Oh, Uber drivers.

You come across some crazy characters when traveling. You can learn a lot from people when you least expect it, if you only take a moment to listen. Everyone, even people you meet in passing, has a story to tell. I’ve met some of the most interesting people through ride-sharing. Here are the highlights.

Sonder – noun. The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.

The five Uber drivers you meet on the road and what you’ll learn from them.

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The Knights Templar Rocker in Bratislava

Flixbus Bratislava Flixbus Prague honest Flixbus Review is Flxbus reliable

You won’t remember a time when you’ve been more scared. You see him on the side of the road, across from the Bratislava bus station. You demand he pull up to meet you because you don’t want to cross a busy street. You immediately regret it.

He angrily u-turns. You can hear the heavy metal music when he’s still 200 feet away.  His bright red car might as well have been stained with the blood of his enemies. When he jumps out of the front seat, he’s way taller than you expected. He’s hefty. His dark gray hair is carved into spikes on the top of his head.

You ride without speaking. You’ll pretend it’s because of the language barrier. You don’t speak Slovak. But the metal he’s blasting is in English, which he clearly understands. You just don’t know what to say to this Uber driver. There’s a Templar cross hanging from his rearview mirror. You’ll convince yourself later that there was probably a sword in the trunk.

When he drops you off at the Most SNP bus stop in Bratislava, you leap from the car in relief, even if your new location is under a sketchy concrete bridge.

What you learn: Never demand anything from someone over the phone. Be polite. Ask nicely. Because they might have a sword in their trunk.

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The Despacito Repeater in Vienna

airline connections short connections tight connections

You’ve had a long day exploring Schönbrunn Palace. You hop in an Uber because your feet are swollen and the idea of walking all the way back to the S-Bahn station makes you want to cry. Despacito is playing. You think, “Oh, I love this song!” You and your friend even sing along.

I don’t know the words, so I sing poquito.

I don’t know the words, so I sing Dorito.

I don’t know the words, so I sing contingooooo.

The song fades out. Then sharply back in.

Come and move that in my direction…

Odd, you think. Maybe it’s just his phone playing the song again. But then it comes on again. In English. In French. In Arabic. In a language you don’t even recognize. By the time you arrive home, your ears are bleeding. “Never again,” you mumble. You hear Despacito rev up again as he drives away. You clammer into the building.

What you learn: The maximum time that a human being can listen to Despactio in one sitting is considerably less than eleven plays.

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The Lobbyist in DC

What was it like at Trump's inauguration how to get good inauguration tickets

Washington, DC. 5PM. Thursday, the day before Trump’s inauguration. You go to Georgetown in the middle of the afternoon because the dress rental company screwed up your order for the inaugural ball you’re due to attend and you’re desperate to find a replacement.

You struck out and are in near tears with nothing to wear and the fanciest event of your life starts in three hours. Then your fairy godfather appears. He offers to take you to CVS to buy some safety pins and suggests ways of pinning the dress up so it still looks nice. He takes shortcuts to try and beat the DC traffic and tells you stories of fun things to do in the area.

He asks you why you’re in town. For the inauguration, you say. There’s a lull in the conversation.

He takes a deep breath. “So, did you attend a lot of Trump’s rallies before coming up?”

“Omg no,” you immediately reply. “He’s the worst. I’m just here to report.”

The mood lightens up right away.

“Oh, I guess now I can speak freely.”

You learn his heart is really in data collection and communication. He’s poured his life savings and energy into a company that’s completely on hold because of the change in administrations. No one knows what Trump’s stances and priorities are.

Your ride is well over an hour because of DC traffic. The last quarter mile takes 30 minutes, but you don’t get out to walk. You’re invested in this conversation. This man is your friend now.

What you learn: You can get along with more people than you think if you’re actually brave enough to start a conversation. New friends are everywhere.

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The Mario Cart Racer in San Jose

travel burnout tired of traveling

Most of the Uber drivers you’ve had in your life can actually drive. But you’ve never been as distressed as when you hopped into this man’s tiny car in San Jose. Even Knights Templar rocker was able to stay on the road, so you’re in completely uncharted territory as you grip your seat, dodge bananas, and try to nab power ups on the Costa Rican highway.

You’re on your way to pick up your rental car, but the lack of solid addresses in the Costa Rican capital cause you to circle the block no less than four times. Your driver begins to get irritated because you don’t know where the buisness is. You try to explain that you’ve never been here before. This makes him madder.

You almost roll backwards into a ditch and run over a dog before finally spotting the rental car sign. You swear you can hear the Hallelujah Chorus. You’ve barely shut your door before he speeds away.

What you learn: Life is precious and can end at any time. There are also things scarier than being bitten by an iguana in Costa Rica.

