You know when everything is going right, you’re just anticipating something to go awfully, terribly wrong?

We stepped off the ferry to board a two-hour train to Amsterdam. Without fail, we caught all the right trains at all the right stations. When we got to Amsterdam Centraal (their main train station) we hopped on the right tram to take us to our first AirBNB stay. We turned down the right street and ended up at the right house with the right people. We both looked at each other and silently agreed not to say anything about our luck.

We stayed about 10 minutes outside of downtown right along another canal. After we dropped off our bags, we headed back downtown to grab dinner and drinks. Everyone in the service industry was so helpful and nice. The tram driver even announced over the intercom system, “Ladies! This is your stop!” Our waiter at dinner sat down with us to chat about his favorite bars and restaurants.

We enjoyed a vegetarian dish at dinner (asparagus, brie tempura and risotto terrine), with a couple of Amstel Lights (their main Holland beers are Amstel Light and Heineken—both breweries are in the city of Amsterdam) and finished it off with a slice of incredible apple pie.

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It was nice to splurge a little on a sit down dinner. We toasted to our amazing trip so far, and for being able to travel well together, even through the ups and downs of unexpected bumps in the road.

After dinner we went to see the Red Light District. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect. Women in windows beckoning you toward them. Men oogling them from the outside. It felt a little scandalous to watch the men open the doors/windows to pay a visit.

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There were erotic sex shops on every corner, live porno shows, and occasionally you could get a whiff of marijuana. But it was absolutely normal there, so it felt like just another night, not unsafe or scary in any way—just different. The people went about their evenings as usual, some making the late commute home from work still in business attire.

Amsterdam is breathtakingly gorgeous at night. The red lights reflect off the canal beautifully. It even started to rain a bit, which may seem like a disadvantage, but the windy streets and crooked houses over the rain-soaked streets made Amsterdam look like something out of a novel.

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We made it back to our place no trouble. The woman’s house we were staying at has small children, so we were being pretty quiet. Until Cori got a bloody nose. All over their white comforter. So between midnight and eight we spent all morning cleaning it. Needless to say, it all came out. Susie Homemakers over here!

That was about as close as we’ve gotten to avoiding any problems so far. And it’s only day six.

When we woke up in the morning, we borrowed some bikes from where we were staying. At first, we considered just following the tram line into town, not realizing that it goes underground, where the bike path doesn’t. These street names were outlandish (Zeeburgerdijk, Panamalaan, Whesperpleinstraat…a lot of double vowels). We navigated our way through town by memorizing the first five letters of streets.

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We also biked through Jordaan, the quaint art district just outside the main hub of streets and the Anne Frank House. It was considered a part of their old town, the streets were fairly empty and lined with flowers and bikes. The houses are all off-kilter and wonky. It’s very whimsical. Of course, we had to see the place with Jordan’s name 🙂

Amsterdam has more canals than Venice and about as many bikes as it does residents. Their bike culture is amazing. Bikes definitely outnumber cars, so it was fun to own the streets and cross wherever you’d like. They all knew where they were going so we had to do our best to fake it til we made it to our intended destinations. It was awesome to bike somewhere where the bike paths are just as important as the cars and people ring bells instead of honk at you if you’re in the way. Bikes lined the canal bridges, streets and roads. There was even a 4-story bike garage.

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The Dutch culture is pretty easy to loosely adopt. English was extremely common and there weren’t any crazy letters or signs we didn’t understand. Besides the ridiculously named streets. The Dutch people are also very beautiful. They were tall, healthy and always acted properly.

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Amsterdam is somewhere we truly wished we had more time to spend. No canal nor bike was like the other. You never know what’s around the corner.

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Always craving spontaneity,
C&J

Saturday felt like our first true day abroad. We went to a rugby match with Brett and his roommate at Twickenham Stadium. It was called the Rugby Sevens, and a lot of teams from around the world come to play each other. It was kind of like a tournament. The USA was there! We went 1-1 for the day. We never got a chance to truly watch them though; we were out of our seats walking around for most of the time. We went on a 2-hour journey for beer with some fish & chips.
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But we met a lot of people. It was the first time we felt immersed into English society. The rugby match was “safari” themed and everyone had some kind of costume. Except us. Way to blend in, huh? The best costume we saw were some dancing shrimp. Or maybe a guy petting a horse, in a horse costume. There were some costumes completely unrelated to safari too, like superheroes and cows.
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Everyone was fascinated with our “accents” and asked us a ton of questions. Some of the best conversations were about:

-A man dressed as a lion: “How many people do you have in your basement?” (This was after we told him we were from Ohio. The news about the Cleveland kidnapping travels far.)

– Our education system. They think its amazing and found it very fascinating. We just told them its extremely expensive and a lot of students are in debt right now…

– They always asked what the weather was like. We told them it wasn’t as shitty as theirs, but for the most part, Ohio weather can be unpredictable and rainy, too.

