Saturday, August 29, 2015

19 Essential Tips for Celebrating Oktoberfest!

There is no doubt about it, Oktoberfest is the happiest place on Earth for any beer-drinking, fun-loving, individual- or, better yet, group of individuals. I've spoken before about the history of Oktoberfest, but for those unfamiliar with it, Oktoberfest is a traditional German festival to celebrate the coming of the month of October. For many tourists (such as myself, over the last two years), Oktoberfest is a time to get together, meet people from all over the world, and drink terrific beer, all while dressed up in a fabulous outfit. However, Oktoberfest attracts over 6 million visitors each year from countries throughout the world, and there are definitely some tips and tricks to ensure that you have the best time ever at this amazing festival. Without further ado, here are the 19 best tips you need to know for Oktoberfest!

having a blast with my family - inside the tents - at Oktoberfest!

Purchase a traditional dirndl or lederhosen in advance. This will be your best way to (almost!) guarantee having a terrific time, fitting in, getting into tents, and really getting yourself in the mood. While you are purchasing your attire, make sure to get something that is more authentic-looking and not the first item you see on the internet. The Halloween costume you see? Perhaps not the best dirndl. Take some time to research Oktoberfest pictures and fit in- otherwise, you will stick out like a sore thumb! In addition to fitting in and getting in the mood, wearing traditional gear will help you to gain access to the beer tents, which really are the place to be!

Book your accommodations early. Oktoberfest attracts so many visitors that to the city of Munich, it is known as the "fifth season". As such, it is incredibly important to book your accommodations early so that you can stay within your price range in your ideal location. Better to book early and have your choice of accommodations than be extremely limited!

The grounds are very accessible. The Oktoberfest grounds are located in Theresienwiese, which is fairly close to the center of the city. You can access the grounds by foot, taxi, train, or bus. The easiest transportation (and cheapest!) I have found is definitely taking the subway. Truthfully, you really don't even need to know 'exactly' where you are going- any subway car will be FULL of people heading to the Oktoberfest grounds decked out in their apparel- just find the crowd and follow them!

Bring plenty of cash. Most-if not all- of the tents will only accept cash, and even at that the exact change is preferred. On top of wanting to have cash to purchase food and drinks, you will also want cash for the various attractions at Oktoberfest grounds, transportation, and tips. My first Oktoberfest experience, I was with three guys and we were able to gain access to a tent within 10 minutes, with no reservations, our first night. After speaking with her for a few moments and learning she would be working all weekend, we tipped her- and promptly gained access each of the next nights. It has been said before in this world that cash is king, and there is certainly a reason for it!

Don't bring a purse. Let's be honest, Oktoberfest has become a holiday revolving around beer. You will drink plenty of it, while you are either sitting (or standing on top of!) long tables. Your purse will end up on a beer-covered table or the floor...and will get beer spilled on it. Definitely bring with your cash and any necessities that you think you may need- but these past two years, I was able to highly enjoy Oktoberfest bringing only my ID, hotel key, and cash with!

Arrive early. The grounds of Oktoberfest open up usually around 10 AM and stay open until 10 or 10:30 at night. Weekdays are a little more calm, but the weekends certainly get crazy- so plan on arriving early to ensure that you can maximize your Oktoberfest experience! Arriving to the grounds early will allow you time to walk around and experience the outdoor atmosphere of Oktoberfest, including all of the food carts, games, and various attractions.

It gets more than a little crazy- and busy- inside the tents!
Get reservations, whenever possible. I mentioned above that Oktoberfest attracts over 6 million visitors a year. With only 14 large tents, your chances of getting in to a tent increase exponentially if you are able to get reservations. If you have a large group- or are mainly men- having reservations will make your lives much easier and you will be able to fully experience the Oktoberfest experience.

If you can't get reservations, arrive early. To second the arriving early- if you don't have reservations, arrive to the tents early. The real celebrations at Oktoberfest will be inside the tents, and you absolutely do not want to miss out on this experience. The earlier you can get to the tents the best chance you will have at not only getting to be at the tents, but also to make it inside where the bands, singing, and dancing occur.

Know the costs to get inside (if any!) If you don't have reservations, there will most certainly be people outside trying to "scalp" their reservations- and likely, charge a fortune for them. Don't fall for this trap- reservations are typically based off the number of people, and cost approximately two liters of beer and a half chicken per person. In dollar amounts, this will be anywhere from $30-50 per person, with a minimum of 10 people. Outside of the tents, people will attempt to sell these same spots for anywhere from $100-500+ per person.

No matter what, if you have female friends, bring them (or six of them!) Men tend to want to go where women are. As such, female attendees of Oktoberfest are usually the first ones picked out to gain entrance into the tents. My first year at Oktoberfest, I was attending with three guys and we made sure that I was standing in front of them and appeared to be alone. Each time, I was picked out of the crowd in less than five minutes, and simply grabbed the guys hands in order to gain them access. Women are your friends at Oktoberfest!

