SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Seattle, well known for rain and grunge,  certainly took me by surprise. I am now a huge fan. The food was amazing, the weather was spectacular. The people both kind and ridiculously in good shape. Visiting Seattle makes me wish I knew how to recycle and totally reconsider how much I exercise.

Day 1, I hit the touristy spots. No matter where you are, how old you are, or how embarrassing it may seem, tourist attractions are usually worth it. The Space Needle is no exception. Here you get the full panoramic picture of the beauty that is Seattle. On a clear day you can just glimpse the tip of Mt. Rainier (pictured below), it’s spectacular.

Looking down, you see the bustling downtown filled with skyscrapers housing the technological giants such as Microsoft. Amidst the towering buildings you can find high fashion boutiques and cafes. While 15 minutes outside the city you can find mountains and lush wildlife. 

In the shadow of the Needle is the brand new Chihuly Glass museum. Opened in May, the museum is really an incredible display of human talent. The enormous glass sculptures will put you in awe. Right next door, you will find the Experience Music Project museum. The collection of exhibits included horror movie props, Nirvana memorabilia, interactive displays based on the movie Avatar, and playable instruments of every kind!

Personally, the Kurt Cobain memorial was a must-see. Due to his cremation, there is no formal memorial but true fans have found their way to pay homage in the form of a graffitied bench. It sits in a small public park, a couple blocks from his previous hollywood-style residence. The bench is covered in love notes, poetry, unsmoked cigarettes, and other tokens for the musician. It was a moving experience for me, as a devoted Cobain fan.

In the evening, I enjoyed dinner with a fantastic view on the marina at the restaurant, Palisade. As the sun set on the water and all of the boats floated in, we enjoyed delicious fresh seafood.

Another important activity: You have to visit Pikes Place Market! Here you can get a latte from the first Starbucks, gaze at the endless rows of colorful fruits and exotic seafood. Don’t forget to put a little money in the piggy bank!

If you are looking for school, the University of Washington has a beautiful campus near the downtown area. The campus is unbelievably green and you can find several food trucks in the central quad.

I also managed to snag a free trial at the David Barton gym. If you want feel like a celebrity, this is the gym to try.

Just across the water from the New York style metropolis you’ll find a beautiful Florida-like Alki Beach. Unique houses and restaurants with patio seating line the water front. As the sun went down the activity picked up. The sand was covered with volleyball games and a cardboard dance floor filled with salsa dancers. In the distance, through the sunbeams, you can see the amazing mountain tops.

Take a drive to the little German town of Levanworth, past the site of the well known TV show Twin Peaks, for a cute touristy destination. On your way there, stop to gawk at the gorgeous waterfalls and raging rapids. On the way back my group stopped off for a local town carnival in Sultan, Washington.

My final night was spent eating at Monsoon (now my favorite restaurant of all time). The fresh oysters, the duck-stuffed squid, and other small plates were all amazingly delicious! For dessert I enjoyed a treat of bananas and coconut milk.

I was well warned by Seattle citizens, the weather I experienced is not a year round occurrence. There are plenty of rainy days just as you might assume. However if you are lucky enough to visit in the summer, the weather will be well worth your trip.

This post has been made possible by the wonderful generosity of a very special uncle, big thanks go out to Robert!

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SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA

After boarding the Megabus at 2 a.m. I left the Harrisburg mall headed for the border. Uncomfortably seated in the back row between a mom and her two children, I watched the sunrise as we approached customs. The bus arrived in Toronto at the last minute, and I rushed off to hail a cab. In one of the most exhilarating moments of my life I yelled to the cabbie, “Get me to the airport as fast as you can!”

[**Travel tip: the cheapest way for me to get from Harrisburg, PA to Saskatoon ended up being a bus from Harrisburg to Toronto, then a flight from Toronto to Saskatoon.**]

Mid afternoon, I landed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the land of the living skies. I was immediately greeted by my closest friend, Hayley, who had graciously invited me to stay for the week. Together we adventured in the Canadian college town (inhabited by the students of the University of Saskatchewan) which was surprisingly busy. Separated by the large river, on the east is college town, on the west is the business side.

First stop was the Western Development Museum, a fun and interactive way to learn more about the area. The people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. They are happy to answer questions and make the historical exhibits more interesting.

During the day, we toured the Saskatoon Zoo. The outdoor facility was beautiful and a great way to enjoy the weather. If you’re looking for night life, two-step on over to the Long Branch for a fun country western atmosphere with a packed dance floor! Located behind the Ramada Inn.

