Youth and Government – 72nd MLC in Sacramento, CA

Hello everyone!

I’ve been waiting to post about this so I could collect my thoughts and reflect on this past year of Youth and Government as a whole (I can’t believe it’s over already), but the time is finally here. If you’re unfamiliar with Youth and Government, it’s a youth model legislature and court program through the YMCA. The California Y&G program has two weekend-long statewide training conferences and the culmination to the year is the statewide conference in Sacramento, which was a full 6-day trip (the actual conference activities are only 4 days). Whatever delegation you are in will meet weekly throughout the program to inform you on debate topics, politics, and other aspects of the program, as well as just have fun.

I joined my local Y&G delegation this year not knowing what to expect, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I became so much closer with a few people I’ve been acquaintances with at school for a while, and I met so many amazing and genuine people from other schools in my area. I’m a pretty shy person but I’ve always been interested in politics, government, and law, so it seemed like a great way to get out of my comfort zone- I was right. The Sacramento conference was absolutely exhausting and amazing in every way. I was in the Appellate Court program so I got to present a court case, and my partner and I actually won!

During the conference, you’re mainly going to sessions for whatever specific program area you’re in. You get meal breaks and you can eat with your friends wherever you want within the boundaries of the program (a few blocks in downtown, plenty of places to go), and you’re responsible for walking everywhere and getting to sessions and getting ready. It was so fun to be independent and wearing business clothes in the city- I felt so old! It also bonded my delegation together even more than I thought it would. 24/7 for basically a week with people really bonds you, especially when you’re having fun and making incredible memories doing something super unique that most kids your age don’t get to do. There’s also a few joint sessions, and it’s amazing to see people speak in front of the whole 4000 person program.

Another highlight of the week for me was when my delegation had elections for our officer team next year. Someone nominated me for president- I gave my speech and didn’t win, but someone else nominated me for campaign manager, which I ran for and won the position!! I was really hoping to get an officer position since I want to get way more involved in the program next year since I now know how much I love it, but I didn’t actually expect to get anything. I’m so thankful to have been elected since I’ve never had a real, concrete leadership position/title in anything before, and it made me feel a lot more confident in my abilities to be a leader in some way throughout the program.

This program is so inspiring and it really does change lives. I can’t say that I’ve completely transformed and become a different person who speaks in front of thousands of people easily, but I have witnessed it do so to others, and I can only hope to work towards that same transformation in the future. If you’re at all interested in debating, politics, law, government, or even just having fun and learning about all of the above a little bit to see if you like it, I highly suggest you join the program. It’s not just for people who are experts on these topics or overachievers or the loud ones in every room- there’s truly a place for everyone within the program and if you join you will find yours.

Sacramento’s also just a genuinely cool place. I haven’t been to Northern California since I was little and I’ve never been to Sacramento, so it was super cool to tour the Capitol and actually be arguing a court case inside of it. There were lots of good restaurants, and I loved the feeling of being independent in the city. It definitely affirmed my desire to live in a big city one day. My delegation got there a day early so we could tour Old Town Sacramento, and we had a lot of fun bonding times there.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my experience, and I hope you consider joining Y&G if you’re still in high school and it’s available near you. If you’re out of high school and this still sounds amazing, they also have intern and volunteer opportunities that sound amazing- I would totally consider being an intern for the program in college. Regardless, thank you to the YMCA and to Y&G for helping me discover a new part of myself and for giving me the best memories with the best people at conferences. I can’t wait for next year!

Brooke

How I Pack for A Weekend Getaway – Youth and Gov Conference!

Hello everyone!

Finals week is over, it’s the start of a new semester, and I got to spend the long weekend in Fresno with people that I love and in the program I’ve also fallen in love with this year. It wasn’t exactly a vacation or winding-down kind of trip, but it was still a great, good-old-fun break from the craziness of school, and a nice reward for getting through the week. As you guys know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I love to write about packing for any trips I go on. If you’re curious about what I packed for this weekend conference, keep on reading!

I used my carry-on suitcase and a Jansport backpack since I needed a bag that I could use when walking around during the day from session to session. We didn’t go back to our hotel rooms throughout the day, so I had a lot of daily essentials with me. Here’s everything I packed:

  • My delegation sweatshirt (each delegation has one, mine is a cute baby blue)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 2 pairs of normal socks and 2 pairs of fuzzy socks
  • Undergarments of course
  • Rain jacket
  • Snacks (cookies, candy, fruit snacks, granola bars… the works)
  • Perfume
  • Toiletries (retainer, shampoo/conditioner, soap, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, deodorant, chapstick, retainer)
  • Tide to-go pen – a must for a messy eater like me!
  • Portable charger
  • Headphones for the long road trip
  • Money for food trucks, Starbucks, and Dippin Dots
  • Notebook and pens for note-taking
  • Vans because comfy shoes always
  • Hydro Flask
  • Lots of energy and excitement!

If you’re confused on what Youth and Government is, you should definitely look up the program and learn more about it on the YMCA’s website. It’s an amazing organization that exposes kids to debate, government, and activism while having fun doing it. I’m so happy with the experiences I’ve had in it this year and I would recommend it to anyone even remotely interested!

