You Have to Try

“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”
Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

I’m finished with my first semester of teaching in another country. First semester, already done. I cannot believe how fast the time is going. As a result of 2016 coming to a close, I thought I’d go ahead and write a post about this year.

About a year and a half ago I graduated from university. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with myself. I fell into a spiral of depression and anxiety, became convinced that life would be empty for me. I stopped writing, stopped trying. Didn’t make plans for after graduation as I watched my friends file off to grad schools and future careers. I gave up essentially. It seemed easier that way.

Somehow I managed to dig myself out. Found a job, even if it was part-time and not great pay. I did some writing, even if it wasn’t anything really serious, and I just pushed myself to try even if it was hard, even if I was scared or frustrated.


Ziplining at Zip the Snake in Twin Falls, ID

I’ve had a lot of people tell me how much they admire me for going to teach in another country. How brave and exciting that sounds. How impressed they are with what strength that  must have taken. And while I want to accept their praise, part of me is hesitant, because to be honest I was scared setting out, and because I’ve continued to be scared most of the time. And because there have been moments I’ve wanted to quit.

My habit in the past has been to give up when things get tough. I remember trying scuba diving as a child and giving up the moment I became frightened of the water pressing in on all sides. I remember refusing to go to dances in university because I worried I’d be uncomfortable. I recall refusing to submit novels to publishers because I knew I’d be unhappy if I was rejected. France has been no exception. I’ve had several times where I’ve thought about just throwing in the towel.


Trying Palinka in Budapest

I ran across the Fangirl quote above while on Goodreads today, and I just thought to myself how again the words from this silly young adult novel continue to be applicable to my life. They continue to remind me that I shouldn’t just give up even when I want to, and that’s something I’m continuing to learn.

As the year comes to a close I’m having a look at my “brave things” list I started keeping a year ago. I find it’s a good way for me to remember all the ways that I’ve been strong in the face of adversity. All the ways I’ve refused to back down in spite of pain, or fear, or discomfort. Some are simple things like going to social outings when I was feeling anxious, making an uncomfortable phone call. or trying a new food. Others are more exciting: riding a camel, ziplining, or traveling to six different countries all by myself.


Riding a camel in Tangiers, Morocco (future post to come)

My New Years resolution? I have to think of some more specific ones, of course. Probably a reading goal of 90 books since I read 80 this year. Maybe I’ll try to write another novel. Maybe I’ll aim to be healthier and exercise more. However, the big one I have is to try to have more brave things on my list next year. To keep expanding and pushing and trying even when I’d rather not. To keep pushing myself into life instead of avoiding it as I too often do.

So Happy New Years to my readers, friends, and family! I hope you’ll think about being brave as well, and continuing to try. Don’t ever give up. There are better things ahead, and you’ll find them if you just keep trying.


Traveling around France for a year

End of the Road: Amsterdam

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. -G.K. Chesterton

If Munich was bad, Amsterdam was even worse. Exhaustion and illness and homesickness all just added up to me wanting to be done. I don’t think it made things any easier that more than one of my friends had made Amsterdam sound like the best place on the planet.

The moment I arrived I was overwhelmed. I’d spent most of the day on the train and arrived in the late evening. And even on a weekday night the streets were insanely crowded! Can I blame John Green or something for making every little girl think Amsterdam is a fairy tale land?

I’m only half kidding. I began feeling overwhelmed just walking to my hostel, I dropped my things and set out to find food, hoping that filling my stomach might help me feel a little more at ease.

I found a place that had good tripadvisor reviews, because again my hostel did the “anything on this street is awesome” thing that I hate. Please don’t do this hostels. It doesn’t help.

It was called Het Karbeel, and it was a fondue place but also had some good looking dishes. I wasn’t sure how much the fondue would be for one person, but ended up wishing I’d done it because the people next to me had it and it looked amazing. Anyhow, I had a broccoli soup and then chicken with a cream and mushroom sauce which was amazing. So delicious. Also loved that shortly after I arrived and was seated, people started being turned away because the restaurant was so full up. It was a fun place with good food and decent prices. I’d highly recommend it, but make sure you call ahead for a reservation.

After that I walked back to my hostel and decided to have an early night since I was so sick.

The hilarious thing was it was Halloween. And every single person in my room and apparently decided to go party.

