The Big Island…Hawai’i

Hawai’i consists of 8 major islands, but today I am going to be focusing on the island of Hawai’i, also known as the “Big Island”. Hawai’i is rich in culture and good vibes. It is unique in its geography, history, and economy. There is something in Hawaii for everyone! Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation or an exotic excursion, Hawai’i should definitely make your bucket list.

Kona Seaside Hotel beach, Hawai'i

The purpose of my trip was educational- specifically learning about the culture and geography located in Hawai’i. Personally, I would not have wanted it any other way. I was able to explore through museums, coral reefs, beaches, lava tubes, and more.

Day 1…Arrive in Kona

We arrived in the Kona International Airport and went straight to Kona Seaside Hotel. This is a lovely hotel located right near the water, which has a small beach. You can swim, relax, rent kayaks, rent bikes, and more. It is also connected to a strip of restaurants and shops including the amazing Splasher’s Grill.

Kona Seaside Hotel beach, Hawai'i

Day 2…Kona to Volcanoes National Park

We took a chartered bus to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. We made several stops on the way including Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Kiilae Village Walk), Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, and Thurston Lava Tube.

Our accommodation in the National Park was Kilauea Military Camp. This is your traditional camp style set up with bunkbeds and a food hall. There is an evening viewing of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater in Volcanoes National Park.

Day 3…Volcanoes National Park

Today, we started with the Crater Rim Trail through the natural steam vents then did a 13-mile hike through the floor of the Keanakāko’i Crater. There are several hikes you can do beginning at the Hawai’i Volcanoes Visitor Center. We also completed the summit walk to Kilauea lookout.

Day 4…Volcanoes National Park to Kona

On the drive back to Kona, we stopped at Green Sand Beach, which is a half mile walk. This is a lovely walk with the most amazing views. You can also drive right up to the beach, but either way it is a steep walk down to the beach. We stayed at Kona Seaside Hotel again.

Day 5…Kona

Today, we toured the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai’i Authority (NELHA). They have several very interesting projects going on that incorporate water desalination and hydro-energy. Just around the corner was a place to try fresh abalone– a local delicacy.

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai'i Authority

We also walked from our hotel to the Hulihee Palace, which is a museum that commemorates the local history.

Day 6…Kona

We went to Keauhau and kayaked using the company, Ocean Safari Kayaks. We were able to scuba dive. Unfortunately, the water did not allow us to do any cliff jumping or kayaking through caves but that is an option weather permitting.

For the evening, we watched the sunset and stargazed on Mauna Kea. This is by far the best place I have ever been to see the stars. You are above the clouds and there is no light pollution. I was speechless, and it was also very informative.

Mauna Kea, Hawai'i

While you are here…

You are already quite deep into the South Pacific. Consider extending your adventure and visit these places not too far away:
Australian East Coast
Fiji
New Zealand
Melbourne, AUS

Hawai'i Big Island in one week itinerary

Living on Island Time…Fiji

Fiji is like summer year-round with its beautiful weather. The islands provide the most beautiful sunsets reflecting off crystal clear water. Also, Fiji offers hiking, scuba diving, relaxing, and more.

Yasawa Island, Fiji

I afforded a chance to go to Fiji on a study abroad program with the intention of studying eco-tourism or “green” tourism. Interestingly enough, we arrived immediately after a terrible cyclone had blown through. It was quite destructive to the point where we considered not even going to Fiji. Because tourism is crucial to Fiji’s economy, it was helpful for us to come to the resorts and to the villages so that they were able to rebuild what had been destroyed. So, do not let the weather scare you away.

Although English is the official language of Fiji, here’s some Fijian common jargon.
Hello –> “Bula”
Thank you –> “Vinaka”

A Little Bit of Orientation…

Fiji is an accumulation of hundreds of islands very secluded in South Pacific Ocean directly between Australia and the United States.

Nadi, Fiji

Fiji has two main islands: Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Viti Levu is the main island where the city and both international airports are located. The most common airport to fly into is Nadi (pronounced Nandi) International Airport.

Fiji has a section of islands on the western side called the Yasawa Islands. The Yasawa Islands are a popular place for all travelers, because it is affordable and developed.

Day 1…Arrive in Nadi

We stayed in Tanoa Skylodge Hotel for the night. This is a great home base to store your luggage and take only what you need for the islands. It is fitted with a pool and single/double rooms with a personal bathroom. Also, you can run into the city to grab a Sulu, which is a wrap that women can wear whenever they enter a village to be culturally appropriate. Located near by is a lovely cafe with yummy food called Bulaccino.

Nadi Temple, Fiji

Note: Don’t forget bug spray. Sand flies were terrible while I was there. Bring along some tiger balm or anti-itch ointment as well when you get itchy.

Day 2…Nadi to Botaira

Just as aforementioned, Fiji has many islands. The ferry allows you to island hop if you are feeling more adventurous, but it could be more costly. We took a bus to the ferry port and hopped on Yasawa Flyer to Botaira Resort in the Yasawa Islands.

Botaira Resort, Yasawa Island

The Fijian people are so bubbly and welcoming. They are also completely on island time, so be mindful to let go of expectations. If dinner is at 7 pm, do not be angry when it begins at 8:30 pm. Just be present and enjoy the weather and views.

Note: Kava is a type of herbal drink that is used during ceremonies. Whenever you enter a village, you may be offered some. It looks like dirty water and may cause some dizziness or hallucinations.

Day 3-6…Botaira

Days can be filled with snorkeling, scuba diving, sand volleyball, hammock-ing, and hiking. At night, there are fun ceremonies that are put on by the resort. There is plenty to do and also plenty of opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Botaira Island, Fiji

Note: Tap water is technically not drinkable (it is rain water), but most islands provide water bottles for purchase at the bar.

Day 6…Botaira to Soso Village

We hiked over the hill to the other side of the island. This village is called Soso- the hike was steep, short, and beautiful.

Soso Village on Botaira Island

Note: The village is a great place to get really unique souvenirs. Be sure when you enter the village to wear something that covers your knees and shoulders. There are also no plugs so bring a spare charger, spare battery, and flashlight.

Day 7…Soso Village to Botaira to Nadi

Hammock on Botaira Island, Fiji

We headed back on the ferry to Nadi at the Skylodge Hotel. The weather is always a huge variable because of Fiji’s geolocation, so be sure to give yourself some buffer time to get to the airport just in case. A large storm came in the day after we arrived back in Nadi- all ferries were delayed for 3 days.

While you are here…

Let’s be honest, you are already in the South Pacific. Why not check out more of the region?
New Zealand
Australian East Coast Itinerary
Melbourne, Australia
The Big Island of Hawaii

One week itinerary to Fiji and living on island time

Love – It’s What Makes the World Go ‘Round Part II

If you haven’t read part I, start here.

Now that we are all caught up. I bought my plane ticket to Melbourne several months ago after a tough break-up. I tend to do pretty crazy things when I feel out of control. It is my way of reminding myself I am not stuck – just buy a plane ticket. Highly recommend..

My intentions were to get far far away. A few weeks away from my trip, I remembered “oh shoot, I am going to be in a new city by myself. Maybe I should reach out to some people I know”. So, I did. I reached out to some lovely friends that I met in Croatia last year and got really excited about catching up with them.

