to a beautiful island to relax after a week of jungle trekking and city hopping to say my expectations were not met was an understatement. We decided to head out and get some dinner neither one of us expressing our feelings about the hostel. In the middle of dinner I couldn’t take it any longer and told Ericka I needed to get out of that horror house. She agreed and what happened the next two hours I’m not proud of. At dinner we booked a 4 star resort equipped with 4 pools and 3 bars with their own beach. We are horrible people. We went back to the hostel and planned to sneak out but were stopped by one of the guys working at the hostel informing us of the night out everyone was attending. He was so nice. Despite the great hospitality of the hostel we were determined to get out of there. We waited until the group left for their night of partying and snuck out. With our 12kg bags to tote we began the one mile walk of shame to our new home. One thing was quickly discovered. We are resort girls. One of the wonderful things about backpacking in Thailand is that luxuries are still “cheap” by American standards. Our resort was only 50 bucks a night which was well worth what we got out of it. When traveling cheap abroad, especially as a backpacker, go for hostels they are a GREAT experience. But for the last leg of the trip, or for a beach destination “splurge” a little bit and you won’t ever regret that money spent.

Backpacking through Thailand with my cousin and best friend is a memory and time that I will never forget. It can easily be called the highlight of my summer because of all of the amazing adventures we experienced. Up next a trip to the states to see family and friends followed by a quick stint in Copenhagen. After that, I’ll be taking my three suitcases and loading them on to a train to Sweden to start my next chapter of life.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Thailand Smells of Curry & Rain Pt. 1

***panada intro music****

Temples. Temples. Temples. Temples temples temples temples temples. If there’s one thing that you can do in Chiang Mai it’s temple hop. Other blogs had warned of getting “templed out” and I thought certainly not. But even though I eventually did get “templed out” I thought it was well worth it so for this weeks’ blog I’m taking on a Must-do style with tales in between. Enjoy!
1. Get “templed out”!

The beauty the majesty, the Buddhas, the monks, the buddhas, the temple, the monks? Wait haven’t we already seen this one? Okay, towards the end all of the “Wats” start to blend together but I say give it a day. Devote one day to walking around The Old City, wandering into temples you pass, hopping on tuk tuks offering temple trips, but realize when you’ve reached your temple limit. Towards the end of our temple day we were definitely scratching our heads wondering if we’ve seen this one before but in the beginning each one was beautiful and unique on its own. Should I see every temple? Impossible my dear Sherlock. Then should I go to any? YES. You should definitely visit the temples of Chiang Mai!

2. Take a hike!

This one I will warn you is NOT for the faint hearted. Prior to the trip Ericka heard of trekking trips leaving out of Chiang Mai and Alvin was as enthusiastic as Ricky to sign right up. For those of you that don’t know me I’m kind of a not so tom boy tom boy. I say I don’t like adventurous things but am constantly partaking in them (i.e. Skydiving in Wollongong, Australia). To my kind of chagrin we signed up for a two night three day excursion through the jungles of Mae Tae with plans to stay overnight in Lahu Village (night 1) and an Elephant Camp (night 2). There were a group of 7 of us led uphill and then treacherously downhill (4 falls down a mountain with only a few bruises to show- said Ericka) by our tour guide Tommy. Tommy was super nice and helpfulish. Every time we asked sweet Tommy how far to our next destination he would say “only 9 minutes”, “between 19 and 29 minutes”, or “we’ll be there in about 39 minutes”. Is Tommy afraid that saying a round number would throw us over the edge? What is his obsession with 9s? As English as a second language does he just think that numbers ending in 9 is rounding? Either way a Tommy 9 trekking through the jungle in actual Old Navy flip flops was a group 20 decked out in hiking boots, tennies, and sandals. After about 3 hours and 9 minutes, with a pit stop at a waterfall slide, we made it to our destination. Lahu village was what you would expect: no electricity, outhouse bathrooms/showers, dirt everywhere, mosquitos more than everywhere but the view was everything. Trekking through the rain (two phones were lost..RIP sweet iPhones), getting 1236272 and 9 mosquito bites, and taking countless steps was well worth it. The next day was a whole other story.

