Um, so remember when I said I was done blogging for a while? Well, I couldn’t resist sharing a monthly update of my trip! This is a real time update that covers the last 40 days. (My trip started February 20 so I figured I’d squeeze that bit in with March!)
I’ve spent the last five weeks in Europe. In short, Europe feels a lot less, well, thrilling after going to Asia. In fact, traveling here hardly feels like traveling at all; it more feels like a heightened and happier version of everyday life. I’ve spent the last five weeks wandering about in a happy daze, visiting friends, enjoying near daily doses of sunshine (weird right?) and picnicking in parks. And of course, I threw in a few random adventures like skiing in Switzerland and road-tripping to Wales with a bunch of British guys. As you do.
In short, everything has been delightfully familiar and I’ve felt so, so happy. Also, after many -20 degree Michigan days, I’ve been extra grateful for the balmy spring weather in Europe.
Where I’ve been:
NYC (2 days)
London (2 days)
Venice (5 days)
Switzerland (9 days)
London again! (2 weeks)
North of England (4 days, during my stay in London)
Wales (3 days)
Madrid (4 days)
Paris (3 days and counting!)
Seeing so many friends! I kicked off the trip with my college roommate/best friend, Alyssa (we had a ridiculously good time, needless to say.) I followed that up with seeing Edna and the Googlers in Venice, a German family friend in Switzerland, Amanda and my little brother Andrew in London, English friends in the north of England, blogger friends in Madrid and French, English and American friends in Paris. And thanks to their hospitality I only had to pay for seven nights accomodation out of six weeks!
Couchsurfing in London with a house full of Spaniards was ridiculously fun. We had several house parties in which we barbecued, made tortilla de patatas, drank vino and listened to Galician music. Plus, I got to speak Spanish for about three days straight!
Carnevale in Venice. While carnevale itself was a bit of a let-down (basically Venetian carnevale is occassionally seeing old people in costumes walk by, not quite the debaucherous outdoor masquerade I had envisioned) I got to spend a week in beautiful, canalside townhouse with an incredible group of American expats. So. Much. Fun.
Skiing in Switzerland. I grew up skiing every weekend and raced in middle and high school; Needless to say, skiing is my favorite sport. Also due to watching Warren Miller movies as a child I’ve been dying to ski in Switzerland; so, life made.
Spring in London. I spent a few weeks in London feeling the happiest I’ve felt in ages. I simply enjoyed the blooming flowers, leisurely picnics in the park and many, many food markets with Amanda (p.s. if Amanda ever gives you a food recommendation PLEASE take it. Girl knows what she’s talking about.)
Road-tripping to the North of England and Wales. I headed up to the north of England to see Lauren, one of my good English friends who also worked as an au pair in Paris. What was supposed to be a weekend turned into an entire week in which we road-tripped to York and Wales with a car-full of new English friends who share a love for the Arctic Monkeys and seaside Welsh towns. Sometimes it really is best to just ditch the return ticket and go with the flow.
Meeting Awesome Blogger Friends in Madrid. One of my favorite things about blogging is meeting other bloggers. And honestly, I couldn’t have enjoyed the company of my Madrid roommates, Amanda, Julika and Jessica more. During our long-weekend in Madrid, during which we stayed in an adorable, travel-themed apartment provided by Go with Oh, we partied at Kapital, ate metric tons of Spanish ham and basically all became best friends.
Returning to my beloved Paris. What can I say? There’s nothing better than spring in Paris. And there’s also nothing better than seeing some of your best friends after almost a year. In Paris I’ve been staying with a Parisian guy-friend who has been forcing me to speak French (ha) as well as allowing me to stay in his swanky apartment in Puteaux. It’s been so good to revisit my second home- and I still have four more days to enjoy it!
I won’t lie- there weren’t many lows. But no trip is perfect, so here goes:
In a last-minute packing mishap I forgot a lot of stuff, including my brand new Tieks! I’ve really got to pack more than three hours before leaving.
Um, my four days of solo travel in Switzerland kind of sucked. First of all, I currently hate solo travel and secondly I spent an absolutely fortune. Literally thinking about the money I spent in Switzerland makes me sick: a $60 hostel bunk I have to make myself, a $7 crappy salad at the grocery store. If you want to ski the Alps, head to France or Austria. Your credit card statement will thank you.
Not having a computer was equally a blessing and a pain the ass. I probably needed time away from the screen but running a blog remotely was not the best.
Gaining approximately 8 billion pounds. Um, all I have to say on that (rather hefty) front is THANK GOD for India.
And finally I have no idea what I’m doing after India so I’ve been freaking out about that. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do in June and July?
How cute is this octo-phant by Alexis Diaz? I loved exploring London’s East End for both the incredible eats as well as the incredible street art. Honestly if I ever move to London (which I’d love to do) I think I’d settle in the East End.
