Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 25/09/2016
Discovering this hidden gem
Most historical museums bore me. Sorry to be so uncultured, but they probably bore you too. However I love a good story, especially one that’s true. We’ve all had one of those great teachers who make history jump off the page and feel relevant and interesting. It should be more like storytelling and less like reading a textbook! That’s why I was instantly intrigued when I discovered “The Yeats Experience” in Sligo, Ireland. It sounded like exactly the experience I was looking for.
I quickly shed my guilt over not wanting to visit a museum about William Butler Yeats and emailed Damien to inquire about pricing (with my tight budget) and scheduling (I can be both unpredictable and unstructured with my travel plans). He got back to me right away and all was settled. Fine dining with W. B. Yeats for just 30€! Damien was able to squeeze me in for a Saturday lunch!
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 17/09/2016
Any place you live long-term will take its grip on you and begin shaping you in ways you may never have expected. Am I surprised that living in New York is changing me? No, but I am surprised in some of the ways it’s changed me thus far after my first year here.
I speak up
My first month or two in the city, there were several times where I didn’t say ‘Excuse me’ loud enough, or I ran up to the bus and the doors were closing at that perfect, terrible moment and I had to wait for the next one. Well, I’ve learned to adapt. Now, I’m the girl banging on the bus window yelling “Please!” or worse, “Let me in!” When a bus driver gives me sass, I don’t curl up and blush, I tell him what I’m thinking. This is the way to survive in New York, and it’s working for me.
It takes a lot for a restaurant to impress me now
New York, Brooklyn, and Queens are packed with some absolutely incredible restaurants and I’ve totally gotten spoiled. Not only is the quality of the food high because the cut throat competitiveness you need to ‘make it’ as a restaurant in this city. I won’t say the service is always great, but it is always quick, and that’s so important in this city. When I went to Europe most recently, I was seriously shocked by how long everything took to arrive… and I’m a s l o w traveler! Oh, the irony! But also, living in this city, you could be anywhere and get a craving for soup dumplings and only have to walk 15 minutes to get amazing soup dumplings! I love it, but it makes me a little bit more of a monster.
I walk faster, Usually for no reason
We’ve got places to be! No, but really. Do you know how much time I’ve probably spent waiting for the freakin’ C train to come? …or shown up to have the doors close at the worst moment? Enough whining. Time is precious, as it is everywhere. I think I feel the time passing more here because it really takes time to get around. Not only do we want to rush home from work to maximize our chill time, but we need to combat our late trains and no-show buses…plus I’m always running late. So, I’ve become a pretty fast walker.
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 13/08/2016
I just stepped out of Galway Town Hall and into the rain after a day of local films. I feel that in two days I’ve learned more about Irish culture than in the previous week and a half. (That’s what happens when you slow down and travel slow!) Each film showed just a sneak peek into a subculture of Irish life and history, which was just the peek I was hoping for…
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 04/08/2016
This is a GUEST POST written by my adventure-loving travel friend, Steph Dyson, of Worldly Adventurer!
Find and FOllow my girl, Steph, here for all your adventure or volunteer travel cravings!
As a literature graduate and former English teacher, I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of the spoken word. Well, actually what it boils down to is, I just love talking.
Whether it’s making terrible cheese puns or trying to inspire my former students to love the English language as much as I do, I know how heartening, world-changing, and downright essential words are.
But, as a native English speaker, it’s easy to take for granted how easily those words can be found when we travel. A vast proportion of the world speaks English – why would we need to know another tongue? I’ve never subscribed to this argument, so when I first moved to Bolivia in October 2014, language acquisition was the name of the game.
Having thrown myself into a culture where even my daily 10 minute commute to work was a test in avoiding being run over by careering minibuses or errant taxi drivers, and where at night time they turned the traffic lights off (whether to conserve energy or what, I still don’t know), I was desperate to learn Spanish so that something, anything might start making a little bit more sense.
Learning a new language is about the long game – or the cross-country run.
But, as anyone who’s gone to live abroad will attest, learning a new language is hard work. It’s not a quick, victorious sprint across a finish line. It’s the linguistic comparison of the long-distance cross-country run I was forced to do each week as a child in school.
That run was always the same: a slippery descent through damp grass where your brain desperately tried to work with your feet to stop you from falling, followed by the stretch of thick mud where you got stuck and someone always lost a shoe, and topped off with the final, lung-busting section of uphill to the finish line…
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 19/07/2016
Last night I received the best complement I may have ever gotten from nearly a complete stranger. After meeting me on the airplane and spending about eight hours in San Jose together, Josué shared,
“I noticed you were writing every time I woke up from sleep. You didn’t look like a dirty hippie mochilero. You look like a regular girl…” He felt comfortable enough to invite me to share his pre-paid car service to the city and I felt comfortable enough to go with him. One of those ‘trust your intuition’ situations. He went on,
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 13/07/2016
My proudest travel moment actually happened in New York. While I’ve had so many moments along my travels that I’ll never forget, there’s something about solving a problem and maintaining emotional composure that just makes me feel so strong and unstoppable. My proudest travel moment happened one evening at JFK after I’d been traveling on the Amalfi Coast for two weeks. If you’ve ever traveled in southern Italy, you might know where I’m headed with this one.
