My quote for this week is, “we don’t travel to see different things, we travel to see things differently.”
Similar to the previous quote, I couldn’t find the original author. I connect to this quote deeply because traveling is so much more than just going to a new country and being tourist. It’s about immersing yourself in different cultures and getting out of your comfort zone. Most importantly, travel to me is about growing as a person through the experience.
The holiday feels and looks a bit different this year. Many firework displays and BBQs have been cancelled or postponed. If you are celebrating with people outside of your household please be safe as COVID-19 is still very real. Beyond the social distancing, the current political and social injustice issues have also put a damper on celebrating. That being said I think all Americans can agree that being an independent nation is a good thing. Stay safe this Fourth of July weekend.
Most of my 4th’s have been spent stateside – eating hotdogs, going to the pool or beach, baseball games, and lots of fireworks. I have also spent some memorable holidays abroad as well.
The first time I remember being away for the holiday was after my senior year of high school. I was on a school trip to Europe and on July 4th we would be in Berlin. I remember looking for ways to celebrate and had bought sparklers randomly. That night the entire group gathered around outside and we lit the sparklers and sang Happy Birthday to America. Looking back on it we would have been seen as obnoxious Americans if someone passed us, but if I recall correctly there weren’t other people around. I remember everyone in the group just being so happy.
A few years later I was in Poland during the holiday with my mom. Earlier that trip I bought wedges with a red, white, and blue star design. These are only acceptable to wear on Memorial Day, the Fourth, Labor Day, or (at the time) themed sorority events. I never understood why they were sold in a store in Poland, but I considered them a great find. On the actual holiday we were in the seaside town of Sopot and went to the beach. I wore my firecracker pattered Lilly Pulitzer shorts.
Five summers ago I found myself in Aruba on the holiday with my parents. That entire trip was so much fun. We went horseback riding, boating, and stayed at a beautiful resort. Unfortunately, my only pictures from the actual 4th are of an Acai bowl. Most of that day was just spent on the beach.
This year I’m at home – we’ve grilled this afternoon, I’m going to try my hand at making a themed dessert, and round off the night watching Hamilton. Happy 4th of July!
One of the worst parts of the COVID-19, quarantine, and everything else that’s going on in the world is the feeling of helplessness and unknowing. When will life be back to normal? Sadly, nobody can really give us a solid answer. Although, some countries are opening travel up in July is it really safe yet? It is truly difficult to say and we just have to see how it goes. There aren’t many things we can control in life, but we can control our reactions to situations. That being said I didn’t handle coming back stateside too well. If things had gone as planned I would be leaving Thailand right now, spending a month in Europe with two of my best friends, seeing Taylor Swift perform, and then heading to the Olympics in Japan. Clearly not the case as I’m writing this blog post in my childhood bedroom.
There are a couple of ways you can get your travel fill during quarantine:
Take this time to relive your past travel memories by going through photos you’ve taken. Maybe clean out duplicates, take extra time to edit, etc. I know I can take 10+ pictures of the same thing and I always intend on going back through them, but while traveling that usually doesn’t happen. This was my biggest task as I went through my iPhone’s camera roll as well as my laptop’s. It’s time consuming and tedious, but my storage thanked me for it and now it’s more enjoyable looking through pictures I actually like.
I’ve already established I take a lot of pictures and most of them will forever stay digital, however, I wanted to take my all time favorite travel pics from the last 10 years and compile them in an album. This was a huge task and I’m still working on it, but every picture I’ve printed brings me so much joy. It’s okay not to rush projects just to get them done. Enjoy the process because you have the time during quarantine. The album I’m using I bought in Italy back in 2012(!) and it’s just been sitting my bookcase waiting to be loved.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a time of unplugging for me. Get your travel fix from travel Instagram accounts, hashtags, and travel related Facebook groups. Be warned these can be a major time suck so give yourself some time limits.
Travel blogs are also a major source of information and a way to transport yourself in someone’s shoes. It’s always interesting reading other people’s experiences and their first hand advice. I’ve recently started re-reading my previous blog posts too. It’s been a fun way to relive my last few months pre-Corona and also sneak in some edits.
Create Bucket Lists
My bucket list is an endless list of countries in my head, but I’ve never actually written one out. I’ve taken this time to start researching future destinations. My “go with the flow” travel style won’t change because that’s just what I enjoy most, but actually doing the research and making lists is giving me something to look forward to. One of my friends gifted me Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel book a couple of years ago and each day I go through a handful of destinations whilst drinking Trader Joe’s Moroccan Green Tea. Ahhh the simple things.
