Books, Couponing to Travel, saving money, Travel Life, travel tips, writing

September 2019 Recap: Girls Who Change the World

A lot happened in September. I paid off the remaining fees for my upcoming cruise to The Bahamas. I worked on another book (which releases today). And I bought a ticket to Europe! Unbelievably, these were just a few of the many things that happened this month, and I’m excited to share how they happened and how I saved money for travel.

Catch up on my travel savings goal in June, July, and August

Girls Who Change the World

Girlz 4 Christ

As I try to build up my writing career, I released my second book today! This is actually a collaboration with two other writers and is the first book from my publishing company, Girlz 4 Christ Publications. While it’s not a travel book, it’s full of interviews from inspirational people (including an entire chapter dedicated to girls living in different countries around the world), and I hope it will be a nice addition to my traveler/writer lifestyle.

Girls Who Change the World is available in both paperback and Kindle e-book. (Travel tip: Download e-books onto your phone to save space packing.) Check it out now on Amazon!

A fun thing I got to do in September for this book was a feature on the morning news for theDove TV.

Now that this book is out, I’ll be doing some promotion for it, but now I can work on my next book release. The Ultimate Survival Guide for Camp Staff releases in late November. I also started a new writing project the other day. Most of it’s under wraps for now (I’m not even entirely sure what will become of it), but it does involve a lot of travel!

Couponing to The Bahamas

September Couponing

Admittedly, I am a bit disappointed in how little I couponed this September. My couponing total since July for this trip is $368.08, which means I added barely over $30 this month. But I do have a pending rebate where I’ll end up earning more than that in just one transaction.

With the cruise and flights paid for, all that’s left to cover is the expenses for the two nights in Fort Lauderdale before the cruise. So I do still have some couponing to do, but with an unexpected offer this month, I’ll be switching the focus of my savings goals!

Working Toward Central Europe

Europe Guidebooks

When you find a $524 round-trip flight from your dinky little hometown airport to Munich, Germany, you have to jump on that opportunity! I explain more about finding this incredible flight deal here. Although I’m working on covering the cost of my upcoming trip to The Bahamas, and successfully did so with my trip to the British Isles, I won’t be doing the same thing this time around.

I’m keeping track of my earnings from things like book sales (Girls Around the World as well as Uncommon Adventures), selling things (when I pack everything into a carryon, who cares about the stuff back home!), and other moneymakers like Swagbucks and working extra hourly shifts. So far, that’s netted me $111.12.

Saving money isn’t the only way to prep for travel. I’ve been watching a lot of Rick Steves Best of Europe travel shows and checking out travel books from the library. I have a general route planned out that I want to backpack, and am trying to plan out how many days I should spend in each place and what activities I want to do there.

Many of the countries I want to visit are German-speaking. While I think I’ll survive in English, I do want to be able to speak a little German out of respect and be able to read signs, menus, etc. So I’ve been learning with Duolingo and FreeRice.

October Goals

This is my last full month to get ready for The Bahamas cruise. I’ll have fun getting ready for that!

I’m trying to dedicate Tuesdays to my business. Working multiple jobs outside the home while building a business at home isn’t easy, but with a dedicated day (plus a few additional hours spread throughout the week), I hope to increase book and article sales.

But I am totally excited about Europe. That’s not just an October thing; I’ll be dreaming of and working toward that until I leave in February!

What are you currently saving up for? Let me know in the comments!

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Books, Couponing to Travel

August 2019 Recap

What happened to August? How is it September already? In fact, where did the entire summer go? I don’t have the answers to that, but I am looking forward to all the potential shoulder-season travel opportunities!

Multnomah Falls

Work and Saving

I didn’t reach my normal savings goal this month. I try to save $200 per month through couponing, but the past two months have only netted me $336.80. I’m partly blaming that on working more. I had less time to save, but ultimately made more money. In addition to more work hours, I also got to work promoting my new travel book, Uncommon Adventures, as well as putting together my next two books. But I also saved up some coupons and other offers that I’m already putting into use in September.Screenshot (78)

I think my favorite savings experience in August was seeing The Lion King in theaters. Since I got three General Mills cereal boxes (which I got a good deal on for 99 cents each), I could submit my receipt to Fandango, and ended up getting to see this movie in 3D… just for the cost of the cereal!

