10 years living, traveling solo around the world: 30+countries, 4 continents, a baby & a life-altering diagnosis [pt 1]

Happy New DECADE! Hola hola, I’m BACK—and with a crazy, exciting, emotional series of photo essays summarizing my past 10 years living and traveling solo around the world. It will also explain why I kind of “ghosted” y’all (sorry about that). I’m proud to announce I’ve made it to the other end of the tunnel after MANY sharp turns and (mis)adventures—so excited to start off a new decade finally able to share them with YOU again.

Off we go!

A decade of living and traveling solo around the world (part 1!)

2009-2010

Lived in Egypt, Morocco, and Florida; also explored Spain, Italy, Iceland, Panama, Mexico, NYC

I ended the previous decade – which officially started my solo adventures traveling around the world – with a year studying abroad in Egypt, a summer traveling the Middle East, and 4 months in Morocco.

female traveling to Pyramids of Giza Egypt

traveled to the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt at age 20

traveling solo around the world Red Sea camel riding

Riding camels through a natural reserve bordering the Red Sea. 2009

ancient Egypt temples, Abu Simbel

Ramses II, your ego is truly heavy (me at Abu Simbel Temple, summer 2009)

female travel to Bahariya Oasis Egypt

Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert, Egypt! Visited in 2009 (Photo: Fellow student M. Begault)

And it was among the great contrasts of the barren desert of the Sinai Peninsula and one of the bodies of water with the most abundant marine life in the world that I got certified as a SCUBA diver, all the way to advanced. I even got to explore one of the top 10 ship wreck dives in the world, the SS Thistlegorm.

solo traveling around the world, scuba diving in Egypt

descent for DEEP dive for my PADI advanced open water certification in the Red Sea, Egypt

traveling the Sinai Peninsula solo, Egypt

seemingly barren of life on the surface, teeming with life underwater! That’s the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

“Oh, and a few quick trips to Europe!

first trip to Rome:

solo travel around the world Rome Italy

My 1st trip to Rome was possible thanks to Couchsurfing. Fall 2009

That December, I finished a magical semester living in Morocco (which I road tripped with fellow exchange students over the weekends!)

study abroad in Morocco

me in Essaouira, Morocco with one of the local kids we took in for lunch

beach in Morocco road trip

Hidden beach found during a road trip through Morocco, fall 2009

Morocco is where I flew out to the UK and onto a sick 6-day stopover trip to ICELAND! Crazy that it was cheaper for me to do this free side trip with Icelandair on my way back home to Puerto Rico than to book a more direct flight, haha! That was my first time in Iceland and, 10 years later, it still tops my list of most favorite countries in the world – it’s like visiting a different PLANET:

Iceland travel tour blue lagoon

Me with silica mud mask at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland. December 2009

Iceland waterfalls photos frozen Skogafoss

In front of one of the many majestic waterfalls of Iceland. December 2009

I even got to see the northern lights! I CRIED, their beauty overwhelmed me:

Iceland northern lights aurora borealis

HD cameras/smartphones were not as affordable back then (2009!), so my pictures don’t do them justice!

After spending the Puerto Rican holidays with my family, I went back to the continental U.S. in January 2010 and got to swim with manatees in Florida. It was my 1st encounter with animals in the wild!

adventures around the world swimming with manatees

swimming with manatees in Florida THIS close is one of the top highlights of my whole LIFE

student swimming with manatees

I couldn’t stop smiling!

I was still a full time college student, so after the Spring 2010 semester kicked off, I took advantage of my very last official Spring Break to sail the San Blas Islands, Panama and to party on an overwater hostel in Bocas Del Toro:

Panama Bocas Del Toro hostel

Solo travel around the world = many friends made! From left: American, Puerto Rican (me!), Australian, American, and Israeli at over-water hostel

solo female traveling San Blas Islands Panama

One of the many isolated, pristine San Blas Islands, Panama. Spring 2010

GRADUATION!

After working my butt off holding several jobs/writing essays for study abroad scholarships to pay for university plus travel the world while studying full time, I finally graduated with honors distinction from college in December 2010. Took me 5 and a 1/2 years (2 degrees, 11 countries, and a 3rd language later) but hey, gotta work hard and play hard.

graduating after traveling the world

me graduating with 2 degrees from University after traveling the world!