It wasn’t really a surprise. I was staying at a hostel called Durty Nelly’s Inn, which was right over a bar. Clearly it was meant to be a party zone. Finding out later it was one block from the redlight district…well…img_2175

Needless to say my night was not restful. Lots of noise outside, tons of people stumbling in at different hours of the night…a few whispering “wow someone’s already in bed” which was funny.

The next morning I roused myself semi-early and went down to the free breakfast in the bar. I sat there for over an hour and just gorged myself for a while which was nice. After that I headed out for my walking tour.

I’ve plugged Sandeman’s tours before but I’ll do it again. Free tours are often the best, especially from reputable groups that try to do a really good job and hire good workers.

The tour was very fun. Amsterdam is a cool city, but again I think it’s too easy to just walk past canals and not know the significance of what I’m seeing. Having a guide to tell me some stories was helpful.

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I enjoyed it so much that I figured maybe it would be good to do another tour. So I signed up for the Redlight District one, figuring it was a big part of Amsterdam but certainly not something I felt comfortable doing myself.

I also purchased a ticket for the Rijksmuseum determined that after my tour I’d head straight there and enjoy it.

Unfortunately for whatever reason the tram I tried to take there seemed to be going in a different direction? And also hit every bit of traffic possible, thoroughly wasting my time.

I had to hop off. I was not feeling patient enough to just sit and watch myself get further and further away. And I wasn’t in the mood to try to ask someone about it or anything else. So I just stepped off at the next stop and started walking back towards the center of town.

After a little crying, ranting to my mother and a friend, I found a restaurant to rest and recharge at called La Oliva. Had a hamburger, because what the heck I just wanted to go home…and at that point was almost thinking back to the United States version of home. Yay homesickness (good topic for another post). It was pretty good actually, although incredibly messy with a piece of bread for a bun instead of the normal type.


I sat there for more than an hour and definitely cried a bit as I ate, thinking how much I’d been excited to go to Amsterdam and how disappointed I now was. That’s part of travel sometimes. Having expectations built up and then having them not work out. You just have to learn to live with it.

I did stop by the Anne Frank House and tried standing in line for a bit to see how long it might take without a reservation. Waited fifteen minutes and had barely moved in line, so I decided it wasn’t worth it…especially not in the freezing cold. If you want to go, make sure you have reservations. I learned the hard way.


The line… the dreaded line

Back to the hostel for a bit. I rested and wrote some blog posts and had some time to talk with friends before finally heading out to catch my tour of the Redlight District.

If you’re interested in seeing the district but are like me and shy and maybe are by yourself, I definitely recommend Sandeman’s tour. Not too expensive and it was very interesting and informative, and I had a really good time.

After that I grabbed a waffle with chocolate sauce at a place the guide had recommended and then was off to bed again, because again I was too tired to do much else besides crash.

Amsterdam was definitely not my best on the trip. Again, it’s just something that you have to accept in traveling. I’d suggest to fellow travelers to rest up and make sure you have enough time in each city. Do your research to know about reservations and such, and then just make the most of bad situations. And in the end just enjoy what you end up seeing. It’s part of the fun, and things will turn out okay in the end.

So last fall break Eurail post! If you’ve missed the others I can link you to them. I leave you the list below so you can catch up! I might do a summary as well, but no promises. To be honest in the next few days I’m going to be setting off on another trip! So hey, I’ll try to do better on getting updates for that one up sooner.

Eurail journey 2016:









Making the Best of Munich

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

By the time I’d reached Munich I’d begun to thoroughly regret my decisions on traveling for so long to so many places. I’d caught a cold from someone along the way and was tired and achy and just feeling awful. I missed being able to understand the language around me and longed to be back in my own bed.


Can I be done now?

However, though it was tempting to give up, I had to keep going. And I was determined to see some of Munich even if it exhausted me.

I arrived in the afternoon and checked into my hostel. I stayed at Wombats, which is now one of my favorite hostels ever. I would highly recommend you check them out. They also have branches in London, Budapest, and Vienna. They were extremely friendly and provided a clean and comfortable hostel right near public transportation for a very budget price. Plus a really delicious breakfast buffet for a bit extra and some good areas to socialize with other travelers.

In spite of my tiredness, I decided to actually try to get out and see some of the city. I’d visited Munich before during my last two-week Eurail adventure, but I hadn’t seen much as it had just been a day destination rather than somewhere I spent the night. So to finally be back, I was determined to actually see a few things further afield rather than what was located right around the train station.

