One of the most intimidating things I have ever done was order sushi for the first time. I remember sitting at the table at my favorite Chinese restaurant and internally debating if I really wanted to attempt it or not. What if I didn’t order it correctly? What if I didn’t like it? What if I accidentally ordered some with raw fish (I know a lot of sushi is raw, but not all of it and I prefer my fish cooked)??! Continue reading “Your First Time: Ordering Sushi”→
I don’t know about you, but I tend to think a “staycation” can be just as fun, if not even more awesome than an actual trip. Think about it. No airports, no lost luggage and no possibility of bedbugs (unless you have a problem at home, and if that’s the case you should be reading an article how to get rid of bedbugs instead of this one). If you’re among the many Americans considering a staycation this summer, WalletHub’s recent report on 2016’s Best & Worst Cities for Staycations might peak your interest.
The number crunchers at WalletHub compared the country’s 150 largest cities across 28 key metrics, including movie and bowling costs, golf courses, frozen-yogurt shops and spas per capita, and the cost of house-cleaning services to come up with a comprehensive ranking of staycation spots.
Topping the list as some of the best staycations spots are, not surprisingly, also some of the top travel destinations including: Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida and more unexpected spots like Salt Lake City, Utah and Scottsdale, Arizona. Even more surprising are some of the cities ranked worst for staycations including: New York, New York and Los Angeles, California.
Some of the most fun facts from the study include the following:
New Orleans has the most museums per 100,000 residents, 23.34, which is 79 times more than in Aurora, Colo., the city with the fewest, 0.29.
Seattle has the most coffee shops per 100,000 residents, 109.43, which is nearly 30 times more than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the fewest, 3.67.
Orlando, Fla., has the most ice-cream and frozen-yogurt shops per 100,000 residents, 57.15, which is 13 times more than in Detroit, the city with the fewest, 4.31.
Buffalo, N.Y., has the lowest bowling costs, $3.09, which is nearly four times less expensive than in New York City, the city with the highest, $12.28.
Check out the lists of the top 10 best and worst cities for staycations below and visit WalletHub for the full ranking, metric used and more fun staycation facts!
Midterms have come and gone and spring break is upon us. If you’re anything like me, a poor college student, then you really have no plans this break. So I am here to suggest a couple destinations for you to pursue while your friends post pictures of the beach and pina coladas with those tiny umbrellas.
Whether you’re going back home for the break or staying at your apartment, your bed should be your #1 destination this spring break. After all, who else could be there for you in your time of need better than your bed? No one. The answer is no one.
Now that you’re momentarily free of the weight of education, why not head down to your local grocery store and buy anything and everything your heart desires (as long as you can, you know, afford it). Stock that fridge high so when you wake up from that 4 hour nap, you have a snack or two waiting for you.
Netflix or Hulu
Now that you have some free time, why not catch up on all those shows you’ve been meaning to watch? You and your bed can spend some quality time together as you binge watch the latest season of Workaholicsor Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Lose yourself in TV shows and ignore all the responsibilities that wait for you at the end of the break.
Spring Break is a time for you. It is a time for you to take a moment for yourself and remember what you enjoy. And just because you or your family can’t afford a fancy vacation doesn’t mean your break can’t be as fun or as mentally rejuvenating as someone else’s. And Walmart sells those little umbrellas, too, you know.
Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last three years here, but I gotta say that Texas State in San Marcos is one the best places I have ever been. It’s possible that I’m biased, though, so I’ll try and prove it with a few examples. Here are a few aspects that makes Texas State University so special.
Texas State students spend probably around 70% of their year at the river. It’s currently February (granted, a very warm February) and I saw about a dozen people at the river yesterday! It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful people enjoying the Texas heat and decompressing after class. It’s also tradition to jump in after graduation, robe and all, no matter the weather.
The Bubble Believer is a guy who popped up on campus last semester and spends his time blowing bubbles at and with students while spreading positive vibes to everyone. One time I popped one of his bubbles and smiled at him and he said, “Thank you for blessing my day with your smile.” He won my heart that day and whenever I see him on campus my day is a little bit brighter.
