A Slice of New York: Wait it’s a state?

When I tell people that I’m from New York they immediately get so excited. “Wow, I loveeeee New York City!!!” But wait, it’s a STATE with 40 million people. I guess it’s kinda like when I just came and moved to England-  many Americans straight up act like England is only London. I’m like…. giant pause. I get it. I get it. I’m not travel or geography shaming. It’s natural to associate with things we are familiar with. But I hope to give you a few suggestions so next time you head to New York you expand your horizons and don’t think the only thing to do is go to New York City! There is room for so many activites in NY state. A huge shout out to my friends from my Facebook page who helped me answer what their favorite things to do were in Upstate!! Couldn’t have thought of everything without you. Writing this brings back so many fond memories and makes me miss home, especially the people that make it my home. No matter how far I go– New York is always so close to my heart.

My hometown– Syracuse, NY- I gotta show ‘Cuse some love. Although I hate the winters there, fall and summer are pretty amazing. And winter is cool for winter sport lovers (which I am not.) Although, I never plan on living back in Syracuse, it’s a wonderful place to visit and call home. The  best time to visit Syracuse is the fall– drive around and admire the changing leaves, apple picking at Beak and Skiff and make sure to eat all of the apple cider donuts and Honeycrisp apples. Trust me on this one. Pumpkin picking. Corn mazes. We have it all. If you can head up to the Syracuse University campus and watch a game at the Dome, go eat and drink on Marshall street or Armory Square. That is a blast. You have never seen so much orange in your entire life.

Food– When I brought my boyfriend to my hometown this summer, I had a list a mile long of food he MUST try. Just like NYC is famous for pizza and bagels- Upstate has some epic meals and specialities you can’t really get other places. Some of my favorites include: salt potatoes, Dinosaur BBQ(the original), Pastabilities, Gannons(best ice cream ever), chicken riggies, Just Donuts and of course– WEGMANS. I kid you not– my father gave my boyfriend a 40 minute tour of our local grocery store. If you have ever been to Wegmans, you understand. It is the best grocery store I have ever been to and I have to visit every time I go home. My Dad was touring us around every aisle, we were eating samples around every corner and  he was introducing us to all of his worker pals. It was a true initiation and sounds hilarious when I say it out loud.

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A Slice of NYC: My tips on the Big City

Sitting down to write a blog post on NYC is pretty intimidating. I am originally from New York(the state) but I have very strong ties to New York City as it’s where my parents met and fell in love, many of my family members still live and arguably my favorite city in THE WORLD. How could you really give a must do list when you can honestly do anything and everything. This summer I got to play tourist(and tour guide) in NYC showing my adorable english boyfriend the ropes. I haven’t shut up about New York since we started dating almost two years ago so I had to blow his mind. Here is what we crammed into 5 days and some additional tips from my insiders who have lived in the city for a long time. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article!!

Photo cred: @thereelnickbell

Accommodation: Luckily I don’t really have to worry about this one because I casually couch surf between my brothers, childhood besties and college besties who live all around the area. But I highly suggest getting out of Manhattan!

Public transportation is accessible and Ubers are everywhere. The prices will be much better a little further out. I prefer Brooklyn to any area in NYC. It has so much charm, good food, funky art, a fun nightlife and it’s much less crowded than Manhattan. Sure, go see the hussle and bussle but if you have more than a night or two I would recommend staying in Brooklyn to get a broader perspective of what New York has to offer.

Brooklyn spots: Brooklyn Promenade, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Museum,  Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, A raging warehouse party(usually promoted by word of mouth), Brooklyn Barge, Brooklyn Brewery. Drop in for a yoga class at Yoga to the People.

 

 

Classic NYC spots: Central Park (go to the reservoir on E 90th St.) & Time Square- Awesome experiences but don’t spend all your time there!!! There is so much more to see. The Freedom Tower & 9/11 museum, Washington Square Park, Bryant Park. Shopping on 5th ave(head to Madison Ave for the same shops but less people.) 

