Midnight Memories

June 18, 2017. Six months after December 18, 2016. Aka the day I left London.

Okay, okay, you all knew this was coming. You know how much I loved London and how much I miss it every day. It is my favrotie city. I completely fell in love with it, and that love hasn’t decreased the least bit in the last six months. It’s probably grown actually.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Yeah definitely the case here.

Speaking of absence, I have been away from the blog a bit lately due to school and whatnot, per the usual. But now it’s summer, and I have time to read for fun, write a bunch, and Netflix without guilt. It’s an exciting time, summer vacation. It doesn’t quite feel real yet…that or the fact that I am about to be a senior in college. Weird…

But London. Yes, I talk about it a lot. So much. I sound pretentious and people get annoyed, but can you blame me? It was the best experience of my life!! Three life-changing months of traveling, exploring, and learning more than I ever could in a classroom (but yes, I did spend time in a few of those). I see Benjamin a lot, and we talk about it constantly. And then whoever is around us rolls their eyes and makes fun of us. Do I care? Not really.

So to commemorate six months away from my city and six months back in my little nook of the central coast, some of my favorite memories from studying abroad:

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The Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Brothers! A classic and *~magical~* experience. I relive this day in my snapchat memories all the time.

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Sipping coffee on the shore of this gorgeous loch at the edge of the Scottish Highlands. The sun was bright and shiny, but it was still coooooold! This was one of my favorite days. The Highlands are UNREAL. “Ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye…”

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Check my Instagram to see about a dozen pictures of me at the Cliffs of Moher…all from this same trip. I cannot get over how beautiful it was, even in the gloom. There is no feeling like being on the edge of the world!!

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AmsterDAMN…I could talk about this weekend forever…so I’ll just leave ya with this pic. So many bikes. So many trees. So much beauty!! Okay, I’m done.

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And obviously walking the famous Abbey Road crosswalk. I got to do this, like, three times, and it was both incredibly awkward and touristy and equally fabulous at the same time. I was so embarrassed at the time to do something so utterly cliche, but it’s Abbey Road. It’s classic. It’s iconic!!!

So many spectacular memories…unforgettable. I promise I’ll try to stop talking about it all the time, but living in London completely changed my life. There’s no way to stress it enough. I grew into a whole new person! I still can’t believe I got to study abroad, and I am thankful every single day for it.

Wait…do I talk about London the way vegans talk about being vegan??? Oh, my gosh, I am going to be so much more aware now…(nothing against vegans, ya know?)

And to balance out all the fantastic European mems, some good ones since I’ve been back!

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Being incredibly extra human beings and hosting a Groundhog Day Redemption party. And wearing matching (faux, obvi) fur to it. Honestly, what a bash, and what a way to kick off the next two quarters of being reunited!!

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A weekend Mammoth trip with Danielle and Madeline. They skied. I read. It was a win win, even though everyone says I was being lame. Hey, I came up with the plot of Book 3–it was a win! It’s fun and mysterious and Ally Carter-esque. I’m so excited. And it was more than worth the freezing temperatures to frolic in the snow.

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Hiking to see this incredible view…enough said.

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Tori’s big 21st!!! Super exciting for the first roommate after me to turn this magic age. Her sign is cute, too, huh? Yeah, we left it at Taco Bell…but we got it back!! The night was a roller coaster, but the nacho cheese from my crunchwrap DID end up coming out of my shirt. And Tori killed downtown!!

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Pozo Stampede: where we drank beer and margaritas, blasted country music, and got very bad sunburns. Worth it!

See? I can still have adventures in America. I’ve got a pretty cool backyard out here on the central coast, and I need to explore it more. Now that it’s summer, thought, I can! I have a pretty cool job that doesn’t limit my adventuring power much, so catch me doing fun things in the next three months.

It won’t be the same as country-hopping and wandering aimlessly around cities and museums and parks, but that’s okay. If I’ve learned anything in the last six months, it’s that there is so much more out there in the world than I gave the chance. I can’t just sit around and wait for life to happen. I need to make life happen–which (I hope) is what I’ve been doing. I got a new job (and lined one up for the fall), I’ve made spontaneous mini-adventures, and I’ve been so motivated this quarter.

So many good things are happening in my life, and as much as I want to crawl into my brain and relive my Autumn in London, the present is calling. This whole adulthood thing means taking calls now, right? So I guess I have to answer it! Yeah, that was soooo cheesy. Please don’t hold it against me.

