The Best Things I Ate in NYC

The Best Things I Ate in NYC

When thinking about travel, food is often a major influencer in where I go. This year has been filled with foodie trips to cities like Montreal and Chicago, but surprisingly my stomach was not a major player in my NYC planning. That was until a few days before departure, when I booked a food tour of Chinatown and Little Italy (more on that to come). That set the tone for the rest of the trip which was all about sampling the local cuisine.

Bagel & Cream Cheese: Absolute Bagels

My favourite bite of the trip was a complete surprise to me. Although, cream cheese icing is one of my guilty pleasures, I have ranked plain cream cheese at the top of my ultimate dislike list. Totally bizarre, I know. But, I was adamant that I would try the top rated Absolute bagels with cream cheese in true New York fashion regardless of my taste buds. My bagel of choice was sesame with a garlic and chive cream cheese and it was BEYOND! I am fully converted now and I can happily enjoy both the sweet and savoury varieties.

Pizza: Lombardi’s

We knew that pizza was a must-eat in NYC, and when we learned that Little Italy was home to the oldest pizzeria in America, we set our sights on Lombardi’s. I can’t say that it was the best pizza of my life but it was certainly tasty and a cool experience too.

Milkshakes: Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

I saw a blog post about Black Tap’s crazy shakes a few months ago and I really hoped we’d be able to squeeze in a visit. We almost didn’t make it due to the hour long wait (at 2pm on a Wednesday) but we were sure glad we did. This monstrous cookie shake was the perfect send off to fuel us for the flight home. Or at least that’s what I told myself to ignore the sugar coma.

Pork Dumpling: Tasty Dumpling


 I’m not a huge Chinese food fan. It’s not that I dislike the food, I just like pretty much everything else more. But, I’m always game to try new things and I surprised myself with how much I ended up enjoying these pork dumplings in Chinatown. They are also super cheap so if anyone ever challenges you to eat for under $5 in NYC, this is your spot.

Cannoli: Ferrara Cafe

The way to my heart is surely through the bakery. That’s probably why I’m so fond of Peeta from the Hunger Games. Or something. Well, my happiness metre was off the charts with the cannoli from family-run Ferrara Cafe. The century old pasticceria was so delicious that we came back again a couple days later. Just doing my part to eat local.

Cheesecake: Junior’s


One of my all-time favourite desserts is cheesecake so you know I had to make a trip to the NYC restaurant claiming to serve the The World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake. Upon review, it was definitely an excellent cheesecake but I could have done without the strawberry “goop” on top. Due to the popularity, the cheesecake did have a manufactured feel that I could have done without. I prefer a cake that looks and tastes like it was made by my grandmother.

I know that I missed so many amazing New York restaurants.
What should I add to my list for the next trip?
The Best Free Things to do in New York

The Best Free Things to do in New York

It’s no secret that New York is one of the most expensive cities in the world. But, on my recent trip to the Empire State, I was pleasantly surprised by all the fantastic and FREE activities to enjoy in the Big Apple.

Central Park


Central Park is undoubtedly the most famous park in the entire world, and an important check on every NYC bucket list. Countless movies and TV shows have been filmed in this iconic spot which makes it all the more exhilarating to explore. It was surreal to see the Bow Bridge (pictured above) in real life. It felt oddly familiar from all the times I’d seen it before on the screen. New York is like that, familiar and foreign all at once.

Staten Island Ferry


The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope and freedom to many immigrants who moved to America throughout the centuries. Tourists can pay to tour both Liberty Island and Ellis Island but the ferry to Staten Island is 100% free. The quick 25 minute ride through the harbour offers a perfect viewing point to get that coveted photograph of Lady Liberty in all her splendour as well as scenic shots of downtown Manhattan from the water.

The High Line


The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side. It is also one of the newer additions to NYC and wasn’t around on my inaugural trip back in 2007, which put it at the top of my list this time around. It’s the perfect place for a Sunday stroll with gardens, city views, and little restaurants along the way.

Grand Central Station


Grand Central is the largest railway station in the world and the 6th most visited tourist attraction in the world according to Travel + Leisure magazine. After experiencing the size and grandeur of this historic building for myself, it’s no wonder so many choose to spend their precious New York minutes here.

The Brooklyn Bridge


This NYC trip was dedicated to Manhattan but I’ve decided that my next trip will be based in Brooklyn. So as a teaser of coming attractions, we walked from Battery Park along the East River to the famed Brooklyn bridge. I love that the architects planned for an elevated pedestrian walkway to truly enjoy the experience.

New York Public Library


I’ve always loved libraries. It completely blows my mind that there can be so many books in the world and I will read such a small fraction. When I heard that the Rose Reading Room in the NYPL was finally re-opening to the public after over two years of restorations, I was thrilled with my trip timing. This particular room is the length of two city blocks and holds about 52,000 books. Words really can’t describe it.

9/11 Memorial


September 11, 2001 is a day that I and the majority of people around the world will never forget. It was my 14th birthday. I was wearing a blue skirt and a yellow shirt and I heard the news from my carpool on the way to school. I remember sitting in shock during Social Studies as footage of the planes crashing played on repeat. It was horrifying and surreal and a life changing day in history. I am not American but I too felt violated that day. I have many American friends and family members so this tragedy felt personal to me too. If it could happen in New York, it could happen anywhere.

I was finally able to visit the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero and the emotional 9/11 Museum last week. I was on the brink of tears for the better part of two hours while I re-watched the footage and listened to the testimonies of survivors. I was most affected by the voice mail recordings of the plane passengers in the moments before they lost their lives. The words of love for their family members were so beautiful and heart-wrenching. I cannot fathom the depth of that pain. But rather than living in fear or anger, I want to commemorate the lives lost by choosing peace, and hope, and love.

Take the time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and pay the extra to visit the museum. It’s worth it.

Riverside Park


I am a self-delcared city girl and not one to shy away from crowds. But, after a few chaotic days in New York City, I was ready to retreat. Enter – Riverside Park. This lovely oasis on the Upper West Side was a convenient spot to savour our breakfast bagels and to enjoy some peace and quiet. You can tell that this is a local haunt and not somewhere frequented by tourists. I could have happily wandered for hours.

Charging Bull


The Charging Bull, more commonly known as the Wall Street bull is the photographed art piece in the city and a symbol of the Financial District. Good luck getting a shot without strangers photo-bombing in the background.

Now what did I miss? What is your favourite free activity in New York?


A Weekenders Guide to Chicago

A Weekenders Guide to Chicago

“My first day in Chicago, September 4, 1983. I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here.” — Oprah Winfrey

I’ve had the Windy City in my sights for several years now. When I announced that I had finally booked a trip to the architectural mecca, friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances couldn’t stop singing its praises. As my wish list of food, sights and shows continued to grow with every passing conversation my only concern was how to fit it all in.

With merely a long weekend to spare, my trusty travel partner, Mindy, and I wasted no time in hitting as many of the cultural and foodie hot spots as possible. Good thing I’m basically an expert at the weekend getaway by now.


We landed at O’Hare International on Saturday morning after a red-eye flight and made a bee-line for the famed Millennium Park with a brief detour past Navy Pier. On our way we passed by Giordano’s and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally try the much anticipated Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

We ordered a small cheese and pepperoni stuffed deep dish, which was intended to serve 1-2 people. We were hungry and barely finished half. This stuff is no joke. It was delicious but also not something I’m prepared to eat again anytime soon. Sorry Chicago, but I still prefer New York style.

Next on our agenda was the world-famous Chicago Bean. I’ve been to my fair share of monuments and tourist sites over the years and I was dumb-struck by the sheer magnitude of the crowd. In retrospect, visiting on a sunny, Saturday afternoon on a long weekend in summer probably wasn’t the best strategy for people-free photos. The public sculpture is actually titled Cloud Gate and certainly earns its popularity with its very cool reflective and distorting abilities.


After visiting the bean, we decided to continue exploring Millenium park. We ended up stumbling across Buckingham fountain which I had never heard of before but turned out to be one of the most impressive fountains I’ve seen. And unlike the bean, it was nearly devoid of crowds while offering both stunning lake views and skyline vistas. My favourite surprise of the trip!


From there the only place to top what we’d already seen was to shoot for the sky. So that’s exactly what we did at the Observation deck on the 94th Floor of 360 Chicago. The adrenaline junkie in me couldn’t resist trying out the TILT which essentially involves standing in a window that tilts outwards over the skyline. It wasn’t nearly as scary as the squealing girls riding beside would have you believe. But, if heights aren’t your thing then consider yourself warned.

We also made sure to time our visit so that we would be able to take in golden hour and sunset and even splurged for cocktails – now that’s what I call Happy Hour!


Believe it or not, we managed to fit all of those activities into Day 1 after a red-eye flight. Needless to say, we were ready to call it a night by 9:00pm. We woke up well-rested and ready to take on another jam-packed day.

We kicked off round two with the much touted Architecture Boat Tour. Nearly every single person I spoke with about my upcoming trip to Chicago recommended this tour specifically so we knew that it needed to happen. The people were not wrong. After boarding our open air vessel and toasting with a morning mimosa, we spent the next 90 minutes in the very good hands of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The tour expertly guided us down all three branches of the Chicago river showcasing more than 50 skyscrapers, bascule bridges, and historic sites along the way. Informative and stunning – this was a trip highlight.


Our next foodie goal was sampling an authentic Chicago-style hot dog. Our vendor of choice was Portillo’s which is known for the local delicacy. This “restaurant” could not be more American if it was located in the White House itself. The americana memorabilia and frenzy of calorie consumption was almost too much to handle but we soldiered on. I wasn’t sure if I could truly enjoy a hot dog without ketchup but the Chicago-original delivered.

In case you’re curious, the ingredients of this particular style dog include yellow mustard, chopped white onions, relish, dill pickle spear, sliced tomato, pickled peppers, a dash of celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

We had just enough time to Uber from downtown to Old Town to see a show by the legendary improv company – Second City. This is the same place where famed comedians Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and Steve Carrell got their starts. The performers we saw had some very big shoes to fill and they delivered a fantastic show of sketch and improv that lived up to its title Fast, Loud, and Funny. 

We took the scenic way home along the beach to dip our toes in Lake Michigan. I still can’t believe that it’s a lake and not the ocean. This is a seriously photogenic city and so much more than just the home of Oprah and Obama.


As the weekend drew to a close we knew we hadn’t seen it all. With more time I would have loved to check out a jazz club and taken in a Cubs game at Wrigley field. But, I always like to leave a few activities still on the table because then I know I’ll have to come back again. I’m not finished with the Windy City yet.


Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

Bowen Island: The Perfect VanCity Escape

I’ve made it a personal mission to visit as many of the lovely islands off the coast of Vancouver as humanly possible. So far that list includes Galiano, Keats, Salt Spring, Thetis, Vancouver Island and most recently Bowen. Each island offers something similar and at the same time unique.

And of all the islands I’ve visited so far, the one that is the obvious choice for best day trip from Vancouver is… Bowen Island.


A couple of months back, I organized my third annual spring getaway with my university girlfriends. Now that we are all settled with careers and busy lives, I know that we all look forward to our quiet weekends away to relax and refresh.

What makes Bowen Island the perfect retreat from city life?



Bowen is conveniently located in the Howe Sound just a short 30-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. Many people even make a daily commute to the mainland for work or school. We were all able to put in a full-day of work before heading to the ferry terminal, knowing that departures left nearly every hour. Exactly the type of stress-free travel that I’m looking for after a busy week.



Within seconds of disembarking at Snug Cove, I could feel the calmness settling in. The Sunshine Coast is quiet and tranquil and full of natural beauty. It’s almost hard to believe that a place like this exists merely an hour away (door to door) from my big city life.

Our itinerary for the weekend was pretty simple: Spend time outdoors, enjoy good food, and be together. We chose an adorable cottage in the woods off of Airbnb and opted to make all of our meals at home. Even though the island is quite populated and definitely no hidden gem, it still felt at times like we were on our own. Stillness can be hard to come by in our tech-filled world, so I seek nature to ground me as often as possible.



Although I keep touting relaxation and the “lack” of activity, there actually are quite a few things to do on the island. Our group enjoyed visiting the shops in the small town of Snug Cove (so adorable!) and wandering along the seaside boardwalk. The stunning views of Howe Sound always remind me of the fjords in Norway (or at least what I imagine they would like… that one is still on the bucket list for now).

We also did a short hike right from the main ferry dock to Dorman Point where we admired the arbutus-strewn plateau and tried to sneak a peak of the mainland. We wrapped up the day with a leisurely stroll around Killarney Lake, which is another popular area within reasonable walking distance from the main pier.



We ended up spending two nights on Bowen Island but we all agreed that it would be just as easy to do a day trip if you want to save on accommodation expenses. I’m glad we took our time to savour the delicious spring weather and island vibes, but sometimes a day away is all you need to recharge your batteries.

Montreal Memoire: 3 Days in Canada’s Cultural Capital

Montreal Memoire: 3 Days in Canada’s Cultural Capital

For someone who has visited over 300 cities across 6 continents, I’ve sadly seen very little of my own country by comparison. When the Canadian dollar started to tank towards the end of last year, I decided that 2016 would be the year of Canada. I called up my friend Katie in Toronto and organized a long weekend in Montreal, a city I’ve wanted to visit for years. It would be the first time in Quebec for us both. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but as it turns out, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

I took a red-eye flight, arriving in Montreal early Saturday morning. After waking Katie up in our adorable Airbnb apartment and enjoying a wake-up coffee on our lovely terrace, we set off to to explore.


Feeling fresh on no sleep – Take that jet lag!

Lachine Canal

We didn’t intentionally go looking for the canal but somehow I’m always drawn to the water. When we stumbled across the Lachine Canal we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and stroll along the path to the Old Port. Along the way we discovered that the park is also a National Historic Site and the third most beautiful urban circuit in the world as ranked by Time magazine in 2009.


Vieux Port

After walking the canal we ended up in the Old Port which is by far the most touristy part of Montreal. We strolled the cobblestone streets, visited the stunning Notre Dame cathedral, and spontaneously bought tickets to the latest Cirque du Soleil show, Luzia. We simply couldn’t pass the opportunity to see Cirque in the place where it originated. It was a fantastic Mexican inspired production that wowed me even as a long-time fan. We even had the privilege of running into several of the star performers later the next day when they were casually doing back flips in the street. When in Montreal…


I’ve already written about all the delicious food that we ate in Montreal but my favourite location was certainly Chez Suzette. We had a lovely spot in the window where we could enjoy our crepes and some epic people watching. Basically the perfect setting for our 10 year friendaversary celebration!


Mont Royal

On Day 2 my main objective was to visit the Mont Royal park, which I didn’t realize is actually a large volcanic hill/small mountain. I heard that there was a great viewpoint, which should have tipped me off that we would have a climb ahead of us to reach the Chalet. It was well worth the effort for the views and subsequent relaxing in the park.


Parc Jean Drapeau

The rest of our day was a bit haphazard. We had a plan to check out the first day of the Piknic Électronik, an EDM festival that happens every Sunday throughout the summer at Parc Jean Drapeau. However, by the time we got there, the line to buy tickets was so long that we figured we wouldn’t make it inside by closing. So, instead we opted to try out the much touted bike share and get ourselves some Bixis. We rode around the park and then ultimately decided to find our way back to the Old Port. A lot easier said than done considering the lack of bike lanes and the steep incline to the bridge. We made it across though and were rewarded again with some lovely views of the city.

Along the way we made friends with Samantha from LA and the three of us spent the rest of the evening riding through the city, searching for night life, and making friends with locals. It was one of those spontaneous nights that made me feel fully alive, like this is what it means to be young and adventurous and free.


We ended our trip on Monday with a relaxing walk through our neighbourhood to a local Polish bakery.

Montreal is completely unique to any city I’ve ever been before. The history and language made it feel slightly European, while still maintaining a distinctly Canadian feel. The people were so friendly and the city was notably vibrant and energetic.

At the end of any trip, I’m always wishing for at least one more day. But, even though I didn’t scratch every item off my wish-list, I had a truly memorable starter weekend in Montreal. I have a feeling that I’ll be back. Until next time… À bientôt Montréal! 


The Best Food I ate in Montreal

The Best Food I ate in Montreal

One weekend in Montreal was in no way enough time to experience all of the culinary delicacies and amazing restaurants in this city. But… I did the best that I could and these are some of the dishes that topped my list.

Caution: Photos below may induce hunger.

Poutine: La Banquise and Les Folies

When I mentioned to friends in conversation that I was planning a trip to Montreal, the first thing they recommended was poutine. And La Banquise came up again and again as the go-to spot. This place has been creating legendary poutine creations since the 1980’s and offers no less than 30 different types. We struggled to decide but eventually opted to share two: (1) La Reggae: ground beef, guacamole, diced tomatoes & hot peppers and (2) L’Astérix: smoked meat, mushrooms, sour cream & pepper sauce (both pictured above left).


And no weekend getaway would be complete without brunch so in true Montreal form, I ordered La Voisine de Poutine at Les Folies, basically breakfast poutine. Mais oui!


Crêpes: Chez Suzette

Since Montreal is in the French speaking part of Canada, it is also a great place to try French-inspired cuisine. I indulged my sweet tooth with La Rougemont, which is a sweet crêpe with apples, cinnamon, ice cream, and almonds served with 100% pure Quebec maple sirop. This may have been my dinner and I’m not mad about it.

Avo Yo Toast: Buck 15 Espresso Bar

 I’m pretty sure that the Avocado Toast craze is not a “Montreal thing” but I was plenty delighted to see it on the menu at Buck 15. This unassuming coffee shop had a beautifully curated breakfast menu that made me want to return every day just so I could try them all.

Bagels: Fairmount 


I didn’t know this before I visited Montreal, but apparently the city has its own critically acclaimed style. In contrast to the New York-style bagel, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven. I was under strict orders to head to Fairmount, which claims to have the best bagels in the world. I don’t know that I’ve sampled enough bagels in my life to have a firm opinion but I definitely liked what I tasted. I recommend the Chocolate Chip and the Sesame Seed.


On this trip we also enjoyed Sangria, Smoked Meat sandwiches, and delicious French pastries. I can’t wait to return so that I can add to my list – what do you recommend?


Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Mastering the Weekend Getaway

Things have been quieter than usual on the blogging front these days… mostly because I started a new job (yeah!!) and am focusing on my home life. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been traveling. Since February, I’ve squeezed in trips to San Diego, Victoria, Calgary, Bowen Island, and this weekend I’m flying to Montreal for my first-ever trip to Quebec!