– A zebra asked us about our beer. They assume we only drink Bud Light and Coors Light. We informed that there are far better beers that don’t taste like warm piss. But those who tried the Bud Light said they liked it. I think they thought it was our national beer, which I guess to other people it may seem like it.

– They assumed college is exactly how it is portrayed in “American Pie”.

– We were asked if we were cheerleaders because we were blonde. That was a new one.

– A pair of crocodiles thought we were 20.

– Two guys dressed as Waldo asked us if we like cider and if we played beer pong.

– Along with fish and chips, we also had our first meat pie. It wasn’t anything either of us would ever eat again. But the fish and chips were amazing! Or we just had the drunk munchies…

The crowd at the rugby game felt like similar to a crow at UC’s Homecoming game. Everyone was drunk and happy. The bathrooms were in a pretty disgusting state and the beer lines were long. It rained for most of the game but we were lucky enough to be under cover for a majority of the game. We even saw some streakers during the Canada vs. Kenya game. I think that was the loudest the crowd had been. Everyone always rooted against France, New Zealand and Australia.

After the game, we took the train back to London and posted up around town for some free wi-fi.

Turns out there is blue sky and sun in London! We found it on Sunday.

We bought an all-day underground pass which really paid for itself. We visited the British Library (looks like the Hamilton County Library), the British Museum and from there walked to Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens. 20130513-144707.jpg
The Kensington Palace was nothing to brag about. We walked past it a few times because we didn’t think it was actually the palace, it wasn’t impressive. We even walked through the front yard of it and still had no idea it was the Palace. We did manage to snap one decent photo from the side where the gardens were.

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But honestly, Buckingham wasn’t anything spectacular either. They look like government buildings, and there are far more beautiful buildings in London.

We visited a rooftop garden in Kensington, with flamingos (quite a life, right? Living on a roof in London…), beautiful water features, trees and flowers. But it started raining when we got up there (surprise!), and it was technically closed for dining to set-up for an evening event.

We took cover in a pub called The Goat Tavern. It was established in 1692, and was the oldest pub in Kensington. The fish and chips didn’t even hold a candle to the fish and chips at the rugby match, but the bangers and mash were pretty good. They also serve mushy peas, pickled onions (which Cori didn’t try) and shrimp scampi (which Cori couldn’t eat either). There is a sauce there called HP Sauce, its like a tangy barbecue sauce made with ketchup and malt vinegar. And they serve their “chips” (fries) with barbecue sauce which is yummy.
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A few observations we noticed while walking around on Sunday:

– The telephone booths are now port-o-potties. Jordan went in one for an obligatory photo op. She shared a booth with two styrofoam cups of pee.

– They have a true appreciation for typography and literature. Also, their Underground is branded really well. Not to mention its the largest system in Europe, according to Brett. It was really easy for us to navigate, too bad we don’t have anything like it back home.
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– If you just order a black coffee, its called an Americano. Cori kept running into this problem. The English prefer their lattes and gourmet options. Jordan also had black tea and it was delicious. The English know tea. Obviously.

– Children ride on three-wheeled scooters, usually tied by a leash and being pulled by their parents, to keep up with them.

– Trash cans are few and far between. They have a huge recycling effort, but we actively saw people littering everywhere.

– Beyonce is everywhere. Every street corner had a half-naked Beyonce adorned in an H&M swimsuit.

– In tight squeezes, spiral stairs circle clockwise. We learned that this is because, in the olden days, a defender could wield his sword in his right hand.

– Something that could be confusing for the average tourist: Most people pass on the left, so the sidewalks were always a mix of people walking on both sides in both directions. We learned that the English use the left side because of the tradition of jousting.

– The measurement of 12 inches for one foot originated from a statue’s foot at the base of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

When we returned to Brett’s to retrieve our bags, we headed back out into the rain and, unbeknownst to us, a total mayhem of a Sunday night. We’d consider this our first travel hiccup.

Long story short, the night ferry was full. Keep in mind, the ferry is as large as a cruise ship, so we thought there wouldn’t be any problem getting on. When we arrived after a 2-hour train ride to Harwich International Port, we had to turn around and make the same trip home. We went to bed around 2:45 a.m. and woke up at 5:45 a.m. to head back to Harwich via the same train. We’ll consider the night before a dry run… The English countryside was really pretty. But that was about it. We ran into an older American couple and a Canadian couple that were making the same journey as us.

We’re on the ferry now! The English Channel looks like the ocean, as expected. But it looks cold. We’ll be in Amsterdam later this evening. We’re looking forward to our stay here!

Love you all.

Always craving spontaneity (even with a few road bumps),
C&J

Day One. They still don’t know we’re American.