Yoga in the park and love in life
Athens, GA

While in London, my friend asked me if I was going to tell Charlie, and I just kept pushing the idea down as if he ceased to exist. It was easier that way for some reason. Maybe he is dating another girl. Maybe he is dating another guy. Maybe he moved to Antarctica.

Life is not about avoiding making mistakes. Life is about extending yourself grace no matter what.

I used to get so caught up in NOT messing up or NOT making people mad or NOT ruining my reputation or living my life based on others’ expectations of me. That kind of living was so tiring. I was constantly assessing and reassessing what others needed from me, AND I never lived up to everyone’s expectations. I just couldn’t please everyone. I can’t please everyone.

So, I reached out to Charlie. We went on four dates. It felt just as easy as it did when we were together in Spain, but I felt different. I was coming from a place of wholeness and completeness, and he was simply someone I could enjoy. He was an addition, rather than me becoming an extension of him. I felt free to express myself and my desires and my dreams without fear that they wouldn’t align with his plans. I put up healthy boundaries (not walls), and it led to greater connection and communication.

Yoga in the park, finding love
Athens, GA

I am not sure when the “switch” happened. I feel like it may have been more of a daily trying on. I can trace it back to my months of yoga teacher training where I learned to be an individual. I learned that my life is an invitation to be in my fullest expression– creatively, authentically, relationally, physically, financially.

This lesson took me back to the memory of the last time I visited my mom before she passed away…

My mom was very sick for several years before she passed away. She was a severe alcoholic and struggled with depression, bipolar disorder, and prescription drug abuse. I was not living with her at the time but would visit her once or twice per week. I would make sure she was fed, showered, and loved. This particular day when she answered the door, she did not recognize me. So, I introduced myself to her and reminded her of who I was. I carried her to the couch and laid her down. I sat by her side, and we talked about life while holding hands. I remember her telling me that she was ready to die, but she said it with a particular pain in her eyes as if that was her only choice. She felt stuck and without options. She was a beautiful human trapped in a body that was craving what was killing her. I looked back into her eyes and told her, “You know, mom…There is enough grace to cover this“, referring to her illness and pain. She looked back at me with her beautiful, brown eyes and said, “That must be a whole lot of grace“. And I said, “Yes, mom. There is a WHOLE lot of grace for you“. Then, I left. One week later, she passed.

Yoga in the park, love around me

I think back to that moment often, and I wonder what that felt like in her body to hear that she was covered in grace. She had been fighting addiction and mental health issues for 20+ years. I think grace is what finally set her free.

Grace in my life feels like freedom– freedom to know that where I am right now is exactly where I need to be, freedom to make mistakes fully trusting that I can extend myself grace on the other side, freedom to follow my excitement without fear of missing out, freedom from judgement and expectation.

Grace allows me to be me, all day every day. Grace is my most beloved companion and my most valuable possession I could ever carry with me. I can wake up in the morning and say that no matter what happens today, I will lay my head back down tonight covered in as much grace as I did when I woke up.

Grace is what connects me to eternity. It is what connects me to myself and to my humanness. It is also what connects me to God. It connects me to my purpose and passions. Grace feels like swimming in the middle of an ocean- I may simply never know its volume. I can get curious, dive deep, play, and allow it to carry me when I am tired.

Grace is what connects me to my mom. If I could tell myself everyday what I told my mom that day, I could have access to more freedom and live my fullest expression of power, vitality, and authenticity. I can carry on her legacy of love and beauty. My mom and I always connected through music, whether it was her coming into my room when I practiced playing guitar, car ride jams, or her free-styling in the kitchen while making pancakes. One of our favorite songs we would listen to together was “Oceans” by Hillsong. It refers to the Sea of Galilee, which I got the chance to visit Israel just a few weeks ago. As I was standing at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I wrote this in remembrance of my mom…

Flowing with grace, I dive deep
Playful and fulfilled, refreshed and satisfied
Freedom overwhelming, trust the tide to carry me
Grace covers and catches me

Front flip into grace, off the boat I dive
Deep in love I jump, death leads to more life
Covered in grace, vast as the sea
If I can just keep my eyes above the waves

Teach me how deep, how wide, and how long
Cover me, fill me; this is my song
Hide me and know me, grace sufficient and true

Cover me, heal me, cast out fear
Grace upon grace, I need it now
I’m ready to depart, I am ready to surrender it all

Sea of Galilee love
Learn how to dance with love and grace

The Holy Land … One Week in Israel

My trip to Israel was one of the most valuable trips I have ever been on. That may seem clique, but truly Israel is a unique country filled with diverse cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Honoring the humanness in others, what it means to coexistence, how to consciously take off any lenses in order to listen to another’s story, and allowing yourself to ask hard questions is just a few of the lessons that I learned while in Israel.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Israel

I went with an organization called Passages, which is a Christian organization that provides college-aged students an affordable and holistic trip to Israel. They partner with a tour agency called Authentic Israel. What sets Passages apart is their commitment to the full picture- we heard from Muslims, Jews, Christians of several denominations, Arabs, community leaders, scholars, and more.

Disclaimer: I am going to refer to events from both the Old Testament and New Testament. Whether you, as a reader, believe in the person of Jesus or the God of the Bible or not, I will be speaking in terms of historical evidence and the corresponding texts. I hope that even if you do not believe in Jesus or God, that you will read this and be inspired to visit this Holy Land. There is something special about this place, which can only be experienced when you breath in the ancient air and feel the victorious nature of this land.

Also, do not be discouraged if you are not eligible for birthright! I encourage you to go anyways, but I would encourage you to join a tour group. The land is so rich of history, and there are so many layers to it. It would have been hard to truly appreciate the sites without a tour guide.

Day One…Arrival

Flying to Israel is quite the ordeal. There are only a few flights per day per airport. Also, security is very unique and quite stressful. You are interrogated individually for about 5-10 minutes before even checking your bag. They ask very specific questions and will dig if you stutter. Nonetheless, you will make it through. Just be sure to give yourself ample amount of time for the process.

We had a long layover in Boston, which you can check out here.

We flew into the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. From there, we went to Tel Azeka, which is a lookout point where supposedly David fought Goliath.

Tel Azeka where David fought Goliath, Holy Land

Day Two…Northern Israel

First stop is Jish – a city in the Upper Galilee near Mount Meron. Jish is inhabited by Maronite Catholics and Christians. There is a lovely church located in its center.

Mount Meron in the Upper Galilee of Jish inhabited by Maronite Catholics and Christians, Israel

Caesarea Philipi also known as Panias or “Banias”. This is a National Park that was originally named after Greek god Pan where Philip (Herod’s son) established his empire. This is also the site where Peter confessed the identity of Christ (Matthew 16: 13-16).

Caesarea Philipi National Park, Holy Land

Mt. Bental, Golan Heights is the former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) post that overlooks Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. This is a strategic plateau in terms of war, because it gives Israel the vantage point for monitoring Syrian movements. It also acts as a natural buffer against military advancements from Syria. From here, you can see the damages from the civil war in Syria in 2011.

