I have been MIA because I have not done much and its been difficult to concentrate. I did get a chance to visit my parents for Father’s day and I was able to explore Austin a bit for 4th of July. However, we still had to be very cautions and a lot places are still closed. For 4th of July weekend, most things were outdoors like grilling outside and eating at food trucks. We also did a lot takeout and cooking at home. Back with my parents we mostly stayed indoors and watched a lot movies.
These past few months got me thinking about things I can do in 2020. Things that are safe and that make me feel comfortable. Traveling in 2020 will be different. I mostly want to do things in Texas where I can drive or states near Texas. My plan is to complete more of my Texas Bucket list. So far I have seen Hamilton pool and Krause Springs. I‘m thinking about getting an Airbnb in Fredericksburg to see Enchanted Rock or visit some vineyards. I am even thinking about visiting Port Aransas to see another Texas Beach. Even Canyon Lake seems like a nice lake spot. The opportunities seem endless now that I am typing this. I have asked my sister and she is excited about all options. I am thinking about going to Fredericksburg next month because its closer to Austin. I want to get us a cute Airbnb that is near some vineyards. Most likely we will be walking around outside and watching a lot movies in the Airbnb. It will be a change in scenery and something we can look forward to.
Since travel has been put on hold, I wanted to share some of my favorite travel memories. Here are some of my favorite travel memories from over the years:
- Visiting a sheep farm-It was 5 euros to visit the sheep farm. We got to see the sheep being herding by the dogs, see beautiful Ireland scenery, and pet baby sheep. I also learned that sheep farmers are not making much money from selling wool. They actually make the majority of their money from tours. So visit a sheep farm in Ireland to help support them.
- Visiting Oxford and Stonehenge: In Oxford I took a tour of the city and the University. I learned that Oxford University has different colleges. Including one that doesn’t have students called All Souls College. It reminded me of Hogwarts and the different houses. The campus is absolutely stunning. It had beautiful green grass and old buildings. So much history!
- Stonehenge was unreal. I felt like I was looking at a picture. I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at Stonehenge! When you get to Stonehenge, they give you a radio to listen to the history and to help prepare for the bus ride there.
- Crossing our bucket list items in Paris- I was only in Paris for a short time. For a day and half. New Friends and I decided to cross off as many Paris items off our bucket list. We went to the top of the Eiffel tower, saw the love lock bridge, went to louver museum, ate crepes, and took a tour of The Notre dame cathedral. To end the night, we got hot chocolates, sat outside the cafe, and reminisce on our day. It was a lot fun and I got see a lot Paris in such a short time.
- Neuschwanstein castle- It’s 2.5 hours from Munich. There are two ways to get the castle. A regular path way, which the majority of tourists take. Then the hiking one. I don’t know why I decided to follow my new friends to the hiking one, when I’m not a hiker. It was an interesting experience. The castle was beautiful. I felt like it was really ahead of it’s time.
- Exploring Edinburgh- I loved the feeling that Edinburgh gave me. I loved the architecture (the castles and the land was so pretty). Walking around Victoria street in Edinburgh was magical.
- Traveling with friends-first time I traveled with friends. Before I met friends at my tour group. This time I went with friends already. It amazing to discover a new country together. We were able to try new food and meet locals together. I had have one friend that had been to Madrid, she helped us know what to order and how to navigate the public transportation.
- Batu caves- It’s a Hindu temple mixed with limestone caves. It’s about 30 minutes from Kuala Lumpur. The cave has has 272 steps to get to the top of the Batu caves. It was the first thing we did in Malaysia. It was so beautiful. We had just landed and got dressed and took a Grab (uber there) to the caves. After, we got coconuts and drank coconut water to hydrate. They also have monkeys at the caves. The monkeys were so cute but be careful because they take your food and drinks.
- Phuket Elephant Sanctuary- This place does so much for the elephants. They rescue them, so they can have a better life. These elephants were use to perform for money. Now they can walk freely and without abuse. The elephants look so happy there, I could see it in their eyes. Here you can feed the elephants and watch them walk freely in the land.
