One week more

One week – 168 hours, or 10,080 minutes – is all that separates me from adventures across the pond.

In this last week, people keep asking: are you ready?

The answer: as ready as I’ll ever be.

I’ve already packed my bag twice “just to see if stuff fits”.  My list has been made for months.  I have my passport next to my bed, my peanut butter stowed away in my suitcase (American > British), my itinerary printed and confirmed with my hosts.  I’ve joined my alumnae organization’s London network on Facebook and confirmed that the exchange rate is where I budgeted for it to be.

I’m trying to be realistic while keeping my usual optimism about – sure, I’ll be tired when I get off the plane at Heathrow.  Sure, I’m going to miss being around my Boston friends on my birthday. Yes, I’m positive I will get sick of these clothes.  But all this planning and dreaming has put me in a place where I’m so ready for this adventure, no matter what shape it takes.

Keep following my blog to see what happens next – I’ll be posting at least every few days while I’m in London!

Sally in another city

Two months from today, I will be up in the air, on my way to London for 5 weeks of adventure.  It’s been seven years since I was there last, but I can still picture the winding roads and crowded markets like it was yesterday, and I’m aching to be a part of it again.

Earlier this year, three things happened at once that put this plan into action.

  1. My best friend Sara quit her job to follow her dream of going to a cooking school in France.
  2. I was busy planning bachelorette parties, showers, and wedding festivities for two of my favorite people in the world – my sister, Kat, and my college bff, Priti.  We were having a great time, but it highlighted how long it had been since I planned something incredible for myself.
  3. I got my annual bonus and realized that I never got around to spending last year’s bonus, not really.

I thought back to this amazing book I read last year – Happy Money, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.  It talked about investing in experiences, and not conforming to society’s expectations for what makes people happy or successful.  Looking at my bank account, I felt like I had a few choices: a) keep saving… forever. b) buy an apartment – but as soon as I said this out loud, I realized how little I’m ready for this long-term commitment and responsibility, and how unlikely it was to make me happier (I love my sweet apartment, amazing location, and awesome roommate!) or c) put it all on the table and have a trip of a lifetime.

I opted for c and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  My trip starts in London, where I’ve rented two different Airbnb places for different parts of the trip – in totally different parts of town – during which time my parents are coming to visit (yay!).  Then the last 10 days, Katie (the aforementioned amazing roommate and high school bff) is coming over and we’re heading down toward France together to visit chef-in-training Sara, have seaside adventures, and then head to Barcelona.  We’ll also have 22 hours in Istanbul on the way home, because if you’re going to have a layover, why not go somewhere incredible?

Now, the countdown is on – I’m figuring out what I need to pack, making a list of what I actually want to do abroad, and buying tickets for the last leg of the trip.  As an added bonus, getting ready for being a tourist again has pushed me to look at my current city in a new way, running down roads I’ve never been on and making the most of this lovely summer.

Look for reports from Sally in another city – Londontown – this fall.  And until then – enjoy the sunshine!

Tips for flying in a small plane

Over Labor Day weekend, I took to the skies in the smallest plane I’ve ever been in thanks to the lovely folks at Cape Air.  It was a leap of faith for this slightly-nervous, greatly-afraid-of-heights gal, but it was either try this out or ride a bus for about 7-8 hours all the way from Boston to Bar Harbor so it seemed worth the adventure.

Boy, was I surprised at how it went.

Not only was it easy – it was FUN.  Awesome, actually.  We got the best view of Boston (seen above right out the pilot’s window), we hardly hit any turbulence though we did whip through some rain, and we got there in record time.  I was a little nervous when I realized we might end up landing in the dark with just a t teeny-tiny headlight to light the way, but we got there just before sunset and all was well.  The landing was better than my last JetBlue flight and we all applauded the pilot.

I would definitely do this again – but I would do some things differently.  Here are my top five tips for flying in a small plane:

  1. Be prepared.  First we waited in the terminal.  Then we waited on the stairs.  Then, all of the sudden, we were out next to the plane, being sized up by the baggage carrier.  He looked at me and one other woman and then said “Do you want to ride up front next to the pilot?”  I kind of sputtered “Who, me?” and then nodded my assent.  But MAN was I ill-prepared.  I had to text my family “planeislatebutwe’releavingnowridingnexttothepilot!”, grab my sunglasses, grab my camera, turn off my iPod, turn off my phone, find my sweater, grab my book… and in the time that took, he gave away my seat to someone else.  I ended up sitting right in back of the pilot, which was fun, but not nearly as fun as sitting next to him.  She had her own (deactivated) steering wheel!!  I would have been sitting there if only I’d been prepared to hop onto the plane rather than thinking there would be room to stow my whole carry-on, somehow (not a thing on a plane this tiny).  Live and learn: whatever you’re bringing on the plane should fit into two hands or be worn on your body – especially if you care where you sit.
  2. Bring sunglasses.  As you can see above, there’s no tinting in these windows and definitely no optional shade.  Small planes have a ton of windows and man, does it get bright.
  3. Bring a sweater.  You know how planes (and buses and trains) can fluctuate between hot and frigid at the worst times?  It’s even worse in a tiny plane.  On the runway, we were steaming – once we got far up into the sky, I was almost shivering.  Dress in layers!
  4. Plan like you’re getting into a small car.  No toilet.  No trash can.  No water or snacks, other than what they offer you in the terminal.  Take everything you equate with plane travel and dumb it down to car-sized expeditions and that’s the kind of experience you get on a small plane.  Still worth it, though.
  5. Look at a map before you hop on board.  You get such a great view in a small plane, you might as well know what you’re looking at!  That’s Bar Harbor, below.


