Thursday, July 16, 2015

European Bucket List

Europe will always be my first love and hold a special place in my heart. Although I have traveled extensively throughout this continent, I must say that there are still plenty of places that I'd like to explore. Here are just a few of them:

1) Croatia- When I was a nanny in Italy, I lived right on the east coast of Italy, so it would have been easy to visit Croatia via ferry.  Ferries leave from Bari, Italy and go directly to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Unfortunately, the timing was never right.  Both of my sisters came and visited me during some of my breaks and we had other trips within Italy planned. Needless to say, I've never stopped wanting to go to Croatia! Dubrovnik always seems to make those lists of "most beautiful cities in Europe," and judging from the photographs I've seen, it's not hard to see why! This walled city is surrounded by such gorgeous turquoise water, and I've read that the Old Town of Dubrovnik is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other reasons for wanting to go to Croatia include the sunny Mediterranean climate as well as the Roman architecture present throughout the country. It's also supposed to be easy to go island hopping. If that's not enough, the Croatian currency is the kuna (as opposed to the Euro), so my U.S. dollars will stretch further.

photo credit: Dubrovnik Croatia - 46 via photopin (license)
2) Tuscany- I have visited Tuscany twice, but I feel like what I experienced was just the tip of the iceberg. The places I've gone to so far are: Florence (twice,) Siena, Pisa (just for a few hours to see the Leaning Tower), and Cortona. I can't really say much about Pisa, but Florence, Siena, and Cortona were all amazing places full of beautiful Medieval architecture. The Tuscan countryside, good wine, and world-famous artwork, make me want to go back and see what else this stunning area has to offer. The next time I visit, ideally, I'd like to stay in one spot for a month or longer and then take day trips to cities like Lucca, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Pistoia, and Montepulciano. Of course, going to the Chianti Classico Wine Region and to Val d'Orcia are also must-dos.

photo credit: panorama bwj via photopin 
3) Northern Europe- I feel like Northern Europe often gets overlooked and takes a backseat to many other European countries. Visiting Copenhagen was a great time, but other parts of Scandinavia are calling my name. Between the national parks, fjords, glaciers, castles, viewing the Northern Lights, and possibly participating in some winter sports, Northern Europe has plenty to offer a wide range of travelers. What has stopped me in the past is the expense, but with time to save and proper budgeting, there's no reason for me not to go.

photo credit: DSC_0369 via photopin (license)
4) South of Spain- When my friend and I studied abroad in Europe, we intended on visiting several cities in the South of Spain. We were inexperienced travelers at the time and did not know about Holy Week being THE prime time for many European tourists to flock to Spain. Since we did not book our accommodation ahead of time, we basically had to leave Spain and head out early to Portugal because there was nowhere for us to stay. This meant we missed out on seeing places like Seville, Granada, and Cadiz.  The Andalusia region of Spain has both mountains and beaches and is famous for flamenco dancing, castles, and for its tasty gazpacho and jamon serrano.

photo credit: _MG_1181-2.jpg via photopin(license)
5)  European Russia- With all of the unique architecture and iconic buildings like the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, Russia piques my interest. I know that fewer people will speak English and it might be harder to get around since I don't know their alphabet, but sometimes I enjoy a challenge. If you're not convinced, give these two posts a read and see if you change your mind: 1) Top 10 Reasons to Visit Russia and 2) Reasons to Visit Russia.

photo credit: The South Gate with the Church of the Holy Virgin via photopin (license)

Where in Europe would you like to visit?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

I've never done a Frequently Asked Questions post, so I thought now's as good a time as any to go ahead and do one. Why not?

Here are some FAQ's that I get asked in life, so why not address them here?

Are you still with your boyfriend? The short answer to this is no, I'm single. The last time we saw each other was over a year ago last June right before I moved to Georgia. The last time we texted each other was in February and neither one of us has contacted the other one since then, so I'd say that we are finished.  I guess it's better that things just fizzled out instead of going through a dramatic break up...I'm okay with not having that "official closure." I think both of us knew it just wasn't going to work. After spending five and a half years together, it came time to either take the next step (which I don't think either of us wanted) or to break up. There's just no point in being in a stagnant relationship. 

