As I prepare for the adventures that await me in Russia this year, I wanted to reflect on what I learned in Brazil, and remind myself that I live for experiences like these. I am going to post these in two parts, and I hope you enjoy. And if you are going to Russia, let me know what cities you'll be in. I would love to meet up! :)
Life Lessons I Learned At The World Cup & in Brazil
1. Believe in Love at First Sight
Nothing can describe the feeling of a dream coming to fruition especially when you can visually process it. I had been planning this World Cup trip for two years, and as the months have passed it seemed as if time were slowing down. Walking into the Maracana stadium in Rio was a life changing experience that did bring tears to my eyes (don’t judge, I’m a Scorpio). The scenic backdrop of Rio, the vibrant World Cup signage, and the excitement of the spectators made my heart race. We didn’t care that we weren’t going to get to see our favorite teams, and at that very moment I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. OK, cheeseball status stops…and now you will read about what I really learned on my trip to Brazil…
2. It’s The Little Things That Count
I won’t lie, I was a little nervous to go to Brazil. I knew what my family and co-workers thought of me going there, as well as the media portrayal of what was perceived to be hell on earth. I had mixed emotions, but I am never one to back down from a challenge. We survived two days in Rio before the actual World Cup match we would be attending. June 28th, 2014 finally arrived and my stomach seemed unsettled. As I painted the Columbian flag on my face, strapped on my fanny pack, and ensured that my sneakers were tied tight (in case I needed to run for my life), I was ready for battle. I knew if I could come out of Tomatina alive, this would be nothing. We took the metro (which I can happily say we mastered) and followed the Columbian fans (our people) into the stadium. There were about five checkpoints to get into the stadium. Three of the checkpoints consisted of going through metal barricades, in which we were greeted promptly with the Brazilian police. We then had to show them tickets valid for both of us, and we proceeded through the line. As we moved from barricade to barricade, the lines got shorter, and the more organized everything became. Where was the flying fireballs, or the riots, or the people waiting to steal everything we had on us? We went through metal detectors, and were patted down. This never even happens at an American baseball game. People – don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t live in fear. Those checkpoints made our day, and we were ready to cheer on Columbia!
3. Every So Often Push Your Luck
An old co-worker (that is originally from Brazil) made me a “Must Do” list while I was there. She outlined beaches, historical monuments, and anything that a tourist must do for the two cities that we were going to in Brazil – Rio and Sao Paulo. Underneath each of those cities she had an “If You’re Brave” section. I definitely consider myself a safe and cautious traveler, but I still like a good challenge. Every day I did something on my trip that made me a little nervous. In both cities my friend and I pushed our luck, and I am happy we did. In Rio we experienced the samba nightlight, complete with street vendors selling shots of alcohol on the streets. In Sao Paulo, we experienced a shopping district that was definitely not for the faint of heart. We walked with conviction, and luckily we looked Brazilian. We took candy from someone on the metro ride after Columbia won the World Cup match (yes this is legit), and we are still alive. Sometimes I can be too trusting, but you are a product of your experiences…and life is too short to be boring.
4. Patience is a Virtue
When we partied too hard the first night in Rio (damn you sweet sweet Caipirinahs), little did we know that it would jeopardize our visit to the Cristo the next day. Heads pounding, sweating bullets like we had been in a sauna for hours, we traveled to the bus stop only to be turned away and told that our only shot to see this sacred statue was the next day. We internally panicked, as the next day was our last day in Rio, as well as the World Cup match we would be attending. I started to dry heave. I NEEDED TO SEE THE CRISTO. The woman told us to purchase the tickets online, so we headed back to our hotel to do just that…except when we went to pay it was all in Portuguese. We went downstairs to ask for help, and a boy named Felipe (yes, he was probably about 18) was designated to help us. We went in a little humid computer room, and we fired up their dial up computer. Wonderful. We had 17 minutes before the website timed out, and with a language barrier and Felipe pounding the keys on the keyboard like it would help that poor computer go faster, I could not help but giggle. I do not have a poker face, and he saw me and gave me a thumbs up. Felipe got us those tickets 17 minutes later, and thank goodness because we almost died of a heat stroke in that computer room. PS. The Cristo was worth it.
5. Learn To Dance In The Rain
Or in our case, dance in the streets. After 18 hours of traveling from California to Rio, we arrived at 6am and hit the ground running. That evening we discovered the vibrant nightlife of the Lapa neighborhood, and definitely had our fare share of spirits. Unsure of the exact location of our hotel, we walked in the direction that we believed we lived. As we approached the Carioca Aqueduct on our walk home, we heard faint sounds of brass instruments and drums. We both turned to each other with an evil smile and walked towards the music. What we saw next was so amazing – a live street band had begun to practice. We must have danced for hours. Suddenly we were a part of the group, getting offered water (which I don’t think we deserved) and suddenly dancing in their inner circle. Tourists were reaching their arms taking pictures and videos of the trombones, trumpets, and drums that filled the streets of Lapa that night. There was a man on stilts playing the drums, people with instruments strapped to their body, and smiles on every persons face. No matter where you are, don’t forget to dance – whether it is in the rain, or in the streets of Rio.
6. The Truth Shall Set You Free…unless your lie makes a French man very happy.
I would say that we became chameleons on this trip, transforming ourselves into the nationality of whatever soccer team we would be favoring that particular day. The match I attended was Uruguay vs. Columbia (sadly not Italy like I had wanted), therefore we decided to be Columbian that day. We became Columbian because we do not support biters (Luis Suarez shame on you, maybe you should eat a meal before playing). Anyways, we went all out, sporting the colors of the team and painting the yellow, red, and blue Columbian flag on our faces. We were going to cheer them on with our firey spirits until the end-and it worked…they won! After the match we found a couple with a Columbian flag, and asked to pose with it for a picture. They gave us their flag, and then put their sombreros on us. (Sure, no problem…apparently we do not care about catching lice.) As we were taking our pictures a French man asked if he could take his picture with us. I shook my head, not wanting to answer and tell him we were frauds. He snapped his picture and both of our dreams came true – his picture with a couple of Columbians, and my secret excitement that we were able to seamlessly transition into our surroundings.