Although I got the base cost of my Bahamas cruise and shore excursions for free, I’m trying to lower the cost of all the other expenses, such as the taxes, port fees, and insurance. I’m saving some of that money buy buying discounted Carnival gift cards from AARP of all places! They don’t even care that I’m not even close to retirement age! (Though with all this saving and investing I’ve been doing, I want to figure out how to retire early.)

One way I’m saving money that won’t affect this trip, but will allow me to have more travel money in the future, is I’m getting more involved in investing. I opened a CD and have been watching videos and reading articles on how to have my money make money.

Travel Experience

maryhill stonehenge
The heelstone and Maryhill’s Stonehenge

Working not only affected my time for couponing, but also my travel time. But I did finally get an overnight summer road trip! It was a whirlwind trip to Multnomah Falls, Washington’s Stonehenge, and Crater Lake National Park. I also went day hiking at Mill Creek Falls and kayaked at Applegate Lake.

September Goals

Summer sometimes is more synonymous with stress than it is relaxation. That can be true for me. However, in the past, I could mark the end of summer with the start of school or the end of summer camp work. Without those timekeeping devices, it’s hard to tell when summer is really over for me. Will the pace slow down soon, or speed up more? Or will it stay the same awhile longer? I’m not sure, which makes it hard to set goals for this month.

Some things I do know about September: I’ve got my hiking club’s final trip of the year, I’ll do some housesitting, and I may be going on another quick overnight trip. I did just find out that the flight we were supposed to take to our cruise was cancelled, so we got a flight a day earlier. That means one more day in November that will be spent in Florida, so I’ll need to research fun things to do there.

Professionally, I’ve been busy putting the final touches on a book that’s releasing October 1st. Girls Who Change the World isn’t specifically my book; it’s a compilation of inspirational interviews that Girlz 4 Christ has done over the years. But I’m also working on a book that IS mine; The Ultimate Survival Guide to Working at Camp releases in November.

QUESTION: This isn’t really related to this post, but which book cover is your favorite? Although I’m partial to the Girls Who Change the World cover, there is still time to make minor adjustments to that and the camp book cover. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Books, Couponing to Travel, Uncommon Adventures

July 2019 Recap: Counting Down to Uncommon Adventure’s Release

Today is book release day! My very first travel book, Uncommon Adventures, released on Kindle and Paperback! So before you continue reading how I saved for travel this past month, check the book out on Amazon.

Uncommon Adventures Jessica Lippe

(I hope you enjoy this post illustrated by book quotes- you have my permission to share these!)

Making Time to Travel

No matter where in the world I go, I can always count on being able to enjoy a pleasant stroll.

I didn’t really have any trips planned for July, mostly because I didn’t have the time! Every weekend involved one commitment or another. But I was able to turn some of those things into adventure.

Earlier in the month, my church hosted a rafting trip. I joined the fun and got to paddle a tahiti down Southern Oregon’s Rogue River. THAT was a lot of fun, and while it was worth every penny, it didn’t exactly contribute to my travel saving.

The next weekend, it was my turn to host a church event. I took a small group from the women’s ministry to explore one of the most unique hiking trails I’ve ever seen: the world’s only Bigfoot Trap! I loved this adventurous group and we decided to even hike down to Applegate Lake and then drive to a covered bridge together.

Travel was partially limited because I was working a lot more, with some different hours than my normal schedule. Because I was working in daylight hours more, I could often walk to work. This was a great way to get in some exercise, enjoy my local community, and save on gas money. But I got to have some bigger adventures with work, too. Since I was working the morning of 4th of July, I took everyone to an Independence Day parade. During the last Saturday of the month, work took a trip to Wildlife Safari. Since this trip was for work, I didn’t have to pay for admission. We even had volunteer drivers to transport us!

How I $aved Over $200 in July

the ultimate adventure to have is the adventure we’re invited to take with Jesus.

My current savings goal is for a cruise to The Bahamas this December. If I save $200 per month between now and then, I’ll have no problem reaching my goal. I went a tiny bit above and beyond this month, saving $204.80.

