Why the Hurricane Disaster in Puerto Rico Serves as a Reminder to Travel the World ASAP

One of the official symbols of Old San Juan, garitas, which were used as sentry boxes to stand watch over the forts

With the recent crisis facing Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, I can’t help but feel devastated. I have spent the last week weeping every day as the situation seems to continue getting worse for 3.5 million Boricuas without food, water, and electricity, which has led to desperation and even death. It is always tragic when a disaster like this strikes, but this one hits home for me. I was raised among Puerto Rican culture and have visited the island countless times. So truly Puerto Rico is simply a part of who I am. Even after all my travels, I proudly call it my favorite place on earth.

As I remained glued to news stories and accounts from loved ones on Puerto Rico, I was also haunted by the vivid memories I have from how the island once was.

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Happily Ever After in Hawaii

It’s been two years and two months since I moved to the Rainbow State. Overall, it has been the greatest experience of my life and the best decision I’ve ever made. I have had amazing adventures enjoying all Hawaii has to offer, including beaches, hikes, island hopping, watersports, even swimming with sharks. I met my soul mate, who I am marrying in a few weeks, and I made some amazing friends who have become family. I got to learn about Hawaiian history and be immersed in Polynesian culture, which has been so eye opening and profound for me. I attended countless cultural festivals here to live like a real local. I even got to take advantage of the location by traveling throughout Asia several times.

But more importantly, moving to Hawaii has taught me so much about myself and who I am. Spreading my wings and being brave enough to leave home for an unfamiliar place so far away where I knew no one, and yet creating such a fulfilling and fabulous life from scratch has been a journey of self-discovery like no other. I’ve gotten to explore and study my spirituality on a deeper level. I connected with nature like never before. I uncovered my true purpose in life. Best of all, I truly fell in love with myself in the process and could not be more proud of the well-rounded woman I have become as I approach my 30th birthday this year.

So now, as I face the possibility of moving away soon to wherever my fiancé’s next duty station will be, I become a bit emotional at the thought of leaving a place I have grown so fond of. Hawaii will always be the most special and magical place in the world to me. I came here in search of something and I wasn’t even sure what, and along the way I found my soul AND my soul mate. So yes, you could say Hawaii has been VERY good to me. If it weren’t for the high cost of living and extreme over crowdedness, it would be the most perfect place on earth to live. And if it weren’t for me marrying someone in the military, I would probably stay here for a very long time. However, there’s a big chance that it’s time to spread my wings yet again.

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Finding Bliss in Bali

            

When one thinks of exotic places in the world worthy of a top bucket list spot, Bali often comes to mind for many people. This tropical island in Indonesia is unlike any other place in the world, with an extremely unique culture and geography. Here you can find dreamy beaches, jungles, volcanoes, bustling urban life, and rural farming villages that seem to be stuck in an older time. It became a trendy destination due to Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ book/movie. But for me, it has always been at the top of my “places my soul needs to visit” list because this is without a doubt one of the best places on earth for those looking for a spiritual awakening or renewal.

After visiting this past November with my perfect travel buddy, I found Bali to be a paradox in many ways. Known as an intensely spiritual and scared place, many go to Bali seeking peace and the answers to questions they’ve asked their whole lives. It is famous for a plethora of spas, yoga centers, and new age retreats. However, there are also starkly contrasting aspects, such as a crazy Vegas-esque nightlife area, extremely hectic driving, overwhelming strips lined with endless boutiques and restaurants, and a completely oversaturated market for souvenir shopping and tourist activities. Some go here for luxury and pampering, while others go for the exact opposite – to be completely humbled. It is truly a place that can offer something to anyone. Personally, I found the mix to be delightful. If I wanted to relax and connect with nature, I could. If I wanted to party, shop, or go on an adventure, I could too. And I did a little bit of everything. The options available were limitless.

The Balinese claim that Bali is the center of the universe, and therefore, extremely sacred land. The energy found here is said to be cleansing and rejuvenating for the spirit. So in many ways, this trip was a pilgrimage for me to find out for myself if this was true.

Well, I can report that all the fuss is for good reason. Bali not only earned a new fan in me, but it quickly became one of my favorite places. If you’re thinking of visiting someday, here’s some information and details on the ups and downs of my overall amazing experience and one of the best trips in my life.

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What Makes the Perfect Travel Buddy?

Amita and I, with our matching purses we got in Bali

Who you travel with can make or break your trip. As most spiritually in tune people know, energy is contagious. So you always want to be around people who are on a similar wavelength as yourself, especially while traveling.

Let’s face it. Traveling can bring out the worst in anyone. You’re completely out of your element in an unfamiliar place. Things can and will go wrong. At times, you will likely be pushed to your limits, stressed, tired, and uncomfortable. People deal with the inevitable ups and downs differently. How you handle and cope with it may differ from even the people you care most about. Also, you and the person you’re traveling with will pretty much be together nonstop. Will you get on each other’s nerves or get tired of one another? Sometimes you don’t find out until it’s too late and you’re stuck in a foreign place with someone you realize is not the travel buddy for you, wishing you could just be by yourself or just go the heck home. Worst of all, you could even damage your friendship for good with clashing too much. Ugh.

