Last Minute Spring Break Planning: GO!

I’m actually supposed to be working at my internship right now, but an idea’s in my head and I can’t get it out.

I have a really bad habit of suddenly wanting to flee (escapist, remember?). And right now, with spring break so close on my heels, I want to flee to NATURE.

Originally, I was planning on such a chill spring break. One where I didn’t need to spend money and where I could recharge before getting back to that school grind again. But, I don’t know, is that me? I would feel so sucky if I just bummed around at home for spring break.

Also, lately, I’ve been feeling really grossly lethargic and what’s-the-point-of-all this lately, which I’m hoping is more because of the weather than a recurrence of depression smacking me in the face.

So, I talked to my best friend about it; she also goes through periods like this. She asked me what I would do if I could do just one thing at this moment. And I said I wanted to go hiking.

Thus, my spree of Appalachian/Smoky Mountains research begun. Why those national parks? Well, I kind of also promised my grandparents I’d be visiting them in North Carolina, which happens to be in those vicinities. (Here I cheated and enlisted their help in finding me a roundtrip plane ticket while I secretly searched for things to do other than being a great granddaughter)

Oh, spontaneity.

I don’t recommend this by the way. Spontaneity is hugely fun and rewarding, but soul-sucking in a financial sort of way.

While doing my research, I felt like I was trying to learn about the entire trail. As a pretty visual person, it’s hard just to go off of city names and then trying to locate accommodations and whether or not there’s even a trail nearby. And there are no comprehensive guides for me to start with!

It just had me all frantic.

From experiences, spontaneity in this regard is bad. You need to know the surroundings, the types of accommodation available and the general mood of the town. If you go in with no accommodation planned, you’re either going to sleep in your car or shell out $200 more than you wanted to for a 8-room cabin all to yourself.

But I think I finally figured it out. You can follow my process if you’re having similar difficulties.

First, I narrowed it down to a section of the Appalachian/Smoky Mountains that I’d want to hike. For me, it’s anywhere in North Carolina and the closest from where my grandparents are. The closest one is about 5 hours and 45 minutes away.

Ok, no big…

Second, I googled that area. I chose Hot Springs, NC. The trails, accommodation, quality of the overall place. Read a ton of reviews and then google some pictures so you know what you’re getting. Either way, anywhere near a national park is beautiful, so I would just worry about the availability and popularity of the place. Find the perfect balance between isolated and so crowded you’re basically breathing in someone else’s mouth.

WHERE IS THIS??

You have to check out what kind of trails you’ll be getting and if it’s worth it. I’m not going to drive almost 6 hours away just so I can walk 15 minutes of trail. That’s a waste of time. Make sure it’s not too difficult for you to tackle either.

Once you’ve picked a few trails you think would be fun to try, check out the accommodations, if you want any. Now 6 hours each way… that’s 12 hours out of my day. If I leave around 6 a.m., I’d get there by 12. 6 hours isn’t bad enough to absolutely need accommodation, but if things get really fun, it might be a good idea. If you google your area and add the word hostel, there’s bound to be some cropping….

For the full article, [CLICK HERE BECAUSE I HAVE MOVED]

Have you ever backpacked through national parks? I’d LOVE to hear about your experiences, tips, whatever you have to share! 

Remember: I have moved: [CLICK HERE] 

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First Day of Europe: Get Me A Drink.

Before departing for Europe, I spent weeks bracing myself for traveling with my parents.

Why?

After an 8-hour flight, a 1-hour layover in Frankfurt, and another 3-hour flight, we arrived in Venice. My elation at finally being able to get the hell away from the 500 crying babies were quickly abolished by my parents’ faces. They were gearing up for crazy.

Upon stepping into the airport, they were on a mission and they were determined to take the most stressful, and longest route in order to accomplish it.

We had four goals before we could start our vacation, in no particular order:

  • find an ATM
  • call the guy for keys to the apartment
  • buy a bus/boat pass
  • get bathroom tokens

The bus/boat pass was obtained easily enough—and when I mean easily, I’m saying an hour’s worth of wandering in the airport, asking the information desk, going outside to try out an automatic machine (why this would work when we don’t speak Italian is lost to me), and then going back to purchase the tickets at the information desk.

