A Neurotic’s Guide to Small Talk

06loose-master675.jpgHave you seen this article from The New York Times.com? I first found it on the lifestyle blog Cup of Jo, and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It is entitled “A Neurotic’s Guide to Small Talk” and serves as a “helpful” road map to navigating social interactions this holiday season. I really relate to the picture above, as I have a bad habit of going over everything I said during the day and mentally kicking myself for it! But I also relate to some of the following situations outlined in the article below:

Q: “Hey, how’s it going?”

In this instance, the speaker is somewhat interested in knowing how you are, but only the smallest details. Don’t over-share, but don’t under-share, either. Keep your answer succinct and stop doing that thing with your hands. Everyone is watching you do that thing with your hands and the longer you stand there, the more prominent the hand thing becomes.

Q: “Where do you work?”

Go to the bathroom. Now, now, now. This conversation has shifted dramatically, and you need to get out of there. Say something like, “Be right back,” or “Gotta go pee,” but don’t say it too loud, or too weird. Say it normal, for crying out loud. BE NORMAL.

Q: “How’s your family?”

Wait. Didn’t you see on Facebook that this guy’s parents recently split up? If you say your family’s “good” it’s almost like rubbing it in his face, like: “Look at my good family. I’m so lucky. No divorce for this guy.” Say your family is “fine,” but don’t smile while you say it, that way he knows that you sympathize, but you’re not trying to steal his sadness thunder. Also stop doing that thing with your hands, you literal monster.

Q: “Are you still living in Brooklyn?”

Leave this place. They know too much.


Please tell me I’m not the only one who relates to this?! Human to human interaction is hard. Especially after spending a year in Germany, where small talk is virtually nonexistent, my American small-talk skills are severely lacking. Sometimes I drink a lot of water before parties just to have an excuse to go to the bathroom multiple times for a much needed time out….introvert problems! If I had to add a few of my own scenarios to this article, they would be:

Q: (Person knocks on bathroom door) Hello?

You’ve been discovered. Don’t panic. Be COOL! How should I respond? Should I say “hello” back? Or maybe “I’m in here”? No, that sounds too conceited. They already know you’re in here stupid. Too much time has passed, now it’s awkward to respond, the window of opportunity has closed. Just wait it out silently…they’ll go away eventually, then you can sneak out and hide behind the appetizer buffet in hopes the person won’t see you.

Q: What’s new with you?

Do they really want to know? Didn’t they see your latest Fbook status about your grandma passing away? This is a trap. I repeat, a trap. They probably don’t really want to know, they’re just trying to be nice. Respond with a quick “Nothin’ much” and pose the same question back to them. Keep it casual. Well played, my friend, well played.

Q: You’re leaving the party so soon?

Busted…You’ve been caught. Come on man, you’re work is getting sloppy. You used to be able to exit a party early without a single person noticing. It’s your spiritual gift. Mumble an indecipherable response such as “I have work tomorrow” or “I’m not feeling too well” and flee. Don’t look back.

Question of the Day
Do you ever feel this way? Don’t get me wrong, I love people as much as anyone, but sometimes I just.can’t.function. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Seattle: A City Guide

