Lessons Learned from Backpacking

Me backpacking in Madrid, Spain (2014). Over packing and wearing uncomfortable shoes were two rookie mistakes I learned from, among many others,

Have you ever dreamt of backpacking around a continent, freely wandering between cities and countries seeing all the things you’ve always wanted to and experiencing the exhilarating thrill of checking off bucket list items one by one?

For me personally, it was once something I fantasized about but never imagined I’d have the courage to do. It seemed so intimidating and far too adventurous for me. Plus, I knew I was too high maintenance to fit all my belongings in a backpack I’d have to carry everywhere or to stay in hostels with complete strangers.

But three years ago, I decided I needed to go for it [and I did]. As a gift to myself for finishing my Master’s, I booked a trip to Europe and began planning an epic journey to explore five cities across four countries. And since I didn’t know anyone brave (or crazy) enough to join me, I did a majority of it all by myself.

I admit that I was a bit nervous but I knew it was the perfect timing for this trip since I had reached such an exciting point in my life. For years, I worked so hard on my career and school, and it was all paying off as I reached some major milestones in life- completing my education and landing a job that allowed me to move 5,000 miles away to follow my dream of living in Hawaii. I asked myself, who knows how much my life is about to change or if I will ever get the chance to do this kind of trip again? I knew I had to go for it and seize this opportunity.

It ended up being the most defining trip of my life. I felt so liberated and happy the entire two and a half weeks. It had a massive impact on me by changing who I am as a person and igniting a fire in me to be fearless in the pursuit of my dreams. It made me even more addicted to travel and more determined than ever to explore every inch of this earth that I can.

It turns out that I was right about how much my life would change in the three years following this trip. I had an incredible experience living in Hawaii that awakened my soul and helped me find who I am. I got to travel throughout Asia and now live back on the mainland in California as a military spouse. I never would have imagined the path my life took but the experience of this backpacking trip has definitely influenced me so much along the way.

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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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Must Have Items for Jet Setters

Travel is wonderful and without a doubt my greatest passion in life. So it may surprise you to learn that as much as I hit the friendly skies, I absolutely hate flying. It doesn’t help that I live in the middle of the Pacific ocean, where any flight I take is going to be long – at least 5-6 hours to get to to the mainland or 8-9 to get to Asia. It can be pretty miserable. Passengers are crammed like sardines onto the packed plane for hours, surrounded by germs, and fed inedible food (if any at all). To alleviate this, I try my best to be prepared so my flights are as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. I always make sure my carry-on bag is packed with everything I’ll need during the trip to my destination.

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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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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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