The Pulse Nightclub Memorial in Orlando, FL

The Pulse Nightclub Memorial in Orlando, FL

This month is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the 3 year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. So I have decided to write a bit about my experience visiting the Pulse Nightclub memorial back in November 2018.

Like many of my fellow queers and friends in the LGBTQ community, I was devastated on June 12, 2016 when I learned about the mass shooting that took place at Pulse nightclub resulting in 49 dead, 68 injured, and a world in shock.

While I went to vigils up in New York, my visit to Orlando was my chance to pay my respects in person and reflect more deeply on the reality of what happened.

Being there was even more powerful than I anticipated.

Overnight in Montréal: A Travel Friend Meet-Up

Overnight in Montréal: A Travel Friend Meet-Up

When friends invite you to travel across the border for a one night adventure—you take it! My friends Chelsea and Dayle headed to Montréal, CA last summer for a friend’s wedding. They offered to bring me along for an adventure of my own.

I couldn't pass up the chance! I decided to meet up with an old friend whom I met in my travels. It was an opportunity to catch up with her and see more of Montréal after visiting in summer 2017.

11 Things To Do In Cape Town, South Africa

11 Things To Do In Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa. There is a ton of history and culture to explore and lots of adventures that will give you some epic coastal city views.

In this post, I share 11 highlights or things I experienced in Cape Town and the nearby areas. Perhaps this will inspire you to visit or revisit to see and do some of the things I did!

    Hiking Table Mountain Via Platteklip Gorge

Hiking Table Mountain Via Platteklip Gorge

Table Mountain is iconic to Cape Town, South Africa. Reaching the summit of Table Mountain is necessary to complete any visit to Cape Town.

I chose to hike Table Mountain on my second to last day in Cape Town. This hike challenged me with its constant upward incline. But the views were immediate, making it worth every ounce of sweat!

Below, I take you on my journey while answering some common questions about this iconic hike. Take it all in and consider it a must-do for when you visit Cape Town!

When Solo Travelers Meet: Chapman's Peak Drive (Cape Town)

When Solo Travelers Meet: Chapman's Peak Drive (Cape Town)

What happens when two solo travelers meet with no plans that evening? You get instantaneous travel companionship and spontaneous adventure—that's what!

My Polish dive buddy in Cape Town turned out to be a solo traveler looking to hang out. It started with me gladly accepting his offer to drive me into Cape Town. When he suggested we take the "scenic route," I gladly accepted again!

The route we took led us to epic coastline scenery, beach sunset views, and a lookout point over Cape Town at night. This perfect evening spent between two random, solo travel companions marks one of my favorite memories from this trip.

Diving False Bay: Silver Linings When Conditions Suck

Diving False Bay: Silver Linings When Conditions Suck

Trying to control what you will experience as a traveler is a fool's errand. Especially when it comes to diving and anything in nature, you cannot predict what you will see or not see. This was the major reminder I was given when diving False Bay in Cape Town, South Africa.

I decided to dive False Bay in South Africa because of its kelp forest, cow sharks, seals, and healthy coral reef. In the end, I only got to experience 3 out of 4 of these highlights. While I could have let this get me down for the remaining few days of my trip to Africa, I decided to stay positive about the experience.

In this post, I write about my dive experience in False Bay. While disappointing, I managed to find the positives in the experience anyway!

Exploring Simon's Town, South Africa: Penguins, Art, and History

Exploring Simon's Town, South Africa: Penguins, Art, and History

I am a lover of the sea. Between exploring the Namibian desert and touring the South African bush, I was feeling landlocked! Luckily, Simon's Town is a quiet, coastal neighborhood on the cape peninsula of South Africa. Famous for its views of False Bay, Simon's Town offers the "closest encounter with penguins in the world."

I flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town late in the evening of June 9th. I was coming directly off of a 5-day safari tour, ready for the final 4 days of my trip to Africa.