7. Pick Your Battles
The second night that we were in Rio we decided to experience more of the nightlife near our hotel, in Lapa. We met people from all over the world – from Sweden, to Australian, to yes even good ol’ Americans (inevitable). The further you walked through Lapa the less tourists were around, and soon enough only the Portuguese tongue was spoken. At one point we sat at a small bar, pulled up a plastic table to the sidewalk, and drank our Caipirinha’s with pure bliss and not a care in the world. While we sat there, we suddenly heard a chanting crowd coming our way. I have witnessed my fair share of protests/riots (ironically a soccer riot in Paris), so of course I wanted to see what exactly was going on. Some may say I’m like a moth drawn to the flame. I prefer to say I’m a butterfly drawn to a flower. I instantaneously popped out of my seat to witness what exactly was making this crowd so passionate…a banner that simply said, “FIFA GO HOME”. Firecrackers were being thrown while people chanted. Part of my stomach dropped, but part of me wanted to join them. I sympathized with the Brazilians and their poverty and struggling economy, while millions of dollars were put into stadiums that would probably never be used again. It was at that moment that I realized I was the enemy because I did purchase tickets. I stepped aside, picked up my caipirinha, and stood with respect as they marched by.
I will share the rest of my "lessons" in the next post. Re-reading these make me SO excited! :)
Let's face it. Traveling to India is not easy. It's not for rookies, It's not for new travelers, and it's not ideal for a girls relaxing getaway. It's rough. Really rough.
When I booked my trip to India, I wasn't as worried about the air quality, the culture shock I'd experience, or any unexpected violence against tourists (which can happen anywhere). I was the most worried about my stomach. I researched Delhi Belly and all of the terrible things that could happen to your stomach, while you experience foreign foods and water.
As I was trying to figure out what medicine I needed to stock my suitcase with, I visited my masseuse about 2 months before I left. She was someone who I had seen regularly, and who was passionate about holistic options for relaxation and well being. She suggested that I take the DiGize Essential Oil with me and put a few drops on my tongue before I consume any meal. She told me that someone else had done this on their voyage through India and it worked, so I decided to give it a try. I brought it with me to India, and was determined not to get an upset stomach.
We arrived in India, determined to control any vomiting or diarrhea that might ensue. My travel mate Madonna, had no idea what these oils were about, as she had brought her own travel medicine in case she were to be glued to a toilet. I told her we both had to "take drops", because at that point if one of us goes down we both go down. It became our ritual to have "our drops" before every meal that we had.
And guess what? IT WORKED. We maybe missed 2-3 meals the entire time that we were there, and not once did we throw up or have serious stomach issues.
Luckily neither one of us got sick - at least not the pooping vomiting kind of sick. However, both of us got pretty sick from the pollution. I was at the Taj Mahal sweating with a fever, but was SUPER thankful I wasn't stuck to a toilet. *perspectives people*
--> Below is a hilarious video that was taken of me "administering our drops" at the Oberoi in Agra.
A few other tips on how we prevented Delhi Belly:
I hope this helps! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below.
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
If there is one thing I hate about travel, it’s the packing. It becomes the dread, the pit in my stomach, and the panic that I’ll never fit everything I actually need on my trip, into my suitcase. When visiting a destination that is out of my comfort zone (i.e. Brazil or India), I try to read blogs, searching for any glimpse of hope that I will mostly be able to bring items that actually already exist in my wardrobe. Those blogs range from the extreme “wear 6 layers and cover your body from head to toe”, to “don’t pack anything, and just bring a carry on because you can buy your whole wardrobe there”. It’s really hard to find that middle ground, and balance necessities with my own personal style.
I wanted to share some outfit inspiration, with what I wore in India, as well as some tips on how to keep your suitcase light. India challenged my packing skills to the extreme, because I tend to over pack. Since I didn't know what to expect, I tried to map out outfits, and mostly tried to ensure that what I wore didn't scream "I'M A TOURIST, ROB ME!"
Before I list out what my recommendations are for what to wear in India, here are a few things about me that helped me determine what went into my luggage. What worked for me might not work for you, as timeframe and personal preference could be different.
1. Pack Basics in Solids or Classic Prints
2. Don't Bring Jeans
3. Loose, Breathable Clothing = Your Best Friend
Here I am at my Zodiac Station, trying to emulate the Scorpio that I am, but you can really see the movement in my pants. :)
4. If You're Questioning An Outfit, Don't Bring It
5. Get Creative!
6. Pack a Crossbody Purse
7. Bring A Few Novelty Pieces
8. Shop Local, But Don't Depend On It
It was really hard to find a sleeveless Kurta in India. There was NO way I could have sleeves. I was already a sweatball who looked like they were ill when they stepped out into the sun. I loved the gold lurex detailed print, infused with black. It was so beautiful. My friend on the right also purchased her dress at the same store, and it was so pretty and fun!
9. Utilize Hotel Laundry Services
10. Pack No More Than 3 Pairs Of Shoes
These are my top 10 tips on what to pack for a trip to India, and any place that has extreme heat. If you have any questions please leave them below. I'm going to also update with how I managed to NOT get Delhi belly on this trip! India is such a beautiful place, and I cannot wait to go back!
I would say that I am a pretty fearless soul, and I will try anything once. At times I think back about the things that I have done (especially while I travel) and laughingly question my level of sanity. With that being said, my first priority is ensuring that I am healthy enough to enjoy the culture and city that I am in.
