Quarantine Diaries: Traveling Home

So originally, my cousin was supposed to get married at the end of June. My girlfriend and I had planned a nice mini “East Coast tour” centered around the fact that I had to go home anyway for this wedding. Our plans included seeing my hometown as well as the city of Philadelphia, New York City, and the Jersey shore. Unfortunately, COVID had forced my cousin to push back the date of his wedding. What’s more, there was many places we wanted to go that were now not open for business. So, we had to rearrange our plans.

We certainly thought about not going at all, but instead shortened our trip and were still able to see a modified version of our original list. NYC was definitely out, but we did get a very quick driving tour of old city Philly in. We also got to spend some time with my friends in Philly, which included going to Morgan’s Pier and hanging out at my friend’s apartment with a great cheese plate. We also spent time in my hometown and with my family, and went down to Wildwood Crest for the weekend. Vanessa (who grew up in the desert) was obsessed with all the trees, greenery and landscaping, which really cracked my family up. We stopped to, quite literally, smell the flowers, and to take pictures with trees.  The beach was also awesome, of course, and we were able to do some kayaking and paddle boarding while we were down as well. We did a lot, but also did a lot less than we were going to pre-COVID. But truly, we had a great time! It was nice to spend some time at home, of course, but was also nice to plan a vacation centered around my hometown. I really enjoyed it. 

Traveling during COVID was obviously a little daunting and worrisome, but it wasn’t too bad. Here’s what I’ll say – this is a time where the airline you choose really matters. We flew American Airlines, where travel was pretty much business as normal. Our flights were 80% full or higher, with some even being completely full. Masks were required, of course, unless you were eating. The flight attendants gave you a little goodie bag when you got on the plane, and then didn’t really walk up and down the isles except to collect trash at the end. But again, otherwise it was just like any other American flight I’ve been on. I traveled home again about a month later, where I flew Delta. This was an entirely different experience. First off, they were not booking any middle row seats, so the plane was much more spread out. This already really eased a lot of anxiety. On several flights, I even had an entire row to myself. They also boarded the plane from back to front, where as American boarded front to back – which doesn’t make a lot of sense, since you’re forcing everyone to pass each other. The attendants still gave you a goodie bag, as well as wipes. They definitely walked up and down the isles a bit more than on American, but perhaps that was because of how spread out everyone was. After those two experiences, I would definitely recommend to fly Delta during COVID if you are traveling. Now, I’ll be traveling home AGAIN next month, where I’m flying American one direction and Delta the other, so I can give an update then on if this was a one-off experience or if you really should stick to Delta. 

I really didn’t take as many pictures as I could have, but here’s a collection of some of the good ones I found:

 

Thanks for reading! 

Greece!

My family has always been big vacationers, and we’ve been taking big trips every few years since I was little. From Disney World, to the Grand Canyon, to Italy and Spain, my family really knows how to travel right. We’re used to doing vacations with a big group since my family is huge, but this trip to Greece was just my parents, my sister and me.

IMG-6035Our trip started in Athens, which took us almost a whole day of travel time to get to. We were able to explore the city plaza the first day and have a welcome dinner that included all the classic tourist events. We 
yelled “Opah!”, danced in a circle, and even got to break some plates – bucket list items checked off! The second day was also in Athens, where we got to tour the historical sites of the city. First stop was the site of the first Olympic games, and we also saw the Palace of Zeus.IMG-6070 Acropolis and the Parthenon were absolutely incredible and full of so much history. We did some shopping as well, of course, and had some drinks and snacks in different places around the plaza. To continue our deep dive into the amazing Greek cuisine, we went out to dinner with my mom’s coworker and friend whose family lives in Athens. Greek food is full of meat, pastries and pies, and of course, feta cheese. I truthfully don’t remember the names of over half of what I ate – but it was all SO GOOD.

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Following Athens, we took a ferry to spend a few days in the island of Mykonos. (For anyone who is curious, Lindsey Lohan’s beach club was unfortunately already IMG-6251closed when we were there.) The first day included a walking tour of Mykonos, which is full of small white alleys of shopping and restaurants. Everywhere on the island was absolutely beautiful, and I really couldn’t get over the view of the sea. We had more tour dinners in town, some time by the pool, and A LOT of shopping in town while in Mykonos. One day included a boat tour, where we were able to snorkel in the water and explore the island of Delos as well, which is full of history and the Place of Athena. We also spent a night out in a discoteca, which was a great IMG-6371time. My family had dinner on the water one night, where my sister and I both ordered “fish with a face on a plate.” Mykonos was probably my favorite part of the trip, just because it was so pretty and so much fun. 

