Tips for Iceland: AKA Read This If You Don't Want to Die

Ok so after somehow making it out alive beyond the wall and surviving the attacks of the White Walkers, I have plenty of tips for anyone traveling to Iceland. You can expect these tidbits of advice to be riddled with an undertone of dramatics and sarcasm, so read them as such. But really, all jokes aside, if you choose to travel to Iceland in the winter like I did, you need to be adequately prepared so here we go.

  • We booked our flights through WOW Air, which sounds like a fake, sketch airline, but really it was decent enough for a nine-hour flight. There were no TVs or plugs so bring a laptop/iPad whatever for movies and buy a portable charger ahead of time. 
  • If you do choose WOW Air, be sure to pay for bags before getting to the airport or they’ll cost so much it’ll be like giving up your first-born son.
  • We stayed at the Loft Hi Hostel and while it’s pricier than your average hostel, it was great. Very clean, beds didn’t make me feel like there were bed bugs all over me and there’s a bar on the roof you can start your night in. Also male only and female only dorms are an option if you don’t want to get frisky.
  • Iceland’s alcohol is government regulated so buy alcohol at the duty free shops in the airport before venturing into the cities. Otherwise it’s like upwards of $40 for a beer and I ain’t got time for that.
  • Food in Iceland is also rather pricey, so maybe try to eat granola bars and stuff to save money. I did not do this and spent around $75 a day for food, because apparently I think I’m Oprah or something, but be smarter than me.
  • Don’t buy bottled water. A nice Icelandic man informed me this is a huge tourist trap because Iceland’s tap water is super pure (makes sense bc all they have there is snow), so just bring a water bottle and fill it up from the sink. It’s not like Asia where you’ll suddenly grow a tape worm from swallowing their ice, you’ll be fine.
  • Book your Blue Lagoon tickets far in advance. We waited too long and the only times left were at night so it was like being in the ocean with no lights to guide you through the waves, again, be smarter than us.
  • Ladies- LATHER YOUR HAIR WITH CONDITIONER before going into the lagoon. The silica or whatever it’s called in the lagoon will fry your pretty little locks for a bit if you don’t protect them. But if you do, don’t worry, I just covered my head in the conditioner provided and left the lagoon with a shiny mane.
  • Remember to pack outlet converters.
  • Ok, so you can either choose to rent a car, or book a bus for tours to the different attractions around Iceland. We chose to rent a car… a very tiny car at that. And while I LOVED the freedom of being able to drive ourselves around, the weather outside of Reykjavik is no joke and honestly, it was super dangerous for us. So, if you do rent a car, I’d suggest getting a 4x4 instead of the Prius sized car we had. We got stuck in the snow twice and driving conditions were so sketch that I think years were taken off of my life from the stress I experienced. If you go solo, I’d suggest booking tours because driving alone in that would be a no go.
  • SERRRRRIOUUUUS PRO TIP: rent a wifi box when renting your car, or find one if you don’t rent a car. The box provides unlimited wifi and you can take it with you anywhere you go and have great service. It was a true lifesaver when it came to mapping out directions and of course, posting Instagrams- only the necessities.
  • Since we went during winter, the attractions we saw were mainly just really pretty snow formations. But either way, definitely checkout the Golden Circle. We saw the crater, Geysir and then Gulfoss Falls. They’re all about 2 hours from Reykjavik and are worth the (terrifying) drive.
  • Make sure your car has spikes on the tires. These make it better to drive through the freakin arctic tundra that Iceland is. Most cars are required to have them but just check.
  • Bars I suggest: Lebowski Bar, definitely a tourist bar but there’s a fun drink menu, creative theme and packed dance area; Pablo Discobar- the name alone should entice you, but this spot has numerous dance floors, strobe lights and well, it was a good time; Loft Hi Hostel has a pretty popular rooftop bar, which is convenient if you stay there, and they have fun nights like Karaoke and Drag Queen competitions so can’t go wrong there. Then apparently American Bar and Kex Hostel are both good too. But we went to Kex too late and the bar was closed and American Bar was just too touristy for us, but according to others, they’re fun.
  • Food- like I said food is expensive, but it’s still pretty good. Their lamb soup was amazing (but, I LOVE lamb so others might disagree), and believe it or not, their hot dogs are what they’re famous for. They put this weird brown mustard and dried onions on their hot dogs and omg I think I had two a day I loved them so much. You can get them at stands along the street or at the convenience stores… both are equally as fabulous.
  • The temperature in Iceland is warmer than Chicago, for reference, so when walking around the city you just need a good coat and gloves, but when you journey to the Golden Circle etc, chances are it’ll be a lot windier so bring some layers and a warm hat. If you really want to be prepared, you can get snow tracks for your shoes from Amazon which are just spikes of metal that you strap onto the bottom of your boots and help you avoid slipping as you walk. We bought them and didn’t use them once, but they’re an option anyway.
  • Bars don’t get going until midnight or later so pace yourself and don’t leave early.
  • You can see Reykjavik in like half a day so don’t expect to have a ton to do in the city – see things like the church, the Harpa orchestra and then go around the different bars or museums and that’s about it. Also walk around Old Harbor, just a harbor by the water but it’s pretty with all the boats in the frozen water.
  • Don’t go to the Ion Adventure Hotel. Just don’t. It was a waste of money and the only “adventure” it offered was the drive to get there. Stay in hostels and save yourself some dollars.
  • Alright so yeah, Iceland is known for it’s Northern Lights, right? Wrong. Apparently, the Northern Lights are really hard to see in Iceland thanks to weather conditions in the winter and winter is the best time to see them, so clearly it’s a hoax. We “saw” them our last night there and it was pretty much just a streak of clouds that looked greenish. If you want to see Northern Lights, consider Switzerland instead. We booked a tour to see them and the tour cancelled on us last minute, but if you want to see that white streak, then a tour is the way to do it since you won’t know where to drive to look for them yourself.
  • I suggest splurging and going Ice caving or something, I didn’t because I’m poor, but woulda been a fun activity to tack on.

(Czech)ing Off Another Country From My List: Prague, Czech Republic

Day 20 – 22

Cordoba --> Madrid --> Prague

With my host family gone for the weekend for Sonia’s graduation, I decided to make the most of my free time and jetted off to Prague. Jack Lyon, Jay Robinson and Peter Willis are there for a few days and told me I could tag along. I was going to do Madrid or Sevilla, but the chance to scratch off another country from my map was too good to resist.

I left Cordoba early and then flew out of Madrid. Once I landed, after 8 hours of traveling, I had a taxi take me to the guy’s Air BNB. The Czech language is impossibly hard and even guessing at words is unmanageable. So, luckily, pointing to a phone screen at the long address sufficed.

I got to the place right as the boys were coming back from the city center- thank God too because I would have never found it on my own after the taxi driver dropped me off in the middle of the street mumbling something about a bus. The Air BNB was huge and right as we went upstairs there was a double rainbow spanning across the otherwise gray sky, welcoming me to the gloomy city.

We had dinner then went back to pregame and meet up with two Australian kids the guys had befriended the day before. Of course, taking shots of absinthe was only the obvious choice since we were in Prague, after all. The Listerine colored, 70 proof alcohol is truly disgusting. If I ever smell black licorice again, I’m certain I’ll vomit on cue.

