New Beginnings in a Wanderlust Nation

Hello loves! Thank you so much for all the love and support you’ve given Taylor’s Titillating Travels over the years. It’s been amazing and I’ve loved sharing all my stories with you. I will still be bringing you fun little stories, but I’m broadening my horizons. Soon we will launch Wanderlust Nation, a new website-based travel blog with more videos and varying media. I enjoy sharing my personal stories, but I really want to bring the focus on to inspiring others to travel in new ways. I am very sad to let go of my slightly suggestive title, but I think Wanderlust Nation is going to capture a whole new realm of traveling. It’s going to be slow going at first, but I hope you all hang in there! I’ll leave you with a little something I wrote. For me it’s hopeful, it’s saying goodbye to one chapter and opening another.

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These Days

I keep a suitcase packed by the bed
Ready to go at a moment’s notice, passport in hand
I’m nearing thirty and I’m still a teenage runaway
But I guess they just call it leaving these days

Most days the real world stagnates around me
And I escape to far off lands
Just a little movement to keep myself from atrophy
But I guess they just call it surviving these days

You tell me jetlag is a myth
But how do you know if you never leave the zone?
You stay tethered to the still life you’ve created
But I guess they call it stability these days

I’ve missed a funeral, weddings, and a birth
I miss the late nights at The Pub, paying for our youth
Those moments that remind us of what we all have in store for us
But I guess that’s what they call reality these days

I keep my family and friends close to my heart
Yet I keep stepping out, always leaving them behind
In hopes of forgetting the one thing I’m missing
But I guess that’s what they call loneliness these days

The rhythm in my soul keeps beating
A drumming pulling me on at an invisible pace
Away from the known into the expanse of the lives I haven’t lived
But I guess that’s what they call wanderlust these days

So I’ll see you when my feet hit the ground
And be gone before you can remember my face
Leave you with the memories of girl once etched in your mind
But I guess they just call me a gypsy these days

I just want you to remember my name

 

xoxo Taylor

The Truth of Becoming a Travel Writer

So, you’ve got the talent for writing, you’ve got the love of travel and adventure, but that’s not the most important element of travel writing. It has to be more than just a passion. It has to be a way of life you can live with or one you simply can’t live without.

When looking to get into travel writing you have to ask yourself, as I did with just about every profession I’ve ever considered (acting, flight attendant, teacher in the Alaskan bush), what are you willing to sacrifice? If you’re just starting out and don’t have a super high paying job with massive amounts of free time or work you can take on the road, then you’re probably going to be living on a shoe-string budget. There are bills to pay and equipment you’ll need before you even leave town. Once you’re in your destination you might be staying in hostels, which means giving up personal space, living out of a suitcase (that you can’t allow to explode all over the room), and trading in your comfy bed at home for the bits of cardboard that pass in most hostels for a bed. But you’re not just giving up the freedoms of having a place of your own. You’re exchanging your every day relationships with your friends for part-time friendships. Most travel writers tend to be gregarious people who make friends easily, so it’s not that hard to find someone to grab a drink with, but these are not people who know you inside and out and sometimes you’ll get somewhere in the middle of winter with hardly any other people in the same lodgings as you. Can you handle getting dinner or drinks alone? Odds are that you’ll be spending a large amount of time by yourself. So it’s important to know who you are and know your own mind.

Speaking of relationships, for some people the hardest adjustment deals with romantic relationships. If you’re lucky enough to have someone at home who doesn’t mind you being away all the time then you’re in great shape, but often times the men or women you meet might not take a relationship with you seriously if they know you’re not going to be around to cultivate it. Even if you find someone who is willing to do these things, there is an immense amount of work that goes into maintaining that relationship compounded on top of the work it takes to maintain a presence in the media world while traveling. Are you prepared to put forth that effort into a long distance relationship while working towards your goals?

