West Coast, Best Coast?

I am from still debating…but this trip made it hard to not want to stay out west.

Being from Pennsylvania, part of me will always have a home here in my heart, but the landscapes and weather out west are unmatched. Maybe it was the combination of seeing and meeting friends that made it so special, but still. After over a year of not really seeing my friends, (and not seeing some of these particular friends in 3-4 years!) I was more than ready to be reunited with them and have some cross country adventures. I am in my feelings all over again just thinking about it!

First, I arrived in Flagstaff and met up with my friend JT, where he was on a weeklong vacation to see the Grand Canyon and some surrounding areas. Together, along with three of his friends (who quickly became mine, too) we visited not only the great Grand Canyon, but took a side-by-side through Sedona, swam in Lake Powell, dared to look down over Glen Canyon Dam, and felt lucky at Horseshoe Bend. (I’m fortunate that JT is a videographer, so stay tuned for some awesome footage of this trip! And check out his wedding videos & website here.)

Grand Canyon:

Glen Canyon/Lake Powell/Horseshoe Bend, etc.

Sedona:

It just so happened that my incredible friend from home, Eli, was also in Flagstaff because he was going to RUN the Grand Canyon. Yeah, you heard right. Bright Angel trail, the rim of almost 50 miles. Insane. Anyway, there was one night of overlap so I got to see him for a couple hours the night before his big run! He does a lot of epic things like this and raises money for the Inclusive Outdoors Project, which you should know about (and donate if you’re able)!

Next, I left Arizona and made my way to California, where my friend from college, Casey, picked me up from the airport and we headed back to his place with his boyfriend Taylor in Venice. It was a couple days of beach walking, hard kombucha drinking, mountain climbing, and sunset chasing, as well as time playing with Hudson, his cute pup! I also walked the famous canals, wandered down the ever-busy boardwalk (even at 7 AM!), and checked out Santa Monica Pier. (Sidecar donuts for the win!)

Before leaving, I was able to meet up with my friend and fellow Madwoman, Karla. We’re both poets that recently left Pittsburgh (she moved out to LA!) and caught up with one another over coffee. If you’re also an artist in LA or looking for one, here is her website.

Last but certainly not least, I arrived in San Diego where I met up with my high school friend Elle and her girlfriend Bria. It’s like we never missed a beat! There were so many evenings of long talks late into the night where we laughed so hard I thought I’d physically hurt myself, and days filled with trying the best tacos and most decadent ice cream, and watching an epic sunset our last night- at a spot literally called “Sunset Cliffs.” We may have talked about me moving to San Diego… and with the beauty that is the seaside, Balboa Park, and weather like that, who wouldn’t consider it? I did a day trip to La Jolla as well, made friends with some chunky seals, and had the best tacos. Check it out:

Can you believe ALL of that was just in one week?!

Like I said, I’m from the east coast and Pennsylvania will always be home, but…nice weather, awesome national parks and unique landscapes, Salt & Straw ice cream…it tugs at my heartstrings.

What do you think? West coast, best coast?

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Featured on Blog for First Time Travel Tips

I’ve mentioned a lot on this blog recently how incredible social media has been as a tool for meeting others in the travel community, forming friendships and connections, and even opening doors of opportunity.

This is the case with Jemma, who posted about an open call for travel bloggers to contribute to a group post. The questions covered top travel tips for a first time traveler, the 3 things we can’t travel without, and how travel has changed our lives. I was stoked to be a part and to contribute!

The first question is now up on a blog post on her site. There are a lot of really incredible individuals on this list with me- make sure you check them out and give them a follow!

Speaking of following, are you? This blog and @fromthissideofthesun on Instagram. 🙂

Read the post by clicking here or at http://adventureswithjem.com/2020/11/first-time-traveller-tips/

Jemma’s Instagram: @jemms.adventures

Thanks again to Jemma for having me and all who contributed!

Hoping you’re staying connected to the things, places, and people that bring you joy,

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“Smile” is Synonymous for Survival

Hi friends,

Some good news– This piece I wrote was awarded 2nd place in The Nasiona’s micro-nonfiction/poetry tournament recently:

I feel like all women (travelers or not) can unfortunately relate to this. And the emotions it brings are so complex, aren’t they? A mixture of anger, fear, shame, helplessness… Wanting to stand up for yourself but not knowing how, & being so scared it could backfire. 