There had been a strike at Naples International Airport. (These strikes happen so often; I think there are more days on strike than days at work!) As a result, all our bags had been left in Italy, obviously.
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 06/07/2016
Americanah is the best book I’ve ever read. I almost just cried finishing it (but I can’t say why)! I really appreciate honesty and author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was the most transparent and talented writer I have ever encountered (though I’ve only been a true book-lover since college). Americanah is the best travel book ever! This is NOT one to sweep under the rug.
The gist of Americanah is this. Ifamelu, a young, opinionated, Nigerian girl doesn’t fit the mold. Ifamelu leaves to complete university in the States because strikes and instability are interfering with daily life in Nigeria. After being ripped from her boyfriend, friends, and family, she experiences a serious case of culture shock.
What makes Americanah special?
Like all great, dynamic stories, you can’t say Americanah is all about one topic; not race, or living outside your culture, or finding yourself, or cultural difference, or change, or even love. It’s a piece of someone’s life, in all the colors and shades.
Also, the experience of living long-term in a foreign country is one that thousands of people experience all around the world. And still, I haven’t found much in the way of books and storytellers who share stories and feelings that I’ve also experienced in my time living abroad. Until now. I hate to come across as a saleswoman, but Adichie expressed feelings that I’ve never even talked about with another person. Her honest portrayal of her ever-changing relationships with her home culture and her adopted culture felt, at times, like my own story.
I had never before felt like a narrator was my personal friend until reading Americanah. That’s powerful stuff. I’d absolutely LOVE to meet Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or hear her speak. TOTAL friend crush.
Books that “Change your life”
When people talk about books that changed their life, in my head I roll my eyes and think “Yeah fucking right!” Now, I won’t go as far as to say this book changed my life, but I will say that my perspective and the way I think has definitely changed. The other day I was at Port Authority wasting away time, eyeing the fashion selections on a magazine stand. Pre-Americanah-Heather would have already been feeling a bit chubby just looking at the perfect curves and lines of the featured models, weighing the pros and cons of the purchase. But instead, there I was, Post-Americanah-Heather, noticing the overwhelming number of whitewashed faces instead of imagining how that dress wouldn’t look quite as good on me.
I won’t go as far as others to say this book changed my life, but it definitely changed my perspective…and so, it changed me.
It goes without saying that I absolutely love Americanah and highly recommend it. Adichie has made herself my favorite author and I look forward to reading her other books. This is a book to inspire travel but also a book that feels like home.
Here’s more of her wisdom and eloquence via her TED talk…
‘The Danger of A Single Story’
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 30/06/2016
I saved surfing for my last day in Puerto Viejo for a reason. The ocean and I didn’t have the smoothest start.
I was a little thing with messy bangs and carefree ease on some Rhode Island beach. I trusted the world the way children do so willingly and so naturally. My dad and this then-full head of hair took me out past the breaking. Up on my dad’s shoulders, we joyfully cried, “Weeeeee!!!” every time a wave pulled us up and bounced us back down.
Before I knew it, a wave came from behind and ripped my tiny body off my dad’s shoulders. I was breathing in water, too young to even know how to swim, until the ocean spat me out onto the sand, my dad fighting the undertow to come help me. I coughed up seawater, then immediately scrunched up my face to ball my eyes out as my mother ran to comfort me from the dry safety of her towel.
Stretch of Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo
There were years where I wouldn’t get close to the breaking, afraid of its power. Even still, I don’t like to put my face in the water. So, surfing in Puerto Viejo felt like one part challenge and one part fantasy. Go big or go home, right? Johnny Tsunami style!?
When I saw Kendrick he was already in the sea. My heart was racing before I even set foot in the water. Despite his calm energy and lightness, I felt anxious, only hearing half of the instructions I was being given. I felt urged to rush into the water, almost just so it would be over sooner.
After dodging some huge waves, I rode one in, just on my belly. It felt amazing. Like flying. Fighting the waves to get back out, I again found myself on my board, breathing shallow, my eyes worriedly searching for a wave that might suck me in and spit me out again, leaving me breathless and defeated on the black sands of Playa Negra. And so we danced this dance and I tried to study the waves as Kendrick taught me to.
Posted by The Free Spirited Foreigner On 23/06/2016
When I found Steph, she stood out. She is an honest voice and cares about immersing herself in different cultures (South American ones at the minute), whether she’s adventuring, volunteering, or taking a siesta in between! She takes you with her into her world of adventurous travel. Our travel identities are both centered around building meaningful relationships and experiences through travel, which is why we decided we were blogger soul mates!
Ever wondered what it’s like to live, volunteer, or travel your way through South America? My girl can tell you…
Q: Where were you when you fell in love with travel?
A: I was quite a late developer when it came to a love of travel. Aside from yearly camping and walking holidays in the South of France with my family, it wasn’t until I was at university that I really discovered what all the fuss was about. Thanks to the Erasmus programme, I spent four months living on the shores of Lake Geneva in a city called Lausanne in Switzerland. My student halls were at the top of the hill overlooking the city and, on a clear day, you had stunning views all the way across to Mont Blanc on the other side of the French border. There were also a family of red squirrels that lived in the tree opposite my balcony. I was smitten…