Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stop Waiting

Do not let routine disrupt this amazing life you have!- GO NOW!!

Monday, December 10, 2012


12 hours and 4,981 miles later, I was greeted by a sunny and windy, 84 degrees Kahului. It was a small town on the northern central part of Maui. The airport was small and seemed rather vacant but the weather was more than welcoming. I had been excited this whole time but the arrival was the most thrilling time. But before I get to talking about all the amazing adventures, let’s not be rude and introduce Jennifer Ann.

I met Jennifer in a “Maui Paradise” group forum on I went into this group in hopes to find ideas on what to do while on the island. She mentioned that like me, she was a solo traveler and would be on the island of Maui around the same time. She was interested in doing the same tours as me and even offered to rent a car for the excursions. I compromised gas money in exchange for her company. Upon my arrival, I emailed her on my 4% iPhone battery struggle to let her know that I had gotten to the airport. We agreed to meet at baggage claim 2. On my hunt all around Kahului airport, I found an outlet next to a short Asian lady wearing a long skirt and running sneakers, who sold leis and beads on a cart for $14.

There I was, in a state of euphoria, nervousness and attending to my everlasting ADHD. I refreshed my emails about 32 times in the last 15 minutes as I awaited her arrival. As I reach 34% battery life, I see someone who resembled Jennifer. I wasn't sure if it was her, as it would be our first time meeting. I was going based a CouchSurfing profile picture. I waved her down in hopes of no weird looks or awkward moments. Worst came to worst, I would hop on a cab on my way to my original destination (Wailuku). She was tall, with flawless fair skin and long black hair that reached her mid back. I introduced myself in such a way, that I kept telling myself to tone it down. It must have been my excitement when I reached up to hug this stranger, as if I had known her for years. I was talking so fast I saw her confused facial expression as she was probably taken aback by this little crazy Spanish girl from New York. First impressions are important and so far I was crazy, random, fun and into leis.

Jennifer Ann
We made our way over to the car rental place. So many thoughts scattered in my mind yet I felt completely relaxed and at peace. I consider myself a great judge of character and based on Jennifer’s reaction to my craziness and her perfect English conversations (she didn't have an accent), I could tell that we would get along great. We had so much in common from favorite type of music, personality and passion for traveling. She is a flight attendant for a big airline. She grew up in Malaysia, her parents were from India and Singapore but she loved New York.

I immediately called the hostel in Kahului which I had reserved for that night. I wanted to inquire about their cancellation policy. The lady on the other end of the phone stated that I would lose my deposit ($37) if I were to cancel within 48 hours of my arrival. I didn't consider it lost since I enjoyed Jen’s company and was excited to go on this huge adventure with a new friend. And just like that, I was homeless in a small island 12 hours away from home. Luckily, my iPhone still had enough charge for 2 Google searches and one phone call. After reading 3 reviews, I was on my way to “Lahaina’s Last Resort” and what a fitting name that was. It was down the street from Jen’s hotel, 2 blocks away from the beach and 3 blocks from a busy strip filled with restaurants, art galleries and ABC stores (convenience stores). It took a little while for Jennifer to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road but we had made it to Lahaina which was our final destination. We would drop off our bags, shower and meet up for dinner and drinks to kick off our Maui stay. Right before I checked into Lahaina’s Last Resort, I over heard a conversation from an Australian girl saying that the hostel I was supposed to go to was “horrible, overcrowded and the worst place to stay in because the air conditioner had broke down”. For me, that was confirmation that Lahaina was the best option.  In a matter of hours, I had arrived on a new island, met a friend, became homeless, found a hostel right by the beach and had the best "Lava Flow" drinks.It had been a series of fortunate events, maybe luck, or even fate. Serendipity.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday Year-Round

Every year we wait for the infamous "Black Friday". It's supposed to be a day of discounted prices for all of our retail needs and wants. How does this translate into the travel industry?
I believe Travel Tuesday is the infinite Cyber Monday. Is this a Loaded statement? Not really, you just have to be aware of when the best time to purchase flights are and use the tips below. If you are interested in taking a vacation at any point during the year, chances are that you will not want to break the bank in the process. When shopping for airfare, there are not many factors we can really control. The airlines have a serious lock down on competitive pricing. But every week on Tuesdays is when we have that slight possibility of finding the best deals on flights 90 days out. Where? you ask. I know, there are so many sites and they all appear to do the same thing. I have taken the liberty of compiling my favorites for your personal use.
(At this point, I suggest that you take notes because these are my best kept secrets and potent weapon)

