Inspired by...Love

Well isn’t this an interesting topic for today!  What is love?  Love has definitely been on my mind lately, but today I’m going to talk about love for a place:

I’ve fallen in love with London in the 8 months I’ve been here, and it’s not just because it’s “new”, because after 8 months, the exciting newness totally wears off.  I love London because it feels right to be here.  There’s this energy that London has that I can only describe as a “buzz.”  It’s not that crazy high-strung hype of New York (as much as I miss it!), but rather, it’s buzzing hum of activity and culture. 

London is historic — you have the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, the statue to Nelson Trafalgar, and so many relics to its history that have become embedded into its overall scheme.  Of course, there’s Buckingham Palace, home of the Royal Family, and references to the monarchy all over the place, such as the “Victoria” and “Jubilee” Tube lines, the Victoria and Albert museum, and the “Jubilee Bridge”, for example.  London is a microcosm of the British monarchy that dates back hundreds of years.  The East End was once home to the majority of immigrants to London and you can still see remnants of this influx of culture, from Brick Lane (home to the best curry I’ve ever had) to the oldest synagogue in Britain, which brings me to my next point:

London is full of culture.  I’ve never experienced such a multicultural, cosmopolitan city like London before.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it, other than the fact that there are all kinds of people and cultures here.  Museums are all free and they're open late on certain nights of the week, and people go to them as a social event!  There is such rich culture that you can feel from the people and their social calendars.

London is refined and orderly.  Coming from a super type-A person, I really appreciate the fact that it is an unwritten rule that you stand on the right of the escalator and walk on the left side, and that it is reinforced by “tutting” at those who do not obey.  The Tube runs regularly (when it’s in operation, as in, before 1am and after 5:30 am) and stations are clearly marked.  Besides those two obvious examples, I just get get a sense of order here, and I love it!

Being in London feels right to me, finally.  I feel like I belong here and that the layout of the city and its history and people make sense to me.  I can go for a run and not get lost while still being able to still marvel at the sight of the Houses of Parliament lit up from across the Thames at dusk.  London is familiar, without being boring, because I don’t think it could ever be boring.  London is what I needed and what I still need, and though the “honeymoon phase” has perhaps ended and I get annoyed at tourists and the fact that I still can’t tell which way cars are going to turn, I feel a sense of purpose here and a commitment to something greater than myself. 

That’s what love is, to me.  Love is not just the physical or superficial aspects of something, but rather, how the partnership of the two of you manifests itself.  You don’t have to love every single thing and walk around with a huge smile on your face, but you should still find something to marvel at and believe that you are committed to something that goes beyond your immediate needs.

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Bravery

I think this entire year has been a time of bravery for me.  I remember sitting on the coach from Heathrow, incredibly jet lagged, and thinking, “Oh my god, WHAT HAVE I DONE???”  I was absolutely paralysed by fear for the first few days, and even weeks, because I was so far out of my comfort zone — I was literally an ocean away from everything I had ever known — and I didn’t think I would ever feel comfortable.  Now, over eight months later, I have a different perspective on what exactly I had done :)


I was watching The Princess Diaries the other day and I got to the part with one of my favourite quotes.  It’s the scene where Mia is so convinced that she can never be a princess or a queen and run Genovia…until she reads a letter from her father imparting a bit of wisdom on her.  He tells her, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, the decision that something else is more important” which I think fits in perfectly with my year in London. 


Was I terrified because I was an ocean away from my comfort zone?  Yes.  Was I in a strange and unfamiliar city?  Oh yes, I was.  Was I in a completely new academic system in which I didn’t even come close to feeling like I had my sh*t together?  Absolutely.  But, was it worth it?  100%.  I think I was brave this year because, despite feeling that tightness in my chest that signals anxiety threatening to break through the surface, and despite feeling like a mess in class half the time, and despite the unfamiliarity surrounding me, I got through each day, one by one.  I knew that this year was what I needed — I had to get out and see the world, and try something different, and study at one of the world’s best universities, because ultimately, I would grow and be a better person because of it. 


