Traveling on a Teacher’s Budget

I’m a teacher, which means we all know I’m not paid nearly enough for what I do. But I love what I do. And I love the freedom it gives me to follow my other passions, including traveling. But traveling can be costly. Especially when we think about traveling anywhere overseas.

But summer I went to 7 different countries for $789. That’s right 7 different countries for under $800, that included roundtrip airfare, accommodations, and travel between the countries. The only thing we had to pay for was food and drinks, naturally. That’s unheard of. Sometimes traveling to a different US city costs more than that alone for airfare. It’s insane.

So how did I get that amazing deal you ask? I’m a deal finder. Some people are good at couponing, some are crafty, me? I’m a deal finder. Someone I previously worked with told me how she had found her amazing cheap airfare for Europe, so following her lead I started to do my research. And if you look at the right time, you can find some great deals.

Anyways, using the app Skiplagged and Skyscanner I was able to narrow down some cheap flights, it did mean that I had a long layover in Toronto-but we made the best of it and got to explore a new city!

For me it also meant getting to Chicago- but that wasn’t a big deal. I live in Memphis, but I’m originally from Chicago and was going to be there anyways for my brother’s high school graduation. So flying out from there was no big deal.

Here’s the thing, there are great deals to Europe, but you’re going to have to fly out from LA, Chicago, New York or Boston. So if you don’t live in those cities, you’re going to have to get there. For me, Chicago is closer and convenient since I have family there and it’s only an 8 hour drive.

So this summer that is what I did, and in 15 days I saw: Toronto, Copenhagen, Berlin, Krakow, Budapest, Vienna, and Prague! It was amazing. (Check out my post Pierogies and Dragons for more info on Krakow!).

And now for my Fall Break in October, I will be returning to one of my favorites: Prague. I just booked this ticket for $379 roundtrip from Chicago.

And my hostel is booked and for $95 I have accommodations for 5 days, not so bad if you ask me.

The point is if you’re willing to (and are able to), get to one of these cities that provide more affordable airfares, do it. Just book your trip. Hostels and airbnbs make accommodations so affordable for travelers over there. So there’s no excuse. Just book it and go.

I can’t wait to return to Prague this October, and you know while I’m there I’ll be keeping you updated with all my deal findings.

Keep on traveling.

Justice for all (but only if you’re white)

So the last two weeks I have been pretty quiet. I am a teacher and the school year is starting, so I have suddenly found myself busy with setting up my classroom and learning the names of my fresh-faced first graders.

But this post isn't about them.

Not really anyways.

Yesterday news broke out about protests that were happening in Charlottesville, VA at the UVA protests. My feed was full of posts about neo-nazis and white supremacists with purpose of "taking America back" – back from whom? Back from people wanting equal rights? An equal opportunity of a good life? From people who don't look like them? From people who aren't white. In one new's post it's mentioned that these protestors were shouting "blood and soil"- which dates back to the early days of the Nazis in Germany.

This is happening in America. America people. And yet we try to deny the racism in our country, we deny the hate.  I think it is because we are too "proud" to admit that we are racist. The majority of the people on my Facebook page that shared the article and the news of what was happening…were not white. They were not people who I have sat in Church with. They were not people that I consider my friends. And my question is why?

Why can't you face the reality of what is happening? Why can't you face the reality of racism? Is it because you are too ashamed to admit and face your own racism?

I am ashamed of the people who look like me and refuse to speak up.

The fact is when you don't say anything or take action you are actually saying a lot.

You are saying this is not "your" problem, why because you're white and you don't have to face the problems that blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and any other non Caucasian ethnicity have to face in our country?

In fact during times like this what I see are people posting that "All Lives Matter"- but that is a false ideology. In our country the only lives that matter are the ones who look the certain way, and carry enough money in their bill pocket.

Those of us with the "privilege" in this country need to use that to that to the advantage of not just themselves, but for the EVERY citizen of this country. We need to do more than just pray in our little white churches that everything gets better.

