Packing Up the Stress

Baggage claim ecomo

 

Planning for vacation is stressful!

Now if I’m being completely honest, this is like the first proper vacation I’ve ever taken by myself. Before this all of my vacations were with family, so my parents handled all of the difficult stuff and I just tagged along for the fun. So I suppose there is the possibility that I just haven’t had enough experience to really get the hang of things.

I’m sure it also doesn’t help that I’m going out of country, which is something that is completely foreign – no pun intended – to me. I’ve never actually left the continental US before, but this March I’m flying out to spend two weeks in the UK. So I’m having to figure out a lot of this international stuff on my own.

These last few weeks – and the seven remaining weeks until I leave – have been a non-stop whirlwind of stress and planning. I’ve been scouring airline sites for the best deals on flights. I’ve been refreshing the page obsessively on hotels.com and cross-checking the locations of the cheaper hotels to find out if it’s worth the cost or if I’ll be paying that much in transport anyhow. I’ve been meticulously scratching out how much money I’m allowed to spend on food a day to stay within my budget and checking the costs of local transport to get around. I’ve been comparing international cell phone rentals to get one that works for what I need.

Sometimes the stress of it all makes me wonder if it’s going to be worth it in the end. I’m going to need the vacation just to relax from the exhausting ordeal of planning this vacation.

And then I remember that I’m finally going to be visiting my dream city and I feel better.

Along this tornado track of madness though, I’ve picked up a couple useful tips that I will definitely remember for the next international – or any, really – trip that I take.

1. Start early. Whatever you do, do not leave everything until the last minute. Not only will it save you a great deal of stress, but also a lot of money. Airlines and hotels will often give you discounts for booking early. (I just saved 150 dollars for booking my hotel so far in advance.)

2. Make a checklist. This has helped me keep my head on straight and make sure that I’ve not forgotten anything. It’s great for keeping track of costs as well, especially for those of us that are travelling on a tight budget. Not to mention, there’s something really satisfying about being able to scratch off each thing as you complete it.

3. Ask around. Have a friend or family member who’s visited there before? Don’t be afraid to check in with them. There are a lot of cultural and economic differences that you need to consider when travelling to another country, and the best place to get that information is from someone who’s been there. Having a friend who lives in the UK has been invaluable for me, not to mention he’s been coaching me so I don’t make social faux pas and get grouped in as one of “those Americans.” You know which ones I mean. And if you don’t know someone personally, check the travel sites forums. There are a lot of great people there willing to offer free advice.

4. Don’t forget the little things. This one bit me in the ass hard. When planning a trip it’s easy to remember the big stuff; the plane, teh hotel, packing your things. But don’t forget to think about the minor details too. Are there eating constraints to plan around? Have you looked into how the public transit works or rented a car? Do you know the basic driving laws? What about communication; does your cell work abroad or do you need to activate your international calling? They might seem like little things now but they can really ruin a trip if you’re unprepared.

5. Breathe. Seriously, remember this one. Don’t let yourself forget that you’re doing this for fun. When it gets stressful, step back and take a deep breath. Think about all the fun things you’ll do once this stressful planning part is over. Exhale and dive back in.

There’s a lot of work that goes into planning a trip, but if you remind yourself that this is something that you want to do it becomes that much easier. After all, isn’t every thing worth doing a little bit of work? It’s worth it in the end.

I’ll keep you all updated as my first international holiday draws closer and then I’ll share all my adventures once I’m home. Until then,

Bon Voyage! 

Enhanced by Zemanta
download

Help! I’m in Love with a Fictional Character

I don’t believe in celebrity crushes. It’s one of those things that has always sat wrong with me, the idea of having a crush on someone you’ve never actually met. Especially someone who you only know via their work and the gossip mags. That doesn’t seem right to me.

For me the idea of having a crush on someone involves more than just physical attraction. There’s an emotional and mental connection, a smattering of similarities and sharing of values. That’s not something you can have with someone who you only know from film.

There’s a significant difference between attraction and a crush.

Honestly, I tend to get crushes not on the actors but on the characters they play. I fall for the fictional characters, the ones you really get to know. The ones with complexity and emotions and personalities that you can really understand. I don’t know whether it’s just my overactive imagination or just pure insanity, but to me the fictional characters in books and television and film just seem so much more tangible to me than some actor.

That being said, and because I just love me some good lists, here are my top five “character” crushes:

1. Neville Longbottom – downloadThe Harry Potter Series

I fell in love with him in the books, and then the movies came along and only made it that much stronger. Neville is the ultimate BAMF.

Even though Harry Potter is the main character of the series, he is a relatively static character overall. He stays pretty much the same noble, determined character that he is from the beginning. On the other hand, Neville is perhaps the most dynamic character of the series. Through the seven books he goes from a bumbling, shy, awkward kid to a brave leader and Harry’s unofficial second in command.

