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.

Continue Reading

Why You Should Travel As Much As You Can in Your 20’s

As Amanda approaches the big 30 in a few days, she shares some of her reflections on what your 20’s should be about

There are many general beliefs that people have about the magical time known as your 20’s. Most of them equate to it being the most important decade, where every decision you make will impact the rest of your life and define who you are. If that is true, everyone should spend the precious years of their 20’s wisely.

I am a firm believer that everyone is different and each of us has a unique path and timeline for our lives. There is no cookie cutter shape of how your life should be, no matter how much society tries to convince you otherwise. Many people feel pressure to meet certain milestones by the time they hit 30, but to me, there is really only one thing that is true about this defining decade.

Your 20’s should be a time of discovery.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Seoul Searching in Korea

DSC_0379

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.

Continue Reading

Cherry Blossom Dreamin’ in Tokyo

12523850_10209522210681831_2165311446021695566_n

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.

Continue Reading

The Top 5 Things To Do in Puerto Rico

crashboat
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.

Continue Reading

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.

 

 

Continue Reading