I don’t care AND I’m happy about it.

Traveling questions I understand but personal questions the last few months have been off the charts. “Have you heard…?, Or did that really happen?”, have been blurted out unexpectedly mid-conversation since the early part of this year.  The questions regarding an event that I was not involved in directly but because I had knowledge of it made me indirectly a target of rumors.  There were a few that apologized, told me they felt guilty for not supporting me more or for distancing themselves (which I didn’t notice) and said they were shocked that they never heard any of it from me.
This is a part of life.
1-people are curious and 2-people have no filter. Generally I think the best of people so I’m amused by behaviorism.
Here’s my generic answers to most questions following a rumor.

  • Yes. I’ve heard.
  • I don’t care. 
  • Karma.

I will reiterate that I really don’t care. I’m much more concerned about the fact that my favorite Menthol RAGNAR Chapstick is all gone and I don’t know what to replace it with because their new one is not the same.  AND how will the UK referendum change my travel plans?

I’ve learned three important lessons two years ago.  The fact is, 1-we can’t change other people. More than not caring about gossip, I’m thinking What is your motivation for asking?, or It’s none of your business. Seasoned in a culture to be polite and forgiving, I think the majority of us are too kind to actually say it’s none of your business.  Even now,  I’m not saying it to anyone in particular but writing it in a blog, not to be read by the person, err, people that needs to hear it.  I got divorced two years ago.  I’ve had comments and inquiries regarding personal issues that I never fathomed even possible conversations.  Anyone who joins me in the ranks of Divorced Mormon knows the depths to our religious shaming and false concern.  It bothered me a lot at first.  In the beginning I spent a lot of time defending myself but I quickly learned another valuable lesson.  2-Self-love. I like myself better now than I have in years.  I’m happy.  I don’t care AND I’m happy.  It’s true.  I am no longer bothered by the judgment that flows with abundance in our culture. I stopped worrying about what was being said and what followed not worrying was that I soon stopped hearing anything that was being said.  It’s called the Law of Attraction.  (I heard a lot of what was being said as it was recounted during apologies the past few months and giggled a little every time at the absurd assumptions.  That’s how far I placed myself from it.)  Without needing much explanation in regards to all the gossip that’s meeting the ears of the locals these days, my favorite lesson I’ve learned in the past few years is trust in 3-Karma. If you wait patiently, it always takes care of everything. Always.

*photo taken in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden.

My favorite travel sites.

Here is a list of my top favorite travel sites for alerts and searching.  I mostly use them as a guide for prices I should be able to find and then go to the airline or hotel or company website to book.  I’ve called hotels directly and told them about the price I saw online and got them to book me for a lower price.  This was done without any pressure from me except asking kindly once,  “Can you do any better?”  Even if it was only $5, that’s the $5 that buys me a water at the airport after I pour mine out at security.  I figure every dollar counts.  I’ve called airlines in the middle of the night (during my insomnia phase) and asked when the next sale/special will be posted.  More often than not, employees are willing to share this information.  I search hashtags for the places I’m thinking of traveling to on social media.  I’m also a little crazy when it comes to expectation of prices.  I give myself an absurd challenge and then don’t go until I find it at that price….or I don’t go.  Who would’ve thought you could fly to Europe cheaper than to Florida?  Me.

  1. Travelzoo
  2. Airfarewatchdog
  3. Spirit Deals
  4. About Travel
  5. T&L
  6. AirBnb
  7. Private accounts on Instagram/Snapchat
  8. TravelPirates
  9. Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline… etc.
  10. BookingBuddy
  11. HipMunk
  12. Skyscanner

I know there are tons more out there. I’m still exploring.  These are what I have on my phone or signed up for alerts through e-mail.  If you have a favorite, let me know.

How can you afford to travel?

You may be thinking it too.  I’ve been asked that question a dozen or so times in the past month.  I took a dream solo holiday for 12 days to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom for less than $1000.00.  It only took a little patience, flexibility, and resourcefulness.


Here’s what I did to get on that plane:

