I last left you all with tales of my and Harrison’s trip to Lithuania, where we spent three wonderful days exploring the country before returning to Israel.
You all know I don’t rest on my laurels for long though, as immediately after I got home from Israel my friend Carlos came for a visit. (I mean literally the next day. We suffered from jet lag together). We met in Scotland during our Arabic Programme and I haven’t gotten rid of him since.
Carlos was in the US for a total of three weeks, two of which were with me (yay!) and I made the most of it by showing him all around California.
What did this mean? Well our itinerary looked a little something like this:
Yucaipa -> Las Vegas -> Ventura -> Pismo Beach -> Monterey -> Santa Clara -> Los Angeles
While we certainly kept busy, the slow pace of our travel meant nothing felt too rushed, and we spent quite a lot of time wandering around exploring the culture (and by that I mean food. All of it. Everywhere).
You may remember that time last year when Joni and I took a hot air balloon ride over Luxor, watching the sun rise spectacularly over the Nile as we drifted above.
I had such a great time then that when planning Harrison’s birthday trip I thought ‘Hey, I wonder if they do hot air balloons in Lithuania?’
The answer to that is yes, yes they do.
So it was that we rose at the crack of dawn to blearily drag on every item of clothing we owned (kidding, I was also wearing half of Harrison’s clothes) and hop into a van with several strangers, bound for Trakai, the neighboring city and site of our launch.
It was approximately 1 degree outside despite being April, which meant I looked like this:
I did, however, manage to thaw a little as Harrison helped to inflate the balloon:
The ride itself was very peaceful, with just three of us (and the pilot) flying over the city.
Now, I don’t know if this is a real thing, but after landing the pilots, um, said a prayer and poured champagne on the ground. They then wiped it on our head and pronounced us official hot air ballooners. No, really.
Regardless, I enjoyed the free champagne and loved being able to take Harrison (who by the way was terrified) up over the skies.
-Carissa “Officially Qualified to Fly the Balloon” Rawson
I’m still writing to you from the depths of my transcontinental Alaska Airlines flight, where Brit is snuggled securely under my feet and I’ve just braggily finished my first-class steak. It was a little overdone, to be honest.
But I digress.
It was Harrison’s birthday this last April, and amongst the gifts I showered about him (I have a problem), I also decided this was the ideal time to surprise him with a secret vacation. Well, ok, he knew we were going on a trip, but he didn’t know where.
I’ll start by saying that my choice of destination was entirely dependent on the cheap-ass fare that I found, courtesy of Ryanair and its yellow plastic seats.
So it was that on the morning of our journey, he packed his bags, having attempted to guess our trip location for the past several months and having failed miserably. His only hints included, “Yes, you’ll need a passport. Yes, bring your swimsuit. Yes, bring your jacket too.”
I have to admit, I was super stoked to be surprising him with this. It’s been a long time since I’ve planned all the activities on our trips (he’s usually the doer-planner), and I had packed our itinerary with things I knew he loved.
We arrived at the airport with him as clueless as can be, knowing only that we were flying on Ryanair (never again, by the way).
He squinted up at the flight information board, staring at all the departures.
“Are we going to…Rome?” he asked, his brow furrowing at the thought of a repeat visit to a country.
“We’re going to…Paphos?” he frowned as he considered what a common destination Greece was.
With only one destination left up on the board, he read it out slowly, “Are we heading to…Ki-wan-us?”
Kaunas! Yes! I grinned triumphantly up at him, excited for his reaction.
And so our journey to Lithuania started, with bags of bikinis and rain jackets and multitudes of places to explore.
-Carissa “Help I’m on a Ryanair Flight” Rawson and Harrison “It’s Pronounced K-oh-nus” Diamond
I absolutely could not wait to share this news with you all. Are you ready?
I’ve been hired as a travel writer! I’ll be putting together articles for Points With a Crew, and already some of my stuff has been published!
What does this mean for us?
Well, nothing, of course. Spirits of Adventure is my baby and my blog, so keep up here for all my personal travel stuff, trip reports, etc. But if you’re jonesing for posts a little more often, I’m publishing five times a week on all sorts of different topics.