Some of our fellow travelers planned to only do the 1 night 2 day trek and after discovering that the difference between ours and theirs was a 5 hour trek day, we quickly switched teams (much to my excitement). The day would be full of activities, white aka brown river rafting, bamboo rafting, elephant showering, plus another waterfall. The only catch is, in order to get to all these “fun” activities, one must hike down the mountain you just went up after it POURED the day/night before (hence Ericka’s 4 falls). The whole time I was wondering if it was a joke and how they just allow people (NARPs) to sign up for this. One girl in our group literally tumbled down the mountain (she’s okay, just had some nasty scratches on both of her legs). I’m two-a-days sore right now and don’t ever want to see another jungle again. Did I enjoy the experience? Yes…ish. Would I do it again? Probably because I’m crazy. Should all physically capable people traveling to Chiang Mai partake? YES, just don’t forget your bug spray and to train like you were doing an Iron Man before.

3. Take a leap!

Remember that time I pretended not to be adventurous? Here’s another contradiction for you. Just 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai lies the “Grand Canyon” or “Red Rock Quarry” of the ancient city. Rent a taxi (600baht total) or for the more daring a motorcycle and the voyage is more than worth it. The scenery is beautiful with the main attraction being “cliff diving” into the canyons’ blueish but really green waters. My understanding is used to be that you could jump from anywhere without regulation. Due to a recent death, there is now one “jump area” and a plethora of “do not jump areas”. Despite many Thai people warning us of the dangers of jumping we took the leap anyway. Let me reassure you, it is more than safe. Ericka was first to go (of course) and severely impacted her gluteus Maximus, pretty hysterical. Just my cousin aka Alvin aka second best travel partner ever were left atop that 7 meter drop. Fortunately or unfortunately we were raised in an extremely unadventurous family, making us extremely un-prone to participating in dangerous frivolous activities. About 15 minutes after Ericka jumped I made the leap and boy was it worth it. The jump itself was horrifying but the water felt amazing. However I must warn you the jump changes you. .5 seconds ago I was horrified, scared, contemplating life and wondering what’s the point in jumping??? Fast forward 1.5 seconds to now as I lay gracefully upon my bamboo raft in the warm water fearless and confident while laughing and heckling at the cowards above. My cousin gave Ericka and I about 45 minutes of being horrible people as we laughed watching ten to twenty, twenty something college backpackers, take the leap as he paced anxiously forward and back. After the long wait and the efforts of people far nicer than Ericka and I encouraging Alvin one guy managed to help him of the ledge. Would I jump again? Since the probability of me ever being back on that cliff is slim to zero, yes. Was the time out there worth it? Definitely.

