I was in New Zealand a little over a year ago. I was sitting in my partner's home in Napier when I felt it—the entire couch was shaking. Then the lazy boy started thrashing about on its own.
I've been reflecting on this moment this week because of the earthquake that happened in Kaikoura, New Zealand early Monday morning.
Natural disasters like this always put things into perspective for me, like with the Louisiana flooding after my visit to New Orleans this summer. But New Zealand hits particularly close to home for me because of my ongoing connection to the country.
Non-kiwi foodies may look no further than this post for the most comprehensive guide on what to eat while in New Zealand. If you've never been to Aotearoa , the "land of the long white cloud," then you have probably never heard of the majority of the items appearing on this list.
I devoted 10 months of my travel time to living in and eating my way through New Zealand. Inevitably, I ended up sampling almost every food for which New Zealand is famous or infamous.
I still find myself day dreaming about eating some of New Zealand's foods again. This guide describes all of them.
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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!
I know I've connected with a place when I want to return to it after I've left. I feel it in my soul. Similarly, there are places you will go in your travels that you know you won't be returning to. Candidasa is would be one of those places...if not for Crystal Beach. Crystal Beach Hotel was one of these chance encounters, a lucky draw, a diamond in the rough. I stumbled upon it when looking for inexpensive stays with beach property and good Wi-Fi. I was happy to find it surpassed my expectations.
Crystal beach is located in Candidasa—a location I had never heard of before—which only made it more intriguing. Going on the fact that I had never heard of Niue and my trip there turned out to top them all, I decided to take a chance on Candidasa. And I am so glad I did because Crystal Beach was exactly the respite I needed. The town, on the other hand, I could have done without!
Deviating the norm is all about remaining true to your authentic self. This means constantly looking within to identify which path or direction you'd like to take on your journey. Solo travel is the best kind of travel for becoming an expert at tuning into your own needs and desires. When you allow those innermost needs and wants to lead you, you evade the guidance of some prescribed norm or the expectations of others.
As a solo traveler, I feel out a new place by looking within and deciding on my own time when it's right to move on to a new destination. I quickly felt out of place when I arrived in Ubud. I wasn't connecting to it in the way I had thought I would—and that's okay! Not every place we go will be a good fit. I came to appreciate many aspects of Ubud during my stay. However, there were two prominent features that were missing for me: a body of water and mountains. I realized these features are truly the bread and butter to my happiness as a solo traveler. Now was the time to embrace it.
When we travel the world, our own beliefs and comfort zones are often challenged by the cultural differences we encounter. I was reminded to keep my own beliefs in check one morning in Bali when I stumbled upon a cockfight outside of Ubud. After my attempts to engage with Macaque monkeys in an ethical manner the day before, I now found myself standing as an observer to a bloody, testosterone-charged death match between beautiful roosters.
In my opinion, it's an incredibly inhumane tradition—one I felt uncomfortable taking part in as a reluctant voyeur. At the same time, it was just that: A tradition. The cockfight is one of those travel moments that reminded me about how much our culture shapes our beliefs and behaviors. You don't have to agree with those of others, but you can try to understand them.
Wow. 2015 was a year full of incredible travel experiences. I gazed upon some of the most stunning natural scenery in locations well off the beaten path, connected with humanity in dozens of unexpected ways, and was pushed far beyond my comfort zone both voluntarily and involuntarily. It's going to be quite difficult to look back and try to narrow things down to the top moments!
I've decided to limit myself to describing 15 for 2015. I will highlight 15 travel experiences from 11 months of travel in this post. If you recall my New Years post last year, I wrote about my 10 favorite travel moments. I had only been traveling for less than 4 months and keeping my list of favorite experiences down to 10 was a struggle! So this is going to be tough. But I'm up to the challenge. Read on for my top 15 awesome travel experiences from 2015.
