Archives 2019

Take a Page Out of My Book and Go to the Library

Libraries are one of my favorite places to visit when I’m traveling or in search of somewhere to work. Sure, coffee shops are great (I’m writing this from a coffee shop), but constanly buying coffee does a number on my wallet and my stomach. Plus, as a book-lover, being surrounded by stacks of books and that distinct old-book smell is always comforting wherever I am. If you’re not already convinced by the old-book smell, libraries also often have free wifi.

Libraries I’ve Visited (and What I’ve Learned From Them)

Rockridge Public Library

California, United States

Rockridge library
Photo Credit: Johanna Flashman

Tip: If you’re going to be working on your laptop, don’t leave it unattended.

This depends on where you are, but especially if you don’t know the area too well, don’t leave it up to chance. Especially in cities like Oakland, laptops will get stolen. If you have to go to the bathroom (another benefit of libraries: usually free bathrooms), take your laptop with you. It’s weird, but what’s worse — some weird looks or ending up laptop-less?

Other than the theft problem, the Rockridge library has everything you could want: free wifi, bathrooms, water fountain, seating, computers, charging outlets, and plenty of books. My favorite part is the puzzle table.

UC Berkeley Doe Library

California, United States

Photo Credit: www78 /Creative Commons 

Tip: For university libraries, check ahead of time to make sure you can get in — some are only available to students or faculty. Also, sometimes they only have Edurome wifi, which you need an account connected to a university.

The Doe Library is open to anyone and it is beautiful. If you’re in the area and want a student atmosphere, this is the place. Book shelves lining the walls, high ceilings, and big windows, it really is a picturesque place to get some work done. Word of warning though: if I remember correctly, the library uses Edurome wifi which might be only for students or people with an active Edurome account.

Sheffield Central Library

Sheffield, England

Sheffield Library
Photo Credit: librariestaskforce /Creative Commons 

Tip: If your laptop has minimal battery life like mine, sus out a desk or area with outlets within reach. If you don’t need to plug in, areas that aren’t close to outlets will likely be more available.

The best place I found for outlets in this library was the computer room. On the top floor the library also has a cafe, but when I was there, it was closed. Note: when the cafe is closed, so is the bathroom! You can also cross the street and hang out in the Winter Gardens which also has free wifi and you get to be surrounded by plants (but there aren’t any outlets).

Boulder Main Library

Colorado, United States

Boulder Library
Photo Credit: Zane Selvans /Creative Commons 

Tip: Libraries often have printers you can use for a small fee. If you don’t have a printer or you’re traveling without access to a printer, this can be a great option.

Boulder’s Main Library was semi-recently renovated and it is beautiful. Not old-time, dramatic architecture beautiful, but still really nice. They also often have free events and classes and are right by Boulder Creek so you can check out a book and go read by the creek.

Hulme High Street Library

Manchester, England

Manchester Library
Photo Credit: Johanna Flashman

Tip: Libraries are a great place to look at newspapers or magazines if you don’t want to shell out for a subscription or would rather share and conserve paper.

Bonus tip: going to libraries when traveling is often where you can meet locals or actually get an idea of the area — look at what books they display, hang out, meet people. They will also often have little local history or art exibits too.

This library is in connection with a leisure center, so it’s not huge, but it still has a good selection. I was especially interested to see what books they were putting on show (a lot of self-help books). Nothing ridiculously special, but the wifi was good and the atmosphere felt very local.

Beautiful Libraries on My Bucket List

These libraries look incredible and I would love to visit them. At the same time, most of these breathtaking book-houses, are not exactly you’re standard public library. Many, you can’t just get in and go on your laptop. They are tourist attractions (still beautiful though!).

If you want somewhere for refuge from the tourists or to get some work done, I would try a quick google search of the closest public library in your area. You can try university libraries, but those won’t often be open to the public. Google Maps is honestly your best friend in this case.

The John Rylands Library

Manchester, England

John Rylands Library
Photo Credit: awong721 /Creative Commons

This library is part of the University of Manchester and may be a little exclusive if you’re not a student. The website says you have to pay (£75 per year) to be an external member of the library, but for a one time visit, you can get in with a photo ID.