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Santorini was even more beautiful and breathtaking than you could ever imagine. We took another quick ferry to get there, and also had to hike ourselves up quite a hill to the hotel. Since the whole island is basically built on the side of a volcano, everything is either up- or down-hill. The shopping was also awesome in Santorini, and the views were just as good if not better. Oia is the famous location of the view from which you can see all the white buildings with the blue dome tops – and it certainly did not disappoint. We went to a couple different locations on a bus tour of Santorini that provided amazing views of what the island IMG-6484has to offer. The sunsets in Santorini were unlike anything I’ve seen before, and none of our pictures do it justice. The colors that were created behind the ocean horizon blended into the mountains were one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen in my life, IMG-8123truly. Our last day in Santorini was a free day that we spent on the black sand beach. The sand comes from the rubble of the volcano, which is the reason for the dark color (it also made for an incredible exfoliate). After so much running around and exploring, it was so nice to have the time to just relax on the beautiful beach and enjoy the island for our last day.

The trip home was rough, if I’m going to be totally honest. We already had a full day of travel planned to get back, and the delays out of the Athens airport definitely did not help. It was, of course, still worth it, and made getting home feel that much better. I had to get myself back to Arizona once we were back in the states as well, where there was an amazing welcome waiting for me.

I am always so grateful and appreciative of the amazing experiences that have been provided to me. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to explore countries and cultures that are different than my own, and to have the ability to travel. I’m so thankful that my family is happy, healthy, and fortunate enough to take trips like this. I hope we are able to plan many more!

Thanks for reading!

 

Road Trip 2019!

IMG-4397I’ve been planning my big move to the amazing city of Tucson, AZ for quite some time now, and the day has finally arrived!! My amazing friend Rachel, who was also my college roommate, was completely awesome and decided to make the trip with me.

IMG-4468We started out in or around Allentown, Pennsylvania, and separately drove a quick hour to my parents’ house outside of Philly, so that Rachel could drop her car there for after her flight home. To be frank, that was probably the worst part of the entire trip, because it was pouring down rain with thunder and lightening. With my windshield wipers on the fastest speed, I hoped for better weather once we got out of PA.

IMG-4403I got my wish, and the rest of the day was absolutely beautiful. We drove through the tip of Delaware, to the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland, through Richmond Virginia, and eventually made our way to Nashville, Tennessee for our first overnight stop. We stayed at just a cheap motel, but we were able to see some of the “downtown” life, and had dinner with my cousin, who lives in the area.

IMG-4476Day two took us deep into the South, going through the rest of Tennessee and into Arkansas. We stopped for a leisurely lunch in Little Rock, where Rachel was able to find an outdoor cafe that was dog friendly. With locally sourced food, equality signs, and a cashier with dreadlocks, it was totally not what I was envisioning to find in the South! They did take a very long time, but luckily this was our shortest day of driving, so we still made it to our Air BnB in Dallas, Texas before it got dark. The apartment was beautiful, and we were exhausted, so we pretty much watched some Netflix and went straight to sleep.

IMG-4428The last day was the longest, and as we drove through the rest of Texas, I was made aware of what a gigantic state it truly is. It felt like we were never going to make it out, but it was definitely exciting for us to see how close we were to Mexico. Normally we would have had to go through border patrol check points, but they were currently closed because of some political bullshit, so we got lucky and could fly right by without stopping. We cruised through New Mexico and made it to my new state of Arizona while the sun was still up! (The time difference certainly worked in our favor for the entire trip.)

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Rachel stayed the night with me on an air mattress in my new place, but unfortunately had to fly home the next morning for work. This was actually Rachel’s first time on a plane, and here she was flying home all by herself – signs of a true friend!! She also helped me document along the way while my hands were busy at the wheel, so I was able to compile our adventures into one video:

 

So that’s it! I’m here in Tucson, Arizona! I made it – and this is my new home.

Thanks for watching! And thanks for reading.

Desert Southwest (WildSam Field Guide)

img_3834This little book by WildSam was given to me as a Christmas present, after I expressed interest in relocating to Arizona. Pocket sized and adorable, just like the person who gave it to me, this Desert Southwest Field Guide was just the inspo I needed. That interest turned into a dream, and now a reality, so I’ve finally been able to read through the entire book and dive into the part of the country that I am ready to explore.

The book is a nice recap of information for individual places such as Santa Fe, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and of course – my future city – Tucson. There are details of each city and state history as well as state facts and famous residents. I was excited by the list of annual festivals and events, as well as travel recommendations and so much more.

img_3832I took some time to dive into the page on Tucson that was published under the “Cities and Towns” section. Since this is going to be my new city, I was filled with excitement reading about the blend of culture and the beautiful foothills to explore. I already can’t wait to see monsoon season, and I am definitely going to try the Mexican/Seafood restaurant recommendation, Penca.

