My shopping hack

The thing about my favorite hobby – travel – is that I’ve had to sacrifice a whole lot of other things to go on these amazing adventures. It has to be worth it for me to spend money on something else, ya know? Because those trips to the mall can add up to be a plane ticket somewhere, so for me I have to know I’m getting a good deal to make it worth it. Hence, Groupon.

Now, I have been a fan of Groupon for years – first with purchasing the occasional Groupon for a restaurant or facial and I even mentioned them on the blog years ago when I got an amazing curling wand that I STILL use all the time (has to be at least 6 years old now for about $21 – originally $189). I even got my first nice camera off Groupon – a Canon Rebel Ti 5 for only $500 before I started traveling – which is such a good price!

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using my wand in Paris

Well then, things got more serious when I realized I can actually buy Groupons to use at all my favorite stores! I used a Groupon at Nordstrom to buy my Betsey Johnson boots that were already way marked down from this blog post – I think I paid $40?! I am absolutely that girl that if you say, “Oh, I love your boots!” I want to tell you where I got them, where to find a coupon, how to get them on sale.

Nordstrom also has all my beauty must haves and I take advantage of their half yearly sale to stock up on things like my favorite deodorant (smells amazing, trust me – never going back to that drug store stuff).  My current wish list: facial steamerface mask,  Mario Badescu kit , Flower bomb set .

I wanted to share the savings with you guys so here’s a few links for Groupons to my favorite stores!

Groupons for Nordstrom             Groupons for Amazon         Groupons for Expedia  !!!

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*This post is in collaboration with Groupon. As always, all opinions are my own. Happy to pass some savings along to you guys! 🙂

6 Steps to Become a Morning Person

Full disclaimer – I used to be the worst in the mornings. Hitting snooze when I knew I shouldn’t and rushing around. I’d even have that argument with myself that went something like this, “Okay alarm is going off… how much time do you need to get ready? Like 35-40 minutes-ish? LIES. What do I need to do? shower, blow dry my hair, do my make up, get dressed, make coffee.. Someone said your hair looked really good last week when you didn’t do your hair.. Do you need to really do it? YES. nooooo. LIES. 20 more minutes added to sleep. What else can I skip? Don’t make coffee? Well now you’re just being a crazy person.”

I am happy to say I am now a morning person. It took a while to figure out what worked for me but I want to share my tips with you guys because I actually look forward to my mornings now and I never thought I’d even say that! So hopefully this helps someone out there 🙂

So starting the night before I try to wind down and avoid looking at screens right before bed. I shower at night as part of a way to relax me and put on my eye cream & lip treatment. I sleep better when my bed is somewhat neat and I may spritz a little aromatherapy or room freshner.

1. Give yourself a bedtime. I used to go to bed way too late because I wasn’t tired until close to midnight but I started giving myself a bedtime – yes I’m serious – around 10p.m. and for a long time when I did this I would just lay there but over time I started falling asleep earlier and waking up naturally earlier.

2. Plan breakfast the night before. Sometime before I fall asleep I put in a mobile order for a breakfast smoothie at my favorite juice bar that’s on the way to work. It’s so easy! I pick a time I want it ready and run in and grab it. And I keep breakfast bars stashed in all my purses so I can eat on the go. This is also a good idea if you’re a “snoozer” because I know my smoothie will be ready at a certain time and I’m excited to have it so it’s a good motivator for me to get up.

3. No snooze! I started putting my alarm across the room so I would physically have to get up to turn it off and wouldn’t be tempted to hit “snooze”. I realized when I used to hit snooze I woke up more tired than if I just got up the first time (anyone else notice that?)

4. White noise, you amazing thing, you. I use a white noise fan and also use a free white noise app on my phone as a backup when traveling (brown noise is my favorite setting it’s a little softer). I first downloaded it when I was visiting NYC and couldn’t sleep with the city noise and now I use it every night.

5. Less caffeine. I have greatly reduced my caffeine intake (I was an addict and now just have a little in the morning before I leave the house). I love a cold brew – I get mine at Starbucks the day before so it’s ready for me in the fridge right when I wake up and I get so excited to have it and sit and do my make up while I sip it. I think about my coffee before I fall asleep 🙂 haha. But I have less caffeine and having it earlier in the day means I sleep better at night and stay asleep. Also I don’t feel so dependent on it which is nice.

6. Wait an hour before checking social media and e-mails. I used to probably lay in bed at least 10 minutes if not more checking various things on my phone right when I woke up and honestly none of it is that urgent. I give myself an hour and then check all my messages. It lets me make better use of my time and focus on my morning.

I really look forward to my whole morning experience now and it’s one of my favorite times of day. It’s so peaceful to get up early and not rush and enjoy your coffee and sets the tone for the day.