I am not the person who left in September and who curled up in the seat of a coach, watching the English suburbs pass by and questioning every decision I had made up until now.  It took a long time, and many emails and frantic Skype calls with my mom, but  I survived the tears and fears, and here I am, eight months later, and I am so happy with who I have become.  


I was brave, not because I wasn’t afraid, but because I (subconsciously) decided that London was more important.


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Blogging Tips

Happy Birthday, KatherInspired!  I can’t believe it’s been an entire year since I took the plunge, made a Squarespace account, bought my domain, and started this blog…all during a shift at the Fordham Public Safety office! It’s been an incredible year since I took the ideas that had been burning at the top of my mental to-do lists, so in honour of our first birthday, I have a few blogging tips that I’ve learned throughout the year:

 

 

1. Consistency: While I’m not sure if I’m going to keep up blogging every single day once this challenge is over, I do appreciate consistency when it comes to blogging.  It doesn’t have to be every day, because life gets in the way, but set a goal for yourself and know that you want something up on your blog however many days per week that you choose.  Readers will soon figure it out, and it will totally help drive traffic to your blog.  Also, it helps in the initial stages of planning your blog, because if you can think of content to put on your blog at a consistent rate, you’ve got a great idea going that will soon become a personal brand.

 

2. Organise: Take the time and invest in your blogging system!  First, pick a place to write your blog posts that is not your blog itself.  I’ve had way too many “ahhhh!” moments where I’ve finished a nice long post…and then Safari decides to quit on me, deleting everything I’ve just done.  Talk about a nightmare, right?  Now, I use an Evernote notebook (check out my Digital Tools post for more info!) that I’ve labelled “KatherInspired” where I keep all of my post drafts until they’re ready to publish.  I’m also working on developing a style guide for my blog and brand so I’ll keep track of colour scheme ideas, themes and fonts I like, and a (in the works!) social media plan in a separate notebook.  This way, all of my ideas are in one place!  You can use whatever system works, but I strongly recommend that you try out various platforms and systems and figure out what keeps your groove going.


3. Content: At least once per week, I’ll do what I call a “content catch-up” where I’ll check all the latest posts on certain websites (Levo League, MindBodyGreen, the HBIC Project, etc.) that inspire me.  I keep a list of bloggers, companies, and brands that have great social media and I’ll check those on a regular basis, as well.  I also have subscriptions to magazines such as Oprah, RealSimple, Glamour, InStyle, and The Week, so I can stay up to date on everything going on in the world that I love!  Each of the things I “check” has to do with my “inspired” brand and the more I read, the more inspiration I get.  I really recommend doing the same because someone once said, “To be a writer, one must read.”  Take inspiration from the world and let it fuel your blog!


And finally, HAVE FUN!  Make your blog whatever you want it to be — fill it with your thoughts, pictures, graphics, quotes, colour, life, anything that makes you happy.  Opening up your blog should give you a sense of pride so take the time and make something you’re proud of!


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Accomplishments

First exam: CHECK!  I survived my Islamic Empires exam with only some minor pain in my fingers (anyone up to give me a hand massage???) and the majority of my sanity, so I am feeling quite accomplished this evening.  Speaking of that, here are a few more accomplishments for Day 19 of #BlogEverydayInMay!

1. Smart Mail: When I got the Operations Intern position with Smart Girls Group, I never imagined that I would get to create something like Smart Mail, and run it a year and a half later!   With support and advice from the lovely Smart Starter of SGG herself, Emily Raleigh, I started a weekly newsletter with a tiny little staff that showcased what was going on in Smart Girls Group.  The staff grew…and then outgrew our weekly spot, so I designed and relaunched the all-new Smart Mail to span four days and give you a little dose of SGG in your inbox in the morning, Monday through Thursday.  Today, we number 22 amazingly dedicated team-members and it has been a privilege to work with them.  (Want to sign up?  Head to newsletter.smartgirlsgroup.com!)

