Category Archives: Traveling

Getting from Paradise to Wellington

After resting up in Fiji, it was time to pack in some action. Travel buddy Valerie and I were ready to hit the open roads of New Zealand after spending a week doing absolutely nothing on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji. A girl can only read in a hammock on the beach for so long, am I right? 

  
Fully rested and ready to explore, we set out mid-morning for our long trip to Wellington where we would get our Kiwi legs before the big road trip.

We hailed a taxi from the hostel to the airport, as we learned upon arrival even Google Maps were on Fiji time down there, we bid a quick goodbye to paradise. 

The flight from Los Angeles to Nadi to Auckland went wonderfully due, in full, to flying with Fiji Airways. On par with Hawaiian Airlines, the vacation truly begins as soon as check-in begins.

However, arriving in Auckland to take the Naked Bus sleeper bus to Wellington was the complete opposite experience. 

It all started with an equivocal email stating the bus would be arriving an hour late, Valerie and I essentially squatted at the nearby McDonalds before heading to the bus stop an hour early to wait in the freezing rain in fear of missing the bus.  

 Upon arrived, it was a completely different company that picked us up (Mana Bus), where I tried to explain to the bus driver what we booked (this is definitely NOT a sleeper bus, as I took one on my first trip to New Zealand) and he responded with a curt “This is the only bus to Wellington. Either get on or you’re not going to Wellington tonight.”

So we ended sleeping, or trying to get comfortable for eight hours with our eyes closed to be more accurate, in a normal bus.

The good news is that we actually made it to Wellington (almost) on schedule with four glorious days in my favorite New Zealand city.

  

  

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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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Kia Ora New Zealand- Day 1 In Wellington

What more can I say other than Wellington is amazing! Despite the nickname Windy Welly, for which I have first-handedly experienced, the city is like San Francisco, if San Fran were cleaner and located in the South Pacific.

imageDay 1 consisted of a bay view walk along the renaissance waterfront, which you can tell is new but well loved. It stretches for miles from the Stadium up into the wine-tasting covered hills. Along the way you can find tidbits of historical explanations, signs welcoming one and all, industrial-bins-turned-shops (which appropriately shows the connection between the original use of the waterfront for import/exporting services to the now tourist and leisure location), water sports, museums and beaches. It is most definitely my favorite spot in Wellington! image

After checking out the waterfront, I meandered into the city. Wellington long and skinny, squeezed between the bay and Mount Victoria so it seems like it would be easy to navigate through. Well, I was wrong. After my relaxing stroll along the quay I found myself getting wildly lost and profoundly happy. There’s nothing I love more than feeling lost in a new, exciting place. It was that was that I was able to gain a reference for the city which helped me navigate throughout the rest of my stay.

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Packing: New Zealand Edition

I am an organizer, a planner, a list-maker, to the point that sometimes I wonder if the only reason i ever leave the city is to make a plan. With travel, I love the preparation, separating my belonging into groups which will determine how they eventually will be strategically packed.

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In fourth grade when I got my first binder, I added all my paper, dividers, folders and pens about a million different ways until eventually I found the perfect locations for every last item (which, to be honest, was most likely exactly the same as my first try). I think packing is my version of binder organizing in my adult life.

This time around, I’m preparing for New Zealand – land of LOTR and adventure! This is my most extensive solo trip so the need for feeling prepared is of the utmost importance to me. After all, In Omnia Paratus is supposed to be my motto.

Things I’m making sure to not leave home without:

Cash money – my philosophy is there aren’t any situations you can’t throw a little (or a lot) cash at to make everything right again. In Costa Rica my friend and I stayed in one hostel for the trip and on our last day found out they only accepted cash or paypal. I’m the kind of person that never has cash. Hell, until yesterday I didn’t even know my PIN#. If I weren’t with her, I would have had to stay an extra week working to pay back their services.

United Credit Card – related to my first item, I pay for everything with credit cards because I love getting the rewards (note: I full encourage paying them off right away, I love rewards but hate interest). With my United card not only do I get miles, I also do not get charged international fees.

Passport, Visas and other identification – I am flying out of Los Angeles and had a dream I got to LA only to have forgotten my passport. Do not get my wrong, two weeks in LA would be better than two weeks in dreary Washington but I would still be pretty disappointed.

Laundry detergent and garbage bags – there’s no way I am going to lug around two weeks of clothes with me. So I plan to do laundry half way through. But in my meantime, I love using garbage bags to separate my clean and dirty clothes. Nothing is worse than getting all your clothes dirty without having a little fun in them.