Because scripture even tells us to "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9

God did not say only speak up for those who share the same skin color as you, only provide for the needy whites. Those who have a voice and the means to provide for others are to stand up for all.

In order to do that you need to confront your own demons, your own racism, and then learn from that. Learn the roots of your own prejudices. Stand up for justice. Realize that right now, All Lives DO not Matter. So the focus on Black Lives Matter should not be muted or just pushed aside.

We can't ignore the racism of our neighbors, family members and friends. Confront it. Talk about it. Learn about it. Grow from it.

Because if you just bury it deep inside of you, ignore the past, and ignore what is happening things will not change for the better of all in this country.

In fact the future of what this country could become terrifies me.

It terrifies me that my students are growing up in a country that doesn't speak up for them, and doesn't provide justice for them because of their skin color.

So in a way this post is about my students, but also their parents, neighbors and everyone in our country that looks like them.

 

 

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“America’s Ghost Writers”

Those familiar with the Hamilton Mixtape may be familiar with this phrase. It comes from one of my favorite songs on the album, "Immigrants, We Get The Job Done". So in light of the recent events here in Memphis, I felt it appropriate to focus this week's post on immigration.

For those who are unaware there have been several ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids in the local Latinx communities in Memphis. It was reported that ICE went into apartment complexes targeting those 16 years and older who came here illegally as children. The last number I saw was that over 36 individuals were taken into custody- but of course they aren't releasing the exact number they have detained. Think about how many families this is affecting, how many children.

I have so many problems with how Americans treat the name "immigrant", and even more with how we treat them in our country. This was a country founded and built by immigrants. And yet we want to claim that these "immigrants" are taking our jobs- what jobs? Do you mean the jobs us Americans refuse to do or take? Americans are so selfish and lazy, we are scared to get our hands dirty to do the hardworking and manual labor jobs – that many immigrants end up doing.

Let's look in Georgia for example. My mother lives in Lyons, GA- a small rural southern town, very close to Vidalia. You may recognize that city name- Vidalia where the Vidalia sweet onions are grown. I remember back in April I was visiting and this bus drives by and my mom made a comment about how people call that the "Mexican Bus". I was taken aback- the Mexican bus? What does that even mean? Apparently it is called that because the workers on the Vidalia onion farms are for the most part "Mexican" and they all take this bus to the farms and back home. So that really got me thinking: of course I immediately started thinking- well of course they are going to hire "Mexicans"- the bigger man always wants the cheapest labor. So of course I started researching it and all I could find was that farm workers have sued the farms in the past over wages- so my hope is that they are actually receiving fair pay now. But while doing this research Vidalia came up a lot- all the way back to 1998 – when immigration laws started cracking down. They, like many other farms were of course worried about losing their workers. So many of these farms (not just Vidalia), have tried to hire local workers- but it wasn't enough. They were not getting the labor they needed in order to keep their farms running. So they started hiring immigrants through the guest worker visa program. This allows immigrants to come over and work for some time- legally.

When I was reading all these articles I was astounded- really people are complaining about immigrants? You mean the people that are making your enjoyment of onion rings possible? These are immigrants are contributing to the United States economy, they are paying taxes and guess what ladies and gentleman: THEY ARE NOT INCREASING THE CRIME RATE. At least not significantly to prove that all immigrants are the reason for our crime in this country. I live in Memphis- a city not known to be the safest or most peaceful. The majority of crime I hear reported here are the result of some sort of domestic dispute, but get this guys- these crimes are happening between AMERICANS. That's right ladies and gentleman: Black, White, Yellow, Pink, Bleeding Red white and blue Americans.

People come to America looking to reach their goals, live a better life, provide for their family, escape from tyranny, etc. Instead they are greeted with hostility, racism, harassment and sometimes violence. It's absolutely heartbreaking. But this isn't new. Look back 100 years ago when the Irish first came. There were signs posted "Irish No Need Apply". My dad's grandparents migrated here from Ireland during that time, they faced those prejudices. This is why I am so disappointed in Americans right now. This isn't new, immigration is not new. And it shouldn't be a problem.

