Category Archives: Female Travel

Narita, Japan

The most beautiful thing about travel, to me, is that it lends itself to you in such transformative ways. It opens these doors that you didn’t know existed, not only in the literal sense but in your mind and your soul. It allows you to have moments of complete and total clarity, unclouded by the chaos that surrounds you.

I just spent the last month in Japan, traveling the country alone and taking in as much of the sights and sounds and culture as physically possible.

On my first full day in Japan, I was anxious to see. I was anxious to get out and explore, so I asked the front desk where the closest shrine was and they pointed me in the direction of Shinso-Ji Temple in Narita, a 4 minute walk from where I stayed.

Since my body wasn’t used to the time change yet, I was at the temple at around 6:30 in the morning and I recommend going at that time to anyone.

15780685_10155642135718135_2241508707125870656_n

It is so peaceful and gives off such serenity that I was taken aback. I was alone, walking amongst these buildings and gardens that were hundreds of years old. The mist of the morning was clouding these pagodas that are so brightly colored and rich.

There were so many moments where I would just stop and stare for minutes on end, transfixed by the history and unable to grasp how many thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life had stood where I was standing, in awe of the same unmoving and unchanging building.

As the morning ticked on, I became more aware of people around me, bustling through the park to get to their job or gliding lazily through on a morning stroll, a couple visiting from South Korea who couldn’t seem to stop smiling and a pair of friends from Vietnam who wanted nothing more than to practice their English with me.

About the time I decided to head back to my lodgings, a processions of brightly colored monks made their way through the main gardens, accompanied by a loud drum and a ringing triangle. I obviously followed as we made our way to the main building.

15781550_10155642135623135_6997755831028819612_nThere, they began a ceremony, at least that’s what I’m assuming from what I gathered from context clues. A fire was lit, chanting began, and those watching with me began bowing at specific times. I was overcome with emotion. Here I was, a girl on her first day of travel alone in a country she knows little to nothing about and the universe was rewarding me with this abundantly beautiful showcase of culture and religion.

As I sat silently crying, thanking anything and everything that would listen, I watched as those around me; travelers, couples, children, families, and businessmen alike come together for a brief moment in time. The deafening drum beat became our pulse and the chanting monks transfixed our hearts. And then, with 3 sharp blasts to the giant drum, it was over.

I sat stunned for a few moments, as those around me clamored to get up quickly. I didn’t know where to go from there. It was my first day of travel, alone, and I had witnessed more than I thought I was going to see in an entire month.

How lucky I am.

Advertisements

Bahamas Cruisin’

This past week I had the awesome, and somewhat unexpected, chance to go on a cruise to the Bahamas for my and my best friend’s birthday. We’re about a week apart so we tend to cluster our birthdays together to make the most of it.

We left out of Port Canaveral, Florida and boarded Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. My friend, Drew, and I shared a room while the two couples we were with shared rooms as well. There was 6 of us and we were excited for what was to come.

Now, I’ve cruised before but on Carnival and I feel like the experience was completely different. When I cruised with Carnival, I left out of Tampa and went to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I also had gone with my best friend and we were much more focused on excursions and seeing as much as possible.

This time, not so much. We had booked the cruise about 3 weeks before departure date so our budgets were a little limited and we were more focused on drinking.

Royal Caribbean offers an amazing deal where you pay one solid price at the beginning of the cruise and you can drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) as much as your heart desires. We opted for the Premium Package which cost us about $239 for a 4 night cruise. When you think about it, each drink normally costs about $10-15, so in order for the package to pay for itself you needed to drink 15-18 drinks over the course of 5 days which is 3 a day. That’s child’s play.

Needless to say, we drank our share of the package within the first 48 hours.

Drew and I stayed in a Large Oceanview Stateroom and we were on the 3rd floor near the front of the ship. The room itself was awesome, a King sized bed, desk and couch, and the bathroom was a decent size.

I would recommend staying near the center of the ship if possible, though. The anchor noise woke us up every time it was deployed and sometimes the rocking of the boat could be felt a bit more than we would have liked.