That night we went to 5 or 6 different bars and clubs. The first bar, Double Trouble, was underground and packed to the brim. It was my favorite of the night, but that might be because it’s the only one I fully remember. Absinthe seriously is not my friend.

Ruby’s and James Dean were our next stops and then we ended at a 5 story club, boasting a different theme per floor, near the river. Going out in Prague is great because the cobble stone streets prevent girls from even thinking about wearing heels, so going to clubs in pants and sneakers is completely acceptable. Score!

We ended the night around 6 am and thanks to my curse of always, without fail, waking up super early after a night out, I did not sleep at all and was awake for hours waiting for the boys to come out of hibernation. Thank God for Jack though, because he woke up a few hours later and kept me company.

Later that day, after attempting to nap, I met up with the guys in Old Town, went to the Lennon Wall and watched the Czech soccer game at a pub. The Old Town area of Prague is beautiful, especially when the morning rain and fog decide to fade away. I loved the Lennon Wall, which everyone does. But, when Jack came to find me there and asked if I felt inspired from it, I realized that that’s the best word to use to describe it: inspiring. Something about looking at the hundreds of words written by millions of people is just too cool to explain.

That night, still exhausted from zero hours of sleep, I played piccolo with the boys at the apartment while they pregamed to go out, then went straight for an Advil PM and bed once they left.

A full night of comatose sleep was all I needed and I woke up early the next day to do some solo exploring of Prague before catching my flight. With my eyes glued to Google Maps, I attempted to go see the Prague Castle, but found it closed when I got there. So, back to the wall I went.

This time, I found a couple with a box full of spray paint and asked them if I could use some to add my own words among the thousands. Spray paint in hand, I realized I didn’t know exactly what to write. What word, phrase or picture could possibly be important enough to be painted on next to Lennon’s face and words like “Pray for Orlando?” It took me only a second before using the yellow spray to add Jenna’s initials, JAF and “Beauty from Pain” to leave my mark.

I’ve spent a lot of this trip wishing Jenna was alive to join me in these amazing adventures, so permanently leaving a piece of her on that wall only made sense. The second phrase stems from a song Jenna introduced me to 5 years ago. I can’t even remember off the top of my head who the artist is or what the rest of the lyrics are anymore, but those 3 words have been a sort of mantra for me over the years. On the wall they went.

After a few sentimental moments, I wandered around the city, talking with the locals and taking pictures of the beautiful, gothic architecture. I then treated myself to a huge breakfast before spending a solid hour trying to flag down a taxi. Years of using Uber must have made me soft and unassertive because every time I threw out my hand and yelled for one, I was promptly ignored.

Finally, I found a parked driver who couldn’t speed past me and took me to the airport. I continued to treat myself and ordered soup and chocolate cake while I waited to board.

I can’t honestly say that Prague stole my heart the way the other European cities have so far, but it was definitely very interesting to see. Also, if nothing else, the trip was beyond worth it when Jack, Jay, Peter and I found zorbing on the river. I didn’t know it was called sorbing until my friend Gillian texted me about it later, but what it is, is these giant, inflatable balls that a person stands in as it’s blown up around them. They’re then zipped up and pushed into the water, allowing the person inside to throw himself or herself around the ball like a caged animal.

All 4 of us doing this on the Vltava River drew in a huge audience and was insanely fun. So, thank you boys for the hilarious, crazy Prague experience, I’ll Czech you later!

Infatuated With Cordoba: Week 2 in Cordoba, Spain

Week 2 in Cordoba

I’ve developed a bit of a routine. Every day I wake up (blow my nose for 20 minutes #allergies), eat breakfast out on the porch and then either read, write or practice Spanish.

The routine continues at 2:00 when Eugenio comes home from work and we all have lunch, which is always something new prepared by Pillar, their housekeeper. So far, my favorite has been salmorejo. It’s a typical dish in Cordoba and is similar to gazpacho, but thicker.

After lunch Sonia and I usually sit by the pool, across from each other at the table and work, chat and sunbathe. Dinner is served at 9:00 or later; we didn’t eat until 11:30 one night! How different it is here.  

Blake asked me if I was getting bored with such laid-back days, but really I’m not. It’s a vacation and is also allowing me the time I need to write, which is very welcomed. If only life in America was this relaxed, I’m sure everyone would be much happier and healthier because of it.

I’m currently sitting outside in my usual spot while Floppy, their pet rabbit who they treat like a dog, is trying to nibble at my feet. Silly rabbit, feet are for kids! (Terrible joke, my apologies).

Some days we go shopping or to get these giant milkshakes that leave us all feeling sick. Tonight, Sonia wants to take me out with her friends. So, really, each day is new and I’m loving it. I’m not homesick at all and Cordoba is so amazing that I’m already feeling sad that I only have 10 days or so left here. The trip has flown by.

The city is truly the best one I’ve ever been in. LA included, and we all know how much I adore the city of Angels. The city center consists of cobble stone streets and white buildings with long tan cloths draped between them, shadowing the people below. Aesthetically wise, it’s my heaven. But Cordoba isn’t just great for how pretty it is.

There are dozens of shops and endless restaurants to choose from. It’s described as being a small city, yet when we go out the bars are packed with people looking for a good time. When it comes time for tapas, the sidewalks are covered with kids my age, all socializing, smoking and getting ready for a night out. This is what my future holds tonight too! I thought nothing could ever beat Barcelona, but Cordoba is just too incredible for words.

I’m having a great time with the family too, especially Sonia. We have a lot in common. I just wish we spoke the same language so we could bond even more. But, she’s always making sure I’m comfortable and it’s so sweet.

With the help of Sonia and Ana’s translating, I’ve talked to Eugenio about heavy topics, like the differences in gun laws in the U.S. and Spain. Sadly, these topics have come up because the Orlando nightclub shooting took place on my second Monday here. Having to ask Sonia how to say words like murder, blood and gun in Spanish is so sad.

Javi is pretty shy around me and refuses to talk in English, but we did bond over ice cream and popcorn. Food really is the way to a person’s heart. Eugenio is also picking up some English from me and I can tell he tries hard at it too. I'm so grateful that I was placed in such a loving, close knit family, I couldn't have asked for a better situation. It hardly feels like I’m away from home and in a foreign country at all.

Tomorrow the family leaves to go to Malaga for Sonia’s graduation, so I’m following suit and going to Prague.

Ibiza I Love You, But I'm Never Coming Back: Ibiza, Spain

Day 16-18

Maybe writing a post on Ibiza isn’t the best idea. So, I’ll keep this one short because, well, the words alcohol, all-nighters and techno are pretty much all it takes to sum up my weekend trip in Ibiza.

I left Friday afternoon to take the train to Madrid and then hopped on a plane to Ibiza. I was super nervous because the airports in Europe are the most confusing things on earth. Why there can’t be signs telling me which terminal and airline to go to is beyond me. Praise god for the Irish couple who saw the sheer panic in my newbie traveler eyes and walked me to my gate.