Eventually, we made it.

Our adventure began on Thursday at the Dayton Airport after we got through security. We had to sacrifice some shampoo and soap in order to save the alcohol. We have our priorities.

We arrived at our gate about an hour before our plane was set to depart only to find out our flight to Newark was delayed.

We were directed to the Chicago airport. Upon arrival, we sprinted to our gate for London. We wanted to enjoy one last Budweiser before departure but alas we had to settle for McDonald’s. We’re not proud.

We sat in the middle section of a 777 which kinda sucks. Our original flight had us sitting in window seats. Considering neither of us have flown over that expansive of an ocean, the middle seats were not a close second. Cori did have the pleasure in sharing an armrest with a giant Russian.

We tried to speak with him, seeing that it was our first attempt at an international conversation. He knew a few words, like hello. And chicken. But whenever he didn’t understand us, he would just say “problem” and would either wink or turn away. Extremely mixed messaging.

But does saying words like that work for situations when you don’t know what word to use?

We’re considering looking up “malfunction” “error” and “glitch” in German, Italian and French as cop outs if we can’t communicate. Fail proof, right?

The flight was OK. And by OK, we mean horrid. You know when people say, “Well, hey! At least you didn’t have to sit next to a screaming baby.” That’s exactly what we did. We sat next to a screaming baby. But to make it even better, we also sat next to his screaming mother who thinks her screaming baby is the cutest being of the earth.

The bathrooms on the plane were disgusting. We’d rather have to use the Kentucky Derby bathrooms than this plane’s bathrooms ever again. Whoever peed before us forgot how to flush the toilet. Oh, and forgot how to use a toilet. There was more pee on the seat than in the toilet bowl.

Thank God for the rum we packed!! We took 2 Zzzquils, 2 melatonins and downed some alcohol to pass out for the duration of our trip.

When we arrived around 6 a.m. we took the underground to Paddington and met Brett.

We had a pretty typical day in London. Brett took us to all the cool, must-see sites. I think we walked 8 miles total around London.

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We were worried about looking too tourist-y with our cameras, jeans and North Faces but it turns out 99% of tourists are extremely ignorant. Walking around with only their cameras as eyes and stopping in the middle of traffic.

We found ways to amuse ourselves despite it. Brett and Cori stood on a bridge that spanned across the Thames River. There were tour boats under us with tourists and cameras packed like sardines. They got a lot of people on the boats to wave sporadically. On agreement of anonymity, we agreed to call a few “Wasians.” The waving Asians, get it?

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We stopped for pints at Old Thameside Inn and tried Spring Magic, Nicholson’s Pale Ale and London Pride. It was a little pub on the river (obviously) so we watched the boats roll by.

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We also went to the Harry Potter bridge, the one the Death Eaters destroyed.

We left our cell phone number at Buckingham Palace, just in case the Queen needs a roomie or something.

We also had our first night out on London. Brett lives in Islington, a walking distance to Shoreditch, “where the hipsters go to party” and went to a Latin bar called Floripa. There were a lot of Americans and a lot of crappy music. They felt the need to appeal to all generations. But it was fun, we tried Sol, which was like Corona, and Sagres.

When we were in the bathroom we had our first “I hate Americans” experience by a girl from London. When we told her we were from America she said she loved us and kept giving us drunk kisses. I guess she dated a guy from Atlanta, when they broke up her seed of anger for America was planted.

A few observations so far:

There are no women here. It seems like the ratio of men to women is 2:1.

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At the bars, it was either a lot of couples or single guys.

Anyone wears whatever they want. A floral sweater with parachute pants and platform shoes? The true original hipsters.

An outfit like this would never fly in Cincinnati. But, when in Rome. Or, when in London. Wear what everyone else thinks is cool. (Cori already got a compliment on her jacket—2 minutes after putting it on.)

A pint is better than a regular beer.

We’re going to a rugby match today. USA is playing, too so we’ll probably blow our cover.

Always craving spontaneity,
C & J

Well, it’s here! Planning for a month-long trip with just a month to plan it is not for the faint at heart.

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We haven’t even left the country yet and we’ve already made mistakes and learned
lessons. We’ve walked into stores, forgetting why we we are there. Target is the biggest offender; you just can’t leave without spending $100 on nothing you actually need…

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We have Google Docs about everything— budgets, itineraries, activities, contact information, the list goes on and on. We’ve pinned exotic, beautiful places on our Pinterest boards and sent so many emails back and forth to each other that our inbox didn’t know what hit it. But most of all, planning a trip with your best friend is an absolute blast. We enjoyed every second. Now we get to experience our plans as they play out in our big adventure.

Altogether, we probably spent well over 40 hours just planning this trip. We’ve stayed awake until 4 a.m. and woke back up at 6:30 a.m. only to plan some more. In the week leading up to our departure, any minute spared lying on a couch felt like a waste of time.