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The Silent Type in Amsterdam

Study Abroad Bucket List: The Ultimate European Scavenger Hunt

It’s 3:30AM. The woman in your dorm has been snoring at top speed for nearly six straight hours. You are covered in bedbug bites. Your flight to London is at 7:00AM, but you decide to leave for the airport now because this is one of the most uncomfortable sleeping situations you’ve ever been in.

You use the remnants of the hostel wifi to call your ride. It’s only September, but Amsterdam is freezing in the middle of the night. As you stand next to the canal, shivering, itchy, and exhausted, your ride arrives.

It’s warm in the car. He’s softly playing classical music. He greets you with a smile, puts your suitcase in the trunk, and then doesn’t speak to you again for the entirety of the ride.

You slip into a blissful 20 minute nap, so when you arrive at Schipol, all is well.

You:

Your Uber Driver:

You:

Your Uber Driver:

You: 5 stars!!

He’s one of your favorite Uber drivers ever.

What you learn: sometimes not talking at all is the best way to bless someone.

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2017 in review. Wow. 2017 was a big year for me! I quit a job a hated. I quit a job I actually liked, but took too much time away from my writing. I started eating better. I stopped eating better. I went on a lot of trips.

In 2016, I paid off my student loans and explored the States in depth. In 2017, I went on my first solo trip abroad and almost died a few times. All in good fun!

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States visited: Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas.

Countries visited: USA, Costa Rica, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

Here’s how it went:

Went to Boston on a Week’s Notice to Surprise my College Bestie

friends in Boston

Friends in Boston. Brittney, the surprisee, is in the middle.

I started off the year by flying to Boston to surprise one of my best friends from college. I got some frantic texts from her sister the last week of December letting me know the entire squad was meeting up in Boston and could I come too? 

I don’t really make good financial choices, so I went! And boy, was she surprised.

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Witnessed a Historic Weekend in Washington DC

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

I went to an inaugural ball, Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, AND got some free mimosas from the Hungarian embassy all over the course of one long weekend. It was wild and emotionally draining, but I’m glad I went.

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Hunted for Pancake, the 1st Puppy of Texas, in Austin

Texas House of Representatives

Looking for Pancake in the Texas House of Representatives

My brother in law graduated as a Texas State Trooper in February, so we all went to Austin for the ceremony. It was pretty cool. But I was more interested in finding Pancake, Governor Abbot’s dog. I didn’t find her.

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Failed at Finding Bluebonnets in Fredericksburg

bluebonnets texas hill country

The biggest cluster we could find.

Texas Bluebonnets are legends, so my mom and I went on a hunt for them over spring break. I had visions of twirling in a field brimming with tall blue flowers. I just knew my Instas were gonna be bangin. But I got the photo above instead. This part of my 2017 in review is a pretty great representation of my life, actually.  The Texas Hill Country is still pretty though, so I couldn’t be too mad.

Visited Chip and Jo in Waco

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Enjoy a Cinnamon Roll courtesy of Joanna Gaines

I got my braces off on May 1st, so Waco was one of my favorite trips in 2017 because I could finally smile for photos with no more metal mouth. My mom, sister, and I went to Magnolia Market and the Dr. Pepper Museum — and managed not to join a cult in the process.

Caught up with my College Pals at my Mount Holyoke Reunion

mount holyoke college 2 year reunion

We want to recreate this photo at each reunion.

Mount Holyoke does a two year reunion so that you can come back and watch your “little sister” class graduate. Two years is actually the perfect amount of time for a college reunion because no one has actually accomplished anything yet, so there’s a lot of commiserating and not a lot of bragging. I left really looking forward to my 5 year.

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Went Househunting in Newport

newport rhode island

The Breakers

I literally have no idea what I’m going to do if I don’t end up crazy rich later in life. Case in point: casually touring the likes of The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island and thinking, “Yeah. I can totally see myself here.” I mean, what’s a couple billion dollars to a hustler like me?

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Got Bitten by an Iguana in Costa Rica

Iguana Hotel El faro

My little amigo who would later betray me

My trip to Costa Rica in May was a hot mess. I got bitten by an Iguana. My friend Smoky and I got lost in the rain (and not in a romantic way) more times that I care to admit. I saw a man peeing in the jungle. I somehow survived.

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Herded Children in Nashville

parthenon model nashville

Inside the Parthenon model in Nashville

Somehow I pass as an adult out there in the world and was placed in charge of the health and safety of a group of teenagers as we traveled from Houston to Nashville and back again for a week of service work in July. They all survived and I got to eat a lot of ice cream and visit the Grand Ole Opry, so I’d say it was a great trip.

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Got Bedbugs (and had a blast!) in Europe

Sober at Oktoberfest Oktoberfest drinks other than beer Not drinking at Oktoberfest

Me and Smoky at Oktoberfest!