It was a rainy day my first day in Simon's Town. I was there to SCUBA dive but I had to wait for better conditions. Instead, I made the most of my first day there exploring this little seaside village.

My First African Safari Tour: Days 4-5

My First African Safari Tour: Days 4-5

After a terrible experience witnessing unethical animal tourism, I was ready to finish up my safari tour on a better note. The rest of Day 4 for me could only get better—and it did!

I had a nice time getting a personal tour of the tree house lodging where I was staying. I even spotted some baby warthogs on this walking tour. Then I had a final game drive in a very special reserve. There, I saw cheetah, lion, and rounded out my Big 5 sightings with a white rhino!

On the ride back to the airport in Johannesburg, we stopped at Blyde River Canyon. I caught gorgeous views of mountains, forests, and the river below. It was a great final 24 hours on my 5-day safari tour in South Africa!

Unethical Animal Tourism at Moholoholo in South Africa

Unethical Animal Tourism at Moholoholo in South Africa

On day 4 of my African safari tour, I found myself bursting into tears and walking out of the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. What upset me? It was a culmination of unethical animal practices that I saw, ending with the enslavement of cheetahs.

Yes, I said enslavement, and I'll tell you why I use that word in this post.

I have been very vocal on this blog about animal tourism around the world. There’s a lot that goes on that we don’t know about until we actually go there and see it. My hope is that this post sheds a bit of light on what is going on in South Africa, even at the best of the options among the various tourist attractions that exist.

Moholoholo does a lot of good for endangered African species. But, in my opinion, it has improvements to make. Either way, you can take in the information I provide and decide for yourself what’s right for you when you visit South Africa.

My First African Safari Tour, Day 3

My First African Safari Tour, Day 3

The 3rd day of my 5-day safari tour was spent inside Kruger National Park. On the other days, the tour took me to private game reserves on the outskirts of the main park. This time we would be going in for a full day of safari adventuring!

This post will be filled with photos and anecdotal stories to provide some context for various animal sightings throughout the day. The goal of the day was to see as many of the "Big 5" animals as possible. We missed spotting rhino but were lucky enough to see buffalo, elephant, lion, and leopard! I saw many more animals, too, such as wild dogs which are super rare!

Our safari vehicle encountered so much throughout the day, including a run-in with a very disgruntled (and aroused!) elephant. It was during that encounter I learned the meaning of "Elephants have 6 legs."

My First African Safari Tour, Day 2

My First African Safari Tour, Day 2

The second day of my safari tour in Balule Private Game Reserve marked the first full day I had on safari. The day before was devoted to driving half the day from Johannesburg to the edge of Kruger National Park.

On this second day, I saw tons of wildlife on a 4 hour walk through the bush, spotting some of the deadliest predators in Africa. I even tasted giraffe droppings! A late afternoon game drive proved extremely fruitful when I got to see some of the most quintessential African wildlife all at the same time—elephant, giraffe, and zebra! It was a dream come true!

The day came to a close with an unexpected performance by a local tribe. Then I slept out in the bush under the stars with nothing between me and the predators of the night!

New Years Update: Personal Growth and Travel in 2018

New Years Update: Personal Growth and Travel in 2018

Happy New Year!

This year was amazing for travel—I fulfilled childhood dreams and pushed myself out of my comfort zone. It was a wonderful year for travel opportunities all around!

2018 was also a year that presented some challenges for me personally.

This blog is often a place for deep, personal reflection. I do it in most of my blog posts, but also intentionally through random life updates. I did this on a monthly basis during my extended trip 4 years ago (4 years ago, whaaat?!). Now, I only post updates about once a year around the new year. I love making the celebration of the new year into a time to look back and look ahead in a more intentional way. It's good for the heart, mind, and soul!

For this post, I look back on my travels this year, including my top 5 favorite travel experiences! I also share my reflections on life and personal growth behind all the travels. I do this mostly for me. But I know readers also appreciate the honesty and clarity about what's going on with me!