Let me know what you think of the piece, or how you respond to this type of harassment, in the comments đź’›

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My Top 10 Traveling Items

Though it feels weird to post this in a time when hardly any of us are traveling, I’ve been asked this question quite a few times, and I’m hoping this will be useful to other female travelers.

*Keep in mind I’m a very low maintenance traveler. I don’t bring hair products or styling tools, and haven’t found neck pillows or eye masks to be necessary. That’s just my personal preference. Also, things like your passport, visas, money, phone, camera, etc. go without saying.*

Without further ado, here are some of the things I always bring with me on my trips:

1. A reusable water bottle

This is a must. I’ve definitely been guilty of buying a bottle of water right after getting through security before– don’t be like me.

Here’s what I use:

Not even just reusable, this water bottle is also collapsible. This is compact, and will save you (and the environment!) lots in the long run.

2. Teva sandals

I wear these constantly. They are so comfortable for walking cobblestone streets and yes– sturdy enough that I often hike in them, too!

I typically opt for the black, which matches with everything.

3. Portable charger

This shouldn’t come as a surprise- we need to stay connected on the go.

The power bank I have (shown above) has been a lifesaver in many situations where I couldn’t get to a power source. Make sure to charge ahead of time.

4. Black leggings

Go ahead and roll your eyes, but leggings are: A. stretchy and comfortable B. suitable for most weather C. easy to pack and D. again, black goes with everything, and you can easily dress it up.

I love these ones because they are high waisted, lightweight, and even come with a pocket! (Ask any female, they will tell you how exciting it is to have pockets in clothing.)

5. Packing cubes

Because organization is important, and so is saving all your precious carry-on space (and your sanity when you’re trying to find the stuff you’ve packed). These come in all sizes and colors.

I just got these ones last year for Christmas and am obsessed with the teal!

6. Lightweight Jacket

Your girl gets super chilled, super fast. Layers are always key, and even in temperate weather, you never know how fast it could turn.

I love this one, (with a hood!) perfect for walking around European cities in the fall:

And typically use this (waterproof!) one for more outdoor adventures:

* Even for warmer climates, don’t forget a shawl or scarf, especially in countries that require modest covering (i.e. entering temples in Thailand).

7. Daypack

It’s important to have some kind of smaller luggage for hiking, day trips, or any type of adventure you may find yourself on.

Gregory is one of my favorite brands, but this Osprey one is great as well.

8. While we’re on the subject of bags and backpacks, let’s talk purses.

This is an anti-theft cross body bag with tons of storage space, even for umbrellas or water bottles!

If that isn’t really your style, and you’re looking for something smaller and more sleek, I’d recommend this:

There’s also some pretty cool infinity scarves that have hidden travel pockets like these:

9. Adapter

This is obviously an absolute must if you are traveling internationally where plugins are different. Try to aim for one that has extra USB ports, so you can maximize charging time with minimal space.

Here is what I use:

Honestly, it doesn’t hurt to have two!

10. Personal safety alarms

As a solo female traveler, there are (unfortunately) extra precautions that are necessary to take. However, that shouldn’t hold you back from your dream of traveling. Here are some items that may help your peace of mind:

These loud alarms have LED lights and come in packs- great for women, kids, or elders- so there’s one for everyone in your family.

Pepper spray (above) and key whistles (below).

What’s great is that these come in multiples as well.

(If you’re forgetful or lose things like me, this will certainly come in handy.)

..And for bonus #11: A mask!!!

Be sure to follow all COVID-19 guidelines and be aware of the measures and rules in place before you get to your destinaton.

This list can go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

I’m forever interested in helpful gadgets, space-savers, and all things cute, practical, and safe to take on my trips. What’s something you always take with you? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe,

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*Disclosure: Please note that some of the links listed above are affiliate links. This is to no extra cost to you- as an Amazon affiliate I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.*

The Cinnamon Traveler Chats

Since creating my public Instagram account (@fromthissideofthesun) to showcase my travel adventures and writing, I’ve made so many connections & found friends in like-minded individuals. I’m so grateful that one of them, Edher, AKA The Cinnamon Traveler (find him on Instagram, and his Facebook page) asked to interview me on his YouTube channel.

Edher lives in Cusco, Peru and has conducted several interviews with travelers, bloggers, and more that I’ve found to be both fascinating and inspiring. He’s one of the most genuine people I’ve met, (which says a lot seeing as how we’ve only “met” a couple months ago, and have yet to meet in person!) and I’m so glad he shared his platform with me for me to tell my story as a solo female traveler.