I've been dreaming about going to India for over a decade, and after meeting (a now close) friend while I was studying in Italy, it has forever been on my bucket list. This friend is from and is a current resident in Delhi. For years I've promised to visit her, and finally this year it felt right. India is not a place you go to for your first trip abroad, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart....or so I've heard. So after booking my ticket in March of this year, I decided to research what I needed to do to keep myself healthy and able to enjoy one of the most beautiful journeys I would be lucky enough to go on.
After discovering that travel clinics do exist, and that I actually had one in Seattle, I made an appointment. It was about a 3 week wait to make an appointment, with all of the expenses having to be dealt with that day, and out of pocket.
I arrived at my appointment, filled out a detailed questionnaire about my itinerary, as well as more information about my health history. After my name was called I was brought into the most colorful office, filled with a postcard clad map, various currencies from around the world, and the warm face of another soul searching traveler.
During the appointment, here is what we covered, and what might be helpful to you if you are anticipating going to India anytime soon.
1. Itinerary & Malaria Risks: She printed out a map of India, we went through my itinerary, and determined if any of the cities I was going to be in were high malaria risk. We determined I'd be as risk around 10 days, so she prescribed me 10 pills.
2. Shots: She was really great at walking me through the list of suggested shots, and letting me know the risks and benefits of every choice she was giving me. She walked me through the pros and cons and the probability that I would actually contract the "said" virus.
Here are the shots that I actually got:
-Hepatitis A Vaccine: Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus and can be contracted through contact with the feces of people who are infected. It can also be contracted from food, water, and objects containing the virus. I don't have severe life-threatening allergies, so I decided this was a shot I needed.
-Tdap Vaccine: This is to prevent Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. Tetanus causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness, usually all over the body, Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and death, and Pertussis causes severe coughing spells which causes difficulty in breathing. All of these are rare in the US, and are caused by bacteria. I was due for my Tetanus shot, and since this lasts 10 years, I opted to get this one.
-Typhoid Vaccine: Typhoid fever is a serious disease, and is caused by bacteria that essentially causes high fever, fatigue, weakness, stomach pains, headaches, loss of appetite, and sometimes a rash. If not treated, 30% of the people who get it, can die. People generally get typhoid from contaminated food and water. Since I knew there was a high risk of that in India, I opted to get this shot.
3. Prescribed Medication: There were two medications she recommended I bring with me to ensure that I stayed healthy on my trip. Here are the two I decided to get:
A. Malaria Pills: We went through my itinerary and tracked my destinations on the updated Malaria map (see the 2017 version below). You can contact Malaria through animal or insects, and also by any blood products. Mosquitos don't usually like my blood, but I was not risking it.
B. Anti-Diarrhea Medication: This helps aid and prevent travelers diarrhea, which is the most common illness affecting international travelers. I definitely didn't want Delhi Belly, so this was a must. In addition to this, I am planning to bring a water filter (and filter even my bottled water), as well as ingesting Di-Gize Essential Oil before I eat. Upset stomach and diarrhea is really the biggest thing I am worried about on my trip.
If you have any questions in regards to my experience please feel free to email me. I have also attached the documents pertaining to the areas I will be traveling to. If you are in the Seattle area and would like to visit the travel clinic please see the address and link below.
Happy traveling! :)
Travel Clinic at Downtown Public Health Center
2120 4th Ave.
It's been about a year and a half since I got on the Whole 30 train, and since then I have gotten to really get to know what my body needs, and I've been aware more than ever to what I am putting into my body. I have had a lot of non-scale victories, but one I have been proud of is getting rid of my fake sugar addiction. I used to put it on everything, and would need about 3 packets of sweet & low for every cup of coffee I drank. While, I am still a sucker for a delicious cupcake or a delicious gummy, I am often trying to find ways to eat better, and reduce preservatives that go into my body.
Recently I came across a blog, The Physical Kitchness, a busy mom who loves to help other women meal plan and find ways to sneak in fitness into their busy lives. I came across the recipe for a grain free, dairy free, and nut free pizza and had to try it. I'm literally obsessed, and while it is not the real thing, it helped relieve my craving. If you love pizza, you will have to try this!
It has very little ingredients, and most of them you probably will already have. Here is what you will need, but to get the full recipe from The Physical Kitchness, click on the link below.
Click Here For The Full Recipe - By The Physical Kitchness
One of my guilty pleasures, is to veg out and watch MTV’s Catfish. I think in a previous life I was a private investigator, because all of the detective work behind every episode has my complete and utmost attention. The show also is extremely interesting to me because I try to understand the “why” - it makes me wonder why people do it.
Well never ever did I think it would ever happen to me. Let me preface and say, that I have not dated as much in my 31 years as I did last year. This is just one of the crazy stories that I now can proudly tell. Here is my story… (**names have been changed).
I remember being in New York for work last year, and one of my dating apps went off. I’m not a huge fan of online dating, but I figured why not? This guy messaged me and simply said, “I’m moving to Seattle soon, and was wondering if you have any recommendations on where to live?” There was no innuendo on how “hot” I was or how he wanted to have “drinks that night”, so I politely obliged with a friendly well thought out response.
I got back to Seattle, and we messaged a little bit more every day. He was from Boston, lived in North Carolina, and was moving to Seattle in a few weeks. Harmless right?? Since I've moved a lot for work, this totally was feasible. He said his name was Oliver, and we really really got to know each other. Somehow responding was effortless and that equated to pages and pages of mutual responses. He told me how much he loved working out, how he loved traveling, and for some weird reason I felt like our souls were similar. HA.
I remember one night, I saw his age change on the site. (I've always been a little OCD with details.) It went from 26, to 27 (please hold the cougar jokes). I asked Oliver if it was his birthday, and he said “oh yea!” I asked him what he was doing to celebrate, and he told me he was traveling for work, so he was having wine in his hotel room. (*First red flag…what 27 year old male is going to celebrate with wine!?) Hmm ok. Interesting, but ok. We messaged all the time, and soon the two week mark hit. I wondered why he hadn’t asked me for my number. I’m never eager to give it out, but was anxious to finally talk to Oliver over the phone.