So here we go! This was 2018.

My First African Safari Tour, Day 1

My First African Safari Tour, Day 1

Finally, the day had arrived for my first ever African safari tour! In early June of this year, after a week in Namibia and a weekend exploring Pretoria, I was pumped to search for and see the Big Five animals (and more) of Africa.

This first day of the tour involved bonding with others on the drive to the reserve, a sunset game drive with tons of wild animals sightings including elephant and lion, and a BBQ dinner in the African bush.

I honestly could not have asked for a more fulfilling first day. Hopefully, this perfect day wasn't going to spoil me for the remainder of my 5-day tour!

How I Planned A Low-Cost African Safari Tour

How I Planned A Low-Cost African Safari Tour

An African safari tour was a dream experience of mine since I saw the Lion King as a kid. But I always assumed the cost of such an experience would be astronomical. Most safari tours I looked into casually required thousands of dollars. As much as I wanted to have this experience, I really didn't want to go bankrupt because of it! And so the research began!

I'm all about balancing the cost of things when I travel. I'll lay out money for a really extraordinary experience—but it better hit all the marks in all the right places. That's why I spent lots of time researching tour options for my trip to South Africa. Through my research, I found the perfect tour. For a minimum price, I maximized the experience for my first African Safari tour in Kruger National Park. It offered the kind of accommodation I wanted, the right number of days, and, most importantly, the best chance at seeing tons of wildlife!

This post is all about the decisions I made: Why I chose Kruger, why I chose a guided tour instead of self-guided, how I searched for tour options, which tour fit all my needs, and what the actual benefits were. Perhaps the approach I took will help you find and plan your perfect African Safari Tour, too!

One Night in Johannesburg: Staying Safe

One Night in Johannesburg: Staying Safe

Johannesburg, South Africa is often talked about as a pretty unsafe city for travelers. The most common crimes are petty, such as having valuables stolen from your person or your car. But that's the kind of hassle you don't want when you're having a good time on your trip.

Most places in the world are safer than you assume. But realistically, some places are going to be less safe than others. When the facts point to unsafe conditions where you're traveling, you don't necessarily need to avoid the place entirely. You just need to enact some precautions based on local recommendations.

In this post, I describe one night I spent in Johannesburg and my tips for staying safe. I only had to make small edits to my behavior. I chose to stay in a better neighborhood, I walked around with a friend, and I didn't carry my phone with me at night.

The result was an easy going night of listening to local music with a new friend. No issues. No sweat!

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Live in Pretoria, South Africa [Video]

Ladysmith Black Mambazo Live in Pretoria, South Africa [Video]

On June 2, 2018, I had the privilege of going to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo perform at the South African State Theatre in Pretoria. My friend Puleng got us front row tickets so I could witness their greatness up close!

If you don’t know Ladysmith Black Mambazo, you’re about to fall in love! A little background on them - Joseph Shabalala formed the Grammy award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the 1960s. The name comes from several aspects of Joseph’s life. “Ladysmith” is the name of his hometown in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. “Black” refers to the oxen, a farm animal he grew up admiring as a young boy. The Zulu word for chopping axe is “Mambazo” which is a metaphor for the group’s strong vocals which cleared the road to their success.

And they’ve been so successful, involving sons and cousins and friends in the group over the years. Their traditional musical style is derived from “isicathamiya.” This music developed among black mine workers who sang to entertain themselves while in poor working conditions away from their families and homes. The group is most famous for their album, Shaka Zulu, which was produced by Paul Simon. Nelson Mandela invited them to Norway when he accepted a Nobel Peace Prize and then they sang at Mandela’s presidential inauguration. Indeed, the concert was titled the Mandela Celebration, to honor his legacy.

In this post, I share video I took from the concert with full songs recorded live, including “Thalaza,” “Lelilungelo Nge,” “Homeless,” and my personal favorite “Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain.” Enjoy!