4. Meet some strangers!

From a very young age our parents instill a fear of strangers and the concept of “stranger danger”. As a 20 something, I say throw it all out of the window!!! Just kidding. Of course you should ALWAYS use discretion and be wise when traveling, especially aware of pick pocketers and thieves. But when backpacking, some of the best memories are made with strangers, enter stage left: Ed. Ed was a dorm
mate Ericka, Alvin, and I met at our first hostel (out of 3). Ed was a south Australian, meat head with little man syndrome, long blonde hair, and always shirtless, he was also very outgoing and friendly. One of my fondest memories of Ed is him borrowing my stick of mosquito repellent within 1 minute of meeting me, rubbing it all over his body, and then leaving the room. Cool Ed. My second fondest would be him jumping off the top bunk at about 6 am (after “whispering” with his travel buddy for about an hour) stubbing his toe and hopping around the room “silently” as I got my ab workout in for the day. When we left Brickhouse Hostel (7 out of 10 stars) we were sad to say goodbye to Ed. Alvin even titled his insta picture “goodbye Ed, you won’t be missed”. Low and behold in the middle of the jungle Alvin glances in the back of a speeding truck and sees “Ed”. Yah right Ericka and I believed him not at all and thought what are the odds. 1 hour later as we float down the river in our raft a shorter, tan, meat head looking man in a hut is cheering on passerbys and waving his arms. “Omg is that seriously Ed?” I say. “That’s definitely the same guy as in the truck” says Ericka. “It’s Ed!” Says Alvin. No freaking way, right? 6 hours later after heading back to the city, checking into our new hostel (Sunny Hostel 8 out of 10 stars), and strolling down the street in a new neighborhood we glance into bars, shops, and restaurants as we walk by and who do we see. Ed. “Ed did you raft today?? Were you yelling at people from a bamboo hut??” Please say no? yes and yes and not no. What are the odds!!!! Needless to say, Ed will be a character I remember as part of my Chiang Mai trip. We also met the nicest girl from Romania, a hilarious guy from Holland, and a friendly and informative guy from Germany to name a few. Should I make friends with my dormmates? Yes! Don’t be shy, you’ll probably end up hanging out with them or at the least getting some good travel insight. Will I keep in touch with any “strangers”? Probably not. But I am Facebook friends with some of them and will get pictures from them of our memories together! Do I hope to see Ed again? Hard yes.

Although the there are much more things to do in Chiang Mai and so much more that we experienced, these four things are a great starter point for creating wonderful memories of your travels in Chiang Mai. For now as I lay in my Bangkok express sleeper bed I’ll say goodbye and goodnight from somewhere in Thailand.

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

***Other noteworthy activities include: The Sunday Night Market, Zoe in the Yellow Club Area, Massages, massages, and more massages, and of course trying the local foods.

Posted in Life Abroad, Travel

There’s No Time Like Family Time

1 week down and 2 more to go. My time with family flew by this past week and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences I got to partake in with them. From parents, to cousins, to aunts and uncles, the week was jam packed with family.

I was greeted at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport by the blushing bride aka my cousin aka Mel aka wonder bride and the following days were whirlwinds of shopping, wedding receptions, meals, more meals, more shopping and precious time with my mom & dad plus time with more cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews than a girl could imagine.

Malaysia is one of the southeast Asian countries I think should be travelled more often. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only been twice now since my family moved to the states when I was 8 and I have yet to explore it’s beautiful islands. I’ll be able to tell you all a bit more about the touristy side of KL and Malacca after the end of the trip but for now I’ll catch you up on the precious memories made with family.

One great thing about about being back in Johor Bahru aka JB aka mom’s home town was getting to see my parents in their element. Mom was always laughing with a sibling, dad was always playing with grandkids, and there was always a number of cousins around to catch up with. At the KL (Kuala Lumpur) wedding one of the highlights was a surprise showing by the Star Wars Cast. Mel aka the best bride ever surprised her hubby with the Star Wars cast (future husband I apologize in advance for not doing this for you or anything close at my our wedding). Earlier that same day the bridal party (Mel graciously let me into her bridesmaids group so that I could experience a traditional Malaysian wedding) had a whole set of surprises of their own.

In typical Malaysian tradition the groom and his groomsmen are to fight for the bride’s honor. They do so by completing a number of tasks in order to be let into the room where the bride is being kept. The groomsmen had to partake in “challenges” ranging from taking straight lemon juice shots and eating the second spiciest noodles in the world to licking chocolate out of diapers hung off each other and being dolled up in makeup by the bridesmaids and posing for a picture. I’m so grateful that my cousin let me take part in these traditions and am extremely excited to force these traditions onto my future Mr. and his unsuspecting best friends.