As suggested above, church was a great resource for fun, low-cost summer activities. In addition to the adventures above, I attended a free movie night (with free snacks!) and enjoyed the usual church services. Two other good activity resources were the library and parks and rec.

Most of my savings came from using Swagbucks. I saved on regular needed purchases, plus I got some freebies and even moneymaker deals! My other online moneysaver site is GiftCardGranny, where I buy discounted gift cards.

Now that I had most evenings off, I got to attend my local baseball league’s games twice. The Medford Rogues have a deal that when they have home games on Wednesdays, Rogue Credit Union members can get in free. I signed up for this bank earlier this year to help me save for travel, so that’ s definitely been worth it!

A not-as-fun way I saved happened when my car ran over a bolt and I got a flat tire. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to change the tire myself because I have a AAA membership, which did this for free. The next day when I took my car to a tire shop, they offered to fix it for free! And they gave me free popcorn to boot.

It really is the little things that add up. Sometimes mass mailings include a coin, and I save up those coins. I also pick up coins when I go for walks, and one evening I found 79 cents lying in an intersection!

Goals for August and Beyond

Shouldn’t we treat every day that we live on Earth like an adventure_

July brought some changes, and August will likely bring even more. Now that I’m an author with a book under my belt (I even have an Amazon page!) I’ll be promoting Uncommon Adventures while working on a few upcoming releases as well! I also have some other tough decisions to make, so I’ll need to pray and think things through this month.

As far as travel saving goes, I’ll be housesitting for a while, so I’d like to treat that as a sort of staycation. I’m taking my church’s women’s ministry on another day hike in the middle of the month, so that will be fun. I recently bought an on-sale Groupon to a wildlife refuge, so I may use that soon. And the National Parks Service is offering a free admission day to all parks on August 25th. I will definitely be taking advantage of that, and maybe I’ll even make a long weekend out of it! By this time next month, I hope to report that I’ve saved at least $400 toward my trip to Florida and The Bahamas.

Just for fun, here are a couple more book quotes!

Do you think you’ll like Uncommon Adventures? If you read it, be sure to review it on Amazon!

Books, resources, saving money, travel tips, Uncommon Adventures

Overwhelming: An Exclusive First Look at Uncommon Adventures

A surprisingly pivotal trip for me was a week in Niagara Falls. It was here that I first decided to backpack across Europe, but it was also the setting where I met a young man with a very inspiring story. Enjoy this sneak peek of my upcoming book, Uncommon Adventures:

Niagara Falls 2014 052.jpg

Overwhelming

There are several people I’ve met over the course of my life who inspired me to do bigger, better, things, especially when it comes to travel. One of the most inspirational people I’ve met is a young man whose name I don’t remember, but I definitely remember his story.

I was backpacking Niagara Falls. Most of my time was spent on the United States side since that had more natural area to explore. But having never been to Canada, of course, I had to walk across the border and spend a few days there. I booked a couple nights at an upscale hostel down the river from the falls. During my first night there, I sat down on a couch in the living room to write in my journal. I heard someone clamoring around the kitchen. A few minutes later he walked into the living room with a bowl of ramen and sat on the other end of the couch. He turned to me and, carefully considering his words before they came out of his mouth, said, “I want to practice my English.”

We had a conversation the best we could, though sometimes we would have to pause so he could look up a word or write down something I said that he never heard before. It turned out that he was visiting from Japan. I was impressed enough that this 20-year-old would come halfway around the world on his own, but as he described what he was doing there, my jaw hit the floor.

Apparently, he flew into Los Angeles, then hopped on a bicycle and started making his way to New York City! He didn’t have anyone help him out; he just pedaled his way through many of the states. In just a couple months, he had seen more of my country in a more thorough manner than I have in my entire life. Because he was ahead of his schedule, he took a detour to Toronto and that’s why I found him in Canada. How did he do it? “Once a week, I stay in a place like a cheap motel. The rest of the time, I set up a tent.” So not only did he take on a physical challenge that most people couldn’t imagine, but a budget challenge, too! As I described the tourist attractions I visited that day, I asked if he had done any of them. “No. I have some money, but I don’t have a lot of money.”