Bodleian Library

Oxford, England

Bodleian Library
Photo Credit: IceNineJon /Creative Commons

Again, as a university library, it’s not entirely open to the public, but you can visit and take a tour. Just think of it as visiting a castle for books.

Bibliotheque Interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne

Paris, France

Paris library
Photo Credit: Zantastik~commonswiki /Creative Commons

University library again, so maybe a little exclusive. Maybe they’d let you take a quick tour of the place? Or you might be able to pre-register as a visitor, but they seem to be pretty specific that you need to be a student, teacher, or researcher.

Admont Abbey Library

Admont, Austria

Admont Abbey Library
Photo Credit: Prof. Mortel /Creative Commons

The library of Admon Abbey is apparently the world’s largest monastery library. According to their website, “The library holds some 70,000 volumes while the Abbey in total owns nearly 200,000 books.”

The library is open to the public (huzzah!), but there is an entrance fee. It’s a tourist attraction at this point, after all. With seven ceiling frescos and elaborate, limewood carvings, I’d pay the €11.50 to spend a day here.

Strahov Monastery Library

Prague, Czech Republic

Strahov Library
Photo Credit: J McSporran /Creative Commons

Again in a monastery (did you know monasteries had this many gorgeous libraries?), but it is open to the public! For a fee, that is. Again — tourist attraction.

The library does have a reading room if you’re trying to get some research in and, as far as I can tell, it’s open to the public.

Real Gabinete Português De Leitura

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil Library
Photo Credit: Rafa.ela Ely /Creative Commons

The Real Gabinete may not be open to the public. I can’t even tell if this one is open to visitors. One can only hope though…

Rampur Raza Library

Rampur, India

Raza Library
Photo Credit: Rampur Raza Library

Even if you can’t go inside, just the outside is worth visiting. Talk about palace of knowledge.

Wiblingen Abbey Library

Ulm, Germany

Wiblingen Library
Photo Credit: Zairon /Creative Commons

Yes, another monastery. Admission is €5, but that’s for the monastery’s library and museum and includes an audio guide. Not too bad if you ask me. It’s not so much of a reading library, but you can’t say these monasteries didn’t value books.

Ronda bridge overlook

It Was Plane to See if I Had Just Read My Boarding Pass

This event was how my list of dumb shit I’ve done began in the first place. Good times… Or in this case, incredibly stressful and stupid times.

Before you board a plane, read the plane ticket. Just do it. Even if the text is crazy small and upside down.

Lumbering down the corridor in the Edinburgh airport at 6:15 am I sorely regretted not fully reading my plane ticket (dumb move #1). I was a mess. My shoes were untied, belt was half on, and I was sweating like a beer-bellied man trying to run in the summer. I had a pack on my back and front and both were swinging and bumping against me as I “ran”. I had run all the way back to check-in, gotten the stupid blue verified stamp on my boarding pass, and gone back through security all because the woman at the boarding gate wouldn’t let me on the plane without that stamp. The gate was at the end of this corridor.

I turned the last corner and Cam was walking towards me carrying his two packs. He shook his head. I collapsed against the wall letting my bags slip down. The tears I’d been forcing back (it hadn’t been a disaster yet) came down full force (it was now a disaster). I was in full toddler tantrum mode in the middle of an airport hallway. Probably not my best moment. I later realized if I had known Cam was going to wait for me regardless, I could have left my bags with him and run through without them (dumb move #2).

Lumbering down the corridor in the Edinburgh airport at 6:15 am I sorely regretted not fully reading my plane ticket (dumb move #1).

When Cam got to me, I wiped my cheeks and stared up at him. His shoulders hunched as he looked at me. He had bags under his eyes. His brown curly hair frizzed like he’d just gotten out of bed, but I knew he hadn’t slept at all that night. “Have they closed the gate?” I asked. I guessed the answer, but couldn’t help hoping.

“Yeah,” Cam said. “Riccardo and I tried to stop them as long as we could, but they weren’t having any of it.” Cam shook his head. “We can try to go back though.”

I got up, trying to put myself back together, and we walked back to gate 21. Just the one woman who sent me off in the first place was at the counter. The doors behind her were shut. She looked up with a completely straight face. “We’ve already shut the gates, there is absolutely no entry.”

