Utopia in Singapore 

As previously mentioned, Singapore was one of my favorite cities. It’s beautiful and luxurious, clean and organized, and arguably one of the most urbanized cities in the world. Their metro is great, the food even better, and as a bonus, potted flowers line their roads. And, it’s not far from Bali and tons of gorgeous getaways.

What more can you ask?

The downside is that Singapore is a very strict place, with somewhat extreme punishments for breaking their laws.

No gum chewing, no smoking, no cuddling, no jaywalking, no singing to inappropriate songs.

We would jokingly yell, “15 years hard labor,” or “death penalty” at one another whenever someone did something a little questionable- but we all knew there was a little more truth in that than joke.

After a rough night that included me having a dance off on an empty dance floor with a stranger in Clarke Quay, the three of us yelling along to Rihanna’s “Only Girl” at a karaoke bar at which no one was rowdy but us, and us singing to Drake’s “One Dance” after a cab driver refused to play music, we made our way home- or more accurately, to the 7/11 across from our hotel which we frequented too often in those two days.

We hadn’t had our fill of singing and dancing for the night, so we decided to go to a bar next door called Sassy Bar.

It was a shady looking bar, the kind that’s perfect for a nightcap, and as we trudged up the stairs to the doorway, Nick joked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if this were actually a brothel.”

It was a brothel.

We walked in and the boys were immediately swarmed by a group of women in tight dresses. I still insisted on getting a drink, but the women said the bar was closed, so we turned around and walked right out.

For a place where so many things are illegal, a house of ill repute was quite puzzling. But hey, it is the world’s oldest profession.

Aside from the great nightlife, the sights in Singapore are unreal. The infamous Marina Bay Sands-an impressive structure consisting of three separate towers propping up a boat-like building on the top, makes for an incredible view of the city. It’s lovely because when you’re at the club on the top floor and don’t feel like talking to anyone anymore, you can just gaze out at the lights reflecting off the harbor.

The Supertrees in Singapore are also out of this world; they literally look like a scene from Avatar. Supertrees are imposing artificial trees covered in plants that act as vertical gardens, and generate electricity (I know that’s a lot to take in, Google it). If you want to know what the future feels like- this is it.

I would have been more sad to leave this artificial Utopia, if it weren’t for the fact that Bali was next. Oooh baby.

I’m Coming Home

After seven months of living abroad, it’s time for me to go home.

So cheers.

Cheers to walking 250 miles across the north of Spain. To sleeping under the stars in the Sahara desert. To watching Les Miserables live in London. To hugging my best friend under the Eiffel Tower. To wandering the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. To toasting to my 21st birthday with my mama in Malta. To doing yoga with GRiZ in Switzerland. To trekking throughout Northern Italy alone. To being next to the pope for Easter in the Vatican. To cruising in a convertible on a Spanish island. To fairytale weddings in Poland. To spontaneous visits to Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. To hitting 16,000 views from 5,000 visitors on a blog I thought no one, aside from my mama would read. To the to 30 flights, 15 trains, 3 ferries, 3 strangers’ vehicles, 1 camel and a whole lot of walking, that got me safely where I needed to go. And last but not least, to living in the most beautiful city in the world, Barcelona.

This journey was filled with immense life lessons. I have experienced great joy, excitement, clarity and contentment. I learned what it means to be alone, and sometimes afraid. I made friends from all over the world, as well as a few from my own backyard that I cannot wait to see when I’m back.

It’s so cliché to say, but this experience changed my life. I mean, can anyone go live abroad for months and not change? That would be impossible, or at least a stubborn demonstration requiring Herculean effort.

I have welcome every beautiful moment of it. I don’t yet know how I’ve changed, hopefully for the better, but I suppose that will come out in time. 

One thing is for sure, I can wait in line for hours without getting frustrated. Seriously, I’ve developed the patience of a monk from traveling.