I’m not an aggressive girl, but one late night, as I was typing out a good night message, I decided to include my phone number at the end. Right after I sent my number, I decided that I had literally done nothing to stalk this guy and make sure that I was talking to the “Oliver” that I knew. I decided to take a cue from “Catfish”, and did a reverse google search of his images. The first image: nothing. Hmm, ok. The second image: led me to a Linked In profile of “Tyler Cordova”. I. SAT. AT. MY. COMPUTER. SCREEN. AND. MY. JAW. DROPPED. I’m not the girl that ever gets scared of silly things like being kidnapped, but this scared me. “Oliver” talked about “kidnapping me” when he came to Seattle. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I wanted JUSTICE.
I called one of my friends, Lisa, and it surprised me that many people today still don’t know what a Catfish is. I was determined to catch “Oliver” or whoever they were, red handed. WHOEVER IT WAS, MESSED WITH THE WRONG GIRL. Lisa and I were determined to figure out this puzzle. Who was I talking to? Did I know them? Why would anyone do this? I decided not to overreact, so I messaged Oliver the next day, and told him that I was in a computer lab at work all day. I included my email address at the end of the message. I figured that if he emailed me, I could figure out his IP address, and then I could figure out at least where he was emailing from (I did this when I was almost scammed by a Nigerian man when I was apartment hunting in London). That attempt was not fruitful, and he just sent me a message through the dating app. DAMN IT.
I couldn't hold back anymore. I messaged him and told him that there was a possibility he wasn’t who he said he was, and his response was “Can’t you just let yourself be happy??”. I finally told him, “Is the reason why you are not texting me or emailing me, is because you are Tyler Cordova?” The next thing I knew, his account was disabled.
My next instinct was to message Tyler Cordova, and let him know that his identity was being used. I also found him on Facebook and I decided to send him a message. Somehow Lisa and I found out that he worked at a gym in Boston, so she called his work number hoping to get ahold of him. No answer. No answer from either outlets. That same night Lisa called me at home. Now, Lisa never calls me. We don’t talk on the phone…it’s not how our friendship rolls. I answered, and she had some shocking news. Her sister worked with Tyler when she was in college, AND she now had access to his phone number. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?! Within a few hours I had Tyler Cordova’s cell phone number. That night I sent him a text. I just wanted to tell him who I was, and what someone was doing with his identity.
The next morning: NOTHING. If you received a text/Facebook message stating that someone stole your identity and is using it to online date, don’t you think you would respond?! I sure as hell would!!! But alas, I didn’t get a response. By noon, Lisa and I were at a loss for words. I decided to text Tyler one last time. Here was what I said, “I guess the reason you’re not texting me is because it really is you.” I then started to receive the most obscene text messages.
I still don’t know 100% who “Harry” is, but I firmly believe that Tyler and Harry are the same person.
Here is why I think that Tyler was actually “Harry”:
1. When his birthday changed on the dating app, the actual day was not listed on the app. I just noticed the age change. That date matched the exact birthday of Tyler Cordova’s Linked In (that I found at the very very bottom of the page). If someone is going to steal someone’s identity, they are not going to steal an exact birthday that is not visible on a dating site.
2. Tyler and Harry’s interests and passions aligned with each other. It seemed too seamless. It also allowed him to message me at all hours of the day.
3. Tyler was too defensive in the texts when I was trying to let him know that someone was compromising his identity. There was no thank you, no questions about the situation, but there sure was a lot of cursing.
I honestly think that Tyler chose the furthest place away from where he lived, was bored, and decided to have little fun. Little did he know that he would come across someone that would be so detail oriented, and detective minded, that he would get caught. I was cheated on once in my life, and never again. I just wish I could have seen Tyler’s face when I found his number and sent him that text message. :)
Here are a few links that are helpful, if you are trying to figure out if you are being catfished:
I hope you enjoyed this story, and hopefully will take some cue's from it as you enter the lovely world of online dating. Cheers. :)
It’s been a long while since I’ve dusted off the old iPad for something other than mindless Netlix marathons. Work has been insanity, along with preparing for the holiday’s, and preparing to take some much needed time off. I'm on a flight to LA right now, and with a couple of hours of peace (and wine) to myself, I thought I'd update. :)
I hope that you all had a FABULOUS holiday season, and an even more fabulous new year. IT’S 2016!!!!! With every new year comes a flood of resolutions, as well as a time to reflect on the momentous times in the past year that have helped you grow as a person.
If I had a list of moments or events that occurred in 2015, that have helped shape who I am as a person, they would be as follows:
1. I went on more dates than I have in my 30+ years of life combined.
2. I took a LOT of risks in my love life, work life, and friend life. I did everything for ME, and listened to my gut.
3. I exited the United States for a short time and visited Aruba, and quite a few times when I went to Vancouver, BC.
4. I got to see all 4 of my best friends in the same year! This never happens (one lives in Hawaii, another in Atlanta, and two more in California).
5. I got the most flattering compliment of my career, and I got to go to NYC twice for work, and to Vancouver BC.
6. I gave someone my heart, which in return was given back to me shattered. In hindsight, he was not what I wanted in a man.
7. I let a stranger come visit me from across the country (there’s more to that story haha).
8. I got catfished (don’t worry…I’ll write about how to catch one).
Last year, I did not make any resolutions. I thought (and still think) they are quite silly. I do, however, believe in bettering yourself. Therefore, I’m making a list of what I want to accomplish this year…and if I must say, I think this year is going to be lucky. Historically my odd aged years (I’m 31) were some of the best years of my life. But only time will tell.
