Time to dive back into roundups! Since I’m working my way through my black hole of content from August of 2016 to April of 2017, that means we’ve got roundups to catch up on as well. Apologies for the delay, but I suppose better is late than never… right? And to answer the inevitable questions, I pull these together from detailed notes, old blog posts and photos, my calendar, and my daily spending tracking software.
There’s no two ways about it — these two summer months were pure travel madness. Being on the move meant I crammed in loads, though. Several family trips, a content-creating campaign, my first professional on-camera hosting, my first visit to my boyfriend’s home province, and a big international trip to visit friends — no wonder I was so dang tired!
I crossed four different countries in this stretch though they all kept to a tidy theme of neighbors to the north and, well, the east (if you can still call England and Wales neighbors across the ocean and well, why not?) Churchill, Bonavista, Brighton and Bristol were my four favorite new discoveries of the months — though as you’ll see, competition was fierce.
Where I Was
• Five nights in Albany, USA
• Seven nights in New York City, USA
• Four nights in Winnipeg, Canada
• Four nights in Churchill, Canada
• Four nights in Albany, USA
• Two nights in Boston, USA
• Six nights in Chicago, USA
• Three nights in Decatur, USA
• Thirteen nights in Martha’s Vineyard, USA
• Two nights in New York, USA
• One night in Trinity, Canada
• Four nights in St. John’s, Canada
• One night in overnight transit
• Three nights in Brighton, England
• Three nights in London, England
• Three nights in Bristol, England
• Three nights in Anglesey, Wales
• Two nights in Liverpool, England
• Kicking off the month in Albany. After getting back from Port Leyden, I had my friend Dallas in Albany for a night and loved giving her the whistle stop tour. I also made it to a cool backyard Vinyl Night in Troy with my friend Matt, to a Ciders and Sliders event at the local craft cidery down the road from my mom’s house with my friend Kenzie, a backyard barbecue with my best friend’s parents, and a stroll around my favorite Troy Farmer’s Market with Matt again. Later in the month, there were more barre dates, more lunch catch ups with high school friends, and my sister and her boyfriend (and his pup!) even popped up to celebrate her birthday in our hometown. So good — and so much fun fit into just nine total days!
• Bopping around New York. I was equally busy during my week of fun in New York, bed hopping between three different friends’ apartment’s in Brooklyn. I really crammed in a lot too — dinner at my favorite fried chicken joint Pies and Thighs with my friend Sam, a workout date and movie with my friend Ashlee (which was literally about two guys we went to high school with!) girl’s dinner with Liz and Steffi at a fancy pizza place, an afternoon running around pampering myself with an organic pedicure and an overpriced haircut and a fancy acai bowl in Williamsburg, dinner and the movies with Scott at Nitehawk, Brooklyn’s coolest movie theater, yoga and takeaway with Liz, a workout and salad date with my girl Kristin, and a quick reunion at a local bar with a bunch of the rest of my college crew. I <3 NYC!
• Getting hired to go play with polar bears! Okay, that’s not really accurate. First of all, polar bears make terrible playmates, and second of all, they were really just a bonus. The primary purpose of my visit to Manitoba was to find out why travelers would want to visit Winnipeg — a question I found plenty of answers to. Among them? The fun Fringe Festival shows I attended, the incredible polar bear exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the (sobering) Museum of Human Rights, the spa I’m about to gush about, and all the food!
• Absolute spa bliss. Winnipeg’s Scandinavian-inspired Thermäe and Bath’s British-chic Thermae Bath Spa were hands down two of the highlights of this pampering-addicts months. We made a bad treatment call in Bath by not getting one of the really only-at-this-spa signature treatments, but in Winnipeg I literally didn’t even have a treatment, and they had to ask to me to leave when they were closing at the end of the night (seriously.) I’d go back to Manitoba just for this!
• Really falling crazy in love with Churchill. This was just one of those places where I felt connected to the place and the people immediately, which was disconcerting because we were essentially in the tundra and that bears (ha!) little in common with the tropical islands I normally frequent.
• BELUGAS. I mean, I don’t really need to say much more, right? Kayaking was magical, and snorkeling with them was scary but exhilarating — I only wish I’d done the helicopter tour and the stand up paddle, too! This was quite possibly the most incredible animal encounter of my life.
• Having a great guide in Churchill. I don’t do group tours often, but on the occasions I do I always seem to luck out with the more incredible guides — it’s a serious talent!
