The Big Leap: 5 Reasons I Left the U.S. for London

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This new life chapter of mine is an insane one.

Earlier this summer I said “ciao” to the USA- my assigned birthplace- for London, UK, the truest home in my heart. People who know me know how infatuated I am with this city, lovestruck ever since I studied abroad here in 2008. I’ll save my reasons for why I love London, for that could result in a length tantamount to a Harry Potter read. But I will share the 5 reasons why I moved, what possessed me to do something so “crazy” and why I’m confident that everything will work out the way it should.

1. I choose life to be an adventure.

Life is that elusive entity given to all without much instruction, allowing each of us to interpret the design of our existence. It is a choice to believe that life is pure suffering…it is a choice to assume life is to tolerate an unsatisfactory career until you retire, “when happiness finally starts”.  I’m having none of it.  I’d rather see life as a journey full of adventure, wonder and tremendous possibilities.

2. There’s no better place to build my globetrotting writer/photographer & entrepreneurial career.

My intentions are to travel the world, share valuable content through these adventures to inform & inspire, continue my destination wedding photography and launch a travel tech startup business in the UK. I follow the philosophy “go wherever the flow of life leads you”, and London remains unmatched. If you continually find yourself at the right place meeting the right people at the right time and finding the right opportunities based on your intentions…that’s most likely where you belong. I’d rather not risk staying comfortable surrounded by 2nd best opportunities.

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3. I need to walk the walk

I’ve dreamed, achieved and encouraged others to do the same over the last 4 years (which is why I started this website in 2010). I say:

“Get past your fears!”

“No excuses- Make it happen!”

“The world is yours if you want it to be!”

…and there I was, initially scared to death to pursue my own ultimate desire of moving overseas. Adventures are meant to provoke you, challenge you, dare you to push your limits. Isn’t it the teachers who experience the most challenging assignments before sharing their wisdom? It’s about time I attain further qualifications for advocating the passion-driven life.

4: A near-death experience last year taught me how futile “someday dreams” really are.

It’s difficult to stay the same after being in the hands of an in-motion driver suddenly under a diabetic coma, weaving in and out of traffic and stoplights unconsciously on a busy road. Is there really much to lose if I decide to chase my dreams now with this one life I’ve been given? None of us know our personal termination date, and I’d rather perish knowing I gave my dreams a chance.

5: I’m learning to trust my intuition

Some call it your “gut feeling” or your “inner spirit,” but I believe everyone is able to access guidance from within (living by intuition will be a major topic on my website). I have always desired to live in London, but it was only until last year that I had that nagging, internal “hunch” to finally make it happen this summer. I’ve learned over time the difference of acting upon a mere desire and acting upon your intuition, and adhering to the latter has never steered me wrong…no matter how crazy it might look.

So maybe I’ll make it in London…maybe I’ll run out of opportunities and return to the States. What matters most is that I can live in peace knowing that I quelled my fears attempting to live the life I want.

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Have you made an equally huge jump in your life? Are there things you currently desire but feel it’s unlikely to happen? Share your thoughts, experiences and questions below!

LondonLife: The Hundred Foot Journey Gala Screening (with Helen Mirren)!

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I had a stroke of London luck Wednesday, winning tickets to see the Helen Mirren-fronted UK gala premiere of “The Hundred Foot Journey.” It’s a Steven Spielberg and Oprah-produced film, and I discovered they both appeared at the New York City premiere a few weeks prior. Could you imagine if they came to London?! I, however, knew better; the press list a few weeks ago showed they wouldn’t be attending. But I did get to see the main stars of the film, including living legend Helen Mirren, vet actor Om Puri and newcomer Manish Dayal, which was rewarding enough.

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Before the screening, Helen shared a few remarks alongside her co-stars about the film.

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The Movie:

Admittedly, I had to adjust my expectations while watching the movie (which is based on a book), reminding Continue reading

Trip Essentials: 6 Must-Have (and Free) Apps for Every Traveler

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While it’s exciting to discover a growing market of trendy, trick-heavy travel apps- one can now book private jet flights with apps such as BlackJet and PrivateFly- we still wonder: what are the excellent, practical apps suitable for all travelers?  From the business exec to the budget backpacker, these tried-and-true apps are the definitive finds for every kind of world tripper.