Right downtown, you’ll find Hudson’s. A great place to try my first taste of poutine (poo-teen). Poutine: a well loved Canadian dish of gravy and french fries. Delicious! The campfire poutine especially was very yummy.

Over the weekend we drove an hour and a half north to the beautiful town of North Battleford for some incredible views. Fields of canola create gorgeous bursts of yellow under the endless blue skies. Cows (and buffalo) roam the farm lands, porcupines casually stroll across the roads. I was graciously welcomed into a Canadian home. We spent our time jet-skiing, kayaking, and boating.

We also climbed the Cochin lighthouse (153 steps!),  then enjoyed the beach at Battlefords Provincial Park, great for sunbathing and frisbee throwing. On our way home through Cochin, we stopped for an ice cream cone. If you are lucky enough to be there for Canada day (July 1), you can watch fireworks over the lake. Ask nicely and maybe you will treated to an authentic rendition of their national anthem, Oh Canada!

Warning: the mosquitoes will eat you alive. Apply lots of bug spray before leaving the house!
As my week long adventure concluded, I left Canada sunburnt and happy. My visit would not have been the same without the wonderful people. Special thanks to Hayley and her family, who welcomed me into their homes! I look forward to many more visits in the future.

Crossing the country with no car and little cash

Over the years I have become a pro at traveling across the country with no car and little money. This summer is the last summer before I have to grow up and get a real job, therefore I’m spending my time seeing as many people and places as possible.

How do I do it all as a poor college kid?

FLIGHTS Most important: SAVE! Save your money now so when you decide to take that trip, you have resources to work with. Second most important: shop around. Take a little extra time to check those travel sites like Kayak.com or Expedia. Sites like those usually have calendars to help you pick the cheapest dates to travel. (Then I go directly to the airline’s website to avoid any extra fees.)

GROUND TRAVEL If you don’t need to fly, there are many more options! Buses and trains are my favorite modes of transportation. And in today’s world, these options are much cleaner and more comfortable. Again, all you need to do is shop around. The cheapest might not be the most direct. For example, to get from Syracuse, NY to Harrisburg, PA, the best route for me was taking a $20 bus from Syracuse to Philadelphia, then a $10 train from Philly to Harrisburg. If you mix companies, you can cut down on time and price.

My favorite traveling resources:

LODGING When I travel, I am usually traveling to visit friends or family. As a result, I always have a place to stay. I am also lucky enough to have a vast network of people to visit. In Europe, hostels were a great (and dirt cheap) place to stay. Some big cities in the states have hostels, but it’s not common. You could also give CouchSurfing a try. I have yet to try it, so I cannot vouch for it’s success (or safety) but I’d love to give it a chance.

Important to remember! Always be gracious and appreciative of your host. They are opening their home to you, show some respect. If you’ve got the money, offering to buy dinner or drinks can be a nice gesture. Thank you cards also say a lot. As you travel, you build a reputation. Making yourself known as a pleasant house guest will lead to more invitations.

Another favorite resource of mine is StumbleUpon. Stumbling the travel category can give you numerous ideas and suggestions.

It’s also important to remember, if you’re looking for the cheapest option, you might have to skimp on comfort.

**Feel free to send me your travel tips, stories, and/or questions!

Good luck my fellow travelers!

Goodbye Syracuse

May 2012 I said goodbye to yet another city. This makes my…. 9th move? As I graduated from St. Joseph’s College of Nursing, I also graduated from my dorm room home. Family arrived, we celebrated, and I drove away from Syracuse, NY for possibly the last time. Moving has become a compulsive habit.  I like change.

The week surrounding graduation was an emotional time (for my mom more than me). Syracuse was my home for two years. I worked, I went to school, and socialized in the cold central New York city. Now it’s time again to pack it all up and move on. Some may call me a gypsy. I call myself an adventurer.

We packed up the truck. Two years worth of my life packed away into boxes, piled into the back of a pickup truck. (On the drive home the entire bed of the truck was soaked with pouring rain. Many boxes were ruined.) Now my life lies in a storage shed, ready for the next move. Hopefully, the next move will be for my first apartment!

So thank you Syracuse! Thank you for the good food (Dino’s, Mom’s Diner, Empire and more!). Thank you for the miserably cold weather which kept me indoors (and as a result, kept me studying). Thank you to the many new friends who supported me. Thank you to the people of Syracuse for filling my life with way too much orange. Cheers!