In Ibiza, I stayed with a girl named Rachel who I had met on a travel Facebook page that I’m a part of. Mom, if you’re reading this, yes I lied to you and told you she was from USC, there was no way you’d sleep all weekend if you knew I had never actually met her. But, now that I’m back and alive in Cordoba, there’s no reason to send a search party out for me.

Rachel is living in Ibiza this summer for what they call “season.” It’s where a bunch of 20/30 something year olds go to the island to work during the summer and live together in overly crowded apartments, while partying the days away. Not sure if I give them mad props for having the ability to kill their livers every single day and night or if I want to take them all home and make them do a juice cleanse. But, I’m definitely happy these crazy party people exist or I would have been a loner at the clubs and day parties on the island.

I got there late Friday night and Rachel picked me up, along with her roommate, Sam, and friend Braiden. Braiden rented a car for the summer for 300 euros and offers it as a taxi service for cheaper than a regular taxi. Genius, if you ask me.

That night, we went out to the dive bars near Rachel’s apartment, an area known as San Antonio. We met up with a group of Chicago guys that Rachel knew and hopped around the different bars until 6 in the morning. Yes, every single time I’ve gone out in Spain I’ve stayed out till 6 am, that’s just how they roll. If you can't beat em, join em.... or something like that.

Then, the next day, Rachel had work so her roommate Sam and I headed to a day party called Ants at an open air club, Ushuaia. Picture Vegas and Cabo on steroids and you’ve got Ibiza. The island exists pretty much solely for partying. Ants had five different DJs perform throughout the day while people swallowed drink after drink in the pool and bopped their heads up and down for hours on end by the stage. It was insane. About half way through the party, my texts to Blake went from coherent to just the word “Ibizaaaaaa” over and over again.

My flight the next day was at 8 am. Yes, I’m a full on idiot for booking such an early flight, but I made the most of it and just stayed out all night and went to the airport an hour before my flight to sleep. YOLO. Sleeping in airports is no easy task, but after a full day of screaming my lungs off and taking more tequila shots than even a giant could handle, it was easy to fall asleep on the floor of the terminal. Plus, there were 20 or more people doing the same thing. We understood each other’s pain.

So, since staying out all night was my only option, I stayed at Ants until around midnight, meeting some amazing new friends who let my poor, overheated self charge my phone in their hotel room and then met up with Rachel to go to a few of the famous clubs that Ibiza is known for.

We ended the night at Poncha, which, if you’re a true raver, you’ve heard of. Even my host PARENTS have been there, that’s how epic it is. I can’t fully describe the club because it was a mixed blur of bright lights and the same techno beat for 6 hours straight, but needless to say, my wild side was satisfied.

Now, after sleeping all day, leaving my host family rather concerned for me, I’m ready to go back to bed to make up for the two nonstop days I had in Ibiza. One uncomfortable nap in the airport, a freezing cold flight back to Madrid and a very real struggle of getting on an earlier train to Cordoba so I could get as far away from Ibiza as possible and I’m ready to sleep for the rest of my life.  

Ibiza, I love you, but I’m never coming back.

Living Like A Spaniard: First Week in Cordoba

Day 12- 15

In order to spare you all from three weeks worth of daily blog posts, I’m now going to write them on a week by week basis, with some extra posts for the weekend trips I plan on taking. This weekend I’m going to Ibiza and staying with a girl I met through a Facebook group. Next, when the family goes to Malaga for Sonia’s birthday, I am going to go to Prague with Jack Lyon and some other USC guys. 

So, with that said, here is my first weekly post on my new life in Cordoba.

After the first day, I started getting more and more comfortable with the family. They told me to act as if I was in my house and get whatever food or anything else I needed anytime. They are so welcoming and are always checking to see if I’m ok.

I love hanging out with Sonia and Christina too. We taught each other different swear words in English and Spanish, which was quite entertaining. So, while I may not be able to even introduce myself properly in Spanish, I can easily cuss someone out and order gin and tonics at a bar. Real world knowledge, right?

We put that knowledge to use and went out one night for tapas and then Sonia took us to a popular Irish Pub in the city center. We ordered gin and tonics because, like I said, they’re just that good here. They also come in the largest glasses possible. Double win. The pub was local and fun and we got there while everyone was finishing up dinner, which was paella being served out of a ginormous bowl in the center of the bar. Everything about Spain is better than America so far.

The night out was a lot of fun and it helped me get even closer to the girls. We met some guys who lived in Cordoba  and headed back to their place for a bit. It was great actually getting a taste of real Spanish night life, without being seen as a tourist. They called me American Princess all night and my inner diva was thrilled.

I paid for that fun though as we didn’t get home till 6 in the morning and were struggling a bit (a LOT) the next day. Luckily, both of the girls were as exhausted as I was so the day was spent lounging by the pool and watching the Bachelorette. Some must needed recharging.

On another day, Sonia took Christina and I into the city center to show us the sights of Cordoba. Cordoba is known for a preserved mosque and cathedral and both are incredibly beautiful. I know all cities in Spain boast tons of arcs, cathedrals and palaces, but I haven’t gotten sick of them yet.

Cordoba is truly amazing. Do I dare say that I like it more than Madrid and Barcelona? I do. The people are so friendly and the city is small enough that it feels like a home without being too small like my dreadful hometown is. I told Sonia I liked it so much as she was so excited, saying “I have to tell Jorge,” which is her boyfriend who lives in Madrid.

Most days, we wake up around 10 (or that’s when I wake up, they might be up for hours earlier for all I know), then either go to the city center or hang out around the house until lunch at 2. Each day, Eugenio comes home from work for lunch and Ana is usually back in time too. Then, we do more relaxing, watch some American TV with Spanish voiceover (Modern Family just isn’t the same with subtitles) and then have dinner late at night. The meals are one of my favorite parts because I get to spend a lot of time with the family and talk to them. They ask me how to say different things in Spanish and I do the same, slowly memorizing the endless vocabulary words.

I have to admit that I was quite nervous before I came to Cordoba. I even told Blake I didn’t want to go anymore because I was so scared that I’d spend the next month of my life feeling lonely and bored. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While sometimes it does get a tad lonely considering I can’t have full conversations with them in English, the rest of the time is enriching, enlightening and educational. I may just end up as one of those people who quits their job to travel the world thanks to this trip and thanks to Cordoba.

Squishy & Allergic in Madrid: Back to Madrid

Day 10
Paris --> Madrid

Sadly, my fairy tale vacation is coming to an end and today is my last day with Blake. Whenever I start to act sad over it he calls it my squishy feeling, which instantly cheers me up, but I pretend it doesn’t so he’ll keep babying me. We took a flight from the world’s most confusing airport- Paris Orly International- to Madrid.

In Madrid, we navigated the metro to our last Air BNB which was almost as adorable as the one in Nice, but much bigger. Our host, Consuelo, was very helpful in her broken English. Then, officially now hangry, we left immediately to get food. We went to El Corte Ingles, the rooftop bar we had failed to eat at on our first night in Madrid. My strawberry mojito revived my half sleeping self a bit.

In Spain, the people have an unexpected love for Gin and Tonics. Or, Ginebra y Tonica, which I learned to say in Spanish after a few failed attempts of ordering the drink. Everywhere you go you see advertisements for it and everyone told us to get them while we were here. So, that’s what we did. We went to a nice restaurant with all wood interior and ordered gin and tonics, a drink I usually am not a fan of in America. But, the obsession with them in Spain is for good reason. They come in huge glasses and I’m not sure why they’re so much better, but they are.