-Brooke

Places I Want to Go in 2020

Hello everyone!


After I wrote my post about all the places I’d been in 2019 (which you should go check out if you haven’t already), it got me thinking about where I hope to travel to this upcoming year. I traveled more than I ever have this year, so I feel like listing a whole bunch of places would be unrealistic- this list will be fairly short, and will pretty much only include places within the country. That’s why the post is listed “Places I Want to Go in 2020”, rather than just “Places I Want to Go” in general. Regardless, I hope you enjoy hearing about my longing for adventures.

  • New York, NY – I’ve been to upstate New York to visit family when I was 7, but we didn’t go to the city at all when I was there. I’ve wanted to visit New York so badly since watching Gossip Girl, and Columbia University has been one of my dream schools since I was little. There’s just so much to see there and it seems like it’s a city unlike any other, so I want to visit and experience it all (as well as tour Columbia!).
  • San Luis Obispo, CA – This is a much more local trip, but I’ve never really been anywhere in central or northern California. I’d like to visit Cal Poly SLO just to see what it’s like since I know it’s a good school, and it’s always fun to visit a beach town.
  • San Fransisco, CA – Similar to SLO, it’s a more local trip, but I’ve never been to San Fransisco. I find that funny since I’ve lived in California my whole life and it’s such a well-known city, so I really want to go and see what Northern California is like. There’s also a ton of schools to visit there like UC Berkeley and Stanford, so that’s an excuse to go. I think I want to go out-of-state for college, but SF is far enough that who knows- it may be a completely different vibe that I love. It also looks like such a beautiful city.
  • Chicago, IL – Another city to visit under the guise of college tours! I want to go see Northwestern and UChicago, and I really love cities, but I haven’t been to most of the big ones. I think this would be a cool trip, and my mom always says Chicago is her favorite city she’s been to.
  • Ann Arbor, MI – Michigan looks absolutely beautiful and I would love to see Lake Michigan and all the different parts. The reason I listed Ann Arbor is because that’s where the University of Michigan is, and I would love to go visit. It’s supposed to be beautiful there, and I would probably go in the same trip as Chicago since they’re relatively close.
  • Boston, MA – If I went to Boston, it would probably be part of a whole East Coast college tour. There’s so many colleges to look at in Boston, and all my friends who have been said it’s such a fun city. I’d like to go just to visit, but I would obviously want to tour the colleges there as well.
  • Washington D.C. – I went to D.C. for a school trip in eighth grade and fell in love. My dad has never been and I don’t think my brother plans on going on the school trip like I did, so we might do a family trip. I would also love to tour Georgetown and other schools in the area.
  • Maui or Oahu, HI – My grandparents live on the Big Island of Hawaii, but I’ve never been to the more “touristy” islands like Maui or Oahu. This is a pretty unrealistic trip since if I ended up going to Hawaii for whatever reason I would probably go visit and stay with my grandparents, but I figured I’d throw it out there since pretty much all of the other places on this list are more urban/cities.
  • East Coast trip in general – A couple of the places I listed are on the East Coast; I think I want to go to school on the East Coast, so I want to do a college tour trip where I can get a feel for all the main cities, and tour a lot of colleges. Some other notable places I would love to visit are some of the Ivies like Yale (Connecticut) and Brown (Rhode Island), and smaller liberal arts colleges.

I have no clue if any of these trips will end up happening; I suspect I’ll at least be able to go to SLO and San Fransisco, but I have no clue about anything else. I want to go do a summer program, so that may lead to a trip somewhere else in the country. Either way, I’m sure 2020 will lead to some amazing adventures, and I would love to hear where you want to go!

-Brooke

Places I’ve Been in 2019 – A Year’s Review

Hello everyone!

If you have been following my blog since the beginning, you would know that my first posts were all about my trip to Europe this summer. Let it be known that even though this year I had a couple big trips and traveled quite a bit, in the past, I’ve never taken more than one trip in a year. There were a lot of different reasons why I traveled so much more this year, and I’ll dive into these reasons when I talk about each destination. Also, as another kind of disclaimer: I know this may not seem like a lot of traveling to some people, and to others it may seem like an insane amount of travel. Whatever your perspective is, just know that I am immensely grateful for every experience I’ve had and for any of the traveling opportunities I’ve taken advantage of.

I’ve always wanted to travel more and see different parts of the country (and the world!), and this year, I actually did. I explored parts of three different countries (technically four if you count Vatican City), going out of the country for the first time. I had a couple weekend trips away from home where I got a taste of independence, and I had an insanely busy summer filled with travel. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll recognize most of these- if you’re new, then welcome!