President Lyndon B. Johnson graduated from Texas State in 1930 and we have a statue of him at the end of the quad. He has his hand stretched out and students have a tradition shaking his hand before a big test. Tradition says doing so will get you an A!
While our squirrels aren’t particularly friendly (you can’t pet them or anything), they aren’t afraid to run in between the legs of hundreds of students. You’ll see a few lounging on benches around campus and if you’re not careful, they’ll steal your french fries right out of your hands.
There are very few quiet days on campus. During the week, the free speech area is usually full of people expressing their opinion on something, whether it be sexuality, abortion, or religion. Texas State encourages this by having a designated free speech zone at the beginning of the quad around the Fighting Stallions statue.
Honestly, I could talk about my school for hours. I graduate next semester and I am absolutely struggling at the prospect of not walking through the quad 5 days a week. If you’re looking at schools to attend or maybe just reminiscing about your alma mater, let’s take this time to appreciate everything Texas State has to offer us.
Out of excitement and the need to ensure that it was actually happening, I packed my bags a month early. I was moving to Oxford, England after a lifetime of he-said-she-said over frozen yogurt in sunny, suburban California. Steeped in four generations of local history, my big dreams transcended the railroad town limits.
Don’t get me wrong; I have traveled all over the U.S. I have seen a polar vortex in NYC, jazz musicians on every street corner orchestrating a choreographed New Orleans dance, bikini-clad bodies sweating on the January beaches in San Diego, the Vegas strip (I didn’t say I remembered it, but yes, I saw it). I have seen a lot of my country, and I love it for all its complexities—the contradictions Walt Whitman explores in “Song of Myself” ring true when you subject yourself to the cultures available in the home of the free, land of the brave.
Still, I wanted more. What a greedy girl, I know. I wanted more travel, more experiences, more exposure to varieties not available in my home.
Packed and ready to hit the skies, I wanted to make a change and to change. I had never been outside of the country before, so here we go… Here is my journey as it unfolded:
Challenge one: getting there.
Unable to sleep on the plane, I arrived, haggard, tired, hungry, and smelling like 100 different kinds of foul. To the bottomless pit of wretched airplane food-induced farts of a man sitting next to me, you are the stuff of nightmares and my nose hair has yet to grow back. I walked up to the currency exchange with my neck kinked and my head throbbing. After losing $40 in the currency exchange from my $100, I went to collect my baggage.
Challenge two: getting to my new home.
I waited four hours—FOUR HOURS—for my luggage, which turns out was lost. LOST?! What do you mean lost?! I had no phone (I had shut it off and decided to go the route of using wifi to FaceTime friends and family), which became a scary reality at this point. Sooo… No calling for help. No spare clothes. No understanding of the bus system. I looked at the airline woman, eyes thickly webbed with deep pink lines signaling exhaustion, as she calmly explained my luggage was lost… Oh, hellno.
I cried because that is obviously the most logical and proactive thing to do, but after five minutes of sobbing, I pulled myself together enough to ask for a phone to call my destination. Just then, the airline man from behind the scenes ran out yelling, “There’re here! They were logged under the wrong load. I found them!”
A quarter relieved, a quarter exhausted, a quarter delusional, a quarter intoxicated by the surrounding force of British accents, and 100% ready to settle into my temporary life, I set out for the bus stop in the pitch dark, freezing cold London air that feels nothing like my California Januaries.
The Bald Eagle has Landed
My American ass landed in Oxford at 8 p.m. The only lighting streamed from a building a block away, but look, there is a strange man about 20 years of age walking out towards me. I gulped loud, swallowed my pride (and all of the nightmare stories of European abductions I had been fed before I left), and I asked if he knew where my flat was located. I’m not normally insane, but I needed help. Januaries in England are COLD for a California girl, and a night wandering the street did not appeal to me, oddly enough.
He looked confused when I gave him the address, but he eventually said he knew where to go and even offered to drag one of my heavy luggage cases along. How nice! Just don’t kidnap me, sir. I took self-defense classes for these kind of situations, and I don’t want to have to use my mad skills.