The combo of alcohol and allergy medicine had me falling asleep face first on the restaurant’s community table so Blake took me home for a siesta. Guess I’m becoming a true Spaniard. Once I came back to life we set out to find paella and had a late dinner near our place before falling asleep.

May the Force Be With You: Paris Continues

Day 9

Being the good little travelers that we are, we woke up with not much left on our tourist list to see. So, we went to Champ Elysee (which I can’t pronounce to save my life) and looked at the lavish stores. Ambercrombie and Fitch looked like an actual mansion with towering, perfectly trimmed hedges lining the lng entrance to the store and gold framed doors. Then, we checked out the Arc De Triumph at the end of the street, of course. A city in Europe isn’t complete until there’s some type of triumphant arc in it.

We also found the coolest antique/art collectors shop with things like life-sized Darth Vaders and pin ball machines in it. Blake, of course, got pictures with the Star Wars memorabilia, which he later exclaimed one of his arms looked to small in, so he wouldn’t post it. Lord help me. To also keep Blake happy, we had pho earlier in the day. What is with us wanting Asian food when we’re in Europe? Thanks to the pho in Paris and pad thai in Nice, I was determined to make sure we had a typical French meal for our last dinner in Paris.

We found a super trendy, popular spot called Chez Justine, where we ordered steak, tartar and ratatouille. It was, and still is, the best meal I had in Europe. And, with the large cushioned chairs we sat in overlooking the old fashioned restaurant, it was the cutest too. Still hungry we grabbed a sugar crepe from the street vendor- mouth watering- and headed home. 

Playing Esmeralda & Pretending to Party Gatsby Style: Paris

Day 8

We woke up and headed straight to Notre Dame. My dreams of being Esmeralda were coming true! Thanks to the rain, the Seine river was flooding and the French were in a bit of a panic over it, closing the Louvre and moving the art to dryer ground. Luckily, neither Blake nor I are very into art, so this wasn’t a huge loss for us. Notre Dame was very cool, but unlike La Sagrada Familia, its’ outside is the best part while its’ inside is dark and similar to many lesser Cathedrals.

After walking silently through the Hunchback’s home, we walked to the Louvre and sat in the Jardin Des Tuileries. Despite the chilly weather and rain, Paris was growing on me. There’s so much to do and see that it’s impossible not to at least fall momentarily in love with the city. After some more walking- thank God I had broken in my flats by now- we made our way to the Eiffel tower. Now, let me just explain that as a girl from a very small, boring town in Midwestern America, seeing he tower was incredible.

When I first spotted it as we were leaving the Jardin, I acted like a schoolgirl who was flirting with her crush for the first time. I jumped up and down while making Blake take pictures of me pointing to it in the background. I honestly never really imagined myself making it to the Eiffel Tower. My dream of moving to the home of the Hollywood sign seemed grand enough for a girl from a town that no one leaves. Yet, I had turned that dream into a reality 5 years ago and now was standing next to something even less imaginable, the Eiffel Tower.

We took our fair share of touristy pictures then got in line to take the elevator to the top. It’s a good thing I’m not afraid of heights because shit is that tower tall. Its’ builder, Gustave Eiffel, had an apartment at the top of it, our guide told us, where he threw huge parties Gatsby style. Talk about a baller. Since the apartment is now gone and there’s no way to party the night away in the coolest spot ever, I attempted to get as close to that epicness as I could and ordered a glass of champagne.

The whole experience was magical. Blake and I kissed as any couple in Paris should on top of the Eiffel tower. Our thing, since we didn’t know how to say “kiss me” in French was to instead say “Besame in French,” which we proceeded to do in every city saying things like “Besame in Madrid.” How cute. If that’s not enough to make you vom over a gushy overload, then nothing is.

After the tower we decided to continue the French experience and went to a restaurant to order escargot. Snails. On the count of three we shoved the mushy things into our mouths, which I promptly spit back out. I did force myself to swallow a couple after that while Blake watched me in disgusted disbelief, but hey, we tried. No clue why snails are a delicacy here.

After choking back the snails we decided to go out and check out whether the Parisians could party or not. I found an underground bar/speakeasy that we headed to first. The bar, Moonshiners, was definitely a local spot. And, while making friends with fellow travelers in bathrooms is easy, finding party buddies with people who you can’t understand is not. We also found out that it’s especially hard for couples to make friends. Not only does being a couple mean that there is a lack of people hitting on you, the quickest and most sure fire way for a girl to find people to talk to at a bar, but it also makes fellow girls less likely to talk to you. I mean, I wouldn’t go up to a girl and her boyfriend at a bar A) don’t want to 3rd wheel B) don’t want her to think I’m hitting on her man. So, alone we stood admiring the hipster bartender’s impressive mixing skills and drinking their equally as impressive whiskey cocktails.

Then, after realizing I hate whiskey and finding party friends was too daunting, we wandered to find a new bar. Luckily, we stumbled across a street lined with traveler bars. A few shots at bars filled with backpackers and American rap music later and our party selves were content.


Coloring on Tables in Paris: Paris, France

Day 7
Nice --> Paris

We left early by train for Paris only to be welcomed by the rain. Our Air BNB is larger than the last and also very clean, but is hosted by a French speaking Asian woman and her son, so communicating with them was hard. Being exhausted from traveling we decided to go to dinner and then straight to bed. I found a popular restaurant in our arrondissement, which is what the administrative districts that Paris is broken up into is called. We were staying in the 11th, near Le Republique and Rue Oberkamp, which is a popular district for young people. The restaurant, Le Artista, gives each table crayons and a mat to color on so it was a fun meal. I also tried foie gras, duck liver, in an attempt to be adventurous. While I didn’t like it, I did force myself to eat it. 

Pad Thai & Glamour: Monaco

Day 6
Nice & Monaco

Today we woke up and ate breakfast from the groceries we bought in an attempt to save some Euros, then headed to Monaco. Well, we actually planned to go to Eze, but missed our numerous stops and ended up in Monaco, only 40 minutes or so away from Nice by train.

When I found out that Monaco was a whole other country (my geography knowledge is pretty much nonexistent) I was quite pleased. Another country to scratch off on my Urban Outfitters world map!

Monaco is pretty, but is more touristy and ritzy, taking away from its’ overall effect. We walked through the hills and got some macaroons before quickly losing interest and heading back to our beloved Nice. For dinner we searched the city for Thai food, which I was randomly craving, and then got drinks on the terrace of a trendy restaurant. Blake also informed me that he eats kiwis with the skin and all so naturally, not believing him, I bought one and forced him to prove it, expecting him to chicken out and admit his prank first. But, he didn’t. Now, I will never go through the hassle of peeling a kiwi again.

Nice is nice: Nice, France

Day 5
Barcelona --> Nice, France

Fast forward through two hours of sleep and Blake and I were up again to catch our flight to Nice. Completely dehydrated and possibly still drunk, the task of getting on our flight was rough. Like, post Full Moon party throwing up on a ferry rough. After a long metro ride to the airport, we discovered that we were only able to bring one bag on the flight with us… we each had two. The Zara in Spain was too cheap to pass up and I naturally dropped a couple hundred euros there, causing my backpack to swell and pore over into another bag that Blake, by transitive property, was forced to carry.