The highlight at the JB wedding was the addition of Ricky Bobby aka Ericka and dancing the night away with my parents. If anyone has ever met my parents you’d understand where my obnoxiously loud but infectious (I hope) laugh comes from. Three wine bottles later thanks to Uncle Andrew (apparently a VIP member of Ponderosa golf course where the wedding was hosted) and all three Moronus plus one were on the dance floor. Omg such a good time. My parents are the funniest in the world and definitely got the party started thanks to the help of Ericka and I. Both my mother and father shook his groove thing and Ericka and I probably did more laughing than dancing. My dad was a hit at the wedding with people running up to him exclaiming “Uncle Okey!” with the biggest smiles on their faces (this was also his first time back in a while). At one point during the wedding I told my dad that if I had known I was living with a celebrity all these years I probably would have been a bit nicer.

Equally exciting news to finding out my father is famous is that soon I’ll be changing my title from Miss (or is it Ms. now that I’m dang near 30?) to Mrs. because I caught the bouquet! That’s right ladies and gentlemen. The four year deadline Mel gave me at the beginning of the trip has hopefully been moved up or there are a whole flock of ladies in JB plus Ericka that will be staying single for longer than preferred.

Although the prospect of settling down and finding “the one” is intriguing, as I sit here in the back of a pick up (with seats without A/C) after a two day one night trek through the jungles of Mae Tae, I realize being “single” (I haven’t forgotten you) isn’t all too bad. A lot of the memories and friends that I have acquired in the past few years may or may not happened if I had settled down earlier. We’re only three days into our time here in Thailand and I can’t wait to share the rest of my memories with you. For now I’ll say goodbye and hope you wish me luck as this Asian adventure continues!

Ever Wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Travel

Full Steam Ahead

It’s officially the middle of June and I’m currently thousands of feet in the air starting my Asian adventure. First stop Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for my cousin Melanie’s wedding, second stop Johor Bahru (momma’s stomping grounds) to visit family and more wedding celebrations, then the real adventure begins when Ricky Bobby aka Ericka aka best travel partner in crime ever arrives for our backpacking trip through Thailand stopping in Chiang Mai (stop 3), Bangkok (stop 4), and koh samui (stop 5). Color me freaking excited. Although I am extremely ready to take off for the summer and see loved ones, there’s definitely people and things to be missed in Denmark.

This past week was one full of almost lasts. My week was consumed with maybe last shifts, maybe last meals, so much packing, and a lot of time at my home away from home away from room. Since I’ll be back in Denmark in about 3 weeks I couldn’t quite say that it would be my last kebab, or paradis ice cream cone or magnum ice cream bar but hopefully because of the whole professional athlete thing (training will be in full swing come July!!!) it was. I was able to enjoy the company of some of my favorites Danes this week in various groups.

My first “goodbye for now” was with some of the girly pops, Staph, Sarah aka sweater girl, Niko and I. We all met up for delicious burgers, Ben and Jerry ice cream shakes and great conversation. It’s funny how you don’t realize you miss something until you experience it again. This was definitely the case with these hilarious, sweet 20 somethings that entertain this dang near 30 year old as a friend. We were able to catch up on what was new with each of us and share excitement over upcoming graduations, new volleyball team commitments, and summer travel plans

My next “goodbye for now” was with my Bopa girls, Kirstine, Anjou, and Sidse. More burgers, no shakes but sweet potato fries in place, and homemade red velvet cake courtesy of Kirstine. This group of girls have become my closet bopsters and I am so happy to be able to call them friends. Although we all have completely different personalities and backgrounds and are all in different stages in life, we still seem to be able to discuss life with each other while laughing at nothing. These relationships have become so precious that I’ll even be attending Kirstine’s wedding in August with the tiny two (Anjou and Sidse aka miniature people).