I’m super awkward and there were some technical difficulties on my end, but I had such an amazing time chatting with him! Check out the full interview here.

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Safe travels to the fridge and back for now,

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A Glimpse of Guatemala

February 27- March 2, 2020

Them: “Why would you want to go there?”

Me: “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I?”

Them: “Well, isn’t it dangerous?”

That’s what I heard, almost every time I told somebody that I was traveling to Guatemala. And while it’s true that there is a high crime rate here, it should not stop you from seeing this incredible country!

But let’s be honest– I hear that reaction often, no matter the destination. As a young(ish) woman, going alone isn’t (or hasn’t always been) common.  But luckily, all the solo female travelers I know and have met are breaking that mold wide open, saying to hell with the stereotypes. Some do it to prove to others that they can, but a lot of us started traveling solo to prove it to ourselves that we could. And then we became hooked and never stopped.

Also, look at what’s happening here in my country! Terrible things can happen even at home. So anyway, back to Guatemala.

As always, do your research before visiting, (stay away from hot spots in Guatemala City), avoid traveling at night, make sure someone back home knows your location/itinerary, use licensed taxis & book transport in advance, do not carry expensive items, and be especially mindful of your belongings when out & about.

This was one of my weekend warrior travel adventures- a quick 3-4 days in the beautiful country.

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A peaceful afternoon reflection, Tanque La UniĂłn.

I stayed in Antigua during the duration of my short trip, because it was 1. the most charming town, and 2. an easy departure point for a lot of popular day trips and other excursions. There are a lot of options for getting from the La Aurora International Airport to Antigua. For time and safety’s sake, I chose to pre-book a shuttle. There was one other woman on the shuttle, and we became quick friends. I’ll never forget both of our reactions when we first arrived in this quaint town.

You’ve probably seen the famous landmark, Santa Catalina Arch, shown below:

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Santa Catalina Archway was built in the 1800s and is a bright landmark in the town.

Cerro de la Cruz was a beautiful and totally manageable hike from the center of town. You can easily get there using your phone’s GPS, a map, or just following the signs. You have a clear view of the whole city and Volcán de Agua in front. Also, volcanoes Acatenango & Fuego will be to the side when you look out, so be sure to watch for frequent eruptions! Together, the volcano complex is known as La Horqueta.

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As far as food goes, RincĂłn TĂ­pico is hands down a great choice for delicious authentic food! Go early to get a spot. You’ll see women out front making tortillas. The serving size is plentiful, comes with a natural juice, and is budget-friendly.

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I don’t even have to tell you that the coffee and the chocolate from this country is just the bestttttttt. Some favorite cafes:

-Fernando’s Kaffee is delightful, with the owner’s spotlight-stealing friendly cat, Misha, who soaks in the sun

-CafĂ© La Parada, which isn’t as lovely on the inside, but has some great coffee!

-Antigua Brewing Company, because who doesn’t want to sit on a rooftop & enjoy some craft brews?

-Cafe No Se, perfect atmosphere for cocktails, great vibe & even better Mezcal

Make sure you check out a restaurant/bar with rooftop views (see photo 3, above), and try fresh mango which you can buy on nearly any street corner, and enjoy it while you people watch at Parque Central (photo 4).

Other captivating highlights include: Convento Capuchinas, Antigua Cathedral, Santo Domingo (look out for parrots!), and the ChocoMuseo!

For my day trips:

Pacaya Volcano: This was an early start, and you get the option to take a horse up if you’d like, but I chose to hike up with new friends: Susan from Australia, and Sohil & Hammad who live in Canada. It was a truly awesome group, and we watched the sun set against the lava flow & eruption clouds. Note: If you have more time, I’d definitely check out Acatenango Volcano and do an overnight tour/hike!

It’s amazing how fast that sun sinks, but isn’t it breathtaking at every point in the day/night?

Lake Atitlán & surrounding villages: I had a couple friends who stayed at the lake, and had I had more time, I probably would’ve done the same.

We visited San Pedro, San Juan, and Santiago. Our departure point was Panajachel. Be prepared for bold colored crafts, blue stretch of water as far as you can see, and sweeping views of Atitlán volcano. We all loved visiting here.

A really incredible experience was watching this woman wrap her hair. We were told to time how long it took her, and I did- under 2 minutes! Her hands were steady, her smile welcoming, and her story was amazing. Pictured on the Guatemalan centavo coin is ConcepciĂłn RamĂ­rez, a peace activist. Her portrait is referred to as the “woman of the choca.” Here I am pictured wearing a tocoyal. (They aren’t light- and I could never wrap this myself, so kudos, as usual, to these amazing women.)