The tents are the place to be. I've said it before, and I will continue saying it. The grounds at Oktoberfest are huge, expansive, and very entertaining. However, it is not an Oktoberfest experience unless you make it inside the tents. Inside the tents, you will be able to partake in singing, dancing, standing on tables, and so much more. When visiting Oktoberfest, you absolutely must make it inside a tent!

You have to be seated - or minimally, at a table - to order a beer. Oktoberfest tents are a very busy  and crowded place. The workers - many of whom carry no less than 10 liters of beer at a time to distribute - will not serve you unless you are 'seated' at a table. Again, at Oktoberfest you will likely be standing and dancing on top of your table, so you simply need a spot at the table in order to order a beer.

Bring more cash than you think you need. I mentioned above to bring cash, but this is so important I will touch on it twice. Most of the vendors at Oktoberfest only accept cash. As such, bring plenty to pay for food and drinks, but also to pay for tips and other random purchases. For instance- never in a million years did I think that at Oktoberfest I would want to try snuff (tobacco). However, I did- and of course, it costs money. Bring more money than you anticipate is necessary- even if you don't spend it, you will be happy you have it!

Pace yourself. Oktoberfest can be a long day, and beer is only served in a liter. On top of that, it is strong beer- it is not the 3.5% alcohol beer that us Americans are used to drinking. Make sure you are drinking water when possible, and watch your intake. The last thing you want to do is be one of the Oktoberfest idiots that pass out outside, in public, at 2 pm, and get ticketed. Take care of yourself!

Yep, this weighs around 5 pounds!
The average maß (one liter of beer) in the traditional mug weighs 5 pounds. Five whole pounds! Be prepared for the weight of your beer, and to get your arm workout in drinking out of it all day.

The decorated kegs from Hacker-Pschorr!
Use the buddy system. Tons of drinking, people, and entertainment makes it difficult to keep track of your friends and loved ones that you attend Oktoberfest with. Add to that the occasional poor cell service because of the mass amounts of people, and it would be a wise decision to utilize a buddy system to make sure that the group of people you attend Oktoberfest is always well taken care of.

The party ends (surprisingly) early! Oktoberfest grounds usually close at 10 or 10:30 PM, so it is not the all-night party that you might be expecting. If you are a night-time person, I would research things to do in advance so that you can make plans or have a general idea of where you will be heading after the grounds close. Make sure to get some sleep though, so that you can wake up and return to further enjoy Oktoberfest!

In the spirit of Oktoberfest, despite delayed planes and skipped meals!
Be in the spirit! Even though Oktoberfest is the happiest place in the world, things can go wrong. Learn to roll with the punches and enjoy your experience to the fullest extent. Last year, both my family's flights and mine were delayed/cancelled- so with no phone service, we had an interesting experience finding each other. Nobody ended up eating dinner prior to heading to the grounds, so we literally had a German pretzel for dinner, along with a couple of beers. It would have been easy to let travel problems ruin our night, but by rolling with the punches we had a night none of us will ever forget!

Bring your hangover cure. You are about to have a crazy, busy, exciting trip filled with plenty of beer drinking. Whatever you need to cure your hangover, make sure to bring it! Personally, for me that means something in my stomach ASAP in the morning, ibuprofen, and gatorade. If all else fails, hair of the dog (another beer!) usually works- and in Munich, will only put you in the mood for another full day!

For those of you who have attended Oktoberfest, what are your best tips to enjoy the celebrations?! If you enjoyed this post, please pin it as well!

Your guide to celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cliff Jumping Into Lake Superior

This last weekend, I decided to take the plunge and jump (not quite headfirst!) into Lake Superior. For those of you not familiar with Lake Superior, it is the largest of the Great Lakes and serves as a water border between the United States and Canada. Lake Superior is also considered to be the largest freshwater lake in the world. Being located as far North as it is, and as large as it is, Lake Superior is cold. There is no other way to say it. As a Minnesotan living only a few hours from Lake Superior, this is the first time in my memory that I have jumped into the lake... so naturally, we had to do it in style!

The best way to leap into Lake Superior!
And by doing it in style, I mean jumping off the cliffs of Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island!

Hitting the water!
Backflips off the lower cliff! Not me- and not something I'm quite willing to attempt!
Big Bay State Park is located on Madeline Island, one of the 22 Apostle Islands of Northern Wisconsin. Cliff jumping is one of the popular activities for tourists and locals while visiting Madeline Island. For a beginning like myself - heights are not my favorite thing in the world - cliff jumping into Lake Superior from Madeline Island was perfect! The cliff was only about 30 feet (10 meters), so it was just high enough to get your adrenaline going and not be too scary (or dangerous!)

Immediately after jumping, I felt such a large rush of adrenaline that I know this will be an activity I enjoy more in the future while traveling. While I certainly don't anticipate doing anything too crazy, such as the 200-foot/60-meter cliff just jumped by a Swiss man in Switzerland- I can see myself partaking in future jumps. Have you ever done something like cliff jumping, and is it something you would do again?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Be A Part of The Wine Making Process!