Hmmm…six months back in this country…wow. It’s kind of been forever, kind of been the blink of an eye.

Life’ crazy sometimes, right?

Right.

xx Ash

((PS peep my latest Insta on the sidebar for a little fun piece of news in my life *wink wink* *nudge nudge*))

The Reason…13 of them, actually

If you know me, really know me, you know that depression has been a defining factor in my life, in who I am today. Yes, we are starting on a morbid reminder that I have a messed up head. But to quickly follow that up to let you know that I am A-OK right now and not falling backwards, my head is well. Still incredibly sad to not be in London, but I’ll be back there one day.

The reason I bring this up is because today (at a university with a highly underrated libral arts program), Jay Asher, author of the novel Thirteen Reasons Why, gave a little talk. This novel of his follows a high school kid named Clay as he listens to seven cassette tapes made by his classmate Hannah Baker, who had just commit suicide. On these tapes, Hannah explains the thirteen reasons why she killed herself, and each side is dedicated to one person. The book made me rethink a few things.

Asher grew up in San Luis Obispo and went to Cuesta and Cal Poly, which was a pleasant surprise considering how many engineers people at this school discount my major and my career choice. He talked about the book and explained his process, answered our questions, and made a lot of jokes. It was an hour and a half of my life well spent.

I have known I wanted to be a writer since high school, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t second guessed my decision. In fact, I have done exactly that–a lot. I often wonder if I am a good enough writer to create anything worth reading. I mean, this blog’s readership is not impressive, and though I don’t admit it, it kind of bothers me sometimes. Of course, I started the blog for me, so I guess it’s not a huge deal. But my pride is a little bruised, not going to lie.

Anyway, Jay Asher. I read Thirteen Reasons Why in high school, and I knew from the first page this book was going to change things for me. After struggling with depression for so long by myself, this was the first thing that really helped me to deal with it. It seemed that Asher so understood what I was going through, and he was able to say it with such grace. Saying I cried while reading it is an understatement.

To this day, that book is still so important to me. I have read books that have touched me or made me feel a certain way–I mean, that’s why I love to read–but nothing has really got me the way this one did (and still does). So getting to meet and listen to the author tell us about how he got where he was and what he is doing now was awesome. He shared his writing methods, how and where he came up with his ideas, and how he went about getting published. He also talked a little bit about how the book turned into a Netflix series that is coming out next month. I am so excited for it!

I have been in a bit of a block lately creatively (plus it’s midterm season), so I have not been able to undulge in my favorite rainy day activity, other than for my writing class. I want to get back to Book 2, and I have all these ideas for it, but I haven’t had the time. And with worrying that I am not a good enough writer has not helped much. But hearing Asher talk about everything he has been through and everything he has done, I am much more optimistic. I long to get back to writing, to have time to get back to writing. I fell back in love with the writing process today, and I cannot wait to get back to it.

Now I have to thank Jay Asher for two things.

So here I am, finally blogging, finally writing, and finally jittery excited about a TV show since psych. I’ve got a life update post hopefully coming at you soon, along with an ode London and a rant about the relationship between college students and permanent residents here in SLO. Looking for some downtime to polish them off and loving this rain (except when I am stuck in it).

Think positively, folks. All is well.

-Ash

Here Comes Goodbye – An Emotional Farewell to London

Here I am. Heathrow Airport. Waiting…I just cannot believe this day has come already. It seems like an eternity ago that I was counting down the days until I was flying out of LAX. Somehow it also feels like yesterday.

I am so incredibly lucky to have been able to do this. The adventure of a lifetime. People say that the best thing they ever did in college was study abroad, and others say that their biggest regret was not doing it. I can attest to the former wholeheartedly, and I am happy that I decided to not end up like the latter. So I am telling you this: if you have the chance, DO IT. It is completely worth the time and the money. The memories you make will be priceless—like that MasterCard commercial.

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Of course, not every minute is going to be exciting, but it’s not supposed to be. Yes, I chose to stay in and watch a movie or read some days. I always went for walks in the adorable park across from my building. I did not board public transit at all on occasion. Do I regret those days? Nope. Because there were others where I just hopped on the tube and a few stops later was standing in front of Buckingham Palace or Big Ben. Or I wandered around a museum for hours, taking in tidbits of history that I probably wouldn’t remember in a day or two.