Skyscanner: Ahh skyscanner. It is my best friend. So, I actually have an app for this website. Skyscanner is a very user friendly, fast comprehensive flight comparison free site. It allows you to insert your home airport in the "From" field and to write in the word "Everywhere" in the "To" field. Once you write in the words "Everywhere" it will show you deals domestically and internationally. I believe this site is affiliated with another honarable mention, Travelzoo. It has a clear and easy to navigate format. The fare calendars show you which dates will be cheaper based on your departure. Their search engine uses many of the lesser known discount sellers which gives you more options. It also saves your resent searches. So if you are the type that likes to think about it over night or over the next few weeks, your cache will help you out, as the search will be there next time to get on

Momondo: It has by far the cheapest prices I've seen thus far. It is used mostly by backpackers to compare airfare prices from 700+ travel sites. If you are flexible on the dates, the monthly bar graphs help you visually see when the cheapest dates to travel will be.  It will then direct you to the travel site or airline.There is also an app for this one.

Kayak: It has one of my favorite features. If you are indecisive like me and have a budget in mind but are not sure where to go, this is the best website to narrow that down. It will show you where you can vacation for that particular price on a map and clicking on the price will reveal the dates in which you can go to your destination for that price.

After finally booking your flight, enter your information at Yapta. This website will track the price so you don’t miss out on savings if the price drops. If the difference in price is more than the re-booking fee (around $75-$100), Yapta will send you, free of charge, an email so that you can claim a credit from the airline.

  • Best time to purchase tickets- Tuesdays around 1am and at 3pm
  • Cheapest day to fly: Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday
  • Cheapest time of the day to fly: First flight of the morning (red eye)
  • Use your miles
Where will you fly to next?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

From Hi to Aloha

Maui. The hot sun, tropical flowers and surfing- lots of surfing. There would be clear turquoise waters that carefully build up the most tranquil chaos as it approached the shore causing the best waves. I envisioned myself sitting under an umbrella chair in a hot pink bikini, sipping on a perfectly made Mai Tai that has been beautifully decorated with a pineapple wedge before indulging in some surfing. No electronics needed as the sound of the brightly colored tropical birds and the graceful waves became the soundtrack to an amazing vacation. Admit it, you are grinning as you picture this.

I had no set expectations going in. I had hopes of meeting the friendliest of people and doing the funnest of things, but would be equally happy of becoming a beach bum for the next 8 days. The beaches themselves would be reason enough for all this excitement. I am a planner by nature but not this time. I had purchased my plane ticket 2 weeks before my trip and my hotel 2 days before take-off (I only booked my first 2 nights) I wanted to have no plans, no expectations and no disappointments. This trip called for full flexibility.

“A good traveler has no fixed plans...”- Lao Tzu

REI Flash 52 Women's Backpack
The Saturday before my trip, I made my way over to REI in Ridge Hill Mall. I wanted a backpack for this adventure, one in which I would be able to fit 8 happy and fulfilled days worth of my life. That in itself was a challenge. I had to narrow down the amount of things I would take. I took 5 outfits, 3 cover ups, 6 mix and match bikinis, 2 scarves, 2 pairs of sandals, 1 pair of sneakers, 2 pajama sets and some toiletries. They fit perfectly. I would wear the heaviest articles of clothing to prevent an overcrowded backpack. I felt accomplished as the scale read 28lbs. I had reduced my life to a mere 28lbs from the usual 50lbs airline standards.

The excitement over crowded my anxiety of being a planner. There I was, entering my stress free happy place (the airport) at 3:13 A.M.  showcasing a total of 8 top teeth in a big smile. I said my goodbyes to my dad who took me to JFK Airport with a long hug, as he had learned only 2 minutes ago that I would go on this adventure without a companion.  As I traveled camera and passport in hand, I couldn't believe I was headed to Hawaii alone yet extremely happy. 