  • Palm Springs, CA (April) – Over spring break of freshman year, my friend invited me to come to Palm Springs with her family for a few days. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb in La Quinta with a pool with a couple other families (her family friends) and literally just relaxed the whole time. Funnily enough, my favorite memory from the trip was the bike rides my friend and I went on- it wasn’t actually that hot when we were there and the neighborhood was beautiful (and huge!) so we went on a few three-mile rides circling the neighborhood. I really needed the relaxation and quality time with a friend.
  • Paris, France (June) – The beginning of my first trip to a foreign country/first time in Europe, Paris did not disappoint. I had never been out of the country before since my family doesn’t travel often, but my dad had an international Rotary conference in Germany so my mom, my brother, and I planned to meet him afterwards in Paris. Whenever I thought of going to Europe in the past, Paris was my #1 destination. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in person, especially lit up at night, was probably the highlight of my year. The city was absolutely gorgeous and didn’t even feel real; I felt like I was in a storybook. There was some bumps along the road with my dad getting pickpocketed, but I LOVED the city and would love to go back and see more.
  • Sorrento, Italy (June) – This was actually my favorite city in Italy, and it’s not even a city. When we got off the 2-hour flight from Paris into Naples and drove into this beautiful beach town, I knew this was the place for me. It was a perfect few days of relaxing inbetween the bustling cities of Paris and Rome; our hotel was super nice and right in the middle of the main square. The beach was a short walk away and the Mediterranean Sea was so warm and beautiful- the food we ate in this city was probably the best of all too. I would love to return and see the rest of the Amalfi coast- no complaints at all here.
  • Rome, Italy (June) – Actually quite disappointing compared to the expectation I had, but still insanely picturesque. My favorite memory of Rome would either be sitting on the Spanish steps overlooking the square and shops around, or the night that we watched the sunset at a restaurant across from the Colosseum. I felt kind of unsafe in Rome due to the mass amount of scammers on the streets and the sketchy train station, but we didn’t actually have any problems there. Our hotel was amazing and we got upgraded to a suite, so that was nice too.
  • Florence, Italy (June) – A truly immaculate city, it sounds silly but I loved how clean everything was. The Duomo was bigger than I could’ve ever imagined, and seeing Michelangelo and all the other artwork was very cool as well. My favorite part was probably walking down the Ponte Vecchio and going into all of the fancy jewelry stores. I wish we had stayed for another day- our stay here was only two nights.
  • Venice, Italy (June) – Our last stop on the Europe trip, Venice was very different than I imagined it would be. The weather was really bad with lots of rain on our last day so we mainly stayed indoors, but it was beautiful when we came in. Since it’s actually a very small city, I didn’t expect how cramped it would feel. The canals were gorgeous and my highlight of this stop was definitely our gondola ride at sunset. The city just oozes with beautiful historic architecture.
  • Buena Park, CA (Knott’s Berry Farm, July) – Only a week after returning from Europe, I went to Knott’s Berry Farm for four days for cheer camp. We got to spend one day in the park, so that was obviously the highlight; I had never been before and the rides were quite fun- not too intense for me, but still a thrill. This definitely was my least favorite trip of the summer just because cheer camp was brutal, but it was nice to have a change of pace and go to an amusement park.
  • Orange, CA (Chapman University, July) – Continuing the crazy business of my summer, a week after cheer camp I headed off to stay in the Chapman University dorms for four days for yearbook camp with my school yearbook staff. This was surprisingly one of the best memories I have of summer- we were completely independent in the dorms and the camp was a little bit more free-form, so it was a true dorm life experience. The campus was super cute and small so I felt like I knew it like the back of my hand by the time we left. Also, the actual camp was SO much fun and as a newbie to my school’s yearbook staff, I got to know people a lot better.
  • Fresno, CA (November) – I know Fresno’s not exactly a vacation destination, but I went there for the weekend for a Youth and Government conference. The city is definitely…interesting… but I had an amazing time at the conference held in the Fresno Convention Center, and I met so many amazing people from across the state. It made the four-hour bus drive very worth it. It was also another taste of independence since my roomies and I were responsible for getting around to our sessions and everything.
  • Seattle, WA (November) – My mom and I planned a girls’ Seattle trip for Thanksgiving break because we had both always wanted to see the city, and I wanted to visit the University of Washington. We stayed in the center of downtown, right near the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. We had amazing food everyday and packed so much into the few days we were there, including a full day touring the college. I LOVED the city, but unfortunately did not feel at home at UW. That being said, I absolutely fell in love with Seattle and could totally see myself living there for a job one day.
  • Victoria, British Columbia (November) – My mom and I realized we had a day with nothing planned during our Seattle trip, so we impulsively decided to take a three-hour ferry to Victoria (Canada!) for the day. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada, so now I can say I have. Victoria’s an island and the capital of BC, as well as the “city of gardens” so there’s a ton to do and see there. It was beautiful (must sees are the Fairmont Empress hotel and the Parliamentary Buildings, as well as the Bouchart Gardens thirty minutes away) and it made me want to return and see other beautiful parts of Canada. I wish we had more time to explore Victoria as well.

As you can tell, my 2019 was full of super exciting experiences and I went to so many places that I had never been before and never imagined I would get to visit, especially in one year. This year went by so fast, and sometimes I forget all of these different trips all happened in 2019; so much was packed into this past year. I don’t think I’ll be traveling nearly as much in 2020, but we’ll see! You never know where life will take you. 🙂

-Brooke

The beautiful sunset view from our Airbnb in La Quinta.
The Eiffel Tower at night.
View of the ocean below from a viewpoint on the cliffs in Sorrento.
The Colosseum in a dreamy light near sunset.
The Duomo up close.
Scenic waterfront in Venice as we boarded our gondola.
The famous Valdez Hall where us Youth and Gov kids ate our meals in Fresno.
The Pike Place Market bustling at dinnertime.
The Space Needle from the point of view of a parking lot nearby.
The stunning Parliamentary Building in Victoria.

