A Taste of the Pura Vida Life

YOU GUYS….I’d had Costa Rica on my bucket list for a while, but wanted to wait until I was able to take more vacation days so that I could spend longer there.  I knew there was so much to see and explore, and I wanted to take advantage of all of it! Finally though, after obsessively checking flight prices, I decided to just take the leap and go with the short time I had. Jungle, coastlines, extreme sports/adventures, biodiversity- you name it, I knew there was so much to discover about the #puravida way.

Now that I have returned, I can say Costa Rica was not only worth the hype it gets, but also one of my FAVORITE trips to date, especially because of the incredible people I met. (Oh, and the whole run-in with the police is an entertaining story, too.) Let’s back up, though–

I flew into San José and stayed one night in the city. I met an amazing older woman, Lynn, at my hostel. She was in her sixties, divorced, with two grown daughters, in better shape than me, and had been traveling C.R. for over a month. It isn’t often that you meet an older woman traveling solo (let alone staying in hostels) and I instantly was inspired by her story. She was #goals for multiple reasons.

Our hostel was located right near the National Museum of Costa Rica (shown below). A huge fan of street art, I spent the first afternoon wandering around, admiring the murals:

And the early evening relaxing in a hammock at the hostel with a beer after dinner:

The next day, I met up with Cassandra (from Haiti, living in N.Y.), who was also staying at my hostel, and we caught a city bus to Irazú Volcano. Look at this crater! The color is just unbelievable.

This is also where we met Alex and Kayo- two friends/coworkers from Nashville who were traveling together, and Jerdy, another solo traveler from the Netherlands. We were a fast group of friends. On the bus back to San José, we decided to take a detour and get off at Cartago.

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Posing in front of the Templo Inconcluso de Santiago Apóstol.

This is where it became evident that sometimes it’s more about who you are with than where you are. The five of us shared dinner together, so many laughs, and too many stories. Check out some of the sights we saw wandering the town below: La Negrita, the Black Madonna shrine at Our Lady of the Angels Basilica, Santiago Apostól Parish Ruins, etc.

Alex and Kayo, who had rented a car, decided to switch up their travel plans and drive to La Fortuna the next morning with me, so I got to spend more time with them. Jerdy came for the ride as well.

This is where shit gets fun- somewhere near Sarapiqui, along highway 4, we’re cut off by a police SUV, apparently for crossing a yellow line. We were shocked, and a little scared. And then, a little suspicious…

They tried to fine us $500, but with Jerdy’s Spanish and expert persuading, we ended up being able to give them a $20 bill and driving away. Alex’s grip was more focused on the wheel after that, for sure.

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Always an adventure! HA

But, we made it there! First on our list was to visit La Fortuna waterfall. I thought about ditching the boys once I found this friend:

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Kidding. I could never. We became a family so quickly! These intentional, unbreakable bonds that form when you’re on the road, away from home, soaking in moments. And to be able to stumble out of the wooded path into this clearing, where the water rushed down, was a sight I loved sharing with them.

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La Fortuna waterfall was gorgeous, no doubt. And Alex is a fantastic photographer.

We all dove in- well, maybe not dove, because the water was absolutely frigid, but you couldn’t not experience it!

We spent the rest of the day at a water hole where tons of locals hung out and did the rope swing. I was impressed by their talent! I, for one, knew my nonathletic self and also got my fill of the cool water. Later that evening, we connected after the hike with a guide, Daniel, who took us to a local hot springs. It was honestly amazing, being able to slide down the rocks like a gigantic waterslide, traverse underwater caves, drink whiskey from the bottle, and talk about life under only the moonlight and the soft glow of a lamp, hung on shore.

The next day I had booked a tour to Arenal National Park, where we hiked Arenal Volcano and walked across the hanging bridges. It was otherworldly. We may or may not have been slightly hungover from our late night. But we powered through, admiring the beauty of rainbow trees and watching for monkeys swinging through the branches. Just scrolling through the collage below, you can tell, it was easy to disconnect, and feel connected here…

I’ve been traveling for almost a decade now, and I have met a lot of people as a solo traveler. And as anyone who travels frequently or long term can attest to, there are friends you make that do become like your family. These guys carved out their own…the way we instantly felt as ease with one another, made each other laugh, let stories flow as swift as that water rushing into the natural pool below- some things are natural.