My last few days were filled with laughter and good friends. And the 1975. Hopping from pub to pub, ordering two-for-ones for myself, and trying not to think about the fact that I was leaving in a matter of days. When I could narrow it down to number of hours, I could barely hold it together.

On Thursday, Jaci and I went to the 1975 concert at the O2, and it was one of the best nights—and very different from other concerts I have been to. Jaci had bought the tickets so long ago that when the day finally came, it almost caught me off guard. Surprise, you’re going to see a concert! And it was one of the most fun ones I have gone to. The jams were fabulous (obviously), the company was sweet, and the line for merch was non-existent. It was the perfect last adventure in London, and I got to do it with one of my favorite people.

The next two days were low-key as ever. Becca had left with her sister to meet their family in Amsterdam, so my roomie was gone. A sad goodbye, for sure, but I am glad I will see her back at Cal Poly. I was left with Ben, Ryan, and Jaci, but no complaints about that. We just got dinner on Friday. Then on Saturday, Ben and I wandered through Regents Park and walked up Primrose Hill. It was very foggy, so I couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of us (therefore missing out on the great view that is usually there), but it was still a nice time. Practice for the hills of Cal Poly and good chats with Ben. We met Ryan and Jaci on Oxford Street for lunch, and I did some last-minute Christmas shopping. Going to the Shard was on our to do list until we realized the fog was not letting up; instead, we just wandered around our city one last time. We got drinks at a little pub, and then parted ways.

Saying goodbye to Jaci was not easy, and all the emotion I had pushed down about leaving seeped out. My goodbyes to Ryan and Ben (and Becca) were less emotional because I know I’ll see them again so soon. Jaci is planning on visiting, but it won’t be for another few months. So I was left failing to hold in tears on the tube. A full on sob fest ensued as soon as I was home. And to be honest, another one might occur momentarily in the middle of the airport.

I have learned so many things in this city, this country, and this continent. I have grown up in ways I didn’t know I could. I am strong and independent and happy. If you had told me ten years ago that I would feel this kind of bliss (yes, bliss) and have done all these crazy things, I would have said, “Honey, I’m not even going to see my eighteenth birthday, so you are certifiably insane.” And yet, here I am…

People are going to ask me so many questions when I get back: what my favorite part was, what I did and didn’t like, what my favorite city was, what the weirdest thing I saw was, did I have fun (a personal favorite), and so on. And I will answer all these questions the best I can, and maybe my answers will change from day to day. But to combat some of these, I have complied a list of a few things I learned in my time here.

Things I Learned Abroad

New places can be scary—but it’s the good kind.

Honestly, being in a whole new city where you know zero people is not easy, and no matter how confident I was in myself and my living-on-my-own capabilities, I was still terrified. What if I didn’t have fun? What if I hated it? What if the people were weird? So many questions and not many answers. But you just have to take that leap of faith and make the best of every situation. The unknown can turn out to be a fantastic place. I mean, you could get stranded in a foreign country and have no place to live, and it could still turn out to be your favorite destination (looking at you, Amsterdam).

You’re going to get lost.

Especially if you don’t have data and cannot map yourself home. In the rain. And you don’t recognize where you are. Even if you do know where you are and you do have data, it is still completely possible to get lost. It’s not always a bad thing, though. You could stumble upon something great.

Go everywhere that you can.

It sounds pretty self-explanatory, but it is true. Go everywhere. I didn’t plan on going to Amsterdam, but I did it, and I loved it. Dublin was on my list from the beginning, and so was Scotland. I wanted to visit Mads in Copenhagen, but I wasn’t sure if it would happen. Lucky for me, it did. Of course, I did not get to go to Iceland with my friends, or Paris or Vienna or Milan, but it is an excise to come back. I used my time wisely, but that didn’t mean I had enough of it (or money). But go on as many adventures as you possibly can, even if they are short train rides to a city nearby. When else can you say you took an absolutely spontaneous trip to Sweden?

It’s worth it to keep all the weird trinkets you acquire: ticket stubs, business cards, punch cards, etc.

So you can put them in your journal or in a scrapbook or on your wall. Even keep them in a box. But when you look at them, you will be reminded of the good times you had. You may never need a punch card to a tiny tea shop in Brighton, but you will always remember the Panda-licious Licorice tea you drank there.

Anxiety is going to try and get to you—and you will let it.