One of my favorite memories is when I went to Ireland in March 2013. It was my first overseas trip and it was during St. Patrick’s day. I really think I was meant to go to Ireland. That is what I truly believe. I was 25 and I wanted to start traveling. I decided to travel with a tour group called EF Ultimate break back then it was called EF College Break. I heard of the tour group from a close friend of mine who traveled with them when she was in college. Let’s go back to September 2012. Back then, I was looking to travel. I was working full-time and could finally afford to pay for my own trip. I was looking at EF Ultimate Break’s website. They set your payments into monthly payments for your trip. The more advance you book your trip the less payments you will pay monthly. At first I wanted to travel in the end of December for New years. That was not an option because the monthly payments were not affordable for me. I could not travel in the summer due to summer classes for grad school and my friends wedding was in May. Back then I did not know when in May it was taking place. I decided on a trip for March for spring break. The monthly payments were more affordable and I was off from school. It would also give me more time to save vacation time for work. The only trips offered through EF in March were Ireland during St. Patrick’s day and Costa Rica. I decided on Ireland and never looked back.
I went solo on my Ireland trip. My trip was nine days and we would be traveling between cities in Ireland. The cities we were vising: Killarney, Cork, Dublin, and Galway. Spending St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. My flight was from San Antonio to Newark NJ and then to Shannon Ireland. I did not get any sleep on the fight. I just assumed we would get to the hotel after meeting in the Shannon airport. We did not go to the hotel. Instead, we ate breakfast first, then went to see the Cliff of Moher. They were beautiful and pictures can not give the view justice. After, we got snacks at a restaurant and I had my first Guinness in Ireland. Our first hotel was called Darby O Gills, it was cute and perfect for Ireland. I fell a sleep in the boat ride after the hotel. It was a great boat ride by Ross castle.
On St. Patrick’s Day Eve we went to a comedy show in Dublin, had green beer, and celebrated being in Ireland. I met a couple of friends on my tour group that wanted to see a Dublin Ghost Tour. The Ghost tour was a bus that stopped by haunted places in Dublin. It was pretty interested and I even won the Dracula book by guessing a haunted series theme song. The tour showed us an area where you can still see a ghost of a Catholic priest giving mass. I do not remember what day we went to the Guinness Factory or what day we to the St. Patrick’s Parade in Dublin. I think we went to the Guinness Factory before the comedy show. What I do remember is that the trip was amazing and it’s what started my travel bug. I have not been the same since.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I went to the parade with new friends but we did not stay long because it was freezing. I was so cold, I wanted to cry. We ended up seeking warmth in a Mexican restaurant where I lost my umbrella. The restaurant owners where from Mexico and it was nice to see Mexican culture in Dublin. After the restaurant we just walked around and explored Dublin while trying to find good WIFI. My tour group set up a pub run but we got lost and ended in a different bar with the same name. We ran into other girls that made the same mistake and we decided to make our own pub run. That night we went to pub to pub and just had a good time. We even met some locals that told us more about Ireland.
The last day we went to the Aran Islands from Galway. We had to get there by boat. It was was small but beautiful area. We met a local that told us that when he moved there, the phone company told him that it would take three weeks to set up his phone. It seemed like an isolated area but a cute community. Our tour group even left a dollar at the local pub. Tourists put money in the pub, so if they ever come back they can see it.
One of my favorite memories from the whole trip was visiting the sheep farms. Sheep farms do not make their money from selling wool anymore. So visiting sheep farms helps keep the sheep farm open because that is where they make their money. The sheep farm was so beautiful, the landscape was gorgeous. It was also amazing to see the dogs herd the sheep. Ireland is one my favorite places and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
I have been watching a lot shows this past quarantine. I wanted to give you some show recommendations to help you find shows to watch. The majority are from Netflix and one is from Hulu. Two are documentaries with several episodes, one is based on a true story, and the other is based on a book. Here are my show recommendations:
- Wild Wild Country: is a documentary on Netflix about a guru and his followers who build a Utopian city in a small town in Oregon. It causes conflict with people who were already living in the town.
- The Keepers: a documentary on Netflix about a nun’s death who taught in Baltimore. It explores her unsolved murder. Her murder still has not been solved.
- Waco: a true story about a stand-off that took place in Waco TX in 1993. It was between the FBI and ATF and the Branch Davidans (David Koresh’s spiritual group) This show is also on Netflix.
- Little Fires Everywhere: It’s based on a book. It’s on hulu it’s about two mothers who changed each others lives. One mother comes from a picture perfect family and the other is a mysterious single mom.