I know that I’ll never have as many vacation days as I would like but I’m not going to let that stop me from achieving my travel goals. And my key to success is the Weekend Getaway. I’ve briefly written about this before when I explained How I Travel the World with a Full-time Job but I feel like it’s time for a more detailed analysis.

Here are my tips for Mastering the Weekend Getaway

1. Explore your Own Backyard

I am spoiled because I live in the ridiculously good-looking Pacific Northwest with a plethora of gorgeous islands, lakes, and mountains to explore. But no matter where you live, I’m certain that there are places worth exploring nearby. I am slowly working my way through a lengthy list of local wonders and weekends are the perfect way to start checking them off. It doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to spend time close to home rather than in more exotic destinations. I want to see the world and that includes my home province. It’s also SO easy to pack a small bag for two nights and scoot out of the city on a Friday evening.

Vancouver Skyline

From City…


To relaxation in an hour

2. Don’t be afraid of the Red Eye

I may not suffer from jet lag when I travel, but sleeping on planes is not one of my strengths. For this reason, I’ve always been intimidated by the red-eye flight. But, I tried one back in 2014 on route to Boston for a long weekend and it was really great. Not only did I avoid a night of accommodation expenses, but I gained an entire day in the city. It was so successful that I used it again in 2015 to fly home from Maui, heading straight from the airport to work to save a vacation day. Might seem extreme but it’s a small price to pay for a weekend in paradise!


Hello Paradise!

3. Have a Plan but Don’t Plan too Much

I’m a planner by nature so coming up with a detailed trip itinerary actually brings me joy. However, restrained planning is actually key to making a weekend getaway successful. If you jam pack too much activity into a short amount of time, it can leave you exhausted. On the flip side, no planning can mean that you end up in a town where everything closes at 5pm and you have nothing but bad cable TV for company.

I like to do my research and then come up with a couple of things that I really want to do while factoring in relaxation and exploration time. There is nothing worse then returning to work on Monday morning, needing a weekend to recover from your weekend. Have a goal for your trip and make choices that will help you achieve it. If the goal is relaxation, choose a location that is easy to get to and a little bit off the grid. If your goal is adventure, plan a road trip or visit an action-packed city.



Lazy days in Snug Cove



Always something new to see in Seattle


Getting out of town for a long weekend or even a mere two nights may not seem like enough time to see much, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. Every weekend away has been worth the effort and has truly made it possible for me to travel the world while maintaining a full-time job.

My office is closing early and I’m off on yet another red-eye flight tonight. Tomorrow I will wake up in Montreal! Bring on the poutine!

Where are you going to explore on a weekend getaway?


Back to California: The San Diego Obsession

Back to California: The San Diego Obsession

Contrary to popular belief… I am not moving to San Diego, as much as I may wish otherwise. After my annual pilgrimage to America’s Finest City last month, I reflected once again on why I fall more in love with California living each time I visit.


There are some very obvious advantages: Near constant sunshine, + 25 ºC weather in February, an abundance of delicious Mexican food (mmm… fish tacos!), palm trees and beaches as far as the eye can see… I could go on and on.


I love the laid back lifestyle and I love that after six visits, I am still discovering (and re-discovering) favourite places, eateries, and activities.

Balboa Park


I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to finally explore Balboa Park. If you want to get technical, I did visit the famous San Diego Zoo back in 2009 which is located in the area of Balboa Park. But, I have never spent time touring the park itself, which is gigantic and lovely. I could have easily spent the entire day marveling at the Spanish architecture, watching street performers, and admiring the manicured gardens. I’m already itching to return.

Pacific Beach Boardwalk


There is something so lovely about returning to the same familiar spot year after year. My best friend Jennie just so happens to live in Pacific Beach, and the first thing we do every time I visit is take a walk down to the PB Boardwalk. This area is quintessential California. You’ve got surfers, roller skaters, cyclists, and everyone from retirees to families on vacation. I love the endless beach, the waves crashing on the outstretched pier, the palm tree lined sidewalks… This never gets old.

La Jolla


No trip to San Diego would be complete without brunch and a stroll along the cliffs in La Jolla. There’s always a new place to sample or an angle that I haven’t photographed yet (although that seems impossible!). There’s just something soothing and revitalizing about this seaside community that instantly relaxes me. These are the moments that I store up and savour to keep me going long after I’ve returned home.


 Do you have a favourite state?

Do you ever return to the same place again and again?



The Most Beautiful Beaches in Australia

The Most Beautiful Beaches in Australia

With more than 10,000 beaches around its shores, Australia leads the way when it comes to incredible sand and surf. Now in my all too brief three weeks down under, I didn’t see nearly enough of them to formulate a comprehensive review. But, I was so blown away by both the quantity and quality of the beaches I did see that I had to share some of my favourites.

Wategos Beach, Byron Bay, NSW

IMG_5132This isn’t the main beach in Byron Bay but it is quite a lovely little slice of paradise. I stumbled upon this spot on my walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse and I couldn’t help taking a pit stop. Surfers and sun worshippers alike could be spotted frolicking in the waves – the relaxing vibes were contagious!

Tugun Beach, Gold Coast, NSW

IMG_5157There is nothing I love more than beach photography and I always get a twinge of excitement when I spot a lifeguard tower. This massive, pristine, and virtually deserted beach was not on my itinerary. In fact, this was really just a bathroom break on our way from Byron Bay to Brisbane… not too shabby.

Noosa North Shore, Sunshine Coast, QLD

IMG_5181When I hear the word “camping” this view is not what immediately springs to mind. But THIS is camping in Australia! Across the river from Noosa Heads and Noosaville is Noosa North Shore – a long stretch of white sand, dunes and beautiful coastline, and the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island and Great Sandy National Park. Only accessible by a short two minute ferry this site is most suitable for experienced campers… so clearly not me. Good thing I had a crew of Aussies to show me the ropes!

Rainbow Beach, Wide Bay, QLD

IMG_5242Ahhh Rainbow Beach!!!! Doing the Great Beach Drive was the coolest thing I did in Australia. It was an adrenaline filled ride mixing one part terror (at getting stuck or swept into the ocean) and two parts amazing! Why don’t the highways at home look like this?!

Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW

IMG_5471This may have been the most crowded beach I saw in Australia but it is certainly popular for a reason. Just minutes away from downtown Sydney, this gorgeous stretch of beach is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. If I ever move here this would be my Saturday hangout for sure!

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island, QLD

IMG_2620And last, but CERTAINLY not least… Whitehaven Beach! This is the #1 rated beach in Australia and frequently rated in the top five beaches in the WORLD!! This immaculate stretch of heaven on Whitsunday Island was the highlight of my time in the Great Barrier Reef. The water was like a bath, the sand was silky smooth, squeaking between my toes, and as you can tell, not crowded in the slightest. It was like a dream! Take me back please!

I’m always on the hunt for fantastic beaches… Where are some of your favourites?

Leave a Comment Below.


There’s Something about Sydney

There’s Something about Sydney

It’s always an interesting experience to visit a city that is super famous. The first time that I visited both Paris and New York I kept feeling like somehow I’d been there before. This isn’t surprising considering how many movies are filmed in both cities, yet still the familiarity was surreal.

I’ve been hearing about Sydney for years and especially how much I was going to love it. Often compared to my beloved Vancouver, I had high expectations for my first visit. And although many of the sites were exactly how I imagined, the city as a whole was completely different.


Sydney from above

For starters, Sydney is BIG. Think NYC big. With a population of over 4 million people, the CBD was always buzzing with activity. Instantly I decided that Sydney was no Vancouver. The comparisons do make sense of course – harbour city, new city, multicultural city… but the vibe is 100% Australian.

I think I hit the nail on the head when I decided that Sydney is New York on vacation. If NYC could just absorb some of the Aussie chill and spend more time at the beach, then they’d be on the same page. That’s my theory anyways.


The ever busy Circular Quay


Bondi Beach

I was able to spend six full days in Sydney and opted to stay in an Airbnb rental in the convenient suburb of Waterloo. My hosts were fantastic (Hi Wayne & Sasha!) and I got a real sense of what life would be like if I lived in Sydney (read: Expensive).

I am not kidding. I thought that rent in Vancouver was pricey but Sydney is next-level ridiculous. Just check out this cost of living analysis noting that renting a 900 sq ft furnished place in a “normal” area would cost AU $3,328 per month (essentially the equivalent in CAD). Now I understand why expat friends of mine had 6 room mates in a 2 bedroom apartment. Yikes! And that’s not the only thing that’s expensive… pretty much everything costs more: coffee, alcohol, gelato… only my travel/life essentials!


Views like this don’t come cheap (Sydney Harbour Bridge)

Cost aside, I loved my time in Sydney. I bought an OPAL card and figured out the transit system with ease. I walked a ton. I visited beaches and museums. Climbed bridges and rode ferries. I went on a free, 3 hour walking tour of the city with a tour guide that looked like a petite version of Jessica Jones. It was FANTASTIC! Probably the best tour I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of tours in my travels so that’s saying something.

I never got tired of wandering around Circular Quay or Hyde Park or The Rocks. I could easily spend countless hours listening to the street buskers or people watching on the Opera House steps or photographing this city from every angle. It’s magical.



The Rocks (oldest part of Sydney)

I got to soak up many of the activities that are especially lovely during the summer months, like enjoying refreshing drinks at the most epic beer garden in the world (The Opera Bar), wandering through outdoor markets, and  reveling in the Saturday night Firework spectacular in Darling Harbour.


Check out these crowds – The Opera Bar is the place to be any night of the week!


Darling Harbour


Fireworks and a Ferris Wheel

Even though Sydney is conceivably the furthest destination I could possibly visit, I know that I will be back someday. Australia will not and can not be a one-time trip for me. There’s just something about the land down under that has captured my heart.

Have you ever been to Sydney? What were your impressions of this world-class city?

Leave a comment below.

Pin it!


An Ode to Brisbane

An Ode to Brisbane

Summer. The high point of the entire year. A magical time when the weight of winter evaporates with the smell of barbecued meat and the emergence of freckled tans.

I always feel lighter in the summer. Floating through the streets in sun dresses and flip flops. Making my best effort to live off ice cream cones and watermelon wedges.

It’s the time of year when social butterflies are in top form. Organizing camping trips, firework viewing parties, patio drinks, and late night beach walks. Summer brings everyone out of hiding.

I dream of summer. I savour the memories and store them up for the dark days of January.

But last year, I skipped summer. Not intentionally. OF COURSE! Circumstance took hold of those all-too-brief months and I sadly watched the days slip by, paralyzed to stop them.

When the leaves started to change colour and I realized that summer had passed me by…  I panicked. The stress and frustration of an uprooted and chaos-filled season had left me beaten down and tired. I wasn’t prepared for autumn, for winter, for any of it.

So instead of succumbing to the gloom, I chased summer. I traveled to the opposite corner of the globe and found exactly what my soul needed most.

In Brisbane, I found contentment.

In riverside walks with no destination.


By lounging poolside on a weekday morning.


During giggle filled hikes and quick dips in watering holes.


On top of lookouts with the sun slowing setting.


When my two favourite seasons collided like a dream.


When I couldn’t be sure if it was the exercise or the view stealing my breath.


It was in the little moments of sweet nothingness. In the camaraderie of new and old friends. In the relaxed vibe of the locals.

In a city often skipped over, I found everything I was looking for. Brisbane you brought me back to life. I will forever be grateful.


Hello Seattle, Hello 2016!

Hello Seattle, Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be writing these words in 2016. It just sounds good to say, doesn’t it? 2015 was a wild year but it ended on a beautiful high that has carried me blissfully into yet another January.

For the third year in a row, I have continued my favourite travel tradition of celebrating the start of the year in a new city. In 2014, I set the bar high with a fun-filled night on the streets of New Orleans. In 2015, I partied Catalan style at the Plaza de España in Barcelona. And this year, I welcomed 2016 in Seattle, a city that is near and dear to my heart.


My partner in crime for this edition of NYE is a regular on the blog – my good friend Mindy. Neither of us had ever gone to a fancy New Years party so we decided to go all out this year. We got tickets to the largest bash in the city at the Experience Music Project (EMP) museum and a room at an adorable boutique hotel downtown.


The event was fantastic! Not only did we get to tour the exhibits of the museum (which included set pieces from LOTR, Star Wars, Princess Bride, and beyond) but it also included amazing cover bands, a live comedy theatre, and prime viewing of the Space Needle’s fireworks show. It was so much fun that I almost want to break my rule and celebrate there again next year… almost.


But the good times didn’t stop after the clock struck midnight.

Outside of the lower mainland where I was born and raised, Seattle is the city that I’ve visited the most frequently. But, I rarely get to be a tourist as I’m usually in town for something specific: cheering on my Seahawks, attending a concert, shopping, or heading to the airport. So, this time I made a conscious effort to soak up a different side of Seattle.



EMP Museum

Underground City Tour

Several friends had recently raved about the Seattle Underground City Tour and I have to echo their praise. The comical beginnings of the “Emerald City” lend itself perfectly for a joke-filled tour of the subterranean passages that once made up the main streets of pioneer square. We learned a lot more than we ever wanted to know about early sewage systems and how The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 was maybe the best thing to ever happen to the city. I won’t spoil it all here, but I definitely recommend you take the tour yourself.


Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

I’ve never thought too much about how glass was made. Well, except for that scene in Sweet Home Alabama with the lightning. But, honestly, I had no idea what to expect when we decided to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum located in the Seattle Center. I was completely blown away by the truly incredible works of art created by glass blowing (see what I did there?). Inspired by the Venetians and created by Dave Chihuly, the exhibits were whimsical, vibrant, stunning, and awe-inspiring. We even got to watch a live demo from a couple of professional glass blowers and I was seriously impressed by their skill and patience. Usually I am intimidated by this sort of thing, but glass blowing is so cool that it makes me want to pick up a new hobby. Good thing I don’t make New Year’s resolutions…


Boeing Factory Tour – The Future of Flight

I love everything to do with aviation. I love airports. I love airplanes. I love flying (even when I hate it, I love it). I’ve not-so-secretly always wanted to be a flight attendant. So when I found out that you could actually tour the factory where these dream machines come to life – I was sold. And while it was definitely cool to see the largest building in the world by volume, the tour left me a bit underwhelmed.


The factory is actually located just 30 minutes north of Seattle in Everett, Washington, which made it a logical pit stop on our journey home. Perhaps it had something to do with visiting the site on a holiday weekend when less action was happening (a whopping 35,000 work at this location) or maybe we just got a below-average tour guide but the whole thing was kind of whomp whomp. I was hoping to hear some stories or get more up close and personal with the planes when really all I heard was a lot of statistics which flew in one ear and out the other. The one thing I do remember is that you could fit all of Disneyland and a 12 acre parking lot inside the factory. So there’s that.


All in all, I had an amazing three days in Seattle. After dozens of visits, I still have more to explore, which is a tried and true sign of a world-class city in my opinion. 2016 is off to a fantastic start!

How did you celebrate the new year? Have you ever found a city that continues to excite after multiple visits?

Pin it!



2015: A Year in Review

2015: A Year in Review

How do I even begin to describe the past year? Chaotic. Exhausting. Incredible. It was chock-a-block full of highs and lows. I rode the wave of awesome that was 2014 through the first few months until things took a turn in April when work stress started to take a toll on me. Then when an apartment flood hit in July – my life felt like it was spiraling out of control. The one constant in my roller coaster year was travel, in epic proportions. Travel is my source of inspiration, energy, excitement, and joy. So I squeezed more travel into 12 months than I thought was humanly possible. And you know what… it saved me. I closed out 2015 with a self-care trip to Australia and now as 2016 approaches… I feel rejuvenated and completely at peace. Here’s a look back at my crazy year!

1. Barcelona, Spain (January)

I couldn’t have been more delighted to kick off 2015 in one of my new favourite cities, Barcelona! This wasn’t my first time in the Catalonian capital but it was certainly my best. Gaudi, tapas, magical fountains… What’s not to love? My travel BFF Megan and I celebrated in true spanish style with Cava, a dozen grapes, and thousands of new friends at the Plaça d’Espanya! Feliz Ano Nuevo!


Park Guell

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands (January)

On my way home from Spain I ended up with a 5-hour layover in Amsterdam… just enough time to get out of the airport and take a Sunday morning stroll through the quiet cobblestone streets and picturesque canals. It was the perfect way to stretch my legs and re-visit a city that I quite enjoy!


3. San Diego, California (February)

One of my favourite winter haunts is Southern California. And the city that calls me back time and time again is San Diego. This visit took me back to some favourite spots like Coronado Island and introduced me to some new neighbourhoods like the Gaslamp District. I can’t wait to return again next winter!

Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter: The Historic Heart of San Diego

4. Portland, Oregon (March)

When my cousin Jordan and his wife Emily relocated to Portland last year, I knew that many trips were in my future. After all, it’s only a 6 hour drive from Vancouver. I had mixed feelings after my first visit in 2014 but my second trip convinced me that Portland really is worth the hype. I’m a firm believer in the weekend getaway and now I’ve got PDX fixed in my GPS. This trip was made even better by yet another reunion with my friend Megan. We just keep meeting up all over the world – and I love it!

11004543_10153102672061963_436409424843325749_o copy

5. Maui, Hawaii (April)

This year I convinced my best friend Katie to do something a little bit crazy… Go to Maui for the weekend! The Easter long weekend to be more specific. I had both Good Friday and Easter Monday off work so we flew out Thursday evening and took the red-eye back on Monday night. I came straight to work from the airport and didn’t use even one vacation day for my island escape. Now, that’s how you travel the world with a full time job! I had been to Oahu before but this was my first time to Maui – a place that I have quickly dubbed PARADISE ON EARTH! I will be back, that I know for sure.


6. Cultus Lake, BC (April)

This spring I spent a weekend revisiting one of my favourite childhood haunts. Cultus Lake was a frequent stomping ground for my family back in the day and also the spot where I attended summer camp as a kid. It holds so many wonderful memories of learning to canoe and building sand castles and playing capture the flag in the forest. And on a weekend retreat with friends, it was a calming and restorative respite from the city life.


