A Backpacker’s Guide to Packing: Winter Edition

So you just booked a trip to Europe. The plane lands on European soil in January. Hard, frozen, European soil. How do you pack? Do you have to lug around an extra suitcase for all your scarves, boots, and coats? NOPE. Just follow my tips and you can travel with only a backpack in any weather.

  • Wear your bulkiest clothes to the airport

    Warmchunkyclothes.png

    Your chunky boots, thick scarf, and big coat should be on your body, even if it’s a little warm when you’re traveling. It will save you a ton of space in your bag. Don’t try to pack 5 pairs of shoes either–throw in some shower shoes and be okay with the shoes on your feet.

  • A down jacket is more packable than a fleece one

    Coat

    For an all around insulation layer, I prefer a packable down jacket. It’s lighter and more packable than the standard fleece jacket everyone seems to take with them. The one I have weighs less than two pounds and packs up smaller than a football. Sure, there’s some fleece jackets out there that meet that criteria, but this jacket was less than $30 on Amazon. It’s a good all around insulating layer that I use traveling, hiking, climbing, etc.

  • Pack layers

    Layering

    When I traveled to Scandinavia in October a couple of years ago, I wore a coat and scarf over a sweater over a shirt to the airport. Layer up so that you are prepared for any weather instead of packing separate outfits for potential temperature fluctuations.

  • Stick to a color scheme

    ColorScheme.png

    This is a good general packing rule, but is especially important with winter clothing. Make sure you match your clothes to your coat and scarf and don’t pack anything that doesn’t fit in the theme. This means you’ll have many different outfit combinations to choose from.

Pretty simple, huh? For more general packing tips, check out this post, 6 tips for packing light and this one, Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip. Good luck!

Did you enjoy this post? What are your packing hacks? Tell me about them in the comments below! Share via Facebook or Twitter and f ollow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Bulky clothes photo: https://goo.gl/images/qDZ5D8

Down jacket photo: https://goo.gl/images/yXZpsh

Layers photo: https://goo.gl/images/4oYvs6

 

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Essential items every traveler needs before the next big trip

Worried you might’ve forgotten to pack something for your big trip? Need a holiday gift for your favorite traveler? Check out my list of essential lightweight, durable items every backpacker needs.

    1. Sleep mask
      It’s not easy to sleep on a cramped and crowded airplane, or in a shared room at a hostel. A sleep mask will help you block out light and ease you into sleep. Try this one from Amazon with 4.5 stars. It is a 3 pack for $6.30+, and brags “Fully Adjustable, 3D contoured shape, skin friendly, and soft”

      5 star review from Cotton Candy:
      “The most comfortable sleep mask ever. I had been searching for them for a long time. My favorite feature about these masks is the design of their nose area. They don’t press against my nose bridges like other ones do. Not only the straps has elasticity, you can manually adjust the fasteners in the back. They are definitely one size fits all type of mask.”
    2. Ear plugs
      Have you ever had noisy roommates? Imagine having a dozen of them in a shared room at a hostel! Ear plugs can be a lifesaver in a noisy hostel or long flight. These babies are $10.99+ on Amazon and come with 5 pairs of reusable, washable ear plugs, 1 ear pick, and a storage box on a keychain so you’ll never lose them. They have a 4.3 star review on Amazon and a 36dB Noise Reduction Rating.

      5 star review from an Amazon user:
      “Soft squishy material that fits my ear very well! My boyfriend snores and it drives me to the living room, so I got these earplugs just for that reason. I found that if you squeeze the memory foam plug into a small thin rod, then insert in your ear (as opposed to trying to fit the puffed earplug in), the earplug will puff open in your ear and shut out sound. Make sure you get the end of the plus inside your ear (so it doesn’t slide out). It doesn’t shut out all sound but TREMENDOUSLY quiets sounds.“Comfortable and when you have them in your ears, it just feels like a good comfortable pressure.”
    3. Neck pillow
      Every traveler knows we sometimes must sleep in weird places. Whether you have an overnight flight, a long bus ride, or a layover in an unfamiliar airport, you gotta sleep sometime. A neck pillow is worth having on hand. You can get this one from Amazon for $10.95. It is a memory foam pillow with a removable, washable microfiber cover, and a strap so you can attach it to your luggage instead of trying to pack it. It also has a 2-year guarantee and 4.3 stars on Amazon.

      5 star review from Amazon user Sharon G Hook
      “This pillow is very comfortable because of its softness and [cradling] effect. I use it everyday as I have a neck problem. It seems to give me the support I need. I would recommend this pillow to anyone who is looking for a bit of relief.
      If I had one negative it would be that on hot days the composition of the pillow can be a little warm.”
    4. Backpack
      What is a backpacker without a backpack? If you would like to travel light, you can avoid checking a bag by fitting all of your belongings into a backpack. But you must be sure that that backpack is comfortable, or you won’t want to haul it around. Not every style works for every person, but Osprey backpacks are my personal favorite. They have a lifetime, no-questions-asked repair and replacement policy. I’ve carried Osprey packs in all sorts of climates and conditions spanning three continents and I’m still convinced they’re some of the best bags on the planet. Tortuga also makes some really amazing packs that are designed with international travel in mind. If you want some examples, here is a men’s and a women’s backpack from Osprey to get you started. The men’s one is my current go-to pack for hiking and international travel.