And some natural things, like the lushness of the jungle, rugged beaches, towering volcanoes, or the biodiversity in Costa Rica, are just unreal. I loved this country, and I can’t wait to return someday. I want to soak a little longer in the simple life, the pure life. There is meaning here. Until then-

 Pura vida!

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Twenty-nine, Trinidad & Tobago

What do you do when you’re feelin’ fine & about to turn 29? Book a flight to Trini, of course!   Image result for heart eye emoji

I’ve been making it my mission to give myself a birthday gift in the form of a trip each year, and this was no exception. I traveled solo to Trinidad & Tobago after snagging a decent flight. A relaxing, tropical adventure awaited me. Or did it?

Of course, this was another short trip- flying into Piarco International Airport, spending time in Port of Spain- near Newtown. I spent my first full day walking around the entire perimeter of Queen’s Park Savannah, past the U.S. Embassy (which was conveniently very close to my hostel), the Queen’s Royal College, Archbishop’s House, Stollmeyer’s Castle, Emperor Valley Zoo, National Museum & Art Gallery, and the not-to-be-missed National Academy for the Performing Arts, etc.. But I wasn’t here for just the city…

I wanted to spend time in Tobago, so I caught a ferry from Port of Spain to Scarborough. From there, I made my stay in Crown Point.  Sandy Point Beach, Store Bay Beach, Coconut Bay, Swallow’s Beach, and Pigeon Point were my home grounds, and they were all close and gorgeous beaches! On my last day, the island did get hit with some rain, but I took cover at Bago’s Beach Bar and made friends with the locals. And don’t worry- before that, I’d gotten plenty of time with my booty in the sand, and a fresh coconut in my hand.

Just check it out:

Gorgeous, right?! If I still had a drink in hand, I’d cheers ya in the tropics– but until next time…

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P.S. Have you ever traveled for your birthday? If so, I’d love to hear the destination and how the experience was for you!

Sweet St. Louis

Wow, y’all. I believe this is now my SIXTH Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention- my fourth as an alumna. The first two were in Pittsburgh, PA and New Orleans, LA during my undergraduate years. Then came Minneapolis, MN, Louisville, KY, and Cincinnati, OH. And now, St. Louis, MO!

I’ll never forget when I was in the Uber, heading from the airport to my hotel, when I caught my first glimpse of the Gateway Arch.

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I stayed at a hotel right in downtown, where I could see it from my window. I also checked out Busch Stadium, Forest Park, the Cathedral Basilica, and Citygarden Sculpture Park. There was plenty more to see, but as usual, I was only in the city for a couple days. I presented my poetry collection and made a couple new friends, and tried the best BBQ ever.

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I also visited the Botanical Gardens, shown here.

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As you can see from my photos, one of my favorite things about this city was the incredible street art and murals!

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These images were taken on a rainy walk through the Mural Mile.

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Such wonderful memories here in sweet St. Louis!

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Next year, the convention will be held in Las Vegas– so make sure to stay tuned to find out if I get accepted and what adventures await, if so!

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H-Town Vicious

Why yes, I’m referring to the Beyoncé song, “Bow Down.” And speaking of Queen B, I visited her hometown this year, and am here to tell you it’s irreplaceable. So get in formation, ladies & gentleman–

Remember when I went to Belize and met these amazing friends, and then went to Mexico with them a couple months later, and then again to Cuba? I had yet to actually hang out with them in the States, since I live in Pennsylvania and they live in Texas. However, that changed when I visited for a weekend, for my first time at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo!  (I did not realize this was a thing. And it’s a HUGE thing!)

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We actually had a weekend full of concerts, as well. Cardi B at the Rodeo, and then Trampled by Turtles the next night at the White Oak Music Hall.

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Also- can’t forget the CRAWFISH! This was a first for me, and I was slightly terrified at first but then loved how messy and delicious this experience was! We also saw The Orange Show and Smither Park, two gorgeous installations of art.

 

 

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Most of our time was spent in between the Heights and downtown, so there wasn’t a lot of actual area covered, but we really packed so much into this three day weekend and I had such an absolute blast brunchin’ with these babes after Barbarella’s!

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What’s better than fried butter and friendship?!

Fried butter, frito pies, chicken and waffles, tamales, you name it! The food scene is on fire in this city! As is the weather, the nightlife, and the people. Can’t wait to visit again.

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Beachin’ in Barbados

JANUARY 18-21, 2019

My 40th country was the ever beautiful Barbados! Home to Rihanna, amazing rum punches and sunsets, and some guy that told me he’d buy me a Toyota…unless I greatly misunderstood the Bajan dialect, which is probably a safe bet.