**I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Columbia Crest. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation." 

Hi friends! I'm sure it has been very obvious around here the last several months, but I absolutely love wine. I love having a glass of wine at night, whether it is with myself and my husband, or a whole group of friends. No matter the occasion, I'm always excited to enjoy a delicious glass! One of the coolest experiences I've had of my life thus far was going to Napa Valley, and visiting iconic vineyards and getting to learn all about wine, how it is made, and interview winemakers and producers themselves. Just one of the small bits of information I learned while on this trip was how extreme weather conditions, such as the drought in California, can actually be good for a wine because it makes the grape vines work harder. Who would have ever thought this?! On top of this, while I was in Napa I got to try wine straight from the barrel, and picture how it was going to grow and develop. I really felt like I was a part of the wine-making process, and it made me that much more of a fan of each of the vineyards I visited.

These little bits of information that I gained while visiting Napa were absolutely priceless, and made me appreciate wine that much more. I already can't wait for my next trip back to continue learning more about wine. However, let's be honest: traveling to vineyards every day is not a realistic goal at this point in my life, and I think a lot of people can agree with that. Having a part of the wine-making process was such a great feeling, and I'd love to be a part of that every day. Fortunately, I am super excited to introduce you to this awesome new program by Columbia Crest called their Crowd-Sourced Cabernet.

Crowd-sourced cabernet, you ask? Personally, I had heard of crowd-sourced funding and things like that before being approached with this program. I'd never heard of a crowd-sourced wine...and the more I learned, the better it sounded. Crowd-sourced funding is essentially getting funding online from a group of people for a certain project/idea/business. In my experience, it is smaller businesses- nonetheless, I digress. I was super excited to hear about this crowd-sourced wine, especially since it was from Columbia Crest, one of the terrific wineries from the U.S. nestled right along the Columbia River in Washington.

Anyways, with this crowdsourcing thing... thus far, any wine lover (or drinker!) familiar with Columbia Crest has been able to participate in the making of this wine, from the production, treatment, and harvesting of the grapes. Participants were able to knowledgeably vote each week as they had access to important items regarding the production of the wine, including weather patterns, seasonal data, and actual pictures of the grapes, along with advice from Columbia Crest's head winemaker, Juan Muńoz-Oca. For this crowd-sourced cabernet, Columbia Crest set aside an entire acre of reserve grapes from the estate vineyard, which is exactly what produced the 2005 Reserve Cabernet that was voted number one wine in the world from Wine Spectator in 2009. Sound like something you are interested in? Now let me tell you about the next best part about this program...

Right now, the 2014 vintage is aging in barrels, and voting has begun for the Executive Crowdsourcing Officer (ECO)- and you can vote right here from August 10 until August 24! The ECO will be an ambassador for the crowdsourcing community, and even get to travel to the winery in Paterson, WA to work with the head winemaker to create the 2015 vintage. The winner of the voting will be named the ECO and receive an all-expenses paid trip to the winery in September, a $2,500 prize, and more incentives. Everything about their trip will be filmed in order for the crowdsourcing community to follow along and view the rare, behind-the-scenes look at how wine is made.

On my recent trip to Napa Valley, visiting various vineyards and getting a behind-the-scenes feel made me appreciate and love wine even more. If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend checking out this program and voting for the best winemaker. In a short period of time, you will be able to buy this wine and tell your friends the story of how you helped to create it- what an experience that many people would love to be a part of. I know I voted, and will continue to do so! How awesome is it that now Columbia Crest is allowing you to be a part of their wine-making process, right from the comfort of your own home?!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The 10 Worst Things About Living Abroad

Living abroad is amazing, and yet at the same time it absolutely SUCKS. There are positives, and there are negatives. Last week, I discussed what I feel are the five best reasons to live abroad. From conversations with others, I realized that many people are in the same boat- where living abroad is so great, it is difficult to explain. At the same time, living abroad can suck- and there is no better word for it. I want to be completely honest here, so in the spirit of full disclosure, here are the ten worst parts about living in another country! Please, please keep in mind as you read this though- in my opinion, the positives outweigh the negatives and this is an experience everyone should have. It will be one of the hardest, most challenging, and yet most rewarding and best things to do in your life.

1. The time difference. Living in Sweden, I was 7-8 hours ahead of my friends and family back home. This meant that often, I went to bed several hours before anybody finished their work day. As such, it made communicating and having in-depth conversations very difficult. The time difference certainly made it difficult to connect with anybody back home.

So grateful my family was able to come visit each year!
2. The physical difference. Living in Sweden, I was over 4,000 miles from my family and friends back home. Going home meant at least a 14-hour trip (and even that is on the short side, with 45 minute layovers, no delays, and no checked luggage). Virtual hugs are great, but sometimes physically seeing somebody and holding them just can't be beat.