    1. Converters
      Whether you need an adapter or a converter often comes down to the voltage in the country you’re going to, and the type of device you’re trying to use. Most modern laptop and cell phone chargers will convert automatically, while simpler appliances such as hairdryers and electric razors won’t. Do some research on your specific destinations and devices to determine if you need one. If you do, grab this all in one converter. It’ll work in most destinations and one gadget is better than five! It’s Prime eligible, has an average rating of 4.5 stars, and is $19.97.

      Four star review from Taylor:
      “Honestly, before I went on my trip to South Korea, I was freaking out about adapters and feared that my things would get fried. Thankfully, this adapter worked amazingly well! I used it for my computer and iphone. There are a lot of reviews about other adapters out there and how they don’t work or they worked for a short time. I can definitely say that this adapter worked for me while in Korea.”
    2. USB travel adapter
      For those times when you need a to plug in your phone or camera but don’t want to mess with a converter, travel adapters are a good option. These adapters come in a pack of two, and each one has two USB ports. Offer to lend the second one out to someone in your hostel who forgot to bring one, and make a new friend! At $10.99 for a two pack, these are definitely a worthy investment. They’re also Prime eligible! They average 4.1 stars over 287 reviews.

      5 star review from Fred Sandsmark:
      “We bought a two-pack of these for a three-week trip to Italy. They performed perfectly for charging two iPhones, a Fitbit, and a Kindle. They also provided a nice green night light. Well worth the price.”
    3. Packable rain jacket
      A good rain jacket is one of those things you’ll forget you have until you really need it. For lightweight international travel, the best thing is a jacket that packs into itself. These jackets usually have a small pocket or stuff sack that allows you to stuff it away into a beer can sized lump. The outdoor industry has made some incredible strides here, with some jackets packing small enough to go into your pocket and weighing only a few ounces. You don’t have to go that high-tech though, a simple one from Columbia will work fine. That’s what I carried in India to keep the monsoons out. It is $54.58+ from Amazon where is has a 4.5 star rating over 47 customer reviews.

      Five star review by Brian Baker:
      “What can I say. It is a Columbia!! Every Columbia product that I own is a great piece of equipment/clothing!! Hands down some of the best gear you can buy. Love this jacket! I would buy again for sure!!”
    4. Packing cubes
      It may seem counter-intuitive to add items to your luggage to save space, but packing cubes are a lifesaver! They help to pack down clothing and to organize it so you don’t have to dump your underwear everywhere to look for that red t-shirt you just have to wear today. These cubes from Amazon are lightweight with a zipper and handle on each of the 4 bags. They’re $16.02+ and have a 4.8 star review.

      5 star review from Deb:
      “I love these packing cubes! I got them to help organize my backpack for an upcoming trip to Thailand. They are the perfect size and free up a lot of space! I fit all my clothes in 3 cubes and I’ll use the 4th cube for my toiletries and accessories. The quality seems good, I will add to my review if anything negative happens after my trip. Fast shipping as always. Happy customer!”
    5. Sink laundry detergent
      You gotta do what you gotta do, and sometimes that means scrubbing your underwear in the sink because you don’t have access to/can’t afford a laundry mat. This sink-friendly laundry detergent will be a lifesaver. This one from Amazon comes with 12 packs of Tide for $16.83 total and a 4.1 star rating.5 star

      review by Nine Cats Corner:
      “This was far more useful than I thought it would be. We recently made a 3 week trip to the United Kingdom, hopping around the country, and staying in multiple hotels. Packing lightly was a necessity. Every night we washed out our shirts, socks and undies, hanging them to dry on cheap plastic hangers we’d brought with us. Having these little sink packs of Tide was easy and convenient. One pack usually washed out 2 shirts, 2 socks, 1 undershirt and 2-3 undies…These Tide sink packs sure beat lugging bottles of anything.”
    6. Roll-up clothes line
      Hey, if you’re washing your clothes in a sink, chances are pretty slim that you’ll be able to throw them in a dryer when you’re done. So, you’ll have to hang them to dry. Please don’t dump them on your roommate’s bed. Try out this clothes line instead! $19 and Prime eligible, with free returns. It’s also solidly rated at 4.5 stars.

      5 star review from W3KO:
      “I now have two for traveling. Longer trips need more hanging space for two people. The Velcro straps make it adaptable to hanging in a variety of places. Highly recommended for travelers.”
    7. Microfiber Towel
      A lot of people absolutely hate them, but there’s no beating a microfiber towel for its weight and quick drying ability. I never travel abroad without mine. The biggest drawback for some people is that it’s not the warm and soft sensation you’d get from a normal bath towel. If you can get used to it, there’s no better alternative though. They pack up teensy tiny and weigh just a few ounces. So far I’ve used mine on three continents in climates ranging from icy Stockholm to scorching Lucknow, and it’s been a lifesaver every time. This one comes with a hand towel and stuff sack, in addition to being an Amazon’s Choice item at 4.5 stars and $13.35+.