Nassau

Our first stop was Nassau which was beautiful. It was like any other port city with it’s bustling stores, taxi drivers who swear they’re the best priced, cruisers who are a bit too sunburnt from their day at sea and loud beach bars.

We stopped in Senor Frogs and stayed there for a few hours but quickly realized that there was “free” alcohol on the ship and made our way back for a couple hours.

This particular sailing we were scheduled to be in Nassau from 8am until Midnight so we had more than ample time to explore.

After a few drinks, I decided I wanted to see more than just the port city and since it was only 2pm, I decided to strike out on my own and take a scooter ride around the city. I was offered an awesome deal with a man named Charles who was missing at least 6 teeth but was as harmless as a gnat.

I paid $10 for a two hour ride around Nassau and saw everything from the Atlantis-style mega resort at the end of the island to the lesser known ghettos surrounding the outskirts of the city. Charles made sure to point out every single man that could sell us pot. Although it’s not my thing, it was funny to hear him say “There’s soandso, he get you a good deal. Let’s roll up, sweetie” at least 7 times.

I tipped him a few bucks and made my way back to the boat since I hadn’t seen any of my friends in a few hours. I met back up with Drew and we proceeded to drink the day away on the much less crowded pool deck.

After dinner, our group of 6 went back out to Senor Frogs for one last hurrah before the boat set sail.

Cococay

The next day was Cococay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. It’s a tendered port, so you have to get onto another boat to get to the island but it’s only a 5 minute ride either way.

Once on the island, your drink and food packages still apply which is so incredibly convenient, so no having to worry about extra cash.

The island itself has so many things to do and so many places to escape the mass amounts of people that constantly surround you. I HIGHLY recommend going to Barefoot Beach, it’s a little out of the way but there is absolutely no one there and the bar is usually empty, so drinks come out pretty damn quick. If you’re looking for a little solitude, Barefoot Beach is the way to go.

Back on the boat, it’s a ghost town when you’re docked at Cococay because a majority of people are laying out on the beach or on an excursion. Although a lot of the bars were closed because the workers have to go to the island, it’s still a nice time to get away from people and just relax.

The last night on the boat we went to the Viking Crown Lounge where we were surrounded by all of the friends we had made over the past week. It was a nice last farewell and great to meet so many different people from all walks of life.

I had such an amazing time and I would do it again in a heartbeat, in fact, I think I might start planning another one now ;).

Seat Guru: My New Best Friend

My dad was in the Air Force for almost 25 years and did more traveling than I could ever dream of. He was off every week to some far away land, bringing back only small magnets or chocolate bars to satisfy my thirst for wanderment.

I’ve recently started as a Travel Writer/Marketing Director/Travel Representative and I was looking for some ideas for articles. My dad brought up this website that seemed like perfection; SeatGuru.

What it is, essentially, is a super in depth seat map that allows you to not only look at the airplane you’ll be taking on each specific flight but which seats recline the most, which seats don’t recline at all, which lay down beds have the most leg room, which exit row seat is the best, etc., etc.

It’s fantastic.

I’m not really picky about my seats, as long as they’re not middle seats, but I’m tall. I’m 5’9, which might not seem all that tall, but I’m all leg. So sitting in a confined seat with my knees in my chest for 8 hours isn’t always ideal. This helps me identify which seats recline a little bit more or have the most legroom so I can actually relax.

There’s was one flight that I took with my mom and we were flying from London-Heathrow to Philadelphia and I remember we literally had the best seats ever. Our flight wasn’t full and we had the exit row. In addition, no one else sat on our row for the flight. The way the airplane was set up was that the first exit row had two seats and the exit row behind it had three (which we were in) so we had even MORE legroom.

It was the best flight ever.

So all I’m saying is give it a look if you’re really picky about where you sit or how much room you’ll have,; SeatGuru is super informative.