3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and constant FOMO. I hated this term until I moved abroad. Living in Sweden, I'll admit that I was worried about the things I was missing back home. Especially with social media, when everyone makes their lives seem so grand, at times I wondered if I was missing out by not living in the U.S. When I did visit the U.S., I worried that I was missing events and happenings in Sweden. Essentially, the more places you leave your heart- the more you will feel you are potentially missing out on things.

having a blast with my friends in LA this July- something I never would have done if we were moving back to Europe in August!
4. Actually missing out. Yes, living abroad you will actually miss out on things. I missed engagements, weddings, birthday, job celebrations, and even everyday events that I do cherish. I missed family get-togethers and holidays. These once-in-a-lifetime events occurred for people I know and love, and I wasn't able to be there. So yes, I did miss out.

5. Loneliness. Yes, living abroad can be lonely- very lonely. There were times when I did feel like I was alone, and had nobody to talk to. While this may have been untrue, moving abroad can be quite lonely.

6. Having your favorite TV shows be ruined. This translates back to the time difference- for example, let's look at the Bachelor. It airs at 8 PM Eastern time, or 3 AM in Sweden. Rather than stay up late, I would attempt to watch it the next day (or the following day, or whenever it was made available online)...unfortunately, many TV shows were ruined by people taking to all forms of social media to discuss the shows as they were happening. Did I unfriend and unfollow people because of this? Absolutely!

7. The communication barrier- both in regards to the people around you, and the people back home. As previously mentioned, it is difficult to talk to people back home because of the time difference. Relationships do fall to the side, or even fall apart, with people back home. With people around you, it can be difficult to communicate because of different languages. I know whenever I went out in public, if I heard a single word of English my ears automatically perked up and I was so excited to understand. The same thing goes with friends and acquaintances I did meet- let's be honest, when you are in a group setting where English is not the group's first language, people will revert to their first language. For me, this meant sitting, smiling, and pretending to be included when I felt nothing but.

Some of the terrific friends I did make while abroad!
8. Making new friends. I know this might sound weird but I'm a fairly introverted person. Making new friends is not always the easiest thing. On top of that, I'm honest to a fault and generally always say exactly what I think. Combine these two together, and making new friends is not the easiest thing- even as I form a relationship, chances are I might say something (on accident!) that offends the other person and not realize it. This is where I believe honesty is the best policy- if somebody says or does something that offends you, tell them. They might not ever know otherwise.

9. You change. You might be asking why this is one of the worst things about living abroad, and I suppose in a way its not. But at the same time, it is. Because you change, your thoughts change, how you view the world changes, and most definitely your relationships change. If and when you do return home, you are a different person than when you left, and this can be difficult for others to understand. It can be difficult for you to understand, or to put into words. Change is great, my friends, but change is hard.

End of the season banquet with great friends!
10. Repatriation is hard. In the last several months, I've experienced all the ups and downs of moving back home, only to move a few hours away- closer, but yet so far. I've experienced what it feels like to miss your life abroad while still enjoying current life. I've experienced jealousy over friends that are moving abroad right now. And I've experienced a difficult adjustment to this new life. Living in Sweden, I felt a part of something, and a part of a team- not only with my hockey team, but also with the wives of my husband's team. Now, it is different. Very different. And it is all a part of the repatriation process- albeit, the most difficult one.

So, there you have it with my opinion on the worst things about living abroad! Of course, I do believe that the positive factors greatly outweigh the negative things- it really isn't a contest! However, living abroad is not all sunshine and rainbows, and there are definitely days that are difficult. Fellow expats, what do you think the worst part has been?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sipping Champagne at Chandon: A Review

Domaine Chandon review
The entrance to Domaine Chandon!
Oh, Champagne - or really, any sparkling wine - one of life's greatest pleasures. Especially when you are talking high quality, delicious bubbly. While visiting Napa Valley, I couldn't imagine starting off my Saturday morning in a better way than with a vineyard tour and visit of Domaine Chandon! In case you were wondering, yes, that is Chandon of Moët & Chandon. And gosh, is it ever a delicious, fun, and social experience to visit Domaine Chandon!

Domaine Chandon was established in Napa Valley in 1973 as the first French-owned sparkling winery in the U.S. As mentioned above, Domaine Chandon is owned by Moët & Chandon, best known for Moët and Dom Pérignon. Quick lesson in champagne: champagne can only be called champagne if it is produced in Champagne, France- otherwise, it is labeled as a sparkling wine. Read this post for more information on champagne! But anyways, I digress...

Napa Valley vineyards to visit

Chandon is located very central to Napa Valley, right outside of Yountville. Upon pulling up to the vineyard, you might almost miss it as the vineyard and winery has really focused on creating a beautiful, rolling estate that unfolds the more you explore. As you drive up, you will park in the designated lot and slowly anticipation builds as the grounds unfold. The closer to the tasting room you get, the more you are exposed to the beautiful grounds! The tasting room in itself is quite unique, and was designed to resemble seven barrels of wine cascading down the mountains. Truly, the more you explore Chandon, the more that the property opens up and invites you to stay and sip on a glass of bubbly!

