Motivational Mondays

My quote for this week is, “we don’t travel to see different things, we travel to see things differently.”

Similar to the previous quote, I couldn’t find the original author. I connect to this quote deeply because traveling is so much more than just going to a new country and being tourist. It’s about immersing yourself in different cultures and getting out of your comfort zone. Most importantly, travel to me is about growing as a person through the experience.

Happy Fourth of July

The holiday feels and looks a bit different this year. Many firework displays and BBQs have been cancelled or postponed. If you are celebrating with people outside of your household please be safe as COVID-19 is still very real. Beyond the social distancing, the current political and social injustice issues have also put a damper on celebrating. That being said I think all Americans can agree that being an independent nation is a good thing. Stay safe this Fourth of July weekend.

Most of my 4th’s have been spent stateside – eating hotdogs, going to the pool or beach, baseball games, and lots of fireworks. I have also spent some memorable holidays abroad as well.

The first time I remember being away for the holiday was after my senior year of high school. I was on a school trip to Europe and on July 4th we would be in Berlin. I remember looking for ways to celebrate and had bought sparklers randomly. That night the entire group gathered around outside and we lit the sparklers and sang Happy Birthday to America. Looking back on it we would have been seen as obnoxious Americans if someone passed us, but if I recall correctly there weren’t other people around. I remember everyone in the group just being so happy.

A few years later I was in Poland during the holiday with my mom. Earlier that trip I bought wedges with a red, white, and blue star design. These are only acceptable to wear on Memorial Day, the Fourth, Labor Day, or (at the time) themed sorority events. I never understood why they were sold in a store in Poland, but I considered them a great find. On the actual holiday we were in the seaside town of Sopot and went to the beach. I wore my firecracker pattered Lilly Pulitzer shorts.

Five summers ago I found myself in Aruba on the holiday with my parents. That entire trip was so much fun. We went horseback riding, boating, and stayed at a beautiful resort. Unfortunately, my only pictures from the actual 4th are of an Acai bowl. Most of that day was just spent on the beach.

This year I’m at home – we’ve grilled this afternoon, I’m going to try my hand at making a themed dessert, and round off the night watching Hamilton. Happy 4th of July!

Taveuni Island – Fiji

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island of Fiji. It’s the third largest island full of rich volcanic soil and covered in thick, dense rainforest. 

The island can be reached by ferry or plane. Taking the ferry from Suva takes an average of 16 hours overnight, but it is a fraction of the cost of the flying. Most locals will take the ferry. Flights to Taveuni fly from Suva and Nadi multiple times a day. From Suva the flight takes about 20 minutes. Be warned it is a small, sixteen-seater plane. 

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island for the lush greenery and abundance of beauty. Bouma National Heritage Park takes up more than a third of the island. Hiking throughout the park is very popular. There are many birds and animals exclusive to the island that can be found here making it a nature lovers dream. During October to December, you can hike further up to Des Vouex in search of Fiji’s unofficial national flower, the Tagimoucia. The beautiful flower is found on Fiji’s $50 notes and has a love story/legend around it. Many Fijians see coming to Taveuni to find the flower as a right of passage or bucket list item.

Bouma  Falls are also found in Bouma National Heritage Park, and they are deemed the most iconic waterfalls in Fiji. The first waterfall is a short walk from the park’s visitor centre, followed by two other falls a longer trek away. Seeing the falls is worth the effort and after basking in their beauty you can cool down in natural swimming pools. 

Hiking Lavena Coast is a winding track which leads off the end of Lavena village to breathtaking beaches, across rock-strewn rivers, and into the jungle. The trek ends with a dip at the bottom of waterfalls. 

Many people come to the beautiful island of Taveuni not for the jungle, but for the water and the diving. The Rainbow Reef and Somosomo Strait are found off the island’s coast and filled with countless dive sites which are easily accessible. The Great White Wall is one of the top diving sites in the world. The water and weather conditions have to be perfect to dive the Wall, which limits the amount of days you can reach the site monthly. If you’re planning on diving in Taveuni reach out to local dive sites beforehand to see when the best diving is expected to be and plan to give yourself some extra days in case of weather delays.

Beyond exploring the island and surrounding waters there’s also several boat day trips to smaller more remote islands. These tours will be offered at your accommodation and will usually run with a minimum amount of people signed up.

