In Defense of Being A Tourist (Not a #Traveler)

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

I may be in the minority here, but I think the word "tourist" gets a bad reputation. In fact, I find the word "traveler" to be a bit condescending, cliched, and rife with privilege. Bear with me here for a few minutes, and I'll tell you why.

I've noticed a trend among bloggers, instagramers, and regular ol' millennials alike- we are so afraid of calling ourselves tourists. Instead, we are "travelers" who go off the beaten trail, interacting with locals, supposedly under the radar, until we head back home to inundate our friends newsfeeds with tales from our gap years and semesters abroad. 

Now the problem here is maybe just the language we use. "Tourist" has a negative connotation, implying a lack of education, culture, or originality. Tourists are the sweaty, luggage-toting, Americans who touch down in a foreign land for a short period of time to only stake out the most overcrowded sites and restaurants. 

"Traveler," as this generation sees it, is a word that implies a certain grade of sophistication. A traveler is someone who seeks out the "best" experiences, the most "unique" flavors, and the most pleasing aesthetic. But they are also the people who refuse to go on walking tours or wear sneakers out of fear of "looking like a tourist."  

But perhaps this search is truly vapid. This mindset focuses far too much on being different, that people are so caught up in themselves to even experience the world around them. In a word, this "traveler" mindset is selfish. 

Essentially, what these "travelers" fear the most is that they'll stick out as a foreigner. But the truth is, travelers are foreign, and that fact is inextricable. We need to accept that we are foreign, as Robert Louis Stevenson says, in order to fully appreciate the unfamiliar territory that we have stepped foot in. 

While travelers may tend to stray away from the most popular sites in the worlds most famous cities (the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris), there is a reason these sites are so popular. And that is simply because they are important. And by avoiding these monuments altogether because of the "touristy" nature of them, you are missing out on a crucial piece of that culture's history.

In the end, the reason why traveling is so important is not because of what it does for ourselves (and our instagram feeds), but rather what it does for the local economy. And I think this is what we tend to forget when we visit other countries.

Travel can (and should) be a humbling experience- one where you realize how vast the world really is, and what a tiny part we make up of it. When traveling, know that you don't know- you can't possibly be an expert on a country you've never been to. And, most importantly, always travel with respect to the place in which you are a guest.

So travel like a tourist- take in the famous sites, use your guidebook and map, and be ready and willing to learn about another culture. And don't be afraid of being a tourist either. Because whether you're backpacking across South East Asia or riding a gondola in Venice, you inevitably are one!  


My Ultimate Road Trip Playlist

Ever since I was about ten years old, my family would take yearly trips down south to Baltimore and Washington D.C. to drop my brothers off at college. I absolutely loathed these car rides because they were 8 hours long. But now that I'm older and have my license, I don't think I would mind taking a long drive- as long as it was with my friends, and we made pit stops for epic photos along the way. 

Going on a girls road trip across the US has always been something I've wanted to do since some of my university friends planted the idea in my head. I mean, what better way for them to experience their first time in America than out on the open road, singing along to our favorite tunes? 

Unfortunately, though, it's hard to go on an extended road trip if you don't have your own car. I still share a car with my brothers and definitely couldn't just pick up and leave with it for a long period of time. 

So renting a car is surely the best option for a road trip! But rentals can get really expensive, ya feel? And as a broke college student who needs to stick to a budget (whether I like it or not) a pricey rental isn't in the cards. 

Then what's a girl to do if she wants to make her cross country road trip dream come true? Well, that's where Turo comes in. Turo allows you to rent a car straight from regular people just like you! This means you can get a swanky rental without the hefty price tag. You can even list your own car on Turo if you want to make some extra cash! Call it the "Airbnb of car rentals," if you will. 

And the best part? Because you're renting direct from the owner, they may even add some cute personal touches to your car rental experience. Say, a mix CD? I mean, you can't have a successful road trip without some tunes! 

