We Travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. - Anais Nin

I think there's a little piece of every female that holds onto the fantasy of living her life  like a movie. I have a theory that this is the reason so many of us take weekend getaways to New York City. We want to meet the man of our dreams on top of the Empire State Building.  We want to drink coffee in cozy cafes before ice skating in Rockefeller Center. And of course, we want channel our inner Carrie Bradshaw and drink cosmopolitans in $3,000 stilettos at the socialite event of the season. Can we actually achieve these things when we arrive in the Big Apple? Probably not, but being surrounded by the sights and sounds of such an iconic place allows us to pretend.

This Autumn I learned that the best time to capture the magic of New York City may not necessarily be during the holiday season, but rather the Fall. Please let me reassure you that, regardless of the season, your girlfriends are still the best company. Remember my solo female travel soulmates from Tuscany? It turns out that they double as travel buddies within the continental US.

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Boston is a 45 minute flight, 4 hour train or 6(ish) hour drive from the Big Apple and although I've been there countless times, I've only seen it from a tourist's perspective. Lucky for Tram and I, Hattie grew up in Soho! 

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Tram traveled from Toronto, choosing flight & train as the most reasonable transportation and I flew Jet Blue and switched to a bus at JFK. It turns out we did have our 'New York City Scene from a Movie' moment, when amidst a crowd of thousands in Penn Station, we found each other with great ease, yelling and embracing as if we hadn't seen each other in 10 years. Now that I think about it, if we were able to locate each other in a crowded restaurant at Rome Termini to venture to an agriturismo in Tuscany, never having met, I'm not quite sure why I had doubts. 

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Every time I meet travel-friends I think back to the wise woman I met in South Africa, who taught me that we meet people for a reason. They come to us at certain times for certain purposes and they will be around for as long as need them. When their job is done, they move on. It's beautiful - it's tragic - it's life! 

Several similar things brought the 3 of us to Tuscany - Job stress, men, self discovery... When we sat at a wine bar in New York City, conveniently located below Hatties 4th floor apartment, I realized that these will always be topics we need our girlfriends for. You always need encouragement, advice and MOST important, humor from people you can relate to. 

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Hattie, Tram and I were initially united by food, so naturally we spent our long weekend tasting our way through the city - from fancy brunches, to farmer's markets, to late night crepes & tea.  We window shopped in high-end boutiques & thrift shopped at a little school. We planned one large Sex & The City-esque outting, but ended up in sweatpants, sharing a couch. When you're in good company, you don't need to do things on a large scale because it takes away from good conversation. 

It took me a while to post about my New York City weekend, but I think the timing is perfect. Today is Thanksgiving and I'd like to give thanks for the forever-kind-of-friends. 

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Reading Gives Us Someplace to Go When We Have to Stay Where We Are

I truly love travel writers. I love them for their advice, creativity, courage and undying desire for adventure. Thousands of people document their travels but no two eyes see one place EXACTLY the way the person before them, so those who share brutally honest accounts of their experience tend to be the most original and certainly the most entertaining.

For me, the good part about sitting still for a while is having the time to catchup on these writers. Here are some of my favorite beach reads.

1. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

 

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The minute I starting reading reviews for this book I knew I would enjoy it, NOT because the reviews were positive, but because they were critical. David Sedaris continuously leaves me shocked, uneasy, confused and downright dumbfounded. I love him because you can't figure him out and frankly, he doesn't give a shit. 

One of my favorite quotes (which was hard to narrow down) - 

“I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, “Fuck this. I’m going to Los Angeles!”

 

2. I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

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Bill Bryson moved back to the US after living in Britain for two decades. He always identified himself as an American but after returning to the homeland he realized how much of an alien he had actually become. I got a serious kick out of this book because you never realize how abnormal your 'normal' can be to someone from the outside. It lead me to appreciate some parts of culture (customs and traditions) and completely dislike others (pharmaceuticals and gun laws). 

 

Favorite Quotes: 

“Take a moment from time to time to remember that you are alive. I know this sounds a trifle obvious, but it is amazing how little time we take to remark upon this singular and gratifying fact. By the most astounding stroke of luck an infinitesimal portion of all the matter in the universe came together to create you and for the tiniest moment in the great span of eternity you have the incomparable privilege to exist.”