There was also a ton of other cool and interesting information, such as some history of media and films in the desert areas, and a list of outlaws and infamous figures. I enjoyed reading about different landmarks, wildlife and more things that I can explore. The book also included 14 interviews with various local personnel, artists, and writers. Towards the end, there are three short essays that are placed in Santa Fe. One is about the transience of the city, another the journey of exploring on a dangerous hike, and the last mourns the life of a good friend.

For anyone who wants to go exploring, included are several detailed guided road trips img_3833which break down the best routes to travel to the cities that were listed in the book. This gave me some inspiration for where to take some future trips, even if I don’t follow the recommendations exactly. The whole guide is truly an adorable and thoughtful present, very helpful, and got me even more excited to move than I already was. 

“People don’t take trips – trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Thanks for reading.

https://wildsam.com/desert-southwest

5 Reasons Why I LOVE Tucson, AZ

It’s happening!! Very very soon, I’ll be moving to Tucson, Arizona! (More on that later..) Why? Well, here’s some reasons why Tucson is freaking awesome.

driving1. Arizona has NO DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME! The entire state of Arizona said NOPE and decided to stop moving their clocks forward and backwards each year. Never have to worry about gaining or losing an hour, and it probably regulates the amount of sunlight in the winter a little better.

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2. The food is seriously KILLER. You get the southwest vibes, the Mexican authenticity, and some amazing seafood. And hellooo: IN-N-OUT!!! But the best thing I’ve eaten there so far was a chile relleno burrito… YUM.

bisexual3. Arizona is the state with the first OPENLY BISEXUAL member of the U.S. Senate! Kyrsten Sinema served as a district representative for 6 years before getting elected this year into her current position. She is not only making a milestone for the gay community, but she also is Arizona’s first-ever female senator and its first Democratic senator since 1995.* GIRL YOU BETTA WERK.

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4. There are so many wonderful ROAD TRIP destinations in range! Tucson is only roughly a 6 hour drive to Las Vegas, a 1 hour drive to Mexico, a 7 hour drive to Los Angeles, 7 hours to Santa Fe, 6 hour drive to San Diego, etc. etc. etc. So for someone who loves to travel and is always down for a road trip, this is a dream!

5. And now, the real reason… two words: GIANT. CACTUS. 

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More on the big move later. Thanks for reading!

*Kyrsten Sinema makes history as the first bisexual
member of the U.S. Senate, Arizona's first-ever female
senator, and is first Democratic senator since 1995,
according to NBC News.

Vegas, baby!

I’ve been to Las Vegas a few times now, twice this year, and it’s one of my favorite places on earth. I always have way too much fun when Vegas and I’m dying to go back ASAP.

Like I said, I was in Vegas twice this year – once with my boyfriend and the other time with friends for a bachelorette party. It truly doesn’t matter who you go with – it’s easy to have the best time regardless. It will definitely be a different experience depending on who is in your group, and I would be sure that everyone is on the same page with what you want to do and see (there’s so so so much more than just the club scene).

vegas 4When I went with my boyfriend, we stayed at the Excalibur, which is at the very bottom of the Las Vegas Strip. What was great about that location was being able to just walk right out of our hotel onto the strip and not have to worry about an uber to rely on. However, it’s important to note that everything in Vegas looks a lot closer than it actually is because of the size, so you have to prepare for some walking. With my friends for the bach party, we stayed at the D in Downtown Las Vegas, which was incredibly inexpensive. As much as I loved staying on the strip, “Old Vegas” is totally something to see. We walked out of our hotel into a strip of live music everywhere and walk up bars. A lot of the streets are blocked off for walkers only, which makes it really fun to explore. Regardless of where you stay, I at least recommend staying at a hotel with a casino.

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The bride in the bachelorette group was not the party girl that you would envision going to Vegas, so when she told us that she had a surprise event that she found on GroupOn, I was nervous. In true fashion of this girl, she brought us on an adventure that ended with an escape room. Although it wasn’t an activity that I expected to be doing in Vegas, it was super scary and really to see how our group could act as a team. (Look out wedding, the bridal party is ready for ya.)