 Kayak

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Flight fare search has never been more comprehensive (and budget-conscious). This app consolidates all commercial airline flights to provide the lowest available fares. While the desktop version is more feature-rich, the app does wonders for quick, accurate flight quotes on-the-go.

Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone

Alternative: Skyscanner


Xe Currency

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Let XE Currency ease the guessing work of foreign money amounts on your next trip; this helpful app provides accurate conversion for every world currency, helping travelers better understand their “foreign” budget before they check-in for departure.

Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, or Firefox OS

Alternative: Converter Plus


Google Maps

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A seamless option for current Google/Gmail users, Google Maps is still the reigning app for accurate worldwide navigation. Its public transit ability is its best feature, providing astoundingly accurate directions and stop times for global cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Sydney.

Available for: iOS and Android

Alternative: Waze


 Wi-Fi Finder

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Going on a short overseas trip and don’t really need the hassle/cost of a foreign phone service? Wi-Fi Finder uses Continue reading

Insider’s London: Albion Cafe, Shoreditch

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In a Nutshell: A trendy resto in a very trendy area that surprisingly delivers on food quality (and spectator fashion).

Best For: People-Gawking, Al Fresco Dining/Drinking, Artsy Types, Hipsters & The People Who Love Them, British Dining, Brunch

Neighborhood: Shoreditch

There’s the Boundary Hotel and its posh rooftop bar above…and the members-only Shoreditch House across the street.  I was a tad nervous that I’d be trapped in some overly pretentious East End nonsense at the Albion, but the ambiance (though still very much hip) struck the right balance.  My friend and I were lucky to snag al fresco lunchtime seats, and the proximity to all the street activity and passerby fashions on Boundary/Redchurch street was worth the price in itself.

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The menu is quintessential British, and the dishes were listed with minimal description…which made me a tad anxious.  My recommendation is to ask your waiter what he or she would recommend, for the “Rabbit in Mustard Cream” wouldn’t have been my first choice.  The actual presentation of the meal was tremendously more attractive than the terse text on the menu.  It would be the best, most tender rabbit dish I’ve ever tasted (others have been too gamey for my preference) and the mustard cream was well-balanced, appeasing my fears of an onslaught of tang throughout the dish.

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For dessert we split a rhubarb crumble, which came with a lovely warmed custard to help neuter the sweet punch of the rhubarb flavor.  Add to the mix good tea, affordable wine and unfussy service, and you have one of my more delightful restaurant experiences in East London of the summer.

The Albion may just have converted this reluctant American into enjoying British fare.

Golden Tip: Come early, and if you can get a seat outside (especially when the weather is excellent) do so.

http://www.albioncaff.co.uk/caff/

 

Image Credit: Alamy, Johnathan Player, and Travis Levius

Insider’s London: Ottolenghi, Belgravia

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(Pictured: Yotam Ottolenghi, the international chef-God himself)

In a Nutshell: Yotam’s smallest, most charming London branch of stunning daily-changing dishes & sweets

Best For: Gourmands, Sweet Tooth Bandits, Luxe Lovers, Posh Diners, Party of 2, Aspiring Chefs, Intimate Experiences

Neighborhood: Belgravia


You know it’s real love once you return the 2nd time and your heart still flutters.

Ottolenghi’s Belgravia location is one of three in London and- though there are others much closer to where I live- I have an allegiance to this tiny, 6-seater goldmine of masterful sweets.

Yes, there’s just one (minimalistic & spiffy) round communal table here. Due to its limited size, most use the take-out service, but I see the in-dining experience as part of the thrill (I was able to easily snag a seat on both visits, including one accompanied by a friend).  My expectations were high, for Israeli-born Yotam Ottolenghi is a rockstar chef & author; every true London foodie/amateur chef owns at least one of his international best-selling cookbook Bibles.

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Though Ottolenghi serves his signature Mediterranean-inspired food (which I’m sure is sublime), I came for those lust-worthy desserts.  On my first visit, I ordered jasmine tea and the lime cheesecake with strawberries.  I tasted the cheesecake…then became paralyzed for about 6 seconds.