  1. FIVE DOLLAR JAR
    I don’t spend $5 bills.  They all go into my “holiday” jar.  Once I save $500 I allow myself to start planning.  I already have a few places in mind. Planning takes a few months. I stated saving in October of 2015 and was ready to book something by March 2016.  By the time I actually leave I usually have a few hundred more for spending. 
  2. ALERTS
    I set alerts on no less than 10 travel sites for where I wanted to go.
  3. AirBNB & HOSTELWORLD
    I searched AirBNB and HostelWorld. I love AirBNB but traveling solo made me think differently.  I wanted to meet people and Hostels provide a lot of socialization.  I also felt safer staying in a room of strangers than staying by myself.
  4. FLEXIBLE DATES
    I had an open schedule.  Weekdays are cheaper than weekends to travel.  45 days out can also be as cheap as 14.  My daughter had an unexpected event and I had to cancel my original dates with a $75 change fee.  I couldn’t believe that the new travel dates two weeks out were actually cheaper than the original price booked six weeks in advance.
  5. THINK ABOUT DIFFERENT VACATION SPOTS
    I wanted to see the world and discover new places.  I didn’t need to stay in the most expensive places or cities.  Clearly, there are exotic or popular spots that cost more due to tourist inflation. I also don’t need 5 star anymore. I want a clean space but plan on spending as little time in the room as possible. I’m traveling to see the world.

I found a flight to Norway for $138 and my ticket home from Stockholm was $98. I flew roundtrip for less than it would cost me to go visit my sister in Ohio. I stayed in Hostels or with friends for between $24-65 a night. I took flights between countries for $39, $24, and $9. 

Once I arrived, I went to a market to buy food for breakfast and snacks. I ate early in my room or lobby while hanging out, ate out for brunch nearly every day, ate a snack or two and then only had 2 sit down dinners when I wasn’t picnicing with the food I bought at the store in a park or on the go. I saw nearly everything the city had to offer for free. I paid for two admissions, chose them wisely and was very happy with my choices.

    *It’s not always easy to scour through websites for months but it’s worth it. For Christmas I promised my girls we’d go to Florida this year. I also told them I wouldn’t fly there for more than $250 per person. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to find anything even near that price. But I finally found a deal for $126 there and $98 home on different airlines. I’ve been looking since December. Last week I found an amazing AirBnb home 2 miles from Universal Studios for $50 a night with full access to a kitchen, minutes from a bus stop, and a pool and hot tub.  We can’t wait.

    Oh London. You spoil me.

    I wasn’t sure if I’d go to London again so soon.  It’s a place I still dream of nearly daily so when the opportunity came, I had to go.
    The weather was freezing and rainy when I arrived and I was tired from going non-stop the past week so I was happy to stay indoors the first day and rest from doing so much already.  I did manage to wander through Shoreditch, find a few markets and get lost in the streets there.  The street art is impressive.

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    By Sunday afternoon I made my way to South East London to visit with my friend, only to fall asleep on his couch instead of chatting.  But we woke up early, caught a train together and I went straight to Tower Bridge to see the sunrise.  I stayed there over an hour just enjoying the views and the people.

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    Monday was warm and bright. I walked the Tower Bridge and then went two blocks over to my favorite spot in the city.  St. Dunsten’s in the East.  I cannot say enough how much this place brings me joy.

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    From the advice of a friend I splurged on a tour of the Tower of London, (which is in between the two blocks of St. Dunsten’s and Tower Bridge.)
    I am so happy I did.  They have Beefeaters give free tours and I must say it was informative and entertaining. After the hour tour, I explored the grounds.  The history and violence that happened behind those walls!!!  It’s all amazing and well worth it.  I missed it the last time I was in London and am so glad I made it a top priority.  The crown jewels are stunning, the ravens charming, the chapel beautiful.  I loved it all.  I ate lunch on a bench inside the grounds and met some lovely people from Florida.  I was there nearly four hours and could’ve stayed longer.

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    Denmark

     I instantly fell in love with Copenhagen.  This city is charming and modern and vibrant and expensive.  I was magically drawn to the city library within the first hour I was there. I started exploring mapless and stumbled upon it by being tempted down another alley. The library has a garden and all four sides are surrounded by buildings from four different eras.  One of them was covered in climbing wisteria.  The benches were filled with people and the center had a water fountain.  It was a perfect introduction to Denmark; a library with a park.
    I feel the need to go back to Denmark and explore other areas but here were my five favorite stops:

    1-Botanisk Have.

    It’s the University Botanical Garden.  The greenhouse is spectacular.  You can walk through from one side to the other and every room has generous eye appeal.  It’s well-maintained and lush.  The Center has a spiral staircase where you can climb to the top, walk around the room, and get views of the treetops and the city.  It’s also tropical in there so it’s warm and moist but I loved it.  It reminded me of something from a movie.

    The grounds were gorgeous as well and near the center of the property there’s a hill where they had flowers and plants blooming and blossoming all over the hillside.  Little stone steps guided you through the flowers and plants.

    I loved everything about this place.


    2-Assistens Cemetery.

    The final resting place of Denmark’s beloved Hans Christian Anderson.  It was well-manicured and provided perfect shelter from the light rain.