7. Halfmoon Bay, BC (May)

Our second annual girls weekend was a roaring success. Last year we visited the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Northwest Washington and had a really lovely time. This year we ventured to my new favourite local getaway – the Sunshine Coast. We rented a gorgeous cabin from Airbnb right on Secret Cove in Halfmoon Bay and spent a blissful spring weekend of tranquility and quality girl time. Everything about this weekend was perfection!


8. Salt Spring Island, BC (May)

At the last minute I decided to join in on a surprise birthday trip to Salt Spring Island to celebrate my friend Sarah. Her husband rented a house for a group of friends and we had a very relaxing weekend visiting breweries, wineries, cheese farms, and beaches. I already had a second trip planned for later in the summer so it was really just a teaser of coming attractions. I just can’t get enough of the Gulf Islands!


9. Greece (June)

Me and #TeamTravel kickstarted our European summer adventure in Athens, Greece before checking into a villa on Santorini for the island escape that dreams are made of. I could use every superlative in the dictionary and still fall short of describing how much I love Santorini. It’s ridiculous and y’all just need to go. Now.


10. Turkey (June/July)

With just over a week in Turkey we were able to visit some of the most impressive natural wonders and ancient ruins I’ve ever seen from Ephesus to Pamukkale to my trip highlight – Riding a Hot Air Balloon in Cappadocia! I sincerely hope I get to return someday because this country has so much more to offer.


11. Whistler, BC (July)

This year, my annual summer retreat to beautiful Whistler village was a little different than usual. Instead of calm walks by the lake and shopping in the village, I joined a group of 11 ladies to celebrate my friend Crystal’s upcoming marriage. No matter the season or the occasion, Whistler never disappoints and this was no exception. Hands down, the best Bachelorette party I’ve ever attended.


12. Oregon Coast (July)

In mid-July I ended up having a major personal crisis when an apartment leak forced me to temporary relocate for 3 months. I won’t get into the painful saga here but know that it was rough. Mere days after the initial destruction, I was fortunately able to escape the chaos with some of my favourite people (read: cousins) and hideaway in the sleepy town of Gearhart on the Oregon Coast… something that has been on my bucket list for far too long. It was exactly what I needed in that moment and I’m so glad I have such an amazing family that I get to call friends.


13. Golden Ears Provincial Park, BC (August)

I’m a self-proclaimed city girl. I like civilization, amenities, and the hustle, bustle of crowded streets. It’s so exciting to me! That being said, I definitely enjoy nature A LOT. I’m just not going to win any outdoor woman of the year contests any time soon. Camping doesn’t sit near the top of my to-do list pretty much ever, but if it is well organized and with great people, then I do enjoy the experience. This year, I even agreed to camp on a rainy, chilly weekend so feel free to praise me in the comments. Really, it was just an excuse to play games, drink wine, and listen to all the Taylor Swift.


14. Salt Spring Island, BC (August)

My second trip to Salt Spring Island (this year!) occurred on the very same weekend as a massive windstorm. Fortunately the Gulf islands didn’t get hit quite as bad as Metro Vancouver where over 500,000 people lost power. We rode out the storm by touring the local wineries, visiting a pretty fantastic farmer’s market, and even testing out some paddle boats (not to be confused with SUP – I’m talking old-school, peddle-with-your-feet boats). This weekend was so much more than the activities though. It was quality time with the most important women in my life: my mom, my sister-in-law, and my cousin/BFF who came all the way from Winnipeg to join in on our annual girls weekend. Thanks ladies – Let’s do it again next year!

11949423_1208162332532211_4625384030671853575_n copy

15. Alaska (September)

This was the most relaxing vacation of my entire life and couldn’t have come at a better time! I was completely mentally and physically burned out from a ridiculously stressful summer when my parents offered to take my siblings and I on an Alaskan cruise. YES PLEASE! While cruising isn’t exactly my preferred way of travel, in this situation, it was exactly what the doctor ordered. I wasn’t bothered by the higher than average age demographic or the less than stimulating onboard activities because all I wanted to do was eat good food and nap as much as humanly possible. And during the few hours each day that I could muster up the energy, we planned some awesome adventures in the incredible Alaskan wilderness: Dog sledding, helicopters, mountain biking, train riding, bear watching, glaciers, and so much more! Thanks Mom and Dad!


16. Keats Island, BC (September)

I still wasn’t back to normal as September came to a close. And even though binge watching HGTV was the only activity of any interest to me; I knew that a dose of travel could be just the thing to snap me back to life. So I joined some lovely friends for a quiet and reflective weekend on the incredibly beautiful Keats Island just off the Sunshine Coast. There was nothing much to do and that was perfect. Just panoramic sea views and forest walks. Time slowed down and the important things came into focus.

IMG_469017. Greensboro, North Carolina (October)

I had no idea what to expect when I decided to spend a long weekend in North Carolina. Thanks to a couple of perfect weather days and peak autumn foliage, I was pleasantly surprised by just how beautiful this part of the world truly is. It didn’t hurt that I was once again reunited with my travel bestie Megan. She is always a fantastic host!


18. Australia (December)

Australia… how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways! I still have so much to write about my time down under but for now just know that it was the BEST! This trip was somewhat spontaneous (for me) and came about after some soul searching. I realized that I was completely depleted and really needed to take a step back from my life. I requested a leave of absence from my 9-5 and booked a flight to the other side of the world. I split my time between visiting an old friend and embarking on my first true solo travel adventure and it was EVERYTHING! I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Australia. It is different enough to be interesting, yet similar enough to be comfortable. And those beaches… I mean… the rest of the world should just give up. Now that I’m back home and feeling like a new and improved version of myself, I have a brand new dilemma too… how do I return down under? And for longer?!!


19. Seattle, Washington (December)

To cap off this crazy year, I am continuing with my goal of celebrating New Year’s in a new city each year: 2014 started in New Orleans, I kicked off 2015 in Barcelona, and now I am about to ring in the start of 2016 in Seattle. My friend Mindy and I are going all out with fancy party tickets and a couple nights in a boutique hotel. I can’t wait to get dressed up and be a tourist in a city that feels a lot like home to me. I hope you follow my adventures into the new year!



2015 By the Numbers:

Countries Visited: 6 (2 new ones) –  Spain / Netherlands / USA / Greece / TurkeyAustralia

States Visited: 6 (2 new ones) – California / Oregon / Hawaii / Alaska / Washington / North Carolina

Plane Rides Taken: 15 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Other Modes of Transportation: 11 ferries, 1 cruise ship, and more vehicles than I care to count.

Beds Slept In: 28. Of those, 7 were hotels, 6 were Airbnb apartment rentals, 5 were house rentals, 4 were crashing with family or friends, 2 were in a lodge, one was a cruise ship cabin, one was a tent, and one was my own bed!

Blog Posts: 51

Most Popular:

Packing Hacks: The 10 Items I Always Bring Traveling

How to Travel the World when you have a Full-time Job

Everything you need to know about Packing Cubes

My Top 6 Favourite Travel Moments

What are your favourite moments of 2015? What are you looking forward to most in the new year?

Sailing Adventure in the Whitsundays

Sailing Adventure in the Whitsundays

When I was researching where I wanted to visit during my all too short 3 weeks in Australia, I came across a destination that I’d never heard about before… the Whitsunday islands. Now you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that this tropical paradise was not only the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but also home to Australia’s #1 rated (and top 5 in the world) beach. Sign me up!


I decided to spend three nights in Airlie Beach, a backpacker resort town that serves as a launching pad for all the water excursions you could ask for. I had heard amazing things about the full day sailing trip offered by Cruise Whitsundays so I booked it and crossed my fingers for good weather. And I lucked out big time. I really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.


I have always loved sailing and spending time on the water, but this was my first full day of real, solo travel and I worried… Would I have fun all by myself? Well, it turns out that I didn’t even have to cross that bridge. Before I boarded my vessel for the day, I made fast friends with a Scottish girl named Lorna who was also travelling solo. Yeah!


Introducing the Camira… purple enough for you?

Our itinerary for the day included sailing aboard the Camira, one of the world’s fastest commercial sailing catamarans, snorkelling at Dumbell reef, a leisurely afternoon at Whitehaven Beach, and a gourmet BBQ lunch with open bar. Hello Heaven!

I happened to be traveling during stinger season (Nov – May) so in order to prevent painful stings from the prevalent Box Jellyfish and Irakanji stingers we all wore stinger suits when snorkelling. I didn’t mind. I kind of felt like Cat Woman. The coral was quite colourful and I got to see a few Dory’s swimming around. Lorna even spotted a turtle.


And then finally it was time for the main event: Whitehaven Beach!!!!! We knew it was going to be good when we could see the glistening white sand sparkling way off in the distance. The crystal clear waters and pristine silica sand stretch over 7km along Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays. The sand is so white that it never gets hot and so fine that it actually squeaks when you walk. You can even use the sand to polish your jewellery… trust me, we tested it.


It’s easy to see why it is the most photographed beach in Australia and has been named the South Pacific’s Best Beach by the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. I think it’s time for me to update my list of favourite beaches.


Everything about this day was perfect, well almost everything. I made a new friend. The crew were incredibly efficient yet highly personable (that’s a killer combo). I got to snorkel, sail, and suntan and finally set foot on my namesake (Whitney means White Island). The only downside was that despite my very best efforts to reapply and cover-up early, I burnt. I knew I would but still hoped I wouldn’t. That Australian sun is no joke.


Blissfully unaware of my scorched flesh.

Australia has been completely knocking my socks off. I wish I had so many more months left to explore all of the awe-inspiring sights that this country has to offer. One thing is for certain, I will be back.

Pin it!


City Girl Goes Camping: The Australian Edition

City Girl Goes Camping: The Australian Edition

Camping is such an odd experience. If aliens were to visit earth and observe people vacating their perfectly comfortable and amenity filled houses to temporarily sleep in canvas sacks in the wilderness, I’m going to bet that they would be confused. I do it and I don’t even get it. Clearly, I am a city girl.

Even so, when my Australian hostess suggested that we spend a weekend camping on the Sunshine Coast – I agreed. I wanted to experience an authentic summer in Queensland… and the locals go camping.

Kyle, Veronica, and I left the creature comforts of Brisbane before noon on Friday to make the two hour drive to Noosa North Shore before peak hour (read: rush hour). We had booked a campsite right on the beach because Australia.


This is camping in Queensland.

The weather forecast for the weekend wasn’t looking ideal but rainy camping can be fun right? Sure, except that we hadn’t exactly planned for a windstorm too, which is what greeted us upon arrival. We should have known we were in for a rough night when all the other camping parties were set up in massive trailers with tarps secured. Then we realized that one of our tents was completely busted. Excellent.


It took us ages us to set up our ridiculous make-shift tent village as we began getting pelted with rain from every angle. Another friend showed up later to provide a much needed tarp. We made do. And fortunately we had a full esky (read: cooler) of alcohol and Settlers of Catan to pass the time. Just before bed our whole tent structure gave up. The boys assured me it would be fine… or in Australian… She be right mate. I was skeptical.


The next morning we woke to light drizzle and decided to move our campsite to a more sheltered forest section – this was a very good decision. We moved our gear and then ditched camp life for Noosaville where I got to try SUP for the first time. Then we wandered around Noosa for a bit, visited the beach area, and went searching for koalas to no avail. I guess I’ll have to settle for the heaps of wild kangaroos back at camp. They really are as prevalent as deer in Canada.


Our evening consisted of more relaxing and eating and drinking and Catan. Lots of Catan. On our final day the sun finally returned as we were packing up. But, we had one more adventure in store – The Great Beach Drive.



If you happen to find yourself in Queensland any you are able to hook yourself up with a 4 wheel drive then I highly recommend that you try driving on the 50km stretch of beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach. I have never done anything quite like this before and I probably never will again. If you can manage a high clearance vehicle that would also be a wise idea because we definitely got stuck, twice. Fortunately, Aussies are super friendly and helpful and we quickly got towed out on both occasions. The journey was exhilarating and terrifying and just plain cool. Thanks for driving Kyle – you’re a champ!


Rainbow Beach is also just a stunning stretch of coastline with gorgeous cliffs and the Carlo Sand Blow. Named by Captain Cook after one of his deck crew named Carlo, the unique “moonscape” sand mass covers over 15 hectares and overlooks the towering coloured sands. If you don’t go camping or do the beach drive, then you should find another reason to visit. Australia has so much to offer.



I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to travel with locals for part of my Australian adventure. I was able to do things and see things that I never would have known about or had the guts to do on my own. I may not be the best camper in the world but I love having friends that push me outside my comfort zone. I will never stop needing that.

What is one of your most unique travel experiences? Leave a comment below.

Pin it!

The Great Beach Drive

Postcards from Byron Bay

Postcards from Byron Bay

In my parent’s dining room is a framed photograph from their visit to Australia back in 2012. The photo is of a lighthouse in Byron Bay and I was instructed, in no uncertain terms, that I HAD to go there myself. Today I did just that.



Byron Bay is a laid back, hippie mecca on the Eastern coast of Australia. It has beautiful beaches, but then, that isn’t a very distinguishing feature in this part of the world. The main standout in BB is the flourishing surf culture and the chill vibe. You can’t help but feel relaxed with all the barefooted backpackers hanging about. It’s a wonder how anyone actually gets any work done in a town so easy going.


After some mandatory pool and beach time, my hostess extraordinaire, Veronica, and I made sure to follow my parent’s orders – to the lighthouse.



The century-old Cape Byron Light House is located on the Eastern most point of mainland Australia. We walked the popular 3.7km loop through rainforest and across cliff tops with views that had us stopping at every lookout. It was everything my parents promised it would be.

IMG_5143 IMG_5135



I was able to fill my camera with souvenirs to keep me warm during the rainy winters. As per usual, I’m glad I listened to my travel expert mother’s advice.

Have you ever visited a place that fully lived up to the hype?

Pin it!

Byron Bay Light House

How to Survive Long-Haul Air Travel

How to Survive Long-Haul Air Travel

I’ve taken a lot of International flights over the years, some of them, very long. I’ve already documented the best flight of my life when I got upgraded to business class on British Airways from London to Seattle. But, that was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Every other time, I’ve flown in economy, which can sometimes feel like a cattle car in the 1860s. But, even still, I love air travel.

I’m posting this just as I’m about to head to YVR International airport (aka the happiest place on earth!) where I am about to board the longest nonstop flight that I’ve ever taken – 15 hours and 40 minutes! This got me to thinking about the ways in which a fresh air loving, long-walk taking, yoga practicing person manages to make this experience bearable, and dare I say it, enjoyable.

Here are my survival tips for Long-Haul Air Travel

1.Plan Your Entertainment

International travel is definitely easier because most planes these days provide a personal TV with dozens of movies, TV series, and games to get you through the sleepless hours in the middle of the night. I for one, LOVE movies and see this as the perfect opportunity to catch up on films that I missed throughout the year. But even a binge watcher like me, may need a break from 15 hours of constant streaming.


So, I also make sure to curate my iPhone music to include my go-to travel playlists and load a few e-books onto my Kobo Aura (my new must-have travel accessory). I often treat myself to a magazine as well, which pretty much only happens when I fly these days.

2.Prepare Your Snacks

Now this is going to go against all of my previous advice on How to Avoid Jet Lag but seriously, you cannot depend on airplane food. Nobody wants to be stuck in a little box in the sky with your hunger needs left in the complete control of a cost-cutting airline. I’ve been so thankful in the past for my stash of snacks on many an overnight flight when I had no idea when the next meal was being served. I also love using air travel as an excuse to dig into some of my favourite treats… it doesn’t count when you’re on vacation right?!


3.Dress for Success

When I travel domestically, I usually dress exactly the same way that I would at home. Sometimes I even kick it up a notch because I just love the 1960s era when air travel was this glamourous, special occasion where people brought out their finest fashions. But, when it comes to international travel, I dress as comfortably as humanly possible short of wearing my pajamas. Some key wardrobe staples are long scarves that can also serve as blankets and wearing LAYERS. I find that most airplanes are sweltering hot during boarding and freezing cold during mid-flight. No matter what my destination, I pack extra socks and a warm sweater. Extra clothes can also turn into make-shift pillows in a pinch.

Scarf or Blanket?

Scarf or Blanket?

4. Reserve Your Preferred Seat

Maybe you’re a crazy person who enjoys sitting in the middle seat of the middle row of a 3 – 4- 3 formation, but I am not. I scored a window seat for this flight, which is absolutely necessary if I’m going to get any sleep at all.

We are smiling but we really wish we were not in the middle row.

We are smiling but we really wish we were not in the middle row.

5. Drink Water

It’s so important to take care of yourself while travelling. Your body is going to be confused and your immune system is going to be put through the ringer. The best thing that you can do during a long travel day is stay hydrated with clear fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine. That glass of wine at take-off might help you nod off quickly but it can seriously interfere with your crucial REM sleep. And I don’t think I have to tell you why coffee is a bad idea. I’m guilty of enjoying a pre-trip Americano on the regular but then I have travel super powers. For those of you who struggle with jet lag, avoid the stimulants and stick to water.


6. Take Preemptive Cold Remedies

Unfortunately, I often get sick on airplanes. All of those germs being recirculated endlessly just breaks me down, even though I like to think that I have a pretty solid immune system. My cold remedy of choice is Oil of Oregano. I pop these suckers like candy before, during, and after all air travel to prevent or lessen the potential cold symptoms. Whatever you find helpful is what I recommend… but don’t mess around. Nothing ruins a trip more than being sick.


What did I miss? How do you prepare for a long-haul flight?

Why I didn’t Quit my Job to Travel the World… (yet)

Why I didn’t Quit my Job to Travel the World… (yet)

Spoiler Alert: I am obsessed with travel.

I spend most of my waking hours planning and plotting future travel and while I am unconscious, my dreams are filled with far flung and exotic locales. I have a giant scratch map of the world above my office computer so while I am answering calls about training programs, career progression, e-learning software, and what to expect at an upcoming conference – you can be sure that I am simultaneously memorizing the layout of Africa.


Uganda – photo credit: Katie Smith

I do my very best to travel as much as possible. However, there is a defined limit to my adventures. I have a full-time, fixed location job. So then, one may wonder Why don’t you quit your job to travel? That’s a fair question. Many travel bloggers do travel full-time and live a mostly nomadic existence. They find ways to make money online through freelance work, blogging, or virtual employment. While this is immensely appealing for obvious reasons, it is something that I have considered, and decided against.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

I have dipped my toes into the pool of long-term travel once before. I spent 8 months in Europe from September 2005 to May 2006. It was a dream come true! I fell madly in-love with Europe and I keep going back. But, even during those months abroad, I made a home-base, twice in fact. I spent 3 months in a sleepy mountain village in Austria and 3 months on the beach in Spain. Even though I am a go-go person who finds it exhilarating to wake up in a new bed every few days, I also find it exhausting.