Despite the aforementioned lack of outward glamour when you’re beginning, or for any writer who isn’t employed by a luxury travel magazine, you are trading all of those things for mountains towering overhead, awe-inspiring landscapes, beachside rides on horseback, city lights glittering in the night, new friends from every walk of life, evenings with a drink in hand listening to live music, afternoons in street side cafes, whirlwind romances, and endless adventure.

What it really boils down to:
“Would you be willing to trade all of this, from this day to that, for once chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they may never take our freedoooooom!” Wait a minute… that’s from Braveheart, but the point is the same. To rephrase, would you be willing to trade every bit of a normal life for the chance to tell the world how you lived free?

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5 Reasons to Travel Solo

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To many, the idea of traveling alone might be a scary, panic inducing thought, but it shouldn’t be. There are many benefits to traveling solo.

1. Hindsight is Always 20/20
Sometimes you just need to get away from whatever may be troubling or stressing you and sometimes you don’t even know there’s something wrong until you’ve removed yourself from your own cloud. Whatever it may be there’s no better cure than to forget your troubles for a while and, when you’re ready, take a minute to think on life and what changes need to be made. When you return you’ll be relaxed and clear-headed in your course of direction.

2. The Clock Ticks Only for You
Don’t want to visit that thousandth church while touring Italy? Want to spend three days laying on the beach reading? You can. You don’t have to compromise with anyone but yourself. Everything you want to do and see are open to you at your own pace.

3. Freedom of Thought
My favorite part of traveling alone is that I have time to think whatever I want without the intrusions of society telling me their opinions. You can think and believe whatever you want to. You can convince yourself wholeheartedly that unicorns exist if you so choose. Allow your mind to wander along with your feet and create some new convictions.

4. Go Incognito
Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Here’s your chance to be that person. No one knows you where you’re going so why not be that ethereal, nomadic hippy or a secretive, sunglasses-toting Hollywood star? You may just discover something about yourself.

5. Character Building
Traveling solo forces you to be more responsible, aware of your surroundings, and manage your time, skills that are probably useful in your normal life.

Top 5 Places to Drink in Dublin

Although my Facebook and Instagram may suggest that I visited every pub in Dublin, and it sure felt like I did, I can assure you that would be a feat that would take no small amount of time. With over 1,000 pubs in Dublin it, to my surprise, has fewer pubs per capita than any other European capital (Viator). However, I would argue that Dublin has one of the liveliest nightlifes (or is it nightlives?) I’ve seen. Even on a Monday evening in November the pubs in Temple Bar and on the outskirts were packed to the brim until close.

Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a drink in Dublin:

5. Temple Bar

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Go here for: meeting fellow travelers, live music and dancing.

The Temple Bar district is the famous pub area in Dublin. It’s populated by tourists from all over and a few locals, which makes it uniquely vibrant and always lively. The Temple Bar is the star of the area for obvious reasons. C’mon! They named the WHOLE AREA after this one bar! It’s a somewhat cramped pub and you’re definitely going to overpay for drinks here, but it’s well worth the money for the live music and conversation with fellow tourists from all over the world.

4. Guinness Gravity Bar

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Go here for: the killer city views.

If you’re looking for the bar with the best view head on down to the St. James’ Gate Brewery. Gravity Bar sits atop the Guinness Storehouse exhibit. It’s walls are entirely glass with labels detailing all of Dublin’s famous sites. Hit the exhibit late in the afternoon and use your ticket to either learn to pour a perfect pint or head up to the bar for your complimentary pint of Guinness and enjoy the view of the city lit up and glittering in the nighttime.

3. O’Neill’s Bar and Restaurant

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Go here for: dinner and drinks, relaxing after a long day or the beginning of a long night

O’Neill’s is out of the touristy areas, closer to the college and populated by a large array of patrons from college kids to folks just getting off work, looking for a meal and entertainment. The music here was mellow Irish-folk and it seemed a bit more relaxed atmosphere. The interior was quaint and classic with huge wooden tables and benches. It’s just a nice quiet place to rest your feet after a long day of sightseeing. And when you’re done you can walk a few steps to the Molly Malone statue!

