My Top 4 London Markets

I have successfully been enjoying life in west London for two months now, and I’ve tried to explore the city’s hidden gems in my spare time. London has tons of markets to choose from, but these are my top 4 must see London markets. As someone who is vegetarian and gluten free (not by choice, mind you), I enjoy these markets especially because my friends don’t have to suffer through finding a restaurant that caters to moi – we can all find something different to eat and enjoy. Whether you’re a London native or only have a few days to visit, any or all of these markets are sure to lead to a great time (and a happy stomach!).

Mercato Metropolitano – Located in Elephant and Castle, Mercato Metropolitano is one of those places you’d probably have to know about to find. With Italian, English, Asian, and other cuisines available, everyone is sure to be happy – even gluten free peeps like me! From German beer to vegan focaccia, this market has everything you need for the perfect night out. I enjoyed gluten free “gnudi” (as opposed to gnocchi) and a hearty serving of raclette to go with my fresh grapefruit cocktail. Did  mention there’s a secret fairy tale cinema ? I will 100% be back to catch a film here!

Dinerama – Located in the hipster area of Shoreditch, Dinerama definitely caters to the cool crowd. From specialty gin drinks to traditional English fish and chips to vegan Mexican food, Dinerama is a market to make time for in London. I ate a vegan and gluten free jackfruit taco (sans avocado because I am cursed with being sensitive to avocado!) and a nice gin signature cocktail. The rooftop wasn’t open on the rainy night I visited, but I’ve been told it’s awesome when it’s open during spring/summer.

Camden Market – The Camden Markets are a classic London to do. These sprawling markets are great for shopping, eating, and admiring the boats on the canal. My favorite way to get to Camden is to first stop at the British Library (which has lots of really cool free exhibits!) and then take the lovely 20-30 minute walk up to the markets. There I like to peruse the numerous stalls for things I will never buy and food I sadly can’t eat. However, last time I was there I passed a gluten free place (after I had already gotten Mexican), so there’s definitely food for everyone.

Portabello Market – I live in Notting Hill, so it would be a crime to not include the Portabello Road Market in my list! Portabello market has a great mix of standard shops and street vendors that offer everything under the sun. From organic produce to high end charity shops, Portabello is the place to spend an ideal Saturday morning. My favorite coffee shop, Joe and the Juice is located right across the street from the uber cool Ginstitute, along with quite a few other pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops (yes, there’s even a Starbucks for when I need a white mocha). I end up on Portabello road many times a week, and if you’re ever in London I’ll always suggest we meet up there.

Have I missed your favorite market? I’ve still got 4 months in London, so comment below and I’ll be sure to check it (or any of your other suggestions) out!

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When Plans Change

Remember how I told y’all I was headed to China? Well, plans change, and I am no longer heading to Asia.

Let me explain. Visa work is awful (as I’m sure some of you know). I pushed back my start date for China 5 times because of visa hang ups before I finally cut my losses. However, the visa hang ups were not the only reason I am no longer going to teach in China. After thinking out loud while working at a summer camp a few weeks ago (summer camp makes you think y’all), I realized that I have never dreamed of living in China. Not that I’m against living in China, it just didn’t seem worth going through hoops to go to a country I’m not passionate about living in. After I finally said it out loud, I immediately wanted to cry from relief; a huge weight had been lifted after months of stress and worry.

I have since realized that I currently really, really want to be in Europe. However, I also don’t necessarily want to get a visa for one specific country. So, I have decided to work towards my new dream of becoming a digital nomad in Europe. So far, this has proved difficult, as it is (understandably) hard to transition from extremely part time freelance to full time writing. I’m currently applying to jobs like crazy and working to leave the US in October (fingers crossed!) along with a great adventuring friend who also wants to explore life as a digital nomad. This is a big goal, and I appreciate any good vibes, advice, or job referrals you can share.

Speaking of freelance writing, do you need some quality content created? My portfolio can be found here; I’d love to hear from you at CelinaTTolbert@gmail.com

How I Got My TEFL & Teaching Job

While I was an au pair in Paris, I was looking for other ways to work and live abroad. After searching for a while, I found that getting a TEFL certification is a great way to find English teaching jobs across the world. So, without a clear destination in mind, I got my TEFL through TEFL Educator, a decision I’m happy I made.

TEFL Educator is a TEFL certification company that has both online and in person TEFL courses. I chose to do online, as I was already living and working in Paris at the time. For their online courses, I had the choice of a 60, 80, 120, or 140 hour certification class. Many jobs are looking for at least 120, so I chose to do the 140 as it included all the certifications from the 120 hour certification (Teaching Business English, Teaching TOEFL®, IELTS®, TOEIC® and other Standardized Examinations, and Teaching Hotel and Resort English) as well as the TEYL, Teaching English to Young Learners certification.

