• Welcome to my world

    Welcome to my world

I was nominated for the Liebster Blogging Award by Cristina from Chronicles of a Travel Addict. While I am both incredibly flattered and honored that she chose me, I’m also really grateful. The winter blues and a lack of inspiration have left me feeling really ‘blah’ about blogging for the past few weeks, and participating in this project is the perfect way to get going again.

But first, let me just suggest that you head on over to Cristina’s site and have a look around. Her writing is honest, thoughtful, and interesting. On top of all of that, her photos are lovely, and she’s from California (which automatically makes her amazing as far as I’m concerned)!

On to the part where I go on and on about myself for an entire post…

The Liebster Blogging Award is a way for newbie bloggers (or part-time, non-committal bloggers like myself) to network and share a little bit about themselves.

The Rules Of The Liebster Award:

1. Share 11 random facts about yourself.

2. Answer the questions from the person who nominated you.

3. Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and ask them 11 questions.

11 Random Facts About Me

1. I’m a huge animal lover, and my fantasy life is to live on a farm in Northern California and spend my days caring for rescued animals.

3. If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life and never get fat, I’d choose ice cream.

4. I took a year off after high school to work for Al Gore’s presidential campaign at a local democratic party office in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. It was simultaneously exciting and soul crushing.

5. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and it’s one of the things I miss most about the USA. I’ve already planned 5 years worth of costumes for when we move back.

6. Even though I only lived in San Francisco for 2 years, it was the only place that ever truly felt like home and will always be my favorite city in the world.

9. I think feet (including my own) are totally gross, even when they’re well cared for and moisturized.

10. I’m currently obsessed with the TV show Parks and Recreation.

11. I love being near the water, on the water, or in the water. Lakes and rivers will do, but there’s nothing like the ocean.

1. Do you think that traveling is a phase in your life, or will you travel forever?

While living abroad is definitely a phase, travel will always be an important part of my life. There are just way too many places to visit!

2. What kind of luggage do you bring when you travel?

Suitcase. I hate carrying stuff around!

3. Do you try to learn a country’s language before traveling there and why/why not?

I’m not a long term traveler, and we travel often, so I think it would be impossible to learn every language. However, I always learn the basics before we go anywhere. I find it fun to learn new words, but it’s also just the polite thing to do and makes traveling so much more interesting and fun.

4. Who is your main inspiration in life?

This question is so hard! Different people inspire me in different areas of my life, and it wouldn’t be possible to list them all here.

5. Why is writing about your travel experiences so important to you?

I started this blog after we moved as a way to keep in touch and share our experiences, but my motivations have changed over time. Now I use it as a way to document our adventures, as much for me as for the people who read it. It’s such a great way to process my experiences, and if it provides entertainment for others, then that’s great too.

6. What is the one belonging that you cannot do without while on the road?

I can’t travel without my Nike Frees. They are the best walking shoes ever, and they fold up tiny for easy packing.

7. What is more important: traveling the world or getting a “proper” education?

I think they’re equally important. Although I would say that it isn’t necessary to travel the world as much as go out into the world and try new things.

8. What is your favorite travel book?

I don’t actually read that many travel books. What I do instead is read books about whatever destination I’m heading to next. I love getting a little bit of historical and cultural context before I travel so I can get the most out of my experiences. I do watch a lot of travel TV though, and Michael Palin, Rick Steves, and Anthony Bourdain always get me excited to go out and see the world.

9. Have you tried solo travel and would you recommend it to others?

I haven’t done any solo traveling. I’m not opposed to it, but I really enjoy sharing my travel experiences with Kevin (my husband), so I haven’t felt the need to go out on my own.

10. Do you think that people can maintain a life of travel and a serious relationship?

If you’re committed and have a supportive partner, I don’t see why not!

11. I’d like to see your favorite animal picture (that you took). Share it!

My favorite animal picture is of a goat we saw in Sweden. He was very curious about our camera.

My Nominations For The Liebster Award

(I measured the ‘under 200 subscribers’ based on Facebook followers, since it’s not always obvious how many subscribers a blog really has!)

1. Geri from Two-Up Travels

2. Lynne from LynneNieman.com

3. Jessica from Curiosity Travels

4. Priyanka from Road Tripping

5. Callie from Wilds of Wherever

6. Laurence from Lost In The Pond

7. Colleen from Colleen Brynn Travels

8. Jessica from Ways of Wanderers

9. Lauren from OnBlueUnderCanvas

10. Caitlyn from Olympic Wanderings

11. Shing from The Culture Map

Questions for the Nominated Bloggers

1. What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten?

2. What is your favorite place in the world?

3. Do you prefer to travel alone, or with a friend/partner?

4. What’s the scariest or most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

5. If you had unlimited funds to plan your perfect day, what would you do and who would you do it with?

6. If you could stay a certain age forever, what would it be?

7. What was the last song you listened to on the radio/your ipod?

8. What’s the worst place you’ve ever been to?

9. What’s your favorite season and why?

10. What is the single best decision you’ve made in your life so far?

11. What restaurant or food do you love even though you know you shouldn’t?

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I had high expectations for Sopot. I’ve been to the Baltic before (in crappy Swedish weather, no-less) and loved it. I love being near the water, and I’m not one of those snotty travelers who thinks every trip has to have some kind of deep and life-altering effect on me (sometimes empty-headed relaxation is just what the doctor ordered), so hanging out in a Polish resort town should have been a really pleasant experience.

