Oyster Podcast: Travel

Back in the fall, I attended a local speed networking event for Entrepreneurs. While there, I met Nate, founder of Oyster World Radio & Travel Education. Oyster world Radio is an awesome podcast that interviews travelers about their experiences – whether it be an amazing adventure or someone who quit their job to travel, Oyster has found a fun way to teach culture around the globe.

oyster world

While chatting, Nate asked me to be on his show to talk about my solo travels around the world. We recorded a podcast over the phone last year, and it finally launched this week! It turned out amazing – I talked about my trips, fears, and how traveling has changed me.

If you are at all on the fence about traveling, just getting into it, or already an avid traveler, this podcast is perfect to put on while driving to work or hanging out around the house (I listen to it while getting ready in the morning or driving to work!). It gives you a look into the minds & decision-making of people who travel – it’s really, really awesome… You will want to drop everything and plan a trip now!

You can find it on iTunes or Stitcher! If you listen, let me know what you think!

10-Day Trip to Europe: Cost Breakdown

Hello!

I have been asked by quite a few people how much my 10-day trip to Europe cost. I estimated the total to be around $3,000 total, including everything. However, I never really sat down to look at how much I REALLY spent – probably because I was too afraid to see the actual cost, and I know there are things I could have spent more wisely on! With it being my first trip to Europe, alone, I just wanted everything to be easy, so I kind of just handed over my credit card/took out cash whenever I needed something! The actual total ended up being $3,865. I know, I know, not cheap. However, I wasn’t super strict about my spending – almost half was on transportation (flight + train pass), and a LOT of which was spent on chocolate and beer! No regrets. This trip could have definitely been cheaper if I booked earlier than 2-3 months in advance. Anyways, below is the cost breakdown, including information on the credit card I used, and the timeline of booking my trip.

First things first: Credit card. This was definitely a year for spending money, for a couple of reasons:
1) I wanted to travel internationally
2) I wanted to cross a lot off my bucket list
3) I wanted to get my yoga teacher certification

With that being said, I got dinged with international fees when I was in Costa Rica last year & Belize earlier this year, so I needed a card that didn’t charge me fees every time I traveled out of the country. I researched a few cards, and decided to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Card. Since I’m not loyal to a specific airline, and I already bank with Chase, the Sapphire card seemed like the most logical card to get. Below are a few reasons why I chose this card:

  • No foreign transaction fees when traveling internationally
  • While there is a $95/year fee, the first year fee is waived
  • If you spend $4,000 within the first three months of use, you get 50,000 bonus points – which, when booking any traveling through the chase website (super easy and amazing, btw), is $625 towards airfare or hotels. I booked an impromptu trip to Florida, my trip to NYC, AND my upcoming California flights for free with those points!
    • $4,000 may seem like a lot to spend in 3 months, but I put everything on my credit card – bills, groceries, my trip to europe, and every single cost for my yoga teacher training. It’s definitely doable, especially if you add an authorized user to help you spend more money!
  • Add an authorized user within the first 3 months, get another 5,000 points (I didn’t use this because, well, I am single and have no one else to use my credit card ;)). However, you could add a parent or a friend to help you earn points!
  • 20% off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • You book by logging into your chase account, then go into chase ultimate rewards and book there. The last 3 flights I booked through chase with my points was 20% less than if I had booked through an airline or travel site!
    • As a side note – I had issues booking my last-minute flight to Florida back in October, so I called chase to book over the phone – they spent an hour on the phone with me, looking for the cheapest flight that fit my very limited schedule – seriously, the best customer service ever!
  • If you are partial to a specific airline, you can even transfer your points to your frequent flyer travel programs! Ex: Transfer 1,000 points from your chase card to your southwest frequent flyer miles.(Participating programs: British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.)

This was the card that I used, so I am pretty partial to it. It all depends on what you are looking for in a credit card, what your travel frequency, etc is. So, I recommend looking at all your options and picking what works best for you. Nerd Wallet has a tool that you can use to find the most logical travel card for you based on monthly spend, credit score, fees, etc. Check out their comparison tool here.

