Montana is the best but no one there wants you to know it

A bit of culture shock is expected when you leave your own country, right? Like, oh, I’m going to Paris and everyone is going to smoke everywhere all the time and I don’t have to tip anywhere and I’m going to get dirty looks for even trying to speak French…TRES BIEN. I get it. This is not America and the servings here are not large and I’m ok with that (no I’m not). But, hey, life’s great and I’m eating my weight in croissants on quaint little streets named Rue Saint Dominique and such. Ya know?

But what about culture shock IN America? AS AN AMERICAN?!

I present to you, Montana.

fullsizeoutput_c03

M

O

N

T

A

N

A

fullsizeoutput_c0a.jpeg
Glacier National Park

I’ve been to the South. I’ve been to Utah. I’ve been to Texas. I’ve been here and there.

But…

MONTANA.

GUYS.

I loved it. I smiled the entire time I was there minus when the power went out in my Airbnb just as it started to snow and I was all alone but ANYWAY.

fullsizeoutput_c2d.jpeg
Mission Mountain Range

LOOK HOW PRETTY EVERYTHING IS.

fullsizeoutput_c24.jpeg
Lake McDonald

Montana’s the kind of place where folks are friendly for no good reason and it’s weird because NY is, like, well…not like that. I mean, NY is my home and I adore it and I too hate when tourists stop in the middle of sidewalks and/or walk on the WRONG side (people, sidewalks are like ROADS…there is a right way and a wrong way to walk) and people who think Times Square and 5th Ave. are New York City, like, hello no bye.

New Yorkers are blunt, brash, bonkers, and bankrupt because the rent is too damn high.

We run on Dunkin’ and Montana runs on these adorable little coffee shacks that I quickly became obsessed with but oh so embarrassed to drive through in my dumb Cadillac (quick story time: I rented a car and they gave me a Caddy which most would love but I was like UGH and it didn’t have a CD player and I was SO mad because I brought my Man of the Woods CD because duh and I missed my little 2000 Toyota Camry and I felt like I was driving a spaceship and it had Cali license plates to make things worse and it was just so not Montana or me but ANYWAY).

20180928_083005
Cowgirl Coffee where they claim to have “the best hot chocolate ever” so naturally I got it and it was not the best. City Bakery in NYC is still THE BEST but whatever it was chocolate and it was hot so it was nice.
20180929_094554
Not my Caddy but the car I wish I had been driving bc I BET that puppy has a CD player.

Things I did in Montana:

  • Went camping for the first time.
  • Saw the Milky Way with my own four eyes.
  • Saw a half-full milk jug on the side of the road.
  • Saw a few bison!
  • Went to Wyoming.
  • Drank huckleberry wine.
  • Wait, Wyoming is NOT in Montana. Whoopsie daisy.
  • Changed my mind about dinosaurs existing. I blame Zack.
  • Hiked a mountain by myself and thought I saw a bear but it was really a large deer.
  • Pulled over several times to let other cars pass me because I was driving grandma miles per hour to really take in my surroundings. SO MUCH BEAUTIFULNESS.
  • Said “Wow, everyone here is SO nice!” approximately 2,945 times.
  • Said “Wow, everything here is SO gorgeous!” approximately 2,946 times.
  • Couchsurfed for the first time and met the coolest family and fellow couchsurfer.
  • Fell in some mud in a field after dancing to JT on the side of the road. I blame Zack.
  • Turned bright red when my tour group and guide sang ‘happy birthday’ to me on a red bus tour in Glacier National Park the day after my actual birthday only to find out that there was another lady and it was her ACTUAL birthday and then the tour guide was like ‘sorry, we’re not singing again’ and I was like omg I just stole her thunder WHOOPS.
  • Saw Old Faithful erupt! That might’ve technically been in Wyoming but– oh, look! A bison!

fullsizeoutput_c39.jpeg

I’ve been to quite a few places. And I always ask myself, “Hmmm, could I see myself living here?” whenever I travel somewhere new. I compare everything to NY. But we all know NY is incomparable. It’s electric, magnetic, rat-infested, and smells like pee most of the time.

But it’s wonderful.

And it’s safe and cozy and I know where all my favorite things are because the grid system is INCREDIBLE but hot damn huckleberry pancakes!

