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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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

Sesriem Canyon and 5 Namib Desert Highlights

Sesriem Canyon and 5 Namib Desert Highlights

When I travel, I am often pulled to a destination by one feature and then, once I'm there, I fall in love with so much more.

By lunchtime, I had seen what I came to the Namib Desert to see: the Sossusvlei region. So what was there left to see? I quickly learned that the Namib desert has much more to offer than Sossusvlei. I spent my final 24 hours in the Namib desert viewing fantastic scenery and incredible wildlife.

In the morning, I climbed Dune 45 and photographed the sun-scorched trees of Deadvlei. Now, I would scale the walls of a deep canyon. I would spot Namibia's national animal and observe a family of baboons. And I would end my visit to the Namib desert by admiring its shifting colors at sunrise and sunset.

Photographing Namibia's Deadvlei As A Solo Traveler

Photographing Namibia's Deadvlei As A Solo Traveler

Deadvlei (dead marsh or valley) is one of the most famously photographed places in Namibia.

It has sun-scorched camel thorn trees sprouting across a bleached-white clay pan surrounded by looming orange sand dunes. These natural tree sculptures are estimated to be 900 years old! And they were a large part of my motivation to visit Namibia.

In this post, I share with you my tips and struggles through photos and brief commentary. Most bloggers and instagrammers will post only the best photos of Deadvlei. But I share the good, the bad, and the real bad.

Holding nothing back; this is the realness. This is Deadvlei in all its beauty through traditional and creative angles as well as awful selfies and terrible captures.

In the end, Deadvlei is beautiful no matter how you take its picture.

Climbing Dune 45 At Sunrise In The Namib Desert

Climbing Dune 45 At Sunrise In The Namib Desert

I've seen some of the best sunrises around the world and climbed sand dunes, as well. But never have I experienced sunrise views like I did from the top of Dune 45 in the Namib Desert.

Dune 45 is located on the way to the Sossusvlei salt and clay pans in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Deadvlei is another famous highlight of this park that brings in hordes of tourists year round. But views from Dune 45 of the expansive, billowing sand of the Namib desert holds its own—especially at sunrise.

Before I could climb up Dune 45, I had to gain access to the park via the gateway town of Sesriem. In this post, I share my experience getting through Sesriem's gates, climbing Dune 45, and checking out other highlights of this breathtaking natural landscape.

I'm in Namibia! A Photographic Sneak Peak

I'm in Namibia! A Photographic Sneak Peak

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...

13 To-Do's in Montreal On A Summer Day

13 To-Do's in Montreal On A Summer Day

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.