Last but not least my time at the Staal/Alstrup garden aka home away from home away from Room has been nothing short of hyggeligt. One of my most entertaining days at their home came midweek when I was in a direct face off with the house polar bear aka dog aka great Bernaise aka the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my ENTIRE life. I had been laying out during the day and needed to get going to the gym before work later on in the day, Dasher (said polar bear) needed to come back into the house so I could leave. As I’ve mentioned Dasher is an actual giant so getting him back into the house by force isn’t really an option. Those of you closet to me know I’m not the biggest big dog person (everyone relax I’m still a “dog person” just not obsessed like most girls). After an hour of teasing with treats, sweet dog whispers, and pretending to leave in the hopes he would come inside. I gave in and gave him a treat anyways no one not even me could resist his precious puppy dog eyes. Dasher is the cutest sweetest dog in the entire world, in this moment, as we had our Mexican standoff, I wanted to give him all the treats in the world and punch him in the face at the same time. Ultimately I tricked him onto his feet with a treat, grabbed his collar, and walked him back indoors. Even though I was victorious two hours later, really Dasher won by the fact that he had two extra hours outside and I had two hours less to workout. Good news is I’ll be dog sitting Dasher while the family goes on vacation, until next time polar bear.

Along with good times with Dasher there were more delicious meals and great conversations. I’ll be forever thankful for the way that the Staal/Alstrup family has welcomed me into there home and don’t know how I would’ve survived without them post season.

For now I’ll be adventuring through some of what I’m anticipating will be the most exciting and beautiful cities I’ll get to experience.

Ever wanderlusting,

IJ

Posted in Life Abroad, Tips and Tricks, Travel

Let the Good Times Roll

In the wake of finding my new adventure slash team slash life, I had another exciting event coming up to look forward to. IRELAND. Ireland with Casey aka my best red headed friend was everything I had hoped it would be and so much more.

Beer, Irish music, and pork ensued and I could not have been happier. Casey as I’ve mentioned is one of my most hilarious friends, so the weekend guaranteed tons of laughs. She caught me up on her life, I caught her up on mine, all during the process of making new memories.

Dublin wasn’t quite what we expected. Like most other popular European destinations it has become overrun with tour vans, backpackers, and overpriced restaurants. Nonetheless if you search hard enough you’ll find old Irish pubs, friendly locals, and beautiful sights.

The highlight of our stay in Dublin would have to be our visit to The Cobblestone Pub. Although our time there was short (closed an hour after we got there, apparently Casey and I have gotten accustomed to 4am last calls and Irishmen aren’t down for that) it was extremely entertaining watching Casey gawk over a fellow redhead. Okay, okay, before all the Dubliners kill me this wasn’t actually the best part about Dublin just most entertaining. The cobblestone is a tiny pub away from bustling downtown Dublin, a somewhat hidden gem that plays live Irish music “till late” every night. Casey had taken a fancy to one of the bartenders and I had never witnessed her get this shy literally EVER (our close friends and family can vouch for this, her signature dance move is shimmeying through horrified strangers legs). Needless to say I was fully entertained, I also wondered how many times she had paralyzed guys like this one had paralyzed her.

After a few days in Dublin with Darby aka Casey’s little sister aka my little sister, featuring visits to Dublin Castle, Jameson Distillery, Dubh lin Castle Garden and a funny highlight of our sweet little sister ordering shots of bailey’s at a bar (comical), Casey and I ventured off the beaten road (literally). We decided to rent a car and drive cross country to Doolin, Ireland. We would visit the Cliffs of Moher, soak in the charm of western Ireland countryside, take a short stop in Galway and head back to Dublin for our last night in Ireland.

Our adventure started when we tried to find the car rental place. It was literally so far from the airport and hidden, like they don’t want our business hidden. A man smoking outside had to point us in the right direction and had done the same for the couple ahead of us. Upon arrival I told them they need to start paying that man, which they made no reply to. Once we got settled into our little Ford Focus we were off for adventure.

Being the smart Texan women we are we got a GPS aka Helen in our car and set off to Doolin. The only problem was that Helen wanted us to take a route we didn’t want to take. After thinking I outsmarted her we made it through the yelling about wrong turns and began to follow her instructions once again. Little did we know she was just guiding us through a U-turn back to the highway we didn’t want to take. But being the two strong willed Texan women we are we u-turned again only to be stopped in bumper to bumper traffic for about an hour. Casey aka Helen’s new best friend mentioned that maybe the traffic is why Helen aka the GPS from hell, was telling us to go the other way, I chose to believe that both Helen and Casey were delusional.

