Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

1656020_10153637503900813_6145925416052077708_n

She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

10526069_10153637502485813_3442210253649452786_n

Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

1044240_10153637503160813_1713295842705759360_n

On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

images.png

Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.04.05 PM

Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

12687801_10153712315655813_6165311040993963602_n

Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

173520_37_y

Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

800_1109

The Perks of Traveling Christmas Day

12642465_10153712355135813_5377219895636938942_n.jpg

My journey to Mexico was one of the smoothest and most relaxing travel experiences I have ever had. The ease can be credited to United Airlines.

I started my trip in Richmond, VA. At 5am on Christmas morning the airport was a ghost town. I was the only person in line for security and my flight to Houston from Richmond was only half full.11205578_10153712355145813_6853964298982777333_n

In Houston I spend my three hour layover in the United Club Lounge. I used free passes earned from Visa travel credit card. In the club they provided free breakfast, wifi, private corners and comfy couches. The Houston club is humongous! It’s three stories, there are computer nooks, offices, showers, two bars, two buffets and a storage room. The lounge was crowded but it was much better then schlepping around the actual airport.

I headed to my gate about 45 minuets before boarding. While waiting the airline made several announcements that my flight was overbooked and they were looking for two people to give up their seats. They began by offer just a $200 certificate. But as time grew closer to boarding they upped the ante. At that point it was also announced that my original flight was delayed one hour.

So I offered up my seat. In return I received a $500 certificate, two meal vouchers, another United Club pass and a first class ticket on the next flight to Mexico city (only 45 minutes later). My original ticket only cost $190 so I profited $310!

12654670_10153712315875813_3630923570518238000_n.jpg

I had never flown first class before so I was super excited to have earned a free upgrade. I felt like a total ballllllller $$!$. My seat was huge and upon boarding I was offered wine and a hot towel. Throughout my flight I had three glasses of wine…hey it was free! Then dinner was served. Oh my goodness it was delicious. First class was absolutely fabulous.

12644917_10153712315860813_7338922924056579759_n.jpg

As a Christmas preent my dad bought me a car service transport from the airport to my hotel. He used a website called Blacklane to book the car. So upon exiting the terminal I was greeted by a chauffeur holding a sign with my name. He escorted me to the car and I was off to Mexico city center!

The eight hours of travel from Richmond to Mexico City were without a hick-up. I felt so refreshed when I finally arrived to my hotel that I was ready to take on Mexican nightlife right away!

Thank you United Airlines!

Contiki Day Songs; Travel and feel good music mega mix

Every morning on a Contiki tour when you bored the coach your tour manager will play a “Day Song”. A day song is meant as a welcome the group. It is intended to lift spirits, put you in a great mood and create a bond amongst tourmates. After my Contiki trips when ever I shuffle onto one of my “Day Songs” I immiedatly return to that time and place. Day songs really inspire life long memories.

Every tour has a different “Day Song”. They are choose by the tour managers and vary depending on country, activites, style and taste. But they all have a singular theme “live life”. Contiki’s moto is “No Regrets”. So it’s fitting that their “Day Songs” are about living, travel, love, life and friends.

I’ve reached out across the internet and polled fellow Contiki travelers about the “Day Song” from their tours in order to compile an epic playlist!

Here’s what I have so far:

  • Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West (Great Britain & Ireland May 2010)
  • Runaway by Galantis (Mexico Grande December 2015)
  • What’s Up  by 4 Non Blondes (European Adventurer June 1995)
  • Over & Over by Smallpools (European Escapade June 2015)
  • It’s Nice to Be Alive by Ball Park City (Big Indochina Oct 2014)
  • Best Day of My Life by American Authors (Eastern Road Jul 2014)
  • The Only Place by Best Coast (California Highlights Aug 2013)
  • On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons (European Panorama 2013)
  • Gente Che Spera by Articlo 15 (Simply Italy Dec 2015)
  • Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars (Asian Adventure March 2015)
  • Fly Away by Lenny Kravist (London, Paris, Rome 2010)
  • In Colour by Shapeshifter (NZ Sweet as South 2014)
  • I gotta a Feelin by Black Eyed Peas (European Spirit 2009)
  • Thunderstuck by ACDC (North by Northeast 2010)
  • Hangover by Taoi Cruz (NZ Grand Explorer 2011)
  • Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry (Ultimate European 2013)
  • Rather Be by Clean Bandit (Big Tiki NZ 2014)
  • Life is Beautiful by Time McMorris (Eastern Road 2015)
  • Happy by Pharrell (European Discovery April 2014)
  • Waves by Mr. Probz (European Highlights June 2014)
  • Waka Waka by Shakira (Argentina & Brazil 2012)
  • En Italia by Fabri (Simply Italy Mar 2013)
  • Let’s Live For Today by The Grass Roots (European Escapade 2013)
  • I lived by One Republic (European Experience 2014)
  • Glad You Came by The Wanted (NIGHT SONG) (European Experience 2014)
  • Gypsy by Lady Gaga (Greek Islands 2014)
  • Pompeii by Bastille (Simply Italy June 2013)
  • American by Lana Del Rey (Grand Southern USA 2015)
  • Good Time by Carly Rae Jepsen (California Highlights 2014)
  • Good Life by One Republic (London to Rome April 2013)
  • It’s Time by Imagine Dragons (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • Pursuit of Happiness (NIGHT SONG) (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • We are Young by Fun (Best of Europe 2014)
  • Time of our Lives (NIGHT SONG) (Best of Europe 2014)
  • This is How We Do by Katy Perry (California Highlights 2014)
  • In a World Like This by Backstreet Boys (Wild Western 2015)
  • The Night is Still Young by Niki Manaj (NIGHT SONG) (Wild Western 2015)
  • Mykonos by Fleet Foxes (Greek Island Hopper 2010)
  • Great Day by Lonley Island (Walkabout Aug 2013)
  • Pause by Plain White T’s (Eastern Escapade June 2015)
  • 1901 by Phoenix (Grand Southern July 2011)
  • Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty (NZ 1994)
  • One Life by Hedley (European Inspiration)
  • Mad Caddies by Leavin
  • If Today was your Last Day by Nickle Back
  • Island in the Sun by Weezer (Thai Island Hopper 2010)
  • Pass Out by Tiny Tempah (European Escapade 2011)
  • You Get What you Give by New Radicals (Ult.European 2001)
  • Give me Everything Tongith by Pitbull (Road to Athens 2011)
  • 5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale (2013)
  • You Only Live Once by Strokes (Eastern Escape Dec 2010)
  • Holiday by Dizzee Rascall (European Escapade April 2011)
  • Sandstorm by Darude (Berlin, Vienna, Prague July 2007)
  • Nothing Really Matters by David Guetta (Winter Discovery 2012)
  • Live While We’re Young by One Direction (Eastern Road 2014)
  • I Was Here by Beyonce (Grand Southern June 2013)
  • Victoria by The Kooks (England & Scottland Dec 2010)
  • Show Me Everything You’ve Got by The Rocket Summer (NZ Sweet as South 2009)
  • Brand New Day by Ryan Star (Rome to London Dec 2012)
  • Jump Right In by Zac Brown Band (Grand Southern 2010)
  • Living in The Moment (Thai Island Hopper East 2013)
  • Our Time is Now by Plain White T’s (Eastern Discovery 2010)
  • Slow Down by Selena Gomez (NIGHT SONG) (Road to Rome March 2015)
  • This Moment by Katy Perry (Asian Adventure 2015)
  • YOLO by Lonley Island (USA 2015)
  • Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (Grand Souther April 2013)
  • Paperplanes by MIA (London, Scottland, Ireland 2009)
  • Born to be Wild by Stepphenwolf (Walkabout AU 1995)
  • Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers (West Coast USA 2008)
  • Traveling by Paper Lions (Best of Europe June 2008)
  • Ticket To Ride by The Beatles (London, Paris, Amsterdam 2010)
  • Califonia by Phantom Planet (California Highlights May 2007)
  • One Day Baby We’ll be Old by Asaf Avidan (Spanish Spree April 2015)
  • Trip The Light by Alicia Lemke (Croatian Island Hopper 2012)
  • Machu Pichu by The Strokes (Peru Uncovered  2010)
  • Applejack by The Triangles (Spanish Spree Aug 2012)
  • Viva La Vida by Cold Play (European Encounter November 2009)
  • Stay by James Blunt (Western Adventure June 2012)

Have one to add? Please comment and I will add it to the epic playlist!

Not all guides are created equal

All over Pinterest you can find packing guides for families and kids. Well here’s my adults only guide to packing for Disney. This guide includes some of my go to travel essentials for every vacation and also ones geared specifcially for Disney!

Cinderellas-Castle

1. Coalface Cleansing Charcoal Bar

0023322016

Heat and Humidity wreak havoc on my oil and acne prone skin. So I can’t go to Florida without my Charcoal Bar. This bar acts as both a exfoliator and cleanser. It greatly reduces oil, redness and the absolute best acne cleanser I’ve ever used.