Montana sure felt like home.

Like your favorite worn-out book with all the soft, wrinkly dog-eared pages that you keep going back to, re-reading it over and over because it’s just so damn GOOD and you find new details and bits of gold and coffee-stained spots (whoops) each time you read it and it never ever gets old.

THAT’S MONTANA.

fullsizeoutput_c1c.jpeg

20180928_135128.jpg

But the locals don’t want you to know it! They want to preserve the great treasure state– and I don’t blame them.

Here’s the thing. If you go to a place like Missoula or Bozeman, you can’t expect it to be like LA or NY or wherever, right? You have to EMBRACE the simple life. I mean, it’s not all dirt roads and log cabins and fishin’ and all that– in fact, I saw the prettiest Walmart while in Montana. And by “prettiest” I mean it was literally a regular Walmart SURROUNDED by gorgeous mountains and it was unreal and it almost made me want to shop there but I didn’t.

DSC07148.JPG

Ok, so where did I go, exactly?

  • Kalispell
  • Whitefish
  • Missoula
  • Helena
  • Bozeman
  • Big Sky
  • Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, into the woods, down some streets, here and there, you get it.

Right after Montana, I flew to LA for a weekend to visit some friends and, let me tell YOU, flying from the tiny little airport in Bozeman (complete with dinosaur fossils) to LAX (complete with yoga rooms) was culture SHOCKKKCKCKKCKCK. I was like, wait, what IS Starbucks and where are my little Cowgirl Coffees at and why is everyone wearing full make-up and talking about acting and avocados?

I found myself missing Montana as soon as I left. 😭

From the sweeping landscapes and the abundance of mom and pop shops to the suspiciously friendly residents and the unpredictable weather, I am HOMESICK for this state.

So, au revoir New York! I’m excited to call Montana my actual home beary soon.

fullsizeoutput_c13.jpeg

Spread kindness and cheer, xo
Jackie

“This Is the Best Cheesecake Ever,” Said a New Yorker in Berlin

Ah, New York. Home to the best of the best. From pizza and pastrami to bagels and bodegas, if you want it, NY has it. And it is the best.

Also, apparently home to the “best fly fishing east of the Rockies,” according to the New York State Conservationist MagazineWho knew? 

Of course, the Empire State is also known for its infamous New York-style cheesecake. From Junior’s to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake and S&S, it’s hard to argue with the feeling of your arteries closing as you take ‘just one more bite’ of the creamy cake made of fromage.

I mean, it’s hard to argue with a New Yorker in general. Colin Heinrich offers a guide “how to win an argument with somebody from New York” …but he’s not a native New Yorker so I wouldn’t trust him.

Anyway. 

Back to Berlin. Remember that time I was in Berlin and it was awful? Ok, it wasn’t that bad…just, like, weird and grungy with a real sex, drugs, and rock & roll house music type vibe. Sounds like my kind of place, right?

*Taps ruby slippers off-white BOBS Skechers together, desperately trying to get back to NY*

BUT WAIT.

The cake made of cheese, guys. The cheesecake. 

I was led to a little place called Five Elephant by Loic, the photographer I booked for an Airbnb Experience. More on that in another post…but here’s a sneak peek:

IMG_1551 (1).jpg

Dammmnnn, nice photo skills, Loic! Ok, back to the cake.

Loic asked if I’d like to stop somewhere for a drink (beer) or a coffee.

Me: ‘Oh, yeah! Cawwwfeee for sure!’

Loic: ‘Er…’

Me: ‘Great!’

On we went. Loic insisted that the place we were going not only had great cawwfee but the *best* cheesecake as well.

*New Yorker skepticism sets in*

 ewis1.gifWho does this guy think he is? He’s not even from Berlin and now he thinks some random cawwfee shop has the ‘best’ cheesecake. We’ll see about that. Has he ever been to NY? Nope, he hasn’t. WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?!

But…GUYS.

Five Elephant is on an unassuming street in Berlin’s more artsy fartsy district, Kreuzberg. And, well, I’ll try to describe the cheesecake…but first, a photo:

img_20180803_143229_451-e1533572668787.jpg

Do you see that thin layer on the top? Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But cheesecake will never be the same without it.

And that crust? Yeah, again, I don’t know but it was THE BEST.