I was going from Hi to Aloha in 12 hours =)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The expression on her face. The thought process behind her uncomfortable smile as her eyes grew wider, Alone?

There was so much taboo around being a female solo traveler. As I recited to her that I would be taking a trip alone, I felt her tone change drastically. The longer the conversation, the easier it was to hear the mix of confusion, admiration, shock, horror and....well, pity. It is easy to judge when you are standing on the opposite end of the spectrum. The side where you are co-dependent on another human being for what should be, your natural happiness.

For a couple of months now, I had been standing at the edge. I'd been researching my heart out, as curiosity and knowledge overwhelmed me. I had been so reluctant to take the plunge but with good reason, as it was a scary leap of faith. One that would enrich me with insurmountable amount of fun experiences and new sights. When you want something this bad, you can either find an excuse or find a way. I had been bitten by the travel bug and in desperate need to travel. I asked myself, which was more pathetic; The constant disappointment of waiting for a travel companion and watching as my nomadic dream life dissolved? or continually wondering what else is out there?. It was the perfect timing. Contrary to those my age, I did not have a husband or kids. What I did have was, this crazy ambition and fascination with traveling. Why not now? The fear of regret trumped the fear of the unknown once again.

I didn't think myself as very different from this friend but our conversation left me to feel as though we weren't cut from the same cloth. Physically, we resided in the same borough yet mentally we were worlds apart. It was almost as if she didn't understand the concept that there was another way of living rather then conformity (she obviously hadn't read my last post). There was a whole community of people who thought like me, a community of solo travelers. The kind that hadn't limited themselves to the social norm. They too, were also marriage, husband and babies free!-The fact that I was trying it out, made me feel bold, daring and...well, pretty BADASS!!

As I thought about our conversation, a sense of relief, freedom and liberation overcame me and I pulled out my debit card. It takes determination and courage to step into where the magic happens and you do what you love. I was there again. I was at my favorite place, the online airline checkout. The confirmation email verified my happiness once again and the count down began.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thirst For Life

Working a second over 40 hours a week can make a person crave a drink. And although that can alliviate the stress and give you a happy hour or two, nothing works better than a vacation. Where you choose to go can be determined by many factors. We all have taken simple vacations. Some like road trips to neighboring states, others like escaping to the Caribbean to feel the warm sun. But ask yourself this, when was the last time you took a vacation that changed your life? You know the kind that enriches your senses and feeds your soul. The kind that changed your view on who you are and how you viewed the world.

I'm thinking along the lines of "Eat, Pray, Love". I believe that you don't have to be going through a hardship in life to take such a trip. A simple thirst for life or lack thereof would do it. You know the feeling, sitting at your desk at work with a cup of coffee early morning, staring at a 14 inch computer monitor screen, squinting your eyes, a million thoughts scrambled in your head while you read through emails from your boss requesting you to go above and beyond your title. After this form of slavery, you go home and only have about 4 hours to engage in a social life, have dinner or drinks before its time to go to sleep. Somewhere during those hours, you have to call the gas company to dispute yet another estimated bill, the dishes are still in the sink, you have to plan your best friend's surprise birthday party, pick up your suit from the cleaners for tomorrow's big presentation, and your mom has left you 3 voicemail all stating that she feels neglected by you. If there were only 4 of you to do it all. Its the hardest reality, yet you do it every day. Day in and day out.

Why is it that we are constantly rushing, sprinting, racing through life. Have you ever stopped to think of this lifestyle in which you are merely existing like an empty shell in the sea. That's not really living.

You need more. What makes this type of vacation enriching? It has to be one that pushes you far beyond your comfort zone and brings you back to life. One that gives your life purpose. The kind that enables you the perfect balance of adventure and time to detoxify your mind, reflecting on life. And I know what you're doing right this second. You are thinking about whether you are living this empty life style I just described or whether you have ever had a life changing vacation. If like me, you crave such a vacation, a travel agent will not be able to coordinate this for you. As a matter of fact, studies show that the de-stressing part of a vacation is the anticipation and planning of the vacation. (This study might actually give me further insight in the euphoric feeling when I'm planning one for myself). You are going to have to do some research and planning of your own to find exactly what is right for you. Keep looking until you find something that really lights your fire.

