Who you travel with…

Makes all the difference.

New York skyline. New York, New York, United States. February 2015.
New York skyline. New York, New York, United States. February 2015.

So, I’ve been thinking about travel… And with a blog like this, this shouldn’t be a surprise… at all.

What I’ve been thinking about, however, is that throughout my 24 years on this earth, I’ve been lucky enough to travel around quite a bit and, in this time, I’ve only been blogging (or really writing about much of it at all) for just over a year and a half and then only really covering travels from the last three(ish) years. This means I’ve never touched on most of my road trips across the Continental US (and a trip to Hawaii), or my trips to Italy, Japan, or Australia (possibly because I’m really counting on heading back at some point for better posts!).

For better or worse, this also means I’ve also traveled in varying circumstances: places to transport to group size and dynamic. Which brings us here to this post.

While I could go through the kinds of traveling groups you’ll probably find yourself in at one point or another, giving you pros and cons (which will inevitably happen) on each, I feel much more interested in talking about why I’ve loved/like/hated these kinds of trips and why you should consider each before jumping into your next set of travels.

Family Vacation…

There is an undeniable reason why there is are so many films, books, ect. about this kind of trip (including the National Lampoon saga sharing that title): Family trips are crazy!

For the most past, these are the first and most common adventures people are going to go on and I’m pretty sure that I’ve been on too many to count from RV trips with the grandparents, to cramped car road trips, to much wider travels half-way across the world and filled with aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, you name it.

As I’ve said, I’ve been lucky.

While I really do love these trips for many reasons, they get complicated pretty quickly depending on who you are having to deal with.

Just a quick contrast (because this could easily be a book of its own):

My trip to New York last March had me trapped between the adult group and the kids group. This basically meant I played a whole lot of teenager-sitter, which I didn’t mind, except when that meant that it was my (unpaid) job to make sure one cousin checked his diabetes at frequent intervals and another got up the require hours early to get herself ready for the day—yes, I said hours.

Basically, my time in New York, while enjoyable, was more like a long plane ride to babysit while teenagers’ parents got a break and I felt guilty for forgetting to do stuff. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself—there were great moments between the hectic 5 days we spent in the city before I hightailed it back to London. But vacation? It’s hard to call it that.

In contrast, my month long trip with my mom and youngest sister was entirely different. I didn’t mind the pace or early rises or running any interference between parties that needed it. This isn’t to say there wasn’t some drama (talks about the future with a soon to be graduate with ideas but little strategies, gets touchy when a parent wants concrete plans!)

While my sister really counts more as a best friend than a sister (cause, once again, I really lucked out with all my sisters!), being able to read each other and help negotiate the family tension – moments when they got to be too much – made the whole thing better (she did this in New York as well, but different circumstances with different people).

Friends….

Besides traveling with my sisters (which again felt more like friends), I haven’t really done much travel with friends until this year. What I’ve loved about this kind of travel is just how much you get to know about each other through traveling.

Yes, living with a friend can define a relationship, but living with them out of a suitcase while running around new, strange (to you) places? Whole new level of getting to know you.

With friends, there is an obligation to be together, but also the ability to say that you want to do something off on your own for the day and having it be okay. You tend to be more off the cuff with plans, but having that other person there also motivates you to actually get off your butt and go do something!

The thing I suggest for traveling with friends is to be really frank: talk about what you are able to spend, what you actually want to do and see, when you need to take a break,  and, when you are feeling crabby, that it’s okay for them to go ahead without you (or when it’s not). If you are traveling with a friend, a real one, they’ll get it! Just don’t forget to take all of that information into account from their end.

After all, travel living pretty much dictates living out of each other’s pockets—there is no room to be shy here!

Groups (as in Touring Groups)…

The summer (2004) I spent in Australia (though sorry, mates, still not going into much detail), is probably the closest I have ever come to going on a full out tour of a country. It was me, 39 other students, and three mentors/teachers from America’s People to People Student Ambassador Program, Southern California edition, as well as two Australian natives—our guide and out coach driver.

I still consider this a tour—one of those pretty rigorous ones, because, while we got to have some off the beaten path experiences, everything was schedules, including our free time. If you missed something, there was no going back. You paid for what they were giving you and you kept to the group.

While this was fine, especially for a 13 year old who hadn’t traveled without family before, I quickly learned this wasn’t for me.

I’ve covered pros and con for tours before when looking at day tours (pros: everything is taken care of for you, just show up on time, meet new people, greater access to areas you couldn’t get to by yourself, tend to be language oriented, ie. the guide, at least speaks your language; cons: everything is already planned for you, tend to be more expensive, limited by the time allotted to you by your group, you HAVE to meet new people—you get the picture), but for the purpose of this post I want to look at the meeting people option.

The fact is, when it comes to tours, you have no idea what sort of people you are going to end up with—or have many options for getting away if need be—until all of them show up. You can find out all about the guides, the companies, the places, but the big X factor are your fellow travelers, which can range from the nicest people you will ever meet, who have an actual interest in what you are doing, to the rudest, loudest, worst travelers who are on the tour purely so that they didn’t have to plan out activities for their family vacation.