What have you guys found that works for you?! Would love to hear your tips Xo

Ocean Isle short clip here.  Loved sipping coffee on this porch!

Havana Nights

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always making new friends 😛

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Happy New Year to all!! I went to Havana, Cuba with friends to ring in the New Year and I’m so happy I went! We had a really great group (very different from the solo travel I’ve done this year) but it’s always fun when you have a good crowd around you that’s enthusiastic about the same things as you.

Havana was very inviting… we actually hired a driver for our stay which I definitely recommend doing. Ricardo made everything so simple and we kind of bonded with him. One night we realized one of our friends wasn’t actually in the car when we got to our next destination and our driver was so scared but we found her. haha. After that we joked with him about “counting all the chickens” when we got in the taxi.

He was even nice enough to invite us over for New Year’s Eve celebrations with his family. Part of the celebration included teaching us dances and at the stroke of midnight, they take a doll (looks more like a scarecrow to us) and pour gasoline on it and light it on fire and it symbolizes letting go of the past year. (He even lit his cigarette from it! :o) Then we walked in a circle around this enormous tree. One of the largest trees I’ve ever seen and you’re supposed to think about your dreams for the coming year. It was really special and I’m glad my friends and I got to experience it.

I love Havana nights. And the late afternoons on one of the rooftops is my favorite thing. I’m already looking forward to planning another trip and have so many ideas of places I want to explore.

Here’s a short clip I put together you can view more on my Instagram ❤

View this post on Instagram

Havana 💃

A post shared by Joanna Lea Hudson (@sittingprettyinthequeencity) on

Lately…

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Hey, friends! Some updates for you guys… I have been MIA because I have been wrapping up my degree at UNCC and I finally graduated!!!

So I wanted to share that with you and I’m so excited to resume traveling once again.!! Hope everyone had a great holiday! I’m leaving in a few days for warmer weather… any guesses where I’m off to??! I’ll be celebrating New Year’s somewhere sunny 🙂

P.S. My cap  said, “done with this B.S.” but the “S” ran away 😉

Thank you so much for following me on this journey

A night in Paris

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After Finland I went to Paris and was so excited to see the city of lights at night! There was a little confusion with my airbnb.

Getting to my apartment involved no less than 12 steps to follow after you find the building – I swear it was like finding Pokemon except I was playing find the airbnb! 😛

I embarrassed myself as always because I forgot in many places besides the U.S. the floors go from (0,1,2) while in the U.S. the ground floor is considered “1” so when I went up the stairs to find my 2nd floor apartment I called my host so confused and it turned out their second floor is what I would consider the third floor. Does that make sense? When I realized my mistake I felt so silly. As soon as I get a little cocky and feel that I’m well traveled something like that happens to bring me back down to earth. haha.

As luck would have it, almost immediately after I got out of my uber I walked under the Eiffel Tower and literally crossed paths with someone while looking at a menu. Right as I was deciding the menu was too fancy for my budget, I made new friends (Americans!) I almost hugged them. I was so happy to hear an American accent for the first time in a while.

Somehow I ended up going to Louis Vuitton’s old mansion on the seine. I really didn’t want to be “that girl” snapping a pic because as awe struck as I was at my surroundings I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb (pretty sure I did anyways haha). Stayed up all night in Paris with new friends even though I was exhausted because I was so thrilled with the company and I hope we never lose touch. It was a wonderful stay full of great memories even though it was short! XO

Finland

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After Italy, I headed to Finland and it was a lot different than I expected!! I read that it stays light later that far north (sometimes the sun doesn’t set until close to midnight) and I was thinking people will stay up later if it’s lighter later… I was very wrong. haha

Helsinki was the quietest place I’ve ever been! I arrived before midnight and had been traveling for a while so was looking forward to dinner. I picked an airbnb downtown so I could see more of the city and when I asked my driver where I could get food this late he had to break the news to me that there wasn’t anywhere to get food. “Ok maybe I’ll drop my things off and walk around and see if there’s a bar still serving snacks.” “No bars are open in Helskini past 10 or 11” I was sooo bummed. He surprised me and took me to this amazing kabob place. The only place in Helskini open late. He even came in with me and helped me choose the best one to get.

Driving through the streets of downtown at night was peaceful and I was so surprised that there wasn’t a single person out! No one walking around everyone seemed to be asleep.

The next morning I walked down by the harbor and to some of the busier streets of downtown. If you follow me on snapchat, you know I was so surprised how silent everything seemed to be! The people here are so polite but not extremely friendly and I felt like I had to whisper wherever I went because everyone was so soft spoken! Even in really busy restaurants it seemed like I was in the quiet section of the library.