Next weekend I was suppose to go to Chicago. It was going to be my first solo trip without a tour group or staying with a friend. I was going to be in my own airbnb in the cute neighborhood of Pilsen. I would of enjoyed some beautiful street art in Pilsen, eaten delicious deep dish pizza, visited local bars, met up with an old friend, see the Willis Tower and other tourist areas in Chicago. Obviously, the trip had to be postponed. Now next weekend, I will be at home. I have been doing that for a month and I am fortunate to be able too. However, I think its making me lethargic. That’s why I had to go for a walk outside yesterday. Also, the fact that we will not be getting back to normal for awhile is making me feel like I am wasting so much time. At least before, I could control going on a trip and seeing friends/family. Now I do not have control, I just have to wait. I have to wait till things get better and not concentrate on things I can not control.
This pandemic has made realize even more that we need to do things we love when we can. We do not know whats going to happen in the future. I did not know this pandemic would happen. Even though experts predicted it, I did not pay attention. I was not prepared and I did not always do things I wanted. Things I love doing are traveling, trying new restaurants, and exploring my city. I can not do any of those things right now. Now I wish I would of traveled more and explored more things. I wish I would have gone to Italy last summer, visited my parents more, and went to the state fair in Dallas, last year for my birthday. After this pandemic, I want to hug my friends and family, I want to travel more (in Texas, United States, and out of the country), complete all my bucket list blog posts, take more time off, to not wait to go somewhere, and just appreciate what I have. I know being at home all the time is taking a toll on mental health but I feel like this pandemic is going to make me appreciate things more when its over. I do not know when that is going to be. I’m hoping sooner rather than later. So for now, I’m going to sit on my couch, look outside my window, and pet my cat. I will be taking this pandemic one day at a time.
I was talking to my mom this week and she was saying she should of traveled more. Her excuse before was that she would go later. So she would put off travel because she thought she would go later, when she retires. Now with this pandemic, she wishes that she traveled before it. I know right now is a difficult time for everyone. Especially, for people who have lost their jobs or are in jobs that are really essential that can come across coronavirus everyday. It’s also made me think a lot about many things I took for guaranteed just like my mom feels. For today I decided to be positive about the whole situation. Right now I am fortunate to have a job where I can work from home. Also, I am not alone I’m with my boyfriend and I have great friends that I have been video chatting with. To continue being positive in this situation and handling things I can control, I wanted to a create a list of things we can do at home:
Things to do at home:
Decorate your apartment: I have been doing this a lot lately. I think it’s because I moved into a new apartment a month and a half ago. Today, I think I am going to set up my new couch with my new pillows. Then, I will watch a movie and relax on my new couch.
Take a break from social media and the news: I have not done this and I need to this because I really think its getting to me. There was one night, I could not sleep and keep thinking about everything this virus has done. Tomorrow, I will not look at social media, the news, or youtube.
Have a video chat with friends: I’m so happy that video chat exits. I have been able to use zoom to video chat with friends. I had a happy hour last Friday and a Sunday brunch this past Sunday. It’s been great to connect with friends again and it reminds me that I am not alone. Zoom is free for 45 minutes. I noticed when it logs you off after the 45 minutes, you can log back in.
Plan Future trips: My mom and sister have been wanting to go to Greece. I am hoping summer 2022 or March 2022. I will start saving for that. I know that is awhile but it gives me time to plan and save money. I told my mom we should plan something when she told me she wanted to travel. I’m hoping by mid-late 2022 there is a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 and it will be safe to travel again.
I have been home since March 15th for social distancing to flatten the curve for coronavirus. I went out once for groceries but other than that I have been home because I am able to work from home. Last week I was working in my pj’s and I notice that it made it harder for me to concentrate on work. Now I wake up and get dressed like I am going into the office. This has really help me concentrate on work and feel like I am in the office. The days all seem the same now, its difficult to know what day it is. Work does help because some days I have meetings and it helps identify the day of the week. Social distancing and quartieen for a long period of time is something I have never experienced. It is good to take a break from getting dressed, being in traffic, and driving to work. I can catch up on shows that I have been wanting to watch (Game of Thrones), clean and decorate my apartment. I even have a video chat for Friday and Sunday with friends. Friday is happy hour so I need to get my drink of choice and Sunday is brunch.