 

3. First Comes Love then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite

 

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For me, this book is a re-read because it's like watching a romantic comedy. Eve didn't think she was tough enough to survive the Peace Corps until she falls in love with her recruiter. This book is her account of her time in Ecuador, returning "the lost children" to their families, and her life beyond South America. Her dry-whit has been compared to Bill Bryson which may explain my love for both books.

 

4. Off Track Planet's Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy and Broke

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This one doesn't need an explanation. In the Summer of 2009 a passionate group of travelers from a hostel in Brooklyn, New York created an online Travel magazine to inspire more young people to travel. The company has grown into a major publication and this is one of it's products.

The book is full of facts about random places to add to your bucket list. The best parts are the advice about traveling smart. I just bought this and I'm really enjoying it.

 

 

 "Only the open-minded get to experience the world from many perspectives."

Be one of them. 

 

  

 

 

"I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not in my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong."

10 months until my sister, Jennifer, is a bride. Time to start planning our Bachelorette Party in Key West, Florida! I'm predicting somewhere around 8 RSVP's for this event and I'm looking for the best accommodation and flight recommendations. I've done my research, but the best advice always comes from someone who has had recent experience.

Any Floridians out there? 

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The Keys to Success - The Traveler's Advantage

In a world that's so fast-paced, with information at our fingertips, we tend to overwhelm ourselves in the race to keep up. While our interconnected society has opened up its technological doors to show us that we can answer our own questions faster than it takes to ask an expert, it leaves us disinterested in the quality of the source. It also implants a fierce competitive trait where we may not have had one before and we're often left feeling like we're not up to par.

Steps to know you're suffering from the "Too Fast-Paced Phenom" -  

  1. Your boss sent you an email on Saturday at 5am and you're stressed about not responding right away.
  2. Linked In posted a new job 1 hour ago and you're sweating because you haven't applied yet.
  3. You're constantly hitting the 'Refresh' button because, not only are you not sending information fast enough, you're not receiving it fast enough. 

We're not able to snap our fingers and "I dream of Genie" ourselves back to the land before  instant gratification, so what should we do?

Stop complicating things that should be simple - 

 

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Most of the jobs I've excelled in were not due to my resume or even past experience. I was praised for having a positive attitude, communicating effectively, problem solving and most importantly, contributing to an enjoyable work environment. All of these traits require a certain level of confidence which I credit my solo travel experiences for.

 The skills that can't be taught are the ones that matter the most, so keep a sunny disposition! 

In case the topic doesn't make it obvious, I'm back to the 9-5 grind. At this moment I'm quite happy about it. My sister is getting married in 2014 and I plan to take my MOH (Maid of Honor) duties very seriously. ;) Over the next several months I'm sticking to short trips, rather than long-term travel.

In the words of David Bowie -

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
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It's hard to call anything "boring" when I'm home in New England. This summer has been everything a summer should be. Saturday I'm off to Newport, Rhode Island. I will be sure to share the day's events. 

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Can you stay healthy while traveling? Food for thought.