2. My study abroad year at the London School of Economics: 2 weeks premature, but I am on the other side of my study abroad adventure year!  Between all of the preparations to come here (the visa process was quite a hassle), and everything I’ve experienced and learned throughout the year, this is a huge accomplishment that I will remember forever.

3. My 17-day, 9-city EuRail tour of Europe!: Years of dreaming, months of planning, and weeks of preparation came down to my massive inter-rail tour of Europe, which I successfully executed and survived in one piece.  I got to see and experience cities and sights I have been dreaming of, and I got to have an adventure all on my own.  If I can tour Europe for two and a half weeks mainly on my own, I think I can do anything :)

4. Publishing 2 articles to the Fordham Political Review: This was really big for me, because I am not always eager to put myself out there.  I had had ideas for articles ever since I started working for FPR, but I just couldn’t get myself to actually write something.  Writing and submitting an article meant leaving myself vulnerable to so many people — my fellow editors, my friends, readers, the internet, etc. — so it took me a while before I was finally able to write and submit my first article on microfinance opportunities for women.  I remember how relieved I was when it finally went live…and then how I felt when some random reader felt the need to email me a diatribe about how wrong I was.  I was a little stung at the time, but if that’s the worst that can happen, who cares?  My friend Dave actually took it positively when I told him — he said I had started an academic dialogue (!) — so looking back, it’s not that bad.  I published my second article on the aftermath of the Arab Spring a few months ago, and I am pleased to say that it is one of the articles listed on the cover of this semester’s edition!  I’m already gearing up for round three, so wish me luck! (Articles can be found here and here!)

5. Learning to eat healthy on a student budget: London is anything but cheap, so let’s just lead with that.  I am responsible for all of my own cooking, so I had to learn quickly how to eat on a relatively small budget, while still eating healthy (it does wonders for my anxiety!).  I discovered the beauty of soup and how I can make a huge pot for around $12 and have dinner for a week.  Sweet potatoes became the ultimate breakfast and quick meal/snack/anything.  Carrots and celery with hummus are relatively inexpensive and are the perfect lunch.  I can buy a container of soup from Sainsbury’s and use it as a sauce for steamed vegetables and lentils or rice and have that make two meals.  It’s been quite the adventure learning how to really fend for myself (kind of; my parents help me out with groceries #ThanksMomAndDad), but I love the feeling!

And finally...

6. KatherInspired: I had wanted to start a blog and have a little corner of the internet for myself and my thoughts for a while, but it took some time before I was finally able to do it.  I think I came up with the name late one night last year and all of a sudden, tag-lines and logos were popping into my head and I had to do something about it.  Next Sunday (the 24th of May) is KatherInspired’s first birthday — it all started during a weekend shift in the Fordham Security Office when I just gritted my teeth and did it, but I am so happy I started this blog.  It’s been so much fun to muse and record my year in London and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

 

Thanks to www.foundlovenowwhat.com for the challenge! :)

 

Inspired by...Quirks

First of all, I love the word “quirk.”  Doesn’t it sound so fitting?  After some deep shower-thinking, here are my top quirks!  Enjoy and try not to judge :)

1. I can lick my elbow.  I’m really proud of this and would be happy to show you.

2. I have to shower and wash my hair before I go to bed each night — no matter how late it is, I sleep best on wet, clean hair.

3. I don’t like crowds. AT ALL.  I don’t mind crowded subways/Tubes, but a crowded street or a crowded room freaks me out and I get this weird feeling that I have to shove myself out.  

4. Sometimes when I’m walking, or showering, or laying in bed before I fall asleep, I make up stories in my head that basically narrate what my perfect life will look like :)

5. I am obsessed with postcards and keeping little mementos like ticket stubs, pamphlets, stickers, etc..  Some day I’ll make a scrapbook…some day

6. I practice smiles and other facial expressions in the mirror when I’m getting ready in the morning/evening.  Musical theatre never left me!

7. Colour-coding and list-making make me happy

8. I like going into bookstores and making list upon list of books I want to read — I think it has something to do with the idea that I will read all of these books some day.