Going Solo…

Shifting to the other end of the spectrum, flying solo while traveling means the only person you truly have to deal with all the time is you—which, technically, you have to do in every other option as well. For the more outgoing, this can be trying as you’ll want to be out all the time so you can interact with people (not always a budget friendly option). For the more introverted, this can mean less motivation to get out there and do anything—which pretty much negates the point of traveling to begin with.

Again, I’ve touched a bit on this when writing about my solo travels this year.

Back in February, I traveled to Lyon by myself and absolutely loved it—as anyone who has been reading along will undoubtedly remember.  Getting to get up in the morning and decide where I wanted to go with no concern for anyone else’s wants or needs was amazing and let me just explore the city.

One thing I absolutely insist on for this last travel type, however, is a willingness to know yourself, push yourself, and be smart. Lone wolfing it is undoubtedly freeing but it’s also scary and, if you’re not careful, dangerous.

Still, I wouldn’t give it up for the world!

My opinion?

If you have the opportunity, try them all. All travel teaches you something about yourself, the people around you, and the world at large, and mixing it up in how you travel, and with whom, lets you experience even more.

Again, these groups aren’t exclusive and a single trip can overlap across any and all of them, but go out and explore. And if you are feeling up to it (I know this was a long one, so congrats if you made it!), let me know about your favorite people to travel with; where, how, with whom, and anything else you feel like sharing from horror to comedy.

And as always, until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Who you travel with…

Cheating or Smarts?

Some quick tips to visiting the Greenwich Meridian.

VIew from the top. Greenwich Observatory hill, Greenwich, England. Spetember 2015.
View from the top. Greenwich Observatory Hill, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

There are so many things to do in Greenwich beyond just standing on a line marked inthe ground (not that that isn’t reason enough for some visitors). From visiting universities to the maritime museum to wandering the cute streets and shops to boat trips to the observatory, this area can easily fill a weekend(+) or a quick day trip given your availability.

But—as covered constantly—you always have to consider some money factors when traveling through pretty much any area.

While the usual wandering around town is sure to save you quite a bit of money—as well as packing a lunch that you can enjoy out on Greenwich Park—here are a few more tips of the money saving variety.

We’ll start off more traditionally and say planning! Plot out your travel including times to find the best and cheapest way to Greenwich. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be using multiple types of transport which (depending on how you are paying for it) can start to add up. Luckily, if you are using an Oyster card, this maxes out relatively quickly on trips like these, so you aren’t spending too much compared to the distance traveled.

Also, if you do have an Oyster card, you can get discounts for the cable car, if don’t mind the heights and spending a little money, that is.

If you are trying to stick with the free model for this visit, however, you should try visiting The Maritime Museum, The Queen’s House, and Greenwich Naval College. These are all right next to each other and run along Greenwich Park.

On a less traditional route, let’s consider why most of us head out to Greenwich in the first place: visiting the Greenwich Meridian Line. The main space where this line is mapped out is held inside the Royal Observatory and this area is chalk full of things to go and see… but they also cost you.

Therefore, if you want the official picture, this also costs you.

If you want to see everything that the admission ticket gives you and you have the time for it, it is definitely worth a look. If you don’t, however, but don’t want to miss the photo op, there are two less conventional options to save that cash:

First, if you can find Park Vista Street—near Park Row Gate—and take a careful stroll down it, you’ll come across a row of large metal dots and a little plaque nearby: these are denoting the Meridian just as much as the one in the courtyard but for nothing more than the time it takes to stroll down the street.

I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.
I walk the line. Greenwich Prime Meridian Line, Greenwich, England. September 2015.

The second way in is a little sketchy but easier. When you are at the top of the hill looking at Flamsteed House (the building with the big red ball), look to the left and you’ll see a black gate where people (who paid for the ticket, mostly) are exiting. You can open this gate from the outside and walk a few feet and there you will find a smaller but still very real golden line marking the path of the Meridian line.

While this feels sketchy, there is no sign telling you not to enter, no security stopping you, nothing. Basically, it’s an honor code or as my friend decided “a savvy traveler test.”

This is just a judgement call: if it bugs you too much, don’t do it; if it doesn’t, go for it. I still recommend subtly and taking the picture quickly, but, hey, do what you need to do, right?

Anyway, hope you find this useful and travel well,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Cheating or Smarts?

And standing in for…

or the art of avoiding awkward selfies.

Sam and Dean's Awesome Summer Adventure. Neuschwanstein Castle. Balvrian Mountains, Germany. June 2015.
Sam and Dean’s Awesome Summer Adventure. Neuschwanstein Castle, Munich, Germany. June 2015. Credit: Tamara Gallagher.

We’ve all done it; we’ve all been the person trying to hit just the right angle, fighting with the selfie-stick, or searching for a friendly face in the crowd, all in search for some kind of image with us that shows where we are and who we’re with (hopefully) at the same time.

Sam and Dean's Awesome Summer Adventure. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. June 2015. Credit: Tamara Gallagher.
Boys Cont. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. June 2015. Credit: Tamara Gallagher.