Y’all. My feet about fell off on my grand tour of Europe. I’m not exaggerating. My toes literally started to separate from my body. I also was the proud owner of 70+ bedbug bites and jet leg to beat the band. But I still had a blast! I promise. I braved my first international solo trip and crossed quite a view experiences off my bucket list.

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Got in a Bus Accident in San Antonio

2017 in review

My Texas-sized breakfast at the hotel that morning.

Just imagine your bus breaking down and waiting on the side of the road for two hours while looking after 50+ students. Then imagine getting sideswiped by a guy who fell asleep at the wheel about 90 seconds after you finally got to reboard the bus and having to get off again and wait another two hours in the parking lot to be rescued by a second bus.

At least I got to meet a hot fireman who was working the crash. 

Had the Best View in Austin

Hilton in downtown Austin View

Can you spot Willie? He’s there, I promise.

I went to Austin to watch my two baby cousins while their parents attended a Christmas party. We went full on Eloise at the Plaza and spent our evening at the Hilton in downtown Austin eating chocolate covered pretzels, calling the front desk, and admiring the massive Willie Nelson mural we could see from our window. The horses on 6th Street put on a pretty great show as well.

Took my Mom to “Prague”

czech cultural center la grange texas

Just as pretty as the real Prague….right?

My sister went to Prague in 2013 and hasn’t stopped gushing about it. I went in October and became equally obsessed. So now my mom really wants to visit. Prague was still inaccessible the last time she was in mainland Europe in 1978, so she missed it during her grand tour, and I couldn’t quite afford to fly her over — so I did the next best thing. I took her to Prague, Texas!

There are many, many Czechs in Texas (known as HOT (heart of Texas) Czechs) and so the Prague here is basically the same. Basically.

“Moved” my Sister to Corpus Christi

Selena Memorial Corpus Christi

The Queen and I

When I say moved, I really mean came to Corpus Christi over New Years to pay my respects to Selena and took a conveniently timed nap when the moving truck arrived so I wouldn’t have to help unload anything. I’m the worst.

My 2017 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2018:

January

Fort Worth to see the famous stockyards and hopefully pet a longhorn.

March

Taking a great Southwest road trip with my mom to include the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley so that I can run, Forrest, run.

May

Moving to Australia on a Work and Holiday visa.

August 

I’d love to go to Fiji for my birthday, as well we Bali while I’m on that side of the world. I hope it works out!

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2017 year in review

 

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Is Flixbus Reliable?

That was my first question when my friend Smoky suggested we use it on our European adventure.

Flixbus is significantly cheaper than taking a train or a flight between cities, so I was inclined to give it a try, even though the idea of taking a bus made my travel anxiety flare up…like a lot.

Would I be able to find my stop? Would the bus leave early? If it’s delayed, does that mean it’s actually going to come? Will the bathroom be clean? What if we get stuck in traffic and I lose a whole day in my destination?

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Is flixbus reliable Is flixbus reliable honest Flixbus Review

This stems from the fact that I took buses in college a lot. Usually from my sleepy Western Massachusetts campus into Boston or down into NYC. I found them to be kind of icky and delayed like seven times out of ten. Bus stations also tend to stress me out simply because of the mere chaos of it all.

BUT

Flixbus is all about rebranding buses.

Its team promises clean, eco-friendly buses with free wifi. The stops seemed easy enough to find and the prices (starting at 5 Euro!) couldn’t be beat.

So I bought my tickets and hoped for the best.

Here’s my honest Flixbus review: 

Flixbus Review Berlin —> Amsterdam

flixbus berlin is flixbus reliable

Berlin, my first stop this trip.

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left on time

I took an overnight Flixbus from Berlin to Amsterdam because I wanted to save money on accommodations. It took about eleven hours and I was dreading it, but as we pulled into Sloterdijk, I actually said to the girl next to me, “Wow, that actually wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

It wasn’t bad at all, actually.

Flixbus Berlin to Amsterdam normally leaves from the central Alexanderplatz stop (among others in the city — including the most-used stop: Berlin Central Bus Station), but because of the Berlin Marathon, the stop was relocated. I got multiple emails from Flixbus with the exact coordinates of the “pop up stop,” so it was very easy to find.

I even tweeted them to confirm (hello, travel anxiety) and the social media team responded within the hour to put me at ease.

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Flixbus Review Munich —> Prague

Flixbus Munich flixbus berlin is flixbus reliable Flixbus Review

At Oktoberfest 🙂

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left on time

After a little too much fun at Oktoberfest, Smoky and I were headed to the fairy tale city of Prague. The Flixbus stops at Munich Central Bus station are very easy to find. You can take the SBAHN to Hackerbrücke and then it’s like a two-minute walk to the stops. Everything is labeled and there are plenty of places to eat or shop while waiting for your bus.

