Tag Archives: travel blog

On Island Time in Aruba

This past winter in New York just didn’t want to quit. As an East Coast native, you’d think I’d be used to our harsh and unpredictable winters by now, but this one just kept zagging on us. One weekend we were lounging in the park, enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree temperatures; the next we were huddled inside, braving our third major snowstorm of the year. Don’t let anyone tell you that climate change isn’t real, kids.

It kind of bums me out that Spring Break ceases to be a thing once you’ve exited the academic world. We could all use a break during the long months between the holidays and the first signs of summer. I try my darndest to get out of town at some point during the winter/early spring. As much as I love the city, a little sunshine is extremely beneficial to my mental health. So when my parents planned a late winter getaway to Aruba, I decided to tag along (with their permission, of course – as an only child I’m a pro third-wheeler, but I know my boundaries).

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Most of our time on the island, just 18 miles north of Venezuela, was spent at the beach or pool at our resort. I was very grateful for the time to just chill out and actually read a book for once. I finished John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, two very different but equally excellent reads, while enjoying the (surprisingly strong) Caribbean sun. Knowing my parents, of course, we weren’t content to just plop for the whole week. We needed to get out and see some of the island.

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We woke up early one morning to take a Jeep ride out Arikok National Park, which makes up a good chunk of the northeast part of the island. Arikok’s terrain and shoreline stand in stark contrast to the sandy beaches of the island’s south side. It’s much more rough around the edges, featuring huge limestone formations, cliffs, and fields of aloe plants. It’s cliche, but it honestly felt like we’d traveled to a completely different island in the 30 minute ride from our resort to the park.

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The tour guides drove us out to the Natural Pool, one of Arikok’s top attractions, for a bit of snorkeling. It was kind of amazing to get to swim in this one calm little pond, while the waves of the Caribbean crashed on the rocks around us. We saw some great local fish, and I only hit my head on the rocks once! From there, we got to check out the Natural Bridge, ate some delicious pastechi, and took in the view from the comfort of our Jeep.

 

One of the last stops on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel, a tiny Catholic chapel in the hills just outside the town of Noord. The chapel stands on the site of the original church built by Venezuelan missionaries in 1750. The original church was abandoned in 1816 after a plague hit the area, but a schoolteacher raised funds to rebuild it in 1952. Though I’m not particularly religious, I was raised Catholic and something about this church resonated with me more than others I’ve visited. Maybe it was the warmth of yellow walls, or the striking statue of the Virgin Mary at the altar, or just the serenity of its location high above the ocean. The place almost demands that you take a moment to sit down and just be still. Whether you feel like praying is totally up to you.

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Later in our trip, we took a sunset catamaran cruise around the south side of the island. I’ll be real with you, I don’t have much to say about this part of the trip other than a) I love sunsets, b) I love boats, and c) I love taking pictures of myself with sunset lighting on a boat. Also drinks were included. So that’s cool.

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I had a really lovely time in Aruba and would go back in a minute. This time with more cash for the casino, of course.


I’ve been hesitant to set up any kind of audience support page (a la Patreon) for this blog. For one thing, sometimes I don’t write anything for a year (again, sorry about that). And when it comes down to it, I do this for myself. But hosting costs money and a little support is always helpful. I do work in theatre after all.

So if you like what you see here (and you have the means), consider buying me a coffee! Ko-fi is a tool that allows people to support the content they love by making small contributions (roughly equal to the amount of a cup of coffee) to creators. There is absolutely zero pressure to contribute, but if you do I will love you forever. I really believe in supporting the content you love if you have the means. So help a girl out!

Flora, Fauna, and Food Trucks | Oahu, HI

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A trip to Hawaii – at least for a first-timer – isn’t quite complete without a visit to the Aloha State’s capital, Honolulu. After a week of relaxing in Kauai I was really looking forward to visiting this legendary city and seeing a few more faces. I got all that and more upon arriving in Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki Beach is constantly buzzing with tourists from all over the world exploring the many shops, restaurants, and hotels that line the shore. The vibe is at once laid-back and upscale, with buildings housing both five-star restaurants and flip-flop shops. I had some of the best Japanese and Korean food of my life (so far) over my three days in town. My beefy lite bowl from the Kamitoku Ramen truck was better than some of the fancier meals I had over the trip.

 

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Speaking of food trucks, if you’re on your way to the North Shore and love shrimp, make a pit stop at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Haleiwa. There’s only a few items on the menu (three styles of shrimp and a garlic hot dog) but it’s all fantastic. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes and fighting off fruit flies, I started to wonder if it was worth it, but that plate of shrimp scampi was a revelation. Go there.