Creamy, dreamy and deceptively filling- you can truly taste the *thoughtfulness* of the size, the perfect portion of large glazed strawberries, the atypical shape, etc.  Yes…I have no qualms confessing that this was the best cheesecake I’ve ever had.

Love brought me back a 2nd time recently, testing if it could sweep me off my feet as it accomplished three months prior. I ordered green tea with the Blackberry Financier.  I took a breath and took a small edge of the vanilla-almond cake…then proceeded to shout “Hallelujah!” in my head.

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I wasn’t eating a cake…I was eating an experience.  Rich, sweet vanilla-almond batter with blackberries, marscapone cream and pistachio shavings on top…with a ‘surprise’ stuffing of a raspberry and halved apricot in the center.  Every single bite was a celebration.

Desserts are in the £4ish range and is absolutely worth every pence.

Two time’s the charm, Ottolenghi.  You are officially one of my top favorite foodie destinations in London.

**Note:
The ONE major downside: There is no public restroom in this location.  But true, unconditional love forgives all shortcomings, yes?

http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/belgravia/

[Image Credits: Clara Molden, Char and Travis Levius]

Insider’s London: The Proud Archivist

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In a Nutshell: A hip, multipurpose canal-side space in East London with prime surroundings (and people-watching)

Best for: Hipsters & the People Who Love Them, Al Fresco Drinking/Dining, Artsy-Smartsy Types, Minimalist Enthusiasts, People-Gawking, Style Mavens, View Seekers

Neighborhood: Haggerston


Being everything to everyone seldom works for an independent business, but it’s surely worked in The Proud Archivist’s favor.

This attractive venue on Regent’s Canal is a restaurant/bar/gallery/event & workshop space that intrigues rather than intimidates, designed with a flow of space that makes sense.  The vibe is “casual hipster,” just right for its trendy Haggerston/Dalston environs- a community center for the modish, if you will.

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I went with a friend on lovely, warm and sunny Sunday afternoon.  We ordered (well-priced) wine, beers & ciders, and snagged an al fresco table next to the canal.  The modern, creative atmosphere, the well-selected music, the stylish clientele, the gorgeous view of Regent’s Canal, the prime East End people-watching— it all worked wonderfully.

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I was a bit stunned that many reviews on major social media sites weren’t as flattering…then I realized the gripes were with the food and service.  I didn’t try the food there, and to prevent spoiling my adoration for this place, probably won’t.  I also must’ve visited when the staff were on their best behavior, as my service was A-OK.

This is one of my new favorites; I hope to never need to corroborate those service-poor rumors on any future visits.

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[Image Credits: Jill Tate, Luke Hayes, and Tilt]

Bug-Eating in London, and Other Life Lessons

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 Image Credit: @wilkes888

I know…you probably think I’m nuts. I can just feel that smoldering energy of judgment piercing through your laptop/smartphone device.

Honestly, I’m not sure what came over me a few days ago, but when I saw a London listing for a pop-up insect tasting near St. Paul’s, I was thrilled to try something so crazy, so out there (and so far removed from my comfort zone).

But, I realized that this is exactly what I advocate on this travel/life blog: trying new things, challenging oneself, taking chances to live life beyond the ordinary.

Aptly titled “Pestaurant”, this free Rentokil pop-up shock shop went on a global tour this summer, giving city dwellers a chance to munch on cuisine that requires- erm- an acquired taste. On the menu: roasted/salt-and-pepper crickets, roasted Mexican spiced worms, roasted locusts, pork sliders with mealworms and- for the less ambitious- chili pigeon burgers.

I, being absolutely nuts, tried them all, along with a few of my equally bold and crazy friends in the city.

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I did 3 taste-testing videos [below] so you can see how I fared. You’ll clearly see the roasted locusts weren’t my favorite of the bunch.

Though I needed plenty of juice and sweets to exterminate the aftertaste, I was so happy I did it. I faced a fear and did something out of the ordinary; now I have an interesting(ly gross) story to share at networking events and cocktail hours. ;)

Have you done something out of the ordinary recently? Faced a fear and now more courageous because of it? Share your experience below!