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A slice of NOLA: New Orleans Must Dos

A Slice of NOLA: New Orleans Must Dos 

The first stop on my summer travels around the world was back to my home country but to a city I have never been before. Nawlins. NOLA. Whatever you want to call it. I heard so much about New Orleans and I was ecstatic to check it out. I was visiting for my company’s annual summit conference so over 25,000 people invaded the city and hundreds from my team. This threw in a lot of conference-ing into the mix our week there but nonetheless, we still explored the city, ate all of the things, listened to amazing live music, got lost on Bourbon street and left a little piece of our heart there forever.

Here’s a slice of our trip and some must-dos when you are planning yours–

Where to stay:

A big group? Garden District Mansions– I highly recommend checking out the houses in the Garden District on Airbnb. My team and I of 20 girls stayed in a gorgeous home that was spacious, clean, and a short Uber ride away from every area we wanted to go. Not to mention, it was absolutely STUNNING.

If you haven’t used Air Bnb before, use this link( www.airbnb.co.uk/c/susannaha11 to get 30$ off your first booking.

Even if you don’t end up staying there, make sure you wander around the Garden District and check all the houses. They are incredible. You can even take the old  fashioned tram that runs from downtown New Orleans to the Garden district if you don’t enjoy walking a lot.

Solo travelers– If you’re on your own or on a tight budget, I highly recommend staying at Garden District House Hostel. It is one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed in. Super clean, safe, lovely fully furnished kitchen, outdoor backyard area and very helpful staff. My boyfriend and I stayed there before the conference started and I would gladly stay there again.

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Bourbon Street vs. Frenchman Street– If you ask a local, they will tell you to go to Frenchman Street. I highly recommend it. The music is unbelievable and the bars are fun and lively. Bourbon Street is like something out of movie. There are drunk people everywhere carrying their drinks to-go (Hello no open- container law), live music,  beads, food, crowds. We went one night and one night was enough for us. I think it’s worth it at least to experience it but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time there unless you’re into the college-frat boy-spring break type drinking scene- then you’ll love it.

The French Quarter– If you love architecture and funky buildings this is the spot for you. It’s the oldest spot in New Orleans and you can find tons of  hotels, bars, restaurants and shopping. I wish we spent more time here because it truly gives you the vibes of the city.

Jackson Square & St. Louis Cathedral– Right next to the French Quarter- Jackson Square is a bustling scene with street vendors, psychics, horse and carriages. Definitely stop into St. Louis Cathedral and check out the stained glass and incredible architecture. My friend and I actually got psychic palm & tarrot readings right outside the cathedral and it was absolutely mind blowing. I would highly recommend it. The spiritual vibes in New Orleans are very strong and they even do haunted ghost tours of the city (which friends of mine did and really enjoyed.) I’m not here to convince you, but if you’re into stuff like that I would love to share details of my psychic experience.

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Offline is the new luxury: Why you should stop blogging

I’ve come back to my blog after 2 glorious months away traveling. I’ve been to 7 countries, rode quad bikes all over the island of Santorini, drank sangria and hiked along the Costa Brava in Spain, took a boat cruise through the canals of Amsterdam, drank cocktails on rooftops in NYC, got lost in the endless streets of mansions in New Orleans, explored old quaint villages in England,  met my boyfriend’s family and friends had him meet mine and didn’t blog about one second of it.

But all of that material and content. Those photos must be amazing. Those are spots a lot of people would love to have some tips for. That is like a blogger’s heaven.

A funny thing happened to me on the course of this trip. One that I’ve talked about before and continues to tug aggressively at my heartstrings. I realized even more deeply that offline is now our greatest luxury. I think it is far more tantalizing for someone to hop over to the Maldives and not plaster it on their Insta story, Live Youtube channel and have 4 blog posts written before they even leave. Oh yeah, I’ve been to Barcelona this summer too! But I couldn’t tell from your social account… But Susie, it’s your JOB.

It is my job. But it is also my job to question my satisfaction constantly. It’s my job to color outside the lines. Just because you start building an online business doesn’t mean you should all of sudden be blind to the strong emotional and psychological ties we all are forming to our individual devices and technology as a whole. I can’t pretend I don’t feel it. I can’t pretend that I don’t see it changing our world, our youth and our relationships. As usual, when I feel something I can’t keep my mouth shut about it.