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it sure caught me off-guard sometimes. Some days, all I could do was stay inside and ignore the world around me—I couldn’t unleash the beast in front of the world. Yes, Copenhagen was rough, and I haven’t seen myself like that in a while. That night was not easy, and I hate that I let myself fall that far that fast. It was bound to happen, though, and sometimes you can’t fight it. So if you have anxiety, it is okay to let it get to you, just don’t let it control you. You are better than it.

You will always need a deck of cards.

Just trust me on this.

It’s okay if you make friends from your home university because it will still expand your horizons.

Becca, Ben, Ryan, Luke, Stan, Izzy. All people in my program that also go to Cal Poly. How many of them did I know before? Zero. We all run in different circles, so our paths never crossed, but somehow we ended up here together. And somehow, a few of them are my best friends. I will be forever grateful for squad (Jaci, Kevin, and Mackenzie included, of course). And even though all of these people are from America (and California, for the most part), I don’t feel that I have missed out on any experiences at all.

Call your family.

I did not do this much (call it my extreme lack of homesickness). Becca did much more than I did. And Jaci called and Snapchatted her mom all the time. Ryan’s family came and visited. I should have called my family more often. There is nothing I can do about that now, but I cannot stress enough that if you ever feel homesick, one phone call can make a world of difference.

Smile at every dog you see.

This one doesn’t sound important, but it is.


Honestly, I am still reeling from the last three months. I am listening to carolers in the airport and seeing people waiting to catch their flights to who-knows-where, and I still cannot believe I did all this. I feel like I will wake up from my nap on the plane (which I am praying will actually happen) and it will December of last year, when studying abroad was just a romantic thought planted in my mind.

Just over an hour until my flight home…by the time you see this I will be on a plane—or I will be home in Los Angeles! That is a wild thought…

Nope, I am not crying in the middle of Heathrow. No, no, no. There is just something in my eye. I am extremely sad to be leaving this wonderful city I have called home for three months. All the memories and friends I have made will stay with me forever, and no experience will be quite like this one. I am wildly lucky and blessed to have been able to do this.

To the people I have spent far too much time with:

Becca, thank you for putting up with living with me all this time. You are wonderful and I love you.

Jaci, you are a gem in my life and an incredible human. Love you mucho, my dear.

Ryan, thank you for always keeping me laughing and for being an absolute champ in Amsterdam.

Ben, my favorite conversations were with you and I am so happy you came into my life.

And major shout out to Amy for continuing to be my favorite adventuring buddy. You’re a fav, forever.

And wow, if keep writing and thinking about this I am going to be sobbing and people will start staring. I am going to miss London and all the memories I have made. I am a whole new person because of this city.

Too much love (and tears), Ash ❤

Hopeless Wanderer – Thoughts About Leaving & a Long-Awaited Recap

So things have been a little quiet lately. I wish I could say it is because I have been focusing on my studies, but let’s be real, that would be a lie. Of course, I have been writing a paper here and there, and I did have a presentation this week, but I cannot say I have been feeling the stress of my friends back at Cal Poly, who have been spending days on end at the library and pulling all-nighters to cram. Google searching “How to get a Sugar Daddy” is done in much less jest than midterm season. Isn’t the American education system just fantastic?

Okay, okay, I am mostly kidding. Yes, we get that stressed, but we kind of do it to ourselves. But do we change our ways the following quarter? Not a chance. But I digress…

I officially have less than two weeks left in this absolutely wonderful city I have fallen madly in love with, and every moment I think about my flight home is a moment I feel like crying. That sounds rather dramatic, but I can’t imagine going back to the States. There is still far too much I want to do here.

“It’s an excuse to come back,” I keep telling myself. And I will come back, it’s just a matter of when.

But I will stop being so sad about leaving for a few minutes and give you a recap of my last two trips: Scotland with Chelsea and Ireland with Amy. And wow, are these two places absolutely magical. I know, I know, I have said that about every place I have been, but there is no way that the Scottish highlands and the Cliffs of Moher are real. No way. I was there and took pictures, and I still don’t believe it. Maybe if I tell you about it I can I convince myself that I didn’t dream any of this up.