I’m completely elated for this opportunity. All my life I’ve wanted to be a writer (you know, the kind that makes money), and now I finally am!
After our initial snafu with the flight situation, Joni, Brit, and I all arrived safely to Scotland. Since all our original plans were a bust (luckily most everything was refundable), we decided to make new, better plans.
And what better than going and visiting all the Outlander sites we missed the first time around?
And although essentially all of our plans were canceled as a result of the flight changes, we still reaaally wanted to go on the private Outlander tour we had booked up in Inverness. So it was that we got up before the crack of dawn to board the three hour train to Inverness:
And spent the day wandering around the highlands going to visit different Outlander things. This tour was actually pretty cool, as we didn’t go just to filming locations- we also saw actual clan Fraser lands and real Scottish history.
We boarded the train late back home to Edinburgh, exhausted but totally happy. Next stop? London, baby!
It’s been a busy few weeks here in Carissa-town. Joni and I just got back from a week long trip to the UK, I renewed my annual pass to Disneyland, and- oh yeah- I worked at my job.
As always, my life is hectic to the point of chaos, but I’m used to it. Comfortable with it, even. I find peace on long-haul flights with nothing to do but watch movies and blog. It’s my safe zone.
But you know what isn’t my safe zone? Airports. More specifically, the Los Angeles airport. Have any of you ever flown through there? The place is a nightmare, a sprawling mess of dysfunctional security lines and angry customers, sprinkled all over with the dust of its constant construction.
So it was that Joni and I left five hours early for our flight to the UK, laden with luggage and bleary eyed, ready to spend three hours in LA traffic.
To our immense surprise, the drive took only a little over two hours, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we boarded our plane on time (me in peasant class, Joni flying fancy up front) and took off right as we were meant to.
Shortly thereafter, however, the pilot landed again, citing a “small engine issue.” An hour later, they had us deplane and bussed us back to the terminal, telling us to come back in two hours to board again.
At this point, we already knew we’d miss our connection in Amsterdam, so both of us were on the phone with KLM, who insisted that the plane had taken off as scheduled. You know, despite the fact that we were on the phone, talking, from a terminal in Los Angeles. The call ended with them doing a virtual shrug and advising us to call back later.
Ok, sure. So instead we headed back to our deplaning area, where a few harried gate agents were still typing furiously at their computers.
Why were they typing furiously? Well, it turns out that our entire flight was canceled, and rather than updating the system, they were instead rebooking every single person on the flight right then.
So it was that we were booked on a flight- not to Inverness- which was our original city, but to Edinburgh. And Joni? She was bumped from business to the back with Brit and I.
Ah well, at least we were going to make it? *foreshadowing intensifies*
By the time we made it out to the British Airways check in desk, which was our new airline, the entire airport was jammed full of angry re-accommodated passengers, all jostling each other for elbow room. Not to be deterred, Joni and I entered the special assistance line, which we were quickly dragged out of as British Airways informed me they ‘don’t accept dogs.’
Long story short, I ended up in a massive argument with the British Airways people, we nearly canceled our trip, and at the end of it all I ended up on an Air France flight connecting via Paris in premium economy, and Joni routed through London Heathrow on British Airways in sad regular economy. (Ok, she did purchase an upgrade to economy plus).
We met up in Edinburgh, our entire trip in disarray and zero plans left with what to do.
Annoying? Also yes.
But the redeeming factor? Since we were flying to the EU, our canceled flight fell under European flight delay jurisdiction, which meant that they owed Joni and I $682 each.
Considering I paid under $400 for my round-trip flight, how mad can I be?
It’s that time of year again, where I make intensely insane decisions for the sake of status. Last year, I flew for a weekend to Nice in order to make Platinum status with Delta for 2018.
This year? This year I flew from LA to Spain in order to make Platinum Premier status with United for 2020.
You may be asking yourself, “for the love of God, why?”