Well, surprise, surprise, I made it out alive. He walked me to my door and said a nervous good-bye with an awkward, “I’ll see you later” which of course never happened.
After a restless, cold night of sleep without proper bedding or any understanding of how to use the heater in my flat, I woke famished. Underneath those dark circles was an eager smile. I met the biting air with enthusiasm, and after five steps… Nope. Nopenopenope… I all but ran back to my room for five more layers. THERE, I thought. Now, I’m ready.
Leather gloves shielding my fingertips as they slid across the chilly, stone church walls—Feet still rocking my oxblood cowboy boots as I trekked all over town (because they’re cute and I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous)—Hair tucked under a beanie and into a wool scarf that wrapped tightly around my neck… I strolled through those streets and avenues every day, so much so that the stone statues became my friends, watching over me as I stumbled home from pubs and waiting with me at the bus stop.
Half of the time I had no idea which stone statue was what saint, so I named them all myself. There was the Patron Saint of too Much Pub Food who stood alongside the Patron Saint of too Much Cider, both centrally located in town, surrounded by their buddies on the neighboring stone slab. There was also the Patron Saint of American Humor, a fat baby with a disproportionately huge head. Then there was the Patron Saint of Bus Stops because we were always running after a bus… Oh yeah, and the Patron Saint of Mexican Food because my California-grown taste buds were in heaven when I found a local burrito spot—ahhh, jalapenos.
Thanks to them, I collected four months’ worth of late nights and hearty laughs in Oxford and throughout my travels in Europe, as they always watched over all of my adventures.
I also met these incredible people—these brilliant, beautiful, funny-as-hell, crazy-awesome people who quickly became some of my most treasured friends because of our interests and shared experiences in travel and displacement. I sat beside book-reading folks on the bus and had intellectually stimulating conversations with strangers and new friends alike. The mind expands in the company of greatness. You can almost feel yourself grow and that is a pretty cool thing, ya know?
You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the Thoreau out of the American, as I thought: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
I loved every minute of my experience, but all things must come to a close, and as my journey home drew near, I prepped with angst and delight.
I’m Going, Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my travels throughout Europe. I love Oxford, my City of Dreaming Spires, but the trek home was much welcomed. I missed my bed, my dog, my books, my library, my routine—I now miss the spontaneity of my travels, but the grass is always greener, right?
The readjustment period was just as hard. I literally got the flu the week I returned home (in June), which I like to think was my body’s way of saying I never would have gotten sick had I not come home, though it was probably just getting used to U.S. germs again.
That first night I slept more soundly than I had in all four and a half months I spent abroad. I collapsed into myself, finally feeling the weight of my journey.
I gradually moved into a routine. Spending time with friends and family helped to ground me, though there is always this thing—this stamp on my life that is a composite of all that I collected in my passport. It marks the page in my life’s passport signaling my openness to travel, welcoming all that is new and diverse within my railroad town foundation. It marks where I have been and where I am going.
This is a WAY overdue recap video but here it is anyways! I attended the inaugural Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in San Jose back in November. It did have its kinks here and there but hey, it’s their first year and things picked up by the second day. If you are considering going or if this is your first time even hearing about it, Google it. See if it’s coming to a city near you because it’s honestly one of the best cons I’ve been to.
I may or may not be totally biased when I say Texas is the greatest gift to this world, but I know with a state of such a large size, visitors have tons of opportunities to discover all of what the state has to offer. But as a born and raised central Texan, I am partial to say that this is where a majority of the awesome places to visit lie. Here are just a few places to add to your to do list if you ever find yourself in the Lone Star State.
Fredericksburg is a town in central Texas that is known for its huge German influence. The Herb Farm is a cottage styled house where visitors are welcome to stay as they travel through the culturally rich town. If you’re there in June, be sure to stop by the Stonewall Peach Jamboree and Rodeo and try and buy every kind of peach you can imagine.