Well, this may not solve all the issues, but while traveling with my mom and sister, I think I have now found my favorite way of avoiding not only the awkward travel selfie, but having to be in my travel pictures at all while still feeling like these are MY travel experience pictures:

Find your double.

Across this post, you’ll find a mix of images from our trip of WB’s Supernatural brothers my family brought to help track their journey.

Also, this can really be anything you are willing to cart around on your back from a childhood toy to these handy figures (from Funko POP Vinyl collections) to your travel book of the moment. The point is to find something that represents you in some small way that is playful and easy.

Friet Museum, Bruges, Belgium. June 2015. Credit: Tamara Gallagher
Friet Museum, Bruges, Belgium. June 2015. Credit: Tamara Gallagher

When it came to us traveling, what I loved was how creative this got. The boys had a twitter feed, some Tumblr posts and more than a few facebook updates via our accounts or their own (run by my sister). I could easily throw some instagram into the mix. Whatever you would normally post with, these can fill in.

This is also great if you are like me and really can’t be bothered to be in (read: actively avoid) your travel pictures, but don’t want your pictures to be just anyone else’s photo album.

I’m a little sad that my Tinkerbell didn’t make the journey, but I’m sure you’ll be seeing this in the future (though not until next year!).

Again, this is another quick post during my (second round!) of moving this month, but enjoy and let me now how you might avoid the awkward selfie!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

And standing in for…

Moving week…

… aka. hell week.

Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.
Skyline at Sunset. London, UK. August 2015.

This is another week that we’ll be keeping things short, sweet, and casual, here at Leave on the Wind.

Why? Because on top of my first days (kind of) at my internship and scrambling to finish my dissertation (thank God it’s finished), I have had to pack up my life, clean my old rented room, and high-tale it out to the other end of London right in the middle of the rest of my suddenly very hectic life.

In the process of finding a new place to rent, I looked at a few different renters sites to get a feel of the market and then pick my next home for the next four-ish months.

And, oh my God,  were some of these places scary – and that’s just the websites!

After my searching, I landed on AirBnB and this is a site I can really recommend.

While, like any site on the internet, there are a few listings that made me skeptical, the proportion of sketchy to  easily livable or outright lovely compared to every other site were tremendously improved.

What makes renting through AirBnb so great comes down to a few simple points:

  1. The website is exceedingly easy to navigate – you get to set your specific parameters from cost to time needed to rent to type of let to pretty much anything that you might need to consider.
  2. The places are certified – what you see is really what you get, and with (generally) clear pictures, you can count on these rentals even if you aren’t in a place where you can physically go and check the room out before paying for it.
  3. Everything goes through the website – you are told to never directly pay the person who owns the room but to go through the site. This is great in case something goes wrong because the company can come in as an intermediary. This is equally helpful if you end up having a problem with the letter, such as things not living up to the agreement, the company can be contacted.

On the down side, during busy season like August into September when schools are coming back and new students are flooding into the city and old ones, like me, are scrambling for last minute housing as they wrap everything up, spaces can go very quickly so you don’t always have time to sit around and consider your options. If you take too long, the places you like will not stay around!

In the end, I’m going to be staying in two rentals I picked through this sight. The first is a studio I’m splitting with a friend until she heads back home and I wait for location 2 (a private room rental in another studio/warehouse setup) to be free.

Once I get a feel for both of these locations (and my life more under control), I might give a little bit more on this whole process, which should be wrought with pain, adventure and hilarity but until then:

Be safe, travel well, and I will be back, same place, same time, next week… if I survive it:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Ps. and if you have any great stories on moving, feel free to share them below; make me laugh or share my pain, I’d love to hear them!

Moving week…

When in Edinburgh…

go to a festival.

From my room with a View. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland. August 2015.
From my room with a View. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland. August 2015.

With summer coming to a swift close, I’m looking back at my last quick trip of the season: a few days wandering Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

If you haven’t been to Edinburgh before, it’s one of my favorite cities to visit (I’ve written about my past adventures here a few times) and that I recommend to anyone who visits the UK.

But the thing to be aware of if you are visiting in the summer (for better or for worse) is you have entered festival territory with all the pros and cons that come with it.

Throughout the summer, there are many festivals and events in this beautiful, busy city to look out for, but in our short stay, we hit the Fringe-the performance festival. Their are shows of all kind (stage to street, scripted to improv to acapella) and situated for all prices so no matter your budget, you’ll be able to find something to satisfy.

The big thing to note is that the city get crazy during this time period and that includes transport in and out of the city. This is equally key to note if you happen to be passing through the area, even if you don’t participate in the revelry: there are a lot of people passing through.

And of course, with the crowds come some issues; getting anywhere is chaotic, a crowds is a pickpockets best friend, and noise being just a few.

Still, this isn’t an experience I would give up; just be smart about it!

Also, if you are on a budget, plan well. There are tons of shows to see, food trucks to try, and shops to fall in love with, but that also means it’s easy to run through money faster than you plan to.

I know this is a quick post, but I’ve got work in the morning so to wrap up: visit Edinburgh, hit the festivals, but remember, people live in the city so have fun but be safe and be kind.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

When in Edinburgh…