I thought he must have a sponsor, or maybe he was doing some sort of fundraiser, so I asked: “why are you doing this?” The conversation paused again as he paged through all the notes of English words and phrases he learned. He obviously had an important answer for me, but didn’t quite know how to explain it. Finally, he held up a page and pointed to a sentence on it. I read, “I wanted to do something overwhelming.”

I think about his word “overwhelming” when I’m about to embark on a new experience. Traveling on a budget can certainly be overwhelming. At the same time, traveling is a fun way to be overwhelmed: overwhelmed with trying new things, seeing new places, and meeting new people. Saving money while traveling is overwhelming, but it can be part of the experience, too. Those money-saving techniques can include ramen, a bicycle, and camping on the side of the road. But there are plenty of other ways to save, too!

Uncommon Adventures Jessica Lippe

Travel doesn’t have to be overly overwhelming! Want to find out some of those ways to save? Be sure to check out Uncommon Adventures, available for preorder now!

Books, travel tips

Coming this August: The Uncommon Adventures Book!

I am excited to announce that my book, Uncommon Adventures, will hit (virtual) bookstores in just three weeks!

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Do you find yourself with a constant urge to travel? You’d love to explore, but there are factors in life that are holding you back. Maybe you don’t know the first thing about planning a trip. Maybe you don’t have enough money. Maybe you’re scared.

Enter Uncommon Adventures. It’s packed with all the travel advice ideal for the Christian adventurer. With tips on how to save money, pack, and navigate your way through new places, you can ensure that your next trip will be your best adventure yet.
Travel writer Jessica Lippe relates her experiences from travels across the United States and around the world.

What are your travel ambitions? No matter what kind of trip you’d like to take, your adventurous dreams will become more attainable and manageable with help from the pages of this book. Don’t let that travel bug keep biting; take it on an uncommon adventure!

I’ll be sharing more about this book and my process for writing it later, but I wanted to let you know that the Kindle edition is available to pre-order RIGHT NOW! When you pre-order for just $2.99, you’ll be able to read it on any device on its release date, August 1st.

Click here to pre-order Uncommon Adventures by Jessica Lippe

NEW! The book is now available to order in paperback! You can get it here for $6.98,

For my faithful blog readers, I will admit that much of this book is personal anecdotes and advice that I’ve never shared here before. So you won’t want to miss out! It’s unlike any other travel guide out there. Head over to Amazon and order your copy today!

Have any questions about my upcoming book? Ask in the comments, and I’ll answer in a future blog post!

 

Books, News, writing

To the Writer Who Saved Notre Dame

Mediterranean Trek 042

I was just one of millions who were shocked yesterday at the fire that destroyed Notre Dame in Paris, France. But all the memories I had from nearly four years ago with this structure came rushing back. While in Paris, I loved walking to this city center and did so several times. I took a walking tour around the island that taught me a lot about the history and art. I climbed to the belltowers, found sanctuary inside the sanctuary, attended an evening service, picnicked in its shade, and even explored the underground crypt. I never imagined that this building that pointed to God for over 850 years would be destroyed in my lifetime.

Without the dedicated firefighters working hours upon hours yesterday, Notre Dame would be in worse condition than it is now, and for that I’m thankful. But we must also remember that it’s possible there wouldn’t be a cathedral to save today if a writer hadn’t saved it nearly 200 years ago.

Mediterranean Trek 029

Victor Hugo and The Hunchback

Notre Dame de Paris wasn’t always as beloved as it is now. After years of neglect, it found itself in a state of disrepair in the 1800s. At the time, a Parisian writer by the name of Victor Hugo decided to do something about his beloved city center. He wrote a book titled Notre Dame de Paris. It ended up being translated into many languages. In the English translation, it was titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

As the popularity of the book spread, readers spilled into Paris to visit the now-famed Notre Dame. This eventually pressured the government to restore the cathedral to its former glory. Why? If you haven’t read the book, the story might not be what you’d expect. Many of us think of the Disney adaptation, which, while I didn’t enjoy it much as a kid, as an adult it became one of my favorite Disney movies due to its unique themes. Victor Hugo actually spent more of his book describing the Notre Dame, with the storyline more as a selling point. It’s even darker than Disney’s darkest cartoon, and does not have a happy ending. But the point was made, and Victor Hugo got his real-life happy ending of a restored cathedral. I was able to visit Victor Hugo’s final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris, lying amid other famous French who shaped their culture.