Seattle Highlights – Thanksgiving Break 2019

Welcome back everyone!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about my tour of the University of Washington, I was in Seattle for the bulk of last week over my Thanksgiving break. I absolutely LOVED the city- however, my mom and I covered so much ground in so little time that I didn’t have the time to dedicate a blog post to each day of the trip as I have with my other travels and adventures. I sincerely apologize for dropping the ball with this one, but I figured this type of post will be more helpful to you guys anyways.

I am going to be going over the highlights of my trip just to talk about the most exciting parts and to help any of you that may want to visit Seattle in the future out. It’s a beautiful city and it’s supposed to be even more beautiful in the spring and summer seasons, so I hope to go back someday during that time of year.

  • Space Needle – Yes, it’s a very touristy destination, but it’s still a must-see. The Seattle Center in general (the park area where the Space Needle and some museums are located) is a cool place to walk around, and it was only a mile walk from the hotel I stayed in. I didn’t go up in the elevator since I’m afraid of heights, but if you’re into that it would give you an amazing view.
  • Museum of Pop Culture – This was even more interesting than I thought it would be. It’s honestly not that big of a museum and you only need a couple of hours at the very most to go through it, but I found it unique and super cool; I think it’s a great museum for people who aren’t super into typical art museums but still want to see something related to the history of Seattle.
  • Dahlia Bakery – This bakery was across the street from my hotel. Not only do they give free refills on coffee all day, they also have DELICIOUS cookies and treats. Their adorable yellow storefront with tables to sit at only enhanced the experience.
  • Pike Place Market – Another touristy destination but must see, the market has any and all type of food you could want. There are a lot of good bakeries here as well, places for fresh pasta, good seafood restaurants, and stands with the best produce and veggies. I recommend trying the apples, since Washington is known for having delicious apples and I absolutely loved them. Also, make sure to watch the guys throwing fish (I forget what the name of the place is but it’s visible when you walk up); they’re local celebrities for their job and you’d know what I mean when you see it. Also, check out the first Starbucks while you’re there; there’s usually a line but you can take pictures whenever and then head to a different Starbucks to actually get drinks.
  • Beecher’s Handmade Cheese – Technically, this place is in the market, but it deserves its own mention. I personally am not the biggest fan of cheese as I’m kind of sensitive to dairy, but I made an exception to eat a grilled cheese from here. Their signature cheese is mild and DELICIOUS, and you can watch them make it.
  • Serious Pie – Again making an exception with dairy, this pizza place was a block down from our hotel and my mom and I knew we needed to stop in. We had dinner there one night and had the best margherita pizza ever along with their signature pepperoni. It’s amazing, you can split a pizza with someone because they’re honestly big enough, or if you want it all to yourself that works too!
  • Day trip to Victoria on the Victoria Clipper – We took a three hour ferry ride one day to Victoria, British Columbia (yup, a day trip to Canada!), and it was such a cool experience. It was a long day, but it was a really beautiful city and we got to see the famous Fairmont Empress hotel and the famous Bouchart Gardens. Now I can say I’ve been to Canada!
  • Lola – This Greek-inspired restaurant was attached to our hotel; we went there once for lunch and once for breakfast, and it was amazing both times. It’s a little pricey, but not anymore than any other restaurant in the city. Everything was super fresh and the portions were larger than I expected.
  • Enchant Christmas – This Christmas light show maze thing was super festive! It’s obviously a seasonal thing, but I really enjoyed it- especially the ice skating trail where you could skate around some lights. It’s definitely the most elaborate light set-up I’ve seen.
  • Gum Wall – I would honestly go here just to take a picture if you’re visiting, it’s kinda gross but definitely a famous spot. It’s right around Pike Place Market. It’s fascinating to see how much gum you can have on a wall…

I absolutely loved Seattle and I hope I can return someday. It’s a pretty clean city and there’s so many amazing things to see as well as delicious restaurants and bakeries. In case you’re wondering why I didn’t list any coffee places when Seattle’s known for coffee, I don’t actually drink coffee so I didn’t experience that part. It’s a wonderful place to visit whether you enjoy coffee or not, so I highly suggest you go!

-Brooke

The lovely Space Needle
Museum of Pop Culture- it even looks cool on the outside!
Just a small portion of the Gum Wall!
The first Starbucks from the outside

My First “Real” College Tour – University of Washington

Hello everyone!

Last week over my Thanksgiving break, I visited Seattle, Washington with my mom. I will be writing a few more posts about the trip (I’ve really been behind on that and I apologize!) that you’ll be seeing soon, but first I wanted to talk about the tour we took of the University of Washington. Touring UW was one of our main reasons for visiting Seattle, plus the fact that my mom and I have always wanted to visit the city. We registered for the full 75 minute walking tour and admissions session – the real deal. I’ve been around college campuses in the past, but never for the purpose of touring.