“Is there not anything you can do?” Cam asked. “If not you, then could we maybe speak to your manager and maybe they can do something?”

I later realized if I had known Cam was going to wait for me regardless, I could have left my bags with him and run through without them (dumb move #2).

“No. I am the floor supervisor and even if there was something I could do, the plane as already left. You’ll have to go to the ticket desk and try to get on the next flight to Malaga.”

She was in no mood for trying to help. I assumed she was at the end of working the nightshift so she was just tired and done with people; especially dumb Americans who can’t read their boarding pass. I didn’t blame her. I picked up my things, tears blurring my vision, and started walking away. Cam followed.

Turned out the next flight from Edinburgh to Malaga was in two days, but we were able to get a flight from Glasgow to Madrid for the next morning without having to buy new tickets. We got a bus to Glasgow, I speed booked a “Wee Bungalow” on AirBnB for the night, and we camped out in Strathclyde’s student union until 2 pm when we could check in. I had wanted to visit Glasgow at some point anyway. Preferably when I had actually planned to go to Glasgow, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Spoiler: We do eventually make it to Spain.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant our AirBnB host, Francis, recommended called Piccolo Mondo. She’d never been there, but it was apparently ‘where the young people liked to eat.’ It looked like a mix between a romantic Italian restaurant, a sports pub, and a club. The red carpet and candles said restaurant, the massive TVs playing football said sports pub, and the loud electronic music said club.

“How much you wanna bet Francis recommended this place for the steaks because I’m American?”

“Oh, I’m sure that’s why she recommended it. All you Americans are the same, aren’t you? You love your fast food and steaks.” (Francis had recommended McDonnalds and Burger King first.)

When we got our food Cam said, “just think, if you hadn’t missed the flight, we would never have discovered this restaurant.” Cam took a bite of his haggis.

“I know. You should be thanking me, really. Who wants to follow the plans anyway? Gotta keep you on your toes.” I picked at my pasta trying to avoid the onions. “So I listened to this podcast about adventure writing a couple months ago and the guy said every time he’s in some shitty situation, his first thought is, ‘This is going to make such a good story.'”

Cam laughed. “This is definitely quite a story.”

“Exactly! This entire time, I’ve just been thinking, at least I’m getting a good story.”

Cam nodded. “At this point, you probably have enough material for a book.”

“Oh, I have a full series. It’ll be called Dumb Shit I do.”

“But would you separate them by categories or time?” Cam asked, laughing.

‘Categories.’ I thought for a moment. “It could be a trilogy.” I counted them off with my fingers. “Dumb shit I do mountaineering, dumb shit I do traveling, and dumb shit I do in general.’”

Cam snickered. “Half the travel one would just be on getting to Spain.”

“At this rate, Spain is going to have its own special edition.”

Fast forward to the Madrid airport (I made the flight this time, we don’t have to talk about it anymore). We had two hours to get from the airport to the train station before the last train of the day left. Now, when you have plans to catch a train in a different country, the logical thing would be to buy tickets ahead of time, right? Well, I didn’t (dumb move #3).

When you have plans to catch a train in a different country, the logical thing would be to buy tickets ahead of time, right? Well, I didn’t (dumb move #3).

One wrong bus incident later, and we’d made it to the station 10 minutes before the train would leave. Would have been fine if we already had tickets, but we couldn’t get the ticket machine to work. It only took contactless and my card is not that advanced. (Turns out you can use Apple Pay as contactless to avoid this issue. Dumb move #4.) So, instead of being on the train, we successfully watched the train station’s LED display board change our train’s status from arrived, to departing, to departed.

Apparently the universe had decided we would be renting a car and doing a 7-hour road trip to Ronda instead. The good news: we still got a whole 8 hours in our AirBnB in Ronda, and we were able to drive up the hill to where we were staying in El Chorro for the rest of the week.

I Couldn’t Figure Out the Answer to Post-Travel Tiredness, So I Slept on It.

I’m currently fighting the urge to lay in bed all day and binge watch the second season of Outlander. Maybe that’s just what two weeks of working with children nonstop will do to you, but I’ve noticed it almost always happens after any traveling (okay, camp isn’t exactly traveling but it’s still living out of a suitcase). Then when it’s time to get cracking on “real life” work, I’m ready for a nap or a snack.