Here is what I would like to accomplish in 2016:
1. Leave the country and travel. (I’m already on this one ;) )
2. Get promoted at work.
3. Learn to cook more, and learn to do so more healthily.
4. Volunteer 1-2 times per month.
5. Workout at least 4 days a week, and invest in my body.
6. Try to live more in the moment…especially if that means putting my smart devices away.
7. Forgive people who have hurt me in the past.
8. Write more.
Reflection is really important to me, and who I am as a person. It helps me navigate future situations and helps me support the decisions made from my gut. It also helps me realize to trust myself, and reassures me that I made the best decision for myself at the time. Thus, no regrets. There are few (if any) situations or decisions I would change in my life.
I was a little humored when I visited my hometown in Northern California over Christmas. So many of my relatives, and friends of relatives commented how great my life was. Amazing career, beautiful apartment in a picturesque city, and a super positive outlook on life. What they haven’t seen was the depression I battled, suicidal thoughts I’ve had, the numerous times I’ve had to choke back tears, and just the major feelings of loneliness I’ve felt. My life is far from perfect, but on the surface no one really see’s that. The best quote that I can really relate to is “Be kind, for every person is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” This is why you’ll see my smile to a stranger, even if I feel like my life is falling apart.
I've made a promise to never settle for anything in this life, and as I get older it's been easier to abandon a path (or a friend) if I feel like it doesn't complement my life.
Anyways, cheers to a new year, new goals, and new perspectives! I hope 2016 is amazing for you, as I know it will be for me! :)
With my crazy work schedule under control, I finally had time to finish up my list of things you must do in Aruba. While my experiences there will be unique to me, there are a lot of things that you can take away from what I have done.
Above all, no matter what you are doing, relax, enjoy yourself, and have fun!
7. CONVINCE THE LOCALS THAT YOU ARE A NATIVE.
This is my ultimate goal no matter where I travel. How can I seamlessly turn into a chameleon, and convince the native inhabitants that I legitimately belong there? I am lucky to have been blessed with features that could represent most ethnicities (except for Sweden when I was the only brunette in the country), but not knowing every language that exists can make it hard. As we were driving through the Happy Island, while the sun scorched down on land that has both cacti vegetation and beach elements, we decided to stop off at a local bar that seemed to have a lot of charm. Please note that we did not go here for an afternoon rager, but rather wanted to experience the patronage of this local watering hole. We sat down, were given a menu and a warm smile, and were left alone for a few minutes while the bartender played some Arubian dance music, which were sourced from his tiny little computer in the corner that was playing YouTube videos.
He finally came over to take our drink order, and started speaking some crazy language (Papiamento) to us. It sounded so foreign, yet so familiar, and we could not help but laugh. For a second I thought he was trying to speak English, but had a strange accent that had an enunciation we were not used to. After what sounded like a minute of pure gibberish, we smiled at each other and told him that we did not understand a word of what he said. He then started speaking English, immediately changed his YouTube video selection to Pharrell's "Happy", and told us how thrilled he was to be speaking to Americans. We ordered a couple of local beers and clanked our bottles to yet another successful chameleon moment.
8. EXPERIENCE THE NIGHTLIFE, BUT WATCH YOUR DRINKS - ROOFIES ARE A REALITY.
In Aruba we were not party animals, we were sweaty animals. The temperature and humidity did not make it appealing to get wasted, only to be left with a sweaty hangover and an upset stomach. We did, however, believe that experiencing the nightlife in Aruba was important, as we wanted to get a feel for the ambiance of the island at night. We decided to go to one of the nightclubs on the island called Gusto. Gusto was a very interesting place. It had the aesthetic feel of a Vegas nightclub, the charm of a local hole in the wall bar, and an eclectic group of people that were drawn to it (with the age range from about 21-78). Nevertheless, we enjoyed it, AND most importantly it had air conditioning.
We had gone to Gusto once before, and we had decided to experience it one more time before we left. The bartenders there were Dutch (you'll find this at a lot of places on the Island), and also very funny, charming, and aggressive. At one point I had been invited into a threesome, but I awkwardly and nervously laughed it off. ANYWAYS....back to the last night we were there. It was around 2AM, and we had had a couple of drinks, I was given a free shot from the bartender that made me a little uncomfortable with his intense flirting, and we decided that it was time to go back to our apartment and get some rest. That night was one of the worst nights of my life. I woke up at around 4AM, and would not stop throwing up. The uncontrollable vomit and the worst stomach pains of my life did not stop. When my body ran out of food and drink to throw up, I just continued to dry heave. I didn't know what to do, and putting the cold tile floor in the bathroom against my face and body was the only thing that comforted me.
I remember laying there for hours praying. Praying to either let me die from this excruciating pain, or to help me feel just an ounce better. Jenny woke up around 9AM, as soon as I crawled back into our bed. She stood there looking confused at me, and asked me how we got home that night, and if If I had changed her into her pajamas. With my puzzled look, she told me she did not remember anything after leaving the bar. I then realized someone had put something in our drinks. Jenny told me this was unlike me (especially with that day being the last full day on the island - I rarely waste a moment while traveling, even if I am sick). She tried to do some "Mexican Magic" on me...something that involved wet towels and stomach voodoo. I am thankful for friends who are amazing as her, and are willing to do anything to get me to feel better. Getting through that day will be something that I will never forget, and I am not sure how I was able to literally pull myself up off the floor and enjoy my last day.