      5 star Amazon review by Sam:
      “These are amazing for travel! Very small and compact for easy travel that doesn’t take up your entire suitcase. I bought these for study abroad and they are great. The large towel is very big so I can wrap it around my body and it is quite modest.”
    8. Shower Shoes
      Shower shoes are an essential for every traveler. You do not want to catch a foot fungus from a grimey shared shower. Don’t spend your vacation fighting athlete’s foot! Just wear shower shoes. You can get these slide-on slippers from Amazon for $8.99+. They come in 7 colors and men’s or women’s sizes. These are quick-drying which makes them perfect for travelers.

      5 star review from YR:
      “I took these on vacation to Mexico. I wore them on the beach, at the pool and in the shower. What I liked most about the shower shoes is that they didn’t slip or slide off my feet. They are very comfortable.”
    9. Sunglasses
      A good pair of sunglasses will be your favorite travel buddy. If you’re like me, you don’t want to spend any time squinting in the sun, or you’ll end up with a migraine. Trust me, you don’t want to spend your vacation in your room with the lights turned off and the curtains drawn because you can’t face the sun. These Ray-Bans fold up and come with a little leather case, which is perfect for throwing in your backpack. They have a 4.6 star rating and a $150 price tag.

      5 star review ByA. Daytonon:
      “I’ve bought many Ray-Bans on Amazon and so far have had good luck getting authentic ones each time. This folding pair is my favorite pair I’ve ever owned. I love being able to fold them up and put them in my jeans pocket or shirt pocket, then I don’t have to hang them from the front of my shirt or hold them while I’m inside.”Another 5 star review, by: L. D. Rafeyon
      “These are absolutely splendid! As advertised, lenses allow perfect clear vision, looks great on my face and fold-able. I dropped them on a hard surface with no breakage. Worth every cent! Accompanied by a beautiful zip case.”
    10. Flashlight/reading light
      Please don’t be that guy in the hostel who leaves a bright light on at 2am because they want to read a book or write a postcard. Invest in a small reading light and be a courteous roommate! This one is lightweight, USB rechargeable, and has 2 brightness settings. It has a 4.7 star review on Amazon and is $11.95

      5 star review from Amy:
      “I really like this book light!! Being able to recharge it in any USB port is such a great feature! Two lighting levels and the swivel light gives me flexibility wherever and whatever I am reading. I would highly recommend this light!”
    11. Passport cover
      Passports are valuable, and not just to you. Many passports are stolen. A common scam regarding passports is RFID skimming. Hackers and thieves can “skim” your passport information while it’s in your pocket or bag using simple electronics equipment. In doing so, they can steal your personal data remotely and either sell it or use it to make black market passports. The easiest way to protect from this is to invest in an RFID blocking passport cover. This one also has a slot for credit cards (another common target of RFID skimmers). At $7.99 and Prime eligible, it’s a worthwhile investment. There’s also free returns, just in case you change your mind.

5 star review from DKP:

“Great soft feel. Beautiful color. Passport fits perfectly with room for extra documents, credit cards etc. Glad I bought it”

  1. Tablet/kindle
    If you’re traveling long-term, you won’t be able to take the library with you (sorry!). Invest in a tablet or eReader instead of trying to pick your favorite book to bring along. The Kindle fire 7 tablet is available for $49.99 on Amazon. It comes with Alexa and Prime members have access to many books and movies for free.

    5 Star review by Julie:
    “…[The Kindle Fire’s] small size and light weight makes it ideal for carrying on car trips.”
    Another 5 star review, by Tammy:
    “Great, just the right size! [The Kindle Fire] fits in my bag. Great product”
  2. Pen and journal
    Write about your journey! Invest in a good pen and journal that you love so much you’ll be dying to put pen to paper and share your experiences. Even if you just keep the journal for yourself, future you will be glad you wrote everything down. Here is a great journal that should serve you well on the road. It’s lightweight, an Amazon’s choice item, and carries a 4.4 star rating. It’s Prime eligible, and affordably priced at $9.99.

    4 star review from Amazon User:
    “I’m happy to inform you that this note goes above and beyond what I expected. I’m a heavy fountain pen writer and travel in rough environments often, so any notebook I end up using for daily journaling needs to live up to some really high standards most consumer quality paper goods doesn’t seem to be able to match most of the time. This notebook completely surprised me. The quality of the paper is good enough that my thickly laden Lamy Safari with fine-medium nip is capable of writing on them without worrying about smudges or spill over into the back of the page. The spine and the requisite finish and binding are also excellent, with no wiggles or any weakpoints I can identify that could cause earlier than expected damage to the notebook structure itself.”
    For a pen, I recommend the Zebra F-701. It’s an all stainless steel pen that’s more than durable enough for traveling. I’ve been carrying one virtually every day for almost two years, and it still works fine. They’re only $6.72, and come with free shipping if you use Prime. They also average a 4.4 star review over 1,185 customer ratings.