After Helsinki I headed to Paris ❤

How to go on vacation and not gain weight

 

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So last summer I studied in Italy and I really immersed myself in every part of the culture… mainly the food! I think you should really enjoy yourself yourself on vacation and this time around I didn’t limit myself a ton but I did make different choices when it came to what I ordered.

Last summer I indulged in pasta and pizza regularly and gelato twice a day sometimes! It was the best authentic Italian food and I quite literally lapped it all up. But I came home a little curvier, my face a little rounder, and you won’t believe it  but someone went in my closet when I was gone and shrunk all of my pants! 😉 Even walking many miles a day doesn’t cancel out all the carbs I was eating and the calories I consumed.

This trip since I’ve tried a lot of Italian food already, I didn’t feel the need to eat pizza and pasta every day and I paid more attention to what the Italians eat. My Italian friends seem to eat more fish, meat, and vegetables. They actually didn’t order pasta once. My new favorite dish is carpaccio which is thinly sliced fish or meat and I always ask for lots of lemons on the side. On the coast I would eat mussels or shrimp with a side of vegetables & lemons of course. I would also order caprese a lot or a meat & cheese plate.  When I did order pizza or pasta I would try not to finish the whole thing. “Taste everything, eat nothing” is a phrase I’d heard before and honestly thought it was a little silly but you can eat all the bad foods in moderation and still enjoy yourself!

I don’t weigh myself regularly but I just happened to before this trip and again when I got back and I weighed the exact same! So I feel like this approach really helped me and when I go back I’ll do the same thing!

Back to Capri

c10c11c12c13ccccccYou guys are going to think I’m crazy. But remember how I talked about being indecisive and how that was a bit of a struggle? After Como I had planned on going to possibly Switzerland or France but I was going to make a decision based on the best flight deals. (Also I really wanted warmer weather again!) I found an amazing deal for a flight to Sardinia out of Milan and I waited to book it and then it sold out.. haha So saving that for next time. The cheapest flight was actually back to Naples. I really liked Capri and had only spent a few hours there and the people were so nice so I decided to fly to Napoli and ferry to Capri for a few nights.

I found a very modest single room for 50 euro which is a steal in Capri! I was open to staying in hostels but I ended up always finding a great deal on Airbnb so I only stayed in Airbnb’s this whole trip! Travel coupon for you guys here.

I stayed in Anacapri which turns out is pretty much all locals! Immediately I got invited to a birthday party and I had been planning on exploring Capri town anyways so I joined some new friends and they told me all the best places. Of course we ended up at a gorgeous villa as one does in Capri. I will say Capri is like the Beverly Hills of this region. So swanky. The prettiest sight was the boats all lit up in the bay at night!

The next day I did some exploring and the locals told me the best beach to go to is faraglioni and I paid to go to the beach club there. The food was the best meal I’d had in a while! Capri beaches are different than you might expect. There’s lots of rocks and no sand but they’re gorgeous!  I did a terrible job at capturing things on camera but I don’t bring much with me to the beach. But view this previous post for more pics.

I took the bus back to my room and was messaging my friends in Positano. I hopped in the shower and the last text I had sent told them “there IS a late ferry today that leaves at 7p.m.” totally joking. Truthfully, I was missing them and I was so close to Positano it almost seemed silly not to go see them. I got out of the shower around 6:30p.m. and they had said,”oh great!” And just like that I threw my stuff into my bag and with wet hair ran to the lobby to check out. I basically explained that I was going to try to take the last ferry and if I missed it I would be back. They looked at me like I was insane. Crazy American girls.

I always try to save money by taking public buses but in this case I would be lucky to make the boat in time so I paid for a taxi and he was more stressed than I was about making the ferry! He said, “do you have a ticket?” “nope” He shook his head. haha We got to the port at 6:59p.m.!!!! I gave him cash and RAN to the boat with my arms full of luggage. They were pulling  up the ramp and actually still let me on even though I didn’t have a ticket. I had just enough cash to pay them on the ferry and I sat with the crew (not up top with the patrons) I was a hot mess. Out of breath, wet hair, and I just sat there and put my make up on.  I messaged my friends that I was coming.

Off the boat in Positano I still couldn’t believe what I just did. Less than an hour ago I was planning on going back to Capri town but the spontaneity of it all was exciting and I couldn’t wait to see my friends. Less than 5 minutes off the boat I was already double kissing familiar faces and the funniest thing is that they didn’t believe me when I said I made the ferry! They were thinking, “no way would she come back here she’s joking she’s not really coming”. It was so fun to surprise them and we had dinner at da Constantino once again. SUCH good food. I couldn’t even eat all the food we ordered!

And the next day I was off to Finland.

A reader shared with me a french song about a love story in Capri link to listen here.

What no one tells you about Solo Travel

I wrote this post about how much I love solo travel and while I want to keep this blog positive, I think it’s only fair to share all sides of that.