My first place I set out for was the English gardens. I’d had people recommend it to me, and it was indeed lovely to see. My favorite part was the surfers in one of the canals. Very fun to watch!

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After walking for a bit I headed off towards the city center and walked there a bit too. There was very little I was dying to check out in terms of sites. Munich is fun more for walking around than for any one major tourist attraction. Although, if I’d been there longer, I know I would have found some other good things to do. I actually really wanted to go to one of the concentration camps nearby, but by the time I would have arrived it would have been too late to really see much. And running on as little energy as I was, it was probably for the best that I didn’t emotionally exhaust myself on top of everything else.

After a short venture around the main areas downtown, it began to get dark so I started considering food. I headed to a restaurant the hostel had recommended (they gave a handy list), but unfortunately it was quite crowded. Feeling as gross and tired as I did, I opted to head back to my hostel and either relax for a bit before venturing back out, or see if there was food at the bar.

Sure enough the bar served pizza! So yay for having some good food without too much effort. Plus Wombats provides you with a free welcome drink too, so free alcohol too. So that was my evening.

Anyhow, sad to say it was time for bed for me after that. Sorry for any expecting a long post on how awesome this city is. Unfortunately I cannot give a true testament to Munich. I’d say from the little I’ve seen it’s a very aesthetically pleasing city and certainly one to hit up if you’re going around Germany. Do your research maybe and see what else there is to check out. I wish I could help more! However, that’s just traveling sometimes. You’ve just got to keep on going.

Vanquishing Vienna…Sort of

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Vienna was another bit of a small adventure. Thanks to the Eurail pass, I wasn’t allowed to just board any old train I wanted. I had to be on trains that didn’t require reservations. My luck was, there was only one leaving that day. And it was early in the morning.

However, when I arrived and started waiting there was an announcement saying that reservations were mandatory. And I maybe began to panic a little more than I should have.

Honestly, travel is kind of always like that for me. Moments of panic before I can remind myself there’s always something else I can do to solve the problem. The reality was I realized I could always go try to add a reservation if need be. If no one would give me one I could simply try to buy a ticket and pay for it that way. And if nothing else…I could pay a little extra and spend another night in Budapest. Not ideal, but it would work.

So with that in mind I determined I would board the train and try to ask before making my decision about what to do. Worst case was they would tell me I couldn’t be on board and needed a reservation.

Thankfully there were a few other people as confused as I was. So glad that the world confirms that I am not the only one with difficulty following instructions given over crackly intercoms. I soon found out if I was going to be going somewhere in Hungary I needed a seat reservation. But to go to Austria or another international destination it was fine. Completely confusing.

Once in Austria further confusion began. I swear, figuring out public transportation… there are certainly times I understand why there are travelers who are unwilling to do it. Every place is different, and sometimes it’s not so easy to figure out. Thankfully, I did eventually find the right bus, and I was just glad I had enough time that it wasn’t a problem. Never try to figure out public transport in a new city in a rush. You will end up regretting it.

I arrived at my hostel. I stayed at H.I. Myrthengasse. I’d stayed at other Hosteling International branches before and had good experiences with them, so I figured this one would be okay too.


It ended up being my least favorite of my trip, and my lowest rating on Hostelworld. When I asked for a dinner recommendation the man at the desk simply pointed me to a region in town rather than a specific place or places. He insisted “everything was good” in that area. Sorry, but there are no towns where every single restaurant is good. I’m just lucky I have tripadvisor and a good sense of how to pick restaurants myself.

On top of that, the rooms were really outdated and did not have wifi in them and only had two outlets. The lobby was not very clean and was smoky and unappealing. The only real saving feature of this hostel was the fact that it had a really yummy breakfast included. It was also not too far from downtown, although more of a walk than I would have preferred. Mostly I’d recommend seeing if you could find something better that is closer to the city center.

After looking over a map I made my decisions of what I wanted to see for the day.

I began by purchasing the Vienna Card. Figured the unlimited transportation was a good deal in itself, and getting discounts on museums and such couldn’t hurt either. There’s also a pass that might be an option for more than one day, but I’ll leave you to research that on your own. So with the card in hand, I set off for the Belvedere Palace and Museum.

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The palace and grounds were stunning. Absolutely beautiful to see. I think for me, this is what I picture when I hear Vienna. Grand palaces and opera houses and finery.

