Why Does Vacationing Make You Sick?

This article appeared in Wake Forest University’s Old Gold and Black newspaper.

It is the first week back from spring break and many students are sporting bronzed tans, souvenir t-shirts from foreign countries and, unfortunately, a nasty illness. As fun as traveling is, it can also have a range of negative impacts on the body. If you are one of the students holed up in your bed surrounded by tissues and NyQuil, mournfully scrolling through pictures of your poolside break in Punta Cana, you may be wondering why your body is falling apart.

The first leg of spring break festivities often includes a cross-country plane ride that travels from one time zone to another. The effect of this flight is one that many jet setters are familiar with called jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag include intense exhaustion, indigestion, moodiness and more that are caused by the disruption of your body’s internal clock, driven by something called circadian rhythm. Many of your body’s internal biological processes, from hormone release to sleep, are controlled by a 24-hour timing system roughly based on day and night. When you switch time zones or severely alter your daily routine, your mind and travel plans for the day become desynchronized with your body’s internal clock. With your body and mind at odds along with a weakened immune system, you are easy prey for a host of opportunistic pathogens and annoying illnesses.

The bacteria and pathogens attacking you have to originate somewhere and are often present on the plane itself. According to a 2015 study done by TravelMath, the surface of a plane tray table has approximately eight times more bacteria per square inch than the bathroom flush buttons. As you are enjoying the lukewarm pasta covered in mysterious sauce served by a surly flight attendant, bacteria are proliferating all around you and taking advantage of your weakened immune system to strike. A good way to avoid this cesspool of disease is to use a disinfectant wipe before eating or maybe just wait to eat when you land. 

Unfortunately, communities of bacteria are most likely waiting for you when you land, too, specifically those residing on public transit systems. In London, a country where over 1.3 billion people use the underground transit system known as “the Tube” every year, there are over 121 different bacteria and mold strains growing among the businessmen and women trying to get to work. During the London Under the Microscope project led by London Metropolitan University, researchers found nine bacteria species associated with antibiotic resistance, so it would be smart to always carry a bottle of hand sanitizer.

If you manage to dodge the slew of illnesses lurking on the plane and train, another thing you might have to worry about is the food and water. Several foreign countries have different cooking techniques and water management systems than the United States and your body is not always equipped for the organisms that may hide in the food and water like local populations. Locals already possess a semi-immunity to many of the illnesses that are omnipresent in their community because their bodies developed the antibodies specific to defending against that organism. For an outside visitor, defense systems are not quite as ready for these brands of attack from foreign invaders and may be more susceptible to illness. Some communities in Africa have even adapted and acquired immunity to certain strains of malaria due to consistent exposure to the disease.

Although spring break is filled with fun, sun, and relaxation, it is always important to be aware of the illnesses hiding around the corner. 

It’s the Little Things: Bangkok, Thailand

As riveting as life is in good old Winston Salem, most of my spring semester was spent reuniting with friends in front of Wait Chapel, eating massive amount of Chipotle, and studying. Now that summer has arrived, a lack of routine has become the norm once again.

I was recently named Wake Forest’s Pulitzer Fellow for Crisis Reporting. My reporting focuses primarily on the Thai environmental movement and how Buddhist activists, known as engaged Buddhists, have played a role in it. I also accepted an internship at WWF in Washington, DC (and no, this is not the wrestling league WWE, it is the World Wildlife Fund), so the Thailand timeline was pushed to a mere two days after my last final.

As soon as I exited the doors from the large auditorium holding stressful statistics students captive, I shifted gears into planning mode. Days later, I was waving goodbye to my Dad from the JFK airport departure gate and strapping on my travel backpack.

After 20+ hours of movies, two finished books, and potential back problems resulting from the tiny seats on the plane, I landed in Bangkok. First impressions? Confusing. Giant. Green. I booked a room at the Best Western Plus at Sukhumvit (because the name was familiar in a place that very much was not) and was greeted with bows and exuberant welcomes. During the times that I was not sleeping due to severe jetlag, there were several little things I noticed about this giant city.

1.) They don’t mess around with malls here.

When I got to Bangkok, I had to wait about four hours to check into my hotel because why not add a couple more hours to the journey, right?!?! I mooched off of the wifi at Starbucks to try and find something to do during the time, and was directed to a place called “Terminal 21.” I am hesitant to even call this place a mall, it is more of an art exhibit. Each level is modeled after a different city around the world. I don’t really know why they do this considering none of the stores match the theme on any of the floors, but, hey, it’s fun and kitschy so why not! By escalator, I explored Rome, Paris, London, and even San Francisco, with murals and sculptures decorating each level.


Thank god for this lighthouse in the middle of the mall, I almost couldn’t find it!

The truly spectacular mall that blew my mind away is called Siam Paragon. Being a Pennsylvania-native, I have the benefit of living about 35 minutes from the second biggest mall in America, called King of Prussia, which I have grown to love and cherish. I am sorry to say it, though, King of Prussia has a thing or two to learn from Siam Paragon. Right outside of the Siam BTS station (Bangkok’s above ground railway system), the mall is split into 3 parts: Siam Discovery, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon. Siam Discovery, my favorite part of the mall, is more about lifestyle products and has an entire floor dedicated to artsy eco-friendly products called “Ecotopia.” If you know me, you know this kind of thing is right up my alley. The Siam Center has all sorts of stores for middle to high-end clothes, shoes, and a couple of fun pop-ups inside which I assume are solely for the purpose of Instagram. Siam Paragon is the cream of the crop. Housing stores like Fendi, Louis Vutton, Tiffany, and anything your boujee imagination could think of, this mall is not for the faint of heart (or wallet). But one can dream.


