Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hi Friends!!!



I just want you guys to know I have not forgotten 
about my loves and more blog posts will be coming soon. 

I guess it's true after travels and returning back to real life
you go into a depression.
Well the pity party is over and I am ready to get back this
Wild horse!

sending my love always
xoxo
Big Girl Small World

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Traveling Tips- From a Novice

 Before this huge adventure I really had no idea what I was doing; however I learned very quickly about all the tricks and tips to make my experience the most enjoyable. Sometimes I had to learn the hard way but all in all it was a bit of trial and error. Below are some tips that I followed and learned along the way:

Before the trip:



  • Talk to other expats, they will have a plethora of information for you. If you don't know any other expats, find some. Try forums, chat groups, bloggers, etc.
  • An expat is not a vacationer, they are travelers. So talking to someone who went on vacation to Greece for a week, is really not going to cut it.
  • Research the cities by visiting blogs. They will provide honest, unbiased opinions on these forums.
  • For god's sake don’t just look at sites that give you "the top things to do" in a city, go off the beaten path.
  • Budget, budget, budget. Get general ball parks of how much you need and always round up.
  • Don’t look for flights more than two months in advance. Look everyday, especially late night on Tuesday and Wednesday. That original "deal" you think you can get, will get better. Trust. 
  • Pack light, for the most part you’re not going to need five pair of heals and three bottles of perfume. If you can get all your toiletries abroad, do it. Less weight to carry with you. Bring comfy shoes, and practical clothing.
  • Invest in a four wheeled suitcase. I wish I would have had one on my three month traveling exp. (At one point I was traveling through Paris and Amsterdam with a suitcase that had only one wheel, That was a pain. I am glad I do not embarrass easily.)
  • Know your weather, pack for the season(s) you may be experiencing; and no matter what season, bring a bathing suit
  • Learn how to read a paper map.
  • Make sure you know which power adapter/converter you need. Depending on how old your electronics are you may also need a power surge protector.
  • Download helpful apps such as subway maps, bus routes, tripadvisor, whatsapp.

During:

  • Talk to strangers, and get recommendations from locals. Not only will you make friends this way, you will also find lil hidden gems like small jazz clubs in a hidden alley way . Get recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, where to go. Locals know best.
  • Don’t book everything advance, I learned that it’s best to buy train tickets and bus tickets the day off. The only thing I would do in advance going forward is knowing where accommodations are and if they have availability have multiple choices and book once you arrive. Things can change so quickly and you don’t want to be "stuck" when you want to change your plans. 
  • Know your surroundings so you’re prepared but don’t sweat having everything set in stone.
  • Walk, walk walk, most European cities are made for walking. Go into random cafes that seam appealing. Stop at local bars with live bands. Just walk, and you will get to know your city.
  • Fight through the fear of the unknown, just be aware and alert at all times. The world is scary but we should not fear it. Just know where we are at all times.
  • Pickpockets are high and very much alive in Europe (Main Crime) only travel with what you need for the day and nothing more. If you able to leave passport in secure place do so. When someone asks you for directions or to sign a petition for example hold your purse tight, as they are more than likely are pickpockets.
  • Buy and eat local. Need I explain more.
  • If you have an unlocked smart phone, purchase a SIM card abroad. You will save tons on your phone bill. you can get a SIM card with around 60 min and 1.5 gig for around 15 euros. you can find these in most grocery stores and independent cell phone operators. plus you will get better reception very handy when using google maps.

Random:


  • When scheduling trips to other locations looks at buses, trains, and airfare. Europe has a very cheap airline called RyanAir ( RyanAir.com ) where you can get round trip ticket for about 40 Euros. Also if possible take a train or bus, it will take a lil longer, but there’s nothing like seeing the countryside and sometimes lack thereof. I was able to find Bus fares for as low 2 Euros.
  • Find out what’s free, most museums will have free days, take advantage.
  •  HAGLE!!!! Everywhere and all the time!!! Never accept the original price on something. This can be done at all independent shops, street stands, as well as markets.
  •  Visit the city parks and market places, they will tell you allot about a specific place. 
  • Join a meet up group if traveling alone, great way to meet friends. Use sites such as Meetup.com or Trip4Real.com
  • Know where the US embassy is. I had to go there for two different occasions on my trip; One of which was to get a replacement passport.
  • Have copies of all important documentation. Keep copies with you, email them to yourself, and give a copy to your parents/trusted person.
  • Add a trusted person (my dad) as an authorized user on all credit/debit cards. Just in case you happen to lose your wallet with your whole life in it.
  • Almost everywhere you go has WIFI so take advantage, buy a drink and get in communication or use your apps.





