I started planning my trip to Africa when I was 6 years old. Okay, not exactly! I was 6 years old when I saw The Lion King. Since then, I’ve lusted after the country, eagerly awaiting the day I could go.
A great, low-cost trip does not always need advance planning. I planned this trip starting in late January of this year with the majority of the details worked out in March and April.
I don't make a ton of money working in higher education and I live in a high cost-of-living area. So I had to plan this out carefully according to a strict budget. I also had limited time off—about 18 days—to create an itinerary that would hit the highlights. In the end, I managed to cover flights, activities, accommodation, food, and more while keeping the cost under $3000.
For the first time in over 2 years, I am overseas traveling a new continent—Africa! Specifically, I am traveling the lovely little country of Namibia (not to be confused with Nambia, Trump's incorrect pronunciation of it).
Namibia has stunning natural landscapes and the wildlife sightings happen left and right without even trying! I fly to South Africa next to see the "Big 5" on safari, but I've already felt incredibly fulfilled by all the wildlife and nature I have seen.
My first stop in Namibia was the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Then I camped in the Sossusvlei region which has the tallest sand dunes in the world and a really unique place to take photographs of 700 year old sun-scorched trees. It's been an amazing trip already and I'm only 1 week into it! Here's a sneak photographic peak at Namibia...
I have spent a lot of time in Brooklyn over the years.
Recently, I've been visiting friends there and getting to know the place from a local perspective. And my favorite time to be in Brooklyn? It's got to be the Spring! Between the warmer weather, the flowers popping up, and the cheerier vibe, I love Brooklyn in the Springtime.
The following are some of my favorite activities for when all the flowers start blooming. But don't worry, I share some activities for other seasons, too.
This week, I am taking a short break from writing about my own travels to give tribute to my Grand-Aunt Wally. Wally died last week at 98 years old. She was my travel inspiration. And so I was moved to write this post in memory of her.
The photos in this post come predominantly from my visit to Germany in 2014. There I met her half brother, Ludwig, who showed me these photos during my stay with cousins in Rohr.
In this post, I write a little bit about what Wally meant to me. I describe some of the adventures she took part in and I discuss some of the words of wisdom she gave me about life and travel. I hope that her words and her life will inspire you as she inspired me.
The last time I posted about a hike in upstate New York it was when I hiked Stissing Mountain. That was shortly after I returned form the trip around the world. Since then, I have been meaning to hike more around my hometown area.
The day after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law, Kate, and I decided to digest our turkey and stuffing with a local hike! I searched for a hike with the following features: in the Dutchess County region, challenging enough to burn some significant calories, short enough to accomplish in a few hours, and able to deliver some spectacular views.
Brace Mountain (2,316 ft) matched all my criteria! And it was a beautiful, late autumn day for a hike.
In my last post about things to do in New York City, I focused mostly on what to see as first-timers to NYC. I featured mainly the places and activities I chose to show my then-boyfriend from New Zealand.
In this post, I cover different things to do in the Big Apple. You could say these suggestions are suited for second-timers! But really, you can pick and choose from this list or the last list and be totally fulfilled during your visit!
Included are activities I've experienced on my own and with others. As a former resident and frequent commuter to the city, I've included all kinds of recommendations from my New York adventures.
In late May of 2017, my cousin Lisa and her partner Christoph visited me in New York from Germany. One of the top travel experiences on her list was to see Niagara Falls during her visit. When she told me this, I started planning our 8 hours drive from Long Island to Niagara on the western border of NY.
With stops at my parents', relatives', and brother's house along the way, I strategized our visit to Niagara Falls so that it would fall on a weekday. The weekend we were traveling upstate was Memorial Day weekend. The last thing I wanted to do was wind up on long lines again like I did the year before on July 4th weekend. No way would I put myself through that again!
But I wasn't completely certain that our visit would be without crowds. On a Tuesday attached to a holiday weekend, I thought others might have the same idea. I discovered they didn't. Like I pro, I got to show Lisa and Christoph the beauty and exhilaration of Niagara Falls without the long lines and wait times. I'm happy to say I had an amazing time there, completely making up for the horrible experience I had previously!
Compromising my ethical values is something I do not do very often. And it never feels good doing it. But my bestie was coming with me to NOLA for the weekend. So I said yes to a swamp tour I had warned would likely be unethical to the animals. I've never been so upset about being right.
The last time I was in NOLA, I "broke into" the local zoo. Although I didn't pay to get in, walking around there reinforced my ethical standards around animal tourism. I've written about this before, such as with the Monkey Forest in Ubud. Basically, my standards are don't support it unless it's highly regulated and the interaction is as natural as possible.
The Bayou Tours in Louisiana broke these rules. And I say the plural word "tours" because it's more than just the one we went on. While I learned a lot about the wildlife and swamp ecosystem on the tour, I cringed as the tour guide fed marshmallows to the animals. That only scratches the surface. Read on to learn more about why I'll never support tours like this again!
The verdict is in! I finally tried the two most famous fried chicken dishes in NOLA to determine which is better: Willie Mae or Dooky Chase. Which will it be?!
The last time I was in NOLA was summer 2016. I went to Dooky Chase's with my then-boyfriend from New Zealand. We gobbled down a buffet of Dooky's best, including her famous fried chicken. We loved it. But then we went to the airport later on and a fellow traveler told us Willie Mae's was better. Talk about #regrets!
So, upon arriving in New Orleans for a second time, Willie Mae's had to be on my agenda. I checked into my accommodation and I hopped in an Uber and sped over to the neighborhood of Treme. Now I can tell you which I think is the better dining experience.