Let's visit the issue on refugees now. Refugees. These are families with no place to go and no where to call home- because the home they have is war-ridden. Their homes are controlled by organizations ruled by violence. And we can't offer them sanctuary? We are just going to close our borders because they come from countries where they might be terrorists? Let me be frank here, we are being prejudiced against them based on the fact a majority are coming from Islamic countries. I was a religious studies major in school, I must've missed that lesson on how "Muslims are terrorists".  But wait, I forgot this is a country that is supposed to have religious freedom- I guess that only applies to certain people and certain religions.

I'm saddened by the ignorance of the people I see in my Newsfeed, sitting next to me at church or even at Starbucks. We should be standing up for our neighbors, we should be greeting people at the borders, encouraging everyone to make their dreams come true. Isn't that what we tell our children? Don't we encourage them to dream big and succeed?

When was success only limited to those with an American Passport?

Check out the song and video.

To those who are immigrants and working hard here – thank you. I appreciate you. I stand with you.

 

Perogies and Dragons 

Poland. 

Let’s talk about one of my favorite cities I had the pleasure of visiting just over a month ago. Krakow. 

We only spent a day and a half here and I so wish I could’ve spent more time. If Poland is not on your list of countries to visit, it should be. 

The people, food, and sites are just amazing. And did I mention affordable. 

In Krakow we stayed at “Tara Hostel” which was walking distance to the city center and super spacious. We had a two bedroom, two bathroom suite, which included a balcony. I definitely recommend this, our suite could’ve slept at least 10 people, we had 7 and each one paid $8 a person for the night. Hard to beat that. 

Anyways, Krakow has a lot of history. So a lot of the buildings are older, which just adds character to this city.

Oh and Krakow has a Castle. Yes a castle, with its Dragon den. There’s a legend about this dragon. The Wawel dragon. Legend has it that his “lair” was at the foot of Wawel hill (bottom of Wawel Castle) and like all dragons was an “evil dragon” that in some stories like to eat virgins. So the king promised that whoever slayed the dragon would get to marry his beautiful daughter. Of course numerous people failed again and again. Until this shoemaker decided to give it a try. He decided to poison the dragon, he stuffed a sheep with tar and sulfur and left the sheep at the entrance of the dragon’s cave. In the morning the dragon eats the sheep, explodes and the shoemakers married the princess. Happily Ever After. Anyways, now it’s a tourist attraction and you can visit it while visiting the castle.  

Anyways. The food. We were there for only a short time but I had all the perogies I could get. I even had lamb perogies from this delicious restaurant that I am blanking the name of. But it was right in the city center, affordable and delicious. However my friend got the roast mutton and I highly recommend that as well.


We also got in true polis fashion some kielbasa for an appetizer and this fried sheeps cheese that was so good. 

All of this came to under $20. Let me tell you, when my friends and I travel we know how to do on a budget. And of course find all the good food. 

….

While we were in Krakow we also took a tour of Auschwitz. Which was very humbling, it made history real for me. It’s something you always hear and learn about in school. But actually walking around the camps where so many were murdered, was truly humbling and emotional. But also a reminder that if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it. I won’t post pictures of the camp, it doesn’t feel right to do so. But I suggest and encourage that if you add Krakow to your list you visit these camps. 
I hope you visit Krakow. I know that I cannot wait to go back, and when I do I will be spending more time there. 
Until next time.. 

Let’s get Vulnerable¬†

Vulnerability: the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. 

Being emotionally vulnerable is one of the hardest things for me to do. Especially in relationships. Why? What am is there to be so scared of? 