I am a 'real food' freak. I buy local, organic, fresh ingredients and I cook 90% of my meals. Whenever possible, my beef is grass-fed, my salmon is wild and my eggs are free range. I avoid most dairy, choose complex carbs and rarely eat anything that doesn't a) come from the ground or b) have a mother.
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When addressing the question: Is it possible to eat healthy while backpacking?
First, ask yourself how well you're willing to get to know your destination. Tasting the local flavors plays a massive role in cultural immersion. Not only does a meal train your taste buds to recognize the staples of a local dish, It surrounds you with local people who can teach you even more about customs & traditions! Asking 21 questions to a person trying to go about their day is called badgering. Ask the same question to a person who you're sharing a meal & a glass of wine with and your cultural curiosity becomes much more charming.
I learned my lesson in avoiding local staples  the the hard way
As a junior in college I spent a semester on the Gold Coast of Australia at Bond Univeristy. I attended Uni during my infamous vegetarian phase. There were two problems here -
1) I was not yet interested in health & wellness and therefore had not done my research on the healthy way to remove the major source of protein from my diet.
2) I was on a meal plan at Uni & I would be eating from a cafeteria for the next 6 months.
If you've had the pleasure of attending an American University you know what the term "Freshman 15" means. In a desperate attempt to avoid meat, I would mainly load up on carbohydrates and (as the Aussies did) alcohol.
It never occurred to me that every time I marched my rapidly expanding behind to the school cafeteria, that maybe I should just eat like the locals did - protein, veggies, limited carbs - and I would not gain an Australian 20. I refuse to translate that into kilos for the sake of my fat kid PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It's not that I thought PETA was going to come at me with a pitchfork if I ate a kangaroo burger, it was more that I wanted to prove to myself that I could keep up my new protein-deprived, iron deficient, life style.
Open up to new things!
Fast-forward several months to Cape Town, South Africa where I was slowly but surely reintroducing meat into my diet and not turning down a single local dish. I tried curries, traditional South African Pap &  deep fried Malay food from Bo Kaap. I came home looking like my normal self! Proof that portion control works in all countries.
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You may be making healthier choices than you think
When it comes to European food, the saving grace for Americans is that (most) European foods  have ACTUAL laws against food additives. For us, the FDA allows additives that "haven't been proven harmful," while in Europe they regulate additives that "haven't been proven safe."
What a concept.
I recommend this video on that subject because I could go on for days:
One of the things I loved about eating a mediterranean diet in Europe was that no matter how much you ate in carbs, you would probably burn it all off and then some with the amount of walking you do. Are you honestly going to turn down a baguette in Paris or a spaghetti bolognese in Rome? Highly doubtful. Instead of panicking about missing out on your Women's Health inspired breakfast of greek yogurt, berries & granola, go directly the local cafe for a croissant and espresso and savor every moment!
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Health conscious travelers, have no fear. I have the perfect trip for you.
Maui, Hawaii
Whether you're into hiking, swimming, scuba diving or paddle boarding, Maui provides the perfect setting.
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My top pick for an active adventure on the island would be a Surf Yoga Maui. The couple who founded the company, Eduardo & Summer, collaborate to provide you the perfect retreat for body & soul. Eduardo will teach you the ways of the waves, from etiquette to paddling & popping up on the board. (Side note - there will be a professional photographer in the water with you so you can bring a full disc of photos home!) Summer will help you detoxify, strengthen & clear your mind. You'll be standing taller, breathing more deeply & feeling more at peace to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation.
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Have you ever been hiking? How about hiking on a remote volcanic coastline? That's what is waiting for you at the end of the Road to Hana. You can swim in caves, jump from waterfalls & explore a black sand beach. Nothing compares to falling asleep under the stars and waking up to the sun rising over the ocean, right outside of your tent.
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The benefit of an island with such a consistent climate is a fresh crop. That's why it's easy to eat healthy in Hawaii! Locals (at least along the road to Hana) keep fruit stands on the side of the road where you can drop some money and take some of their fresh crops - bananas, avocado, etc. At one side-of-the-road stop I had popcorn and rose mint tea & another had these meals ready to go...
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Most tourists stay in 5 star resorts and enjoy cuisine prepared by famous chefs.
Don't worry about a thing budget travelers, I'm with you. My go-to meal quickly became "poke bowls" from the local grocery store. For $5 you get a bowl filled to the brim with fresh raw fish marinated to your liking.
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If you are in the middle of planning a trip and you were packing your bag with foods from home for fear of something new, I hope this made you change your mind. Trying local cuisine won't only make you a better traveler, it will turn you into a better chef!

These are a few of my favorite things - Europe 2013

1. Favorite Activity

Cooking with Stefano - Tuscany, Italy
A lesson in ravioli

 

2. Favorite Airlines

Icelandair

3. Favorite Hostile

Astor Hyde Park in London

4. Favorite Wine

Stefano's homemade wine from Tuscany. I'm convinced that this magical potion prevents hangovers.