9. I love teddy bears.  In fact, when I got back to London in January and needed some comfort, I went to Build a Bear and made a bear…which I told the assistant was for my cousin.  He totally saw through it.

10. I’ve owned and worn the same pair of sunglasses since my freshman year of high school which is when I finally got contacts.  Brittany and my mother are probably going to cringe when they read this.

That’s all I can think of for now!  Embrace your quirks!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...A Cause I Support

I’ve already blogged about Smart Girls Group, and what I do as part of the Smart Girls Sisterhood, but let me explain exactly why I am so obsessed with any and all things SGG:

Smart Girls Group is something that, had it existed back then, would have made my entire middle school and high school experience so much better.  I felt so fundamentally different during those long six years, and while I’ve struggled with feeling this way for most of my life, it became most profound during this lovely point in my life.  Some of it had to do with being an introvert and not liking what apparently everyone else liked.  In middle school, I was the girl who could spend hours in her room reading and not think twice about it, wore skirts and dresses all of the time, swam instead of playing soccer, hated sleepovers, and listened to the Annie and The Sound of Music soundtracks instead of the Jonas Brothers (#2008Life).  In high school, material-wise, I wasn’t quite as different from everyone else, but I was still this old soul introvert-type, and I constantly felt on the fringe of the general population that was my age.  Add that to being smart and nerdy, and you’ve got a recipe for a social disaster.  Mind you, things have gotten so much better as I’ve gotten older, but something that made it all click has been Smart Girls Group.

 

Smart Girls Group’s mission is to unite and empower ambitious young women, but for me, it goes so far beyond this.  It is such a positive community of bright and engaged women who are spreading sunshine and smarts wherever they go.  Smart Girls Group encourages you to live your best life and be smart in whatever it is you are smart in.  The way I’ve conceptualised it is that in Smart Girls Group, everyone is unique, but no one is “different.”  I was the girl who was different and liked what no one else liked, but that doesn’t matter with Smart Girls Group, because everyone is different and it’s encouraged and celebrated.

Their various social media platforms make my day so much brighter whenever I come across a post or a tweet or a picture, the website is full of articles and content from girls who want to help you live your best life, the newsletters that I put together not only give me something fun and non-academic to do, but getting them in my email inbox is just as fun as putting them together is.  Not only have I made some incredible friends from being a part of Smart Girls Group, but I am learning to be the Smart Girl that I wish I had been years ago: one who is different, smart, unique, whatever she is, embraces it, and shares it.

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Blog Everyday in May Challenge Days 1, 2, 3

I am so excited to announce that I will be participating in the “Blog Every Day in May” challenge, organised by Belinda at FoundLoveNowWhat.com.  My friend Alex at AlexGoesToEurope.com (with whom I also go to school at LSE!) told me about the challenge and I think it will be a great way to escape from the stress of revision and give my blog a little TLC.  I really want to grow this blog, so in order to do that, I need to put some serious work into its content, hence this challenge!  I am, admittedly, starting a little late (it’s been a crazy weekend) so I am combining days 1, 2, and 3, but tomorrow we will be back on track!

Day 1: Introduce Yourself

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katie (I also go by Kate and Katherine)!  I am a 20-year-old student at Fordham University and the London School of Economics where I am studying Political Science, Middle East Studies, and Theology, with a bit of international history.  This year, I’ve developed a concentration for my studies in democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.  I am also passionate about international politics and development, women’s issues, and foreign affairs.  My dream is to work in the foreign service and eventually become Secretary of State.  I am an introvert, meaning I value my “me time” and am generally more reserved in unfamiliar situations and large groups, but I can connect with people on a very deep level, once I get to know them well.  I love to read and can spend hours in a bookstore, flipping through books, adding to my list of books to read, and soaking up the sounds of pages turning.  I am originally from Connecticut, but I go to school in New York, and have been living in London since September.  This year has been an incredible adventure for me — I’ve gotten to travel around Europe, study at one of the world’s best universities for social science, explore a beautiful city, and learn so much about myself.  Since living in London, I’ve developed a deep love for cappuccinos, though not for the caffeine boost.  Other things on my “love” list include museums, Pinterest, yoga, cooking and baking, The West Wing, blogging, chocolate, TED talks and podcasts, magazines, organising (especially with my Erin Condren planner!), and tea.