I am over my small-plane jitters and ready to take to the sky next time my schedule permits, with more prep and less worrying this time.  Lesson learned: a little risk might unlock a fun adventure after all.

Come together… for cheesy pictures

I love being a tourist.  Posing for silly pictures, stopping to read every little historic plaque, eating vaguely exotic food (within my personal limits on strange meat…), and generally soaking in every little cheesy touristy thing wherever I visit.  To me, this silliness is one of the best parts of travel in my twenties (and hopefully beyond!).

That’s why I am in love with this live video feed from Abbey Road. This is where the Beatles shot the cover of their album of the same name back in 1969.  Now, you can watch silly people risk their lives for a good photo op 24/7, all the way from the comfort of your laptop!  While I’m sure the traffic was not a consideration for the Beatles (they were the Beatles, for god’s sake!), this is now a major roadway so people are constantly running into traffic, trying to make cars and trucks slow down with sheer willpower, and gleefully risking their lives for one shot of themselves on that crosswalk.

I’m not going to lie – I want a picture like that one of these days.  Also, one of me at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Fun fact: crosswalks, called “zebra crossings” in England, are one of the few times the Brits use the letter Z in everyday language.  In general, Z is replaced with Z whenever possible.  Realize = realise, publicize = publicise, etc.  As someone proud of the two Zs in my last name, I am glad that the zebra crossing (pronounced like it rhymes with “Debra”), maintains its Z allegiance.

[Link and photo courtesy of, one of my other favorite websites.]

Ingredients for Roadtrip Success

In order to evaluate any roadtrip (or trip in general), you must see if certain criteria have been met:

  • Did you get lost at any point and laugh as you found your way back to humanity?
  • Did you eat at least two meals in the car and another in a parking lot/rest stop?
  • Did you get scurvy from eating only white carbs for 72 hours straight?
  • Did you sing to a rocking 90s music and argue over the contents of one such playlist?
  • Did you use public buildings and campaign headquarters as pit stops?
  • Did you have conversations about life, the universe, and the validity of KFC’s Double Down sandwich?
  • Did you pull a quick u-turn when you saw a giant native American statue on the side of the road?

Oh yeah we did, and how!  (Get it?)

I still think that if P and I are going to make a career of campaigning cross country, we need a better GPS, a cooler full of fruits with vitamin C, stronger bladders, and a car that I am allowed to help drive.  But we survived this trip and are still best buds, so I have faith in us.  Watch out world, we’ll be on your road sometime in the (distant) future!

Dinner in Warsaw

Of all the things I love in the word, free events that feature books are near the top of the list.  (Right below random musical scenes acted out in public, which is pretty much the pinnacle of my possible happiness.)

My friends and family always call me out for noticing little details that others pass by.  Like the fact that they painted all the electrical boxes at Downtown Crossing one afternoon.  Or the name of the song that the bells at Macy’s peel out at 9:00 every morning.  Or the extreme joy I show when I find out that the Shaw’s down the street is FINALLY making loaves of Portuguese sweet bread.

One such thing I noticed was that the Boston Book Festival was happening today.  I attended the first BBF last year on a soggy October day with a smallish crowd that was mostly focused on the writing process.  This year, the event organizers put a lot more energy into publicizing the event and getting all sorts of authors, publishers, and people to attend.  The area was teeming with pedestrians, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that President Obama was stumping for Deval Patrick down the street at Hynes.

Of the two sessions I attended, I was most intrigued by the one about “Home and Away,” which featured Bill Bryson and Tony Hiss, and was moderated by Robin Young.  I chose to attend this lecture because Bryson’s books always make me laugh out loud and yearn to pack up my backpack and my passport, often at the same exact time.  I feel like he sees the world the way I do, but he says it much much hilariously than I can.

Tony Hiss, however, affected me even more.  Though his slide show was an example of a “before” in a visual aid class, I was riveted by his presentation on “deep travel.” He says that we will use our brains more and get more out of life if, in every scenario, we look around and imagine that we are not in our local coffee shop, but instead in Warsaw.  If you were in another city, you would be noticing the papers people around you are reading.  The astonishing variety of sweeteners one can put in one’s coffee.  The speed of the cars passing by.  The smells!  The taste of that particular coffee, even if it’s your third one of the day.

I loved this, because it is exactly how I try to live my life.  I’ve been in Boston for almost 18 months now and I still strive to learn something new about the city every day.  I want to be the one seeing where that path ends, what new store is moving into that empty building, which flowers are in bloom this week.  I love being the first to notice that down the street, Brian has put up bright orange lights for Halloween, or that our new curtains exactly match the picture frame in our library. Right now, I’m sitting here, wondering who is getting married or why else the church bells would be ringing at this hour.

At the same time, exploring my own city makes me long for others.  I want to be back in a land of accents, of foreign money, of roads where I can’t pronounce the street names, nevermind know where they end.  I want to order “the best beer on tap,” and not always have it be a Sam Adams.  To forage for my breakfast, hop on the next train, and see what the people there have to say for themselves.

But in the meantime, I’m off to find dinner in my own personal “Warsaw.” Pożegnanie!