The class consists of reading ebooks, utilizing the 40+ videos and ten podcasts, completing an exam, and creating multiple lesson plans. I was able to contact an instructor 24/7 via emails with any questions about the course. They also offer free Skype tutoring, which is unique in the TEFL certification business. Basically this company has a really personal touch, and I felt very prioritized and attended to throughout the entire course (and during the job search after).

After I completed the course I was emailed copies of all of my certifications and sent original copies (which overseas employers might want to see). TEFL Educator was helpful in providing information on different cities I had questions about working in (that people in the company have firsthand experience with). They have connections in many cities and were happy to recommend me to some schools they have worked with.

As for my job in China, I have decided to work with EF in Shanghai at one of their Kids & Teens centers. As I have experience in childcare and the 140 hour course gave me a TEYL certification, this seemed like a great fit for me. During my interview with EF I was able to choose my location from many cities in China. EF has given me a great employment package and I am excited to work with them this fall. If you are looking to work in China, most schools (that I looked at) wanted potential employees to have a 4 year degree and at least a 120 hour TEFL certification. If you’d like me to refer you to EF, feel free to contact me here or at celinattolbert@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in getting your 120 or 140 hour TEFL certification, I have a discount code to make this affordable certification an even better deal. If you got to this TEFL Discount Page and use the password “Celina” you can access the 120 hour TEFL Certification and 140 hour TEFL Certification for a $30 discount – the 120 hour course for only $168 and the 140 hour course for $188. These certifications are recognized worldwide and were essential in helping me find a way to live abroad again.

Do you have any questions about getting a TEFL certification, TEFL Educator, finding a job, or working in China? Comment below and I’m happy to answer!

How Not To Go From Paris To Prague: Prague (Kind of Solo) Part 1!

A couple of months ago (I know, I’m way late posting this) I got falafel with a friend, took out my recycling, and left my flat in Paris for my first European trip – 3 days in Prague! I decided to be very budget friendly and booked a night bus to and from Paris and Prague. 14 hours on a bus? No big deal! I am super great at making good decisions. So I took my polka dot backpack and made the 50 minute metro trip from my side of Paris to the other.

After getting to the bus station and wandering around, I realized they wanted me to pay to use their toilet, so I went with the budget mentality and held it. I finally found my bus and, after squishing with the crowd, claimed my window seat. A French girl sat next to me and after I tried to say hey I realized she did not, in fact, want to be my friend. I began to realize that the journey was so long because of the numerous stops that were relatively out of the way. Along the way I napped a bit, read, listened to music, and took in the scenery of France, Germany, and finally, the Czech Republic!

After the God-knows-how-long bus ride I hopped off and followed some people (and google maps) to the closer than I thought Florenc metro station. I descended the stairs and found a hoard of foreigners trying to buy metro tickets from old ticket machines that had an “English” button, but never actually changed to English. Through trying to buy these tickets and staring at the machine for 10 minutes, I found 2 fellow travelers struggling to buy tickets. At first we considered just getting on the metro without a ticket, but a local (possibly homeless) man warned us of the hefty fee if we were caught.

We gave up on the metro and decided to walk. They needed to get to the main train station, just one stop away, and I was also headed in that direction, so we used our offline google maps and turned around a few times in pursuit of the train station. We ended up following some savvy backpacker boys into a park where the station sat. I finally found a metro ticket machine that would take my card, and lost Sada (?) and Mikal (?) (my metro finding buddies) in the process. I took my ticket down the stairs, took the metro one stop, and found my home right outside the metro exit – Starbucks.

As I got in line I realized the wifi wasn’t working and I’d have to use all of my collective life knowledge to get to my hostel. So I took my very berry hibiscus iced tea and prepared to brave the streets of Prague.

 

Part 2 of my Prague series coming soon!

Why I’m Moving Abroad Even Though I’m Terrified

I’m scared y’all. In fact, I’m terrified. A week from now I’m moving to a country I’ve never visited to live in a city where I have almost no friends. I’m putting my life in two suitcases and leaving the only country I’ve ever known to go on a crazy adventure. And although I’m excited, I’m also really afraid.

I’m afraid that I won’t make friends and the family I’m working for won’t like me. I’m afraid I’ll say something horrible in French and embarrass myself out of the country. I’m afraid the stylish skinny people will turn up their nose at my frumpy frame and trying too hard outfits. I’m scared that I’ll be alone in the city of love. I’m scared because I’ve never been out of America, no matter how cool and cultured I try to be. I’m scared I’ll lose my friends back home and everything will be different when I return.

