Favorite Thing Thursday

1. Booking a Trip to Boston

I have a friend who lives in Boston and it's a city I've been meaning to visit for a long time! Once I saw airfare drop to a magically low rate for the span of two short weeks, I was on it! It's about traveling smart, guys and gals, and finding a way to not break the bank for your passions! 

2. Devious Travel Websites


To go along with #1, I finally got to use the site Skiplagged. Yes, you may have heard they are being sued by United Airlines. I think they're absolutely brilliant (any way to stick it to the man!). This CBS article explains it well:

"It works like this: A traveler looking to fly from Newark to Miami might find it's actually cheaper to buy a ticket to Charleston with a stopover in Miami. At the time, the direct flight was $541 while the Skiplagged route was $325. Yahoo Travel Executive Editor Laura Begley Bloom said hidden-city ticketing has been around for years. 

'This has been a dirty little secret of the travel industry for a really long time,' Bloom said. 'Then along came Skiplagged, and your average traveler suddenly knew about it.'"

Of course, the one thing is you can't check luggage using this system. But with all the fees airlines put on checked luggage, that's quite alright with me!

3. Seven, a Fitness App

Chiara mentioned this app on her blog and I knew my lazy bones needed to have it in my life. Seven provides circuits that are 7 minutes in length. These circuits are supposed provide the optimum amount of exercise in the shortest amount of time. Also, the app sort of works like a video game where you can unlock new workouts, as well as lose lives if you skip a workout. And it works on me! I start the workout and put on my favorite jams (90s jams, of course) and I'm good to go!

4. Kaitlyn is the Bachelorette! 
Yes, I am a Bachelor/Bachelorette watcher. It's pure comedy gold, that show. Besides making fun of it, I also secretly really like it. Maybe because it seems to be one huge psychological experiment! Anyway, this season had that stupid voting twist that left everyone enraged...but the right girl was chosen (I'm pretty sure Kaitlyn was the Bachelorette all along, but they wanted to build some suspense for TV, ugh!). 


I Am a Passenger (I Ride Through the City's Backsides)

I was watching an Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown episode on Miami (Anthony is my hero, but I guess I should save that for another post), and who should pop up but Iggy Pop? Apparently Iggy now resides in Miami (whhhaaat??) and enjoys the slowness of a beach town. He talked about visiting the ocean, being at peace, and finding the "end of complications" there.

The end of complications. Wow, I thought, what a notion. And as beautiful and peaceful and amazing as that sounds, I don't want that yet.

Say what, Ashley? 

You heard right. I'm still in a zone where I want challenges. I want adventure. I want to jump as highly into the sky as possible. I want to dive into treacherous waters. When I stare at the ocean I don't see the end of complications. Sure, it relaxes me. It brings me peace. But that is because when I stare at that forceful entity, I see endless possibilities. I think to myself, if I sail that way, will I reach Japan? I'm in no mood to settle down anytime soon. It's not time to retire, it's time to live!

I'm finally 30, and with that comes a lot of talk about calming down, becoming "old," and settling. But why? Don't get me wrong, I'm not the same partier as my twenty-something self. I like relaxing more, I like taking the world in through less wilder eyes. But I think I'm onto this new phase of pushing myself. This weekend I tried two new challenging things just because: salsa dancing and Buti Yoga. My butt and thighs are now majorly sore, but my heart is content. I like diving into things that are slightly uncomfortable at first. I like letting myself make a few mistakes because I know I will learn from them. I like this new Ashley; I applaud her vulnerability.

Because this post is Iggy themed, of course I felt like referencing one of his best hits. "The Passenger" is most definitely about adventuring. I especially love the line, "I ride through the city's backsides," because to me it means finding your own path, which may not always be the path widely taken.

I get why Iggy wants to settle down now. He was a mover and shaker in his day, and now he wants a bit of rest. As for me, I'm not there yet. My ride has not stopped in any one location; I am a passenger on an awesome ride, and I hope I keep pushing myself across unknown borders and unchartered territory (and cities' backsides). One day I may yearn for the end of complications, but right now I have some more riding to do.


Favorite Thing Thursday

1. Artsy City Prints
I can't even tell you how BADLY I want to hang this on my wall. It is everything good and London and I think I need it < < says the girl who is sold on anything London related! This is from Rifle Paper Company...check em out

2. The Paradise
Oh Mr. Moray (and your dimples)! Oh Denise! I know this show was cancelled after 2 seasons, but I just love it! I don't know what my deal is lately, but I have really been into the period dramas: Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice...basically anything resembling a Jane Austen story line!

3. Artists that Channel Sam Cooke

The dude's name is Leon Bridges. Click play if you want a bit of soul power on a Thursday. 