Mt. Bental of Golan Heights where there is a former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) post overlooking Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Day Three…Jesus’ Ministry

Mount of Beatitudes marks the place where Jesus shared the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), which many are familiar with. This is located on the Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret, is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. There are many spots where you can stop and catch a cool view, including the Mount of the Beatitudes, Tabgha, and Capernaum. The Sea of Galilee is fed by underground springs and the Jordan River, which is why it is historically known as a big fishing hub. Some of Jesus’ miracles that took place here include calming the storm, calling his disciples to ministry, feeding the five thousand, and walking on water (Luke 5, Luke 8, Job 9, Matthew 14, John 6, John 18, John 21).

Sea of Galilee, Holy Land

There are lots of activities going on at the Sea of Galilee. There are water sports, boat rides, restaurants, and holy sites.

Disclaimer: At any of the holy sites, both men and women must cover their knees and shoulders. I would recommend throwing a shawl and shirt in your bag so whenever you are about to enter a holy site, you can slip it on and off easily.

One of the spots along the Sea of Galilee is the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter or Tabgha. This is where Jesus fed the five thousand and where Jesus encountered Peter after his resurrection (Mark 6, John 21).

Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus fed the five thousand, Israel

Capernaum is where Jesus did most of his ministry (Matthew 4, Luke 4, Mark 2, Isaiah 9).

Capernaum of Israel where Jesus did his ministry

Magdala sits on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. This was a major port and is the site where a first-century synagogue and fishing boat was uncovered. There is also a church built here that commemorates the strong women figures of the Bible! (Matthew 4, Matthew 15).

Yardenit or the Jordan River is the place where the Israelites first crossed into the Promised Land and where the baptism of Jesus took place. It is located at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee and eventually flows into the Dead Sea. This is a place many Christians make the pilgrimage to be baptized (Mark 1, Matthew 3).

Day Four…Nazareth

Nazareth is the “Arab capital of Israel” with a majority Arab population. It is also the childhood home of Jesus (Matthew 2).

Nazareth Village is an open-air museum and simulation of what life in Galilee looked like during the time of Jesus. There is a first century wine press and olive press along with reconstructed homes, tools, yarn, and a synagogue.

The Church of the Annunciation is where the birth of Jesus was foretold (Luke 1 and John 1).

Mount Precipice provides a visual of Mt. Carmel, Jezreel Valley where Gideon fought the battle of the 300, and Mt. Tabor which is the site of Transfiguration. This is also where Jesus was chased out of Nazareth synagogue and began his ministry elsewhere (Judges 7, 1 Samuel 28, Joshua 19, Luke 4).

Mount Precipice with a visual of Mt. Carmel, Jezreel Valley, and Mt. Tabor, Israel

Alfei Menashe is the viewpoint of Israel’s narrowest section from the West Bank settlement.

Day Five…Tel Aviv and the City of David

Independence Hall is the site of the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. It is also a museum.

Tel Aviv has fun open-air markets. Major city located on Mediterranean coastline. Israel’s second-largest and most populous city. Founded in 1909 by Jews. Landing place for Jewish refugees throughout 20th century. Business and cultural center. Hub for nightlife, shopping, and fashion.

Tel Aviv markets, Holy Land

The City of David is the archaeological site of ancient Jerusalem. It is located beneath the southern city walls of Old Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5, 2 Samuel 11, Lamentations 2, 1 Kings 1, Deuteronomy 1, 2 Kings 20, John 9).

The underground tunnels of Hezekiah are a series of water tunnels and a pool of water reservoir built by King Hezekiah.

Underground tunnels of Hezekiah in the Old City of David, Israel

The Southern Steps is one of the entrances to the Old Temple. It is much less popular than the Western Wall and is also most likely the place where Jesus cleansed the temple and would have entered during their family’s annual pilgrimage (John 2, Luke 2).

The Western Wall, a segment of walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount, is located in Old City of Jerusalem. This is the most sacred site recognized by Judaism and is an important site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage, because it is considered to be closest to the former Temple’s “Holy of Holy”s where the presence of God resided. Muslims also consider this place to be very sacred, which has been a point of contention between the Muslims and Jews as to who owns the rights to govern and enforce laws there. Whether religious or not, you are welcomed to write a little prayer on a sheet of paper and place it in the cracks of the Western Wall.

Western Wall in the Old City of David or Jerusalem, the wall surrounding the Temple Mount, Holy Land

Day 5…Gaza Strip

Sderot is a town located less than a mile outside of Gaza. Ever since June 2007, this town has been in a constant war zone. Rocket attacks have killed and wounded dozens. Air raid sirens and explosions have disrupted daily life and caused psychological trauma to the community, including children, such as sleeping disorders and severe anxiety. It is popular for its numerous artistic bomb shelters and is known as the “Bomb Shelter Capital of the World”.

Day 6…Masada and Dead Sea

Masada is a recognized World Heritage Site located in the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a plateau that can be accessed via short tram ride or hike. King Herod’s temple remains still reside on top of the plateau, and you can also witness the camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircles the monument, which is the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day (Ezekial 37).

Masada near the Dead Sea, Israel

Disclaimer: Masada is very hot. In fact, Israel is very hot. It is located very close to the equator, so always ensure that you have access to cold water, sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

On top of Masada, there are several interesting archaeological finds. There is also a Temple where a Rabbi sits and handwrites the Torah. Be sure to check that out- it’s the only place up there that has AC.

The Dead Sea is absolutely unbelievable. Float (it is basically impossible to drowned) and scrub yourself head to toe in mud (the minerals are great for your skin). They have facilities where you can change, shower, and grab some Dead Sea Salt scrub. They have restaurants, snack shops, and souvenir shops. I could have spent all day there.

Dead Sea, Holy Land

Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem is a great place to check out at night. It is a lively night scene with music and locals.

Day 7…Bethlehem

Bethlehem is mentioned in the Old Testament as the chief city of King David and in the New Testament as the birthplace of Jesus.

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israel

The Church of the Nativity was built over the site known as the “Grotto of the Nativity” in 313 AD, where Jesus was thought to have been born in a manger.

Day 8…Jerusalem

Yad Vashem is a Holocaust museum and memorial. I have been to Holocaust museums in Amsterdam and the US, and this is by far the best one I have been to.

Jerusalem is a large square with four quarters- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian. The Old City of Jerusalem is home to many key religious sites to several religions including the Dome of the Rock, al-Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount, Western Wall, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre (John 12).

Mount of Olives is east of the Old City of Jerusalem In the Old Testament, it is the place where King David walked as he fled from his son and where King Solomon built shrines to pagan gods. In the New Testament, Jesus rode down the Mount into the city of Jerusalem on his “triumphal entry”, Jesus wept over the city from here when the people of Jerusalem refused to recognize the coming of the Messiah, The Last Supper Passover meal took place here, Jesus and his disciples went here to Gethsemane, Jesus prayed and grieved over his death here, Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested here, and Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives (Luke 19, Matthew 24, John 17).

Garden of Gethsemane translates to “Oil Press” and is the garden of ancient olive trees located on the Mount of Olives facing Jerusalem. This is the place that is described in all four Gospels as the place where Jesus prayed after the Last Supper and before his arrest (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18).

Bethesda is the place where Jesus healed the man at the “healing pool” on the Sabbath. This is located along the Via Dolorosa (John 5).