    5 star rating from Dana Muwwakkil:
    “I love this pen! As a writer that still loves pushing pen to paper I am a huge fan of this pen. The ink flows out very smoothly and it’s a joy to write with. There is no skipping or streaking from the ink either which is a plus. I also love the way it looks, being stainless steel, it looks professional and has more weight to it than the average pen, making it feel expensive and luxurious. The clip feels strong and works well. There is a fine metal, mesh grip where your fingers hold the pen and it feels very comfortable. In all I say it’s definitely worth the price.”

Many thanks to David Anthony for all of his help writing this article, for his guidance in picking the perfect products, and all of the IT support he provided. Happy traveling!

Did you enjoy this post? What are some of your favorite travel must-haves? Share them in the comments below! Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and follow me right here on WordPress for more great content like this.

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise.

Destination: Charleston, SC, USA

Charleston: A quick look

Language: English
Currency: USD
Drinking Age: 21
Public Transportation: 2 free trolleys, and a paid bus service
Passport: No (for US citizens)
Vaccines: Routine

Before you leave

  1. Stay with Airbnb! Charleston has many cheap Airbnb options. I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb; I am such a satisfied customer that I’m encouraging you to give them a try simply because they are that great.
  2. Charleston is pretty far south–if you’re going during the warm months (that’s April-October down here, y’all) be prepared to sweat, and pack appropriate clothing and sunscreen.

Charleston

Once you get there:

You will likely have to drive to get around Charleston. If you’re flying in I would recommend renting a car. However they do have a bus service (CARTA) which offers bus rides for a fee, but their trolley, which operates through parts of historic Charleston, is free. Another service, DASH, also offers free trolley rides.

Be prepared to walk. Even with cars and buses and trolleys, to get around downtown you simply have to walk. There are plenty of paid lots and garages where you can park your car.

  1. Charleston City Market

    Old-City-Market

    The Charleston City Market was established in 1788 by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and has been a public marketplace ever since. While it was once primarily a meat market, it has evolved into an artisan’s haven. You can find everything from hand-woven baskets, to paintings, to souvenirs, to cheesy hand-painted wine glasses.

  2. Hunley Submarine (civil war history)

    hunleys-daring-submarine

    The Hunley is fun for any history buff. Scientists are working to restore a Civil War era submarine that’s open for tours on the weekends. The tours to the submarine itself are led by a guide, while the museum tours are self-guided. It’s a good introduction to the wealth of Civil War related history in the Charleston area. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child.

  3. Fort Sumter (civil war history)

    Fort Sumter Battlefield Hero

    Fort Sumter National Monument is probably best known as the place where the American Civil War erupted. Nowadays, it’s another must see for anyone interested in American history. Getting there requires taking a tour boat to the fort, and taking an approximately two hour tour. Information on tours and facilities can be found on their website.

  4. Folly Beach

    FollyBeach

    A 20 minute drive from central Charleston, Folly Beach is a cute Carolina beach town. It is home to many tourist-y beach stores and hipster-y cafes.

  5. Kickin’ Chicken

    kickinchicken

    A local chain restaurant, the Kickin’ Chicken has great food and a relaxed atmosphere. With tons of big screen TVs, wings, and a bunch of beers on tap, it reminded me of Buffalo Wild Wings (with better service). The food was fantastic, and the service was excellent. I subbed in a barbecue sauce for the buffalo sauce on the menu for my sandwich and the server didn’t bat an eye.

  6. Black Magic Cafe

    BlackMagicFollyBeach

    The original Black Magic Cafe is located in Folly Beach with a new location in James Island. The Folly Beach location is in a tiny old house, with seating outside and in, including on the enclosed screened-in porch. It’s packed on a Sunday morning with plenty of 20 and 30-somethings enjoying coffee, muffins, eggs, and many breakfast combos.

  7. Aqua Terrace Rooftop Bar

    RooftopBar

    Located on top of the Charleston Marriott, the Aqua Terrace Rooftop bar has good views of the city, and a gorgeous view of the Ashley River. The drink prices are a little higher than the college bars we usually frequent ($10-15 for a mixed drink) but the cocktails are good.

  8. The Gin Joint

    GinJoint

    Located right downtown (and near a parking deck, bonus!) the Gin Joint is hopping with 30-something hipsters on a Saturday night. It has a speakeasy theme and a variety of gin drinks, whiskey drinks, and cheeses.

  9. Fudgery Inc

    Fudgery

    Located across the street from the Charleston City Market, the Fudgery is conveniently located when you’re out on the town. They offer gourmet homemade fudge, hand-squeezed lemonade, and a variety of ice cream flavors. We picked up some chocolate caramel fudge to take home and a strawberry lemonade to sip on while we walked around. The staff is very friendly and offer free fudge and ice cream samples!

Charleston is a cool city, and I would love to see more of it in the future.  I’ve heard great things about their murder mystery parties, ghost tours, and other historic Charleston spooky attractions.

