Europe

Planning

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There aren’t many things I enjoy more than planning vacations. Call me crazy, but I love the lists, research, and scheduling that goes into it almost as much as experiencing the trip itself. Give me my iPad, an Excel spreadsheet, and wifi and I could peruse SkyScanner all day.

While planning, I find my Type-A personality is actually a blessing instead of a curse. I’m a firm believer that chance favours the prepared meaning that I’m the one who not only always has a Plan B, but also a Plan C and D. Just a note to the ‘go-with-the-flow types – I’m aware that most people aren’t quite as rigid as I am with plans, but this method works for me. You may prioritize certain aspects of your travels different than I do, these are just my personal suggestions. If I had the guts to buy an open ended plane ticket to a foreign country I would, but I know myself and that sounds like stage one of a minor panic attack :)

My next big trip is going to be backpacking across western and central Europe. Like many other recent grads I feel as though it’s a right of passage to be able to say I roughed it in hostels. I’m hoping to be able to spend 2 months taking in all the sights, culture, and food I can.

The first thing I did when I started conceptualizing my trip was print out of map of Europe. If you’re a geography whiz you can probably skip this step, but I found it useful to be able to visualize where each city was in relation to the others. I then went through and highlighted the cities that I wanted to see – don’t hold back, you can pare the list down once you take time and money into consideration.

At this point you need to start looking at limiting factors, the main ones being time and money. Both will unfortunately dictate the extent of your trip, with money usually being the most unforgiving. Once you determine a rough budget you’ll be able to determine how long your trip can be.

The beauty of Europe is that there are so many ways to stretch your dollar – one site I found useful was TrekHard, which has a calculator that will show you an estimation of your daily cost per country based on a number of factors such as accommodation and transportation. It’ll also give you an idea of which countries are more expensive so you can either limit the days you spend there or avoid them all together. I originally wanted to stay in Zurich for a festival, but after seeing how much it would cost decided Prague was a much more viable option! The time of year you travel will also come into play, summer will be much more expensive than winter for obvious reasons.

After deciding on the where and when comes the fun part, IMO – scheduling. To get stated you’ll need the map you highlighted, a list of each cities’ main airport or bus/train terminals, a calendar, pencil and LARGE eraser – you’ll be doing a lot of revisions. My absolute favourite flight app is SkyScanner, it’s similar to Kayak, but specializes in flights within Europe. You have the option of “watching” flight searches and they’ll send you emails when flight prices change. The explore feature is amazing as well – it’s really useful when you’re trying to find the cheapest way to travel between cities – it lets you choose your departing airport and then shows you the prices of flights going into surrounding airports… if you’re really brave you could theoretically plan an entire itinerary using it! I redid my itinerary 8+ times during the planning process, it was a lot of extra work, but this way I ensured I was taking the most economical route.

Trains are another option to consider when going between cities in close proximity. Eurorail passes, especially with student and off-season discounts, are extremely affordable. Overnight trains also kill two birds with one stone, you avoid paying for a hostel and wake up in your next destination!

When looking for somewhere to stay I turned to Hostelworld and Airbnb. Both are great because they include reviews from people who have recently stayed there. When reading through reviews I scan for three main things: location, amenities, traveller tips/suggestions. The location is always most important to me – I’m looking for somewhere that’s close to the metro/public transportation lines. Second thing I look for is an overview of the amenities – were the showers clean? were there any recent bedbug complaints? were the people at the front desk friendly and helpful? As I’m reading the reviews I also like to write down any suggestions the commenters have left, these could include anything from what time is best to see the sunset or the name of a fantastic restaurant around the corner. If there seems to be a never-ending list of reviews try and keep to the most recent – I usually go as far back as year then call it a day. I wouldn’t want to be judged presently by how I was a year ago so I figure the hostels shouldn’t be either.

What steps do you take when planning your trips? Are you more of a planner or a go-with-the-flow type?

