A Girls Road Trip, Germany

Kai and I had a conversation last fall that went something like this . . .

Ali: What if we booked Greece over my birthday weekend?
Kai: That would be great, because then our Greece trip wont overlap with Oktoberfest.
Ali: Ohh cool, I am looking forward to wearing my dirndl again this year!
Kai: What? What did you say?
Ali: My dirndl, I am looking forward to wearing it again.
Kai: Ohh, um, I am going to Oktoberfest with the guys this year . . . .
*cue hurt and sad Ali who hides it effortlessly*
Ali: Ohh, that’s fine, because I was planning on going with the girls . . .
Kai: No you’re not.
Ali: Yes I am!

And so dream was born. Or better yet, a challenge was accepted. My boyfriend had apparently made Oktoberfest plans without me – that’s fine Kai, sing your German songs and drink beer and eat pretzels with your dude friends, because I am going to have a much better time at Oktoberfest without you ;)In all actuality, I didn’t mind at all that Kai was going to Oktoberfest with his guy friends. With work travel, different friend groups, and individual hobbies and passions, Kai and I spend a lot of time apart which works well for both of us. I like the feeling of missing him every once in a while, and I love coming home after a week of work travel with so many new stories to share – and I know he feels the same. Kai and I are also pretty good about syncing up on our travel plans – if he plans on being out of town, I will make sure to fit in lots of friend time, so when he’s back we can really focus on each other. Quality, over quantity! So all that said, although I would have liked an invitation to Oktoberfest with my sexy German boyfriend, I was really looking forward to a fun weekend of my own around that time. I floated the idea of a long weekend trip past a few of the girls, and Carina, Dannika, and Kira were totally up for an adventure! We talked about a surf trip, or maybe even our own Oktoberfest celebration, as Carina had a few friends that we could stay with in Munich. Fast forward a few weeks, and Amie, one of my good friends from the US, had also decided to join for the weekend! So in the end we landed on an Oktoberfest road trip, which would be fairly inexpensive, a fun cultural weekend, and give us a chance to do some beer drinking and dancing! We decided to go on opening weekend, which worked best for all of our schedules, and would give us a chance to meet up with some other friends who were also going that weekend! Continue reading


Planning a Trip to Vietnam

Kai and I have been talking about going to Vietnam for more than two years. We had initially planned on going last year, but then – surprise – I took on a major apartment renovation project right around the time we had penciled in our Asia trip. So sadly, my time and money were prioritized elsewhere, and our Vietnam planning got put on hold. Thankfully, Kai wasn’t too upset about this at the time as he was training for an Ironman and had been a bit hesitant to take two weeks off of his training. So last winter and spring we focused on our personal projects, and were placated with a few long weekends trips together later in the year (here). But we continued to talk about our Vietnam vacation for the next few months, and just before Christmas we finally got around to booking our tickets to Hanoi! I’ve never been to Asia (unless you count the eastern half of Istanbul, which is kinda cheating ;) so I’m over the moon to finally explore a new continent! I really haven’t felt out of my comfort zone while traveling in many years (walking through the Spice Bazar in Istanbul during the call for prayer was probably the most ‘woah’ moment I’ve had in recent times) so I am really looking forward to feeling lost and confused and overwhelmed in a new country, in addition to discovering a new culture, dining on an exotic cuisine (spicy noodles every day!) and taking in a vast new landscape. To be honest, two weeks don’t feel like enough. There are so many beautiful cities and attractions in Vietnam, and we had a really hard time of prioritizing what to do on our trip!However, now that our vacation is a week away, I wanted to share some of the work that went into our planning process, and tell you about where we ultimately booked and why. I’ll also share my tips on finding great airfare and hotels, as well as my packing list, and how we accomplished some of the other admin-related tasks before the trip. And of course, I’ll share all of the fun photo highlights from our trip once we’re back, as well as any amends to the content here (never know if that packing list is reasonable until you’re there!) Continue reading

The Fryeburg Fair, Maine

The only thing that’s better than spending a day with my family, is spending a day with my family AND farm animals AND a plethora of unhealthy fair food! And to my utter delight, that is exactly what happened this past October. The weekend before my birthday, I had a work trip that brought me to the states, and I couldn’t pass up a cheeky 24 hours in Maine with my family before flying back to Amsterdam. I haven’t heard my family sing happy birthday to me in more than nine years, so it was an extra special visit as we were able to have a little birthday gathering in my honor, followed by a day at the Fryeburg Fair, which topped off a very magical Maine weekend.To be honest, the timing of my visit kind of sucked, as my parents had just sold their house and were three weeks away from their big move! At first I thought the fair might just be a sister outing, as my parents were both bogged down with moving-related tasks, but my mom somehow managed to plow through her chores on Saturday, which meant that on Sunday she was able to join us at the fair! Continue reading

Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands

I first heard about the Kröller-Müller Museum eight years ago. A colleague at 180 (remember those days?) came into work on a Monday morning raving about the experience she’d had at Kröller-Müller over the weekend. I was told that the museum was surrounded by an expansive national park that you could explore by bike, and that the museum itself had a vast collection of art in addition to a lovely sculpture garden. It sounded like an idyllic day trip, and I’ve now had ‘a visit to the Kröller-Müller museum’ scribbled on my Dutch to-do list for more than 7 years. Each time a visitor came to town, I would coax to see if there was any interest in a cultural day outside of Amsterdam. But the train ride to the east of Holland always seemed a bit too long for my out-of-town guests, who always seemed to be more interested in exploring the Rijksmuseum and Ann Frank House within the city.And just when it seemed like I might never make it to the Kröller-Müller Museum, Kai finally agreed to take the leap with me! Continue reading

Romantic Road, Germany

Taking a drive down Romantic Road has been on my travel bucket list for years and years. What is Romantic Road, you ask? Romantic Road is a picturesque route in southern Germany that winds past many medieval villages and quintessential German sights (think castles, churches, enchanted forests). The road starts in Munich and ends near the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, at the foothills of the Alps. My mom and I looked into doing the drive almost 9 years ago when she came to visit me at university in England, but we ultimately passed as flights to Munich were too expensive by the time we actually got around to booking. Little did I know that – fast forward a decade – I would be dating Kai who calls Munich home! We’ve been to Munich a few times now for various family events, and Oktoberfest twice (when you have a German boyfriend, it’s just what you do ;) but we never really had a chance to venture too far outside of the city.However, this past August Kai’s step-dad was turning 70, so we planned a long weekend in Munich for the celebration, followed by a two-day adventure down Romantic Road! I really wanted to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, and so we booked one night at Landhaus Kössel, which was right by the castle.  Continue reading

My Apartment: The Renovation

I started this post with the intention of giving you a home tour. I was going to take you through the kitchen, and then in the next post chat about my living room. But as I got writing, I realized that there were so many other things that happened before I got into the design phase of creating my apartment. So first, the prelude to my home design, is the purchase and renovation of my apartment, which was perhaps the biggest undertaking of my life! So, here’s the background on my apartment’s design – the struggles of buying a house in Amsterdam, the logistics of moving in Holland, scraping out an entire run down apartment, and starting anew. And spoiler alert :) it ends like this:On March 1st, 2017, I got the keys to my new apartment. Well, my old-new apartment I should say, as by the time I got the keys, the space had already been well-lived in for more than 70 years. The apartment was a ‘new build’ (which in Amsterdam basically means anything built in the past century) with huge windows in every room, high ceilings, a small front balcony, and lots of potential . . . which is a nice way of saying . . . . it was bad! Continue reading

Acadia, Maine

Although Kai and I have been together for two years, he only managed to come visit Maine for the first time about six months ago. Two summers ago a trek across the Atlantic together seemed a bit too soon, and I really wanted the sun to be shining on his first visit – so we waited until the summer of 2017 for his first trip to Maine (yay). I had a Maine bucket list for him that was about a mile long (you can read one of my favorite Maine bucket lists here) which was a bit ambitious since we only had about 10 days together on the east coast. However, we did our best to tick our way down the list, which included going for a ride in my dad’s Firebird, playing ski ball at Old Orchard Beach, watching fireworks, getting an ice cream at the Diary Corner, spending a day at the lake with my family, eating lobster, going to a Red Sox game, basking in the sun at the beach, having a camp fire with s’mores and sparklers at night, and visiting LL Bean at an ungodly late hour – just to name a few! While he was visiting we also wanted to do something that was new for the both of us, and so we booked a three night adventure in Acadia, Maine, with plans to hike, eat, and swim!While all of Maine is referred to as Vacationland (my parent’s little slice is especially pretty) even those who already live in the state often have a favorite seaside town or lake district they like to escape to in the summer. Before my family moved to Maine, we used to vacation in Scarborough (where my parents now live!) and then once we moved to Scarborough, we would drive up the coast to go camping in Damariscotta. However, despite spending the majority of my adolescent years in Maine, I never made it all the way up to Bar Harbor, the blue seaside town right next to Acadia National park. And so Kai landed on this destination together, one we were very excited to visit! Continue reading