Did you like this post?  Do you have any recommendations for visitors to Charleston?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter, and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Trolley info: http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/free-public-transportation-charleston-dash-trolley/

Hunley submarine site: https://hunley.org

Kickin’ Chicken photo: https://www.thedailymeal.com/kickin-chicken-2

City Market photo: http://www.visit-historic-charleston.com/things-to-do-in-charleston-sc.html

Charleston City Market: http://www.thecharlestoncitymarket.com/main/history

Rainbow Row photo: https://www.sciway.net/sc-photos/charleston-county/rainbow-row.html

Fort Sumter photo: https://www.civilwar.org/

Hunley Submarine photo: http://cdn.history.com/

 

International Festival

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were hanging out in our pajamas and looking through a local radio station’s list of local weekend events. “Oktoberfest with…” I giggled “wiener dog races.” Scrolling with my thumb, I looked over the list. “International Food and Music Festival!” I poked my husband “And it’s free!” After finishing up my blog post (“Sweet Baked Chicken” in case you were wondering) we threw on some clothes and headed out.

“Where are we?” I asked about half an hour later.

“Eastern Wake county” It felt like the middle of nowhere compared to our urban home. I began to feel trepidatious. Would a tiny town in the middle of nowhere have a good international festival, or would Wendell, NC disappoint us by presenting only a handful of stalls?

As we reached the main stretch of town, we knew we were in the right place. Cars lined the street and several hundred (if not a few thousand) people were gathered in the town square. After driving around for a few minutes we found street parking less than a 5 minute walk from the festival.

Live music was being played on the left and a temporary rock wall, inflatable bouncy castle, and various other carnival games were spread out to the right, with about a dozen food stalls in the middle. Each stall represented a different country. Honduras, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, the Philippines, and Louisiana were all represented. We walked from stall to stall, practically drooling, and tried to decide where to eat.

“Let’s just get it all.” My husband suggested. Instead of paying with cash, tickets were purchased at the entrance and food cost anywhere from 1 to 8 tickets. Pulling out a $20 bill, my husband bought 20 tickets and we headed back to the food stalls.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Hmm…” I thought for a moment, overwhelmed by my options. “The Philippines” I decided. So we headed to the Filipino booth for some barbeque chicken.

“Three tickets please” The attendant said, and we dropped 3 tickets into a bright red box. She handed us a shish kabob with mouth-wateringly delicious looking chicken skewered on it. We moved into the shade, because despite being mid-September it was probably creeping up towards 90F and the sun was beating down on us. The chicken was heavenly. We devoured it in record time, and moved on to the next stall.

Our next stop was Poland for vegetarian pierogi, followed by plantains from Honduras, and veggie tamales from Guatemala. The sun was still beating down, so we went over to the boy scout’s tent for a bottle of water. A polite young man gave us an icy cold bottle of water for 2 tickets. We took turns gulping it down before returning to the food. After getting chicken and rice from the Dominican Republic, we decided it was time for dessert, so we picked up some Irish cream fudge from Ireland.

Standing in the shade near the Irish booth, devouring our fudge, I wondered aloud “Why isn’t there an Indian booth? There’s a huge South Asian population in this area.” Then it hit me: “Theses are all Catholic countries”

“What? No.” My husband countered.

“Yeah, yeah they are! Latin America, Poland, Ireland….”

“What about the Philippines?”

“I think they’re Christian too!” (They are, I looked it up.) “And I guess Louisiana too…” I looked at the map of the festival the smiling middle-aged woman at the entrance had given us. It said “Saint Eugene Catholic Church presents their 15th Annual International Food & Music Festival.”

“Perhaps the booths are run by church members” my husband suggested.

“Maybe so….”

 

Having spent the last of our tickets, we headed back to the car. We drove away from little Wendell, NC with full bellies, and discussions about how far Catholicism has spread, and different the cultures it has touched are. Even only including Catholic countries, this international festival incorporated so much diversity in culture and food. It was an interesting lens through which to see the international community in our area.

Did you enjoy this post?  What are your experiences with international festivals in your area?  What are your thoughts on the spread of Catholicism?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Photo creds:

Downtown Wendell: http://www.fabriciuslaw.com/photos/downtown-wendell-nc

Food festival photo: http://www.thefoodfestival.com

Destination: Pristina, Kosovo

Pristina: A Quick Look

Language: Albanian; Serbian spoken by a minority
Currency: Euro
Drinking Age: no minimum legal drinking age
Public Transportation: Buses and taxis are common in the city, and between cities
Passport: Required for US citizens. US Citizens may stay in Kosovo up to 90 days without a visa
Vaccines: Routine vaccines, plus Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B and Rabies recommended for some travelers

Before you leave:

  • Pristina is the capital city of Kosovo, a small somewhat disputed nation in Southeastern Europe. It would be wise to do some research regarding the Yugoslavian civil war, which is still in very recent memory for many Kosovars
  • Avoid discussing Serbia if possible. Serbia’s control of the region for many years is not a pleasant memory, and no matter what your opinion of the conflict is, it’s best kept to yourself.
  • Kosovars are very warm and friendly. You will find that many are genuinely eager to be your friend. It’s not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home shortly after meeting them.