I hung out more at this mall than tweens do in middle school.

One of the benefits of traveling alone is that I can do whatever I want, and I am not ashamed to admit that I went to this mall at least ten times during my stay in Bangkok, and I STILL didn’t make it through all of it.

2.) Creepy Ex-Pats with young Thai girls

Being you are in a foreign country, you cannot help but feel a kinship when passing by an American. There’s normally that look that passes like “Hey! We share one similar characteristic, I feel safe with you now.” As I walked the streets of Bangkok, I began to notice that almost every American I saw was a middle-aged man. I thought to myself that is so cool of them, they have probably always wanted to visit Thailand and are finally doing it, damned if they are alone! But as I passed by even more sweaty old-men, I realized they were not actually alone. More often than not, there was a much younger Thai girl glued to their side.

I sat down at dinner one night with a Japanese couple that I had met and shared my weird observation with them.

“Oh, that’s because of the booming sex industry,” they laughed, like it was something that I should have just innately known.

Apparently, a lot of older American men move to Thailand to find a young girl to date and provide a financially stable lifestyle for the two of them. To be honest, I find the entire phenomenon supremely uncomfortable and unsettling. After that, any American male I passed on the street was met with an uneasy glance and cold shoulder.

This is maybe a situation where it is better to live in ignorance.

3.) The concept of breakfast does not really exist here

I was introduced to the power of marketing last year during one of my journalism classes. Apparently the reason that I crave cereal in the morning is credited to General Foods.

Things work a little differently here in Bangkok. There are times where I woke up at 7 AM to start my day and passed by someone eating a hearty dish of noodle soup or a plate of pad thai. Pad thai can pretty much be eaten at all times of the day, which is truly a wonderful thing.

4.) Respect is very big.

Everyone is constantly bowing. As soon as I got to my hotel, all of the front desk people bowed. I looked at something in someone’s store, bows ensued. I walked past someone on the street, bows (just kidding, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this had happened). This is only one of the small signs of respect that Thailand demands. You also have to take off your shoes before entering someone’s home, a temple, or office building. Oh, and you have to stand for the Thai national anthem to honor the king before seeing a movie. It felt like some sort of flash mob at first when everyone around me stood up during the previews of the Avengers.


Not pictured: me wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt in the heat because women aren’t allowed to show their shoulders or legs.

5.) Their ketchup cups are far too tiny.


How is ANYONE supposed to fit enough ketchup in here?

6.) I am not entirely sure that they have traffic laws 

Drivers in Bangkok are similar to drivers in Mario Kart on Rainbow Road. It seems like there are zero traffic rules and people are just flying around doing whatever they want and don’t seem to care about the consequences. Between tuk-tuks, cars, and motorcycles, drivers just weave in and out of the road with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes motorcycles just drive on the sidewalk with all of the pedestrians and then have the audacity to scowl at YOU like you did something wrong by walking on a pedestrian-only sidewalk. I was warned by some friends that it is easy to twist your ankle on the sidewalks of Bangkok, but did not realize I would be playing a high-stakes game of cat and mouse with motor vehicles on a regular basis.

As Thailand’s biggest city, Bangkok is a melting pot of food, people, and culture. It also feels like a literal melting pot considering the temperature did not drop below 89 degrees for the duration of my stay. All in all, though, Bangkok did something that most cities around the world can do; it kept me on my toes, it kept me interested, and it kept me exploring.

Exploring the Concept of “Evidence Photography”

About half-way through my stay in Europe, I visited my two best friends in Barcelona. This weekend getaway allowed us to drink sangria, cruise around on a boat, eat delicious food, and most importantly discuss all of the weird observations we had made while living abroad.


Us laughing at the fact that British TJ Maxx is called TK Maxx

During this informal forum, one of my friends named Haley brought up a concept that has not left my mind when since she described it.

When visiting popular cities and attractions, you are bound to see a multitude of tourists. Each tourist has their own style and method for traveling, but the main focus of this conversation was a certain manner of picture-taking which Haley described as “Evidence.”

There is no shame in wanting to take pictures and document your adventures, especially in the beautiful places throughout Europe, however witnessing someone take a photo that could be classified as “Evidence” is extremely odd and extremely hilarious once you start noticing.

At its most basic form, Evidence is when a tourist stands in front of an attraction, or even just a random brick wall, without smiling or posing and has one of their family members take a photo of them. The term Evidence so perfectly describes this phenomenon because while you are questioning why a person would want a stoic photo of them standing in front of a random trashcan next to the Sagrada Familia, they are simply trying to get photographic evidence that they did, in fact, visit Barcelona.

Image result for people standing in front of the pyramid

Proof that this random man actually touched the Great Pyramids (or maybe just a wall of rocks)

Rather than trying to capture candid moments of family fun and treasured memories of the awed faces that come along with seeing world wonders, these no-nonsense travelers are efficiently obtaining tangible proof that they were physically at these sites before moving on to the next site.

Occasionally, those participating in “evidence photography” may be feeling a little wild that day and even throw up a peace sign or a thumbs-up, but they will never smile because that would just be TOO crazy.

