Mischief: Managed

Recently we had a “fall break” with two extra days off from classes over a long weekend. Everyone in our group planned exciting trips all over Europe—from Barcelona to Budapest, from Amsterdam to my own weekend excursion in Paris. But for the first part of the weekend, I decided to dedicate an entire day to what I love most: Harry Potter.

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My friend Jasmine and I took a 50-minute aboveground train to Watford Junction, just outside the city of London. We then hopped on a double decker bus and pulled up to Warner Brothers Studios (while trying not to scream from the sheer overwhelming excitement coursing through every fiber of our beings). From the minute we stepped through the doors, we were mesmerized by the magic within.

The starting point for the tour begins with the original set piece for Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, a nod to the beginning of Rowling’s story. Guests are then ushered into a theatre to watch Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson introduce the tour on screen. In the video, they are standing in front of the huge double doors at the entrance to the Great Hall. Once the screen is lifted, the ACTUAL doors are revealed behind it. We passed into this hallowed space with our jaws agape.

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Inside The Great Hall we found the original tables used for each house, covered in dining set pieces. Lined up at the front of the room were costumes for each of the Hogwarts faculty members (such as McGonogall, Snape, Trewlaney, and even Quirrell) flanking a costume created for Albus Dumbledore. The details were utterly breathtaking.

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We exited the Great Hall and passed into an enormous chamber sectioned off into full-sized sets. I was particularly taken with the potions classroom and Dumbledore’s office, and token items such as Hermione’s dress from the Yule Ball and The Mirror of Erised. There were numerous interactive elements as well, and Jasmine and I made a beeline for the broomsticks that sprung up into our hands on command and the wand dueling instructional station.

To celebrate the anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there were several exclusive pieces on exhibit that are new to the public and only available for a limited time. My absolute favorite was the paper shooting machine that spit dozens of Hogwarts letters into the mail slot of #4 Privet Drive. Guests watching the machine operate were allowed to take home a Hogwarts letter of their own, so naturally I made sure to snag one.

Next our journey took us to Platform 9 3/4, where we were greeted by the Hogwarts Express. (At this point in the tour I probably should have stowed away in one of the compartments and kissed the Muggle world goodbye.) We snapped away with our cameras until our memory cards were sufficiently overflowing, then embarked on a quest for Butterbeer.

For just over £7 we each purchased a frothy mug of Butterbeer in a plastic souvenir cup at the cafe inside the studios. Fortunately it was pretty filling, because we were 3.5 hours into our tour and still had more to see! We opted out of the overpriced food options and saved our cash for souvenirs from the gift shop.

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The next leg of the tour was comprised of larger-scale outdoor components, such as the Night Bus, Privet Drive, Hagrid’s Motorcycle, and Wizard’s Chess pieces. For us, that meant even more photo opportunities. On the opposite end of the courtyard was the “creature shop,” displaying the design behind the costumes, props, and animatronics used to create the wide array of magical creatures from the stories. One of my favorites was animatronic Buckbeak the Hippogriff. I always assumed most of this work was done digitally with CGI, but to my delight there were more tangible elements than I ever could have imagined.

We turned the corner of the creature shop and were greeted by Diagon Alley sprawling in front of us. After meandering past the numerous shops (and longing to go inside and discover they were real), we had almost made it to the end of our tour. Waiting for us in the final room was the most beautiful sight we’d seen all day: a scaled down model of Hogwarts castle twinkling in the dark.

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Naturally, the tour finishes by spitting visitors out straight into the gift shop. We struggled to show (some) restraint and only purchased a few small souvenirs. I shamelessly bought a Ravenclaw keychain to display my house pride, and a chocolate frog to unwrap and enjoy on the way home. Mischief: managed.

Legacy

On one of our first expeditions outside the London city limits, we visited a 2000-year-old Roman bath house. Within was a museum full of Roman artifacts excavated at the site of the bath house over the years, such as old coins and stone busts and even an ancient skeleton. As I strolled through the exhibits with my trusty audio guide in hand, one artifact in particular stood out to me the most: tucked into one corner was a Roman soldier’s headstone.