2. Boots Botanics Rosewater Toner

 I’ve raved about this spritzer a thousand times. It is my go to travel essential. I will bring it in my day bag to Disney and spritz it on my face or neck when ever I need to cool down.suffer from occasional psoriasis so I use it to ease red, itchy and dry skin. Bring it on flights to keep your skin hydrated. It also cleans and tones the skin.

3. Handheld spritzing fan

I absolutely hate being hot.  So I’m bringing a pocket fan with me in my day bag. A MUST HAVE for Disney since there’s a lack of shade and crazy Florida heat.

71PDOaqU-rL._SL1500_

4. Body Glide for Her

71IvO-dcN6L._SL1200_

As a voluptuous lady when I mix heat, walking and shorts I suffer from chub rub. THE HORROR! The solution? Body Glide. It looks like a deodorant  stick, but it’s actually a moistening balm. Body Glide is made from all natural, plant-based materials. It acts a protective layer between your skin and irritants. Apply it in the morning and reapply throughout the day.

5. Sunglasses Straps

51bdMib2V3L._SL1100_

Lily Pulitzer Sunglasses Strap

I live in my Ray Bans when I travel. If I lost my sunnies on a rollercoaster I would be devastated. To insure your glasses wont slip off at Disney it is essential to invest in a pair of Sunglasses Straps! I’m bringing an adorable strap from Lily Pulitzer that is featured above. You can find a wealth of options on Amazon.

6. Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport SPF

island-sport-spray-15

Walt Disney didn’t believe in shade. So at Disney parks you’ve got to protect your skin. I love using Hawaiian Tropic brand sunscreens. The new “Sport” line holds its own against sweat and water and still has the amazing tropical smell of the classic brand. You can even find mini travel size bottles at target that are perfect for your day bag and carry-on luggage friendly.

7. Pimp out your MagicBand

MFB_Shop_Glitter_colors

I love the idea of the new Disney MagicBands. It acts as a hotel key, credit card, reservation holder and your park ticket. They make you feel like a VIP. But they are butt ugly! Make your band for fashionable and stand out in the crowd by “pimping” your band! I used myfantasybands.com and got the gold glitter to go over my pink band. But there are hundreds of companies on Esty that focus on decking out you MagicBand with stickers, paint and more.

giphy

8. Alcohol

91Kmk-XC1vL._SL1500_

No good adult trip is complete without a bit of drunken mischief. But at Disney drinks can be very pricey! The solution? Bring your own booze! Disney allows you to bring basically any food or drink into the park as long as it’s not in glass. Obviously you can’t bring a bottle of Vodka. But you could sneak in your own spirits! For my trip I purchased these sneaky flasks. Each tube will hold two shots of my favorite beverage. No enough to get wasted, but should spice things up a bit! If you do this remember to drink responsibly and know your environment (don’t black out at Magic Kingdom in front of a ton of princess dressed six-year olds).

9. Waterproof Swimsuit Bag

il_570xN.802551772_glkw

Wet Bag from Etsy

In order to make the most out of your trip go from the water park straight to magic kingdom by throwing your wet suit into a tiny wet bag. It seals in moister to protect your other belongings and it small enough to throw into your backpack.

10. Portable Charger

Portable-Charger-

Disney now has park-wide free wifi! So you will be able to use all your favorite applications. Which is sure to drain your cell phone battery. Since you most likely won’t find a free outlet (unless you want to pay Disney at their hourly charging station). Be sure to pack your own portable charger. You can buy cheap ones on Amazon.

11. Rain Poncho

il_570xN.360459677_t1ra

You could buy a “vintage” Disney Yellow Poncho on Etsy

One of the biggest cash cows at Disney are their rain ponchos. If it starts to sprinkle you will see hoards of families rushing into the stores to snatch up these (now clear) plastic beauties. Save yourself $10 and buy one in advance at the Dollar Store. You can find compact folded up ones that you can keep with you in your day bag.

12. Quick Dry Sport Towel

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 4.57.19 PM

I hate carrying around big bulky beach towels. Especially when I’m packing a carry-on only suitcase. Save room and invest in a thin and mighty Sport Towel. These towels are quick drying and ultra absorbent. Plus they’re compacts and lightweight which is perfect for traveling.

13. Hand Sanitizer
110107pocketbac.aurora_standalone.prod_affiliate.79

Thousands of children mean millions of germs. Pack hand sanitizer and protect yourself.