After discussing this concept at length and laughing about it for a very long time, I could not help but notice this trend throughout every place I visited. There were seemingly apathetic tourists outside of Buckingham Palace, indifferent visitors at the Eiffel Tower, and even deadpan sightseers standing in front of the “Iamsterdam” sign waiting for their photos to be taken.



If you look a little closer…


You will see that this man NAILED IT.

During our family vacation, my brother and I attempted to try this method but failed miserably because we were simply not cut out for the cruel world of “evidence photography.” Next time you are visiting a new place, try and spot some “evidence” photos taking place because it can turn into a very fun, and entertaining, game.


If anyone even tries to question that my brother went to Notre Dame, they will get a face-full of this photo

No Sleep, but Plenty of Good Times: Dublin

Before studying abroad, there were a few cities I had on my “Must Visit” list; Dublin being near the top. With Ireland’s sprawling green stretches of land, quaint cities, and the chance of running into wild sheep, I was inspired to consistently monitor airfare from London to Dublin.

I finally found a cheap flight, a good weekend, and an amazing travel buddy (my pal Megan), so we jetted off to Dublin for the weekend. With a midnight arrival, I was not amused by the insanely long line waiting for me at customs, but was pleasantly greeted by many workers profusely apologizing for the inconvenience. After a cool 45 minutes, I rushed out to reunite with Meg and we hopped in a taxi with a driver who gave us recommendations the entire way.

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Look how happy she was to see me!!!!!!

If you are headed to this city anytime soon, stay at the Generator Hostel. I had previously stayed at a Generator in Stockholm and was blown away by how ~hip and funky~ it was, so I decided it would be fun to try the Irish version. Try to book in advance because prices will go up exponentially the closer it gets to your stay. Meg and I quickly marveled at the chandelier made entirely of Jameson whiskey bottles, a tribute to the Jameson Whiskey distillery directly next door, and caught up before getting some rest.

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We figured out that you would have to drink at least 26 bottles of Jameson per chandelier. There were 2 of them.

The next morning we woke up ready to go (mostly because all of our hostel roommates were gone so we could play music loudly) and narrowed down our itinerary for the day. We walked over to the Lemon Jelly Cafe for breakfast and enjoyed omelettes, lattes, and a casual side of pancakes, with Christmas tunes as our background music.

Sufficiently stuffed, we spent our day doing the most cliche Dublin tourist things we could think of including the Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Stephen’s Green. All in all, these sites were a bit underwhelming and we had trouble finding the castle until we realized we had actually already been standing in the middle of it for the past five minutes.


Oh, there it is.

After bypassing all of the touristy things that did not involve drinking, we dove right into the boozier side of Dublin by touring the Guinness Storehouse. The tour allowed us to stroll through the factory without being slowed down by unnecessary tour guides and admire every facet of the brewing process at our own pace. We stopped at each level and eventually reached the tasting floor in which we were taught how to properly taste a Guinness beer in order to appreciate all of the flavors put into it. I nodded along when the instructor asked if I tasted the bitter flavors on a certain part of my tongue, but really I was just thinking about how adorable the miniature sized pints they gave us were.

Finally, we were able to try out pouring our own “perfect pint.” As an expert in all things beer, having tasted the finest Corona and Bud Light money can buy, I was confident and methodical in my pour and received a “Perfect Pint” certificate upon completion. Oddly enough every single person who tried to pour received a certificate as well so I guess we just had a really amazing group…

We then headed up to the Sky Bar at the top of the brewery and soaked in the Dublin skyline as the sun went down.


Megan was then crowned “Queen of Guinness”

To keep the good times rolling, we got ready for a night out and checked out Temple Bar. I assumed Temple Bar was just a single bar, which it is, but it also describes the entire area around it. Decorated with twinkling lights and garland, it was quite beautiful, but this beauty was a little bit diminished by the various piles of vomit and drunken men trying to get into fights. I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people that were obliterated by 9 PM, but we just went with it and navigated through without notice most of the time. We finally decided to camp out at a place called “Fitzsimons,” which was fabulous. There was live music, an area to sit, and lots of people dancing so this was our home for the night and I would highly recommend it.

Our next day was catered a little more to my style AKA spending 3 hours at the Dublin Zoo. It has an abundant amount of animals, including elephants and chimpanzees which are typically super rare at zoos. For the remainder of the day, we wandered through the rest of Dublin, taking in the sites and taking cover in a Mexican restaurant when it started to rain.


Nothing better than some elephant smiles.


Not quite the wild sheep I was expecting to find in Ireland, but I do love goats.

Being the savvy savers we are, but mainly just because we had already spent most of our money throughout abroad, Meg and I decided to pull an all-nighter and not book anything for our last night there. Megan is probably the best sleeper I know, so this little adventure was difficult to say the least, however we pulled through stronger in the end. Our strategy was to find the latest movie possible so we could relax in the theatre two hours, then find our way to the Dublin Airport for our 7 AM flights. It seems like a lot of people had a similar strategy because every booth in the airport McDonald’s was full of weary travelers looking to stake claim on an area near an electrical outlet.

There were some highs and lows throughout our trip to Dublin, but it was well worth the visit.


In order to severely worry my parents and all of my loved ones, I decided to take a solo-trip to Amsterdam this past Monday and Tuesday. As I have mentioned before, I cannot resist a cheap flight ticket and quickly booked the 60 pound ticket approximately 2 days before leaving.

