Money Grows on Trees

Right?! If only. 

What do you enjoy spending your money on?

Well, here at women in wanderlust we enjoy the daydream, setting aside our money and planning for our next adventure. 

When typing that I think of some of my friends who, at times, have said, "oh, I wish I could travel like you do." Well, you sure can. Everyone enjoys spending their money on something. Whether that be the yummiest food in town, designer clothes, trainers, routine pampering at spas or freshly delivered home meals. 

Over the last year I've noticed many quotes that support spending your money on travel from Mark Twain to Miki Agrawal (cofounder of Thinx). On a recent Freakonomics podcast Miki mentioned, "Best money I'll ever spend is traveling." I couldn't agree more. 

So what is your favorite splurge, expense, or travel quote?

Lost in Translation - Italian

Before going to Rome I had the grandest most spectacular expectations of the romantic people, food and architecture.  I couldn't wait to land and start exploring.  As me and my two friends (Mia, 52, curvaceous outgoing Mexican woman and Nikki, 35, fun blonde fellow spoiled American) landed, we were met with some unexpected experiences.  

In the airport we craned our necks looking for the dapper private car driver we expected to see holding a sign with our names.  Instead we finally noticed a piece of torn lined paper with one of our names scrawled in lipstick.  Ok... At least he's here.  Then we were told by the man with lined paper that our driver was running late so he'd been phoned to find us and ask us to wait.  Now we're waiting for our airport escort....

Not the best start to our adventure but we were still undeterred.  About 15 minutes later our real driver materialized and he was quite the specimen.  Probably 6'-2", on the chunky side, completely disheveled and needing a shower.  Swaggering, he led us to our chariot.  Excitedly  walking down a line of sexy, sleek black cars we finally arrived at our 10 year old light blue Mercedes.  What a let down  You could see every year of service etched in the interior of our chariot.....   at least we have a ride now!

So there's a bit of a language barrier but with the driver's scattered English and Mia's Spanish (just like Italian right?) we were able to converse a least a little.  With the music blasting and the windows rolled down we were off on our Roman adventure!!  One common theme with these travelers.... we all love men and love to have a good time.  Mia wasted no time in starting to flirt with our new Italian escort.  Despite his sloppy appearance he was kinda handsome and an accent makes everyone more attractive right?!  

After a fair bit of flirting our driver announced he liked bamba and asked if we were interested.  We were all a little bit confused.  What could bamba be?  We were dancing in the car so we made dancing motions and asked "This Bamba?"  The driver seemed to indicate yes, that's what he liked!  Of course we love bamba!!!  We dance all the time!  I can still see Mia car dancing and yelling "I Love Bamba!!"  

After a bit more flirting it started to seem that bamba wasn't dancing.  Mia decided it must surely mean big butts.  Our driver liked a nice big ole backside and boy was he in luck because Mia was packin'.  So she points to her butt, "Bamba?".  After a few minutes it seemed like bamba didn't mean a big butt either.  What could it be?

Finally our driver made a sniffing motion and it dawned on me.  Cocaine.  Our driver was a coke fiend and was excited that it seemed like we might also want to partake!  Mia yelling "I Love Bamba!!" still echoed in the streets.  And to sweeten the deal he promised he could take all three of us back to his place, get lots of bamba and satisfy us all.  All three of us by himself.  What a generous guy.  So now you know... bamba in Italy is cocaine and hire the private driver from the airport, you never know what kind of an experience you're in for!

My First Abroad Romance, Part 2

The days after I met Christian were hard. I missed having someone to hold me. We exchanged emails and I booked tickets to visit him soon thereafter in Bremen, Germany. This was my first time in Germany and I remember that it was very clean and orderly. The weekend with Christian was very special. I will always remember it for two veyr different reasons. First, it was the end of fall/beginning of winter and the winter market had just opened in Bremen. Winter markets in Germany are a sight – Christmas decorations, games and rides, hot potato pancakes and sausage everywhere and the best treat of all – gluhwein – which most people refer to as mulled wine. We held hands throughout the market and drank gluhwein until we were both happily drunk. It was my first glimpse into knowing what it felt like to be in love with someone else. My other memory of that trip was waking up in Christian's arms on Sunday and we spent the morning laying together in bed and I had him read Le Petit Prince to me in French while I leaned against him. To this day I don't think I've ever had a more romantic moment with a man. Parting ways with Christian was very difficult because it was unclear if or when we would ever see each other. I cried the entire 3 hour train ride to Berlin.   