Via Dolorosa is a walkway set up by the Crusaders (lots of Catholic churches) representing the journey of Jesus’ death from the Garden of Gethsemane where he was turned in to where he was buried at the Garden Tomb. This is a significant Christian pilgrimage destination.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre is located within the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This is where Jesus is thought to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected (Matthew 28).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem

The Garden Tomb is a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem found in 1867, and some Christians believe it to be the site of burial and resurrection of Jesus. This is adjacent to a rocky quarry that is thought to be Golgotha where Jesus was crucified (John 19, Matthew 27, 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 28, Luke 22).

Garden Tomb, Golgotha, Israel

Shalom…

Whether you identify with a religion or not, I hope that this blog sparked your interest in learning more about Israel and possibly visiting some day. One of the speakers used this analogy to describe Israel…it is like a prism. Whether you want to experience its history, culture, language, food, religion, politics, landscape, or art, it is all there for you. It is up to you what you want your experience to be.

Note: If you do have the chance, take part in a Shabbat dinner. Shabbat begins Friday at sundown and lasts until Saturday evening. It is a day of rest for the Jewish people. You can go to a Shabbat dinner at a local’s house through the organization called “Shabbat of a Lifetime“.

One week itinerary in Israel, the Holy Land

Long Layover in Boston? “Yah Huh”

Boston is a big international airport, so you may find yourself stopping through. On my way to Israel, I had a 12 hour layover in Boston and couldn’t help but stretch my legs outside the airport.

Boston

Getting to the City…

Boston Metro has done a great job at making it fairly easy to get to the city. One of the easiest ways to get there is the free Silver Line bus to South Station. There is an area right outside the baggage claim where all buses and shuttles pick up. Just look for the sign that says Silver Line. Be wary that it may take a while, and the bus is packed- like a can of sardines with heavy luggage.

Boston

There is also an option for a free transfer to the Red Line at South Station from the Silver Line. You simply just do not exit the train station to transfer. The Red Line will take you to Harvard.

At the South Station, there is a place to store your bags. Again, find the sign or ask someone where the luggage storage is. We paid $8 for storage for the entire day.

Navigating the City…

From the South Station, you can basically get anywhere in the city. We decided to stay in the Metro area rather than venturing to Harvard, although that is on my list for next time. Again to get to Harvard, you can use the Red Line using your free transfer from the Silver Line and a CharlieTicket for your venture back to the airport (noted in further detail later).

For breakfast / brunch, we stopped at Tatte Cafe, which is right outside of South Station. It is a trendy cafe with a surprisingly diverse menu. I ordered their specialty Shakshuka, which is an African breakfast made of poached eggs in tomato sauce.

Then, we walked to the Quincy Market, which is vibrant of tourists and people and shops and lights. This is also located next to Faneuil Hall and Boston Market. You can grab a bite to eat in this area, from the street vendors, or along any of the side streets.

Quincy Market, Boston
Quincy Market

Next, walk in the direction of City Hall and visit Kings Chapel on your way to Boston Common. This is the large park located in the center of the city. We laid out in the grass and watched the fun tours of people dressed in funny costumes and kids playing frisbee.

Boston common grounds
Boston Common

I took a walk around the park, maneuvered my way through the side streets adjacent to the park, and found Acorn Street. This is a lovely cobblestone alley lined with beautiful old homes.

Acorn street, boston
Acorn Street

From here, I made my way to Newbury Street, which is lined with generic clothing stores, high-end stores, fancy corporate buildings, and franchised restaurants.

newbury street, boston
Newbury Street

The day was beautiful, so we spent a majority of it laying in the sun at Boston Common.

Getting Back to the Airport…

Be sure to leave yourself ample time to get back to the airport. For domestic flights, be back at least 1.5 hours before you BOARD (not takeoff). For international, be there at least 2-3 hours before you board- don’t leave the city 2-3 hours before you board. Be back at the airport checking into your flight 2-3 hours before. It was rush hour when we were headed back, so it took about 45 minutes to get from South Station to our terminal.

south station, boston
South Station

To get back to the airport, don’t forget to pick up your bag! Then, you must go to a kiosk and buy a one-way $2.65 “CharlieTicket” back to the airport terminal on Silver Line. There are three terminals that the bus stops at (A, B, and C)- it lists which airlines are the corresponding terminals.

Love is the Infinite Destiny

Love in Melbourne

My friends always tell me that I love too easily or that I need to protect my heart better. It’s true- I love pretty relentlessly, fall in love easily, and extend love to people without a second thought or “when they don’t deserve it”.

Separate the infinite and the finite…

Love connects me to the infinite part of me. Love is not the absence of hate. This life is the refinement, the uncovering, the movement towards, the molding of what is to come. Love is the passion that conditions the soul for the eternal.

I feel a pull to fight against this part of me that craves love and the eternal. In this world, we are told to protect our hearts from hate, fear, evil, rejection, and heartbreak. But these are the things that point us to love like an arrow on a path.

Grief and heartbreak are equally the cost and the trophy of love. It is when we can say wholeheartedly, “I won“. Love triumphs to infinity.

Life is full of finite games, where the prize is money, fame, happiness, and approval. But the real prize comes when we tap into our infinite part of ourselves, when we quench the longing of our soul, when we commit to love.

Love is defined or built throughout our life based on the people and experiences surrounding us. For me, love was first defined by an addict- my mother. Love was meant to be unconditional, but it was particularly expected or demanded when it was “needed” most (basically when my mom did something horrible like hurt someone or me). I had to love most when I was rejected most. Now, when I feel rejection, I innately have this urgency to fight for the relationship and extend love. Love was next defined- more so redeemed- by God. I met Him and fell in love with Him at the age of 10. He continues to fill me up and show me how to extend unconditional love in a way that is eternally significant.


Finding love in Melbourne

Find Presence with No Plan…

I can imagine I am not alone in this fear of “missing it”. “It” being the guy, the glance, the date, the sale, the train, the deadline, the promotion, the golden hour, the opportunity, the idea, the healing, the chance, the breakthrough. I believe the lie that I am going to miss “it”, then my life will be second best or sub par. Then, I will have to go to Plan B. Then I might miss it again and have to go to Plan C.

What would be possible if I not only believed but embodied this idea that I am exactly where I need to be in each moment– never late and never early but right on time? And instead of running around all of the bases, what would be possible if I took each step with intention and chose to see the beauty in the journey? Maybe Plan B is just as great or maybe it doesn’t even exist at all. This moment is my destiny.

We live in a world where if you don’t have a plan, you are simply immature and have no direction- you’re useless. But lately plans have seemed binding and lacking fluidity or flow. There is this post-grad constriction to a normalized mold or ideal of “having it all figured out”.

nature is infinite

If I spend the rest of my life scared of a second-best life and always feeling this pressure to arrive but never settle, there will be no rest and no ease. There will never be enough- enough of anything. I am always living Plan A- right here on this yoga mat, in this park, breathing in this air. I am exactly where I need to be exactly as I am. I have arrived to my destiny. I can rest and move on this journey. From this place, I can expand and breath and love and lighten and find joy.

I commit to the present. To love and to heartbreak. To my destiny as it is in this moment.