Now – on to the more detailed part of the trip
Below is a breakdown by transportation, food, activities, accommodations, items bought for traveling, etc. I am going based off of credit card/debit card activity, as well as extra traveling items I purchased for the trip.

I also created a google doc  beginning in June (I left the second week of September)to add misc information for my trip and to plan – I normally do this for any trip to a place I haven’t been before! It might seem a bit scatter-brained, but it was a great way to keep all of my information in one spot. I basically start out with a blank spreadsheet and add stuff as I go along – I think i edited this until the day I left! It took me a few weeks to actually create a solid schedule, and I estimated all of the costs, but that’s the fun of planning ;).You can check out what it looks like here!

Booking Flights:
I booked my flight less than 3 months before I left – so, my flights were definitely not the cheapest. I recommend booking sooner, if possible. I used google flights to find the cheapest flights based on my timeframe & where I wanted to fly into, then went through my Chase credit card rewards account to book the actual flights (it’s cheaper when booking with points!). Super easy, and all of my information is in one place.

airlines

Cost Breakdown:

europe trip costs

Transportation: $1,556
Activities: $465

Hostels: $618
Food: $111.07 (on credit card)
Misc (Food, Souveniers, etc): $862.38
Pre-Trip Purchases: $215.57
Total Cost of Trip: $3,865.80

You can find the actual spreadsheet here.

So that’s it! This is what goes on in my brain when traveling and planning my trips! Also, planning versus what actually happens is very different (in a good way!), so always be prepared for the unexpected 🙂

oktoberfest3

I hope this helps anyone planning a trip to Europe, Oktoberfest, or pretty much anywhere! There are a lot of traveler sites out there with much more information, ways to travel cheap, etc. I recommend taking a look at as many blogs as you can, and taking what you want from them. It’s your trip, so plan the way you want and do what you are comfortable doing! If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment below!

Traveling Yogi: Bungee Jumping in Interlaken, Switzerland

Let me start off by saying that I am afraid of a lot of things. However, heights are the # 1 thing I am scared of. So of course, I wanted to go Bungee Jumping. Makes sense, right? Knowing me, it makes perfect sense. I have a strong belief that whatever you are scared of, you must face it. It releases attachment to fears, and makes them appear smaller. It makes you a stronger person, and it helps you grow. By facing fears, we face our thoughts, and we can break them down into nothing. It changes your perspective, and it changes you as a person.

With that being said, I chose Interlaken as my last stop in Switzerland, solely for the fact that it is known for having a lot of adventure activities. So if I ended up not going bungee jumping, I could go canyoning, white water rafting, etc, all while being surrounded by the amazing mountains.

Below is a summary of my trip to Interlaken – new friends, endless amounts of chocolate, and jumping 450 feet from a cable car!

Thursday, September 17, 2015
6 am: wake up and catch 6:45 am train to Interlaken from Lausanne, Switzerland
9 am: arrive at Interlaken Ost Train station

Upon arriving at the Interlaken train station, the first thing I noticed was mountains. mountains. mountains. The train ride was basically like taking a train ride to Hogwarts – just absolutely breathtaking.

interlaken train station

I walked about 20 minutes to my hostel – there was almost no one out, and I enjoyed my stroll around the streets. Interlaken is this little town nestled in between all these mountains, and I could not stop staring at how GREEN everything was!
**Note – everywhere I went in Switzerland, it was so CLEAN – they are amazing at keeping their cities tidy and trash free.
After getting to my hostel, I immediately put down a deposit for bungee jumping – that way I couldn’t wimp out later. Since it was too early to check in, I threw my backpack in the back room and headed out to town. The only thing I had planned to do in the city was the jump, so I had the entire day free to explore.