According to my electronic guide, each soldier would pay a special tax to the cover the expense of a proper burial and final resting place if he happened to die during battle. His fellow soldiers would take the money allocated for the unfortunate event and have his name inscribed forever into the stone. This struck me as interesting at the time, because the soldier, once dead, would no longer benefit from the knowledge that his body was in a proper grave as opposed to fallen on a battlefield. But the notion of honor in death was so powerful that people were willing to pay for it. I think on a larger scale, there was a great comfort in knowing that even after death, they wouldn’t fade into obscurity forever—their names would be preserved behind them. As I’ve continued to learn and travel and experience this semester, I am beginning to recognize that perhaps the intrinsic longing to leave a mark in our memory lives within each of us.

Gate.jpgThe second time this thought struck me was on a trip to Abbey Road Studios. Space was limited for this field trip, so only four of the students in our class were able to go on the tour, myself included. Once we squeezed in a photo on the famous crosswalk between bouts of traffic, we turned our attention to the studio gates. Sitting just in front of the studio was an alabaster wall topped off by a wrought iron fence, covered head to toe in graffiti. But it wasn’t street art from a can of spray paint, it was hundreds of thousands of signatures and drawings and Beatles lyrics written in marker or pen. The wall, one of our teachers told us, is repainted white about once per month because the graffiti fills up every crevice of blank space so quickly. Apparently, the site where so many beloved British musicians have recorded their songs instills visitors with the desire to prove they caught a glimpse. They rush to sign their names to a stone contract that says “I came, I saw. I was here. I am real, and I am important to this world.”

We were no exception. The four of us were all too eager to scribble our names into the first slice of remaining white space we could find. Ultimately, our tiny contributions won’t matter. They will be swept away by a paint brush, washed white again as soon as this cycle of graffiti comes to a close. But much like the Roman soldiers who came 2,000 years before us, we knew that deep down that we were shouting our names into emptiness and we didn’t care. It was still important to us to leave something of ourselves behind.

When I come home from this incredible, life-changing semester, I will bring many things back with me. Thousands of pictures. Dozens of souvenirs. Countless memories. But I hope, in some small way, I will also leave some small impact behind when I go. There is a part of my soul that longs to leave her mark on her temporary European home, even with something as simple as a soft smile and a kind word. I hope that somehow, London will remember me as fondly as I remember it.

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Living in the Moments

Several weeks have passed since I last posted an update, primarily because it can be hard to find a moment of quiet respite when so much is happening here in London every single day. Since the last time I wrote, I visited Bath and donned petticoats for a tour of the Jane Austen Centre, I bit the bullet and paid £130 to see half of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (it was totally worth every penny), I explored a flower market and glimpsed gorgeous graffiti in Shoreditch, and last but not least, I spent a long weekend in Normandy, France. It has been a while since I’ve really stopped to take a breath.

Another reason behind my blogging neglect is that I was offered a unique opportunity to write a short piece for my school’s International Programs monthly newsletter.

I was ecstatic to have the chance to write on a new platform for Harding students and alumni, so most of my energy and creative juices have been allocated to making that piece the best it could be. (I’ll include a link on social media once the newsletter is published!)

In the article, I expressed my sentiments on staying engaged in singular moments of my overall experience. This semester I am perfecting the art of being fully present: dwelling on each opportunity in the course of my journey as it comes. With so many constant stimuli seemingly all day every day, it’s easy to feel lost in the current of changing impressions. But I am discovering that meditating on each moment as it passes allows me to interact with this new world with an unprecedented and untethered vivacity.

These are a few of my very favorite moments from my recent adventures in London:

A Day Trip to Bath

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After touring an ancient Roman bath house that has been standing for approximately 2000 years, I grabbed a few friends and dashed across town to the Jane Austen Centre. The centre is located inside a building where Austen lived for several months during one of her many stays in Bath. Since Austen’s novels are near and dear to my heart, I geeked out when I realized my feet were traveling up the same flight of stairs as one of my literary heroes. The best part of the experience was the dressing room, where guests could try on Regency era clothing and snap photos with a wax model on Jane herself. I displayed zero hesitation in grabbing a dress, a shawl, and bonnet and posing for pics.