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Howdy friends, how are ya’? Today I thought I’d share a little bit about my recent ‘Sibling Vacation’ to Seattle, Washington in the form of a city guide. Continue reading to pick up a few tips and tricks I garnered along the way that might help you in planning your next visit, sprinkled throughout some photos of this beautiful place. Enjoy!
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Why Seattle? If you love hipster, coffee, and striking sunsets, Seattle is the place for you! And honestly, who doesn’t love those things? Seattle has many apt nicknames: The Gateway to Alaska, Emerald City, Coffee Capital of the World, etc. No matter what you call it, one thing is true: Seattle is a place of arresting beauty. That, coupled with its fascinating history and range of outdoor activities, makes Seattle the perfect vacation destination! IMG_8577IMG_8574IMG_8546IMG_8550IMG_8571IMG_8545
Transportation My brother and I flew Southwest Airlines to Seattle Tacoma International Airport, which is located about 40 minutes outside the city center by car. Since we didn’t have a car, we took the Link LightRail into downtown Seattle, which only cost $4.00 for a regular ticket and is simple, fast, and clearly labeled. Plus, you skip the city traffic! Seattle has a great bus and street car system for easy transportation. My brother and I also utilized the ride service Uber.IMG_8192IMG_8203IMG_8227IMG_8218
Accommodations We stayed in an apartment through the website Airbnb, which I used frequently abroad in Europe but had never used in America until now! It was an ideal location downtown on the corner of First Street and University Street, walking distance to main attractions like Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Other great neighborhoods/areas to stay in include Pioneer Square, Westlake, and the area around the Space Needle.IMG_8649IMG_8632IMG_8491IMG_8484IMG_8477IMG_8458IMG_8423IMG_8362
What to Pack Seattle is notoriously rainy and unpredictable, but we were lucky enough to have 75 degree sunshine all three days of our trip, interrupted only by a small shower/thunderstorm one afternoon. July through September is when Seattle experiences the most predictably sunny weather, but I advise you to always pack an umbrella just in case! Oh, and comfy walking shoes never hurt either :pIMG_8369IMG_8352IMG_8347IMG_8340IMG_8336IMG_8332IMG_8322IMG_8320IMG_8317IMG_8316
Must See Spots
1. Gasworks Park-
This park, situated on the north shore of Lake Union, is on the site of a former Gas Works company, and still contains remnants of the factory structures. It offers stunning views of the Seattle sky line as well as Mount Rainier on clear days.
2. Pike Place Market– Opened in 1907, Pike Place is an iconic part of Seattle, and a must see spot for any tourist. It is the oldest continually operating farmers market in the U.S., and is particularly known for its delicious fish and colorful flowers.
3. Bainbridge Island- If you have a bit of time one day, hop on a ferry out to Bainbridge Island, thirty minutes off the coast of Seattle. We took the ferry around seven p.m. and saw the sunset reflecting off the skyline. Once on the island, feel free to walk along the footpaths, explore the adorable town of Bainbridge, and relax at one of the restaurants near the harbor.
4. Columbia Center Observation Deck- Originally we wanted to ascend the Seattle Space Needle, but the line was too long and the tickets were too pricey, so we opted for Columbia Center’s observation deck instead. It is the tallest sky scraper in Seattle, and offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding areas. Plus, this way you can take pictures of the Space Needle, not just from it!IMG_8389IMG_8381
^The University of Washington campus!IMG_8231IMG_8304IMG_8228
Anything Else? If you’re a coffee addict lover like me, you must make the pilgrimage to the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, as well as the Starbucks Roastery in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where they roast and package the coffee beans for worldwide distribution. I promise, both will be religious experiences. #noregretIMG_8734IMG_8738IMG_8709IMG_8706IMG_8686
^Bainbridge Island.

Are you on photo overload yet? I just couldn’t narrow it down- they were all too beautiful! It’s impossible to take an ugly photo of Seattle. I hope you enjoyed this little post and found the information helpful. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! Oh, and don’t forget to watch my video of the trip here. Have a lovely week friends.

Amsterdam: A City Guide

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Have you seen the movie The Fault in Our Stars? In the film, the main characters take a trip to Amsterdam to meet with one of their favorite authors. They wander the canals hand in hand and fall madly in love, all to the tune of an awesome soundtrack. And honestly, I can’t blame them! Amsterdam is charming, chic and romantic. I didn’t have another person to fall in love with (insert tears here), so I fell in love with the city. Keep reading as I share more about why I enjoyed Amsterdam so much, and a few tips and tricks to make your visit equally as enjoyable!
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Why Amsterdam? How much time do you have?!  I could write about the reasons to visit Amsterdam for hours, but in a nutshell, Amsterdam is unlike any other city I’ve ever traveled to. It’s a mix of old and new, chic and industrial, energetic and peaceful. It is centrally located, well connected, and teeming with culture. Plus, who doesn’t want a pair of wooden clogs to wear around the house?IMG_7229IMG_7231IMG_6994

Transportation I took a five hour train from Hannover, Germany to Amsterdam Centraal station. From there, you can easily walk to most of the popular sights in the city center. Everything is very well marked with signs on nearly every corner. If you’d rather not walk, here are a few options:

  • Bike– Riding a bike in Amsterdam, although it is a bike friendly city, is still very intense (and this is coming from a girl who grew up driving the Los Angeles freeways). I almost got taken out several times while crossing the street! Plus, I am not the strongest bike rider, so I opted to pass on bike rentals. But if you decide to go for it, there are rental shops on nearly every corner that can’t be missed.
  • Tram- I mainly walked or took the tram. It coset 2.50 Euros per ride, so you may want to look into a day pass, which you can buy on board. The signage is clear and well market, and you can hop on right in front of the central station when you first arrive.
  • Boat- Travel by boat is not a major way to get from point A to point B, but I do recommend taking a canal tour. I took an hour and a half cruise through the main canals, and the captain pointed out sights and shared about their history. It’s a nice way to get your bearings and see things you might otherwise have missed.