I love myself a little deviance. I mean, where do you think this blog title came from, really? New Orleans is definitely not in short supply of queer, sexy, nighttime fun! And so I'm going to bring you the sampling I tasted back in November.
I had one night during my work trip to New Orleans to experience the nightlife. The other nights I had to behave. A bender on bourbon street would not have boded well for my conference presentations the next day. So I was very happy to have Saturday night to get a little wild with my bestie, Erin!
Our night included tons of queer, sexy, funny entertainment—and also some horse poop. Allow me to explain.
The last time I visited New Orleans was in July. I didn't make it to NOLA's City Park then because July happened to be the worst month of the year to visit NOLA. It was so hot.
November in NOLA was a totally different story. It was not only the perfect weather, the city was also buzzing with the upcoming holiday season. So I saw all the exciting lights being strung and holiday decorations going up everywhere—including in the park.
The comfortable temperature and holiday atmosphere are why visiting NOLA's City Park in November was such a great experience. It was so great I had to write this post all about it! As always, I have lots of photos to share, including beautiful art, nature, and a surprise holiday lights display!
You know how people say to "keep your money in different places" when you travel? You know, they say you should split it between your suitcase, your carry on, and even stuff some in your sock.
Well, turns out it's a DAMN GOOD IDEA! Even better, keep an entire wallet (with IDs and credit cards and money) separate from your other wallet. I did this and it saved me a huge hassle while traveling my second time to NOLA.
I also learned what happens when you don't have an ID to show the TSA at the airport. Apparently, this happens all the time and they have a simple procedure in place. Who knew?!
llo 2018! Has a whole year gone by already?
There is rarely a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about travel. I'm either reflecting on the travels I've done in the past or planning for new adventures in the future. This post is where I share those musings.
This year was rough for a lot of Americans, politically speaking. I also found it to be oddly inspiring. Who knew a president so vile could bring together so many like-minded folks both stateside and abroad? Protesting during my travels is inevitably a part of my favorite moments from 2017.
As for 2018—who knows what's next, really! Travel seems to pop up spontaneously for me these days. But there is one big trip I am planning for. And I'm about to spill the beans!
In August this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Montreal for 2 nights. It was going to be a short stay, but I wanted to make the most of it.
I was traveling with my new partner, Ang. She was presenting at a conference, and I joined for some fun! I have been to Canada before—to Toronto and Bromont. But Montreal is a city I have been wanting to visit since I took French in high school. So this trip was 15+ years in the making! It also marked the first time I had been out of the USA since my round-the-world trip!
Summers in Montreal are full of art, music, and outdoor fun. I experienced everything I describe in this post over 2 days. But you can easily see and do it all in 24 hours.
I spent July 4th, my last night in the southwest, in Flagstaff, Arizona. That night, I celebrated America's independence with my couchsurf host, Jeremy. Before my flight the next day, I made sure to pay my respects to the indigenous peoples of the region.
Before America became an independent nation, native tribes and cultures were involuntarily eliminated. We often forget this.
So, in this post, I touch on information about Arizona's native peoples. I visited some of the Hopi ancestors' preserved sites near Flagstaff. I also experienced the Diné (Navajo) peoples' modern presence throughout my stay in Arizona.
In this post, I show you the best random extras from an afternoon I spent in Zion National Park. This week is very busy for me with Thanksgiving and other family events happening. So now is the perfect time to share some photos and video without many words!
I include my refreshing dip in the icy cool Virgin River after hiking Angel's Landing. This was much appreciated as the temperatures were rising above 90-degrees that day.
I also captured my stroll along the famous Checkerboard Mesa formation. Have a gander at all the beauty and enjoy!
I kept hearing about the "most dangerous" and "most popular" hike in Zion. Angel's Landing is beautiful, thrilling, and inevitably crowded.
I woke up at 4AM to hit the trail solo at 6AM. I drove into the park from my Airbnb in St. George, Utah, and managed to be one of the first to the top!
I am so happy I planned this way. So I want to tell you how to plan similarly! In this Q&A-style post, I describe my entire experience. I explain everything including when to go and how dangerous it is. Then you can decide if it's a hike you'd like to do, too!
I was traveling solo again. Erin had left for the West Coast early that morning. I was off to find a new Utah adventure to call my own.
Most people don't realize how huge Zion National Park is outside its main gates. For no park fee, I found dozens of trails around the Kolob Canyons area of the park. One of these trails took me down a lesser-beaten path where I rarely met another hiker.
As a solo traveler, I appreciated bumping into the few travelers I did. But I also basked in every moment I had alone to reconnect with the wilderness.
There's nothing like a National Park introduction that challenges you. Erin and I were about to embark on our second National Park and second hike of the day. Little did we know, we were about to face many difficulties on top of our exhaustion.
In this post, I outline some of these difficulties. This shows that sometimes planning ahead is necessary. There are some stunning views and features to see on this hike. We got to admire much of it, but we missed other parts and could have enjoyed it even more.
Now we are better informed—and you can be, too!
Deviating often means taking a different path. But sometimes the best way is to deviate down the same path backwards.
I found this out when I took an alternate trail to hike into Bryce Canyon National Park this past summer. I went by instinct. I skipped the main park entrance and found an alternate trail. The trail cut a path to the main trail that looped backwards around the park.
I avoided the $30 park fee and was gradually introduced to the scenery rather than forced to view it up front. This way, the epic views at the halfway point served as a hard-earned, well-deserved reward.