A good book transports you into a story and reading a book set in a different country ideally should do that too. There’s some great Global Reading Challenges posted by Tale Away from 2018 to today of books from around the globe.
It’s a small step, but will get you out of the house and maybe appreciate your town/city/state more. Once travel restrictions are lifted further, travel domestically to a new area of your country before hoping on that international flight. I’m sure you will find some hidden gems that will make you appreciate your home country more.
Do little things that remind you of traveling. Are there some songs that just transport you to a destination? Put them on and your mood will instantly lift. Wishing you were in Thailand (I’m suppose to be there right now, have I mentioned that) go get yourself some local Thai food – and not just Pad Thai. It won’t be quite the same, but it’s a step in the right direction. Lots of supermarkets also have global food sections so you can get some international snacks. If you wish you were in a tropical destination buy some fruit you normally wouldn’t – pineapple, mango, dragonfruit, passion fruit, papaya, etc. Shopping isn’t always the answer, but I ordered two puzzles from Australia that I know will bring me so much happiness when they arrive.
The main thing right now is to stay healthy and hope that everything else will fall into place. I’m anxiously awaiting being able to travel again so I’m framing it as long-term trip planning.
It has been a stressful, exhausting few months to say the least. Rewind to the blissful ignorance the world was in in January. *Insert sarcasm* The good old days right?
COVID-19 was being discussed often on the news in Australia back in January, but it seemed like a far off problem and I hate to say it, but it was framed as a China problem on the media outlets their. The country closed off their borders to China and every country in the pacific was screening travelers if they had been to China in the last 14 days. Seems like it could have been enough? In hindsight definitely not. Two main issues besides the now well known facts that many carrier of COVID-19 were asymptomatic: 1. “screening everyone” isn’t actually screening everyone, and 2. people lie. People will lie on those immigration forms (if they are even collected) or travel with a different passport. If someone who was in an infected area wanted to get out there was about two months of a gap where they could do so almost seamlessly. Unfortunately, a lot of that happened and that’s how a lot of people were infected.
Australia pretty much thought they solved the problem in early February when they closed their borders to China. The result was that many people went on with their lives like normal (and perhaps even beyond what they normally would be doing because travel prices had dropped) for 2-3 more month when precautions should have already been made. This led to people being blissfully unaware until all of the sudden Australia decided to immediately shut down their borders to non-citizens on a Friday and to all citizens that following Tuesday.
This caused a panic and price escalation, which was also seen all over the world. People couldn’t get home or didn’t know how to. Within Australia the economy was facing many of the same issues as the the rest of the world – toilet paper shortages, food/pasta shortages, lack of job security, etc. As great of a country Australia is it wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of the global pandemic.
So where did that leave me?
Well I was living it up on an island in Fiji without any service or wifi the Thursday Australia announced they would be closing their borders the following evening at 9pm. When I woke up to the news on Friday morning, it was virtually impossible to make it back by that evening deadline. Well shoot….now what?
The choice became stay in Fiji or go home to the United States. It was a tough one and I really was leaning towards staying in Fiji, and of course the mindset was, “I could stay in this tropical paradise for another month….maybe two, but what if it was longer?” I couldn’t work in Fiji as I was there as tourist, and technically my visa was only valid for another two months. Then the practical reality of the what ifs hit, i.e. what if I did get sick and needed a doctor, the health care options would be an issue.
I made the practical, realistic, adult (blah blah blah) choice of going home for the time being (again hoping and thinking that time would be two months max) and getting back to Australia ASAP. Truth be told I was excited to go home for a bit and spend time with my family, sleep in one place for an extended amount of time, be in the same time zone as a majority of my friends, etc.
Hello! 2020 has been wild to say the least right? Not the good kind of wild either. When COVID-19 was at its peak of hysteria I was in Fiji and decided to hit pause on traveling to head back home to the United States. Of course I thought that it would all “blow over.” Well 12 weeks later and there’s still no end in sight unfortunately.
I haven’t been too productive and I should have don’t more with my free time, but I just honestly did not feel like it. I somehow let this travel blog become a book review blog, and that’s just not cool. So I’m writing to say I’m officially back. Stay tuned on more reviews/descriptions of my travels pre-Corona, and I’ll probably also go back further in time and talk about the other destinations I’ve traveled to in the past.
I’m a bit behind on writing because I had flown to Fiji the day after my mom left Australia, but it’s fun looking back on our travels. The best way to describe week three is bittersweet. We were looking forward to where we were going, but it was also my mom’s last week traveling with me. As much fun as she was having I also could see she was missing home and having a normal routine. Living out of a suitcase isn’t for everyone and it can get old.