14. Brita Sport Filter Water Bottle

300

Disney now offers free ice water at every shop, restaurant and kiosk. Don’t buy bottled water! Bring your own bottle and fill it up. Save the earth and some major cash. I like the Brita Filter bottles. You can fill using regular tap water and rest assured that your water is filtered and clean.

15. Doterra Travel Kit

doterra-giveaway-1024x689

I just invested in my first Essential Oils kit and I am excited to test them in the field! With a Travel Kit I can bring travel size morsels of all the best oils. It’s like walking around with an all natural pharmacy! I’m going to bring my On Guard, Breath Easy, Slim and Sassy, Deep Blue, Lemon, Frankincense, Peppermint and Lavender oils! All can cure most everyday ailments.

16. Grid It! Organizer (small)

207_xlargeWhen I’m traveling I like to know that everything I bring has its place. I don’t want to have to fumble through my bags searching for a pen, lip balm or hand sanitizer. That’s why I swear by my Grid It Organizers. I have them in all sizes. The small one is perfect for purses and the medium on is great for backpacks. Whenever I pull mine out people always comment on how cool it looks. Never loose your extra memory card, highlighter, or batteries ever again! Get organized and invest in a Grid It.

17. Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration

300-1

So much good in one bottle

After spending all day in the sun your skin will need some serious TLC. I love the Hawaiian Tropics After Sun location. It smells like walking through a Hawaiian green house full of hibiscus flowers. It contains aloe vera which is great for cooling the skin and easing burns. You can purchase travel sized bottles at Target!

18. Lifeproof Case

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 5.29.01 PMI have the absolute worst luck with my cell phones when traveling. I drop them on rocks, loose them while kayaking, they get stomped on by horses, ect. Literally the worst luck! So I recommend investing in a powerful case like the Lifeproof. They are extremely durable, waterproof and strong. I like the Lifeproof because its slender and modern looking.

19.  Personalized Ears

il_570xN.791519108_1dbu

Find an adorable and unique pair of ears on Esty

Stand out from the crowd and get a better deal on ears before you get to the park. You can find Minnie and Mickey ears in every style and character inspiration on Etsy.com. I loves the Alice in Wonderland themed ones featured above!

20. Drawstring Backpack

shoppingAvoid terrible backpack tan lines and bring a drawstring bag with you.  If you’re a light packer this will be the best way to tote your goods. Find a lightweight, durable and waterproof one. Mine is a little more hight-tech then one pictured. You can find Drawstring bags that have zippers and pockets at athletic stores.

url

There it is my adult’s packing guide to Disney. Have any items to add to the list? Let me know!

How letting my guard down led to my biggest travel misadventure and self realization

I want to tell this story in hopes that it provides inspiration to my fellow travelers. This is a cautionary tale about a girl traveling alone and a big mistake that could have been fatal. In this story the girl gets really happy, a little sad, then a little scared. Ultimately she discovers something deep about herself and has the best night of her life. Last December I was at a low point. Coming off of my life changing trip to South East Asia I had post-travel depression. Most of my friends already had travel plans for New Years and it looked like I would be ringing in 2015 alone. One morning in a daze I was scrolling through the Contiki Last Minuet Deals site when I saw an amazing discount on a 12 day tour of Italy. I debated for a bit and then pulled out my credit card. It was booked. In just a week I would leave for Italy! The day after Christmas I was on my way. Flying to Europe, getting a cab and exploring Rome was so much easier and less scary than Asia so I felt like a travel pro. When I saw the suitcases my tour mates brought (for just 12 days) and compared them to my tiny carry-on I knew I was (a pro traveler). The first couple of days were so flawless, simple and easy that I quickly began to let my travel guard down. When in Asia I had my guard set high. I limited my drinks (although my limit was very high…), always traveled in a group, wrote my hotel down, paid in cash, ect. But Europe is so safe! Or so I thought. On New Year’s Eve our tour rolled through Napoli and to the charming town of Sorrento on the Almafi Coast.

10888832_10152891608395813_1128767308779748090_n

My roommate and I pre-new years festivities!

As the sun began to set my Australian friend Mollie and I explored the markets where we came upon the beginnings of the New Years parade. Without a thought we decided to join the parade! We danced with the musicians and chanted alongside costumed characters. We followed a large papier-mache Donkey to the town square where Donkey was set on fire using fireworks!

Afterwards our group met up for a traditional Neapolitan pizza feast! Then toasted with Aperol Spitzers at this swanky restaurant right in the center of town. For dancing and more drinks we went to Americano. A Kareoke night club near the festivities.