But I just couldn’t get into it.

SOPOT (POLAND)

It’s probably not be Sopot’s fault though. The weather was awful. We were tired. On top of that, everything was pretty much closed down for the season, leaving the town feeling deserted and cold. We spent most of our time there eating pierogi and reading, but we did manage to snap a few deceptively sunny photographs before the sky opened up and washed away my vacation dreams (rain makes me a little melodramatic).

The lesson in all of this: Go to Sopot in the summer. Because you might actually get the chance to enjoy it.

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Today is our second wedding anniversary, and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Looking through our wedding pictures and receiving sweet notes from our families got me thinking about how crazy that time was before our wedding, and how I’m not exactly sure how I (we) got through it all. When we found out that Kevin had landed a job in the U.K,  we knew it meant we’d have to get married in a hurry if I was going to join him. We had been talking about marriage for a few months, but neither of us expected to have to pull a wedding together in 6 weeks. But somehow, we did it. And we had a lot of fun.

So, if you’re in a hurry to get hitched, or if you have an itty bitty budget, I have a little advice for you.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends (and family, and friends of friends).

If people offer to help, resist the urge to control everything, and let them. My mother in law set up the chairs for our ceremony. One of Kevin’s colleagues had a friend who offered up their backyard as a spot for our ceremony, and we made it work (free venue in Napa Valley!). A friend helped me get ready on the big day (after a hair tutorial from my stylist). We saved a ton of money on set up fees and avoided having to hire a planner.

2. Keep it small.

One of the best ways to get your wedding costs (and stress) under control is to keep your guest list short. We started with a list of 120 and narrowed it down to only 45, and it was the best decision we made. The small guest list reduced our hassle and expense, but it also allowed us to enjoy quality time with everyone who attended. We emailed the friends and family who weren’t invited and told them the truth-that we love and appreciate them, but that we could neither afford nor manage a big wedding. The responses were overwhelmingly kind and supportive.

3. Be resourceful.

I hired one of my former students (who is now studying photography) to be our photographer. I cared about getting great candid shots more than portraits, and I knew she could handle it. Her services for the evening cost us all of $200. Kevin’s best friend played his guitar at our ceremony. His services were free. For our reception we brought our iPod with a pre-planned playlist and Bose speakers, and saved ourselves the cost of a DJ or band (as well as awful requests like the Hokey Pokey).

4. Throw tradition out the window.

Given the size of our wedding, we decided not to have a wedding party. When you only have 35 in attendance, it feels like one big, unofficial wedding party, except no one had to spend money on matching outfits. One of our closest friends officiated the wedding, which allowed us to personalize the ceremony as much as we wanted to (we kept it short and sweet at 8 minutes long). We didn’t care much about having a traditional cake, so we saved a lot of money by letting our guests order dessert off the menu at the restaurant that hosted our reception.

5. Prioritize.

In the age of Pinterest and a gazillion wedding blogs, it’s easy to get carried away with the planning and spend hours (if not days) agonizing over decor and favors. Do you remember the favors from weddings you went to 5 years ago? Or what colors the flowers were? Neither do I. People remember who they met, how much they drank and danced, and whether or not it was a fun wedding. We decided to put the bulk of our budget towards food and booze, and our guests seemed pretty pleased with that decision.

6. Don’t waste time organizing things that don’t need to be organized.

I sat down to organize a seating chart, agonized over it for a few hours, then gave up. I realized that our guests are adults who are perfectly capable of picking a chair, sitting in it, and enjoying their evening. It wasn’t necessary for me to micromanage the experience. Everyone made new friends and the seating chart ended up being a non-issue.

*I did create a seating chart for the “head table” so we could sit with friends who had participated in the ceremony.

7. Remember that it’s your wedding.

Kevin and I decided from day 1 of planning that we were willing to hear advice and input from family and friends, but that ultimately our wedding would be about, well,us. Guests were going to have to choose between a vegetarian and a meat option because I’m a vegetarian. Meat eaters would have to either enjoy their steak dinner or try something new. We walked down the aisle together, hand in hand, because we were starting our life together. My dad didn’t give me away because, well, that’s just antiquated nonsense. Obviously every couple and every family is different (ours kept pretty quiet about their opinions and let us do as we pleased), but it’s really important to filter out the noise and plan the wedding you would enjoy the most.