BUT! Before hitting the real world? A BACKSTREET BOYS CRUISE!

solo travel around the world, Backstreet Boys cruise

Me at the bottom (blue/white dress) holding Brian and the rest of the BACKSTREET BOYS! Only Kevin missing 🙁

Limbo dancing on stage with the Backstreet Boys at a beach party in Cozumel. One of these photos of me actually made it to be the cover photo of the official Backstreet Boys Facebook page after the cruise. EPIC!

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After an epic celebrity party cruise and graduation,  I said good bye to 2010 and hello to 2011 by watching the ball drop NYE in Times Square, New York City from the VIP lane! Click on that pink text link to read the full story on how I pulled this off (it involves NYPD officers…lol)

solo female travel NYC New Year's Ball drop Times Square

New Years in Times Square, NYC – memories like this one will always be part of my daily happiness!

2011-2012

From solo traveling around the world to a wedding, a baby, and other surprises

Little did I know this year we would have a very Puerto Rican wedding and I would find out I was going to be an AUNTIE. My little sis is all grown up!
<3

Puerto Rican wedding family photo

little did I know this would be one of our last happy family portraits…

from traveling around the world to a baby

from solo traveling around the world to my very first BABY NEPHEW! Born in 2012

Another pivotal chapter of my life also began in 2011: TRAVEL BLOGGING!

That’s the summer LatinAbroad was born!

And this would be the year I’d meet “The One” for me.

from traveling around the world to Tampa Florida

Mr. B and me on the far left in our base camp, Tampa Bay, Florida

Shortly after, I traveled without a plan to Curacao. From ending up in a guesthouse recommended by the very taxi driver that had just picked me up at the airport to Couchsurfing and hitchhiking with strangers around the island, this is been one of my funnest trips to date!

best beaches of Curacao, Kenepa Grandi

me at one of the best beaches of Curacao, Kenepa Grandi

travel without a plan, Curacao Nov 2011

what I love about traveling the world: Locals like him

2012 was mostly about professional growth and exploring the Americas for me. I got promoted to marketing and translation manager after working for a year and a 1/2 with a company and was gaining experience so I could eventually spend more (and do more) while traveling around the world–no more financial restraints or limits!

I still had a handful of adventures that year though, including my first travel conferences in NYC and Keystone, Colorado; my first press trips, sponsored hotel stays and tours in Puerto Rico and Playa Del Carmen; and even my first-ever SNOWFALL in Texas!

Cenote by Mayan ruins in the Yucatan

Me rappelling into a cenote by Mayan ruins in the Yucatan during my first sponsored press trip

Zip line videos Toro Verde Puerto Rico

Me in the middle of The Beast zip line in Puerto Rico: Among Top 2 Highest ones in the world!

 

2013 – when life and dreams crumbled…

This was the year things turned awry – my health went from perfect to terrifying…I got chronically ill (took 2 years to get an official diagnosis for) and was never able to use my hands the same way again. I couldn’t type nor mouse click. I spent up to 14 hours bedridden. I could barely blog, even with aids and voice recognition software. I was discriminated against and unfairly fired from a job I loved. I tried to sue but had to settle for a crap amount because hey, Florida is a “right to work” state and fibromyalgia is a “suspect condition.”

BUT! The irony is that because of this sharp turn in my path I reached the lifestyle I always dreamed of having – and MORE (keep reading this series to find out HOW!).

partying in Tampa Florida

Me (far left, in red) unsuspecting that, in a mere few days, my life (and health) would never be the same…

PART 2 of 10 years traveling around the world series coming up soon!

