Solo travel (photo essay of my epic adventures)

Today FriFotos celebrates ONE year – Happy Anniversary Mr Epstein! =) Great concept, I follow it religiously since I discovered it. And so, fitting it is this weeks theme: ONE. It could mean a variety of things, depends on one’s POV, which is why I love it today – such a variety of photos I’ve seen on Twitter! Woman solo travel it is, then ūüėÄ

As for me, this FriFotos theme was a perfect “excuse” to make a photo compilation of some of the journeys I’ve embarked¬†on solo –¬†my many experiences as a solo woman traveler. Please note, this is only meant to be a “teaser” or photo summary – full stories of each journey will follow soon! Conversely, if I have already written about a particular topic, click on the in-text link to read the respective post. Hope you enjoy¬†and¬†have a wonderful weekend! =)

Cancun & Chichen Itz√°, Mexico – March 2008

I tried to get a group of 16 of my college friends together to head out to Cancun for my last spring break before studying abroad. Didn’t work out, so I said screw this, I’m going solo! And this is what they missed *evil grin*

woman solo travel Cancun

View from my hotel room. 'Cause I'm a baller

I, however, always make friends rather quickly…

woman solo travel Cancun kayak

aaand hijacked a kayak

Aaand wore a *cough* thong *cough*

woman solo travel Cancun beach

"Paparazzi: No photos, please!"

Plus spotted some bad-ass Mayan architecture at Chichen Itz√° during a day trip that week

woman solo travel Chichen Itza

What a pyramid!

Washington, DC – June 2008

Shortly after my Spring Break stint, I headed to Washington DC for the Scholarship Convocation of that sweet deal I earned thanks to months of essay-writing and years of good grades . You know, that $20,000 study abroad scholarship to study Arabic in Egypt for a year? Yeah, that one =D Of course, I had to head out to DC solo, got a sweeeet room all for myself right by the Capitol at The Liaison Hotel, and met some wonderful brains in the process. With them I walked around the Mall & marveled at the sights for the first time in my life. Fun times!

woman solo travel Capitol Hill, Washington DC

Me @ Capitol Hill!

woman solo travel Library Of Congress, Washington DC

Library of Congress - with all those amazing books & architecture, truly HEAVEN ON EARTH!

Egypt, Israel, Jordan – August 2008 to July 2009

Just two months after DC, I departed for my greatest solo adventure to this day: Egypt and the Middle East! For a full grand year, I got to enjoy the most stigmatized (imo) region in the world. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what the Western media says about the fascinating Arab world is quite skewed. Sure,¬†there¬†are problems (aren’t they everywhere tho!?), but I honestly felt more secure walking through the streets of Cairo at 4 AM or the streets of Jordan at 11 PM by myself than doing so in Puerto Rico or Tampa at any time of the day! If you have been avoiding this region because of what the news say, let me give you a news flash myself: JUST TAKE THE PLUNGE ALREADY! It is¬†FASCINATING!

woman solo travel Great Pyramids

me @ the Great Pyramid, Giza, Egypt

I rode camels – several times over

woman solo travel Great Pyramids camel ride

umm yes, that's me

woman solo travel Ras Abu Gallum

Me (left) on a camel safari to Ras Abu Gallum reserve. About 1.5 hours EACH way from-to Dahab on a camel...hurts...but the views + snorkeling at the reserve were STUNNING

woman solo travel Ras Abu Gallum camel safari

I'm prepping on the left (pink tank top, WHITE camel!)

Wandered through historical, ancient cities & sites

woman solo travel Medinat Habu

Medinat Habu temple, Upper Egypt. Def. my favorite - SO colorful!

woman solo travel Islamic Cairo

me wandering the streets of Islamic Cairo

FriFotos Mohamed Ali Mosque

Mohamed Ali Mosque from Al Azhar park, Cairo (Photo: My friend Marta Carelli)

FriFotos Petra

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

FriFotos Jerusalem

me in Jerusalem - golden Dome of the Rock and Wailing Wall in the background

Climbed many historical sites, all while mingling with locals (and other world adventurers)

FriFotos Petra Monastery

ME on top of the Petra Monastery - a BEDOUIN made me climb! =D

FriFotos Jordan

Bedouin girl fixing my headscarf. She led the trek that day, amazing!