Tauernhof 028

Schladming, Austria

I know that perpetual motion would get me so much closer to my travel goals but I worry that it might suck the life out of me along the way. You see, I never want to take travel for granted. I want to be able to savour each experience for what it is and not let comparison or fatigue steal my joy. During my prior forays into long-term travel, I found it near impossible to be wonderstruck every day, even in the presence of greatness. I was unable to maintain the energy and travel stamina required to truly appreciate the incredible things I was seeing every day. My solution to this issue has been taking shorter trips more frequently. Yes, this way of travel does cost more money. I deal.


Athens, Greece

I’ve also managed to create quite a beautiful and inspiring home base in a city that has become my favourite place on earth. I love my neighborhood, my apartment, my social network… and most of the time I cannot imagine ever moving away for good. I love throwing together a quick duffel and taking off for a weekend getaway. I love the tingly feeling I get when I land at YVR airport. I love the familiarity of a city that fits me like a glove. This is home for me and I really like having a home.

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver Skyline

All that being said… I never say never. I have fallen in love with several cities that I absolutely could see myself living in one day – I’m looking at you Barcelona, Paris, San Diego and Vienna. And if I fall in love with Australia next month… I may try to take advantage of some youth visa opportunities that are expiring shortly. Who knows?


Barcelona, Spain

The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong way to travel. I have tried out many different strategies over the years and this is what works for me right now. That could change tomorrow but the one thing that remains the same is that I travel. I do it because I don’t know how not to.

What’s your preferred way of travel?

Do you have insatiable wanderlust like me?

Leave a comment below.

When travel isn’t so glamourous…

When travel isn’t so glamourous…

I write for many reasons and sometimes no reason at all. I’ve always written. I guess that makes me a writer. On this particular blog, I most often describe my travels in a positive, if not downright glorious, light. I love it and I want others to love it too. So it makes complete sense to wax poetic and shine a spotlight on the absolute joy that is travel.


Goreme, Turkey

Except that travel isn’t always glamourous, or fun, or life changing…

I recently had a conversation with a friend and fellow traveller where I brought up the idea of authenticity. I questioned my habits and wondered if I am doing the world (ie. my readers) a disservice by filtering my experiences? Is it disingenuous to only paint part of the picture?


Pilot Mountain State Park, North Carolina

I recently wrote about North Carolina, which was surprisingly beautiful. A very underrated state in my opinion. At least in autumn. In the Appalachians. But, what I didn’t write about was the 18 hour travel debacle that ensued when my flight home was delayed two hours, resulting in a multitude of missed connections, frantic rescheduling, lengthy layovers, and very little sleep. Oh… and I was late for work. Is that how I want to remember my trip? Of course not. But, it is the very real possibility when traveling. Things can go epically wrong and ruin even the best laid plans.


Bogota, Colombia

I have on occasion written about past travel disasters because they often make for some pretty good stories. But, most of the time I try to highlight the positives. I am so very grateful for my life and the choices and good fortune that have enabled me to live so many of my dreams. So then, I wonder, where is the line?

Fishing Village

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

To truly live honestly, I want to refocus my efforts on storytelling. As much as I love top ten lists or quick guides to 48 hours in a new hip city… really anyone can write about that stuff. But, no one can tell my story like me. No one can write about the people that I meet on the road or my feelings about a new culture. Only I can tell my story. And for better or worse, I am going to tell it.


Dubrovnik, Croatia

I don’t want to remember my life through rose coloured glasses when my eyes see 20/20 just fine. I know that travel can handle the truth. The struggle is real and it’s worth it.

Departure Lounge: Australia

Departure Lounge: Australia

I have a very exciting travel announcement that I just couldn’t wait any longer to share.

In just 6 weeks I will be flying to my 6th continent – A U S T R A L I A !

I’m pretty over the moon about it especially considering I only booked my flight 2 weeks ago. This is about as last minute as I get. Australia has always been somewhere I wanted to visit but it became a MUST-SEE destination after I watched that weeklong Oprah special back in 2010. Now, granted, I won’t be traveling like Oprah (although I am incorporating a bit of business class air travel… teehee!) but I still have some epic plans in the works.

It’s taken me a lot longer than I expected to finally get around to visiting the land down under. I was waiting for a huge chunk of time off to make the 12,400 km journey worthwhile. But, with a longstanding invite from my high school friend and recent Aussie citizen, Veronica, and an approved leave of absence from work – the timing was just about perfect. I know that it will be impossible to see and do everything on my Australian bucket list in just 3 weeks… So I’m not even going to try. This continent is nearly the size of the continental USA – a country that will take my entire life to explore thoroughly. In the same way, Australia will definitely require some repeat visits.

So for my first adventure in OZ, I’m basing my travels on the East Coast and focusing mainly on Queensland where my friend lives. After some time exploring the greater Brisbane area, I will venture onward (solo) to the Whitsunday islands (I mean, it’s basically named after me) before ending up in Sydney – a city, I’m told, is quite reminiscent of my beloved Vancouver. It’s going to be good!


Dec 6 – 15: Brisbane, Queensland

Dec 15-18: Whitsunday Islands, Queensland

Dec 18-24: Sydney, New South Wales


These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Learning to Surf at Manly Beach
  • Wine tasting in the Hunter Valley
  • Sailing, Snorkeling, and Sunbathing at Australia’s #1 rated Whitehaven Beach
  • Getting up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos, and dingos… Oh my!
  • Seeing the famed sights of Sydney and pretending to be in an episode of Dance Academy (lol)

Have you ever been to Australia? Any recommendations or travel tips?

Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hello Autumn: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway

Living on the West Coast is the best. I love our mild winters, idyllic summers, and laid back style. But, one thing the Pacific Northwest is lacking in a big way is fall colours. I’ve never really understood the autumn obsession and that is likely because it’s not really a thing in my part of the world. I started to understand it better when I travelled to New England last November and got to enjoy the tale end of the beautiful red, orange, and gold.

So, this year I decided to make a return trip to the East Coast but this time to North Carolina. The main purpose of my visit was to visit my travel bestie Megan who recently relocated to Greensboro. But, the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway was a close second. We spent two days exploring the area and I was blown away by the incredible pastoral landscapes of the Appalachian Highlands. Who knew North Carolina was such a stunner!


We lucked out with picture perfect blue skies, warm but not too hot weather, and PEAK FOLIAGE! The hiking couldn’t have been better, well, except for the crowded trails. It seems like everybody else at the same idea for their Sunday afternoons. But can you blame them?


We spent about 6 hours driving, stopping, and hiking on the parkway. The highlight was definitely our scramble up the muddy trail on Rough Ridge where we saw the best colours of the day and found many rocky summits to perch on.

IMG_4796 IMG_4798 IMG_4790 IMG_4777

We also pulled off to enjoy the overlook of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was built to protect the fragile slopes of Grandfather Mountain.


And we ended our day at the Linville Falls. We hiked to several vantage points in the Gorge where we were able to get some very impressive views of the two cascading falls descending nearly 2,000 feet.

IMG_4813 IMG_4815

After such a wildly successful day, we definitely weren’t done exploring. So on a much quieter Monday, we ventured out to a different, but equally majestic spot, Pilot Mountain State Park. The foliage wasn’t quite as vibrant but the views were just as epic and it often felt like we were the only two people on the trails. We viewed the big pinnacle and even got to circle under the cliffs.

IMG_4835 IMG_4863 IMG_4871 IMG_4901

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I committed myself to a weekend in North Carolina but I was very impressed by the natural beauty. Nature lovers take note. This state is not to be overlooked.

Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

Keats Island: The most beautiful place you’ve never heard of

This past weekend I took a much needed break from the rat race and retreated to the deliciously isolated and epically beautiful Keats Island. Where you ask? Well don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it before. Keats is a teeny tiny island sandwiched between Gibsons and Bowen Island in the Howe Sound off Vancouver’s coast. In fact, you can’t even access it by ferry. My group chartered a small water taxi to get there. Now that may sound like a lot of work but like hiking, most things that take effort have a pay off.


See what I mean?

I could not have asked for better weather for this first weekend of fall. And the panoramic views from our hideaway at Barnabus Landing had me swooning.

IMG_4683 IMG_4684 IMG_4690

Now if you’re looking for loads of activities or shopping or restaurants then you’ve come to the wrong island. Keats is a residential community and aside from a few cleared fields, it’s mostly forest. But, if you’re looking for solitude and relaxation (like me) then it couldn’t be more perfect. I went for a lovely hike in the woods and even found a sandy beach piled with driftwood but other than that… it was a reading and journaling and lounging in the sun kind of Saturday.

IMG_4692 IMG_4696

Whenever I find a place this beautiful, I wonder, could I live here? Part of me never wants to leave. But then I think of the long, wet winters with nothing to do and I remember that I’m a city girl at heart. The few locals who live on the island year round will most definitely own their own boat, and fortunately the town of Gibsons on the mainland is very close, but that’s still quite a stretch for me.

IMG_4708 IMG_4713

Fortunately, I can have the best of both worlds. Travel is a way to visit these places and try on a different way of life, even if only for a weekend. I get to explore a new destination and then return home, to a place that always fits me like a glove.

Could you live on a remote island or go off the grid?

Into the Wild: Bear Spotting at the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary

Into the Wild: Bear Spotting at the Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary

For the better part of a week in the notoriously wet coast of Alaska, we had enjoyed cloudy but dry skies. All of our guides told us that we had really lucked out with the weather, which can throw a wrench in even the best laid plans. So, when we arrived in our final port of call, Ketchikan, I had a moment of dread when I saw that our luck had finally run out. It wasn’t really unexpected though as Ketchikan is one of the wettest places on earth with 150-200 inches of annual rainfall.


And in truth, wouldn’t you be a bit disappointed to visit one of the largest temperate rainforests in the world and NOT experience some rain. That’s what I told myself anyway. So, we disembarked from our ship and eagerly explored the bustling town with so many claims to fame. Ketchikan is Alaska’s first city, the totem pole capital of the world, and the salmon capital of the world. That last one is very important because where there are salmon, you will find BEARS. And bears is what we were looking for.

Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island which boasts a population of nearly 15,000 black bears. That’s a ratio of 2 bears for every one human inhabitant. With stats like that, I was really liking our odds of getting up close and personal with our furry friends. To give us the best possible chance, we drove about 20 minutes outside the city to the 40 acre Alaskan Rainforest Sanctuary where our bear guide Zoe led us into the picturesque Herring Cove. They don’t guarantee you will see bears but we timed our visit at the end of the annual salmon run so our chances were pretty good. We certainly didn’t expect to spot our first bears within MINUTES of starting down the one-mile trail.

IMG_2428 IMG_2440 IMG_2449 IMG_2467

There was almost no point in our two hour visit that we were not watching female black bears and their cubs fishing for salmon or climbing through the Tongass forest. It was unbelievable! I’m not certain of how many bears we saw but it was in the double digits for sure!

IMG_2456 IMG_2477 IMG_2474 IMG_2488

It’s important to note that these bears are completely wild and living in their natural habitat. We were able to observe these creatures safely from elevated viewing platforms and suspension bridges that leave a minimal impact on the environment. What a thrill to see these bears outside of the confines of a cage! It may be more expensive and difficult but viewing animals in the wild is worth every penny. I have made a personal choice to prioritize animal welfare by supporting sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres, while avoiding institutions that exploit animals for entertainment. I just don’t believe in captivity unless it’s absolutely necessary.


In addition to viewing the bears (which was more than enough!), we also got to visit the Alaska Raptor Center’s aviary exhibits which included a hawk, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon. Each of the birds at the centre is unable to survive in the wild or being rehabilitated so that they can be released.


We ended our day with a walkthrough an historic sawmill where a Native master totem-pole carver was putting the final touches on his latest creation. Nature, History, and Culture of Alaska all in one afternoon!


Oh and remember that rain I was complaining about… well the rain stopped right about the time we arrived at the Herring Cove. And it turns out black bears tend to hide when the sun comes out so the misty skies were actually a blessing in disguise.

What’s the coolest animal experience you’ve ever had? Leave a comment below.

A Tale of Two Rides: Touring Skagway by Train and Bike

A Tale of Two Rides: Touring Skagway by Train and Bike

I didn’t really know what to expect when it came to the coastal towns of the Alaskan Panhandle. In fact, I barely did any research before I set sail for the great white North (so unlike me). It did, however, make for a very exciting week of adventures as I discovered each town first with my eyes instead of through a screen.


Port of Skagway – so pretty!

Our second port was historic Skagway. This gold rush town looks straight out of a Western movie complete with a restored boardwalk, saloons, and brothels. We were soon to find out that for a town with a permanent population of less than 1000 people, it sure has a lot going on.


Back in time to the Gold Rush era!

IMG_2355 IMG_2350

The one thing that I did know about Skagway before I got there was that it had a railroad. And if there’s one thing that I love… it’s sightseeing by train. So of course it was a complete no-brainer in my books to join Sockeye Cycle for the White Pass Train and Bike Tour.


We met our guides straight off the cruise ship and had a quick spin around the town before boarding the White Pass Rail. I was instantly in my happy place, thoroughly enjoying the beautiful scenery and fascinating gold rush trivia from the comfort of our vintage passenger car, complete with wood burning stove.


All Aboard!

Our 20 mile journey took us from sea-level to nearly 3000 ft and across the Canadian border to Fraser, BC. On our way we passed through tunnels, over sky-high trestles and beside cascading waterfalls.


One of two tunnels we passed through. I even rode through this one on the outside balcony!


Old Wooden Trestle Bridge


But, this trip was not about the destination – it was time for the return journey – this time by bike! Another guide met us at the summit with our bicycles and after a safety orientation we bundled up for the windy ride down. We glided 15 scenic miles downhill, stopping multiple times along the Klondike Highway to enjoy Alaska with all of our senses fully engaged. We coasted down the mountain at speeds of 15-25 mph – definitely the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bicycle and far more exhilarating then the way up. We even got to ride our bikes back across the US border – how many people have done that?!


A small portion of the Bridal Veil Falls



Possibly not the proper way to wear a helmet – but I kept my ears warm!

IMG_2344 IMG_2347

Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow gauge railroad is an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Thought it’s only used for tourism now, it played a very important piece in the life of the early settlers. My whole family had a great time on both the train and bike ride despite the initially chilly temperatures. It’s a great way to check out the scenery, get some fresh air, and learn a bit more about the fascinating history of this wild land. No wonder it’s the most popular shore excursion for cruisers!

What’s the best train route you’ve been on?

Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier

Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier

Alaska is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to visit but was sort of saving for when I’m older. It’s certainly not your typical backpacker destination as most visitors arrive by cruise ship. For this reason, it tends to draw a more senior crowd and I was perfectly content to wait for my golden years. But, when my parents suggested Alaska for a family vacation I was more than happy to oblige. After all, who knows how many of its glaciers will still be there in thirty or forty years? The sad truth is that the time to see Alaska could be right now.


Our first stop of the cruise was the capital city of Juneau. The town is on the small side and while it has its charm, I was more intrigued by the more extreme sights. So we promptly ditched the shopping scene for glacier boots and loaded into a helicopter. That’s right you heard me. My first ever helicopter ride took me 3000 ft above sea level to land on the expansive Mendenhall Glacier.

Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau

IMG_2291IMG_2199 IMG_4598 IMG_2211 IMG_2216 IMG_2218

The helicopter ride could have easily been enough excitement in itself but it was actually just a means to an end. We landed at the only remaining dog camp in Alaska where 250-300 sled dogs are trained for racing. We were divided into small groups where we were allowed to take turns mushing our own sled as we raced across the snowy trails. How cool is that?

IMG_2226 IMG_2232 IMG_2236 IMG_2243 IMG_2248

All of the dogs are Alaskian huskies and purposely bred for racing. Our dogs were very energetic and friendly but the cutest moment of all came at the end when we got to meet the camp’s current litter of puppies all named after metal bands. I got in some snuggles with the adorable Motorhead and promptly started negotiating how I could take him home with me. Apparently they are not for sale.


The dog trainers spend four months from May to September living up on the glacier in several not-so-insulated tents with no running water. They return to Juneau once a week to shower and do laundry. They do have a gourmet chef at camp, which definitely enhances the experience but even still, I don’t think I could spend more than one night up there. It may be beautiful but even in summer, it’s too cold for this sun worshipper.


After returning to Juneau once again by helicopter we all agreed that our first Alaskan adventure had been one for the books. It’s going to be hard to top but I’m always up for the challenge.

My Top 5 Favourite Islands

My Top 5 Favourite Islands

Last summer I wrote a series on some of my Favourite destinations. But one of these lists needed some serious updating after my travel adventures over the past 12 months. So without any further ado, here is my updated list of favourite island escapes.

Spanning five unique countries, all of the islands on my list have one important thing in common: stunning natural beauty.

Top 5 Favourite Islands

Galiano Island, BC

This lovely little gem in the Gulf Islands is the nearest to Vancouver making it a perfect weekend getaway or even day-trip from the mainland. Very few people live here year round, but those that do love it’s laid back vibe and tight knit community. Galiano is the only place where I’ve ever felt safe enough to hitch hike or leave my bike unattended. They even have a free store and a free book store where you are welcome to take whatever you like – no donations required. With stunning views from the top of Mt Galiano, lovely trails near Montague harbour, and the friendliest locals around – It’s no wonder I have come to consider Galiano my second home.

Mt Galiano Viewpoint

Hvar, Croatia

If you are looking for an intoxicating blend of old world charm, exhilarating night life, and ruggedly beautiful coastline, then look no further than Hvar. Touted as the sunniest spot in Europe, this beautiful island on the Dalmatian Coast convinced me that it would make a perfect Honeymoon destination. A consistent contender on many top 10 lists – it’s no surprise that Hvar easily holds its own among the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.


Capri, Italy

I just can’t get enough of the Amalfi Coast and especially my favourite little piece of la dolce vita – Capri! Twice I’ve visited this lovely island off the coast of Naples and twice is not nearly enough time to soak it all up. Famous for its dazzling Blue Grotto and beloved for its majestic Cliffside vistas, Capri is the perfect place to soak up luxurious Italian living.

