At exactly this time last year, I was preparing to depart a rainy, wintery New Zealand to dive in the warm, northern waters of Australia.
Jono and I decided to make the most of my last weekend there. So we "tramped" (kiwi for hiked) Sunrise Track and stayed overnight at a mountain top hut during what turned into a violently windy rainstorm.
In this post, I finally tell the story of this trepid adventure and the ending that was so good, I couldn't resist returning to New Zealand some 3 weeks later.
The USA continues to surprise me with its natural beauty, innovative architecture, and multiculturalism. The Parthenon and its surrounding park in Nashville, Tennessee are perfect examples of all three of these.
The Parthenon is a replica of ancient Greek ruins still found in Athens today.
But you don't have to fly all the way across the Atlantic to see what remains of it! Head to Music City in the USA and make a detour to Centennial Park to find a replica of the construction as it would have appeared over 2400 years ago.
Nashville is "Music City" for more reasons than its famous country roots. I mistakenly assumed country music was all Nashville had to offer when, in fact, Nashville has historically been and still is the city of a diversity of musical tastes.
In this post, I describe a variety of musical options available for exploration when visiting Nashville, Tennessee including several I had the chance to check out with my friends.
From hipster jams and punk rock to honky tonks and symphonies—these are the must-do's for music-loving tourists.
Nashville is well-known for two things: It's music and it's food. I'm starting with the food this week since it's such an important part of every culture I've encountered in my travels.
The striking thing about eating in a new location in my own country is both the similarities and stark differences across state lines. America gets the reputation around the world for being the home of the hamburger and also for doing fried chicken and breakfast (especially pancakes!) very well. Nashville takes all of these American staples (and more) to a whole new level!
The down side to my food experience in Nashville was that I had only one weekend to enjoy it! Four days is simply not enough time to eat at all of the amazing restaurants. The following are the foods I did have time to try. At the end of this post, I'll suggest some of the others I missed!
There’s something incredibly meaningful when your friends and family make a special effort to stay connected to you when you’re apart. This is true for relationships you leave behind back home and in the places you visit after you move on or return home.
I lost touch with many people after traveling or while traveling because I was traveling. But there are many individuals with whom I remain very closely bonded. How did those close bonds stay close? Reciprocal gestures of loyalty—large and small—sustained those relationships.
Drawing on an example from my recent trip to Nashville, this post explores when loyalty is revealed especially as a traveler and after travel.
I have an update: I started a new job this week—yay! And there's even more to celebrate: This week marks 6 months that I have been back in the United States! In all of my blogging and reading other people’s travel blogs, I rarely hear people write about the adaptation back into the job market after an extended period of travel. So I've decided to write about it in this post.
I will in no way sugar coat this: Job hunting post-travel is not easy. To give yourself the best possible chance of returning to a job, I will share in this post the tricks I used before, during, and after nearly 2 years of travel without official employment. These tricks include thinking carefully about your reasons for traveling, staying connected to your contacts along the way, and having a "product" to show for your absence.
I've decided to hold off on writing more about Nashville this week in order to honor the bison. If you haven't heard, President Obama signed a bill this past Monday to make the bison America's first national mammal!
I was lucky enough to see this incredible beast (and over 40 of its bison friends) roam the open prairie one state over from Tennessee last month. We saw them while on a day trip to Land Between the Lakes which stretches across the border into Kentucky.
A two-hour road trip outside Nashville brought us across the border for a very close encounter with these historic symbols of strength and intimidation. Let me say that again: A very close encounter. I'll let you decide for yourself just how close you would get!
I went to Nashville in late April for my friend Dasha's 30th birthday! There was 7 of us altogether and we had a stellar time exploring this southern city and the surrounding area.
But before I dive into our adventures in great detail, I want to share with you what I found most unexpected about Nashville. Nashville is known for a lot of things. Its excellent live music, its delectable food, and its ancient Greek architecture are a few of its most prominent attractions.
What I didn't expect was a dance party on a street corner, architecture to rival other cities, and a stereotypical country theme that is unafraid to laugh at itself.
Last week, I posted a throwback to my time in Iceland. This time, I'm giving you another throwback but to last year when I was living in New Zealand. Reminiscent of all of the waterfalls I saw in Iceland, this post is about a waterfall I visited in Hawke's Bay. Hawke's Bay is on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. There's tons to do there, including several easy hikes that make for great day trips.
When Spring had finally sprung in the Southern hemisphere, Jono and I immediately took to the outdoors to cure our cabin fever. After a hike to Cape Kidnappers, we planned another jaunt to the famous Shine Falls. The walk to Shine Falls goes through the Boundary Stream Reserve. It has some impressive views through farmland and native bush (forest) with plenty of birds to hear and observe along the way. The waterfall is deep in the reserve and its stunning—the perfect example of typical New Zealand beauty!
There is nothing quite like having photos to remind you of the good times from your travel adventures. But you know what's even better? Having video of it.
I was not exactly religious about taking video of my experiences in the beginning of my 15-month journey in 2014 to 2015. I was barely familiar with my new camera during my first stop in Iceland. I also did not really have any ideas in mind about how I should film or what I should film. What resulted was a random selection of moments—what I think perfectly summarize my time in Iceland.
In this post, I share the raw, uncut footage from these moments. You'll see the Blair Witch-style in which I film and you'll get an idea of the carefree mindset I was in. The following are a sequence of videos from the start to the end of my 9 days in Iceland. It includes my starts and stops and the times I let the film roll when I suddenly felt the urge to capture the moment. It's random. It's fluid. And I think I naturally ended up capturing some of the best moments from my time in Iceland.