Only then were we able to start heading towards Venice via a 30-minute bus ride.

buy a bus/boat pass: accomplished. Time taken: .5 hours. 

While they were buying the bus/boat pass, they were also trying to figure out how we were going to call the guy. But, mistakenly (?), they decided to think about that after getting the passes and arriving at the city.

So, 30 minutes later, tired, hungry, and cranky, we arrived at what seemed like a giant ticket booth entrance to the city.

“Ok. Here, we’re going to get bathroom tokens,” my mom stated, like an army general. “After that, we need to figure out how to call the guy.”

They took care of the bathroom tokens while my brother and I sat there, sweaty, and dehydrated. This was a mistake.

bathroom tokens: accomplished. Time taken: .5 hours

My parents are the type of people who get visibly and verbally upset when they feel frantic and others don’t. They are under the impression that four frantic people are better than two frantic and two calm people, whereas I believe at least one person should stay sane. So when it came time to find any phone we could use to call the guy and they saw us walking around calmly, even the fact that we were all in Venice couldn’t pacify them.

“Kids! We are a team here! Why can’t you help us right now?” my mom asked, shrilly. I swear, we were walking out of an information office as she said that.

We found a pay phone and learned that US credit cards don’t work the pay phone, so we traipsed over to the other side of the street to try and use a bar phone, which couldn’t be done either.

By this time, we had walked about 5 miles in the 1-mile-radius area, the only thing accomplished was getting even hungrier—damn cheap airlines—hotter, and more upset. We couldn’t even purchase food because we didn’t have money yet.

So, finding the ATM was promoted to first priority.

That’s easy enough, I thought. ATMs must be all over the place!

No.

We needed a specific ATM. One deep within the streets of Venice.

It was like a pilgrimage through streets paved with sins—food, drinks, dinky souvenirs. Having never been to Europe, their city layout was completely foreign to us. We didn’t even know where the street signs were.

“We’re all tired, ok? Stop complaining and help us find it!”

As my brother and I were about to expire, we happened upon THE ATM.

“Oh, thank god. Get me a drink,” I said, as we ran to the nearest take-away restaurant.

obnoxiously-specific ATM: accomplished. Time taken: 3 hours. 

As we sat and ate like Aladdin and Abu on the street corner, we dreaded each bite that would lead us back into my parents’ frantic world.

My dad struggled with the phone, and when he figured it out, he struggled even more. 

As he hung up, he looks up to ask us, “So, did everyone hear that?”

We stared blankly back at him.

“What?”

“You guys were supposed to be helping me listen!” he explained, clearly getting frustrated.

“How would we know that…” my mom asked, speaking slowly.

“Did you think I’d be able to remember it myself?!”

“I think that’s not too much to ask from a grown man,” I muttered.

Angry, that no one was able to read his mind, he punched the phone numbers in and dialed again.

An hour later, we let ourselves into our apartment.

key to apartment: accomplished. Time taken: 2 hours. 

“Why are you drinking again??”

According to My Mother, I’m a Developing Alcoholic

I was one of those typical Asian students in high school: an overachiever who never did anything crazy. Which is why it puzzled me that upon coming back from my first college semester that my mother suddenly thought I was this overindulgent, alcoholic-in-training slob.

Ok, I have a 12-pack of Blue Moon and a bottle of Kahlua in my fridge right now, but there’s no reason for her to suspect that I’m the first person who’s ever been like this.

Her delusion only made itself worse during our vacation in Europe, where it’s customary to enjoy a beer for lunch every day and where I took full advantage of being legal.

“You’re drinking again?” she would exclaim, eyeing my first and only small can of beer with distaste. “Why do you like to drink so much? You have problems.”

God forbid that I had a second beer later that evening during dinner.

Not only would she be astonished that I found myself a drink, she would also assume that I would become drunk whenever my lips touched any form of alcohol.

Funny story, she bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate on New Year’s Eve, which I ended up drinking the most of. Upon seeing the Asian Glow in full effect, she gasped comically.

“Michelle! You can’t drink—you’re allergic to alcohol!”

I gave her a strange look. “Mom… this is natural. It happens to all asians.”