interlaken 2

I walked into town, exploring the little shops, and of course, found a nice little chocolate shop to buy a lot of chocolate from. Did I mention that chocolate is super expensive in Switzerland?! As is everything else! Anyways, I ended up getting a little lost, but I wouldn’t call it lost since I didn’t have anywhere to go. I ended up strolling next to the mountains and amazing blue waters in a park – and along my walk, I could not stop staring at how beautiful everything was. Just extreme gratitude for being able to experience Switzerland, and feeling such joy. This was the moment that I realized I enjoy being alone. Which is completely paradoxal to my underlying fear/belief of ending up alone, but in that moment – it was perfect. Walking alone and just being, without having anyone else there, was perfect. I fell in love with being alone, and with every single Solo second of my time in Europe. I was free to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted to be around people, I would just strike up a conversation with people around me, meeting other travelers on their own quest for adventure.

InterlakenSwitzerland

After walking around a bit, I was hungry and stopped at a local cafe for a pastry & hot chocolate. Since it was raining, and I was freezing, I needed as much warmth as possible!

interlaken cafe

Once I finished up my brunch, I decided to head back and check in to the hostel. I ended up meeting a few of my roommates, who told me about an amazing hot chocolate place in town. I don’t know how I missed it the first time around, so I ended up walking back into town for round 2 – you can never have too much hot chocolate, especially when it is cold and rainy!

interlaken chocolate

The store we went to is called The Funky Chocolate Club – founded by 2 chocolate lovers who just had to open a shop. I’m pretty sure we are best friends, even though we’ve never met. Anyways, we ordered hot chocolate – steamed milk and chocolate disks – you can get dark, milk, or white – or a mix – and it was amazing, thick, sugary, and perfect. Melted chocolate and milk = best idea ever.

interlaken chocolate2

interlaken job chocolate

It’s like they know my deepest wish

After downing our drinks, we headed to a local restaurant and shared some sort of macaroni/bacon dish with onion straws. Lets just say I was not on a diet on this trip – I honestly don’t know how people are skinny in Europe!

interlaken snack

On our walk back, it was cold and rainy – so I got changed and tried to warm up a bit at the hostel a little bit before going to Bungee jump. Around 4, I headed to the area behind the hostel to meet the group. I grabbed a beer and met up with the other 11 crazy individuals that would jumping along with me – married couples, people traveling for work, college students. We were all terrified, and it was great to have so many people there to chat with and distract each other.

interlaken bungee stockhorn

interlaken 3

interlaken jump group

It was about a 45 minute drive to Stockhorn, where we would all jump. Once we arrived, we took a cable car up to the area where we would be prepped and suited up.

pre jump interlaken

After all getting suited up, we loaded into the gondola – the one where we would all be jumping out of. The gondola stopped over the middle of the lake – at this point, there was no backing out.

interlaken bungee jump lake

Lucky for me, I was the lightest person of the group – which meant I was the last person to jump (being very sarcastic here). There were 3 separate cords that needed to be changed out for each person different weight class – so, I was able to watch all 11 people in front of me jump, counting down and cheering them on. Fortunately, the guys manning the jumps/cords were AWESOME – they had music playing, gave me a jacket to wear because I was so cold (or just shaking from nerves, who knows), and were calm the whole time. By the time it was my time to jump, they hooked me up, and I stepped over the line. I put my toes to the edge of the door, placed my hands on the outside of the gondola, and was given instructions  to look at the camera man on the outside of the car after I jumped. The 2 guys counted down – 54321 (the countdown is basically 2 seconds long – they don’t give you any time to hesitate) – and I jumped, smiled at the camera…. then began the fall. I honestly don’t remember much about falling – just thinking – oh shit – and my brain kind of shut off. I mean, you kind of have to shut your brain off to jump 450 feet into empty space with nothing but cables attached to your ankles.

interlaken bungee jump

interlaken bungee jump2

Nina Bungee Interlaken

On the bounceback, I tweaked my knee – which wasn’t painful, it was just sore for a few weeks following the jump. No one else hurt themselves, so it might have just been the way I fell and how much I bounced back (I was pretty close to the lake).

interlaken bungee jump 3

After I stopped bouncing around so much, I just kinda hung upside down for a minute or so (or not, I was still in a daze at that point). A boat came by with a big pole, and I was able to grab onto it. I was pulled into the boat and unhooked, then brought back to land.

