Monthly Archives: March 2015

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda… The Ones That Got Away

I really hate dating, pretty sure I am missing the gene that make you want to be in a relationship, or maybe I just prefer dating cities instead of boys. Either way, I spend more time thinking about the countries I opted not to visit than the boys who I have broken up with. But the same story goes for both, it doesn’t matter how hard it is to say “No” or “this is not what I want”, with every rejection I know it is the right choice.

Regardless, I have missed three opportunities to live abroad.

The first, Guatemala. Like most recent college grads (or the general public), I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Having spent the previous summer in Ireland, I knew I would like to continue traveling so I came up with the grand idea to spend my upcoming summer in rural Guatemala volunteering for a micro-financing organization and practicing my Spanish. I was beyond excited, until I started having reoccurring nightmares about the situation. Despite Guatemala being a developing country, I knew several girls who volunteered in Guatemala doing similar programs and the culture sounded like a warm and welcoming community environment that I could not wait to be enthralled by.

http://geovinmorales.com/guatemala/

Via Geovin Morales Photography

http://geovinmorales.com/guatemala/

Via Geovin Morales Photography

http://geovinmorales.com/guatemala/

Via Geovin Morales Photography

As months went by and the nightmares refusing to subside, I began to encounter difficulties in making contact with the company and quickly realized their level, or lack their of, of organization. I yearn for the day I finally make it to Guatemala, but I am whole-heartedly convinced the summer after graduating college was not the time for me. I was raised to always listen to my conscience and gut feelings, and in that situation I am glad I did.

http://www.timeout.com.hk/travel/features/71385/western-mongolia-the-land-of-the-eagle-hunters.html

Via Timeout Hong Kong

The second time was one I had absolutely no control of. It had always been a dream of mine to join the Peace Corps, so after spending a few years working I decided I was ready for a new challenged and wanted the Peace Corps to be it. I spent a year volunteering at organization where I could gain applicable skills, studying, gaining different certifications and applying. It was a full time job in and of itself. Finally I made it through all the hooks, dazzled my interview, corresponded with my local contact in Seattle and got nominated for Mongolia! It was better than I ever could have hoped, in a country so uninhabited and magical where I would be doing a job I could be excited about, I was ready to pack my bags right then and there. But wait, there’s more. Being nominated is NOT the same as receiving an invitation. My nomination went to Washington D.C., where they decided I was better suited for another job, another program, another country….

Via Honey Trek "Five Blankets in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho"Which leads me to my third, Lesotho. Apart from being a mountainous country, I felt like I could not have been placed in a country more opposite than the one I had already fallen in love with before even arriving. I was bitter, I was angry, I was lost. When you receive an invitation from the Peace Corps they give you five days to respond. I remember finding out on a Monday and spending the entire weekend making pro/con list, Googling Lesotho and Peace Corps experiences, reaching out to family friends who had lived in Africa, contacting acquaintances who had/were in the Peace Corps, gathering any kind of information I could get to make the decision that was best for me. Eventually, I declined the invitation, deciding this opportunity was not worth giving up everything I had to move to a country where I did not know anyone for 27 Via Honey Trek "Five Blankets in the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho"months to work a job that I could not find a passion for. Turning down the Peace Corps felt like someone had combined all the bad experiences from my last two break ups and multiplying it by ten. I was devastated but I knew that opportunity was not what I wanted in the long run and not what was going to get me where I want go.

I still have a passion for travel and a mile long list of the places I want to go and am continuing to pursuit it despite my set backs and failings. What I learned is just because it looks similar to something you think you want, it is fine to say no and waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Never settle.

Have you turned down a travel opportunity? How do you feel about it now? I would love to hear about it!

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My Top 5 Favorite Things in Maui

The first time I went to Maui I was 14, just about to start high school and I was so excited! The second time I went was as a graduation gift right before graduation high school. It felt appropriate going right before starting high school and right before completing. Since then, I have gone almost every year, making it feel like a second home. My grandparents spend about a month there during the winter and my parents and I go to visit making for a vacation and reunion all at one. Even though I am not a “lay by the beach” kind of person, sometimes I feel that yearning for the Islands and cannot wait to get back to my other home.

Over the years, below are the top five favorite things I have come to love in one of the world’s best paradises:

Ka’anapali

Ka’anapali is where my family always stays. It is nice and modest by Hawaii standards, very family oriented. When I was younger I hated how everything seemed to close at 10pm, but now I have learned to accept it and give in to the Hawaiian way (aka, hang loose man). It is also conveniently located, right next to Maui’s renown downtown Lahaina, Black Rock which is a great area for snorkeling, surrounded by golf courses and is extremely safe and family oriented. My family always stays at the Aston Maui Ka’anapali 

Kannapali

Mine and my grandma's favorite Maui activity: Ring window shopping, we never seem to find one LARGE enough!

Mine and my grandma’s favorite Maui activity: Ring window shopping, we never seem to find one LARGE enough!

Downtown Lahaina Jewelry Shop

Speaking of Lahaina

Lahaina is a must do, whether you are staying in nearby Ka’anapali or luxurious Wailea. Yes, walking down Front Street is the ultimate tourist trap and I absolutely love it. Here you can find the tourist favorites such as Cheeseburger in Paradise and Bubba Gumps (I limit frequenting chain restaurants but I am weak when it comes to Bubba Gumps, there is just something about that place!), Billabong, Sunglass Hut and sunset backdrops behind hordes of catamarans. But there are uniquities as well. Beautiful galleries with local art (and by local, I mean artists from around the world who have made Maui their muse), local eateries such as Aloha Mixed Plate and best of all the shops across the street from the Lahaina Banyan Tree, where I always get excited to find my next random souvenir.