Do you want to have kids? I wouldn't say no, but I'm already in my 30's and I just don't know if it will happen for me.  I would definitely want kids if I met the right person, but I'm not going to settle for someone that I'm not head over heels for just to have someone to start a family with.  I already wasted enough of my time being with the wrong person (see answer to above question.) Regardless of whether or not I have kids, I know that at least I have a cute niece

Why did you decide to leave your teaching job in the United States to go teach in China? Although I never taught in China before, I have taught in Korea for three years and loved it. This past year teaching in South Carolina was really rough for me. The salary seems decent, but once the cost of living is factored into the equation, it's not enough money to live on! I seriously had to spend some of my savings just to make ends meet and that's not even including what I spent so far on organizing my trip to Iceland. If I stayed in S.C., I would eventually go bankrupt if I didn't find another job! Another reason why I decided to leave is that it was just too much...I'm not a lazy person and didn't expect my first year teaching to be a walk in the park.  When I was working 11 hour days every day with no break and then using almost my whole Sunday to lesson plan, it was just not a good work/social life balance. On top of that, I STILL never felt fully caught up. Even veteran teachers at the school I worked for were running around saying that there was no time and put in tons of extra hours each day. That was not very comforting to me. The time constraints made it difficult to meet people and to make friends. Truthfully, besides the two friends that I came down here already knowing, I would say that I just made one friend the whole year which is kind of sad.  I felt like my whole identity was just being a teacher and that I didn't have time to just be me if that makes any sense. There are many other reasons why I wanted to leave that school, but I chose China because I had been wanting to teach internationally again for awhile. The teaching schedule, behavior of the students, and lower cost of living in China will all work in my favor.

Do you think you will ever settle down? I know that this is a question that my dad wants me to say yes to! I guess it all depends. I don't see myself being happy without traveling being a huge component of my life.  If I "settled down" in one spot, I would still want to take a ton of trips.

How tall are you? I'm six feet tall. Read this post if want more information on my experience as a tall girl. :)

What is the best place you've ever been to? This is such a hard question to answer!! I will say that I'm biased towards the places that I actually lived in for an extended period of time. Those places would be France, Italy, and Korea. Without counting those places, I'd have to say that I have had amazing experiences the following places: 1) 
Kyoto, Japan 2) Newfoundland, Canada 3) The Australian Outback 4) Cape Town, South Africa 5) Yunnan Province, China

Okay, I could go on and on here, but in the U.S., it's pretty obvious that I'm partial towards Savannah!

How did you find a job teaching English in Korea and what made you want to go over there in the first place? During my junior year of college, I went to France for a study abroad opportunity. While I was there, I became good friends with this girl named Hannah. Hannah and I kept in touch during our senior years of college at our respective universities, but often talked about how we wanted to go abroad again right after graduation. We tossed the idea around about teaching English in France, but Hannah convinced me that Korea would be more lucrative for us and would give us a chance to experience living in a completely different part of the world. Hannah found a recruiter and passed the information along to me. Getting a job in Seoul was super easy at the time. There were many openings and all that was required was to have a 4 year degree and be a native English speaker. I also wanted to try teaching out in Seoul to see if I actually liked teaching. In France, I would have just been an assistant, but in Seoul I got to have my own classes. I don't even remember the name of the recruiter I used, but there are always a ton of postings for jobs on the Korean Forum on Dave's ESL Cafe

This was a pretty fun post to write! If you have a question for me, leave it in the comments below and I'll answer it. :)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer Check In

This summer has been stressful and relaxing at the same time. It started out a little chaotic because I immediately had to tell the principal of my school in South Carolina that I would not be staying another year. I was very nervous about this, but had to go through with it in order to make the best decision for my life. That's all taken care of now, thank goodness. Since I didn't need to be in South Carolina for any reason, I decided to then move out of my apartment and back into my best friend's house in Georgia. I like the area he lives in way more than the area in S.C. where I was living. Also, I'd be living with my friends again, and it was going to save me money, so there was really no reason not to move. I wanted to sit down and tell the lady I was renting from this, but she happened to be in Ireland for weeks. It didn't make sense to pay July rent to both her and to my friend, so I just decided to pack up all of my stuff and move out, which also kind of made me anxious. I would have preferred to explain this in person to the woman I rented from, but ended up having to message her on Facebook her about it. I didn't have to sign a lease or anything and my rent was on a month-to-month basis, so it's not like I was trying to get out of an agreement, but I just felt kind of weird packing up everything while she was not there! In the end, she was super understanding and wished me good luck.  Another weight off of my shoulders...

Moving itself is also not the most fun. Last June I moved from Ohio to Georgia, then from Georgia to South Carolina, then from South Carolina back to Georgia, and now I have to move all my stuff back to Ohio so that I can move to China. Needless to say, I'm OVER moving so much!!! Luckily, Everett helped me clean out my place in South Carolina and all my stuff is now at his place. 

As soon as I got moved into Ev's place, I drove to North Carolina to visit my sister for 5 days. Just a few days after that, I spent some time in Savannah with my parents showing them around. It has been wonderful, but I have been busy!

