Some Really Good Filters

In the past three weeks, I’ve been to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Detroit and Seattle. Needless to say, it’s been a wild April, exhausting and energizing all at once.

Between all of the photos I share on social media, I often jokingly get asked, “What is your life?”

I usually laugh it off with, “Anthropologie outfits that I got on sale and just some really good Instagram filters.”

But, in all seriousness, it’s something I’ve been reflecting on and I may have figured it out.

My life is the narrative I have written for myself.

It is the narrative that I fully endorse. One that I am incredibly proud of.

It is written with midwestern kindness and charm, fierce loyalty to the ones I love, a belief that experiences that bring joy are worth every penny, the ability to identify and express what I want out of life, and a tendency to say “YES” to whatever may come my way.

That has served me especially well this past month.

I’ve made new friends, caught up with old friends. I’ve gotten upgrades, heavily discounted tickets, comped food and beverages. I’ve checked out some really cool restaurants and some top notch bars. And somewhere in between there (okay, everywhere in between there), I celebrated turning 24.

I’m looking forward to sharing more stories, but I’m also looking forward to sharing more tips and tricks with you all.

Things like, “how to pack for ten days in a carry on and never have to repeat an outfit,” or “how to make a flight when you’re hungover and overslept.”

Those titles are very much so a work in progress, but if there is anything you beautiful readers would like to see more of, do let me know!

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New York, Same Pauline

After a whirlwind two weeks on the West Coast, I jetted off to New York for work.

I had been to New York three times before- once as a child, once when I randomly left college in the middle of the night and went to NY last minute alone for three days and didn’t tell a soul (ask me about it over drinks sometime), and once for my orientation as an intern at Google 2.5 years ago.

The circumstances are always different, New York is always the same, and I? I’m the same, but different. (That makes sense in my head, and I’m a little hungover, so just go with it.)

On that note, I can never decide whether or not I like New York.

Sees trash on the sidewalk

“Animals! Savages!”

Eats a lobster roll

“I was born to live here.”

Gets shoulder checked on the street

“Excuse me?! Rude! I could never live here.”

Goes to a NYC rooftop bar

“I LOVE THIS CITY!”

NY finance bros slide into my Instagram direct messages telling me they live near Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment

“So, when’s my flight out?”

Needless to say, I had a wonderful time. I went out with my dear friend Nick, who I met in New York the first day of my internship a few years ago (and by first day I mean the night before when a group of us went out and he told a woman in an elevator that she smelled like beef.)

We went to Le Bain and PHD, where I learned a thing or two about being a New Yorker as we watched people get turned away in line.

“Pauline, don’t smile at the bouncers. Just smile less in general. This is New York.”

(I’m a Midwesterner and I don’t know how to not smile at strangers or say “Oops, sorry!” if I accidentally bump into someone.)

The tactic seemed to work though, judging by the stamps on my arms.

I also learned that I really ought to stop believing that I drink gin and tonics until 4 in the morning, catch some Zzz’s and make a 9am flight.

I’m still going to make it in time for brunch in Detroit but believe me when I say that last night’s makeup, workout leggings, and sprinting through an airport in high heeled booties is not a good look on anyone, myself included.

And with that- it’s time for takeoff.

My Luck is My Ladies

“Hey, want to go to Vegas for my golden birthday?”

See, it all started as a half-joke. I mean come on, even the term “golden birthday” is kind of made up. I’m turning 24 on the 24th and thought it would be fun to celebrate with a girlfriend or two in a big way. Vegas seemed fitting, of course.

But what I didn’t expect was for the “YES!”s to just keep coming at me.

Not just one or two but seven of my best girlfriends all took a gamble on a girls weekend in Sin City and flew out for my birthday.

(Not sorry about the puns…)

Lucky for me, these ladies shared my mindset: if you’re going to do something, do it right.

We got two adjoining suites at the glamorous Venetian (which honestly I might like a little more than I did actual Venice because it’s less crowded and they have a pool) and spent the weekend basking in the glitz and the ritz.

