I'll admit, planning any trip can feel like a daunting task. There are so many variables to consider, so much preparation, but the end result is so worth it (read: there are still bound to be f*ck ups). Europe was no different.
I wanted to go to London since I was a little girl watching the Olsen twins in the direct-to-video film Winning London. It had a lasting effect, similarly to the way Passport to Paris did. I was going to delay my travels until 2019, but ultimately decided why should I wait any longer? I can work anywhere, the nature of my life warrants flexibility, so I am finally free to move like the water I have always felt a special connection to. And so, I decided to start planning my long lusted after trip to London, England with plans to also stop in Paris.
Initially, I chose April, but after a death in the family inspired me to press pause for just a bit, reconnect to what I really want (hello, apartment), and second-guess traveling this year once again altogether, I was going to cancel. But luckily, my heart sang a different tune and I decided to sing to that instead - opted for October, paid the $308 fee to change my flight, and was London-bound for the fall.
And for those of you who might be feeling overwhelmed by the planning of it all, I've done some of the necessary work for you by gathering some of the tips that helped me plan my first European travel excursion. Check 'em out below:
Do All The Necessary Prep Work Ahead Of Time
Arriving at St. Pancras International in London
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
Note that while there's no such thing as an "off-peak" season in Paris, you can find cheaper airline deals between September-December range (anytime after or before summer is best to avoid the heavy tourist crowd). Ensure that your passport is up to date, also read up the parameters of travel limitations for the place you plan to visit. You can read up on that via the Bureau of Consular Affairs for the given country's international travel information. Before you travel abroad, also be sure to make copies of your important travel and identity docs, i.e. your passport, license, and perhaps your social security card. In addition to your plane tickets, book any additional transportation plans, like a rental car, public transportation passes, or a train if necessary.
In our case, purchasing our train tickets for Eurostar ahead of time were a must too. It's advised to start booking your train from London to Paris at least three months in advance (find them here). We did our best to leave a couple of hours between our flights' arrival and our train's departure so that once we touched down in London, we'd take the train to Paris to pack our travel day as much as possible and do a one-shot to our next destination.
In reality, what actually happened was we missed our train by about five minutes and had to pay 44 euros for a new ticket for the next train to Paris. Some research on my part would have been helpful in figuring out how to map out the train departure in relation to our flight arrival, especially because London St. Pancras International ended up being kind of far from the airport (about 35-45 minutes to be exact). And if you do nothing else, get an International plan with your cell phone service because the data will be needed for Ubers and such. Trust. And because my friend and I had Airbnbs in both locations, WhatsApp and some data comes clutch for the check-in process. So again I say, TRUST.
Hotel Emile - it's located in Marais, relatively close to a metro station, and offers free breakfast with direct booking.
Airbnb - we stayed in this studio apartment. It was very quaint and located in a trendier complex in the North part of Paris. Close to laundry, cafes, food, grocery stores, and only a few miles away from big attractions.
The Pilgrm - it's located in Paddington, relatively close to the tube station, and is very stylish. If I didn't stay in an Airbnb, this was going to be the one.
Airbnb - Huma's Victorian townhome feels so authentically London, it was so dope to stay there for a few days. Definitely recommend.
See All The Must-See Attractions
Capturing moments at the Louvre
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
It is impossible to see everything a city has to offer, especially in the span of three days. Think about it, there are people who call these cities home and still haven't seen everything it has to offer. On your first day, make a running list of attractions that you feel are the Must-See places and hit them up when the day breaks. See as much as possible, and do as much as possible, especially during your first day in a new place. This will give allow you to see all of the touristy spots, while also allowing the freedom of sticking a pin in some of your favorite sights to potentially go to again before your trip is over.
In London, everything was very centralized and the tube was really easy to navigate, so hitting up Big Ben, London Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Kensington Palace was done pretty effortlessly. On our first day in Paris, we walked to Montmartre, the Arc du Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Because we chose walking over public transportation, we saved the Louvre for the next evening and allowed ourselves to indulge a little with the next tip.
Tour The City Like A Local
Taking in the Seine River in Paris
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
This is the day to get lost, to take your time, and really take in the beauty and the history, the sights and sounds of the city in a less strategical way. While in Europe, I noticed that people had places to go but I also noted how lax a lot of the locals were with spending time in a state of experiencing. In Paris, they'd bring espresso and crepes to talk and gaze at the Seine or drink beer alongside the Thames. I even saw a guy outside of the Gare du Nord train station with an espresso cup that he rested on a newspaper stand as he stood and people watched in the middle of the sidewalk. Or in London, where people took midday breaks at the pub with a draft beer and wrote in their moleskins as the city moved around them.