• Two last nights in Boston with Liv. I decided to fly out of Boston en route to Chicago — it was significantly cheaper than flying out of Albany, and it meant that I got to spend a day and two quick nights with my sister. This was her last full weekend off before the election, which is crazy because there were still four months to go! Campaign work is brutal — hats off to anyone who dedicates themselves to one, regardless of the candidate. Speaking of which, we got to be Olivia’s guests to a Hillary fundraiser in Martha’s Vineyard (another highlight) and I got to meet her right-hand-woman Huma, who I admire (another highlight) so even more proud warm fuzzies there.
• Getting back to Illinois after a shameful five year hiatus. I had a blast doing yoga and playing tourist with my cousin Kirsten in Chicago (and helping her get her classroom ready for the year!) and then going down to Decatur to see the rest of my mom’s side of the family at the Decatur Celebration. It was a reminder that my grandma isn’t getting younger, and I need to make this an annual event.
• One of my best ever trips to Martha’s Vineyard. Having two whole weeks there in August, the peak of the summer social season, was an absolute delight. The MV Film Festival, aBarnyard Movie Night, Thursday Night Jazz at Featherstone, the Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Festival, the Oak Bluffs Fireworks, The Agricultural Fair, a Capital Steps performance, and of course, the Grand Illumination. I wouldn’t say it was the most relaxing visit ever but dang, it was fun!
• My mom’s house was in Yankee Magazine! The cool thing is the author actually found her cottage through this blog — so fun! — and they ended up coming to the island and doing a full shoot and article about it. After the article came out, one fan even came by the house and with her copy of the magazine and was so excited to have found it, my mom even gave her a full tour — ha! You can read the article here, if you’re interested, or read my full guide to our unique little Oak Bluffs neighborhood. My mom and her fiance have put so much work into this house, I was really happy to them to have it recognized.
• After years of talking about it, finally finally getting to St. John’s, Ian’s hometown! My favorites were the bright jellybean houses of downtown, the ramshackle neighborhoods of Quidi Vidi and The Battery, hiking Signal Hill, and getting to know Ian’s family and friends.
• Our roadtrip to the charming town of Trinity and the hip town of Bonavista. Seriously, this was a highlight of the highlight — in large part because I didn’t plan or research a second of it, and just got to be delighted by every twist and turn. Outport Newfoundland is stunning, and it was such a treat to explore.
• Getting to reunite with so many friends in the UK. Kat in Brighton and London, Sean in Bristol, Gwen in Bath, Amy and Brian in Anglesey, and Becs and Bella in Liverpool. How lucky am I! I’ve gotten feedback from some readers that they hate when I do this but basically, we planned our whole trip around it.
• Falling for Brighton. We were blessed with incredible, sunny, blue sky weather and were just in travel heaven bopping from beach days (thank goodness I packed that Jaws one-piece after all) to colorful photo walks to incredible meals to the kitschy pier and aquarium and the fabulously quirky Brighton Museum. Love love love.
• A fabulous weekend in London — as usual! Highlights of this all-too-brief trip were a night at Brixton Jamm, a private yoga class in Greenwich Park, and chilling on Kat’s couch — not exactly your usual tourist fare.
• Getting stuck into Bristol. This city really snuck up and swooped me nearly as hard as Brighton had — floating bars on barges dedicated to my favorite British beverage, cider? Check. Street art safaris featuring one of the world’s most renown renegade artists? Check. A banging Airbnb in an artists’ cooperative? Check! Really, it’s no wonder I was swooning.
• The Ocean Film Festival in Bath. It wasn’t our favorite city, overall, but this celebration of cinema and sea — and the lovely spa we visited earlier in the day — made it a worthwhile day-trip.
• Peeking at the Cotswolds. Touring the beautiful Bombay Gin Distillery and sneaking a look at Stonehenge f0r free were neat, but driving through the idyllic countryside Cotswolds was the real highlight of our days on the road in England. We only wish we’d had longer!
• Hitting my 34th country in Wales! And what a fun weekend it was — we went to an underground bounce palace, visited the place with the longest location name in Europe, drove through Snowdonia National Park, took in a local food festival, and had a lovely couple’s getaway at a cabin so cute it was practically a movie set.
• Tea-hopping around the city with two of the cutest blondes in Liverpool. My favorite spots? Oh Me Oh My and Ziferblat — I’d go back to both in a heartbeat.
Lowlights and Lessons
• A minor quibble in the grand scheme of things, but SUP Yoga in Chicago was a huge disappointment due to the life-jacket situation. It was my splurge of the trip, and I regretted it.
• On the other end of the spectrum, going back to Decatur brought up some sad family drama that left me deeply, deeply saddened and in a puddle of tears. I try to remind myself there’s barely a person on earth who hasn’t been there with the people they share blood with.