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Seahawks jersey – I live in Washington. I love football. And I am damn proud to be a supporter of a team who has made it (and is going to win it!) to the Super Bowl two consecutive years in a row! The twelfth man needs to show the world how far we can go, and I plan on showing it off in New Zealand!

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My travel journal – given to me as a gift when I thought I was going to be moving to Mongolia, my beautiful leatherbound journal holds my travel dreams and experiences. My flight home spent writing every last second I can remember of my trip is one of my favorite parts of traveling.

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Electronic essentials – my wonderful mother has a knack for buying me obscure electronics from REI that always prove to be useful. This year’s gifts are a South Pacific plug converter and external battery charger for my long flight. Have I mentioned she’s the best?

So here’s hoping I’m fully prepared, wish me luck!

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The Wine is Beautiful

Washington State has become a growing leader in the distribution and making of magnificent wines. It wasn’t until Washington wineries began competing in California wine competitions that they were able to show the world they could produce a fine wine. Today, Washington is the second largest producer of wine in the nation.

Woodinville, Washington holds as Seattle’s playground for wine lovers, with nearly 100 wineries within a 5 mile radius. It is separated out into three separate districts, the Warehouse Winery District, Hollywood Winery District and West Valley Winery District.

My favorite of the districts is the Warehouse Winery District, where all of the wineries are literally a rock’s throw away from each other, with 48 wineries in this area alone.

But of course, the most notable winery of all, the Chateau Ste. Michelle, is a must see when wine tasting in Seattle. Upon entering, you are immediately greeted by beautiful grounds, a grape vine lead driveway and colorful peacocks. This winery offers guided tours of the facility every half hour, ending in a wine tasting of the vineyard’s most popular wines. Most importantly, do not forget to have a taste (or bottle) of the Sweet Harvest Riesling!

 

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Chateau Ste. Michelle Main House

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Wine Tasting Love

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Chateau Ste. Michelle Entrance

For more information on Seattle wine tasting visit www.woodinvillewinecountry.com 

 

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How I Travel For Free

Pier 39 - Fisherman's Warf

Yes, travel can be expensive. No, I do not let that stop me. I have worked hard to figure out how to avoid spending money and going broke to experience the things I enjoy. If money is your excuse for not doing something, you better start looking for new excuses.

In additional to what I have done, I know lots of people who have created many fun and unique fundraising events for trips from volunteering in Mexico for a week to moving to Africa for four years. No matter the duration of your trip, friends and family often get excited about helping you achieve your goals.

1)   Let your parents pay. Yes, this sounds like a cop-out, and I am fully aware that not everyone’s parents can afford to pay for their plane tickets, etc. All I am saying is that if/when the opportunity for them to buy you a ticket someone, do not hesitate to turn it down.  For example, my parents are not very big on traveling, but whenever they go to Hawaii, I make sure and weasel a ticket out of them as well.

2)   Complain. I definitely do not condone taking advantage of people or companies, but that does not mean there are not situations that warrant voicing your opinion. My most recent trip to Hawaii was to surprise my family for Thanksgiving. I was flying solo and the flight got delayed overnight after hours of waiting ON THE PLANE. Needless to say I was frustrated and unhappy about wasting an entire day and eventually ending up fly alone on Thanksgiving Day.  So yes, I complained. I got angry. And I ended up getting free flight, which I guess made it worth it.

3)   Work in the travel industry. One benefit of my job is excellent hotel discounts.Many of the most popular hotel brands offer wonderful discounts to their associates for more accessible trips. And I certainly make it a point to take FULL advantage of this benefit!

4)   Build up those airline miles. I make all my purchases on my United Airlines credit card, along with building up frequent flyer miles through their reward program when purchasing plane tickets. Using my credit card for necessary items such as food and gas really adds up in the accrual of airline miles, which is pretty nice getting rewards for purchases that need to be made.

5)   Take advantage of travel programs (i.e. volunteering /working abroad). Find programs that pay for you to travel (or even better PAY YOU). One of the most popular programs is Peace Corps, along with many other government organizations. However, this isn’t the only option. There are many organizations that pay for educated Americans to work in other countries, provide housing, or even simply offering small food incentives. Some of my favorite sites are:

  1. www.PeaceCorps.com
  2. www.WWOOF.com – Live and eat for free while volunteering on organic farms around the world. Volunteers can stay anywhere from two weeks to several months and you do not need to have any experience or farming knowledge.
  3. www.goabroad.com – This database that allows excellent search options for finding exactly what kind of international experience you are looking for.
  4. www.grassrootsoccer.org – A nonprofit that offers paid internships in Africa. This is one of MANY international internship organizations that offers incentive for educated Americans to work abroad.
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