How To Get the Most Out of Your Trip

The Eifel Tower just after sunset in Paris, France (2014)

People travel many different ways. Some like to party or gamble, others want to relax on a beach, some want to hike the highest mountain or go on wild adventures like sky diving. Regardless of how you travel, the memories made are always a priceless experience.

One thing I have learned is that each trip will be exactly what you make it. In all my years of traveling, I have seen some people get the most out of their trips and others who seem to miss out. Even I have learned my fair share of lessons through trial and error over many trips. I believe that no matter who you are, where you go, and how you like to travel there are some very simple things to do and not to do in order to maximize your time and have a more soulful experience.

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Hawaiian Honeymoon Part 2: Strange Adventures in Kaua’i and Maui

Meet the Stranges

Anyone who knows me or follows my travels probably expects that my honeymoon would be no different than other trips I take: full of adventure. As I mentioned in part one, honeymoons should be all about what the couple loves doing most. And for Mr. and Mrs. Strange, that is exploring.

For our honeymoon, we decided to island hop within Hawaii. Since we knew we were about to move soon, we kept the honeymoon small and affordable, yet still managed to pack in a lot of fun and adventure. We spent four days in Kaua’i and three days in Maui, and it will always be the most memorable trip of my life. 

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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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New Year Reflections

There is something so exciting and magical about a new year. I know that January 1st is just another day for some. And for others, those “new year, new me” resolutions usually don’t make it halfway through January. But it’s undeniable that there is a tremendous shift of momentum as one calendar year ends and another begins. Although nothing actually changes but the date, for many of us it becomes a time for new beginnings, transformation, and endless possibilities… a chance to put the past behind us and start fresh. We often feel a powerful surge in motivation and inspiration, so it’s the perfect time to end bad habits, start new routines, commit to goals, and set intentions that will lead us to great things.

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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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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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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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