I've never been more happy to be done with anything in my entire life

I’ve never been more happy to be done with anything in my entire life

As a group, we all headed back, drinking a celebratory beer – we had all survived the jump – basically just overall excited to be alive. I have been skydiving, but this was different. There is no one attached to your back, and you have to jump yourself. There is no parachute – just a cord attached to your feet. And the fall happens in a matter of seconds, depending on how high your starting place is (mine was about 450 feet). There is a sense of comfort you get when you skydive – maybe its the secure feeling of having someone go down with you – that you don’t have when you jump.

If anything, Bungeeing will change your thoughts. After jumping, I find myself questioning a lot of fears. I look at thoughts differently, and my actions and choices are a lot different. I believe in myself more, and rarely ever think I can’t do something. If you are ever looking to change your perspective, Bungee Jumping might be for you 😉

interlaken post beer jump

After arriving back at the hostel, I quickly showered and headed back out to town with a few people to grab dinner (and more beer! because LIFE!). We went to a place called Goldener Anker – Beer, Gnocchi, and Fondue. The perfect way to end the night, followed by a roadie beer from the corner store on our walk back.

interlaken dinner interlaken fondue

I ended up heading to bed around midnight, as I had a 7 am train to catch to Munich. I wish I could have stayed another night, but Oktoberfest was waiting for me (You can read about that adventure here and here)! If anyone ever ends up in Interlaken, make sure you stay for more than just 1 day. The city is absolutely beautiful, and there are so many fun things to do there! And if you ever decide to jump – or do any fun adventure – I highly recommend Alpin Raft – the workers were absolutely amazing, and I could not have asked for a better experience!

Next up: Oktoberfest!

Traveling Yogi: What I did in Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland.

One of the most gorgeous, gorgeous places I have EVER been to in my entire life. Besides Interlaken, but I will write about that another time.

After leaving Geneva, I took a 30 minute train ride to Lausanne, my first ever trip on a European train. So of course, I didn’t know that I had to get my ticket validated. Luckily, my Air bnb host in Geneva helped me out – he was getting off at a stop before me, and wanted to make sure I went to the correct place (do you see a recurring theme here of people helping me out because I get lost so easily?!). Anyways, we literally sprinted to the ticket office, cut in front of people in line, got my train ticket stamped, and sprinted up 2 flights of stairs to make the train on time. I honestly thought I was in shape, but I guess having a huge backpack on your back makes you rethink your true fitness level. Below is a recap, with pictures, of my time in Lausanne:

Day 3: September 16, 2015 – Lausanne, Switzerland

7:30 am: train from Geneva to Lausanne
8 am: Arrive at Lausanne train station

Lausanne olymp

Luckily, I found a great hostel located right next to the train station, and I saw it as soon as the train pulled into the city. At this point, I was starting to get more comfortable with directions and making my way around – I only got lost 2 other times the rest of the trip, and only for about 10 minutes. So you could say I learned a lot in my travels haha.

After getting off the train, I walked over to my hostel and hung out a little bit. I couldn’t check in until the afternoon, so I decided to hang out and plan my day. There were a few places I wanted to visit, and I found an awesome guide for bus transit through out the entire city. Which, I only ended up using once because the city wasn’t all that big – but I did walk a LOT. So I planned my day, hitting every single one of the spots I wanted to see, with a plan B if I ran over time.

First Stop: Botanical Gardens
This was not in my initial plans, but since I loved the botanical garden in Geneva so much, I decided to stop here. And I am SO glad I did… beautiful. Everything was amazing, and the view at the top… worth the walk! Pictures don’t even do justice. The view of the city, the houses, the mountains across lake Geneva… just stunning

lausanne garden 2

Lausanne City 2 LAusanne City

lausanne garden

I also found an awesome mural at the top of the gardens and decided to do a few handstands. This place was deserted, so I got to play around as much as I wanted! The whole city was so peaceful.

lausanne garden yoga

After my trek around the botanical gardens, I found a huge water fountain to do handstands around… not really sure what was so great about the fountains, but they were in a pretty cool park.

lausanne switzerland

After the gardens, I made my way to the Ouchy fishing pier. I can’t believe this wasn’t even on my list to see – the view was amazing. Nothing but water and mountains for miles! I really wish I had a better camera – to see everything in person was unbelievable. As soon as I walked around the area, I decided I was coming back in the afternoon for a run, not matter how tired I might be!