9. DON’T PACK MAXI DRESSES, LONG SKIRTS, OR ANYTHING THAT RESEMBLES AMISH ATTIRE.
I don't typically like tropical destinations, as they usually involve immobility, sand, and lack excitement and experiences (I know that is debatable). Life had recently become crazier than usual, and I suddenly craved being on a beach and basking in the sun. I basically needed to do nothing but relax and get my tan on. I had loved the Caribbean Islands that I had visited on a cruise, but I always swore that if I went back to any of them I would stay on the Island instead of just a few hours. Aruba always sounded so exotic to me (thanks Beach Boys), and after I impulsively booked a flight, I was on my way to paradise. Beach vacations are hard to pack for, but the casual aspect made it a bit easier. Bathing suits, cotton dresses, soft shorts, and gladiator sandals took up most of my suitcase. I was also excited for (what I thought would be) cooler nights, so I packed a few maxi skirts and maxi dresses. Upon arrival to Aruba (A.K.A. the inferno - see my previous post), I was a little nervous about what I had packed, but I thought it would be just fine.
Walking to the beach from our apartment, we dripped sweat - and I'm not talking about a light sweat; it was a rolling stream down my back and cleavage. This is one of my worst nightmares. The night I decided to wear a maxi skirt was on the Kuku Kunukoo bus (on my previous post) - which was barely a maxi skirt because 1. it had a black mini skirt underneath it, and 2. it was a very breathable, light woven fabric, with slits up both sides. The decision to wear that skirt on that bus, was worse than the one time I decided to pet a horses butt (don't do this EVER). The fact that I started out with sweat gleaming from my upper lip, was the beginning of a regretful night. After that, we packed up any clothing that remotely covered our bodies (except for the sweatshirt I had to wear at night because of the mini Antarctica that Jenny turned our room into), and I was no longer embarrassed to wear my swim shorts around the island.
10. BE WILLING TO TRY THE SKETCHIEST RESTAURANTS, INCLUDING FOOD TRUCKS.
I've made some pretty questionable travel decisions in my life (and I'm sure many more will come), ranging from trying a witchcraft concoction from a woman in Buenos Aires, to shaved corn from street vendors in some of the sketchiest parts of Rio De Janeiro. My parents say I trust too many people, but fear will never rule my decisions, and the experience and adventure of it all is 100% worth it. Anyway, back to Aruba. On the walk to our local apartment one night, we noticed this food truck (with a really creepy picture of a man and a giant burger on the side of it), that was packed. People surrounded its four corners, and that definitely piqued our interest. We laughed, as it stood out in the dirt driveway of someones house, literally next to a retail store with a neon sign called "Sextasy". We actually passed it many times before we even entertained the idea to stop and try it.
When we finally had 4 wheels and were able to explore more of the island, we decided that authentic Arubian food needed to be found. The woman whom we rented the jeep from, told us about this place called "Red Fish". After about an hour of trying to remember and decipher the directions she gave us, we found the restaurant on a desolate highway road. This was our favorite sit down restaurant on the island. It was extremely authentic, fresh and delicious, and exactly what we were looking for.
11. VISIT THE LOCAL GROCERY STORE, RENT A TOPLESS JEEP, AND MAKE TURNS BASED ON YOUR INTUITION.
High on my list of things to try in a new country is to rent a car and just drive. After renting many cars in many countries, we had decided that we were going to rent a topless jeep. I knew that it would not be as eventful as renting a car in Ireland, and having to drive on the other side of the road, while I tried to put on the blinker sign and the windshield wipers would go off. We primarily rented a car in order to go to the orphanage (see the previous post), but we decided to keep it for a few days in order to explore other parts of the island.
We didn't have GPS, so for a short time we would base our right and left turns on our intuition. Many times we would hit a dead end road, laugh hysterically, and turn right back around.
Luckily we had rented the jeep for a few days. We didn't anticipate the heat and humidity that felt like we were going to get skin cancer within 5 mins of sun exposure. One of the first excursions in our jeep was to get McDonalds. It's such an American thing to do, but I've gotten McDonalds in every country that I have visited. I've experienced Shrimp Burgers in Greece, and a Magnum McFlurry in Portugal. Therefore I had to experience the McNifica in Aruba. I don't ever expect it to be gourmet, or the most amazing food I've ever eaten. I think I just like to benchmark something familiar that I've grown up with, and how it's adaptable in other parts of the world.
One of my other favorite things to do when I am in a new place is to go to the grocery store. It was one of my favorite experiences when I was living in Florence, and no matter the destination, I make it a priority. In Aruba there were not tons of options. There was a small supermercado near where we were staying, but the flies that surrounded the fruit and meat section were not appealing. We heard there was a large "American Grocery Store" within driving distance so we decided to go. Super Food was a mecca, and nationalities from all around the world were there buying pallets of yogurt, Kind Bars, and fresh fruit. The foreign voices and packed aisles of grocery carts made me smile uncontrollably.
One place on my bucketlist during our road trip was Baby Beach. I had read many reviews and blog posts about one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Baby Beach is a man made lagoon, and is called "Baby Beach" because of the lack of waves and it's shallow water. It is calm and safe enough for even very small children. We were there for a few hours, as we enjoyed the white sand and clear blue water. We then got back in our sweltering topless jeep, and drove around the rest of the island.
SIDE NOTE: When we picked up our jeep, the woman who helped us told us that we should keep the top on between the hours of 10 and 2, because of the extreme heat on the island. Being the non-conformists that we are, we took it off, found that she was right and it was sweltering, tried to put the top back on, only to find out that we couldn't put it back on. Needless to say, we drove around in our bathing suits the rest of the day.
Although our trip to Aruba had many ups and downs, it was quite the experience. No regrets, and another pin added to the map. It's been real Aruba, but I love not being sweaty! :)
Well I've already prefaced how uncomfortable and excruciating the sun was in Aruba, and while I had an amazing trip I definitely was appreciative of the cooler climate that welcomed me back in Seattle. When I am researching a destination, I always want to know what I should do, where I should visit, and what I should try (whether it is food or an adventure). Therefore, I wanted to create a list of things that you should do (or not do) if you should visit this "Happy Island". Some might reiterate what I said in my previous post, but I am going to elaborate more on what I experienced.
