There are a few places my spirit has called me to visit during my travels, but none have had the same effect on me as Sedona. When I learned more about this soulful city in Arizona a few years ago, a fire was ignited within me. I had to make my way there. And soon.
The first reason for this was obvious. It looked absolutely mesmerizing and I knew it would be even more incredible to witness in person. This delightful desert town is nestled among remarkable red sandstone formations and vast forests. The unique scenery has frequently topped lists of the most beautiful places to visit in the U.S. So it is a perfect stop and a fun road trip when visiting other popular Southwestern destinations (only four hours from Vegas and two hours from the Grand Canyon by car).
But the main reason I wanted to go was much deeper than just scenic beauty. Sedona was and still is considered an extremely sacred place for Native Americans. That’s because Sedona is home to four vortexes, which are powerful energy centers that radiate healing and renewal. The element of mysticism has attracted New Age and spiritual crowds to visit and even relocate here over the last few decades. Since I consider myself a spiritually conscious person and this is basically spiritual mecca within the U.S., I was on a mission to visit and experience this for myself.
Anyone who knows me know how obsessed I am with travel. Over the years, it has been the greatest teacher I could ever ask for. I not only learned about the world and other cultures, but I learned a ton about myself along the way (especially via solo travel). However, I will admit that many of these lessons were pretty surprising and completely unexpected. Here is a list of the eight most important and surprising things travel taught me over the years. Enjoy!
I know, I know. I have been a bad, bad blogger. Since I started this site earlier this year, I have tried to be pretty consistent about writing and posting regularly- not only since this is a commandment for successful blogging, but because I really appreciate the time my loyal readers and followers take to read all my content. So there’s absolutely no excuse for why I have taken a break and been absent for so long. But I can assure you – my hiatus was for a good cause. I was busy falling in love.
Many may not think of South Korea as one of the top tourist destinations in Asia. Since it’s typically so overlooked, it surprised even me to learn that it ranks as the 7th most popular country on the continent, with about 15 million visitors each year. But one visit here and it will be apparent to anyone just why that is. This small country is packed with so much to offer, from futuristic urban settings to charming countryside villages; jaw-dropping mountain peaks and natural wonders to majestic palaces and temples dating back centuries ago. Having a fascinating history of over 5,000 years, plus a colorful and unique culture, does not hurt either. There was so much to see and do that I found it quite overwhelming trying to fit it all in my short 5 day trip and on my flight back home, I was already plotting on how to go back and visit again soon.
This is one of the many places I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was just a little girl. Except, not just for reasons like history, culture and food, as it typically is for most other destinations I long to see. This one is for very personal reasons. Korea is the homeland of my grandma. Back when she was growing up there in the early 1950’s, much of the country was war-torn and poverty stricken. In other words, it was completely different than how it is today, as the nation experienced miraculous growth and now continually tops listings of the world’s strongest economies and most technologically advanced countries. So when I finally got to visit a few weeks ago, I was in awe. Not just at how modern and beautiful Korea surprised me to be, but also because I couldn’t help but think about how different it must be than what my grandma experienced before she fled to the U.S. many decades ago.
I was extremely close with my grandma, so when she passed away in 2013, it made my desire to finally journey to see her homeland even stronger. When I recently found out that I still have relatives living in Korea, I became determined to plan a trip and go. Even still, I did not have expectations beyond being able to go sight-seeing and hopefully meet them over lunch or dinner. What ensued completely blew my mind and changed me in ways I never imagined.
There is a complicated science when it comes to booking flights, and it is not understood by many. A lot of people assume flights, especially to international destinations, are unaffordable because a lot of times, they really are. Often, this can discourage people from taking trips to places they’ve always dreamed of visiting and to where their soul is calling them to go and experience. However, it shouldn’t discourage you! Airlines have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, but if you’re savvy enough and willing to put in some time and effort, you can catch great deals, save tons of money, and visit every faraway place your heart desires.
Historically, flight fares have usually been correlated to gas prices. However, the current market is very different and it’s important to be aware of this. Recently gas prices have plummeted yet there has been no reflection of this in ticket prices. This is due to the lack of competition among major airlines. They don’t budge on reducing prices because they don’t have to – they know we have no choice. So airline executives enjoy record profits at our expense. Can you say UGH? In addition, there are more taxes and fees tacked onto each flight than ever before, which spike up costs a few hundred dollars. Some of it can be justified in order to ensure better security for travelers. However, a lot of it is total nonsense in my opinion. It is because of these reasons I am so passionate about finding deals on flights and helping others to do the same.