2. Copper Face Jack’s

Go here for: After hours beer and club-style dancing.

If you’re lucky enough to meet a local they’ll be able to show you one of the many places that doesn’t close until 4 A.M. but by that point you might not know where the hell you are. That might just be me. After an evening of pub crawling my friend met a local who kindly took as to Copper Face Jack’s. It’s your typical club with a large, open dance floor and loud music. Unlike the clubs in my state they don’t play irritating, base-heavy hip-hop. CFJ’s plays music you can actually dance to ranging from Grease to hits from the 80’s and 90’s, a pleasant change of pace… or tempo.

1. Dingle Whisky Bar

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Go here for: good whiskey, relaxed atmosphere, conversation

I like beer, but there’s whiskey in my blood. I’m the kind of lass who prefers a quiet whiskey to sip with friends to loud, over-crowded bars. I stumbled upon Dingle Distillery while pub hopping and it was like finding a tiny piece of heaven hidden away on a Dublin street near Trinity College. Its unique interior is warm and inviting and they carry a large array of whiskey, including the whiskey, gin, and vodka distilled by Dingle. This should be at the top of any whiskey-lovers list.

Review: Connemara-Galway via Extreme Ireland Tours

Traveling with Extreme Ireland Tours/ Irish Day Tours from Dublin through Galway on to Connemara was a somewhat lengthy ride. The first half of the journey took us through small suburbs of Dublin and eventually thinned to countryside villages and towns. We bypassed Galway and made our first stop somewhere in Connemara (a region in Galway County) to see the picturesque Quiet Man Bridge where John Wayne filmed scenes from his movie “The Quiet Man.”

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Keeping with the theme, we also made an impromptu stop at the replica house from the same movie. Even if you’ve never seen the movie the views in these locations are beautiful and well worth the stop.

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After that we traveled through country back roads to the Killary Sheep Farm, which I detailed in the previous post. I will say it is the best stop on the whole tour and an experience that actually feels authentic. So click here for a for account of our experience there.

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From there you stop at Kylemore Abbey for lunch. Their cafe boasts mediocre food and an attitude of general disdain from its staff. I recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy at one of the benches and take in the view of Kylemore. We didn’t have enough time to see the interior, but I’m told the tour price isn’t a great value so save the Euros for Galway.

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Following Kylemore are various scenic stops in Connemara and throughout the Inagh Valley. The scenery here will stop the breath in your lungs.

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Galway is the final stop before heading back to Dublin where I picked up a new Claddahg ring from Thomas Dillon‘s. The city itself is very youthful as it’s mostly a college town. Also, they were setting up what looked to be a splendid Christmas Market so if you’re in the area around Christmas time (which begins earlier there than in the States since they don’t have Thanksgiving to wait for) give it a gander. Galway

Overall, I would give Extreme Ireland Tours a four and a half out of five stars simply because I would have liked more time in Galway, but if you give them notice you can stay the night and take the next day’s tour van back. Our guide was both entertaining and informative. Due to our small tour size we were able to make quite a few impromptu scenic stops. I definitely recommend going during the off season.

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Something About European Hostels

About two weeks ago I took an opportunity to go to Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a trip of firsts, including my first time going to Scotland. There were so many amazing things that happened and I promise I will get a nice photo tour up eventually, but first I would like to discuss a few things that are on my mind from the trip.

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One of the experiences that was a first for me was staying in a hostel. Dun dun duuuuun! I had heard wonderful things about European hostels, but there’s this weird connotation they have here in the states, not simply because of the movie Hostel. It evokes images in my head where I liken them to some WWII Red Cross hospital with people dying and coughing, bloodstained sheets and some weird, dark villains lurking under the bed, waiting to steal all your stuff and potentially murder you. I haven’t the foggiest idea where these ideas came from but this is what was in my head. After much research on the cheapest, but still relatively nice and safest hostels in the area I found one that seemed acceptable and affordable. I chose to stay in an all female room at The Royal Mile Backpackers in order to minimize my shock at anything that may occur.