Lausanne Ouchy 5

lausanne fish Lausanne Ouchy 4

Lausanne Ouchy 3

lausanne yoga 1

After walking (and handstanding) around Ouchy, I hopped on a bus to Rue De Bourge, the city’s shopping center. I went here for 2 things: Chocolate and Yoga. While at the hostel earlier, I found  yoga studio – Yogashala – to take a 12 pm class at. And while most would think taking a yoga class in another language would be confusing, it is also very, very beautiful. Well, in French it is.

I took a Vinyasa/Anusara class led by Tracy Chaplin – and it is by far my most favorite yoga class I have ever taken in my life. The French language is absolutely beautiful – and while I had no idea what was being said half the time, I loved the movements, the mix of meditation in the practice, and the feeling of peace I felt in the class. While practicing, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude – the though of, “Omg, look at yourself. You are taking a yoga class, in Switzerland, in french. WHAT IS THIS LIFE.” And I started to tear up in class, full of gratitude and awed by the fact that I was able to create this experience in my life. And this is the point that I truly, truly, began to believe in myself. Which is why, if anyone ever asks me, I will always say, this was my favorite class – because it was a moment in time that changed how I view myself and the power I have to create what I want.

lausanne yoga

After the class, I walked around the city, exploring little shops and enjoyed getting lost in the windy, hilly, brick streets of Lausanne. My last stop was actually right next to where I took the yoga class, so I stopped in to Blondel Chocolates – a highly recommended chocolatier in Switzerland. And, I swear, this is hands down the best chocolate I have ever eaten in my life. Also, the most expensive. But, life changing. The tiny store has an entire wall lined with sheets and sheets of different chocolates, and a case full of handmade truffles. I’m not going to say how much I spent here, but I will say that it was worth it. Also, I wish that I had bought more! If anyone is in the area, this is the place to stop.

lausanne3 lausanne

lausanne2

After shopping, I walked back to the hostel to check in and rest for a bit. After getting settled in, I went back out for a run, planning to stop at the Olympic Park/museum next to Ouchy. After walking for a solid 3+ hours that afternoon, my body was still up for a 4 mile run. Running down the hills – awesome. The 2 miles back up – not so awesome. The view = worth it. After making it to the Olympic park, I ran all the way to the top, and the view was worth it all. Amazing view of the lake + mountains! Overall, complete gratitude for a laundry list of things: one year ago, I was learning to walk/run again… and here I am, running 4+ miles up and down the hills of switzerland, exploring on my own, soaking up the beauty of the mountains, discovering things about myself, and feeling joy that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Completely Surreal.

olympic garden lausanne ouchy

Just a note – I didn’t actually go into the museum – museums really aren’t my thing. I am like a little kid – I’ll go in and look at everything, maybe touch a few things, then leave within 5 minutes. I’d rather just experience everything around me versus walk through a building.

After arriving back at my hostel, I showered, did some laundry, and chatted with a few people from the hostel. I was recommended to go to a local Italian restaurant nearby, Milan, so I took a walk around 9 pm and grabbed dinner by myself – the perfect end to a wonderful day. (Yes, those are fries on my plate. After eating nothing but chocolate all day, I decided to actually get some salty food in my body ;))

lausanne dinner

I wish I had more pictures that captured the beauty of Lausanne – it was truly a lovely city, and 1 day was the perfect amount of time to explore. If you are ever making your way through Switzerland, I highly recommend stopping at this gorgeous city!

Traveling Yogi: What I did in Geneva, Switzerland

Hi all!