Three Days in Amsterdam

Many times, Amsterdam is just a layover. Instead of hanging out in the airport, maybe you opt to extend your layover and spend a few days in the great city of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam

How to Get Around…

Public Transit…The Amsterdam Travel Ticket is an option which includes unlimited travel on all trams, buses (including night buses), metro (including to the Amsterdam Airport Schipol), and ferries in Amsterdam. It is valid for one (€15) or two days (€20). We did the one-day pass to get from the airport to our AirBnb.
Bike…Amsterdam was made for biking. That being said- locals are the main bikers. If you choose to bike, be cautious and prepared to pay attention. I got hit by a scooter because I was taking up too much of the bike lane. Start out walking around the city and appreciate the bike paths from afar before choosing to partake. There are also biking trails throughout the city and suburbs which give you access to places that cars cannot go.

stay in amsterdam

Day One…

Arrived in Amsterdam around 3:30 pm. We navigated the train system pretty easily to our AirBnb right on the “Nieuwe Meer” lake about 20 minute walk from Lelylaan Train stop. This is a great area to stay in Amsterdam, and our AirBnb gave us free bikes which was lovely.

extend your stay

We took the tram into Amsterdam Centrall, where we found a quaint Indonesian restaurant, where we sat outside and watched the world go by as we ate. Amsterdam Centrall is the city-center with lovely architecture and restaurants and shopping.

amsterdam

Day Two…

I started my day with a lovely run through Park Oeverlanden. Then, we hopped on our bikes to the Western Market and ate at a cafe adjacent to it. The market was mostly fabrics. Then, we headed to Van Gogh Museum/ I Amsterdam sign. We hung out in the gift shop and the park near by. Next stop was Food Hallen. Game changer! It is basically a food hall with a ton of vendors- I would eat here every day of my life if I could. I had veggie nachos and a falafel. We shopped around Food Hallen then biked to Harleem to see the windmill then to Anne Frank House Be sure to buy your tickets months in advance. We walked around Jordaan and ate ice cream until our time slot arrived for the Anne Frank House.

Day Three…

We began our morning eating breakfast at a random cafe (Stache). You can’t go wrong with a cafe in Amsterdam.

the lovely amsterdam

Tip: When looking for a cafe or place to eat, just go into a crowded cafe/restaurant where there are locals or people in suits.

cheese in amsterdam, can even check it through the airport

Next, we biked to Albert Cuyp Market, where we bought Gouda cheese and Birkenstocks– so Dutch of us. Then, we biked to the free ferry that takes you to Amsterdam Noord. Here, we had lunch at Ons– an amazing salad and hummus and bread. This was just the fuel we needed to bike several miles to Broek en Waterland. This is a quaint, floating town along open fields and farmland. It had a beautiful church, cemetery, and community garden. This is the town that inspired my blog (read the story here). We biked back to Ons for round two or dinner- burger and salad.

More on Europe, check out…

The World’s Most Livable City…Melbourne, AUS

Pre-Trip Tips…

trying to be a local
  1. This goes for any city, really. Google ‘Whats on in Melbourne May‘ and look at sites like ‘Timeout‘. They outline various festivals, gigs, exhibitions, etc. I found fun events like Vintage Fashion Sale pop-up, Chinatown Pop-Up Market, Immigration Museum Exhibitions, and Beer Yoga.
  2. You need a Visa to go to Australia, which I did not know. I believe they recently changed this. It is very simple to do and can be done in just 20 minutes online. I did mine at the gate while boarding (although I do not recommend this).
  3. I am sure you have heard this before, but you must set up a travel notice with your bank. What you may have not heard before is that if you have a bigger bank like Bank of America or Wells Fargo, they have bank partnerships with other international banks. Google “Bank of America Partners in Australia” or whatever country you are going to and you can use your debit card at their partners’ ATMs without incurring a transaction fee. The transaction fee may show up initially but then the bank will waive the fee.
  4. A quick Google search of how to get from the airport to your AirBnb/hotel/hostel can save you a lot of money. I found the Airport Skybus for $30 roundtrip, whereas an Uber would have costed me $50 one-way. The Skybus took me right into the middle of the city, where I was able to take a tram to my AirBnb.
  5. Another great thing to research, which is new to most cities, is Bike Shares. Or scooter shares. Melbourne has a great Bike Share and is a bike-friendly city. Other cities such as Austin, TX and Atlanta, GA have scooter shares. More on the bike share later…

Just a Little Bit of Orientation…

  1. CBD (stands for Central Business District) – This is a literal 6.2 km square that is known as “the city of Melbourne”. In the CBD, the tram is free to ride. More on the tram later…
  2. Fitzroy – This is where I stayed, and is also known to be very hipster. It is also home to a lot of the music scene, nightlife, vintage shopping, and great restaurants. It is walking distance to the CBD and other suburbs, which makes it a great place to stay. Just north of Fitzroy is Northcote and Thornbury which is also hippie-ville. I loved it- lots of health food stores and fun vintage clothes.
  3. Carlton – This is close to the University of Melbourne, and I would argue the best place to get some authentic Italian food. It is right next to Fitzroy and close to the CBD as well. Another great place to stay.
  4. South Melbourne – I grouped this area all together, because it is south of the Yarra River. The Yarra basically cuts the city in half. This is more a business-y and residential district and close to the CBD. It has lots of parks and museums close by.
  5. St. Kilda – This is the well-known beach located south of the city. A great place to watch the sunset and see penguins.
perfect climate and unmatched beauty
St. Kilda

How to Get Around…

Walk…This is the best way to learn the city and find little spots that you might miss if you were zooming by in a car or bike. Melbourne has a lot of great street art on side streets which are fun to meander through. It is relatively flat, and the weather is great year-round (no matter how much the locals claim how “cold” it is in the winter – think high 50’s and 60’s). You can always stop by a park (there are so many) to take a minute and relax when you feel your legs talking to you.
The Tram…The best way to learn the tram system is to try it out, especially in the CBD while it is free. I had to ride the tram from the Skybus (the shuttle that takes you from the airport to the Southern Cross Station, the central station in the city). I had no clue how to navigate the tram, so I just went to the nearest tram stop with the most people and hopped on. Funny enough, it ended up being the right tram. But this is not always the case- especially for me- so be ready to extend yourself grace and time to make funny mistakes. That’s the key- LAUGH about it and don’t be so hard on yourself. I just hopped on, figured out what NUMBER tram I was on, then looked at what the next stop was on the screen to tell me what DIRECTION I was going in, then found the stop that I needed to get off on. Again, be ready to make mistakes and have a good laugh when you do. Also, there are plenty of people willing to help. It was 5 am when I arrived, and a man so kindly came up and offered to help.

visit just like the locals

Bike Share…It was AUS$8 for one week and AUS$10 for one month subscription. You simply download the app and can hop on whenever you see one nearby. So, when you have exhausted your legs from walking or want to have a little fun and you spot a bike, the change of pace and windblown hair can turn the feelings of tiredness into a fresh start. A perk is most of the bikes have free helmets attached. To unlock a bike, you will need Wifi which can be problematic if you chose to forgo an international phone plan. This was not an issue in Melbourne, because they have free Wifi all over the CBD. If you plan to hop on a bike in a place such as St. Kilda or South Melbourne, you will have to use data.
Bike Rental…There is another option, if you don’t want to have to worry about docking the bike every 45 minutes. You can rent a bike from Freddy’s in the west park of the CBD for $30/day. They also do bike tours.

Day One…Saturday in Fitzroy

I wanted to make a note that it is Saturday, which means lots of markets and events are happening that may not happen during the week.