Now, you know the saying of how you should travel to a third world country with your significant other before you marry them? You know, to see how they hold up under pressure and all that good stuff? Well, while Europe is obviously not impoverished, Blake and I had still been pretty good travel partners, making for a so far positive outcome to the discoveries that the idea of traveling together is supposed to reveal…. Up until the security line at the Barcelona airport.

One of the guards yelled at us, telling us to consolidate our bags, forcing us to awkwardly rip open our luggage and jam more things into the already bulging backpacks. If Blake wasn’t already annoyed enough with me for buying a whole new wardrobe in Spain then the icing on the cake came when I stood over him giggling as he shoved my dozens of rompers into his duffle bag. You see, I have a super bad habit of laughing when I’m nervous, which I tried to endearingly explain to Blake as he commanded me to put on my 5 pound wedges in order to free up more space in my bag.

Wearing three sweaters around my waste and looking ridiculous with heals on in an airport (there’s a special place in hell for girls who insist on dressing up just to sit in a cramped airplane for hours), we made our way through security both mad and ready to kill the other. Me, pissed that Blake squashed my cute daypack into my other bag and Blake fed up with my over packing.

When a woman security guard told me I had to put my bag through the checkpoint again, this time with all my electronics in a separate tray, I almost strangled her. For a good half hour, Blake and I didn’t say a word to each other. But, some much needed water and a few booze soaking, fatty foods later, Blake made his way over to sit on my lap, forcing his kisses on me and declaring that we were friends again. Back to showing that silly relationship/travel saying what’s up.

We finally landed in Nice where we once again encountered a traveler’s mishap when we discovered the bus we needed to get to our Air BNB was on strike. This is apparently very common in France. Damn French. So, we resorted to a taxi, but the odd thing about taxis in Nice is that they’re all Mercedes or BMWs. Seriously, the cleanest, nicest cars. Picture the USC Kappa parking lot on steroids and you’ve got what’s supposed to a taxi service… come up. Downfall though is that this clearly means Nice is out of our poor, 1-year post grad, eat ramen nightly, steal ketchup packs from McDonald’s budget. But, this worry over money, or lack thereof, was instantly overshadowed by the views from the 6… aka our BMW taxi window.

Nice is truly the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Water so clear and fluorescent blue that it looks like a Lo-Fi filter has been applied to the entire town. Not to mention the winding hills and mountains that surrounded the harbor filled with rows on rows of sailboats and 70 foot yachts. I kept brainstorming career ideas that I could pursue if I moved here, that’s how much I instantly loved it. English teacher or nanny perhaps? Need to learn more than merci and Voulez vous coucher avec moi. Yes, that 2nd one is from a Christina Aguilera song. Better than nothing?

We got to our Air BNB and our host Olivier let us in. The apartment was perfect. While only one dorm sized room with a separate cupboard sized bathroom, it was still adorable. It’s Santorini blue accents, skylight and window overlooking the mountaintops sealed the deal for me- I was officially infatuated with Nice.

Having only 2 days in my new favorite spot, we quickly headed out to explore. Nutella crepes were the first order of business. Then, we walked around a bustling area of the city, called Old Nice. The streets were lined with people eating and drinking and there were tiny shops everywhere. There’s also one big open town center area where people sit outside and eat for hours.

My favorite part of the entire trip though, (which I can accurately say because I’m writing this a week later on my solo train trip to Cordoba- staying true to my writer ways) was a long, narrow park near the city center. We sat on the albeit fake grass and watched as dozens of kids climbed all over the wooden dinosaur playscape. Fully enamored with Nice, we then went to a beautiful restaurant on the harbor for mussels and the best pasta I’ve ever had. Nice for the win. 

Coconut & Opium: Barcelona Continues

Day 4

Unsatisfied with the amount of the city we’d seen, we woke up on our last day in Barcelona and went first to Park Guell- a large park overlooking the city, then to El Born- the most amazing neighborhood I’d ever seen. The stone streets were lined with adorable shops and apartments. I couldn’t have been happier. By now, Barcelona had stolen my heart, even more so than Madrid, which I didn’t think was possible. I sat there eating my 4th coconut gelato of the day, daydreaming of what life would be like if I moved to Barcelona..

Then, after discovering that a few of our friends from USC were in the city, we got ready for yet another night at Opium with Lindsey, Teeter, Bernie and Alex. We met them at their hostel, which was “rock and roll” themed and filled with young college and post grad travelers all chugging vodka Red Bulls, preparing themselves to stay out till 6 am.

Now, mind you, this was a Monday night and still Barcelona’s partying was in full swing. Clearly the city lived up to my nightlife expectations. We headed to one bar with all the fellow hostel stayers, where I stole a bag of chips and then went to Opium… again. We met up with Eve who was studying abroad in Barca. Opium wasn’t nearly as cool as it was the first night, but being there with friends made it a blast nonetheless. 

Bratislava & Pinterest: Barcelona, Spain

Day 2
Madrid --> Barcelona, Spain

Being unable to breathe out of one nostril all night (thanks allergies), I woke up at 5 and tossed and turned for the next 3 hours. When sleeping beauty Blake finally joined me I left him at the hotel and ventured to get us food and more importantly, allergy medicine. Now, we are in the MAD airport waiting for our flight to Barcelona.

The flight was quick and easy and we landed in Barcelona’s airport where our Air BNB host, Raquel was picking us up. Following her directions, which she had emailed me earlier in the week in broken English, we headed out the terminal to an airport bar. Raquel, a very tiny, 30- something Barcelona native recognized me before I did her. We hugged and introduced ourselves- me in a mixture of Spanish and English before I realized she spoke pretty good English- something she was hoping to perfect by going to California one day. Here she was, dreaming of studying English in LA, while I had set out to Spain to become fluent in Spanish. What a funny world.

Raquel drove us in her baby-sized car to the Air BNB, which was located in Badalona, a smaller city on the outskirts of Barcelona. Blake and I hadn’t fully done our research on the area so we were a bit surprised by the warehouse turned Air BNB located in a barren, unglamorous place that Blake compared to Bratislava. The room was studio style with a lofted bedroom area. Nothing special, but it was clean and after roughing it in Asia on my first real abroad trip last year, I was content.

We showered and unpacked and navigated our way to the metro to head to La Sagrada Familia. If you don’t know the cathedral, which translates to Sacred Family, it’s a well known landmark in Barcelona. It towers over the surrounded buildings and boasts a smooth, marble exterior with carvings of the saints and crucifixion. It’s outside is breathtaking, even if it’s still under construction and won’t be completed for another 10 years. Later I found out that the architectural works outside pales greatly in comparison to its’ innards. But, more on that later.

We decided to then venture into the city center to see other tourist marks such as the Gaudi houses. I knew I really wanted to see Casa Batllo, one of the two of Gaudi’s most famous homes, thanks to pictures I had seen on Pinterest (basic, I know). And, it lived up to its’ hype with detailed curves and brightly colored features.