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After stuffing our faces with shrimp, we stopped by Waimea Valley, an amazingly lush botanical garden and cultural site that brings visitors closer to nature and Native Hawaiian history. Walking down to the waterfall, you can see why its considered such a sacred place. It’s absolutely stunning even in winter, when most of the flowers aren’t in bloom. I can’t even imagine how it will look a few weeks from now.

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A trip to the North Shore isn’t complete without a stop at Sunset Beach, one of the top spots in the world for big wave surfing. You can’t really tell from the photos, but the surf was out of control that particular afternoon. I’m used to baby waves on the Atlantic. These swells were at least three times the size of the waves I’ve seen before major storms back home. Despite that, plenty of people were paddling out. I salute you, crazies.

Oh, there was also a double rainbow. So intense.

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Hawaii, you were good to me. I can’t wait to see you again soon.

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In case you missed it, check out the video I made of my Hawaiian adventures. While you’re in the neighborhood, I made 2 other somewhat travel-related videos during my blogging hiatus – one on moving to New York and the other on the people of Amtrak. Join me, won’t you?

Four Practical Tips for Calming Travel Jitters

I’m heading to Minneapolis on Thursday for Nerdcon: Stories, and I couldn’t be more excited/nervous. I’ve traveled a ton over the years (thanks, parents), but have only been on a handful of flights by myself. While some people freak out about the actual flight, I worry more about just getting myself on the plane without a responsible adult nudging me along. I worry I’ll oversleep and get to the airport too late, I worry about over-packing my carry-on, I worry about missing the boarding announcement once I get past security. Just writing this all down is making me anxious. *gulps*

Despite this laundry list of anxieties, I haven’t missed a flight yet. I’ve gathered the following tips over the years to help ease my travel jitters. Try some of these out for smooth sailing on your next trip.

Start packing two days in advance

I like to have all my laundry done two days before I fly (if possible) so I can start putting my outfits together for my trip. I try not to push myself to have everything packed that night (I will need my toothbrush again), but I like to at least put a few things in my bag. This way, I’m not in a mad rush to get everything together the night before and can actually get a good night’s sleep before my flight.

Lay out your flying outfit the night before

I’m sure you’ve heard this tip before, but it’s definitely key for me. Who wants to pick out an outfit in the dark at 5am? I sure as hell don’t. That’s how you end up flying in your pajamas (although, if that’s your style, no judgement). This is a super easy way to make your morning go a little faster, giving you a little more time to catch your breath before heading to the airport.

Plan airport transportation ahead of time

Chances are you don’t live within walking distance of an airport, so you’re going to have to figure out a way to get yourself to your gate on time. If you have a family member or an incredibly gracious friend who can give you a ride, take advantage of them. Public transportation is always a cheap and (generally) reliable option for getting there, but make sure to look up how long it takes to get to the airport and leave with more than enough time. Since I am incredibly lazy and don’t always trust the MTA, I booked a car to the airport in advance via Gett. Which is a thing you can do! I learn something new everyday.

Pack light

This is something I’ve struggled with for a while. I like to have ~options~ when I travel, but I also LOVE saving $25 by not checking a bag. As I mentioned earlier, I like to plan my outfits for my trip in advance and make sure I’m bringing items I can wear a few times. For a four day trip, I’ll usually bring two pairs of pants, a shirt for every day, and dresses/exercise clothes/swimsuits as needed. Hey Nadine, one of my favorite travel vloggers, made a kickass video on packing for a carry-on if you want a more specific approach.
I’m sure none of these tips are particularly new to you, but they’ve helped me rest easy before many an early morning flight. How do you deal with travel anxiety? Share your top tips in comments!

Image via Hernán Piñera

Sunset on the Bridge | New York City

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I recently moved to New York to start my career in the TV industry.

God, that feels weird to type out.

The job search felt like it took forever, but I found two awesome internships in the TV industry and started working about a month ago. Despite this, I’ve only had a few chances to go exploring, seeing as I’ve spent most of my weekends back in Philly for various reasons. I had a free evening during my first week in town and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I took to Twitter, looking for ways to amuse myself, and my friend Catherine suggested I a) get Chinese food and b) watch the sun set on the Brooklyn Bridge. So I did that.

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I’ve always admired the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s one of the few pieces of old New York that have remained through the cities numerous transformations. It’s a feat of engineering and aesthetically gorgeous. Before this night, though, I had only experienced the bridge via car.

I quickly learned that the bridge gets a little crowded around sunset with both tourists and commuters. However, I staked out a spot to enjoy the view while eating my dumplings. Somehow I managed not to get hit by a cyclist or a swarm of exercisers in a bootcamp class.