As far as China is concerned, I had been interested in going all year long, but then started experiencing a health problem so I ended up thinking that I wouldn't be able to go and told my contact for the program that. After some conversations with my doctor, he gave me the go-ahead to go to China, so then I had to hope and pray that there was still an available position for me. Thankfully there was! I really lucked out in that respect.  Then I had to work on filling out the paperwork and get a doctor's note saying I was fit to work, so it was a good thing that I was on summer break in order to have the time to get this taken care of right away.  Everything is pretty much set for China, and I actually bought my flight yesterday! When I taught in Korea, they paid for my flight, but the way it works in China is that I pay for it and then receive a stipend for it at the end of my contract. Another source of worry for me is that I do have a lot of expenses for China upfront and I'm going to Iceland, so it's not exactly comforting to see my savings account dwindle, BUT I keep telling myself to not freak out because I know that I'll make it back as soon as I get to China.  It will be just fine and all worth it, but I do need to keep reminding myself about that. At least I'm still receiving paychecks from the school I worked at last year through the first half of August.

This Sunday, I have to pack up my little compact car with as much stuff as will fit into it and make a 12 hour trip from Georgia to Ohio. I'm going to try to get it done in one day, but gosh...I don't know if I'll be able to make it. I might get a hotel room on the way depending on how I feel. Also, the kind of crappy thing is that I won't be able to fit all my stuff in one trip, at least I don't think so.  That means after I get back from our trip in August, I'll have to drive all the way back down to Georgia and make another trip back up to Ohio for the 2nd part of my stuff. 

I've also been busy preparing for my trip to NYC, Iceland, and Boston with Rachael. Rachael can attest to the fact that we have been using WeChat almost daily to get everything in order for our adventure. I think at this point we both just want to relax and enjoy the trip we spent so much time planning. This summer, I've been running around trying to make sure that I have what I need for the trip. Blog business cards for BlogHer? Check. Hiking boots, a converter, a waterproof jacket, and Lonely Planet Iceland? Quadruple check. Yesterday I worked on making a packing list of everything I will need for Iceland, and I have to start packing here in the next few days so that I can take it back to Ohio with everything already prepared. Today I also need to print a bazillion things: flight schedules, AirBnB accommodation receipts, bus tickets, receipts from all of our tours we pre-paid, etc. 

Another thing that I have to do is sell my car. I was kind of hoping that my parents would let me keep it at their place for a year, but my dad does not want that. He says that I might agree to stay another year in China and then it will just be sitting there for years with no one using it, which is a valid point.  I feel like I won't really have much time to sell my car because I'll need it up to a certain point, so I figure that I'm probably going to take a loss on it financially since I'll need to sell it fast. Also, I've never sold a car before, so I feel kind of clueless.

As you can see, I've had some more time to blog lately and have been getting back in the swing of things with posting regularly again. I just don't know how much that is going to be able to continue since I'll be gone for the next three weeks. With everything else that is going on in my life, I have been able to keep up with blogging, but not get ahead. I feel like we are supposed to have up good content during BlogHer since we will be meeting so many other bloggers and businesses might be visiting our blogs, but at this point, if I can just pre-write about three-four posts, I'll be happy with that.

Something else that has been weighing on my mind is that I have to do is figure out where I'm going to store all of my stuff once I get it back to Ohio. Right now, a large portion of it is in my parents' basement in boxes. I don't know if they're okay with me keeping it there, so I might have to look into getting storage unit. 

Also, for China, I'm supposed to send in my actual passport next week, but since I'm going to Iceland, I cannot do that. That means as soon as I get back to the U.S., I have to immediately go to the post office and mail out my passport and forms so that everything gets done before my departure on August 19th.  I might have to pay extra since it will need to be rushed, which is fine.

On top of everything else, I've had to squeeze in doctors appointments for that health problem that I mentioned earlier. Since I started seeing the doctor in South Carolina, that is who I go through, so it has been kind of annoying to drive over an hour each way every time I need to go, but I don't want to switch doctors just for a month.  Also, my insurance with the school I formerly worked at expires on August 1st and I don't start working in China until August 19th, so I have to look into getting coverage for that one month. 

Finally, I've been exercising daily with Everett to try to get in better shape and more prepared for my Iceland trip. Hopefully I have time to keep this up!! 

WHEW! I know I'll get everything done that I need to work on, but I'll just feel a whole lot better once I get some more things crossed off of my list, you know what I mean? I just have to stop, take a deep breath, and try not to get overwhelmed because everything that I'm doing is for something awesome!!

I have had some relaxing moments like just chatting with my sister in NC, trying out new Savannah restaurants with my parents, and this past week my friends and I caught up on our favorite Netflix show of the moment, Gran Hotel. Mostly, it has just been really nice to be on a vacation from working.

How has your summer been going?