Traveling As An Overweight Female

This is probably going to be one of the hardest posts I’ll ever write but I think that it needs to be talked about.

I’m not skinny, I never have been, I’m not making excuses for it either but I don’t let my weight interfere with my passion for traveling.walkingintikal

What I really want to address is how to travel as an overweight female. Little things that most people might not think about like; worrying if I had reached the maximum weight limit for ziplining in Costa Rica, the embarrassment of not being able to buy any kind of boots in Italy because my calves were just a bit too big or even having to almost over plan what you’re packing to go to the jungle because you know it will be hotter than Hades but you’re self conscious about the way your arms look in tank tops.

This will not be a self-depricating post. This will not be a pity party. This will be about how to empower not only myself but hopefully find other women who experience the same things.

Let’s begin with pre-trip. Packing is a bitch.

There’s always the “what do I want to wear?” question but sometimes I find myself double guessing my choices because of how I will look. I want to wear things that make the most sense like tank tops in tropical climates but sometimes I find myself putting in t-shirts instead because I’m self conscious about my arms. I’ll pack capris or even pants instead of shorts because I’m not ready to show the world my legs. I’ve found that in a way, I’ve stopped caring. I have to embrace how I look and how I’ll look in the things that I pack. I need to be comfortable and if that means I have to be uncomfortable about the way that I look a little bit, then maybe that’s okay.

Besides packing, there’s the actual flight itself. In all reality, airlines sell you 27″ of seat space, that’s all you get. So if your hips are a little bigger and you’re slightly pushing into the seat next to you, that’s not really their problem but rather, your super uncomfortable one instead.

I’m not hugely overweight by any means but I’ve noticed, especially as a female, that I get judged. Constantly. I’m not the norm of what people perceive travelers to look like. I defy that norm. Proudly. But there’s always that defeated feeling that comes along with traveling.487367_10151301257193222_2019882356_n

Every time I plan a trip, I always make a goal to lose weight before but it’s not always easy. I work a full time job, I write, I go to school and I try to maintain a blog. No, there are no excuses but I feel as though I go into the trip excited about the possibilities but sad that I didn’t reach the weight goal I had set myself. I’m sure we’ve all been there. “I want to lose 10 pounds by my cruise” or “I’m studying abroad for 3 months and I want to be super skinny!” But when departure date arrives, we’re not as close as we had hoped we would be. And to that, you kind of have to brush it aside and realize that we have all been there. And it’s okay. You’ll still have a great trip.

993337_10152125797348135_1286637229_nIt’s not so much the big things when it comes to traveling as an overweight female but it’s the culmination of little things that seem to fester. On my most recent trip to Belize, we climbed ruins. A LOT of ruins. Ruins that were 50 stories tall and ruins that had more stairs than I could count. Of course, wanting to experience the view from the top, I climbed them all. But I could feel myself trying to prevent myself from breathing hard because I didn’t want people to think I was that out of shape. Granted, even the skinny mini’s were huffing and puffing but I felt like there was a stigma because of my weight. People expected me to huff and puff. Which, looking back, wasn’t true at all. We were all just happy to get to the top.

But here’s the thing. They’re not judging me. They’re more focused on not falling off the ruin, not dying, on just being able to breathe. So this silliness about everyone staring at me is just nonsense. But it’s hard to push those thoughts away.

Now, the epitome of uncomfortable. The bathing suit.
I love going to the beach. Absolutely love it, but I loathe having to wear something that makes me feel like I’m constantly having to suck in or wear extra layers or whatever. Luckily, I’ve found a suit that makes me feel awesome. I’m totally happy with my body in it and I’m not always so worried about how I look. swimsuit

But, it’s not always that easy. So here’s my advice. Find a suit that you feel stellar in. I know it will take some time to find and you’ll have to battle those fitting room demons but just do it. Don’t be afraid to go a size up. Don’t be afraid to try something on that you don’t think will look good. To be honest, the suit I love is one that my mom picked out and I literally made a face at her for picking it up. Shows how much I know.