Chandon fermentation room
Exploring Domaine Chandon was such a wonderful experience. Our tour guide really helped to give you a terrific amount of knowledge not only in regards to the vineyard and property, but also to wine making in general and how to make champagne - or sparkling - wine. Personally, I would recommend Domaine Chandon as a first stop to anybody visiting Napa Valley because of the wealth of knowledge you will gain, as it can only assist you at future tastings and tours!

Check out all of those barrels- yum!
Different Chandon wines, and a picture of the bottle turning machines - AKA VLM
The tour started off walking around the property, and then we were led into the production rooms and fermentation rooms. Touring the production and fermentation rooms was quite cool. We got to see how the bottles are turned throughout the process- in the old days, winemakers would actually have to manually turn every bottle, every single day! Now, they have these cool machines that automatically rotate and turn the bottles. Making sparkling wine is a time and labor intensive process- that is well worth it! After a tour of these areas and gaining more knowledge about how champagne and sparkling wines are produced, it was on to the tasting room!

The tasting room at Chandon really impressed me. Our group of eight was led into a private area that had been all set up with a portfolio tasting guide, water, pens, and nine separate glasses to try the nine different wines. Typically, the tasting will begin with Chandon's brut classic, and work through the wines one at a time concluding with the Carneros pinot noir. Nick and I shared one tasting, leaving one set of glasses until the end- so we could not only get fantastic pictures, but also revisit our favorites!

excited to try some wines!
While tasting, we got to try nine different Chandon wines. The six sparkling wines included brut classic, blanc de noirs, rosé, extra dry riche, étoile brut, and étoile rosé. Three still wines from the Carneros vineyard included chardonnay, pinot meunier, and pinot noir. Each of the different wines presented so many different flavors and tastes, it was difficult to determine our favorites! One of the coolest aspects of the tasting at Chandon and visiting the vineyards was that we got to try - and possibly purchase- Chandon wines that you can't get anywhere except for at the vineyards.

All nine wines, ready to be sipped upon!
Finally time to try some delicious wine!
After our tasting, we decided to hang out and enjoy the beautiful grounds and company for awhile. The atmosphere at Chandon really encourages you to hang out, be social, and meet new friends. There are certainly more private areas, but I truly felt that this would be a terrific tasting room to visit with a group of friends to stay and relax for the afternoon - or even all day!

Chandon was a terrific vineyard to visit. It was interesting to learn more about wine, champagne, and Chandon as a company and brand. Moët & Chandon really has a strong brand recognition, and that has lent itself to Chandon as a brand. Chandon has many different vineyards and brands, everywhere from Napa Valley to Australia to China. Each different brand will actually only sell wine within that country, so that the various brands are not competing with each other worldwide. For example, 97% of wine produced at Domaine Chandon is sold within the U.S., with the rest going to Canada. All of the Australian Chandon is sold in Australia, all of the Chinese Chandon in China, and so on. It was quite interesting to learn that the different brands don't compete with each other- and on a global scale, it certainly makes sense!

Overall, both the general and specific knowledge we gained while at Chandon was on a scale of it's own. Combine the knowledge with the delicious - and ample - tasting, and this is a winery for everyone! I know that on my next trip to Napa Valley, I'll be scheduling an afternoon to visit Chandon and socialize. While you certainly can stop in for a quick tasting and be on your way, I would recommend enjoying the beautiful property, relaxing, and socializing for awhile! What have been some of the best wineries you have visited, and how did they increase your wine knowledge? When will you be scheduling your trip to Chandon?

**Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour and tasting to facilitate this review. As always, this did not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own and 100% honest!**

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The 5 Best Reasons to Live Abroad

It's been a few months now since Nick and I returned to the U.S. after our second year in Sweden, and a few months since we made the decision to accept jobs within the U.S. and start our life here. If I'm honest, I miss living abroad almost every single day- there are so many great reasons to do it, and ways that living abroad just can't be beat. Sure, there are the downfalls- and I'll discuss those another day- but today, I want to take a brief look at the five best reasons to live abroad and become an expat! Without further ado, here we are...

Paris, just one of the many destinations I was able to visit while living abroad!
1. Travel Opportunities. Without a doubt, one of the best parts about living abroad is the travel opportunities. Each day is a new adventure, and you are able to see so many great places and explore so much more. While I was living in Sweden, I was able to visit several new countries, and even traveling throughout Sweden was an adventure in itself. If for no other reason, living abroad is awesome because of the endless travel opportunities you are exposed to!

Checking out Oktoberfest in Germany- a tradition that has been around hundreds of years!
2. Cultural experiences. This goes hand-in-hand with the travel opportunities, but living abroad you will gain a whole new set of cultural experiences. Not only will you be immersed in a new culture and learn the ins and outs of that culture, but through traveling you will also gain new perspectives.