 Thank you Europe for the ride of a lifetime. I loved waking up every single day thinking, “what is my life?” Now it’s time to continue this adventure I call a life, interning with Google in Ann Arbor in the fall! 

In the mean time, are you ready for me Chicago?!


Let’s Go!
Joy selfie!

Camino Afterthoughts

I miss the Camino every day. 

Maybe it’s because I’m reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” or maybe it’s because I’m in Slovakia staring at the Tatra Mountains while they tease me. 

“Come climb me, come play,” they say.

It’s been over a month since I’ve been on the trail, yet every day I still imagine that I’ll wake up, lace up my boots, swing my backpack on and just go. 

All through my lunch today, I stared longingly at two Slovakian hikers sitting a table over. I watched them drink their ice cold beers, knowing how good they tasted after a long day of walking. I couldn’t help but stare at their backpacks that were fuller than mine on the camino. I wanted to ask them where they were hiking, what gear they had, and silly enough, if I could please come with.

I had to stop looking because one of them started to wink at me, and I’m afraid I gave the wrong impression.

Walking the Camino gave me purpose and clarity. I had a clear mission every single day, met inspiring folks left and right and I got to be outdoors for hours on end. The views of the Galician mountains, reminiscent of scenes from The Hobbit, and the poppy covered fields of the Meseta, which made me curse while I sweated and blistered, are burned into my mind. 

It’s kind of like childbirth, I suppose, which is another topic I know nothing about. It’s painful and uncomfortable at times, but when you look back at it, none of that matters. You remember how beautiful it was and how much joy it gave you.

I suppose that’s a good thing, to miss it. It’s motivating. It helps you create goals, my newest being to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and one day complete the triple crown of hiking. That is, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian trail and the Continental Divide Trail. 

I already have the backpack and the boots. And hell, my two missing toenails are probably never going to grow back anyways. 

The Triple Crown. A combined 7,900 glorious miles of smelly sweat and bloody feet, across 22 states. What a dream. 

Yes, I think I’ll do that. 

Come climb me! -Tatra Mountains

Countryside Summers

I am currently hiding away in Sietesz, a small farming village in lesser Poland, a ways away a from any city.

I’m a big fan of country life; it’s quiet and it’s relaxing, and you never really have anywhere to be. I would spend my entire summers here as a kid, playing with village children, picking fruit, helping with the harvest and spending time with my family. Not much has changed since I’ve been here as a child. I spent the last two days swinging on homemade wooden bench, picking apples off the ground and watching children play. 

There’s still about three, sometimes four, dogs, a cat, a handful of chickens, a vicious rooster, and two ducks constantly circling around your feet. 

The air smells like grass and wheat, and manure on occasion. But the mornings are my favorite because the caramel smell of dried nuts and fruits fills the air, when my uncle’s warehouse is in full swing. 

In the countryside, relationships with others take priority in daily responsibilities and neighbors come and go all day, while the number of children I watch rises and falls. I’m actually not quite sure where some of them even come from. People talk about their fields, and what needs to be harvested. Other times they just mull over the village gossip. In fact, I’ve only been here about two days and I already know about all the marriages, births, courtships, illegitimate children, arrests and deaths that have occurred since my last visit. Their word of mouth information system works so well that within 24 hours the entire village knew that I, the “American,” had arrived. The village is like a giant soap opera, really, and makes you grateful to live in a city where people tend to mind their own biscuits. 

In the meantime, I’ll just be here, swinging away under an apple tree minding my own business.


Just my humble country home

Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest

Since I had a free week and no other plans, I took a lap around Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. It’s not too far from Kraków, which is currently home base because that’s where my suitcases live.

I spent my three days in Vienna wandering its spectacular palaces, museums and art galleries, taking breaks to sit in cafés decked with crystal chandeliers. And, as luck would have it, I happened to be there during the hottest day in the city’s history, which is an event I really could have sat out.

From Vienna, I wanted to go to Budapest. Bratislava happened to be on the way, only an hour away from Vienna by boat. So why not? 

I love boats. 