I don’t know why, but I’d always been drawn towards UW in the past. I’d always wanted to visit Seattle, I’d seen pictures of the beautiful campus, and we had a couple family friends who had gone there- I just felt like I would fall in love. I have no other connection to it; I don’t live in Washington, I don’t have any family members who went there, etc. I knew it was a good school in a cool-seeming city with a gorgeous looking campus, and that was enough to get me interested.

We toured the college on our third day in Seattle, and I had already fallen in absolute, complete love with the city; this made me think going to UW would evoke the same feelings. My mom and I took the light rail which has a stop where you walk out straight onto the campus (I believe the school is 20-30 minutes away from downtown Seattle if you drive or use other transportation such as buses), so it took us less than ten minutes to get there. We actually left super early since we hadn’t used the light rail before and we knew we would need time to find our way around campus, so we had about an hour to grab breakfast and walk around.

Sadly, the day we went was actually the worst day of our trip weather-wise and the only day it rained, so we didn’t get to see campus in its full beauty or effect. That being said, it’s probably a more realistic perspective on what it would look like, since Seattle is known for being quite rainy. The campus was also a bit abandoned since a decent amount of students had already gone home for Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t the most accurate perception of everything. My mom and I headed to the HUB (Husky Union Building) to sign in, and as soon as our tour guide introduced themselves, we got started on the walking tour.

I must say the campus was absolutely gorgeous (it’s even more gorgeous when the cherry blossom trees bloom in spring) and the architecture was amazing, but I could tell the school was too big for me as soon as we started walking. I don’t know how to explain it, but it just wasn’t the vibe I was looking for/that I thought it would have. All of the buildings were beautiful and we got to peek in on some classes; we also walked through the Suzzalo library which is famous for looking like something out of Harry Potter.

Our tour guide was super sweet and she gave us tons of information about the school I wouldn’t have known otherwise- I was honestly really disappointed that I didn’t automatically like the school and feel at home, because I thought I would. After the tour was over, there was an admissions session with an admissions counselor who was also very kind and helpful. He gave us some insight into what a typical admitted student is like and although I knew most of the basic stats from my own research, it was still informative because of the insider’s perspective.

After the admissions session, it was lunchtime and my mom and I were hungry. The tour guide had talked about the main street that students go to, dubbed “The Ave” (I forget what the actual street name is) that had all the restaurants, so my mom and I walked through some parts of campus we hadn’t seen on the tour as we made our way over there. It started to rain heavily and as we walked the street, we were disappointed to find a lack of cute little restaurants and cafés. We stopped at the university bookstore and I got a hoodie, and then we ate at Chipotle.

I know that being in a city, UW isn’t going to have the cutest “college town” vibe, but I still figured there would be a cuter university district type area around the school. My mom and I walked back across campus the way we came and took the light rail back to downtown/where we were staying after we ate. It was an eye-opening experience and I’m definitely glad I visited, but I’m sad to say that UW is definitely not the school for me. It’s a wonderful school though, so I encourage you to visit if you’re interested! It just proves that visiting a school and seeing it in person is super important if you’re able to do so.

-Brooke

The beautiful Suzzalo library (hoping I spelled that right!)

How to Plan A Trip

Welcome back everyone!

This will be my first travel-related post since all the Europe posts from summer, which honestly gets me really excited for my next vacation. My mom and I are planning a trip to Seattle with possibly an excursion to Vancouver or Victoria (Canada) for Thanksgiving break; I’ve wanted to go to Seattle forever, and I can’t wait to go. It’s so nice to have something to look forward to now that I’m completely back in my school routine and the work is piling on. Anyways, since I’m in the middle of planning this trip, I figured I would share our process!

  • Figure out when you can go – I think this is even more important than where you want to go in some cases, because you have to consider the weather and the convenience. If it’s spring break and your family can only a five-day trip, you probably want to do something more local. If it’s winter, you might prefer to go somewhere warm and tropical, etc.
  • Decide where you want to go – In most cases you probably have somewhere in mind, but if you don’t, that’s almost more fun! Definitely go somewhere you’ve always wanted to, but if you’re having trouble deciding I would recommend going with whatever’s the best deal at the time. Skyscanner is a great website to see what places are cheapest to travel to at certain times.
  • Find flights – This is the first step to actually booking everything for your trip. Search out the deals ahead of time- last-minute tickets can be super pricey. If you travel a lot, I would recommend getting a points card/loyalty account/whatever they call it with your favorite airline- my family has only started traveling in the past couple of years so we don’t have one, but I know they come with lots of benefits.
  • Book hotels – Obviously it’s awesome to be in a really nice hotel, but I’m not too particular about that stuff. As long as it’s clean and they have decent amenities, I’m fine. Again, check out the deals beforehand and make sure your hotel is in a good part of the city/town/area you’re going to- location can be everything!! It’s fine to have a short walk to places (yay, exercise!) but if you’re too far and there’s not good public transportation, you’ll find yourself taking cabs/Ubers a lot and spending a lot of extra money.
  • Start looking up train tickets/any other transportation transfers you may need – You can definitely book these things last minute and be fine, but it will be a lot cheaper if you do it in advance. Plus, everything will already be done and ready once you get to your destination. Map out day trips and transfers if you’re traveling across multiple locations and book accordingly.
  • Book any “special” excursions or tours – Similar to the last tip, these are things you can book at anytime, but I would still recommend booking them early. If you’re not the type of person who likes to book more structured activities/tours, that’s totally fine! You’ll probably save even more money and it’s all about your personal traveling style.
  • Research restaurants and spots to go if you’re that type of planner – This is the most optional step; if there are certain places that are a must-see (given tourist spots, like the Space Needle in Seattle) or places you’ve heard about and always wanted to go to, obviously you know you want to go there. However, if you’re a big planner and want to go the extra mile, you can also look up restaurants and more quirky sights. It’s all about what you want to fill your time with, but there’s probably lots of options wherever you’re going.
  • Anticipate your amazing trip! – Now that you’ve planned a trip, there’s something to look forward to until it comes! You can go shopping in preparation so you have some nice new clothes to wear, you can make sure all of your luggage is in good shape, etc. If you need passport renewals or any travel document updates of that sort, make sure to get them in advance. Other than that, just get excited!!