Monday/Day 15 – We woke up early this morning to catch the shuttle out to the ferry to Rottnest Island. The ferry took about 2 hours and upon arriving we have lunch at Dome café. After lunch we walked to Discovery and checked in. We walked around the area to become acquainted with the surroundings and the beaches close by. We had the first spotting of quokkas and then had dinner at Pinky’s Beach Club.
Day 16 – Today was a full on relaxing beach day. With the exception of needing to get our door fixed. We had breakfast on property, walked to the lighthouse, and then to Geordie Bay. I also snorkeled a bit around the Basin before getting ready and going to dinner at Rottnest Hotel.
Day 17 – Our last full day in Rotto. We have an easy morning and then do a tour around the island in the afternoon. The tour starts with a train ride to the guns on the island. This was a huge piece of machinery created for WWII to defend Fremantle port. It was never fired, but still impressive. We have lunch on the train ride back and then go on a bus tour around the rest of the island. For dinner we ate at Pinky’s again.
Day 18 – Today we had to check out, but had until 5ish for the ferry. I rented a bike and rode around the island making pit stops to snorkel. It was a beautiful day and I was sad to leave Rotto when it was time to board the ferry. At the port we grabbed an Uber to take us to our hotel and we decided to stay closer to the airport.
Day 19 – Flying to Melbourne today for our last stop. We arrived in the evening and checked into our hotel. The room was small, but wow this hotel had everything figured out. For dinner we went to the hotel restaurant, Lord Nelson. The meal was great and my mom really liked the wine she had. After dinner we called it an early night.
Day 20 – Today we were off to fit in as much of Melbs as possible, but first on the agenda was to buy a new laptop charger. Then we had breakfast and coffee on Degraves Street. We shopped around a bit and checked out the Queen Victoria Market. We had an afternoon pick me up in the form of sticky date pudding. Then we were off to St. Kilda to see the sunset and penguins. It was chilly and we didn’t stay on the pier long and then went on the search for a dinner spot. We landed on St. Moritz and it was great!
Day 21 – My mom’s last full day in Australia and of course she insisted on doing laundry in between our activities. Today we ate breakfast downstairs at the hotel and then went to the South Street Market. In the afternoon we went to the famous Hopetoun Tea Room for dessert. We walked around Melbourne CBD a little bit and saw the street art on Hosier Lane and AC/DC Lane. We munched all day so didn’t need a big dinner. We grabbed some small bites at Lord Nelson.
Day 22 – Mom’s flight was in the early afternoon so after wake up and goodbyes I ordered her an Uber and she was sadly back off to the airport.
My mom is easily the most important person in my life. I’m an only child and have always been close to my momma. She is my biggest supporter and I’m so grateful for her every day. That being said being so far away from her while in Australia and traveling around has been tough and that’s mostly to do with the time difference. I say mostly because there’s so much I miss about not seeing her, but the time difference makes even the conversations we do have tricky. It made sense that my first visitor to Australia would be my mom. I was so excited for her arrival. I really wanted to show her the country I fell in love with and maybe she would see the reason for my obsession firsthand. That at least would be the best-case scenario at the end of her trip.
Planning for her three-week trip was challenging. I wanted to show her everything and go everywhere whilst not overdoing it and still relaxing. My mom kept saying she would be happy just by the beach, but there’s so much more to see in Australia. It was stressful and took a lot of planning, but we narrowed our itinerary down to get a little bit of everything without running around like crazy. The first week would be focused on Sydney and surrounding areas.
Day 1 – Mom arrives on the 3rd, but she flew out of the US on the 1st (a long time traveling) so we were having a chill day. We dropped her bags off at the hotel and went to grab some brunch. Avo toast #1 check. We walk around the surrounding area of Darling Harbour not venturing too much, but we do stop for a passionfruit sorbet at Messina. That night we go to the hotel’s happy hour and later order in Thai via DoorDash.
Day 2 – have a bit of a sleep in thanks to the black out curtains in the room and then have breakfast (avo quinoa bowl) at a restaurant in Darling Harbour. Today we are taking on the Costal Walk from Coogee to Bondi. We take it at a very leisurely pace and really take in everything along the way. When we finally made it to Bondi we treated ourselves to a meal at Bucket List and then shopped around. Mom was a fan of Bondi and the costal walk in general. Win!
