Ever get the urge to travel to outer-space…more specifically Mars? @ElonMusk yes I’m talking to you, bro.
I have a solution for you, Elon. And I think you’re going to like it. It doesn’t include buying used rockets from Russia or launching Teslas into space because you can literally just hop on a plane and have pretty much the same experience with like half the effort.
Jokes aside, Iceland is out of this world and if you are a nature fanatic you’ll be smitten. It doesn’t even feel like you are on Earth anymore at times because some of the sights were just unreal. Think Lord of the Ring or Game of Thrones vibes. I’ll support my claims with substantial evidence in the form of pictures, do not fret my friends.
Logistical stuff: We landed in Reykjavik airport and decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon right away to rejuvenate after the long flight(I flew in from San Francisco so it was about a 9 hour flight). I think renting a car in Iceland is absolutely necessary since there are not many options for public transportation and I would relate the entire experience to an epic road trip with stunning sights everywhere you look. With that being said, it is a lot of driving; if I were to go back(and I am planning on doing this!) I would consider renting a camper van and ditching staying at hotels altogether. You have the option of literally just parking anywhere and sleeping.. don’t worry, Iceland is extremely safe and more often than not there are no other people around to bother you. The convenience of getting a van is that you do not need to go through the trouble of finding your hotel and then going back and forth to see sights like we did. It’s easier to keep with the momentum of your road-trip. If you aren’t about that van life, I suggest spending the extra money to get a jeep or a 4×4 because you are probably going to end up on dirt roads and rough terrain at some point during your time here.
This place is a force to be reckoned with and being there made me feel like a small insignificant human(in a good way). The wind has been known to cause car doors to fly off completely, just a warning for those of you who like to keep the door open to put on your layers or to take pictures. Going off tangent, being in nature forces you to feel like your everyday struggles are small because it is unpredictable. How does one prepare for the unpredictability of life? Proper planning. One minute you are chasing rainbows and the next you are driving through a hail storm. Just as you wouldn’t go to space without the right gear, going into Iceland unprepared could be quite dangerous.
Depending on the season you find yourself in, it is probably going to be cold with the exception of summer–when it is 24 hours of daylight, cool right? I would suggest visiting in the summer is you are a fan of long hikes because you can literally hike the entire day and it will still be daylight out. There were certain hikes which led to hot springs that I could not do at the time I was there because there weren’t enough hours of daylight and it would require camping out in the cold. This is not an issue you would be facing in the Summer. However, if you are adamant on catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis(I am coming back JUST for this) then you will find yourself there in either the fall or winter. Fair warning, it feels colder than New York even though temperature wise it might be the same(the wind is quite strong) and for my friends who keep up with me on social media, you know how much I complain about how cold NY is. In addition to this, bring waterproof clothing; extremely important, especially for those of you who are not fans of hypothermia(for you hypothermia fans, feel free to skip this part). You will also need a good pair of waterproof hiking boots or snow boots and layering will be your best buddy. I was pretty much in my snowboarding gear for most of my time here with the exception of when I would go into the hot springs. Yep, you heard correctly. There are natural hot springs here and they are the bomb dot com. The blue lagoon is included but it is man made(still super cool)…so don’t forget to bring a swimsuit, a quick dry towel, and flip flops. You do not want to get your boots wet(mine still smell like wet dog).
Now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, we can finally go over the amazing natural wonders that you can check out. Where do I even start? Let me include a map of Iceland and that might make things easier to understand. Most likely you will be coming from Southern Iceland and then either make your way east or west. The west fjords are a must see in my opinion, but then again, you will probably notice me saying everything is a must see because it is! Lol.
The amount of destinations you are able to visit not only depends on the duration of your trip but also on how much you like to linger/take your time or if you like to see it and move on right away to the next cool thing. I would say plan on being here for at least a week if you can if not two weeks. I wish I stayed longer. I was there for 5 days and it was definitely not enough and I am ashamed to say but I was speeding the entire time because we were the only ones on the road for miles. I still was not able to make it to the Northern part(which I heard from friends is where the coolest craters are). It is also the coldest part. The southern portion has numerous waterfalls whereas the Eastern part features glaciers and iceberg filled bodies of water. In the west, you’ll find the viking villages and the town of Vik. This is where you’ll see vast grassland and hills and sheep and black sand beaches. I am only giving an idea of how dramatically different each area is and how you can find yourself in a completely different landscape in such a short drive all on one island. The west fjords feature cliffs and ocean landscape like you’ve never seen before. The mountains had waterfalls that flowed straight into the ocean, my description does not do it justice. And as you are driving, you will find the most epic landscapes as you look to either the left or right. There were fields of moss that looked like you were in the film The Hobbit and then would find hilly red surfaces and made it feel like you were driving on Mars.
Attractions I recommend visiting:
Kirkjufellsfoss: I made the mistake of booking accommodations here my first night and had to drive the southern part twice–which I didn’t mind–but it was unnecessary and time consuming. We did get a sick view of the famed mountain from our bedroom. For the accommodations, we opted for the Kirkjufell Guesthouse and lucked out since we got the front room with the most amazing view; they also have a kitchen and shared work area.
2. Southern part: The Golden Road
This portion is the most touristy and crowded in my opinion but for good reason. There are a plethora of sights to see on the south coast and most of them involve waterfalls! It is a lot to go over so I will list out the most memorable things I saw here and include photos 🙂
Solheimasandur airplane wreck
3. Vik and Black Sand Beaches
4. Eastern Coast: Features lots and lots of glaciers as well as a diamond beach.
Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon
pretty much the entire thing…highly suggest you make as many stops as your heart desires, you won’t regret it. The road might seem to look the same the entire time but if you get out and walk a bit, you will find amazing glacial views like the one below.
5. Dynjandi: My favorite waterfall. Although getting there was quite tough due to the windy mountainous road, it was definitely worth it.
6. Tjoruhusid fish restaurant: The best fish buffet style.
Warning: This is going to be a long post…I am spilling tea!
“Hawaii is paradise. It sounds cheesy to say it, but there’s music in the air there.”
I couldn’t agree more with Bruno Mars, Hawaii is where I go when I want to escape the bustling city or whenever I am feeling burnt out; I never fail to find myself fully rejuvenated after–the tan is an added bonus.
