How I Found Self and Love in Hawaii

Love in Hawaii

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.

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Seoul Searching in Korea

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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.

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A Thrifty Traveler’s Tips on Cheap Flights

A Thrifty Traveler's Tips on How to Score Cheap Flights

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.

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Must Have Items for Jet Setters

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.

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Cherry Blossom Dreamin’ in Tokyo

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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.

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Life Lessons Learned from Kayaking

View at the Kaneohe Sandbar
Kayak view at the Kaneohe Sandbar

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.

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The Top 5 Things To Do in Puerto Rico

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Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

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.

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Street Art in Paradise

Kaka'ako neighborhood.
Kaka’ako neighborhood.

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.

Enjoy!

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Why Everyone Needs a Bucket List

A lot of times, you will hear the phrase “bucket list” thrown around, especially when people rave about something being a bucket list item. But what does this really mean? And do people really have bucket lists?! Or is this just something they talk about and never actually write down?
I am here to tell you that, yes, bucket lists are a real thing and that every person, including you, should have one!
The common definition for a bucket list is basically a list of things to do, see, or accomplish before you die (or “kick the bucket”). This is not to be confused with goals, which are everyday things you work towards or achieve over time, or bars you set for yourself. These could include things like buy a home, get married, have kids, earn a degree, get in shape, make a certain amount of money, or have a certain job. Goals don’t necessarily get crossed off the list once they’re completed, but rather will always be a part of your life in some form.
On the other hand, bucket list items are the dreams and desires you hope to experience. Basically, the things that most people put off until “one day”. Many equate this to travel destinations, like hiking Mount Everest or seeing the Pyramids in Egypt, which are perfect examples. However, they can also be things like to volunteer, learn an instrument, skydive, or read a difficult book. Sometimes goals and bucket list items will mesh together, such as learning Italian or running a marathon. But usually, bucket list items are adventures. They help you live unapologetically as if tomorrow is your last day. The only problem is that most people don’t keep actual bucket lists so they never actually do any of these items.
Why do people have the tendency to push off the things they are most passionate about? I know so many people who wish they could start a bakery, or dream of visiting Europe. But what is stopping them? Financial limitations, busy schedules, having children to raise, and not being able to take time off work are among the common excuses I hear (yes, I am here to tell you, they are excuses). However, the most common response is that they just haven’t gotten around to it yet, and will some day.
But here’s the thing. There is an extremely high probability that “some day” will never come if you keep procrastinating and assuming that there will be a better time. Your time here is limited. I am here to tell you that the time is NOW.
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Travel Tuesdays: Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu
Photo credit: Erika Skogg, National Geographic Creative

 

One of the places at the top of my bucket list is Machu Picchu. The sacred and ancient ruins in Peru were used as a ceremonial city and astronomical observatory by the Inca civilization centuries ago. Now, Machu Picchu is one of the top tourist sites in South America and one of the most amazing archeological sites in the world. Much mystery revolves around how the temples here were built, since many of the blocks weigh as much as 50 tons each. Most people report that words simply cannot describe the beauty and that this is a MUST SEE before you die. Also, the spiritually attuned claim there is a powerful energy vortex here. Yet another reason why my soul has been calling me to visit this place one day soon!
For those also aspiring to go, the best time of year to visit is winter (between April to October). You can fly into Cusco, Peru and take a bus to the area for less than $70. However, most people recommend you take the train to Aguas Calientes and stay overnight. This will allow you to acclimate to the altitude (MANY people report severe altitude sickness here) and then make your way to the top as early as possible in the morning, since it gets extremely crowded (about 2500 tourists visit daily during high season). Private tours are recommended so you get to learn more of the fascinating history. Other tips I hear: keep your passport handy the entire time, make sure to wear good hiking shoes, and stay hydrated. Also, try to visit the Peruvian capital of Lima nearby (just a little over an hour long flight), which is a culture lover’s dream with tons to see and do.

 

 

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