Tag Archives: traveling

The 2014 Bucket List

I just HAD to interrupt the continuing story of my 2013 National Parks Road Trip for this —

Check out: Buzzfeed’s Astounding Backpacking Trips All Over The World

Torres Del Paine perfection

Torres Del Paine perfection

GAWDAYM. I really, really wish I wasn’t in school sometimes. And…I wish I was married to some rich guy who also likes to travel. RICH MEN, COME TO ME.

So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been debating all the things I want to do now while I’m free as a bird (albeit in debt) and single (and childless – which may be forever, or not…)

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How To Make Traveling Work (AKA: Ballin On A Budget)

Sorry, I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled “National Parks Road Trip 2014” series to bring you this awesomeness right here:

I found this great blog post from a woman (who has traveled to over 70 countries) about the different ways you can make your dream travel plans come true. A lot of the tips are common sense; however they’re a great reminder that you should make traveling happen now before it’s too late! And by too late, I mean settle down and become a boring adult. Oh no, I’m not bitter…HAH!

From her Blog Post: How I Afford To Travel

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South America Travel Diary: Personal Reflections and Conquering Challenges

Every time I come back from a long trip (okay, I’ve only done two in my life, but STILL), I’ve found solo traveling to be a great time for reflection and realizations. Each trip has had its own themes. My first trip to Southeast Asia was all about learning how to live in the moment, accept the present, and have faith that I can make things work (my motto from that trip became: “F*CK IT! Who cares!”).

South America was a very different trip for me, however. Just a year after my last trip to Southeast Asia, I found this trip to be all about becoming a more resilient person. I also learned how to be successful with whatever challenge or hardship that came my way. Traveling’s also great for gaining a better perspective on your own life at home.

handstand

Despite all the great, life-changing, and downright AMAZING times that I had during my travels throughout Peru and Bolivia, my trip to South America wasn’t easy at first. NEVER assume that you will have fun. Traveling can be  hard at times. It can get lonely, it can be overwhelming, it can be dangerous – just like anything else you experience in your own life back home. Traveling, however, at best, is all about gaining a better perspective and understanding, and being grounded – in all senses of those words.

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The Best of Peru: My Top 10 Places to Go and Things to Do

Since I only spent about three weeks in Peru total (including transportation time), these are just a few recommendations that I’ve been able to compile with my limited experiences there (I have a new rule now: minimum 1 month per country. If you haven’t done so before, travel abroad for a month or longer and you’ll see why…!)

In no particular order:

1. El Camino Inka to Machu Picchu

Experience some gorgeous and amazing (4 days of) hiking while learning more about Peru’s Incan history and their temples along the way. Just make sure to respect the environment as much as possible and take it all in as a spiritual journey too. (Warning: All fitness levels are allowed, but not all make it to the end. And altitude sickness is about genetics, not physical fitness!). While it can be tragically way too touristy at the “end”, (AKA Machu Picchu) the history there goes deep. Those stone stairs on the way there are pretty rough, though…

day 1

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From Lima to San Francisco: Going Back to Cali (and My Minor Lessons Learned)

The night before I took my final flight back home (SO SAD), I went out and decided to eat dinner at a restaurant in the alley near my hostel (there’s a whole bunch of restaurants down there that cater to both locals and tourists). I sat down at one that was playing the Knicks game (I hella missed basketball!) and decided to take a risk and get a caesar salad and a chicken consome soup – I really missed eating fresh raw vegetables. I asked the waiter if the salad was washed in “agua purificado”. He said it was – or, at least, I thought he said yes maybe he didn’t hear me, who knows.

My chicken consome soup

My chicken consome soup

The dinner kinda sucked. Well, the soup was okay and I did appreciate the food; however, it was very expensive (I really don’t like paying US prices for mediocre/bad food). It was also hella hard to overlook the fact that my caesar salad was a salad with a bad cheese sauce and pieces of lunchmeat ham instead of sardines (for the most part, don’t get Italian or American food out here, it’s probably not going to be worth it. Unless it’s a decent pizza joint – or it’s Ekeko’s in Puno, where EVERYTHING is good). To say the least, the salad was not good.

Not caesar salad

Not a caesar salad

To add insult to injury, I got really sick from the food that night and pretty spent an hour in the bathroom on the toilet (good thing my roommates were either asleep or out!). It was incredibly painful – it felt like I was turning my sphincter inside-out.

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Three Hot Days in Nazca

After a day and a half in Lima, I was pretty much over it. Since I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with for the rest of my days there, I decided on a whim to make a short trip to Nazca to see the infamous Nazca lines. If I had time, I also wanted to hit up Ica/Huacachina to go sandboarding, but I wasn’t going to push it. Didn’t want to miss my expensive flight back to San Francisco in four days!

On the way to Nazca

No Man’s Land: On the way to Nazca

I took a Cruz del Sur bus (the most reliable bus in Peru, so I’ve heard) past a few tourist cities (like Ica) and finally ended up in Nazca at about 9 pm at night. The trip down there however was kinda nuts. It looked like Mad Max land out there! Nothing but desert and brush with some homes (and sometimes in villages) out on the plain by themselves. Very end-of-the-world-ish-looking.