Chelsea’s Visit and Scotland

On Thanksgiving, I did not get a nice Turkey Day meal, which was not the business. I missed my dad’s famous bread rolls and my mom’s pecan pie. Thanksgiving has been a touchy holiday for me the last few years, but it is a reminder of how far I have come since my ED days (which sometimes feel a lot closer than they are). I felt extra thankful for the fabulous people in my life and the friends I have made here, and I remembered that even though I was not getting a full holiday meal to give me a food baby named Joe, I was still going to mentally celebrate. So Becca and I did the classic British activity we have been talking about for two months: Afternoon Tea! It was definitely a good substitute for a Thanksgiving meal: savory brioche rolls, sweet brownies and blondies, and to-die-for cupcakes—and, of course, tea. Becca got a sweet vanilla one, and I ordered a holiday-esque apple and cinnamon one, then we shared. It was the perfect amount of food to make up happy—and maybe a little too happy, since when we walked into a Christmas market in front of the Tate Modern, the sweet smell of waffles and donuts and crepes was sickening.

Worth it? Duh.

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When we got home, it was just a matter of waiting for Chelsea to arrive from the airport. She had no real way to get a hold of me, so it was a game of walking into the lobby to see if a girl with luggage was waiting outside the gate. Luckily, when I decided to just wait on a couch in the common room with my Kindle, there she was! Perfect. We got Nando’s for dinner (a real treat, am I right?), and then that was that. The next day, I had class, and Chelsea took the Big Red Bus Tour to see the city. After my class, we shopped a little on Oxford Street and got dinner. The Christmas lights, as always, were gorgeous, and it really put me into the holiday spirit. I got to Skype with Stacey when we got home, and I stayed up way too late talking to her. And by too late I mean that I only got two hours of sleep. And Chelsea only got thirty minutes. We had to be up very early to get to Gatwick for our flight.

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As tired as I was, it was worth it when we got there. The first thing we did was see the Elephant House, which is where JK Rowling came up with Harry Potter. It was crowded so we didn’t go inside or anything, but seeing it in person was kind of enough. I knew it was real. We walked around more, seeing a castle and the Royal Mile. There was a Christmas market (always my favorite thing) in front of the National Gallery, so we checked that out. Now, I get overly excited about Christmas markets, but when I spotted a poster outside the museum saying that The Goldfinch was on display inside, my heart leaped. Saying I loved the book of the same name by Donna Tartt is an understatement. Getting to see the real painting that inspired such a masterpiece? Sign me the heck up! I just stood there in front of the little painting and just admired it. I was so in love, and I’m sure Chelsea was not about taking various pictures of me in front of it. She was exhausted—almost falling asleep standing up! So we got some coffee and a snack at Starbucks and hit up the Jolly Botanist for some gin and tonics. We were in bed by seven o’clock and totally happy about it, since we would have an early morning and a jam-packed day of sightseeing.

It was pretty dark still when we set off for our tour of castles, lochs, and highlands. I was still exhausted and a little bit cranky, but I was ready to be wowed by the scenery of Scotland. Our tour was led by a guy named Aaron, and I was surprised to walk into a large van rather than a big bus. It was a happy surprise, and I liked the idea of traveling with a smaller group. When Aaron introduced himself, he went on to talk to each person onboard individually, which made the experience much more personal.

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He took us to two more castles than were on the list, which was very cool. I love castles! The first was one featured in a show called Outlander, which Chelsea is a fan of. It was right on the river and was absolutely gorgeous. I could already tell my serious lack of sleep would be worth it. The second stop was in Stirling, which was where Tori, Kristin, and I were planning on studying abroad—that talk seems like a million years ago—and where Stephanie spent her summer. Coincidentally, she texted me saying she missed me. I happily sent her a picture of the castle, saying I missed her a lot, as well.

Our next stop was Doune Castle, which was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Outlander. We walked around the inside of the castle, learning about what the rooms had been used for when it was inhabited, as well as facts about the filming of Monty Python. Boy, was the medieval bathroom situation a drag.

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After the castle and a short food stop, we were off the highlands! I wish I could describe how beautiful it was. Rolling hills, smooth as glass lochs, tall and luscious trees. Utterly and completely gorgeous. It felt like I was looking at something out of a fairy tale—something Walt Disney had dreamed up and made into a princess movie.