There are five islands and judging from the three that I have visited, each island has a completely different vibe despite being so close to each other in proximity( I have only been to 3 because I love Oahu so much and opt to go there EVERY time I am in Hawaii). I have never gotten or think I will ever get bored of it. That is because Lanikai Beach–which is in Oahu– is my favorite beach of all time and I would visit just to relax there. This year, I was lucky enough to get the chance to go twice; both times with my dearest friends. The previous years have been with people I love as well, my mother being one of them(Hawaii is her jam) as well as my grandma. So as you can guess, this place holds a permanent spot in my heart.
Maui and Kauai(which I will cover in a separate post) were both a breath of fresh air and completely different from each other. Each Island offers a unique experience. Oahu by far has the most clear water but each Island has it’s own redeeming quality. The best part of it all is that it’s not Hawaii itself that is so special–even though it’s the bomb dot com–but it’s the people I’m surrounded with whenever I am there. Lots of good times were had and memories made! It’s oa-who you’re with not where you are…I had to do it.
“It’s not where you are in life; it’s who you have by your side that matters”
idk who said this but #deep af
Okay, now that we got the cheese out of the way, we can get down to business…to defeat the buns(I am so sorry). If you are still here after that atrocious Mulan/burger joke, kudos to you. Your prize is you get to come to Hawaii with me in spirit as I relive my experiences😁. Don’t forget to turn your imagination caps on—is that even a thing?– because you are going to want to envision the gorgeous scenery(don’t worry I’ll include pictures too).
My first time visiting Oahu was back in middle school with my parents and I came back almost every year after that with either my mom or close friends. If I am with my mom we usually ditch the touristy things and get straight to it. Our first stop would be Chinatown to grab her favorite tropical fruits and to eat at her favorite spot–Maguro brothers. Then after we would head to Lanikai and chill there for the day. After plenty of swimming and tanning, we would go to Whole Foods to grab a snack or find a new acai spot. Other days we would drive to the North Shore and stop by Giovanni’s shrimp truck and the fruit stands along the way to Sunset Beach where we would watch the sunset. Tip: this is the best sunset on the island, it earned the name. Second best is the view from the Pillbox hike.
Oahu pt 1- Moped and Roofie Incident
Fun story time(it was definitely not funny at the time): Please excuse the run on sentences and bad structure for this portion but I need to include all the details–which is the best part. And before I forget, shoutout to Savannah and Kina because we almost died so many times during this trip and most of it was my idea LOL sorry guys.
This entire trip resulted in one giant ridiculous story about us making dumb life choices which led to at least one of us almost getting killed. The first day consisted of us renting mopeds–keep in mind, Savannah gets in like 10 car accidents per year and I am not the best driver either(road rage)…Kina is a good driver but she drives slow which caused her to get hit by a car but I’ll get there in a sec. Picture the three of at some shady tourist stand renting out these janky mopeds(side note: They gave us defected Mopeds. Mine would stall at green lights and Savannah’s kept running out of gas no matter how many times we filled it). We could barely balance on these things and we attempted “mopeding”(not a real word but it is now) from Waikiki to Lanikai because the plan was to kayak to the Mokulua Islands(the two Islands you can see in my Lanikai pics).
It’s usually only a 20 minute drive if you take the freeway but we weren’t allowed on the freeway(that didn’t stop Savannah) so it took us 4 hours one way, maybe more, because it started getting dark by the time we made it to Kailua. To add the cherry on top, it started to rain that day; maybe this will help you form a better image of what went down. Three dumb girls on their mopeds, one following after the other in a line formation over cliffs(that our mopeds could barely climb up) in the rain, lost and soaking wet and bickering whilst sobbing. On the bright side you couldn’t distinguish if it was tears or rain drops falling down our cheeks..probably both. It was literally the perfect example of the blind leading the blind.
Okay enough self-pity, back to the good stuff. Not even 10 minutes after we set off on our journey to hell, Savannah–who was leading because her phones GPS was the only one that worked–turned into the freeway on her moped at 35 mph. Imagine the image, poor Savannah going at a solid pace of 40 mph max.– ’cause that’s the fastest the damn moped would go– on the freeway while the cars woosh past her at 70 mph. We thought we had lost her and so Kina and I just stopped on the side of the road and stared at each other in disbelief.
Half an hour later, Savannah somehow managed to circle back just as we finally figured out how to break the news to her mom(jk) and we started off again. Since the freeway wasn’t an option, we had to take the highway which circles the coastline and goes through very steep, rocky cliffs that are extremely high. So high that we would forsure die if we were to make one wrong swerve(and we didn’t know how not to swerve honestly). On top of that, we had to drive next to cars on this narrow and imaginary moped shoulder lane we made up to justify our right to the road(not a single soul was on a moped or bike on this road, not one, it was just cars and I’m sure the cars hated us for going so slow and also b/c we were in the middle of the lane blocking everyone). I’m looking at you Kina. Savannah was speeding off because she likes to drive fast(In hindsight, I think she was panicking and wanted to get there quicker) and I was following after her trying to keep up when I look back and no longer saw Kina. I yelled for Savanah to stop and caught up with her and I’m pretty sure the dialogue went something like…
Me: “yo, we lost Kina.”
Savannah: “Nah, she’s prob just slow.”
*both waiting impatiently waiting for 20 minutes, a little pissed at Kina for being slow
She is finally in view coming up super slowly, as you can already guess, and we were both annoyed until she told us she was hit by a car but got up and kept going because we both didn’t look back and left her behind. The person offered to take her to the hospital but since she didn’t want to lose us she refused and tried to catch up with us instead, what a trooper. We felt so shitty for leaving her so we let her take the lead this time, which obviously did not work out. Savannah kept tailgating me but I couldn’t go any faster because Kina was in front of me so we started bickering. I was scared Savannah would rear end me and Kina was scared I would hit her. Eventually they made me lead but I didn’t have a working phone so that was an issue since I had no idea where I was going. I’m going to save you from the nitty gritty details of us struggling to find the right directions and tell you that we didn’t make it in time to Kayak because they close at 4 and we got there close to 6. We left at noon, I believe.