1. PACK HEAVY DUTY SUNSCREEN LIKE YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER DANTE'S INFERNO.
-->I'm not a fan of sunscreen, and I typically pack carrot or coconut oil for a beach trip, but trust me when I say that the Arubian heat is not just hot, it's fucking SEARING. It is so unbearable, that within 10 minutes of exposure to the sun, you are sure you have gotten skin cancer. Our biggest rookie mistake was to not pack strong sunscreen, and we ended up paying a pretty penny for SPF 50.
-->One more thing... if you're a sweetner lover like myself (i.e. sweet n low or equal) - yes I'm one of those horrible people, then make sure you pick some up in the last American airport (probably Starbucks) that you are at before getting to Aruba.
3. GROW UP AND STOP USING HOSTEL WORLD (LE SIGH), AND GIVE IN TO AIRBNB TO BOOK ACCOMMODATIONS.
I was excited that I got to pop my AirBnB cherry, and use the site for this trip! Being obsessed with Hostel World throughout college, it was very refreshing and exhilarating to try something new. I knew from past travels that I wanted to stay in an apartment vs. a hotel, and that I wanted it to be semi close to the beach, but not adjacent to the tourists. I also wanted to stay in a place that was closer to the locals.
4. DON'T BE AN EBENEZER SCROOGE.
While I was looking what you must see and do when in Aruba, I came across a couple of orphanages and the people that had gone to visit them. I knew I needed to add this to the list. Please note: I am not obsessed with kids, am not even sure about having them, but knowing there are kids out there that didn't grow up with the luxuries that I had breaks my heart.
There were two orphanages on the island - Casa Cuna is for ages 0-8, and Imeldahoff is for ages 8-teen. Children are placed there by the state because they cannot live at home anymore (whether it is from physical or sexual abuse). Before we left the states we each made a small area in our suitcase that would be dedicated to clean clothes, and toys dedicated to learning and fun. I literally had to SIT on my suitcase in order to get everything I wanted to bring in there.
We decided to go to Casa Cuna on the Tuesday that we were there (I had called the previous week when we were in the states), and getting there was like finding a needle in a haystack.
Luckily we had mapped out every street and turn, because the Arubian people made it very difficult to find these kids. I guess that's a good thing?
Here is also the link to other ways you can help around the Island: http://www.togetherforgood.org/.
5. DO THE KUKOO KUNUKU TOUR...EVEN IF YOU HAVE SWEAT ON YOUR UPPER LIP THE ENTIRE TIME.
This by far was the favorite thing I did in Aruba. A friend of mine from NYC that had recently been there, and suggested that we do this while on the Island, so we looked into it. You had your choice of 4 tours:
As everyone got on the bus...we all had our maraca's (that they told us not to break them, but of course I did...)
The tour included stops at 4 bars, in which you have time to mingle, as well as get drinks and shots at a discounted price. There is also a welcome shot at every bar, and you get a "shot necklace" when you first board the bus. I must have broken this necklace at least 4 times.
They also offer these "sippy cups" for $5, which not only allows you to drink on the bus, but prevents the crazy drunks from spilling drinks all over your already sweaty body. Of course we had no cash or debit cards on us to buy some sippy cups, but we met a couple from Jersey that got us some cups in exchange for some shots. Our alcoholic angels <3
Our bus driver, Jaime was A. PARTY. ANIMAL. Not only were his stripper moves on par, but his eclectic mix of genres and karaoke skills took the cake.
The bus was not complete without a few lap dances...as well as the older creeper
watching every move we made.
While we all begged and begged and BEGGED for Jamie to take us to one more bar, he could not. Therefore he put on Kokomo by the Beach Boys, and let it sink in that the most fabulous night in Aruba was about to end.
For more info on the Kukoo Kunuku click here.
6. FIND AN ARUBIAN MAN AND TELL HIM HE'S BEAUTIFUL.
Because well, who doesn't like a compliment?! I met him at the last bar of the tour, and my first question was, "So, do you like Aruba...Oh you do? Ummm ok. Great, here put on this hat...Oh and I wanted to tell you that you very beautiful. Bye!"
*if you ever meet me in person, you know that sometimes my awkwardness crosses with whatever comes to my mind at that moment...and you'll never know what you'll get. :)
That's all I have at the moment, but I do have a ton more tips and pictures, so a part 2 will be coming soon!
Fathers Day is today, and as I was shopping for the perfect Hallmark card I figured I would dedicate a post to one of the greatest men I will ever know: my dad.
Family has always been important to me (moreso as I get older), but one thing always remains stagnant, my dads love and support for me. Let me first make it clear that I do not call my dad "dad". When my sister and I were younger my dad called us his little "dudettes". Therefore I have and will always call him "Dude". It confused my step cousin (she thought he was my moms boyfriend), but everyone has acclimated to this interesting word, and most of my friends call him Dude as well.
Anyways, on with the reason behind this post. I stick out of my family like a sore thumb...I'm in the fashion industry, and my entire family is in the agriculture business. I love big cities, they despise them. I'm obsessed with the world and travel, and they are pretty content with my small hometown. It's pretty interesting, and more often than not I feel like a black sheep.
Growing up I was a SUPER shy kid. So shy that my kindergarten teacher thought I was a foreign exchange student from France (I was named Dominique after my great grandfather Dominic). I was shy all throughout school and well into college. When I was a sophomore in high school my parents asked me if I wanted to go on a Summer Europe Trip with my high school...a trip that I didn't know would forever change my life. The trip spanned 5 countries in one short month.
Now let's be clear...I never traveled much as a kid. Our family vacations surrounded my home state of California, with trips to Vegas, Arizona, and Southern California. I remember begging for us to go a little further, to Portland or Seattle, but the begging was never very fruitful (please note my skills of persuasion have gotten significantly better).
After that trip to Europe, I was bitten by the travel bug, and the idea that other cultures and some of the most beautiful places on this earth were just a short plane ride away. I knew study abroad was in my future.