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I met quite a few friends, including both locals and fellow travelers that became fast friends. I had flying fish for dinner, which was delicious, and chatted the night away with rum punches at some of the oceanside bars.

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I mainly stayed near Bridgetown, a port city and the capital of Barbados, and spent time on the lovely Rockley Beach, Worthing Beach, and also visited Brownes Beach, Pebble Beach, and Needhams Point. Walking along the boardwalk in the morning was one of my favorite experiences. It was beautiful to watch the waves crash into the white sand and feel the warm sun on my shoulders, not yet overpowering in the heat of the day.

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Like the graffiti? I had to send a photo to my mom 🙂

Barbados is such a friendly island and even though it is small in size (21 miles by 14 miles, to be exact) there was so much I wanted to do and see before my weekend there was up. I didn’t get to try pudding and souse, but I sampled Banks beer & Mount Gay rum while hanging out at the Chill Cafe.

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If you get the opportunity for an island getaway, I highly recommend Barbados as a tropical escape!

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Keeping it Cool in Curaçao

Thanksgiving looked a little different this year- no turkey at the dinner table or family all around me. I spent it with another love, one I’m grateful for: traveling solo. I am so thankful for the opportunity to see yet another gorgeous place in this world.

I decided to spend some time in Curaçao for a warm getaway, and was lucky enough to have a layover in Panama City, Panama on the way. I only had a short time in Casco Viejo and tried to make the most of it.

Walking around the beautiful Plaza de Francia (day & night).

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The view of the city looking out over the water was spectacular, as was the contrast of old & new cities.

I quickly stumbled upon the Cathedral of Panama, as it was right near my hotel and hard to miss. One of the oldest structures in the city.

Sunrise the next morning as I slowly made my way to the airport:

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Wandering around Plaza Tomás Herrera & Plaza de la Independencia

Aren’t these streets so colorful and charming?

Outside Iglesia La Merced

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Next: Curaçao

This was the weekend of the marathon, and also a busy time around the holidays, but this town was a breath of fresh air. Here I am posing on the Queen Emma Bridge. Also, speaking of posing- check out that bird in the photo above. I mean, come on…

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Cool drinks, cooler town.

La Bohème was the spot!

 

Sights around Pietermaai District:

Taking some time to relax on my last day.

This waterrrrrrr though.

Fresh fruit “pizza,” holiday decor, and crystal blue waters. Name a better trio.

Love seeing this view, hate seeing it go.

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Eat. Drink. Travel. Sleep. Repeat.

Until then,

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Havana Good Time

I stepped back in time with the two best friends a girl could ask for. Havana, Cuba was unlike any place I’d ever been.

From the bright colored homes, classic cars, and heart of the Cuban people, nothing was more spirited.

We saw Fusterlandia (above) and admired the beautiful works of art. Then, we sampled different rums, savored the most delicious (and only) flaming coffee I’d ever had, and I had my first cigar, which I loved! We brought several back 😉

From Old Havana, to Mafia Mojitos, we soaked in every experience.

Getting lost around the capital.

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And come on, our balcony view was right near the famous Malecón!

We also caught El Morro cannon celebration and the most breathtaking sunset! What a way to end a trip of a lifetime.

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Please- If you are from the U.S., do not let what is going on right now steer you away from this incredible country. I urge you to see it for yourself. You can get a visa at the airport like we did for support of the Cuban people. Stay at an AirBnB and exchange money beforehand. All things were actually less of a hassle than we expected.

This is one place you will be so happy you didn’t miss!
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Cincy

In the past, I have written a couple posts about the Sigma Tau Delta International English Convention. Read my first post here, and about the 2016 conference in Minneapolis and the 2017 conference in Louisville.

I just returned from the 2018 convention in Cincinnati. It was a whirlwind of a weekend! On the way there, I started off with a stop at one of my new favorites in Columbus: Winans. Chocolate and wine, you can’t go wrong…

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Once in Cincinnati, I spent most of the first day exploring. It was a cloudy day, but still beautiful nonetheless. Below are some of my favorite sights in the Queen City:

*Roebling Suspension Bridge, Smale Riverfront Park*

*Great American Ball Park, Findlay Market*

*Hathaway’s Diner- I could eat all my meals in this charming, old-school place.*

 

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10/10 recommend!

I gave my presentation on Saturday afternoon and connected instantly to the brilliant writers: DeAndra, Eric, and Korbin.