As you may have noticed all of these shots are from Instagram! I’d love to be friends there so here’s a link to my account: @ashleyhfleck. And yes, I just changed the name to keep things consistent with Twitter!
Today I arrive in Madrid to spend the weekend with friends and fellow bloggers. You may know them: Julika from Sateless Suitcase, Jessica from Curiosity Travels and Amanda from Farsickness. We’re crashing in a gorgeous apartment provided by Go With Oh! and planning on drinking lots of red wine and consuming metric tons of pata negra. (Well, at least I am.)
And next week, I fly to Paris, a place that has become a second home to me. I plan on revisiting all of my favorite things: Le Marais, Saint-Félicien aux truffes, steak frites, as well as check out some new ones like Red House and Sainte-Chapelle. (Finally!)
But like Madrid, I’m there to spend time with friends. Friends I’ve missed, friends I haven’t seen in almost a year.
As you may have read, I didn’t bring my laptop to Europe- I prescheduled all the posts you have read in the last six weeks when I was back in Michigan.
This is probably my last long-term trip. I don’t want to be a nomad forever so I have to put the laptop away and live in the moment, as clichéd as it sounds. I’ll still be taking photos and writing notes on my adventures but I won’t be sharing them via my blog until this summer.
After Paris I fly to India, where I will spend six weeks training to become a yoga instructor in Rishikesh and trekking the Indian Himalayas with a good friend. I have pledged to stay tech-free for a month (besides my Kindle) while staying at the yoga center- wish me luck!
I’m taking a break from blogging, one that should last about two months. But I promise I’m not done forever. I sincerely love blogging and this site is one of the things I’m most proud of. When I return to Michigan this summer I can’t wait to share all my adventures with you, and receive your comments that I love reading so much.
And until I resume blogging I’d love to connect on Instagram and Twitter where I plan on sharing slices of daily life. Have a lovely spring everyone!
Use Grammarly for proofreading because typos are for dirty backpackers. Ha.
You’ve been in Southeast Asia too long when…
Chang starts to taste good. And Singha tastes even better.
You no longer flinch when you jump into an ice-cold shower.
You consider $2 to be an outrageous price to pay for a beer.
You haven’t had a massage in two weeks and that feels like a really long time.
You’ve had your clothes and wallet stolen when skinny-dipping.
You carry a huge bottle of water wherever you go.
It seems completely normal to take off your flip flops before entering a building.
You refer to tank tops as singlets and mopeds as motorbikes.
You’re starting to get an English accent because 70% of the people you meet are from England. You also use expressions like “taking the piss” and “I can’t be asked.”
You have survived at least one border crossing.
You have scars all over your legs from scrapes and mosquito bites.
You have to throw out all your make-up because you’re too tan.
You’ve stayed at a hostel with bedbugs.
5 pints of beer no longer makes you tipsy.
You’re definitely templed out.
You’re a pro at using squat toilets…
…And you throw toilet paper away in the trash without even thinking.
You own more than one pair of hippy pants.
You can get a good night’s rest on an overnight bus.
You’re emotionally attached to your backpack.
And even though you have to sleep here…
You get to eat here.
And party here.
And lay out here.
So life is pretty damn great.
Have you ever backpacked Southeast Asia?
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Hi! Welcome to My Local Eats, a guest post series in which foodies from around the globe share their favorite local places to eat and drink.
Today’s guest post comes from Rachel, a masseuse and travel blogger who blogs at Hippie in Heels. Rachel is a fellow Midwesterner as well as one of my favorite new bloggers so give her site a look! Today she tells us about what to eat in Goa, India, her home away from home.
I’m an American living in Goa, India, for the past year. There are so many Indian foods that you MUST try when you visit India; from veg curries with rice and fried veg pakora, to chai tea and dosas. The Indian food you’ll have here won’t be anything like the restaurants in the U.K. or U.S. so be warned if you come here already “loving” Indian food, you actually might not know what it really is! Everything is cooked with ghee, a form of lard, so be prepared to gain more weight here than anywhere else you may travel.
For lunch and dinner a nice thali or curry might be on the menu, but I want to introduce the street food you get in the villages along the Arabian Sea. Street food is not the same all over India; Goa is tropical and so is the food! In my new home, I am always shocked by the yummy snacks I never saw on my previous journeys through India.
1. Corn on the cob with lime and salt. It tastes a little like Mexico! These mouthwatering treats (my favorite) are at all the markets on Wednesday and Saturday, but you can also get it in small towns on a daily basis or at any festival. It costs about 40 rupees and is more than worth every cent. Served in the husk to prevent dripping, it makes me wonder why we didn’t think of that in the U.S.!
2. Shawarma- some consider this Israeli food, but actually many countries have their own take on this sandwich and consider it their local food. You can get a foreigner’s version for 300 rupees, but it won’t be near as good as a local’s 50 rupee one in Siolim or Mapusa. Usually Chicken or lamb (but actually goat…) is used from a kebab. It’s sliced off as you order and put in a poi (a local bread) with mayo, tomato, and onion. You might need to ask for less mayo, as they love to pile it on! Of course, the Indian touch makes this shawarma unlike any other: spicy as can be! The same goes for samosas; they can be found all over India and the world, but Goa has a special spicy take on them.