A Magical Evening at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

img_2900There are people who enjoy Harry Potter, and then there are people who eat, live, and breathe Harry Potter. After forking over the equivalent of $160 to see only half of J.K. Rowling’s new theatre production, I think it’s safe to say I fall into the second category (as if there was any real doubt to begin with). I’ve been budgeting really carefully throughout this semester so far, and parting with so much money all at once was difficult to stomach at first. But after watching wizards shoot fire at each other out of their wands, produce patronuses, travel through space and time, and bow over and over again for their endless standing ovation, I didn’t feel one drop of regret in my decision to splurge. Experiencing some of my favorite (and least favorite) characters only a few feet away from me in the very same room was truly surreal.

The special effects alone renewed my belief in magic, and the talented cast brought the wizarding world to life in an unforgettable way.

Weekend Wandering at Portobello Road and Shoreditch

img_3128My newfound go-to activity on the weekends in London is exploring the wide plethora of markets across the city. They boast the coolest souvenirs at some of the lowest prices, and the food is fantastic. Potobello Road Market is my personal favorite so far, probably because I managed to haggle my way into a £12 blanket scarf that is quickly becoming my most-used accessory as the weather turns colder. Another fun spot is the flower market in Shoreditch (which is essentially the hipster capitol of London). Imagine every type of plant you can possibly think of sandwhiched between cute coffee shops and pubs, swarming with Brits carrying bushels of bright blooms.

Shoreditch is also home to lots of fascinating street art, ranging from inscrutable graffiti tags to detailed murals. I’m planning on making frequent return trips to this area in the future.

 

I promise to post more frequently, and next time I plan to share some of my favorite memories from our weekend in France!

 

 

 

Belonging

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Today marks my second full week living in London. I’ve been abstaining from my keyboard for a little while to let myself settle into a routine before I attempt to express in words the whirlwind of sensations I’ve experienced during my transition here.

At the end of our ten days in Iceland, I was pretty tired. I was ready to sleep in the same bed more than two nights in a row, I was starting to run dangerously low on clean clothes, and I was eager for the convenience that I perceived in urban living. But despite the coffee shops on every corner and the endless stores, museums, theaters, and restaurants no more than a Tube ride away, living in the city can present its own variety of challenges and adjustments.

Sometimes, strutting headfirst down the crowded street into my next adventure or barreling through the underground in pursuit of shopping and sightseeing is the most truly thrilling experience I’ve ever had. Other times, I make a disappointing trip to the tiny grocery store down the block in pursuit of cheap, decent food and then lug my loaded shopping bags up six flights of stairs to my flat only to collapse on the floor in exhaustion.

Sometimes the cacophony of accents and the screech of tires mingles with street guitarists serenading the whole city, and the overwhelming beauty of momentarily intertwining lives washes over me. Other times I find myself suffocating beneath the weight of sensory overload as too many bodies and voices fight for the same tiny spaces.

There are moments where, if I really concentrate on where I’m going, I start to feel really comfortable with the London Underground. There was also a moment recently where I concentrated too hard on my cell phone and ran smack into a lamp post on the crowded sidewalk.

Settling into our new lives here has been a bigger hurdle than I ever anticipated, but with each passing day it becomes more and more worth the climb. (Literally and figuratively climbing—did I mention the six flights of stairs?)

With each new experience, whether it be a big bucket list item like riding in the London Eye, or a small victory like brewing the perfect cup of tea, this once foreign place starts to feel a little bit more like home.

I haven’t yet decided which are sweeter: the major moments, like laying eyes on Big Ben for the first time while tears escape onto my cheeks, or the little ones, like an unexpected cup of coffee from my thoughtful roommate, a good laugh shared between new friends sampling strange food, a well-timed photograph snapped just before the frame fills back up with swarms of  human bodies.