My heart and soul seriously struggles with the fact that as an online business owner it is my job to stay connected. It is my job to constantly share, create content, engage my audience, come up with clever captions, content, free resources and recipes and basically rewrite and translate the Bible (on Facebook live) while traveling in a foreign land–not to mention 365 days a year. When you start out with your own business, you don’t have someone to do it for you. And consistency is key if you want the algorithm to work in your favor. You’ll lose followers. You have to remain relevant. This doesn’t feel like freedom to me.

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What to Pack For Bali: Confessions of an Over packer Part 2

Before I moved away from Australia I wrote about how I am a habitual over packer. I think this is a general trait for most women I know- at least the ones I’m friends with. When I left Australia it was in a serious hurry because my boyfriend and I had 28 days to leave.( If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s the story

We planned a holiday to Bali and knew that we were moving to New Zealand right after and in a few short months (now days away) embarking on our epic summer travels across American and Europe to meet each other’s families, celebrate big events and have some new adventures. So I had to pack for every season, polar opposite climates, fancy events, active wear (duh), work clothes and somehow not forget my English sidekick either. Let’s just say it was no easy feat.

While in Bali I knew I would not need half of what I brought but we had to bring the 25 kilo (overweight) suitcases and lug them everywhere like total amateurs because of our circumstance. It’s not everyday a couple gets deported. Once we were in Bali this post came to me. I wanted to document what I actually used-honestly. Sure, I can give you a list of what I think you SHOULD pack. But, from one over packer to another- I gotta be real. This is what I packed and actually ended up wearing on my trip.

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Is Bali Overrated?

Bali is one of the most magical places I have ever been. Overrated?? Absolutely NOT. I would visit there 100 times. I hope to live there long term at some point in my wild ride of a life. I’ve been promising this Bali blog since March and I currently have about four friends waiting from advice from me. So- I think it’s time. Here is my ultimate advice on Bali- what do, where to stay, what to eat, etc.

I’ve been twice. The first time with three American single girlfriends and myself (at the time also single)  and the second time with my partner. Needless to say the trips were very different but the magic about Bali was the same. You want to talk about vibes- Bali has the best vibes of any place I have ever experienced. It feels like the energy levels are sky high and you’re floating in a dream. I’ll write this with the thought that you haven’t already visited South East Asia so some things might be what you already know.

Airport: Stay somewhere where the airport shuttle is included. The nicer hotels are cheap enough that you can stay there for the first few nights (or the whole time depending on your budget) and save yourself the hassle of getting ripped off by the taxi drivers. They will be waiting for you at the airport with a sign and it just eliminates initial culture shock.

Taxis: Speaking of taxis, this is one of the worst parts about Bali. The incessant hounding for people to give you a taxi or motorbike ride or tour. This is an amazing way to see a lot in one day- we did it. But you have to make sure it’s someone you trust. Shop around and BARTER. Do not just pay the first amount they say- even if it seems cheap when you convert it. Your safest bet is using Blue Bird taxis and making sure they have the meter on. Some taxis pretend to be Blue Bird and even have a fake similar logo but you can spot the real from the fake. By far the cheapest  route is to rent a motorbike- but just make sure you take photos of it before so they don’t try to charge you for damages and that you are confident driving in the crazy Bali traffic.

Places to go:

Canggu– This is an up and coming area! I think in a few years it will be much more crowded- so get there now. It’s really peaceful and relaxed and there is a beach close by(which is good for surfing I don’t surf but my boyfriend enjoyed it.) The variety of restaurants is amazing and lots of fun nightlife. The town is mixed right in with rice fields and you don’t feel like you’re overrun by tourists but there are still people about. I would recommend 4 nights in Canggu or longer if you aim is to chill out and have a more relaxed Bali vacation.

Accommodation: We stayed at The Apartments at Canggu- highly recommend. We had our own private villa and pool. Very clean and helpful staff. Great location.