Bratislava absolutely surprised me. It was charming and small enough to visit in a few hours. Conveniently, Polish is very close to Slovakian, so I got along just fine with everyone and felt right at home. 

After lunch and a stroll in Bratislava, I hopped on a train to Budapest. 

Oh, Budapest. Where to begin? Language, history, good people, cool parties and group bathing. It had everything I love.

I spent a lot of time learning about Hungary’s rich history and the Hungarian people. The sovereign nation is fairly new, having been occupied by everyone from the Ottomans and the Turks, to the Austrians, to the Nazis and the Soviets. Their language fascinates me, because it’s not quite Slavic and not quite any sort of anything I comprehend. In fact, it sounds a lot like the how the Sims speak.

But really, if you’re into cool languages, European history, occupations and the war, Budapest is a solid place to go. 

That being said, their nightlife was on point too. 

I don’t usually go out much when I travel alone, but you can’t not go out in Budapest, and I was fortunate enough to find some new international buddies.

The entire population of my hostel consisted of my blonde self and 15 Spanish speaking guys, from all over Spain and Mexico. Fortunately, I happen to speak Spanish, so we got along swimmingly. 

Also, traveling alone has taught me how to pick up women. I met two girls my age during a walking tour, Meitao and Arenike. Meitao was Chinese and Arenike was Nigerian, but they were both from London. Together, the three of us were literally the poster women for diversity in Budapest, and turned a few heads when we went out that night. Mostly due to confusion, though. 

One of the coolest things about Budapest was ruin pubs, which are unique to the city. They’re essentially abandoned buildings and warehouses, filled with broken furniture and confusing art (think owl heads on naked women’s bodies.) Let’s just say that when a bar has 26 rooms, leaving before 6 am is not an option. Fun was certainly had. 

I spent my entire last day at the infamous Hungarian baths, bathing in the city’s thermal pool with a herd of Hungarians and tourists alike. It was a cool immersion into Hungarian bath cultural, and a glorious way to spend a 100 degree day. 

Overall, my spontaneous weeklong trip was loads of fun, from eating Sachertorte in Vienna, to leaving the pubs at daybreak with new friends in Budapest.

Now back to Poland we go! 


Selfies in Vienna


On Traveling Alone

I’ve come across many people who are in absolute awe that I, as a young, fairly small, blonde female, travel alone. “How very brave!” they say. Or, “aren’t you afraid?” they ask. I don’t really get it. I don’t think traveling alone is particularly brave, and I don’t really see why I should be afraid. 

I want to go places. Sometimes there is no one else to go with. So I go solo.

 That’s all there is to it. 

I don’t find traveling alone daunting or because I am very comfortable with myself. Also, I find it easy to connect with others along the way, and my language capabilities combined with my solid sense of direction make me feel very safe in new cities.

I traveled Italy alone for ten days, I sign up for races alone, I take myself out to eat. I happen to think that spending time alone, really just means that you’re spending time with yourself. 

Besides, if you can’t keep yourself company, what makes you think you’re good company to anyone else?

It’s not always easy, to be honest; I’m not superwoman. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and sometimes I get anxious when I have to take selfies for lack of a cameraman, or when I’m eating alone. But then, I either get over it or I find a solution. 

See, even when you’re traveling solo, you don’t have to be alone all the time. I have always met people along the way. Even the other day, here in Vienna, I spent the morning with a friend from Chicago who happened to be vacationing here with her parents.

Then in the evening, I met up with an Austrian girl, Lena, whom I met on couchsurfing.com and asked out to dinner. It’s fun to reach out to locals, and also have someone to eat with. Lena was super sweet, and entertained all my questions about Vienna and being Austrian, and we chatted about our travels and tales of creepy men. 

I’m not saying one is better than the other; I have enjoyed both traveling solo and traveling with friends and family. But, the beauty of traveling alone is that you get to set your own pace, do whatever you want and meet cool people while you’re doing it.