Although we often focus most on the incredible things we get to see and experience every day, I think there is a surprising amount of beauty to be found in the ordinary. It’s things like flipping through a copy of The Evening Standard after dinner, or figuring out which grocery store has the best bargain on bananas, or foregoing a night out to snuggle on the couch and watch a good movie that slowly transform us from mere tourists into true locals. Getting a glimpse of Stonehenge or gazing up at the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace might be the reason we’re here, but the ordinary, seemingly mundane moments are what allow us to truly belong.

 

 

Untouched

This week we made the transition from the quiet bustle of Reykjavik, Iceland to the beautiful chaos of London, England. I’m still acclimating to the culture in all of its intricacies: proper etiquette on the Tube, how to shop in a UK grocery store (there’s a lot more to it than you might think), and how to budget carefully while keeping in mind that £ and $ are two very different things. But before I move on to documenting my travels in the city, I’d like to delve further into the richness of my experience in Iceland.

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Now that I’m in such an urban place, crawling with people and blaring with noise and pulsing with light and life, I’ve had more time to reflect on the quiet power of a place like Iceland. Here in London, everything is touched. Both literally, as millions of hands grip the handles on the Tube every day (ew), and figuratively, as millions of lives intersect and ripple into each other with every passing smile or transfer of money or song played on the street corner next to an overturned hat. It’s beautiful in its own way, but Iceland is the sheer opposite.

What affected me most about Iceland is that everywhere you turn, you are struck full force by the impact of natural beauty. You can’t even pretend to ignore how much more utterly perfect God’s creation is than anything mankind could ever dream of building. The water is such a clear blue that you can see straight down to the bottom of a stream or scoop some up with your hand and drink it (which I did). The dark basalt rock covers the beaches in perfectly round, smooth pebbles in some places and contrasts against the electric green of moss that has aged hundreds of years in others. And don’t even get me started on the mountains. Stunning ice-capped glaciers, sloping volcanic craters, teeming emerald farmlands making peaks and valleys all over the island. I could spend all day trying to put the landscape into words and never even come close to doing it justice: it is a paradise.

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With a population of only 330,000 people, it makes sense that much of the land would remain untouched and sacred. But I believe it’s about more than mere logistics. In Iceland, the culture, the laws, and the technology all reflect an unprecedented level of reverence for the island’s natural beauty and resources. Whether they’re harnessing geothermal energy or keeping the streets and air in Reykjavik squeaky clean, there seems to be a common understanding among Icelanders that the island they inhabit is one of the last pure places left on earth, and they are fierce in their determination to protect it.

On one of our first days touring across the countryside by bus, our beloved tour guide Johannes took us to a field full of ripples and clumps of hardened lava overgrown with moss. Do not step on the moss, he admonished us, for it takes 100 years to grow. We walked down a pathway marked with a crude rope to separate passerby from the soft, spongy moss fields. There were no fences or glass panes or trenches to keep us from touching the moss, but I can say with confidence that no one did. The reverence was too contagious.

I think in many places, it is too late (and arguably impractical) to avoid trampling what was laid on the earth before us so that we can create civilizations and all of the things that they embody, both positive and negative. But may mankind never forget to leave some places untouched. In our thirst for personal conquest, may we never trample the few remaining fields of sacred moss.

Don’t Get Comfortable

There are many words you could use to describe me, but “outdoorsy” definitely isn’t one of them. It’s not that I don’t appreciate how breathtakingly beautiful nature is, I just like to appreciate it on the couch, with air conditioning and preferably also some wifi.

Since most of my semester abroad will be spent living in flats in downtown London, there won’t be too many situations where I’m outside of the comfort of civilization. Iceland, on the other hand, has been another story.

This week I’ve walked an average of 11,000 steps per day (I know this because my friend has one of those fitbit contraptions for healthy people), I’ve hiked up a mountain and then a volcano, I’ve gone horseback riding at sunset, and I’ve trekked across seemingly every glacier and waterfall on the entire face of the island. I’ve stayed in upscale hotels, cute little cottages in the mountains, and even a cabin in the highlands without any electricity or heat. I’ve repacked my bags every night, changed roommates almost every night, and eaten whatever food was put in front of me.