Well let’s see: 

  • Heartbreak 
  • Failure 
  • Love 
  • Happiness 
  • Sadness
  • Life obstacles 
  • Loss

Let’s just start with these. Let’s be real here, there’s been a time when we’ve all felt some of these things. If not all. Sometimes we feel these things at the same time. I’ve been hurt, and because of that hurt I’ve let it interfere with my relationships with others (romantic and otherwise). It sucks. And everytime I’ve been hurt, I’m finding it harder and harder to be vulnerable with the next person. 

This time I messed up. Relationships need some sort of vulnerability. We have to recognize that yes, by letting this person in they could hurt me- but also trusting that other person not to. I know these things. But it’s still one of the hardest things for me to do. I build a wall around me, to keep me from getting hurt. That wall went up to high this time. 

And I want to be able to just open up and everything be all perfect and romantic. But it’s not that simple. This time I wanted it to work so much I was scared to get to close, in turn I pushed him away. And it sucks. Because I know I hold some responsibility. All because I was too late to let him in. I didn’t let my emotions show like I wanted to. I was scared. Scared of messing it up-well way to go there, Amber. Scared of being hurt, again seriously? Scared of being happy- I know, the absurdity. I let those fears dictate the direction of this relationship-not necessarily consciously. But it happened. And if I could do it again, I’d kiss him back in June like I should’ve. 

What I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t let the past keep you from finding love in the present (or future). Have faith. Have love. Have trust. We can’t be afraid to let people in, if we are then we are going to find ourselves isolated in the world. Alone. Heartbroken. And always wondering why. Don’t be afraid to trust someone with your heart, if it’s left broken-that’s ok- it’ll mend over time. But if you never give it to anyone it’s going to be left cold, untouched, and hard. 

So let’s get vulnerable. Let others in. Love each other. 

If Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had a kid…

It would be me.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

I like to think I’m funny like them. Just as awkward. Confident in who I am.

But really, I’m just a 26 year old Midwesterner living below the Mason Dixie line trying to travel the world on a teacher salary.

How does someone from the great city of food and sports (aka Chicago) end up in the south? College. Really. And I think because from a young age I already had that gypsy soul in me. I packed my bags, went to Ole Miss, got a degree in Philosophy. And am now teaching phonetic sounds and addition.

All the while trying to pay off my student loans.

And pay rent and all those adult things we “thought” we wanted as children.

And start my masters (not golf people, apparently I thought it was a good idea to be a student again).

And then of course, probably the most important thing in my life:  provide for my two cats Fitz and Gatsby. (Fitz, short for Fitzgerald. As in F. Scott Fitzgerald-not Pretty Little Liars) (Gatsby, as in the Great)

Do I sound like Tina Fey yet?

And now I am starting a blog. Why? I don’t have time to date, how in the world am I going to have time to write a blog? Well I’m a habitual procrastinator so it’ll give me something to do when I don’t want to lesson plan or write my research papers.

But really, writing is something that I just like to do. It’s an outlet for me. I always have so much to say, I think a lot. A LOT. So I have to get those thoughts down on paper…or a computer screen. I guess that’s why I got a degree in Philosophy.

(Disclaimer: a BA in Philosophy requires a lot more than just sitting under a tree meditating on life.)(The Garden of Philosphy in Budapest, Hungary) 

I also love to travel the world, meet new people, try new things, eat new foods and photograph it all. So this blog will have some of that. Maybe a lot of that. I love food.

I’m 26 but I don’t have my life figured out. And I am learning that not having it all figured out in your mid-twenties IS OK! It’s great actually. I have so many freedoms to explore the world as I want. Just this past June I was eating gelato in Eastern Europe, simply because I could. (Which I know is luxury that not everyone can do, more on inequality later. But I’m also all about find cheap deals especially with travel. There will be more on that) (Gelato from Gelarto Rosa in Budapest) 

I guess this blog is just a way for me to share the laughter, tears, struggles, hopes and life victories; because we all need someone to relate to. We all want that human connection.

So come laugh with me.

Come cry with me.

Eat with me.

Travel with me.

And let’s see where this blog takes me and you.