“No, it doesn’t happen to me!” she says, holding up her one and only glass of champagne.

End of conversation.

I would always ignore her, knowing that such cultural barriers could never be overcome. Her idea of when it’s appropriate to drink include only holidays, and even then, only one or two fingers of wine.

What made the situation laughable was that she didn’t oppose to my 16-year-old brother partaking in some beer every now and then. I guess his distaste for every type of alcohol except for cherry beer made that logical.

Let me say again: cherry beer. 

That day, my dad also discovered his alcohol preferences.

My dad took the bottle away from him and took a small sip.

“Hey! This doesn’t taste too bad! I think I could live with this.” A few moments later, it kicked in.

“Hey mom,” he called to my mother walking ahead of us, “my legs are getting a bit wobbly.”

So, for the duration of the trip, I tried to limit my alcohol intake; more so for the sake of my small bladder than anything else. The number of bathrooms accessible by the public is laughable in Europe. And once I drank anything, I would be guaranteed a minimum of 3 bathroom trips within the next hour.

Backpacking and Being Fashionable—Is it Possible?

One of my main concerns while abroad was being so blatantly a tourist because my clothes weren’t fashionable. We’ve all heard about Europeans and their condescension at American tourists and minimizing that could only ease your travels. However, my family decided that we would also be psuedo-backpacking during this trip, forcing me into a dilemma: how was I supposed to stay fashionable as a backpacker?

stylebydaniela 

After browsing my wardrobe, I decided on two light stylish tees, a light longer blouse, a sundress, jeans, and various shorts. I had forgone the athletic clothes because I knew that I’d be too tired to consider exercise. However, to my great dismay, even my dressiest clothes (ok, they weren’t that dressy…) fell far short of fitting in fashionably in every city we visited—except the Swiss Alps because no one’s there to impress anyone. Except cows. But they’re impressed as long you have grass in your hands. My point? We fed Swiss cows! (And they are happy)

But seriously. Everyone, including the men and children, looked like they were candidates for a catwalk. I even got myself into a conversation with a Pizzeria owner in Rome in which he said that during the Fashion Shows, anorexic girls would parade themselves around the area, in delusional, Cinderella-esque hopes that they’d be noticed and chosen to model.

So, here I was, with no acceptably fashionable clothes for 2 weeks in Europe. And I abhor when people unnecessarily buy things.

Surprisingly, a simple accessory that I stumbled across—unique to Burano, so I wouldn’t feel guilty about purchasing just for fashion’s sake—upped my outfits from simple American tourist to barely-fashionable-yet-acceptable European.

 It was this silk, embroidered scarf—a simple-enough accessory in a neutral shade that I could pair with all of the shirts I brought! Wearing it immediately dressed up my outfit.

And it didn’t take up too much space in my full backpack and it was colder in Europe than we all thought it would be. What a perfect solution to all of my problems!

Not every scarf would have had this effect, however; due to the intricate embroidery on the scarf, it became a rather elegant, stylish item.

I wore it so many ways that I got my money’s worth many times over: as a shawl and a scarf. And now I have something to remember my trip to Venice with as well as an everlasting fashion accessory.

Victory is pretty sweet.

Rome: Photoblog

        

To be completely honest… I wasn’t all that impressed with Rome. But then again, I was a little hindered in my exploring capabilities because of the curfew of the convent we stayed at.

Don’t get me wrong, the architecture and the city layout were beautiful. The history of the place was definitely worth being here for, but if I had the chance to come here again, I wouldn’t—just because I felt as if once was enough for this city.

For example, the Coliseum. It was one of those landmarks you have to see while in Rome. But once you’re there, there’s not much else to do with it other than sit there and look.

Also, because of the large religious foundation of the city, it was more a religious-monument tour more than anything else.

The parts I did like immensely was the stretch of small markets around the Trevi Fountain, which is a great spot for people watching. I sat there and watched a group of Italians try to earn their money on the streets—sometimes by not-so-straight-edge ways.

Another place that I really enjoyed was above the Spanish Steps and down the road, past the abbey, where a hotel lay. This was a small, secluded park where they gave out 4-person bike rentals and segue rentals. But come prepared with food, because the vendors up here are especially pricey.