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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15 Things That Made Me Fall in Love with Paris

Paris, photo by Amanda Korchia

I grew up surrounded by French language and Mediterranean culture, so my obsession with the city of Paris has naturally been a lifelong ordeal. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fantasizing and dreaming about the city of light… the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame cathedral, the fashion, the patisseries, and the day I would finally get to experience it all for myself.

The Monday I arrived in Paris on a Eurostar train from London was just as I had always pictured it would be: grayish skies, chilly weather, and an air of excitement. When I looked up and saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I squealed just like a little girl. I had dreamt of that day and that very moment my whole life. The sole motivation for me to work hard at school and my career was so that one day I could make my dreams come true and travel to places my soul was calling me to… And Paris was always at the very top of my long list.

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Giving Back, Aloha Style

Hawaiian culture is absolutely fascinating. One of my favorite things about it is that it revolves around a deep respect for and connection with the aina (land). This belief is prevalent across all indigenous cultures of the world and although most of these people have been robbed of their heritage, the concept is still sacred to them to this day. ‘O ka ha o ka ‘aina ke ola o ka po’e translates to “the breath of the land is the life of the people”. This simply means that when you take care of the land, the land takes care of you. Sustainability.

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Giving back to the aina is important, especially for me, since this aina has been so good to me. Moving to Hawaii 14 months ago has been the best thing for me and my spirit, and allowed me to truly thrive in ways I never imagined were possible. I attribute this to the mana (power) that exists here, which is known to be healing for all who encounter it.

So I was definitely excited when a friend invited me to experience a lᾱ hana (work day). For Hawaiians, this is not only an opportunity to help out the community, but it “strengthens the connection between people and land”. I was completely honored to partake and this ended up being one of the greatest experiences I’ve had here in Hawaii to date.

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Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaDuring a visit to Costa Rica, you will hear and see the Spanish phrase “pura vida” everywhere you go. It’s all over t-shirts and souvenirs, and is even used as a greeting by the locals. It translates to “pure life” in English and after a 6 day visit in this beautiful country, I can truly understand why this it is the official motto. Costa Rica is a place where once can truly experience PURE life in every form. Whether you’re looking for thrilling adventures, wildlife encounters, a busy city setting, or a relaxing beach getaway, here you can find it all. Two years ago, I was blessed enough to spend my 27th birthday on a fantastic vacation in Costa Rica and it was a trip I will never forget.

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The Art of Booking Hotels

One of the most stressful things about planning a trip is selecting the right hotel. There are hundreds of options in any given city, so finding the best one for you at a good price can be overwhelming. I’m sure all of us have had our share of horror stories when it comes to lodging and wish to avoid this at all costs. Staying at a place that’s not comfortable and convenient can essentially ruin your vacation. 

 

Luckily, there is a plethora of helpful info out there to help you find the best match for your needs and within your price range. Over the years, I have gotten pretty darn good at picking great hotels and now I usually have excellent experiences. So I have compiled my best advice and tips here for your convenience, in hopes that you’ll benefit from my many lessons learned!
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Why You Should Give Solo Travel a Try

Solo travel in Madrid
Amanda traveling solo in Madrid, Spain – November 2014

Since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of traveling the world. As I got a little older and finally started having enough money to fund some of these dreams, I encountered another problem. Who do I go with?

In my early 20’s, me and my girlfriends would always talk about taking trips together, but usually they were not able to due to financial reasons. And for those who did have the money to splurge, they usually had kids and other responsibilities that prevented them from being able to. Not having someone to go with and not wanting to go alone delayed me from taking many awesome vacations over the years, and had me putting it off until “one day”.

Now, there were several times when it all worked out and I did take trips with girlfriends or with guys I was dating. I have always enjoyed this each time, but it did make me realize something. You simply can’t travel with everyone.

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Oh, Tokyo! A First Timer’s Experience

Japan. A country that’s made such a profound impact on the rest of the world, from technology and cars, food, and cultural phenomena such as geishas, sumo wrestling, karate and samurais, anime and gaming, and so many other cherished obsessions around the world. For me, it’s always been a place of wonder and fascination.

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Since I now live in Hawaii, this was a natural choice for my first Asian vacation, although I feel like a traitor since I’m 1/4 Korean. But hey, a large majority of tourists and Asian residents here in Hawaii are Japanese, so there are a plethora of affordable nonstop flights. Plus, I figured Japan is Westernized enough that it’s a good cherry popper for visiting Asia.

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