Mediterranean Trek 057

What Writers Can Do

As I watched the live updates of Notre Dame burning, I couldn’t help but think of Victor Hugo and how he used his character Quasimodo to save the cathedral only to have it destroyed today. But if a writer could save Notre Dame once, could another writer save it again?

I’m not saying that writer is me. Although I have toyed with an idea of a story about a backpacker who visits places like Paris, it’s still only an idea in my head and not on paper. I did feel a personal connection to Quasimodo as I stood in “his” belltower, I actually have the same type of scoliosis that this character did. (Obviously, mine is a mild case where his was much more extreme.) As an urban backpacker, this can cause extra pain as I travel. Paris was the first place I visited in Europe, and while I was already starting to feel pain there, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a place of refuge and freedom.

But most of us are writers in some form or another. In this modern age where anyone can be published, maybe we all can work together in writing our way to save Notre Dame again. I’ve already been inspired by the news reporters saying that it will be rebuilt (though we don’t have a timeframe yet- hopefully in this lifetime!) and the people on social media who have pledged money and shared their own stories. If you’ve been to Paris, share your personal experience so that the Notre Dame’s memories will not disappear, even if its roof has. If you haven’t seen Notre Dame, I know its tales have still affected you in some way. Share what you’ve learned about the historic cathedral, or write about how excited you are to see it being rebuilt. Who knows? Maybe one of us will become the next Victor Hugo, writing a book that features the future Notre Dame.

Mediterranean Trek 026

Start now: What’s been your experience with the Notre Dame, whether in person or through books/movies/etc? How did you feel when you heard it caught fire? Share with the world in the comments below!

All photos taken by me, Jessica Lippe, July 2015.

Accommodations, Birthday, Books, Couponing to Travel, day trip, destinations, saving money, Travel Life, travel tips

February 2019 Update: Change in Plans and Change in the Bank

February may be the shortest month of the year, but these past 28 days were packed with more than I expected. I worked even more than I do in a typical month, I saved more money with couponing than I did in January, and a lot happened with my planned trip.

Wondering what this challenge is? Start here. 

Check out my progress report from January. 

Shall I start with the good news or the bad news? (Hint: always pick the bad news first.)

I’m Not Going to Germany

After waiting over a month to hear a response about my pending placement with Diverbo, I sent a follow-up email. They finally got back to me saying that both the program I wanted to be in as well as my back-up program were full. They didn’t even have room on the waiting list for my first choice! Since this was a big motivator (and money-saver) for going to Germany, I decided to defer my time there until I have a confirmed place in a Diverbo program and instead went back to the drawing board.

Mount Tibidabo, Barcelona, Spain, Western Europe
At the summit of Mount Tibidabo during my previous trip to Europe, shortly after my time with Diverbo

A few years ago, as I was about to make my first trip to Europe, I wanted to see it in three trips: one for the Mediterranean (check!), one for the British Isles, and one for Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Since I didn’t want to lose my momentum for going to England, I decided to go back to this original plan and add Ireland to the mix. (I also briefly considered Iceland, but since that’s so far away from the rest of Europe, it could be included as a stopover for just about any trip.) The switch from Germany to Ireland surprisingly came with some money-saving opportunities!

How I’ll Save Money In Ireland

Last week, I bought my plane tickets! I will fly into Dublin and out of London. I haven’t bought a flight between the two islands yet, but I’ve looked up the cost and it’s incredibly affordable.

While I was always planning to go in May, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in Europe for my birthday or celebrate in my hometown first and leave a day or so later. As I looked up Dublin hostels, I found a cool one that offers a free night on your birthday. That sealed the deal for me! My 28th birthday will be my first full day in Dublin.

Birthday Hot Air Balloon Selfie
What’s more exciting: this hot air balloon ride I took on my birthday in 2015, or being in Dublin for my birthday in 2019?