 

Where to Travel For The Best Stargazing In The World

In most urban areas, only around 500 stars are visible on a given night, but in the prized locations highlighted below, up to 15,000 are easily seen. That’s pretty incredible. It you’re planning a trip and want some nighttime eye candy, here are six of the best places in the world to go outside and look up.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.23.42 AMMauna Kea, Hawaii

The Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has perhaps the most ideal stargazing conditions in the world. At an elevation above 13,000 feet, it is the highest point in Hawaii. Its high elevation and location in the middle of the Pacific create excellent conditions, but the surrounding cloud layer makes it even more perfect for studying the sky. A tropical inversion cloud layer 2,000 feet thick sits below the summit, preventing pollutants and moist air from the ocean from rising up. The view itself is so spectacular that one of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories is located at the top. The visitor’s center at 9,000 feet offers lectures, question and answer sessions, and telescope viewing.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania might seem like an odd place for first-class stargazing, but Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best viewing points in the world. The 82 acre park is set within the 262,000 acre Susquehannock State Forest, protecting it from light pollution. A tremendous number of stars are visible at this Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park. In fact, the sky is so dark that the Northern Lights were seen here four times in 2014, a very unusual event this far below the Arctic Circle. The park offers Night Sky Tours on Friday and Saturday nights that use lasers to identify and explain constellations and planets. Visitors can also use telescopes on site.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is already a stunning natural wonder with its red dunes, huge rock formations, and even a desert flowering in wet years. It’s also the driest non-polar desert in the world due to its high elevation, which makes it an exceptionally perfect place for stargazing. The newly constructed ALMA Observatory takes advantage of these conditions and the lack of light pollution in the desert. At times, the Milky Way can shine so brightly here that it casts a shadow on the desert floor.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

In 2007, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first ever International Dark Sky Park, a designation since reserved for the best stargazing locations in the world. The beauty of the stars visible in the desert is supplemented by the striking natural setting. Owachomo bridge, perhaps the oldest bridge in the park, was created when a river changed course and carved a hole into solid rock.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.22.44 AMDenali National Park, Alaska

The Northern Lights are caused by a coronal mass ejection, which is a gust of solar wind and magnetic fields that interact with the earth’s atmosphere. The result are stunning dancing waves of green, red, blue, and violet that are occasionally visible in northern climates. Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the best places for viewing the phenomenon. The park encompasses four million acres of federally protected land, and the cold and clear Alaskan nights made conditions ideal. The magnificent park also offers bears, wolves, caribou, and moose as well as some of the most stunning mountain views in the world.

Tromsø, Norway

Brave stargazers might seek to venture inside the Arctic Circle itself for viewing the northern lights. There’s no better place to experience the enchanted north thanTromsø. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the aurora borealis (the sun is invisible from November to January), it’s a lovely city in its own right. In the 19th century it was called the Paris of the North, and visitors can enjoy reindeer spotting, sledding with huskies, and visiting the famous Arctic Cathedral in this Norse and Sami medieval city.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Dec. 16th.

Unique Proposal Destinations: 15 of My Favorite Spots

Last week I received a wedding invitation from my favorite cousin, who proposed to his lovely woman in Seville, Spain. As I plan my trip to their gorgeous Puerto Rican wedding (and home!), I couldn’t help but dream of unique proposal destinations.

Not just the cookie-cutter ones you see on every other article, though.

So! I scoured my own travel bucket list to come up with a unique list of spots where I would love my beau to pop that beautiful ring — I mean question 😉 From a multicultural trading island in Africa to a beach-less Caribbean island, here are my top 15 dream proposal spots around the world!

Unique Proposal Destinations: My Top 12

unique proposal destinations, Zanzibar

probably one of the most “crowded” beaches you’ll ever encounter in Zanzibar by Pelle, Flickr

Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, East Africa

Zanzibar is an African coastal trading island, which fused Indian, Arab, European and other Asian cultures for more than 1,000 years. I can’t think of a more romantic spot!

Stone Town, its capital city, has a fine array of unique Swahili architecture–clearly influenced by the aforementioned cultures that converged at the trading town over the centuries. Moreover, the island is lined by some of the most pristine beaches you’ll ever see in your life.

Dakhla Oasis, unique proposal destinations

Dakhla Oasis panorama by Darla Hueske, Flickr

Dakhla Oasis, Egypt, Middle East

An oasis town built over the remains of a Roman-era settlement, surrounded by forests of date palm trees and the Libyan desert–that’s Dakhla. In my humble opinion, this little-known tourist destination in Egypt is one of the Middle East’s best kept secrets.