THE MOST IMPORTANT TIPS OF ALL: DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND WHAT FEELS RIGHT!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

City of Sin, City of Freedom

Amsterdam felt just like a fairy tale, like I had fallen into this mystical land that smelt of herbie deliciousness and was filled with gingerbread houses. Maybe it was the high I felt from constant second hand marijuana smoke, to firsthand mushroom eating, but the minute I arrived to this quaint little town below sea level I felt like I was the Puerto Rican goldie locks looking for porridge or french fries to munch on and a random bed to fall asleep in. I arrived to Amsterdam on a rainy fall day, and the excitement I felt to have reached my "party" destination was unreal. I went by train from Paris, France and the ride was three hours filled with anxiety, nerves and excitement. What would this famed party town be like? Will I overdose on "fun"? Will my organs be harvested and sold on the black market? Is this town filled with druggies and addicts? These were all questions running through my head on that long, scenic, and self-discovering train ride.  

Amsterdam would open new worlds for me, popping all kinds of proverbial cherries. This is where I experienced my first hostel, and the illusion of “my first” really held this place on a pedestal. However, by the end of the trip I knew that in all honesty I was staying in a glorified jail cell, a reformed juvenile detention center to say the least. The shared co-ed  bathrooms were gross. The all-girl bed rooms were sub par, filled with interesting charters is putting it lightly. But I did not care, I loved every second of it!!! On my first night, I arrived to the hostel, got acquainted and headed to the bar. Ordering the strongest beer to gain some liquid courage so that I could head out and find what I came here for, Marijuana! I was on a mission to find this coffee shop that a friend recommended, The Dolphin. After getting lost various times, I finally found this place and right away I knew I was home. It was a stoner mermaid's dream. I walked in like a nervous lil girl; being my first coffee-shop I had no clue what I was doing. Instantly the decor made me feel I was at the bottom of the ocean with coral filled walls and fishes dancing amognst the smoke filled room. Like the curious girl I am I walked up to the counter and asked the lady attending how this whole process worked. She giggled with excitement and lead me the weed menu; THE WEED MENU!!! Coming from a place where weed is illegal and criminalized, you can see why I was sooo excited to be in a town that embraces the weed culture. She went on to say to me "So honey, how do you want to feel?" and the answer was simple “I want to be happy, giddy and awake” I replied. "Oh, so your going to need the house special the WHITE DOLPHIN, a sativa blend. It will give u the high your looking for” she confirmed.

You have to be kidding me, I thought. It was meant to be!!! Unbeknownst to her I was a mermaid and frolicked with dolphins on a regular basis. At that moment I knew I was exactly where I needed to be at the precise moment. The Dolphin was a two level establishment. Upstairs was for the pure weed smokers; while the downstairs, this trippy den like room ,was for smokers who mixed their weed with tobacco. It's common in A'mdam to smoke spliffs; a joint mixed with tobacco. With all my questions and curiosity she must have thought I was new to weed game and looked at me in awe when I ordered just pure weed. Little did she know I was a professional.

When you enter a smoke-shop, for the most part it will always be the same. They will have a menu listing their blends: sativas, indicas, and combinations of the both. They will always have a house special, which I found to be a white widow type of weed and they will have an assortment of hash and baked goods to choose from. You can get your weed loose (they will provide papers and bongs) or pre-rolled. Be careful when getting pre-rolled as most, unless specified that it is pure, will be mixed with tobacco and the tobacco to weed ratio may be off. On my return everyone asked "OH, I bet they have the best weed in the history of weed"!! That's not necessarily the truth. We here in the states can get this weed they get in A'mdam, the only difference is, all they have is this exceptional weed. There's no mids, no regs, just high quality shit all the time.

I spent my days exploring different coffee-shops, trying out diff weeds and strands of sativa...I hate feeling sleepy so I stayed clear from the indicas. I walked the city and got lost sooo much, as A'mdam is a labyrinth of canals, alley ways and side streets that all look the same. I am not even gonna lie but there was a moment on my first night after smoking waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too much that I got lost on my return to the hostel and started to get really anxious about it. I had to have a self talk with myself and stopped to enjoy my scenery. The light and boat lined canals were breathtaking at night. Suddenly I saw this immense beauty and I realized that A'mdam was so much more than just weed. It was a beautiful city with immense culture. I was lucky because the whole time I was in communication with a dear friend from Germany that had lived in A'mdam for some time. So he walked me through the whole experience, told me where to go and advised of the dos and dont's.

