Now it’s been a month or two since I went to Budapest, seeing as how I totally failed to post for the last couple of months. However, I am pleased to tell you all that Hungary was my 40th country visited, 30th for Harrison, my male traveling companion, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this Eastern European country.
Hungary was actually my very first visit to Eastern Europe and I had high expectations. I’ve been all over the west, from Spain to Belgium, and have seen the hordes of tourists battling it out over mediocre museums. From what I’d heard, though, Budapest was positively bustling, a very beautiful city, and dirt cheap.
All these things were true. We spent only four nights, as Harrison and I both have limited time (for some reason he keeps running out of vacation time at work), but we Lived. It. Up.
Actually, we did probably one of my most favorite tours ever here, where a local guide took us around with vintage Polaroid cameras to all the best places in the city and let us take some awesome photos.
This served three purposes: one: it gave us the lay of the land, two: it gave us some amazing souvenirs to take home, and three: I mean how cool are vintage Polaroid cameras?!
I like to think of myself as pretty brave. I enjoy my solo travel, I’m always looking for the craziest thing to do wherever I go, and I’ve eaten more dubious food than I can count.
So when Harrison mentioned the CN Tower Edgewalk, I immediately volunteered. For those of you unfamiliar with this Toronto-nian landmark, it looks like this:
The Edgewalk part is up there at the veeeery top. It’s the world’s highest free walk, which means there’s no guard rail and you’re simply strapped to a thick rope as you circle around the tower, trying not to shit your pants.
Here’s the video. I’m the one looking like I want to die. If you scroll to about five minutes in, you can hear me cursing profusely as I attempt to walk backwards off the edge of the tower. No, I’m not kidding.
I mean, when it was finished I felt all victorious and all, but you could literally not pay me to do that again.
As many of you have likely noticed, Harrison tends to be in a lot of my blog posts. That would be because we are dating.
So, to that end, I went to meet his family this past September. Harrison happens to be Canadian, which is how I found myself for the very first time in the city of Toronto. I could talk crap about it, but I know he (and his family!) will read it, so I’ll refrain. Besides, I loved the city anyway. It’s large and metropolitan and really quite nice.
I will tell you that Harrison and I had been putting off meeting his family for over a year, as we both have serious commitment issues and he tends to be an overthinker. Nobody tell him I told you all that.
So the day finally came when I was to be introduced to his family, and it went a little like this: I flew in from one of my best friend’s wedding, where I was a bridesmaid:
And Harrison picked me up at the airport. He and I both poorly played it cool as we rolled my suitcase to the car and got in. It was a half hour ride to his parent’s home, and we made awkward, stilted conversation as we drove.
The atmosphere in the car was morbid- as if we were making our last, trudging steps to the gallows. He white-knuckled the steering wheel as I clutched his hand ferociously, my mind whirling with fear. “What if they don’t like me? What if they think I’m…weird?”
I mean, to be fair, I am weird. But they don’t need to know that!
Luckily, all my (and his) fears were for naught, as his family turned out to be amazing. I was greeted with hugs at the door, prompt bottles of wine, and excellent food. How much better could it be?
I also met all of his friends in a situtation that I-swear-was-not-like-a-gauntlet-of-introductions.
In short, I had an amazing, happy time. Nothing to fear. Nothing at all.
Today is the 2nd birthday of my blog! It’s been a crazy two years, with so many changes I can’t even count. I’ve lived in four different countries, traveled so much my own family hardly recognizes me, and made friends across the world. To celebrate, I’ve made a map showing the countries I’ve traveled to since starting the blog:
And for those of you who are curious, here’s what my 2019 looks like so far:
Scotland (I can never get enough!)
Israel some more
In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to drastically cut down my travel this year, as my life begins to move into new stages. (Like, why did I have to get a job?) Also, traveling with Brit is going to present me with new and interesting challenges (like certain countries I can’t go to due to quarantine laws). But overall, that list looks good to me.
I’ve had a very blessed two years and my heart is full.
Life is good.
-Carissa, Harrison, and Brit “You Got Any More of Them Snacks?!”
Another picture post today, as I spent the entirety of my summer volunteering at a nonprofit in Tel Aviv teaching Arabic. This was an interesting lesson for me. You see, I have always been an idealist, thinking that being a certified granola crunching woman of the land was my calling (never mind my air-travel pollution). So when I volunteered to teach at a nonprofit over the summer I thought a few things.
1. Finally! I’ll be able to make a difference!
2. Nonprofits are what I want to do for a living.
3. I can totally live on a pauper’s salary.
So, to no one’s surprise but my own, only 1 out of 3 of these thoughts was actually true. (#1, if you’re unsure). It turns out that the girl who flies around first class as much as possible isn’t exactly…stoked about working in a non-air conditioned office in 114 degree weather and 100% humidity.
Not that I’m complaining. I mean, I am. But it was a valuable experience, teaching, and I learned a great many things. I love helping people, that’s true.
But maybe I would prefer to help people somewhere cold. In the winter. With warm pajamas. Enjoy!
It’s now been six months since Harrison and I went to Vietnam. Ok, ok, I get it. I should have written about it. But I’ve been doing so many other things! So, since I’ve got so much more to write about…here are a boatload of Vietnam photos. Enjoy, and try not to be too disappointed in me!