Witnessed history buried underwater…

FriFotos Wreck diving

Travel bucket list item: Shipwreck diving - CHECK! (Thistlegorm)

even floated on historical waters…

FriFotos Dead Sea

me (far left) and other travelers floating on the Dead Sea (one kind man took photo for me)

…and, as a dramatic farewell, embarked on an epic 5-week solo Middle Eastern road trip, which took me to dozens of cities, spanning 3 countries, hitchhiking and Couchsurfing all the way. AH-MA-ZING!

FriFotos Abu Simbel

Ramses II, your ego is truly heavy (me at Abu Simbel Temple)

FriFotos Aswan

me drifting down the Nile on a felucca - look at those Nubian eyes!

FriFotos Egypt Israel border

by the Egyptian-Israeli border - AMAZING!

“The Transatlantic Tour” NYC, London, Spain – August 2009

The Middle East wasn’t enough to satisfy my wanderlust, oh no – I had to study abroad again in Africa, this time a little west, in Morocco. En-route, I went on what I called “The Transatlantic Tour,” with stops in NYC, London, Spain & 2 cities in Morocco before arriving to Ifrane.

FriFotos NYC

Statue of Liberty, NYC

FriFotos London

Big Ben & me - London

FriFotos Madrid

Me (right, skirt) with some travelers I met up with in Madrid

Morocco – August to December 2009

I briefly visited Casablanca and Fez, but that first day in Moroccan lands was so erratic, I couldn’t really take many pictures (click here to know why).

And so! High in the Atlas mountains, I studied Arabic language, Islamic history and World Religions at Al Akhawayn University for 4 months.

FriFotos Ifrance, Morocco

Library (left) and part of the mosque (right) at AUI. Photo by fellow student Jonathan Jacobs

It wasn’t all books, though – I befriended a great entourage from West Point (yeah, that bad-ass school) and together we took road trips around Morocco and have quite a couple of stories to remember! (to read more, click here)

FriFotos Morocco

secret beaches...

Essaouira, Morocco

...ancient doorways and kids...

Moroccan road trip

...dangerous roads...

Marrakech, Morocco

...and interesting characters! (umm, the COBRA is real, by the way...)

During my Moroccan stint, I even got to go to Europe for a 3rd & 4th time!!

Colosseum, Rome

Party I attended by the Colosseum, org by Couchsurfer I stayed with!

Blue Lagoon

me at Blue Lagoon, Iceland (OK this is cheating, I did have a travel buddy this time, who took the pic)

Panama – March 2010

Ater heading back to the US of A in January 2010, ¬†I realized my last college Spring Break would be 2 months later, and so I planned my next journey: PANAMA! I traveled solo, met some great travelers from all over the world at Aqua lounge Hostel in Bocas del Toro and then heard some interesting stories from US diplomats on a chartered, 8-people, 4-day sailboat trip through the San Blas Islands by the Caribbean coasts of Panama. Yes, epic should be my middle name -I know (because clearly, modesty isn’t. LOL!). For a¬†full trip report of this journey, click here!

View of Aqua Lounge Hostel's "pool" from my bed, I mean HAMMOCK ;)

FriFotos Aqua Lounge Hostel

Aqua Lounge Hostel

From left: American, Puerto Rican (me!), Australian, American, Israeli @ our Panamanian over-water hostel

Panama sailing

The sailboat - Andiamo!

San Blas Islands sailing

view of Kuna Yala from my sailboat cabin (San Blas islands)

And then…I stay put for a while. I haven’t embarked on any crazy solo journey ever since, except for the¬†occasional¬†weekend Couchsurfing in Orlando, FL for some concerts and Miami, FL for Latin spice and extra fun in the sun. Oh, WAIT! There’s ONE MORE!!!

Times Square NYE

Me celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square, from VIP lane!!! (after midnight, ppl could cross, thats why you see many ppl in the photo)

Ummm, yes, as the photo caption suggests, somehow I flirted my way to the VIP lane and could get¬†first-row-seats (I mean, standing spot) with even a private bathroom at the Ball Drop in Times Square for New Year’s 2011. Probably not too legal, thus the covered NYPD Officer’s face so the poor kind man doesn’t get in trouble!¬†(to read more about this epic Times Square NYE, click here)

And behold, my loyal followers – the next epic adventure is set and the wanderlust shall continue!

SE Asia & Oceania map


*happy sigh of relief*

What was your definition of ONE for this week’s FriFotos? Share in a comment below!