So while finding someone willing to go on a trip with you is pretty easy, finding a perfect travel buddy is pretty difficult and rare. Over the years, I have had both good and bad experiences traveling with others. I realized that even some of my best friends who I love dearly are not always the best to travel with. This caused me to explore solo travel many times because often, I would rather just go by myself. (See my post on solo travel here to learn more about why I often prefer traveling alone.)

But as much as I love solo travel, even that has its down sides. Who is going to take pictures of you, split costs with you, and laugh hysterically with you at the crazy things you encounter?! There is truly nothing like sharing a great travel adventure with someone else. Just think of all the fun you can have together, the memories you will make, and the bond that will form. With the right person, it can be a true joy and totally enhance the experience. But with the wrong person, it can be a complete nightmare and a waste of your vacation days.

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Living the Simple Life for a Day in Moloka’i

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One of the best things about living in Hawaii is being able to island hop when you need a slight change in scenery and a little getaway. Not that the islands are that different from one another, but each has an interesting history and unique things that set them apart. Of the eight main Hawaiian islands, Oahu, Maui, Big Island, and Kauai are the most popular to visit (in that order).

However, there is another often forgotten island I have always wanted to visit aside from these. Off the coast of Maui, there is a smaller island called Moloka’i, which is about 38 by 10 miles, and has a population of less than 8,000. There are no traffic lights, only stop signs, so you will not find any traffic at all. There’s a main town that you could miss if you just blink your eyes. Basically, it’s about as country as country can get. Normally, this would not appeal much to me but after reading a book about it, I was curious to take a day trip there to see what it’s all about. This past Saturday I boarded a teeny, tiny 9-passenger island hopper, and after a very bumpy fight, I got to explore Moloka’i with some close friends.

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A Southwest Road Trip for the Soul

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As much as I love traveling to foreign countries and getting new stamps in my passport, my wanderlust spirit does not have to go far to be wowed. America truly has a wide variety to offer, including not only famous cities but also a phenomenal National Park Service that grants us access to our many incredible forests, deserts, historical areas, and natural wonders. I have done quite a bit of traveling within the U.S. (my favorite cities include New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, my beloved hometown of Washington, D.C., and of course, my amazing new home in Honolulu) and there is still so much more I have yet to experience. I often think to myself from the perspective of a foreigner, and if I were from another country and visiting the U.S., I don’t even know where I’d start! Think about it – we really have it going on! There are endless things to see and do all within our own backyard.

While other modes of transportation, such as air, may be more convenient and preferred, there is still nothing like a good road trip. One of the best things about this country is that many fabulous destinations are within short distances of each other, so you can hit multiple landmarks in one shot. That is exactly why the American road trip is such a treasured pastime for so many adventurers. There is something about the open road and the freedom that comes with it that is healing, especially for us free spirits. I am a firm believer that human beings have an inherent desire to wander and explore our incredible planet. In addition to being fun and teaching us some of the most valuable lessons in life, more importantly, this is how we become more grounded and connected to the earth we inhabit. Not only that, but it will make you appreciate how awesome our country truly is.

As much as I love living in Hawaii, that is the one thing lacking here. Road trips are not an option when you live on a tiny island like Oahu, since I can’t drive for more than an hour without eventually driving my car into the ocean. So I can completely understand why so many people claim they get island fever here. While I am totally satisfied with the endless adventures Hawaii offers me, I can admit that I did begin to miss being able to get up and go. Being from the east coast, I used to take advantage of this all the time. I would drive up to NYC almost every weekend at one point, and even took 10+ hour road trips all the way to Chicago and Toronto. As long as I had good music and good company, I actually enjoyed those road trips. But I never realized until I moved from the mainland to Hawaii how much I took them for granted.

Something about a road trip in the Southwest specifically allured me and has always been calling my soul ever since I can remember. Earlier this year, I realized the nagging urge was stronger than ever. Maybe it was from listening to too much Queens of the Stone Age. But something just kept telling me that driving from Vegas to the Grand Canyon would be badass. Not only in a rock star kind of way but in a spiritually liberating way. I had been fantasizing about going on this trip for years and I could never figure out why I wanted it so bad, but I was determined.

Well, this past May, I finally made it happen and got to check this bucket list item off my list. A good friend and I left Hawaii for a week of road tripping from Nevada to Arizona. It was definitely an amazing and memorable experience. However, it certainly was NOT what I expected in a lot of ways….

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Spiritual Awakening in Sedona

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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.

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8 Things I Learned While Traveling that Totally Surprised Me

8 Things I Learned from Traveling

Anyone who knows me knows 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 even life changing. Here is a list of the eight most important and surprising things travel taught me over the years. Enjoy!

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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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