Taveuni is absolutely gorgeous and a highlight of my Fiji trip. It’s not easy to get to, but I think the voyage out here is totally worth it. You could easily spend a week or more if you’re planning on diving. It’s truly paradise. I was here in March and the weather was perfect. The mosquitos were not as prevalent as they were on the mainland. April and May leads into cyclone season and heavy rainfall. If I get back to Fiji I would love to come to Taveuni between October and December and try to find the Tagimoucia flower.

Flashback Friday – Poland Edition

This week I was meant to be in Poland with my family for a wedding. However, due to the Pandemic the wedding has been pushed back a couple of months, but I’m not sure Americans will be eligible to travel to Europe for the new date. I suppose only time will tell.

A fun fact about me is that I was actually born in Poland. Although, I don’t remember much of living there my mom and I have traveled back a few times throughout the years. The most recent trip being the summer of 2018.

I believe Poland is a wonderful country to visit, especially during summer, because it’s completely underrated and therefore not as touristy as other European countries. In major cities/destinations English and other languages are becoming more widely available, but fair warning you may come across some language barriers in smaller towns.

Krakow

Krakow is my favorite city in Poland. Sitting in the main square of Old Town you’re transported back a few decades and it’s easy to spend hours at an outdoor cafe people watching. The city is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site. While visiting Krakow you will want to stay as close to Old Town as you can and from there you’ll be able to walk or take the tram all around the city.

Exploring Wawel Castle is a must while you’re in Krakow. There has been extensive restoration to the castle and to this day it feels as if kings were recently roaming the yards. Entrance to the property is free, but going into any of the exhibits tickets are required.

Auschwitz-Birkenau

It’s heavy, it won’t be a fun day, emotions will run high, but it’s so important to remember and educate ourselves about the horrors of WWII. I truly recommend everyone to make it to Auschwitz one day. The site is such a significant part of our world’s history and the countless lives lost should be forever remembered. I honestly will try to make a trip out here every time I visit Poland. I would recommend taking a guided tour and then spending the rest of your day walking throughout. There are many day tours and transportation options that go out of Krakow. Most tours will pair with the next destination, however, I would advise to do two separate tours on different days. Fully take the day and really spend time at Auschwitz. Fair warning you’ll be emotionally drained after.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka is a very unique experience – I haven’t been to anything quite like it. Wieliczka was an operational salt mine for more than 700 years. The costs of mining salt grew too expensive, and the area now serves more as a museum/exhibit with tours throughout the day. You take stairs deep underground and are guided through various tunnels. One of the most impressive rooms is a beautiful chapel featuring sculptures, chandeliers, and more all made out of salt! It’s located only 14 km from Krakow and it’s an easy day trip. However, there is a hotel on the property as well as a spa. The microclimate is said to have health benefits.

If you feel comfortable driving my suggested route for a couple of days would be to drive from Krakow to Auschwitz and then to Wieliczka on the way back. Stay the night at the Grand Sol hotel and take the salt mine tours the next morning before driving back to Krakow.

Gdansk/Gdynia/Sopot

Northern Poland touches the Baltic Sea making this area significantly different from the rest of Poland. Trying fresh fish around this area is a must. Gdansk’s history is deeply rooted in the wars and due to air raids from WWII the city essentially had to be totally rebuilt. Post-war the city had Dutch and French influence and it reminds me a lot of Copenhagen. Gdynia and Sopot join Gdansk to form the Tri-City which line the Baltic Coast and can all be done in a day via train or car/Uber. Sopot is known as a ritzy resort town with many health spas and a beach. Gdynia is known for their museums and again a very easy day trip from Gdansk or stop before reaching Sopot.

Malbork Castle is one of the largest castles in the world. It’s just a short train ride away from Gdansk and a favorite day trip location from the city. The castle dates back to the 13th century and has a fascinating, deep history. Buying tickets in advance and getting there early are the best ways to visit.

Warsaw

If you’re flying internationally it is very likely your flight will land in Warsaw, Poland’s capital city. The city was also completely rebuilt after the war and a must to explore and wander. Far less crowed than most capital cities, it’s very enjoyable to stroll around. Similar to Krakow, Warsaw also has a bustling Old Town, which is really nice for exploiting during the day or a nice dinner. We stayed at an apartment overlooking Old Town and although it was a little tricky to find at first it was a wonderful spot. There are a few museums and monuments to check out while exploring the city. The Warsaw Uprising Monument was one of my favorites.