*Rhinegheist Brewery*

Speaking of murals, Cincy has plenty!

*At the Red & Black Conventions Award Gala with my two guys, where my poetry collection was awarded a prize.*

And the next night, I got to reunite with my best friend from high school, who was visiting town.

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Already can’t wait to see what next year’s convention has in store.

See you in 2019, St. Louis!

 

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DOPEnhagen

Q: What do you get when you gather seven friends, set them loose in a historic capital city, subtract your worries, multiply Carlsbergs and explored streets, and add in another country border crossing?

A: An unforgettable weekend.

My first impression of Copenhagen was that it reminded me somewhat of Amsterdam: the canals, the amount of bicycles, art and architecture, etc. But the Danish and the Dutch are quite different!

Our first stop was Nyhavn, the famous canal with brightly colored waterfront homes, shopping, restaurants, and more. We stopped for some smørrebrød before continuing past the wooden ships in the harbor.

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Nyhavn

On the way to the iconic Little Mermaid statue, we stumbled upon St. Alban’s Church and the picturesque landscape surrounding it.

The city itself was very walkable, and public transportation was also convenient. I got the tourist card for 72 hours at the airport, which came in handy for the metro, buses, and trains. By the end of the afternoon, we made a final stop at Tivoli Gardens, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was an amusement park, but it was the middle of February. Surely nothing would be open and running. Wrong. Not only was this park a winter wonderland with its beautiful and brightly shining lights, but it was quite the happening place! We went for a ride on the antique roller coaster, screaming with delight as it whipped around corners and cut through the night.

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Tivoli- winter wonderland

The next day, we wandered Strøget window shopping and climbed Rundertaarn, a round tower with an incredible view of the city, as seen below:

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Other notable sights: Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace and the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle.

Sunday afternoon, we took a train to Malmö, Sweden.

It was awesome to spend the afternoon in another country, wandering the city squares, stopping for a drink, and seeking out the Turning Torso tower.

We saw Stortorget, the oldest square, and got our bearings as we searched for the next café or landmark destination.

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All of the locals we encountered in both countries were exceptionally helpful and friendly. It only added to the already charming cities.

Our final stop was Öresund Bridge, which was a breathtaking view as the sunset stretched across the sky. I’ve never seen such beautiful blue and peach hues. Crazy how many moments you want to bottle up just so you could relive them again.

After arriving back in Copenhagen, we explored Christiana (Freetown) in the dark, which was really trippy, but such an interesting place.

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If you ever get the opportunity to go, I can’t recommend it enough. Truly Dopenhagen. This was without a doubt a weekend for the books!

Until next time,

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UnBelizeable

As 2017 drew to a close, I knew I wanted to take advantage of all my time off work for the holiday season.

My parents and I flew to Florida to spend Christmas with my brother, his wife, and their daughter. We visited Destin, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola, ate way too much, and truly enjoyed our time together as a family again.

It was a beautiful change from the snowy weather back north!

Shortly after, I flew solo to Belize City for one last international trip before the craziness of 2018 began.

Although Belize has a bad reputation and certain parts of Belize City are indeed VERY dangerous, (consistently ranking as one of the highest homicide rates in the world) I am so grateful that I did not let this hold me back from going.  I had a safe trip there and back, and made friends with other tourists and many locals. It was hard to not enjoy all the beauty the country had to offer. I stayed in San Pedro, and took the ferry back to Belize City where I met Carlos, who showed me the best parts of his country.  Here was my first full day- packed with lots of adventure:

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Visiting Altun Ha ruins.

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Ziplining through the jungle!

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Cave tubing 🙂

I would highly recommend those who are thrill seekers to check it out! And though I’ve explored caves before, I was pleasantly surprised by how different my perspective was with cave tubing.

That evening, some friends and I went to Wahoo’s Lounge for the world famous “Chicken Drop.” You guessed it- we bought tickets and watched as a chicken strutted around on the board, hoping that it would take a shit on our number. It was easily one of the most ridiculously interesting things I’ve ever experienced.

The next day I traveled to Caye Caulker, one of Belize’s most famous destinations, to relax and have some island fun. I couldn’t imagine being surrounded by these incredible views and calling this place my home. Would I ever get tired of it?

I spent the late afternoon at the Lazy Lizard enjoying a drink and jumping into the crystal water.

There is so much more I could say about this trip, from turtle talk to late night exploration, to the friendships I formed, but some things can’t be put into words. I’ll leave you with these highlights, until next time.

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