One thing to note: when Flixbus is on time, it’s ON TIME. We rolled out of the station at our exact departure time and not a second later. So is Flixbus reliable? In this instance, yes.

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Flixbus Review Prague —> Vienna

Flixbus Prague Flixbus Prague honest Flixbus Review is Flxbus reliable

Finding the stop: Hard

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Left early

The Flixbus stop at Prague Main Railway Station was difficult to find. I think this because we came in the “grand entrance” at the front of the station, so to find it, we had to walk allll the way to the back of the station, and up some stairs. The actual stop is on a strip in the middle of the road behind the station.

We had to ask for lots of help and ran around like beheaded chickens for a bit, but we did eventually find it. If you are departing from Prague ÚAN Florenc, I wouldn’t worry as it’s small and manageable, but if you’re leaving from the station, give yourself some extra time to find your stop.

This bus actually left about six minutes before it was “supposed” to. Smoky and I figured it was because we were the only two ticketed passengers due to board in Prague, as there were only like ten other people on the entire double decker bus, so there wasn’t a point to waiting around.

Is Flixbus reliable? Not if you don’t have a ticket! If the driver doesn’t even know you’re coming, he won’t wait for you, so make sure to buy your ticket at least an hour or so in advance.

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Flixbus Review Vienna —> Bratislava

Flixbus Vienna Flixbus Prague honest Flixbus Review is Flxbus reliable

The Royal Opera House in Vienna.

Finding the stop: Moderate

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Over an hour late, so we bailed.

The Flixbus stops at Vienna Erdberg are relatively easy to find, since we were dropped off from Prague in the same general area, but I say “moderate” because we never actually found our bus stop. We were only doing a day trip to Bratislava, so we didn’t have too much time to spare and it was FREEZING outside (the terminal is basically a wind tunnel), so when we saw that our bus was going to be over an hour late, we knew we needed a plan B.

Thankfully, there was another Flixbus just sitting there that was also going to Bratislava, so Smoky and I decided to forfeit our orignial tickets and buy new ones. The 7 Euro for the new ticket was worth it to get out of the cold and get on our way.

Flixbus Review Bratislava —> Budapest

Flixbus Bratislava Flixbus Prague honest Flixbus Review is Flxbus reliable

Beautiful Bratislava

Finding the stop: Easy

Punctuality of the Flixbus: Over an hour late

My travel anxiety flared up in a major way over this bus to Budapest, but it turns out it was for nothing. I wish I more like Smoky. Calm, cool, collected…confident that the bus would come. Because it did. It was reaaaaally late, but it came exactly when the app said it would.

The Most SNP Flixbus stop in Bratislava isn’t somewhere I’d like to be after dark, since it’s kind of just under a bridge, but as we were there during the daylight hours it was fine.

The Bratislava Central Bus Station, however, is really nice. Like really nice. Like free wifi, clean AF free bathrooms, and free luggage storage nice. I would almost consider it a tourist attraction on its own.

We did make the mistake of sitting across from the bathroom on the bus to Budapest. Don’t do this y’all. Every time we went over a bump, the door would fly open. It was almost reaaal embarrassing.

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So, is Flixbus Reliable?

Flixbus Budapest Flixbus Budapest is flixbus reliable an honest flixbus review

At the Széchenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest

Does the Flixbus Wifi Work?

Yes! It worked great on every single ride; however, to keep things moving quickly, Flixbus limits the amount of data you can use. Be sure to download your audiobooks and Netflix episodes beforehand, then put your phone on airplane mode and only use the wifi when you really need to. There are also power outlets on board.

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Is Flixbus Dirty?

I didn’t think so. The buses I took were nicer than some of the trains I’ve been on. I even actually used the bathroom on the way from Berlin to Amsterdam. I remember being like “Wow, how suspicious. It’s really clean in here…too clean.” There was toilet paper provided, but you should always bring your own as well. On the way from Bratislava to Budapest, someone dropped the roll…wouldn’t want to use that one.

is flixbus reliable honest flixbus review

The Blue Church in Bratislava

Honest Flixbus review: Should I use Flixbus? 

I would use it again! Yes, two of our buses were really delayed and we had some hiccups finding some of the stops, but Flixbus buses are just that…buses. They are subjected to things outside their control like weather and traffic. If the bus is going to be late, the Flixbus app lets you know and updates itself in real time. The drivers we met were kind and helpful. The buses were clean.

For me, that makes up for it. 

If you’re looking to save some money on your next trip to Europe, I would recommend looking into Flixbus. Just prepare to be flexible

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I didn’t partner with Flixbus for this review and received no compensation. All opinions, as always, are my own. 

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