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My favorite stop was probably Kilchurn Castle and Loch Awe. It was more or less a stop on the side of the road, and I had to walk over some slippery grass to get even close to it. I jokingly asked who was going to fall first. As soon as I said it, I knew I would be that unfortunate soul—and what do you know, I was! I slipped right in front of the loch. My left butt cheek was grassy and wet, but it got a laugh. That’s what really matters, right? And honestly, I was just far too excited to see the castle. It was in the middle of the loch, so we couldn’t get too close, but the water was so smooth and beautiful—they don’t call it Loch Awe for nothing! I swear, my pictures are real, even if I don’t quite believe it myself.

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The whole trip was wonderful, and it made me so incredibly happy. Just add it to the list of things I am completely grateful for in this world. And then add Ireland because that place is just as, if nor more, magical than Scotland.

Ireland

My favorite adventuring buddy in SLO is Amy, so there was no one I would rather have gone on this trip to Dublin with. Dublin was the number one location on my list of places to travel while abroad—and I am glad it was my last.

Our plane left early. As in our flight left at 6:30 am so I had to be up at 3:00 in the morning early. The plane ride was more or less fine. I hate flying and I tried to sleep through it to little success. We were checking into our Airbnb (which existed, thankfully!) at 9:30, so we had some time to kill before taking the half hour bus ride into the city. Naturally, we got coffee and sat down to watch cute family reunions. An adorable pair of twins was waiting with their mom, and I nearly cried when their dad walked through the doors. They rushed up to hug him, and he said he didn’t know they were coming. Then they took turns climbing on his luggage cart until it was time to go, which is when the dad made it so they could both ride simultaneously and pushed them away. It was precious.

Finally, it was time to find our home for the next two days. We met our host, a cute and kind woman who was very welcoming. We dropped our things and took a breather before setting out for coffee. Amy and I found a fun bakery nearby and got drinks and a snack, then it was off to the Guinness Storehouse for our tour at noon.

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The storehouse was beautifully done, and it felt sort of elite. There was a fancy waterfall and a big sculpture of barrels (which doesn’t sound cool, but it was). And the building was shaped like a pint glass, which was fun. Then we got to the taste test, and I felt super classy sipping from the tiny pint glass.

Now, I hate beer. I drank the Heineken in Amsterdam because I was determined. It was very hard to drink the whole thing, but dammit I was going to do it! Guinness is a dark beer, like the one I drank at Harry Potter World on my birthday, so I just assumed I was going to hate it just as much. So when I took the first sip during the taste test, I was shocked. I…I…liked it. Appalling, I know. Nobody is more surprised at that than I am. So when we got to pour our own pints (to which I got a certificate—very official), I was eager to drink it: the real test of whether or not I actually liked this beer. I don’t know how I expected this “test” to go, but I definitely enjoyed drinking the full-sized glass. Not only did I enjoy it, but I also got to drink it in the storehouse’s Gravity Bar. The top floor of the building with a three-hundred-sixty degree view of Dublin. Absolutely gorgeous. Of course, it was crowded so it was kind of hard to find a perfect view, but we managed to squeeze through some tall people right to the window. Worth it!

More worth it, I got five postcards and a pair of boxers for myself. It felt weird to buy the boxers because they were definitely for men, but I can’t wait to sleep in them. They are soft and say Guinness all over them. Extra classy, am I right?

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We exhausted our time at the storehouse and ended up walking towards Temple Bar, which is the bustling part of the city center and where Trinity College is. Yes, the Trinity College, home of the flawless library I have saved to my Pinterest about a thousand times. The library I have been dreaming about forever. I know, I am such a book nerd. So I had zero regrets paying nine euros to see breeze over the Book of Kells exhibit and go straight to the beautiful room. High, arched ceilings, dusty bookshelves, marble busts of famous writers and philosophers, rolling ladders…remember what I said about the highlands being out of a Disney fairy tale? That is what this library was like. I could have stayed in their forever.

Unfortunately, it was getting late, and we were hungry. Nando’s was calling our names, and we were ready to answer. So we wandered and then ate and then wandered some more. We stopped at Ladurée for macaroons (salted caramel, rose petal, and chocolate hazelnut), and I felt even classier than at the Guinness Storehouse. The city was popping: pubs were crowded, streets were filled, people were happy. It all had such good energy—kind of like how I feel in London, just on a bit smaller of a scale.

Back at our Airbnb, we decided to watch Shrek and eat our macaroons. We only got about twenty minutes into the movie before getting tired and deciding to sleep. We had a big day ahead tomorrow, and with the major lack of sleep we had gotten the night before, turning in by 9 pm was the best thing to for us. I mean, when we woke up early the next morning and it was still dark out, it felt like we had barely slept at all, but that was not going to stop our day of sightseeing.