I will not lie, I was extremely nervous about doing this trip alone. Before abroad, Blair and I made “Study Abroad Bucket List” and one of the items was to take a solo trip, so I decided to bypass the nerves and do it anyway.

I went into vicious planning mode so that I would be too busy to worry while I was there and was on a flight out of London Luton Airport at 8:30 AM that Monday morning.

Let me just start by saying this, Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District and legal weed, although they are both fascinating to see. Many tourists have marked Amsterdam as a place to go for partying without consequence, but the city is charming in such a different respect.

Stepping out of the bus at Amsterdam Centraal, I was welcomed by a view of the expansive canal and beautifully crafted buildings. In order to get a lay of the land, I joined a “Hop-on, Hop-off” Canal Cruise that navigated through the city, giving history and fun facts along the way.


Just all of my best friends and me enjoying a romantic canal cruise.

Starting at the main harbor, we passed first through the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most popular residential neighborhoods, and cruised all throughout the city.

The canal is lined with houses and houseboats, which people rent and reside in all- year round. The houseboats are especially adorable and similar to a one floor studio apartment that you could find in the large cities of America. Most were decorated with flowers and, glimpsing their insides, had a minimalist and modern interior design.


Shout out to that swan for posing so professionally for this photo.

After becoming an expert on the Amsterdam landscape (just kidding, I got lost about 8 times over the course of this trip), I set out to accomplish all that was on my check-list, starting with the Albert Cuyp Market for some food and shopping. Right next to the Heineken Brewery, this market encompasses about 5 blocks and contains all sorts of merchants and food vendors, though not as much food as you would imagine, but I quickly was able to find a stroopwafel.

The market is conveniently located near the Museum Quarter, where you can find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Moco Museum. I hustled straight to the Moco Museum, where the work of London’s most famous street artist, Banksy, was being displayed and revered. Banksy is a famous Bristol-based graffiti artist that questions the status quo and uses his work as a political commentary on modern day society.


If you were ever wondering who created this iconic piece of art…

This museum also displayed the work of American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Providing a stark, and brilliantly colorful contrast, to Banksey, Lichtenstein’s work was a joy to explore. They even had an interactive room where you could sit on the art and pretend you were apart of a comic


I had to hunt down a couple and awkwardly ask them to take this.

The Netherlands was home to famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, therefore a large collection of his work is fittingly displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It is hard to believe that one artist could have produced enough work to fill a 3 story museum, but Van Gogh achieved this feat with paintings to spare for other museums. Some of his most famous work resides here, including “The Potato Eaters”, “Sunflowers”, and “Self-Portrait”, which were all incredible to see in person.

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It is also hard to believe that he literally cut his ear off and gave it to someone as a gift.

With my artsy side satiated, i ventured out to see some of the most famous things that Amsterdam boasts of, including Vondelpark, the Red Light District (WHOA), and shopping along the Jordaan.

My favorite thing about this entire trip was the Anne Frank House. I was required to read The Diary of Anne Frank during elementary school, and this introduced me to the hardship and severity the Jews experienced during Hitler’s regime at a very young age. Her emotional and thorough diary instilled in me the realities of the war that no history book ever was able to teach and I made it a priority to see where she experienced it all when I visited Amsterdam.

Maneuvering through the narrow hallways and hidden bookshelf passageway of the “Secret Annex” that protected the Frank family for several years forced me to reflect on how lucky I am to have the freedom to think, and express, my beliefs without fear of persecution. Anne Frank acts an inspiration for those to speak their voice and not hide from the harsh realities of life. I cannot imagine what she would think if she knew about the expansive critical acclaim and widespread audience her book has reached, but I would like to think that she would be proud and satisfied at how much of an impact it has made.

Amsterdam is one of the most walkable cities that I have visited so far, so the bulk of the rest of my trip was spent wandering along the streets and avoiding being hit by bikes when I unknowingly stumbled in the bike lane.


They were also starting to put up Christmas decorations so naturally I dedicated about two hours to looking at that.

At the end of my solitary trip, I could not help but give myself a little pat on the back and acknowledge how much study abroad helps with personal growth and confidence.

It is hard to describe a city in just one word, but…



The World’s Longest Art Gallery: Stockholm

My newest, and probably most spontaneous, trip recently has been a 2 day jaunt through Stockholm, Sweden. When Blair showed how cheap the tickets were and how picturesque the skyline was, it was hard to say no and we booked it right away. A couple days later we were on a Ryanair plane and awaiting arrival at the tiny Skavsta Airport (which we realized post-landing was 2 hours away from Stockholm).

After a bit of an adventure and directions from a very kind couple, I made it safe and sound to my hostel and quickly fell under the spell of Sweden.

Stockholm is often referred to as “the world’s longest art gallery,” and I found that to be a lovely and accurate description. This city supremely respects the practice of finding beauty in everyday things. Whether that simply be a funky straw put into a mason jar for my bottle of Coke or the many artistic and colorful storefronts that decorate the alleys of Sofo , Stockholm knows what it means to take a step back and search for ways to make life just a little bit more elegant.


Look at how much pizzazz that straw adds to my adorable Coke.

The most clear and breathtaking example of this was the metro.

Do not get me wrong, the London tube is one of my best friends and holds a very special place in my heart, but it can be a bit dirty. And loud. And I begrudgingly had to share one of the platforms with two literal rats this week.