All of this came as a shock to my system at first, but in some ways I think it was the best possible start to my adventure. With each new day, I don’t necessarily have a choice about where and how I’m going to be spending my time. If you had asked me a week ago if I would like to voluntarily climb up a steep peak of basalt gravel in 30 –degree weather, I would have laughed at you. If you’d told me I would go to sleep with the sun in a tiny cabin with 20 other people while candle flames danced on the walls, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you had offered me a hunk of lamb meat and a bowl of piping hot pumpkin soup… well actually I probably would have eaten it at any point, because food is awesome. But I wouldn’t have expected to like it so much.

Each day has presented a series of small challenges, and I’ve learned the value in changing my attitude rather than my circumstances.

On the night of our horseback ride, when I wasn’t hanging on for dear life, I had a lot of time to reflect on the way just a few days here have begun to affect me. My horse, whose name was Kimne, didn’t really like to take any direction from me while she plodded across the terrain. There were moments when that really scared me, because we were walking across a ravine or making an abrupt stop or seemingly veering off the path. But then I realized than in an effort to yank the reigns back and forth and maintain control, I was missing out on the incredible view surrounding me. Kimne had walked the same trail hundreds of times, and I just had to trust that she knew where she was taking me. I had to let go of my thirst for control and just appreciate the present.

Horseback riding struck me then as a metaphor for my whole experience in Iceland. I didn’t get to choose where we went or what we did every day; the only thing I could control on this leg of the journey was my own attitude. And I’ve decided that no matter what stretches out in front of me, I’m going to do my best to trust in the direction I’m going and never forget to enjoy the view.

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Winter Wonderland: Day 1 in Iceland

We spent our first day in Iceland mesmerized by the overwhelming beauty from all directions. Every nook and cranny of Iceland is utterly gorgeous.

Some fun facts I learned about Iceland today:

The population is only 330,000 people. 60% of them live in the capital city of Reykjavik. There are more sheep in Iceland than people!

Iceland is home to the largest glacier in Europe (and the second largest, which we visited today).

Icelandic horses are the only breed allowed in Iceland. To preserve the purity of the breed, horses are never imported. Even if an Icelandic-born horse leaves the country, it can never return.

The geography in Iceland changes rapidly within a small amount of time and space. Within the same car ride today, we saw the glittering coast, plains of farmland, jagged mountains, geothermal waterfalls, desert wasteland, and icy glaciers.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our first day! There are captions explaining each one.

Jet Set

Today is the day: my journey begins! I’ve spent all day on connecting flights across the United States, and as I write this now I’m on my final plane ride into Iceland. Even as my fingers click against the keys to spell out the word “Iceland,” it still doesn’t feel fully real. Mere days ago I was still working at my summer job at a local newspaper, watching cable with my family, or snuggled up in my own bed with a good book. Life has transitioned from ordinary to indescribably adventurous in the span of just a few hours, and my brain just hasn’t caught up or adjusted to the concept yet. Lately I’ve struggled to overcome my mixed emotions in order to fully embrace what lies before me.

When I first made the decision to sign up for this program, it was a no-brainer. I’ve always dreamed of traveling as much as I can and writing about what I see. England specifically has always been at the top of my bucket list, because it is the origin of so many of my favorite authors and the setting for many beloved TV shows and movies, and it has such a rich and fascinating history. I didn’t think I would have any qualms whatsoever about dashing off into the Icelandic frontier or the English cityscape; my daydreams consisted of mastering the Tube system in London and spending all of my free hours uncovering hidden gems throughout the city.

But as the reality of my adventure inched closer and closer towards the end of this summer, I noticed something that surprised me: I was also scared.

I am scared to be away from my loved ones. I am scared to miss them all so much that all of the wonder and beauty surrounding me is tinged with sadness. I am scared to forge another round of new friendships with a traveling group that consists of mostly strangers. I am scared that I will make mistakes along the way in my journey. I am scared that somehow, I won’t live up to my potential as a student, a writer, a traveler (perhaps even a person?).

But the second thing I realized, and it is by far the most important, is that being afraid doesn’t have to hinder me. In fact, it’s all the more reason to go.