We didn’t want to moped back in the dark and over the cliffs at night in the rain, so out of desperation we called the rental place and demanded they come pick up their mopeds and we would just uber home. They didn’t agree to this of course and we headed back on the wretched mopeds and took turns having mental breakdowns. We made it back to civilization–not before Savannah almost fell into a ditch twice and ran out of gas, though– and by this time all of our phones had died so we had no way of navigating our way back to the hotel. We got lost on some residential street in front of this house with a white van and started losing our shit. That was when the owner of said van came out and asked if we needed help. After he had heard about the entirety of our ordeal, he offered to lead us back; we would follow his van back to the hotel, at first we were skeptical because if you put two and two together, white van+stranger equals questionable circumstances. BUT we were so exhausted at this point that dying didn’t seem all too bad so we accepted his help and he turned out to be the kindest man ever to inhabit this planet. He helped us get back and when we offered him gas money he refused even though he had to drive a good 15 minutes to get us back to our hotel and another 15 minutes home. While he was leading us, he had to stop multiple times to wait for us to catch up too. Thank goodness for kind people! I noticed that lots of locals are super nice and willing to help out struggling tourists so you are not on your own. Whenever we made our pit stops to cry on the mopeds, people would stop and see if we were doing okay, their kindness definitely boosted our morale.
That night, after everything that we went through, we decided that we needed drinks. So we went bar hopping in Waikiki(not recommended). Long story short, Savannah got roofied by some dude and luckily I was being a “debby downer”(her words) l o l and refused to drink that night. My gut was telling me that there was something off about that bar and the people there that night. The guy told Savannah he was a businessman and was visiting from out of town and she believed him but another guy came up to me and told me that this dude was a local who comes every night. I think this was when I got distracted and the guy put something in Sav’s drink. Thankfully, I was completely sober so he couldn’t take her away with him. He even tried getting all of us to come with him and his friends when another guy stopped us and told the bouncer about the situation. It was a weird night. We ended up in the club upstairs(where the owner told us that she thought our friend had been drugged) and Savannah ended up throwing up so much that we contemplated taking her to the hospital but drunk Savannah convinced us not to somehow and we just took her back to the hotel. Next day, we rented an actual car and went to the north shore and then we went jet skiing; so the trip was redeemed at the end. I actually saw the bar where she was roofied the last time I was in Waikiki and it burned down, symbolism.
Now, if you have been following my other posts you may have noticed that I like to start off with a shitload of picture but not this time because I believe in saving the best for last. LOL just kidding you have been patient enough. In fact, I am going to try something new and use more pictures to tell the story since a picture is worth a thousand words, am I right? aka I just took a lot of pics and want to share with y’all.
Oahu pt 2: Biking instead of mopeding this time…I learned my lesson
This girls trip was a lot more tame, I was with with Shon and Heyun, it was mostly just us getting sunburned(even though it was cloudy) and eating Poke at the Costco food court because we couldn’t find a place to sit. The bickering started on the third day but that was expected and it was overall a fun/relaxing trip with the gals.
I do have a funny club/bar hopping story for you that, you guessed it, happened in Waikiki. Point is going out to drink with your friends in Oahu is not what you expect it to be; you come looking for a good time and leave with regrets. Our story begins at Rumfire in the Sheraton. It started off with us enjoying each others company, sharing a huge MaiTai and fries, and ended with all of us being questioned if our names were actually Tiffany. Why can’t 3 girls who are in the same bar and happen to be friends all be named Tiffany? Well, turns out somebody lied about their name–and couldn’t come up with any name other than Tiffany– when a group of guys came over and started talking to us; if some people are not aware, Shon’s first name is Tiffany and so is mine, that is why we opted to use our last names when referring to each other. Well, one of the guys caught on(the others didn’t) and called us out. It was embarrassing and resulted in all three of us literally making a run for it. Also if someone invites you to their “private beach” do NOT go with them, there is no such thing, most beaches are public in Oahu.
The next day we decided to bike to a fish market called Tamashiro to get poke. We ended up ubering there halfway because Shon couldn’t keep up with Heyun’s SoulCycling pace. Once again, I was in the middle so I was trying to keep up with Heyun while waiting for Shon after hearing her cries for help. We followed a basic itinerary for this trip, we hiked Diamond Head and Lanikai Pillbox then rented a car for one day to go to the North Shore. I’ll provide full list of my favorite spots and things to do at the end of this post! In regards to accommodations, we stayed in a hotel(the Hilton) for half of the trip then an airbnb in Lanikai(it was closer to Kailua so we drove to the beach, which was about a 10 minute drive)so we wouldn’t have to pay for parking in Waikiki.
“Point is going out to drink with your friends in Oahu is not what you expect it to be”
Oahu pt 3: Parasailing and surfing and a #deep tangent!
Spontaneously, I came back about a month after with another friend and this time we decided to Island hop and spend half our time on Oahu and the other on Kauai. The first day he came in riding a moped(triggered, jk) but since we planned on staying in Waikiki the entire time with the exception of stopping by Lanikai for a bit, he ended up returning the moped and we opted to walk and get a zipcar(good option if you only need the car for a few hours and don’t want to pay the overpriced hotel parking fees) for a couple hours.
We didn’t have a set itinerary so we could do whatever we wanted to and so the first day consisted of chilling at Waikiki beach and catching up over some beer. Then we enjoyed beachside drinks at Duke’s to some Hawaiian music and watched the sunset; I had always passed by this place but never had a chance to try it out. Their MaiTai’s are definitely stiff so warning for all you light weights out there but they were delicious. I wish I was more sober during this trip so I could’ve taken more pictures but I was too busy having a good time and living in the moment. My friend and I were both dealing with our own personal issues at the time and this trip was a nice break from it all. We both needed to take a step back and reassess our lives… I am not saying you should do what we did and escape to an Island to get drunk but hey, yolo amirite?
Going off on a tangent: I think as human beings, we tend to isolate ourselves( I am guilty of this, trust me) when we are dealing with things that we can’t comprehend because it is overwhelming to have to be around others and to put on this front that everything is fine when it isn’t( and as much as people don’t want to admit this, we “act” as different versions of ourselves depending on who we are around). Just the other day, I was having a conversation with a couple people who I considered to be my close friends and haven’t seen for some time and they made some comments about how they perceived me–this was when I realized that they don’t really know me. It might be because people change as time passes and you have to get to know them again but also because they only know one side of you so it can sometimes feel exhausting to feel like you have to live up to the expectations people may have of you(I can’t always be a clown y’all).