I’m terrified of change.

But what I’m more afraid of is never doing anything. I’m terrified of never doing anything and never going anywhere. I’m afraid of sitting on my laptop for the rest of my life watching other people accomplish what I dream of. I’m scared of staying in my comfort zone and missing out on adventures and relationships. I’m afraid of living a stagnant life.

So I’m leaving my safe comfort zone. I’m going to live so that I don’t ask what if. I’m going to follow my dream and go on an adventure that will change my life. I’m moving abroad – because I’m terrified.

Red Keds in Red Hook

The saying goes, “If you don’t got nothin’ nice to say, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Well apparently tween girls in Brooklyn do not follow this wise advice. Let’s be clear, I don’t follow this rule all the time either – but at least I don’t do it to your face on public transportation.

Last summer I bought a cute pair of red Keds before I flew to NYC for 3 months. I wore them on the plane and was excited to take on the city with my new shoes. I enjoyed wearing them in my favorite park and all over Manhattan. A few weeks into the summer, a friend suggested we check out a free music festival in Brooklyn. So, of course, I put on my red Keds and we boarded the subway. Somewhere along the line a group of preteen girls joined our car. This is where our story really begins.

As a cool New Yorker, I never considered talking to strangers on the subway – I’m not trying to get robbed. Or stabbed, because my friend back home heard that was a thing. Anyways, the girls chatted for a while, and then the head of this tween gaggle starts talking louder – and she starts talking about my shoes. She continues to talk to her friends about my shoes, so I proceed to stare at her with a blank expression. I’d dealt with bullies before, but never in the form of strangers in an enclosed space.

As the girl and her friends continued to laugh, I slowly raise my hand to wave at them and smile. The head tween says something like “Oh no she didn’t” and her friend proceeds to apologize for head tween, laughing and joking that “She got problems.” Just at this moment, it’s our stop, so we exit as I tell them to have a nice day, feeling confident that they won’t chase me off the train.

 

The moral of this story is: tweens in Brooklyn will notice your footwear, and your Keds will soon wear out. However, while your Keds are breathing, you should wear them in Brooklyn just to give tweens conversation pieces.

A German on The Jersey Turnpike

In 2014 I spent the summer working at a camp in New York with staff from all over the world. The camp was about two hours from NYC and was structured so that all staff got a week off in the middle of the summer. Basically they forced us off camp for a week with nowhere to go, so we made the best of it and chose to live it up during our week without evil children. I had made a few really great friends, so a few of us made random last minute plans for the week, starting with a few days in NYC. I planned the week trip with my best friend from Germany, let’s call her Elsa. Our other friend, let’s call her Candy, planned to be with us for the first half of the trip.

So Candy drove us from camp to the city where we had booked a hotel on the edge of Brooklyn (with free parking!) just a few hours ago. We’re great planners. Anyways, we had fun being tourists in the city and hanging on our roof at night looking at Manhattan. We left after two nights for Philadelphia, with our friend Oliver joining this leg of the trip. We were going to drive Candy’s car to the house of someone I connected with on Couchsurfing. However, Candy was a bit under the weather and really needed to sleep in the car. I didn’t have a license, and Oliver only had a NY limited permit. That left Elsa, who had a German license but had never driven in America before. Elsa was very hesitant, as she had only been in the US for a month and was a bit frazzled from being with demon children during that time. But after a bit of convincing, Elsa agreed because Candy was already falling asleep.

So Candy took a nap in the front seat while Oliver and I squeezed into the back among all of the luggage, promising Elsa we’d help her navigate. She was nervous but we promised she’d only have to drive on this one road – The Jersey Turnpike. I mean, we were a bit nervous as well, but we knew the worst outcome would end with us not returning to camp, and in our hearts we accepted that and left it up to fate. Somewhere in Jersey the GPS voice lulled me to sleep, and I was only vaguely conscious when we stopped at a toll. I woke up and Candy soon followed. However, we had unknowingly lied to Elsa, as we made her navigate the way into Philly so we could eat lunch. The lunch was meh. Candy took over driving in Philly and to DC later on. Elsa may or may not have been permanently scarred by this event.

We all lived through this experience and “Elsa” and I are planning to meet up this summer. But no worries, she’ll be taking the train, not driving.

I’m Back! / Summer in NYC!!!!!!