Life is fleeting, (that phrase might by corny and overused, but that doesn’t keep it from being true), and we spend so much of our limited time on earth sticking to what is comfortable and safe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing to live like that. But the more I think about it, the more truly I believe you will miss out on the full extent of what life has to offer if you avoid the things that scare you. Overcoming my anxiety and learning how to be fully content regardless of my circumstances is definitely an area where I need to grow, and this journey grants me the perfect opportunity to do that every day.

As I packed (and repacked) my enormous suitcase last week, I didn’t feel quite ready to leave yet. As I hugged all of the the people (and dogs) I love dearly goodbye for the last time, I didn’t feel ready to leave yet. As I carted my armloads of belongings through security checkpoints at the airport and searched for familiar faces at the gate, I still didn’t feel ready to leave yet. But when I finally reached the terminal and came face to face with my beaming professor and a handful of my classmates with their backpacks in tow, it slowly sunk in that I’m really doing this. The dream is becoming a reality. It’s getting more and more real with every passing second. And as I sit on the last plane ride of the day and glance obsessively up at our destination tracker screen, (3 hours down, 2 left to go, in case anyone was wondering), I think I’m finally ready for an adventure. Bring it on.

 

Packing Tips for England (Part 1)

Packing Tips

When it comes to planning, I tend to be a tad… shall we say, intense? (Just ask my family, friends, coworkers, probably anyone in my vicinity.) Unknown territory makes me incredibly anxious, so I love to feel as prepared as possible for the future. Whether it be for the looming fog of job searching in post-grad life or for something as insignificant as which necklace I’m wearing tomorrow, it’s a source of comfort to me to figure it out in advance.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been mentally composing the first few drafts of my packing list for England since approximately January. Based on extensive Pinterest research (seriously, do not underestimate that resource people) and some helpful hints from a few well-traveled friends, I’ve managed to come up with a general idea of the necessities. Since there were so many great lists on the internet that really helped me out, I thought it might be fun to create a packing guide compilation of my own. When I arrive, I will update my list with any items that I didn’t think to include or regret omitting. So, without further ado, here are my tentative packing plans:

