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Sleep when I’m Dead

Life man, it just gets ya sometimes. Lack of WiFi and just plain living in the moment kept me from my daily updates from Europe. BUT, have no fear, the recaps are here. 

Day 3: Slovenia 

Started off as a blur, still half drunk, pulled an all-nighter and headed straight to the airport to catch my flight from London to Ljubljana. Man, S T R E S S F U L! I do NOT recommend traveling hungover or still drunk when trying to catch a million flights in Europe. The connecting terminals are what feel like three miles apart, that of which you end up sprinting to in order to get to the gate that then takes you on a shuttle to then board your plane. It sucks. I stopped at a store mid sprint, grabbed two bags of chips and a massive bottle of water. All of the above were inhaled in 2.5 minutes once I settled into my seat. I felt a mess, and I sure as hell looked one too. Haha. It was rough. But damn, the stories and that first Europe experience... priceless. 

I knew nothing of Slovenia, and I’m glad I didn’t. An instant wave of tropical weather swept me away once I stepped foot outside of this small airport. No idea. I chuckled to myself a bit, because in that moment, I realized I packed My Patagonia jacket. It was hot, humid... sweat beads were already dripping down my face. The rental car process was smooth as pie. Thank god they drive on the US side of the road here, I didn’t bother to research that. First initial thought after getting onto the open road from the airport? “Holy shit, this country is beautiful.” Truly blew me away, and instantly cured my hangover. I drove aimlessly from one dirt road and highway to the next, no maps, no destination.... I just drove. And I had a smile on my face the whole time.  

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Simply stunning landscape. So beautiful. I drove and drove until it was time to pick up Julie from the airport. I’m glad I decided to do that instead of sleep. I got my favorite shot of the trip that day. I was driving out of one small town and approaching another. The road curved and opened up, the sun was setting and the light was just perfection. I passed a turnout and wasn’t going to stop, but I just couldn’t stop being in awe of this scene I was driving through. So I made a uturn. Parked at the edge of some random dirt path, jumped out of my car and started snapping photos. Easily, my fave photos have been spontaneous in the moment captures. I need to be more aware of my instincts when exploring and do this more often. 

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London, One Step at a Time

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 Day 2: | London

I allowed myself to sleep in and take my time. Usually If I have something planned, I stick to my schedule. My thoughts, “I’m not sleeping, I’m going to get started early and maximize my day.” Before I left, I was told to slow down by a friend and to allow myself to do nothing by my sister. So I listened.

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Day 2 started with me waking up at 8:45am, taking my time to get ready and I was out and about by 11:15am. I decided to take an uber just to keep things simple and not complicated since I had a late start. I did absolutely zero research for this trip. I wanted to live as freely and spontaneously as possible. I had the uber drop me off in Notting Hill. The models from the night before were raving about it, so I figured, might as well. Plus I love that cheesy sappy movie. It worked out great since it was probably the most North I would have wanted to venture to anyways. This area was really adorable. Definitely a tourist destination, but worth the visit.

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To my surprise there was a street fair type of thing, called Portabello Market. So I started from the top on one side, walked all the way down and walked back up on the opposite side. I made it the whole way without buying anything- wait that’s a lie. I bought postcards. I almost bought a couple gifts, but resisted. Hopefully I don’t regret that later in the trip.

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I was starving, I’ve been eating one meal a day here, so I asked the shop owner I bought the postcards at what his favorite lunch spot was, somewhere the locals love. He recommended this place called The Grain Shop. It’s a vegetarian/vegan place. If you know me, having my first meal be a vegetarian dish is shocking, but it was delicious! Particularly loved the cauliflower and broccoli cheese thingy. Extremely popular for the locals, there was a steady flow or regulars that were greeted by name. Oddly they charged .40 to dine in.

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After Notting Hill I took the bus to Buckingham Palace. I walked through Hyde Park, went to the palace, walked allllllll over the place from there. It was such a beautiful day, I took an hour nap at St. James park under the sun. Woke up and wrote in my journal and got some postcards out of the way. I had no idea where I was going, but I just walked towards structures that caught my eye.

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Eventually I ended up at the London Eye, walked the bridge and randomly met Trevor Ariza. I knew I needed to eat fish and chips before I left London so I googled a place and landed me in the theatre district at a really awesome pub.

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From there I don’t exactly know what I saw, but lots of tall statues, a fountain that wasn’t working and several museums. Eventually I ended up in the tube, to which I found was realllllly easy to navigate. I got lost about a million times in the NYC subway system, so I was a little nervous, but those nerves proved to be unnecessary.