After getting great use out of my selfie stick we headed to one of the restaurants Raquel had recommended. A trendy, local spot hidden away from the other tourists was Elsa y Fred. We ordered tartare, potatas bravas and watermelon salad. Oh, and a full bottle of white Sangria, of course. My happy meter was at full before we rushed home to get ready for a bar crawl later that night.

Now, if you know me, then you know that nightife culture is a big factor that determines whether I like a city or not. It’s not the only thing that matters though, don’t worry; I’m not that uncultured. After all, throughout all of SE Asia, Koh Tao was my favorite and it had very little to offer in terms of drinking and socializing. But, I’d be lying if I said that the famous night clubs in Barcelona weren’t one of the main reasons as to why I so badly wanted to fly across the world to be here. Judge me. So, tonight we were signed up against Blake’s will for a party bus that would take us and all the other drunken foreigners to three bars before ending up at the famous, #1 on every list, Opium.

Wary at first that this excursion would be lame, Blake and I kept to ourselves before I finally branched out and made some girlfriends in the most cliché place possible- the bathroom. It really is true that girls are way nicer to each other in bar and club bathrooms. The two girls asked me if I was from Canada thanks to my Michigan accent and told me they were from Toronto- my inability to correctly say the word bag or any other word with long A’s made me two new friends. We formed a group with them and this guy from New York that Blake had befriended and got to drinking.

The second bar was at the top of a hill overlooking the city and would have been a picture perfect date spot if it wasn’t for the 30 blacked out tourists looking to get lucky. Bar 3 was a mini version of Opium where shots were passed out to all. Then, the main attraction of the night- Opium. It’s hard to describe the club because there are intense strobe lights that prevent you from even seeing your dancing partner one foot away from you. We blindly danced and sat on the beach before going home and sleeping till 2 the next day.

Hasta Luego America! Europe Here I Come!

Day 1
LAX --> Houston --> Newark --> Madrid

You all know Blake as the self-proclaimed frat star who runs around screaming “Live Ever, Die Never” and spray paints the word “Frost” on walls in Europe. That’s one side to him. The other, that a few others and I know, is that he’s actually just a large baby. Literally, he loves playing airplanes with the 3-year-old I babysit (who is coincidentally named Blake also). Also, he’s probably seen Frozen more than any little toddler has. So, that’s why when I tell you that when we woke up at 4AM to leave for Europe today, you won’t be surprised that he was a grouchy, pouty child. Once we arrived at LAX after an Uber ride featuring the post ghetto rap music possible, Blake proceeded to sleep in the fetal position on the chairs by our gate. I, on the other side of the spectrum, was too excited to be tired as I did leprechaun style jump kicks throughout our terminal.

Then, commenced flight one of three before we’d get to Madrid, the first city on our itinerary. Now, here’s another thing you should know about Blake and I: we have a knack for unwillingly attracting the weirdest of people to talk to us. Seriously, it’s like we carry around a big sign that reads “Please come invade my personal space and tell me your life story.” From Uber drivers who make wallets out of duct tape to Italians visiting SF who tell us about their sex lives as we eat 50 cent wings. We always find ourselves trapped in strange conversations. So, that is why again, you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that a man sitting in our aisle on the flight decided we should all be best friends. He showed us videos of his nephew drinking Mountain Dew as if it was the winning video on America’s Funniest Home Videos (it wasn’t) and insisted on giving me his email so I could send him pictures of Europe. What an eventful morning it has been.

The rest of our flights consisted of lots of hangman, wine and Brooklyn 99. After popping a few melatonin we fell asleep and woke up in Madrid. After wandering around aimlessly trying to find our bus for a while, we finally got to the right one and headed to our hotel. Yes, we’re being divas on this trip and staying only in hotels and Air BNBS. But, let’s be honest, there’s no place for couples in hostels. Also, Asia possibly ruined my views on hostels for good.

We settled in a bit then headed out to explore the city, running on two hours of sleep and one croissant. We walked through the most beautiful park I’ve ever seen- rose gardens, winding hills spotted with couples and the greenest trees imaginable. Toto, we aren’t in Los Angeles anymore! Later on in the day we split a bottle of Lambrusco in this park while various couples full on made out and groped each other all around us. Side note, there’s a heavy chance that what we thought was Lambrusco was actually cooking wine, but it tasted good so I’m fine with it. Back to the horny Spaniards. Turns out that in Spain, they have no term for PDA as they believe kissing in public is no different than in private. Hence, the numerous women straddling their lovers on the park benches.

This park is also home to a gorgeous pond alongside a statue called Monument to Alfonso XII. People rent little row boats and paddle around. Or, more so, the men row around their girlfriends and wives while they sunbathe- myself included. Aside from the park we explored the city’s breathtaking cathedrals and palaces. And, we of course ate plenty of cured Jamon y Iberica. Madrid is so far my favorite city on earth. It’s both historical and modern and is big enough while still maintaining a quaint, cute feeling. Turns out though, that I’m incredibly allergic to the city as it’s known for having a high pollen count (according to Google). My eyes are so red that it looks like I’m on the verge of tears at all times. Which, is maybe why every time I attempt to speak in Spanish, the locals take pity on me and reply in English. My months of private spanish lessons are helping, but the combination of how fast Spaniards talk and my anxiety that I’ll say the wrong thing are prohibiting me a bit. I try.

We napped for a while and Blake fought me until I finally woke up and then headed out for dinner. After our jaunt in the park we tried- and failed- to go to El Corte Ingles, a shopping mall with a “gourmet food” experience on the rooftop that our friend’s recommended we try. We got there too late though and settled for a Mexican restaurant nearby. Nothing like going to Spain just to eat Mexican food. Pina Coladas and jet lag set in and we headed to bed, not quite prepared for the nocturnal Spanish lifestyle just yet. 

Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai & Bangkok

Day 20 to the end

Once again I forgot to write. Seriously, what is my issue! I’m honestly writing all this after arriving back in America so this portion of my trip will be short and to the point.

Koh Tao --> Koh Samui

We headed off to the final island of the trip, Koh Samui. Here, we rented our own Air BNB, a nice modern house on the top of a remote hill, complete with an infinity pool. Heaven for us girls.

One of the days, Jackie, Lauren and I decided to take a break from Asia and went and saw an American movie, instead. We chose the movie San Andreas Fault with the Rock to watch in the Thai movie theater. A HUGE mistake. Being the only Americans in the theater, we were the only ones who fully understood that the whole film was about California being ripped to shreds by an earthquake. I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or over exposure to the sun, but all three of us were hysterically sobbing… for the entire movie.

From scene one to the very end, we were balling our eyes out. That movie is pretty scary and watching it in Thailand, where we were both lost and exhausted, did not make it any better. It was hilarious watching us three lose it in the theater while the poor Thai people wondered what on earth was the matter with us.

Then, probably the funniest part of the trip, was when us three went and got massages after the movie. It was so funny because after the massage, Lauren told us that her lady pretty much just petted her while she laid there for an hour. It was a you had to be there typeof thing, but I cry laughing over it even as I type this weeks later.