5. Favorite Island

Hvar, Croatia

6. Favorite 'budget friendly' group activity

Cruising the canals of Amsterdam with Blue Boat Company

7. Favorite Steak

Although I don't have a foodie pic as proof, this restaurant felt like being in Alice & Wonderland and the food just added to the fairytale. Makarska, Croatia

8. Favorite place to Roam aimlessly (besides Rome)

Tram & Hattie
Siena, Italy

9. Favorite stranger

10. Favorite Scenic Drive

On a bus from Geneva, Switzerland to Grenoble France

 

Who says you shouldn't play favorites?

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"Boston may be your hometown but we claim it, too. It's one of America's iconic cities. It's one of the world's greatest cities. And one of the reasons the world knows Boston so well is that Boston opens its heart to the world." - President Obama

When I met travelers abroad and told them that I was from Boston they instantly cringed. Some offered apologies, others talked politics and, as expected, the conspiracy theorists gave their two-cents.

My anxiety was at an all time high, having just left Boston, and the topic was unavoidable.

Without having to say a word, Bostonians spoke for all of us in the way they reacted to the marathon bombings. Our family, friends, neighbors & coworkers rushed the scene to help in any way possible. Our doctors & nurses worked tirelessly to save the lives of victims, many of whom gave thanks and continued to look at the bright side of the situation (even in the aftermath of such trauma). We mourned loss together, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity. Our residents didn't make a fuss when the community went into a lockdown. And during my favorite moments, the entire city rallied in peaceful celebration.

And get this - we continued to run! For the love of competition, charity & everything we believe in.

My Cousin, Sherri, running for The Alzheimer's Association.

You can read more about this marathon on Sherri's Blog, Fun Fit Flavor!

If anyone wonders what the definition of 'Boston Strong' truly is, it's all of these moments combined.

If the rest of the world couldn't point out Boston out on a map, they certainly can now.

Here are some things you may not have known -

Why so many names?

Beantown - A nickname given to the city for it's overabundance of the molasses, made from sugar traded from the West Indies, that contributed to the early colonial obsession with Boston Baked Beans. The dish is no longer popular in the area and restaurants rarely serve it as a specialty, yet we still use the name.

Cradle of Modern America - Boston played a huge role in the creation of this nation. Events like the Revolution - sparking the Boston Tea Party of 1773, changed American history forever. While more recent projects like the Big Dig are signs of future growth and development.

The Hub - In a novel he wrote in 1958, Cambridge-born author and philosopher Oliver Wendell Holmes described the Massachusetts State House as "The Hub of the Solar System." As a society in Boston developed, the nickname stuck.

What is Boston really known for?

The Walking City

Boston is made up of (mostly) small, safe neighborhoods, linked by excellent public transportation. The city is full of young professionals and students who don't bother keeping a car because it would take twice as long as the train (better known as The T) or the bus.

 

Seafood

The best time to visit Boston is in the summer because of the seafood. Cold water fish just taste better! Yesterday we dined at Legal Harborside on the South Boston waterfront. We enjoyed local oysters with white wine & for main courses my Mom chose the swordfish salad and my sister and I went for the grilled fish tacos with fried plantains.

If you haven't dined in Boston, skip all of this and go directly to Faneuil Hall for the infamous 'clam chowdah' in a bread bowl. My brother would gladly fly form Los Angeles to Boston just for that meal.

 

Sports

Boston is home to more than 60 colleges and universities & boasts some of the best sports teams in the country, so it's no wonder our city has sports bars on every corner. Whether it's the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics or Bruins (who are currently dominating the NHL Conference Finals) if a game is on everyone is watching.

Night Life

For a small (by American standards) city, you can still find what you're looking for in terms of fun. Sports bars, nightclubs, live music (cover bands or touring professionals), museums, fashion, art, etc.

Cape Cod & The Islands

South Yarmouth, MA
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There are 4 distinct seasons in New England and our Summers pass much too quickly. It's near impossible to drive over the Bourne Bridge and onto Cape Cod without hitting enough traffic to make you want to pee your pants. Why do we do it? Because it's worth it! You can stay on the Cape OR take a ferry over to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket.

Whether you charter a boat to catch blue fish, wade in the tide pools to catch crabs and hum to perry winkles or simply bask in the sun all day before grabbing a lobster roll at a food shack, the Cape is a little slice of heaven on earth.