8. Don’t fall into the wedding markup trap.

Venues and vendors mark up their rates significantly for weddings. Whenever you can get away with it-lie your ass off. We told the restaurant that we were renting the space for a going away party, we told the chair vendor that we were renting for a garden party, and so on. They’re not going to come after you for the secret markup if they find out you’re lying! Another secret: use small or lesser known vendors whenever possible. We found our amazingly talented and affordable florist on Yelp. She does flowers for parties and weddings as a hobby, which meant she was really flexible (we hired her 2 weeks before the event) and easy to work with. And did I mention talented?

9. Make it a multi-day affair.

We were living in California wine country when we got married, so we invited everyone to come for a three-day weekend and enjoy everything Napa Valley has to offer. We set up an itinerary on our wedding site and let people choose which activities they’d like to do with us, as well as other options if they wanted to go their own way. We had a really fun wine tasting caravan the day before our wedding, and it allowed us to spend quality time with everyone, which left us feeling relaxed before the big day.

10. Enjoy the process and the day.

Don’t let anyone tell you that nonsense about how you won’t spend time with your spouse at the reception, and you won’t have time to eat, blah blah blah. Make time for what is important. Enjoy yourself, and don’t succumb to the cultural pressure to have the BIGGEST MOST MEMORABLE WEDDING EVER. Focus on having fun and appreciate the special moments. You only get to do this once.
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1. Visit the Citadel and Roman Amphitheater

4 THINGS TO DO IN AMMAN
4 THINGS TO DO IN AMMAN

The Citadel has been occupied for at least 9,000 years by a series of different civilizations, and the site is covered in ancient artifacts from Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic settlements. For a small fee of 15JD (roughly equal to 15GBP or 24US Dollars), you can hire a guide at the entrance. Don’t be afraid to haggle about price or refuse service from guides who seem questionable. Ask a lot of questions, and choose a guide who is experienced and willing to give you at least a full hour.

Just down the road from the Citadel is the Roman Amphitheater. You can enter the site for 2JD, and you don’t need a guide. The theater has amazing acoustics. Press your ear to one end of the wall at the base of the theater, and have a friend press theirs to the other end. Your voices will carry through the wall in a strange echo effect, sort of like an ancient game of telephone. Make the effort to climb to the top row of seats in the theatre and you’ll discover one of the best views in town.

Getting to the Citadel: Take a taxi. Your driver will offer to wait (for a fee), but it really isn’t necessary. Taxis regularly cruise through the parking lot looking for fares, and it’s a lot more fun to explore the site if you aren’t on a schedule.

Getting to the Roman Theater: We walked from the Citadel to the theater, but you will definitely need a good map (or GPS) to help you find your way through the winding streets of Amman. The easier (and less interesting) option is a taxi.

2. Eat at Falafel Al-Quds

This Rainbow Street falafel stand has been frying up delicious sandwiches for 40 years. For 2JD, you get a falafel sandwich with spicy sauce and vegetables. They’re small but tasty. If you ask nicely (and they aren’t busy), you can forgo the bread and buy a serving of plain falafel balls to snack on. It’s a takeaway place, but there are benches outside where you can enjoy your sandwich and some great people watching.

Getting to Falafel Al-Quds: Rainbow Street is about a 20 minute walk from downtown Amman, but you’ll definitely need a map or GPS and a good sense of direction to find your way. Taxis are cheap and easy, and drivers will all understand if you ask for Rainbow Street.

Falafel Al Quds-Jabbal Amman, First Circle, Rainbow Street

3. Drink Arak in a Rainbow Street Cafe

Arak is a colorless, unsweetened, anise-flavored Arabic liquor that really packs a punch at 50% alcohol by volume. It is served in a shot glass with a glass of ice and a bottle of water. When the ingredients are mixed together (ice first, then 1/3 Arak to 2/3 water) they react to form a cloudy white beverage best consumed with a mezze plate or garlicky snack. While alcohol isn’t forbidden in Jordan, few places have it on the menu. Luckily, the youthful and westernized Rainbow Street neighborhood has a few cafes that serve alcohol.

Getting there: As listed above, Rainbow Street is a 20 minute walk from downtown Amman or an easy taxi ride.

Where to drink Arak: Books@Cafe has a friendly, western style cafe upstairs, and an English bookstore downstairs. The cafe has outdoor seating with spectacular views of the city.

Omar Al Khattab Street #12 First Circle, Jabal Amman

4. Wander through the covered market in Downtown Amman

The traditional fruit market in Downtown Amman is a treat for the senses. Fresh, colorful produce is piled on tables at eye level; each mountain of fruit is topped with a freshly sliced piece to tempt potential customers. Baskets full of exotic spices line the streets, and the scents fill the air and make your mouth water. Vendors literally sing for their customers, listing off the best deals of the day in melodious chants that echo through the market. Don’t be afraid to chat up the vendors, who are more than happy to practice their English.

Getting to the market: The market is just around the corner from the Roman theater, so it’s easy to take a taxi to one or the other and walk.

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