Now, please, go do something alone. 

Thanks, Lena!

Off Again

One foot out the door. One foot at the train station. On foot on the train. One foot in Vienna.

Okay, so I got restless. I got restless and I grabbed my Nikon and threw a few dresses in a backpack, since that’s really all I wear, and I bought a one way ticket to Vienna. 

I took a night train, an old stuffy Polish sleeper train, which reminded me of communism. Even I don’t know what that means, but it just had this old fashioned communistic vibe. 

My sleeping bunk neighbor was Bernadetta, a lovely polish violinist, who lived in Salzburg, the city of Mozart. She was the most animated woman I’ve ever met, and literally seemed as though she might explode from joy at ever word I said. She made a wonderful start to my stay in Austria, that’s for sure. 

On a friend’s recommendation I tried checking out Couchsurfing.com, a super cool travel portal where you can find locals in other cities that you can crash with for free. 

Unfortunately, all of the cool people I wanted to stay with were either out of town, or already had guests. Which is fair, considering my request was ridiculously last minute, I was literally asking people if I could stay over tomorrow. However, upon making my trip public, meaning other hosts on the site saw that I was visiting Vienna, my inbox was flooded with invitations from many kind men, of all ages, very willing to offer me a bed. Things got really weird, really fast. 

Needless to say, I declined and decided against couch surfing Vienna.

Does that mean I’ll never use couchsurfing? Absolutely not. My experience was a last minute thrown together effort and in no way exemplifies the website. I would love to give it another try and find some cool locals to hang out with! In fact, I got a reply from a really cool lady today to crash with her, but I had already arranged accommodations by the time I saw her response. Maybe next time I ought to send requests at least a week in advance, yeah? 

Anyways. That’s that and here I am. In Vienna. I’ve already been to Vienna, once, when I was a child. But I thought it would be lovely to go back. And it is. This is lovely. 

Home sweet home for the night?

Slow My Roll

I have spent the last ten days in Kraków, camped out on a couch at my aunt and uncles’, sleeping, reading and watching Netflix. Yes, after weeks of bouncing around from city to city, Seville to Córdoba to Granada to Barcelona to Warsaw to a wild wedding here, it was time to slow my roll.

The truth is that every once in a while we all need some TLC and to just chill out. For months, when I wasn’t traveling, I was at least planning my next travels. I was barely sleeping, insisting that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. And, I had half a dozen books on my kindle, untouched.

So here I am, attempting to do nothing. Quite honestly, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to. I don’t really remember how to do nothing. Binge-watching Netflix has no appeal to me, especially since I’ve already finished Orange is the New Black, and sleeping-in is overrated.

That’s why I’ve broken up my rest with exploring this gorgeous city, visiting it’s museums, taking walking tours of the historic neighborhoods and treating myself to ice cream.

I believe in something I call the hometown effect. It’s when you live in a city, or you’ve been to a place so often that you’ve never visited it. I’ve lived in Chicago all my life, and hadn’t gone up the Sears Tower up until a few years ago. And similarly, after visiting Kraków year after year to see family, I still couldn’t tell you the first thing about it. So, I found a free walking tour of the Old Town and another of the Jewish neighborhoods and I tagged along for the day, strolling through the cobblestone streets, checking out the castle and even learning about the former Jewish ghettos of Kraków.

I took myself to the chocolate drinker-y yesterday, the literal translation of “Pijalnia Czekolady.” Yes, that’s a thing. A gorgeous cafe in the city center dedicated to drinking hot (or cold!) chocolate. Not the powdered kind that you dissolve in milk, but the real melted down chocolate that is so thick that you’re actually a little sick after drinking it.

There you have it, that’s what I’ve been up to the last week or so. I am resting. I am on vacation.

But let’s be honest, I am me. I’ve got one eye on plane tickets, and one foot out the door. Only a matter of time until I’m off again!


Beautiful streets of Kraków

A Polish Wedding

It’s been a busy week, a beautiful week.