While you're still young, get cultured. Don't  set yourself up for mid life regret. Do it now. You are younger now than you will ever be.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Type of Surfing? Don't Mind If I Do! - Part 2

Jenkie. Or at least that's how I thought it was spelled. I heard it from her voice after every gesture. There were no communication barriers or misunderstandings. She was Polish and that was her way of saying thank you.

Her face lit up like a lighting bug in the dark when I agreed to host her for the night. She was 27, single and on "holiday" to one of her favorite cities is what she said. She was couchsurfin for the second time and it was my first time hosting and depending on this experience could be my last??

She told me, she was picking up her bags from the luggage storage lockers in Hell's Kitchen (yes, I said the same thing. They have those?)  She would take the train up to my house on a Friday afternoon. It would be our second time meeting, EVER. I was going against everything my mother had raised me to do. I was going to open the door to a stranger. As the door bell rang for a second  time,  I was standing there peeking from my balcony, talking myself into proceeding with this ridiculous idea. It was as if I felt a rush of curiosity, I had to know. I needed to know. I can't remember my exact thoughts as I was rushing down the stairs. I do, however, remember the very second before unlocking the door thinking "this is it kid, you can easily walk away from this. It's completely optional". Curiosity trumped cowardliness that day. I flung the door wide open, as I extended my hand to help her with her bags. I exposed every single one of my teeth, but it was a genuine smile.  Standing tall at 5'9, dark brown hair, at a fair 175lbs, with the kind of skin that hadn't met the sun in years was Magda.

First order of business was to get fed. Anyone who knows me, knows I don't deprive myself of the pleasure of hearty meals, the unhealthier the better. Out of courtesy, I asked if she had any place in mind she had read about or wanted to try. She looked at me confused, trying to find a piece of crumbled paper that was in her bag from a couple days ago. She wrote down the name of a place she passed by. "It's, ehh... Mexican food, we don't eat it a lot in Poland" she said. I tell her I know a couple places. In my head I'm thinking: Rosa Mexicana, Dos Caminos, La Esquina etc.. I tell her, "finish getting ready so we could go". She screams my name in a heavy accent to let me know she has found the paper. I had never heard such a horrible pronunciation of Chipotle. That was it? She wanted Chipotle? Lol, I was thinking fancy she was thinking simple casual style dinning. As we started to engage in conversation the second order of business was to help her say my name correctly. All else fails tell her to call me Mimi.

She tells me that she doesn't eat meat. I'm not sure how to take that. Was she vegetarian? Well, I put my persuasive skills to test. Told her she atleast had to try it and if she didn't like it, I would pay for her meal. Let's just say I paid but she loved it. I felt accomplished. If she left that very second, I knew I had made an impact in her life.

That night there was another travel event in the Lower East side. The bar screamed travel, as it was called "Destination Bar". We met up with Glenda and her friend Jackie. Glenda explained to Jackie who Magda was. I immediately saw the judgmental facial expressions, as Jackie battled with this crazy idea and the norm. I wasn't entertaining anyone's view on this. I put myself in this situation, it was something I wanted to do. We met some people and grabbed a couple half priced drinks. I wasn't trying to generalized but she drank like a fish (obviously this was coming from a girl who had two drinks, eyes glazed and was ready to dance). She taught me Polish words and told me she wanted me take her around a day in my life On our ride up to the house, I told her I had a great idea for tomorrow. Her eyes lit up, as I explained to her that there was a beach I wanted to take her to. My exact word were "girl, we are gonna get you some color". I think she was excited about it, if not she was pretty great actress. As the night came to an end, I handed her some sheets, a pillow and a towel. Jenkie!