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Amy and I successfully navigated our way to the tour’s meeting place—without getting a cab. Go us! This time, our bus was a big, green one, rather than the smaller van in Scotland, but we got on first and therefore picked the front seats. We were going to have a perfect view when the sun came up! Per small world cliche, two girls in my program were on our tour. What are the odds? Even weirder, three people from Amy’s program got on the bus as well. Seriously, who would have thought?

The mini road trip through Ireland made for the perfect Sunday. We made stops for coffee and to see a castle. We drove through the beautiful fantasy that was the Irish countryside. And since we were sitting right behind Val, our driver and tour guide (who was hilarious), he heard all of my sassy side-comments and announced them with laughter to the rest of the bus. Maybe I could be one of these tour guides…new career path? Possibly.

Our first major stop was the Baby Cliffs of Moher. Oh. My. God. Breathtaking! It was a fairly clear day so we could see a good distance over the ocean. And we could just see the real Cliff of Moher up the coast. It was so beautiful, and my heart was happy. The next stop was lunch, where I got a vegetable soup that warmed my black heart cold body.

On the road again, we saw more gorgeous rolling hills—can’t hold a candle to the view from Prefumo Canyon in SLO. So many sheep. So much green. All the beauty! And that was before we even got to the Cliffs.

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In regard to which direction to walk in first, Val advised us to follow the Beyonce song: to the left, to the left. So that’s what we did. I thought the Baby Cliffs were breathtaking, but these were a whole new level of spectacular! It truly felt like magic to be standing on the edge of the world. There’s nothing quite like looking at the Arctic Ocean over limestone that drops hundreds of feet straight down—don’t worry, clumsy me stood behind the low wall they had up, safe and sound. I still can’t quite believe it was all real, and that is how I have felt about a lot of things these last months. Standing on the Cliffs of Moher was like falling in love.

I really did love Dublin. I do love Dublin. I am so happy that I got to see the city and drive around the country. It was magnificent and lovely and wonderful. The city itself was cute and I felt pretty at home there, almost as much as London. It was best that I got to visit this place last because it was the perfect end to a race around Europe. Of course, there are plenty more cities I want to visit, but Dublin was on the bucket list. I would be more than happy to check it off again and again. And I am so lucky I got to go on my last adventure with Amy. We always have a great time!

I have nothing planned for my last two weeks abroad other than a little schoolwork and doing cliche London things with the squad. A few more visits to Winter Wonderland, a night at the Aqua Bar at the top of the Shard, wandering South Bank for Christmas Markets, more lunches at Camden Market…all fun things. And gift shopping for family and friends! Because who the heck knows what I am going to get people for Christmas this year.

With the stress of gift shopping and all the packing I don’t even want to think about, I keep reminding myself how thankful I am to have been able to have this experience. To have gone on this wild and crazy adventure, seeing the world (by world, I mean Europe) and making new friends (granted, most are from Cal Poly…). I will cherish these last ten days in my new favorite city because soon I will have to do this terrible thing called “returning to reality.” It sounds like a horror movie, if you ask me. But hey, at least I get to sleep in my own bed and eat In-n-Out again! Always pros to counteract the cons.

Love always, Ash

Lostmyhead – Having Anxiety Abroad

Since arriving in London, I have been living quite the dream: traveling from country to country, dropping into museums like it’s my job, and going out with my friends for cheap drinks and a good time. Oh yeah, and going to school. It has all been a lot of fun and games since September—until one Saturday night in Copenhagen.

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I was so excited to go on this adventure to Denmark. Copenhagen is beautiful, and I could not wait to see Mads. Ben, Ryan, Luke, and I flew out on Friday morning, and when we arrived in the city (though we could not check in to our hostel yet), we were not homeless! After checking in and waiting for Jaci and Becca to find the hostel (since they had taken a different flight), we met Maddie by City Hall. I haven’t been that excited to see someone in such a long time. I definitely let my friends fall behind so Mads and I could catch up—texting every other day could not live up to an in-person chat. She showed us a Christmas Market nearby, where we got some warm holiday drinks that put Starbucks to shame. A Gingerbread Latte is delicious, but Glogg tastes like Christmas. There is really no other way to describe it. After that, it was time for some street food, which meant going to an indoor farmer’s market-type place. I am not kidding when I say that fries deep-fried in duck fat are a thing. A good thing. Back at our hostel, we played cards games and got drunk—per the usual.