I met the most interesting people in this diverse dutch town; like the wannabee frat boys from London (shoot me they were so dumb, poor babies), to this dutch woman who ran a kiosk somewhere in the city. I quickly learned from her that mostly every person here knew multiple languages and everyone spoke English. It was necessary to their survival as the their main funding came from tourist. She went on to tell me that her and her children knew 7 languages and she shared with me her hate/love for tourists. I quickly realized at that moment how flawed our schooling system was here in the states. As most schools in Europe require the students to take multiple language classes from early on. We spent hours in that coffee shop talking about life, and the dutch culture.
Having real conversations with people you hardly know while sharing joints and space cakes is what I wanted from this whole experience, it's what life is all about.

I am not ashamed to admit that for the first time in my travels the one thing I wished I had on this trip was a stoner friend. Someone to experience this all with me. The only thing that could make Amsterdam better would have been a close friend to get into all kinds of troubles with. Maybe it was because I knew how much my besties would love this place and I wanted to share, or the fact that I felt a lil lonely at this specific part of my trip.

That night I wished for a friend.

On day 2 after spending the day gallivanting and exploring, I got to my hostel around 7pm to take a much needed a nap before I proceeded for the night. I arrived to my bunk and got my shit together in my stoner/clumsy state, then THUMP! "FUUUCK!" I yelled. I hit my head on the top bunk and it really hurt. From the next bunk over I hear a girl laughing and just like that my prayers where answered!!! She made an asshole joke and we became instant friends. From that moment on we were inseparable. She was the Australian version of me and we shall call her Sydney. Sydney is where she was from, a single female, a few years older than me who was also traveling solo.

Sydney and I explored different coffee shops, munched out like crazy and walked the town until we could no more. Her traveling style was allot like mine; her love for drugs was exactly like mine. The universe heard my prayers and delivered. It was moments like this that I knew I was exactly where I needed to be at the exact moment. Thank you. We wanted to experience all A'mdam had to offer, so on day three we said “SHROOMS it is”. We went to a smart shop ( allot like coffee shop but for shrooms) and told the counter guy what we wanted. He was this graceful, salt and pepper haired man from Spain and can I quickly just mention how gorgeous he was...ugh what was his name????? He told us which shrooms to buy and proceeded to give us the most least potent mushroom he had. From there we ventured off to Vondel Park and did our best to stomach these down, I almost threw up in the process. For the next four hours, wait, was it six? Or was it three? Whatever! The next few hours where a kaleidoscope viewing, rambling, laughing filled fit. Waves of color and growing, breathing plants filled our afternoon as we sat on benches in silence taking in the scenery, occasionally walking around the park. Sydney did most of the talking because the sensory overload wouldn't allow me to complete a full sentences. There were moments when we asked if maybe we should leave the park, however it felt good there, it was beautiful there. There was nothing like being amognst nature when your high on nature. Plus the thought of heading out into civilization and navigating the confusing streets, filled with even more fucked people than yourself seemed daunting at the time. As our psychedelic high started to ease we stumbled upon what seemed to be a modern day zombie, his eyes rolling into the back of his head as he stared up at the trees and walked past us. We both couldn't help but to bust out laughing and realized we weren't even close to being as high as he was or half the people around us.

In our mushroom induced state Sydney and I spoke about going to see a live sex show. and at the time I was really into the idea of watching strangers have sex. I always considered myself free spirited and sexually open, so why not? Maybe it was because of the company I kept, as we just met each other and it felt awkward, or it was the fact that I may very well be a prude, but we chickened out. At the last minute no one ever brought up the idea again until it was too late. However, if given the chance again I would so do it. I learned later from a fellow traveler I met in Sevilla Spain that it's a professional, clean and awesome experience. She confirmed that my fears of this creepy strip-club like environment, where men jacked off in corners on cum filled seats that could possibly give a random patron an STD, was just not the case. In fact it was more like a play, a sexual, naked, and tantalizing play, in a well lit theater where couples made sexy love and solo experiences were displayed.....next time Amsterdam, next time. I wont be scared.

As the days got closer to my departure, I wish I had listen to all my friends who said stay in this place as long as you can. I honestly thought 5 days would be enough, and it just wasn't. I still feel like I must return, my heart and soul yearns for it. There are so many things I must do and I cannot wait until the day I get to go back. While in Amsterdam I didn't feel the need to take a million pictures, nor constantly be on my phone. I was so in the moment, unlike anytime before. There's something about Amsterdam that just allows you to be in the present, you forget about the world around you and you just are. Oh what I would give to be back in my fairy tale land right in this moment.

"Some tourist think Amsterdam is a city of sin,
but in truth it is a city of freedom
and in freedom, most people find Sin"
.

***A word to the wise tho, do not attempt to get a rental bike, you WILL DIE! These bikers take their biking seriously and will trample you if given the chance.