As you can see, I squeezed as much as I could out of my time in Guatemala. I also couldn’t get to Tikal, which is one of the most famous ancient ruin sites. There is always more to see, slower travel to savor, and shared memories to make.

And, in the way that travel does,  it flirts with you. So this was just a little taste. I’m so grateful I went when I could because it was right before COVID-19 swept through our world and borders closed.

Until next time, stay craving adventure in whatever shape it takes, even if it’s keeping you grounded—

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Travel Blur: A Long Weekend in Liechtenstein & Portugal

SEPTEMBER 26-30, 2018

Looking back, 2018 was one of my craziest travel years to date. I’d just ended the last day of 2017 in Belize, spent a whirlwind long weekend in between Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden, a month later jetted off to Mexico with friends I’d met in Belize, spent two perfect weeks in June studying poetry in the heart of Dublin, Ireland, welcomed July in Colorado and ended it in Maine, spent my birthday in Puerto Rico, stepped back in time in Havana, Cuba in August, and that’s what brings me here: a slice of time from September to October when I was so lucky to visit two AMAZING countries: Liechtenstein and Portugal. (I ended the year by dipping into Panama City, Panama & then dipping my toes into the beaches of Curaçao, but that’s for another post.)

My friend Sarah, who I met through my friend & coworker Debra, was also a passionate traveler and was working and living in Europe at the time. We had talked about meeting up somewhere in the world, but it just felt like a far-off venture that probably wouldn’t work out.
Until, it did.
We both had been wanting to go to Portugal, and miraculously our schedules aligned! I took a couple days before arriving in Portugal to meet up with my friend Cathy, who I had met in my MFA program. Cathy lives in Liechtenstein with her family and had often told me of the gorgeous mountain views she saw on her early morning hikes, but experiencing it with her was another thing. Putting on our sweatshirts and shoes in the dark, we climbed up the hills, past farms and pastures, and watched the sun come over the town below.

While I was there, Cathy brought me to her son’s school to speak to the kids about poetry. I didn’t realize how nervous I would be- I have no clue how to be in front of middle schoolers, y’all. I know how important poetry is, and what it means to me, but how could I ever relate that to a group of eleven year olds? Regardless, I was so honored she had invited me.

Cathy took me to the Werdenberg Castle, showed me Vaduz and the art in Städtle, but my favorite place was her kitchen, right in the heart of her home with the big picture windows, sitting with a glass of white wine and laughing.

After our short time together, I caught a flight to meet up with Sarah, and we set out to see as much as possible in two of Portugal’s most beautiful cities, Lisbon and Porto.

We started out in Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and it did not disappoint!

Lisbon highlights:

Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge
JerĂłnimos monastery
Torre de Belém
pastéis de nata
Tram 28/funiculars
Mercado da Ribeira (market)
Alfama District (hill, old town)
Rossio Square/Pedro IV Square (peoplewatching, eating/drinking)
the Bairro Alto (nightlife)
the PadrĂŁo dos Descobrimentos
LX Factory
Check out all of the amazing street art, too!

OOH, we also took a day trip to Sintra/Pena Palace/Cascais, which is gorgeous and I would definitely recommend:

We packed a lot of fun into Lisbon, but nothing could prepare us for what the cobblestone streets of Portugal’s second largest city, (known for its port wine production) would lead us down…

We drank as much of the city in as we could ❤

Porto highlights:

The Cais da Ribeira/ LuĂ­s I Bridge
Clérigos Tower
Avenida dos Aliados
Graham’s Port Lodge
TelefĂ©rico de Gaia – Estação Cais de Gaia
Funicular dos Guindais
Croft Port
Muralha Primitiva
Pillory of Porto
Igreja dos Clérigos
Igreja do Carmo
Praça de Lisboa
SĂŁo Bento Station (beautiful station from the 1800s)
Câmara Municipal do Porto (city hall)

Full transparency, there aren’t a ton of photos from Porto due to the many glasses of wine you see pictured above.

Some memories you can’t capture 🙂 I had the time of my life with Sarah and I’m SO glad it worked out for us to cross off a bucketlist destination together.

Portugal, you’re more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. Your landscape, architecture, seafood, and of course, wine, are still spinning in my head.

xoxo,

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