No matter what, try to love the body you’re in. I know it’s not always easy and sometimes it’s just downright hard but I promise you that you’ll be so busy on your trip, it won’t really matter.

I know that someday I will be comfortable in my own skin and I’ll be able to take on the world headfirst but until then, I’m completely content with having a few reservations. I know I’m not the skinniest, nor will I ever be, but I’m happy with who I am. And that’s all that should matter.

Creating The Perfect Playlist For Your Trip

I like to think of myself as knowledgeable when it comes to different genres of music and truth be told, I’m an absolute music junkie but sometimes when I’m getting ready for a trip and I’m loading my iPod up, I have no idea what to put on there. Country? Too twangy. Rap? Too much. Classical? Too soft.

What I’ve realized is that your playlist almost decides what kind of trip you’re about to embark on and that it can make the getaway that much better if done properly.

Like when I went to Ireland, I had an iPod Shuffleand loaded it up with Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, classic Irish music and some lighter country. It was perfect. Those long drives through the rolling green hills was almost like a movie with the music behind it. Looking back on that trip, I was very contemplative, very in the now, very centered. I recommend “Love, Love, Love” by Of Monsters and Men as well as their song “Lakehouse”. The Civil Wars have a creepy, hauntingly beautiful sound that adds so much character to the sights you’ll visit.

On the same token, while in Belize I took a lot of newer alternative-y, pop-y, rock. Think Imagine Dragons, Kate Herzig, and the like. I also took a lot of beach music with songs from Bob Marley, Jimmy Buffet, Kenny Chesney’s later stuff such as “Pirate Flag”. The trip had more of a laid back feel but also felt more upbeat thinking back.

Getting ready for my trip in less than a month I’m racking my brain and scouring Pandora to find some new and interesting songs that really catch my attention. Right now I’m attracted to the Imagine Dragons radio as well as Radical Face radio. The song that’s currently on repeat is Gustavo Santaolalla’s “Motorcycle Diaries”.

I think the playlist is a crucial item in your packing list and I’m always open for ideas on new songs as well as new adventures.

Ear Pain on Long Flights? Me too.

I’ve always had terrible ear problems; I’ve had tubes in my ears, too many ear infections to count and I blew my eardrum on a transcontinental flight last summer (no bueno). Needless to say, as much as I truly love flying, I hate my ears on flights.

On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I was wasting time in the airport and saw a small package that offered relief for built up pressure on long plane rides. I figured I would give it a try and boy howdy am I glad I did.

You put them in your ears 10 minutes before take off and take them out once you’ve reached altitude then you put them back in on the descent and take them out as soon as you land.

I can safely say I had no pain the entire flight. Not only that, but they are noise cancelling so the crying baby two rows behind you who is feeling your pain (literally) is nothing but a soft whisper. Fabulous.

I use Conair EarPlanes and love them.

HIGHLY recommended.

Fervor.

My true passion in life has always been traveling.

It doesn’t matter how small or large. A midnight roadtrip to see snow, a transatlantic to the Emerald Isle, an empty flight to see Mayan ruins.

DSC00250

I’ve always had this intense feeling of wanderlust that I usually can’t put into words. It’s this pushing feeling against my chest screaming in the smallest voice, “Go. Be. Do.” At times this voice is a faint whisper and at times, like tonight, it’s this roaring and deafening battle cry. It’s my calling, truly and literally.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m only truly happy when I’m away. I’m constantly fighting the piece of me that feels like it’s too small for Florida. I sit in classrooms that teach me history of ancient lands and I’m chomping at the bit. I sit at tables and listen to stories of others who have gotten lost and I’m intrigued beyond recognition.

I’ve made plans as of late to fuel my fire.

I’m just recently went to Costa Rica with one of the girls I met in Belize. We were in the cloud forest, surrounded by volcanoes and jungle. It was paradise.

Also, my lead professor has offered me a spot on this year’s Belize trip again. And I’m seriously thinking of taking it. I’ve never pushed myself further out of my comfort zone than I did on that trip. God only knows how much more potential I can actualize while there a second time.