While I still encourage people to go on at least one solo trip abroad in their lifetime, and I will continue to plan my trips with or without friends here’s a few things you may not expect to happen:

  • One of my big points for solo travel was the freedom that comes with it. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want! The only downside is that doing whatever you want whenever you want is hard if you’re feeling indecisive! This past trip I had an idea what I wanted to do but left a lot of days open to see where I wanted to go and I had the hardest time making decisions! I never realized how go with the flow I am because sometimes when traveling I’ll just ask the other person what they want to do and we’ll do that and being solo for a while I started procrastinating leaving certain places because I was so unsure about what to do next. I made a decision and leapt for it and it all worked out in the end.

 

  • You may not get as many pictures of yourself places. OK I know everyone loves a selfie stick but I just love my camera and coming up with creative shots that aren’t selfies. I have found that if you go anywhere touristy there are likely other people taking pictures and if I see a couple or a group of friends I will offer to take a shot of them and I’ll ask if they can snap one for me. This has always worked out and people are usually so happy to have a picture together! I think people want to ask sometimes and are hesitant. But I have done this for people when we haven’t even spoken the same language and it all worked out. And if they trust me with their camera, I can trust them for a second with mine. (Honestly, even before social media existed I loved photography and enjoyed taking classes about it. I care about photos and I’ve always enjoyed taking them whether it’s to make other people feel happy or beautiful or just to capture a special moment even if I never share some of them.)

 

  • I get asked a lot how I avoid being lonely. I truly enjoy my own company. But, I try to make friends and ironically make way more friends when I’m traveling alone anyways. Whether it be other tourists or locals, just smile and try to find common ground. When in Italy, talk about futbol. 🙂 If I ever start to feel lonely I go for a walk or find something interesting to do. Normally when I’m going, going, going it doesn’t even occur to me to feel lonely! The only time I wished someone was with me was usually when a little hiccup would happen because it would’ve been nice to look over at a familiar face and laugh about it.

 

  • You won’t always feel welcome at restaurants. Usually everyone in Italy is so extremely warm & friendly but restaurants weren’t always welcoming if I wanted to sit and eat or have a drink. It’s the busy season and I’m taking up space at a table where 4 other people could be sitting. I was actually shooed away from one place when I said it was just one! I didn’t encounter this all the time but I realize where they’re coming from. On the flip side, when you’re alone sometimes you’ll get a drink sent you 🙂

 

  • You can’t get too tipsy. Of course I went to that party I was invited to at a private villa! But when no one was looking I was pouring my drink out onto the grass. I don’t want to expect the worst from people and I’m confident I made pretty safe decisions but if you’re a girl traveling alone you have to keep your head about you and that means you can’t drink too much or put yourself in dangerous situations.

 

  • You need to pay more attention to your things. You should always try to be observant of your surroundings but even more when you’re solo. I had to keep an eye on my belongings at all times and this was tricky when I wanted to go swimming and leave my stuff for a minute. Most of the time I would look for people who looked like they were tourists as well and for this reason I would sometimes pay for a bed on the beach because I feel like they help to watch your things some and it occurred to me if my neighbors on the beach were willing to pay for a bed too, they’re probably not interested in any of my stuff. In fact, at Arienzo beach someone left a bag with an iPad and a whole bunch of stuff. I’m sure the owner was flipping out when they realized it was left. But I watched a boy turn it into the staff so keep in mind there are good people everywhere. 🙂

 

I really do try to keep things positive always & I hope none of these things come across as negative or discouraging because I’m such a fan of solo travel! Part of the reason I started this blog is because I want to inspire others and encourage them to see the world! These are all thoughts I had the past few weeks and it is a truly different experience than going with a friend so I wanted to depict that.

Another thing no one tells you about solo travel is that it will become addictive! I do feel like travel humbles you while building your confidence at the same time. Travel is my favorite hobby and has gifted me with my favorite adventures.

Ischia

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I make friends with anyone who has a dog wherever I am!

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I left Positano and headed to Ischia next for several days before heading to Lake Como. I knew I would be swimming so I didn’t bring my camera so all of these pictures are from my phone!

I stayed at a great place by the port without doing any research about the island but I wish I had stayed in a different neighborhood where there were tons of things to walk to! My friend stayed at this hostel last summer which looks nice and it was ideal for her to get around and I probably would have met more people. Part of the fun of traveling is getting a feel for the place so you know what you would do differently next time!

I used the bus to get around the whole island and saw some great sights that I didn’t even take pictures of but I was enjoying the moment! I even got a Thai massage on the beach here for 5€ and I budgeted this day by not eating out at all but I stopped at a deli and had the butcher make me a sandwich and I got a cheap bottle of prosecco for myself. You’ll always find me happy on a beach somewhere 🙂

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