After the amount of traveling I’ve done, you’d think I’d have it somewhat figured out, but here we are, considering eating ice cream for the second time today. So, let’s embark on this success brainstorm journey together and maybe get back to being productive members of society.

1. Actually Take Time to Rest

If you can, give yourself some time to relax and watch Netflix or read a book. In case you need a binge worthy show, I’m obsessing over Outlander at the moment. Don’t stay up doing that though — go to sleep early. Sometimes it’s necessary to sleep for 12 hours straight and watching Netflix does not count as sleep (believe me, I’ve tried). Plus, going to sleep early will get you waking up early and being productive. If all else fails, don’t under estimate the power of a quick nap (again, Netflix does not count as sleep, sorry).

2. Clean Your Space

I, personally, work better when my living space is clean. Unpack, do the laundry, change the bed sheets, sort through mail or whatever clutter that’s taken over your dining room table. Once my suitcase is no longer standing in the middle of my room unopened, I’m much more likely put on big kid clothes instead of PJs. The world just feels less daunting when there aren’t any dirty dishes in the sink. I don’t know why, but it’s true.

3. Get Some Exercise

Studies have shown time and again how getting your blood flowing can give you more energy and motivation. And did you really do those runs you said you would on your trip? I know I didn’t. A short run, some yoga, or anything to get your heart pumping might be just what you need. Your body might feel like 600 pounds, but have you tried lifting some extra weights or maybe doing some pull ups? Get outside and go for a run or a fast walk. Whatever get’s your heart going.

4. Drink Water

I’ve spent the last two weeks telling campers that tiredness is a symptom of dehydration, and it’s true. I think we all under estimate the power of water. Especially after a long trip. I mean, you might have been carrying your Camelbak everywhere while being a tourist, but that goes out the window when you get back home. Honestly, can you even remember the last time you had a drink of water?

5. Get Back to a Routine

This one might be the biggest deal breaker. Routines are huge. I know it’s easy to scoff at a “boring routine” but research shows how not having to make all those little routine choices can save a lot of cognitive energy. Not to mention if you have a routine to go into the office and work for eight hours or your daily plan is already scheduled, it’s no surprise you’ll get more done.

While traveling or on vacation, it’s great to be a free spirit. You don’t need to set a schedule or get anything done. Be as unproductive and lazy as you possibly can! But as soon as you get back into deadlines, the daily grind is actually your new best friend.

Have any other life-saving techniques for post-travel fatigue? Write them in the comments! I know I could use all the help I can get.

Jo in Briancon, France

Tripping All Over the World

I was trying to save my traveling stories of dumb shit I do for some perfect time or ideal publication but honestly, I think it’s funny, so I want to share it with you.

I’ve noticed that some of my favorite traveling stories to share with people are often the ones I should probably be embarrassed about. But who doesn’t like to laugh at that idiot person who bought a small package of yeast thinking it was butter? I know I do.

While all these could potentially be short stories, for now, they are just a list. Maybe I’ll start writing about each one individually and if I do, I’ll start linking to that full story. On that note, if there’s one where you desperately need to hear the whole story, let me know! Put it in a comment! Send me an email! Write a personalized post card! It’s your choice really.

So without further ramblings,

The Dumb Shit I’ve Done Traveling:


  • Somehow losing an entire outfit without realizing it. I still don’t know where I left them.

Me looking back at photos two weeks later: Oh yeah, I forgot I’d brought that tank top…
  • Buying sparkling red wine when I wanted normal cheap red wine. On the bright side — I will never forget that frizzante means sparkling or fizzy in Italian.
  • Slicing the tip of my thumb while cutting chorizo. I have no excuses for this one other than the chorizo was really good and the knife was really sharp.
  • Dropping a hot oven tray on my knee. I was trying to save a pizza, can you blame me? Why anyone trusted me to take a sliding pizza out of the oven is another question.
  • Buying a cube of yeast thinking it was a baby cube of butter. It fit in the palm of my hand. It was SO cute. Fun fact though, fresh yeast does not taste cute.
Okay really, if you saw this, not knowing how to say yeast or butter in French, and it had a picture of bread on it, would you not think it was butter?
  • Almost taking someone else’s bread at a bakery because the woman put it on the counter next to mine. The first time, the lady laughed, and we moved on. The next morning when I accidentally did it again she was not so amused. What can I say, shopping in a language I don’t know is stressful.
  • Forgetting to put on sunscreen then going climbing in the sun for four hours. The word for after-sun in French is après-soleil.