I know these are all pretty self-explanatory tips, but I hope my little twist on them gave you a few new things to remember the next time you plan a trip. Thanksgiving break is kind of far away but I know the time will fly, so we can all look forward to my Seattle posts! As always, I’m here to answer questions and take requests for new content. I’m writing this on the first weekend of the school year, so I haven’t figured out my new posting schedule yet. I will be determining that in the next week or so. Keep an eye out for new content!

-Brooke

How I Packed For 4 Days/3 Nights Staying In A Dorm

Hello everyone!

Today I have another packing (I guess travel related?) post for you all! I’m actually not going on another trip; I’m going to yearbook camp with my school! I am on my school’s yearbook staff for this upcoming year, and every year they attend a camp that teaches the newbies like me how to assist in writing and designing the book, and sharpens the skillsets of the veterans. The camp is held at Chapman University here in Southern California, and as the title suggests, we will be there for 4 days and 3 nights. Packing to stay in a college dorm without a lot of amenities is definitely different than packing to stay in a hotel room, so I thought I would share the process with you guys!

I packed using the same carry-on suitcase I brought with me on my Europe trip, and I used the same backpack that I brought on that trip as well. Here’s a list of everything I packed:

  • Bath towel
  • 3 pairs of pajamas (cotton t-shirts and shorts)
  • 4 Spirit Day outfits – there’s a theme each day and the most spirited school gets awards, but we only wear the outfits at a specified time so we still need normal clothes. Day 1 is superheroes so I brought a cape, mask, and Superman t-shirt. Day 2 is Disney and our editor-in-chief wanted to do the 7 dwarfs; I brought a name-tag, hat, black shorts and solid colored shirt. Day 3 is neon day, so I brought a neon yellow t-shirt, neon bead necklaces, and glow sticks. Day 4 is your school spirit/colors day, so I brought an orange school t-shirt and jean shorts (our school colors are orange and blue). For the first 2 days I didn’t have specified bottoms to bring so I plan to wear whatever I’m wearing the rest of the day.
  • 4 extra shirts
  • Another pair of jean shorts
  • Another pair of black shorts
  • Laptop and charger
  • Phone charger
  • Notebook and pens
  • Magazines (we had to bring them for our classes)
  • Pillow
  • Sleeping bag (we had the option of bringing a sleeping bag or sheets and blankets, I thought a sleeping bag would be easier)
  • Portable charger
  • Headphones
  • Toiletries: toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, hairbrush, moisturizer, perfume, deodorant, razor, baby wipes, chapstick, hair ties, face wash, soap
  • Washcloths
  • Snacks
  • Bottled water
  • A sack lunch (our first provided meal on the first day is dinner)

That’s everything I’ve packed for yearbook camp! I’m very excited to learn about the process of creating the yearbook and kick off the year; this is my first experience doing anything with the yearbook program. I will be writing daily about my experiences at camp (similar to my Europe trip posts, go check those out if you haven’t already!!); however, I’m not sure if I will be able to post them on time since our schedule is so packed there, but they will definitely be up relatively soon after. I leave tomorrow so there will still be another regular post beforehand. Let me know if you’re involved with your school’s yearbook and if so, if you’ve ever been to yearbook camp! I’ll update you guys on everything soon.

-Brooke

Advice for first-time travelers to Europe

Welcome back everyone!

Today I will be giving you the advice I wish I had been given before embarking on my recent trip to France and Italy. So far my blog has been solely focused on my adventures during this trip, so I highly suggest you read some of my other posts about it if you are interested in travel. It was my first time in Europe and traveling out of the country in general, so I definitely learned a lot through trial and error. This is only from my one experience and I am by no means a travel expert so take everything with a grain of salt, but hopefully it still helps you guys out!

One point that always comes up as a concern is pickpocketing, especially in Italy. It definitely can happen, but it won’t if you know how to present yourself and protect your valuables. If you can, use a small crossbody bag or fanny pack rather than a larger bag or backpack. If you need to carry a larger bag, use one that will still be close to your body and can be zipped shut. If you are using a backpack, wear it backwards/on your front side in crowded areas like train stations or any tourist-filled areas. I know there are some theft-proof wallets/bags out there for purchase so you can buy those if you travel regularly or are just really concerned, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Definitely stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas, and always keep your eye on your stuff or hold it tightly. The spots I found seemed the sketchiest were usually around public transportation or train stations, but you definitely need to watch out at any big attractions/monuments too. Also, be careful when taking out money at ATMs- use ones inside if possible and try to use ones in more isolated areas.

