Something surprising happened after I visited Istanbul in April 2013…I came back feeling like a more empowered traveler! Even through I’ve been traveling for years, it was a trip filled with “firsts.” My first time traveling to a Muslim country, first time visiting a mosque, first time staying in one city for a whole week and my first time having two days all to myself. It’s my life’s mission to get the word out on how absolutely AMAZING this city is.
To get inspired, visit my Istanbul Pinterest Board “Turkish Delight!”
Here’s another “first” for me, and again it involves Istanbul! My first Custom Travel Map! I’ve pinned the highlights from my trip including Hotels, Tourist Attractions, Food/Beverage Recommendations and Important Transportation stops. My hope is that you’ll use this as a visual guide for when you book your future trip to Istanbul.
There’s three things that December means to most Chicagoans: it’s absolutely freezing outside, there’s already snow on the ground (white or dirty black, both count here) and most of us are getting ready for full hibernation mode! Despite all this, I’d like to think that most of us are also really excited for the upcoming holidays (I know I am!). My multi-colored lights are lit and looped around my balcony, my Christmas scented candles are filling up my cozy condo with delicious scents of “Christmas Cookie” and “Gingerbread” and my little pup, Lilo, may or may not have her holiday sweater on (I promise that she picked it out herself)!
This is also the time that I get super excited about putting up my Christmas tree! It’s definitely nothing grand, standing at only 3ft tall, but it’s pre-lit and fake…so it’s efficient and doesn’t cause an automatic allergic reaction, which I consider a huge plus (Merry Christmas to me!). Another reason I love setting up my tree is I can finally display all my travel ornaments I’ve collected over the years, which leads me to a great piece of travel advice I will offer you…Pick one souvenir and stick with it!
The biggest question I get asked when people hear how often I travel is, “How can you afford all this?” It’s very simple, I don’t overspend. I budget where I can, and that includes all the tempting souvenirs that make your eyes glaze over when you’re walking through narrow streets or waiting in those endless lines at must-see museums. Don’t get me wrong, this was a hard lesson for me to learn too so don’t think I was exempt from falling prey to the beautifully displayed shop windows or the elderly man trying to sell me “locally-made” goods…we’ve all been there! But today is a new day for you! Pick something along your travels that means something to you and stick with it. For me it’s ornaments, but for you it could be collectable spoons, or shoes, or magnets, or a million other things. My sister buys Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Height’s’ book from every country in their native language. She’s a huge book lover and it’s one of her favorites, so it makes sense. She also buys ornaments, but since she’s my sister she gets a pass on two souvenirs!
Below are some of my favorite ornaments that are displayed on this years Christmas tree. Some are cheesy (Princess Sisi, Vienna-Austria), some were a splurge (Golden Pineapple, Oahu-Hawaii) and some were free (Wooden spoon from Budapest – free with purchase of paprika spice). There also seems to be a running theme of alcohol related ones, but no judging! Enjoy all the pics and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Golden pineapple – Oahu, Hawaii!
Wine bottle representing ‘Chardonnay Cottege’ wine trip – Paso Robles, CA
Representing the Alaskian pub crawl – Alaskian Cruise 2013
Yellow Taxi Cab – New York, NY
Drunk skeleton – Riviera Maya, Mexico
Beautiful blue-topped buildings – Santorini, Greece
Gladiator – Rome, Italy
Traditional egg ornament – Prague, Czech Republic
Wooden paprika spoon – Budapest, Hungary
Princess Sisi – Vienna, Austria
Evil Eye – Istanbul, Turkey
Famous Water Tower – Chicago, IL