Blueberry/Strawberry Pancakes
Yankee Stadium

I heard the shower running, she was an early bird. Since I was playin an amazing hostess in this crazy movie, I got up to make her Pancakes. She said they don't eat it much in Poland and they actually call it omelette. Based on last night's conversations, I had learned she loved fruits, snowboarding and pancakes. I like to think I was doing pretty well. Due to the humidity and the sun not showing up to our planned outings, we decided to skip the beach. I took her shopping since she said that Poland was pricier than the states and she loved buying new things. She didn't want to do regular touristy stuff. I took her for a nice home cooked meal at my loving yet judgmental mothers' house. Magda was so thankful and excited, but shy and reserved all at once. She told me it was the best meal she had since she had arrived in New York. I patted myself on the back for the second time, even though my mom had made it. I took her for a walk near the Yankee stadium, followed by a Jamaican restaurant near my house.  As we drove away from the restaurant, she frantically asks me to pull over. She wanted to take a pictures of kids playing in by the water hydrant. She commented on how easy life is as a kid. I drove over to the South Bronx hoping to expose her to the low income housing area. Magda had taken so many pictures, as to capture every single second. We bought some moscato and conversated about the pictures she had taken, the things she had done and compared it to her perception of the Bronx prior to staying at my house. 

A lot was to be learned about this experience. We weren't too different, me and her. She was from another side of the world, but yet she was just as curious and enthused about learning more and wanting more from life. She thanked me for showing her around but I was far more grateful for the experience. It was my turn as i waved goodbye, I uttered the word dziękuję (Jenkie) meaning thank you. She look up in shock, smiled and said "we learned alot this weekend".

By hosting Magda, I had opened my door to another country, lend my couch to another culture and my mind to a world outside my comfort zone. Would you do the same?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Type of Surfing? Don't Mind If I Do!

Don't be so naive. There is a world outside your comfort zone. I know society has molded you to believe that we should say certain things and behave a certain way. But really, how open minded are you? Would you invite a complete stranger to sleep in your house for a couple of days? Once a topic intrigues me, its like I become obsessive over it until I fully understand it or accomplish it.

I just recently set up a profile for Not everyone finds the concept of consorting with unknown people appealing. I know what you are thinking and I have heard many stories (good and bad), but give me chance to explain. I like to think of it as a blind date where people bring another country's knowledge as well as their toothbrush for a slumber party. I figured, since I haven't been able to travel as often as I like why not bring the country to me and at the same time pay it forward to someone in need of a place to crash. But before engaging, I needed more information.

Last Wednesday, I got a email from Jeremiah, a couchsurfer from Dallas. In his email he explained that he was passing through NYC (for 24hrs) on his way up to Boston. He was looking to have a drink at Blarney Stone, which was right down the street from where I work. A couple other couchsurfers answered, but I was the first to show up. Happy hour turned into my personal research paper. I understood the concept of wanderlust and travelling the world, but what type of person ventured out without a plan, without knowing where they would sleep that very night. It wasn't until we were 4 drinks in and 2 bars down, that it dawned on me. I sat in a group of 11 other like minded couchsurfers from around the world, all with accents ordering their mispronounced drinks in the heaviest accent. Believe it or not, there is a network of people, a community rather, who have an insatiable desire to travel and this method of lodging enabled them to see the world on a budget. I learned that there were so many advantages to couchsurfing. It's not about what amount you save but more the intangible moments, the immediate shift that happens as you turn from a tourist to a local traveler.

When you stay at a hotel, you only see the tourist areas (what they want you to see) but you don't experience the culture. Staying with a local lets you see a day in their world, fully embrace their way of living. It's the authenticity of having a friend in another country who is willing to show you around, a free guide opening their world to you, your opportunity to engage in their way of life. As we got to talking, my new found friend Steffano from Milan, described it to be "bringing a piece of the world into another person living room. The experience is priceless". As we toasted to new friends and a great life, I took in the scenery and let it all marinate. It was a stress free, worry free zone where no one was pressured by society, there was no specific plan, nothing holding them back. It was as though they were confidently going in the direction of the unknown and fully embracing uncertainty. That very moment that it all made sense to me(a little light bulb went off in my head). Why were we confining ourselves to society's standard? I told myself to be more open minded and eventually try couchsurfing for one night.

As I look to the left of me, I see Magda. She was tall, with mid-length dark hair, pale skin girl from Poland with a great personality. Magda looks down to her phone and her smile quickly fades as she proceeds to read her email. Concerned, I ask if everything is ok and she answers that YMCA has a hostel in Harlem but they had replied to her request letting her know they were booked. She turned homeless in a matter of seconds. She seemed nice, was this my chance to host a couch surfer? Open up my doors to a complete stranger, invite them to invade my personal space, to slumber on my couch. How open minded was I really? Perspective played a part, a huge part. This was my great opportunity, but is the risk far greater than the reward?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Fashionable New Yorker in Europe

The excitement of planning a trip comes with a dreadful anxiety of not being prepared. What should I pack?