Anyone who's ever driven with me knows that I live and die by the phrase "the radio is an equalizer." I'm always very wary of people plugging in their own phone or iPod into the auxiliary and playing DJ with their own (usually obscure) music. In my opinion, long car rides are for sing alongs! So to add to my dreams of a cross country road trip, I'm going to be sharing an "ultimate road trip" playlist at the end of this post. 

My playlist includes a lot of cheesy throwbacks- the perfect crowd-pleasers for all your friends. It's a pretty nostalgic playlist, but I also made sure to throw in some newer hits that'll have you singing along too. 

Some highlights include "Gonna Be" by the proclaimers for a few key reasons: 1.) It's Scottish, duh! 2.) It's a song I remember from one of my brothers old "road trip" CDs 3.) It always reminds me of that hilarious scene in "How I Met Your Mother" where that song is constantly on replay on Ted and Marshall's own road trip. 

Another fan favorite on my playlist is "Piano Man" by Billy Joel. A total classic, this song is one of those tunes that everyone knows every single word to (and if you don't know every lyric, you should).

Here's the playlist in full so you can jam with me on your next road trip! (Or short car ride- either way works). Fair warning though: it's pretty girly and cheesy (just how I like it!)


I hope I've been able to inspire you to go on your own road trip this summer. Don't forget to look into renting a car with Turo, and start blasting those tunes! 


Visiting Martha's Vineyard On A Student Budget

Pristine shorelines that put the Caribbean to shame, picture-perfect whitewashed houses enveloped in hydrangeas, and lobster on every menu- this is what makes Martha's Vineyard such an exclusive holiday destination for the true 1%. So the Vineyard isn't exactly the first place you'd think of when planning a student-budget friendly getaway.

But hear me out, the Vineyard can be kind to your wallet, as long as you do your research!

And that's exactly what I did when Ben and I decided that we would take two days to explore the island during his second trip to the US. And when I said "decided" I really mean that it was assumed that we would go considering my great love for the Vineyard and Ben's fascination with the preppy New England lifestyle.

So once it was settled that the Vineyard was happening, so to speak, we (and by that I mean "I") planned out the various ways in which we could enjoy our stay without emptying our bank accounts. This post will cover the highlights of our trip, as well as provide some tips on how you can make the most of the Vineyard on a shoestring budget!

Getting to and around the island 

There's really one way, and one way only, to get to Martha's Vineyard- and that's on the Steamship Authority ferries which set out from the mainland every half hour or so. Of course, you could always fly into one of the Vineyard's two small airports, but trust me when I say it will cost you a pretty penny. Instead, hop on any of the ferries, and spend a reasonable $17 on your roundtrip ticket.

Speaking of transport, you can pay just $8 more to bring a bike along. This is what we did, and it saved us so much money in the long run! I was so nervous to be biking around the island, but you just have to be smart about mapping out your routes. The Vineyard is a lot hillier than I remembered and while the bike paths are clearly marked, be prepared for a few busier roads. Honestly, the main reason why I was so anxious was because I'm not the most experienced biker out there. But the breathtaking scenery of the island and courteous drivers put me at ease (after a few cuts here and there).

You also have the option of the public bus (only $1.25 per town) if you don't want to bring your bike or if it's too dark out to cycle. Keep in mind though that the buses can only take three bikes aboard and depart fairly infrequently (every hour or so). I definitely faced a bit of frustration when we had to bike all the way from Aqquinah back to West Tisbury (about 7 miles) because two girls with bikes had beat us to the bus! But when you're on island time, you just have to go with the flow.

Where to stay

When I've been to the island before, I've stayed in many different places. This has included a friend of a friend's house (great if you have a connection), the luxurious Lambert's Cove Inn, and the classically beautiful Kelley House to name a few. And each time I've completely enjoyed my experience- not because of where I stayed but just because I love being on the Vineyard! So in the end, I don't think it matters so much where you stay, but how much you utilize the island itself.