Add to that Matthew Lewis’ amazing mastery of the puberty spell and you’ve got the ultimate nerd, both sweet and badass.

9734683_fa5c39fef22. The 10th Doctor – Doctor Who

Who doesn’t love at least one Doctor? I mean, really. Be honest here.

Hands down though, David Tennant’s Doctor is probably the most popular since Tom Baker. He’s full of childlike energy, always curious and eager for excitement. He is the passionate reincarnation from 9’s war-torn soul, refreshed and ready to take on the world.

From his whirlwind unspoken love with Rose to his painful recovery along with Martha to his epic friendship with Donna, he has the greatest, ever-changing repertoire of companions that keeps him always shifting through new dynamics. It keeps the show fresh and exciting.

Not to mention the sexy combination of suits and trainers, and best of all the nerdy specs.

3. R – Warm Bodiesdownload (1)

Yes, he’s a zombie. But look at that cute wittle face!

My favourite thing about R is that he’s a dreamer. He may be stuck in a menial, flesh-eating life but that doesn’t stop him from wanting more. He wants to experience life to the fullest, despite the overwhelming obstacles in his path.

Socially awkward but oddly charming, R manages to win the heart of his human girl with his puppy dog eyes and gentle nature. Questionable hygiene and unsavory eating habits aside, he’s a sweet and caring man who is incredibly devoted to his girl, even willing to sacrifice his life – undeath? – to keep her safe.

And of course there’s his totally bitchin’ vinyl collection.

a733fc8775fcf57017cd22e75a772d864. Kairan Fischer – Chronicles of Syntax

I will freely admit that this one is pure, nerd glory. The tech support commander of a group of genetically enhanced humans from the future? It doesn’t get much geekier than that.

A lot like Neville, Kairan is the awkward, bumbling sidekick type character. He’s the uncoordinated fighter and computer nerd who most often stays back at base and offers the technical back-up. Still, even though he messes up as often as he succeeds, he always come through for his team in the end.

Always available with a sarcastic quip and a nerdy pop culture reference, Kairan provides some much needed humour and lightness to a dark, dystopian storyline. Also his Scottish accent is gorgeous.

5. Arthur – Inceptionimages (1)

What’s not to love about Arthur? He is like the James Bond of this generation: smooth, debonair, capable, smart, and just a bit mischievous. Oh and boy does he fill out those three-piece suits nicely.

The Inception Point Man is clearly the level-headed, rational one amid a mass of colourful personalities. He takes his job very seriously, and even when he is sometimes under-appreciated by his team members, he knows deep down that he is important. His unerring dedication to best friend Cobb is admirable, especially considering the constant danger that it puts him in. He can handle himself in both situations of business calm and high octane action, like that epic anti-gravity fight scene. Clearly this guy knows how to do it all.

And let us never forget that cheeky kiss he steals from Ariadne. “Worth a shot,” indeed.

As I look back over this list, I clearly have a type, don’t I?

Tall, dark, and nerdy!

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Brand New Me

I am terrible at keeping New Year’s Resolutions. It probably doesn’t help that I always seem to make the same, cookie-cutter resolutions: eat better, lose weight, get fit, save more money. They’re the same typical resolutions that everyone makes and at the end of the day I only feel committed to them because they are what I should want. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never actually kept a resolution before in my life and I think it’s because I just don’t care enough.

Do I want to lose weight and get fit? Of course I do. Do I want to save up more money? Absolutely.

But do I care enough to actually put a year’s worth of effort toward it? HA! More like I make it about two months and then I get knocked off track and give up for a couple months before trying again some time in June-ish.

Which is why this year I am going to make entirely different resolutions. Instead of the same, generalised, broad resolutions that I make every year, I’m going to make some different, specific resolutions. Things that pertain exactly to me. Things that I really care about seeing accomplished.

1. Have an adventure!: This is something I’ve always wanted to do and this year I’m going to make it finally happen. I’ve done new things and taken trips before but I want to have an actual, genuine adventure. I want to see new places and do new things and meet new people. This is a task that will hopefully be checked off during my spring break trip to the UK.

2. Lose 30 pounds: Yes, this is still the same old resolution, but this time I’m being more specific. I am setting an exact number. This isn’t just a vague plan, it’s a concrete goal. (An FYI, I’m already 2 pounds in. Booyah!)

3. De-clutter: I own a lot of s***. Like, a lot. For someone who doesn’t have much space, I have sure accumulated a lot of things. And a lot of unnecessary things, at that. So this year, I’m going to thin down the stuff and get rid of a lot of things I don’t need. The bonus is it’ll clear out more space for books, which is always a good thing.