Sometimes I ask myself the same thing. But the long and the short of it is this: ThePointsGuy values Premier Platinum elite status worth $4,580 for the year of 2018. Why? For the huge number of benefits you get as a result. (Free economy+ on all flights, free exit row seating, free upgrades to business and first class, free priority boarding, free checked bags (all of these things are for you and up to 8 companions on your ticket), Star Alliance gold status, and free access to all Star Alliance lounges whenever you’re flying on them).
More than this, though, I am acquiring my Premier Platinum status through a status match challenge. It’s pretty common, as airlines try to poach frequent fliers from each other. So just before my Delta status expired (which I earned through real flying), I emailed United, asking for the challenge.
The requirements for a status challenge are that you fly 18,000 miles on United owned aircraft (so no partner flights) within 90 days. For me, that’s an easy trip to Israel and back.
Or so I thought. I didn’t know about the United owned aircraft clause, so after I completed a trip to Israel in November, I was still like 8,000 miles short of my goal and had until January 26th to complete it.
This put me in a bit of a bind. You see, I could either let the challenge lapse and not get status on United, which would have probably been the easy route.
I have been meaning to stay home more often, after all.
But the thing is, I was planning on using my United status for 2020 American Airlines status (worth $3,430), and my 2020 American Airlines status for 2021 Delta status (worth $4,025). It was a serious waterfall effect, you see.
Which is how I ended up on a plane to Spain a mere seven days after returning home from my most recent trip. This time, my service dog Brit flew with me, and she was a total champ. Brit happens to be a bit of a potty snob, as she’s used to the lush, rolling hills of Illinois in which to do her business. Airport service dog relief areas are not her jam.
Which is how she ended up holding it from Los Angeles-Houston-Frankfurt-Madrid.
Did you know that Israel doesn’t celebrate New Year’s like we do? Such was the impetus for our trip to Georgia, as I literally cannot go a single holiday without a celebration.
So it was that we spent New Year’s Ever in Tbislisi, with no plans and only a mild hangover we were trying to overcome.
Let me start by saying that Georgians love their holidays.
This is evidenced by their decorations, the massive amounts of people out on the town, and the sheer multitude of fireworks we witnessed as the clock struck midnight.
Let me lay the scene for you here:
Harrison and I, tired but excited after a long day of touring, ready to celebrate the New Year with a bang. We’ve settled ourselves at a strangely abandoned bar and begun to enjoy some final 2018 libations in preparation for our New Year’s resolutions (drink more?).
We’ve smoked a hookah, eaten about a dozen cheeseburgers (God Bless the foreign exchange rate), and have had more to drink than is entirely sensible.
Shortly before midnight, we wander outside, as we’ve heard there might be something big to see.
And there is!
The bell tolls, a thunderous, booming sound, as all around us fireworks begin to shoot in the air. The sounds of people cheering fills us, and we look at each other, smiling shyly, each waiting for the other to make the first move.
And thus we shared our first kiss of 2019. It was romantic, perfect, and sentimental, us cuddling against one another, the lights bright above us and the frigid air forcing us close together.
Until someone shot a firecracker at us.
-Carissa “My Eye Is Still Kinda Burned” and Harrison “My Eardrums Have Burst”
Harrison and I travel differently. Oftentimes I enjoy the pure luxury of travel, sunbathing, swimming, free food, excellent drinks, etc. Harrison, on the other hand, judges the value of a trip by the level of discomfort he experiences while on it. And that’s a pretty cool measurement, I’ll agree. But it also leads to me doing things with which I am vastly uncomfortable.
Like going to a random stranger’s house and eating a dinner that they’ve prepared. Both in theory and in actuality it was really cool. But would I have ever done it on my own?
Not a chance.
He and I are good for each other, in that way. He drags me out of my comfort zone, and I make sure that we can afford to be there. It’s a win-win for both of us.
So it was that on our first day in Georgia, jet-lagged and miserable (me), we found ourselves the only two dinner guests of some Georgian folks out in the suburbs of Tbilisi.
I’ve got a ton of social anxiety, so I spent the entire first half of dinner trying awkwardly to keep conversation flowing. Things I learned? Russia sucks, nearly everyone in Georgia makes their own wine, and it’s customary at a party for (male) guests to drink out of horns.