To keep to our minimal budget, Ben and I sought out the only hostel on the island- a quaint beach house style building run by Hostelling International. I've stayed in a few different hostels before and this one took the cake for being the friendliest! From the talkative staff to the complimentary breakfast of whole wheat pancakes, fresh local bread, and homemade jams, this hostel had a fantastic atmosphere. While we didn't spend a ton of time in the hostel, our experience as a whole was excellent. And at only $36 for a mixed dorm per night, it's the best deal you'll get on the island.

If hostels aren't really your thing, but you still want to save some pennies, you might want to check out Airbnb. While I've had no personal experience with this, it seems like a solid option for budget-friendly accommodation.  

What to do

Where to even start? There's plenty to do on the island in the summer that doesn't cost a ton of money. So to give you a primer for some of the endless things to do on the Vineyard, I'll go through how our two days played out activities-wise.

We arrived in the town of Oak Bluffs at about 11 AM, and made a beeline for the picturesque "Gingerbread Cottages," a historic grouping of colorful houses that make up the campgrounds for the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. They're truly breathtaking in their incredible detail despite their small stature. We snapped a few pics and rode around the main circle on our bikes a few times (I needed all the practice I could get!) before heading off on the long bike ride to Edgartown.

Once we reached Edgartown without too many bike-related mishaps, we headed straight for the beach. While the Vineyard is covered with incredible beaches large and small, there's one gem which has stolen my heart since the first time my family "discovered" it. Lighthouse Beach, just a short walk down a path from the Harborview hotel, is most widely visited for, you guessed it, it's lighthouse. You can go up to the top for a small fee but I'd recommend skipping out on the lighthouse and taking advantage of the often deserted beach that it overlooks. When I brought Ben out to the shore and we were the only ones there he simply said "this is heaven." We soaked up the sun and marveled in the beach's idyllic calmness- that is, until a few more people came to join us.

We spent most of our first day at the beach and I'm so glad we didn't bother moving around to different towns on our bikes. After roaming the shops for a while (there's no shortage of those on the island) we made our way up to this raised dock by the water and watched the sunset. And man, was that sunset just perfect.

On our second day we ventured further along the island to Aquinnah, known for it's awe-inspiring cliffs and red-brick lighthouse. But first, we made a stop at the famous Alley's General Store (right down the road from the hostel!) for a quick scan of the shelves, which are chock full of anything and everything by the way, and a few snacks.

The road to Aquinnah was long and tiring, but we made it with just enough energy to heave ourselves up to the cliffs. The views from the top are stunning, and totally made up for the fact that my legs were throbbing. The cliffs at Aquinnah actually have a long and interesting history, which begins with the legend of how the cliffs were created- the redness comes from the blood of the whales that Moshup the Giant would bring in from the ocean. The tiny shops on the cliffs celebrate this history by selling authentic Wampanoag crafts (as well as a few touristy things here and there).

After exploring the cliffs, we headed to the beaches down below for a bit of a different island-vibe, with loud waves crashing into the shore of a rocky beach. Once we had spent a few hours there, we had to make the grueling journey back to West Tisbury (remember what I said about the bus?) before finally catching a different bus back to Vineyard Haven for the ferry ride back.

Where to eat

Food is always something that's high up on my priority list. And honestly, I'd blow my budget on food entirely if I could. But since I evidently couldn't do that on this trip, we really had to be careful about where we ate. Much like any vacation destination, Martha's Vineyard can be really pricey if you're not mindful.

On the first day we brought a picnic for the beach, with sandwiches, snacks, and a cheeky bottle of wine. For dinner, we planned on eating at The Newes From America Pub  at the Kelley House. I had eaten there before with my family and absolutely loved their colonial New England vibe with a modern twist. With live music and a reasonably priced menu it's really the perfect budget-friendly option without sacrificing quality. However, to my disappointment it was closed for repairs! So we had to look elsewhere for dinner.