And the actual cheesecake? ‘Holy bananas’ is all I can say.

It was as if the cheesecake was whipped for days on end by little elves. Magical, delightful, cheesecake-making elves. (Sidenote: I am ready for snowy weather and Christmas. Can you tell?)

GUYS. I know I can be dramatic, but LOOK at Jonathan’s review. He is a “LOCAL GUIDE.” The internet doesn’t lie! 

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 4.18.18 PM

Yo, that guy Jonathan that reviewed this place WAS RIGHT. 😂

The comments go on and on…I’ve noticed folks have knocked off stars for the cafe’s lack of WiFi, but seriously. You will not need to connect to anything except your inner soul once you take a bite of that cheesecake.

I almost don’t want to ‘publish’ this blog post for fear that this place will really catch on and turn into a chain and then it’ll be awful.

But I’m not that popular, so publish I shall! 

Alas, it was a cake made of cheese that left me beguiled by Berlin.

You win, Berlin.

You win.

Spread kindness and cheer (and cheese and cake), xo
Jackie

Eating Danish Danishes and Other Things: 48 Hours in Copenhagen

The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is home to over half a million folks! It’s a beautiful city with colorful houses and tons of history! Denmark is considered a part of Scandinavia, along with Sweden and Norway.

Thinking of running away to Copenhagen?! Read on for my tips!

Where to stay?

If you’re looking for a true hostel experience, you should definitely stay at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It was Monica’s first hostel experience and we arrived late on a Monday night, walking through the PACKED bar/reception area…

“Are all hostels like this?!?” – Mon

Not all hostels are as lively as CPH Downtown, but most have cool vibes! (Except for Singer109 in Berlin…more on that in a future post…but heads up – don’t stay there!!)

What to do?

Copenhagen has a lot going for it:

  • Friendly folks
  • Very walkable, flat streets
  • An abundance of pastry shops

However, this city is expensive!! So, I recommend going on a FREE walking tour through a company aptly named “Copenhagen Free Walking Tours.” 😂

If you do this tour, try and get JAROD as your guide! He is hilarious and wonderful and, like most tour guides, not a native Scandinavian!

He took our group all around the city for about three hours! Mon and I learned that most of Copenhagen’s history involves buildings burning down, being built back up, and burning down again. Whoopsie! 😅

If you’re new to a city, walking tours are a great way to not only learn a bit of history but also to get yourself oriented and discover other things to do while you’re there!

After the tour, Mon and I went to a great outdoor/indoor food space called Torvehallerne. We each had a delicious taco and then a kimchi pancake that was SO good!

^ I tried it…not that hot.

In the same market area, we came across a game of Petanque…known to most Americans as bocce ball. The guys running it asked if we’d like to play a game…so, of course we joined in!

We ended our first day in Copenhagen at the bar in our hostel where we made some French friends. 💁

The second day, Mon and I walked around the second oldest amusement park in the world! It’s called Tivoli and it’s right by the CPH Downtown Hostel.

After that, we wandered around a bit more and went for a canal boat tour. ⛵

On this tour, I learned that the houses along the canal were painted so distinctly because they weren’t numbered back in the day! Mail carriers would literally deliver mail simply by knowing who lived in what colored house! 😂

Finally, for our last day in Copenhagen, I insisted we get Danishes! Mon and I ended up meeting fellow Americans and the four of us went together. Sooo worth it. 😍

Such a fun and beautiful city! Have you been? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

Globetrotting with a Bootleg Phone Plan and No Data: A Solo Travel Guide

Happy Friday the 13th y’all! I’m in Berlin at the moment…I arrived yesterday evening and spent about 13 hours sleeping. 😂

As I eat currywurst (the national fast food of Berlin) for the first time in my life in a spot called KreuzBurger, I figured I’d also take the time to let y’all know how to survive solo travel in lands far, far away.

Pro tip: Don’t stress, plan less, and learn to wing it!

Easier said than done for most, I know, but don’t get caught up in all the little things when traveling abroad! As long as you have your plane ticket, a phone, cash/credit, and your passport, you’ll be just fine!

What about an international phone plan, Jackie?

Take it from someone who has an $80 LG phone that runs on Virgin Mobile and has been to 12 foreign countries…you don’t need an international phone plan. Once I leave American soil, I turn data off and solely rely on WiFi.