Paia

Paia is my newest local favorite as it has a very “real” feel to it. My hypothesis it Paia is filled with celebrities, artists and millionaires that want to be left alone, along with being filled with delightful cafes. This is not the place to be a tourist but to enjoy the finer things in life. A word of advice, don’t even try asking a standerby to take group photo of your family, they will only lackadaisically oblige.

Hana Lava Tube

You will easily come across this when doing to Road to Hana. The Hana Lava Tube is an easily accessible cave that allows you to explore the surface of the formations created by lava flow, great for anyone with even a slight interest in geology. It is easy to do with children or physical restrictions (my at-the-time six year old sister absolutely loved it).

Local Produce

Hawaii is expensive and for good reason. They have to import almost everything. But their local produce has a precious feel to it. My favorite is to go to a locals’ backyard and eat a banana right off the tree (note: my parents have friends on Maui, it is not appreciated to pick fruit as it is found. Get permission or have it be offered first) or stop at a fruit stand along the Road to Hana or up in the mountains.

Maui really is a magical place that will make you fall in love and never want to leave. I met a lot of people in Maui who did just that and even considered it myself during the trip from my senior year of high school. Mahalo!

KaanapaliKaanapali

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Love Lock Bridges of the World

Hopeless romantics love Love Lock Bridges. I am one of them.

Anytime I go anywhere for the first time I love to play the tourist (ok, I love being a tourist anywhere all the time but whatever). So for my first trip to Paris I knew the Love Lock Bridge was a must. I love the story of a couple in love attaching their engraved lock to the bridge accepting the reality of even if their relationship does not last, the proof of their love remains on the bridge forever, throwing the key into the Seine never to be retrieved.

When I found my third, I finally looked it up. How many Love Lock Bridges are there in the world?? Turns out a lot, and city planners are less than pleased about it. In addition to the Parisian bridge, I have stumbled upon one in San Francisco and Wellington. Turns out they have also started in:

  • Las Vegas appropriately located at the Paris Hotel,
  • Vancouver Island, Canada,
  • Toowoombia, Australia,
  • New York City,
  • Bamberg, Germany,
  • Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge
  • Tacoma, Washington
  • and more according to Wikipedia’s Love Lock Page

Love Lock Bridge on the River Seine

Love Lock Bridge of San Francisco

Wellington Harbour Love Lock Bridge

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Put Your Hands in the Air Like the Glowworms Don’t Care

The best thing I have ever done in my life: Inner tubing through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Not only was it my favorite part of my New Zealand trip, I have never done anything that combined majesty and adventure in such a serene cohesion.

I remember the first time I watched the “Caves” episode of Planet Earth and thinking how cool the glowworms were despite their distasteful reality, and from my experience if something amazes me on TV or in a movie or photo, it is ten times more incredible in reality. So in my New Zealand research this was an item of interest.

But I am a small girl with little muscle definition. Lifting my 60 pound husky often proves nearly impossible. The more I thought about it the more nervous I got and the more I decided spending the money to spend a minimum of three hours in physical anguish sounded like hell.

I debated over going to the caves many times. But about a week before leaving I received an email from a girl I work with telling me about how amazing her trip to New Zealand was, which she had returned from about a week earlier. Her only regret was not making it to the glowworm caves.

So I booked it. I do not know if it was me being competitive or just taking good advice, but in my already set itinerary I gave myself a three day grace period in Auckland at the end of my trip where I ended up booking a one-day round trip bus ride with Naked Bus and the Wet Hair Deal (which included a boat tour through the caves and inner tubing through the Glowworm caves).

Being in the boat floating beneath millions or glowworms, everyone was silent. It was like being alone in a dark dream with slivers of beauty poking through, seeing stars that you know are not stars only due to their iridescent colors.

The Legendary Black Water Rafting Co.

The Black Labyrinth tour with The Legendary Black Water Rafting, Co. was a whole different kind of amazing. Going into it knowing there was a 90% chance I was in over my head, I could not be more excited. The first obstacle was getting into a wetsuit, which, to my surprise I had never done before (possibly due to a combination of family vacations taking place in Maui and being slightly scared of the ocean). It look two Japanese twins (one on each side) grabbing a piece of my wetsuit, yelling ICHI, NI, SAN, JUMP! about three times for me to get it past my hips only to, after successfully get all strapped in, be told by the instructor it was on inside out.

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Welp, after putting the wetsuit on twice I was good to go. On to obstacle number two: Jumping backwards into a river with my butt securely in an inner tube  – and I got to go first (lucky me *sarcastic undertones*). But like getting into a wetsuit, I survived. After I shimmied into the glowworm cave through a small hole and immediately cutting my hand on a rock, the hard part was over. We floated under a cave where the ceiling was two feet above water level (the instructors called it the “limbo” leg), got up close and personal with glowworms to where we could see the actual larva and the small dot in its middle section from where its glow is illuminated, jumped off more cliffs, saw eels, fish and crawfish and even stopped for a chocolate break midway through, ultimately ending with a 300 meter river float beneath the glowworms.

It was a truly unforgettable three hours that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

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