Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Cheapskate's Guide to NYC: A Week of Freebies

I am skint. And I'm living in the 11th most expensive city for expats. Ouch. As much as I've wanted to see the sights of New York, I've also had to keep an eye on my cash. This has meant that over the past few weeks I've figured out how to do NYC on a budget. So I give you, a week of free things to do in NYC...

Monday: Walk the High Line

Would you guess that the photos above are taken from a park? The High Line, to be exact. Technically, the High Line is a park, but you don't really go to the High Line for the nature. You go to wander through Manhattan and take in the city's buildings from its High Line's elevated platform. Grab a spot on one of the benches dotted along park with a view of the city and just watch it all speed by.

That said, it does have some gorgeous greenery, which I captured on my summer trip to NYC a few years ago. And it is, of course, totally free to visit.

Tuesday: Visit the 9/11 Museum & Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must when visiting New York. It is heartbreaking to take in everything. But I think it's important to do, given that the event is such big part of modern history. The memorial itself is free to view. A cascading, infinite waterfall marks where the Twin Towers once stood. When walking around the Memorial, look out for roses, these are tied to victims' names when it's their birthday.

On Tuesdays, you can also get a free ticket into the 9/11 Museum. It's very tough to relearn the happenings of that day, but it's also touching and ultimately a worthwhile way to spend an evening in New York.

Wednesday: Take the ferry to Staten Island

This is one of those "secrets" that every New Yorker knows: the ferry to Staten Island is free! It's a service that is relied on by thousands of commuters with jobs in Manhattan but homes on the island. The route happens to take you past the Statue of Liberty so it's a must!

This is one freebie that I haven't had the chance to do yet - but I'm planning on making the trip soon! I'll be checking the ferry timetable to make sure I don't accidentally board during rush hour when it's uncomfortably jammed.

Thursday: Wander over the Brooklyn Bridge

One of my favourite things to do in NYC is cross the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm big into my photography, and there's so many photo opportunities! Walk from the Manhattan side, towards Brooklyn, and you'll end up in DUMBO. Another spot with an incredible view of the city and, you guessed it, it's great for your Insta-game.

Friday: Visit the MoMA

I love art galleries, especially those dedicated to modern art. So, by default, I love the MoMA. How could I not? Floor upon floor of thought-provoking, surprising, and sometimes downright confusing, modern art. I've yet to visit on this trip - but it was definitely one of my highlights when I visited New York a few years ago.

If you're an art enthusiast like me, pop along on a Friday evening, when the gallery has free entry. You'll need to line up at the Museum’s 54 Street entrance to get your free ticket. The free tickets are released from 4pm but it's recommended that you arrive after 6pm since the lines are crazy-long before that.

Saturday: Explore one of New York's Parks

When you think of New York, skyscrapers might first spring to mind. But surprisingly, New York also does big open spaces pretty damn well. In fact, in my first week living here I spent most of my time in the parks scattered around the city!

Central Park is, of course, a beautiful Manhattan spot that's free to roam. But it's far from the only place in New York City to get your fix of nature. Most notably is Prospect Park in Brooklyn. While Central Park is far better known, the architects who built both are said to prefer Prospect Park. I must say - I think I agree! That said, I'm totally biased. It was the very first place I visited after moving here earlier this month, so it will always have a special place in my heart for that reason alone!

Sunday: Lucky Dip

The thing about New York City is that there's always something new to do. The city never sleeps because the people here never stop hustling. Thus, there's never a day when there's not a new market to browse, exhibition to check out or gig to go to. Time Out has a handy guide of all the free events happening in the city right now - bookmark it and use it when you're next in town.


There's plenty to do in NYC on a tight budget. If you've been to NYC, let me know what you got up to - bonus points if it was a freebie!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Visa Talk: 4 Things to Do in Your First Week in the States

If you've secured yourself a visa to the States, congratulations, the hard part is done. But don't get too lax quite yet. There's still a bit of life admin you've got to sort out to make this your new home! Having just lived my first week in NYC, I wanted to share the things you should sort out in your first week in the USA. Tick one major thing off your to-do list a day and you'll be sorted in no time!

Day 1: Unpack

If I hadn't had unpacked my bag on that first night I arrived, bleary-eyed, at my Airbnb, I know I would still be living out of my suitcase. Thankfully, I mustered up to motivation to unpack that night, and it meant that the next morning, I felt that I was waking up in my new home. So whether your first night sleep is at a hotel, Airbnb, or a long-term apartment, get unpacked ASAP. With your possessions scattered around your room, it'll feel one hundred times more homely, helping beat any homesickness you might be feeling.

Day 2: Register for SEVIS

Within 10 days of your visa start date, you need to call your sponsor and register for SEVIS. If you're an Irish grad, your sponsor is probably CIEE, call them on +1 (888) 268 6245. All the details you'll need to have are on your DS-2019 form, which is most likely stapled into your passport, so have that to hand and it'll be a painless process. It's best to keep your sponsor on your good side, you don't want them chasing up after you, so just get this out of the way on your second day in the States.

Day 3: Meet a Fellow Expat

Even if you've journeyed to your new destination with a companion by your side, I would recommend grabbing a coffee with someone whose been through it all before. You probably already know someone living in the city you've moved to - there are loads of expats living in the States. If not, ask your friends back home if they know anyone they can introduce you to. Then meet them for a coffee and ask them for their advice! You'll learn loads by asking someone whose been through it all.

Day 4: Set Up Your Bank Account

Don't worry that you don't have proof of address, you don't seem to need it to open an account in the States! So handy! Just pop in - ideally with two forms of ID - and let them know that you're looking for a no-charge checking account. You may need to wait a little while for an appointment, but it's worth it to get yourself a debit card and bank account in the States. Plus, you can deposit the dollars you took over so you're not carrying around too much cash.

And... You're All Set Up! Almost

You're almost good to go! If it's your first time working in the US, you're also going to need a Social Security Number. You won't be applying for it in your first week though, because it's recommended that you wait ten days after entering the US - and two days after registering for SEVIS - before you apply for one.

So in four days, you're pretty much set up and ready to go! Have I forgotten anything? What is on your to-do list for when you arrive in the US? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

I've Arrived: What a Time to Be Stateside

I've been planning for it, longing for it and worrying about it for countless months, but at last it's here. I'm in New York City! And what a time to be here...

On Election Night I sat down for an all-nighter, surrounded by snacks, to watch America elect its first female President. Except I didn't, of course. What ended up watching was no less than a massive middle finger to women, LGBTs, Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans. I watched America decide that Trump was to be the next President of the country. Wow.

I'm not going to go into my thoughts too much here, not least because they've already been said by people far more clever and informed than me. But I couldn't put up a blog post - about being in the States no less - without mentioning it. So there was that.

Skimming over the apparent dawn of the apocalypse... I've been loving exploring my new home! Although New York is an extremely expensive city, there's still lots to do if you'd rather not part with your cash. Like crossing the Brooklyn Bridge! It's a great spot to get some beautiful photos of the city, day or night.

I've certainly been keeping a close eye on my money, and in the process I've been finding more and more things to do in New York City that happen to be free! Of course, there will be posts about it all so keep an eye out for that (psst, follow me on Bloglovin').

And when I'm not blogging, I'll sure as hell be on the Insta, so be sure to follow me there to see more of my adventures in NYC.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I'm Moving to New York, Baby! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

It's a move that I've been dreaming of for years, ever since I first heard about the Graduate Visa. And now I'm finally taking the plunge. In a matter of days, I'll be moving my life - or as much of it that fits into a 23kg baggage allowance - over to New York City.

I've always been a city kind of girl. I remember the excitement I got as a teenager as the 32 bus pulled into Dublin at night. Buildings around me illuminated by the offices still filled with late-night workers, I'd see every lit-up room as another story. It sounds pompous, but it's true. What can I say? I was a pretentious young 'un.

And then there was the first time I visited New York itself. As the Greyhound bus speeded towards China Town, I saw the oddly familiar, yet still awe-inspiring, high-rise buildings creep closer. Familiar, undoubtably because of the hundreds of films I'd seen in which the city outshines the leading cast. But, no matter how many times I watch Andy scurry around Manhattan in Devil Wears Prada or Harry and Sally goofing around in the Met, nothing can knock the thrill of seeing the real deal for yourself.

Lucky for me, I'll get that kick of adrenaline again in a few days! But for now, there's nothing left to do but see if I can squeeze one more pair of heels into my suitcase... See you across the pond.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

✈️ Lush Blue Ocean πŸ“ Split, Croatia

I'm not quite ready to embrace all things Autumnal, so I thought I'd relive my summer holiday and pretend it's summer for a little while longer. Scroll on for some pretty photos of Split in Croatia. And count yourself lucky that you can't get sunburn from a screen.

There's no other word for it: Croatia is stunning. Especially in the sun. Especially by the sea. Depending on how much time you've got to work with, you can either get a ferry to a nearby island or simply go on a little boat ride along the coast.

My friends and I went for the latter option, since we'd blown our chance to go to Hvar by sleeping in - that's one for next time. We hopped on a boat where we were handed a glass of wine and were treated with a spectacular view for an hour long trip.

So here's a to-do if you visit Split: Walk down to Riva, the promenade in the city, and get a boat to wherever. Sit back and watch the waves bop by. Be content. Life's good.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

πŸ’¬ The Importance of Why 🌟 Goal Setting

Sometimes, it feels too easy to set goals: my journals are packed with them. Despite making my goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely), I often end up looking back at my old journal entries and feeling disheartened at the lack of progress I've made.

Lately, I've began to realise why I haven't been achieving certain goals. It's because I haven't articulated the reasons that achieving a goal would be so great. Simply put: I don't know why I'm setting out to achieve the goal.

It sounds ridiculous: like duh, obviously the reason that I want to give up sweets is to be healthier. But what does being healthy mean to me? Do I want to give up sweets and be healthier in order to live longer? For better skin? To lose weight? For whiter teeth? And hold up: Why do I even want white teeth? Is it to look better in photos, to feel better about myself, to feel more confident? It's only when you get really specific about the reason why you're doing something that you can crystallise your intention and get motivated enough to actually put the hard work in to achieve your goal.

Think about it. When you've got to get to the airport for an early-morning flight, how easy is it to get out of bed the second that your alarm rings that day? But try setting your alarm for 6.30am on a Sunday morning and see how many times you hit the snooze button... Or just sleep through it entirely. I have first-hand experience with this struggle: one of my personal goals is to get up earlier. But every morning, when my alarm blares, I hit snooze over and over again until holy shit I have to wake up now, I mean right this second, or I am seriously going to be late for work- o'clock.

Both examples involve hauling myself out of bed in the morning, but it's only when there's a flight to catch that I actually achieve my goal. Clearly, there's a big difference between the two situations. When I've got to get to the airport, there's a crystal clear reason why I've got to get out of bed: if I don't I'll miss the plane, miss out on an incredible holiday and waste a lot of money. But in the second example, there's no obvious reason why I should wake up... So I don't. A vague notion that early-risers achieve more, doesn't work. If I really want to start waking up early I need to let myself know why I should bother.

I need to ask myself why is this so important to me? What happens if I achieve my goal and why does that matter? Why do I want to grow my blog, run a 15k, do anything that involves getting out of bed at all, let alone at 6.30am?

For the best results, ask yourself why and write down your answer. Next time you're writing your goals down, spend an extra few minutes to jot down all the benefits you'll get from achieving the goal. If your struggling to think of more than one solid reason that you're attempting to achieve a goal, google it - I found out that early-risers are more productive, and added that to my list! If you're still finding it difficult to come up with numerous reasons to achieve a goal, perhaps reconsider the entire goal: is this something you will really dedicate time and effort into achieving when you can't even list off the benefits of achieving the goal? This gives you a chance to prioritise the goals that will bring about the most positive change in your life.

With a clear understanding of why you want something, you'll find that your willpower will skyrocket. At least that's the theory! So there's nothing left to do except my alarm for 6.30am and wake up bright and early. See you then?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

✈️ Send Me Somewhere Sunny πŸ“Split, Croatia

Around this time of year, everyone seems to find their chill. The office quietens, colleges and schools close and I happily make my way somewhere sunny for the inevitable summer holiday. The destination this time? Croatia, for the music festival Ultra.

Like my Ibiza holiday in 2015, Croatia had a blazing sun and EDM, but it felt entirely different. I loved Ibiza and would go there again in a heartbeat, but it's not exactly a cultural hotspot. Croatia, and specifically Split, however is a place to get a healthy dose of history and culture.

Our first day in Croatia was spent exploring Split in the toasty 31°C heat. Of course, we had to climb to the top of the St. Domnius Bell Tower to see the city from up high. A great vantage point of the rows and rows of orange roofed buildings, sitting below the towering mountains in the distance. Just breathtaking.

Inside St. Dominus Cathedral we were met with a blissful silence - the kind that you find in places of worship. Relieved to be in the shade for a while, I drank in the spiritual surroundings and took a few photos (duh).

So clearly Split is beautiful. But our accommodation? Not so much. We went for a seriously low cost option: cheap but not so cheerful. We collapsed into our room after a few hours of travelling and were met with a boiling, bog standard room... with no air conditioning. Ouch. Ever the resourceful travellers, we sorted it out by popping to the first electrical store we could find and buying a fan for the room. Sorted.

And that, my friends, was my first 24 hours in Croatia. I was there for a whole week so you can expect a whole lot more photos from the trip to make their way onto the blog and my Instagram. See you for the next one!