Whichever beach town you choose, I recommend renting a bicycle to get around. Make sure it has a basket for your towel and sunscreen!

Plymouth, MA

I could go on for days about this, but this immensely biased post gives you an idea of why we love our city.

If you want to know more, come see for yourself!

 

Street Smarts

I started this blog in Africa in 2009 with the sole purpose of keeping those who donated to my mission updated on what their money was contributing to. I wanted to tell stories of progress within Sara Fox Children's Convalescent Home & how vital our presence was in helping infants achieve milestones in their mental and physical development.

After a 4 year hiatus, I decided to document my European adventures just for the fun of blogging (and because my Mom says it lets her know that I'm alive and well). During the past few months of travel I've received countless messages from family, friends and perfect strangers about everything from travel reccommendations to thank you's for the motivation to explore. The majority of these messages are from young girls who, like myself, think there's more to see than their own spot on the map. To me, that absolutely rules.

Keeping first-time-travelers in mind, I would like to share some experiences of my recent trip that my 25 year old self wishes my 18 year old self was more aware of, in terms of safety.

1. If you wouldn't do it at home, why would you do it abroad?

I'm not talking about skydiving or great white shark cage diving. If those opportunities arise, by all means jump out of that plane or into that cage. Im talking about getting in cars with strangers, taking sips from drinks you didn't purchase or taking advice from someone who doesn't have to deal with the consequences.

Example: When I arrived in Paris a man approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. Sleep deprived (per usual) and unwilling to take a train and walk miles to find my hotel, I told him that I did indeed need a taxi. When we exited the airport and approached his SUV, I saw no signs of proof that this man was an actual taxi driver. Before getting into his car I asked him to show me all of his licensing & credentials. Not only did this gentleman produce every document instantly, he called his boss over to introduce him to me.

Richard, my driver, checked out as a legitimate private car driver & the fact that he didn't put up a stink made me much happier about spending a little extra cash on his services. In the past I've been much more carefree about these kinds of things and luckily the only bad thing that has happened is spending an unnecessary amount of money.

2. Keep backups of EVERYTHING.

If you're traveling for a long period of time it's not always easy to remember flight times, carriers, hotel addresses, telephone numbers, etc. For me the 'little details' don't become a big deal until the moment they're needed. For that reason, I am the queen of backup copies. Before taking off in Boston I make sure I have my passport, a copy of my passport, give my family a copy of my passport AND take a photo of my passport. Overkill? Maybe...but it's better to be overprepared.

I store ALL of my travel details in my ipad/iphone using Tripit. This app was created by Richard Branson (founder and chairman of The Virgin Group). I learned about this incredible FREE app after taking a Virgin America flight from Boston to Los Angeles. It is ingenious. - My favorite feature is the 'sharing' option. After you fill in all of your travel details you can choose to email the itinerary to as many recipients as you'd like. Your worried parents will appreciate it.

On top of Tripit, I screenshot every booking I make during my travels incase I don't have wifi to access my email. This has saved me many a time at hostels, train stations, bus stops and airports.

3. Just because you're traveling alone, doesn't mean you need to broadcast it.

I've been in many situations where the first question a person asks me is, are you traveling alone? My instant response is, "No I'm here with friends." If I get to know a person and feel comfortable telling them that I'm flying solo that's fine. Most people in hostels are doing the same thing and it makes for some interesting conversations and adventure planning. Save solo travel stories for those people, not the lonely man in the pub.

4. Buy travel insurance.

Don't avoid travel insurance and give the excuse, "But I never get sick!" It's not just about catching a cold in a rainy, damp climate. There is an endless list of reasons travel insurance is vital and you would really screw yourself over by not spending the money on it. I've heard horror stories about the need for medical attention, from bicycle accidents to capsized boats.

I left Croatia with whooping cough, ear infections and a sinus infection. Luckily, I was nearing the end of my trip and I was able to seek medical attention in Boston. It was comforting to know that If I did visit a hospital in France, I was fully covered by World Nomads travel insurance.

Traveling alone is bold.

Be smart.

:)

At this very moment I'm loving the USA.

Next stop, Toronto, Canada.

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