My favorite spot for a proposal? The terrace of Desert Lodge, where I stayed for one magical night. It has incredible views of the historic town of Mut, the rest of the oasis, and beyond the desert. Oh, and absolutely killer views of the Milky Way at night, which can also be taken in from the natural hot springs behind the hotel.

Lembeh Strait, unique proposal destinations

Lembeh Strait aerial by kungkungan.com

Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia

The moment I first laid eyes on North Sulawesi’s Kungkungan Bay Resort, I imagined an intimate proposal at the porch of one of the beachfront traditional villas — all while a golden sun rose in the horizon. Le sigh.

One of my favorite places in all of Indonesia, Lembeh Strait boasts unique black sand beaches and incredible muck diving–all in an isolated, idyllic tropical oasis. I can’t wait to go back with my beau!

Québec City, unique proposal destinations

me in Québec City <3

Old Québec City, Canada, North America

When I first caught a glimpse of Old Québec City in 2012, I was a bit confused. Had I just been whisked away to a small, romantic village in rural France?!

Narrow, cobblestone streets; quaint cafés; French phrases dancing with the wind…But I was in North America! At one of its oldest cities!

Old Québec City oozes romance so effortlessly. Whether you pick one of its Tunisian restaurants–with their Moorish-style interiors–or outdoors at one of the corners of Quartier du Petit Champlain, a proposal at this French-Canadian spot will be more unique than anywhere in Paris (à mon opinion).

Palau, unique proposal destinations

Palau aerial by Charly W. Karl, Flickr

Island nation of Palau, Pacific Ocean

Imagine being proposed to while taking a romantic dip in a lagoon filled with non-stinging jellyfish?! Might seem scary to some, but the golden Mastigias is special species of jellyfish that thrives in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake due to the lack of natural predators.

The young island nation, which gained independence from the United States in 1994, is an exclusive nature lover’s paradise as well. Receiving less than 200,000 tourists a year, Palau is certainly one of the most unique proposal destinations in the world.

Bukhara, unique proposal destinations

historic hotel in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Central Asia

Bukhara was an important religious, cultural, trading, and even scholarship center on the Silk Road — in a region that has been continuously inhabited for at least 5,000 years.

Its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the perfect place for a fairytale-like proposal. But really, any of Bukhara’s 140 architectural gems will do!

Savannah, unique proposal destinations

Spanish Moss Road in Savannah by Graham Veal, Flickr

Savannah, Georgia, USA

The quaint, charming South of the United States is certainly a unique setting to pop the question. Particularly, Savannah boasts picturesque architecture and a variety of stunning walks that are straight out of a storybook.

The fact that this charming Georgian city also happens to be one of America’s oldest makes it even more dreamy to a history buff like me!

Iceland, unique proposal destinations

proposal at appropriately-named Diamond Beach under the midnight sun?! YES! (Photo by GuideToIceland.is)

Iceland, Europe

The aurora borealis and a cheap ticket from Morocco to Puerto Rico brought me here — and I fell deeply in love with it. Iceland is one of those rare places that make you feel like you traveled to outer space and landed on a different planet.

Glacier lakes, thousands of waterfalls, “diamond” beaches so extensive your eyes can’t meet their end — how could you possibly say no at any of these spots?

Colchagua, unique proposal destinations

Colchagua Valley by eljuglardelalibertad.blogspot.com

Colchagua Valley, Chile, South America

No, I’m not about to suggest what seems to be a Photoshopped version of Tuscany. What you see above are vineyards among mountains and volcanoes in rural South America.

Colchagua Valley is a Chilean agricultural region about 100 miles south of the country’s bustling capital, Santiago. It has all the ingredients for a perfect proposal: fine dining, charming châteaus, excellent wines, and stunning landscapes.

Saba, unique proposal destinations

Windwardside village, as seen from Mt Scenery, Saba by Radioflux, wiki Commons

Saba, Dutch Caribbean

Saba, part of the Lesser Antilles chain and a special Dutch municipality, is an almost unheard-of Caribbean island. Why? Probably because it can’t can’t boast about its beaches, as there aren’t any. Yet, its unique topography is a draw in itself.