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Day 7: Split

Never. Drink. Croatian. Moonshine. If you don’t take any other advice from the TYW Croatia section of my blog, please remember this. I have five years of university parties under my belt and only once have I ever felt as bad as I did that morning, and that happened to be the last night I drank tequila. The only silver lining of the situation was that I wasn’t nauseous, I was just plagued by a skull-splitting headache. Luckily I had also woken up pretty early and was able to down a few bottles of water before really being forced to get up.

By noon all the girls were up and we were cleaning off the deck in preparation for the regatta! We unfortunately still hadn’t learned to put away all of our cups before going to bed so our boat was housing a small army of bees. I actually have a serious bee allergy – the last time I was in Croatia I got stung and my ankle swelled to the size of my thigh and I couldn’t walk for a week – so I spent the greater portion of my morning hiding below deck.

Once the bee infestation was taken care of we changed into our regatta costumes and said goodbye to Hvar! We had been looking forward to the regatta all week – our costumes were pretty great if I do say so myself. In true Canuck fashion we had ordered Canada flag bathing suits and those ridiculous umbrella hats that can be found at Dollaramas around Canada Day. The other boats thought they were hilarious, especially because of our boats “Canadian Girls” nickname that was coined at the beginning of the week.

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The day of the regatta was also my birthday, and there was no better way to completely rid myself of that pesky Croatian Moonshine hangover than to do a birthday funnel as we sailed! The film crews boat was beside us most of the time and later said they were having a hard time getting usable pictures of us because the funnel was in every shot. Ooops.

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James was quite possibly the best skipper on TYW and so naturally we were one of the leading boats in the regatta. We were about halfway to Split when tragedy struck! Ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but we realized we were missing the papers we needed to be able to dock at Kastela so we had to turn around and head back to Hvar, forfeiting the race :(. I ended up napping once I heard the bad news and actually slept until we arrived back in Split. Apparently our boat had gone through almost two cases of beer – no regrets during regatta.

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Docking back in Kastela Marina almost seemed surreal – it felt like just yesterday when we had checked-in and packed up the boat to depart on our yacht week adventure. It was really bittersweet. On one hand I was very excited to use the showers at the marina, but on the other I felt as though I would gladly sacrifice the health of my skin, liver, and sanity for another week of fun. I opted out of a fancy birthday dinner in favour of pick-up pizzas and some red wine that could be enjoyed on the boat. We sat and reminisced about the week and all the fun memories we had made before gearing up for our one last hurrah at the Vanilla Club in Split.

We took a bus arranged by TYW into Split and arrived at Vanilla around 11:30pm. The venue was great, it had a massive patio and two large bars. It didn’t actually reach capacity until much later in the night; I imagine a lot of crews were stuck packing up their things in preparation for our early disembarkation the next morning.

If I haven’t mentioned it enough, the music on TYW was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and the DJs really outdid themselves the last night. My favourite of the week by far was Roman Cleiss (Here‘s his Soundcloud), he’s a French DJ who played a lot of Oliver Heldens-esque sets throughout the week. Towards the end of the night TYW set off a huge firework display, whether this was something they did to end every week or just because ours was the last week of the summer, I’m not sure. I of course lost track of time and ended up missing the last bus (it left at 3AM) so I stayed back with one of my friends.

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Saying goodbye to all the friends we had made during the week was really sad – but I’m hopeful that we’ll be seeing each other again next year (I’ve already started tentatively planning my next yacht week)! True to their tagline, it really is nothing like the real world. When you’re on TYW it’s like being in your own little universe full of amazing parties, places, and people. You only really understand how amazing it is after living it – I know it sounds somewhat cult-like, but once you experience it, you’ll understand. Looking back, it still seems surreal and somewhat unexplainable. All I can say is that it was the best week of my life and the perfect way to celebrate my 23rd birthday!