So my point is, that it is important to have a people who you can just be around(literally just BE and know that they’ll love you no matter what). There are no expectations or labels, you can just be you and it’ll be accepted. It is most often that around these amazing humans(shoutout to my friend, who I will not name because it’s no one fucking business) that you can truly grow into the person you are meant to be and become the best version of yourself. Find these humans and protect them at all costs.
Sometimes you may not realize that what you are experiencing is growth because it can look messy at times and it is absolutely not glamorous but when you look back in hindsight the things that you thought broke you as a person just helped build you into a better version of yourself. Of course, I am in no position to give life advice to anyone, my life is a mess if you haven’t already noticed. This was what I learned on this trip and I thought would be worthwhile to share with y’all.
Okay, back to the fun, because there was tons of that…it wasn’t just two alcoholics moping around muttering shit about existentialism. We still like to enjoy life despite sucking at it sometimes. The next day was less off the books. I had planned everything out beforehand because we were celebrating my friend’s birthday and I wanted to surprise him with a fun day. This was when I learned that I am horrible at surprises LOL. So my friend does a lot of cool things and has done pretty much everything but I took a gamble and booked parasailing. I thought it was pretty cool and he probably just humored me. We got to see the entire Waikiki skyline and Diamond head from the air. I def recommend, it wasn’t scary at all and was quite peaceful once you are higher up. They decided to drop us about waist deep in the water though so if you have a shark phobia, good luck, but then again why are you in Hawaii?
The experience reminded me of the movie UP when the grumpy old man and the little boy fly off with the colorful balloons in search of adventure. We went surfing the day after too! I got surfing lessons from Micah, I’ll link his website here(http://mickeysurfschool.com), he held my hand(literally) through the entire process; I think I would’ve drowned if he weren’t by my side giving me pep talks and holding onto the board. My talented friend made it look easy. I learned the hard way that despite looking like you are pretty much snowboarding on water, surfing is a lot harder and requires a completely different skillset. I fell on every wave and I think I caught like half a wave before wiping out. The goal is to finally catch a full wave and ride it out without falling off. I love the waves in Waikiki because there were plenty of beginner baby waves(but this doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park) and the water was clear so you could see beneath you(I am always paranoid when I cannot see in water).
Things to do on the Island and my favorite places to eat:
Waikiki Beach area: There are tons of things to do in this area for everyone. Even though it is not one of my favorite beaches because of how crowded it is with tourists, it is a good place if you are just learning how to surf since you will be surrounded by other beginners too so it won’t seem too daunting. There is also a lot of food and shopping for those who do not want to get wet and sandy. Check out the Hilton Hawaiian Village if you are a fan of birds and one of the many seaside restaurant and bars. There is an infinity pool on the Sheraton side of the beach where you can grab Piña Coladas and chill with a view of diamond head. There is an abundance of Japanese food in this area and you should take advantage of it. Marugame udon is a must try. The line is almost always long but it moves quickly. Also try the spam misubi and poke here. Ono has the best poke and fish and for acai I like Island Vintage Coffee Co(try their coffee too).
Diamond Head hike: This is a relatively easy hike that you can do you in 15 minutes if the crowds aren’t too bad. The view from the top is stunning.
Kailua area: There are two main beaches in this area and it is more residential. The first is Kailua beach and the second is Lanikai. Both are, imo the two most beautiful beaches on the Island. You can windsurf at Kailua beach and kayak/paddle board at Lanikai. The snorkeling is better at Lanikai because the water is more calm and there is coral there too.
North Shore: You are going to need a car for this but it is worth it because there are so many attractions to see. There is Chinaman’s hat, the place where they filmed Jurassic Park where you can ride horses (no Chris Pratt is not part of the experience sadly), a waterfall, Dole plantation, Macadamia farms, Giovanni’s shrimp truck, fruit stands, and beaches with gnarly waves). The waves are a bit rowdier here so I do not suggest going out there until you are at least an intermediate surfer and swimmer.
Hanuama Bay: Snorkeling fanatics, this one is for you. The underwater sights are unparalleled because this is one of the largest reefs on Oahu.
Makapuu Lighthouse hike: This is a nice hike if you like vast ocean views, it was pretty windy the day we were there so we didn’t do the entire hike. There is a lighthouse at the end of it though.
Eternity Beach: Super exclusive beach since it’s difficult to get to but oh so beautiful. The hike is a bit dangerous, you need to climb down a rocky cliff area so wear proper footwear!
That’s it for now but you can bet I will keep adding to the list as I visit more and have more stories to share, adios beaches!
Have you ever wanted to travel back in time? Check out Cinque Terre National Park–it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason!
Time travel technology has yet to be invented(well, as far as we know) and the second best option one has to visit the past without a time machine might just as well be these five quaint villages on the Italian coast.
Cinque Terre literally means five lands in Italian and it consists exactly of what the name states–five villages situated on the Italian coast that you can access either by boat or hiking. It is by far one of the most unique and charming places I have ever traveled to, and I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet…there is an abundance of delicious Italian white wine. As you enter the town, the first thing you will see is the gorgeous Italian coast and distinctive architecture; secondly, you will notice the grape vineyards on the hills. I came by train from Florence–it was about a two hour train ride– and peered out the window to be surprised by a view of the clear blue water as well as vast ocean landscapes.
I booked a hotel in Manarola(Fun Fact: this is the village you are seeing when you google Cinque Terre and the most photogenic village). The hotel was called La Torretta and it is situated up on the top of a hill, just a heads up if any of y’all like to bring a lot of luggage with you when you travel. The good news is if you call the hotel when you arrive at the train station, they will bring a golf cart to drive you and your stuff up the hill! It was not a big hotel–it was family owned– but the service was spectacular, they give you champagne as soon as you arrive along with an appetizer to hold you over while you check in and you get to enjoy it while looking at the most amazing view(since it is on top of the hill, you can see the entire town from the balcony of the hotel).
