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.
This past summer, I road-tripped through Northern Arizona. If you've ever been to this area, then you know about interstate highway 89A.
This is not the small, state highway 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff. Interstate 89A runs from Bitter Springs, Arizona to Kenab, Utah. It's known by the state of Arizona as the the Fredonia-Vermilion Cliffs Scenic Road. Why? It passes right by those cliffs and through the town of Fredonia—clever!
There was much to see along this 2-hour stretch of road. There were gorgeous views of rivers and deserts, forests on fire, and rural towns. In this post, I describe these and more of the most notable parts of the drive.
I visited Page, Arizona when I was 12 years old. My experience back then took me to a resort on the shores of Lake Powell. This experience influenced my decision to see Lake Powell again this summer. I am so glad I did!
In my last post, I wrote about visiting Antelope Canyon off Rte 98 on my second day in Page. On my first day, I visited a different location called Horseshoe Bend. Horseshoe Bend is so photogenic it's worth walking through the heat of the desert to see it. Unlike Antelope Canyon, there's no cost to go there!
Later in the day, I went to the lake. A hefty park fee almost kept me from experiencing the epic beauty of Lake Powell again. Thanks to my Airbnb host, I was able to swim in it's clear, blue waters once again—and also for free!
It's a secret that was only exposed less than 90 years ago. Before that, Mother Earth had been busy painting waves into stone with water. The result is a photographer's dream location.
And the photographers show up in herds. This is why you need to know how I got to see it before all the crowds got there and without paying premium ticket prices.
In this post, I use my first-hand experience to answer everything you need to know about Antelope Canyon.
This week marks 3 years since I started this blog. This is also my 200th post on the blog.
In commemoration of this occasion, I have decided to get completely real with you all. Before this point, there were parts of my story I did not fully reveal publicly. But now it's time I share a huge part of why travel and why this blog was so important for me.
For 2 years before I graduated with my doctorate and departed for world travel, I was cyber stalked and threatened to the point of paranoid terror. The creation of this blog was my big re-emergence. It was as much a part of putting myself back out into the world (through travel) as it was about being public online again.
I am finally ready to open up about this period of my life.
I love making maps of where I'm going and where I've been! I made one for Iceland before I set out on my big international trip in 2014. And I recently made one for my visit to Oahu.
Once again, I mapped my road trip around Arizona and Utah. I used Google Maps to first pinpoint fun activities and places I wanted to visit. After I returned, I plotted the actual route I took and places I saw.
I share an interactive map of my AZ-UT trip below. It includes all the activities I did and even some I never had the chance to check out. I even include a day-by-day description of my itinerary this time!
I am writing right now from Utah!
I will be here for another few hours and then I am heading back to Arizona to celebrate our nation's Independence. There really has been no better way to celebrate the USA's birthday than to visit some of our nation's most spectacular national parks (and more).
During this trip, I have also had the chance to reflect on what Independence Day might mean to other groups in America, such as the Diné (Navajo people) and other local tribes indigenous to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
Soon I will write all about my experiences road tripping from Flagstaff to St. George and back. But before I do, the following is a little photographic teaser. In two weeks, look out for a regular post about this trip (with all the trappings)!
It's been 7 months since my last major update! A lot has been going on in my life. And it all ties into a major lesson I learned while traveling solo: Nothing is permanent.
In recent months, unforeseen circumstances forced me to move out of the home I settled into a year ago. Plus, I ended a 2 year relationship.
But now things are looking up. I have worked out a new place to live. I've also gained more travel flexibility despite my full-time career.
There's a lot to see and do around the Waikiki area that will drain your bank account. But there's also a lot to do for those on a budget!
You can certainly lounge on the beach all day for free. You can even visit Pearl Harbor for free! But there's tons of other cultural, physical, and food-related activities around Waikiki that I find a lot more interesting!
In this post, I outline the best activities in the Waikiki area that won't break the bank!
I have never had a dive experience quite like the one I had in Hawaii this past January.
I've logged over 30 dives around the world. This has included incredible sights at the Great Barrier Reef, lightning storm dives in Florida, and a near-fatal fight against currents in Bali. After so much diving, I am still having new and unique experiences under the ocean's surface.
This dive tops them all! From shipwreck-dwelling sea turtles to a sunken airplane, I was already incredibly fulfilled on my dives with Ocean Legends in Honolulu. But then a most unexpected arrival came sweeping through: A submarine! Read on—and watch the videos—to re-experience it all with me!
The Jones Beach Air Show (aka Bethpage Air Show) is coming up this Memorial Day weekend. On May 27th and 28th, military aircrafts, civilian jet teams, and aerobatic pilots will take to the skies on Long Island's south shore.
I moved an hour east of New York City for a new job last year. Since then, I've been living about 20 minutes away from Jones Beach on Long Island. The Air Show was my first major introduction to my new location. And it was quite the spectacle.
This post marks my 1 year anniversary since landing my first "real" post-graduate job. This post also marks 1 year since living solo for the first time. I've been loving every minute of my new life! So it's about time I take a break from writing about Hawaii to introduce a local highlight.
When people think of Hawaii, they don't often think of hiking. They think of beaches, and snorkeling, and surfing. Getting all hot and sweaty walking up mountains is not most people's idea of an island vacation. Even so, Hawaii has some topnotch hiking.
Most tourists who visit Oahu only know about the Stairway to Heaven. A 24/7 guard blocks entry to the hike because it's so dangerous it's actually illegal to hike it. They will fine you up to $1,000 or 6 months in prison if caught. Trust me. You do not have to risk your life or a fine to experience amazing hikes on Oahu. I learned Oahu in particular has some of the best hiking in all the Hawaiian islands. Below are 3 of my favorites with photos highlighting the best features of each.
I love adventurous eating and local cultural food. Hawaii has opportunities for both. Mainly, there’s a wonderful combination of both native Hawaiian foods and Asian cultural influences on Oahu. The Hawaiian food is reminiscent of some of the Polynesian dishes I had in Niue. And the Asian influences come from the large population of Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, and Korean people living on Oahu. I start with an in-depth description of some of the traditional Hawaiian cuisine I ate. Then I mostly list all of the other must-try foods and places to eat them.
There once was a traveler named Rikka and all she dreamed about was being in a wonderland filled with pineapples. She wished for pineapple-shaped plush toys, pineapple-landscaped fields, and pineapple-infused and -flavored everything! Then one day on her trip to Hawaii her dream came true.
I found all I had ever hoped for and more at the Dole Plantation on Oahu. Fulfilling yet another long-time fantasy, the Dole Plantation also has the world's largest maze on its property! And so, I devoted this entire post to my citrus-packed maze exploration at the Dole Plantation in Hawaii.
My Airbnb location on Oahu was literally steps from the North Shore beaches. And I took full advantage!
While staying near the town of Haliewa in January, I had the perfect vantage point from which to explore the many beaches of the North Shore. I easily fell right back into the island, beach-bum lifestyle that I had grown to love while exploring Ko Tao, Paihia, Niue, Bali, and other locations around the world.
The North Shore of Oahu is yet another location I have fallen in love with. The only conflict is that there are almost too many beach options! To help with this "problem," I've put together a list of what I think are the top 10 North Shore beaches, including their highlights.
View My Interactive Map of Oahu to easily locate all of these beaches and more!