Have any of you been on TYW, something similar, or want to go?? If you have any questions about TYW I’d be happy to answer them :) or what are some of your vacation-of-a-lifetime stories?

Day 6: Hvar

The second day in Hvar marked the start of our boats birthday celebrations! We woke up fairly late Thursday morning and were all well rested and ready for the day ahead.

I’m not ashamed to say the first time we showered properly was in Hvar. We had become pretty accustom to ocean baths and using the hose at the back of the yacht to clean off, but I must admit the prospect of a fresh water shower made me absolutely giddy. Six days of salt-caked skin had really taken a toll on my moisturizer supply.

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After our showers we took a water taxi over to the main part of Hvar for Alex’s birthday lunch at Adriana Hotel. There’s a little restaurant/bar area on one of the top floors that has an amazing view of the port.

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We decided to do a little souvenir shopping before heading back to the boat so we could get ready for the Carpe Diem day party that started at five. I know a 5 o’clock seems ridiculously early for a party, but it was definitely the best one of the week and it only runs for a few hours before dinner! Make sure you get there on time!!

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One of our friends who worked for TYW made a reservation at Spice, an asian fusion restaurant just steps from Carpe Diem, for Alex and my birthdays’. We all had a GREAT time at Carpe Diem and were significantly buzzed by the time we headed over for dinner. I felt awful for our waiter, he ended up having to circle the table twice asking for our orders because we had made so many changes. After enjoying a heavenly crème brûlée in lieu of birthday cake we walked around town taking in the Croatian nightlife.

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Thursday was definitely the most action packed day event-wise, there were two other parties to attend after dinner – the first was at Kiva Bar in town, and the second was an after party back at Carpe Diem Beach Club. After sharing a bottle of wine (and a few vodka redbulls) over dinner I was definitely feeling warm and fuzzy, so when I walked into Kiva bar and saw how packed it was I walked right back out.

Being 5’1″ has some serious disadvantages – a main one being that when I go out without heels on my head is about shoulder level with every average-sized person. Typically I can deal with it, but the bar was so crowded that I literally couldn’t move without banging my head on someone and my alcohol-induced claustrophobia was in full effect. Instead, a few of us decided to enjoy one of the patios back near Spice.

Right before midnight, the official start of my birthday, I was thoroughly enjoying my glass of wine when one of the waiters headed over with a large tray of “surprise birthday shots” that the girls had ordered. I of course assumed they were vodka, but was severely mistaken. After the first one I realized no vodka in the world could taste this strong, especially after my tastebuds were numbed by the numerous vodka redbulls I had during dinner. After fighting back my urge to vomit, I asked the waiter what they were shots of and he said it was their homemade liquor and to be careful because it was very strong. In other words we just had Croatian Moonshine. I’m not going to lie, they were awful and tasted exactly how I imagine rubbing alcohol would, but we each shot back another before grabbing a water taxi to the Carpe Diem Beach after party. It was my birthday after all.

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As we approached the party I could already hear the DJ dropping some absolutely unreal tracks. I’m a big fan of deep house and techno and I felt completely spoiled during TYW, the DJs were great at mixing in songs other than the typical big room bangers you hear at most nightclubs. After my feet were nice and sore from dancing, I headed back to the boat where I was once again convinced to go swimming. I would honestly live in the ocean if possible, so there was really no arm-pulling necessary – night swims really are the best way to wind down before bed.

Day 5: Hvar

Early Wednesday morning I was unceremoniously awoken by loud banging noises coming from the back of the boat. I quickly arose from my makeshift couch cushion bed on at the front of the boat (the hammock had been removed for the video shoot the day before) and tried to figure out what the hell was happening. It seemed as though the strong winds were causing our yacht to violently thrash into the dock, luckily it had woken up Carolyn as well and she alerted our skipper. Turns out another boat had actually dragged our anchor out of position when they were leaving … James was not a happy camper.