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The next day we did a little sightseeing: the view from the spire of the Parliament building was spectacular. You could see Sweden! Three-hundred-sixty degree view of the city, with Maddie pointing out all the important buildings and sights. Then came some coffee and a cool library, followed by a walk to the Little Mermaid statue in the harbor, which was nice to see but not too exciting. The lighting was perfect, though, so we got some good snaps.

Now, here is where things take a turn for the not-so-great. I did not want to get too drunk, since a whole bottle of wine Friday night may not have been the best choice, so I stuck with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. Just one. We played Thumper, a fast-paced drinking game that involves a lot of clapping. I was out of my drink by that point, so the game gave me some anxiety—but not necessarily the bad kind. I kept losing, but it was okay. I was okay.

I don’t know when exactly the switch flipped, but the next thing I remember is laying my bed. My feet were freezing, and my back was hurting a lot. I was just watching my squad having fun, teasing each other, climbing from bed to bed (the bunk bed situation made for quite the jungle gym), and having a great time. It was almost hard to watch since I was so miserable. Nausea hit me, as well, and tears prickled my eyes. I had already decided that I didn’t really want to go out, but Becca and Jaci wanted me to rally.

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“If this song doesn’t get you to rally, then I know it’s over.” These are the words Becca said to me before she played a song by The Maine, my weakness. Well, it got me out of bed and ready to get the rest of my night going. I still was not at one hundred percent, but I was not about to let a little anxiety and some pain ruin my trip. No, sir. So I rallied and went out with my friends.

Only on the walk to the club, all my energy was gone, and I just wanted to go home. I felt like I was going to throw up—not just nausea, I could taste the bile and stomach acid. No part of me wanted to socialize with my too-drunk friends, so I walked alone in the cold, near tears. I wanted to snap at every little thing they said, regardless of what it was. I wanted to scream for it all to stop. So when we got to the club, I immediately was ready to turn around and go home. I thought I would go alone—it would have been ideal for the mood I was in—but Jaci, Ben, Becca, and Ryan all walked back home, too. No one had really wanted to go out in the first place.

So I walked alone again while my friends paired up behind me. I don’t know if I liked it or if I didn’t. I don’t know if I wanted my friends to talk to me or not. I was silent, but the screams were far too loud in my head. Ryan and Becca tried to link arms and skip with me. No part of me wanted to be there. My face and my hands and my feet were numb from the cold, and my mind was numb from the world. I could barely breathe, and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

This was bound to happen. You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it.

I haven’t had an anxiety attack in a while. I have had moments where I thought I might, but I have fought it off. I am so happy living here. Quite a few people have told me they have never seen me like this. They’re not wrong: I don’t know when I have ever felt this happy and this free. London has had such a strange and wonderful effect on me, and I am not saying this place is too good to be true, but my subconscious has been waiting for this ball to drop. Maybe my conscious was, too.

Saturday night was not a good one, but I don’t think that it happening was a bad thing. I would not call it a good thing, of course, but definitely not a bad thing. I haven’t had to deal with her in such a long time that I forgot what to do when she forced her way out. I was lost that night, and I did not like it. But it reminded me of everything I have fought to become the woman I am now.

I have been living such a fabulous life abroad that this anxiety brought me back to earth. It was a reality check, for sure. When I return to the States, things are going to be different—that is stating the obvious. I have been afraid of going back because my Good Day streak here outnumbers any streak I had going before. I am afraid of not having the freedom I have in this city. I am afraid that this is all a dream, and I am going to wake up and be ten years old, about to embark on a long and dark journey I don’t think I can live through again. And the days following my anxiety attack…well, I keep thinking I might have one again. No, I am not sitting here waiting for it, but the fear is there.

“I will be.”

That was my answer to the question, “Are you okay?” that night.

At that moment, I felt powerless and broken, unable to feel anything but the wind stinging my face. But I knew that I just had to wait it out, keep breathing and everything would be fine. I would be fine.

And the next day when we took a spontaneous trip to Sweden? I was a great.

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With about a month left, do I expect another anxiety attack? No, I don’t expect one, but it could happen. I am certainly not going to stop living my life and wait for it. I am done doing that. My life is in my hands, and I intend on doing great things.

So take that anxiety.