  • Making a detailed itinerary of my cycling route, then forgetting the itinerary in the pack I left behind.
  • Also, conveniently leaving my journal I was going to document the trip with in that pack.
  • Not realizing there was a specific bike path and biking on a motorway. In my defense, it hadn’t looked like a motorway at first.
  • Buying a can of beans then not having a can opener. Note to self: not all cans are easy open.
  • The biggest one for Iceland: Not being much of a cyclist and deciding to do a 6-day bikepacking trip by myself. Who’d have thought that was a bad idea?


  • My personal favorite: Not reading the fine print on my plane ticket and missing the flight because I hadn’t gotten a visa stamp at the check-in desk.
  • Boarding the wrong bus and then missing the last train of the day because I hadn’t bought tickets ahead of time.
  • Leaving a bathing suite out to dry at your hostel is a practical thing to do, right? Less practical — forgetting to repack it before leaving the hostel.

Hopefully, this has made you feel better about your traveling incidents. Or maybe you’re a perfect traveler, in which case, hopefully I’ve given you a reason to laugh or be deeply confused at how anyone could travel so much and still make so many mistakes. Maybe both.

Happy traveling!

mountain hikers

The Birthright Trip Israeli an Experience

Nine days is hardly enough time to see an entire country, but Birthright sure does try to pack it all in and make it work. Our leaders and tour guide herded all 29 of us from one place to another to make sure we got the “authentic” experience. Sound contradictory to you? Me too. However, with the restraints the trip has, the trip did a pretty great job. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but in the end it was definitely a trip I’m happy I made.

Me still not knowing how to pose for photos.

What is Birthright?

Birthright is a trip to Israel for youth from 18 to 26 years old (there’s now also a 27 to 32 option) who have any sort of Jewish background. The trip is funded in part by the Israeli government, but primarily by donations (especially from a few super donor billionaires with known political leanings…). At the same time, Birthright says they are apolitical and mean to show Israel without bias. I think they may try to do this, but there will always at least be some bias and there is something to be said for looking for more information than just the facts that they give (same with information from any source, really).

The beach in Tel Aviv.

In short, Birthright is the main organization, which pays other tour services to actually lead the trips. Because of that, there are a ton of different types of trips with different themes and goals. The trip I did was called “Hi-Gear” and advertised outdoor adventure. There were other themes like cooking, LGBT, classic, and history. Really a big, “choose your own Jewish adventure”.

The Itinerary

There are certain parts of every trip that is all the same, then extra sites depending on the trip type. In general, the trips are all pretty streamlined, so I’m not going to spend too much time on it. My trip went something like this:

Day one/Thursday: Get into Tel Aviv super late and drive 1 ½ hours to the hotel.

Day two/Friday: 6:30 am start then four hour drive south, hiking, short rappel, and night in Eilat.

Day three/Saturday: Shabbat. Geopolitical lecture and beach swimming. Night out in Eilat.

Day four/Sunday: Early morning hike and snorkeling in Eilat, then 4 hour drive to Tel Aviv. Night out in Tel Aviv.

Day five/Monday: 7 am breakfast to drive 1 ½ hours from Netanya to Tel Aviv. Day in Tel Aviv then driving 3 hours north.

Day six/Tuesday: Early morning hike then a glass of wine at a winery and rafting after.

Day seven/Wednesday: Early start to drive 3 hours back to Tel Aviv for the Holocaust Remembrance Museum. 2 hour drive south. Camping (getting to sleep around 12 am).

Day eight/Thursday: 3:30 am wake up to hike Masada and see the sunrise. Camel riding, the dead sea, and Krav Maga after dinner.

Day nine/Friday: Day in Jerusalem. Shabbat dinner.

Day ten/Saturday: Shabbat. Relaxing, packing, looking back on the trip. Then bus to the airport (for everyone not extending) at 1:30 am.