One of my Fashionista friends is preparing for a fabulous 10 day trip to southern Europe this fall.
 Sophistication is in the Italian blood, and most Italians would unhesitatingly trade in comfort in order to achieve it. It is a nation that cherishes outward appearances. Its picturesque scenery and seascapes call for reciprocity on your looks. It is no wonder some of the world best designers are from this region (ie. Prada, Armani, Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, etc..).

When traveling to a fashion forward country, you always want to look your best.The wardrobe combinations are endless. This tends to cause internal conflict wishing you could pack your entire wardrobe to fit into a 50lbs luggage. This is a fashionista's biggest dilemma.

A good rule of thumb is always checking the weather of your destination before packing. It helps you narrow down the type of clothing you will need. In this case, the weather for Italy in September is still very comfortable. In the high 70s/low 80s.The next thing to consider is the excursions. What activities do you have planned? For example, when visiting churches/museums you will need  appropriate attire. It is wise to wear long pants/skirts and covered shoulders. Lastly, the length of the trip.

After much research and debates, it is safe to say that the climate and destination demand the following:

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 neutral pair of Capri pants
  • 1 pair of comfortable sneakers
  • 2 cardigans ( neutral color and a bright color)
  • 1 light jacket
  • 3 pairs of shoes (ballerina flats, sandals, heels)
  • 2 ziploc bags of jewelry (earrings, bracelets and necklaces)
  • 3 mix and match bikinis
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 4 semi-casual tops
  • 2 sun dresses
  • 2 pashminas/scarves
  • 3 warm PJs (it gets cold at night)
  • 1 camera
  • Bug spray/Sun tan lotion
  • Make up bag
  • Crossbody bag
  • Evening bag
  • Electronics and chargers

Before you go, you should coordinate your outfits with jewelry and snap a quick picture. This will save you time and frustration, whilst remaining super fashionable. Remember, the less you pack the more room you will have for souvenirs and items purchased abroad.

P.S. undergarments and toiletries are a given. :)

Addio per ora la mia bella fashionista, Buon divertimento!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Beg You!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adventure Invite

Daydreaming of cobblestone streets, open air cafes, and amazing colonial architecture.

Great news was delivered right to my inbox today. I have been researching Colombia for little while now. It appears that JetBlue will now offer service to Cartagena, Colombia. The beauty of this all is that you will get the cheapest rates and promotions when an airline adds a new destination, but act fast as this will not last long. Flights are said to be starting at $140 each way starting November 2, 2012. A new adventure in Colombia? Count me in!! :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travel Zoo #traveltuesday Contest

Tuesdays might very well be my favorite day of the week. It is the best day for travel and tourism since most airlines and travel agencies send out their weekly promotion on this god sent day. Nowadays, we even have twitter to help us figure out what deals and promotions and are out with the trending topic #traveltuesday.

Last week, I saw that Travelzoo, a very well known coupon and deals global internet company, had a contest on twitter for #traveltuesday. They asked that followers replied with their favorite beach. I quickly answered it to be Maidstone beach in East Hampton. To my surprise, I was greeted with a direct message from Travelzoo in my inbox congratulating me on my "Twitter Winner Swag".

A week later, I received a fedex at my doorstep filled with promotional goodies, $25 worth of gift cards to be redeemed at and an actual handwritten note. Talk about personalization! Woohooo!! ;)

Great Quality Umbrella with Travelzoo Logo

Umbrella, Tote, USB, Pen, $25 Giftcard & Note

Handwritten Note from D. Brooks

Big THANK you to Travelzoo!! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bastille Day

French Toast. And of course, a toast to the French!! We owe it to them for; easy to make breakfast, the statue of Liberty, crepes and croissants. So today, we New Yorkers celebrate Bastille Day, the best way we know how.
There are a couple of events around the city commemorating the birth of the Republic and the beginning of the French revolution.

