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?

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

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Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

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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!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

24 Hours in Dublin

Dublin is the bustling capital of Ireland. It is rich in history but famous for its vibrant culture, night life, music and literature. You could spend days exploring this magical city but if you’re tight on time here’s my guide to spending 24 hours in Dublin.

9AM – Spire of Dublin640px-E4324-Spire-of-Dublin

Located in the heart of Dublin on O’Connell Street the Spire of Dublin is a great place to find your bearings. This pin-like statue stands tall and will guide you from where ever you may be back to the city center.

915AM- Arrange transportation

It might seem touristy but in my opinion the best way to see Dublin and get around quickly are the Dublin Hop On – Hop Off Buses.  For a one time payment of $30 you can have a full day pass for tours all around Dublin. City Sightseeing will guide and entertain in addition to highlighting the best of Dublin. Dublin public buses are unionized and often go on strike. The City Sightseeing buses are privately owned and will operate every day.

One Day Bus Ticket: $30

930AM- TRINITY COLLEGE AND THE BOOK OF KELLS LIBRARY

Hop of the bus and stroll through the majestic grounds of Trinity College. Modeled after Oxford and Cambridge the magical architecture will transport you to another world.

Make your way to the 18th century Old Library building which showcases the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a medieval manuscript and Ireland’s greatest treasure. If you’re a fan of “Harry Potter” you will feel at home in the monumental Old Library. The library was erected in 1743 and hosts a collection over 200,000 books.

Entry to Book of Kells Exhibit: $11

“I was in the library the other day, in the Restricted Section, and I read something rather odd about a bit of rare magic”- Harry Potter

11AM- Dublin Castle

After a short bus ride hop off at Dublin Castle. Dublin Castle has been a fixture in Dublin since the 13th century. It has acted as a fortress, royal palace, prison, government center and much more. Opt out of the guided tour inside. You will see more impressive castle interiors in other places throughout Ireland or Europe. Instead wander the grounds and snap a few photos. Then hop back on the bus and cruise to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

1145AM-  ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and was erected in 1191. It is complied of several architectural styles including medieval and gothic.

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Stunning St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Entry: $6

1PM- Lunch on Thomas St

Get off the bus on Thomas Street and choose from several pubs and artisan restaurants. Why not try and get a seat at the oldest pub in Ireland; the Brazen Head Pub. Sample traditional Irish pub food and beers. But save room for Guinness at your next stop!

230PM- Guinness storehouse

Book your tickets in advance for your guided tour of The Guinness Storehouse, brewery and factory. Learn the history of Irish Brewing, some secrets to making Guinness, beer sampling and much more. Then browse the gift shop for the perfect souvenir!

4PM- SHOP!

Hop on the red line of the City Sightseeing Bus and cruise down Bachelor’s Walk and back up O’Connell St. Jump off at the Moore Street Market and head down Parnell St. Turn left on Capel and again onto Mary Street for an array of shops, bars and markets.

530PM- CHECK IN TO YOUR HOTEL

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Drop your souvenirs and bags at your hotel or hostel and get ready for a night out.

If you’re looking for a cozy, cheap and great location why not try the Abbey Court Hostel.

630PM DINNER

Take your pick from the plethora of pubs and restaurants near your hostel or walk down to College Green St. Which is near your next destination.

745PM GRAVE DIGGER’S GHOST BUS TOUR

Possibly my favorite tour in Dublin was the Grave Digger’s Tour! Your ghoulish guide will transport you back to plaque times and escort you via creepy coach around Dublin. Visit Dublin Castle at night, Christ Church, Cork Hill, Kilmainham Jail and more!

The tour concludes at The Gravediggers Pub. A famous pub located next to the historic Dublin cemetery. Down your free drink and then relax with a Guinness before heading back to Trinity College.

Jenny enjoying her Guinness at the Gravedigger’s Pub

Cost: $30

10PM- bar hop in temple bar DISTRICT

Possibly the most famous area of Dublin; Temple Bar District is a collection of pubs and Bars on the South Bank of the Liffey River. Lively nightlight, music, performers and tons of bars makes for endless fun! Check out The Temple Bar Pub, The Porterhouse, Stag Head and much more. The best part of Temple Bar is drinking is aloud in the street and public intoxication? Well that’s just being Irish!

Most pubs will stay open until 1AM and some clubs will stay open later. What ever you decided to do, you’ll be surrounded by culture, history and friendship.

8AM- BREAKFAST

Irish Breakfast

After your big night out you might need to sleep in but if you’re up early then grab breakfast near your hotel. The best place near The Abbey Court is The Bakehouse. This charming little eatery serves traditional foods on homemade breads. Everything is absolutely delicious and fresh. You will not be disappointed.

24 hours done

Hopefully you can find more than 24 hours to explore amazing Dublin. But if not I hope this guide helps you plan your adventure.

Have more time?

Here are some other options if you have more time in Dublin:

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Dublin Hop on Hop Off Map

More about my trip to Ireland and europe:

Ireland   Europe

What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

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