    I love graveyards.  This one was different.  People buried this year are buried next to someone who died a few hundred years ago so the mix and old and new tombstones was interesting.  And they don’t seem to be related to who they are buried next to.  Some had gates around them and/or hedging so tall you couldn’t see who was there.  The children’s graves had toys placed on top of them.  Full Star Wars sets, Thomas, or Teenage Ninja Turtles.

    I could’ve stayed for hours but I was worried we’d be trapped in the rain and since it cleared up for a moment we took our chance to head back.


    3-Christiansborg Palace Tower.

    Jorge and I were stopped by an 83 year old man outside the palace picketing for equal rights (although equal for what was not clear).  We heard his life story but it ended with him telling us that you could climb the tower at no charge.  This caught our attention.  We weren’t going to do anything that required fees to get in because everything was already crazy expensive there and we figured there was more than enough free things to see in two days.  There was a statue outside of a bear on a spear protesting that “Global Warming is unBEARable”.

    We stood in line for nearly 20 minutes. went through a metal detector, exited one lift, walked down a hall to get on another, and finally climbed two flights of stairs to see the city.  It was worth it.

    All four sides had maps to point out the buildings and give you random facts and details.  The breeze was nice and the sun was shining.  It was perfect timing.  And a lot better priced than the Round Tower that charges £18.


    2-Nyhavn.

    You can’t visit Copenhagen with walking along this waterfront.  I arrived at 9:30 am, couldn’t check into the room until 2pm so, of course, the first thing I did was walk two blocks to the canal.  It’s is picturesque just like the photos.  During the day it’s a busy harbor still and at night the street is lined with al fresco dining.

    I sat on a bench and people watched for nearly an hour that first morning and then went back in the evening with Jorge.


    1-Den Lille Havfrue.

    The Little Mermaid statue.  Another must stop I had to see was the most photgraphed statue in all of Denmark.  Although I’m not sure why.  Hans Christian Andersons’ version of the story is not Disney style.  It’s sad.  The statue is over 100 years old but has been molested and repaired multiple times.  It’s also crowded.  And to get close enough for an iPhone picture you needed to climb down onto the rocky shore.

    As we were leaving, the shot a canon off across the harbor.  It scared myself and everyone around.  I’m glad I went mostly because I came across the Amalienborg Palace on the way there and the Kastellet, a 17th century fortress, on the way back.

    I took so many pictures.

    May

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    Panic! at the Disco
    Atlas Genius
    Rufus
    Venice Beach
    Norway
    Sweden
    Denmark
    United Kingdom
    Finished Business
    Reiki
    Cheer Tryouts
    X-Men
    Band Concerts
    The Park
    Self Challenge

    May came and went in a blur…

    Sweden

    I stayed in Sweden in Gamla Stan, the old town, overlooking the water.  My room had a huge windowsill that I could sit in and watch people on the street and the boats in water.   There is roughly only four hours of darkness so I woke up early (3am) and sat in the window that first morning for nearly 2 hours before finally heading out.  I left around 5am and by 7am I’d walked the entire self-guided walking tour, had myself some Fika, and met some cool people who couldn’t sleep either and sat on a bench with them for an hour.  By 8am I was back in the lounge and met a cool guy from Peru and his friends living in Dubai.  By 9am my day was already complete and it didn’t matter what I did from then on because I was so happy with what I’d seen and done already that it didn’t matter.

    When I left the hostel for the second time I started another self-guided walking tour for the day on Södermalm.  I passed my new friend from the hostel and he asked if I’d like to join them and we hung out for the next few hours while walking the perimeter of the island.  My favorite site here was the kolonilotters.  Tiny cottages with an allotment of land originally given to help the city dweller have a fresh garden.  It later helped supply food during the war.  The spring weather had them blooming with flowers and everything that the desert does not grow.  So lovely.

    I walked nearly 17 miles that first day.

    Day 2 I joined Jorge, Lili, Jan, and Andy and we did a tour at the Vasa Museum.  It’s all about a war ship that sunk over 300 years ago and it was amazing.

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    I left the group and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring side streets, grabbing a lunch and finding a park with Mr. August to eat in.  I wandered 3 miles deep into the city and was fascinated by everything on the way, including the people. Andy and I found dinner in a little pub and we had Swedish meatballs and Toast Skagen.  Skagen is prawns and they are yummy.

    Of course my favorite things were the alleyways and cobblestone streets.  Mårten Trotzigs Gränd.  I walked up and down that narrow alley no less than 7 times.  And for no good reason.  I loved seeing an absurd amount of men taking care of babies.  Walking them in prams, tying shoes, feeding them biscuits, chasing after them in the parks.  And they seemed to genuinely enjoy it.  I’m not surprised that it’s one of the happiest countries in the world.