I purchased a pass to both the upper and lower Belvedere. Honestly, I’d just recommend the upper one. It has more of the famous works and is more interesting as a building too. Sadly no photographs inside, so I can’t show you what I saw. The most exciting was The Kiss by Gustave Klimt, but otherwise the museum mostly just had other fine works.

After exploring the whole place (again save your time and money and just go to the Upper Belvedere unless you’re a real art nerd), I decided it was time to try something else. So I set off for the Haus der Musik. In English it’s referred to as The Sound Museum.


It was highly recommended on a few lists of things to do in Vienna, and I would agree it seemed worth the money, especially as someone who was classically trained in music and wanted to feel I’d gotten the most out of Vienna. For any people with children, I also would seriously recommend this museum. Very interactive and interesting. Brought out the kid at heart in me, and I only wished I’d had someone to share it with at the time.

After exploring this museum it was getting late and I was feeling ready to eat. Again, since I hadn’t received any recommendations from my hostel, I did just take off in the area they’d indicated, pulling up my phone and searching tripadvisor to see what was nearby.

I ended up at a place called Glacis Beisl. I had some wine, a creamy mushroom soup, and some Wienner Schnitzel…because I was in Vienna and it’s one of my favorite foods anyways.

The food was very good and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Feeling very content, I headed back to my hostel. Actually had a chance to chat with my roommate who was a fellow English assistant from a different region of France! So that was very entertaining.

The next day I woke up fairly early to get a good start on the day. Headed down and had breakfast. Again, one redeeming feature of the hostel.

From there I set out for the Schonbrunn Palace. So for people looking for art, head to Belvedere, or to one of the many museums in the city center, but for those looking for history go to Schonbrunn. This palace still is set up as it was used by the royal family. You can do an audio-guide or a guided tour, I’d recommend audio-guide as it lets you go at your own pace and is easier in the crowded setting anyways. Get there early to help avoid more of the crowds.

There are lots of options on what tickets you can buy. I ended up wishing I’d bought the more simple one for just the palace, as a majority of the gardens are open to the public, and the few that are blocked off and required pay weren’t that interesting (especially in the fall).

Regardless the interiors were beautiful and it was a fun walk through history for me. The gardens were fun with the fall colors, but again don’t waste your money on the smaller ones. They’re not worth it.

After my palace explorations there was somewhere else I wanted to go.

The zoo!

Vienna has the oldest zoo in the world (or so they claim), and one that has very good ratings online too. So I figured I’d check it out and see some fun animals for the rest of the morning.

Turned out to be a good decision, although I will say I did feel a little weird at a place like a zoo completely on my own. But I had fun regardless, enjoyed the silly animals and the nice layout. It’s a good sized zoo and they’ve also just done a nice job of making it aesthetically attractive. Views from the boardwalk up the hill are fun too.

I saw all that I wanted and then caught the subway back into town where I was scheduled to do a free walking tour. I had signed up in advance, worried that I might not get a spot otherwise as it was a weekend. Turned out to be a good decision as there was quite a crowd and they had to turn some people away.

Our guide was very entertaining and insightful. I also really loved that she used a microphone and made use of her ipad to show images and videos and other material to help us understand. I thought that was a very clever addition to the traditional tour routine.

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We saw a lot of good things. My only wish is that I’d taken the tour my first day because it would have given me some good insights on fun things to do in Vienna before arriving. I enjoyed what I had seen, but I wished I’d had time to see the Royal Treasury, and some of the other interesting sights she pointed out.

I asked for a restaurant recommendation from her and again received a vague area suggestion instead. Something weird about Vienna I guess, or at least the people I ran into at the time.

I had to head back to my hostel to charge my phone anyways. So I headed back there and did some more searches for ideas on restaurants. Found a good looking schnitzel place, but by the time I got there it had a line out the door. I decided it wasn’t worth it and went looking for something else.

I stumbled across Boheme by accident. It had good reviews and the food sounded good. Sure enough it ended up being one of my favorite meals of the trip. I had a pumpkin soup, tortellini, and apple strudel. It was all so amazingly delicious, and I left extremely satisfied.

I headed back to my hostel feeling that for the most part I’d seen some good things in Vienna. Again, it’s a city I would definitely love to come back to someday.

My advice to fellow travelers is to give yourself plenty of time here. Rushing through it really does you no good in the long run. But here’s a bit of what I loved about this fun city in the meantime. Live and learn I suppose.