In an attempt to escape the yelling match between our skipper and the owner of the other boat I decided to wake up our friend who actually slept on the riva and grab breakfast. And by breakfast I mean and pastry and a few beers. When I’m on vacation I’m of the mindset that any hangover can be avoided by continuing drinking. After the amount of drinks I consumed at the foam party the night before I was fairly certain that I didn’t want that hangover catching up to me anytime soon.

Once we got back everyone was pretty ready to set sail for our last destination (and my favourite) – Hvar. I’m pretty sure our longest sail day was between Komiza and Hvar, the waters were a little rough, but it was a great tanning day none the less.

Five days of partying was definitely taking its toll on me – I had contracted a mean case of Skippers cough and felt pretty exhausted. For anyone who’s going on TYW, Skipper’s cough basically refers to the nasty respiratory illness that you get from too much drinking, germ sharing and not enough sleeping. Most of the skippers said they caught it after a few days – close quarters and drink sharing was definitely to blame.

Once we arrived in Hvar we docked at Parmesan and I went exploring with a friend. We ended up on the other side of the island and sat on the rocks near the beach for a few hours chatting. We actually lost track of time and had to rush back to change, which for me meant throwing on a bathing suit cover up, my token Croatia captain hat and mascara, so that I could join all the girls for our pre-dinner party.

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A water taxi picked us up from another dock and took us to a TYW exclusive party at Carpe Diem Beach – my favourite venue by far. The open air club itself was built into a mountain and was surrounded by the sea – the sunsets here were epic. They also had these massive beanbag chairs along one of the hills which were perfect for star gazing!

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We headed back to the boat for dinner and by the time we were finished I was beyond ready for bed. Yep, you heard it right, I was out on drinking. Instead of heading out I ended up laying out on the top deck with a friend and catching up on my zs. A few of the girls went out, but most came home early since the next two days were going to be eventful – both Alex and I were celebrating our 23rd birthdays!

I woke up when the girls came back and was somehow convinced to hike to the other side of the island to go swimming. If you’re planning on doing any late night nature walks bring a flashlight because Croatia is DARK at night – the path to the beach didn’t have any lights and I’m not ashamed to say I was mildly terrified. I must admit, the night swim was a pretty perfect way to end my my first day in Hvar.

Day 4: Komiza

I don’t think I could ever grow tired of waking up in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. My hammock bed was absolute heaven – I got to experience the beautiful stars every night, and I awoke to the warm sun every morning.

When I got up early Tuesday morning I assumed that I had turned in pretty early the night of the circle party, though I’m not sure how that would have been possible. We apparently had a party on our boat until the wee hours of the morning.

Despite the throbbing pain behind my eyes, there was really no time to nurse my mini-hangover, today was the day we were meeting with the film crew to shoot some scenes for the aftermovie! This fact alone was enough to get all the girls going fairly early. I imagine it was pretty humorous to watch 11 girls scramble across the deck trying to clean up, “shower” (I use this term extremely loosely), and do our makeup all the while trying not to throw up the vodka shots from the night before. By some grace of God by 11am the deck was clear and we were sailing towards Komiza to meet the film crew!

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It was a beautiful day to shoot – we met the guys and girls of Orillo in the middle of the ocean where they boarded our boat and we got to work! They had a few specific shots they needed to catch first – the opening scene where all of us hung our legs over the side of the yacht and laughed, one of me steering the boat (with a LOT of help from our skipper James), and a one of the girls laying in the hammock giggling.

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At first it was really awkward having a camera thrust in our faces while trying to look natural, but the crew really helped us loosen up. Drinking between shots may have assisted in the overall relaxed feeling too :)

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There was a hilarious scene where we are holding onto a rope and getting pulled (AKA dragged) behind the boat in the middle of the ocean. My friend Carolyn was behind me with a GoPro strapped to her chest in attempt to capture some of the action, but I’m fairly certain the only thing that camera caught was shots of me hiking up my bikini bottoms every few metres. Not only were we all struggling to stay decent, my friend Milly was in front of me screaming things like “NOW I KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE DROWNED IN A WASHING MACHINE”. My overactive imagination merely caused me to envision the eleven of us as the perfect shark shishkabob trailing behind the boat. When the aftermovie was released I was genuinely surprised this shot actually made the cut because when we were shooting I was almost certain the scene could have been used as evidence in the case that one of us had drowned.