Another thing that I didn’t expect coming from the US was the bathroom situation. There aren’t many public toilets and if there are, you will most likely to have to pay 1 euro to use them. In addition, lots of smaller restaurants may not have a working bathroom. Always go to the bathroom in your hotel room or lobby while you can, or else you may be in trouble later in the day. Often times my family and I ended up heading back to the hotel a couple times a day just for the purpose of going to the bathroom. Bathrooms are also just different in Europe (i.e. much smaller, toilets flush differently, all just little things that aren’t too odd), so don’t expect them to be super luxurious or similar to home, even if you are in your hotel room.

One cultural difference I noticed is that people eat meals (especially dinner) a lot later, and often times stores and restaurants close for a period in the afternoon (it varies but usually around 1-3pm). At home my family usually eats dinner from the 5-7pm range but on the trip we usually ate around 7, and the restaurants would not be busy at all when we were there unless we were close to a large tourist attraction. Right when we would leave the restaurant would usually be when it got busier and more people were out on the streets; people definitely stay out later, whether it’s for dinner or just hanging out in the town squares. You can use this to your advantage because if you don’t mind eating a bit earlier, everything will be practically empty and there will be shorter wait times. It also gets dark a lot later (in Paris the sun didn’t set until 10:00ish!) so time just seems to pass by in a different manner.

The atmosphere at restaurants is also very different in Europe. People spend a lot more time talking at the table and there is generally a much longer wait to get your food. You also have to ask for the check; unlike in America, everyone is taking their time and the server will almost never bring it to you on their own. It’s kind of nice though since you can just sit back and enjoy your meal and the people you’re with at the table for a while.

A tip that’s somewhat obvious- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!! Even if you take public transportation to get around whatever cities you visit, you will still be walking for a majority of the day and it will definitely start to wear on you towards the end of your trip. In the first city we visited (Paris) we were able to walk around all day and just keep going, but by the end of our trip we usually needed to return to the hotel for an hour or two in the afternoon just to rest and take a break since we were so drained. Everyone in my family was wearing comfortable shoes; therefore, we would have completely died without them. The streets are often cobblestone and somewhat uneven so they are especially hard on your feet and it would be very difficult to walk on them in heels or anything of that sort.

The last thing I’ll mention in this post is to just be courteous to all of the locals and staff you interact with. Most people will speak some English at restaurants and tourist destinations if you are in a big city, but it’s still polite to ask first rather than assume they do and say a bunch of stuff they won’t understand. From my experience, the people in Italy were slightly more friendly than the people in France; however, both groups were overall very kind and helpful whenever we came into interaction. It helps to know some basic phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting- I would suggest knowing how to say hello, thank you, good morning/day, and goodbye at a bare minimum, and you may pick up some others during your trip as well. Be mindful of your actions in public (and your volume, Americans are loud!) and try not to stand out too much, even though you’ll probably still be identifiable as a tourist no matter what.

Above all, enjoy your trip!! It will most likely be one of the best experiences of your life and definitely a rich cultural immersion. My trip was definitely one of the highlights of my year and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the world in the future. If there’s bumps in the road, don’t sweat it- just keep moving, it happens to everyone. I hope you all have the best time on your travels, stay tuned for more content! This may be my last travel related post for now, but new and exciting things are to come.

-Brooke

How I Packed For a 2-Week Europe Trip (Carry-on and backpack only!)

Hello everyone!

Today I am going to be going through everything I packed for my recent trip to France and Italy. I was there for fourteen full days but technically sixteen because of the two travel/flying days. I waited to write this post until after the trip so I could see how effective my packing strategies were and evaluate what I could have done better, which hopefully you guys can learn from! I am by no means an expert packer though; I’m generally an organized person and pack very far in advance, but for this trip I literally packed most things a few hours before I left. As always, there were a few things I ended up not needing and a few things I wish I had brought, but I actually think I did a pretty good job overall. Here is an itemized list of what I brought, with how much I used it and explanations for certain items:

