A Hanoi Shopping Guide: Coffee and Propaganda!

Prior to starting our 2016 Southeast Asia trip, I had thought to myself, “Surely we won’t be bringing a lot of kitsch home from this trip – what will there be to entice us?”  I had spent time Southeast Asia in the past (though, fairly, primarily in Thailand), and thought I wouldn’t be bringing home Beer Chang tank tops and flowy backpacker pants…so what else was there?  Dried Durian certainly didn’t make the list.DSC_0848 DSC_0834 (2)

But as travel often does, it takes your assumptions and proceeds to whip you in the ass with them.  Not only did we fill a bag with gifts before even entering Vietnam, the third nation of our trip, but we ended up having to buy another bag to porter our things from the mere 48 hours we spent in the nation’s capital of Hanoi. #consumerism Read more

Top Markets in Eastern Europe (Flea and Otherwise)

As the title of my blog implies (the kitsch part), I am a collector.  I have mild hoarding aspirations that I attempt to disguise by portraying myself as a discerning collector of random, yet CLASSY things from around the world.  Most of the time, this turns out to be postcards, maps, pins and badges, and antique clothing pieces – among many others (including snow globes).  I’ve written a post or two about this, but thought it would be useful to provide a run down of my favorite markets in Eastern Europe for anyone with an eye for kitschy communist goodies from the former Eastern Bloc.

We’ll start from Tallinn, Estonia, before making our way south to the Balkans, and east to the Caucasus. Read more

Desperately Seeking Trinkets at Sofia’s Bitaka Flea Market

I am a shopper.  When David and I go on vacation, one of our best practices is to arrive in our destination with only carry on luggage, and then check luggage (full of trinkets, naturally) on the way home.  I have some hoarder-type tendencies (it ranges from tchotchke to canines) that are very real, and perhaps they most strongly manifest in my accumulation of things when I travel.IMG_20151017_090328510 IMG_20151017_094034835

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Feeling the Communist Fantasy in Skopje, Macedonia

One of the great parts of our most recent trip to the Balkans was that it pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Normally when I travel I obsessively and compulsively project manage the living hell out of the whole thing.  To the point where almost every minute of every day is accounted for in some way or another.  I’d attribute this proclivity to my business training, but that’d be lying – I’ve been like this forever.  But anyway, being that there was only a week between booking tickets and departing on this adventure, I didn’t have the time to plan everything.  And thus, I didn’t realize when we left that we were destined to fall in love with Skopje, Macedonia.

I mean, what’s not to love about all of this quirky, Yugoslav-era, “communist” architecture?

jpegs-135_22455542022_o jpegs-144_22280940080_o jpegs-155_21846191314_o jpegs-157_22455558472_o Read more

How to Shop for Kitsch in Vilnius, Lithuania

While the typical tourist kitsch of shot glasses and refrigerator magnets can be found on every street corner in Vilnius Old Town, shopping for the more discerning tourist proved to be a bit difficult.  I should actually say that shopping in Vilnius and Lithuania is great for those not afraid of a little challenge.  Because the types of things I shop for (Soviet kitsch, really random religious knick knacks, etc.) took some sleuthing to unearth in Lithuania’s vibrant capital (and surroundings) .  

I should start with the Hill of Crosses, which surely deserves its own post, for all its quirkiness.  The Hill of Crosses had the best gift shop in all of the Baltics.  Hands down, bar none.honeymoon-jpegs-14_21287846290_o honeymoon-jpegs-13_21449676406_o Read more

Getting out of Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia

There is no question that Old Town has a lot to offer any tourist – from backpacker to cruiser just in port for the day.  We arrived in Tallinn at the end of Summer, still in the height of the tourist season.   And while all of Tallinn travel can be rewarding, we found the true gems to be outside the UNESCO-listed Old Town.

View of St. Nicholas Church from Toompea Hill.
View of St. Nicholas Church from Toompea Hill.

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Rediscovering my Love for Travel in Granada, Nicaragua

I hit a travel rut around 2012. In 2011 I had hit my peak stride in terms of travel – I went on a solo trip across Mongolia, led a trip of business students around Korea, and could afford all of it easily thanks to a high paying job in the tech sector. A series of unfortunate events (yet ultimately positive in the grand scheme of things) set my life into a rather sizeable slump that took me several years to recover from.

Needless to say, I travel when I want to celebrate freedom and independence – and I didn’t feel it from 2011-2013. The last thing I wanted to do was to celebrate myself, so I spent a lot of thos years wallowing, and figuring my shit out.  Ultimately, I met my now fiance David, changed teams at work, and built a new group of peers whose interests are more aligned with my own – those events gave me a bit of a kickstart. 2014 rolled around, and I figured it was time to get my groove back.

And this is where I did it - Granada, Nicaragua.
And this is where I did it – Granada, Nicaragua.

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