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Got back to the air BnB, crashed for an hour and then went out for a few beers with my host and his friends. He was kind and later ended up taking us to a gay bar because I mentioned I wanted to see what the scene was like. I loved it. Beautiful women. 😍 Black women with an English accent are pretty much irresistible. Haha.

Things that I discovered, it’s been difficult for me to have conversations. Can’t talk sports, my fallback and go to. Gotta work on my communication skills. 

My favorite advertisement I saw this day was:

“The car says Playboy. The price says teaboy” SIXT Car Rental

A really eventful and amazing Day 2.

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The Beginning

Day 1 | Denver to London:

My camera gear and laptop is wayyyyy too heavy.

People are overall pretty friendly. East Coasters don’t smile as much to strangers as the west coasters do. West coast is the best coast. Yes, I’m 100% biased.

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I started this journey at 11:10pm with a red eye flight from Denver to Newark. I don’t typically sleep on planes, but it was a whirlwind of a week prior to this trip so I crashed almost instantly the second I sat down. Always the window seat. I’m a visual person, so my preference will always be the window. I woke up for no good reason thinking I slept for hours and we were approaching landing. Nope, it was 12:12pm, I was only asleep for 45 minutes. Naturally I glanced outside and I felt a smile grow on my face. There was a clearly defined Orion shining and winking at me with a subtle hint of the Milky Way waving just behind it. I looked to the left and in the distance I saw an orange glowing dot, maybe the size of a nickel. As we approached, the dot grew and I realized it was the moon. It was was so beautifully large, with a red and orange tint to it. That’s all it took, I was lost in this universe.

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I landed at EWR early. Too early for any of the lounges to be open and about 4 hours before my flight to London took off. I was a bit of a zombie but it was only 30 minutes until the United Club opened its doors. Such a treat this credit card has been to me. Haha. From there I was able to catch a simple but stunning sun rise behind the NYC skyline. All while eating Lucky Charms for the first time in years.

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The flight to London is a six and a half hour flight. An hour and a half into the flight, they served breakfast, which I paired a cup of white wine and a mimosa. United’s food is crap compared to China airlines.

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Twenty minutes later they came back around and gave me a cup of white wine and a cup of red wine. Safe to say, an hour and a half into the flight, I was drunk. Originally I asked for a mimosa so that it could help me sleep. She said they didn’t have champagne so she gave me white wine. Then she came back with a mimosa.

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The second time around I asked for another mimosa but they ran out of champagne, so I asked for red wine. He brought back white. The kind gentleman sitting next to me was so irritated that he got it wrong that he went up to the guy and said, “She asked for red.” And that is how I ended up with both red and white wine at the same time. I think the treats I gave the crew made them think I was playing nice so they could get me drunk. Not the case. 20 year Kathleen would be thrilled. 36 year old Kathleen... zzZzzzZZzs.

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Seriously, I zzzZzzZzZed the shit out of that flight after all that wine. I guess the treats for the crew served it’s purpose. I splurged in this hella nerdy travel blanket that has a circle cut out to put your head through, think super soft fleece poncho. Best splurge of my life. Definitely no buyer’s remorse here. Somebody kept releasing nasty farts on the plane. They were so volatile that they woke me from my slumber a few times. Random fact about Kata, my senses are ridiculous, I mean, they are almost super human powered senses. My smell, touch, taste, feel, hearing are all hypersensitive. I always say, “I’m a sensitive soul and being, because along with the physical senses, my emotional senses are far out there.” Shrugs. I own it, and I love it. Except for when strangers are dropping silent stink bombs in enclosed plane spaces 36,000 ft in the air. THAT, I don’t like.

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It was an adventure trying to figure out what level I needed to be on to meet my uber driver. Initial thoughts, London is just better than the US in every sense. Cleaner bathrooms, friendlier people, cooler accents. Have I mentioned how much I love accents?! Gah! My driver was beyond kind. Owns a hotel in Sri Lanka that I apparently am going to visit at some point. My air bnb is amazing. I could not have picked a better place with an even more awesome host.

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I invited the host (Peter) to share a cocktail with me. I arrived around 11:11pm, we didn’t end up going to the bar until about 12:30. Randomly, we made friends with a group of eleven fashion designers and models and ended up bar hopping with them until 3:30am. Now it’s almost 6am and the sun rose, bringing light back onto the world  guess I’ll sleep for a couple hours and start Day 2.

Not too shabby of a Day 1.

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A Europe Virgin No More

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It’s been a dream of mine since I was a child to travel to Europe. Today, 36 years into my life, I’m finally traveling to the land of accents. Ok, maybe it’s not the land, but I’m just to want to talk to everyone there and swoon hopelessly over their accents. It’s not just their language that fascinates me, it’s the rich history, the art, the culture and the architecture. I absolutely cannot wait to just exist, however quickly and temporary, in that setting. 