Big Thoughts

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?" --A Return to Love

Simply wanted to share this quote as I also take it with me during a time that I must think big thoughts and believe in my own worth. I'm seeing some plans unfold in my direction and I'm excited about it. I hope you're thinking big thoughts too, wherever you are. 


Perfectly Acceptable Ashley

It's perfectly acceptable...
  • to still revert back to watching Rudy every time I feel like the underdog and I need a little inspiration. Rudy gets me pumped up every time (yes, I am a sucker for inspirational movies)! He just NEVER gives up! 

  • to have the reaction of "I don't think I can even handle that," to the news of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt being in the the same movie. Is that even legal? 

  • to do all the things this girl does in this video, "Things Girls Secretly Love to Do Alone." Bahaha! 


Review of Trustedhousesitters.com

Oscar, the Cairn Terrier I watched for three weeks.
Trusted Housesitters is essentially a travel website used between owners of pets and those that have experience watching pets. It's called the "win/win for pet lovers that travel."

Many of you know that I used this site recently for my long stay in London. I got a pet sitting job for 3 weeks! While the homeowners went on vacation, I stayed in their house for free under the condition that I watch their pet, Oscar, to their specifications. This included three walks a day and a special diet for the little pooch.

So what was my real experience with Trustedhousesitters?

I loved it. Looooooooved it. However, I will be completely fair and list the pros and cons of using a site like this (this post is not sponsored, in case you were wondering).


1. Free Accommodation: A FREE place to stay in London. That is pretty much unheard of.

2. Streamlined Website: The site is easy to use and has good tips on getting a pet/housesitting job. The site also has good support if you run into technical issues.

3. A Joining Fee: There is a fee for the site, which I think is necessary. It helps weed out the people that are not serious about this type of thing! I believe the fee is something along the lines of $80/year. Obviously, it's paid for itself by now!

4. The Best Benefits: I got to stay in a nice part of London with an adorable pooch.

5. Gracious Homeowners: The owners gave me tips on their favorite parts of Putney, including restaurants and pubs. They were also generous enough to buy me groceries, despite my pleading with them not to! Generally, the kind of people that are willing to open their home to you are going to be pretty open-minded, gracious, and amazing.

 A look into the neighborhood I was staying in! Putney is in zone 2 in London, which is extremely central and well connected to everything!


1. Animals are Time-Consuming: I've obviously been to London before, so walking the dog three times a day wasn't a huge deal to me. HOWEVER, if this were someone's first trip to London, scheduling three-a-day walks around sightseeing could get a little hectic. Trustedhousesitters, thus, would work better for second visits of cities. If you do use trustedhousesitters for a first time visit, I recommend a long stay (over a week). That way you can conquer the city/town little by little everyday, while still having energy and time for the dog.

2. You are on Vacation, But the Animal is Not: Obviously you already know this going into a petsitting job. But when it's 7am and the dog is jumping on your tired, lifeless body for his HOUR morning walk, and it's 30 degrees fahrenheit (0 degrees celsius) outside, and you had a couple drinks last night and can't be bothered to get out of bed--this is when you really remember that ANIMALS ARE FREAKIN' NEEDY. You must drag yourself out in the freezing cold and walk the damn dog, because this is what you signed up for! The compromise to this is of course opting for a cat sitting job, which would be a great deal easier.

3. It's Tough to Find Your First Job: You gotta do everything you can to get that first housesit. Background check, solid references, great profile complete with pictures of you holding a furry creature, a video--the whole nine yards. Even with all that, it's going to take a lot of energy and time scoring your first job, as well as a lot of let-downs. There were at least 2 or 3 people that told me they wanted to use me for the housesit, then changed their mind 3 days later. Frustrating! Let's also bring up that being a female has got to make it a lot easier to get a job than being male (the reality!)

4. You Must Be Comfortable with Buying Your Plane Ticket Last Minute: I bought my plane ticket a week before my departure. Even being the jetsetter I am, that was a little close for comfort! Of course, plenty of homeowners plan way ahead of time; however, I noticed a ton of jobs would pop up last minute, making your chances better of getting a job closer to the date they are needing you.

5. You Must Plan Your Trip Around Theirs: Forget whatever dates you had in mind, you must cater to the homeowner, period. For a site like this, flexibility is key.

So there you have it...a THOROUGH review of Trustedhousesitters.com. Even with all the cons I listed, I still enthusiastically recommend this site for both homeowners and sitters. And with a dog like Oscar by my side, it was all worth it.


Gettin' Down with Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon

A trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon mostly means that some Shakespeare sightseeing is about to go down.  Above is a picture of the bloke's childhood home. The ultra cool thing about Stratford is that they have managed to preserve this home (and many others) for centuries!! I mean, this thing has been standing since the 16th century.