When I arrive to Berlin it was a very different Berlin than the one we know today. This was 2002 Berlin and the East side was just beginning gentrification. I pulled into the train station in the East at night and remember thinking Wtf did I do to myself? It was dark and dirty and isolated. I held onto my suitcase for dear life and made my way to my hostel, which I remember had a hippy theme theme to it. I went into my dorm room and kept crying over leaving Christian. I had never experienced feelings like this for anyone and I didn't know quite how to handle it. My Swedish roommates walked into the dorm and saw me distraught and I told them the entire story of Christian and they said stop crying,  get dressed, we're going to a party called Flower Power at a bar in the neighborhood. 

The rest of the night was surreal! The Swedish girls were so much fun and they spoke perfect english. Flower Power turned out to be a party for heavy metal junkies and I had never been around people like that in my entire life. I met a Croatian metal head with very long hair who wore skull rings and kept saying to me "Harley Davidson" and showed off his Playboy lighter. When mant foreigners meet me they love to show off their adoration for American culture. I went outside with him on one of his smoke breaks and we made out. The kisses weren't memorable at all but what a change of events within  matter of a few hours! 

The next day I made the classic mistake of immature girls in the dating world and decided to call Christian and tell him about my great night so he would kmow that I was doing well. Of course I mentioned the Croatian guy because I wanted to make Christian jealous - wonderful plan! Rather than get jealous the plan completely backfired - he quickly hung up on me and never spoke to me again - didn't pick up the phone when I tried again or respond to my apology email. The saddest part is that I didn't learn my lesson until deep in my 20s that it's not a good idea to bring up other guys when you're talking with someone you really like. Lesson learned now.

Experiencemary egan
My First Abroad Romance, Part 1

One of my best memories from traveling was when I had my first romance. I was 20 years old at the time and I was studying abroad in London. I had wanted to study in Paris at the time - I was almost fluent in French then - but the only program that was available to me was at the Science Po. I was a political science major and that is the most difficult Political Science program in France and I was told that if I wanted to study abroad there I would spend the majority of my time in the library. No thank you. London it was. No language barrier, easy classes and the freedom to travel anywhere cheaply - thank you Ryanair. Even though I was studying abroad I had never really traveled somewhere for a weekend entirely by myself. These were also the days before smartphones even existed - hard to remember such a time - so it was not as easy then for me to meet new people while traveling because there was no Tinder. I decided to test myself and see if I could handle being completely alone - I was not yet ready for an entire weekend - so I booked an overnight trip to Brighton, a beach town an hour outside of London.

Everything worked out very well. I made it to Brighton and went exploring. I´ve noticed that though I´m very comfortable during the days - it´s the nights that I don´t like to be alone. I returned to my hostel and made friends with a German guy -Christian - who was staying in the bed above me. He was also living in London and had came down for the night alone and we were around the same age so it was a perfect match. We were immediately attracted to each other. He was very thin, much taller than me with brown hair and piercing brown eyes. We decided to get dinner together and found out that we had a lot in common. After to dinner we went to many bars along the beach and wound up drunk, sitting on the sand listening to a drum circle filled with Africans and some various locals. We sat in front of the bonfire holding each other and laughing at the randomness of the night. I remember that we to a dark spot on the beach and spent what felt like hours kissing and laying together. It was a magical night. Eventually we returned to our hostel and fell asleep cuddling. We woke up the next day and went our separate ways, promising to meet up the next week in London to go to the Globe Theater to see A Midsummer Night´s Dream - my favorite of Shakespeare´s plays.