After a few strong martinis bells rang out to single midnight’s approach. So we stumbled out of the club (stolen martini glasses in hand) and joined the masses in the piasa. Before midnight the locals started shooting fireworks at each other and throwing glass bombs on the pavement. It was noisy, hectic, scary and invigorating!

10415583_10152891605010813_3745979401075699549_n

Street fireworks!

Finally the countdown began. 3,2,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The crowd went wild. I felt more emotion, energy and happiness in that tiny Sorrento piassa then I did in New York City!

Music filled the air, laugher, chanting and love engulfed me. Streamers flew and confetti fell. I kissed my neighbor and he kissed my friend. It was all in good fun. Then in Sorrento tradition we broke our stolen martini glasses on the pavement. 10906166_10152891595005813_1466665417180988046_n Then the piasa stage lit up and the DJ started spinning. We dance in a large mob and I made friends with some touchy Armenians. They shared their Grappa and I shared my awesome dance moves.

After dancing for what seemed like an eternity I began to notice that much of 40 person tour group was dispersing. I searched and found a couple of stragglers to join. We celebrated for a little longer before they decided it was time to head to the hotel. It was only 115AM. Our local guide told us that in Italy the party really doesn’t start until 2AM. So I tried to convince them to stick around. But they were done. So reluctantly I began to follow them back to the coach. On the way to the coach we passed tons of Italians who were just heading out for the night. They looked magical and majestic in their sparkly dresses and tailored suits. As we continued towards our bus I got sadder and sadder. I didn’t want to go home. The night was young. I wasn’t ready for bed! I tried again at no avail to get someone to go back with me. “YOLO” I aurgued. “The night is young, no regrets” I pleaded. But they were committed to retirement. As we began to round the last corner I cursed myself. “What was I doing?” I questioned myself. “Why am I following these people? I don’t even know them!” I asked. “I don’t need them to have a good time!” I convinced myself. “Why am I using them as a shield? Don’t be a follower Becca!” I cursed. “Do you! Do what you want!” I boasted. Without another thought I bid farewell and sped back to the town square. On my own.

10888730_10152891604485813_7501922098323390304_n

When alone you take Selfies to occupy your time.

Back at the the piasa I felt a hint of loneliness and timidness. I swallowed my fear and joined the dance floor where I shook my worries away. I found my Argentinian friends again. We danced the mambo, YMCA and the electric slide. Eventually they retired for the night and I was left alone again. At this point it was around 230AM. So did what all good American girls traveling alone in a foreign city should do…I took a walk. I ventured away from the busy piasa where I found myself alone in a maze of cobblestone streets. I was fascinated by the peacefulness that was just blocks away from chaos. I wandered back to the once crowded market and found myself surrounded by twinkling christmas lights. I was alone, but never afraid. In Sorrento on a mild winter night, I felt at home and at peace. As I walked I reflected on the past year. I wished I could see my mom again. She loved Italy and I remember her recounting her wild adventures in Rome. As I stopped to make a wish at a century old fountain I felt her there with me. I wandered back towards the town square and was met by hoards of drunk young Italians on their ways to after parties and other bars. Their laughter and enthusiasm was contagious. “Happy New Year!” is universal and it chimed throughout. I was got my second wind and wished I could find another party to join. I made my way back to the Americano Bar. I only peaked inside. I thought it was dead, so I turned back. I wish I had gone inside the bar. Apparently the three other Americans on my tour were still partying it up at the Americano! I often wonder what my night would’ve become had I found and joined their party. But I turned away. I went back to the DJ and the main stage. I settled down on a bench and listened to Opera singers and local celebrities belt Italian showstoppers. Around 330AM the festivities began to die down. So I decided it was time to head to my hotel. I pulled out my phone and found that it had died. Stupidly I didn’t write down my hotel or it’s address. I only had the information on my phone. I had no option but to hope that someone would know where my hotel was. So I hailed a taxi. When it comes to Italian Taxi drivers I think I won the lottery.

  • First stroke of luck: Rafael spoke perfect English. Second: He was young and enthusiastic. Third: He was charming and handsome. Forth: He thought I was hilarious.