Wilanow Palace

Wilanów Palace took my breath away. The property is absolutely gorgeous and each room in the Palace is remarkable. Dating back to 1677 and actually surviving both wars is unfathomable. During the summer months, live music and concert series take place in the surrounding park. I think visiting the Palace is a must do while in Warsaw.

Bialowieza Forest

Admittedly, I have yet to visit the Bialowieza Forest and this was a major stop on this trip’s literary. The forest straddles the Belarusian border, but on Poland’s side is the Białowieża National Park. Throughout the park you may stubble upon the European bison, the largest land mammal on the continent. The space was once a private hunting ground for kings and tsars, but now it can only be admired by nature lovers. It’s located over 200km from Warsaw, but staying around the park is recommended.

I think Poland is underrated as a destination, but there are so many wonderful spots and things to see here. It’s a country rich in history and that alone draws me to visit. I would personally suggest coming to Poland during summer as winters can be brutal.

Motivational Mondays

I’m dedicating every Monday to an inspirational/travel related quote. Starting the week with a quote in mind can set the mood for the remainder of the week.

I stumbled upon this quote in a very glamorous fashion in a bathroom stall in Tasmania back in 2014.

With every trip you’ll meet new people, see new places, and learn something new about a country. And in between these things you’ll find yourself, explore your character, and shape your personality. 

Anonymous

If you have any favorite quotes please share them with me.

The original picture I took of the quote.

Flashback Friday – Fiji Edition

My last international stop back in March was Fiji. I was there for about a month and I truly enjoyed the experience. Fiji is a destination for anyone looking for a tropical getaway.

Fiji is made up for over 300 islands, but only about a third of those islands are inhibited. Pre-COVID, there were daily flights from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Making this somewhat remote destination pretty accessible. Traveling from Australia or New Zealand is a no brainer, typically very affordable, and therefore an ideal holiday stop. It’s further from the States, a direct flight from Los Angeles takes about 10-11 hours, but I still think it’s worth it.

Fiji Time Is Real

This is the ultimate relaxation destination. Everything runs on a no rush/it’s all good mentality. This may be difficult for Type A personalities, but wow it’s an awesome state of mind.

Fijian people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are very happy living in their piece of paradise. They are truly happy to help you and will welcome you in with open arms and treat you like family. One of my favorite things they say is, “friends don’t say sorry or thank you.” By this they mean that when you do something for a friend you don’t expect or need to be thanked. Similarly, when something happens between fiends there’s no need to apologize because you’re already forgiven. I thought this was a really beautiful way to approach friendships.

Fijian life is very simple and that’s probably why they are so happy. Less is more and how can you be upset when you’re surrounded by beautiful water, gorgeous sunsets, an abundance of fish, and greenery?

What to Do

Most flights into Fiji will touchdown in Nadi. Nadi is on the mainland, but you should venture out not long after arriving because there’s so much more to see. There are a lot of nice, luxury resorts in Nadi and many people stay at these simply for the comfort. However, by doing so you would be doing yourself a disservice and only seeing a tiny portion of what Fiji has to offer.

One of the most popular ways to spend your Fiji Time is island hoping the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. I personally think this is a must especially if you are just coming to Fiji for a week. There are daily ferries between the islands and this is the best way to see as much as you can in a relatively laid-back way. I would spend at least two nights (or up to a week on each island) depending on how fast paced you want your vacation to go. Most of these islands include mandatory meal packages with your stay. Some of my favorite islands were Nacula Island, Nanuya Balavu Island, and Wayalailai Island.

View of Maravu Taveuni Lodge’s Pool

Island hoping the Yasawas and Mamanucas is the most popular way of seeing as much as you can in Fiji. Everything is pretty much down to a science and there’s so many package options that take the trip’s planning out of the equation if you want something easy. I personally booked everything directly and I think I got slightly better deals and more flexibility. They accommodate tourists and backpackers very well on these islands as there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out, nether less you’ll be greeted with a big Bula every time you step off the boat. If you are limited to only a week or so and want something more laid back this is the way to go.

If you want go down the road less traveled visiting Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a must! It takes a bit more effort to get here, with your only options being a 16-hour ferry or a domestic flight from Nadi or Suva. Spending your whole vacation in Taveuni still won’t feel like enough time and you’ll want to get back here again. The water is perfect for snorkeling, diving, fishing. There’s lots of day trip options from hiking, waterfalls, or traveling to neighboring islands.