  1. Yoga…Of course, the first thing I do is find a yoga studio- especially after traveling for 30 hours. I chose Power Living!
  2. Begin your walk at Carlton Gardens. This contains Melbourne Museum (AUS$15) and Royal Exhibition Building (AUS$13). From there, walk down Gertrude Street until you turn left onto Brunswick Street.
  3. Brunswick Street…I wanted to orient myself with my new little town. I hopped into some vintage shops and other fun record stores.
  4. Industry Beans...I grabbed coffee here after a friend I had met at the yoga studio recommended it to me.
  5. Markets Galore…Fitzroy Mills Market, Rose Street Market, and more!

Note: the time change was very tough. It was a 14-hour shift for me. My stomach was confused as well as my body. When I was sleeping, I was awake and hungry. When I was awake, I was tired. A great investment was an eye mask – just be sure to set an alarm or else you will sleep through the entire day. It took me about three days to adjust. Be careful with caffeine, even if you want to nap, this may throw you off.

livable city and locals

Bar Recommendations in/near Fitzroy:
Naked for Satan
Black Pearl
Carlton Brewhouse
Workers Club
Rainbow Hotel
Bad Frankie

Restaurant/Cafe Recommendations in/near Fitzroy:
Moroccan Soup Bar
Alimentari
Proud Mary
Faraday’s Cage
Lune Croissanterie
Seven Seeds
Pidapipo
(ice cream)

livable city

Day Two…Sunday in CBD

Today, I began in the city center and worked my way out. You can start from any place- take and leave what you prefer!

  1. Degraves Espresso Bar and Degraves Street Art
  2. Walk East on Flinders Lane to Centre Place Street Art
  3. Old Treasury Building
  4. Parliament. It was election weekend, so I was able to go in and tour the entire building!
  5. Walk West on Bourke Street
  6. Bourke Street Market
  7. Flagstaff Gardens
  8. Queen Victoria Market (9 am – 4 pm. They also have a Night Market on Wednesdays)
  9. Seven Seeds Cafe
  10. Walk up Lygon Street
  11. Readings Bookstore

Bar recommendations in/near CBD: Section 8, Berlin Bar, Croft Arbory, Goldilocks, Saint & Rogue, Magic Mountain Saloon, Collins Quarter, Captain Melville, Beneath Driver Lane, Cricketers, Toff in Town, Rooftop Cinema, Spleen Bar (Free live comedy), Carlton Club

Restaurant recommendations in/near CBD: Hardwood Societe, Chin Chin, Hu Tong, Rice Paper Scissors, Shanghai St Dumpling, Hawker Chan, Mamasita, Supernormal, Cumulus, Coda, Tonka, Movida, Red Spice Rd, Burma Lane, Seamstress, Long Room, Izakaya Chuji, 8bit, Madame Brussels, Nando’s (fast food), Vapiano

Cafe recommendations in/near CBD: Higher Ground, Hash Specialty, Degraves St Espresso Bar

Day Three…CBD and St. Kilda

This day I utilized the Bike Share. I hopped on a bike at the Melbourne Museum. There are several throughout the CBD, especially near the museums.

locals in Melbourne Australia
  1. Immigration Museum – free for students if you bring your student ID. Otherwise, AUS$15.
  2. Flinders St. Station
  3. ACMI Museum – Free. They had a Virtual Reality Exhibit, which was very cool. This was great while it rained, as they play movies upstairs.
  4. Federation Square
  5. Birrarung Marr Park – I read that sometimes people will just set up a barbecue in the park, and anyone is welcomed to join. I did not see any (might have been because it was Monday).
  6. National Gallery of Victoria – Free
  7. Eureka Sky deck – Great view of the city.
  8. Royal Botanic Gardens
  9. Shrine of Remembrance
  10. St. KildaAcland St is where all of the shops are (Monarch, Europa, Pontoon to name a few good ones), and Hotel Esplanade usually has live music. The Bay Trail is the trail that takes you all the way up to Port Melbourne from St. Kilda, but I stuck around St. Kilda for sunset and penguins.

Other things in “South Melbourne”/below the Yarra River:
South Melbourne Market, Prahran Market, Chapel St in Prahran

Cafe/Restaurant/Bar recommendations:
Hurricane Handsome (Cafe)
Bond Store
(Cafe)
Matilda
Ponyfish Island
(Bar)

Day Four…Northcote and Thornbury

  1. I spent most of the day laying in the sun in Edinburgh Gardens, which is in Fitzroy. This is a popular, local spot with lots of pups, families, pick-up basketball, and overlooks the skyline.
  2. Then, I walked to High Street in Northcote where all of the shops are.
  3. I turned around after checking out Welcome to Thornbury, which is a food truck park. There is also a modern art museum called Heide MOMA (AUS$20), but it is quite a far walk from here.
  4. That night, I met up with a friend in Carlton for dinner at DOC, an amazing pizza place and lively nightlife scene.

After dinner, I went to Lost & Found, which is a backpackers bar in the CBD. It is attached to a Backpackers hostel and has fun events every night. I went without knowing anyone and met a ton of friends from all over the world, who I met up with later in the week! After a few games with great prizes (like vouchers to different excursions throughout Australia), we went to Chuckle Park Bar (AUS$5 cover cash-only). It was a fun club with European EDM- interesting to say the least.

meet locals Melbourne Australia

Day 5…Collingwood and Abbotsford

Collingwood is a suburb of Melbourne just east of Fitzroy. It is very similar to Fitzroy with its vintage shopping, cute coffee shops, and beer. Abbotsford is just a little further east of Collingwood.

  1. Walk along Johnston Street until you come to the main road of Collingwood, Smith Street – literally parallel to Brunswick just a few blocks away.
  2. Continue along Johnston Street until you see signs that take you to Abbotsford Convent. Here, you can meander around the convent. I highly recommend stopping at Lentil As Everything- vegan/vegetarian, pay what you want, and all donations go to refugees. The food is AMAZING! And you may even catch sight of a wedding in the convent.
  3. Next to Abbotsford Convent is Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Cafe along a beautiful trail worth walking or biking along the Yarra River called Main Yarra Trail. You can take this trail all the way up to Thornbury or all the way south to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

That evening, I had the pleasure of joining a friend at an AFL game at the MCG. Australian Football is a mixture between football, soccer, and rugby. It is very fast-paced and intense! If you are able to go, do it even if it is down-pouring rain!

Day Trip Options…

You are going to need a car for these.

  • The Great Ocean Road
  • You Yangs
  • Bells Beach
  • Wilson’s Promenade
  • Grampians
  • Philip Island
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Lorne Beach
  • Otway National Park

Extra Tips…

  • “Entree” means appetizer. “Main” is the main course. This might be confusing for Americans.
  • “Pie” means a meat pie, unless they specify that it is sweet such as “apple”.
  • “Arcade” is a type of mall. There are several throughout the CBD.
  • WALK ON THE LEFT of the sidewalks. And before you cross the road, make sure you look in the right direction to check for cars AND TRAMS! Pedestrians are supposed to yield to trams.

Want more Australia? Check out this East Coast backpacking itinerary.

Want to experience more of the South Pacific? Check out New Zealand or Fiji.

Have a layover on the Big Island, Hawai’i? Check out this one-week itinerary.