Entering the metro of Stockholm is like entering the inside of an artist’s mind. Over 90 of the 100 stops were redesigned and transformed by many Swedish artists, not just to enhance a businessman’s daily commute to work, but to challenge some of the political and environmental movements of the time.

Blair and I dedicated two hours underground to finding all of the most eccentric and unique stops scattered about Stockholm. If you ever find yourself in Stockholm, set aside a large amount of time to participate in this impromptu scavenger hunt of sorts, in which the prize is one $500!!! Just kidding. The prize is the chance to change your view of public transportation, which is obviously much better.

To prevent future riders the time commitment of combing through several lines of the metro and to show off my mediocre photography skills, I will share the absolute best stops along each line of the Metro:



Blue Line

Disclaimer: this is not a photo of a Roman art museum, it is just a casual Metro stop

Solna Centrum


Blue Line




Blue Line

Tekniska Högskolan


Red Line





Red Line

And my personal favorite…



Blue Line

Seeing as I did not spend my entire time in the Stockholm underground like some sort of mole person, I found lots to do in this pretty city.

The food, often a highlight of any trip, was incredible. If you are looking for traditional Swedish meatballs, head on over to Meatballs for the People. I mostly chose this restaurant because the name sounded really straightforward (which seemed the case for many people considering we ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes), but my laziness ended up being a blessing in disguise.


My single complaint is that they only gave me 6 meatballs rather than unlimited.

Hands-down, the best meatballs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. This means a lot coming from me considering that half of my diet during high school volleyball seasons consisted of meatballs. They offered meatballs made of all different types of meat including reindeer, which was simply too disturbing to me, and included a side of lingonberry to satisfy all my Swedish needs.

The Swedish population also does this really interesting thing called “Fika” about twice a day which consists of a cup of coffee, a pastry, and a small break from stress. I am not the biggest fan of coffee, so I substituted this with Coke, but the pastries were still dynamite (try Kanel if you like cinnamon rolls). Fika breaks are just another way that the Swedish lifestyle forces you to slow down and appreciate life and, more specifically, a really good cinnamon roll.


My greatest accomplishment was the fact that I only ate two of these over the trip, rather than 80.

For other activities, we checked out the Fotografiska photography museum and went on a peaceful mini-hike through the Bergianska trädgården.

Sometimes a little spontaneity can pay off. Thank you to Sweden for reminding me how gorgeous the world can be.

Getting My Ducks in a Row

I am leaving for Europe in one week.

Maybe if I say or write that enough I will finally start to believe it.

Exactly seven days until I start my brief affair with Europe for approximately 4 months. I will be studying abroad at Queen Mary University located in East London and living in a tiny student flat with five other people, all from different places and walks of life.


Queen Mary University, my home to be. I am swooning already.

Before starting my school year in the UK, I will be backpacking through Italy with one of my best friends, Blair. Blair and I lived together freshman year and she is one of those rare people in life that cannot annoy me no matter how much time I spend with her.


Blair and my “Megabed” for the last night in our freshman year room. 

Blair and I will be dropping our massive bundle of luggage off in London next Sunday morning, and hopping right back on a plane headed to Venice with a single backpack and a lot of jet-lag.

Before starting my adventure, I have been frantically getting all of my ducks in a row. I have managed to: have a doctor’s appointment to check my heart (which is fine btw), get my wisdom teeth out, finish the entirety of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and finally buy a jumpsuit that does not make me look weird (thanks Lulus!).


This show has caused me so much joy and anxiety over the last few weeks.

Now that I only have one week left until I head out, my worry-prone personality has kicked into high gear, as has my excitement.

I plan on spending my week trying to fit every piece of my wardrobe into two suitcases, so if anyone has any hot tips on strategic packing please send them my way. Other than that, I am simply going to dedicate my week to all my favorite things: family, food, and sleep.

See you soon, Europe.

A Guide to the Perfect Weekend Down the Shore (Ocean City, NJ)

I am just going to start by saying I am a very lucky girl. Ocean City, New Jersey has been my summer home for my entire life and is the ideal refuge from everyday life.  My summers are typically spent getting tan (or sunburnt) on the beach, working on a “pizza only” diet, and sleeping in with the sun as my only alarm.

A lot of people do not have the opportunity to live at the beach and be able to leisurely explore every nook and cranny of OCNJ, so I have tried to compile the best activities to do if you are down for the weekend.


After a 2+ hour family drive to the shore, tensions can be pretty high. To prevent this hostile group dynamic from diffusing into the rest of the trip, your first stop should be pizza. There are countless places to grab an incredible slice of pizza in OCNJ:

  • Express Pizza
    • Where: 719 Battersea Rd
    • What: This pizza place is about 3 blocks away from the beach and is where a lot of the locals head to eat. The slices are moderately sized, with bread crumbs covering the bottom for an extra crunch, and there is a deal, my family calls it the “meal deal,” which serves up two slices and a large soda for $6.
  • 3 Brothers Pizza
    • Where: 944 Boardwalk
    • What: 3 Brothers Pizza’s claim to fame is “The World’s Largest Pizza,” and they are not kidding around. One slice of pizza from here is the equivalent of three slices of pizza from any other place, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck. PLUS the pizza is delicious.
  • Manco and Manco’s Pizza
    • Where: literally every 5 seconds on the boardwalk
    • What: Manco and Manco’s, formerly Mac and Manco’s, is Ocean City’s most famous pizza place. The pizza is delicious, however it is fairly expensive and the slices are not very large.