Capri, Italy

Maui, Hawaii

Oh Maui… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Before I first visited Maui, I had previously been to Oahu twice. And I thought it was great. Then, I went to Maui and now I wonder why anyone even bothers going to Honolulu because Maui is E V E R Y T H I N G ! Less crowded than bustling Waikiki, Maui offers a more laid back vibe but still delivers a ton of activity if you want it. In my four day escape I lay on gorgeous beaches, snorkeled with sea turtles, drove the winding and scenic road to Hana, summited a volcano, and ate my heart out. I still look forward to visiting the other islands in the future but for now I am content with my version of paradise!


Santorini, Greece

Located in the Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast of mainland Greece is Santorini, one of the most popular islands in the world – and for good reason! I fell head over flip flops for the spectacular caldera views, beautiful beaches, cliff-side villages, amazing restaurants, and friendly local hospitality. Santorini was a dream destination for me and it absolutely lived up to all the hype. I had one of my favourite travel days of all time while riding an ATV around the island and touring the nearby wineries. It was so unbelievably gorgeous that it almost pained me to leave. I will definitely be back someday!


What’s your favourite island escape?

Three Vibrant Years in Vancity

Three Vibrant Years in Vancity

“The past is like an anchor holding us back; You have to let go of who you are to become who you will be.”

(Carrie Bradshaw, Sex in the City)


Three years ago, I moved to Vancouver: new apartment, new job, new life. After 24 years stuck in suburbia, living at my parent’s house to save money and finishing up my baccalaureate in business, I was ready to make a change.


In my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined that my life could look like this. I often take for granted all of the amazing experiences I’ve had in this city that I love: Volunteering at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, watching fireworks over English Bay from a rooftop apartment, sending paper lanterns into the night sky at Diner en Blanc, and most recently meeting Colin Mochorie at a VIP gala with Vancouver Theatre Sports. My routine is unpredictable at best. I have a pub trivia crew and a well-worn transit pass and an apartment right beside the beach, incredible friends with whom to enjoy happy hour and Saturday brunch and enough savings to travel the world. I get to attend amazing events, concerts, festivals, shows and spend Friday nights doing self-guided brewery tours. I’ve fallen hard for a city that often gets a bad rap.


There are certainly mornings when the bus is sufficatingly crowded or when the rain seems to last for weeks. There are days when I feel disconnected and alone in a city full of strangers. Sometimes the cost of living makes me question if the price is worth it. But, then I take a look at the majestic mountains and the glass skyline and I pinch myself because I GET to live in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. For every day that I am frustrated, I have a dozen more that make up for it with excitement and energy and joy.


I am a different person here than I was before. I feel like I’m thriving and alive and the best possible version of myself. Vancouver fits me like a favourite pair of jeans that you just want to wear every day. This city life is a dream come true and I don’t expect that I’ll get tired of it any time soon. I can’t wait for another year (or ten) of living in Vancouver. It’s home to me.


Happy 3 Year Anniversary Vancity! 

Introducing Istanbul: Touring the Top Sites in 48 hours

Introducing Istanbul: Touring the Top Sites in 48 hours

If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, then you will undoubtedly pass through the fascinating city of Istanbul. Not only is it the largest city in Europe with a population of nearly 14 million people, but it is also the only city in the world to straddle two continents. The Asian side of Istanbul, which I regrettably didn’t have time to visit, is separated from the more famous and touristed European side by the Bosphorus strait – a beautiful waterway that I fortunately did take the time to sail across.

In a city that has served as an imperial capital for the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman empires over the past 1600 years, it would be impossible to see it all in just 48 hours. But, we sure did our best to tackle the medley of Christian and Islamic historical sights – a truly intoxicating mix of East meets West.

These are the top sights I would recommend if you only have 48 hours to explore Istanbul.

The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque)

Named for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior,  this is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets (tall towers used for the call to prayer). Visitors are welcome free of charge but must abide by a few important rules. There is a strict dress code (women must cover their hair, shoulders, and knees), every one must cover their shoes with plastic bags, and you should avoid entering at prayer times. Our group were eager to take on the challenge of being culturally respectful – and I think I would have loved wearing a scarf on my head if it wasn’t so hot.



Unfortunately my experience was a bit frustrating as I became increasingly annoyed by other tourists who were incredibly disrespectful and ignored the clear signs and instructions about proper dress. It was a strange feeling inside the blue mosque because although I was grateful to see such an important and beautiful building up close, I felt like we visitors shouldn’t have been allowed inside. It felt like a place that was too sacred and special to be a spectator. I wonder… Where do we draw the line between respect and tourism?


Hagia Sophia

What a history! Right next door to the blue mosque is this ancient structure with quite the varied past. Beginning as a Greek Orthodox Cathedral in 537 AD, the Hagia Sophia transitioned into a Roman Catholic Cathedral, then back to Greek Orthodox, to an Imperial Mosque, and finally to the museum it is today. It’s quite something to see the fragments of various religions peeking through the cover-up attempts.


IMG_2013 IMG_2003

Basilica Cistern

One of our favourite stops of day one turned out to be the Basilica Cistern – but not for the reason you may think. The  largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, the basilica provided a water filtration system for many palaces over the centuries. Okay, so yeah that’s impressive. And, we very much enjoyed the cool underground location as a way to beat the heat. But, what really made it our favourite stop of the day was the ridiculously cheesy photo shoot that we happily forked over 20 lira in which to participate. The four of us dressed up like a sultan and his wives and were taken through a series of hilarious poses with props and everything. The final product is simply priceless.



Topkapi Palace

Topkapi palace was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years and one of the best examples of palaces from that period. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed’s cloak and sword. We spent a couple hours wandering about the grounds and visiting various museums. The crowds, heat, and sheer size of this compound definitely wore us down so come prepared with water and snacks.


IMG_2058 IMG_2048 IMG_2059 IMG_2052

Grand Bazaar

I’ve never been much of a shopper when I travel. I prefer to spend my money on experiences rather than tangible souvenirs but I have to admit that the Grand Bazaar won me over. It’s one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops – the word overkill comes to mind. I still didn’t make any purchases but I really enjoyed the incredible variety of products and labyrinth like maze of shops. It’s definitely worth a visit even if you don’t like shopping.


Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe is the largest palace in Turkey and the most opulent place I’ve ever seen up close. My travel partner, Mindy, has been to Versailles and even she agrees that this place takes the top spot. It definitely had a different feel than the other sights in the city as it was built in the mid-1800s and evoked a much more contemporary and luxurious style similar to that of other European monarchs. We took a 45 minute guided tour of the inside and we were gutted that we couldn’t take photographs. However, I couldn’t resist sneaking a pic of the world’s largest Bohemian crystal chandelier that we came across at the end of our tour in the Ceremonial Hall. A gift from Queen Victoria, it has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tonnes!



Fortunately, the grounds were equally gorgeous so we took plenty outside to make up for the lack of indoor footage.

IMG_2094 IMG_2111 IMG_2095 IMG_2084

Bosphorus Cruise

I love water. I love lakes. I love the ocean. I love rivers. So it was a no-brainer when I learned that you could take a two-hour round-trip ferry cruise (one of my favourite forms of travel) on the Bosphorus for only 12 Turkish lira (less than $6 CAD). It was a very relaxing way to take in the sights from a completely different vantage point.

JMG (64)

JMG (55) IMG_2114 JMG (90)

Istanbul has a ton to offer. And even though I was impressed by many of the world-class sights I saw during my stay, I left feeling a bit disappointed. I don’t think Istanbul quite lived up to my expectations.

I blame the majority of this on the fact that Istanbul was our last stop of the trip and followed our time in Cappadocia which was nothing short of magical. Our apartment was probably the least favourite accommodation of the trip and we were all getting a bit tired of being together 24/7.

Honestly, I don’t think Istanbul got a fair shot. I would LOVE to go back and spend a whole week. Without the pressure of needing to see all of the famous sights, I imagine myself getting lost in some of the local neighbourhoods and indulging in more of the delicious street food. I would revisit some of the places I really loved, spacing out the visits so that I could stay longer. Overall, this was a great introduction but not enough for me to fall in love. I guess I’ll just have to come back again someday. Aww shucks!

Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

The first thing I realized after stepping out of the airport shuttle in front of the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Goreme is that two nights wouldn’t be near long enough. I was instantly smitten by the fairy chimneys, valley views, and our cozy bedroom (with fireplace!). I got lost pretty much every time I tried to go anywhere on the property but who really cares when the place looks like this!

IMG_4240 IMG_1689 IMG_1635 IMG_1634 IMG_1633

Even though I could have happily hung out at the hotel all day, I was eager to explore.

Goreme is the most popular village in Cappadocia but since it is still relatively small, we decided to check out the nearby Open Air Museum on foot. It is important to note that I was expecting a casual wander not an epic hike, which is of course what happened. We reached the museum near closing time so we opted to check out the caves and hills in the surrounding area instead.

What seemed like a gentle incline soon turned into a treacherous climb due to my flimsy sandals on shale rock. We spent the better part of two hours playing in the hills with many screams and much laughter. Rachel and I were hobbling around like old ladies with Caleb mocking us while trying to keep us from falling. It ended up being one of my favourite evenings and we got some incredible photographs too.

IMG_1647 IMG_1648 IMG_1650 IMG_1662 IMG_1671 IMG_1683 IMG_9864

The next morning we were supposed to go on our hot air balloon ride but it got cancelled due to bad weather. It eventually got rebooked for the next day (THANK GOD!) but in the meantime we consoled ourselves with an amazing day tour by Heritage Travel.

The History and Adventure Tour picked us up from our hotel at 10:00am and drove us 5 minutes to the start of our hike in the beautiful Rose Valley. The weather didn’t cooperate very well with some light rain cutting our hike a bit short but we were still able to see fairy-chimneys, local farms, pigeon houses and cave chapels.

IMG_1696 IMG_1713

The weather cleared up just in time for our next stop at the Monks Valley (Pasabag), where we got to see the mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys and St. Simeon’s monk cell.

IMG_4229 IMG_1736 IMG_1746 IMG_1761

By this time we were ready for lunch in the Kings Valley. After some pretty lacklustre buffet lunches on previous tours, we had very low expectations for our meal. We certainly never expected it to be the best meal of the entire trip! Our group was taken to a private organic farm where some local ladies cooked us a fresh, vegetarian meal in a picturesque outdoor setting straight out of the movies. Now that’s farm to table!

IMG_1764 IMG_1766 IMG_1772 IMG_1769 IMG_1771

In the afternoon, we toured the Kaymakli underground city, the first and most popular underground city in Cappadocia. This complex carved underground was used for hundreds of years by locals to hide from Romans, Persians and Arabs. We were able to explore 4 levels deep and get a sense of what life was like underground.

IMG_1783 IMG_1782 IMG_1787

That was supposed to be the end of tour but because our hike was cut short, we were able to add one last stop at the Panoramic View. This is a popular viewpoint in Goreme that earns its name in spades.

IMG_1796 IMG_1804 IMG_1811 IMG_1807

Our tour guide was informative and interesting and the stops on the tour gave us a great overview of the region. I had no idea there was so much to see in Cappadocia but I sure hope I make it back someday. It’s a one-of-a-kind place like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

When I first started telling people that I was planning a trip to Turkey, the one thing that everyone told me was that food was ahh-mazing!

Now I already rank Mediterranean cuisines like Italian and Greek on the top of my list so I was confident that Turkish would be just as delightful (pun intended). After two weeks of indulging in meal after decadent meal, I couldn’t help but share some of my favourites. Hope you’re hungry :)

Tomato keftedes (fritters) & Greek Salad   Skala Restaurant (Oia, Santorini)

IMG_4085 IMG_4083

Santorini is famous for its flavourful tomatoes. We sampled them many times in our daily Greek salads but we also sampled the local island delicacy of deep-fried tomato fritters. They were so good that we ordered them more than once. And with a view like the one from Skala restaurant… I could have sat and savoured them all day long, especially when a parade of donkeys passed by our table. Dinner AND entertainment… what’s not to love?

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki     Fanari Restaurant (Fira, Santorini)

IMG_1342 IMG_4154

For our final dinner in Santorini we headed to Fanari Restaurant in the main town of Fira where we enjoyed flawless sunset vistas and a classic Greek dish – souvlaki! It’s simple but it’s famous for a reason – you simply can’t do Greece right without this dish.

3. The best Gyro in Greece  Lucky’s Souvlaki (Fira, Santorini)


If there is one meal that stuck in my mind for the entire trip it was this gyro in Fira. A gyro is like a doner or a kebab, essentially meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then wrapped in a pita or sandwich. The toppings differ from place to place but I prefer mine fully loaded. I did some pre-trip research and found out that the best gyros on the island could be found at Lucky’s. The internet did not let me down because this place was cheap (2-3 euros) and mind-blowingly delicious.

4. Authentic Greek Frozen Yogurt   Selatrevo (Fira, Greece)

IMG_9597 (1)

I’m was already a frozen yogurt fan before this trip but now I’m craving a Greek fro-yo place to frequent at home. The flavour of the Greek yogurt is so much richer and Selatrevo has even caught on to the craze of letting you add your own toppings. The store clerk told us that she knew we were from North America because no one else knows what to do with the self-service bar. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment but we certainly knew what we were doing :) It may have been the priciest cold treat we bought during our travels but it was well worth it.

5. Gözleme   Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)


Our cave hotel in Cappadocia ended up having a very nice restaurant terrace that became a permanent fixture during our stay. For our first dinner, I ordered a dish that I had never heard of before called gozleme, which is a savoury traditional Turkish flatbread made of hand-rolled dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs and filled with cheese, chicken, and mushrooms. It’s basically a pancake that you’re allowed to eat for dinner – so that made this breakfast obsessed traveller verrrry happy.

Farm to Table Lunch   King’s Valley Farm (Goreme, Cappadocia)



The best meal we had in Turkey was this unbelievable lunch that was included in our History and Adventure tour by Heritage Travel in Cappadocia. They took us to this private farm in the King’s Valley where a group of local ladies cooked us a four course, vegetarian meal consisting of bread, salads, stuffed peppers, soup, bean stew, and dessert. I’m not exactly sure what I ate but it was all quite delicious and the experience of sitting outdoors in the middle of this hidden valley was definitely a highlight.

Chicken Curry  Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)



I said we couldn’t stay away from our hotel restaurant and I wasn’t kidding. We returned for another dinner and the Turkish version of chicken curry did not disappoint. But then again, I think everything on the menu was a win.

Meatball Durum Wrap    Mama’s Shelter (Istanbul, Turkey)IMG_4263IMG_9969One thing that I knew we HAD to do in Istanbul was eat dinner on a rooftop terrace. I found Mama’s Shelter online and even though the price tag was a bit steep for this crew of backpackers – the sunset views of the Sultanahmet were well worth it. And they didn’t even charge me for my delicious rose sangria so I can’t really complain.

What are some of your favourite travel dining experiences? What country tops your list? Leave a comment below.

Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Travel Highlight: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

This is what $100 million dollars looks like. IMG_4259 Do I have your attention? This is without a doubt the best thing that I did in Turkey. Not only was riding a hot air balloon a giant check off of my travel bucket list, but it was the reason I wanted to go to Turkey in the first place. That’s a dangerously high mark to live up to. Fortunately, Cappadocia and it’s famed hot air balloons delivered one of my favourite travel moments ever!

But, it almost didn’t happen at all…

Everyone knows that things can go wrong when you’re travelling. And unfortunately, Murphy’s Law often comes into play at the most inopportune times.

When I started organizing this trip, I wanted to leave very little to chance. Not only did I have some newbie travellers joining me but I had some major travel dreams that needed to come true. So, I used my expert planning skills to secure our flights WAY in advance with a top notch balloon company in Goreme. The best flying weather is from April through October when the skies are clear and the winds are light at dawn. We booked our flight smack dab in the middle on June 30th. I triple confirmed our dates with the hotel and was ready for the experience of a lifetime. But, as we got closer and closer to the designated date my weather app stalking revealed a blip in our weeks of sunshine-filled Mediterranean bliss. I started to get very nervous. What happens if they cancel our flight? We were only spending two nights in Cappadocia and had a flight to Istanbul scheduled on our second morning. We only had one shot.

On the morning of our flight we woke up before dawn for our 4:40am hotel pick up. It was at this point that my friend Mindy informed me that she had been sick all night and after taking one look at her I knew she wouldn’t be joining our group. With strict orders to stay in bed and drink lots of water, I left with Caleb & Rachel. We arrived at the balloon office to a light buffet breakfast and a waiting game. The weather forecast was not promising. After repeatedly being informed that they would decide in 20 minutes and then again in 20 minutes, we got the news. What CAN happen DID happen. Our balloon ride was cancelled.

I had mentally prepared myself for this disappointment and had already begun working on a back-up plan. We would simply rebook for the next day and if necessary push our flight to Istanbul back a few hours – it only cost €15 anyway. What I was not prepared for was the news that they were fully booked for the next day. WHAT!!!! For those of you who know me, I’m sure you can imagine my reaction and the full scale meltdown that proceeded. Not my finest hour.

Rachel and I tore back up the hill to our hotel reception and begged the night manager to help us. Keep in mind that it’s still before 6am. We asked if we could call the other balloon companies in town to check for other openings. He politely informed us that reservations at all the balloon companies would be closed until 8am and that we should come back later. We all decided to go our separate ways – Rachel & Caleb to get some more sleep and me, to sulk alone on the breakfast terrace. I ended up making friends with some of the kitchen staff and had a long leisurely breakfast with bottomless coffee and apple tea – so I guess there are worse places to be disappointed. Did I mention that we stayed in a cave hotel? IMG_1634 IMG_1633 When 8am rolled around – Rachel & I were back at the reception. We hijacked the front desk and basically demanded that the receptionist call every balloon company in town, which he did. We are quite a convincing pair. Unfortunately, he got the same response from every single company. Full. At this point we had to get ready for our History and Adventure tour (more on that later) that was departing at 10am and I needed to tend to my sick room-mate. But, not to be deterred, I went back to the front desk at 9am to speak with the daytime agent. She promised to call around while we were on our tour and sounded quite optimistic.

And what do you know… she came through with a confirmed booking on Deluxe Balloons and an earlier pick-up time that would allow us to still make our original flight to Istanbul! I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find out that I had to wake up before dawn yet another morning.