On the right is a look into the method that was once used to build these homes, called wattle and daub. It's basically a stick and mud method. Ha! 
 Upon entering Stratford, you do have the choice to buy a pass in order to see into all the historical sites. I decided to forgo that option and wander around with my friends instead. Stratford-Upon-Avon is small, but there are a lot of treasures to find around each corner...

 Now this...THIS was the site that fascinated me the most (above photo). It was Shakespeare's home in his later life, after all the fame and success. I don't know what intrigued me so much about this house, but I couldn't stop picturing Willy himself sitting in this garden, drinking tea, looking out at the scenery. It gave me goosebumps! I guess I especially felt his spirit here?

 Overall, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a lovely place to leisurely stroll with your mates and soak up a little history. I recommend a visit! And with a river view like this, you can't really argue with that. 


Traveling Solo (and Meeting New Friends in Unconventional Ways)

Prague marked the second time I have traveled truly solo. The first was in Italy (Sorrento, Positano, and Capri).

I love traveling solo. In fact, I'm glad Kristen touched on this recently. There is something exhilarating about traveling by yourself and HAVING to push outside of your comfort zone to meet new people and create interesting experiences.

The picture above shows you two of those people I met while in Prague. One of the best ways to meet other travelers is to join a free walking tour. Usually these tours just expect a tip at the end, but it's not required. Funny enough, the tour group I was on was a tad stoic, save a couple of guys I noticed that were joking and having a good time. I chatted intermittently with them, and by the end of the tour I asked, "Hey, do you guys want to grab some lunch with me?"

They said yes, and not only did we get some lunch, we went beer tasting. I learned that they lived in South Africa, but were both originally from Zambia and Zimbabwe. I also listened as they explained that they were annoyed the black culture in the U.S. identifies themselves as "African American." Interesting perspective from two guys in Africa! I explained that everyone in the States comes from another country, and we identify with that heritage. We talked about the avid stereotypes Americans hear/say/believe about Africa, i.e., "Eat your food, Bob, some child in Africa is starving right now!" We all laughed at that overused saying. Especially because both of these blokes were doing just as well as me financially (if not better). Talk about busting stereotypes! As we were walking around Prague, I joked that they were my bodyguards. A lot of laughter was had.

And this. This is why I love solo travel! To have these conversations with people I would never normally meet. To become enlightened in another way of thinking. These are the travel moments I live for. 


A Three-Sentence Movie Review

1. The Imitation Game

Well done and interesting that all this happened in real life. More proof that many of the 'greats' are not appreciated until after death. Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in a period piece and all is right with the world.

2. Beginners

I liked this one a lot. The movie taps into the need for all humans to connect to each other, including the effects of repressing feelings/emotions/sexuality. It's a good love story, for both father and son.

3. Life Partners

Accurate, telling, and honest depiction of what it's like to transition from your late-twenties into your thirties, as well as the notion that not everyone matures at the same speed (crucial theme when it comes to best friends maturing at different speeds). Organic dialogue that reminded me of the way I (and my friends) talk. Out of the movies listed here, this was surprisingly my favorite!

4. Fruitvale Station

So very powerful. You will feel angry, upset, confused, and distraught after this film--all signs that they did a good job affecting the audience. If you don't know the premise, look it up; this is obviously a poignant topic for the time.

Photos Credits: 1/2/3/4


Central London Snapshots

I'm a majorly prideful Ex-London Expat. Which basically means that it's super hard for me to bring out my camera in Central London and look like a tourist. How about you learn some humility, Ashley?? Yes, I just talked to myself in the third person. That's neither here nor there.

The good news is that I did humble myself enough for one crazy half-rainy, half-sunny day on my last week in London Town. I'm glad I did, because now I have some pretty pics of my fave sites. Enjoy the beauty of one of the most beautiful cities--that's a lot of beauty going on!

Travel tip: People always spend tons of money on overpriced double decker site-seeing buses. If you feel like you'd like to skip the sometimes annoying tour guide, just hop on any usual London bus which will cost you less than 2 pounds. All the buses you see in this photo (the 9, 3, 13) are just a few  of the MANY that drive through Central London. Otherwise, I think Westminster Station is one of the best to get off of to start your walk by Parliament.
Travel Fact: Big Ben is actually the name of just the bell (and people sometimes tell me it's the name of the clock as well). This tower is actually named Elizabeth Tower. Of course, I often just call it Ben because I'm lazy.
 Not many cities offer better views than my dear London. 
And so the sun has set on my London posts (until I go again, that is). London and I will always have our special relationship. But for now, I'm content will all the opportunities before me Stateside. It's been awhile since I've said such a thing! (Gasp!)
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