When I got in, the Nazca Inn hotel owner was waiting near the bus station to bring guests to his hostel. He was really welcoming and friendly – a local Nazcan who went to school in England for a little bit to learn business, who then returned to his hometown to run his family’s hostel. We spoke back and forth in Spanish and English, which made communication easy and fun. He took me on a short tour around the main strip and dropped me off at the hostel. Which, by the way, is AWESOME!

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

Hallway at the Nazca Inn

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Later that night me and the hostel owner got drinks on the main drag…however, after getting completely drunk after one drink, I had to go out to get a burger so that I wouldn’t be completely embarrassing. I ate in his car while we drove around town and met his friends…

Yeah, I can be a bit of a sloppy drunk. So sue me.

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What’s Good In Lima?

I asked my cyber Facebook friends about what I should do in Lima. The responses:

“Not much”

“Manorca Beach in the north!”

“Hang out in the Barranco District at night”

“Museo Larco!”

I have to say that my first impression of Lima was not the most positive – only because perhaps I expected Lima to look more like the rest of Peru and less like Los Angeles (I have very mixed feelings about the city of LA). But with 8 million people, what can one expect. At least the weather was sunny and humid – I missed that feeling! Beats being around cold rainy mountains with low levels of oxygen.

Kennedy Park in Miraflores

Kennedy Park in Miraflores

Despite many technical difficulties (including not knowing how to make international calls from my Peruvian cell phone), I finally met up with Angela and one of her travel crew friends, Mel. I couldn’t believe we finally connected (first through this blog, and later in person)! Despite the fact that the restaurant that we were going to eat at was closed (Punto Azul is supposed to have EXCELLENT ceviche, but doesn’t open on Mondays), we quickly found a bus and made our way back to central Miraflores to find a place to have lunch. It was pretty hard. It’s hella touristy out here. There aren’t many good food options – and they’re all kinda expensive.

After making a huge circle around town, we finally settled on a chain restaurant called Rustica near my hostel. It was pretty good…

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Mel, Angela and me

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Ahhhhhhhhhh…Sucre!

After Uyuni, I decided to travel up to the lovely city of Sucre since my plans to go to Argentina had fallen apart by then (there just wasn’t enough time to go. New rule: 1 country per month! At least 3 weeks…there’s just so much to do!).

I had heard a lot of good things about the “White City” – a traveler I met in Cochabamba said that it was one of his favorite cities in the world (I guess it depends on what you like though. While Sucre wasn’t my favorite city in the world, it was indeed very nice).

Catedral

Catedral

This trip also didn’t start out very well – due to the buses, yet again. I have no idea what happened, actually. All that I know is that I boarded an Emperador bus at Uyuni and took it for about four hours until its stop at the famous mining town of Potosi. The bus company originally told me that I would have to change buses in Potosi, but that didn’t quite happen. When I asked the bus driver where to go for my connecting bus to Sucre, he just handed me 20 bolivianos and told me to go upstairs. Somewhere. What?

So I went upstairs to find – something. I tried to go to the Emperador bus office, but it was closed. Another agency down the hall said that I had to go to the NEW bus station down the street. Whatthhell. Why are there two bus stations. That is so confusing.

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Carnaval in Uyuni: Ninja Turtles, Vikings, and All-Day Water Balloon Fights

After we ended our four-day “Tupiza to the Salar de Uyuni” tour, the Swiss couple (that I met on the tour) accompanied me in search of a better hostel. We came across Hostal La Magia de Uyuni, a much more upscale place with great looking bedrooms and an excellent breakfast. It was pretty pricey though – as a budget traveler, I aim to pay less than $10 a night – $20 on special occasions. However, after 4 days with only one hot shower (not including the hot springs soak), I was looking forward to a quiet night’s rest in my own room. Unfortunately, an expensive room does not equate hot showers – I was shivering in (almost) lukewarm shower water that night (I think they didn’t have the water heater turned on at the time).

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One of my favorite things about Bolivia (and Peru) is the amazing festival music – a combination of triumphant-sounding horns and energetic drums. Everyone seems to have access to brass instruments and can form a marching band out here! While most people in Bolivia go to Oruro for Carnaval (where the big parade goes down), Uyuni was preparing for its own Carnaval parades that weekend. I don’t know what it’s like in Oruro, but I have to say that Uyuni’s Carnaval made me fall a little bit in love with this small city, and it’s awesome people.

Getting ready for the festivites in Uyuni

Getting ready for the festivities

Balloon and water pistol vendors

Balloon and water pistol vendors

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Ladies and Gentlemen: the Salar de Uyuni

Despite the heavy rains that had been plaguing southern Bolivia for a few weeks, by the time we got to the Salar de Uyuni, most of the rain water had cleared – except for a layer of water on the actual salt flats itself. Roads were now completely usable, and we had very few fears of our jeep getting stuck out on the cold Salar somewhere.

We awoke at 5 am to get going on the day. During our slow drive, we were greeted by an amazing sunrise that reflected like a mirror on the Salar’s watery surface:

Antes de la amanacer

Antes de la amanacer

Brilliant

Brilliant

Driving through the Salar's waters

Driving through the Salar’s waters

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