I’ve been looking at real estate lately. I know, I know — I’m supposed to be nomadic and free-spirited and without roots, but lately I’m craving a little stability. I’d like to be back in NYC in the fall, and I’ve been looking in any and all neighborhoods of Brooklyn to see where I should live next and even to see if I could actually buy a place. It wasn’t until recently, while on a tour with Brooklyn Unplugged Tours in Long Island City, when I started thinking I could live in Queens as well.
“That’s a cookie monster cloud!” I remember saying at age three from the window seat on my first airplane ride ever in one of my earliest memories. I remember thinking that the outlines of different fields when we were closer to the ground were the outlines of different states, as if that’s how state borders worked and as if that’s how many states we were flying over. The rest of the trip I remember mostly only from photos.
While many people I’d told about my February travels hadn’t yet heard of Bratislava, Slovakia, I’ve known about it for quite some time. During high school and college, I worked at a local restaurant for six consecutive summers. Some members of the staff visited during the summer season from Slovakia. I became close friends with a few of them. They told my other friends and me all about Europe, taught us how to say “please” (“prosím”) and “thank you” (“dakujem”) in Slovak, and, well, bought us beer before we were of age. When I saw that Bratislava was on the way to Vienna from Budapest, two cities I already had on my list, I knew I had to check it out for myself.
Dog-sitting in Chicago for most of May felt like a no-brainer to me. For the last few months, I’ve had a flexible, freelance, remote job working on TripSavvy.com, which just launched on May 15. I could either work from the various libraries in and around my hometown, or I could work while staying for free in the city of Chicago. I have a few friends in the city and had plenty I wanted to see, do, and eat that I’d missed from my first long weekend there. The fact that I’m obsessed with puppies was another bonus.
I’m better at being places than I am at getting places. With that said, I don’t mind being in airports and on planes for a few reasons. Checking a bag and being left with just my backpack makes it all easier. Flights usually indicate either the start of an adventure I’ve been so excited for or that I’ll get to see my puppy within a few hours (or a day if I’m starting off in Asia). Having the opportunity to be completely unreachable in the skies for a few hours (or 17) means I get to catch up on my NY Mag crossword puzzles and all the recent movies I didn’t want to pay $15 + cheesy pretzels to watch.
I took a break last weekend from my current dog-sitting gig in Chicago to head to Madison, Wisconsin for two days. I’ve been spending the month just an hour away from a state I hadn’t yet visited, and had someone who could watch the dogs for a night so I couldn’t resist. I kept hearing good things about Madison and I’d specifically heard a lot about the Edgewater Hotel so I wanted to experience it for myself.
I rejoined the real world a teensy bit this month – working 40 hours a week and commuting to the nearest coffee shop across an under-construction bridge that takes 20 minutes to cross is no joke. I’d completely forgotten what it was like to have a job but it’s a good one to have. As I mentioned in my March Recap, I am working temporarily to help launch a new travel website. I’m super excited to show it off to you when it’s made public, but that also means I’ve had less time to work on my own stuff, though I got a lot done right when I returned from Europe to at least bring you new posts in the beginning of the month.
I didn’t expect to visit Cologne on my last European trip, but sometimes your flight from Berlin to Paris is cancelled and while rearranging plans to get to Paris as quickly and inexpensively as possible, your best bet is to take a train to Cologne for the evening and head out from there the next morning. I had a deadline so I wasn’t able to leave my hotel until around 4 and left Cologne right after breakfast. My time was limited, but I saw enough to make me want to return one day.
You all knew I was going to make this pun at some point – a tiger doesn’t change her stripes. Maybe I even had it in my plans before I went to Hungary, because it’s too obvious to not take advantage of. But I had NO IDEA that Budapest was going to be the source of some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously.
I loved being away on my last trip, but traveling wears me out. Not sleeping in my own bed, being uncomfortable on buses and trains, and walking five to 15 miles a day drains me of energy. By the time I arrived in Dresden, I was müde. Luckily, I was staying at luxurious Swissôtel where […]
A stuffed animal. A beanie baby. A knockoff brand beanie baby. A blanket. A snowglobe. A middle school research paper. A necklace. Matching earrings. Flannel sheets. Slippers. Pajamas. Proof of an obsession, listed out in just thirty seconds. I’m sure there was more. What did all of these precious collectibles in the nineties share in common? They were penguin-themed, of course.
I could go on and on about the benefits of solo travel, but the truth is, sometimes it gets lonely – and it did for me in a few cities on this last trip. Something I recommend to people traveling solo for the first time is to sign up for a tour. As one of my tour guides once told me, when the guide asks everyone where they are from, it gives people on the tour permission to then talk to each other: “Where in Bulgaria are you from?” “I have an aunt and uncle in Indianapolis – is that nearby?” “I’ve always wanted to go to Luxembourg,” – even if you legitimately have no context for the place they mentioned. I knew I could fend for myself in the smaller cities, but I wanted to explore the bar scene with others when in Prague, and signed up for an Urban Adventures’ Beer & Czech Tapas Tour.
In March, I continued my whirlwind trip of 10 cities in six weeks, and accidentally added one more city to that list. March came in like a few days in magical, mythical Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, where I met a person whose profession is “fire eater”, and went out in the only Starbucks within a half hour in a drizzling, ghost-town-in-the-winter on the Jersey Shore. That makes it seem like I’m not happy to be home – this is not the case. It’s awesome sleeping in my own bed, having access to all of my possessions that are not packed away in my sister’s basement, and not having to pay for all of my meals. Well, and having phone service all of the time, being in the same time zone as most of my friends, and being able to catch up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And, of course, being with my family and the pup, and reuniting with friends.
The majority of the people I know who have been to the Czech Republic (or Czechia) have only been to Prague. I fell deeply in love with Prague, in fact, I started to look for jobs and apartments there after two days, but I also found a lot I loved in the other Czech town I visited, Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov is a medieval town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It might just be the most charming place I’ve ever been and is one of the smallest towns I’ve explored. I joked to my family that it was the size of our neighborhood at home. In this most charming town I’ve ever been, I stayed in the most charming hotel I could find: Hotel Ruze.
Renting an apartment instead of a hotel is a great way to experience a destination as more of a local than as a tourist. Many travelers these days turn to Airbnb, but I recently discovered a company I’m referring to as a localized Airbnb, Ambiente Apartments in Bratislava, Slovakia.