I flat-out said “I have no idea where my hotel is”. He couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even know what my hotel was called. I felt like an idiot. He thought I was super funny. I told him that I knew it used to be a nunnery. That it might be called “Sister’s Hostel”. He hadn’t heard of a hotel like that. So we googled it. Nothing. He called his friends. They didn’t know. So I was up creek without a paddle. I knew I couldn’t lose Rafael. He was the answer. If I walked away and tried to find someone else, they might not have been as eager to help me. So I said “I will pay you anything, just drive and I’ll try to figure out from memory!” He agreed. I hopped in the front seat and we drove. I think we drove all around Sorrento and maybe into Napoli. We navigated the winding streets and whisked past the cliffs and ocean. Rafael asked me to describe the hotel and it’s surroundings. I said “It’s in a very old building, surrounded by orange trees and gardens. It’s on a cliff and has a view of the ocean.” He chuckled “that describes every hotel in Sorrento!” I asked him to drive alongside the ocean. At least we would be in the right area. Finally we turned down a cobblestone path that I recognized. We continued onward. Then I saw a sign for “Phoenix Bar” and I remembered riding in the coach earlier. My friend Molly had asked “What’s a Phoenix?” I knew then that we were close to the hotel! Only moments later I saw what I thought was my hotel. But there were no hotel signs and the large wooden doors were closed. Rafael wasn’t sure so he got out of the cab and went with me to investigate. The doors were locked and my heart sunk. I thought I was wrong. Rafael knocked vigorously and luckily the attendant answered. Once the door opened I saw the lobby and knew I was right! Rafael chatted with the attendant briefly in Italian and they laughed. Rafael told me the hotel was brand new! This was its first weekend open and that it was called “Sister’s Hostel” (I was right!). That explains why we couldn’t find it.

I walked with Rafael back to the cab to pay him and say goodbye. In stereotypical Italian style he begged me to stay with him. I shyly declined. Then he invited me to brunch in the morning. He said “I want to introduce my family to the giggly American”. I was flattered and reluctantly said “I’m sorry, no.” My tour was departing early that morning. I gave him a generous tip (I think I paid like $200 for only an $80 trip). But it was worth it. Rafael was a perfect gentleman and I don’t like to imagine what might have happened if I had been with a different cabbie. My biggest regret was that I didn’t get a photo with Rafael. But my phone was dead so I had no camera. Finally at 430AM I was safe and sound back at my hotel. I passed out fully clothed in my bed. But not before soaking in the extraordinary occurrences on my wild night.

Drinking around the World

No matter how different every city in the world may be, in each city you can find yourself at home with the comfort of a cool drink and the company of an old friend or some new.

Most cultures have their own traditional alcoholic beverages. When traveling I think sampling local spirits can connect you to the new city.

I enjoy sipping wine in a cafe, tubing with a beer in hand, body shots and posh cock tails. Drinking can be both relaxing or energizing. I become more open to meeting new people, trying new things and communicating. Through my travels a single glass of wine has led to philosophical revelations, beers at a pub led to a new flame and mixers at a club led to leading a street dance party. Drinking has certainly influenced and shaped many of my most cherished memories.

Drinking responsibly has led to a majority of positive experiences. So I have decided to compile a list of my favorite beverages from cities around the world.

Richmond, Virginia USA: Angry Balls

Cinnamon-Apple-Crisp_MG_39551-350x234

Angry Balls is my choice drink for camping, tail gates and country line dancing. This is my #MERICA drink. I don’t like beer so my go to pub drink is Hard Apple Cider. The Angry Balls cocktail is a combination of Angry Orchid Cider and Fireball Whiskey. It is spicy, full of flavor and is sure to heat your night up.

Orlando, Florida USA: John Daly

miami-cocktail-company-sweet-tea-arnold-palmer-ingredients

The best way to cool off in the shade of a Florida palm tree is sipping a traditional Arnold Palmer. An Arnold Palmer is a nonalcoholic mix of Sweet Tea and Lemonade. When you add a splash of vodka the drink becomes a John Daly! This cool and refreshing drink is a deep South staple. Best served in a mason jar.

Waikiki, Hawaii USA: Sex on the Beach

sex-on-the-beach-cocktail

It was hard to choose just one drink when thinking about Hawaii. Runners up included Bahama Mama, Pina Colada and Blue Hawaiian. All go to staples for tropical vacations. But the ultimate partner for surf and sand is the Sex on the Beach. A mix of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice. The bright colors are reminiscent of sunsets over Mauna Kea.