My point is, everyone seemed to take their time a bit more. So, as we got lost, it was important to me to take breaks and take in the city, take in the life, take in the quiet and just be still. It was a lesson in being present that I really enjoyed.
Sit Back & Relax Your Mind
A glimpse of our beautiful Airbnb
Photo Cred: Terrence Porter
Don't let the go-go-go mentality of travel stop you from relaxing in the moment and showing gratitude for the fact that you are there. Make sure you don't allow guilt to dictate the moves you make or don't make. If you want to relax and recoup from your 16-hour travel day, take your time. Rest up. Enjoy yourself. You've earned it. My travel buddy was an up and at 'em kind of traveler that wanted to be up by 7 am to explore until 11 or noon, and then we'd convene and spend the day and evening together until I was ready to wrap up the night (especially because this ninja had the motto of walking everywhere in Paris). I took my time though. I slept in. I did my morning routine. I read a book and highlighted passages. I updated emails and checked on my site. And when I rose to reemerge into the city for hours on end, I lived.
Europe was absolutely magical. 10/10, I definitely recommend. Click through the gallery below to see some of the things I saw and experienced while over there.
Paris Photo Diary
London Photo Diary
*Originally published on Postcards & 808s
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Self-employment is something many people prefer or aspire to, as being your own boss is both admirable and empowering. And women are bossing up more than ever, representing almost 40% of all self-employed professionals. Being self-employed myself, I can attest to the benefits, but like everything in life, there are two dueling sides to every coin. And if you're considering taking the leap from 9-to-5er to self-employed, there's a lot to consider before totally pulling the plug on your day job.
Here are a few things to know, from my own experience, before transitioning into self-employment:
1. Recognize that self-employment is not entrepreneurship.
There are key differences between being an entrepreneur and being self-employed that many people get all mixed up and confused about. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are definitely not the same.
A self-employed person operates just like an employee, often offering services and talents to business owners, nonprofits, or organizations. An entrepreneur typically offers goods and services to a client or customer, registers their business for tax purposes, and can reap the benefits of resources like business bank accounts, financing, and investments.
When you're self-employed, you often don't get paid if you don't work, most typically as a freelancer or on a project-by-project or client-by-client basis. When you're an entrepreneur, you can successfully scale a business where you can reap the benefits whether you're actively working in it or not.
You can indeed launch a one-person business (i.e., as a limited liability company or LLC), but there are requirements related to that, particularly when it comes to taxes. There are also things to consider, such as lifestyle, goals, and risk tolerance. The annual and financial obligations entrepreneurs have aren't the same as self-employed professionals, like additional taxes, filing fees, and mandatory financial reports.
(I know some of y'all entrepreneurs might be reading this with a side-eye, but hey, not every self-employed person is a business person, and some simply might not want the extra maintenance and responsibilities of having a registered business, no matter the perks.)
While I'm not discouraging any self-employed person from launching a business, knowing the difference between the two is important because it sets the tone for how you approach the work that you do, your expectations on the lifestyle and requirements, and what benefits might be afforded to you.
Many entrepreneurs can employ people, scale their businesses for expansion, get capital investment, and even take days, weeks, or months off without having to actually work yet still reap the benefits. This is often not the case for a self-employed person whose salary largely depends on actual work hours, paid invoices, and strategic budgeting.
2. Inform yourself about the tax obligations and other financial shifts that might happen once you are self-employed.
When you're working a 9-to-5, your company handles taking taxes out of each check. This is not the case for self-employed folk. There's a quarterly schedule that must be followed for federal taxes, and there are other regulations based on the state where you primarily work (even if you're working remote). If you're used to having a hands-off approach to taxes (other than going to the tax preparer once a year), you definitely want to shift your expectations and get to know all the information you can about self-employment taxes.
Also, the way you budget might be a bit different when you're self-employed. If you find, for example, that you're constantly living check to check or that you're used to a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks, you'll need to shift the way you look at how money flows in your household.
Self-employment can include periods where you're not getting paid as consistently, and many companies work with invoices that are paid 30, 60, or even 90 days after you've finished the work you've done for them. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly based on the industry you'll be working within.
Talk to a tax or personal finance professional to find out about how your finances and tax obligation might change once you decide to become self-employed, and then set up a plan so that you won't get caught slipping come Tax Day. The process is different for self-employed people, and this is an important aspect of the process that will save you lots of money and stress in the long run.