I am currently recovering from the my girlfriend, Kasia’s, wedding weekend. Both the bride and groom have polish roots and decided to hold their wedding at St. Mary’s church in Kraków, a 14th century church in the heart of the city. The wedding was followed by horse drawn carriage rides around the main square and a reception at Hotel Stary, one of Europe’s most beautiful hotels.

You see, polish weddings are exceptional in term of necessary recovery time, because it’s traditional to have a bottle of vodka at each table at all times. You eat a lot, drink a lot and be very merry until the sun comes up. Then you rest and get ready to do it all over again 12 hours later in a fun polish tradition called poprawiny.

The word “poprawiny” comes from the verb “poprawić”, which means to correct, improve, fix. It’s essentially an after-party the next day to eat more, drink more and talk about the wedding. It was held in an old-style inn, with an all wood interior and taxidermy animals along with walls. Typically, the point is to eat any leftover food, and drink any leftover vodka, but I highly doubt we left any bottle untouched the night before. Each guest was fed to the brim with grilled oscypek, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk from the Tatra Mountains, żurek, a traditional sausage and egg soup, beets, cabbage, dumplings, an entire platter of assorted meats, followed by szarlotka, an apple cake, for dessert. If that sounds like a lot of food, it is, but that’s just what Polish people call a party. No one goes hungry at a Polish event, that’s for sure.

The couple did a lovely job incorporating their polish heritage into their marriage, from their traditional highlander outfits to the Krakowian folk dancers at their poprawiny. Kasia and her husband, Matthew, reminded me how proud I am of my roots, as well, and it was an incredible experience to share a part of Poland with the immense number of guests who flew in from the States for the wedding.

When thinking of first generation Americans, most people don’t picture someone like Kasia, the bride, or myself. Yet, aside from my parents and my brother, my entire family still lives in Poland. My parents emigrated to the States about 25 years ago, when Poland was still a communist country. I’m very fortunate to have such a rich culture in my life, another language to call my mother tongue and a home away from home in a city that dates back to the 7th century, where I am currently settling in for the next few weeks, drinking tea and resting after a fabulous polish wedding.

Congratulations Kasia and Matthew! “Be truly glad; there is wonderful joy ahead.”

The bridal party in front of St. Mary's Church in Kraków
The bridal party in front of St. Mary’s Church in Kraków

Wedding Belles

One of my best girlfriends, Kasia, is getting married this Saturday in Kraków, in one of Poland’s most historic and beautiful churches in what is essentially the wedding that fairy-tales, and Pinterest dreams alike, are made of.

The bridal party has spent the first half of the week strolling Warsaw, Poland’s capital, shopping, relaxing and fine dining. The fabulous bride and her lovely family have absolutely spoiled the bridesmaids, showing us the best that Poland has to offer, including private evening concerts from opera singers and tours of Warsaw’s royal gardens. I may actually be ruined after this trip because Mondays without kiwi-basil lemonades and delighting in freshly prepared beef tartar after a day at the spa are not Mondays I want to go back to.

Now, everyone is hanging out in Kraków, in the gorgeous old town square. Being back in the motherland is quite exciting and strange for me. I would spend every summer here, growing up, but it’s been two years since my last visit. It’s changed a little, but for the better. Poland is one of Europe’s most rapidly developing countries, and you can tell; there are more businesses, the infrastructure has improved, and the technology has advanced.

I’m slowly adjusting from speaking Spanish everyday, to speaking Polish. However, the easiest adjustment to make was the currency. Poland, although part of the European Union, still hasn’t adopted the Euro. One dollar is about four zloty, so basically I can live like a king for the next month. Okay, maybe not a king, but some kind of non-peasant.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay in Poland; maybe the entire month, maybe not. In the mean time, I have a Polish wedding to go to!

Please pray for my liver.

Off to Kraków with a few of the bridesmaids and the beautiful bride!
Off to Kraków with a few of the bridesmaids and the beautiful bride!