Visiting My Friend in Pretoria, South Africa

Visiting My Friend in Pretoria, South Africa

I am so grateful and privileged to have friends who live all over the world. This not only grants me the opportunity to stay with these friends and minimize travel costs. I also have a built in buddy, whom I share a true bond and connection to, to spend time with and explore a new place.

Puleng, my friend from graduate school, is South African. She was generous enough to show me around her town, which also happens to be the capitol city of South Africa.

I spent two nights with Puleng in which she gave me a specialized, personalized tour. We went to her friend's book reading at African Flavour in Johannesburg. We attended a rare Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert at the South African State Theatre. And we discussed politics and learned about apartheid at the Union Buildings and Freedom Park. Read about these highlights and more in this post!

Diving the Caribbean Sea in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic

Diving the Caribbean Sea in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic

I've always wanted to dive the Caribbean Sea! I finally had the opportunity to while in the Dominican Republic.

Diving near the resort on the Eastern, Atlantic side was not ideal conditions. So Ang and I took a road trip down to Bayahibe on the Southern, Caribbean side of the island country. There, I had a most spectacular, personalized tour of 2 reefs with Go Dive Bayahibe.

In this post, I review my experience diving and visiting this new area of the DR. From pristine beaches with crystal clear blue waters to diverse marine life including a squid encounter (!), now I know where to book my next trip to the Dominican Republic!

Dominican Republic: My First All-Inclusive Resort Stay

Dominican Republic: My First All-Inclusive Resort Stay

I am so not an all-inclusive resort type of traveler. I'm the type of traveler who goes camping across New Zealand. I pour buckets of water over me at hostels for a shower in Iceland. I party and couchsurf with locals in South Africa. In general, I adventure travel on a budget with minimal environmental impact and maximum exploration of culture and countryside.

But I got that style of travel out of my system in Africa. This week, I am taking a break from my posts about Africa to fast forward to my trip to the Dominican Republic. I broke all my travel norms to have this romantic, Caribbean getaway with Ang! It was her birthday, so I was down for whatever she wanted to do. And an all-inclusive, adults-only resort was it!

Breaking my own travel norms meant I had the chance to pop many travel cherries on this trip. I had my first resort experience, my first swim-up bar experience, my first Caribbean vacation, and my first visit to an international country South of the United States! Woo! Who knew I had so many cherries to pop after all the travel I've done? Well, this post is my take on all these new experiences, from the good to the not so good.

 Exploring Windhoek and Partying With Queer Namibians

Exploring Windhoek and Partying With Queer Namibians

Who knew Namibia had a queer scene? When I planned my trip to Namibia, I never expected to meet Namibian queer folk—and party with them! But that's exactly what happened through my couchsurf host in Windhoek, Namibia's capital city.

I stayed with Naville, a friend of a friend in the couchsurf community, while in Windhoek. Naville lives close to the city center. So it was super easy to access and explore shops, restaurants, sights, and bars from his place!

In this post, I share everything I squeezed into 1 full day and night in Windhoek. This included ethically shopping African souvenirs from local tribes and learning about local LGBT rights over ciders at a bar.

Despite limited time, I ended up making some great memories and even greater friends!Who knew Namibia had a queer scene? When I planned my trip to Namibia, I never expected to meet Namibian queer folk—and party with them! But that's exactly what happened through my couchsurf host in Windhoek, Namibia's capital city.

I stayed with Naville, a friend of a friend in the couchsurf community, while in Windhoek. Naville lives close to the city center. So it was super easy to access and explore shops, restaurants, sights, and bars from his place!

In this post, I share everything I squeezed into 1 full day and night in Windhoek. This included ethically shopping African souvenirs from local tribes and learning about local LGBT rights over ciders at a bar.

Despite limited time, I ended up making some great memories and even greater friends!