I am finally back in the state, getting settled in, and catching up on the chaos that is work and life. It’s day 3, and I finally feel like the Jet Lag Fog has cleared, and I am starting to feel normal again. When traveling back on Tuesday, I was up for 24 hours straight! I worked from home the next few days, and I just felt like my head was in a fog. It’s my first time ever really experiencing jet lag, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect!

Anyways, I wanted to give a recap of all of my adventures in Europe! There is so much to talk about, so I decided to break down each city into once blog post. Below is a recap of the first day on my trip: Geneva, Switzerland!

Sunday, 9/13 – 3:30 pm flight from Columbus to New Jersey -> sprinting to catch my connecting flight to Geneva
Monday, 9/14 – 7:30 am -> arrive in Geneva!

geneva aiplane

After arriving in the Geneva airport, I needed to buy a SIM card for my phone. Never having changed the SIM card in my phone or even really understood what it did, I walked around for about a half hour asking where to buy one. FINALLY – $20 at the post office. done. I was able to call the air bnb host I was staying with, and I hopped on a bus to pick up the keys to where I was staying. I finally arrived, and my hosts were great! an air mattress to sleep on, and a room all to myself. I ended up laying down for a hot second, as I only got about 1 hour of sleep on the plane.

After getting directions and information on how the bus system worked from my host, I ventured out.. and got lost. Luckily for me, I ended up downtown and was able to explore the nicer side of Geneva. Think: expensive shops, beautiful fountains, and hot business men in suits. So you could say I was lost, but I definitely found something I didn’t know I was looking for 😉

geneva fountain

After exploring, I hopped back on a bus and got lost. Again. 1.5 hours later, I made it to the place I initially wanted to go: the broken chair. Basically, a giant monumental sculpture that symbolizes opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva (Wiki). It’s a huge freakin chair with a broken leg – and I of course, had to get a picture in front of it. A handstand picture. duh.

broken chair geneva

After hanging out around the chair (the UN building was right behind it), I went for a walk to the Botanical Gardens nearby. Now let me just preface this by saying I am NOT a hippy nature girl – normally I opt out of the site-seeing, history learning, nature stuff and do more adventure things (likeeeee bungee jumping in switzerland… but that’s another post in itself). So I got lost, again, but finally made it to the garden. And O.M.G. the beauty of everything, just absolutely amazing. I felt like I was in a secret garden full of magic. I literally looked like a little kid, jumping around and smiling. I mean, look at these pictures… how beautiful is this place??

botanical garden geneva2  botanical garden geneva             botanical garden 5 botanical garden geneva3

botanical garden magic

Unfortunately, all of my getting lost made me out exploring later than I planned. And it rained. A lot. I was in a little glass botanical garden area, which was cool. But not for over an hour. So, I ended up walking back, in the rain, to the bus station. I took the bus back, stopping to grab a muffin for dinner at a local store, and made it back to the air bnb. The rest of the night, until about 10/11, I ended up chatting and drinking homemade liquor with my hosts. They were absolutely wonderful! I ended up sipping on 4-5 shots, my favorite being the italian chocolate… it was like drinking chocolate syrup! So, so good. You can’t get this stuff anywhere else.

I finally went to bed, and my host ended up walking to the bus station with me in the morning (I was taking a tour in France and had to meet at a bus station in the city). Him and his girlfriend were very worried I was going to get lost again, and they mapped out very detailed instructions for me! I must have seemed like a lost cause LOL

After returning from my day trip to Chamonix (read about it here!), my hosts made me dinner on my second night in Geneva – homemade italian pasta (my host is italian)! Just amazing.

I planned out my entire trip, and I will say that my favorite things were never items I had planned. I stumbled across the botanical garden, and I could never have asked for better hosts, which I now consider good friends. Overall, Geneva was wonderful – definitely not my favorite part of the trip – Lausanne & Interlaken will forever hold a special place in my heart – but a great city to explore in for a day or 2.

Has anyone been to Geneva, or are planning a triip? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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