4. Learn something new: I’ve been thinking about crocheting. Or cross-stitching. Something crafty like that.

5. Stop making excuses to cancel plans: This is one of those things I’m really bad about doing. I make plans to go do something, and then at the last minute I come up with some excuse to stay home. “I’m sick.” “I got called in to work.” “I had a family emergency.” The truth is I’m a little bit anti-social. I want to make new friends and do things and live, I’m just always too socially anxious to go through with things. This year, that changes.

6. Go to a bar/club: As a 24 year old, I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never actually been inside of a bar or club before.This is partly to do with the fact that I’m social awkward and don’t do well with big crowds. Also doesn’t help that the majority of my friends are LDS housewives. But it’s one of those things I feel like every person should do at some point in their life, and I want to give it a shot.

7. Go out on a date: Another shameful moment here. I’ve not been on a date in well over a year.

8. Give up soda: I’ve been trying to do this for years, with moderate success. This is not just for health reasons but money as well. I spend way, way too much money on Dr. Pepper. Not to mention calories.

9. Take one day a month to tech-detox: We live in such a technologically dependent world, and I especially spend the majority of my time on the computer. And when I’m not on the computer, I’m on my phone. So I’ve resolved that at least one day a month, I will turn off all of the tech – the phone, the computer, the tv, the radio – and I will just exist.

10. Finish (and publish?) my novel: By and far, this is the most important resolution I’m making this year. I actually made this one last year and failed it epically. This year though, I will finish my novel and I’m going to start sending it out to publishers. If things don’t pan out with the contacts I’ve already made, then I’m going to self-publish by the end of the year. Either way, come 2015 I will be a published author.

Resolutions are made for a reason. They are made to give you goals to work toward; to give your year a direction and purpose. 2013 might’ve been a year of stalling and stagnancy for me, but everything is about to change. I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to be a different person.

And 2014 is going to be a whole new year.

List de la Bucket

Everyone should have a bucket list. Whether you write it down or not, it’s something that every person should at least think about. Goals to accomplish, skills to learn, places to visit. Bucket lists are a motivation, something that give us things to look forward to and reach for.

I’ve never actually written my bucket list down before, but I decided to try this morning. I wrote down all of the ones I could think of that I haven’t done yet, and was surprised by how many things I meant to put before realising I’ve already done them. It was encouraging and made me feel like I’ve made some progress. Checking anything off gives a sense of accomplishment. I’m going to post this here and every time I finish one of these I’ll come back and scratch it through so we can keep track together.

NICKI’S BUCKET LIST

  • Publish a YA novel.

  • Publish a Fantasy novel.

  • Visit London.  Completed March 2014

  • Visit New Zealand.

  • Visit Barcelona.

  • Visit Greece.

  • Visit Tokyo.

  • Visit Brazil.

  • Visit Argentina.

  • See the Taj Mahal.

  • Go on a Mediterranean cruise.

  • See “Wicked” on Broadway or at West End. Completed August 2014

  • See “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway or at West End.

  • Go sky-diving.

  • Go cliff diving.

  • Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

  • See the Grand Canyon.

  • Learn a second language.

  • Learn the major constellations.

  • Swim with dolphins or sea turtles.

  • Go parasailing.

  • Go white-water rafting.

  • Bungee Jump.

  • Hold a monkey.

  • Zip line.

  • Pet a sea lion.

  • Ride an elephant.

  • Stand in a cave behind a waterfall.

  • Kiss in the rain.

  • See a volcano.

  • Ride a horse.

  • Ride in a horse and carriage.

  • Make a snowman.

  • Get married.

  • Adopt a child.

  • Give a signed copy of my novel to my favourite teacher.

  • Put change in someone’s expired meter.

  • Plant a tree.

  • Go vegetarian for a month.

  • Donate bone marrow.

  • Adopt an injured/handicapped animal.

  • Complete a marathon.

  • Learn to crochet and make a scarf/hat.

  • Get a bachelor’s degree.

  • Learn to play the piano.

  • Learn sign language.

  • Read 100 classic novels. (22/100)

  • Buy lingerie.

  • Try escargot.

  • Try absinthe.

  • Do a body shot.

  • Receive a fan letter.

  • Attend Vidcon.

  • Attend LeakyCon.

  • Meet John Green & Hank GreenMet Hank June 2014

  • Meet J.K. Rowling.

  • Take singing lessons.

  • Try a pole dancing class.

  • Invent a new word.

  • Send a message in a bottle.

  • Learn to whistle.

  • Try laser tag.

  • Learn to fence.

  • Get a belt in karate or tae kwon do.

  • Ride a segway.

  • Ride on a motorbike.

  • Ride on a double-decker bus.

  • Ride a cable car.

  • Visit a castle.

  • Visit a lighthouse.

  • Visit the Great Pyramids.

  • Go on a road trip.

  • Spend a weekend at a Bed and Breakfast.

Any essential life things you think I’ve missed? Leave them in the comments below!