I wanted to go to college on the East Coast, specifically in Connecticut. My parents were absolutely not for this idea, and since I was only 17 I reluctantly agreed to stay in the state. The one glimmer of hope that I received was the promise that if I did stay in the state, I could study abroad. My junior year of college came and I convinced my parents that a study abroad program in Italy was something that would benefit my career. After hours of reviewing brochures with them (and begging), they agreed.
I got to Florence January of 2006, and by March I had convinced my parents that they MUST visit me. After finding out my boyfriend back in CA cheated on me, this was the most amazing news I could have ever received. My dad told me that they booked their plane tickets, but that we would book hotels as we traveled through Italy. I am not the type of person that "plays by ear", especially when it involves accommodation- not only is it cheaper to book in advance, but it also serves as a great piece of mind.
This was mom and dudes first time out of the country (excluding Mexico because that doesn't count in my book). I remember my mom calling me as I anxiously waited for them to arrive, and she clearly said on the phone, "I couldn't get on the plane...we aren't coming." My heart dropped, and then she said. "Just kidding, we are in Frankfurt." NOT THE TIME TO JOKE MOM. NOT THE TIME.
Anyways, their trip to Italy was amazing. My dad drove like he was an Italian race car driver on our way to Milan, Rome, and throughout Florence. Some of the days that I had school they ventured to Venice and Assisi. In Rome my mom wanted to take a taxi everywhere, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon. My dad and I agreed to lie to her and tell her that everything was in short walking distance. I mean who goes to Rome to see things out of a taxi window...especially when there are gelato places and enchanting Italian cobbled streets? My dad and I were on the same page - explore as much as possible, and inhale the beauty of our ancestors. Needless to say, my mom found out and was not very happy with us.
I loved sharing with them my experiences there. Both of my parents have relatives in Italy (my mom- Caprille, and my dad- Lucca). We got to meet them, and have Easter with them. I really feel like this experience ignited something within them, especially within my dad.
Since that trip to Italy, it has opened my dad's eyes to the world. I think it showed him that nothing is impossible, and all it takes is just a little planning and a touch of persistence.
I've undoubtedly got my sense of humor from Dude, unafraid to be silly in front of strangers, and sometimes having the worst timing...but hey, that's life. My friends can attest that sometimes my bursts of laughter are inappropriate and sometimes uncalled for, but I'd rather not take things so seriously.
When I got a job in Wisconsin, he didn't question that he was going to fly with me and help me find an apartment and a car (my poor Jetta wouldn't make it in the snow). After hours of looking at apartments, I let him drive through the countryside. We even stopped at a random farm and got a tour of a beautiful red barn. I knew this made him happy, and it made me happy knowing that. Life is about those little compromises. He wasn't even a bit upset when my sister and I tricked him and said I needed to go to IKEA...when we knew IKEA was really close to Chicago, and he wouldn't be able to resist being so close and not seeing it. He may be a little more country, but he loved Chicago. :)
Living in Wisconsin, my family- and especially Dude, loved visiting. While I personally needed a little more city in my life, I've always appreciated where I came from. I remember one particular visit (maybe it was their 5th or 6th time in Wisconsin) - I wanted to do something different. You can only do so much in the Milwaukee area, so at breakfast I suggested we drive to Nashville. We all loved country music, and it was a 9-10 hour drive - totally doable in the 5 days they were visiting. With a lot of persistence and persuasion, and the mention of the Grand Ole Opry, we were off to Nashville. I knew once I got my dad behind my crazy idea, everyone else would be on board. To this day, everyone in my family still talks about that crazy random road trip. These are the moments I live for.
While I was in Milwaukee, my dad decided that we were due for a family vacation. When my dad threw out two ideas, I almost choked - road trip across the US or take a cruise to the Caribbean. WAIT, WHAT? DID I CREATE A MONSTER?! We ended up going on a cruise in the Caribbean and visited 3 islands. When it came to excursions, my dads eyes lit up with excitement, and really reminded me of myself - wanting to experience everything the islands had to offer. We swam with the dolphins, did tours of the islands, and just enjoyed each others company. My dads permanent smile and excitement on this trip made my heart so happy. I even got him to zip line at the top of the cruise ship.
I enjoyed sharing my passion for the world and other cultures with them. Seeing my dad continuously smile, laugh, and experience adventure made this family vacation an absolute dream.
When I found out I had gotten a job in Seattle, I knew I wanted to drive from Milwaukee. I mean when else was I going to drive across the middle of the country? I was going to do it whether or not anyone wanted to join. My dad was the first (and only volunteer). He flew to Milwaukee, and we drove to the Mall of America, The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Yellowstone. I had such a great time with him, and to this day Dude still talks about our adventures. When we started the road trip, he told me that this was the longest time away from my mom that he has ever spent. I never take things like this for granted. My heart is full knowing that somehow this great man became my father, and that he is always there for me.
I turned the big 3-0 last year, and the last thing I wanted to do was have a big party - but my parents insisted. that they throw me a party complete with an "Around The World" theme. I think the theme was 99% of the reason I agreed to have one. Now, I have never seen my dad dress up (even though my moms birthday is on Halloween), but he was 100% on board with dressing up as a "Cruise Ship Cruiser", with my mom. I had to take pictures because I am not sure if it will ever happen again. It meant a lot to me that he would do something like that for me.
Having a father like him is one of the greatest blessings of my life. He has not only taught me the most valuable things in life, he taught me to be true to myself and to never forget where I came from. He taught me how to make people smile, how to be goofy (and most of the time childish), and was always up for any adventure I threw at him. He has supported my craziest dreams (believe me, I've had a lot), and was always willing to help me see different perspectives of a situation. There are not enough words to describe how important he is, and will always be.
Bellisima = "Extremely Beautiful" in Italian, and how i would describe the world, and how I view it through travel.