• And back to petty — I struggled to get great photos of the beluga whales in Churchill, and had bad luck with conditions and cameras. It was a work trip and I knew I was delivering the photos to not one but two brand partners, which turned the pressure up. Still, I was awed by these magical creatures and no technical difficulties could take away from that.
• So, while I was in Martha’s Vineyard I got two short-notice job offers. The first was fairly low paying and involved an impossible amount of connections to get to the West Coast of Mexico. As keen as I was to go to this particular destination, it was just a no-go. The second offer was very lucrative and involved going to New York — very do-able. Sad as I was to shorten my time in St. John’s, the job was too good to pass up.
The positive: I got to film a segment for TUI Aiways! I got some great on-camera experience, the pay was excellent, and I’ve had readers contact me to tell me they saw me on their little in-flight screens. So fun! However, it was a grueling filming schedule: it took me most of the day to get from Martha’s Vineyard to New York, and the flights were extremely turbulent and stressful, and I met with the producers late at night to go over the schedule before finally crawling into bed. The next day, we met at 9am and proceeded to film for twelve hours straight. I’d never done anything like it. Being on-camera is something I’m trying to get more comfortable with, but it still takes a lot out of me and at the time, I had very little experience with it (Instagram stories has helped enormously with this in the meantime, I think.) Then the next morning, I got out of bed and headed straight to the airport for another marathon travel day to St. John’s. I had a terrible connection in the Toronto Airport and I was so tired and so burned out that I literally broke into sobs in one of the immigration lines at the stress of missing my connecting flight. Then I had this crazy realization that I actually kind of wanted to miss my connecting flight — the thought of being alone in an airport hotel for a night sounded like heaven on earth. Obviously in reality that would have been awful and cut my time in St. John’s even shorter, but dang, was I burned out — the combination of back-to-back travel days with crazy connections and scary flights, a deeply personally challenging professional venture, and a relentless travel schedule ahead really put me over the edge. While I do try to make my summer schedules less crazy ever year, I think ocassional meltdowns like this are kind of just a hazard of the job.
• Speaking of Newfoundland: it all was essentially perfect (aside from my work-induced perma-panic), minus getting trapped at a musical we desperately wanted to leave in Trinity. In retrospect it’s kind of funny, but in that moment we would have done anything to simply be back in our cozy beds!
• Aaaand another airport meltdown: when we arrived at the Newfoundland Airport for our flight to London, we discovered that I dropped the ball and had never reserved our seats (in retrospect, I realize it may have been one of those rare international flights where they don’t assign seats until 24 hours ahead unless you pay a fortune). I’m normally obsessive about making sure I get the best seats possible for international journeys so this was a major anomaly.
We were literally the last two people to check-in and were stuck in middle seats on opposite sides of the plane — on a red eye! I was dying of an allergy attack at the time and literally burst into tears at the idea of spending the night between two strangers when I could have been snoozing on my boyfriend’s shoulder if I hadn’t been so frazzled. The upshot was the flight attendants literally could not have been sweeter and were really sympathetic while I apologetically sobbed and sneezed my way on the plane. It was not a fun night.
Trinity and Bonavista
• I’ve already written extensively about our two major flops in an otherwise blissful two week trip to the UK: our terrible treatment by our bed and breakfast manager in Brighton, and our comical car rental mishaps. In retrospect, these were two very chaotic months, ha ha.
• Terrible flights. Looking back at my flight anxiety that’s oscillated from unbearable to manageable in the past 18 months, it really is rooted in this time period. I had two flights in which I had pretty serious, out-of-the-blue panic attacks: my flight from Martha’s Vineyard to Boston, which was short but terribly turbulent, in a hot six-seater plane with a gruff pilot, and my flight from Manchester to New York, when in the middle of a sweet and smooth ride we took a drastic dip to the left — everyone screamed — and then I spent the next hour white-knuckling the arm rest until we landed in New York, bracing for it to happen again. I was flying so much over these months I didn’t really have time to “recover” from these scary flights — I was literally right back at the airport within a week in both cases, and I think that just compounded my anxiety into a phobia I’m still recovering from.
Ian and I were physically unable to contain our laughter when we watched a woman succumb to what must have been an absolutely paralyzing phobia of seagulls on Brighton Beach. In retrospect I felt quite guilty since she really did seem terrorized, but it was just so comical watching her lob her perfectly good fish and chips across the beach once realized they were the source of attention from the enthusiastic birds, and then dragging her screaming child in a manner so violent it looked like a dislocated shoulder might be involved when the seagulls didn’t get the hint. The rest of the beach was just this calm, chilled-out scene minus this one woman acting out her own personal horror movie screen test while a few birds tried to nibble a french fry. Truly memorable.