So early on Canada Day, my travel crew with a mostly recovered Mindy, woke up to clear skies and minimal wind. We were a go! IMG_4255 IMG_4254 IMG_1821

This is what happiness looks like :)

This is what happiness looks like :)

After a chilly dawn launch in our 16 passenger basket, we floated for one hour over the Cappadocian moonscape dotted with villages, vineyards, and the show-stopping Rose Valley. Our pilot informed us that no two flights are the same because we go wherever the wind takes us. We watched the sunrise over the mountains cast the most picture-perfect lighting over the dozens of balloons that joined us in the skies. It’s crazy to think that this is an everyday occurrence here. Each balloon costs roughly a million dollars and with approximately 100 balloons launched each day, we helped fund a 100 million dollar view. And we were happy to do it!IMG_1839 IMG_1864 IMG_1904 IMG_1908 IMG_1848 IMG_1866 IMG_1898 IMG_1935 IMG_1938 IMG_1912 IMG_1852 IMG_9896 IMG_1927 IMG_1943 IMG_1948 IMG_1874 After taking approximately a trillion photos and videos we proceeded to land in a nearby farmer’s field, narrowly missing some fruit trees and a vineyard. The ground team that had been chasing our balloon from below arrived within minutes to help guide the basket onto the truck and return us to our hotel.

But first, some bubbly for a traditional champagne toast to a successful aeronautical adventure! IMG_4250 Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride? What’s on your travel bucket list? Leave a comment below.

Gone Coastal: Relaxing Reunion in Oregon

Gone Coastal: Relaxing Reunion in Oregon

For someone who had never even been to Oregon a mere 3 years ago, I sure am making up for lost time! And a lot of that has to do with the relocation of my awesome cousin Jordan and his wife Emily. They moved from Kansas to Portland a year ago and I’ve already been down twice. But, something I’ve been dying to do for years is spend some time on the famed Oregon Coast.

IMG_2167 IMG_4370

So, I hatched up a reunion scheme involving an adorable cottage rental in Gearhart and a crew of Canadian cousins ready to road trip. In the end we were seven 20-somethings and a dog enjoying lazy days at the beach and cozy night of Cards Against Humanity. We ate A LOT of good food, played games, flew kites, drank beer, and enjoyed the laid back life that we love in the Pacific Northwest.

IMG_4391 IMG_4394 IMG_4343 IMG_4360

We even had an unexpected surprise on our morning walk to the beach one day. As we approached the path between the town and the beach, we noticed some large creatures in the tall grass. It turns out that a herd of approximately 50-60 elk had decided to hang out beside our beach. Initially terrified but soon excited as locals assured us that it was safe to continue. We proceeded to pass by these majestic creatures, completely awe-struck. It was one of those magical encounters with nature that I will always remember.


Move over #selfie because we prefer the #elkie

Move over #selfie because we prefer the #elkie

Since we could walk to the local beach in Gearhart – we didn’t stray too far from our little home away from home. But, we did make one excursion to nearby Ecola State Park in Canon Beach. The view point gave us a stunning back drop for some long overdue family photos. And the beach, mostly deserted, and stretching on like glass, made for a very chill afternoon.

IMG_4373 IMG_4380 IMG_4383 IMG_2166 IMG_4371


Cousins – me and the boys!

IMG_2168 IMG_4389

Typically on a short trip like this, I would try to pack in a lot of activities. Especially when I’ve had my eye on the coast for such a long time. But, for this long weekend I left things unscheduled and gave myself permission to just relax. Maybe it’s part of getting older. Or maybe it is the craziness of my home life right now (flooded apartments are no joke…eek!). But a weekend away with good people and no plans was exactly what the doctor ordered. And let’s get real… we all know I’ll be back.

Pamukkale: A Cotton Castle in the Sky

Pamukkale: A Cotton Castle in the Sky

After a walk back in time through the ancient streets of Ephesus, it was time to move on to another famous UNESCO site. I never would have guessed but our visit to Pamukkale-Hierapolis was one of the most unexpected delights of my time in Turkey.

I honestly had never even heard of Pamukkale until I saw it coupled with a 2-day tour to Ephesus (both sites are relatively close) and really had no idea what was in store for us. We woke up bright and early to stop by a lovely viewing spot at the base of the cliffs near a gorgeously colored lake. I was mesmerized by the “snowy” mountains and very curious to get up close and personal.

IMG_1537 IMG_4193 IMG_1533 IMG_4195

Before we could head to the terraces we made a pit stop at Cleopatra’s Pool (Antique Pool of Pamukkale). Legend has it that this artificial pool was a gift from Mark Anthony to Cleopatra. After an earthquake in the 7th century, the remains of the surrounding structures ended up tumbling into the pool. Today you can swim among the massive marble columns while enjoying the thermal hot springs. We skipped out on the extra 30 Lira price tag to spend our time in the much cooler (and FREE) terrace pools.

Cleopatra's Pool

Cleopatra’s Pool

On our way to the terraces we passed by the ancient city of Hierapolis, which was founded in the 2nd century as a thermal spa. Many people believed that the waters had healing powers and the city became known as a healing centre. We casually walked by but again… the cotton castle was waiting…

IMG_9760 IMG_9761

When we finally approached the edge of the 200m cliff, we were instructed to take off our shoes. Giddy with excitement we carefully tip-toed our way over the rocky terrain before reaching the springs. The landscape before us was surreal. Created by flowing hot springs and travertines (limestone deposits), the natural phenomenon here has resulted in mineral forests, petrified waterfalls and a series of terraced basins. The 17 hot water springs range from 35 – 100 °C and have been bathed in for 1000s of years. We spent the better part of an hour photographing every angle, dipping our feet in the pools, and even swimming.

IMG_1581 IMG_9784 IMG_1607 IMG_4196 IMG_1568 IMG_1609 IMG_1625 IMG_1614 IMG_4312

It’s easy to see why Pamukkale garnered the nickname of Cotton Castle. Other descriptors we used included glacial, lunar, and cotton candy! I’m so glad that we added this to the itinerary at the last minute (okay… it was still like 3 months prior… who am I kidding?) because it should be on every traveller’s Turkey bucket list.

Ruined by the Ruins of Ancient Ephesus

Ruined by the Ruins of Ancient Ephesus

What superlative should I use to describe my visit to Ephesus… only the best preserved ancient city in the world! I should really just stop visiting ruins from this point forward because is anything really going to compare? I’ve been ruined for all future ruins! (See what I did there?)


Now if you haven’t heard of Ephesus, it was an ancient Greek city on the Ionian coast, which is now modern day Turkey. It was the third largest city in Roman Asia Minor and the centre of trade in the ancient world. It’s also famous for being the site of one of the original seven wonders of the world – The Temple of Artemis. It’s basically just a pile of rubble these days, but still pretty cool.

Not much left of this world wonder...

Not much left of this world wonder…

Ephesus was nothing short of impressive. We easily wandered around the 2000 year old streets for hours, continually awed by the next monument around the corner. I was shocked when I learned that Ephesus wasn’t on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites only to find out that it was added to the list mere days after my return home. It’s about time!

IMG_1382 IMG_1403 IMG_1426

We majorly lucked out during our mid-morning visit. The weather was much cooler and we even had a brief rainstorm that kept us quite comfortable for our mostly exposed touring. And the crowds were relatively sparse, which is a total miracle when you’re visiting the number one tourism site in Turkey during high season.

Now I could continue to list off dozens of noteworthy facts and figures but I think I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

The Library of Celsus

The Library of Celsus, built in 117 AD was one of the most beautiful structures in Ephesus.

IMG_4190 IMG_9697 IMG_1457 IMG_1473 IMG_4182

The most magnificent structure in Ephesus, The Great Theatre, seated 25,000.

IMG_1502 IMG_1505 IMG_1522


Ephesus was a perfect start to my time in Turkey, setting the stage for some of the most awe-inspiring sites I’ve ever seen.

My Favourite Travel Day: ATV Adventure on Santorini

My Favourite Travel Day: ATV Adventure on Santorini

On our second full day on Santorini we decided to venture away from our adorable villa in Finikia and the unbelievably gorgeous streets of Oia to explore what the rest of the island had to offer. Well let me tell you… it had a lot!

The view from our villa... it was hard to tear ourselves away.

The view from our villa… it was hard to tear ourselves away.

To maximize our freedom (and fun for that matter) we decided to rent two ATVs for four people. At a rate of €34 for 24 hours – we figured we were getting a pretty good deal. I was super stoked about this whole experience as I’d never driven an ATV before. And the last time I decided to rent a vehicle while traveling was on my wildly successful trip to Maui – another island paradise! Are you sensing a travel theme these days?

As it turns out, this day was quite possibly one of my favourite travel days of all time!

IMG_9526 (10)

By the time our two ATVs showed up (that’s right… we had them delivered to our door) we were more than ready to hit the streets. I handed over my drivers license and signed my life away before some 14 year old kid showed me how to operate the ATV properly. I even had to go for a test drive with the rental guy for him to assess my abilities. My male friend Caleb did not. Another loss for feminism… but I digress.

After a quick pit stop to fill our tanks, we were off. Our first stop was lunch in the centrally located town of Pyrgos. The main draw to this part of the island was the proximity to a plethora of wineries. We had trouble finding the first one on my list but ended up stumbling upon a winery recommended to us by the owner of our wine store in Finikia. Are you sensing another travel theme?

Art Space was a completely delightful addition to our itinerary. Immediately upon arrival, the owner of this winery turned art gallery started leading us on a tour of the facilities. He spoke in rapid Greeklish with me only comprehending one in every 20 or so words. But he was completely adorable and the space was very cool which more than made up for my lack of understanding. Plus, we concluded our not-so-informational tour with a €5 wine tasting that included various blends of the Assyrtiko grape, the local sweet speciality Vinsanto, Ouzo, and something akin to moonshine at 42% alcohol. 

IMG_4118 IMG_9527 (9)

Conveniently located just around the corner was Santorini’s first and only brewery. This craft beer obsessed Vancouverite was definitely excited to taste the Greek brews, which were adorably named the Yellow Donkey (lager), Red Donkey (red ale) and Crazy Donkey (IPA). They gave us a free tasting and I have to say that I really enjoyed all three, even the IPA which isn’t normally my drink of choice. I’m definitely rooting for this new business!

IMG_9529 IMG_9533 (0)

The final stop on our self-guided wine tour was the one I was most looking forward to – Gaia Wines. We drove to nearby Kamari where an old tomato factory was converted into a winery. The beach front location didn’t hurt either.

IMG_9534 IMG_9538 IMG_9552 (1) IMG_4124 IMG_4143 IMG_9548

Next up was a frolic in the sea on a black sand beach in Kamari. By this time we were completely blissed out and feeling the vacation vibes in a big way. There’s nothing that puts me in a better mood than oceanfront dining and the sound of crashing waves.

IMG_1220 IMG_1224

We had some time to kill before our final activity of the day so we took our ATVs for a drive to a lookout at the top of the island. I couldn’t believe how high we were able to drive and the view – stunning!


Mandatory helmet selfie :)

IMG_1233 IMG_1247

Our final activity of the day was the highly anticipated outdoor movie at Kamari’s famous Open Air Cinema. We got there early to nab front row reclining seats for an English screening of Age of Adaline. The movie wasn’t great but the atmosphere was top notch. The cinema featured complimentary blankets, a full bar, and reasonably priced snacks. What’s not to love?

IMG_4140 IMG_1262 IMG_1268 IMG_1270 IMG_9593 (5)

What a day! Aside from the post-movie ATV incident (it wouldn’t start but then it did) and the adrenaline filled ride home (imagine pitch black switch back roads with 1000 ft cliffside drop-offs) we had a perfect day. It was fun. It was adventurous. It was delicious. Santorini – you did it again!

Coming up on the blog… we left Greece just in time to miss the economic meltdown and turned our attention to neighbouring Turkey. Stay tuned for some of the most incredibly weird and wonderful sites that I’ve ever seen!

Everything they say about Santorini is True!

Everything they say about Santorini is True!

I have been dreaming of Santorini for over a decade. Villages of white and blue perched atop rocky cliffs. Aegean sea waves meeting caldera backdrops. Donkey traffic jams and Greek salad dinners. Nightly sunset photo shoots. Needless to say… I was expecting a magical place and was mildly concerned that reality could not possibly live up to the hype. Fortunately, my fears could not have been more misplaced. Santorini was everything they said it would be and MORE!

I had heard rave reviews from friends, family, and travel bloggers. Everyone told me that it was amazing! Touristy? Yes. Overcrowded? At times. Worth it? Most definitely.

Santorini was so intoxicatingly gorgeous that I started to hate myself just a little bit. As I wandered the streets of Oia, you could hear me exclaiming “Look at this view! This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” Only to hear me say, just minutes later, “I take it back… THIS it the most beautiful view!” And then again around the next corner, “Here we go. Money shot! Is this real life?!!!” You get the idea.

The pictures do not come remotely close to doing it justice but here’s a little teaser of what I saw in Santorini.

IMG_4101 IMG_4145 IMG_0996IMG_1077 IMG_1016 IMG_4110 IMG_1192IMG_1053 IMG_9448 IMG_4157 IMG_1297

I’m not quite done with Santorini yet because I had one of my favourite travel days of all time when we rented ATVs to explore the island. Stay tuned for the full post to come.

Santorini was a dream destination for me. But I want to know… Have you ever been to one of your dream destinations and did it live up to the hype? Leave a comment below.

Second Time is the Charm in Ancient Athens!

Second Time is the Charm in Ancient Athens!

I had incredibly low expectations for my two nights in Athens.

I first visited this Grecian capital back in March 2003 as part of a 10-day Art & History tour with my high school. I did not love it. Far from it. In fact, I have spent the last decade telling people that it is my least favourite city in Europe. Ouch!

So when I decided to return to Greece my heart was set on the islands. But, since Athens still made the most logical starting point, I relented to the wishes of my travel companions and spent a full day touring many of the same famous sites that failed to wow me the first time. And… what do you know. Athens was NOTHING like I remembered it.


This is not the first time that a city has improved upon its initial impressions. Barcelona, Rome, and Portland are just a few names that won me over on the SECOND visit and now are some of my favourite cities ever! This is why I absolutely NEVER SAY NEVER. I am so glad I was willing to go back to all of these places because the memories I made the second time around are worth every bit of letdown on the first run through.

So, what changed my mind about Athens? Better weather. Better company. Low Expectations. More Freedom. Open Mind.

But enough preamble… here’s what we got into!

The Acropolis

The most important site in Athens is without-a-doubt The Acropolis – an ancient citadel perched high on a rocky outcrop above the city. It contains the remains of several ancient buildings, most famously the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena (patron and namesake of Athens).

Knowing this was a must-see and with only a short stay in the city, we opted to stay in a very well-located apartment just minutes away. This made our early start time much more manageable. We were waiting at the ticket entrance before it opened at 8:00am to beat the crowds and I’m so glad that we did. It wasn’t difficult to get photos and we had plenty of time to soak of the panoramic city views. We even had time to climb neighbouring Mars Hill sans spectators.

IMG_0933 IMG_4047 IMG_0856 IMG_0867

Parliament Buildings – Changing of the Guard

Every Sunday at 11:00am there is an elaborate changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Presidential Mansion in Syntagma Square. And what do you know… our one day in Athens just so happened to be on a Sunday. I didn’t even plan that! So we made sure to get there early to nab a spot on the street and gleefully watched the impressive procession of synchronized guardsmen in all their skirted, pom pom tossing glory. I think I enjoyed it even more than the UK variety at Buckingham Palace.

IMG_0880 IMG_0882

The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Not too far down the road we came across yet another ancient ruin. This time the Temple of Zeus! The entrance fee was included in our Acropolis ticket and we only stayed long enough to marvel at the sheer size of it. How did people build these monstrosities 2500 years ago?


Panathenaic Stadium

Okay – this one I did remember and was definitely excited to revisit. It probably has to do with my Olympic obsession but seriously, how could you not be impressed by a 50,000 seat stadium built entirely out of MARBLE! The site of the very first modern Olympic games in 1896 even dates back to ancient times. Mindy and I couldn’t help getting cheesy with a sporty photo shoot.

IMG_0912 IMG_0932 IMG_0926

The Acropolis Museum

This new museum opened to the public back in 2009 to house the artifacts found on the Acropolis. It was even built overtop of an archaeological site with glass walkways allowing you to view the ruins below – how cool! I loved the juxtaposition of this modern building amidst the surrounding ancient architecture. I’m only a casual fan of museums but it was a nice air-conditioned break from the summer heat and an interesting walk through. Plus it has miniatures! I’m such a sucker for those.

IMG_0934 IMG_0944

The Ancient Agora

The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice. This one also happens to be the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora. Honestly, by the time we got here I was a bit tuckered out from our full day of sightseeing. Even though it was approaching golden hour (my favourite time of day for photos!) I couldn’t muster up a lot of energy. But the grounds are extensive and beautifully nestled in below the Acropolis. It’s definitely worth a visit!

IMG_0949 IMG_0957

So by the end of my two nights in Athens, I was actually wishing I had a couple more. I could have happily dined and strolled in the Plaka neighbourhood for another evening, soaking up the European café culture that I have become so insanely fond of. But, alas, the Greek Islands were calling and I didn’t want to miss one second of my time in the Cyclades… not even Zeus could stop me.

Next up: Santorini at last!!!

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

In My Bag: Packing for Summer in Europe

While I’m currently gallivanting around Europe, I thought it might be apropos to provide another dose of packing advice.

It is my travel mission to pack as light as possible (hello carry-on!) while still managing to look stylish. I look back at the photos from my 8-month back packing trip to Europe in 2005/2006 and I cringe at the outfits I put together. I wore a ski jacket in 80% of my photos and couldn’t have looked more like a tourist if I tried. Since then, I’ve learned that comfort and efficiency does not have to sacrifice style. With some strategic choices and some handy tools (read: packing cubes!) I am travelling in Europe for 2 weeks with less than 20 lbs on my back!

Here is the breakdown of what I packed in my bag:


  • 1 pair of walking shoes (BOBS with memory foam)
  • 1 pair of dressier sandals (Clarks)
  • 1 pair of flip flops (Flojos with arch support)
Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

Three is the perfect number for travel shoes.