3 u-turns, 5 roundabouts, and 2 ice cream bars later we were on our way. 3 hours of smooth sailing and good music ensued. Such good music and smooth sailing that we missed the one turn we were supposed to make. Luckily, we had Helen to reroute us and give us a new road to venture down is what I wish I could have said. Helen made us turn on a road that was more like a West Texas backcountry road, I’m talking Potosi tiny West Texas town this is actually someone’s backyard I’m driving through kinda road. The terror that occurred for the next hour is something I don’t wish upon anyone. Have I mentioned that we were driving on the other side of the road on the other side of the car and that my driver aka Casey aka Tahoe Casey aka HORRIFYING DRIVER was behind the wheel?

After driving down this tiny dirt road for about 1 hour I realize that the window to check in to the hotel was rapidly closing. Our hostel had a reception closing time of 830, having left Dublin around 330 for the trip we thought we would make it in plenty of time but after the uturns and the roundabouts and the ice creams time was not on our side. Casey, as terrifying as it may be, put the pedal to the metal and we made it to the hostel with 2 minutes to spare.

After checking in we made a quick turnaround and headed straight for the Cliffs of Moher to catch the sunset. After hours is the time to go, no packs of crowds, no long lines for pictures, so much peace and quiet (aside from two annoying girls from Texas…) and so much space. Beautiful. The Cliffs have officially made it on my “top 5 God’s most beautiful creations that I have ever seen” list. Getting to be on the top of that cliff, with one of my oldest and dearest best friends is a memory I will cherish and hold forever.

The journey back was a lot less nerve wrecking as our stop in Galway was absolutely charming plus we made no wrong turns giving us plenty of time to spare before returning the car. If there was a place to visit in Ireland for an expected “authentic” experience it would definitely be the western coast. In Galway we walked along the pedestrian street filled with street performers and old pubs, stopped for a drink and lunch, and popped in and out of the souvenir shops and clothing stores, it was exactly what we wanted.

Upon arriving back in Dublin the adventure didn’t stop. We had run fresh out of euro and couldn’t pay the bus fair which meant renting a taxi and having him stop at an ATM on the way. Good news is he was Nigerian (shoutout),super friendly, and extremely nice. Even better news the new hostel we booked for our last night was the bomb. If you ever find yourself making a trip to Dublin stay at the Generator Hostel, for real.

In IJ & Casey style we made a grand entrance into the hostel. All the rooms we booked we decided to do mixed dorms to save the most amount of money but with bathrooms in the room, we aren’t complete barbarians. In the previous dorms we had always been abruptly woken up at odd hours by new roommates and snuck around precariously to avoid disturbing others.

This time was different. We came into the room and the lights were off, someone was napping. We were, first off, talking as we walked in, then upon realizing someone was sleeping we apologized to others in their group, then the door slammed behind me, we apologized more. We were both horrified, half laughing half feeling bad, Casey then goes to the bathroom and accidentally switches on the dorm light rather than the bathroom light. Icing on the cake. We were officially the worst roommates ever. Thankfully the guys didn’t think so and we ended up meeting them for drinks later and entirely too many rounds of the “what are the odds” game.

All in all Ireland was delightful. I’m extremely happy to cross another destination off of my ever growing list of places to see in this big beautiful world. Getting to take these trips with lifelong friends just makes them that much sweeter.

Up next is my trip to Asia coming up in 1 week?!?! I know, shocking, time flies when I suck at writing once a week. I also have the most exciting news in the whole entire world…momma I’m coming home. Originally I was planning on making it home for Christmas this year but when that wasn’t a possibility with my new teams schedule I was staring at spending possibly a year and a half without stepping on Texas soil. I’m sad to be sacrificing time with my new Danish peeps but am so happy to be able to go home and eat tacos. Jk see family and friends and play in spike fest (huge outdoor grass tournament) and eat tacos.

Until næste uge (next week), ever Wanderlusting,

IJ