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The last scenes of the day were shot at the Green Caves which were home to a massive cliff jump site. I opted out of the jumping – with my luck I’d be walking around with a massively bruised backside, to accompany my already destroyed shins and thighs, from hitting the water at an awkward angle. I did enjoy climbing to the top of the caves though! This is when you’ll be VERY happy you brought water shoes, the rocks on the way up were extremely sharp and slippery. Despite my best efforts I left a chunk of my left shin on the Croatian cliffs. Once we had scaled the Green cliffs the crew had their drone pan over top of us – the shot they’d use for the aftermovie’s closing scene.

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After a few more hours of playing in the water we set sail for Komiza where we were promised food and the chance to restock our store of booze – the party from the night before nearly cleared us out.

We had dinner at a pizzeria just off the riva and started to get ready for the night’s festivities – a foam party in an open air club. Coming from Toronto where foam parties are usually associated with slimy all-ages events at our infamous Guvernment nightclub we weren’t quite sure what to expect. If you share my usual sentiment that foam parties should be banned from existence you’ll be surprised to know that TYW Foam Party was a great time. The venue – foam seems less disgusting when you can wash it off in the ocean a few steps away, and the music were absolutely amazing. I haven’t talked about TYW DJs yet, but they are absolute top notch – Toronto has an expansive music scene and I consider myself fairly picky, but every night I remember thinking that the DJ could sell out shows back home.

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Around 4am I once again I found myself wandering around town with friends looking for drunk food, and once again I ended up at a bakery, but this time I chose a decadent nutella filled pastry because there is apparently no such thing as a diet on vacation. Oh well, I figured I deserved it after struggling not to drown behind the boat that morning anyways :)

Day 3: Scedro

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By the third day I had become accustom to being woken up by the blinding morning sun in my eyes and the sound of people scampering across the deck to find their own boat – TYW version of a walk of shame. I would argue that walk of shames on TYW are much less cringe-worthy and actually somewhat enjoyable simply because

1) you involuntarily fit in a workout – you’re going to be jumping between boats to find yours and those wire ropes NOT easy to maneuver
2) it’s kind of a game of luck – you better hope your crew realized you’re missing, otherwise you’re going to have to find another ride to the next island.

And don’t worry you won’t be alone in the mad dash to find your crew. If you do get left behind it isn’t the end of the world! It’s a funny story and a great way to make friends. My crew, along with most others, met lots of lovely people as they tried to cross our boat on their long journey back home :)

We briefly docked in Vis to pick up some groceries early on in the day, and thank goodness because we were running really low on water. As we waited for some of the girls to get back to the boat, we were approached and asked whether we would like to be filmed for TYW aftermovie – an obvious yes, who wouldn’t want to have something like that to look back on!

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Later in the day we joined up with the rest of yachts and tied together for the infamous Yacht Week circle party. I had such an amazing time hopping between boats and laying on floats in the middle of the ocean. The camera crew, who were joining us the following day, had an awesome Nemo float which I took the liberty of commandeering for the event.

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The circle party marked the official christening of our beer funnel – the unofficial mascot of the boat. If you’re looking for a quick way to make friends just bring a funnel, trust me. It’s the one thing that no one remembered to pack! Just know that you’re definitely going to contract skipper cough from all the sharing – more on this later.

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I know I’ve mentioned how great the morning sun was in Croatia, but it pales in comparison to the sunsets and the stars at night. I’ve seen some gorgeous night skies in the Muskokas back home, but the stars above the Adriatic Sea just shined a bit brighter. Make sure you remember to take in the view!