 


5 Photos That Tell My Story:

Where would we be without family?  This is me and my brother at Thanksgiving 2013, which is also the last Thanksgiving I spent with my family (I was gone for 2014!).  [Ignore the ridiculously long fringe :)].  My brother and I were very close growing up — we went to the same summer camps, made our stuffed animals go “bungee jumping” off the knee wall in our family room, and made up stories on the swings in the backyard.  Now that we’re older, we bond by driving around at night while we listen to music and talk a little.  He goes to boarding school and I’m here, so it’s hard to stay close, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job.  Also, he graduates high school in exactly 35 days and I get to be home to be there as an obnoxiously proud big sister. 

 

Smart Girls Group has changed my life.  I wish something like this had existed when I was in high school because having a sisterhood of ambitious and kind girls would have been a total game-changer.  I have had the opportunity to connect with amazing women and girls and being involved in all the ways that I am makes each day brighter.

 

This is my classic “inspired” pose and also part of my KatherInspired logo!  This was me back in October on my second trip to Paris and my friends and I had a lot of fun taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower :).  To me, this is my ultimate expression of joy — throwing your arms up in the air because you’re so happy and excited and inspired that there’s no other way to describe it.  I am constantly inspired by the world and throw myself into everything that inspires me, and this pose pretty much sums it up.

 

This picture was taken my third week in London when my friend Claire and I went to tea at Harrods.  What could be more English than tea with scones with clotted cream and jam?  Few things, in my opinion.  This was one of those afternoons that the sheer reality of where I was — London— really hit me.  I was in a brand new city and exploring as much as I could, I had a new friend, and we had tea with amazing scones, so life for me was complete.  I look back at the girl in this picture and I can’t believe it’s been almost 8 months since it was taken.  I have grown and changed so much in the past 8 months and it is one of the best feelings in the world.

 

This was me in Scotland when we were driving through the Highlands and we stopped to take pictures at the Three Sisters mountains.  It was rainy and freezing and the wind almost knocked you off your feet, but I was still laughing, whether it be because of how beautiful the mountains (and Scotland in general!) were, or because the whole setup here was just so ridiculous.  

 


 

My Travel Bucket List:

As you’ve seen throughout my year in London, I’ve been to 11 countries and more cities than I want to count right now, so I’d say I’ve checked quite a few places off of my travel bucket list!  I do have some places left, however:

 

Morocco:

I would love to see the sand dunes in the desert, ride a camel, and eat hummus and turmeric on pita bread while sitting on a pouf.  I’ve been fascinated by Arabic culture since high school and I can’t wait until I get to see it for myself.  I also need to learn Arabic at some point, so Morocco will be a great place to practice!

 

Italy:

I didn’t make it to Italy this year, but as a huge fan of art history, architecture, food, and Eat, Pray, Love, I will definitely be visiting Italy at some point in the future!

 

Istanbul:

I mean, how could you not want to visit the Hagia Sophia and eat Turkish food?  I’ve taken two classes on Ottoman history and even more on the Middle East, so it would be incredible to see it come to life.

 

India:

Yoga has been a big part of my life for the past two years, so I would love to study it at an ashram in India.  Also, elephants are really cool so riding one would be amazing!

 

Peru:

I took Spanish in high school and at Fordham, and while I’m not fluent, Spanish still comes pretty naturally to me.  I love the way it sounds and the way it feels to speak it!  Machu Picchu has always fascinated me, so I would really love to climb it and practice my Spanish.  

 

Southwestern USA:

My neighbour is currently living in Arizona and I can’t get over how beautiful that part of the United States is!  I want to see wide open sky, the sun shining on the desert sand, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.  