Scuba Diving

If you are interested in diving and the ocean, Fiji is the place for you. I got my scuba PADI certification here and became obsessed. The waters are so warm you can essentially dive all year without a wetsuit. The famous Rainbow Reef is located off of Taveuni and it’s absolutely breathtaking. If you were ever interested in trying scuba diving Fiji is the perfect place. Many resorts/dive shops do introductory dives without needing certification.

Fiji should be on everyone’s Bucket Lists. It’s a gorgeous destination and you’ll feel invigorated after experiencing Fiji Time for yourself.

How to Travel During Quarantine

One of the worst parts of the COVID-19, quarantine, and everything else that’s going on in the world is the feeling of helplessness and unknowing. When will life be back to normal? Sadly, nobody can really give us a solid answer. Although, some countries are opening travel up in July is it really safe yet? It is truly difficult to say and we just have to see how it goes. There aren’t many things we can control in life, but we can control our reactions to situations. That being said I didn’t handle coming back stateside too well. If things had gone as planned I would be leaving Thailand right now, spending a month in Europe with two of my best friends, seeing Taylor Swift perform, and then heading to the Olympics in Japan. Clearly not the case as I’m writing this blog post in my childhood bedroom.

There are a couple of ways you can get your travel fill during quarantine:

Pictures

Take this time to relive your past travel memories by going through photos you’ve taken. Maybe clean out duplicates, take extra time to edit, etc. I know I can take 10+ pictures of the same thing and I always intend on going back through them, but while traveling that usually doesn’t happen. This was my biggest task as I went through my iPhone’s camera roll as well as my laptop’s. It’s time consuming and tedious, but my storage thanked me for it and now it’s more enjoyable looking through pictures I actually like.

I’ve already established I take a lot of pictures and most of them will forever stay digital, however, I wanted to take my all time favorite travel pics from the last 10 years and compile them in an album. This was a huge task and I’m still working on it, but every picture I’ve printed brings me so much joy. It’s okay not to rush projects just to get them done. Enjoy the process because you have the time during quarantine. The album I’m using I bought in Italy back in 2012(!) and it’s just been sitting my bookcase waiting to be loved.

Social Media

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been a time of unplugging for me. Get your travel fix from travel Instagram accounts, hashtags, and travel related Facebook groups. Be warned these can be a major time suck so give yourself some time limits.

Travel blogs are also a major source of information and a way to transport yourself in someone’s shoes. It’s always interesting reading other people’s experiences and their first hand advice. I’ve recently started re-reading my previous blog posts too. It’s been a fun way to relive my last few months pre-Corona and also sneak in some edits.

Create Bucket Lists

My bucket list is an endless list of countries in my head, but I’ve never actually written one out. I’ve taken this time to start researching future destinations. My “go with the flow” travel style won’t change because that’s just what I enjoy most, but actually doing the research and making lists is giving me something to look forward to. One of my friends gifted me Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel book a couple of years ago and each day I go through a handful of destinations whilst drinking Trader Joe’s Moroccan Green Tea. Ahhh the simple things.

Books

A good book transports you into a story and reading a book set in a different country ideally should do that too. There’s some great Global Reading Challenges posted by Tale Away from 2018 to today of books from around the globe.

Explore Local

It’s a small step, but will get you out of the house and maybe appreciate your town/city/state more. Once travel restrictions are lifted further, travel domestically to a new area of your country before hoping on that international flight. I’m sure you will find some hidden gems that will make you appreciate your home country more.

Miscellaneous

I made a smoothie bowl with dragon fruit (pitaya)!

Do little things that remind you of traveling. Are there some songs that just transport you to a destination? Put them on and your mood will instantly lift. Wishing you were in Thailand (I’m suppose to be there right now, have I mentioned that) go get yourself some local Thai food – and not just Pad Thai. It won’t be quite the same, but it’s a step in the right direction. Lots of supermarkets also have global food sections so you can get some international snacks. If you wish you were in a tropical destination buy some fruit you normally wouldn’t – pineapple, mango, dragonfruit, passion fruit, papaya, etc. Shopping isn’t always the answer, but I ordered two puzzles from Australia that I know will bring me so much happiness when they arrive.