But, I think we’ve grabbed the bull by the horns and have a few good ideas up our sleeve in terms of travel preparation, so we’ll share them with you.

We’re both carrying on all of our baggage: one backpack and a “purse” (pray that this part goes smoothly today), which limits our outfits, accessories, toiletries, etc… immensely.

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For our 28-day trip, we’ve packed:

– 8 pairs of underwear
– 5 pairs of socks
– hat
– sunglasses
– sweatshirt/cardigan
– rain jacket
– regular jacket
– scarf
– leggings
– 6 dresses/skirts
– 3 T-shirts
– 3 nice shirts
– 3 tank tops
– sandals
– hiking/gym shoes
– shower shoes
– towel
– cute little mini toiletries
– mini alcohol bottles
– umbrella
– B-12
– melatonin
– prescription meds
– advil on advil on advil

That’s it. We’re not even sure if that’s enough. One HUGE advantage? We pretty much wear the same size clothes and shoes, so we essentially have double the options.

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Each one of us have maps for each country/territory. We also have travel locks along with protective sleeves to store our passports, IDs and credit cards. We have some Euros, our Eurail train pass, plane ticket confirmations, a AAA card, health insurance cards. Just for overkill, we also printed every confirmation email along with directions and Google images of what our destination lodging looks like from the street, and how to get from the train to our lodging in each place. We also spent a great deal of time aligning with AAA to get the necessary travel equipment/accessories we’ll need. We organized all this information into our TripIt App so we could have it on our phone.

Last minute, we also renewed our International Student ID cards. It provides great discounts at select stores, transportation, museums and entertainment across the globe.

We are also registered at all the U.S. Embassies in the countries we’re visiting. Which we hopefully won’t need…

We’re only taking Cori’s phone, with minimal tools and applications, so we had to set up a global plan for a month, which meant turning off data and text for a month.

Hopefully all this planning will help us get to and through Europe with only a few minor speed bumps.

Of course none of this could have been done without the relentless help of our parents and friends.

Hopefully we can update this once we get over there! Pray for safe travels and we’ll be thinking of ya’ll the whole time! You may even get a postcard…if you’re lucky.

If you want to contact us, we’ll have access to email anytime we have Wi-Fi. As mentioned, we’ll also have Cori’s phone. If you have an iPhone, you can iMessage Cori when we’re in Wi-Fi. If you don’t, download WhatsApp and find Cori on there.

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For now, all the love to those we love. Other than that, ciao!!

Craving spontaneity,
C&J

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Add rum and coke to any situation and anything could happen.

After a year of back and forth, that final cocktail infused a little liquid courage to a commit toward a month-long trip of spontaneity. We (finally!) drunkenly committed to a trip to Europe.

The hangover? $2,000 worth of plane tickets.

Our hangover cure? We haven’t found it yet, but hopefully it’s somewhere in Europe.

We always toyed with the idea of going to Europe. And every time we brought it up, we found ourselves hiding behind a wall of excuses.

What about the money?

What about finding a job?

Can we afford to be gone for that long?

So over a dirty table we locked our pinkies, kissed our thumbs and said two (and a half) magic words: we’re going.

We came to a realization that this opportunity isn’t given to everyone. If we didn’t get on a plane now, we probably would never find ourselves wandering the streets of Cologne (which is planned, kinda).

We both have a serious case of wanderlust. This need for adventure and desire to be a stranger in another city was gnawing. We’ve both graduated from college, but there is a wealth of knowledge still out there.

We wanted to be lost. Not lost in the sense of direction or lost in the sense of a complex chemistry equation; lost in the sense of J.R.R. Tolkien’s version… not all those who wander are lost.

We wanted to be a wandering lost, where we knew we’d be happiest.

Hopefully that will be the beauty of our trip; we’re weirdly excited to be sleep-deprived, sore, drunk and frazzled. For a month.

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We’re leaving May 9 for a weekend in London to begin our back door approach through Europe—living like the locals, eating the best food, drinking the best beer and hopefully making some friends along the way. London should be a good start to seeing the ins and outs of a city, given our friend Brett has been living there for almost a year. He’s already got a Saturday full of rugby and his favorite London destinations planned for us. From there, we’re not really sure. We know that we have to make it to Barcelona in 28 days, traveling more than 2,800 miles through an expanse of 8 countries.

If there is one lesson we’ve learned so far it’s this: Just go.

Take the risk, pack a bag and just go.

You can’t wait for adventure to come knocking. You have to go and seek it for yourself.

Drop some cash and buy a plane ticket while you’re young and no one has any expectations for you—we can live for ourselves and no one else.

Then leave all your own expectations behind and get lost.

That’s our plan.

Always craving spontaneity,

– C&J