I’ll actually stay in two hostels in Dublin, and three in Ireland. After a couple nights in the first hostel, I’ll take a bus trip to see sights like Blarney Castle and Cliffs of Moher while spending the night in Cork. When I return to Dublin, I’ll stay at the hostel that partners with the same tour bus company. For spending two nights there, I get a free bus trip to Wicklow!

 

Overnight Greyhound Bus
I’ve taken many bus trips in the past, including exploring the breadth of the US, France, and Spain!

I wanted to take a third excursion to Northern Ireland and Giant’s Causeway, but decided to go with a different tour company this time. Although this one wanted to charge me an extra 5 euro for what would basically be the same trip, they included the admission for the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge when other tours did not. And because I started making a reservation but didn’t finish, they offered me a 5-euro-off coupon code to come back to their site. Score!

I was disappointed that I would not be part of a cultural exchange like I would in Germany’s Diverbo. (It turns out that people in England and Ireland are already great at speaking English!) But I did find out about another opportunity to connect with local Dubliners…

My Money-Saving Activities this Month

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve earned an additional $629.51 (through extra work hours and projects) and saved $772.41. This was a few dollars short of my goal (I wanted to be at $800 by now), but I’ll chock it up to being a shorter month. This doesn’t include the money I’ve saved by using the library. My library lets me know how much money I’ve saved on my receipts, and it’s been nearly $1000 this year alone. I’ve chosen not to include this since I probably wouldn’t buy the books, DVDs, and musical instruments I borrowed, at least not for full price. But this did lead me to other money-saving ventures.

Library Guidebooks, Movie, and Reciept
All the money I’ve saved with things like guide books. Even The Princess Bride movie was for Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher (Cliffs of Insanity) research purposes.

I’ve been borrowing a lot of Rick Steves books, and one mentioned an Irish program where you can meet a local. With City of a Thousand Welcomes, the organization will pay for me and a local volunteer to go out for a nice tea and chat. I’ve already reserved my spot for the day I arrive!

Europe Guidebooks
One of these guidebooks is so good, I read it like a novel. The other I’m allowed to tear apart and bring along with me. Both are FREE!

Since I can’t take the library’s Rick Steves books to Europe with me, I took advantage of my AAA membership and got their Europe guidebook for FREE! I plan to tear out the England and Ireland sections and just take those along with me, with a bunch of notes added from my other reading.

Wildlife Safari Guanaco
A guanaco at Wildlife Safari’s drive-through

Despite my focus on saving money this month, I was still able to take a day trip to Wildlife Safari. I celebrated World Hippo Day with their free hippo-themed activities, and even used a free carload pass I was given a few months ago (for donating blood) to get everyone in my car free admission to the drive-thru safari. So I got the whole trip just for the price of (discounted) gas! The rest of my recreation was free activities like local walking, hiking, and even snowshoeing on our snow day! I also experienced the snow and sledding for the two weekends I helped at camp, and filled a few more days with extra work shifts.

Looking Ahead

With dates set and airline tickets purchased, I know March, April, and May will be focused on this trip. I have a few coupon and other savings ideas set into motion, but I have a feeling that I’ll soon be scrounging for more ways to save.

February Couponing to Europe
My couponing spreadsheet thus far. The blank spaces are deals that I plan to use, but haven’t cashed in on yet.

As of right now, I have $772.41 couponed and $629.51 extra dollars earned (only half, or $314.75, of my extra earnings goes towards this trip). That’s a total of $945.02 saved for this trip, but I’ve already spent $1644.07! Most of this expense is for the overseas flights, but also includes trip insurance, The London Pass, and the Giant’s Causeway day trip. So this trip is technically “in debt”, but I am putting all these expenses on a rewards card so that I’ll get a nice cash back bonus in time for the trip. Since I have other necessary trip-related expenses like hostels, more out-of-city excursions, transit, and food, I’d better keep on couponing!

Have you ever experienced an unexpected change in plans that ended up saving you money? Let me know in the comments!