 

This is also my first solo international trip. Am I scared? Absolutely. Am I nervous? Fuck yeah. Am I excited? Damn right. I used to pride myself in the statement, “I’m not scared of anything.” How foolish and adolescent that mentality was. I’m scared of a lot of things, most of it residing in being submersed in my own independence and not drowning from it. I hate being alone, doing things by myself and socializing. But, it’s been my work in therapy for the last 8 months and it’s amazing the amount of growth one can go through when you make the effort to face your fears. 

 Flight from EWR to LHR

Flight from EWR to LHR

So, here goes nothing. The beginning of my journey, not just with this trip, but the beginning to a brand new chapter of my life. I can’t wait to write it. 

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Backpacking

The snow is melting, trees are sprinkled with spring growth, bringing life to once barren branches, and the birds are back, chirping away in the early morning hours, waking me from my deep slumber. That could only mean one thing, it’s backpacking season. My friend is backpacking the Grand Canyon for her first time and I offered her some tips. By no means am I an expert, but I have learned a thing or two throughout my backpacking adventures. I figured I might as well share with you, what I would be sharing with her.

The most important thing is weight. Your life and hike will be a helluva lot more enjoyable and pleasant with a lighter pack. I’m talking saving ounces in every way possible. Let’s begin with water.

Water is necessary, water is also heavy, weighing about 2 lbs for every liter of water you carry. Typically, you’ll want to drink 2 liters a day, but hiking in hot or extreme temps will have you drinking much more than that. If you’re able to filter water, I highly recommend Sawyer Squeeze Filter. It weighs about 2 oz and has a huge payoff for a minimal amount of work. My friends and I actually used it to filter water out of a pothole filled with rain water and tadpoles. Under normal circumstances, you should NEVER attempt to drink this water, but we were desperate, had zero water, three miles left of our backpacking trip back up the Grand Canyon walls. We lived to tell the tale with zero butt explosions, call us lucky. Be proactive, hydrate yourself double the week before your trip, and be conscious of taking mini sips of water throughout your hike, not only when your mouth is dry, because that’s typically too late. 

Your tent is your shelter. I’m an avid camper and outdoorswoman, but I hate bugs, specifically spiders. So, I tend to lean heavily on mesh tents versus just a tarp and a sleeping bag. You want to keep your tent as light as possible. Definitely not more than 5lbs when backpacking. Ultra Light 3 season 2 person tents should be around 2-2.5 lbs. 4 season backpacking tents will get you maxed out at 5lbs for a 2 person capacity. If you’re braver than I, you could go the fly/trekking poles route and really cut down on your shelter weight. 

Food. Don’t be a rookie and bring canned food. Pack snacks, but don’t go overboard. Remember ounces are everything. Peanut Butter, nuts, chocolate and granola are great trail munchies. Annnnnnd I never hike without beef jerky, personal preference. We have found that skittles are a heavenly burst of happiness during water/snack breaks.  Dehydrated/freeze dried food packs are easy “Just add boiling water” options. Be conscious of the serving amounts when you’re buying them. Usually one pack serves two people. My fave-anything with mashed potatoes and the lasagna. If you’re going that route, sea to summit sells a super light extra long spoon that works perfect for those containers worth the purchase.

Extras like hygiene can be unnecessary for some, essential for others. Remember, when you’re backpacking, whatever you pack in, you pack out. So leave room for your trash that you’ll be hiking back out with. There are ways to save weight on toiletries. One ply toilet paper, silicon toothbrush head covers, squeezing toothpaste into straws and burning the ends to seal, or you can just make sure you’re bringing a small tube of toothpaste. Don’t forget your headlamp, first aid kit and pocket knife.  

So you’ve got your gear, now you’re set. But you’re not. Packing your pack is just as essential as what you’re putting in it. You want the distribution to be optimally balanced for your back. This will save your shoulders/back and neck from days of soreness afterwards. The bottom pack is for your lighter things like your sleeping bag. Focus your heaviest items in the center of your pack with medium weighted items and things you’ll need to easily access on the top portion. Make sure you get fitted for your pack, REI does it for free and can help with any adjustments that you need. 

Last but certainly not least, have fun. You’re backpacking, that means you’re going to be in stunning scenery away from the normal hustle and bustle. Take lots of breaks, look up, around and behind you and just soak up as much as you can. And take stupid amounts of selfies and photos and max out your camera, why? Because, nothing is ever promised or guaranteed to be there as it was the next time.  

 

Happy hiking! 

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