After you hit Fredericksburg, if you’re feeling adventurous, head up to Enchanted Rock. It is a state park that thousands of people each year choose to experience. Many people report back that the hiking experience is magical and would definitely recommend it to visitors!
Not far from Wimberley, TX, is a spring known as Jacob’s Well. The water is clear and beautiful and diving tours are encouraged. Tours of the area and the spring itself are offered even in the winter months. The spring’s history and importance to Native Americans are highlighted during these tours.
In Marble Falls there is a cafe that has been standing since 1929. They serve breakfast all day and classic Texan dinners, but the cafe is revered for their pies. The pies are made from scratch every day and Monday through Friday 3-5 pm is pie happy hour! So be sure to stop by and grab a piece of pie and learn about the Bluebonnet Cafe’s long history.
Gruene Hall is in is located in Gruene, Texas, which is a part of New Braunfels. Like Fredericksburg, New Braunfels has a huge German-influenced history. The big draw of New Braunfels to most visitors is Schlitterbahn, which is a giant three part waterpark. However, if you’re looking to avoid long lines, head over to Gruene Hall, a dance hall that was built in 1878. You can catch a local country performer or maybe even a big name and dance the night away.
As the second largest state in the US, Texas has a lot to see. But if you’re looking to do something different than visit the beach or an amusement park, this list is here to help you discover places that not even all Texans have visited or heard of. Also, we Texans are known for our hospitality, so be sure to talk to the locals as you travel and learn more about our great state!
Are you one for creepy scenes and disturbing background stories? Then these places may just be the perfect additions to your bucket list. From abandoned theme parks to a house of murder, these places are rich with history and plenty of ghost stories to go along with them. Here are just a few historically haunted locations you may need to pack your bags for immediately. Continue reading “5 Historically Haunted Places in the US To Add To Your Bucket List”→
It’s that time of year where supernatural meets reality as the 2015 New York Comic-Con visits the Javits center for a four day extravaganza. Fans from all over the world will come together as their favorite characters from television and comics grace the audience with their presence. As an anime fan myself, I must admit that I’m currently kicking myself for not purchasing a ticket when I had the chance. As I continue to beat myself up over this, here’s what those who bought a ticket ahead of time should look forward to during this illustrious event. Continue reading “NYCC 2015: Hot stops to keep an eye on this year!”→
The Mill Valley Film Festival is gearing up for its 38th year! The event will run Thursday, October 8 to Sunday, October 18, 2015 to recognize the best in independent and world cinema. We’re talking about an outstanding list of movies that feature films that are already stirring some Oscar buzz for next year. Attendees will be making their way to Marin County in California for movie premieres, panel discussions and musical performances. Continue reading “What To See During The Mill Valley Film Festival!”→
It was only a couple of days ago; I sat on the tarmac waiting for my plane to take off, clutching desperately to a one-way ticket. I looked out the window and searched for a sign, a revelation, if you will. I needed to know I was doing the right thing. Yet desperately as I searched, I was only comforted and briefly saddened by the hazy New York City skyline and the familiar noises of a plane gearing up for flight. While the flight attendants prepared for departure, I scrolled through my text messages one last time. Just then, a message lit up across my screen. I don’t understand why you’re moving so far. Do you really need to leave? Continue reading “Life in the Linz Lane: Lessons Learned from Goodbye”→
I’ll be heading to Bumbershoot this weekend and I’m so excited! I’ve never been to Seattle so to experience a new city and a new festival will be interesting. I promise I’ll document it all in a vlog (I mean, if you care) I wanted to do this quick video to show you what I bring when traveling but this is just the really, really important stuff. I didn’t bother documenting the obvious stuff like towels, shampoo and other great necessities. I hope you enjoy! Oh, and if you’re hitting it up let me know down below! Continue reading “Ashleeeybash: What I’m Bringing to Bumbershoot 2015”→
It’s that time of year again. Thousands of the nation’s most passionate fans will gather in the heart of Atlanta, Ga. for the biggest and most exciting labor day event this country has ever seen. That’s right, I’m talking about DragonCon. Continue reading “2015 DragonCon: What to expect!”→