Another little adventure during this portion of the excursion was when Lauren, Jackie and I almost got mauled by dogs as we walked home from the movie. Yes, we brought this upon ourselves as we chose to walk, up the giant hill to our Air BNB, as the sun went down. I used to consider myself to be pretty street smart until I did this.

You see, dogs in Thailand are trained to be guard dogs that sit outside of each home. So, when people walk by in the dark, naturally these dogs get protective. We’re walking up the hill, with our groceries in our hands, and start to realize we have absolutely no clue which way to go. By this time, it’s getting dark fast and we’re all starting to get nervous. Each house we walk by, different dogs come out and bark at us as we skittishly make our way around them. Mom, here’s where you stop reading.

Then, exactly what we feared would happen, did. We’re walking by one house when all of a sudden a dog comes charging us full speed, teeth bared and growling. Terrified, we huddle together as Jackie screams. Luckily, my survival instincts kicked in and I use the most calming, welcoming voice I have on the dog, while yelling for help at the same time.

Thai people are known for either being extremely nice, or pickpocketing you the moment they get near you. Praise God that the people living in the houses near us as we were getting attacked were the nice versions. Hearing our screams and potentially recognizing the word “help” in English, a group of Thai men came to our rescue and shooed off the dog. They then had us climb onto the back of their motor bikes and drove us up the hill. Granted, they could have easily detoured to a hidden part of the area and killed us as we so trustingly got on the back of their bikes, but I couldn’t have cared less, that’s how scared of the dogs I was.

They dropped us off and sticking true to the nice end of the Thai spectrum, didn’t let us pay for their help. We were shook up and mad at ourselves for being so dumb. Besides the cab ride to the jungle party, this was the riskiest part of the trip.

Koh Samui --> Chiang Mai

Now for the second reason I came to Asia. The elephants.

We headed to Chiang Mai after the island, which is home to Patara Elephant Camp, an elephant reserve that allows tourists to come and “adopt” an elephant for a day. If you know me, you know elephants are my favorite animals on earth, so I was ecstatic for this part of the trip.

You arrive at the camp and are instructed to put on a thick shirt and pants, because elephants surprisingly have super prickly hairs. After putting on the garb, you sit with your group and learn different commands to say to the elephants and how to feed them. Then, you get paired with your elephant for the day. The way they choose which elephant each person will ride is they observe you and place you with the one that matches your personality the most. I naturally was paired with the youngest of the male elephants, an 11-year-old who was known for being stubborn. I got the hint.

After being paired with them, you spend some time feeding them and getting to know them before finally climbing onto their backs. Once you get to the top of your elephant is when the real fun starts. Obviously elephants are huge, but being on top of one was significantly higher feeling than I had expected. The tour guides take you through a river and up the mountain while you ride on the elephants head (you sit closer to the head both in order to control the elephant more and because it hurts them less than on their backs).

There were a few times where I found my elephant wandering over to the edge of the mountain to eat, while I desperately tried to grab on to its’ ears or anything to hold on to so I wouldn’t fall off. My elephant’s trainer didn’t seem to be phased as he watched me struggle and did nothing to stop it. Tough love. The whole day was incredible.

Besides the elephants, another highlight of Chiang Mai was the cooking class we took. We were bussed to a market where we followed around our cooking teacher as he showed us which ingredients we would be using to later cook our own Thai meals. Then, we continued on to the instructors house, out in the boonies in a Thai field. There, he taught us how to make dishes like Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice. It was so much fun and the food, to my surprise, was amazing.

Chiang Mai wasn’t all PG rated though. We met up with the guys from SAE again who were staying in the city the same days we were. We pre-gamed at their place, a huge, clean apartment, which was a welcomed place for us as our hostel was sub par and went out to a popular part of the island where there are five or so bars all in one area. This was super fun and super hazy. I found myself dancing next to the DJ, undoubtedly annoying him with my song requests. I actually liked the nightlife in Chiang Mai more than I even enjoyed the Full Moon Party. There was a lot of dancing and different bars to choose from, so I had a blast.

Chiang Mai --> Chiang Rai

Now for the last city of the trip: sleepy Chiang Rai. This town is about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, which we took by bus, pulling over a few times for Paige to vomit after our last night of drinking with the guys. Chiang Rai was quiet and there wasn’t much to do other than see some more temples. It was a place for us all to recharge and for Lauren and I to rest before we flew home.

Chiang Rai --> Bangkok --> LA

Lauren and I left the journey two weeks before the other girls because we had jobs to get back to. So, we left Chiang Rai just us two and headed to Bangkok, where we would fly out of to return back to America.

In Bangkok, we stayed in a nice hotel and planned to “ball out” on our last night in SE Asia. Instead of going to a rooftop hotel and having a nice meal, which is what we intended to do, we found ourselves in a remote part of the city, where literally nothing was. Traveler fail.

We got our nails done as the salon owners son took pictures of us, something I allowed to happen but wasn’t quite sure why. Then, we went to a nearby store and stocked up on the most American food we could find which was… nothing. These people eat imitation crab flavored Lays….. enough said.

After that, we went to the only restaurant near our hotel and I got my last dish of real Thai made pad thai. By now, I was extremely ready to be back in America. And, the breaking point was when a gecko fell onto my head as I walked out of the restaurant. I told Lauren to get me home immediately after that.

We walked home in the dark and I quickly realized that in order to get to our hotel, we’d have to first pass through a group of dogs, which thanks to Koh Samui, I refused to do. So instead, we found a nearby building, which I think was a hostel, and I begged a man to drive us home. He couldn’t understand what I was saying of course, so I kept pretending to be a dog and making a scared face. Whether he got it or not, he still took us home.

That essentially was the end to our trip, minus flying back to Japan and then continuing on to America.

All in all, Southeast Asia was an adventure worth having. Sure, there were quite a few bumps along the way, from my sickness to developing a new fear of dogs, but the things we saw and experiences we had made it all worth it. Southeast Asia, you were the first real travel experience I’ve ever had and now I’m certain I can face any other trip that I may take in the future. Until next time. 

Full Moon Party: Koh Phanghan & Krabi, Thailand

Day 13-16

Koh Phanghan & Krabi, Thailand

The party isn’t over yet. After a flight and a few ferry rides and one night in Krabi (where I experienced Pad Thai for the first time and discovered I hadn’t lived till then), we ended up in Koh Phanghan. Koh Phanghan is the island home to the famous- or infamous?- Full Moon Party. This party, and the chance to ride elephants, are pretty much the only reasons I came on this trip. Priorities, right? Before I try to explain the craziness of this island, though, I have to first touch a bit on our night in Krabi. I will begin with our hostel. Located in Krabi Town, Pak- Up hostel was easily my favorite of the trip. Each room had a difference school subject based theme to it. Our room was DIY themed. We were also given a free drink at the hostel bar, which brace yourselves, was called a “big black cock.” They named it, not me! This, as you can imagine, was quite entertaining to us. We also visited a night market, which was also my favorite of the trip. We ate Thai cuisine and watched people perform songs and dances on a stage in front of a large area where hundreds of people sat and enjoyed the entertainment. Our time in Krabi was short, but very worth it.

Okay, now for Koh Phanghan, get ready. I’m going to make it a bulleted list because there’s really just too much to tell.