FriFotos: Rome, Times Square in New Years & Gaga lights (photo compilation)

This week’s FriFotos theme is “LIGHTS” so today I present you a photo compilaton of some of my favorite “light” moments, all over the globe. Hope you like them pics! ūüėČ

FriFotos Colosseum lights

I got to party with the locals by the Colosseum in Rome! =D

FriFotos Colosseum lights

View from our tram, where the Roman party was at

Times Square NYE - travel bucket list CHECK!

The Ball drop in Times Square from the VIP lane! Read the story here

travel bucket list check - Times Square NYE

New Year's in Times Square from the VIP lane - AMAZING!

Rome lights

Lights somewhere in Rome. I think it was the Pantheon?

Me at Fontana di Trevi, Rome

Lady Gaga concert

Lady Gaga stage lights, concert in Tampa, FL

You got any cool LIGHT photos? Post the links below!

FriFotos: Amazing formations & solidified lava in Iceland

FriFotos time! This week’s theme is “STONE” so I chose some of my favorite Icelandic formations.

On these first photos, I am at a volcanic ash beach located in Vik, southern coast. It almost seems as if a sculptor simply carved into the rock, but this “stepped stone hill” of sorts and surrounding formations were chiseled and smoothed out by lava flow. Fascinating!

Vik, Iceland

Me @ the “stepped” hill in the southern coast – SO unreal, no?!

Icelandic beach

Us climbing the “lava stairs” hill at the Icelandic beach!

Icelandic landscape

solidified lava

Icelandic landscape

amazing formations at volcanic ash beach by Vik, southern coast

Many great “stones” or rocks can be found all over Iceland, though. Below, volcanic rocks (and some smothered in covered with silica mud) at the Blue Lagoon. White remnants of a silica mud facial mask can be found on my face:

Blue Lagoon

Me @ Blue Lagoon, taking a dip by volcanic rocks covered in silica mud

Blue Lagoon

many volcanic rocks @ Blue Lagoon by the entrance of the complex

Blue Lagoon entrance

Volcanic rocks, silica mud & frozen waters (by the “shore”) @ the Blue Lagoon

I love Iceland as a whole, though–not just the scenes from these pictures. I found all Icelandic landscapes to be so fascinating, all throughout the country and just so different from the rest of Europe! I actually felt as if I had landed on a different planet. And Icelandic people? Some of the friendliest I have ever encountered in my world travels. Ahhh, can’t wait to go back! =) My first and only visit was a week-long stopover in December 2009.

Icelandic landscape

Cool mountain spotted during one of our Icelandic road trips

Have you ever been to Iceland?

What luxury means to me (in Puerto Rico): FriFotos

So this week’s FriFotos theme is “What luxury means to you?” and, in all honesty, I never really care about material posessions, but rather, about experiences. THOSE, the memories (sp of my travels) are luxury to me. So sleeping on a $5-a-night hammock in Panama means luxury. The feeling of soft sand between my toes at a Puerto Rican beach to me, is luxury. Today tho, I tried to stick to the “mainstream” meaning of luxury and combined it with my own definition to come up with these FriFotos:

pool of Embassy Suites hotel, Dorado, Puerto Rico

Kicking back = luxury at the pool of Embassy Suites hotel, Dorado, Puerto Rico

FriFotos pool of Embassy Suites hotel, Dorado, Puerto Rico

My toes look happy, don't they? ūüėČ

What does luxury mean to you? Post your FriFotos on a comment below!

A Portrait: Black and White (FriFotos)

This week’s FriFotos theme is “black and white” and I chose a portrait —¬†of myself. I’m not really that egocentric (-ish haha :P), but I just love this photo for two main reasons. Firstly, it brings back great memories: It was taken during my very first trip around Egypt (outside of Cairo), in which I visited the oases Baharya, Farafra, Dakhla, and the Black desert and White desert.

Secondly, it truly is a candid portrait. I know you won’t believe me, but my friend Marine simply yelled, “Maria! PHOTO!” and I just looked to my side, held my hair and this is what came out! You may believe the “authenticity” of such claim by noting the big water bottle I’m holding with my left arm *wink* Hope you like it (and don’t hate me now and stop reading my blog because you think I’m in love with myself)! Note: I have filed this post under Puerto Rico *wink* Taking off tonight–YAY!! However, please¬†stay tuned as I have scheduled some posts for next week, meaning content flow won’t stop. Can’t wait to see your comments and RT’s once I get back! (:P)

black and white portrait

Just me – black and white

What is your best black and white shot? Post the link below!