 

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I may have missed the early part of the sunset, but the sky was still gorgeous and I had a lovely view of the Financial District. I’ve spent a lot of time in Manhattan over the years, but I’ve never really explored the world below 14th Street. Now that I live and work here, I understand why people love it so much. The whole city is awesome, but there’s so much life downtown. You can really see the city’s rich history here among all the fancy boutiques and high-rises that have sprung up over the years.

I also understand why you have to give up your first-born to live here.

How to Cruise Like a Pro – Bermuda Edition

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Every summer, I join my dad’s side of the family (all 22 of them) for our annual family reunion. This usually consists of a few days in Upstate New York, but every couple of years we’ll venture out of the northeast. This year we decided to return to the high seas with a five-day cruise to Bermuda on Royal Carribean’s Explorer of the Seas. This was my fourth cruise and second time in Bermuda, and at this point I feel like I’ve gotten the cruise routine down. So how does one cruise like a pro? Read on, dear traveler.

1. Pick the right port.

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The port you depart from is almost as important as the one to which you’re sailing. You’ll probably end up staying a night or two in that city before or after the cruise, so you’ll want to make sure that that place is somewhere you’d like to visit. This all depends on where you’re going, of course. Port Canaveral, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale are pretty common departure points for Carribean cruises, and I, as a 20-something, would personally much rather stay the night in Miami. There are also departure ports around the world, and there may be one within driving distance of your home. I’m lucky enough to live near New York City, a common departure port for cruises to Bermuda and transatlantic voyages. The first time we sailed out of New York, my parents and I drove into the port a few hours before go time and parked at the dock. That’s pretty damn convenient if you ask me.

2. You’re gonna want a drink package.

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While you can eat til you burst on a cruise and not pay a cent extra, drinks (aside from tea, coffee, water, and some juices) are unfortunately not included in your fare. And believe me, you’re gonna want a drink or five when you’re at sea all day. To save cruisers a little bit of a heart attack when they receive their bill, a lot of cruise lines are now offering prepaid drink packages. For a few extra dollars a day, you can drink to your hearts content. Royal Carribean offers a few different levels of drink packages to accommodate everyone’s thirst. I went with a package that gave me unlimited beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, and I’d say it was definitely worth it.

3. Get off the boat, dummy!

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This probably seems like a given, but a lot of folks on my cruise actually never set foot on the island once we arrived in Bermuda. If that’s what you want to do, go for it, but I’m a fan of exploring. Definitely look into the excursions your cruise line offers. When you have limited time in a new place, it’s nice to have someone guiding your adventures.

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My family decided on a snorkeling excursion with a local tour company. We cruised around the island on a small boat and stopped near a reef for some snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was a nice, relaxing day out and the weather was fantastic. It also helped that they were serving complimentary Rum Swizzle all day.

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Since we were in port overnight, we decided to take it easy the next day with a trip to Horseshoe Bay. We laid out, did a little exploring, and took advantage of some excellent photo ops.

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Cruising definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, crowded, and sometimes a little too structured. But I’m a fan of seeing the world on a full stomach, so I’m definitely into it. Now to plan the next journey.

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P.S. If you want to see a silly video I made while I was in Bermuda, click here.
P.P.S. If you like what you see, consider following me on Bloglovin!

A Weekend in Sutton, Quebec

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little thrown by the cultural shift I felt upon arriving in Sutton, Quebec a few weeks ago. From the French signs to the quaint farms along the main road, I felt like I had just stepped off a transatlantic flight rather than a two-hour road trip from the Burlington, VT airport. It really didn’t help that I had just returned from a trip to California the night before. Not exactly the best travel decision on my part.

Once the momentary culture shock wore off, I fell in love with this little town. It’s a great place for a weekend getaway if you live on the east coast. The beautiful Mont Sutton is open year-round for skiing, hiking, camping, and more. My parents and I hiked up to Lac Spruce on our second day in town and somehow managed to beat the rain. The trail was challenging for someone like me who hasn’t hiked in a while, but definitely worth it. I mean, look at those photos. That’s a lot of green, y’all.

If you’re not into the whole nature thing, Sutton still has a lot to offer. There are a bunch of cute shops and galleries full of fantastic local art. There are also plenty of dining options, from cafes to pubs to more high-end stuff. I personally recommend Bistro Beaux Lieux. The food was fantastic and we had an awesome view of the Sutton sunset.

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IMG_3098We stayed a few minutes out of town at the Auberge & Spa West Brome, which happens to have it’s own farm. It’s really cool to see a hotel growing its own food and I just had to capture the symmetry of the tomato garden. And of course I couldn’t leave without a few shots of the cows. Man, I love cows.

P.S. Oh hey, I have a new blog title and theme. Let me know what you think of it!