Once you get there:

    • The easiest way into Pristina is to fly into the international airport, or to rent a car and driving up from either FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Albania. Keep in mind that in the past, people have had trouble crossing the border between Kosovo and Serbia due to the border not really being formally recognized by Serbia. It’s possible to drive across, but research the immigration practices before attempting or you could end up with fines and unneeded hassle.
    • Public transportation can be a little hard to figure out in Kosovo. The easiest way to figure it out is to ask a local! You might have to try a few people before you find someone that speaks English, but they will point you in the right direction. Pristina is also rather walk-able, if you so choose.

1. Bill Clinton Boulevard

This is always my go-to fun fact about Pristina: there’s a 10 foot tall statue of Bill Clinton along “Bill Clinton Boulevard.” It was built in 2009 to commemorate Bill Clinton’s support of Kosovo during the Yugoslavian civil war. I remember being caught totally off guard when I was driving through Pristina and happened across a giant Bill Clinton statue next to the road. Good times…

2. Newborn Monument

The Newborn Monument is a must see. Unveiled on 17 February 2008, the day that Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, it symbolizes Kosovo’s status as a new nation. The coolest part about it: It’s repainted every year, with the new design being unveiled on February 17th.

3. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square marks the beginning of the pedestrian streets in Pristina. It’s also the site of a statue commemorating Skanderbeg, an Albanian hero. There are plenty of nice hotels in this area, and when the weather is good you can see lots of people out and enjoying themselves.

4. Kosovo Museum

The Kosovo Museum is full of artifacts found throughout the country. Its mission is to preserve the history and culture of the country. It is also the headquarters of the Kosovo Archaeological Institute. They’ve carefully preserved thousands of artifacts, some dating all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. It’s a good way to spend half a day if you’re into museums and history.

5. Natural Beauty

Travelling in Kosovo is not complete without also taking in the natural beauty. If you’re used to travelling in North America or Western Europe, Pristina might feel a little run down. If the city is getting to you, there’s tons of things to do in the surrounding countryside, oftentimes these things are also not in any guidebooks. All of the following are not more than a few hours by car from Pristina.

  • Summit Mt. Ljuboten
    At 8196 feet, Mt Ljuboten is the tallest mountain in Kosovo. Climbing the mountain takes most of a day unless you’re really fast, and in the summer it is nothing more than a steep walk and a casual scramble. In the winter, however, you’ll need proper climbing gear as it’s covered in snow and ice. The summit sits right on the border between Kosovo and FYROM. On a clear day, you can see incredibly far from the top. It’s a good place for a #kosovo photo op.
  • Mirusha Park
    Pictured above, exploring Mirusha Park is a great summertime activity. It’s a large canyon with all sorts of waterfalls and lakes to swim in. It’s a great place to cool off in the summer and meet other people. Don’t miss this one.
  • Brezovica Ski Resort
    Called “the most delightfully dysfunctional ski resort in Europe” by the New York Times, Brezovica is a fun place to learn to ski. If you’ve ever been to a ski resort in the United States, you might want to forget about that experience, as Brezovica Ski Resort is nothing like that. The lifts are rickety, the rental skis are well loved, and the kids will literally ski circles around you and laugh when you fall backwards on flat ground. If you don’t know how to ski, my recommendation is to just rent a pair, go up the slope right outside the hotel, and start riding down. You’ll figure it out!

In summary, Pristina (and Kosovo in general) is a good place to start if you’re looking to get off the beaten path in Europe. It’s safe, the people are nice, and the countryside is beautiful. Espressos and wine are fun, but there’s a whole other side to the continent most Americans never take the time to get to know. Kosovo is incredibly unique, you won’t find anywhere quite like it. After having lived there for 9 months, it sorta grew on me in a weird way. If you’re looking to break out of the old Paris-Berlin-Budapest route, hop on over to Pristina for a few days.

Many thanks to David Anthony for creating this guide to Pristina, Kosovo.

Did you like this article? Have you visited Kosovo? Tell us about it in the comments! Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Links:

Bill Clinton Boulevard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_Boulevard#/media/File:Bill_Clinton_statue.jpg

Newborn: http://pages.kiva.org/node/10892

Skanderbeg Square: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g295385-d2476250-i131836377-Swiss_Diamond_Hotel_Prishtina-Pristina.html

Kosovo Museum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_Museum#/media/File:Muzeu_i_Kosov%C3%ABs.JPG

Mirusha Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirusha_Park#/media/File:Unseen_Mirusha.jpg

NYT Article about Brezovica: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/travel/kosovo-ski-holidays.html?mcubz=3

Pristina photo: https://sk.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pri%C5%A1tina

Destination: Knoxville, TN, USA

Knoxville: A quick look

Language: English is the official language of Tennessee
Currency: USD
Drinking Age: 21*
Public Transportation: There is a trolley and a bus system
Passport: No (for US citizens)
Vaccines: Routine

*Fun fact, you only have to be 18 to be a bartender in Tennessee!