I went to school in the quaint little one-traffic light town of Pine Plains, New York. For years, I drove up Route 82 with a single mountain protruding out from behind farmland to the West and I never once climbed it. Stissing Mountain was an icon of my youth, the namesake of my high school, and I still never managed to get up there.
My motivation to finally climb Stissing came when I returned from my 15-month trip abroad. Discovering the wonders of the world in other people's backyards made me want to discover the wonders I have neglected in my own backyard! As it turns out, Stissing Mountain is quite the unique and unexpected natural wonder because of its significance in nature. It's importance has even been recognized with a display featured in the American Museum of Natural History!
I had to book two round-trip domestic flights recently. One was from New York to San Francisco, California to visit my friend Erin. Erin recently gave birth to her first baby (I'm an Auntie!). The other flight I booked is from New York to Nashville, Tennessee. I'm heading to the famous "Music City" in 2 weeks to celebrate the 30th birthday of my friend Dasha of Dancin' Down Them Dirty, Dusty Trails.
Both Erin and Dasha are my closest friends from the USA and we all love to travel and go on adventures. I jumped on the chance to book flights to spend quality time with each of them. Of course, I did not spend more money than I had to because I used a combination of miles/points to pay for them. In this post, I give a brief overview of how I earn tons of miles and points to cover the cost of airfare. I also explain the exact process I went through to find available award flights and the best value for redeeming miles and points for these flights.
I got a bit busy this week with some impromptu travel plans (more on this soon!). So I've decided to make this a short one by showing you my FAVORITE photo from each country I traveled to during my 15-month trip around the world.
Each photo has particular significance to me because of the context in which it was taken. I describe this context below each image.
Throw back! I never talked about the time I visited Cape Kidnappers, so here it is!Throw back time! Once upon a time, I did a review of all the great places to visit in Hawke's Bay New Zealand. I mentioned a golf course named Cape Kidnappers, but later learned Cape Kidnappers is so much more than a golf course.
After 7-months living in the area, I got increasingly curious about this place with its criminal name, rumors of mudstone protrusions, and an enormous gannet colony. I had to see what it was all about.
Jono and I took a day to stroll along its shore out to the headland and back. I ended up being enthralled by its geological features, I had a photo shoot with seabirds, and I was even almost caught in a landslide on the return trip!
Once I landed back in New York, I did like all New Yorkers do: I hit the ground running. I began flitting around the city, catching up with old friends, and eating my favorite American foods. Then I shot upstate to spend time with my family and reacquaint myself with American consumer culture.
In this post, I'll give you a fast-paced run-through of my arrival back in New York. But then I'll slow it down a bit, as it wasn't until I was tucked away in upstate New York that the full impact of my travels settled in.
Inevitably, I returned with knowledge of languages, cultures, people, and foods that have all become a part of my every day thoughts. Most importantly, I have returned with the challenge of integrating lessons from my travels with my lifestyle back home. During my travels, I learned how to resist planning ahead and allow my innermost wants to guide me. Now it's time to apply these same lessons to the chapter ahead.
Fremont, California's popular hike to Mission Peak boasts gorgeous views over Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The mostly exposed trail rises steadily through cattle farms before reaching the summit. There, a summit pole doubles as an art piece and artifact emphasizing environmental and social awareness.
I had never hiked to Mission Peak before, but my best friend has made it her yearly ritual ever since she moved to the area from New York. This time, we would hike to Mission Peak together. With me at the close of my travels and her at 6-months pregnant—we were both celebrating milestones in our lives and preparing for the next chapter to come.
The best way to avoid roaming charges and other heightened fees for talk, text, and data overseas is to use a local SIM card at your destination. SIM cards give you access to a local phone number and the plans are usually pretty cheap, e.g. $10-$30 for 30 days.
Many people opt to use Wi-Fi while they are abroad. This is certainly an option to consider—especially if you're only going to be at your destination for a few days. But even for those few days, you may want to consider a local SIM card for some of the benefits it offers.
I used local SIM cards in most of the countries to which I traveled during my 15 month trip around the world. Along the way, I learned a lot about when it is and is not a good idea to get one and what to do to make life easier when setting up and using a SIM card abroad.
I had finally arrived at my last destination abroad before returning to the USA: Tokyo, Japan. At 6:35am, I got off my connecting flight from Bangkok with a clear mission. I was going to spend the next several hours shopping in Tokyo.
I would need to minimize my time spent on public transportation in order to maximize the time I had between my flights.
Although I felt a bit rushed at times, I think I did a pretty good job planning my day. In 9 hours time, I managed to find out where to drop my luggage, board the right trains to get to the optimal shopping neighborhoods, and find the stores that would carry gifts for my game-loving, anime-loving family members back home.
I had a wonderful time exploring Bali, Indonesia over 12 days. Every experience I had was a reminder of the previous 15 months of my travels around the world, from interacting with the locals and diving in the sea to eating local foods and observing gorgeous landscapes and coastlines.
I put together a little video montage as a wrap up to my time spent between Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan, Ubud, and the Karangasem region. Enjoy!
On my last full day in Bali, I hopped on the back of a motorbike with a local who showed me the highlights of the lower Karangasem Regency. My tour guide was Han, a local who offered to take me around the region. His tour turned out to be the perfect wrap up to my time in Bali.
There really is no experience like the one you can get from a local showing you around. I got a personalized tour of the region with opportunities to learn about Indonesian culture and take in some of the sights on my own terms. Han ended up driving me to 5 separate locations, including a traditional Bali village, two water palaces, a chocolate and soap factory, and a chilled-out, sandy beach. Below, I describe my experiences visiting each of these places, but the real story to share is how wonderfully well-rounded Han had made this tour.