Bangkok, Thailand: Singapore Sling

I was first introduced to the Singapore Sling on the flight from Singapore to Thailand. After traveling for nearly 36 hours I desperately needed some liquid energy so I ordered this pretty pink concoction. I was hooked. I tried Singapore Slings at each bar I went to throughout Thailand. The best one? From a place called Hippie Bar in downtown Bangkok.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Nothing says fun like a large literal fish bowl full of unknown spirits, blue syrup and cherries! The Fish Bowl style drink is meant to be shared with friends. In my experience you don’t need to purchase your own. Just wander around the bar with your own straw and people will offer you a sample of theirs! Several fish bowls, insane heat and loud music led to me starting a massive dance party on the main bar street in Phnom Penh!

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Capri, Italy: Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur from Southern Italy. It is bitter, sour and an acquired taste. I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of sucking on Lemonhead sour candies as a kid. The liqueur is severed typically as a shot between and after meals. I had a blast on my tour of Southern Italy because most people in my group didn’t like the flavor, so after each meal they gave me theirs! Shots, Shots, Shots!

Venice, Italy: Bellini

bellini-250

Probably one of my favorite drinks from my travels is the Peach Bellini. First of all it combines two of my favorite things Prosecco sparkling wine and peach (purée or nectar). Try sipping a Bellini as you float through Venice on a romantic gondola.

Dublin, Ireland: Pear Cider

943670_10151732603150813_1017106005_n

When in Ireland I tried Guinness, of course. But I don’t like beer so for most of my trip I stuck to Hard Cider. I tried Pear Cider for the first time in Dublin and got hooked. There’s nothing like a few pints of cider in a dark Irish pub.

London, England: Apple Cider

1176231_10151783180245813_943688137_n

Drinking Cider at a graveyard pub

Throughout England I sampled local Hard Ciders whenever possible. It’s interesting to see the variations in color, crispness, and overall taste.

Paris, France: Rosé wine

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.17.35 PM

Wine tasting

Complex to produce and steeped in tradition Rosé wine is a must have in Paris. Not to sweet and not to dry Rosé wine is perfect to sip in a sunny cafe or take on a garden picnic. I’ve never been able to replicate the Rosé I found in Paris.

Denver, Colorado USA: Moscow Mule

Moscow-Mule-recipe

I first heard about the Moscow Mule from Cosmopolitan Magazine. They suggested that every refined lady should have “Go-To” drink. Something that you can order at a bar and show how refined and classy you are. So I decided my drink of choice would be the Moscow Mule. It’s made from Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime Juice. Cold, spicy and strong this drink sure stands out in a crowd. The best I’ve had? Came from a restaurant in Denver called The Yard House.

A History of My Libations:

Conclusion: 

You can travel the world and you’ll never sample all, but at least you’ve tasted life. 

Plus Size Packing for Tropical Mexico

Mexico

I absolutely love packing. Invite me over, I’ll pack your bags. I guess that’s why I’ve already started pack for my trip that is several months away. This winter I’ll be celebrating the New Year in Cancun, Mexico!

thiiiiiiiAs a plus size girl sometimes packing for the tropics can be daunting. When traveling I want to be cute and comfortable! The biggest discomforts I face traveling are chub rub and proper skin care. So I’ve compiled some of my favorite skin care products that are literal life savers when I travel!

Fight Chub Rub: 

Silky Underwear Dusting Powder 1. Silky Underwear Dusting from Lush

Dust this smooth, sensual jasmine scented powder between your thighs, under your chest, anywhere and instantly feel like a Victorian goddess! Helps prevent chafing, absorbs moisture and deodorizes.

BodyGlide For Her - Dick's Sporting Goods

2. BodyGlide for Her

This was my godsend during my month in South East Asia! I went through two sticks!! Glide this stick between your thighs and it acts as a skin lubricant to reduce irritation. Non-greasy, fragrance free, sweat and water-resistant.

Get yourself a pair of bike shorts with built-in rash guards.

3. Undersummers Rash Guard Panty Shorts

These babies are perfect to wear under that adorable summer dress. They are light weight, breathable, comfortable and come in a variety of colors.

Skin Care: 

I have super sensitive skin. So chemical free and organic products are very important to me. Below are some of my favorite products!

Biore Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar- 3.77 oz

1. Biore Charcoal Bar

Ever since I began using the Biore Charcoal line my skin has been transformed. It feels smoother, less oily and tighter. I use the bar and gel facial wash.

Colorescience Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30 .23 fl oz (TAN)

2. Colorescience Sunforgettable SPF 30

This is powdered sunscreen that is waterproof and works immediately upon application. Brush it on your face throughout the day over or under makeup.

3. COOLA Mineral Sport SPF 35

In my opinion this is the best smelling sunscreen around! Organic, mineral enriched, highly effective sunscreen.