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Notice Manco and Manco’s genius strategy of layering sauce then cheese, therefore the taste-buds are not overwhelmed by one flavor.

It will probably be pretty late by the time you finish your pizza, so the best move after that is to take a late-night beach walk. There are curfews on most beaches which are only strongly enforced on the beaches next to the boardwalk, so a beach walk on the streets before the boardwalk is the move.


The most obvious activity to do on a Saturday morning down the shore is sleep in. The beach is about all things relaxing, which includes taking a break from the screeching blare of an alarm at 8 AM.

After a great night’s sleep, it is time to head out to breakfast.


Ocean City has about as many breakfast places as pizza places, but the best are as follows:

  • Brown’s Restaurant
    • Where: 110 Boardwalk
    • What: Brown’s has some of the best donuts you will ever taste. They cook them directly in front of you and there are several options of flavors, including cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, and honey. The line can get pretty long so be ready for a wait unless you go super early. My favorite flavor is vanilla, dipped in the cinnamon that fell off another one of my donuts.browns
  • OC Surf Cafe
    • Where: 715 E 8th Street
    • What: This adorable cafe has a surfer theme and a wide variety of freshly-made breakfast dishes, with many seafood options. I would recommend the pancakes or the Eggs Benedict, which comes with crispy home fries that are the best part of the meal. They also have a very evenly distributed fruit cup with blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon (a highly underrated side dish).oc surf
  • Ready’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant
    • Where: 415 E 8th Street
    • What: Ready’s is a quaint breakfast spot that is by far Mama Price’s favorite and she has been going to OC for over 30 years. They offer the quintessential breakfast foods, like pancakes and omelettes, but their milkshakes are the best. readys



After eating a hardy breakfast, it is crucial to head right to the beach in order to make the most of your day in the sun. Ocean City technically requires beach tags, which are sold on the boardwalk for a $10 weekly tag and $5 daily tag. A little beach checklist should include:

  • towels and chairs
  • sunscreen
  • water bottles with ice
  •  Coca-Cola (nothing better than an ice cold Coke on the beach)
  • toys or games like paddle ball, Kanjam, Spikeball, etc.
  • sunglasses or a hat

Once you arrive on the beach, make sure to angle towards the sun to get the best tan possible, but also check the UV index to avoid burning to a crisp and judge how often you should reapply lotion.

Even after eating a big breakfast, your stomach will start grumbling at about 2:30 PM, which means it is time for lunch.


Some groups may want to do a DIY lunch, and if that is case for you there is an ACME Grocery store (800 West Ave) with a wide selection of foods and deli meats.

If that is not the case and you would rather keep ballin’ out with delicious OC food, I would highly recommend getting a sub from Voltaco’s Italian Foods. Normally, I get meatball or sausage subs, but my mother and aunts who worked there as teenagers would always eat turkey and Italian.

After lunch and any remaining beach time, the post-beach nap is a must. I don’t know what it is about falling asleep next to the ocean with salty hair and sandy feet, but I always feel more refreshed than any nap I take in my bed at home.

After your siesta, it is time to get kickin’ for a night out.


You have more than a few options for dinner. There is always the strategy of waiting to get food until the boardwalk, but most of your choices there will be pizza, pizza, and more pizza.

If you would like to go out for dinner or pick up something yummy, a couple options include:

  • The Island Grill
    • Where: 100 Atlantic Ave
    • What: This restaurant is mostly seafood, but if that is not up your alley it also offer steaks, pasta, and burgers. There is outdoor seating so that you can watch the sunset while eating some delightful food.island grill.jpg
  • Charlie’s Bar
    • Where: 800 Shore Road, Somers Point, NJ
    • What: This place may be in Somers Point, but I couldn’t resist putting it on the list because it makes the best wings I have ever had. The ideal meal from Charlie’s is an order of wings and potato skins.charlies wings.jpg
  • Cousin’s Restaurant
    • Where: 104 Asbury Ave
    • What: Cousin’s is a small sit-down restaurant that serves Italian food and is a little bit cheaper, therefore a good spot to take a big family.cousins.jpg
  • Rojo’s Tacos
    • Where: 601 Ocean Ave
    • What: Rojo’s Tacos is an authentic Mexican restaurant right off the boardwalk. If you are are Mexican food connoisseur like myself, this place will be your saving grace on an island with no Chipotle.rojos.jpg

The Boardwalk

A big part of Ocean City’s fame comes from its boardwalk: a 2.45 mile long stretch, jam-packed with activities, food, and a great view of the beach.

At this point, you can find just about anything to do on the boardwalk. There are now escape rooms, surf malls, amusement parks, and a music pier. For an ideal night on the boards, I would highly recommend starting with a game of semi-competitive mini-golf.

My favorite mini-golf courses include:

  • Seaport Village Golf
    • Where: 936 Boardwalk
    • What: This spot has a nautical theme and is one of my favorite courses of all times. At the end, there is a free game hole where, if you make it, a giant shark will pop out.
  • Tee Time
    • Where: 7th and boardwalk
    • What: This course is an Ocean City classic and also the cheapest available on the boardwalk. Be warned: the holes can be very frustrating for the impatient soul. When I was younger, I felt so personally offended by a hole that I smashed my club into it (don’t worry, my weak arm strength prevented any real damage).
  • Golden Galleon
    • Where: 1124 Boardwalk
    • What: A pirate-themed course with two options of rounds, each one similar in difficulty. A pretty run-of-the-mill mini-golf course.