Getting in touch with Christian was not easy. Again, this was before smartphones existed and to be honest I really don't know how we managed to connect. It was a flurry of phone calls to his flat with random roommates answering the phone never knowing his whereabouts. One day I was able to finally connect with him and we agreed to meet on Thursday afternoon at the theater. Thursday came and I was super excited. I picked out a little black dress – my date uniform - and did my hair and makeup specially for him. I could not stop smiling in anticipation of seeing him again. At the time I did not have much experience with dating so this was a huge moment for me. I bought chocolate digestives for us to share and arrived to the theater early, which is a rarity for me. I stood there for what seemed like an eternity and my heart sank to the floor. No Christian. I found a pay phone and called his house and a flatmate picked up and said that he had no idea where he was. I picked my heart up off the floor and decided that it would not be an entirely wasted afternoon and bought a standing room only ticket for 5 pounds. I entered the theater crushed, found a spot in which to stand and took out my digestives. The play began and slowly a smile eturned to my face. I really do adore the play and seeing it in the Globe Theater is a really special experience. A must for any visitor to London. About 5 minutes into the play I felt a set of arms hug me from the back. I turned around and it was Christian. I began to cry because I was so happy. The play was so great and he stood behind me the whole time with his arms wrapped around me, sharing the Digestives and enjoying the play as much as I did. We spent the rest of the night exploring the city - going to different bars for a pint because neither of us wanted the night to end. He was leaving to return to Germany on Saturday and he was very sad about it. So was I. I was not ready to say goodbye to him because I finally found someone with whom I really connected.

Experiencemary egan
Currently in a relationship with my passport

How did I get here?

As I lie on my yoga mat (more about this in a later post) in Madrid, struggling to sleep I keep wondering: how the hell did I get here? I'm a 34 year old American currently living in Madrid - born and raised in Los Angeles who chose to live her 20s in New York City - and succeeded for over a decade in doing so. Sex in the City inspired me - and I wound living a little bit of each members lives - maybe not so much Charlotte's  - definitely more Samantha's. But the fabulous life only lasts so long and before you know it you really have dated all on guys on the island and you're deep in debt you need a major change of scenery. Where do go next? The question many New Yorkers have: if you're still single and still not sure if you're ready to settle down and definitely not ready for the suburbs, where do you go next? What could possibly beat New York, minus the exorbitant cost of living? For me, the answer has always been Europe. 

I've been in love with Europe since my first trip here when I was 15. I took French in high school because everyone took Spanish and I wanted to be different - silly me - 15 years later and I can't speak neither Spanish, nor French. Who looks like the idiot now?!? I digress. That first trip was on an exchange program to the south of France with 7 other American students from my school - I was one of two girls on the trip - also a good opportunity for me to receive male attention! This trip really changed my life. I lived with a french family for two weeks and really understood the differences between our countries and cultures.  During the school day lunch was over 2 hours and the students would actually return home for a fresh cooked meal that the family would enjoy together. Amazing french cheese was included in every meal. This was a far cry from the overcooked fishsticks of our 40 minute lunch period at school. Nothing was enjoyable about high school lunches in my high school. The students returned to school rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of their day. Again, a very foreign concept for me.

 In France - and as I've learned in most of Europe - work to live, not live to work as found in the US - is the life motto. After experiencing this at 15, I quickly learned that this lifestyle was much more suited to me. This is why I am such a proponent of travel - you don't know what other cultures are like until you're 15 and eating fresh camembert and baguette while drinking a small glass of sancerre and you know what kind of life you really want to live. In the reverse, when I was in Beijing using a disgusting public "toilet", which really meant squatting over a hole, I thanked my lucky stars for living in the US and realized how important hygiene really is to me. You really don't appreciate luxuries such as toilet seats and toilet paper until there aren't any around.

The trip to France was the gateway drug to my passion for travel. This was the pre- 9/11 world and a few of us were even able to sneak out of our hotel when we visited Paris and actually climb the first base and SIT, yes SIT on the Eiffel Tower at 3am sharing a cheap bottle of delicious french wine. I was hooked. I vowed to return to France and actually did that summer to spend time with my host family at their summer home. Swimming pools, more wine and cheese, weekends in the French Riviera - sometimes I had to pinch myself thay this was real. Yes, the US is a wonderful place but this experience taught me that there are other wonderful places to live, possibly even more wonderful and that was where I belonged. 