Street Fair
French Can Can Dancers
French Institute Alliance Francaise
Location: 60th Street Between Lexington Ave & Fifth Ave
Description: Everyone is invited to enjoy crepes, canales, French wines, listen to live music and shop the French themed market stalls. There will also be various contests. Prizes include French dinner, gift baskets and a trip to France.

French Eatery
Brassiere Julien
Time: 7pm- Midnight
Location: 1422 Third Avenue (80th Street)
Description: Listen to Janelle Allbritton Trio with a "Paris Around the Corner" themed jazz while enjoying crepes, croque monsieur, omelettes, paired with  mimosas and bellini.

Paris Opera Ballet
Paris Opera "Giselle"
Time: 3pm
Location: 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (63rd Street)
Description: This romantic ballet features stirring music, elegant choreography, and amazing performances. It was first performed in 1841.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Colors to Celebrate the Night - NYC

An aesthetically pleasing display of flickering colored flames and sparks flying above the horizon with big burst of lights illuminating the dark sky. It is a dance of colors and loud noises, nothing less than a magical advertisement of a greater meaning. Today is the United States' independence day.

Empire State Building Symbolic Colors
Families gather at parks, beaches, parades, picnics and backyards to celebrate. The smell of the charcoal lighting up the grill in conjunction with the seasoned meats, burgers and hot dogs do not go unnoticed. We have been preparing for this day and set out our red, white and blue for such occasion. This is the way we celebrate and honor the anniversary of the birth of our nation.We were boldly breaking away from the British after a 20 year struggle with a detailed Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was finalized on July 4, 1776.

As you look up at the sky tonight admiring the traditional light show from afar, don't forget the true meaning behind the spectacle.

Biggest celebration: Macy's 4th of July Spectacular
                              75,000lbs of fireworks in half hour
                               2 million people attend the annual event

Tonight, I celebrate you America, but my heart remains with Dominican Republic.

Macy's Firework Display on the Hudson

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Havaianas on Tamarindo Beach- Off the beaten path

The objective was to keep moving. As I brainstormed about my next trip, I couldn't help but wonder where on the map would be an intriguing culture to indulge in. Off the beaten path to satisfy a different appetite.

I craved surfing, warm beaches, friendly people and most of all a new adventure. I found myself looking up the pacific coast of Costa Rica.

Pura Vida. JetBlue was now offering direct flights to Liberia, Costa Rica. Eager for all the former cravings, I booked without hesitations. I convinced one of my best girlfriends Cydney to come with me. We stayed at a surf camp/hostel in Tamarindo, which is in Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. The place was called Blue Trailz. It was located right across the way from the beach, along side restaurants, near a convenience store and plenty of surf shops. Renting the surf boards would cost about $10-$12 per day.

Tamarindo was the equivalent of what the LES is to New York. It's inhabited by free spirited young people and fun atmosphere. Everyday we were greeted with a high tide as well as an exhibitionist sun that was far from disappointing. Oh, and let's not forget the great warm-hearted people, who made it their mission to help us in any way possible. They yell "pura vida" while honking their car horn in greeting while they driving by.

Buying "Gallo Pinto" off the back of her truck
Gallo Pinto Traditional Breakfast
The food was exquisite with burst of fresh flavors encompassing all natural herbs and spices. Their traditional dish "gallo pinto" was rice and black beans and was also offered as breakfast. Going against everything I knew, I ate out the back of a lady's white rusty station wagon for $2,000 colones ($4 american dollars) and it was by far the best meal I had while I was there.

We ventured off the beaten path with a tour company called "Get Lost in Costa Rica" which we stumbled upon while laying out on Tamarindo beach. Don, our tour guide scheduled a day packed of relaxing activities. We began the day by stoping at a local bakery for some Tico pastries and coffee at 8am. The sun was at its highest peak and my belly was full, I was a happy camper. We continued on and stopped at a supermarket for beers and liquor. He took us to a resort which seemed to be desolate. As we approached the pool side, I glance over n see a bar with in walking distance. There were no kids splashing around, no lines near the bar or bathroom but best of all, we were the only ones at the pool. I couldn't be any happier. He served us drinks and played some reggae music. He came over ever so often to make sure we were enjoying ourselves, refill our drinks and take pictures of us. The only thought that came to my mind was "I could get used to this".