Before you leave:

  1. Keep in mind that a lot of stuff closes in Knoxville the week between Christmas and New Year’s. If you plan a trip at this time know that some stores, museums, and other attractions may be closed.
  2. Stay with Airbnb! Knoxville has many cheap Airbnb options. I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb; I am such a satisfied customer that I’m encouraging you to give them a try simply because they are that great.
  3. If you’re interested in the night life, note that Knoxville is fairly casual. Even in clubs folks wear their denim shorts and nice tops.

Once you get there:

You will likely have to drive to get around Knoxville. If you’re flying in I would recommend renting a car. I’ve been to Knoxville many times as I have family there, but we always find something new and fun to do. Here are a few of my recommendations.

  1. Market Square/Gay Street

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    Knoxville’s market square is right in the heart of downtown. There are a ton of restaurants, bars, and shops. Plus there is almost always an event going on. Live bands play frequently and festivals are common.

  2. Knoxville Zoo

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    The Knoxville Zoo is big enough to keep you busy, but small enough to cover in a day. With a variety of exhibits, it’s fun for the whole family.

  3. World’s fair grounds + Sunsphere

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    The Sunsphere has become a Knoxville landmark, and is an essential spot to visit. While you’re there, you can take a walk around the world’s fair grounds, and see the hundreds of countries’ flags.

  4. University of Tennessee

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    Knoxvillans bleed Tennessee Vol’s orange. You can get UT merch at any and every Walmart, Target, or gas station in the Knoxville area. The campus is beautiful, and worth strolling around.

  5. Bud’s Gun Shop and Range and Smoky Mountain Knife Works (Sevierville, TN)

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    If you enjoy huntin’ and fishin’ and all that jazz, you should head up to Sevierville and check out Bud’s and Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Bud’s Gun Shop and Range is the largest gun shop in Tennessee, and also has an indoor shooting range. Right next door is Smoky Mountain Knife Works, which is basically just a huge souvenir shop. It’s worth a visit though, just for the very Tennessee feel. You can also visit the National Knife Museum, which is located inside the knife store.

  6. Wonderworks (Pigeon Forge, TN)

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    Sort of a combo science museum/kids museum, I can guarantee this place is a blast for kids and kids at heart. An indoor ropes course is included in the price of admission. You can also ride the “Earthquake Cafe” which simulates an earthquake.

  7. Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Middlesboro, KY)

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    The Pinnacle overlook is on the corner of Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. It’s located in the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, which we entered from Kentucky. The overlook is a short hike up a mountain, and has spectacular views of the Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee mountains.

  8. Abraham Lincoln museum (Harrogate, TN)

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    The Abraham Lincoln museum features artifacts from President Lincoln’s life as well as tidbits about his life, a small gift shop/bookstore, and a little dress-up area for children. It’s a small museum, but totally worth the visit.

  9. American museum of Science and Energy (Oak Ridge, TN)

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    If you enjoy playing with science, this is the place for you. It features many different interactive exhibits and is fun for the whole family.

Restaurants/Bars to try:

Blue Coast

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Blue Coast Grill & Bar might be my favorite bar in Knoxville. They have average priced drinks but excellent service. They offer “animal hour” specials from 10-11pm.

Downtown Grill and Brewery

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This place has good food and tons of beer options. If you’re overwhelmed by the beer selection, try out their beer sampler!

Chivo Taqueria

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Chivo has great drinks, great food, and a relaxed atmosphere.  They have a wide variety of tequilas, and a generally well-stocked bar.  The food is southwestern style, and you can get the typical quesadillas, tacos, etc.

Sapphire

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Sapphire is a bit fancier than I usually go for, but they have a super fun cocktails and shooters, including the “Pop, rock, and drop it” which features pop rocks on the rim and local honey.

Suttree’s High Gravity Tavern

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Suttree’s doesn’t have a huge selection*, but their drink prices are low. Best of all, they have an arcade!

*To be fair we visited the bar in the back with the arcade games, and not the main bar in the restaurant area

 

Knoxville is a fun city, with tons to do whether you’re 2, 22, or 42. There are a variety of attractions that appeal to a variety of interests. I didn’t even touch on the art museum, Dollywood, or the Ripley’s museum, to name a few nearby attractions, simply because I haven’t visited them (yet!).

Have you visited the Knoxville area? Did you enjoy it? What were your favorite attractions and restaurants? Let me know in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share via Facebook or Twitter, and as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this.

Links:

Wonderworks photo: https://smokymountainsbrochures.com/coupons/wonderworks/

UT photo: http://tennessee.edu/campus-guide/

Bud’s photo: http://www.wsmv.com/story/26820795/largest-gun-store-in-tenn-opens-in-sevierville

Smoky Mountain Knife Works photo: https://smokymountains.com/attractions/smoky-mountain-knife-works/

Blue Coast photo: http://www.restaurantnews.com/blue-coast-grill-bar-market-square-knoxville-tn/

Downtown Grill photo: http://knoxbrewery.com/

Chivo photo: http://www.utdailybeacon.com

Sapphire photo: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g55138-d829425-Reviews-Sapphire-Knoxville_Tennessee.html

Suttree’s photo: https://www.yelp.com/biz/suttrees-high-gravity-tavern-knoxville

Earthquake Cafe photo: http://www.smokymountainvacationinfo.com/smoky-mountains/blog/

All other images are the property of The Globetrotting Scientist.