For my first 4 days in Bali, Indonesia, I traveled to the Nusas ("Islands") to the south east for a bit of adventure and respite. Bali is often associated with young backpackers who travel there to party hard and work on their tans. This may be true of areas like Kuta beach on the mainland, but on the Nusas the atmosphere is much less crowded and much more relaxed.
While staying on Nusa Lembongan, I had the opportunity to explore the entire island and cycle over to the smaller, even more remote Nusa Ceningan. Both of these tiny islands offered beauty, adventure, culture, and a place to put up your feet. Here are 9 things to do and see if you go!
I have an affinity for infinity pools. It's an obsession, really. This obsession started before I ever even left for my round-the-world trip. I have a Pinterest account to which I would pin photos from Bali every now and then. These usually consisted of luxury resorts with infinity pools. Now I was wandering around Nusa Lembongan and exploring Nusa Ceningan off the coast of Bali. I had made it my mission to find the best resorts with pools to crash. And I mean crash because I had no intentions of actually paying to stay at any of them!
I visited these resorts for the day and then, after I was through, I went back to my cheap-o accommodation to sleep! I call it: Winning at life. In this post, I share the awesome places I found to stay around the islands—without even staying there! Before long, you could be doing the same thing on a budget. Just like me, you'll feel like you've been transported into one of those Pinterest photos making everyone back home wonder how you could ever afford such luxury.
I'm not going to sugar coat this experience. The reality is that I had to fight my way out of a frighteningly strong current while diving in Bali. I haven't told many people about it yet, but I think it's important to share both the happy and scary moments of travel. I arrived in Bali and immediately traveled out to the islands for some diving. Nusa Lembongan was supposed to have some of the best diving in all of Bali. If lucky, I would get to see manta ray and maybe even the elusive, giant sunfish called "Mola Mola."
The most exciting part of my 7 dives turned out to be an unexpected encounter with an insanely strong current while on my last dive of the week. I even lost a fin battling my way out of it with my guide and buddy at my side! At best, this experience was a great lesson in how to (a) not panic; and (b) get yourself out of a strong current while diving. At worst, it was a rude reminder that THIS IS THE OCEAN and it can be unforgiving.
I did my research before arriving in Bali. I only had 2 weeks there before I would return to the USA. I had to make it count. I found out the best diving in Bali was located on the smaller islands to the east. In particular, Nusa Lembongan would have exactly what I wanted. I found out ahead of time as much as I could about how to get there. I landed at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar at 2 in the afternoon. In only a couple hours, I was across the Badung Strait sipping a mango smoothie on the sand and watching the red sun dip over the sea.
Below I've put together a little question and answer style post about what I learned, both from my prior research and from my first-hand experience, getting from the airport to Nusa Lembongan. There's lots of advice on how to make this process go smoothly if you ever decide to go! If not, you'll get a look at the whole experience which includes insane drivers, unsafe boats, and digging through a mountain of flip flops.
I’ve visited many cities during my travels, falling in love over and over again with each. Cities like Reykjavik, Berlin, Chiang Mai, Wellington, and Melbourne all captured my heart in different ways. But I did not fall in love with any of these cities like I fell in love with Singapore.
The Singapore Government poured $35 million into one area of the city—Marina Bay. Money well spent, as the product is a masterpiece of architectural wonders, floral landscaping, and waterfront beautification. I could not stop snapping photos during my few hours spent between flights here. Marina Bay easily left me in awe with the city as a whole. Now I know I must go back—especially to see it at night and to stay at its mesmerizing, world class hotel.
Singapore is a city state and Southeast Asian island country next to Malaysia. And it’s small. At only 278 square miles (719 sq km), Singapore is an easy city to see during a long layover between flights. I flew into Singapore Changi airport at about 6AM from Auckland, New Zealand. My next flight was not until 9PM. This was more than enough time to see a bit of Singapore city.
The only problem was I had not done any research before my arrival! Was there public transportation? Could I leave my baggage at the airport? Where in the city should I go first? Find out how I got around and where I ended up in the first part of this post!