Hey Guys! I haven’t posted in so long, life has been crazy and I’ve been lazy. I have been writing, but it’s either in my draft folder or published elsewhere…mostly in my drafts. I’ve been really into poetry lately, so I have a bunch of poems I hope to publish somewhere, sometime.

Anyways here’s my big news – I’m going to be in NYC all summer! Last summer I worked at a camp and got to spend a week in NYC on a break. So this summer I decided I didn’t want to work at a camp and I wanted to work in a big city. I think it’s fate that I got this amazing job at a dance school! I’ll be living and breathing NYC all summer! I am beyond psyched and had some ideas for what to do, but I also want your input! Do you know of anything I should absolutely do this summer? Do you have a #nycdare for me? Ask me to do anything, even if it seems to crazy! I’ll do my best to do them all and document the summer through blogging and/or vlogging! I already have quite a few ideas, but I really want your ideas!!!

Here are some of the things on my NYC Summer Bucket List: read in central park, take the subway by myself, explore Williamsburg, go to the Met, go to a fancy party, meet some celebs, do yoga in central park, go to Taylor Swift’s gym, go to a concert, get on TV somehow, audition for acting opportunities, perform on the street or at an open mic night.

So comment or message me with your #nycdare for me! Share with your friends (especially those who know NYC or just have crazy ideas!) and don’t be afraid to ask me something insane! Here’s to a crazy amazing summer filled with awesome adventures!

Celina’s Weird Travel Adventures – To and From NYC

There are many different ways to travel in these fifty nifty states. There are planes, buses, and trains. I have done all three in my travels to and from the Big Apple.

Before I was officially offered a job at a summer camp in upstate NY, I looked at flights. And I actually found a reasonably priced first class ticket. I have flown a decent amount in my life, but have never flown first class. I wanted to book it, but I had to wait until I was offered the job.

Well, literally the next day I was offered the job.

So, I went online to book my ticket…and, of course, it was gone.

I ended up flying with a really cheap company which I will not name. It pretty much sucked. I had to pay extra for everything. However, I got a window seat and the middle seat was empty, so I got to talk to the old lady in the aisle seat when I got bored of my music and magazines. She was a nice old lady visiting her daughter.

I loaned her a magazine because she was THAT nice.

That’s pretty much it for my trip to NYC. Oh, and by the way, Laguardia is very strangely shaped. It’s basically a long skinny line. And it’s old and dirty. But there are many nice people in vests that help you.

Now, my ride back was just cray. I had to leave camp early due to school, which forced me to make some weird travel arrangements. I was broke at the time because I was waiting for a paycheck, so my options were extremely limited. It was either a sketchy Chinatown bus or the more expensive train and bus combo. So I chose the bus.

And immediately regretted it.

I was so freaked out that I started asking the campers if they had ever been on one and whether I would die if I rode one. At one point I almost bought the train ticket, but then I stopped because, oh yeah, I’m poor. Even though I was sure that I would die all by myself in NYC traveling via bus, I decided to buck up and do it.

The day comes for me to leave camp. Luckily, my favorite Australian friend came with me (to ensure I wouldn’t die). We took a train to the city (which was pretty nice, but more expensive than I thought) and then took the subway to Chinatown. We proceeded to find somewhat good food and then Dunkin Donuts. Because who doesn’t love Dunkin, especially up North? We finally get to the bus station and wait. Finally, an elderly woman says my bus is leaving, so we all follow her as she runs and yells at us in a language that is not English. We all run across the street and miraculously don’t get hit by oncoming cars. We arrive at the bus, which is ready to go. I shove my suitcases in the luggage thing and say a teary goodbye (good day?) to my bestie from down under and head onto the bus. This nice old lady lets me have the window seat! There are so many nice old ladies in the world.

Anyhow, we drive for a bit and then stop for gas. I go get a drink and return. Then the nice old lady offers me fruit! Can you believe it? Strawberries AND grapes. Some might say it’s risky to take fruit from a stranger, but I was already on a sketchy bus, so what the hay! I couldn’t sleep the whole time, so I got to see the beautiful and boring countryside of Delaware and Maryland. Oh, and the ocean.

When we finally got to my destination, my family was waiting for me and freaking out because the area wasn’t the best in town. I laughed because of the sketchiness I had been through.

This is not a complaint post, because I do not regret traveling the way I did. However, if you have the funds, I’d say first class all the way. If not, Chinatown buses really aren’t that bad, even when there is a crying baby. Bring a good book and ride it out. Trains are also fun, and less expensive than planes for shorter distances. And budget airlines are okay if you either want to bring very little or are prepared to pay extra…lots of extra. So here’s to happy traveling! Stay tuned for more of my weird adventures!