3. Sugar Cane Juice or Sweet Lime Soda. These are at all the street stalls and are “cures” for any form of stomach-ache or Delhi belly. The sugar cane is VERY sweet, so maybe you should try a small one first. It’ll cost you about 10 rupees. Sweet lime soda is great for a hangover and will cost about 30 rupees. Normally made with soda water, lime, and sugar, they can also make it “salty lime soda” with salt, lime, and soda water instead if you like.
4. Fresh fruit juice. Obviously, a staple in more diets than that of India, but because of the social culture of fruit juice here, it must be mentioned! Unlike in America, where groups get together to drink booze at night, Indians also socialize during the day, early in the morning. They aren’t the type to sleep in. Don’t be surprised if your Indian friends call you up and ask the typical “Wanna get juice?” There are “cool” places like Ganesh Fruit Stand in Chapora, where the hippies hang. It’s a very trendy thing to do and can take hours! I usually get some fruit salad with ice cream by the end of it.
5. Fresh bread from the local bike-riding bread man. Why buy bread at the market when an adorable dude on a bike is going to come by on a bicycle honking his horn to sell hot fresh bread at a better price? Better yet he may make the yodel-like bread call that’s he’s rolling by. We get our weekly poi,bagels, and roti from him. You’ll know it’s the bread man because he’ll have a big circled bucket on the back of his bike covered with a blue tarp.
6. Cashew Feni- this one isn’t necessarily street food, but it is LOCAL. This is only available in Goa; nowhere else in the world makes homemade cashew feni. Like a moonshine, this comes from a cashew tree and bars make it in bulk. They have HUGE containers in the back and you can have a shot for about 50 cents. It’ll knock your socks off, so beware! It’s the number one thing Indian tourists stock up on to take home. Some call it “wine” but trust me, it’s more like rubbing alcohol… even the Indians use this as an antiseptic when they get a cut. To cure anything my driver says, “Pour feni on the bad place, then pour feni in your mouth… then pour feni on it again. Now rest.”
During my four-month trip to Asia, I worked remotely as a freelance writer and blogger, earning the bulk of my income from freelance writing.
While I worked several freelance writing jobs, my main gig was as a Category Expert for Answers.com. Commissioned to write between 10 and 20 articles each month, I hustled hard to reach my monthly quota. Some months I would churn out one or two articles a day, other months I would ignore my workload for weeks and then lock myself in a hotel room for 72 hours, stopping only to eat, sleep and shower.
Over time I came to resent the weight of my laptop- the physical weight, as well as the emotional weight. The emotional weight manifested itself in a myriad of emotions: the guilt of not working harder, the regret of working so much on the trip of the lifetime and the resentment of knowing I had to work to continue traveling.
And while I loved having a consistent stream of income on the road, working as a digital nomad sucked the fun and excitement out of travel for me. No longer could I disappear for days. No longer could I flit about with few possessions. The pressure to work, work, work began to smother my enjoyment of travel.
Something about being a digital nomad didn’t jive with me but it took me a long time to pinpoint what it was. I finally realized that it’s not the physical discomfort of long-term travel; I can happily live out of a bag, sleep in a $7 hostel and wear the same clothes for months at a time.
What bothers me most about long-term travel is the lack of community. The disconnectedness you feel when you realize you’ll never see anyone in the hostel again, that the main social interactions in your life are drunken make-outs and two-day friendships.
Working on the road taught me I don’t want be a digital nomad. In five years I don’t want to be sitting in paradise with a Chang and a laptop, surrounded by strangers. And while that lifestyle works for some people, the idea of such a transitory existence fills me with dread.
In Asia I learned all of the beautiful surroundings in the world will never make up for what really matters in life- relationships with other people. While I’d love to be an expat again, I don’t think a long-term solo trip while working remotely will be in the cards.
Other travel bloggers have touched on the same feeling:
When you are travelling, you are what you are in that moment, your most immediate self. The people you meet see only that version of you, and it’s hard to maintain your wholeness in this fragmented and transitory existence. – Hannah Loaring, Furtherbound
You see, when you’re sick with two kids, in a foreign country, you become aware of how fragile the relationships you have really are. There isn’t anyone to bring me chicken soup or to help Drew watch the kids, or to just stop by and see how we are. - Christine Gilbert, Almost Fearless
So on my big trip to Europe, India and possibly Asia, I’m not bringing my laptop. I’ll be traveling off of the money I saved while living in Michigan. I’ll be seeing lots of friends and spending as little time as possible as a solo traveler (I hate to say it but I’m really over solo travel for the moment.)
And I’ll be doing long-term travel my way.