As soon as we got to our room, we found complimentary bottles of wine and homemade Prosecco waiting for us! I am going to keep this transparent and point out that we did find a bug(not sure if it was actually a bed bug or not) on the foot blanket. We told the hotel staff and they replaced the bedding right away so it wasn’t a problem and as the window was open, it could have flew in from outside but I just wanted to let y’all know what to expect. When you are traveling, it is not always going to be comfortable and it will forsure not be what you are used to at home; I wasn’t used to the climate in Italy so my immune system gave out and I got the flu while I was in Cinque Terre. Remember to be mindful by bringing hand sanitizer and just taking the extra steps to protect yourself. Despite all this, I still recommend staying at La Torretta since the service was top notch, everyone spoke english, the breakfast was delish, and there was unlimited free wine. The pros definitely outweigh the cons on this one. I mean, look at that view!
Who likes foccacia bread? I do! Try the foccacia paired with the sparkling white wine, trust me. Despite having the flu, I still did the hike to every single village like a boss l o l; it was the coolest hike I’ve ever done. This is a 6 hour hike so be sure to bring water and snacks.You are hiking along vineyards which are to one side of you– there were so many juicy grapes–and when you look to the other side, you’ll see a steep drop down the ocean(jk but sometimes the trail does get narrow, please learn how to share the road before attempting the hike 😉.)
“Take only memories, leave only footprints”
About the 5 towns– Located in La Spezia, the towns are called: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. They are all different and each have their own charm, I would suggested spending time in each and trying out the food in all of them, you’ll be famished after hiking for 11km and nothing will taste better than some authentic Italian pasta and gelato. We stopped by a shop and got fresh squeezed orange juice and when we peered out to the seating area in the back, the view was breathtaking. I was left speechless quite often on this hike.
We only hiked the trail one way because it was five hours so we didn’t want to hike back in the dark and opted to take the ferry back. The ferry ride was super cool, especially as we were coming into the town, you could see the colorful buildings from a different perspective. If you are not fond of hiking or just don’t want to walk in the sun all day, you have the option to take the train to each village but you’ll miss out on the coastal views or you could take the ferry and still get a cool view from the water.
Cinque Terre holds a special place in my heart, it embodied the historical significance of culture and tradition. I am so grateful to be able to witness something so extraordinary with someone that I love 🙂
” Traveling- It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
If I had to describe Alberta in 3 words: 1. serene 2. underrated 3. magical
Gonna keep it real here and point out that Banff’s beauty exceeded my expectations; I was not expecting it to be as pretty as it actually was in person. In my mind, I had thought it was one of those places that looked really photogenic but then boom you were hit with the anticlimactic sticker right in the center of your forehead and boy I was so f*cking wrong. I switched off between these three expressions the entire time I was there 😮😍🥶.
The places you find yourself ending up in unexpectedly are most often, the most memorable places, and Banff was just that. I had decided to go with a weeks prior notice since a buddy of mine was planning on visiting Calgary for work(shoutout to Steven!) and asked if I wanted to tag along. “Down”- she said and the rest was history LOL… we were both so unprepared for this trip(we both travel light which is a good thing but when it’s freezing, that is not very smart) but that made it even more fun because it was super spontaneous and we did whatever the fuck we wanted without having to follow an itinerary. Sometimes when you have been traveling for extended periods of time, everything feels very routine; you get burnt out and you are just on autopilot with the sole goal of checking things off of a list without experiencing them and I think this applies to to other areas of our lives too( like one’s work or relationships). Going with the flow helps you live in the present moment because you cannot predict what will happen next, everything will be a surprise and you are free to feel it out as it is happening in real time. Not a lot of humans nowadays allow themselves to feel things; people avoid this by seeking the safety of a set schedule and doing things just for the sake of doing them , never stopping to think of the why. Of course, I am not saying go into it completely unprepared–do your research– but do not be one of those people that need to have every single second planned for. You are a human being, not a robot. Please relax.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
I flew into Calgary airport and picked up my rental car(this was in October so be sure to get snow tires if you are planning on driving to the parks during this time, because trust me, there will be snow). Yup, there was no snow in Calgary but as you drive to the national parks, it will look like Tahoe on steroids. In fact, during our drive to Banff and Lake Louise, the snow was falling and everything looked so magical. It was my first time seeing such a sight and even Steven( the Disney Channel Show, jk)–who has seen lots of cool shit– was in awe at how beautiful the scenery was. It was like Christmas came early!
We had left around 9 am to drive to Lake Louise and arrived at around 11 am, it was overcast but still the most gorgeous lake I have ever since in my life. We took some pictures and just stared at the scenery because it was breathtaking; during this time, the clouds began to clear up and when the sun came out, the famed stunning blue color of the lake started to show. We got to see it both during the snowfall and when the skies were clear and both experiences left us in a state of utter shock and increased our vehemence for nature. Being in nature allows you witness something so much bigger than yourself and this emphasizes the trivialities of certain day to day problems you may have. I think being at Lake Louise was meditative in a way because of the emotions that it made me feel while I was there, I felt at peace, content and grateful for being alive and getting to see something this beautiful in the company of a good friend was nice.
“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”
After spending a couple hours at Lake Louise(we didn’t want to leave!)…we decided to head to Lake Morraine but it ended up being closed to a cars for the season, you could still hike up there but we both did not have the right gear because we didn’t expect to come across any snow 😦 That was fine, we found another lake and I got to see an elk!!! We went to the Banff Gondola(45 USD per person) and the view was absolutely stunning. You get to see Banff from up top. It was also freezing and since my cold tolerance is shit I wasn’t having it so I admired it from inside the observatory through one of the huge windows. Bow waterfall is close by and worth checking out too. On our way back to the hotel, we saw an elk casually walking around the town square, pretty awesome I definitely stopped the car in the middle of the road(do not try this at home kids).
Day 2: We had learned from experience that we had to wake up earlier in order to go to more places before it got dark and so we attempted to leave at 6 am. Did not end up leaving at 6 but it was earlier than the first day. Jasper was the plan and it was a 4 hour drive so we planned a bit more today in terms of checking to see which stops we would want to see beforehand. As soon as we got to Jasper, we came across Lake Herbert and he was a looker. So we made a U-turn but there was nowhere to park; Steven just ended up stopping the car in the middle of the road because there were no other cars around thankfully as we took pics of Herbert. The goal of this trip was to see the Columbia Icefields and go to the glacier walk(I think this was the coldest location we had been to thus far because of the proximity to the glacier). We stopped at Maligne Canyon and attempted to do the hike but Steven was wearing white converse and it was extremely muddy so we headed back and decided to visit another waterfall when we saw a sign that says you could drive to the end of the hike that we were just about to do. JACKPOT..we got to reap the rewards without doing the work and I was also not into the thought of potential bear encounters–Berkeley students can be scary sometimes loljkjk bad joke.