  • 1 pair of jeans (for the plane and chilly evenings)
  • 1 pair of loose fitting hippie pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 3 dresses
  • 1 skirt/dress (convertible)


  • 8 tops (3 t-shirts, 5 sleeveless)
  • 2-3 cardigans (for the plane, chilling evenings, hot air balloon)


  • 1 bikini
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 12 pairs of underwear + 3 bras (excessive maybe)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of bandelettes
  • 1 belt
  • 1-2 scarves (for the plane or to use as a shawl)


Note: Packing Cubes!

All of my clothing easily fits inside three small packing cubes. The larger blue one is for all of my bottoms and dresses, the medium red is for tops, and the small red is for underwear. These packing cubes make it insanely easy to pack and repack quickly when living out of a backpack. Read more about my packing cube obsession here.


  • Stella & Dot Hang On Travel Case (toiletries/make-up/jewelry/sunscreen)
  • Norwex Cloth
  • Small Medicine Bag (Kleenex, band-aids, medication, hand sanitizer, wet wipes)
  • Travel Flat Iron
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses
  • Tote Bag (for beach use/extra stuff for airplane)
  • Cross-body Bag (Lug – Moped Day Pack) – The best travel day bag that I’ve found!


  • iPhone 5C
  • Headphones
  • iPhone Charger
  • Camera + Charger (Canon Powershot SX700)
  • Spare Memory Card
  • Portable Charger
  • E-reader (Kobo Aura)
  • Voltage Converter
  • Adapters


  • Passport & Visa
  • Wallet
  • Travel Documents & Insurance
  • Sleep Sheet
  • Pillow Case
  • Ear Plugs
  • Travel Journal / Pen
  • Travel Umbrella
  • Luggage Locks

This was my first time bringing only a carry-on to Europe. Do you find it difficult to travel light?

7 Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

7 Tips to Avoid Jet Lag

If I could have any super power I would choose teleportation. The ability to instantaneously transport myself to anywhere in the world is a wanderluster’s dream come true! Unfortunately, I do not have a genetic mutation and I do have to take planes, trains, and automobiles just like everyone else. BUT, I do have a super power: I never get jet lag! And, I’m going to let you in on my top tips and tricks to help you avoid the cursed time zone tailspin.

1. Book the Best Itinerary

I know that most people are simply looking for rock-bottom prices when booking air travel. But that often means a milk run set of flights with horrible stopovers and ungodly departure/arrival times. Who wants to start their long awaited vacation with a 4am wake up call? My solution… do your research and spend a few extra dollars. Look for non-stop flights or itineraries with only one layover. Try to avoid long layovers wherever possible (1.5 hours is perfect!). If you can cut down your total travel time that will be a huge benefit. But the absolute most important aspect of your flight is the arrival time. I always try to book flights that arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. This means that I won’t be arriving in the dark and will have time to get through customs and to my final destination at a decent hour. AND, it means that I can pretty much go to bed as soon as I get to my accommodation. There is nothing worse than arriving in a new city after being awake for 30 hours and it’s only 10:00am local time. TORTURE! If you arrive in the evening then you can spare yourself so much pain and suffering and significantly reduce your risk of jet lag.

2. Pre-Trip Preparation (Work on your Sleep Schedule)

Again, if you can manage to book a flight that doesn’t leave at the crack of dawn, then you can give yourself the gift of a really good night’s sleep in your own bed. I know that sometimes the excitement can get the best of you making it hard to sleep the night before a big trip. That’s what sleeping pills are for :) If you’re only crossing a couple of time zones then it’s also worth trying to adjust BEFORE you leave. For example, if you’re flying east (like from Los Angeles to New York City) then start going to bed an hour earlier. Similarly, if you’re heading west then going to bed a bit later on the days leading up to your trip can make the transition a breeze.

3. Take a Nap on the Plane (if you can)

Personally, I can’t nap on planes. I can sometimes get a few winks in if I have a window seat or get upgraded to business class (!!!) but otherwise I just tough it out. That being said, a brief nap on a long flight can give you the extra boost you need to make it to your final destination. Just be careful not to sleep too much and risk not being able to get some shut eye when bedtime rolls around.

4. Stay Hydrated (Skip the Booze/Caffeine)

It’s so important to take care of yourself while travelling. Your body is going to be confused and your immune system is going to be put through the ringer with all those international germs floating around. The best thing that you can do during a long travel day is stay hydrated with clear fluids and avoid alcohol and caffeine. That glass of wine at take-off might help you nod off quickly but it can seriously interfere with your crucial REM sleep. And I don’t think I have to tell you why coffee is a bad idea. I’m guilty of enjoying a pre-trip Americano on the regular but then I do have a super power. For those of you who struggle with jet lag, avoid the stimulants and stick to water.

5. Eat Healthy

Vacation and traveling is often about indulgence. Exercise routines are suspended and healthy eating is completely abandoned in favor of a week (or more!) of overeating. It’s important to remember that while your mind may be on vacation, your body still needs proper fuel. This is not the time to start carb-loading like you’re running a full marathon. I am all in favor of sampling the local cuisine and enjoying yourself (A gelato a day keeps the doctor away – right?). The key here is balance. To have a great vacation it truly helps to feel good and all that junk food is going to make you feel sluggish and irritable. Now I don’t need to tell you that airplane food is the worst. So, instead of relying on some corporation to give you what you need – plan ahead. Your first defense is to bring food from home: bananas, apples, nuts, carrots, and energy bars are all great airplane snacks. Once you get to your destination, try to incorporate local fruits and vegetables into the frenzy. Personally, I am looking forward to many fresh and delicious Greek salads on my upcoming trip to Greece. Just remember the old adage… you are what you eat!

6. Don’t Fall Asleep at Your Destination

If you heeded my advice in Tip #1 and booked a great itinerary, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. But, if your options are limited (like when the only return options from Hawaii are red eye flights with 7am arrivals) then your will power needs to kick into overdrive. I know it’s hard. Trust me. I’ve had to stay awake for nearly 40 hours before to avoid jet lag. I cannot stress this enough. It is so important not to sleep if it isn’t night time. The only way to save yourself from spending the next few days (or weeks!) waking up at 3am is to tough it out for one day. Avoid dark spaces and plan something fun to do that will keep you awake. Get some fresh air, go for a walk, and avoid operating heavy machinery or making any important life decisions. Then, go to bed at a normal time (9pm) and get a good night of sleep. You will wake up refreshed and jet lag free!

7. Plan an Active First Day

If you’re still feeling groggy when you wake up, I suggest jumping right in. Resist the urge to laze around all day napping. Plan a first day with heaps of activity and fresh air. Don’t let your body realize that it’s tired… you know… fake it till you make it! This might seem counter-intuitive but you’re going to have to get used to it sooner or later. Don’t waste any time. You’ll thank me later :)


Do you have any other tips or tricks for avoiding jet lag? Leave a comment below.

What I love most about Europe

What I love most about Europe

Guys, I have a confession. This may not come as a surprise to you but I’m completely smitten by Europe.

I am a total Europhile: A person who is fond of, admires, or even loves European culture, society, history, food, etc. I know that it’s ridiculously expensive compared to popular backpacker trails in Southeast Asia and South America, but I don’t care. It’s like something magnetic keeps pulling me back to the cobblestone streets and fairy-tale castles that first intrigued me as a child. I just can’t get enough.


Carcassone, France

Next week I’ll be traveling back to one of the first European countries I ever visited, Greece! Since my inaugural visit back in 2003 I have traveled in 16 European countries on 6 separate trips and spent nearly one year of my life on European soil. I’m no Rick Steves but I’ve certainly seen my fair share.

And while I’m off collecting beautiful photographs, hilarious stories, and moments that I’ll cherish for a lifetime… I thought it fitting to reflect on just a few of the reasons why I love this part of the world so much.

Train Travel


Excited for our train at Roma Termini

There is something so romantic about train travel. And even though I’ve had some less than glamourous overnight journeys on sleeper trains… I still get giddy at the thought of it. Maybe it’s the click clack of the station flip boards or the way the gentle rocking always lulls me to sleep. Maybe it’s all the famous film farewell scenes with lovers blowing kisses from the caboose. Something about train travel (and especially in Europe) feels magical and always transports me to days gone by. It’s efficient. It’s affordable. And the scenery doesn’t suck either.

Walk-able Cities

Visiting Edinburgh Castle

Visiting Edinburgh Castle

I love that so many of the great European cities have a completely walkable city centre, often anchored by a beautiful river. I rarely have to use public transit during my European travels. Perusing major tourist sites on foot and casually wandering through nearby neighbourhoods is without-a-doubt my favourite way to see a city. Often as a broke backpacker, transit and even entrance fees were too much for my meager pocket book – but fortunately walking around is completely FREE! I love that! Some personal favourites – Amsterdam, Bruges, Edinburgh, Florence, Munich, Paris, Salzburg, and Venice.

Accessible Alcohol


Enjoying a glass of wine with my gnocchi

Cheap. Plentiful. Unrestricted. I don’t think Europeans know how good they have it. We here in North America pay a not-so-pretty premium for alcohol in all its forms and face steep fines if we’re caught drinking in public spaces. In Canada, we are very behind the ball and can only buy liquor in designated stores although apparently select wine and spirits are coming to grocery stores in the never near enough future. Europe just does it better. I cannot tell you how lovely it is to sip a glass of wine with dinner without stressing about blowing my budget. They say the beer is cheaper than water… and they are usually right!

Street Food


I had no idea that guy was going to do that…

North America has definitely caught on to the street food appeal with its plethora of trendy (and pricey) food trucks in most urban cities. However, once again, Europe does this way better! Not only is their street food delicious and iconic but it’s also super cheap. I cannot even fathom visiting Turkey and NOT eating a doner kebab from a street vendor or going to Paris and not ordering a Nutella-Banana crepe from the side window of a café. I’m already salivating.



The Roman Forum

I live in a young city that is really still a baby at 129 years old, especially when compared with ancient greats like Rome and Athens. When I travel in Europe I get to walk where 2000 years of former generations have stood. I get to see the ruins of ancient civilizations and visit the most famous monuments of all time. These cities are steeped in a rich history with fascinating stories just waiting to be uncovered. I don’t know about you… but I think that is pretty cool.

Do you love Europe as much as I do? What do you enjoy most?

Salt Spring Vineyards: A Taste of Island Living

Salt Spring Vineyards: A Taste of Island Living

During the past three years, I have fallen head over flip flops for the Southern Gulf Islands. Most of that time has been spent frequenting my beloved Galiano but last weekend I visited a new island that is sure to become a favourite. This was my first of two scheduled trips to Salt Spring Island this summer and I’m already itching to get back. There is a surprising number of activities to do and places to see on an island with only 10,000 inhabitants.


Fortunately many of these activities lean towards the delicious. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I’ve become a bit of a wino (yet still totally classy) in recent years, so when I learned that we were heading straight from the ferry to a brewery and then on to a winery I was instantly excited.


The highlight of the day was our visit to Salt Spring Vineyards. The idyllic location could have been straight out of a movie and the wine was tailor-made for summer nights by the lake. The free tasting featured four local wines: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir Rose, Petite Milo (my personal fave!), and the Blackberry Port. I loved all of them and we walked away with two bottles to share with friends.

IMG_3947 IMG_3951 IMG_3953

After deliberating long and hard we also purchased a couple of glasses to enjoy immediately with bread and cheese from the Salt Spring Cheese Company. We sat outside under the warm spring sun, sandwiched between a pond and the vineyards. I could think of worse places to spend a Saturday afternoon.


I didn’t get to visit any of the other wineries this time around but I’m already scheming for my return trip this August. Salt Spring you sure know the way to my heart!

Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

Departure Lounge: Greece & Turkey

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!! Summer is swiftly approaching and with it… my next big travel adventure!

In many ways, this trip has been 5 years in the making. It all started in a crowded pub after the first day of an economic conference. My university friends, married couple Rachel & Caleb, were hilariously sharing the story of their disastrous honeymoon in Paris. It was a 3-week comedy of errors and the retelling had our table in stiches. But this story was more of a tragedy in truth because poor Rachel virtually swore off international travel ever since. Being the travel evangelist that I am, I promised that someday I would take her back to Europe and show her how awesome it can be. Well, that someday has finally arrived.

In just a few weeks I am travelling to Greece and Turkey with both Rachel & Caleb (wish me luck!) as well as my frequent travel partner Mindy. If summer in the Mediterranean can’t win them over, then nothing will. We only have 2 weeks but I am confident that our itinerary has something for everyone: Beaches, History, Culture, Adventure, and Food!


June 20-21: Athens, Greece

June 22-25: Santorini, Greece

June 26: Bodrum, Turkey

June 27: Ephesus, Turkey

June 28: Pamukkale, Turkey

June 29-30: Goreme, Turkey

July 1-4: Istanbul, Turkey

These are the activities I am most looking forward to:

  • Renting ATVs and driving around the island of Santorini.
  • Drinking wine while watching the famed Oia Sunset
  • Exploring Ephesus, one of the best preserved ancient sites in the world
  • Riding a hot air balloon in Cappadocia!
  • Sinking my teeth into Turkish cuisine (rumored to be A-MAZING!)


I am SOOO excited for this trip and I can’t wait to start posting about it. Stay tuned this summer for all the details!

Where are your summer plans taking you? Have you been to Greece or Turkey? Any tips? Leave a comment below.

My 100th Post: The Evolution of a Blog

My 100th Post: The Evolution of a Blog

I am most definitely a celebrator. I love to go to parties. I am big on birthdays (including half birthdays!). And I try not to let major milestones (or minor ones) go by without paying some sort of homage.

Today I am celebrating a mini landmark here on Wandering with Whit. After 5 years of travel blogging I’ve finally hit my 100th post!

For those of you who are new to this site, here’s a bit of a refresher. I actually started this blog way back in 2010 to document my inaugural trip to South America. Back then I was writing under Musings of a Travelista and had only a few lone followers (thanks Mom!). After that trip, I posted sporadically but didn’t really take this whole travel writing thing seriously until last year when I rebranded as Wandering with Whit. Coincidently, 2014 was also my fullest year of travel since my 8-month European backpacking trip in 2005/2006.

Cartagena, Colombia - May 2010

Cartagena, Colombia – May 2010

Writing and Travelling have both been lifelong passions of mine so combining the two here has been more joy than work. However, sometimes I think about all of the unpaid hours that I spend building a blog that I’m not sure anyone wants to read but me. It certainly doesn’t come easily. I struggle with writer’s block and how to continually think of creative, new content. I compare my success to others and wonder if this is all just a waste of my time. I mean, does the world really need another travel blogger? But at the end of the day, I know that I do this for me. I love this little blog and that’s really all that matters. If it is entertaining or helpful or inspiring to others in any capacity, then that truly is icing on the cake (or bacon on the doughnut).

11038250_10153102672116963_7310741701223367163_o copy

But, this post is supposed to be a celebration and so I thought I would share some of my favourite posts from the past 5 years. These are subjective so maybe I really liked the photos or I was proud of my writing or maybe the place was just incredible and brings back fantastic memories. It’s my list so I make up the rules :)

Here are some of my favourite blog posts (in no particular order)

The one that started it all

“Jesus Meets the Holly Mother” Posted in: Colombia, South America


The one with the best/worst stories

“My Top 6 Worst Travel Moments” Posted in: Musings

Dianas Pictures 3 140

The one that was the hardest to write… Seriously, how do you decide?!?

“My Top 10 Favourite Cities” Posted in: Musings, Favourites, Europe, North America, South America


The one that I refer most frequently

“The Lares Trek to Machu Picchu” Posted in: Peru, South America


The one that I was the most nervous to post

“The Truth about Portland: Is it Really that Cool?” Posted in: Oregon, USA, North America


The one that was surprisingly popular

“Packing Hacks: 10 Items I Always Bring Travelling” Posted in: Travel Advice, Packing, Musings


The one with the photos that warm my heart #westcoastbestcoast

“Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest” Posted in: British Columbia, Canada, North America

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

The one about my favourite way to travel

“Leisure vs. Adventure Travel” Posted in: Musings

Camel Time

The one that answers my most frequently asked question

“How to Travel the World when you have a Full-time Job” Posted in: Travel Advice, Musings


Thanks for reading and for taking a moment out of your day to celebrate with me!

To Hell and Back: Flying over the Fraser Canyon

To Hell and Back: Flying over the Fraser Canyon

I’m continually blown away by where I get to live. Beautiful British Columbia earns its name in spades with all of the natural wonders mere minutes from my door. This really is the perfect home base for an avid traveller with a desk job. I get to take stay-cations and getaways to world-class sites on my weekends without even dipping into my precious stash of vacation days.

After 20 something years of exploring my own backyard it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find new places to explore. That’s why it seemed absolutely crazy that I had not visited Hells Gate yet. I was certainly aware of its existence as basically all of my friends and family had been there on a school field trip or family outing. But, somehow my grade had mysteriously skipped the Hells Gate excursion, leaving me in the dark as to what it was all about.

Well I’m pleased to announce that this past weekend I finally made the day trip to the stunning Fraser Canyon to see what I’d been missing.

In short, Hells Gate is a narrowing of the Fraser River where the towering canyon walls force thundering rapids through a small 33 metre passage. Just imagine 200 million gallons of water per minute thundering beneath you. Having trouble picturing it? Here’s a visual.


But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack shall we?

If you’re like me, perhaps you have some questions about a place that calls itself Hell. I know I did. Well if I’m being honest, I didn’t see anything hellish about Hells Gate at all. The day began with an incredibly scenic drive through the Fraser Canyon. We took the Trans Canada Highway east past Hope and through 7 mountain tunnels before reaching our destination. In all my years I don’t think I had ever been on that stretch of highway before as I usually divert down the Coquihalla when heading further east.


But this road trip was like stepping back in time to the Gold Rush era as we passed through tiny historic towns like Yale and blink-or-you’ll-miss-it Spuzzum. It’s hard to believe that people actually live in such remote communities. And even though I could never give up my life in the big city, I can see the appeal. The air was fresh. The mountains majestic. And the only sounds I heard were the rushing river and the occasional train.


After a 3 hour drive from Vancouver we reached the Hells Gate Airtram, one of the only descending gondolas in North America. The first thing I had to know was how it got its name. And fortunately the answer was waiting for me on a sign at the entrance. The name Hells Gate came from the journal of famed explorer Simon Fraser way back in 1808. He described it has a place “where no human being should venture for surely we have encountered the gates of hell.”

Honestly the place was more impressive than intimidating. I love both heights and white water rafting so part of me was eager to get in a boat and check it out from water level. But, I can imagine that before all the infrastructure was built (and to someone less brave than I) this place would have been a fearsome sight.