When I first heard about coronavirus I got scared because I had this feeling in my stomach that it was going to be bad. My mom called me and was worried about me because I had gotten back from Malaysia and Thailand about 3 weeks before it came out the news. I got sick after my trip but I usually get sick after international trips because my sleeping schedule is all off. Back in December coronavirus was not in the news. I know it was happening in China at the time but I did not know about it. I do not think anyone did. I did not get a cough or anything and Malaysia did not have any known cases at the time it was out in the news. I think there was in Thailand but not in Phuket. I think my mom got me paranoid. I had been back from my trip for almost a month. Also, when I got back I just stayed at home with a really bad cold. I had to be on antibiotics afterwards because I could not stop sneezing because I had gotten a sinus infection. That is when my mom called me was during my antibiotic treatment. It was weird because I did get a feeling that coronavirus was going to be bad but then I forgot about it. I lived my life like it was not going on in the rest of the world. I did not prepare with can foods or frozen foods or any disinfectants. I went out with friends and traveled to other Texas cities. Then, I got another call from my mom at the end of February to prepare and get can food in case I had to be quarantine for 14 days. My brother had told her to prepare and that is when I remember about it again. Now, it’s really bad in the United States the WHO says we will be the next epicenter. We are actually number three in the United States with coronavirus cases and that is actually not a true number because we do not have enough tests. Our number can be double what is currently recorded. Also, we prepared later than Italy did. We just barely got put on lock down two weeks ago. So for right now I have a lot frozen foods, I have not been going out, and I have been talking to my friends. I am very fortunate that I can work from home and that I have good friends.
I heard a podcast called Factually with Adam Conover. Adam asked a doctor what he thinks the next 2 months looks like. He said that he feels positive because he really believes people will flatten the curve and that more tests will be available. He thinks some cities in the United States will be able to open bars and restaurants back up. Cities that do not have a lot of cases of coronavirus. He says we will not be able to have big events until a vaccine or really effective treatment is out. It can take about 18 months to create a vaccine. Basically, 2020 will be a very interesting and difficult year but we will get through is. I do not know what the means for people that have trips schedule later in summer or fall. I rescheduled my Chicago trip to October and Italy is for September. I might have to cancel both depending on how my city is and how the other places are. I am positive about everything. I know China and South Korea are doing a lot better. I really do have hope that it will get better in the United States too. I like to thank all health care professionals, grocery story staff, truck drivers, and everyone else who has been helping during this pandemic. We will get through this, we just need to do our part so health care workers are not overwhelmed.
I have a trip planned for Italy and Amsterdam for mid September. Right now Italy is on lock-down because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). I do not know what it will look like in September but I will keep an eye out for it. If not I will have to change or cancel my trip. I have been wanting to go to Italy for awhile. I remember back in 2013 I had a trip planned to London, Paris, and Rome. Those are three places I really wanted to go. I ended up going to London and Paris in 2014 and canceling Rome to return to work early. I just started a new job and did not want to take an extended vacation.
I made a plan to go to Italy in 2020. My trip is to go to Venice, Florence, and Rome with EF Ultimate Break to get a true Italy experience. They’re even taking us to Italian Riviera & Cinque Terre and the Vatican. I planned this trip back in February of 2019. It’s crazy how advance I planned Italy before I even knew I was going to Spain or Malaysia/Thailand. Some things I want to do is take a gondola ride in Venice, tour the Colosseum, and eat as much pizza and gelato as I can. As much as my stomach will let me. I also want to make a wish at the Trevi fountain to return to Italy. I’m really excited about this trip, I am hoping the coronavirus goes away or they can approve a vaccine really quick. However, I do not what is going to happen, so I will keep my eye for it. I bought travel protection with EF ultimate, if I need to make a trip cancellation or change trips.
Currently my Amsterdam trip is suppose to be a day then I have to head to Venice. I am thinking of extending my Amsterdam trip for an extra day. I do not think one day is enough. I will have to book my own place and find my transportation to Venice. Once I get to Venice everything is planned because I booked with EF ultimate break. They let you extend your trip and I decided to add Amsterdam to my list before heading to Italy. They made sure to tell me I needed to book things in Amsterdam and I need my own transportation to Venice. If any of you have stayed in cute airbnbs or hotels in Amsterdam let me know. Mostly likely I will take a plane to head to Venice from Amsterdam.