 

Stay tuned for Day 4 tomorrow!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Travel Day and Zurich

So, DAY ONE!  On Monday night (the 30th), I realised that, oh my god, I was leaving for Europe the next day and I started to freak out just a bit…okay, a lot.  What had I done???  I had no choice at this point, as I had booked my hostels, my EuRail pass, and all of my train reservations, but still, it was a lot to take in.  Also, there was the whole stress of packing since yours truly in a stroke of genius decided to wait until about 9:00 that night when I had to be up at 2:30 in the morning.  BIG mistake, since I had less room than I thought I had.  Anyway, I slept a little that night but I kept thinking about getting myself to the train station and not forgetting anything major, like my passport for example.  Finally, it was 2:30am and I was dragging myself out of bed, having finally fallen asleep.  I was out the door by 3:15 and on my way to Tottenham Court Road where I would take a night bus a few stops to King’s Cross/St. Pancras International.  This was one of those moments that the Tube not running 24 hours really wasn’t fun.  I eventually made it to King’s Cross, checked in for my Eurostar train, and then waited….and waited…and waited, until it was time to board!  This was it!  I got comfortable in my seat and settled in for a 2.5 hour train ride — I was prepared with a long episode of Sherlock and my relaxing playlist so I could get some sleep.

I arrived in Paris around 8:30 am local time (Paris is one hour ahead of Greenwich time) and had about a three hour layover with no wifi, so I needed to find some way to entertain myself.  It was a gorgeous day so I took a walk and got a crepe since I only get them in Paris and it had been so long.  I was in a much better mood after that :)  Then I had a quick train Lille Europe, which I think is north of Paris, but I didn’t really pay much attention.  After another hour layover, I was on the train to Marne La Vallee Chessy, which is definitely in France, and I think it was farther south.  The layovers were getting shorter at this point, but my train to Strasbourg was delayed so I killed a little time in the station and we were finally on our way!  Luckily, we made up a lot of time on the way to Basel (on the France/Germany/Switzerland border) since this was going to be my tightest connection yet, and I had just enough time to run through the station and make my train to Zurich!  I got in at 9:00pm having travelled for just about 18 hours and I was exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower and my bed.  My hostel was close to the train station which was lovely…but reception was on the third floor with no elevators, so you can imagine the look on my face when I got in the door. Finally, after checking in, a blissful hot shower, and sheets on my bed, I collapsed!


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 11.59.45.png

And now onto Zurich!  It’s an absolutely gorgeous little city in the German side of Switzerland with a river running through it, and incredible views of the Alps just beyond the river.  Here’s the flip side, though: it’s expensive.  I found out when I went to Starbucks to get a bottle of water and a snack bar and it cost me 8 Swiss francs which is the equivalent of 7 USD.  Good thing I was only there for a day!  I mostly walked around on my day in Zurich since, while it’s a beautiful, quaint city, there’s not a whole lot to do besides poke around in churches and see the river.  I did find a market in the train station and got to sample some cheeses and pastries which was quite enjoyable, and I hiked up this huge hill to get a nice panoramic view of the city and listen to the church bells chime.  I also found a fun music store on the main street near my hostel where they let you open any CD you want (well, they open it for you) and you can listen to it with amazing Bose headphones for as long as you want!  I listened to German music for a bit, and then found a Broadway classics CD that I liked a little more :)  

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, LSE finally released the exam schedule (it got delayed because of a software issue or something so I was searching for wifi all day so I could figure out when my exams are), and I’m coming home on June 4th!  I’ll be home in time for David’s graduation which I thought was a long shot, but it worked out and I am so relieved!

After a long walk by the river and a few more pictures, I called it a day and headed back to the hostel.  The next day was going to be an early wakeup, so I needed to get some sleep!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...My European Adventure: The Beginning

I’m back!!!  I returned on Thursday from 17 days of travelling around Europe and I can’t wait to share it with you!  Before I go into all of the lovely pastry/Alps/castle/ beach-infused details, let’s talk logistics:

 

Who: Yours truly, the brains behind Katherinspired, the 20-something living in London for the year with a long break in between spring and summer terms who had (and still has) incredibly itchy feet.