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Food & Nightlife: Nalu Bowls, Crate Cafe (MUST GO) , Finn’s Beach Club

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Should you move abroad?

 

This is probably the most common and repeated question I am asked. Should I study abroad? I was thinking about teaching overseas, what’s it like? What brought you to Thailand…Australia.. New Zealand?When I sense this reoccurring theme I think… blog post. That’s what happens when you’ve been blogging for this long. It’s easier to just get out all the advice in one fell swoop.

So… you’re thinking about teaching abroad? Dreaming of leaving your boring job behind to travel the world? Want to meet a sexy foreign man and never return? Be careful.. It can really happen! Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.

So let’s go through some pros and the cons and what I believe you need to be ready for no matter where you go or why.

Pros

Your life becomes a “holiday”— When you move abroad everything feels shiny, new and exciting. You always feel like you are traveling because, well, you are. You feel excited to do ordinary and mundane things and every single day someone comments on your accent. You are an outsider, which to me makes life fresh and unusual. And I love that.

You see so much-– I always say the best way to see a country is to live there. 2 weeks in a country. Forget it. You don’t actually get a real feel for the culture, the people, the struggles, the local spots and the hidden gems. Should you still go if that’s all the time you have? Of course. But the best way to see a country/ area of the world is to just move there already. Stop thinking so much.

You never have to say “what if”— I have had so many older people tell me that they wished they did what I did when they were young. I promised myself I would never be someone who looked back and regretted getting settled down too fast– and I am definitely keeping that promise. I would rather give it a shot and hate it, then never try and just dream about it for the rest of my life.

You gain a newfound respect for your home– You start to love and appreciate home more than ever. You understand what a gift it is to have familiar faces and places. You savor every second with loved ones. You realize how privileged you were to grow up where you did. (in my case, anyway) and you are proud to represent your country-no matter where you roam.

You find out what you actually like– Traveling and living abroad teaches you to actually figure out what hobbies and interests light you up. You can’t travel and see the world while having 17 random hobbies you only do because of your group of friends. You probably can’t get your nails done every two weeks and buy all the latest trendy outfits, but if you’re like me you’ll realize that shit didn’t really make you happy anyway.

You don’t define yourself the same way– When you live in your hometown, home state or even your home country: you are constantly defined by constructs outside of yourself. Your family, your church or religion, your friends, your college, your favorite sports team, your gym or your state. Once you cross the borders, you have to define you. Everything about your past is just a story and a memory. People meet you at face value–who are you today? You can be whoever you want to be. Sure, you never lose those parts of yourself but you get to decide how closely you let them define you.

You realize it’s not the only way– This was one of the biggest things for me. The perspective. The cultural differences. It’s absolutely mind blowing at first. I remember when I first moved to Thailand I felt so sorry for the young children playing in the streets with no shoes. I could tell that they lived in the small area at the back of their parents shop and I felt like I wanted to adopt them and “save them.” I quickly realized they had every single thing they needed and they were as happy as clams. I stopped feeling sorry for them and started feeling sorry for the  4 year old kids, glued to their iPad in the back seat of the Range Rover with 4 nannies and a serious lack of attention and interaction with their parents.

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Should you book the flight?

I can’t let my streak be blown completely by my travels. I’ve spent two glorious weeks in Bali and the best way to describe my feelings are recharged.  I have tons of tips, photos, stories, and videos to come in the near future on my blog but tonight I am singing a different tune. Honestly, I’m not sure how this song will play out. My words are such a safe and comfortable place for me. It’s as if I could be anywhere in the world and once I start writing it’s like metaphorically being snuggled on the couch on Stinard Ave with my parent’s favorite blanket. They are safe but they are also intoxicatingly surprising. Kind of like a librarian who also has an affinity for S&M. My truest voice comes when I just let my creative one take over and run the show.

As my trip comes to an end I’m feeling reflective( me, reflective? Never) I think that travel in general is romanticized in photographs, blog posts and movies especially to a place like Bali. I know that as an American Bali sounded so exoctic and far fetched to me when I lived in the Northern Hemisphere. The flights alone were way out of my student loan debt teacher salary price range. But once I moved to the Southern Hemisphere, Bali became a totally accessible and logical vacation spot. And one that I simply had to experience.