Day 3 – It’s Manly time. I was so excited to get over to Manly because well it’s an amazing, underrated part of Sydney. I think the other beaches overtake Manly in popularity, but that’s okay with me. The ferry ride over had an aweing effect on my mom and it was the first official view of the Sydney Opera House she got. Once in Manly we had brunch at Girdlers and then headed to the beach. A perk of traveling with your mom was being a little fancy and we actually rented beach chairs and umbrella. Something I wouldn’t have thought to do on my own, but now that I know how nice it was I don’t think I could go without. We grabbed Acai bowls to cool down from Acai Bros and then walked over to Shelly Beach. After more browsing in the stores we had dinner at MooBurgers with a great view and my mom tried a kangaroo burger (she wasn’t a fan). Then we hopped back on the ferry and headed back across the harbour.
Day 4 – Super early wake up call, but it was worth it because we were going to Hunter Valley.
Day 5 – Spent the day/early afternoon in Hunter and got back to Sydney around 7pm. We checked in to our new hotel in a prime area – on the Rocks. We had a late, but delicious dinner at Pony and then walked around the Rocks a bit.
Day 6 – Scheduled for today was a trip out to Watson’s Bay, but the weather was not having it. The rain was coming down hard all day. We had brunch on the Rocks (mom had another avo toast…I think she might be becoming a millennial). I checked another dining bucket list item off with dinner when we went to Sake. We thought we had allocated enough time starting dinner at 5:15pm to make it to the Opera before 7pm, but we had to dash over there. We were seeing Don Giovani. This was my first opera. The production was very well done and their voices were incredible, but now I can say with certainty that operas aren’t really my thing. It was still really great to experience especially at THE Sydney Opera House.
Day 7 – This day was originally going to be a day trip out to Jervis Bay, but with the forecasted rain we decided to stay in the city and maybe go to some markets and walk the Harbour Bridge. Oh boy were we wrong. The rain was at a constant downpour with heavy winds closing pretty much everything down. We had tea and scones at the Tea Cosy (another foodie bucket list item check), broke my umbrella walking back to the hotel which was one building over. The day was looking like a chill day, but it was also our last day in Sydney so it felt like a bit of a waste. We went to the QVB for a little bit, but weren’t in a mood to shop. For dinner that night we ventured to Newtown to try Golden Lotus, a fully vegan Vietnamese restaurant (another check). Wow the food was yummy and it’s BYO so we enjoyed the bottle of wine we brought back from Hunter over our shared plates. We ended the night with a night cap (can a beer technically be a night cap?) at the Lord Nelson Brewery.
It was a super fun week and although the schedule didn’t fully go as planned it didn’t matter. Just spending time together was what really matters. Almost exactly a week from my mom’s arrival we were heading to the airport once again to fly to our next destination…
Here are my mom’s officially unofficial rankings of Sydney’s food scene:
Would you rather bungee (“bungy”) jump or skydive?
I was shocked by how many people said they would much rather skydive because they thought it was less scary and safer than bungy jumping. This was so wild to me. Bungy jumping is significantly lower than when you sky dive out of an airplane. The argument was then that the only thing preventing you from falling to your death was a cord. Despite the resistance and attempts to scare me out of it, bungy jumping was the one thing I had known I wanted to do coming to New Zealand.
Bungy jumping was commercialized in New Zealand in 1988 by an infamous adrenaline junkie, AJ Hackett. You can still jump the original bridge jump in Queenstown. My friends and I thought if we were going to bungy we were going all in so we went for the Nevis jump. The Nevis bungy is 3 times higher than the original at 134 meters (440 feet or about a 40 story high building). The days leading up to the jump I was really equally excited and freaked out. This was going to be the craziest thing I’ve ever did.
The day of the jump that ratio had turned more into freaked out with a tiny bit of excitement. Was I actually going to do this? Why? The why I really couldn’t answer. We were checked in at a shop in town, weighed, and then bussed over 40 minutes to the Nevis Playground. With each passing minute I was internally panicking more and more, but I couldn’t back down! I was the one who had wanted to do this and had gotten my two mates to join. They were so excited particularly Iris, who has learned that she’s a major adrenaline junkie whilst traveling around New Zealand.
Looking over the jump wow it was high and in the middle of a canyon. Not to be morbid, but if something were to go wrong there was no chance of surviving. The comforting thing was that there hadn’t been any casualties with AJ Hackett ever. So I wasn’t exactly afraid of dying I was more worried about what was wrong with myself to actually jump off the ledge. The operators will not push you so if you want to bungy it is fully your decision and action.
