Big News!

Hello Dear Readers!

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!

Here’s to happy travels, guys.

-Carissa “Big-Shot” Rawson

Outlander-ing Our Way Through Scotland

Hello Dear Readers!

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?

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Brit trying to go through the standing stones
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The anatomy hall where Claire and Joe Abernathy meet.
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Jamie’s print shop in Edinburgh! (Seriously how did I miss this when I lived here?)
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The set of the governor’s mansion in Jamaica. (Backstory, we were super not allowed in here so Joni and I played dumb and wandered in as if we were lost and confused. I don’t think the receptionist fell for it.)

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:

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Help me I need sleep.

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.

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Clan Fraser’s current lands
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Culloden, the home of the last Jacobite uprising.
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I can’t actually remember what this is…all I can recall is that the Lord of the castle still lives there and is hostile to visitors, so we skedaddled as soon as he came outside.
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Something else from Outlander! Maybe Joni can help me out with what it is.
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I told Joni we needed to look solemn, as we were standing at a gravesite.

We boarded the train late back home to Edinburgh, exhausted but totally happy. Next stop? London, baby!

-Carissa “I’m the Solemnest” Rawson

Flight Cancellation, Meet Flight Compensation

Hello Dear Readers!

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).

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I guess this is roomier?

We met up in Edinburgh, our entire trip in disarray and zero plans left with what to do.

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At least it’s still Scotland!

Frazzling? Yes.

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?

-Carissa “Thanks for Paying Me to Fly!” Rawson

Mileage Running- Mad Genius, or Just Mad?

Hello Dear Readers!

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.

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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.

“Please let me potty”

Which is how she ended up holding it from Los Angeles-Houston-Frankfurt-Madrid.

She’s a better woman than me.

-Carissa “Never Gonna Stop” Rawson

New Year’s in Tbilisi

Hello Dear Readers!

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.

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On a casual jaunt through town

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?).

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I don’t know who this woman is but I aspire to be her

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.

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I’m so sober

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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.

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Pictured: Me snuggling with a bar cat

-Carissa “My Eye Is Still Kinda Burned” and Harrison “My Eardrums Have Burst”

Dinner With Strangers, On Purpose

Hello Dear Readers!

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.

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Our digs for the night.

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.

Sorry, male guests.

I’m not even sorry!

-Carissa “That Was An Entire Horn of Wine” Rawson

A Very Georgian (2nd) Christmas

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I am writing to you from my economy(+!) seat, heading to Madrid for my very first international trip with Brit, my service dog. She’s currently laying on the floor, exhausted from the sprint to meet our connection in Houston. Kidding, that’s me. She’s exhausted from all the floor licking she’s done.

So, last I left off, we were talking about Harrison’s visit to California to meet my family, which went about as well as possible. He returned home just before Christmas, which was good, because for Christmas my family and I crammed four (and a dog) to a room in the Disneyland hotel.

Future family Christmas photo

Somehow ending up riding alone

It was actually super cool going to Disneyland for Christmas, and Brit did an amazing job as my service dog, diligently cleaning up any and all crumbs that I spilled.

“Diligent”

A mere four days after Harrison returned home I flew out to Israel for a visit. Sadly, Brit wasn’t able to come with me, as Israel requires a rabies titer test (it takes an entire month to process!) and I hadn’t had one done yet.

As an aside here, I know some of you have probably seen my post about PTSD. There’s obviously no miracle cure, but I severely underestimated the effect Brit has/has had on me. So this trip was really difficult, as being separated from her is just…the worst.

Separation aside, this trip was cool for a couple of reasons, the first being that Harrison and I spent New Year’s in Georgia, which is next door to Azerbaijan and equally as weird.

What’s going on?

We spent a total of five nights in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and all of it was wonderful.

Most wonderful?

Georgians celebrate Christmas on January 7th and we arrived December 30th, which meant I got to celebrate Christmas all over again. Mostly it meant that the Christmas markets were alive and well, and the whole city was dressed up for the holidays.

Ooooh

As you all well know, Christmas is my most favorite thing in the whole world, so it was awesome to rewind myself five days and have more Christmas!

-Carissa, Brit “Floor-Snack”, and Harrison “Please Is Christmas Over Yet?”

A Furry Road Trip

Hello Dear Readers!

We left off yesterday with the knowledge of Harrison’s visit to California and a plethora (kinda) of photos from our visit to Disneyland. 

Today’s post is mainly pictures, as we made our way to Los Angeles, Venice Beach, and alllll the way up the coast to Napa Valley.

Enjoy!

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We stayed overnight at the Venice Beach Canals.
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Including indoctrination into the In N Out cult.
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California is the best

-Carissa “How Many Dogs is Too Many?” Rawson

Meeting the Parents

Hello Dear Readers!

I’m writing to you from the depths of economy on a long-haul flight from Copenhagen to Los Angeles. No, it’s not comfortable. Even less comfortable is the fact that I was assigned a middle seat (with no option of changing it!). Fortunately, the woman next to me begged me to change seats with her husband, who was in an aisle seat. I graciously complied. 

Now, I’ve already told you about my trip to meet Harrison’s parents. What I haven’t told you about is his trip to meet mine. You see, Harrison may have two parents and a sister, but I’ve got five and three siblings. We’re a bit larger of a family. 

So I finally enticed Harrison to fly to California, and I ended up meeting him at my apartment as he landed before I arrived home from Illinois.

I take it you all remember when I faced that gauntlet of his friends? It was a bit similar, as my entire family turned out for the special occasion of Harrison’s visit, including my father, who drove in from work just to (I think) glare disapprovingly at Harrison. That’s what Dads are for, right? We’re just lucky he didn’t whip out the pellet gun.

Day two after his arrival I dragged him to Disneyland, because of course I did.

In total Harrison spent a total of seven days in California, including a road trip of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Those posts are upcoming!

-Carissa, Harrison “This is a Psuedonym,” Diamond and Brit “The Snackiest of Snacks”  

Ballin Budapest: Exploring the Ruins (Bars)

Hello Dear Readers!

You know, we didn’t do all that many tours while we were in Budapest, in stark contrast to our previous vacations. I think it’s because as time has gone on we’ve become more desensitized to the common kind of tours. I mean, I think art is pretty and all, but I can only look at so many different paintings in so many different museums before I run out of energy.

That being said, we spent most of our trip in Budapest relying on rave reviews from others and my old favorite app, “Spotted By Locals,” to get around. Which is how we ended up at Szimpla Kert, one of the immensely popular ruins bars hanging around the Ruins District of Budapest (which, by the way, we were staying in. Yes, I’m great at locations).

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Look! It’s a bar! In a ruin!

Since Harrison and I are ninety year olds in young people bodies we showed up to this bar at 7pm, to grab some drinks and sit around judging people all night long.

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Wow this is almost the exact same photo. Such skill.

No seriously, I basically spent the whole time making up stories about all the people sitting around us. Does that make us boring?

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Seriously, what was I doing with my camera?

For those of you who don’t know, the ruins bars are immensely popular old buildings in the Jewish District of Budapest, formerly abandoned and now taken over by various hipsters who sell overpriced beer and host local concerts. In short, they’re super cool.

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Like me!

We spent all night at Szimpla Kert, chilling and hanging out, realizing only when we left how lucky we had been. You see, as old farts, we had showed up long before the crowds. But by the time we left, the line to get in was roughly 50 people long, wrapping around the block and back.

I guess sometimes it’s cool to be old (at heart)

-Carissa, “Ancient” Rawson