In future blogs I will discuss more about my crazy journeys to get me where I am today - teaching abroad in Madrid - but in a nutshell, I I was in a rut in New York - job, apartment and love life were all meh and I needed to shake things up. Living and working in Europe has always been my dream and I knew that if I didn't do it now at 34 then I never would. I resigned from my respectable teaching job, gave up the lease on my rent stabilized apartment in the East Village found a suitable teaching program in Spain and many anxiety attacks later, I never looked back. This has without a doubt been the best decision that I have ever made and I am living proof that you can still live your dream and do wild things after 30 - club until 7 am,  date 23 year olds, etc. I've learned that life is way too short and I knew in my heart of hearts that if I didn't do this I would regret it for the rest of my life and I knew that I could not live with that kind of regret. Is this for everyone? No. I took a huge pay cut and moved 6,000 miles away from my family to a country who's language I did not speak. But there are no rewards in life if you don't take risks. Where else can I be whatsapping (a must in Europe) an attractive British, American, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Danish guy all in the same night? Yes, Samantha is back. Follow me on my journey, it's going to be a good one.

Openly support women

Post International Women's Day I caught myself critically evaluating all sorts of companies (my current employer included). What companies advertise diversity and inclusion or are the face of this? Those two words are synonymous with human relations and taboo for water-cooler conversations. Nonetheless, I was introduced to the International Women's day website that had a campaign #beboldforchange.

After perusing the site I found only a couple large companies that were sponsors - one of them being EY. I found great material on their website that I am eager to share. Feel free to read on the website.

Can you personally identify with the research that women are more successful at logical analysis, coordination, planning, problems solving? 

Please share if you experience this while traveling.  We'd love to hear your thoughts!! 

Why women really do rock

I had a really nice experience today at school that made me both very happy and extremely sad. I work as an English language assistant in a bilingual high school in Madrid and I've been lucky to be able to have genuine small group conversations with the students in english and I have learned a lot of differences between boys and girls.  First, after interviewing many of these students, I've learned that Spanish teenage girls take as many as 30 selfies a day, while boys take as many as 3 a day, if any. No one could explain to me why there was this stark difference, it just was.  But what was most interesting today happened during a discussion with 2 Spanish boys who are 12 years old. They both had the international symbol of women drawn all over their arms, hands, and necks. I told them how cool I thought that was that they were supporting women so openly. They shrugged and smiled, not realizing how powerful I found this small gesture to be. Even though they were 12, I pressed them with a difficult question: do you see women as equal to men? They took a long time to answer and they separately answered that they wish that women and men were equal - and and that they believed they should be - but that in reality they just weren't.  They did not know why this was but they said they saw it on a daily basis - with what they watched on television, witnessed it in sports and even at home. This was what young Spanish teenagers could see in a major metropolitan city and it made me profoundly sad.  I thanked them for their honestly and quickly changed the subject.

This makes me so sad because of the strength that I've witnessed in women over and over again. There are far more women in my teaching abroad program than men.  Whenever I travel I find many more women traveling alone than men. Whenever I attend a meetup group, I meet far more women than men. Women do so much to better themselves and live the most of their lives and still 12 year olds can point out out that we are not equal.

I will not be sad about this because I am lucky to know and meet so many awesome fellow female travelers. What I've learned - never be afraid to reach out to them - you just never know. For example, a few weeks ago I was able to find 37€ round trip tickets to Mallorca and didn't even think twice about going. And yes, I travel alone often. Sometimes I even prefer it because of the freedom that it brings. I often stay at hostels and use Tinder and Bumble to bring me new adventures. Friday in Mallorca was spent with a hot Spaniard named Javi (courtesy of Tinder) who showed me around the capital, Palma. A definite success. I started Saturday at a coffee shop (I'm now addicted to Cafe con leche) near my hostel and kept noticing a girl who looked around my age and possibly American (the Fitbit around her wrist gave her away) sitting alone at a table near mine. I decided I may as well reach out and asked her if she spoke English and thank goodness she did (and was American per my prediction)! It turned out that we had a lot in common and and that she was also teaching English in Madrid and traveled alone to Mallorca too. After a lengthy discussion we made plans to meet that night for dinner and drinks. Plans were made within 1 hour! We met later that evening and became fast friends. She even shared that she had been exploring her sexuality and that this was an an adventurous time in her life. You really never know who you will meet. One of the many reasons that I love traveling is that it forces me (and others) to be more open and forward - I would've never reached out to another girl like that in the US and it makes me want to celebrate and enjoy women even more for being so cool and open. We really do rock!

Happy International Women's day!