3. Learning new languages. Chances are, if you move to a new country you'll have the opportunity to learn a new language. Even if you move to a country that speaks the same language, you'll learn slight differences. At the same time, you'll also likely meet people from different parts of the world and be able to learn a little bit of their language. It is amazing how beneficial language skills can be to a person!

Making friends while in the Dominican Republic!
4. Meeting people from all over the world. As an expat, you'll meet people from all over the world. My first week living in Sweden, I met people from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland- and that was just in the first week! Each time you meet a new person, you have the opportunity to learn from them and their life experiences. Through meeting people from all over the world, I've made countless new friends, and even traveled throughout the world to visit some of these people. What a great opportunity!

5. Personal growth. Really, living abroad is all about personal growth. I learned countless life lessons while living in Sweden, and really grew as a person. Living abroad, you learn more about yourself, your relationships, and what really matters in life. If I had to, I could now pack up all of my important 'things' into a suitcase and go. After all, its not the things in life that matter most- it is your experiences, knowledge, and relationships. Each of the above reasons for living abroad- travel opportunities, cultural experiences, learning languages, and meeting people from all over the world- contribute to your personal growth.

I really can't stress enough all of the great reasons to live abroad and how it changes you as a person. In the spirit of full disclosure, living abroad does suck at times. Don't worry- one day, there will be a post about that as well! However, overall, living abroad will be one of the best decisions that you can make- so if you are on the fence, just do it! For other expats or people who have lived abroad, what are the best parts about living abroad?

Friday, August 7, 2015

How to Find (& drink!) Great Beer While Traveling

Happy International Beer Day! For those of you who aren't familiar with this holiday, it occurs the first Friday of August each year. Founded in California by a couple of guys in 2007, this is now one of my personal favorite holidays- and I'm totally for the vote that it should be a paid day off work! Unfortunately, I don't think my company quite agrees with that sentiment- so today I'm going to give a quick overview of how to find great beer while traveling!

1. Research, research, research. If finding great beer while traveling is important to you, do a little research beforehand! All around the U.S., craft breweries are really popping up. I know Minnesota has a huge presence of them, especially in and around Minneapolis. Even in Des Moines there are a few. Simply Google "city name brewery" and you will likely find a few hits directing you to the best beer in the area. Otherwise, head to places well known for their beer- such as Oktoberfest in Munich! 

2. Belly up! If for some reason, your research has failed you- belly up to the closest bar. Chances are, the bartender will know the local beers they are serving, or even have recommendations for a close brewery. Bartenders are definitely your friends and can share a wealth of knowledge with you. 

3. Ask a local. If bellying up to the bar fails, asking a local is your next best bet. People who live in the area will best be able to help you, and may even let you in on a few lesser-known secrets for finding great beer wherever you travel. Plus, you may just hear a couple of great stories or make a new friend!

4. Stay close. Once you have found a great place, make sure your travel accommodations are close to the great breweries and pubs you have found. Doing this will allow you to safely enjoy more great beer, and not have to worry about driving home or paying for transportation.

Growler from a great Minneapolis pub- Insight Brewing!
5. Take it home! Found a beer that you love? Grab a growler or 6-pack and take it back to the hotel with you! Who doesn't love to have a little nightcap before bed? 

6. Find pubs that offer beer flights. Usually, these will be smaller pours- anywhere from 4-8 ounces- but you will be served several different beers. This is a great way to try a variety of beers and find a new favorite!

Fellow beer lovers, how do you find great beer while traveling? How are you celebrating international beer day? 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review of Silver Oak Vineyards: An Iconic Experience!

Silver Oak Review
Napa Valley Silver Oak
For wine lovers, especially cabernet sauvignon lovers, Silver Oak is an iconic name. On my recent trip to Napa Valley, I had the pleasure of being hosted at Silver Oak vineyards, and it not only lived up to my expectations but completely exceeded them! For those of you unfamiliar with Silver Oak, Silver Oak has two estates- one in Napa Valley and one in Alexander Valley. Each estate focusing on producing an exquisite cabernet sauvignon. Unlike many other wineries, Silver Oak only produces cabernet sauvignon, and has chosen to focus on this exclusive varietal in order to produce the best of the best. In this way, Silver Oak set their sights on becoming an expert at this varietal, rather than dabbling in many varietals and being O.K. However, I'll get back to more information on Silver Oak shortly...first, I want to take a quick look at why I knew Silver Oak was a must-stop on my trip to Napa!

Napa Valley Silver Oak holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first bottle of wine that Nick and I ever drank together. On our very first date in Minneapolis, I selected this bottle of wine because I knew that I loved it, and everybody who drinks it seems to agree with that. As such, I ordered this for Nick and I to enjoy. Fast forward a few years later to when we were taking our vacation in Napa Valley, and I knew we had to visit the producers of the first bottle of wine we drank together! So, Silver Oak became the first vineyard that we would visit on our Napa Trip, and it started off quite terrifically!