The next day, Steven had to work so I decided to do a hike(Johnston Canyon) and visit Yoho National Park just so I could say Yoho big blowout sale!(Frozen reference) on social media. I also stopped at Emerald Lake and Natural Bridges on the way to Yoho after the hike.
Johnston Canyon: This is possibly one of my most favorite hikes of all time because the scenery was unreal. There were two main waterfalls–the Lower and Upper falls. The Lower falls were fairly easy to get to and only about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot but it was really cool because you could go through a little cave and on the other side you’d come face to face with the most beautiful waterfall. The upper falls is also worth the effort/time because of the sights along the way. The waterfall itself was alright but the journey made it worth it. The hike is fairly easy and I did it in jeans but you would need snow boots since the path was covered in ice and extremely slippery. At times, it felt like you were ice skating uphill; there is a railing to hold onto during the iciest parts though so don’t fret.
Emerald Lake: It was literally the color of emeralds and when you got closer it wasn’t the mossy “emerald” water you expect to see when water looks green(like Golden Gate Park), it was crystal clear. You could see the gravel at the bottom. Super cool.
Natural Bridges: This was by far the bluest water I have seen since being in Alberta. It did not look real and I think if you are in the area it is a must see.
Yoho: Not gonna lie, Yoho was aight. It was like a scene out of The Polar Express but I think this area is more industrial than touristy and as I was waterfall hunting here I came across a dirt road that looked abandoned because my GPS was being dumb and led me to the middle of nowhere. Long story short do not go looking for random waterfalls in Yoho if you do not know what you are doing.
Krabi and Koh Phi Phi/Island Hopping(our boat broke down!)
Thailand is definitely in the top five of my favorite Asian countries that I have visited and I have yet to visit the entire country…Chiang Mai is next on my list. I had actually intended on going to Phuket instead of Krabi but met a friend in Singapore who suggested not going to Phuket alone as a solo female traveler, especially if this was my first time traveling to Thailand. Although I do not think that I would have felt unsafe, many people have told me that Phuket is more crowded with tourists and as a consequence there is a lot of prostitution; I am glad I took her advice and went to Krabi because it was more low-key and relaxing. You can still island hop and go to the Phi Phi Islands from Krabi–without having to deal with the creepy old foreign men who are there for a “good time” with girls who are definitely over 18(sarcasm, they are clearly too young) but that is an issue that we will get to another day.
I landed at Krabi Airport with no idea what to expect and not to sound sheltered( I am pretty sheltered, get off my ass) but the only time I had been to a third world country before this was Vietnam and I had spoken the language fluently so it was smooth sailing. I did not speak the local language and I have heard horror stories about the tuktuk scams. We were in a dilemma here: how was I, someone who can barely boil an egg, get from point A to B. A in this case is the airport and B as you can guess, is the hotel. Keep in mind, we are trying to do this WITHOUT getting scammed or taking unnecessary risks. Sure, I could just wing it and get in a taxi where I would risk getting overcharged or whatever but the thought of being in a foreign country alone, as a female, not knowing where the driver would be taking me seemed like a, say it with me…u n n e c e s s a r y r i s k. I opted for the bus with lots of other people after exchanging my Singaporean dollars for Thai Baht(funny story later).
After about a two hour scenic bus ride, I was the last person to be dropped off at my hotel that was at the end of a narrow dirt road. I stayed at one of the Centara hotels in Krabi and I think if I had the option to go back and have a redo I would’ve picked the Krabi resort or maybe a cheaper hotel that would have been just as good. TIP: If you are there for a honeymoon or want a more romantic resort vibe I definitely recommend the Centara Grand(it is more secluded/private) but as I was backpacking by myself this was not necessary since I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture.
My first order of business was to find food since I was starving and it was a 5 minute walk from my hotel to the beach where I purchased my first coconut for 50 baht(about $1.50). Okay guys, I am not exaggerating I promise, Thai coconuts are legit unparalleled. It was cold, sweet, and had a kick of natural carbonation. If the food was just as good as the coconut yo girl would be a happy camper. IT WAS. I took a stroll along the beach and stumbled across a beach front restaurant and ordered some Pad Thai. My first Pad Thai in Thailand, I was literally in tears at this point, jkjk but it was awesome. After that I continued snapping pics because how could you not? Everything was picture perfect. So this wouldn’t be me if something like this did not happen; I got to the hotel and realized that my phone charger and adaptor was not compatible with the outlets. I was on low battery with no idea where to even purchase an adaptor but at least there were people in the hotel who could speak english and help the dumb American find a store to buy her phone adaptor because she cannot function without her phone. There was a 7/11 across the street and I had trouble locating the adaptors so I tried asking the worker who luckily understood my gesturing. So moral of the story is be prepared.
I spent the rest of my day tanning on the beach, exploring the village and finding a boat tour to go island hopping the next day. I decided to book the tour with my hotel and opted for the speedboat(which costs around 2500 Baht(80ish USD)). They picked me up in the lobby at 6 AM sharp and luckily(I am very lucky and that is probably the only reason why I am still alive as you will soon see) I was jet-lagged so it was no biggie. They fed me a children’s breakfast that consisted of soy milk in those rectangular juice boxes, a veggie sandwich and a piece of fruit. Very cute. I felt taken care of. I also have a feeling that they thought I was 12… I’ll take it. I was one of the first people to get picked up and after that there were two other groups. One consisted of two sisters who were from Sweden–they were still in university–and the other a father and daughter from France. Not gonna lie I felt more comfortable because I was not the only foreigner and at least I looked a bit local(not really but effort counts, right?). We had two tour guides and two guys that drove the boat. One dude would not stop racing with the other boats…LO AND BEHOLD I wonder why the engine gave out? I’ll talk about that part later after I rave about how beautiful the islands were. Have y’all ever seen pictures of the Maldives? if not you should google it because it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and on the top of my bucket list. Well, the beaches of Thailand were just as pristine and clear; we had a private island to ourselves since we got started so early and beat the other boats to it. On the first island, they fed us a second breakfast; I will call this the adult breakfast, there were hard boiled eggs and I forgot the rest as I was too excited about the eggs. Eggs on a beautiful private island. Life’s good. Then they drove us to about 6 other islands, Phi Phi and Monkey Island included. The famed Maya Island was closed due to tourist polluting and damaging it so we could only look at it from afar.