My experience can be likened to what I imagine it was like to live in a dorm in college, coming in at the second semester. Everyone seemed like they were best friends and it was hard to separate the staff from those who had been staying there for months. This was an advantage, though, because I could ask any of the people I had seen more than once about the hostel and they responded welcomingly to this new-comer to their family. I even ran into a few of them in the taverns and shops in the area and, recognizing me, they treated me like an old friend. I suppose that was the best part of staying at the hostel, feeling like I already had a circle of friends to show me around the city. There’s a sense of  camaraderie with young hostel-stayers.

Speaking of that camaraderie, it seems like hostel-staying has a culture unto itself. It’s somewhat difficult to explain, but perhaps it is just simply that hostels attract a certain type of person; young, rootless, adventurers, making the most of what the world has to offer. It felt free. Not free in a reckless-abandon sort of way but more like free from obligations and nationalistic conformity. That’s not to say people weren’t proud of where they were born, but, rather, they weren’t obligated to be typically British, Russian, Australian, or American. They were free to perceive the world however they themselves actually do, unencumbered by any pressures present in any particular country, religion, or economic situation. No fear of how someone may interpret your ideas because it was a truly open forum. I will get more into this open-forum idea on another post.

Lastly, I learned that packing for hostels is a completely different art than my usual packing for hotel-stay. My method generally involves settling into hotel rooms in a spread-out, but easy to repack method, but you really live more out of your actual suitcase in a hostel. I should have packed more like I was going on a camping trip than a regular one. Since everywhere is a common, shared space you can’t really leave all your stuff strewn about, even a little. For example, a bag with just shower supplies and a separate makeup bag would be a good idea. Bags you can just pick out and take with you are good. Honestly, I don’t really have a good method and any suggestions are welcome.

That about sums up my favorite parts of staying in a hostel.

My final tip would be to bring a pair of ear plugs because at least one night you’re going to have someone who snores… loudly.

That Time I Woke Up in the Italian Alps

As any airline employee who has spent a large amount of time traveling standby knows, it can sometimes be very difficult to get to/from a destination. Sometimes you get bumped off a flight and have to take the next one. However, on rare occasions, you end up getting stuck for days, even weeks on end, traversing to wherever you can, no matter how far out of the way it may be, just to get home. Such is the story of the time I woke up in the Italian Alps.

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One particular day my brother and I were traveling to Rome to attend a ceremony held at St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of our parent’s 40th wedding anniversary (My parents are kind of awesome). All the signs that this was not going to be an easy trip were there, but we put on our best faces and busted out our problem solving skills and after considering a million options (like going to Venice and having an adventure taking a train down to Rome) we finally forced the universe to send us to Rome a day late. We couldn’t have been happier just to be heading to Rome. The whole trip was lovely (well, other than having my bank account drained by some a-hole in Vegas, my uncle getting robbed by kids, and a super douchey taxi driver), but really… it was wonderful. Getting home was another story.

IMG_8302 Remember that adventure I said my brother and I were going to have (the Venice to Rome train ride)? Well, we sure got it, just not at all how we expected. The day we were supposed to leave was a super lucky day (or so we thought). We made it on the plane and had a two-seat row to ourselves. We were feeling like rock stars. Then, after a four hour mechanical delay (in which the crew worked remarkably to get it fixed), the pilot got on the PA and informed us we were cancelled. We weren’t feeling so rockstar-ish anymore. So we took our unfortunate circumstance and went to the hotel to sleep it off and enjoy one more day with our extended family still at the hotel. Back to the airport and disaster struck! Another cancelled flight and every single flight out of Rome to anywhere was overbooked well into the following week. Rome was declared a dead zone for us.