Silver Oak Napa Valley Review
entrance to Silver Oak Napa Valley!
Knowing the drive from Sacramento to Napa would take around 1.5 hours, I allotted a little extra time to make sure I was early. Because of this, Nick and I arrived to Silver Oak around 30 minutes before our scheduled tour and tasting, and decided to take some pictures at the entrance of Silver Oak. While doing so, one car drove past us on the driveway- and two minutes later, that same car returned. Little did we know, the driver of that car, Scott, was one of the Silver Oak staff, and had driven all the way up the driveway before turning around to come back and offer to take a picture for us. Talk about an awesome entrance and customer service, right from the get-go!

Silver Oak Vineyard Tour Review
the iconic lighthouse at Silver Oak
I decided to start the day out by snapping some shots of the vineyard and winery. Silver Oak is well known for their iconic bottle featuring a lighthouse. At both the Napa Valley winery and the Alexander Valley winery, you will see the lighthouse- as well as at various vineyards throughout Napa that produce for Silver Oak!

Silver Oak Napa Valley Property
Once entering the winery, we were immediately greeted by the Silver Oak staff and poured a tasting of the wine. After this, we had a few moments to check out the tasting room before heading on a tour of the vineyard. While wandering the inner workings of Silver Oak, I was impressed by the vastness of the production, and how immaculate the winery was kept. Even when checking out the fermentation tanks, never once did you see an out of place object, stray hose, or item of garbage. All of this further impresses upon one the high quality products that Silver Oak produces.

it was so impressive to view the vastness, cleanliness, and expanse of the fermentation room!

One of the most interesting bits of information we learned at Silver Oak is regarding the drought in California. Many people are aware of the drought and the huge problems it is causing for the state. As such, I naturally assumed that it had negatively affected the vineyards. Much to my surprise, I learned that the drought has actually thus far been great for the vineyards, as it makes the grape vines work harder. The vines are now struggling, and having to push their roots deeper and deeper into the soil. This causes them to reach new nutrients and prosper in ways that they have not been forced to do up until this point. Of course, while the drought has been good for the vineyards thus far, the wineries, including Silver Oak, are doing their part to utilize sustainable practices to minimize or eliminate their effect on the drought.

Silver Oak can certainly be classified as a winery that is inclusive, yet aspirational. Silver Oak is very much so a brand that one can feel a part of, and a brand that is aspirational and something to reach towards. Walking in the front doors, you will be impressed by the vastness and beauty of the facility, yet also feel right at home. I think this is the perfect message that Silver Oak has sought to achieve, and they have done a great job with this.

various Silver Oak vintages ready to be poured out for a tasting
In addition to the feel of the vineyard and winery itself, Silver Oak seeks to be associated with feel-good moments in a person's life. Little did I know as I was explaining the story of Nick and I's first date, that those moments are exactly the ones Silver Oak wishes to be associated with. For them, it is really all about the story behind the wine- whether it is a first date, an engagement or wedding, or the celebration of a birth. Silver Oak is meant to be a wine that can be consumed every day or at these iconic special moments in a persons life, and for this reason the wine is designed to be drinkable and age well over 20, 25, even longer periods of time. Personally, it only seemed fitting that Silver Oak was the first vineyard Nick and I ever visited together, especially since it was also the first bottle of wine we shared!

Ian was our amazing hosting while at Silver Oak!
Is it really considered work when you have this great of a view and glass of wine in your hand?
Another amazing aspect while visiting Silver Oak is the people working there. Each of them is clearly dedicated to their work, and has accomplished great things before and during their time at Silver Oak. Learning that individuals came to Silver Oak from some other great companies such as Google and Disney displays the desire that Silver Oak has to constantly improve upon their previous achievements. You can see in the above two pictures, Nick and I received our Silver Oak tour by Ian. Ian was so knowledgeable and passionate about Silver Oak and their mission, and it truly shown through. Enthusiasm is contagious, and we felt it!

I swear, I only drank one bottle of wine!
Back to the wines though... Silver Oak is known for great wine. Any visit, or bottle, of Silver Oak will not leave one disappointed. As I've mentioned here, crack a bottle of Silver Oak for a random Wednesday night (like I did tonight!), or save it for a special occasion. No matter what, you are bound to love it!

Silver Oak was a great and fun vineyard to visit, and really leaves you with a lasting impression. As you depart, you receive a complimentary Silver Oak wine glass to take home with you- and I can tell you, this is by far my favorite wine glass at home now! Another fun aspect I've seen on social media is Silver Oak's usage of the hashtag #LifeIsACabernet - what a great way to connect with other Silver Oak lovers! I know that tonight (it is Wine Wednesday, after all!) I'll be enjoying a glass of Silver Oak and using the hashtag to connect with others!