If mini-golf isn’t really your thing, or you know that it will likely cause a rift between your family, I would recommend go-karting. If spending money isn’t your thing, a nice walk on the boardwalk with family and friends can be just as fun as anything else (and there will be lots of free samples of fudge.)


Your final day at the shore can be bittersweet, but you still have a couple choices.

You can choose to go to the beach once more, which is a wonderful option, or you can head down to “the Avenue,” Ocean City’s version of Rodeo Drive. The Avenue has all sorts of quaint home decor shops and surfer clothing shops that are hard to resist.


Most of my shopping time on the Avenue is spent at…

  • Heritage
    • Where: 744 West Ave
    • What: Heritage is the quintessential surf shop of Ocean City and has clothes, surfboards, shoes, sunglasses, and more for both girls and boys. Every year towards the end of the summer they host a giant sale before their fall shipment, so be on the lookout for that.
  • 7th Street Surf Shop
    • Where: 720 Asbury Ave
    • What: Another trendy surf shop with a wide range of gear. Brands include: Free People, OBEY, Hurley, and more. They have a lot of accessories that are pretty cheap, as well.
  • Stainton’s
    • Where: 810 Asbury Ave
    • What: This mega-store has anything and everything you could ever need. It is broken up into little sections with work from different artists, interior designers, jewelers, and more. One time, I even went to a drama camp in the upper-levels of Stainton’s.

These are just a few of my favorite spots on the Avenue, but you will find yourself wanting to stop and look at every store. If you forgot beach toys, the Avenue has a shop for that, as well (Hoy’s Toys).

There are endless things to do in Ocean City, New Jersey, which I am not even going to try to cram into just one weekend. One of the most important things I am going to remind you to do while you are there is to relax. The shore is such an amazing place to escape the stress and anxiety that is rooted in everyday life, and OCNJ will give the gift of a quiet environment to listen to the waves and lift your head away from your phone for a beat. Enjoy!

For all you beach-goers, did I miss any of the best spots or activities? Do you have a favorite beach trip you have been on? Comment below.


Music Festivals: A List of Things No One Tells You

Music is a constant in my life. Whether I am blasting the radio on my way to work, playing something fun to wake up in the morning, or just singing to myself, music is everywhere. It has gotten to the point where my heartbeat and the way I walk match the rhythm from my headphones.

With this need for a nonstop stream of melody, it is no surprise that I fell hard for the music festival scene. As a 4-year veteran of Firefly Music Festival and long-time concert go-er, I can confidently say that everyone, no matter what age, should give it a try.

There is something so satisfying about witnessing the musicians that are trapped in your radio come to life with insane performances, showcasing their talent and showmanship in the form of a 4 day series of concerts. Not only is the music at these festivals a reason to attend. The camping experience of a festival is not for the feint of heart, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best times of your life.

As a self-proclaimed festival professional, I made a list of things I wish people had told me before going to a music festival.

1. There is a lot of dirt. A lot.

Now, I promise I am not an idiot and I did realize that camping outside meant that there would be dirt. The extent to which the dirt would invade every inch of my body, my clothes, and everything I have ever known and loved was, however, highly underestimated on my part. Dirt is not a gross thing to me, but the level of dirt that attached itself to my skin was a little nasty, I will be honest.

tanline no dirt

Is this a photo of an intense sock tan after a day of sunny concerts or a definitive line of dirt circling my ankle? The answer is always dirt.

Over the years, I figured out some hacks that kept the dirt from swallowing me whole. Baby wipes or make up wipes are dirt’s kryptonite, so it is always essential to bring at least a 50 pack of those. Bring eyedrops as well because your eyes will inevitably take some of the brunt in a dirt storm, especially if you wear contact lenses. My other solution is simply to give up the fight, embrace the filth, and just enjoy everything that comes along with the experience. A little dirt won’t kill you.

2. An unspoken system of trade will be available in most situations

Similar to the bartering system set up in Ancient Mesopotamia, you will find that people are willing to trade a lot. At my first festival ever, my cousin’s friend managed to trade a shot of Maker’s Mark whiskey for a 30 minute rinse in a neighbor’s homemade shower. Other trades I have made:

  • A hot dog for a two slices of white bread
  • A band-aid for some supplies from Wawa
  • I let someone wear my sunglasses for five minutes and they gave me a full phone charge from their portable battery

If you forget something, do not fret. People at festivals are generally extremely kind and  happy to give to those in need.

3. Everyone wakes up at 6 AM.

In my opinion, this is one of the weirdest and worst parts of festival camping. As soon as the sun comes up in the morning, people decide that it is time to crank up the music, fire up the grill for some breakfast hot dogs, and take 5-10 shots of flavored vodka. You can try to sleep through it, but no matter how valiant your effort is, the unbearable heat of the tent and the gossip filtering in from your neighbor’s conversations about their wild nights will force you to get up and get moving. Typically, the best acts do not start to come on until about 3-5 PM, so you need to find something to do in the early hours of the morning. I recommend using this time to charge phones at charging stations, hustle to the showers, read a book, or play a rowdy game of cards.