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Somewhere in the course of trying to escape a proverbially burning Rome we found my cousin (promptly lost her to some Italian waiters), made friends with another FA and her daughter, and a gate agent. Together we were a force to be reckoned with, holding all the tools and creativity to get us out of there we pieced off my cousin to Amsterdam, and the gate agent to Alitalia. Then there were 4 and we were a solid team of herded cats. Honestly, it felt like we all had super powers, each working tirelessly to piece together a solution. After engaging our super powers, racking up a giant phone bill, connecting to gypsy internet, much fighting and negotiating with the less than pleasant Romans (worse than what your friend told you about the Parisians) and many hours later myself, my bro, and our two new friends were jumping on train bound for Munich in a situation that quickly felt like family.  NOTE: For the ease of the rest of this story and to protect their identities I will call them Sorella, the Italian word for sister, and Mama Bear, because she was our fearless leader who has actually fought a bear in her house once (you think I am making this up, I’m glad I’m not). Completely exhausted in every way we all fell asleep in our sleeper cabin, happy in a strange way just to be moving towards some sort of exit.

_MG_8502edit Waking the next morning was so surreal and unbelievable. Raising the window shades we could see that we had actually woken up in the heavenly Italian Alps (not France like we had somewhat expected… it’s happened to me before). Never in a million years would we have thought that we would be waking up in a train sleeper cabin with two people who, just a few hours ago, were complete strangers and staring out at the most magnificent mountain landscape we had ever seen. All I could think was, how the hell did I get here with these people!? I don’t know why I was so amused, that happens to me a lot, actually.

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We had become so close in our trial and sleep that we decided I would, of course, be in Sorella’s wedding and have Christmas dinner with Mama Bear’s family. However, we didn’t know that we were going to be having all of these events in Italy. We had to change trains in this German-Italian mountain town on the border called Bolzano. It was the most beautiful winter story-book town I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating breakfast in (maybe even better than Chateau-deoux, Switzerland). Can you guess what made it even better? CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS! They make EVERYTHING awesome. They even had a chocolate Krampus, the demon to whom Santa feeds bad children. There was also a phantom sausage, potatato, and onion smell wafting from some shop we couldn’t find, just taunting our hungry bellies. Should I return I will find this sausage-potato-onion phantom and devour it!

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Piling into our new Deutch Bahn cabin we made a new Italian friend who also doubled as a European who actually lives in Europe for Sorella to marry so we can have the aforementioned wedding in Bolzano. The scenery the entire way (including the attractive Italian) was spectacular. We passed through Austria and the German countryside with gliding ease and lithe conversation. The whole train ride was probably the smoothest part of our entire journey.

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Our arrival in Munich brought on a whole other slew of troubles, which we simply quelled with beer. I mean, what the hell else are we going to do? We finally arrived at our hotel only to find our reservation had been incorrectly booked and would now cost twice what we expected (Remember how my credit card got ransacked? Yeah, no money on my end except the few Euros I still had). Thankfully the beautiful receptionists took pity on us and allowed us to stay at our usual rate. So, we celebrated with much beer and a warm, meaty meal at the Hofbrau Haus, followed by more beer and local friends at Schneider Weiss. Let me tell you, beer solves all your problems… almost.

IMG_4430 The final adventure was to get home and I had to separate earlier than expected from my group of weary travelers and navigate the trains alone. I left them perfect instructions for getting to the airport, but did I also save those instructions for myself? No. That is a preposterous idea! I have navigated the DB before and I can do it again! Or, I can just show up at the train station, ticketless, and hop on the train marked Flughafen and pray to God that no one realizes that I bought the wrong train ticket.

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In the end, we all made it to the airport, caught our flights, and landed safely in our respective homes. It was a strange and wonderful journey. I would like to offer a special thank you to my family and all the wonderful people I met along the way.

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