The main thing right now is to stay healthy and hope that everything else will fall into place. I’m anxiously awaiting being able to travel again so I’m framing it as long-term trip planning.

Why I Stopped Traveling?

As if I really had a choice.

It has been a stressful, exhausting few months to say the least. Rewind to the blissful ignorance the world was in in January. *Insert sarcasm* The good old days right?

COVID-19 was being discussed often on the news in Australia back in January, but it seemed like a far off problem and I hate to say it, but it was framed as a China problem on the media outlets their. The country closed off their borders to China and every country in the pacific was screening travelers if they had been to China in the last 14 days. Seems like it could have been enough? In hindsight definitely not. Two main issues besides the now well known facts that many carrier of COVID-19 were asymptomatic: 1. “screening everyone” isn’t actually screening everyone, and 2. people lie. People will lie on those immigration forms (if they are even collected) or travel with a different passport. If someone who was in an infected area wanted to get out there was about two months of a gap where they could do so almost seamlessly. Unfortunately, a lot of that happened and that’s how a lot of people were infected.

Australia pretty much thought they solved the problem in early February when they closed their borders to China. The result was that many people went on with their lives like normal (and perhaps even beyond what they normally would be doing because travel prices had dropped) for 2-3 more month when precautions should have already been made. This led to people being blissfully unaware until all of the sudden Australia decided to immediately shut down their borders to non-citizens on a Friday and to all citizens that following Tuesday.

This caused a panic and price escalation, which was also seen all over the world. People couldn’t get home or didn’t know how to. Within Australia the economy was facing many of the same issues as the the rest of the world – toilet paper shortages, food/pasta shortages, lack of job security, etc. As great of a country Australia is it wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of the global pandemic.

So where did that leave me?

Well I was living it up on an island in Fiji without any service or wifi the Thursday Australia announced they would be closing their borders the following evening at 9pm. When I woke up to the news on Friday morning, it was virtually impossible to make it back by that evening deadline. Well shoot….now what?

The choice became stay in Fiji or go home to the United States. It was a tough one and I really was leaning towards staying in Fiji, and of course the mindset was, “I could stay in this tropical paradise for another month….maybe two, but what if it was longer?” I couldn’t work in Fiji as I was there as tourist, and technically my visa was only valid for another two months. Then the practical reality of the what ifs hit, i.e. what if I did get sick and needed a doctor, the health care options would be an issue.

I made the practical, realistic, adult (blah blah blah) choice of going home for the time being (again hoping and thinking that time would be two months max) and getting back to Australia ASAP. Truth be told I was excited to go home for a bit and spend time with my family, sleep in one place for an extended amount of time, be in the same time zone as a majority of my friends, etc.

How bad could quarantining be?

Quick Update

Taken on a walk around my neighborhood

Hello! 2020 has been wild to say the least right? Not the good kind of wild either. When COVID-19 was at its peak of hysteria I was in Fiji and decided to hit pause on traveling to head back home to the United States. Of course I thought that it would all “blow over.” Well 12 weeks later and there’s still no end in sight unfortunately.

I haven’t been too productive and I should have don’t more with my free time, but I just honestly did not feel like it. I somehow let this travel blog become a book review blog, and that’s just not cool. So I’m writing to say I’m officially back. Stay tuned on more reviews/descriptions of my travels pre-Corona, and I’ll probably also go back further in time and talk about the other destinations I’ve traveled to in the past.

Book Review 16: The Brighton Mermaid

I picked The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson up at the Radisson in Fiji along with Big Little Lies, but don’t worry I left two in their place. I was drawn to this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mermaid is in the title so that grabbed my attention immediately. Second, one of the main events occurred my birth year, 1993. Thirdly, it’s based in Brighton and I’ve had a keen interest in reading books taking place in the UK recently. Lastly, the main character was a woman of color and lets be honest most books’ main character is a white woman with blue/green eyes (hair colors range, but there’s always a unique eye color unless we aren’t meant to particularly like them then they have dark eyes) – this is of course just my opinion and I haven’t put much thought into it. 

This book would also be classified as a mystery and bit of a thriller and I really enjoyed it. Did a really good job with the twists and turns and I really didn’t have much pegged once the story was unraveled. I loved that I didn’t have everything figured out so of course I’m not giving any spoilers. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

**WINNER OF THE PRECIOUS LIFESTYLE MUST READ OF THE YEAR AWARD 2018**

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…”