Books, film, travel tips

3 Important Travel Lessons We Learned from Harry Potter

Image Credit

There are many reasons why the Harry Potter series has resonated so strongly with fans. Since the first book was published in 1997 who could have foreseen that it would spawn 6 sequels and become revivified by a series of blockbuster films, a sell out West End play and a major tourist attraction just outside of London? There’s no denying that Harry and his world are a cultural phenomenon… But why do we love it so much? Perhaps it’s because it presents us with a painfully accurate depiction of our adolescence, glossed over with a little fairy dust and early 20th century anachronisms? Maybe it’s because it riffs on myths and legends that are part of our unconscious pop culture psyche? Or perhaps it’s because the stories help us to become better people. There are some potent life lessons to be learned from the world of Harry Potter that intrepid wanderers can take with them on their travels, including…

People are not always what they seem

A lot of stories aimed at children deal in fairly two dimensional characters based on mythic archetypes. Hence, the good guys look like bad guys and the bad guys wear their villainy very much on their sleeve. When we travel, it’s all too tempting to be wary of new and unfamiliar people locales and customers, but the saga teaches us the value of taking a closer look. It shows us that when we scratch the surface, we can often find a person to be very different to their outward appearances. Take Scabbers, the cuddly little rat who is later revealed to be the treacherous Peter Pettigrew or the jittery and unassuming Professor Quirrell who turns out to have been osmosed by Voldemort. Of course, there’s no better embodiment of this than Professor Snape who, despite having been depicted as a sneering villain is revealed to have made a series of brave sacrifices to protect Harry out of love for his mother, Lilly. When so much is new and strange, a traveller can see monsters lurking in every corner, but a little understanding can reveal that things are rarely as scary as they appear.

Home isn’t necessarily where you grew up

Harry Potter spent his formative years in an unloving home where he was made to feel unwanted, unloved and like a huge inconvenience. Tragically, this is the reality that millions of real children experience around the world. These stories show them that things do get better and that in time they’ll find a place where they belong. Of course, this applies to adults, too! A big part of why many of us travel is to feel a sense of belonging that we just don’t get at home. A lot of people who put down roots after vacationing abroad just feel that sense of belonging when they find the right place, just like Harry did at Hogwarts. Take yourself to Viaja Compara Vuelo and find your next holiday destination.  You may just find your new home on your next vacation… Even if you don’t you’ll still have a great time.

Image by Flickr

Adventures are always better with friends

The mythology wouldn’t be half so compelling if Harry didn’t have Hermione and Ron at his side to share his adventures; to help him through the tough times and help him celebrate the good times. The same is true of travel. Whether you’re navigating the Canadian rockies or hugging Goofy at Disneyland, adventures are always better with friends.

The world is a big and sometimes scary place and having people you love and trust by your side can help you let go of your fear and trepidation and truly enjoy your travels!

Confession time: I have neither seen nor read a single Harry Potter book/movie in its entirety. So many thanks to my friends more knowledgeable in this subject who collabed on this post! I do enjoy traveling to new places through books and movies though. I took a virtual trip to Mexico by seeing Coco in theaters today. For adventurous book ideas,click here! 

Books, culture, destinations, resources, souvenir, travel tips, writing

What to Expect with a Letter to Juliet

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Before even watching the movie “Letters to Juliet”, I was excited to go to Verona as part of my Mediterranean Trek. So I planned out my visit to this city mainly by borrowing the movie from a friend. The only mistake I made was that I booked a mere two nights in Verona, leaving me with just one full day to experience all that this quaint city has to offer.

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My first night in Verona was spent arriving by a delayed train, then struggling in the dusk to find where my BnB was before finally giving in and taking a cab, so I didn’t see much in the midst of that stress. I started the next day bright and early with a walk to Juliet’s courtyard. This is what you see in “Letters to Juliet“, and it’s the perfect place to write a letter to Juliet! Because I got there early enough, there were only a few other people there. I found a quiet place by the grafitti wall of love to write my letter. In the movie, you can see women sticking their letters into the cracks of a wall. You can still do that, however, to make sure that a secretary of Juliet receives your letter, there are better practices in place now. The best thing to do is stick your letter in the red mailbox. Alternatively, if you go inside the house, you’ll find computer kiosks where you can e-mail her!