One prevailing factor on the trip: a whole lot of activity and driving with a distinct lack of sleep. On the other hand, we covered a lot of ground, spent a lot of time outside, and learned a lot about Israel and different people’s perspectives on being Jewish. The good and bad of a packed schedule.

The Experience

If you’ve read any of my past posts, you’ll know I usually travel solo. This was very different. We clogged sidewalks and took over restaurants. I was now a part of the matching-shirt-lanyard-wearing groups that I try to avoid. Add in my general introverted tendencies, and big groups can get overwhelming. Half the time, I’d almost guiltily pass up going for drinks with everyone to sit in my room by myself instead.

We were shuttled around, told interesting information about the places we saw, and spoon fed facts about the culture. I shut my brain off and enjoyed the ride, but I wouldn’t call it an active learning experience. I only really put the cities together when I was on my own taking the bus through Jerusalem and the train to and from Tel Aviv.

Our guide at sunrise on the top of Masada.

On the other hand, the people I met on the trip made being in a group worth it. In some ways, it turned into a classic high school scene with cliques and status. At the same time, everyone was nice, welcoming and no one acted “better” than anyone else. There wasn’t a single person in the group you couldn’t have a productive, fun, or interesting conversation with. Hearing other people’s stories and perspectives was probably the most memorable part of the trip.

Mid-way through the trip, I created a goal to get candid photos of every person in our group. I wanted to get photos of people when they weren’t posing, but just being themselves. I did better for some photos than for others. By the end, getting all 30+ became a bit of a rush order and I admit, some people’s photos ended up posed. A good portion of the group also probably saw me taking what looked like creepy stalker photos. Some of the photos I was pretty happy with though. At one point, maybe I’ll post all of them (with everyone’s permission of course) but for now, a couple of my favorites.

My Flying Carpet — Flying by Carpet Is a Rugged Experience

Yes, I did just make that absolutely terrible pun. You may be sitting at your computer face-palming or shaking your head, but let’s be honest — you kind of liked it. Behind the shame and disgust, there’s a little part of you that kind of laughed at my ridiculous play on words. If not, well, I’ll just go stand in a corner and enjoy my puns on my own.

Hi! I’m Johanna. I’m a freelance writer, traveler, and climber. I like learning new things and have more interests than I’d want to list off here (if you want to know more about me, check out my about page!). I LOVE puns though. Any play on words is an amazing game if you ask me. SO, if you’re a fan of puns, (mis)adventure, and travel then you are in the right place. (Ask your doctor if My Flying Carpet is right for you! Side effects include, but are not limited to: shame, laughter, wanderlust, and anger.)

I write this for fun. The idea is that each post’s title is a pun. I do write other, more serious things on other platforms and you can find that writing here. This blog however, it mostly for the love of puns and to write things without necessarily worrying about if anyone else is actually going to enjoy it. If you do, great! Let me know! Let’s talk! You can contact me here. If you don’t, well… I’ll probably still be here writing and sharing some thoughts and some puns.

Happy reading and happy adventuring!

artichoke and strawberries

The Produce Sold Along Highway One Was Berry Big

I got artichoked up about it.

If you’ve ever driven along the California coast anywhere between the Bay Area and Monterey, you’ve likely seen the fruit and vegetable stands scattered along the highway. “Sweet Cherries!” “Sour Cherries!” “Avocados 5 for $1!” Signs lining the road encouraging you to stop in for some cheap produce. If you’ve never stopped in at one, (I get it, it’s not your standard Trader Joe’s) you should.

These places have some of the best (and biggest) produce I’ve ever seen. This past weekend, I found artichokes the size of my head and strawberries almost as big as my fist. The best part about these stands is they are going to have local produce.

Given that California grows “over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts“, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that these stands sell the best. I won’t forego my next Trader Joe’s run, but if I’m already driving along Highway 1, I almost always stop at a stand for a car snack or veggies to cook for dinner.

In Season Produce

Of course, the majority of what the stands will be selling will be in season. However, if you want to be extra certain or if you’re on the hunt for the best produce at your local supermarket, check out what’s in season!

In Season Early May

In California, we’re lucky to have a lot of growing time. Especially in May. Some highlights include: apricots, blueberries, cherries, and artichokes.

For the whole list and to find out what’s in season any time of the year or any location in the US, check out this seasonal food guide.

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