Romance in Rome

As bummed as I was to say goodbye to my family after our amazing Italy trip, I was thankful I had the opportunity to spend the long weekend with my lover in Rome :) My family left on Friday, and the following Monday was a bank holiday, which meant that when Kai flew in on Thursday night, we could spend four whole days together exploring one of my new favorite cities. Kai and I have never really been on a trip together for more than 4 nights, so I really savor these mini excursions we have together :) I spent a lot of time in my last post talking about Rome’s cultural sights, as I ticked most of the main tourist attractions off the list with my family. My time with Kai was a lot different – we didn’t buy tickets or stand in any lines, rather we walked around the city, hand in hand, eating ice cream and getting lost. We walked down small side streets that beckoned to us, and stopped for croissants and coffee when we pleased. We drank cocktails on rooftops, and rented a little buggy to pedal around in the park. That weekend in Rome was HOT (mid 80’s) so on one day we said addio to the hot streets of Rome and hit up a pool in paradise. I didn’t take as many photos, I didn’t really document the restaurants or shops we stopped at, and we spent a lot of time just enjoying each other’s company. It was truly a romantic dream weekend in Italy, and I had the best time. Continue reading

Rome, Italy con la mia Famiglia

Ciao friends and happy new year!! I hope you’re all starting 2018 off right, with great family, friends, food and perhaps even a dose of travel?? I am nearing the end of my Italy saga, which is exciting because I have a few fun posts to share from the fall and winter. I would really love to get caught up on blogging in the coming weeks – I had such a blast in Austria over New Year’s, and I would love to get back into sharing content with you while it’s fresh in my memory and heart :) That said, I also have a hugely busy January kicking off, with travel to NYC and the Dominican Republic, followed by my annual company conference and party here in Amsterdam, so by the end of January I know I’ll be beat and so ready for some hibernation! I am looking forward to hanging at home on dark nights, drinking red wine and doing puzzles – maybe even binging on some Netflix. I also can’t wait to make a big winter fruit salad with fresh produce from the Albert Cuyp Market, and maybe even some hearty slow cooker meals, but those dreams will have to wait a few weeks until I have some down time in Amsterdam.

I am starting to compile a few New Years resolutions, and I will definitely share them here with you once I’ve given it some thought, but overall I would love this year to be about me. Ha – that sounds very self centered, and truly I don’t mean it that way ;) I make a living producing travel content, and I spend a lot of my personal time on social media and blogging. And while I LOVE being a creator vs a consumer, I also want to take violin lessons, and make it to yoga more often, and just do things that wont really have an impact on my professional or social media life, but will make me a better, happier me. I downloaded Moment on my phone, and it was really an eye opener to see how often I was spending staring at my iPhone screen. Granted, 75% of that time is typically for work related purposes, but I hate that I browse social media while I’m standing in line for my coffee, or as a ‘too lazy to get out of bed’ activity in the morning. There are a lot of things I love about social media (and to be honest, I could never quit completely because of my job) but I am often torn between sharing moments I love and that mean something to me vs wanting my feed to look professional and uniform and creatively cohesive. Right now my blog and social media ‘career’ has really taken a back seat to my job (which is really a fusion of travel and advertising, so I am totally okay with this!) so I am happy to keep my content ‘for me’ for now – but there is this niggling voice that’s poking me to get back into marketing myself and my blog, making posts that are less personal but are of more value for readers, but then there’s also a part of me that wants to delete everything and be much more private, and just keep my special moments personal and to myself . . . anyways, I am totally rambling here. But I really want to put some thought into what I’d like to achieve in 2018 :) because as you know I am a type-A personality and can’t do it if I don’t have a list!

Anyways, what was the purpose of this post? Ohh yes, Rome! Rome was one of the few major cities in Europe I hadn’t managed to visit after almost eight years of living in The Netherlands. From Holland, it’s inexpensive and easy to hop on a plane and explore elsewhere in Europe, even if it’s just for the weekend. And while there are some major European cities I’ve been to numerous times, I’ve never managed to catch a weekend in Rome. 

And so when my family agreed to visit Italy, it was unanimous that we had to make a stop in Italy’s sunny capital :) Continue reading

Pompeii, Italy

Pompeii really blew my mind. I’ve been a lot of places, and I’ve seen a lot of things, but this was the first time I’ve ever walked along a path that was built so long ago – the area was first settled around 800 BC by wealthy Greeks attracted to the sunshine and scenery in the Bay of Naples. The city of Pompeii was first mentioned in written history in 300 BC, about 400 years before its destruction and 300 years before Christ would even walk the earth. If you’re not familiar with the very true tale, at the time of its demise, Pompeii was a thriving community in the Roman Colony. Continue reading