Instead, we opted for what was the #2 restaurant in Edgartown according to TripAdvisor- the Seafood Shanty. I was skeptical at first, but was completely pleased with how our choice turned out! With a rooftop bar and unbeatable views, the atmosphere was enough for this place to be a win. Keeping true to our budget, we decided to split the fisherman's platter ("split" as in, Ben ate way more than I did), and it was just the kind of crispy, fried goodness that we needed after a long beach day.

On our second day, we kept things simple by staying in Aquinnah. This definitely limited our options, but we ended up taking a table on the deck of Aquinnah Shop Restaurant to have our fill of creamy clam chowder and sun tea. It was definitely a no-fuss meal, but the views were incredible

My final recommendation is not actually for Martha's Vineyard itself, but for a restaurant in the mainland town where the ferry gets off, Woods Hole. If you find yourself feeling pangs of hunger after your journey back to reality, you should 100% find a spot at Quicks Hole Taqueria and order the lobster tacos and a lobster quesadilla. I swear it will change your life. The soft, buttery lobster paired with creamy queso fresco will have you craving more after the first bite.

There are so many reasons to visit Martha's Vineyard on its own that have people clamoring to get to the island every summer (I mean, even the Obama's do it!). But I hope that I've shown you that you don't have to be uber-rich to be able to enjoy the laid-back New England island lifestyle.

P.S. Our next weekend whirlwind trip will be to Dublin in October! Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated (I haven't been in 6 years...). Feel free to comment below or send me an email!


5 Reasons Why I'm Proud to Be an American

Visit any foreign country and you'll notice that us Americans don't always have the best reputation. Take it from me, the girl who's lived across the pond for two years and has had to face countless (mostly good-natured) jokes about Americans.

It's so easy to focus on the negatives of this country these days- from our politics (yikes) to our gun laws (double yikes), there never seems to be enough positive light shed on the good ol' U.S. of A.

But, even with all the flack our nation receives, the old adage still rings true "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Ever since I moved to the UK for university I've found myself identifying as an American more than ever. Mostly because it's easier to explain than exactly where I live or my exact heritage, but in part because I truly realize that while the UK may be incredible in some aspects, the US actually has a lot going for it. 

So, in the spirit of the Fourth of July and my (fairly) newfound appreciation of America, I'd like to share a few serious and not-so serious reasons as to why I'm proud to be an American.

We possess excessive amounts of positivity and a can-do attitude- Ever heard of that little thing called the "American Dream?" While it may seem like a fairly old-fashioned idea, it's something that people in this country strive for each and every day. And because of that, we're always gung-ho about everything we set our minds to. It might get annoying at times, but you can always count on an American to be the the positive one amongst all the downers of the world.

Our sports games are second to none- You don't even need to be a sports fanatic to enjoy a game of baseball. Because it's not just about the game, it's about the whole atmosphere of the event. From singing in the bleachers, to doing the wave across the entire stadium, to chatting with other spectators, there's just something about our sports games that make you feel like you're a part of a community.

We know how to laugh at our own flaws (for the most part)- Even when the jokes are directed at us (or our politics), Americans can laugh off the insults with our great sense of humor. In fact, we might even join in on the fun and crack a few jokes as well. Most of the time, we realize our own flaws and can poke fun at typical American stereotypes without getting offended.

We never skimp out on portions (or free bread)- I know some people will jump up on their high horse and say to this "that's why Americans are so fat!" But, hear me out. As a broke student who loves a good deal, it bothers me that restaurants in the UK hardly ever give you free bread with their meals. Maybe it's because I've come to expect it as an American, but come on. It's common courtesy, guys! And the portions in the UK are absolutely no match for our American-sized meals- and our food is pretty good too.

We celebrate our hard-fought independence in the best way possible- There's truly no beating the 4th of July when it comes to it's festivities. From the cookouts, to the drinking, to the fireworks, to the beach days, we really know how to celebrate a win. And what a win it was (sorry, England, you're not looking too hot right now with Brexit and all). And even though we're a fairly "young" country as far as countries go, you have to admit that we've had a pretty rich and varied history since then.

There's so much to be proud of as an American, and this list is just a start! Hope everyone has a happy fourth of July!   

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