Once Upon A Time, I Hopped the Border to Mexico…

Is it just me or does it seem like time really passes by quicker each year? Somehow this year flew by and 2018 is rapidly approaching. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind year for me, with getting married and moving from Hawaii to California taking center stage. Due to this, I have not done as much traveling as I usually do. In addition, I have not shared this much but I have been dealing with some medical issues that presented me with unexpected setbacks and challenges. I have never been one to let anything get in the way of living life to its fullest. But 2017 forced me to remember that it’s okay to relax sometimes, and it’s absolutely necessary to listen to my body and practice self-care. (Read more on my end-of-year reflection and goal-setting rituals here.)

Either way, I couldn’t possibly let the year end without traveling to another country. If I had, it would be the first year in a long time where I did not leave the U.S. And for someone with a severe case of wanderlust like myself, this is simply unacceptable.

Luckily for me, I live only a few minutes away from our neighboring country, Mexico, and have the option to hop the border and explore my heart away.

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Hotel vs Private Rental – Which One is Better?

In this day and age, there are endless options when it comes to booking accommodations for your next trip. Many still prefer the traditional methods of booking hotels. But recently, the private rental industry begun changing the game with websites like Air bnb and VSBO becoming wildly popular. This has created some serious competition within the hospitality industry, virtually changing the way people travel.

So which is better?

I get asked this question a lot and it’s hard to answer because it is truly a matter of personal preference for each individual. Each form of lodging has its pros and cons, which I am going to dive into and share personal experiences to illustrate. Then at the end of this post, I will reveal my preference between the two.

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Why New Orleans is My Favorite US City 

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Many people may not know this, but here is a little secret about me that may shock you. During my middle school and high school years, I was really into goth. I wore only black, listened to bands like Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and embraced all the darker things in life. This was very reflective of the hard times I was going through during that period. When my tortured soul felt misunderstood, the goth scene embraced me with open arms. Although that may seem depressing, I actually look back fondly at this time because I had a LOT of fun and it made me who I am today.

Obviously I am very different these days. I am generally a very positive and bubbly person that openly identifies as a hippie, I wear vibrant colors and floral prints, I’m tan, and I listen to a wide variety of music. On the outside, some would say I look “normal” but anyone who really knows me knows that I am definitely not a conventional person. Deep inside, the goth girl is still very much alive. I still love the music and fashion, which will never ever change. Some are surprised to learn that I still go to punk and metal shows whenever I can. And while my sense of style is quite bipolar and varies based on my mood, the truth is my favorite thing to wear is still all black, combat boots, leather jackets, band tees, etc. And above all else, I have a fond appreciation for alternative lifestyles that deviate from the mainstream. There is simply no way to classify what I have become or who I am today. The best word I have come up with is multi-faceted.

One thing that has remained constant throughout my life despite phases and changes I’ve went through is my obsession with all things spooky and dark. Very little gets me more excited than Halloween, horror movies and Tim Burton. Just ask my poor husband, who is forced to watch scary movies he hates.

Because of this dark side of mine, New Orleans is a city I have always been fascinated with and dreamt of visiting. It’s full of dark history and a very distinct French flavor, which is another culture I’m obsessed with. As a kid, I would read Anne Rice books and fantasize of visiting the same streets where tales of vampires, ghosts, and voodoo queens took place. The Big Easy was always at the very top of my bucket list.

In 2014, I finally got to visit for the first time and fell in love. I have yet to come across a city that so deeply satisfies so many of my biggest interests and fascinations at the same time… food, history, culture, music, architecture, and especially the scary/spooky/horror/occult/macabre obsession. More than three years later, I am still delighted with how I planned a flawless and unforgettable trip, and I remember every detail vividly. As my favorite holiday, Halloween, approaches, my New Orleans nostalgia is especially great as I look back on what became one of my favorite travel experiences to date.

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Why I Am Not a Fan of Shanghai

It is pretty rare for me to say the words “I am not a fan of” when it comes to somewhere I have visited. In fact, I am pretty sure there is only one place I can ever remember feeling that way about in all my travels and that is Shanghai, China.

Before I explain, I will caveat this by saying my travel buddy and I did not have a lot of time in Shanghai and probably missed out on things that would have made us fall in love due to lack of knowing. Maybe we just had a bad experience that does not truly represent the city and need to try it again. I would never label a city as one that I don’t like or do not recommend. I am just stating that I did not particularly enjoy my time there or become a fan. Most of the time when I travel, I am wowed and constantly in amazement. That is exactly why I love to travel so much. Somehow, I just did not experience that here for the first time ever. In fact, I could not wait to get home.

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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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15 Things That Made Me Fall in Love with Paris

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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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