Day 2: Vis

Hey guys, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated TYW part of my blog, but I have a (sort of) acceptable excuse. To be honest it’s been really difficult to remember the order that we visited places … I remember the actual parties perfectly, I just can’t quite put my finger on when they happened. I blame the prolonged sun exposure! Anyways, I think I’ve finally narrowed down the order – this is going to differ from the other weeks in Croatia because they merged the routes and changed things up a bit for the last week.

Day 1 (Sat): Trogir – Riva Party
Day 2 (Sun): Vis – Fort George
Day 3 (Mon): Scedro – Circle Party
Day 4 (Tues): Komiza – Foam Party
Day 5 (Wed): Hvar – Carpe Diem Beach/ ??
Day 6 (Thurs): Hvar – Carpe Diem Day Party/Kiva Bar/Carpe Diem Beach
Day 7 (Fri): Split – Vanilla Club

I’m going to try to get the rest of the my YW posts finished this weekend! Especially because bookings for Summer 2015 yachts just opened up on October 27th :) The 2014 aftermovie just got released too! My crew and I were filmed throughout the week and made the opening and closing scenes. The camera crew also caught a few shots of me swimming at the circle party and steering the boat!

Here’s a link to the 2014 aftermovie if you want to take a look!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKYnIeCv1CM&feature=youtu.be]

My first official morning of TYW started around 830am and by some gift of God I wasn’t horribly hangover – I was handed these delicious (and strong) sugary shots all night and was prepared for the worst. All the other girls were still sleeping so I headed up to the deck to enjoy some morning rays. Mornings were the only real downtime I had throughout the trip so I tried to take advantage of them.

Within the hour the Somersbys were cracked and we had set sail for Vis. Travelling between islands is prime tanning time, but don’t forget to use sunscreen! I was pretty bronzed from being outside all summer and still got a little pink the first day.

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We were anchored just offshore from Vis and had to take a water taxi in. You’ll get accustom these, they’re basically little dingy boats driven between/around islands by locals. Prepare to spend about half your weekly budget on them. No joke, it was probably one of my only complaints. If we’re already paying extra for port fees and such we should at least get free water taxi rides!

Getting ready on the boat became a ritualistic experience. We’d all sit out on the deck with our mirrors and makeup bags attempting to mask the fact that we were all still fairly drunk from the day’s shenanigans. This is where my Makeup For Ever green primer came in handy. The green tone actually combats redness in your skin, whether it is due to a little too much sun or alcohol, virtually masking all you daily indiscretions :)

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Moving on to my favourite part of every day – meal time! Make sure you ask your skipper which restaurants they recommend for dinner – they have a summers worth of experience eating in Croatia so they’ll know the good spots. Ours suggested hands down the most picturesque restaurant I’ve ever been to called Luma. If you’re ever looking for a romantic dinner setting this is it! We were surrounded by lush green gardens and enjoyed our meal by candlelight. I was unfortunately too enthralled by the view, food, and my wine to remember to take pictures. The menu had a little something for everyone – I ended up ordering the catch of the day which was a white fish and a side of mixed veggies. It was absolutely delicious and light, but I had complete food envy when some of the girls’ steaks arrived (I may have ended up stealing a few bites).

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After were done stuffing our faces with the delicious local cuisine we caught a TYW scheduled bus up to Fort George for the white party. I had heard that Fort George was an incredible venue from some of our skipper/crew friends, but I didn’t expect it to be so massive! Picture a club in an old world castle courtyard – that’s Fort George. Needless to say, it was an amazing night, especially because everyone kept the to the dress code! Make sure you pack a white outfit – preferably one that’s easy to wash as it’s inevitable that you’re going to get something spilled on you throughout the course of the evening. By the end of the night I was safely tucked back to my hammock bed I was just praying for the hangover gods to take pity on me.

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