Travel is wonderful and without a doubt my greatest passion in life. So it may surprise you to learn that as much as I hit the friendly skies, I absolutely hate flying. It doesn’t help that I live in the middle of the Pacific ocean, where any flight I take is going to be long – at least 5-6 hours to get to to the mainland or 8-9 to get to Asia. It can be pretty miserable. Passengers are crammed like sardines onto the packed plane for hours, surrounded by germs, and fed inedible food (if any at all). To alleviate this, I try my best to be prepared so my flights are as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. I always make sure my carry-on bag is packed with everything I’ll need during the trip to my destination.
It has always been a dream and bucket list item of mine to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, when the whimsical pink flowers bloom and captivate admirers from across the world. Last week, I had the pleasure of doing this while on my way to Korea.
Since this was my second time visiting Tokyo (info on my first trip can be found here), I knew my way around pretty well and mostly found it a breeze to get around the bustling city. However, the city was especially busy since April is one of the best times of year to visit. It’s still quite chilly but there is definitely an air of excitement as their famous spring season begins.
Cherry blossom season only lasts for two brief weeks out of the year. It is very hard to predict exactly when they’ll be peaking and the blossom forecast creates much buzz each year, but generally it falls around the first week in April for the Tokyo area. However, it is not limited to just the capital city. Cherry blossom trees can be found all throughout the country. In fact, many argue that other areas, such as Kyoto, are far better spots to view and enjoy cherry blossoms than in a hectic urban environment. Despite this, it’s estimated that 2 million visitors flock to Tokyo around this timeframe to witness the beloved flowers in full bloom.
Since I moved to Hawaii, I have really pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried to be more adventurous. It’s so crucial to make the most of my time here and enjoy all the amazing activities the island has to offer. I’ve become a fan of snorkeling and hiking, and have also tried stand up paddle-boarding, swimming with dolphins, riding a submarine, and even got into a shark cage. Last August, time finally came to try kayaking, which is something I had been excited for since it’s a huge local favorite. A friend of mine from work had some extra kayaks and luckily they’re the kind you pedal with your legs rather than paddle with your arms, making them much easier to operate. I knew the day would be lots of fun. Little did I know that, that Saturday we kayaked out to the Kaneohe Bay sandbars would teach me some major life lessons I needed to learn.
Puerto Rico is a place very near and dear to my heart. I will openly admit that I am extremely biased about how amazing it is, but it’s easy to see why it is a favorite destination for so many. They do not call it la isla del encanto (the island of enchantment) for nothing. The rich history, blended from Spanish, native Taino, and African roots, is what makes Puerto Rico known for its distinct sabor (flavor). Although the small island is just over 100 miles from east to west and 35 miles from north to south, it is packed full of beauty, adventure, and culture. There is so much to offer, including quintessential Caribbean beaches, old world remnants, gorgeous mountains, vibrant Latin music, delicious cuisine, and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. In my opinion, there is simply nowhere else that can compare.
One may not think of Honolulu as an artsy city, but I have been pleasantly surprised at all the fabulous art and talent I have found in my time here. A perfect example of this is an event known as POW WOW Hawaii, which takes places annually in the Kaka’ako area. Local artists showcase their best on the walls of buildings throughout this industrial-turned-hipster neighborhood, which has been undergoing major restoration and construction projects to completely revamp its image into a more trendy and modern community. There is a monthly night market where vendors and food trucks line the streets, and there are new shops and restaurants opening up all the time. The art certainly compliments these vibes. If it weren’t for the palm trees and the ocean being a few blocks away, one might forget they were in Hawaii and perhaps think they were in New York City.
Without all these stunning visuals, the area would be quite dull and tiresome. Instead, the art makes it charming and inviting. According to Hawaii News Now, local business owners now embrace what unique flair this street art has added to the community. The roughness of urban life, such as cars lining the street and warehouses on each block, provide a stark contrast against the bright colors and vibrant animations that make up these exhibits. It transmits a refreshing and fun energy to any passerby. The captivating street murals represent a vast array of styles, but a majority consist of deep symbolism. Most of the themes represent the local Hawaiian perspective and send powerful messages of activism and cultural pride.
I had the pleasure of strolling the Kaka’ako neighborhood with some girlfriends this evening to enjoy all this beautiful art and test out my new camera. Afterwards, we had dinner at the legendary Highway Inn restaurant also in Kaka’ako, which is an absolute must for delicious local “kine” dishes. A delightful time all around and I am so pleased to share these images I captured with you so you can get a feel for the art movement here in Hawaii that is very much alive and thriving.
More info on the POW WOW Hawaii project as well as the artists can be found here.