Cyd & I in CR waterfall
Don continued on with the private tour. He took us to an all you can eat buffet before walking over to the steam room, vapor room, followed by the hot springs. These outdoor hot springs were 100% nature made thermal  waters due to the proximity of the volcanoes. They are so relaxing and ten times better than a Jacuzzi. After 3 hours, we drove half an hour to our next destination. Don asked us to bring our shoes and to be careful. We hiked down what seemed to be a huge mountain filled with boulder rocks and tall exotic trees to find a well kept secret. It was a waterfall. I was freaked out at first because there were really big fish in the fresh cold water. But the fact that it was 90 degrees and we had just hiked for the last 20 minutes made it easy to accept that I would benefit more from this then the fish. A great way to conclude the tour.

New friends
As if that wasn't eventful enough for one day, we headed back to the surf camp to figure out what our new friends were up to that evening. They all had interesting experiences to share and came from different places. People who like me had the travel bug and were on their way elsewhere. Friends who I still keep in contact with. After all, we had partied at Aqua discotheque, walked what seemed miles to an amazing breakfast spot, surfed together, played cards and explored the country together.

7am high tide -Tamarindo Beach-Surf Buddies

Every day started off as an adventure as we met different people who we instantly connected with. I practiced my surfing most mornings at 7am (high tide). See, to me surfing was symbolic of so many things. It was about balance, being at the right place and time to embrace the opportunity and riding the wave out without fearing the fall or predicting the end. I watched the sun rise and the sun sets while surfing and found that the days seemed shorter but far more meaningful while in a different country. The only worry seemed to be where to eat next and I was ok with that.
 This was only the first half of the trip. Stay tuned for Costa Rica on the lap of luxury.

Recommendations for Off the beaten path:
1. Blue Trailz Surf Camp- best value lodging
2. Witch's Rock- great place for drinks
3. Khahiki- amazing place for breakfast
4. Blue Trailz- cheap surf board rentals
5. Get Lost in Costa Rica Tours- best valued tours

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Travel Tuesday! - Motivation to Move

A little pick me up on Travel Tuesday. I find this video to be so inspirational!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Insatiable Wanderlust

Euphoria. An overwhelming feeling rushes through me the second I enter my debit card information during the online check out for an international flight. It just gives me a sense of accomplishment and relief. I am constantly asking myself why is it that such a simple change of scenery and direction brings excitement to my life.

Maybe it's the way the tiny white grains of hot sand massages the soles of my feet leaving a footprint with every step as I slowly approach the vast ocean in front of me, or the way the bright rays of sun kiss my skin ever so lightly causing my pigmentation to be a darker shade. It could very well be the warm hearts and caring smiles of a native stranger that with one look helps me forget the distant past and troubles. I enjoy embracing a new culture. As a New Yorker, I live in a society in which everyone is always on the go, and therefore find myself wanting to go somewhere new. See, home is dead time to me. I am constantly living in anticipation of being someone somewhere else.  It's not the destination but more the journey and the objective is to learn as much as possible. I have come to the realization that I have a restless spirit (or a mild case of ADD, depending on how you look at it).

I sit at my desk at work day in and out daydreaming of all the places I would rather be traveling to. Trying to break away from life’s tedious monotony, I look up destinations; sign up for vacation deals and indulge in reading travel blogs to help me pass the time. It has become an addiction in which I now wish to not only participate in but also contribute. A couple of years ago, I fell in love with a nomad, whose stress free and careless ways were a constant reminder that there was a world out there ready to be explored.  He recited a quote that will forever be embedded in my memory.

"The world is a book and those that do not travel only read one page"

And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t attempt to read the whole book? You see, I have been bitten by the travel bug and for the past two years found myself immersed in what some call "Wanderlust", which by definition is a very strong and irresistible impulse to travel. This blog is mostly in his memory. He would be proud of the places I will visit and the things I will see. Yes, it’s a travel blog. But above all, it’s a love letter to the love of my life. A crazy, random, and poorly written love letter. The kind he’d appreciate and know me to write.

Along the way I will also share tips, deals, and experiences that I find whilst documenting the memories because as we all know, they have a tendency of fading. So I invite you on this journey, see the world through my eyes, because life is an adventure!