The Cu Chi Tunnels
For those of you who don’t know, the Cu Chi Tunnels are where the Viet Cong hid and lived during the Vietnam War. They’re these insanely tiny holes in the ground, with slightly larger caves that functioned as homes.
No, I would not have survived that war.
Nowadays, they’ve enlarged some of the tunnels for us huge westerners to crawl through, and maintain an open air museum displaying some of the more creative techniques the Viet Cong used to fight the west.
It’s been an awfully long few months, and much to everyone’s relief, I haven’t died, fallen off a cliff, or otherwise injured myself. I’ve simply been very busy.
When last we spoke I was still in school (technically), funemployed, and traveling. Well, as all of you may have guessed, I am still traveling. In fact, I’m on a plane to Georgia (the country) right now. However, I have also officially graduated from the University of Edinburgh.
And gotten myself a job. You’ll all be pleased to know that it’s fully remote, so yours truly can continue to wander around the world, doing whatever I please.
Ok, that last part wasn’t quite true. I’d like to introduce you all to Brit, my service dog.
She and I were paired just about a month ago, and she’s going to be my best companion from now on. You see, sometimes some bad things happen. And some bad things happened to me while I was in the Air Force. But sometimes there are some people who care, truly care, about you, and want to see you well. And for that I am eternally grateful.
I’ve been very busy this last month attempting to get my life together as I transition from student to *gasp* a real-life adult!
No, I’m not looking forward to the change. But alas, time creeps onward and as it’s nearing my 29th birthday I feel I should at least make some effort to settle my life.
But before that, let’s talk about Ho Chi Minh!
As most people probably know, Southeast Asia is generally very inexpensive, and Vietnam is no exception. This was lucky, as Harrison and I were spending two entire weeks, and our itinerary consisted of “literally anything I could find.” All told, our entire week in Ho Chi Minh totaled just under $300 for the both of us, and included a trip to the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi Tunnels, two full food tours, an acrobatic show, and a motorbike tour of Ho Chi Minh’s slums. It’s a good deal, is what I’m saying.
Such low costs enabled us to pig out on all the food, and I made it a personal mission to try out all of Ho Chi Minh’s best restaurants.
It’s also important to note that Vietnam is…warm. More than that, it’s humid. I’m talking, 105 degrees and 100% humidity humid. I spent our entire trip three feet away from Harrison and threatening him with death if he got any nearer. Luckily for the both of us, he didn’t try, as the “Saigon Sweats” (as he termed them) had an even worse effect on him than me.
So yeah, maybe don’t bring your first date to Vietnam. It’ll be sweaty and not in a fun sexy way.
One of our very first stops in Ho Chi Minh was the Heart of Darkness Brewery, which is absolutely an expat bar and I loved, enjoying an excellent British Sunday Roast in true Vietnamese fashion. Before you all complain, we did eat mostly Vietnamese food, including some really wretched things we tried on our various food tours.
Most of our first day in Ho Chi Minh was spent wandering the city, getting a feel for the area around our hotel and attempting to acclimate to the weather. (Lol)
We spent ages walking around the city actually, including an accidental trip into the ghetto and a really ingenious ride on public transport back out. What struck me most about HCMC is probably the amount of markets- the sheer volume of them- and their size. Regular grocery stores aren’t really a thing. Markets are everywhere, for every different type of item, and we spent a significant portion of time wandering through them.
Also, in case anyone young (me) doesn’t have some firsthand memories of the Vietnam war and its effects- it’s still very much alive in Vietnam. This is evidenced by Ho Chi Minh’s War Remnants Museum, formerly named the “Exhibition House for U.S. and Puppet Crimes,” which showcases the “U.S. Aggressive War in Vietnam.” Basically, the communists won and ever since have set up this museum filled with downed American Aircraft and grim images of Agent Orange and its aftereffects. As a former U.S. servicemember, I was more than a little uncomfortable (and pissed), and insisted that we leave once we had explored a few of its halls.
My project is done, my internship is drawing to a close, and I’ve yet to regale you all with stories about Vietnam.
Pine no more, because today we’re starting.
So, Harrison and I spent a total of two weeks in Vietnam. The first week was in Phu Quoc at the J.W. Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, which I had booked specifically because it’s themed as an an ex-school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And if you guys know me at all, you know I love me some Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I used a free seven night certificate to book the hotel, which meant that our stay was technically free.
I say technically because while the room was paid for, our various activities were not. And it was very much a resort, with cooking classes, yoga on the beach, bike rides around town- you name it, it was available. And we did most all of them.
But before I talk about the activities, I want to take a minute to show you guys this hotel. It’s really up there in terms of design and architecture, and has some of the coolest theming I’ve ever seen. It only opened late last year and had been on my list ever since, so I was really stoked to go.
It’s been a very long time since I last posted, and a very busy last month I’ve had. I’ve been working here in Tel Aviv full time as an Arabic teacher/Translator/Literally any other work that needs doing. I’m also trying to finish up my final project for University. So you can say that it’s been…hectic.
That being said, I’ve still got my two weeks in Vietnam to tell you guys about- I haven’t forgotten! But since I’m a little too busy at the moment (my project is due this Thursday), you guys will have to make do with some photos instead.
See you all soon for story time!
-Carissa “Someone Please Help Me I’m Stressed” Rawson