  • 2 skirts (they were more on the dressier side, I planned to wear them in Paris but it ended up raining so I didn’t wear either at all)
  • 2 rompers (one was worn once, one I wore twice or three times)
  • 1 sundress (worn once, I preferred my rompers just because of the convenience of not worrying about them flying up)
  • 2 pairs of jean shorts (one was worn around four times I believe, the other not at all because they were less comfortable so I always chose the other pair instead)
  • 1 pair of patterned, flowy material shorts (worn once)
  • 1 pair of flowy pants that had a tie-around belt (worn twice, once in Paris because it was unexpectedly very cold, once in Rome for when we toured the Vatican)
  • 1 pair of jeans (worn twice in Paris; it was cold)
  • 1 pair of leggings (worn three times; technically I didn’t pack them because I wore them on the plane, and I wore them on the plane to Italy and the plane coming home)
  • plain black t-shirt (worn twice or three times)
  • plain red t-shirt (never worn, planned to wear with the skirts but didn’t match much else except jean shorts and I preferred to wear tank tops)
  • pink graphic tee (worn once, on the plane ride there so technically not packed)
  • plain black tank top (worn around 4 times)
  • one-shoulder black tank top (never worn, I always chose the normal black tank top over it)
  • black cropped off-the-shoulder long sleeve shirt (never worn, too hot in Italy and too cold in Paris)
  • pink tank top (worn once)
  • black belt (worn four times, worn with the jean shorts each time I wore them)
  • black Patagonia light waterproof windbreaker (worn six times, each day in Paris and on both the flights there and home)
  • Birkenstocks (worn three times, only in Sorrento so each day I was there)
  • white Nike Air Force 1s (worn everyday besides when I was in Sorrento)
  • toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, rubber bands and special floss for my braces, acne cream, deodorant, shampoo (when it ran out I used shampoo from the hotel and I always used the hotel conditioner), face wash, perfume rollerball, nail file, wipes, mouthwash, hairbrush and hair ties, Tide stain remover pen, chapstick etc. (all used every day)
  • 4 sets of pajamas- 4 t-shirts and 4 pairs of cotton shorts (each worn 3-4 times)
  • around 20 pairs of underwear (each worn 1-2 times)
  • 5 bras (each worn 2-4 times)
  • 6 pairs of socks (each worn 2-3 times)
  • black fanny pack (worn 4 times, each day in Paris)
  • electronics (phone, iPad, phone charger, iPad charger, portable charger, charging cord for portable charger, plug converter, earbuds)

I know it sounds like a lot, but I used almost everything multiple times and there were only a few things I didn’t use that I shouldn’t have brought. I also went shopping in Rome and got a shirt, two skirts, and a romper. I also got a souvenir sweatshirt at the Sorbonne in Paris and I got a t-shirt and sweatshirt in Florence, so I had more clothes to bring back (don’t worry, they all fit perfectly fine in my suitcase!). I even wore the Sorbonne sweatshirt as soon as I got it in Paris since I didn’t have anything else that was clean and warm our last day when it was raining there.

That brings me to my biggest mistake- I should have brought more cold weather clothes to Paris. This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of proper planning though; I knew it was going to be a bit chilly but the weather forecast changed once I was there, and it ended up being a lot colder than I thought. It even rained! Luckily my Patagonia jacket was waterproof, but it definitely wasn’t a proper warm jacket for actual rain. If the forecast for your trip is similar (a bit chilly but could go either way once you’re there) I would mix and match what types of clothes you bring- bring layers! That’s what I should’ve done; I should’ve brought another jacket and a long sleeve instead of the extra t-shirt and one shoulder top. This situation was also difficult for me to pack for since it was going to be so hot everywhere we went in Italy (and we were going to be in Italy for a majority of the time), so most of the clothes I brought were suited for warm weather.

Side note- I also brought way too much underwear but frankly, I always do that on trips. I especially brought too much of it because we ended up doing laundry three times on the trip: once in Paris because no one in my family packed enough cold weather clothes, once in Sorrento because it was so humid there that we kept changing and soaking our clothes with sweat, and once in Florence because by that point we were towards the end of our trip and it just made sense. It was hard to reuse clothes without actually washing them just because of the extremely warm weather in all the Italian cities we visited because we would get so sweaty that it felt gross. If this is the case for your destination, I highly recommend making the time to do laundry at a local laundromat sometime in your trip.

I usually fit all my electronic stuff and some toiletries to freshen up within the day in my backpack, plus my Patagonia jacket and whatever snacks I had on hand at the time. I also stashed my fanny pack at the bottom of my backpack when I wasn’t using it just because there wasn’t really anywhere else to put it. Other than that, everything fit in my suitcase with the tiniest bit of room to spare. I did pretty well with that- physically, I didn’t overpack since everything always fit in my bags.

The main thing I did well was picking out some good basics to bring. I brought a lot of versatile pieces that I ended up wearing a lot, like the black tank top and jean shorts. Bringing a dress and two rompers also helped because they didn’t take up much space and they were easy outfits that I could repeat. I didn’t end up wearing most of the pieces that were weren’t versatile or on the plainer side, so I would definitely recommend bringing mostly basics.

For reference, I was using a normal size Jansport backpack, and my carry-on suitcase is by the brand Lucas (I got it as a gift but I think it was from Marshalls). I ended up having to check my suitcase on the flight to Paris because it was an inch too tall but for some reason on my flight back home with the same airline (Norwegian Air) I wasn’t required to check it. I checked it on our flight to Italy (I wasn’t required to but our tickets came with free checked bags so we just did it) and our easyJet connecting flight to London (they have a rule where you can only bring one bag on the plane and purses/backpacks count so I had to check the carry-on to bring my backpack on the plane) though. All of my toiletries were travel size except for a few like deodorant that I put in my dad’s bag that he checked each time, and I kept them in a toiletry case by Victoria’s Secret that I use for every trip.

I hope this run-down on what I packed helped you out and gave you some pointers for what to do and what not to do. I’ll be posting again soon with my trip reflection, it’s just taking me a while to think about everything I want to say!

-Brooke