Koh Phi Phi : Even though it was not too big of an island, there were so many things going on at once and it was more lively than Ao Nang. I would honestly want to stay overnight next time for 1 or 2 days since I there are lots of fun activities like Scuba Diving or shopping or even just getting a massage/laying on the beach. We had our lunch on Phi Phi, it was buffet style and there were plenty of options available. I wanted authentic Thai food though so I wandered off and bought a coconut(of course) and some exotic fruits. The mangoes and dragon fruit are to die for–LOL I know that isn’t considered authentic Thai food but it was legit only 1 USD for a dragon fruit and two mangoes WOT.
Monkey Island: It’s exactly what it sounds like… an island with Monkeys. I should be way more excited than I actually am but the monkeys seemed miserable for some reason. Must be because they have to deal with hundred/thousands of annoying tourists everyday. Got to see some cute baby monkeys though AHHH.
LONG AWAITED BOAT STORY: While we were on Monkey Island it started raining and so they rushed everyone on the boats and jetted out of there since there was possible a storm coming and being in the water while a storm hit on a tiny boat was…say it with me…UNNECESSARILY RISKY. Since our boat had been through a beating that day(’cause the dude that drove it was racing the entire time), when it was actually time to go super fast, the engine gave out and we were stranded in the middle of the ocean. It wouldn’t have been as scary as it was if the guides themselves hadn’t also freaked out. No one knew what to do. It was storming and there was nothing but water as far as the eyes could see. Now this was not the clear blue water you saw before with the cast of Finding Nemo swimming in it, this was legit the deep dark ominous looking sea(think Jaws). Bring back the turquoise water! They called in for a rescue boat that took about an hour to come and we had to tie the boats together and carefully jump into the other boat. No one fell into the water thankfully. Just when I thought the ordeal was over, the rescue boat dropped us off on a random island and told us to wait for another boat. So we wait on this random island for three hours, with no update and it is almost near sunset. I figured the worst and was devising ways to get back to Krabi in my head while HALLELUJAH a boat was seen coming in from the distance. We were rescued but I did not come out of it unscathed. Three hours of no food/water and sunscreen equals major sunburn, dehydration and grumpy Pham. Would i do it again? Yes in a heartbeat.
When it was time to leave Thailand, I packed my bags but then realized at the last minute that I did not have enough Bahts to get to the airport and there was no literally time to run to an ATM so I did what I do best.. I haggled the price. It was 800 Baht to get to the airport but I only had 500 so I told the driver I would give him American dollars on top of this(okay, so it wasn’t actually negotiating the price since I probably paid the same amount in the end but at least I got to the airport on time). Don’t be like me, check the prices and get enough local currency to get you back home so you do not need to panic.
Side-note: I am actually creating something right now that will solve this problem for travelers and the days of worrying about logistics while traveling will soon be over. Keep an eye out 🙂
Fun fact: Justin Trudeau used to be a teacher in Vancouver so for anyone who is still unsure whether or not they should visit, this little piece of information should be enough to convince you to come thru.
” I grew up in Vancouver” – Ryan Reynolds
If you are a fan of nature, good vibes and chill people, Vancouver is the place for you. I mean, it was home to both Justin Trudeau AND Ryan Reynolds, does it get any better than that? I took a solo day trip from Seattle–which was about a three hour drive–and crossed the border by car for the first time(it was an interesting experience and I will talk about it later on in this post). The drive was beautiful and it was nice to have the option of stopping and checking out certain spots along the way but if driving and renting a car is not in the cards for you, then you can fly straight there and Uber/take public transportation to downtown and walk to the little towns. Vancouver is a very walkable city. It all depends on where you are visiting from but I do suggest you rent a car for at least a day. I know what a hassle it can be, especially is you are under 25 because there is an extra charge so be mindful of that in terms of budgeting, but I think it will be worth it if you want to visit the more nature-y destinations.
If you decide not to rent a car for the entire trip, then your options may be limited in regards to visiting the places that are further out from town but there are plenty of things to see and eat in downtown. One of the spots I ended up visiting first was the Capilano Suspension Bridge then I drove up north to Stanley Park(consider biking this too if you’re into that) after making a quick stop at Whole Foods to pick up some lunch and enjoyed it by the Sea Wall in Stanley Park.
A trip to Vancouver would not be complete without visiting Chinatown, Yaletown and Gastown so that was my next to-do. It is a short drive from Stanley Park to the city center and everything from then on is quite close–approximately a 10 minute drive–in proximity.
Capilano Suspension Bridge: This was my favorite part of the entire trip, mostly because it got my heart beating fast–due to my fear of heights LOL( and for those who know me, y’all know I am somewhat of an adrenaline junkie). If you are afraid of heights, don’t say that I didn’t warn you. I arrived around 11 am and the park was packed. I would suggest going a bit earlier to avoid the crowds if you have the chance.
Stanley Park: Wow. That was what I uttered to myself as i drove through Stanley Park. Before you enter the park, you’ll cross a majestic bridge(Lion’s Gate Bridge) and as you are driving through, you will see many hiking trails and forget that you are in an urban city completely; that is how huge the park is. I found a spot to park my car while on the way to check out the Sea Wall and walked out to find the most beautiful view of a bridge and water. I strolled along the path and eventually made my way to the Wall(no, not that wall Trump) by accident after a short walk.
Chinatown, Yaletown, Gastown: I did not get to spend as much time as I would have liked in this area since this was only a day trip and I got to the actual town around 6 pm and the drive back to Seattle was three hours. The first thing I noticed was a lot of Asian people 😄…it’s okay for me to say this, because in case you haven’t noticed, I’m asian. I saw a bunch of cool restaurants and breweries I would have loved to try out if it were not for the lack of time.