One-Month Backpacking Trip through Europe

Quick overview…

*Factor in travel time in between*
Madrid – 3 days
Barcelona – 3 days
Rome – 3 days
Cinque Terra – 2 days
Venice – 2 days
Zadar – 2 days
Dubrovnik – 2 days
Athens – 2 days
Santorini – 3 days

Day One – Barcelona to Madrid

Madrid, Spain, Europe

Fly into Barcelona. Take Renfe (train) to Madrid. I booked my train in advance from Barcelona to Valencia then to Madrid. If I were to do it over again, I probably would have just flown into Madrid or taken a direct train from Barcelona to Madrid. Navigating the railway system proved to be very challenging. I ended up going in the wrong direction for several hours and had to pay $60 to get where I needed to be. It was very frustrating, and this was my first day in Spain by myself. But rather than beating myself up like I would have used to, I began to reflect on all of the positives. I met a lovely friend from Portugal and told myself, “you’re doing the best you can”! I got to see pretty rural parts of Spain and took some great naps. Extend yourself grace when you travel!

Tip: Bring your Student ID Card…even if you’ve already graduated.

My friend was supposed to join me the following morning but all of the trains broke, so she was late. There is also the possibility of strikes. So, again, I probably would’ve flown into Madrid to avoid the trouble.

Madrid, Spain, Europe

At the train station in Madrid, I hiked to my hostel, Hostal Gonzalo with my 40 lb pack. This hostel was in a great area of town and very clean. For dinner, I walked around the corner and had two amazing tostadas with prawns and ham. There was also a street fair daily, where I ate another tostado con jamon (ham) and tomate paste. While eating, I met a couple from San Francisco- that’s the beauty of traveling alone. You are forced to meet people!

Tip: During my time in Europe, I did not use any cellular data. I relied purely on Wifi. The trick here is to open your maps while you are on Wifi. Then, when you leave, it will keep the blue dot and tell you where you are. You can drop pins of the locations where you are going. If you get desperately lost, you can drop in a Starbucks or any coffee shop, grab a cup of coffee and a seat, recalibrate, and get your bearings.

Day Two – Madrid

Cafe con leche at a local cafe down the road from my hostel. Then, I went to the flea market el Rastro – the most popular open air flea market in Madrid. It is held every Sunday. It was so fun- lots of antique stores, fun street music, and even an outdoors shop. I broke my water bottle on the airplane, so I was able to buy a Camelbak.

Then, I got lost, wandered through old churches, found beautiful lookouts, visited tons of plazas, jardins, and the palace. I found a Starbucks, because at that point, I was very lost. My friend and I met up at the hostel.

Tip: McDonald’s is another great place to get Wifi, and you might get away without buying anything. You can simply stand outside. They also have boujee cafe drinks that are unique from America.

We walked to the San Miguel market, and I ate a cheese plane with a cone of some sort of meat. We met some people from Mississippi, who recognized our Southern accents. San Miguel is a market full of different vendors.

Madrid, Spain, Europe

I went on a run around Retino Park, near our hostel. We napped in order to adjust to the time change. Our other friend arrived around 10:30 pm, and it was raining very hard. We ate at a restaurant near the hostel, and stopped by a convenience store on the way home to get some Mahou beers.

Tip: Practice your Spanish! I promise it’s get better!

Day Three – Madrid

Of course, I started with a cafe con leche and churros con chocolate. Then, we walked to Retino Park and hung out at the fountain, went on a hunt for Gigi Barcelona glasses for my dad’s birthday present. (He still gets complements to this day).

Ojala, Madrid, Spain, Europe

For early dinner / late lunch, we headed to Ojala. It was amazing! Then, we walked to the palace and San Miguel market for dessert. It began to storm like crazy, so we ran into a cute little dessert place near the market. We splurged on some cookies!

Madrid, Spain, Europe

We went to Dubliners, a bar, that was having great happy hour specials. We met some friends from Argentina. From there, we bar hopped. There are people that walk around and recruit you to come to their bar. They bribe you with free drinks and deals.

Tip: Be open to meeting people! You can read my story about the friend I met here.

Day Four – Madrid to Barcelona

Renfe from Madrid to Barcelona. This time, it was easier because two of my friends were with me to navigate. Once we arrived in Barcelona, we walked to our AirBnb. We decided on an AirBnb in Barcelona, because there was going to be a total of 8 of us. The AirBnb was on Carrer Cabanes (this is the street name) in a nice neighborhood. We went to an amazing Tapas restuarant, Tasqueta, right near our AirBnb. I also found peanut butter in a local grocery store- a novelty and very expensive! If you prefer Nutella, no worries! There is no shortage throughout Europe.

Barcelona, Spain, Europe

Day 5 – 6 – Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain, Europe

I went on a run towards the arena, which was great! Then, we went to the Gothic Quarter, Cathedral of Barcelona, Arc de Triomf, Las Ramblas, Mercat de la Boqueria, Casa Batilo, Parc Guell, and had paella near our Airbnb. We went to a nightclub called Opium.

Barcelona, Spain, Europe

The next day, we went to Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. We ate at Brunch & Cake. That night, we went to the Shot Bar, Chuppito’s. They have over 500 flavors of shots (yes, flavors! Think S’mores, CandyLand, etc.)

Barcelona, Spain, Europe

Day 7 – Barcelona to Rome

We took a train to the airport. Flights are very cheap between cities in Europe on Ryanair. We took a train from the airport to our hostel, Freedom Traveller, and walked from there. Then, of course we had to have pasta for our first night in Italy. We went to the restaurant across from the Opera Theater. Then, we walked to Trevi Fountain and had gelato. There are a ton of street vendors and artists. It’s a fun night scene.

Rome, Italy

Tip: Don’t have your phone out at dinner, especially if you are sitting outside. The waiter will not be very happy, and may even tell you to leave.

Day 8 – Rome

We walked to the Colosseum, and I immediately got chills and began to tear up. I did not realize I had such a connection to the Colosseum. I think it just reminded me of the honor it is to travel. It was way too crowded, so we decided we would come back later.

Backpacking in Rome, Italy

We walked to the Forum, which was amazing history! Then, we walked to the Vatican and saw the Dome (great view of the city), St. Peter’s Basilica, tombs, and Sistine Chapel. We were worn out and found a cheap pizza place and gelato. On our way home, we stumbled upon the Parthenon! Can’t say that every day!

Tip: Best Gelato place with 30+ flavors….Gelateria Della Palma

The Vatican

Tip: Be sure to pack something to cover your shoulders and knees in Vatican city, ladies!

Day 9 – Rome

We went shopping at Zara’s and other shops that fill Italy’s streets. Then, we went to the Spanish stairs and Colosseum round two. We found a local place to grab dinner.

Rome, Italy

Tip: eat a late lunch / early dinner. You can usually catch good deals! And beat the crowd!

Back at the hostel, we had a random roommate from Argentina. We all hung out! Don’t let a group room scare you. It’s a fun way to meet people. And don’t doubt Google translate!

Rome, Italy

Day 10 – Rome to Cinque Terre

Train from Rome to Cinque Terre early in the morning, and were able to make it to Cinque Terre by 11 am. We explored 4/5 of the cities, and stayed at an AirBnb. It was postcard perfect. I didn’t realize how much I loved and missed being by the water. It was a lot less crowded than Rome.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 11 – Cinque Terre to Venice

Venice, Italy

Via Train. At the train station in Cinque Terre, they have the best sandwich I have ever had in my life! So I bought three for the train ride. This took all day. We had to take a ferry after getting off the train to our hostel. Depending on how long you are staying and where you are staying, you can talk to the attendant at the ferry stations to figure out which pass is most economical. We stayed off the main city, so we used the ferries a lot. We stayed at Generator Venice hostel.