What: Seeing the farther-away places I didn’t go last term, because how can you not when you have the perfect break in between terms?

When: March 31st - April 16th

Where: Zurich, Switzerland; Salzburg, Austria; Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Paris, Bayeux, and Bordeaux, France; San Sebastian, Spain.  WOW.

Why: Why not?  Seriously, though, I did this trip so I could get out and explore, so I could marvel at something (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?), so I could have an adventure beyond the adventure that this year has already been.

How:

     Travel: I had a few different options for how I wanted to travel around Europe, but I eventually chose a EuRail pass.  I love trains and the scenic views they provide, so I thought it would be a fun way to enjoy the journey.  EuRail has several options, including a one, two, or three-country pass, a flex-pass that allows you a certain number of “travel days” within a set period, or a global pass which gives you unlimited travel within a certain amount of days.  I opted for the global pass options because I didn’t want to be limited in case of train delays or anything, and because I would be travelling through so many countries.  I do think it would have been cheaper to fly (…Ryanair), but then you miss the scenery and “on the ground” interaction, I think, so it was worth it.  What I didn’t realise before purchasing the pass is that certain trains (especially ones in France and Switzerland) require you to make reservations in addition to having a pass, which also cost more money.  That was a bit frustrating, but even with the additional cost of the reservations, the pass pretty much paid for itself if you factor in the cost of all of the train tickets.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea of planning this huge trip itself, so I procrastinated a bit, but I eventually sat down one day and just began booking my trains and the dates I would be in each place, and it fell into place like a puzzle.  Best feeling ever.


     Accommodations: I was especially worried about hostels because I had never stayed in one by myself before.  Obviously, the concern here is security both for myself and my stuff, so I thought I would have to book single rooms in all of my hostels…which is really expensive.  Luckily, I found HostelWorld which is a website that lets you search for hostels using specific filters.  So, when I was looking for hostels in Zurich for the nights of March 31st and April 1st, I used filters like “luggage storage” and “hairdryers available” (trust me, it was a concern).  The website was fantastic — I was very satisfied with all of my hostels.  They were fairly inexpensive (with the exception of Zurich, but nothing in Switzerland is cheap, anyway), clean, and all were centrally located.  Also, I wasn’t expecting this, but all of them had free wifi!  If you’re going to be travelling, definitely use HostelWorld so you can get the hostel you want and need.

Touring: When you’re planning a trip like this, you want to make the best use of your time.  I was going to have between a day and a day in a half in each city, so I wanted to see all of the major sites and get as much of a feel for the city as I could.  Luckily, I live right near one of the best travel bookstores I’ve ever encountered: Stanford’s.  This place is a goldmine.  They have maps (both vintage and modern), tour books, novels about travelling, and basically everything this wanderlust-filled traveller could ever dream of.  Once I had booked all of my trains and accommodations, I popped on over to Stanford’s to get tour books on all of the cities I was going to.  Hands-down my absolute favourite were the books by Rick Steves.  This man is a genius when it comes to travelling around Europe, I promise.  He has a show on PBS, as well as an app, but I relied on his tour books because they helped me make the most out of each day.  What I love about his books is that they teach you the smart way to travel.  He has a walking tour of the city in each book with an easy-to-follow map that takes you around the major sites, while also making it logical.  Additionally, he divulges the tricks of the trade that he’s learned throughout his extensive years of traveling.  For instance, when I was in Salzburg, he had rated visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress an absolute must, but what he also did was talk about how to visit the fortress — when I first got there, he said rather than turning right at the entrance to a certain site, turn left for fewer crowds, and things like that.  Some of my best memories from the solo bit of the trip were my walking tours so I highly recommend him!