Learning a Language Part 3/3: Putting it All Together

Welcome to the final segment of our 3 part summer series on learning a new language! Part 3 puts together everything you learned in parts 1 and 2, and includes more tips for mastering the basics. Like parts 1 and 2, this guide was written by our guest, David Anthony. I hope you enjoyed our summer series!
(Catch up with part 1 and part 2)

Part 3:

So now you’ve got a language to learn, and the resources to learn it. Great! How do you go about putting it all together? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. If you only take away one thing from this article, it needs to be this: You can’t learn to speak a language without speaking it.

I know, it sounds very intuitive. Many people put off speaking for as long as possible, and this isn’t going to get you very far. Don’t be nervous, just go out and speak. Speak as much and as often as possible.

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The very first thing you need to do when you start out is start to learn the most useful vocabulary first. Ignore grammar, ignore learning the writing, just sit down with a phrasebook and learn how to say greetings. Learn how to ask about prices, learn some numbers, learn any culturally relevant phrases. This gives you the bedrock that you’ll build on. By ignoring grammar in the beginning, you can get to speaking sooner and learn some whole sentences. Once you move on to learning grammar, knowing these sentences will reinforce the grammar concepts. As you get more familiar with the general structure and sounds, start to incorporate more grammar and vocab into your study. Here’s a list of the 625 most common words in everyday communication. This is a good place to start, as it gives you the most bang for your buck vocabulary wise. When used in conjunction with a good overview of useful grammar, you’ll make fast language gains and quickly find yourself being able to make whole sentences easily.

As you move past the simple vocab and grammar into more intermediate territory, it’s time to get a little more creative. This is also the more fun part of studying a language, as you can understand much more than you could at the beginning. Now’s the time to start really getting into some more higher order vocabulary and grammar. I like to use news articles, tv, music, and any other media in your target language. Find something that’s interesting to you, and start reading or listening. When you find a word or phrase you don’t understand, look it up and try to make a note of it so you can work it into your study rotation.

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There’s a widespread misconception that young children learn languages better than adults. This is false. The reason it seems that way is because children constantly practice, and they get a lot of repetition. To apply this to us as adult learners, this means that you need consistency and intensity. Consistency is the most important study tool you can use. Try to study every single day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes before you go to sleep. A few minutes every day is better than 5 hours a day once a week.

The other half is intensity. Although 20 minutes a day is better than nothing, becoming fluent with that little study is virtually impossible. That’s why many people have “studied” a language for years, and never make it past the most basic phrases. To reach a B2 on CEFR, which I personally think is the lowest level one could claim fluency at, you need anywhere from 600-1800 hours of study, depending on the language you’re learning. Basically, you need to be willing to put in the time if you ever want to reach fluency. Don’t let it discourage you, you just have to be willing to put in the work. People who learn languages quickly don’t do it because they’re doing anything differently, they’re just studying consistently and speaking as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in a language. Plenty of people just want to know a few words, and couldn’t care less about fluency. I’m not telling you to not do that, just be aware of what your goals and aspirations with the language are.

The last thing you need to do is push yourself. Find things that are challenging to read or listen to. Try to express a controversial opinion in conversation. Discuss politics and religion, even if you don’t feel ready. Learning a language is like exercising. You need to push yourself to see results.

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All of this might be a little discouraging, but it’s not meant to be. In fact, it’s quite empowering. All you need to do is put in the work and practice as much as you can. The rest will fall into place. Study every day, speak as often as you possibly can, and push yourself. You’d be surprised by how quickly you can become conversational in a language just by doing some hard work. There’s a million other things out there that are much more in depth than this article. If you want to get more detail about how you should go about studying, I would check out Gabriel Wyner’s book Fluent Forever. He goes into much more detail about some study techniques and tools that I personally found very useful. He’s also the guy who put together that useful 625 list! I hope this article helped you out. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about language learning.

Thanks for reading! Are you multilingual? What are some of tips for learning a language? Tell us about it in the comments below! Did you enjoy this post? Share it via Facebook or Twitter. And, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Disclaimer: if you follow the Amazon links in the body of this post and make purchases through them, I will receive a small compensation from Amazon. This compensation comes from Amazon, not from you, and the price you see through my links is the same as the price you would see otherwise. However I have no association with Wikipedia or Gabriel Wyner. In an attempt to bring you the best content, we linked to the sites that we felt were the most relevant, compensation notwithstanding.

Images:

http://ods.matera-basilicata2019.it/en/open-talks/iaconesipersico-education-and-communication-open-source/

https://www.rhodes.edu/content/multicultural-affairs