4. You will be surprised by how many songs you know (or don’t know)

Your brain has limitless powers of comprehension, often when you do not even know you are absorbing information. You will realize this when you are at one of the more obscure concerts your friend drags you to and the chords and rhythms start to sound familiar. Soon, your body will be moving to the beat and you will be singing songs you didn’t even know you knew the words to.

The reverse of this can happen, as well. Throw it back to 2015, when a much younger, more naive Kiley insisted she knew the words to every Killers song ever written. The Killers set started with “Mr. Brightside” and I nailed every word. Easy, next song, bring it on. Then, they played “Somebody Told Me,” in which I managed to confidently sing the lyrics “you had a girlfriend who looked my best friend,” before being informed that those were not the correct words. That’s alright, Ki, shake it off, redeem yourself at the next song. Before long, I was hiding my face in shame at my lack of Killers lyrical knowledge and giving the excuse that I was tired and it had been a long day, not that anyone believed me.

me me me

A photo I accidentally took after insisting I knew how to work a selfie stick and also all the lyrics to the song “How Low” by Ludacris

5. People will battle to the death for even a percentage of phone battery

There really are things you can’t appreciate until they are gone: a sunny day when it is the dead of winter, a clear breathing canal when your nose is stuffed, and an electrical outlet when you have no way to charge your phone. If you have seen the instagram account of someone who goes to a festival, you will see that it is really fun to take pictures and you will end up taking a lot.

Taking pictures and videos is a really easy way to drain phone battery, especially when those pictures are taken on snapchat. Mix snapchat, texting, instagram, and  your phone constantly in search of wifi and your battery will be dead before the second act of the day.

Luckily, there are several charging stations often scattered throughout the camping and festival ground, but they require you to bring your own charger. Which leads me to my first piece of advice: Bring your charger everywhere. You never know when there will be a quick break to sit down and charge your phone in between concerts or when you lose your friends.

Portable chargers are also a genius invention that will help in a crunch. The best course of action is to go to the charging station as soon as you wake up in the morning to get to full battery while simaltaneously filling up the juice on your portable charger, charge during breaks throughout the day, and use your portable charger battery overnight.

6. You will eat very tasty food that is extremely unhealthy

Food trucks have a mission. Their mission is to peddle food that will change your life and create delicious things that you could never think of putting together. A mac and cheesesteak? Revolutionary. Fried balls stuffed with pizza ingredients? A game-changer. The best fried chicken I have ever had in my entire life came from a little food truck called Silo at Okeechobee Music Festival and, after looking it up just now, I am thinking about heading to its base in Ovid, New York just so my taste-buds can experience that chicken once again.

Throughout life, I have learned that a lot of the best things have a catch. Food truck food is supremely unhealthy and will cost about double of what it probably costs to make. So, my advice here is to ration how often you eat from the food trucks or food stands  because they can make you feel fairly pudgy and guilty about spending so much money. My rule was once a day (but I often broke it).

7. You need to have landmarks to find things

At the camping grounds of a music festival, scenery starts to blur together. You can spend days lost in a maze of dingy cars and ramshackle tents without being able to find your home-base. An easy way to avoid this is to have a landmark or something distinguishing on or by your tent. At the end of the row there are numbers, which will tell you which row is yours at least, but those rows are typically about 50-60 cars long on both sides. A lot of people bring flags with funny phrases or pictures to mark their campsite, but if you do not feel like buying one of those then just mooch off of someone else’s like I did this year.


“Oh yeah, we are right next to the shrimp flag, you can’t miss it.”

It is much easier to get lost in the crowd of a concert, so people have created movable landmarks in the form of a totem pole. These totems have become a creative way to express yourself and make pop culture references, such as the Avo”kanye” totem seen below.


And I love you like avoKanye loves avoKanye.

8. Ice makes all the difference

At a music festival, money really adds up. Typically, I steer away from the $5 water bottles inside the festival and paying $16 to stand in an air-conditioned room. This year, when my friends asked if we should get ice for our cooler, I was wary and skeptical because the bags costed $5 each. They finally managed to convince me that we should get a couple bags and, let me tell you, that ice just about changed my life. I put it in everything: a cup of water, juice, directly down my shirt.

A simple bag of ice flipped the course for the entire day, shifting moods of everyone at the campsite from somber and hot to exhilarated and ready to party. Moral of the story: ice is something that you should splurge on.

9. Sleep with layers

Summer nights can notoriously get pretty chilly and nothing feels better than cuddling up in a cozy sweatshirt and sweatpants with a blanket up to your chin. However, nothing feels worse than waking up in a dead-sweat, hair plastered to your forehead, with blankets tangled around your body in an inescapable vice grip. Tents have this magical ability to trap heat, therefore transforming into a sweat lodge in the early hours of the morning.

The easiest way to avoid death by overheating is to layer up. Start your night with a sweatshirt and sweatpants over shorts and a tank top, then slowly strip throughout the night until you are comfortable.

10. Music brings people together

32 million people go to at least one music festival a year. Over 123,000 people attended Coachella, alone. I do not know of many peaceful things that can garner a crowd of this size together without any other motive than to listen to music. A music festival is the place to go to experience music without judgement or hate or entitlement, so you should give it a try at least once in your life.


For those of you who are music festival experts, am I missing any? Any funny stories that have happened to you? Let me know in the comments!