This past weekend, I went to Brenham Texas for my friend’s Sydney’s bachelorette party and Texas independence day. It’s a city about 15,716 people and it’s where Texas got started. It’s about an hour and an half east from Austin. Our airbnb was amazing and had a beautiful view. It was a good place to sit outside, look at the view, and drink coffee or tea. We did just that and I loved every moment of it. It was good to get out of the city for awhile. I think it was a creative idea for bachelorette party and I had a lot fun. Here are some things you can do in Brenham Texas:
This is the original Blue Bell Factory. They no longer give tours but you can see how the ice cream is made from the observation deck. They also have a gift shop and you can a dollar per scoop of Blue Bell ice cream. They have flavors at the ice cream shop that you can not get anywhere else. I got milk and cookies it was vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookies. It’s a flavor you can only get there. Blue Blue is closed on the weekends so we took Monday off from work to visit.
Brazos Valley Brewing Company:
They had a crawfish boil when we went and a band playing. Usually, they do not sell food but they had a food truck when we went. We ate the crawfish, drank some beer, and listened to music. We also played a bridal game at brewery. We would get dare cards and had to do dare or buy the bride a drink. Brazos Valley Brewing Company has a good selection of beers, if you’re a beer person and are in the area come to this brewery.
They have cute shops in the area. We visited some antique shops and got some coffee. My favorite store was Ballad of the Bird Dog and they also had a coffee shop inside. I feel like downtown Brenham has a lot character. It’s like stepping in to history. Keep in mind that on Sunday’s the majority of the stores are closed. I would go on a weekday or on Saturday.
Brenham is a cute city that has everything you need and has a big country feel. The airbnb was an a rural area and it was nice. It was very quite and beautiful. This a place I want to go when I want to take a break from city. To get away from the noise and all the lights. For Texas independence day we were able to go to the festival where they had food, shops, and the history of Texas. It was located in the Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site where Texas got started. Spring is a beautiful time to visit Brenham because of the bluebonnets. I hope I can go back in spring to enjoy the bluebonnets. I am so happy my friend Sydney invited me to her bachelorette party and I can not wait for her wedding.
TEP wireless provides internet for international travelers anywhere they go. TEP calls it pocket WiFi and it’s secure unlimited internet and you rent it for $6.95 a day. Awhile back I wrote a blog post about staying connected abroad. Usually when I travel internationally, I depend on finding WiFi at my hotel or coffee shop. My past two international trips I did not do that. It was such hassle not having access to my phone at all times. So for my Spain and Malaysia/Thailand trips I got the TEP, portal WiFi and unlimited internet. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I did not want to spend the money on the TEP before but it was so worth it. I was able to stay connected with people back home with Facebook messenger and whatsup, yelp restaurants, use apple maps to find my way around, and request an uber. It was amazing to have my phone abroad at all times.
For Spain, I only had to use my WiFi for one country. It was about $66.81, I got a coupon for 15% off for my first time use. If it’s your first using TEP, email them for a promo code. I carried the TEP in my purse. The majority of time it worked. There were times it did not. For instance, I was buying wine at a grocery store and it did not work there. I think because the grocery store was underground. Also, if you’re going to be out all day. I would bring a probable battery charger to charge your TEP. I had to do this anytime I knew I was about going to be out all day because the TEP would run out of battery. Other then that, TEP was great.
Malaysia in Thailand I had to choose the Asia country option. It was about $122.50 for 7 days. It was more expensive than Spain because I was going to more than one country. However, I wanted to have my TEP work at all times. So, I was willing to pay the extra when I was in Thailand for 2 days. My TEP was similar like it was in Spain, it worked the majority of the times. It do not work very well when I was on my boat tour in Thailand but everywhere else it did. I can’t imagine traveling internationally without TEP now.
The TEP will not work on making regular phone calls or text messages on your phone. I was able to use other apps to make phone calls like Facebook messenger, facetime my parents, and TEP has an app too for phone calls. Also, anyone that had an iPhone I could imessage them. The TEP provides unlimited WiFi, a TEP voice calling app, and an emergency service. The way it works is your order the TEP for the country or countries you’re going too and the dates. Then they ship it to your home and when you’re traveling connect with the TEP to your phone. After your trip you can ship it back to TEP. I completely recommend it and they have fast customer service if you ever have a problem with your TEP. I know its extra money for your trip but if you don’t have an international plan or do know want to get a SIM card, I would get the TEP.