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go inside the house at the time, so I headed over to the area where you can find Juliet’s tomb. It turns out that you can get a discount by getting a combination ticket to Casa de Giulietta and the museum with her tomb, so I did that. The tomb was the best feature of the museum it’s housed in, but there are other art and artifacts to enjoy as well.

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I eventually went back to the house, Casa de Giulietta. Inside were a lot of artifacts from some of the Romeo and Juliet movies, such as costumes and a prop bed.

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But the best part of the Casa was getting to stand on Juliet’s balcony, and pondering “Wherefore art thou?

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While foot traffic inside the Casa wasn’t so bad, the courtyard was getting jam-packed with tour groups and other visitors. Here’s a tip: If you want a truly magical and meaningful experience with Juliet, go in the morning before the day trippers roll in!

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I went to the courtyard for a third time in the evening, and it was even more crowded then! But this is when I enjoyed putting my own graffiti on the wall entering the courtyard. I’m not a vandal, it’s actually encouraged!

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In another spot of the courtyard is the only place in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to place a love lock, as it will eventually become a part of an art piece. (But seriously, don’t put a love lock anywhere else! I saw locks on every fence and bridge in every city I went to, and it just looked inconsiderate and trashy.)

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There are a lot of other things to do in Verona, such as go to the Arena, walk by the river, or explore the castles. I did some of these things, but since none of them are directly related to Juliet, I’m going to fast forward to today.

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I had heard it would take a long time to get my letter back from Juliet. I was hoping it would arrive to my house around the time that I came back from the Mediterranean, but such was not the case. I kept it in the back of my mind, and thought about it sometimes when I went to get the mail. But today, I was totally not expecting it!

I opened the mailbox and grabbed the letters out. One had an Italian postmark, and the return address said it was from “Club di Giulietta”! I squealed in excitement. I scared my dog by my squealing. I hope the neighbors didn’t hear me squealing. I raced back to the house so I could carefully open the envelope.

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I don’t remember exactly what I wrote to Juliet, but it was a decent-sized letter that could be summed up as “where is he?” I was honestly just expecting the response to be a canned sentence on an index card. I was surprised at how much thought was put into the letter I received! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the letter.

“Finding love isn’t easy. In fact, it should be something they teach in school along with how to manage your finance and finding a job that you like.”

“Some people fall in love quickly- others warm to it slowly. But there is one common thing about it- that love doesn’t happen if you don’t take action.”

“Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.”

By the way, while I would definitely encourage a trip to Verona if you can, you don’t need to go there in order to get a letter from Juliet. Just send your letter to:

Club di Giulietta
Corso Sant’Anastasia, 29
37121 Verona, Italy

In an age where it’s rare to receive a beautifully handwritten letter, it’s even more special to receive one from a fictional character!

Letter from Juliet

Books

A Simple Song

Here’s a fast thought for your Friday:

Books are great. If I’m not exploring the world, I’m probably at home with a good book. Today was one of those days, as I am currently rereading this:

A Simple Song

Melody Carlson has been my favorite author for a long time, ever since I first read Diary of a Teenage Girl in middle school. She’s written over 200 books, and it would be wonderful if I have the opportunity to read all of them throughout my life. Because I get Melody Carlson’s monthly newsletter that features announcements and contests, I won a prize from her last April for sharing a story about an April Fool’s joke that was pulled on me. (I may share that prank with all of you later…) My prize was a box of her books, and A Simple Song was one of them. It’s a story about an Amish girl, Katrina, who lives in Holmes County, which was relevant to me since I only lived an hour’s drive from there!

Now that I’m on the other side of the country, this book has even more meaning as a read it for a second time. Katrina has the opportunity to go to Hollywood and compete on an American Idol style of show. She goes back and forth on this decision, but eventually leaves for the West Coast. Although I’m not Amish, and I would probably only be brought onto a singing competition as the comic relief, I feel like I have a lot in common with this fictional Katrina Yoder. We both left Central Ohio for a more promising west. It was a difficult decision, and while we know it was for the best, it still makes us uneasy even to this day. Being in locations close to Katrina’s journey really brought this story to life. Also, Melody Carlson lives in Oregon, so that makes this book even more relevant to my life. I hope I can run into her someday.

A good book is typically less costly than a trip, but it can take you on an even wilder adventure!