I’m no expert on the best places to eat in Las Vegas, but there are two places that I would for sure suggest. Breakfast in Paris is for sure the way to go. It’s located towards the top of the strip and has amazing food in several places. We ate at Mon Ami Gabi (mimosas included), and no one was disappointed. If you’re going to do a buffet, Aria has the best one. I probably had 5 courses, including crab legs, PAELLA, and some incredible salmon. I went home and literally craved that buffet line, and even now thinking about it is making my mouth water.

vegas 2When you go to Vegas, especially if it’s the first time, plan an afternoon to do nothing but walk the strip. Since there are no open container rules, you can go in and out of casinos for drinks while walking up or down the strip as your way to see it all. Playing some slots along the way can even help you get free drinks or win money as well. When I was there with the girls, the weather was incredibly incredibly hot, so it was also nice to get the AC as we went in and out of casinos. Just remember that everything is huge, so it will take you several hours to get from one end of the strip to the other. But you’ll have an amazing afternoon and should have a good buzz by the end.

vegas 7I will never ever ever ever go to Vegas without seeing a show. I saw four different shows within my trips to Vegas this year, and the talent is evident. When I went with my boyfriend, we saw the show Absinthe in Caesar’s Palace, which literally took place in a circus tent. This was mainly acrobatic/strength talents, and one of the couples was even on America’s Got Talent! With the girls, I saw Mystère by Cirque Du Soleil. This was my first experience with a Cirque show, and I’ve heard that you really can’t go wrong. If I can make it back to Vegas for more of their shows, I’m dying to see Zumanity or O.

Alright, alright. Now the dirty shows. With my boyfriend, we saw Fantasy, which is the longest running Vegas topless show on the strip. It was truly something to see, not just because of all the beautiful women, but their talent was remarkable. The main chick was giving me Christina Aguilera in the movie Burlesque vibes with her bring-the-house-down kind of voice, and I fell in love with the girl from South Africa who performed on aerially on the silks. If you’re good with seeing some boobies, it’s such a good show. With the girls, however, we saw Thunder From Down Under, which was less talent but a whole lot of fun. The boys have a ton of fun with the crowd, pulling brides-to-be on stage and giving out souvenirs to the crowd. The bride in my group was not willing to participate, which resulted in me getting pulled up on stage instead (no regrets).

vegas 6If you are going with a group of girls, it’s not hard to get VIP service in Vegas. I can’t say that this experience will be the same if there are any men in your group, but my boyfriend and I ended up at the strip club Sapphire and had our own fun as well. However, promoters are everywhere in Vegas and super easy to find on social media as well. My first recommendation is to go during the week when things are less busy and they have more tables that they need to fill. We had vegas 5some promoters numbers ahead of time that could get us into the parties that we wanted, but we found someone while walking down the strip as well. It’s honestly worth it to talk to some of those people and hear them out, since we really got the hook up. We had a table at LIGHT that night with bottle service for free, and a daybed with free bottle service at DAYLIGHT Beach Club the next day for the pool party.

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No matter how you spend your time in Vegas, I highly recommend one thing before you make your way out of the city: In & Out.

Someone, anyone, PLEASE, give me a reason to go back ASAP!

Thanks for reading.

Alaska

It’s on my bucket list to visit every state in the U.S., and last week I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful state of Alaska. I traveled the 4,000 miles with my boyfriend and his family to a discrete cabin a couple of hours outside of Anchorage.

 

 

 

The common questions I’ve received revolved around the weather of course, because of its cold climate by nature and our travel plans for late June. The whole week was beautiful weather, staying in the 60’s during the day and dropping to 50’s at night. There was really only a couple of days that were chilly, and just one day of some rain. It was light for most of the day, however, and only actually got “dark” when there was a heavy overcast. In the winter Alaska experiences the opposite, and we were told that the heavy dark days are the hardest part about winters in Alaska. But the extended daylight was great, and gave us the opportunity to pack a lot of things into each day.

 

 

 

The glaciers were by far the most enjoyable part of the trip for me. We were able to hike the Matanuska Glacier, which is over 27 miles long and 4 miles wide. Our path did not cross even a fraction of this mass, and yet it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. We also did a 5 hour day cruise in Whittier, in which we came face to face with several amazing glaciers.

 

 

 

The mountains and the wildlife was also incredible. We saw bald eagles, sea otters, bears, moose, elk, musk oxen, wolves and more. Between the Musk Ox Farm and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, we observed so many amazing creatures living their lives.

 

 

 

Downtown Anchorage holds a Saturday Market throughout the summer that includes local vendors and artists, and we were lucky enough to attend during the Summer Solstice Festival as well. In additional to the tents of beautiful crafts and delicious food, there was also outdoor music, street and rooftop bars, and blow up activities for children. I spent a ton of time going in and out of tents and filling up my stomach and bags with everything I could find, and I could have spent even more.

 

 

 

This trip was also an amazing opportunity for my boyfriend and I to grow. After being together a year, this trip provided many new experiences and memories that helped us strengthen what we have. Exploring a new place and adventuring through nature together is an amazing way to spend time with someone you love, and by the end, we had fallen even more in love with each other.

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Our world is beautiful and amazing and there is so much to see! Traveling is a way to feel alive and experience all the incredible things that the world has to offer. If you ever have the chance to visit Alaska, GO!

Thanks for reading.