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Accommodations It might feel impossible to visit Amsterdam with out declaring bankruptcy, but I promise it can be done! It is not a cheap city by any means, but there are always cheaper options. I rented a room in an apartment through the popular hosting website Airbnb. The place was twenty minutes outside the city center, and since everything is so well connected, I would highly recommend looking for something a bit further out to save some money. Also, many museums have discounts for kids, families, and people under 19 years old. You can buy tickets to several attractions online in advance, which saves time and money.
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Must See Spots
1. Anne Frank House– This is arguably the most popular sight in Amsterdam, and for good reason! The tour through the Frank’s hiding place and attached museum at the end are very well done. The line to get in can wrap around the block and stretch on for ages (like Disneyland!), so I would recommend checking for tickets in advance online if possible. I didn’t have tickets, so I showed up at 8am, an hour before it opens, and was admitted around 9:15.
2. Van Gogh Museum– If you are an art nerd like me, this museum is heaven! It is extremely comprehensive and interactive, and features not only a vast collection of Van Gogh’s work, but also the work of other artists who influenced him throughout his life.
3. Rijks Museum– The Rijks museum is right next door to the Van Gogh museum, and the building alone is a masterpiece! This museum features art, crafts, and historical objects from the years 1200 t0 2000. The famous IAMSTERDAM sign is directly in front of the museum, so be sure to snap an iconic picture perched atop one of the letters before heading in!
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What to pack I visited the first weekend in July (along with the rest of the world), and it was crazy hot. I seriously considered jumping into a canal for a quick cool down swim. So if you visit in the summer, be sure to pack a sunhat and sunscreen! Also, wearing comfortable walking shoes is always a good idea (duh, Micah).

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Anything Else? The majority of these photos were taken along the Prinsengracht Canal, the third and outermost of the three main canals. It marks the start of the De Jordaan neighborhood, filled with beautiful 17th century houses and shops. When you think of Amsterdam, this is the scenery you probubly picture. Be sure to take you time to wander through and experience the charming atmosphere. Lastly, don’t leave without trying a delicious Dutch pancake!
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^The leaning tower houses of Amsterdam!
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^Be sure to check out the Albert Cuyp flea market on Saturday morning from 9am-5pm.
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^The Rijks Museum.

So, after reading about this amazing city, can you blame me for falling head over heels in love? I may not be in The Fault in Our Stars Cast, but I definitely share their affinity for this beautiful place. So what are you waiting for, friends? Hop online and book a ticket to Amsterdam…or better yet, book two so I can come along!

Hamburg: A Short Film

Well hello there friends, old and new! I recently spent a weekend in the city of Hamburg, Germany. Although Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, it doesn’t seem to receive as much attention or recognition as other german cities like Munich or Berlin. I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into the trip, a position I actually prefer, as it leaves room to be blown away. And Hamburg definitely blew my socks off! Now I’m determined to put Hamburg on the map and convince you of its greatness. I’m in the process of writing a post all about my trip, complete with three billion photos, but here is a little video I put together to tide you over until then. Enjoy!

Edinburgh: A City Guide

Hi there! If you haven’t noticed, I love to write…which is good because I’m a creative writing major. I try and practice my craft as often as possible to sharpen my skills. I also love to read blogs, so when an opportunity to guest post for another blog arose, I jumped at the chance. I recently shared a city guide for Edinburgh on the blog Land of Marvels as a part of their Destinations series, in which they interview travelers to glean their tips and tricks for visiting a particular location. I thought you might enjoy reading it as well, especially if a trip to Edinburgh is in your future. So here ya’ go:

Hello friends, my name is Micah Lambert, the voice behind the travel blog Passports and Paintbrushes. I am a California native currently living abroad in Germany. I am a  university student studying Creative Writing and German, and my blog is a place where both these passions converge. When I have a moment to spare, chances are I’m traveling as far and as long as my college budget will allow! Today, I’m excited to share a bit about my experience in the stunning city of Edinburgh, Scotland, and offer some helpful tips for your future visit. Here we go!

Why Edinburgh?
Ever since watching the movie Braveheart, Scotland has possessed a magical quality in my mind (and Mel Gibson too, for that matter!). I spent years imagining it- vast landscapes filled with dramatic mountains, deep valleys, and mysterious lakes. I’d spent so much time dreaming about Scotland, that when the chance arose to actually visit, I was hesitant. Would it live up to my larger than life expectations? Well friends, I’m happy to report Scotland not only met my expectations, but exceeded them ten fold! Scotland reminded me of England in many ways, but definitely has its own unique, spunky atmosphere and culture. If you are looking for adventure, inspiration, and beauty, Edinburgh is the place for you, Lassie!