What I wish I had done differently or what I would change if I were to visit again:
Border crossing- This was quite an experience for me because I had a strange encounter with the border patrol agent after but looking back at it, I think it was just protocol to make you slightly nervous enough to answer the questions honesly and what I thought were invasive questions were just aimed to get a feel of the purpose of my visit. My advice is to answer as thoroughly and concisely as possible while being transparent regarding the intent of your visit. Keep your cool, guys. And bring your passport. Getting back into America took over an hour and people started turning off their engines because the line was not moving…thank goodness I packed lots of snacks for the wait. I dunno if saying this will get the border patrol guy in trouble but the story is too funny to keep hidden from the world. I ended up matching with the dude on tinder after I got back to Seattle and we hit it off, too bad he lives in Canada LOL.
2. I would have visited for more than a day and went to Grouse mountain or driven to Whistler to snowboard. I definitely missed out on sitting down to eat at the amazing looking restaurants and other local experiences since I only had a couple hours to cross things off of my list. To be honest, everything felt rushed; I wish I could’ve slowed down to enjoy everything a bit more. I think you would want to ideally spend 3 days, if not more, if you are trying to do the snow activities too and you happen to be there during snow season.
Fun Fact: Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world, after Paris.
“I grew up in a town called Cornwall, Ontario, which is about an hour outside of Montreal.” – Ryan Gosling –> another hot Ryan who grew up in Canada, what a place!
Im kidding, here’s a real quote:
“Live, Love. Laugh.” -All the basic bitches of the world, including yours truly
Okay, enough with the quotes. Let’s get to the good stuff. As you can probably guess, I am not one to ever pass up an opportunity to travel and to hang out with friends so when a close friend(shoutout to Shon!) happened to be sent to Montreal for work, I took advantage of the opportunity and of how close New York was to Quebec and flew out for a weekend getaway. I was lucky enough to be visiting a new place and I get to spend time Shon, doesn’t get any better than that.
While I was at LaGuardia Airport, the person behind the lounge counter suggested checking out a spa called Bota Bota; he absolutely raved about it and said he would go back just to visit the spa. Shon and I tried to get reservations but we ended up not going due to us prioritizing other stuff over it(bagels) and time conflicts(she had to work like a normal adult). It costs about 50 USD for entry and you get to be on a boat(super cool) and chill in a jacuzzi. The massage packages are extra but seemed to be worth it so let me know if you end up trying it out yourself please!
I arrived to Montreal on a Saturday evening and was planning on flying back to New York on Tuesday, so I spent around 4 days exploring the city, which I would say is a good amount of time. I would’ve been fine with 3 days and if you are short on time this might be an ideal number of days since Shon and I were able to check out everything we wanted to see within about 2 days with ample picture taking time.
My first impression of the city was that it was immensely culturally diverse and liberal thus creating a laid back and accepting vibe. Most of the locals could speak both French and English and the food there was to die for, not to mention you had endless options in terms of cuisines to choose from. I noticed there were a lot of Korean restaurants in Downtown where we were staying as well as Middle Eastern, Chinese, French and about any other cuisine you could possible name. Remember to try the bagels, they are chewier and sweeter than American bagels. If y’all have tried mochi dough and you like it, you’re going to love St. Viateurs’ bagels…remember to bring cash, don’t be like us! They do have an ATM machine but we couldn’t figure out how to use it. Luckily, I had $8 USD on me and asked if they accepted American money(lol I was desperate) and they do but they charge a conversion rate; despite everything, we did score 4 bagels and some cream cheese for just under 5 USD hehe.
Let’s do something different this time and start out with food:
Cool, now that you’re hungry for more, I will continue with the rest of the itinerary.
Old Montreal: Lots of french vibes. Cool pier with a wheel( have you noticed that most cities have their own version of a wheel? Seattle, London, even Paris now) and lots of cute shops/cafes/restaurants. We tried riding one of the Lime or Bird scooters but they were all taken so we opted to just walk, wasn’t as much fun although there a couple cobbled streets so walking may have been the better option. Biking along the water was also pretty common and we would’ve done that but there was a high demand for the bikes too at the time we were there LOL. You can envision Shon and I pouting as we struggled to find a cooler method of transportation.
Botanical Gardens: We wished we had come earlier and spent the at least half a day here, since we came so late the outdoor portion of the garden was closed but we got to see the night show(which was the such a cool experience). This is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world and the one of the most impressive ones I’ve ever been to, with Singapore giving it a run for the money. The best part was definitely the night show which we spent 4 hours waiting for because of poor planning on our part. I suggest going early to check out the garden then leaving to do the rest of your activities and coming back for the night show later on in the day instead of coming at 5 and waiting until 9 like we did. We were so HANGRY by the end of the night(not a lot of places to eat around there but Olympic Park and a Sky tower is within walking distance).
Notre Dame Basilica: The architecture was extremely beautiful and unlike any other cathedral I have ever seen. It seemed to be more modern and after learning that the building burned down and was rebuilt that makes a lot of sense. There is a fee to enter(8 Canadian dollars).
Parc Du Mont Royal: I was fortunate enough to see this in the fall but omg it is stunning. Must see. Enough said.
This post was getting a bit long so I will end it here, thanks for reading!
Hi! My name is Tiffany and welcome to my blog 😁 I am an adventurer who is currently based in NYC.
I’ll be using this blog as a platform to tell both my personal story as well as discuss topics that I feel should be pondered. It’s been a long time coming since quitting my job and taking time to figure myself out so am starting this in the hopes that it could be helpful to others who might be going through a similar situation or maybe just want some travel inspiration. Whatever your goal is, I hope that my journey inspires you to leave your comfort zone and–as cliche as it sounds–find yourself amidst all the hustle and bustle of today’s society.
Here is a cheesy quote to start things off :
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. – Neale Donald Walsch
As you can already gauge, the main focus for this site will be centered around travel and how certain places can alter one’s perception of the world. I also want to use this as a platform to share my appreciation for life and to dedicate to the people that make living worthwhile. You’ll see scattered throughout posts, the people who I have been blessed to meet throughout my journey and of course, those who have been with me since day one; I love you all and am so grateful for everybody who is taking the time to read this!❤️
About me(and my former self):
I am a 25 year old from the Bay Area( I grew up in San Jose, CA and moved quite a distance–a full hour and a half drive– to Berkeley, CA for college then even further–a whopping 20 minute drive– to San Francisco for my corporate job) and am now residing in the Big Apple( where I had to ditch my car for the Subway).
My travel philosophy revolves around spontaneity and saying yes to every opportunity that arises to pack my bags and hop on an airplane.