Packing: I know some people are able to “backpack” around Europe with literally nothing but a backpack, but I am not that kind of person.  Seriously, though, how do people do that???  17 days of the same clothes from my suitcase were enough to push me over the edge so I can’t imagine.  Anyway, I digress.  I took my carry-on-sized suitcase, and a good sturdy shoulder bag and that was it.  I packed basics that I knew I would be able to mix and match since I had very little room (light sweaters, layering pieces, leggings, a good skirt, my tall boots, and a pair of sneakers, etc.) and I organised them in big ziploc bags.  This is especially useful for saving space since you can squeeze the air out of the bags, and is good to keep things clean because god forbid your shampoo spills or something.  I packed all of my toiletries, stress remedies, first aid stuff in plastic pouches (these are my favourites), and then squeezed whatever else I thought of at the last minute somewhere else in there.  My advice?  Don’t leave packing for a few hours before you have to go to bed before you have to get up at 2:30 am.  Trust me, don’t do this.  You always have less space than you think you do and you want to walk out the door feeling like you have your life together, at least partly :)

Well, that’s it for the logistics of my trip!  Stay tuned for details of my travelling day and my day in Zurich, coming soon to KatherInspired!


Inspired to be,


Katherine  

Inspired by...Red Lips Week!

A few weeks ago, the Women Leaders of Tomorrow society at LSE held their fist ever Red Lips Week and I got to be a part of it!  

 

The Red Lips Project  was started in the UK a few years ago.  Basically, it’s centred around the concept of what makes you feel powerful.  And let’s face it, nothing makes you feel powerful quite like really good red lipstick. :)  I will make a confession that, before this week, I didn’t own red lipstick (and I’m sure my dear friend and beauty guru, Brittany, is crying as she reads this right now…), so I had to do something about that, of course!  Luckily, there’s a MAC Cosmetics right down the street from me, so I popped in on my way home from class and picked some up.  I got a great shade of bright red lipglass, since I’ve never really been a solid lipstick person, and was introduced to the world of lip liner.  Seriously, WHERE has this been all of my life?  The makeup artist at the store showed me how to line my lips before doing my lipglass and it makes such a difference in defining your lips!

 

So, Tuesday was our launch party and it was a blast!  I got to meet a ton of people and get dressed up, and we had a great keynote speaker — Connie Jackson, a LSE alum, and UK/Europe General Manager for Fashion Fair Beauty Projects.  She was incredible!  Her whole speech was very casual and was a collection of stories about finding her strength and the women in her life who have helped her realise this.  We also got to take pictures with signs saying what makes us powerful:


I also got a lovely little goodie bag with a mug, more red lipgloss, chocolate, and other fun treats.  What a great way to start my week!


Here’s my outfit for the launch party:


I opted to go for all black so my lips would pop and I liked the long blazer over my LBD  because of the different proportions.  By the way, this dress, is perhaps the greatest piece in my wardrobe and one of the best purchases I have EVER made!  It is the ultimate LBD because I can wear it for any occasion, it doesn’t wrinkle, and is so blissfully comfortable.


All throughout the week, WLT and Women Leaders in Business had a photobooth set up in the students’ union where you could take pictures with signs saying what makes you powerful as well.  I wasn’t crazy about how mine turned out, so I’m sticking from the one from the launch party :)


Friday was the closing party at a nearby bar, where we had a room all to ourselves!  For only 4 pounds, we got entrance as well as free drinks (their “Red Lips” cocktail - I think it was vodka and cranberry juice, but I can never tell…) and it was another fun night to get dressed up.  


What I loved about this week was that it was a whole week dedicated to helping people realise that they are powerful and that there are things in our lives that make us feel this way.  For me, it’s not only red lipgloss, but all of the smart people in my life that make me feel powerful.  I’ve written before about how Smart Girls Group has changed my life, and it truly has.  It’s encouraged me to be a leader, to recognise, embrace, and pass on what my “smarts” are, and has given me a sisterhood of girls who want to do the same.  Being in intellectual environments like LSE (especially) and Fordham, where I am pushed to my limits, makes me feel powerful, as well.  The thrill of exploring a new city and travelling, reading, planning for the future, dressing well, and approaching each day with a fresh mind — all are recipes for a powerful me!


Inspired to be, (powerful!)


Katherine