Best and Worst Beds of the Month
Best: Tough call between our hip Airbnb in Bristol or Amy’s family’s quaint cabin in Wales!
Worst: No contest — our heartbreaking experience in Brighton.
Best and Worst Meals of the Month
Best: Literally so many! Bronuts, Velvet Glove and Deer+Almond in Winnipeg, Cindy’s Rooftop in Chicago, Down Island and Lola’s in Martha’s Vineyard, Bonavista Social Club and nutella cookies from Tim Horton’s in Newfoundland, The Set and Pizza Express (#sorrynotsorry) in Brighton, and Thali Cafe in Bristol, to name a few.
Worst: Only one bad choice stands out — the mediocre chain restaurant we inadvertently had lunch at in Bath, after doing zero research and then making a hanger-induced panic decision.
It wasn’t a cheap two months, by any means. But a bunch of flights and an expensive and frivolous trip to the UK were offset by a low accommodation budget (the only places we paid to stay were Brighton and Bristol — the rest was work or staying with friends) and a boatload of family time. As usual, living out of hotels and friend’s guest rooms, one of my biggest expenses was food — both for myself and for treating others as a thanks for their kindness! For the two months I had and all that I crammed into them, I felt good about what I spent.
Some of my biggest line item expenses for the stretch were $188 to rent a lens for the first time for Churchill (which I didn’t love and don’t recommend), $94 for a fancy haircut (I literally get one per year, so no regrets), $120 for a one-way flight to Martha’s Vineyard (a steal for the route, and I used miles to get to Chicago, so I was happy) $100 to see the Capital Steps (I bought both Ian and I’s tickets and in retrospect it was a lot), $132 on a flight to Canada (and $54 on a cab to the airport since I’m an idiot and didn’t leave enough time to take Airtran), $321 on a one-way flight to London (if only we’d bought them when we first saw them and they were in the $200’s), $88 on a massage at Bath Thermae (we wish we’d gotten a more special treatment in the end), and $299 on a flight from Manchester to New York (I was just thrilled I didn’t have to go all the way back to London, though again I had no choice but to spend $61 on a cab to get there — ugh.)
Bath + around
Normally I don’t manage to fit in many campaigns when I’m traveling this much, but these months I did — which may be why I circled the brink of mental breakdown so many times (ha?) In these two months I juggled a content trip to Manitoba, my monthly duties for PADI, a video shoot for Thomson Airlines, branded content for Dramamine, and sponsored Instagram content for Lycored — in conjunction with my usual slate of the Featured Blogger program, display ads, affiliates, and SEO stuff (which I’ve since ceased).
Financially, they were two great months — Month 63 was my second most profitable of the year!
Health and Fitness
Well, I started strong. I was extremely dedicated to my daily barre routine in Albany, and hit the ClassPass hard in New York with buti yoga, hip hop hot yoga, BodyPump, BeachBody, and yoga at Laughing Lotus and Urban Asanas. It was great! Once I got to Canada, it was tough to keep up on a press trip schedule — I managed just biking and swimming in Winnipeg, and one measly run in Churchill (which involved a lot of running backwards checking for bears.)
Back in the US, Liv and I went to a fun spin class in Boston (the instructor literally upside down twerked on a bike!), went to a flight of CorePower classes in Chicago (even valiantly jogging to one!), went for a run in Decatur, and in Martha’s Vineyard went for marathon bike rides, cool yoga classes, and several strength classes with my new membership at Mansion House Health Club (love it there!)
Once we got to Newfoundland and I was teetering on the edge of that whole work breakdown, fitness went to the wayside — we did some hiking, and then literally not a single dang workout the entire trip to England aside from that one hungover yoga private class in the park in London.
As you can see I was super into fitness (as usual) over this period and even started a dedicated Instagram account for it, which I later dropped off with… but writing this kind of makes me want to start it again! What do you think? Oh, and interesting in Checking out ClassPass for yourself? Use my link to get $30 off. Warning: it’s addictive!
What Was Next
A week in Florida, a weekend in Los Angeles, and three weeks in the Aloha State!
I’ve been having so much fun catching up on this old content — hope you guys are too!
Since I left home for my Great Escape, I’ve been doing monthly roundups of my adventures filled with anecdotes, private little moments, and thoughts that are found nowhere else on this blog. As this site is not just a resource for other travelers but also my own personal travel diary, I like to take some time to reflect on not just what I did, but how I felt. You can read my previous roundups here.