We wore fluffy white robes and soaked in a marble tub while eating cake and drinking Champagne (we took turns of course because we couldn’t all fit.) We sat front and center for the musical BAZ (great musical, but everyone dies in the end so it’s low key sad), and sang (okay, screamed) our hearts out at 3am watching ZEDD perform. We won big playing slots and roulette (and proceeded to promptly lose most of it), and we splashed around a day-club in our teeny bikinis (and loads of sunscreen because sun safety is key.)

Yes it was fabulous, but here’s the real secret sauce to my perfect weekend:

If you had taken away the glitter and sexy dresses, the bottle service and the suites, the limo and the shows. If that were all gone, I still would have been the luckiest lady in the world.

It was my golden girls who made it perfect.

Things are things, but good people are every-thing.

While I’m still not over the fact that seven humans got on airplanes to celebrate that I have aged another year, nor is my body over the trauma of three days of champagne and cake, my heart is so full.

To my beautiful friends: Thank you. I hit the jackpot when I met you.

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Domestic Diva

While I do consider myself the Martha Stewart of our generation, I’m referring to domestic in a slightly different sense.

I have temporarily traded in my international travel for domestic instead, embracing the life of a road warrior for my cool new career.

Seattle. Los Angeles. New York. Phoenix. Atlanta. Boston. Anywhere, I’m there.

Maybe you’ve noticed (you probably haven’t) but I’ve never really written about my travels within the US. In fact, I find it hard to blog about anything at all when it’s not about some fabulous and exciting foreign country.

Alas, I have decided that domestic destinations carry their own validity and their own stories and it’s about time I start sharing those as well.

Let’s start with the fact that today I managed to pack 14 different outfits, five pairs of shoes, and three handbags into a carry on.

People, if that isn’t an accomplishment worth writing about- then I don’t know what is.

More to come from this high heeled road warrior and her pink suitcase. Stay tuned, and thanks for flying along.

2017 Travel Reflections

I think most people would agree that 2017 was kind of a weird year, but hey- at least it turned out to be a pretty good travel year for me.

I must admit the first half of the year felt kind of like repeatedly stubbing your toe into a coffee table, but the second half of my year I was able to get back to my true self and was free to start traveling again.

So, I went to Bolivia, Spain, Nepal, and Mexico- an eclectic combo across four continents.(You, dear readers, came with- a MILLION thanks for that!)

Looking back, one of the questions I’ve gotten a lot (second to, “wtf Pauline, how?”) is, “well, what’s your favorite place you’ve been this year.”

Truth is, I can’t really pick one. Each of those places was spectacular in it’s own way and I found joy everywhere I went.

I found joy in zipping into a boiler suit, strapping on a helmet and exploring the mines of Potosi in Bolivia.

I found joy in putting on a pair of heels, slipping on a minidress and staying out until the sunrise in Barcelona.

I found joy in lacing up my hiking boots, powering through some nasty blisters, and hiking to the Annapurna Basecamp in Nepal.

And then, I found joy in taking it all off and diving into the ocean in La Ventana, Mexico.

They were all different, and they were all wonderful in their own way.

And that is exactly what I’m looking for in 2018.

Different.

I’m fascinated by the Middle East. I’m craving South Asia. I’m dreaming of Patagonia…

Should I just start throwing darts at a map?

Although I don’t know where I’m going next, I do know one thing for sure- I have a shiny new passport that needs a bit of weathering.

Cheers to 2018 and all the places we have yet to see!

 

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IMG_7810.JPGphoto by Christian Heeb

Landlocked

Ever since Drake popularized the lyrics, “Running out of pages in your passport,” I feel like it’s been littering the instagram captions of every wander-luster or travel blogger (or anyone who has ever gotten on a flight, really.)

Why would you possibly want that?

Do you know what happens when you run out of pages in your passport?

You have to march your pretty little self to a post office, give them all your money and wait until they decide to bless you with a new one 4-6 weeks later. (Or give them even more of your money and wait only 2 weeks.)

And you know where you’re going while you wait for your new passport?

Nowhere.

On Christmas Eve, I realized I had ran out of pages in my passport and immediately went into panic mode.

“I am landlocked,” I wailed dramatically through my house, “this is a disaster and everything is ruined.”

“Were you already planning on going somewhere in the next few weeks?” my mom asked, unamused by my antics.