IMG_0758 IMG_0765 IMG_0780

We barely had to wait for our small 25 person gondola to carry us down to the lower terminal on the opposite side of the river. The birds’ eye view was a great vantage point to snap pictures of the landmark including the pedestrian suspension bridge, observation deck, restaurant, gift shop, and museum.

IMG_0773 IMG_0774

My favourite spot was the bridge over the river which got me a bit closer to concerned about the force of the rapids. What really freaked me out were the historical facts about the 1948 flood. Back then a cool spring delayed the snow melt and when several days of hot weather and warm rain hit in May, the river quickly swelled to disastrous proportions. The footbridge I was standing on was actually a reconstruction as the original had been completely destroyed by the flood. It took a month for the water to recede and by that time 16,000 people had been evacuated and damages totaled $20 million. To put the flood volume into perspective, it is estimated that a continuous flow of 537,000 cubic feet per second would fill the dome-covered BC Place Stadium in less than two minutes! The disaster junkie in me would not have been able to tear my eyes away from that sight!

IMG_3783 IMG_3788

I also finally got to see what makes this such a popular elementary field trip spot. Not only is it a beautiful location but you can learn about the salmon run and the Gold Rush all in one go. The fisheries exhibit features an award winning video titled Run Sockeye Run and you can even pan for gold for just $5.

IMG_3823 IMG_0790

It might be a little (okay, a lot) off the beaten track but there’s a reason that Hells Gate Airtram has been around for over 40 years… there really is no place like Hell.


*Note: Hells Gate Airtram very kindly offered me complimentary passes, but all opinions are my own.  

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

Secret Cove: A Blissful Retreat on the Sunshine Coast

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler

Let me start by taking a quick moment to rave about my friends. I just spent an over-the-top wonderful weekend away with three of my college girlfriends and I am feeling a tad sentimental. These women are strong, funny, confident, competent, and I am a better person for knowing them. And best of all, they are always up for one of my travel adventures!

This year for our second annual Girls Getaway we snuck away to Secret Cove near Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast. With a name like that you’d think we’d be guaranteed good weather but that is not always the case in the unpredictable Pacific Northwest. Lucky for us, the odds were ever in our favour as we enjoyed flawless spring weather all weekend long. I’m sure I started to sound like a broken record because I could NOT STOP talking about how perfect the temperature is right now and how this is the best and how I’m just so happy right now! I mean… look at this view. What’s not to love?


The first element that made this weekend so awesome was our accommodation. We stayed in yet another Airbnb rental and this time it was a 3-bedroom, 1.5 bath, Treehouse Log Cabin complete with hot tub and a wrap around deck. From the moment we walked through the French doors we felt at home. The cabin was the perfect mix of rustic yet modern décor complete with cozy touches like robes and slippers to truly put us in a state of much needed relaxation.

IMG_3680 IMG_0751 IMG_0754 IMG_3636 IMG_0756We were perched on top of a cliff with a staircase leading down to a private dock on Secret Cove. I’m embarrassed to say that we only made the trip down once during the weekend. That epic stair master climb back to the top really did me in. But as you can see from the photos, we had a ton of privacy. We did not see or hear any of our neighbours even once. Similarly in the nearby town of Sechelt we barely saw other people on the boardwalk or beach. I didn’t think the Sunshine Coast was a hidden gem but maybe it is after all?

IMG_3637 IMG_3631

This might be obvious by now, but our mission for this weekend was relaxation. Plain and simple. We packed a ton of games and a cooler full of food with very little actual plans. But, I always like to factor in a little exploration into my travel so on Saturday morning we went for a walk/hike to nearby Smugglers Cove. We set off after a leisurely brunch and walked about 30 minutes down the road. The gentle trail took us to several gorgeous lookouts where we lay on the rocks lightly baking in the sun. We climbed over drift wood on solitary beaches and admired the purple star fish clinging to the cliffs.

IMG_3649 IMG_3684 IMG_3683 IMG_3671

Later that day we emerged from our hideaway and drove to Sechelt, which is the Sunshine Coast’s version of a city. We ate gelato on the pier and enjoyed dinner at The Lighthouse Pub where we strolled up at 6:30pm and instantly grabbed a table with an amazing view of Porpoise Bay. Seriously, where are all the people?

IMG_3704 IMG_3702 IMG_3707 IMG_3696 IMG_3708 IMG_3735 IMG_3728 IMG_3733

Our Sunday was mostly a leisurely trip home by car, then ferry, and car once again (with another mandatory gelato stop of course). This trip was precious quality time with friends that get me at my core and appreciate my quirks as much as my strengths. Of all the elements that made this trip fantastic (weather, location, accommodation) it is Crystal, Mindy, and Rachel that made it truly special. What a gift!

IMG_3740 IMG_3741

Have you been to the Sunshine Coast? Where is the most relaxing place you’ve visited?

From Sea to Summit: The Haleakala Volcano

From Sea to Summit: The Haleakala Volcano

With only four full days in Maui – it was extra important to prioritize the activities that we most wanted to see. And one place that I didn’t feel right about skipping was the massive Haleakala volcano. Maui’s highest peak makes up approximately 75% of the island’s landmass, so in many ways Haleakala IS Maui.

After checking out of our Airbnb condo rental and loading up our trusty rental car, we set off for our last major Maui adventure. The drive from our base in Kihei to the summit took approximately two hours. It’s a 37 mile drive from sea level to the 10023 foot summit – the world’s highest elevation gain in the shortest distance. With that kind of elevation gain happening, altitude sickness was a mild concern. However we didn’t plan to do any major hiking so we ended up just fine.

At one point we were completely engulfed in dense clouds and wondered if we would even be able to see anything from the summit. Fortunately, we soon emerged from the clouds and were delighted by the view from the lookouts on the way up. The scenery was dramatically different from everything we had previously seen on Maui.

IMG_0705 IMG_0714

Can you believe that on the drive to the summit, we passed through just as many ecosystems as you would if you drove from Mexico to Canada! At times the landscape was so foreign that it appeared as if we had taken a wrong turn and ended up on the moon!

We decided to head up mid-day to avoid the crazy crowds at sunrise and sunset. Although I’m sure the views are stunning at those times of day, we weren’t disappointed with our view at all. We lucked out and had a beautiful, sunny, clear day. From the summit we could even see neighbouring Moana Loa over on the Big Island.

IMG_3523 IMG_0717The summit of Haleakala is above one third of the Earth’s atmosphere and has excellent astronomical seeing conditions. The limited light pollution combines to make one of the most sought-after locations in the world for ground-based telescopes.

IMG_0731 IMG_3537

There are so many ways to explore the Haleakala National Park. This trip was really just a teaser of what’s to come. Next time that I visit Maui, I want to try (1) a cycle tour from the summit, (2) paragliding!!, (3) hiking down into the crater, and (4) checking out the famous sunrise!

It’s easy to see what people love about Maui and why it truly is paradise. I’m clearly smitten and I know I’ll be back!


Maui’s Famous Road to Hana

Maui’s Famous Road to Hana

When I was initially looking into this trip to Maui, there was only one thing that I HAD to do. Ok – maybe I had to go to a beach, and eat pancakes with coconut syrup, and eat fish tacos, and drink Mai Tai’s, and photograph palm trees but really the most important activity on my radar was the famous (and sometimes infamous) Road to Hana.

The Road to Hana is really just the Hana Highway, which is a 64.4-mile long stretch connecting Kahului with the town of Hana in east Maui. But don’t be mistaken, this is not your average highway. Although, Hana is less than 100km from Kahului, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive when no stops are made as the “highway” is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. You heard me – ONE lane! This means that every few minutes you may be required to pull off to the side to let a vehicle, that is coming straight towards you, pass.

This winding road is definitely not for the faint of heart. Many people experience extreme car sickness or anxiety due to the 620 curves along Route 360. Fortunately, I did not experience any of the negative side effects on my own trip to Hana. I was deliriously happy to be driving through lush, tropical, rain forest, snaking along the coast, and passing by beautiful waterfalls. Simply put, Maui is paradise!


With so many potential stops and view points along the way, I enlisted my friend Natasha (a Maui expert) to help me nail down a kick-ass itinerary. With only one day, we needed to make it count.

These are the 5 main stops we recommend on a one day return trip to Hana:

Stop #1: Twin Falls Farm Stand


The Road to Hana starts near the town of Paia. After following highway 36 for about 20 minutes you should come across this easy to spot Farmstand with a small parking lot. We got there bright and early (8:30am) so we easily found a spot to park. We spent an hour strolling along the path and enjoying the jungle-like atmosphere. This is also a great spot to buy fresh local fruit (although you will pass tons of vendors along the way) and sample some coconut candy on your way out.

IMG_0636IMG_3437IMG_1106 copy

Stop #2: Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread in Ke’anae / Halfway to Hana


We were eagerly anticipating our second stop because BANADA BREAD! Maui is famous for the stuff and I was told that Aunty Sandy makes the best. After another 45 minutes of driving we pulled off in Ke’anae and our jaws hit the floor. The view was so spectacular that we were barely phased by the unfortunate closed sign on the store front (it was Easter Sunday). We had a mini photo shoot and then continued on our way before quickly running into a giant Halfway to Hana sign. We pulled over and discovered that we could still purchase banana bread at this snack shack instead. And it even turned out to be home of “the original” banana bread. Our lucky day!

IMG_3458 IMG_0647 IMG_3460


Stop #3: Waianapanapa State Park


Yet another 40 minutes down the road was Wai’anapanapa State Park where we were excited to see our very first black sand beach! While the hot sun beat down on us, we enjoyed photographing the blowholes and climbing over the volcanic rock. I especially loved the colour contrast of the black rock and the vibrant green plant life against the blue sea and sky.

The park is a great rest stop; It’s set up for camping, picnic lunches, or just a relaxing day at the beach. We could easily have spent the entire day here but we soldiered on.

IMG_0656 IMG_3512 IMG_3476

Stop #4: Hana & Red Sand Beach


Following our leisurely stop at Wai’anapanapa, it was only another 10 minutes to our excursion’s namesake. We reached Hana Bay and found the town a bit small and underwhelming. Many people decide to stay in Hana overnight or camp nearby but we needed to get back to the other side of the island by nightfall. We originally planned to visit the Red Sand Beach here, but opted to skip it in order to spend more time at our final major stop of the day. We’d been warned that the best stops were past Hana.

Stop #5: Kipahulu Area of Haleakala National Park


You can’t miss Kipahulu – It’s a very obvious stop and has something for everyone. Upon arrival, I quickly darted into the visitor’s center to seek shelter from the sudden rainstorm. The weather on the eastern side of the island is milder and wetter, prone to sudden heavy rains and winds. Unfortunately, the Seven Sacred Pools at the Oheo Gulch were not open for swimming during our visit. So instead I opted to hike the Pipiwai Trail in search of Waimoku Falls (pictured above), the great Banyan Tree (below) and the Bamboo Forest.

I began the hike knowing full well that I was going to be completely drenched by the end and that flip flops (the only footwear I had with me) would not be ideal. I was mildly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way when I saw everyone coming down decked out in proper hiking gear. But I surprised myself and managed the 2 mile trail and 800 ft elevation gain with relative ease, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Check out Go Visit Hawaii for detailed tips on hiking the Pipiwai Trail.

Even though I was soaking wet and covered in mud by the end of it, I felt elated. This is what it means to be alive! I loved how it felt to be alone in nature with the elements and nothing to think about but where to put my feet next. I returned to the car rejuvenated and thankful for a body that can move and for the opportunity to travel to places like Maui.

IMG_0689 IMG_0692 IMG_0694

The Way Back


Most people return from Hana by going back the same way they came.

If you continue on past Kipahulu around the backside of Haleakala and around, the road gets really rough. Not only is it one lane for a major section but it is unpaved and rocky with blind turns and drop offs. We had been warned about the road conditions but were promised that the road does get better and that the view is worth it. And it was!

My photos do not do justice to the awe-inspiring landscape we drove through in near isolation for the 2 hour return trip. The road did get better and the landscape was completely different from the tropical rain forest we had passed through on the other side. We drove through rolling fields of long grass, seemingly untouched by civilization. We presume that tourists are told not to travel this way so that the locals can hoard this place to themselves.

IMG_0698 IMG_0700

So in conclusion I leave you with a few words of advice if you plan to do the Road to Hana for yourself.

Top 8 Hana Survival Tips:

1. Pull over for faster vehicles

This one is more about etiquette and the aloha spirit. On one lane roads, it is just better for everyone if you let the speeders pass you by.

2. Plan for a full day and leave early

We left our condo just after 7am and returned just after 7pm (post-sunset). I’m not a fan of driving those roads in the dark and it really is a full day. Beat the crowds and start early.

3. Leave with a Full tank of Gas

There are no gas stations between Paia and Hana so do not make the mistake of expecting to find gas on the road.

4. Find good music

My favourite part about road trips is singing loudly and car dancing with friends. Katie and I fell madly in love with the station 99.9 Kiss FM – Maui’s Best Mix of Yesterday & Today. One minute you’re belting it out to Sam Smith and the next minute you’re dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun! What could be better than that?

5. Prepare for Rain

Hana is lush and tropical for good reason. It is one of the most rained on places on Earth, so be prepared with something to dry off with and some protection if you plan on walking around a lot.

6. Eat the Banana Bread

I don’t care if you don’t like bananas – eat the bread! Yes, I am bossy. You’ll thank me later.

7. Don’t Stop Everywhere, but do stop where you want

As I mentioned, the best stops are past Hana so if you stop at every bridge and shoulder with a view you are never going to make it in one day. We definitely made some unplanned stops because the view was just too good not to but we definitely passed on a lot of spots. Trust me, you will see amazing things no matter what!

8. Bring snacks and water

There are not a lot of restaurants between Paia and Hana (and basically nothing on the backside) so we packed a full day of snacks and water so that we would have enough energy to tackle all of the awesome sights on the way. Plus we never had to wait in lines to buy food. Efficiency is sexy people!


Our little engine that could – 2014 Ford Focus

If you can stomach up the courage to rent a car and drive the Road to Hana, I highly recommend it. In this case it really is (as cliché as it sounds) all about the journey, not the destination.

What about you? Have you ever consider driving the Road to Hana?

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater & Turtle Town

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater & Turtle Town

I like to consider myself a fairly adventurous person. I love heights (and jumping from heights). I will eat pretty much anything. I enjoy road trips, climbing, hiking, and camping. I grew up exploring a wide variety of water sports from tubing to knee boarding to wake boarding. But for some reason I’ve always been a little bit frightened of the ocean.

Even though I live on the beach and could spend all day every day looking at the blue waves crashing on the seashore, I’m still a bit hesitant to merge my land loving life with what lies under the sea. I think it has to do with all of the deadly sea creatures just waiting to sting, bite, and dismember me. But, fortunately, I know that this fear is mostly irrational (but not entirely – shark attacks happen people!) and I have taken the plunge in many beautiful spots around the world… most notably snorkeling in the Red Sea and the South China Sea. And if truth be told, I’ve always enjoyed snorkeling.

So on my recent trip to Maui I decided to join my aquaphile bestie on yet another snorkel trip. I knew it would be fun but I certainly didn’t expect it to be the highlight of my trip!


Molokini Crater

We started off the day at Maalaea harbor where we boarded the Pride of Maui and took our seats for a one hour sail to the first stop. We knew we were in for an excellent day when the crew was already serving my favourite Kona coffee at registration. We filled up on delicious Maui pineapple at the breakfast buffet and braced ourselves for what was shaping up to be a fabulous day!


Our first stop was the beautiful Molokini crater, which offers exceptionally clear water with visibility reliably in excess of 150 feet. The healthy coral reef is sheltered in the arms of the crater creating an amazing underwater sanctuary. And to Katie’s delight… a bird sanctuary above. Her major dilemma of the day was how to manage her face time… in the water vs. looking up at the sky. Molokini snorkeling is truly a unique experience, as there are only 3 volcanic calderas including Molokini in the entire world!


We swam for about an hour enjoying the calm currents and thousands of fish. My fears were completely forgotten as I eagerly asked Katie to identify all of the brightly coloured fish I was seeing. It turns out that it is pretty handy having a science/marine/animal expert for a travel buddy.

OV02 IMG_2744 OV14_2

Back on board we set sail again for our second stop of the day – Turtle Town. While we enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch we spotted North Pacific Humpback whales in the distance. This was a thrilling surprise as whale season was just wrapping up and we weren’t expecting to see any on our trip. We eventually settled just off the Southern coast of Maui near Nahuna point where we hoped to be able to swim with the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

OV20 IMG_2664

This area is home for the protected sea turtles who were soon bombarded with snorkelers ignoring the rules to stay 10 feet away and not swim overtop of the surface breathing reptiles. I got a bit frustrated by the crowds so I swam off on my own and quickly found my own personal turtle to observe for over 20 minutes. I swam alongside as my new little friend surfaced and dove down to the volcanic coral. I feel so privileged to have experienced that moment.


I was beyond elated when I climbed back aboard the Pride of Maui for an early happy hour at the open bar. Katie and I raised our Mai Tai’s in the air to celebrate a truly wonderful morning that we won’t soon forget.


The Best Food I ate in Maui

The Best Food I ate in Maui

“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” ― Anthony Bourdain

I am not a foodie by any stretch of the imagination but I do love to eat. And to me, experiencing the local cuisine is one of the best parts about travel.

When I casually mentioned to friends and family that I was going to Maui for a quick long weekend getaway I was flooded with enough restaurant recommendations to easily feed me for 3 weeks. I had to prioritize all of the delicious local delicacies due to my limited time and these were the meals that topped my list.

Macadamia Nut Pancakes with Coconut Syrup: 5 Palms Restaurant in Wailea IMG_3517 If you have not had coconut syrup on pancakes then you haven’t truly lived. It is without-a-doubt the best topping and is best experienced in Hawaii where everything tastes more tropical and delicious.

Fish Tacos: Paia Fish Market in Paia IMG_3396 If I could eat fish tacos every day, I think I probably would. There is an abundance of amazing fish tacos to be found on Maui and these ones made of the tropical Ono fish (meaning “sweet, very good to eat”) definitely hit the spot.

Ali’i Plate: Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina IMG_3408 We didn’t have time to attend a luau during our short 4-day stay in Maui, so instead we o