Budget Travel Expert, Author, Solo Traveler, Wanderstay Hotels Owner

Passports & Pizzazz


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Milwaukee: 4th WITS in a row

I had the pleasure of speaking at my 4th annual WITS (Women In Travel Summit) and I couldn’t be happier!

It’s also my first time in Milwaukee!

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Hostel International and ME! A relationship meant to BE!

I have had the opportunity to travel to over 25 countries thus far and during half of those trips, I have utilized HOSTELS! I stayed in my first hostel in South Korea years ago and have been hooked ever since~

I am even working on starting my own hostel business in 2017…

So it was a pleasure when Hostelling International USA asked me to be on their “Community Hostelling Committee” and to also become a volunteer in the Houston area where I will be doing monthly travel presentations.

I am happy to be working with this amazing organization, getting the word out about hostels, and helping people have the opportunity to travel the world.

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40 Days and 40 nights (Fiji, Bali, Thailand, and Australia)

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In December of 2013 I started my 40 day journey across 4 countries: Australia, Fiji, Bali and Thailand. Being the budget traveler I am, I searched for deals high and low online and was soon able to book all four destinations including flight and lodging for under $2,500 USD. First stop on my list: Melbourne, Australia followed by Nadi, Fiji, Bangkok, Thailand and Kuta, Bali.

 

Before visiting these magnificent countries, I did my research to figure out what type of activities I wanted to participate in while visiting and I have listed a few of the activities I participated in:

 

Thailand: Grand Palace, Wat Po, MBK Mall, Floating Market, Tiger Temple, Pattaya Beach, Calypso Musical

 

Bali: Silent Temple, Batur Sari Volcano, Monkey Temple

 

Fiji: Snorkeling, Mud Pool, Waterfall, Festive Dancing Shows, Island Hopping

 

Melbourne: Federation Square, St. Kilda Beach, Great Ocean Road, Hosier Lane

Upon returning home from my fabulous journey,the question I received the most was: “Which country was your favorite?” This question is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite: you can’t really answer it! Each place had something different and special to offer. Read below to see my thoughts.

 

Bangkok, Thailand: 5 nights

I was very excited to visit the capital of Thailand as my first introduction to the country. Bangkok, a very big, busy, and noisy city had a lot to offer, too. From the night markets that sold everything from fruit to scorpions and maggots to the abundance of massage parlors where you could get an hour Thai massage for less than $10 USD. Getting around the city was also pretty simple, I had the hotel where I stayed write down the address of the places I wanted to visit in Thai so I could simply show the cab driver where I wanted to go- it helped with the language barrier and it made me feel a bit more comfortable traveling solo around the city.

 

Highlight of trip: Riding Elephants at the Samyook Elephant Camp

 

Nadi, Fiji: 4 nights

In one word, Fiji was absolutely GORGEOUS. This is a place I will have to visit again and stay longer. Nadi is literally filled with thousands of beautiful green trees and crystal blue water. The air feels totally different than the air anywhere else that I have ever been. The Fiji natives were probably some of the nicest people I have ever met. I spent my days in Fiji snorkeling, lying out on the beach, riding speed boats from island to island and mixing and mingling my the natives. No trip to Fiji is complete without attending a Kava ceremony. Kava, is a local Fiji drink that is very popular among the locals. The taste is quite unique and is something you must experience while in Fiji.

 

Highlight of trip: Being invited to a local’s house for traditional Fijian diner.

 

Melbourne, Australia: 4 nights

 

Melbourne is such a great city for young people on the go. It is a very progressive place that houses many different kinds of people. I have a friend who lives in Melbourne so I got to experience it from a local’s point of view. I experienced eating at one of the many small cafes tucked away in the back of the shopping mall, I rode the free city tram around downtown Melbourne and observed all the scrambling tourists traveling from here to there, and I visited the infamous Hosier Lane, a street in the downtown area of Melbourne where locals can literally spray paint on the walls. The art was beautiful and quite original, it’s definitely a must see while in the city.

 

Highlight of trip: Sipping a hot mocha at one of the small cafes while having lunch with a friend

 

Kuta, Bali: 4 nights

 

After watching the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” I, like many other tourists, had a strong desire to visit Bali. While visiting Bali I wanted to experience the temples, the infamous Silent Retreat, and visit a medicine man.

 

I got to experience all of that and more. I spent one night in a silent retreat where the only rule was not to speak to anyone verbally. It was amazing. I prayed. I cried. I read books. I stared at the beautiful green trees. It was an experience I will never forget.

 

I also got the chance to visit the Monkey Temple where hundreds of monkeys literally surround a religious temple. The monkeys are sacred and while visiting the temple, you are in their territory and must respect them at all times. This is also a must do while in Bali.

 

If you are into massages and pampering, as I am- you will love Bali. I was able to go to a 4 star salon and get a 45 minute facial, 60 minute massage, manicure, and pedicure for a total price of $32 USD. That’s right- $32. The prices were so low I was able to afford a massage everyday of my journey.

 

Highlight of trip: Visiting the Silent Temple

 

(*Sydney, Australia, is where I spent the other 23 days)

 


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New Orleans: City of Jazz, Great food, and Nice people

 

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At the ripe old age of 26, I finally made it down to Louisiana to visit New Orleans. I don’t know what took me so long to get here either! I entered the city of NOLA on July 4th for the Essence Festival and that’s when the fun began! The people at Essence knew exactly what they were doing when they chose New Orleans to be the host city for their annually festival. The native people were so nice, the food was yummy, and the city was beautiful. Being the foodie I am, one of my first stops was a visit to the soul food restaurant, ‘Ma Momma’s House,’ on Crowder Avenue and boy was that food amazing! I ordered my usual of chicken and waffles and fell in love at first bite! After my delicious lunch I decided to go visit the well known BOURBON STREET! Bourbon Street was both amazing and surreal at the same time: the plethora of people, loud music, and the random street performances made for an exciting time. I stopped and entered some of the bars on strip, had a couple of drinks and decided to call it at night after a very eventful day.

The next morning I decided I not only wanted to experience the tourist parts of NOLA but also the everyday NOLA so I decided to go visit the 9th ward which was one of the areas greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina. While driving through the area I noticed that 8 years later some homes were rebuilt and I could tell that some neighborhoods had been totally abandoned. I got the chance to drive past the homes that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie built through their foundation ‘Make it Right’. While circling the neighborhoods I admit I got quite sad- the thought of thousands of people losing their lives in the very area I drove through was a lot to take in but at the same time I was happy to know that the people of NOLA stood together then and even now the sense of bonding was very evident in the community. I finished up my New Orleans tour by visiting areas such as Frenchman’s Quarter, where the locals hang out and Magazine Street, a place to shop and dine at great restaurants.

The next few days I spent in New Orleans were full of activities: concerts, dining at restaurants with authentic NOLA foods and running into celebrities at random places. The Essence festival had events lasting for 4 days and they had something for everyone young and old. I would recommend visiting New Orleans at least once in your life time but especially during the Essence Festival weekend.(Usually the 4th of July weekend)