Burano, Venice, Italy

Day 12 – Venice

Venice, Italy

Explore Burano – the city of colors. We also got to explore mainland Venice a little. We ate grocery store food – meat and cheese and bread. Other things to see include St. Mark’s Basilica, Grand Canal, Campanile di San March (8$ tour), Rialto Bridge, St. Mark’s Square, Peggy Guggenheim Collection Museum, San Giorgio Maggiore Island, and Rialto Bridge.

Venice, Italy

Day 13 – Venice to Zadar

Flight to Croatia. Instead of direct, we took four separate flights. If I were to do it again, I would’ve booked direct. Depending on how much you are saving, sometimes it is worth it to splurge and have that extra time exploring rather than at the airport. We stayed at Three Corners Hostel, which is a great location and the staff helped us book our excursions.

We chose Zadar over Split, because it was much cheaper and also a fun coastal city rather than a crowded suburban city.

Day 14 – 15 – Zadar

Zadar, Croatia

We took a ferry to a cool island, Sali, and explored for the day. There were not many tourists which as a score. Right near our hostel was the best sandwich shop, Papica, and some bars.

Zadar, Croatia

I became friends with the sandwich shop guy, and learned a lot about Croatia. Supposedly, the government is very corrupt and that Croatians are leaving. Even if they work like a dog, they can’t save up enough to even live comfortably.

Zadar, Croatia

The next day we went to Krka national park about 2 hours away – took a shuttle to get there. Once we got home, we walked to the Solar Dance floor. We also visited Plitvice Lakes, a series of 16 lakes connected by waterfalls.

Zadar, Croatia

Day 16 – Zadar to Dubrovnik

Flight then bus to the hostel. We stayed at a horrible hostel called Hostel City Central Old Town. The hostel manager, Neno, was very controlling and creepy, but we had fun, Australian roommates.

The first day, we went to the island Lokrum, where Game of Thrones is filmed. They even have a museum! We met some friends from Michigan. We laid out and jumped off cliffs!

Dubrovnik, Croatia.

For dinner, we went into Old Town, which is separated by a wall. Surprisingly, we found a yummy, cheap Mexican restaurant.

Dubrovnik, Croatia.

That night, we went out with our new Aussie roommates and met up with the friends from Michigan at the Art Cafe. Then, we went to a club called Revlin, and danced the night away.

Day 17 – Dubrovnik

Today was another beach day, but on the main island. The beach is called Bonje beach (it actually has sand) and is walkable from the city center. It began to rain, so we hung out in a cafe. We went again to the Mexican restaurant.

Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Day 18 – Dubrovnik to Athens

Flight. It took a while, but we finally found our hostel called Student & Travellers Inn, Athens. There was a restaurant next door where we grabbed dinner. The hostel was horrible – no AC, gross showers, and bad wifi. Although, we had two roommates from Northern Ireland, which was fun!

Athens, Greece, Europe

Day 19 – Athens

Athens, Greece, Europe

We walked to the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Temple of Olympic Zeus, Arch of Hadrian, Panathenaic stadium, National Gardens, and shopped at the flea markets on Ermou St and Pandossou St. We ate at Smile, because they have great deal with great portions! We hung around the hostel and played a group game with everyone. Then, we barhopped a little bit.

Tip: Bring your student ID, even if you aren’t in college anymore. You get great discounts!

Day 20 – Athens to Santorini

We had to wake up very early for our ferry at 6 am. The ferry ride (that isn’t the express one) is 8 hours. Our hostel, Anny’s Studios, picked us up from the ferry. Our hostel is on the black sand beach called Perissa.

Tip: Most things we planned before we came – such as Airbnb’s and hostels and flights and train rides. But I had to book something for my last night in Athens by myself. There was a ferry protest, so I had to schedule around that. Always be aware of things like that and be flexible! Because of this protest, I had to miss out of Ios.

Day 21 – Santorini

We booked a catamaran for the morning. It was beautiful but very cold. Our skippers were fun and the food was amazing. Then we walked down the beach, ate on the beach, and laid out in the sun.

Santorini, Greece, Europe

Day 22 – Santorini

Santorini, Greece, Europe

We took a bus to Oia, where the blue roofs are. We got a pedicure at the fish spa. They had amazing Euros at Thira.

Santorini, Greece, Europe

Day 23 – Santorini to Athens

Another long ferry ride. I stayed at Zorbas Hostel. Although it was far from most attractions, it was comfortable and a good price. Be sure to set up transportation from the ferry to hostel- I had to split a cab with a random person I met on the ferry.

Day 24 – Athens

I found a health food store. I walked through the financial district. Walked through the flea market, bought a purse, ate at Smile, and searched for travel shampoo/conditioner. I was gearing up for next months in Southeast Asia and Africa. I met a couple of my hostel roommates from San Diego, and we went out. We barhopped and walked to the Parthenon to overlook the city.

Athens, Greece, Europe

More on Europe, check out:

Tanzania…the Unmet Beauty

Tanzania really does have it all- from the remote island and vibrant culture of Zanzibar island to the wild, unmatched safari in Arusha.

*Disclaimer: I did this through a volunteer organization called GIVE. I recommend checking them out and considering volunteering. It truly is the best way to travel.*

A little bit of Orientation…

Jambo means hello! Mambo means what’s up, which the response is poa!

Tanzania is in East Africa, and Zanzibar is an island off of its coast. There is a bit of a political rift between the two regions, which is an interesting Google search if you are interested. There are several ways to fly into Tanzania including Dar es Saleem, Zanzibar, and Kilimanjaro.

Zanzibar island, Tanzania

If you fly into Dar es Saleem, you can take a ferry to Zanzibar. If you fly into Kilimanjaro, you can begin your journey here in Arusha then fly to Zanzibar. Or vice versa.

Zanzibar…

Stonetown is the main city of Zanzibar, and is a fun place to hang around, shop, and eat. There are fun AirBnbs tucked away in the weaving alleys of Stonetown. Some great restaurants include Tanu Pizza, Food Lover’s, and Taverna. Stonetown is loaded with bustle and markets to explore. It is also located on the water, where there is a local market in the evenings.

But the beauty of Zanzibar lies on the beaches. Kiwengwa is a great place to go- it has the perfect balance of liveliness and retreat. Check out Lazy Beach House! Cabs are available to hire through the hotel you book with.

Kiwengwa has restaurants along the beach, Henna, massages, souvenir shops, and other excursions. You can take a day trip to Mnemba or on a beautiful Dhow boat and swim with dolphins.

Arusha…

Arusha is located near Mt. Kilimanjaro, so while you are here, I recommend climbing it! Check out my post here.

Rafiki House is a great place to stay while in Arusha with amenities such as Wifi, hot showers, and good food.

Arusha is also surrounded by some of the best places to go on Safari. Book through Green Paw Adventures and visit Monyero while staying at Panoramo Camp (stay in a Yurt). Then, visit Terengery Park, too. You are bound to cross off all of your must-see Safari animals!

zanzibar island, tanzania
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