Of course, if you’re traveling to more remote places, etc., then investing in an international plan may be smart.

The great thing about most foreign countries… especially big cities in Europe…is that they have free public WiFi all around! Outside, inside, in the metro stations, on the buses, and essentially anywhere else you’d need it!

Also, did you know Google Maps works without WiFi?! As long as you know where you’re going, the locator dot will continue to tell you where YOU are on the map! So, as you move along, you can see if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

If you’re traveling alone, I recommend getting flights, trains, etc. that arrive during the day… especially if you plan on walking to your hostel, etc. once you arrive.

Berlin is the first foreign city I’ve ever traveled to alone where the main language isn’t English (save for Iceland, but I had been there before), so I booked a flight that got in at 5pm. This gave me allowance to get a bit lost in the streets as I made my way to my hostel (and I totally did 😂), knowing I’d have plenty of daylight to work with. Plus, I’m always sure to keep to main streets and, if Google maps isn’t helping me, I pop into a nearby cafe or shop to grab some WiFi. 😅

It may sound stressful but it really isn’t. I tell myself that if worst comes to currywurst, I can always hail a cab! (Hopefully… 😅)

Coming from NYC, I feel confident getting around any major city…even without relying on my phone!

Pro tip: Look up and actually READ the street signs and don’t fear getting lost!

I’ve found that folks who rely on their cell data and mapped out routes in foreign cities often miss out on little things because they’re so fixated on not missing a turn. I actually just met a girl from Australia who also said she doesn’t have an international plan because she doesn’t want to be staring at her phone during her travels!

This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to talk to folks and SEE what’s around you! We’ve become so dependent on our phones but we don’t need them!

What do you do when you go abroad? Let me know in the comments!

Also…if y’all have any tips for Berlin, let me know! I’m here till Monday and have done zero research…whoops! 🤦

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

48 Hours in Edinburgh: A Solo Traveler’s Guide

Greetings, y’all! I’m currently writing from the Downtown Hostel in Copenhagen, but I wanted to share more about my time in Scotland!

Why Scotland?

Well, my main goal for this trip was GETTING to Europe for as cheaply as possible…the best flight out of NYC that I found was a WOWair flight to Edinburgh with a 20-hour layover in Iceland – check out my post about the Blue Lagoon if you haven’t already!

I didn’t know much about Scotland prior to visiting, but I knew it’d be beautiful. Whether you’re traveling alone or going with a friend or two, here’s some advice for ya!

What money do I need?

Scotland is part of the UK and the country uses the pound sterling.

Where should I stay?

Stay at the Budget Backpackers Hostel (also known as the Kickass Hostel)! It’s easily accessible if you’re flying into Edinburgh. Just hop on the Airlink bus ($7.50 for a round-trip ticket) and take it to the last stop (Waverly Bridge). From there, the hostel is a ten-minute walk away… however, you will have to trudge uphill a bit! If you have a ton of luggage, you may wanna take a cab!

What should I do?!

I arrived in mid-afternoon on a Saturday in Edinburgh…after a 6:30AM flight from Iceland. After checking into my hostel, I decided to wander around on my own to see the area. From the Royal Mile to the Scott Monument, everything was within walking distance.

For solo travelers, I also highly recommend going on a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness with a company called Rabbie’s. Not to be confused with RABIES.

😅

I went on a tour that left on a Sunday morning at 8AM and lasted ALLLL day…it was tiring because I’d stayed out till 3AM with some newfound hostel friends the night before… but it was well worth the early wake-up call!

The tour included several stops, including the Commando Memorial, Glencoe Park, Three Sisters Mountains, Loch Ness and more! We even went on an hour-long boat tour in an attempt to find NESSIE!!

Things I learned…

  • The Scottish Highlands are gorgeous and only two million folks live here.
  • “Loch” means “lake” in Scottish Gaelic.
  • The folks in Scotland believe in tons of mystical creatures and superstitions.
  • Much of the landscape in Scotland was formed from giant glaciers passing through millions of years ago, as well as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions!

My final day in Edinburgh was spent wandering the streets after having a less-than-wonderful dining experience at The Elephant House (more on that here).

Have you visited Scotland? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie