THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH…IS DENMARK

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Move over, Disney World. I know being the “happiest place on earth” is basically your tagline, but you’ve got no seat in the United Nations, so technically your slogan is libel. However, I do have a constant love affair with your dear movies so I won’t file anything against you.

Every year the UN published its World Happiness Report, and in honor of celebrating World Happiness Day this week (by wallowing in my Millennial mid-college crisis and day-drinking), I might as well find some happiness in the happiest country in the world– Denmark. Yes, Denmark, the home of the most miserable, suicidal teenager himself, Hamlet. There is even a word in their language that embodies the Danish culture of coziness and happiness, called hygge. In the American culture, the closest phrase equivalent to hygge is probably supersize me. The spirit of hygge is incomprehensible to the American culture being that the best way we feel happy is when we’re sitting alone on a Sunday night watching the latest episode of whatever we paused last week on Netflix. Denmark, however, is all about the happiness of being together with friends and family and the warm feeling you get when you’re drunk.

The countries in Scandinavia are all about its people. In New York City, trying to cross an intersection in Manhattan is the jungle equivalent of fighting for your own life. If it’s DON’T WALK, you can totally walk but at other people’s risk. Scandinavians are all about the social responsibility. They don’t lock their bikes. If no one locks a bike in Brooklyn for five minutes, it would already be sold on EBay in ten minutes or become an interpretive art piece at the MoMa in ten seconds. Biking is a way of life in Copenhagen, which makes it no surprise that it is the #1 Smartest City in the World, according to Fast Company. So they’re energy efficient and have a low carbon footprint. I’d like to see your SAT scores some time, Denmark. Oh, the US still ranks lower than Denmark in education.

There is no shame in conversation in Denmark which means that “small talk,” is a chance for you to finally say your age, how much you earn, and what you really think about Miley Cyrus. That’s all according to the humorous tales from the Xenophobe’s Guide to the Danes. After recently coming back from Denmark, my mindset didn’t change but I may have been a bit angry at the Danish for being just so damn happy.

Denmark’s happy. Norway’s happy. Sweden’s happy. That’s it. They’re all just happy. They love each other and find nirvana from just being around other people. They don’t have anything else to worry about. Americans are all just finding happiness, whatever that word means. It’s basically why everyone comes to America, is to find happiness. That’s the point of the American Dream, right? Only to find out that you’re on your own and you’ve got to find your own way yourself and know where you’re going, Alice. Maybe that’s too heavy a subject. I’ll save it for small talk the next time I go back to a coffee shop in Copenhagen.

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HOW (NOT) TO BE PHOTOGENIC | Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium | Your Friend, Jess

If in 1996, brand marketing had existed on social networks, I would have my name ready for monetization. At 3 years old, I knew what I wanted to be (first woman president who lives in outer space), where I wanted to live (Disney World), and most importantly, my signature pose that would be in every photo ever taken. With a camera always in tow, my dad at any moment would say, “Picture! Picture!” and I would look at the camera, prop my right foot on its toes, lean my head, and say “Cheese.” Unfortunately 18 years later, I have lost the ability to find a signature pose, and let’s not even get started with brand marketing.

Why do we travel? For the Instagram. This might as well be the motto for Gen Y. While on my trip to Northern Europe was as picturesque as a Pinterest page, taking my picture was the most important part. Striking a pose, however, is where it’s time to get creative. At least Lena Dunham had advice from Hamish Bowles for her February VOGUE cover. 

So while reviewing my photos from Bruges, Belgium, I couldn’t help but question what my face was thinking. For the split second that the camera snaps a shot, my face either digs deep into subconscious emotions, or sometimes nervously pretends that people are not watching me take a selfie.

As a person who is least qualified to give anyone advice at being photogenic, I can only tell you what NOT to do in front of the camera. Anyway, Instagram’s got enough filters to hide that pimple you forgot to put concealer on. 

Here is what NOT to do in front of a camera:

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Where I Went: City Center of Brugge

What I Ate: Waffles & Hot Chocolate at Venice Corn

What I Wore: Mid-December with 50F means an open peacoat with Doc’s

MIDWEEK WANDERLUST: Museum Mile

Being “lost in New York” is a complete misperception that parents use as a reason to not let their kids move here. It’s a grid system, as John Mulaney points out. Growing up riding subways ever so often, my dad would teach me the mechanics that goes with finding my way around Manhattan and I took notes on the streets and clues of the city. Now, however, I would just use my handy dandy iPhone. Sorry, Dad, that’s what technology is for…except Apple Maps. Maybe I just wasn’t listening the whole time my dad was explaining what it means to be “street smart.”

Travelling from Brooklyn to Manhattan is equivalent to the length and energy of a road trip. Instead of ending my summer by literally taking a road trip, I headed to the Upper East Side to revisit my childhood playgrounds. Every museum in New York has its own significance to me. I grew up visiting the American Museum of Natural History almost every month and now I have finally graduated to The Met and Guggenheim. (Thanks to the likes of Blair Waldorf, who a) made me want to try on headbands in front of the Met, b) look for a prince at a museum, c) be. her.)

Art is exhausting, particularly modern art. Your mind will get blown…either from confusion or admiration. I’m one of those people who think, “My 3-year-old nephew could paint that.” Will I ever understand abstract art? How did it even survive? There’s a whole thriving art community in Brooklyn! *cough* DUMBO *cough*

Maybe I should just go back and visit the fake whales at the Museum of Natural History. Whoa, wait. Am I Holden Caulfield?

Guggenheim Museum

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WHERE I WENT: BROOKLYN REVISITED

Every New Yorker is supposed to have his or her “New York Moment.” For me, a scene from a Woody Allen film comes to mind. It’s nighttime and the moon is shining overhead, reflecting on the East River. I’m staring at a skyline filled with lights that make me believe that I’ve never seen this view before, when in reality, I’ve grown up looking at it. It’s so loud and quiet at the same time, I can almost hear Gershwin in the background. As I stare at the skyline in wonderment, a hobo walking nearby spills coffee with the specific intent of aiming for me, while a pigeon releases itself onto the table I’m sitting on. New York, New York.

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It’s late August and time for most New Yorkers to banish the city to savor the last weeks of warm weather and long daytime. As for me, my television has been treating my okay, so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere.

Over the years, Brooklyn has definitely earned its stripes. For most teenage girls of the Sex and the City era, they all wanted to live in Manhattan, next door to Carrie. No one wanted to be in Brooklyn with Miranda…she was, like, the worst one. Yet somehow, we’ve learned to cut BK some slack and grow into its gentrified heels.

I live far enough from the action to be able to relax, but a 20-minute ride on the L to get to the action before it dies. Growing up, there was always a bit of embarrassment that arose when someone asked, “Where do you live?” Now that I am in college and interact with the Downtown-Brooklyn-hipster-type, it’s even more unnerving. It’s like that scene in Pretty In Pink when Molly Ringwald DOES NOT want Andrew McCarthy to drop her home. I live in the side of the L train, that you don’t want to get off. Sometimes a 20-minute subway ride is reason enough to not leave the house, so I drive.

Somehow I ended up in DUMBO with my Dad who pointed out that he used to work in that area, way back when I wasn’t even a thought in his mind more than twenty years ago. As we bounced in the car from the cobblestoned roads of Water St., he reminisced about a time that that building used to be his office. Now, of course, it’s an art gallery. As he puts it, “Nowadays, it’s super cool to say that I worked on Water St., huh?” The economy is great in Brooklyn now, we can say with assurance.

Bookstores, cookie shops, and a water view. There is literally nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s like discovering another world every time I go there. Maybe part of the physical gentrification and expansion, I’ve been programmed to be gentrified, too! Sometimes we just need to get away, yet New York City is more than good enough.

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DUMBO, Brooklyn, NYC

Every week, I’ll be posting a mid-week wanderlust– where I’ve been, where you should go, and why! But really, who needs a reason to travel?

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IN DEFENSE OF THE “STAYCATION”

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If you’ve ever Instagram’d an indulgent picture of yourself on vacation just to make your 256 followers jealous, then maybe you should skip reading this. Do you click “Book A Flight” to the Andes while your student loans are scratching your wallet? Maybe you should stop reading.

There really is no good way to mock someone who likes to travel, mainly because I love travelling myself. Recently, though, I have discovered the glorified “staycation” and art of humility. Because if you’re sick and tired of scrolling through your NewsFeed only to truly dislike all the pictures of your “friends” in the Jersey Shore, then you’re like me. But seriously, who goes to the Jersey Shore, anyway?

Before there was Facebook or Instagram, I was a pretentious 7-year-old who used her mouth as a way of boasting my recent escapades. I would brag how I have stayed in three of the top ten resorts on the Eastern Seaboard, and would tease someone for confusing the Hyatt for the Hilton. Then on a class trip to the New York Aquarium in the third grade, little me was smacked emotionally in my little head. Since the cheese bus always made me nervous, I started a conversation with my classmate who I shared the seat with, “So where did you go on your summer vacation?” With a grin on her face, she says, “The mall.” It was then that I realized, that she probably has never been on an airplane as many times as I had. It’s okay, she eventually became my best friend.

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Now a humble college student, I have learned to bring my humility down even further with a staycation. The term was added into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2005, just in time for the 2008 Great Recession, when its usage may have been worn out. Now that Summer 2013 is coming to a close and we are hopefully hearing the last of Blurred Lines or Get Lucky or We Can’t Stop, a recent survey has declared death to the staycation. As a college student who is getting ready for her future of living in New York City, I will stand by the staycation!

Alas, it may just be impossible to save on cost during “vacation time” anymore. I have to pay $20 just to be admitted to my own beach. If you ask me, choosing to lay on a bunch of sand mixed with cigarette ash and water bottles while staring at sweaty, obese, naked people, should only cost me my free will…which is slowly getting expensive.

I think it’s time we redefine “staycation.” There is only one method to getting away from everyone and everything we know at a price of $0. This deal cannot be found anywhere else. The only way is to…switch off our phones. No Facebook. No Instagram. No Twitter. No nothing. Just a complete silence and release of our sixth sense, which is our smartphone.

Note: This deal is only valid for five minutes. If more than five minutes, then symptoms of withdrawal start kicking in. Mom, can we go to the Hamptons instead?

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Paul’s Daughter, Coney Island, NY

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P.S. How do YOU “staycation”?

WHERE I WENT: MIDSUMMER IN MADISON

Throughout the week, I spend a lot of time online and off to consume information and stories that fuel me for conversations with friends, essay topics, and simply to expand my frame of reference. Most times, 140 characters isn’t enough to share what I love, so every week I will share what I read, watched, or learned for all the world to see. It’s also my time to “get real” with y’all. Let’s be smarter together!

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I spent last week in Madison, Wisconsin, and as soon as I landed, I wondered, “What am I supposed to do here?” It was a very “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, except I felt like I was somewhere in Kansas far away from New York City. So naturally, I headed straight for Pinterest if anyone cared enough about Wisconsin to post some attractive pictures of it and surely La Petite Fashionista did.

Here’s how I interpreted my trip to Madison:

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Memorial Union is located within University of Wisconsin: Madison, and since it is a college town, the nightlife here is…sweet.

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Another University nearby Madison is EPIC. The campus is INCREDIBLE and…EPIC, if you will.

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America’s Dairyland. Brennan’s will serve you the best cheese. EVER. #Cheeseheads

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Instead of turning my blog into a public Facebook page by forcing you to look at pictures of my vacation (too late?), you can read a review of my trip at Triptease. As its name suggests, this website may be the sexiest one out there. Its the most beautiful and usable way to post and review your travel adventures. Hey, Triptease! If you need me to travel the world for you or run your site from NYC, I’m right here 😉

Triptease   Reimagining Travel Reviews

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P.S. Where did you go last week?

HOW TO (SORT OF) START A BLOG

SUBWAYI’m seated in 14A of Delta 6205 en route to Madison, Wisconsin accompanying my mom on a work trip. If you had told me at the beginning of 2013 that my great, big summer vacation was a fully accommodated trip to America’s Dairyland, I wouldn’t believe you. Now, 30,000 feet in the air, I still can’t believe it, but everything is going to be okay. I am going to start a blog. It is going to be my magnum opus– the thing that will define my 20’s and all its mistakes. It will gain the vaguest amount of popularity, which will eventually be compiled into a New York Times Bestseller. Laptop sitting on the tray in front of me, earphones blasting Beyonce, and Delta-brand cookies consumed, I have nothing to write about.

This is my chance to be “one of those writers” whose only time to write and relax is on the plane; however this is being made extremely difficult by the mother-daughter duo sitting in 13A and 13B. From what I can identify through the small gap in front of me, it is typical mother-daughter bondage. The heavily eye-lined daughter decides to skip the complementary drinks and/or pretzels, salted peanuts, or cookies, which only means she is probably in high school and there will be one more package of cookies for me when the stewardess comes back. I will never pass up the opportunity for free food, even when it is only two ounces of canned orange juice. Out of her giant canvas bag, the mother has just pulled out what looks like an information packet from…University of Wisconsin. Of course! Her daughter is attending Freshman Orientation at University of Wisconsin.

For my Freshman Orientation, I simply took a 30-minute drive from my parents’ house to the college. Proudly and fully clothed in J. Crew, Orientation was my chance to be the gregarious and seemingly intelligent woman I think I am. I participated in all the group ice-breakers. I stood in a circle with all the freshmen who I shared a birth month with. The moderator told us to walk to the other side of the circle if the following conditions he yelled into the microphone applied to us. “Your favorite color is blue!” My favorite color is yellow. I stand still. “You live in Brooklyn!” I walk to the other side of the circle and shake hands with other people who cross my path. “You pee in the shower!” Everyone nervously laughs. I admittedly walked across. Because in college, I am going to be this outwardly open person. Ten minutes later, I meet up with two girls I went to highschool with. The coolest of the three of us says, “Oh my God. You totally didn’t walk when the guy asked who pees in the shower, right? That was so gross!” I denied, “Ugh, of course not!” Thus repeating my highschool life as a liar. Thanks, guy. Was that ice breaker really supposed to make all of our college fears disappear?

I shouldn’t admit to urinating in the shower, especially in my blog. Civilized people don’t like that, particularly the New York Times Bestselling people. My parents are reading this. I need to start using big words like pedantic or esoteric. I should probably look up their definitions first before I start sounding affectatious (if that’s even a word). The passenger behind me just pulled down their tray table. I turn around and it’s a mother and son. She’s wearing skinny jeans with her legs up on her seat, while her son bops his head to his black Beats by Dre headphones. Is he younger than me? The mother gets up to use the bathroom and notices the mother sitting in front of me reading University of Wisconsin materials. Her Beats by Dre’d son is also heading to Freshman Orientation. They share a nervous laughter and a unison “Oh my God!” So he is younger than I am. Both mothers begin chatting. “This better be worth it, right?,” says Skinny Jeans Mom. “It better be. It’s $50,000 a year. And she even wants me to get her the new MacBook,” Skeptical Mom points to Eye-Liner Daughter.

I got accepted into a $60,000+ University, which has recently garnered a spot on the List of Most Expensive Universities in the United States. I ended up going to a college where I received a full scholarship and the only money I spend is on overpriced CLIF bars (White Chocolate Macadamia, of course). My parents and I did the college tour thing. Being the outrageously outspoken person he is, my Dad took full advantage of every student tour guide. Interrogating them beyond wit’s end with questions fit for a Congressional Hearing. “You’re a Senior, so you probably have a secure job now, right?” “You’re telling me that a student picks my daughter’s roommate?” “Can I speak with the Dean, please?” In retrospect, I would still be highly embarrassed. And if a high school student’s parent were to ask me the same questions my Dad did, I would have jumped ship, aborted, and declared Def Con 1 on my university.

I need to focus! Concentrating on work seems so impossible when there are adorable, nervous college freshmen sitting in front of and behind me. Three years ago, when I was a college freshman, I thought I would be cool enough so that I wouldn’t have to start a blog, publishing angry words and feelings into cyberspace. Three years later, looking at a couple of teens who think they are too cool for each other, heading to live somewhere that is a three-hour flight away from their parents. These hopeful teens may read this blog or need my help one day…

“Make sure your seat and folding trays are in the full upright position as we prepare for landing.”

Wait! I have not written anything worthy of the New York Times Bestseller List yet! Back at the beginning, with a blank page. My bets are that the girl in 13A and the boy in 15B are definitely going to hook up. Meanwhile, the pathetic one in 14A attempts to write a blog that is probably not going to happen. I could use more cookies from the stewardess.

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