When we got to the site and were harnessed I started to feel a little better. The harness was sturdy and felt substantial. Then six people at a time you ride over to the middle of the canyon via a little sky gondola. That’s when you really get an idea of how high you are. Once at the station the operators get to work with giving you more equipment, checking harnesses, etc. all while blood pumping music is playing. The goal is to get you hyped. It wasn’t working for me I was still scared and this time I knew I was one step away from my turn to jump.
All the workers were incredibly personable and fun. You felt like they really did know what they were doing and totally safe in their hands. There was also a lot of equipment and not just “one cord” like the bungy haters would argue. At that point I knew it would be okay and just a matter of going. The best advice I was given when we had first gotten to the station was that when you hear the countdown, “5, 4, 3, 2, Bungy,” just go for it and don’t hesitate. If you were to pause at bungy it just makes it more difficult to actually jump. At the ledge I was waiting for my bungy cue and then I flew.
It was the coolest feeling and at that point you felt almost weightless. I think the scariest part (besides the jump) was the first bounce back when you finally stop free falling, it kind of brings you to reality and you suddenly feel like a fish out of water, but in the best way. After the third bounce back you release your legs so you are no longer upside down and finally enjoy the ride back up. For that moment it’s just you and nature and you can only hear birds among the stillness of the canyon.
Then you’re back at the platform area with your friends, the energized operators, pumping music, and you feel on top of the world. You did it! I did it! Conquered something that really scared me and loved it. In addition to the highest bungy jump in New Zealand, the Nevis Playground also has a swing and catapult. After the bungy I was down to do both, but that will have to wait for the next trip.
I 100% recommend doing a bungy jump in Queenstown. AJ Hackett’s tagline is: Live More. Fear Less. If that’s not advice to live by I’m not sure what is.
Wow I’ve been slacking on this front. The main thing I’ve noticed is that plastic is everywhere. Cutting out small things like a throw away coffee cup really just isn’t enough. I guess plastic is cheaper to make than other materials and it is a hygienic way to separate items into single serve sizes. The use and ease of plastic products is so ingrained into our modern way of life. I’m saying this sitting in a country that does have reduced plastic already – like no plastic bags anywhere. While traveling I’m basically changing my environment daily so it’s difficult to get into a routine, but I will continue to be more mindful. I also think my next eco-purchase will be my own set of utensils/straw to cut that kind of waste out. Although, I’ve been mindful about my plastic usage I admit I haven’t been extremely diligent in tracking it. I do know I haven’t eaten meat in the past two weeks and I don’t think I had cheese daily, but I just didn’t track everything.
Sunday – all clear; I was still recovering from the crossing and I think kept it very minimal this day. For dinner, I used the remaining groceries I had and then gave away the rest of the spinach I didn’t use.
Monday – Coffee cup and a styrofoam container for at lunch (seriously?! I thought styrofoam was no longer in use at all here). I left my keep cup in the bus and wasn’t planning on getting coffee, but it was part of a meal combo.
Tuesday – single serve butter served with my scone; candy wrappers (you’ll be seeing these a lot – there was a lot of driving or sitting/admin work in this week and I indulged more than I should have. Candy wrappers are made of a combo of plastic and aluminum and probably the most wasteful thing I could reach for barely 5 seconds of sweetness. I’ll list these as “CW”); cutlery served with my peaches and creme snack from a market, but they were listed as bio friendly.
Wednesday – CW, single serve popcorn bag, and plastic water bottle with lunch (these all came with the tour we were on and I didn’t order this).
Thursday – CW
Friday – cutlery with lunch, orange juice bottle, and CW.
Saturday – This was the first full day at Rhythm and Vines. All of their food containers, utensils, etc. are said to be eco-friendly. CW during my volunteer shift.
Sunday – The plastic cups at RnV are posted to be “made of plants not oil,” but it’s still a single use cup so I’ll track it with the orange juice I drank today. I also finished a bag of trail mix in a plastic bag.
Monday – possibly just CW while on shift.
Tuesday – cup of orange juice.
Wednesday – CW.
Thursday – finally back in civilization and out of the festival world. I finished a bag of trail mix, single cup of yogurt, and plastic top from sauce top with dinner (the container was cardboard, but the top was plastic).
Friday – two spoons from taste testing ice cream, plastic container from ketchup, lid and straw from a smoothie.
Saturday – I was on the road from 9:15am to 7:30pm and all my snacks/food wasn’t plastic. Woo!
So yeah I would say that the past four weeks of “eco-tracking” hasn’t been the best, but I guess it’s a start and I’ll continue to be super mindful.