Transportation
As a college student, I try to stretch my money as far as possible while still having an enjoyable experience. Once I set my sights on Edinburgh, I began researching every possible option for transportation. There are a number of low-cost European airlines that fly into Edinburgh, such as Ryan Air or Easy Jet, in addition to larger airlines. I ended up booking a flight from Cologne, German to Edinburgh via the budget airline German Wings, and was very satisfied with the experience.Upon arrival, I took the AirLink Bus 100 from the airport into the city center. It is about a 35 minute ride and costs 4.50 pounds each way. If you’re having trouble finding flights into Edinburgh within your price range or time line, flying into Glasgow and taking a bus to Edinburgh is another valid option.


Accommodations
Finding a place to rest your head in a foreign city can be a daunting task! Luckily, it’s nearly impossible to stay in a ‘bad part’ of Edinburgh, because there really are no bad parts. That being said, it is one of the more expensive cities I’ve traveled to, so you might have to make a few compromises on location or other amenities. I opted to stay at the Castle Rock Hostel, appropriately named for its location directly next to the Edinburgh castle in Old Town! I stayed two nights, and payed 30 pounds total for a four person room. If hostels are not your style, there is no shortage of hotels and Airbnb’s in the city. If staying in Old Town is not within your budget, New Town is also a wonderful option, as the city is fairly condensed and has a great bus network.


Must See Spots
Unfortunately, I was only able to visit for two days over a weekend. Try as I did, I just couldn’t fit in everything on my to-do list! So I’m going to recommend a few things I did enjoy, and a few things I’m sure I would have enjoyed had I found the time.

  • The Elephant House Cafe– As a self proclaimed Harry Potter fan, the first thing I did upon arrival was eat lunch at the Elephant House Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote large portions of the early Harry Potter novels. After a warm cup of coffee, hop on over to GrayFriar’s Cemetery directly behind the cafe, and see if you can spot some tomb stones that inspired a few Harry Potter character names (Hint: one of them is He who shall not be named).
  • Arthur’s Seat– Arthur’s Seat is a large dormant volcano in the heart of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park. It is just a short walk from old town, but takes about an hour to hike from the base to the summit. The entire journey offers spectacular panoramic views of the city and harbor. Standing on the summit of Arthur’s Seat was one of the my favorite abroad memories. No joke.
  • Edinburgh Castle– The castle sits perched atop a mountain in the heart of Old Town- you can’t miss it! Unfortunately, we were not able to take a tour or even walk the grounds because of our limited time. So please, tour the castle and post lots of pictures to Instagram so I can live vicariously through you!
  • The National Museum of ScotlandThis museum is one of the most popular in Scotland, and is located in the heart of Old Town. The exhibits focus on the story of Scotland from prehistory to modern day, as well as the story of our natural planet. Again, we unfortunately were not able to visit this museum, but it’s first on the list when I return.


What to Pack
I visited in late March, during the height of the rainy season, although pretty much every season in Edinburgh is rainy! Be sure to pack an umbrella and/or rain jacket and have it on you at all times, as the weather can change on a dime. It hovered around 10 degrees Celsius during the day and dipped as low as 2 degrees Celsius at night. I wore my winter jacket the whole time, and I would recommend packing a scarf and hat as well. If you forget, you can always buy a famous Plaid wool scarf for a fashionable and functional souvenir. The warmest season to visit it June through August, with little rain and long daylight hours. Oh, and throw in a pair of tennis shoes/hiking boots if you plan on conquering Arthur’s Seat!

Anything Else?
I decided to sacrifice one of my precious days in Edinburgh for a tour of the Highlands (#noregret). I used this company, and was very happy with the experience. Be warned: it is an all day affair with lots of sitting time, but the views out the window will keep you entertained! My particular tour visited, among others: Glen Coe, Ben Nevis View, Fort Augustus, Woodland park, and Loch Ness, where I’m 99.9% sure I spotted Nessie. The average going-price for a highlands tour is around 50 Pounds.

Well friends, can you tell how passionate I am about this city? Thanks so much for reading, and I hope these tips will help you optimize your time in Edinburgh. But most of all, I hope my words have inspired you to start dreaming up your next travel adventure, where ever that may be. This world is full of beautiful secrets, and it’s our job to discover them!

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The end (cue curtain). What did you think? Are you itching to hop on a plane to Edinburgh? Did I represent this little blog well? You can read the post on Land of Marvels here.

Have a great day friends, meet you back here soon.