African Paradise

4. African Paradise by Lush

After playing in the sun all day your skin will need some serious therapy. Apply this rich body conditioner and heel yourself. Full of Aloe, Shea butter and more your feel and smell good enough to eat.

Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz - 5.0 oz5. Boots Botanics Rose Water Spritz

I think I’ve written about this product more than anything else in my blog! Keep this in your carry on bag and spritz this throughout your flight. It will refresh and rejuvenate your skin!

Clothes:

Lately I’ve been into the minimalist look. For Mexico I’m feeling a color palate of royal blue, crisp white, black and some pops of coral. I’m looking to incorporate Mexican culture by adding details like stitching, beading and patterns. Since I’m only going for a week I can pack super light. Hopefully putting everything in a carry on bag.

Where do I shop?

My NUMBER ONE shopping spot for plus size clothes is Maurices.com. They have a great selection of girly, bohemian and trendy plus size pieces. I absolutely love this store.

I’ve also discovered that Forever 21 now has a pretty decent Plus Size section. I love their options for shorts and basics. Plus I dig that they have high-waisted bikinis and crop tops in my size!

My Trip:

Contiki Yucatan Highlights

Tour Map

End Notes:

Since I’m not leaving for a couple a months I’ll continue to update this page! Check back for more tips later.

Traveling Solo with Contiki

The benefits of traveling alone are countless. But for many traveling solo seems intimidating and lonely. That’s when traveling with a group becomes an ideal situation. With Companies like Contiki you may be traveling alone but you are never truly on your own. You always have the option to be with a group of other like-minded travelers. .

Contiki tour groups vary in size from 30-50 people. I guarantee you will not be the only person traveling alone. On both on my trips there were a majority of singles, a few couples and a few friend groups. Nearly everyone you meet is willing to open-up and be friends!

Isn’t it scary? How do I make friends??

Many people have asked me about traveling as a single with a Contiki group. People often ask “is it scary not knowing anyone else? Will you be the only single? How can I make friends?” So here are my tips for traveling as a single with a Contiki tour group.

1. Book a double or triple-share room

My number one tip to guarantee that you will make friends during your Contiki is to have a roommate! You will automatically have a friend on the very first day. When you have a roommate you will always know when at least one other person is going out and what’s happening that day. I am now great friends with my roommate from Contiki Asia and I had a blast in my triple-share with Contiki Italy.

10522601_10152765414975813_5146615028754560291_n

My roommate Becky and I striking a pose in Cambodia

2. Put your guard down

I’m an introvert. At home I have a close-nit group of 4 friends. I typically don’t go out of my way to meet new people. But when traveling alone you have to get out of your comfort zone. Smile, and say hello. In order to make new friends you have to be approachable.

3. Crack a joke

The first meeting and meal with Contiki can be a little awkward. Everyone is nervous, you don’t know anything or anyone. So break the ice! I have pretty spot on comedic timing so I love to crack a witty comment or two to lighten the atmosphere.

4. Alcohol helps

I’m not saying be a drunk! As an introvert I know that a little liquor helps me loosen up. So why not have a glass of wine at dinner so that you feel more at ease talking to your new friends.

1485069_10152891590080813_4624351173454198508_n

Not passed out in the hotel lobby or anything…

5. Create a Facebook Page

Contiki has their awesome “Meetup” page through the website. But I’ve found people will use a Facebook page more. So create one for your tour and post the link to your Contiki “Meetup” page. That way you can talk to people, see what they look like, share travel goals and more before your trip departs. Plus stalking people’s profiles before the trip is a great way to pass the time.

6. Bring cards!

I always bring a deck of cards with me when I travel. A game of Kings Cup, Spoons or BS always brings groups together. One of my most memorable nights in Italy was playing Kings Cup at the hotel after a long day in Florence.

10891442_10152891590565813_7722013024757468421_n

7. Offer to take a photo of someone

The first day of travel the best way to talk to new people is to offer to take a photo of them and vice versa. Comment on their cool camera, compliment her sweet scarf or interesting tattoo. Break the ice!

8. Don’t be embarrassed

The best part about traveling is discovering yourself, letting your guard down and trying new things. With Contiki you might have the chance to sing karaoke, ride a bike, flash a mountain, take a shot, ect. TRY IT! Nothing brings a group closer than shared experiences. Rock those lederhosen like a champ and laugh about it later!

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 11.38.14 AM

We wanted to take the cheesy picture, so we did!