My First Time Moving to a New City (and Then Moving Back Home)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

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, hell no.

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.

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5 Hidden Treasures of Central Texas

5 Hidden Treasures of Central TexasI 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 Herb Farm

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.

 

Enchanted Rock

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!

 

Jacob’s Well

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.

 

Bluebonnet Cafe

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

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!

5 Historically Haunted Places in the US To Add To Your Bucket List

Eastern State Penitentiary (Image Credit: Adam Jones)

Eastern State Penitentiary (Image Credit: Adam Jones)

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

Life in the Linz Lane: Lessons Learned from Goodbye

(Image Credit: Kasto)

(Image Credit: Kasto)

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

5 U.S. Art Museums to Add to Your Bucket List

Booth Western Art Museum (Image Credit: Booth Museum Org)

Booth Western Art Museum (Image Credit: Booth Museum Org)

Although summertime is coming to a close, it’s no reason to stop looking for travel destinations. Art museums make great additions to any bucket list. They also come with interesting cities to explore. Check out these five museums as a starting place for your next adventure. Continue reading

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and…Strangers

(Image Credit: Michael Jung)

(Image Credit: Michael Jung)

It’s the golden rule of youth—“Don’t talk to strangers.” My parents were especially worried about me growing up, because, quite honestly, I didn’t think the rule made a lot of sense. There had been plenty of times I witnessed nothing but kindness from people I barely knew. It’s sad, really, the way our society has become a culture fueled by anxiety and worry.  And in a way, we had to become that way to protect ourselves and the ones we love. Interestingly enough, while sitting on a train New York City bound, I met an elderly woman that got me thinking a lot about the strangers we meet and the impact they can have on our life. Continue reading

5 Ways to Make Your Commute Count

(Image Credit: LoloStock)

(Image Credit: LoloStock)

If you’re like me, you love your job. What you might not be as fond of is the amount of time it takes you to get there. Whether you take a car, train, bus or ferry to work, for most people, the time they spend commuting is time they will never get back to do other things. Luckily, there are ways to get things done during your commute and make that time count. Continue reading

The Importance of Traveling at a Young Age

(Image Credit: Masson)

(Image Credit: Masson)

Nothing will make you feel more alive than leaving the small boundaries that confine you inside your bubble of a world. I say that because we all get stuck inside the bubble, whether we live in a city, a farm, or small town USA. By nature, human beings prefer comfort.  Continue reading

The Great Blue Hole (Image Credit: Eric Pheterson)

5 Natural Wonders to Add to Your Bucket List!

The Great Blue Hole (Image Credit: Eric Pheterson)

The Great Blue Hole (Image Credit: Eric Pheterson)

It would come as no surprise if you’ve added seeing natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef or Mount Everest to your bucket list. Don’t get me wrong, those are obviously amazing places to want to visit. But what about the natural wonders that don’t make the esteemed Seven Natural Wonders of the World list? Well, they’re pretty incredible too. Here are five lesser known natural wonders to add to the bucket list! Continue reading

(Image Credit: Charles Dyer)

Your First Time…Traveling Abroad

(Image Credit: Charles Dyer)

(Image Credit: Charles Dyer)

Traveling abroad for the first time can be exciting and scary. Whether you are going for an extended stay, a semester abroad, or just a few weeks’ vacation, knowing some tips before you fly off can help to ease some of the anxiety of traveling and make your experience worth every penny you paid. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you jet off. Continue reading

(Image Credit: Florian Lehmuth)

Commuting Essentials for the First Timer

(Image Credit: Florian Lehmuth)

(Image Credit: Florian Lehmuth)

Whether you’re traveling by bus, bike, or train, being a first-time commuter can feel a bit overwhelming. Not only do you need to make sure you don’t show up to work unprepared, but you also will want to bring along some travel essentials to make your commute more enjoyable. Here are a few items that you might want to add to your checklist. Continue reading

(Image Credit: Tony Fischer)

5 Hidden Treasures of… Oregon

(Image Credit: Tony Fischer)

(Image Credit: Tony Fischer)

While my home state may be best known from popular TV shows such as The Simpsons and Portlandia, there is much more to Oregon than hipsters, breweries, and Voodoo Doughnuts. Though Oregon wouldn’t necessarily come to most people’s minds when searching for a perfect vacation spot, there are a countless number of reasons why it should. While I could write a very lengthy article on how we “Keep Portland Weird,” I’m going to showcase some of the state’s best highlights both in and outside of the big city so you can really get a feel for everything Oregon has to offer. Continue reading

(Image Credit: Wrangler)

Around the World in Books

(Image Credit: Wrangler)

(Image Credit: Wrangler)

Do you have a bad case of wanderlust? A thirst for new places and cultures? Want to broaden your perspectives? No travel funds available? If you’ve said yes to all these questions, you’ve come to the right place! Many of us have a desire to see the world, but have constraints such as time and money working against us. Such matters might resolve themselves in the future, but until the time comes to pack your bags, we’ve come up with an alternative method of exploration! Continue reading

(Image Credit: Lolostock)

5 Outrageous Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List!

(Image Credit: Lolostock)

(Image Credit: Lolostock)

While the expression “kick the bucket” has long been in existence, the bucket list is a notion that has only gained popularity in the last decade. We all have exciting dreams for our lives; places we want to see, people we want to meet and adventures we’d like to have. Of course, such dreams and adventures could quickly drain our wallets – but that’s why the bucket list exists. It’s a place for the dreams that may not seem feasible at the moment, but could happen one day. One of the best parts of being human is that we have the ability to dream and there should be no cap on what you dream about. When people tell you something is impractical or impossible, maybe it is. But that doesn’t mean you should drop the notion like a hot coal. Slap it on that bucket list! Bucket list items go from simple to complex, normal to quirky, big to small. Nothing is off limits. We at The Daily Quirk recently reached out to some family and friends to see what outrageous adventures top their lists, and the answers were all over the map! Check out these five additions to make to your own list inspired by the bucket listers in our lives. Continue reading