Does anyone else have a great story with Silver Oak wines, or have you visited the vineyard? What was your favorite part?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

10 Ways To Be The Best Airplane Passenger Ever

Pre, post, and in-flight etiquette: it is something that seems like common sense, yet many people don't understand it. As a frequent flier and traveler, I have experienced a little bit of everything when it comes to flying. Truth be told, I think anybody that has been on a plane more than once in their life has probably experienced a terrible passenger, who clearly has never been on a plane before, and doesn't know the proper flight etiquette. Today, I'm going to share some of what I think are the most important pre-, post-, and in-flight tips to make other passengers love you (or at least not hate you)!

Pre-Flight Etiquette

1. Shower. Oh, how I wish I was kidding and that this was common sense. Unfortunately, apparently it is not. On my most recent flight I had the pleasure of being seated next to an extremely overweight man, who apparently made his new years resolution not to shower the entire year- and trust me, I could tell. For the love of God, people, take a shower before you are going to become close buddies with the passengers around you. While you are at it, try to apply a swipe of deodorant, and go easy on the perfume/cologne.

2. Know the rules of security. Luckily for me, I am a member of TSA Precheck- as such, my trek through security is usually quick and painless. Unfortunately for me, other passengers can be selected at random for TSA Precheck, and by not knowing the rules these people can screw up the entire process. As a regular passenger, you will likely be required to remove your belt, shoes, and coat. In addition to this, you will be asked to remove your laptop and 3-1-1 bag from your suitcase. TSA precheck members get to skip all of this (yay! You should join!) In any case, a few moments of planning can make the security process go much smoother and quicker for everyone. Once you are through security, quickly collect your belongings and move off to the side if adjustments are necessary.

3. Don't line up at the gate before your zone is called. Again, this is trying to be considerate of other passengers. Typically, airlines will call for passengers who need additional time or assistance first, then premium passengers, then priority passengers, then members of the frequent flier club, finally followed by the main cabin passengers and basic economy passengers. You know who typically lines up first, and proceeds to get in the way of everyone else? I'm giving major side-eye to the basic economy passengers who haven't been on a flight before. Please, stay seated until your zone is called and allow the boarding process to go much smoother!

4. Have in-flight items ready prior to boarding. Take just a moment to plan out your flight. Remove any items you will need from your carry-on luggage: for example, computer or headphones. If you will be stowing your jacket, remove that. Preparations such as these will allow you to board the plane, stow your luggage, and be seated quickly and efficiently.

5. Don't hog the overhead bins. I'll admit, I typically bring a carry-on bag and purse with me while flying. To be mindful of others, my purse remains at my feet, unless the flight is not full and there is plenty of overhead space. In any case, I still only place my purse in the overhead bins after everyone else has boarded and stowed luggage. When you are stowing your bags in the overhead bins, make every attempt to stow it lengthwise, not sideways- a standard size roller bag should fit lengthwise no problem, allowing for more people to stow their bags!

In-Flight Etiquette

6. Be courteous of those around you. Don't encroach on somebody else's personal space- keep your hands, arms, feet, and legs within the confines of your seat area- not in the passenger's next to you. This goes not only for physical space, but also as advice to not eat super smelly food or listen to obnoxiously loud music. Finally, my next two statements will likely be controversial. If you do not fit in one seat, and are spilling over the armrest, you need to book two seats. In addition to this, it is of my opinion- and many others- that if there is somebody in the middle seat, let them have the armrest.

7. Being courteous includes the person in front of and behind you. If you are consistently jabbing and hammering on the in-flight entertainment system, the person in front of you will notice. Please take care and use a light touch. In terms of the person behind you, when reclining your seat please do so slowly and carefully. They may have a laptop or drink on the tray table, and would appreciate a slow recline to allow them to react.

8. Watch your kids. Please, just keep at least one eye on them. Try make sure they aren't kicking the passengers seat in front of them, or running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I- and most other passengers- certainly don't mind kids, and understand that kids will be kids. They will cry. They will demand toys. Just watch them, and make sure they are being respectful of other passengers.

being the only passenger on this flight in the Dominican Republic was awesome!
Post-Flight Etiquette

9. Let passengers in a hurry deplane first. You know how the flight attendants always say on the speaker system "please allow those with tight connections to exit the aircraft first"? Yes, they actually mean this. I've been one of those passengers multiple times with tight connections, and those few minutes can mean the difference between making a flight or missing a flight. Just take a look around prior to standing up and entering the aisle to see if anybody needs to leave quickly.

10. Exit the aircraft, and move to the side. Whatever you do, don't stop in the middle of the pathway. If you need to make adjustments, check your phone, find a connection, move to the side to allow other passengers to smoothly exit the aircraft. Again, it is very likely that others may be in a hurry- or, at least know where they are going and want to reach their destination quickly.

For other frequent fliers, what are some of the ways other passengers have made your flights the best - or worst- experience? I'd love to hear about these experiences!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! I truly appreciate and will take the time to respond to each of your comments. Please, do not post links unassociated with my content as they will be deleted.