I learned the hard way to negotiate, upfront, a set period of time for my services (when applicable and reasonable) to be written into a contract and to set my rates not solely based on my previous salary but considering additional costs like WIFI, travel, health insurance that I have to pay for out-of-pocket, home office technology and tools, and the time it actually takes to complete tasks. The pandemic brought home how super-important this was because, as a freelancer, someone can simply cut you with no compensation or warning.
3. Get to know your true strengths and weaknesses when it comes to work ethic, skills, environment, and motivation.
Self-employment is definitely not for the faint at heart. It can be a constant hustle in the beginning, and if you're not careful, you might end up wondering how you'll pay your rent or car note simply because you don't have clients or work lined up. It's good to be a self-starter and super-organized. It's also good to brush up on your marketing, communications, and sales skills because you'll need to pitch yourself and your background in order to land projects and clients.
While working your full-time job, take a few courses or find a self-employed mentor so that you can strengthen your skills in areas where you might need some improvement (i.e., pitching, online marketing, social media branding, or project management.) Practice self-employment on the side as an intern or with a side hustle so you can learn a bit more about yourself that you might be overlooking while serving as an employee.
Being self-employed means you become multiple departments in one person. For example, your current company provides support like assistants, accounting departments, legal teams, and IT, so you might not be used to having to handle all of those things on your own. For some, this can be overwhelming, while others find the challenge invigorating and worth the sacrifice if it means having autonomy and financial and time freedom.
Also, if you're motivated to do your best by being around teams or working in an office, self-employment might be too isolating for you. True, there are groups and co-working cultures you can join, but it's definitely not the same as having built-in comradery of fellow full-timers at a company. Be aware of these things so that you're realistically making a choice that suits the life you want to live and the work experience you want to have in order to thrive.
4. Create an emergency fund solely for the transition.
While you're working a 9-to-5, create a separate savings account just for the transition. Anything can happen between quitting your job and getting your first freelance gig, client, or project. When I first stepped out to be self-employed, I thought I had the dream client, only to find out that it wasn't a good fit and I'd be looking for a new one after six months. This might happen several times before you really hit a groove, find your fit, build up your reputation, and get consistent work.
Having a financial cushion outside of your usual emergency fund helps to soften the blow if something like a client loss, a late invoice payment, or an unexpected work-related expense (i.e., computer replacement or broken equipment repair) comes up.
Sometimes, self-employment can include certain up-front costs like renting an office space, investing in new technology or other tools, travel expenses, or hiring other self-employed professionals (i.e., a consultant, web designer, or tax preparer), so you'll want to be smart, be prepared, and keep your receipts.
5. Understand your why.
Every great and sustainable journey starts with a good reason---a "why" that keeps a person going. If you know your why, you're less likely to just give up when things get rough, and you're less likely to make costly, mentally and physically draining mistakes. I decided to go for full-time self-employment because, after more than a decade working in my field, I really felt burned out at the time, began to resent not being promoted as quickly as I thought I should, and saw that I could make more money contracting my skills and talents out than working full-time for one company.
I also loved that I could pick and choose who I worked with and align my values with the projects that I was part of (versus being forced due to being a full-time employee beholden to a contract and the so-called values of a corporation or company.)
I've made quite a few mistakes over the years, but my why remains the same, and when times get hard, I simply remember the overall peace, flexibility, and autonomy I have in serving the women millennial audiences I want to serve through journalism and communications.
6. Be sure that you're offering services or expertise that can be used for years to come and that's competitive.
If you're considering self-employment, be sure your skills are competitive and have a future of need. I knew, even a decade ago, that much of the media industry was going the freelance route, and today, with layoffs becoming commonplace and full-time employee budgets being cut, contract work has become the name of the game. I saw this industry shift coming a mile away, and, like my early foray into digital media before publishing houses were monetizing it, I knew eventually, freelance work would be abundant and preferred.
If you're already doing a job that is in high demand or you offer something niche and one-of-a-kind, working for yourself might be the move. But if you've found that your current skills might be obsolete in the next two to five years, try learning another skill, shifting how you do the work you do, or tapping into another passion that can ensure you're offering something valuable in a market where it's direly needed.
Self-employment can be a joy and a pain, and for many of us, it's the only choice for self-care, mental wellness, and financial freedom. If you're considering taking the leap, take into account these tips and go forward in bold confidence, informed, and prepared.
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