A Beginner’s Guide to Packing for a Fall Semester in England

  1. Universal Adapter. Although I will be staying primarily in the U.K., this will allow me to use electronics at the end of my adventure, when I take trips to other countries. (This is a top priority because updating Instagram is terribly important to me.)
  2. Rain Coat. I decided to invest in a high quality London Fog jacket with water resistant fabric and a hood, because I get the impression that I will be wearing it very regularly. I managed to snag one for a fraction of the retail price at Burlington Coat Factory.
  3. Sturdy Shoe Options. Since we will be doing some hiking in Iceland, I needed shoes that could survive water and rugged terrain for a week but would still look cute and feel comfortable for walking all over London. I chose Steve Madden leather combat boots, which I snagged off season and on sale at an Outlet Mall.
  4. Not Rain Boots. Almost every list I looked at made a point to mention this. Rain boots are way too bulky for limited luggage space when more versatile options (like my combat boots) will suffice.
  5. Not Umbrella. I think it will be a lot easier to just buy one over there and save myself the packing space/luggage weight. Plus it can serve as one of my souvenirs!
  6. Good Camera. I plan on using my DSLR for day trips and tourist attractions, but most of the time I’ll probably rely heavily on my iPhone 6s. For me, it’s important to always have some sort of device for potential photo ops/documentation on my person at all times.
  7. Comfortable Jeans. I’m planning on bringing 1-2 pairs of dark wash skinnies and 1 pair of black jeans. Old Navy is my go-to store for basically everything, and I like to buy jeans there because they fit well and they are very affordable.
  8. Black Skirt + Black Tights. Looks cute and still matches pretty much everything.
  9. Basic Layers. The easiest way to stretch a tiny wardrobe as far as it can go and stay prepared for all types of weather is to choose lots of basic pieces to mix and match. So far I’m planning on bringing: 1-2 pairs of black leggings to wear on their own or underneath jeans in cold situations, 1-2 long sleeved tees (maybe one black, one gray) that can hide underneath an outfit for warmth or stand alone, 1 black and white striped tee, 1 black comfy short-sleeved jersey dress, 1 chambray shirt, 2 tank tops (one black, one white).
  10. Sweaters. I’m thinking I’ll probably bring about 3-4 pullover sweaters, and 2-3 cardigans. Great basic outfit builders for a day trip, or great for layering when it’s cold.
  11. Dresses. Probably about 2 cute dresses for times when I need to look a little bit more put together. I have a black floral print dress with long sleeves from Forever 21 and maybe one of my favorite Old Navy dresses in mind.
  12. (Lightweight) Scarves. I’ve always been a little bit nutty when it comes to scarves, but my massive collection will really come in handy for this trip! I’m a firm believer that one of the easiest ways to alter the entire look of an outfit with relatively little material is the use of a good scarf. I’ll probably bring about 4-5 because they take up less space than anything else on my list, and will give me multitudes of outfit options.
  13. (Warm) Scarf + Hat + Gloves. As of right now, my game plan is to buy these things in Iceland as my souvenir and use them for the rest of the semester.
  14. Basic Crossbody Bag. Large enough to hold plenty of stuff (phone, cash, passport, notebook, camera?) but compact enough that it won’t be pick pocketed. As of right now, I’m planning on borrowing a Patricia Nash bag from a friend who used it for the same Study Abroad program last school year. Since her bag is fairly large, I might bring an extra (inexpensive) smaller bag of my own.
  15. Journal. A lifelong love of writing is important to me, so I’m challenging myself to write about what inspires me as much as possible on this trip.
  16. Bible. I know this item does not apply to everyone, but to me it’s a must have for two reasons: 1) Since I attend a private school, one of my classes is about Biblical study and religious/cultural differences. 2) Although there’s a convenient digital Bible app, having my physical copy with me would serve as a comforting piece of home.
  17. Book(s). I don’t want to weigh down my suitcase too much because A) I will probably (definitely) buy books as souvenirs and B) I won’t have too much down time for reading on a daily basis. But as a Cardinal Rule, I don’t travel anywhere without at least one book.
  18. Toiletries. There are certain products that I rely on here that I won’t be able to find there. I’ll probably bring a few travel-sized bottles in my carry on and a few duplicates of certain full-sized products in my suitcase. Basics like shampoo/conditioner or toothpaste can be purchased upon arrival.
  19. Not Heat Tools. Even with a converter, I’ve read that American flat irons and curling irons can blow a fuse abroad. I really don’t want to destroy my Chi or blow out the electricity in our flat, so I plan on purchasing cheap heat tools at a department store when I arrive.
  20. Photos. I still like to print physical copies of my pictures, even though I can just as easily view them on my phone or laptop. I’m planning on bringing a few with me to keep on hand for times when I miss my friends and family, and maybe even hang them up with some twine and clothespins in our flat.

There are probably still things I’ve left out or forgotten since I’m a fairly inexperienced traveler. Once I’ve embarked on my journey and fine-tuned my packing situation, I will post an update on major changes. Have any travel necessities in mind that I left out? Feel free to comment with ideas or corrections!

 

A Little About Me

Since I’ve decided to try my hand at some lighthearted travel blogging, I thought it might be helpful to introduce myself a bit.

My name is Julie, and next year I will be a senior in college. I am a journalism major. I plan to commit my life to telling other people’s stories, so this is a unique opportunity to share my own.

My fall semester of the coming school year will be spent studying abroad in the United Kingdom. My first week abroad will be spent in Iceland, and afterward I will be living in London and taking occasional trips across the U.K. for about two months. At the end of the semester, I will be touring Ireland, Scotland, and Wales with the rest of my group, and then I will have two weeks to travel anywhere else in the world I want before I return to the United States. I hope to travel primarily in France, Germany, and Italy.

Since I’ve never left U.S. soil, this will certainly be the biggest adventure of my life thus far. This blog is one way I hope to document my memories and epiphanies as I step outside my comfort zone.