1.     Our hostel was terrible. Like, back breaking, I’d rather sleep in the streets terrible. It was obviously created for partiers, which is actually what the whole island exists for in the first place. The beds were nothing more than slabs of wood. My hips actually bruised from sleeping on it. Luckily, no more than 20 minutes a night were spent sleeping thanks to the parties.

2.     This island exists, like I said, solely for parties. The streets are lined with shops selling trashy, neon clothes and body paint… a must for Full Moon Party. I, of course, spent the rest of my baht (Thai money) on painting my body in preparation for the night. I covered myself in neon flowers, skulls and tribal print. I was very much so in my element.

3.     For days leading up to Full Moon party, there are numerous pre parties. Full Moon, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a famous beach party that happens once a month, every full moon, and brings out thousands of people from around the world. Numerous people also always die at each party. So, if that doesn’t explain how crazy it is, not much else will. The pre parties are equally as crazy too. Everyone who’s anyone starts their nights off at The Dancing Elephant, an intense party hostel equipped with alcohol buckets and a DJ. We started here each night. The first night, we then went to the beach. All of the girls, but Paige and I headed back early. Paige and I stayed on the beach and danced for a while. I woke up with a flower crown that I have no recollection of buying. Success. The second night was the jungle party; it’s exactly what it sounds like too… a giant party in the middle of a jungle. By now, Alli and Gillian have joined us on our trip. I finally have people who are equally as nuts as I am. The most noteworthy part of this night was the “cab” ride there. You see, cabs in Thailand are more like huts on wheels. You sit in a truck bed with no seat belts and a slab of metal as the roof with two rows of seats lining the sides and facing each other. We somehow fit about twenty people into this pathetic excuse of a vehicle… and it was terrifying. I’m a serious risk taker and to have me say that this ride was the riskiest thing I’ve ever done is serious. I’ve truly never been more afraid for my life. The driver was flying down the mountain roads as we all screamed and prayed. The entire taxi there Alli was holding me in like a man made seatbelt and I sat on her lap in a near panic. One random girl was hanging out the back of the truck and I kept screaming at one of our new friends to hold her in. “DO NOT LET HER DIE” I shrieked at this poor man who I had just met. The rest of the night can be summed up as EDM music, a crowded jungle filled with sweaty bodies and fire dancers. Lauren sprained her ankle so all of the girls except Caroline and I left early. There seems to be a theme where I’m always the one who stays out latest. Interesting.

Last but not least, was Full Moon Party. At this point in the trip, we discovered that a group of SAEs from USC were also traveling through the same areas of SE Asia as we were. One was Jackie’s ex, ironically. So, we met up with them before Full Moon and pregamed at The Dancing Elephant before heading to the beach. Alli and I broke away from the group early on and partied together the rest of the night, making new friends and attempting to use fire toys. Alli and Gillian jumped rope with a rope lit with fire (one of the crazy trademarks of the party) and I (for once being smart) stood by and watched as they burnt themselves. Instead of socializing with people for the first part of the night, I also found myself climbing to the top of one of the bars on the beach and sliding down a water slide over and over. The slide throws you off at the end with so much momentum that you just fly through the air, flailing, and either crash into whatever unlucky bystander isn’t paying attention or make a fool of yourself as you crash to the ground. I loved it.  For the second half of the night, Alli and I hung out with a group of guys we had all met at the start of the week and danced up at this bar at the top of a cliff together.

4. Jetskis

5. Mushroom Mountain

6. Vodka and Redbull Buckets- I decided to embrace the speed

7. Sunrise on the beach after Full Moon. Yes, I stayed awake until after 7 am. 

Sorority Girls Rule Siem Reap

Day 8-12

The Rest of Siem Reap

Well, in typical Katie fashion, I’ve failed to write since leaving Cambodia. You’d think a journalist would be better at this but alas, my hot mess self got lazy.

I am now in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The second to last city I’ll be visiting. Literally I missed writing the whole first part of Thailand, I have a commitment problem. So, accept my apologies and bare with me as I try to recount two weeks worth of unrecorded travel.

The rest of the week in Siem Reap was spent exploring the less popular temples of Angkor Wat and touring the city itself. The city is adorable and the night life is great. I’ve been named as the “social chair” of the group, a nickname given to me by the girls in true ex- sorority girl fashion. I’ve been appointed this because I’ve been pretty good at finding us fellow backpacker friends.

One night in Siem Reap, we got dinner with a group from Washington D.C. Later, we went to the most popular hostel bar, Monkey Bar, again. Here, we got involved in a huge game of flip cup. And, if I do say so myself, Americans are way better at drinking than other nationalities.

The six of us, 120 pound girls schooled everyone else at the game. Thanks USC for my minor in partying. Fight on. Clearly, our days of endless fraternity parties payed off. We also went out to some other popular bars like Angkor What?! And Temple Bar. Siem Reap did us well. 

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Day 9

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Instead of staying out until 4 am today, we woke up then. Before assuming we’re all crazy, let me tell you why we decided to do this after a long day of blistering hot sun. We wanted to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, to watch the day break from behind the giant temple.

Our tuk tuk driver, the same one as yesterday and our new friend, picked us up in the pitch black and drove us to the temple. Now, when I say pitch black, it’s not an understatement. I couldn’t see Carleigh, even with her bright blonde hair, more than one foot in front of me. In reality, it wasn’t the safest idea we’ve ever had, it was definitely how little girls get murdered. But hey, we’re being adventurous remember.

He dropped us off and we wandered blindly up to where we thought the temple was, our little iPhone lights no match to the dense darkness. Once we hit the entrance (like actually hit it by running into the rock structure) we paused for a while deciding what to do with the empty hole ahead of us, with nothing else but black behind it. Finally, we followed a man in who had clearly done this before and knew where to go. He was on a mission.

We set up camp at the very front spot next to a body of water known as the reflection pond, the best seat for the view. The stars over our head left me awestruck. The pitch-black canvas of a sky was glittering with thousands of them. Toto, we aren’t in LA anymore? How anyone can look at that and not believe there is a God who created them, is beyond me.

The sun finally rose, slowly at first and then suddenly all at once. I wish my little phone could accurately portray the beauty we witnessed; it was a once in a lifetime thing. After some exploring we went back to the hostel and slept for hours, understandably so. 

Playing Tomb Raider: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Day 8

Siem Reap

Today was a day of temples. We tuk tuk’d to Angkor Wat first. The size and detail of this temple was breathtaking. I’m usually more impressed with God made creations than man made ones, but this one was a marvel. Obviously, considering it’s one of the 7 wonders.

I was in awe that mere humans were able to build something so huge back when things like supplies and equipment were hardly available. We then checked out Ta Prohm, where Angelina Jolie filed Tomb Raider and Bayon, another of the temples. Ta Prohm had an Atlantis type feel to it- deep in the forest and covered in vines. Bayon was amazing and my favorite, with faces carved into stones facing each direction on every pillar and with heights towering above any of the other temples.

We attempted to go to sunset back at Angkor, but the line was too long and we didn’t get in. At this point, though, no one really cared, the heat made us sweat as if we’d just gone swimming. A quick dinner and bed followed, we could barely keep our eyes open by the end.