It was a fair question, and the answer was no. It wasn’t like I already had flights booked somewhere that I would have to scrambled to change.

I just sleep better at night knowing that I can go somewhere when I wake up. And right now, I was a bird with clipped wings.

Fortunately, my father came to the rescue casually pulling out an application for a new passport out of his nightstand.

(Everyone has those lying around in their house, right?)

I frantically filled out the form, as if every moment counted (fully knowing that it didn’t because the post office wouldn’t even be open until after Christmas.)

Within the next two days, I had taken a new passport photo, braved the US Postal Office and gave the government a pretty penny to get this thing expedited.

I can breathe easy again, and start letting my mind wander (as if it ever stopped) to all the places I want to go in 2018.

Now accepting suggestions and invitations.

Baja

photo by Christian Heeb

Fiascos and Flights

This morning I woke up at 8 am. Which was a problem because my flight was taking off at 8 am.

I have been on hundreds of flights, and I’ve never missed one before. I suppose that’s what happens when you book an early flight the day after a holiday party, though.

I’m visiting my dear friends in Mexico for the week, and since I booked my flights pretty last minute- I had to get creative. Detroit has lousy connections, so I picked a flight from Chicago to Cabo. I figured I could just catch an early flight from Detroit and make it to Chicago in time for my 2pm flight. It was risky, but totally do-able.

When I got home from my company’s holiday party, I debated staying up until my flight but thought it would be best to just “rest my eyes for a bit.”

I realized how terrible of an idea that was when a text from my roommate wishing me safe travels woke me up at the same time my flight was departing.

I darted around my room muttering “fuck, fuck, fuck” and throwing things into my suitcase. (I had the ambitious idea that I would pack for my trip in the morning before heading to the airport. Another poor decision.)

I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, but I didn’t have time for either of those so I went into crisis management mode instead. There were no other flights that would get me into Chicago in time for my 2pm flight. No train or bus either, and I didn’t know of anyone driving there today. I don’t own a car, but realized that would be my best chance at making my afternoon flight, so I rented one.

By 9:30 am I had acquired a snow covered little blue car with Texas plates, and I hit the road.

The drive between Ann Arbor (where I live) and Chicago is about 4 hours so I had almost no margin for traffic or winter roads. I was taking a big risk, but I really didn’t want to have to rebook my flights. Luckily, the sun was shining, the roads were clear and the traffic was moving. I drove much faster than I probably should have been driving, but I was making really good time. Things were looking up!

Then, of course, with about 30 minutes left of my drive, the gas light went on. I really didn’t have the time to get off the highway and get gas, so I just kept going. The gas light is just a warning, right?

I started to get more and more nervous the closer I got to the airport. With about 10 minutes left the gas light started blinking and I knew I had a problem on my hands, but at this point I was nowhere near a gas station. (Should I just rename this post: Poor Decisions?)

Now, I’m not a gambler but today was already so full of taking risks, I figured one more couldn’t hurt.

About a minute away from the car rental drop off the car started making some funky sounds and started slowing down, and I held onto the wheel for dear life as if I could somehow will it to keep going. And it did.

I pulled into the car return port, amazed at how perfect the timing was. There’s no way that car would have made it another mile. I handed over my keys and hopped into mama Kulka’s car (mom to the rescue!) and we sped towards the United Terminal.

She handed me a Tupperware of her homemade persimmon walnut bread, and I raced to the check in counter with my glorious food in hand. I was going to make it!

I scanned my passport and to my surprise, I saw a message pop up on the screen, “No reservation found for this passenger.”

How could this be? I could not have gone through this entire ordeal and not have a flight. I aged a couple years in just one morning, and it couldn’t be for nothing.

Fortunately, I realized that my flustered self had just gotten the airlines mixed up and I was just at the wrong terminal. The bad news was that time was still of the essence, and I broke a sweat just thinking about how fast I would need to move in order to make it to the next terminal. For the umpteenth time today, luck was on my side. My mother is a very smart lady and very good at this airport drop off thing, so she had waited out front, “just in case.”

With her help, and the help of TSA precheck, I made it to my gate with time to spare.

I’m currently on my flight to Cabo, smiling to myself about how sometimes in life, “things just work out.”