I know that I’m blessed for these opportunities. I know and I’m grateful.

I also know that if I don’t take these opportunities, someone else will. Someone else will get to to experience the passion and fervor and all consuming love I have for the world that we live in. And to be honest, that doesn’t really fly with me. I live for that feeling and I plan on taking it with me wherever I go.

People have told me that it’s too much.
People have said that I’m too lucky, I need to stay grounded.
People have whispered that I had too much fun for one lifetime, time to take a break.

To those people;

No.

It’s not too much. I’m exploring the world I was placed in. There are millions and millions of things and people and sights to be gazed upon. I plan on doing so.

I can’t be grounded. I was born to fly. I’ve always been a dreamer, sometimes too much of one. But my parents raised me right, they gave me the best gift of all; creativity, imagination, love, passion and drive. They pushed me out of the nest. They knew I could fly. And for that I can’t disappoint them.

And for those who said I had too much fun. Is there really such a thing? Imagine for a moment the happiest you’ve ever been. Emulsify that into a tangible object. Would you put that object on a shelf because it was good enough? Would you let it sit there and collect dust? I wouldn’t. If I’ve had “too much fun”, then there’s much more fun to be had.

I was in a relationship for years that stifled me. It sucked me dry. I lost my lust for life.
He hated to travel. He hated when I brought it up. He hated when I went on trips. And slowly, very slowly, I started hating myself.
Then one day, I broke free.
I can’t look back to that. I can’t be that girl who depended on someone else for my self worth. Because I’m better than that.
This world is far too grand and great to not be appreciated. That’s what I’m here for.

The Best Places To Grab A Drink In Derry, Ireland

When one thinks of Ireland, they think of rolling green hills, beautiful music and drinking. Whether your poison be whiskey or a pint of your favorite brew; Ireland satisfies all. Derry, Ireland isn’t on the top of everyone’s must see list but it’s on mine.

It’s charm and appeal is second to its numerous options for drinks. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite places and why;

Paedar O’Donnell’s

paedar

This was hands down my favorite spot and I went here at least three times a week. There is a full band every night that plays traditional Irish music and is adorned in flags from all over the world. It’s rustic oak pillars and line of Guinness’ waited to be topped off is a helpful and unnecessary reminder of where you are. You can expect to pay 3 Pounds for a pint of your choice and about 4 or 5 for mixed drinks. If you are going to go anywhere in Derry, go here.

Bound for Boston

For those who like to listen to live music while getting their drink on, this is the place to go. They have live bands every night playing everything from covers to original music by start up bands. Bound for Boston has an extensive selection of beer and the bartenders are more than willing to help you out. The atmosphere is laid back and the crowd is a younger bunch but it also has booths on either side offering a little more privacy if you’d rather enjoy your music alone.

Tinney’s

Tinney’s will always hold a special place in my heart solely for the music. If you love Irish music or just want to hear a collection of locals playing the music they grew up hearing, come to Tinney’s on Tuesdays. The bar is downstairs and has a normal selection of beers and spirits with TV’s playing the football matches on repeat but head upstairs for the music. Starting at 7 they play music for a couple hours and if you’re lucky, other tourists will join in with songs from their country. I had the opportunity to hear a Japanese folk song, a Spanish lullaby and a Kenyan chant. Absolutely incredible.

Ice Wharf

icewharf

The Ice Wharf is where I went for a majority of my meals in Ireland; they were inexpensive,  had great food, and even better beer. You could get a hamburger and fries with a pint of Guinness for 3.99. Can’t beat it. They offer a wide selection of foods from the typical meat and potatoes and potatoes and more potatoes that so customary in Ireland to chicken tikka pizza. All of their meals are affordable and the drinks are the same. You can get fish bowls full of liquor for under $10 and pints for under $3.

On a final note, there isn’t really a bad place to get a drink in Ireland. The people are extremely friendly so when in doubt, ask a local.