The first time I went in 2014 was with three of my American girlfriends who I taught in Thailand with and became extremely close to. We traveled to Bali for just over two weeks, Australia for just over two weeks and ended the trip in Thailand for one final shabang on our favorite island Ko Phi Phi.  It was coincidently following my final breakup with my college ex of five and a half years. That trip was one  defined by freedom, exploration and healing. I will never forget the spark it lit in my soul. It is what ultimately led me to move to Australia and fall in love with traveling on a whole new level.

Needless to say, this trip has been a tad different coming to Bali with my boyfriend as opposed to four single American girls.  I wasn’t exactly nervous about traveling with Harry but I was very curious to see how well we would get along with the stressors of an international trip. If you don’t already know this, you may have very close relationships with people but that does not mean that they are always meant to be your traveling buddy. I think traveling exposes the most vulnerable and messy sides of a person and your travel vibes and desires just have to match in order for it to be enjoyable for everyone. No pressure, Har.

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Confessions of an Over Packer

How does packing for a weekend trip, long vacation, or even a move make you feel? Are you an organized planner? Do you do a little bit each day for a few weeks or do you save it to the last minute?

Every traveler has to deal with the task of packing up their suitcase or backpack for their journey ahead. I am notorious for being a last minute over packer. I analyze every situation that might happen and why I just have to have that extra maxi dress. Not only has packing up this time called into question my packing habits but it also makes me question my relationship with material things in general.

After watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix I felt very inspired to try to cut down the amount of stuff in my life. I have lived abroad for almost three of the past four years post graduate school. I learned to live off of one suitcase or even a couple backpacks for year-long stints living abroad but I also have a walk in closet and a whole bedroom full of “stuff” waiting for me at my parent’s home in New York. When I came home from Australia for a visit after a year of living there I felt truly shocked and saddened by the amount of clothes I had just sitting there. In some ways it was really exciting because it was like going shopping in my own closet. There were so many things I forgot I even had but I still had a full suitcase full of stuff I had brought with me. What’s the constant need for new stuff?

I will never be a true minimalist. I like clothes. I like fashion. I think the way we present ourselves to the outside world is important. When I dress well, I feel good. I live a diverse lifestyle and have different wardrobes based on those roles I play. I have my “teacher” or professional clothes, my growing activewear collection and then my casual wardrobe. I struggle with this because I truly do believe in experiences over things. I would way rather buy a plane ticket than a designer hand bag. But when I am packing I realize that I am still part of this material world., I can’t decide how I feel about that. I have donated a lot of things but my ADHD and anxiety lead me to worry easily about freeing myself of too many things. What if I “need it”? I am sure many of you reading this can relate. How often do you ask yourself these types of questions? How often do you go shopping for new things that you “need”? How many things just sit in your closet untouched?

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What happens when you unexpectedly have to change your entire life?

 

28 days…My boyfriend and I walked out of the hearing room and looked at each other with half relief, half sadness, and a tiny bit of sparkle in our eyes. After a series of unfortunate events and being deceived by his previous employer we knew that his 457 sponsorship visa to stay in Australia was not going to go through. We applied in April of 2016 so basically half of our relationship we have been waiting for the outcome of this visa. We prepared ourselves for them saying we had to leave but actually knowing you have 28 days to leave the entire little life you built together behind is quite terrifying once you receive the email of doom.

Instead of dwelling on the logistics, like the apartment we need to sublet, the furniture we need to sell, jobs we have to resign from, accounts we have to close, flights we need to book, (OMG, my to do list is endless right now) I’m taking a different approach this time. Usually, I would freak out- cry, let my anxiety get all out of whack and take control, be a moody brat to my boyfriend, feel sorry for myself, but this time, I decided to take control. Here is my video announcement of the news.

After announcing our news and getting an outpouring of love and support I couldn’t help but feel grateful. Many people were impressed with how positive I was being. People even expressed confusion by my positivity. How? How can you stay so positive?

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