The “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean” is home to several renowned dive sites, a towering dormant volcano, and underwater mountains. Hiking trails abound, so you can take in the fabulous mountain, ocean views.

Curacao, unique proposal destinations

Willemstad, Curaçao Harbor

Curaçao, Caribbean

I couldn’t help but also include multicultural Curaçao when speaking of the Dutch Caribbean! While the island has been independent since 2005, its people still cherish and retain much of their Dutch (mention the other groups here) roots.

Romantic spots can be found everywhere: from the charming streets of Willemstad to the lookout of Kenepa Grandi or Westpunt Beach.

Antelope Canyon, adventurous proposal destinations

Antelope Canyon by Luca Galuzzi

Antelope Canyon, Utah, USA

Antelope Canyon my not be a top spot on a romantic destinations list, but it is one of my favorites. Just getting there is an adventure in itself; pumping my adrenaline before he even thinks about going on one knee.

Kissing, flirting, and photographing each other among the smooth, rose-red walls is one of the most romantic getaways I can think of. Couple that with a stay in a houseboat along Lake Powell next door? Pure, blissful romance.

Chefchaouen, romantic proposal destinations

Chefchaouen by Mark Fischer

Chefchaouen, Morocco, North Africa

Have I stepped into a dream, where everything is colored like a bright, blue sky?

The Moroccan town of Chefchaouen could be the set of a Smurfs movie — or the most unique proposal of all time. Blue-washed buildings, narrow alleys, and ancient souks complete its romantic charm.

Banff Canada, unique proposal destinations around the world

Banff by Taylor McBride

Banff, Alberta, Canada

Towering peaks from the Rockies, blue-turquoise lakes, and other outworldly vistas surround the Canadian resort town of Banff.

While quite popular, my dreamy proposals list couldn’t do without it. Banff is sprinkled with château-style accommodation and a short distance from thousands of miles of scenic trails and roadways. Plenty of opportunities to find your own secret spot!

Tasmania, unique proposals around the world

Tasmania panorama by Ben Ashmole

Tasmania, Australia, Oceania

Rugged, isolated Australian wilderness that is simply jaw-dropping, Tasmania has been nicknamed the Natural State. Nearly 45% of its land is protected, being part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, parks, and other reserves.

OMG is all I have to say.

Got other unique, romantic spots on your list? Share them below!

5 Fictional Destinations You Can Actually Visit

There’s something magical about seeing the real life setting of a beloved fictional world. These destinations draw travelers to places they might not otherwise go for the pleasantly jarring sensation of finding Tatooine in Tunisia or Narnia in Norway. Here are five of our favorite places that serve as intersections of invention and reality, mixing the familiar with the surprising.

game of thrones, fictional destinations you can visit

Mdina, Malta: King’s Landing (Game of Thrones)

Westeros may be fictional, but Game of Thrones fans know the series films everywhere from Iceland to Croatia to recreate locations from the books. The medieval walled city of Mdina in Malta acts as King’s Landing in the show, and travelers may recognize the Mdina Gate as the entrance to the fictional capital. Mdina’s dusky stone buildings and mix of Norman and Baroque architecture lend it a mysterious and mythic quality that translates perfectly into the show. It’s known as the “Silent City:” No cars are allowed within the city walls, and only about 300 people live inside.

Anne of Green Gables, fictional destinations you can visit

Prince Edward Island: Anne of Green Gables

Since Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908, children and adults have made the pilgrimage to Canada’s lovely Prince Edward Island, where the book is set. The Green Gables farmhouse that inspired L.M. Montgomery’s classic books still stands in Cavendish (named Avonlea in the books) and can be visited year round. Even Mindy Kaling is desperate to see where Anne grew up. In a recent interview with the LA Times, she said, “The other book world I would like to live in is Anne of Green Gables. Living on Prince Edward Island would be so badass.”

Canyon of the Crescent Moon, fictional destinations you can visit

Petra, Jordan: Canyon of the Crescent Moon (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

It’s hard to imagine a more imposingly beautiful filming location for a grail quest than the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Although Petra was carved into sandstone 2,000 years ago, it only came to the attention of the Western world in 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt disguised himself in Bedouin costume to sneak into the site. The Treasury, Al-Khazneh, was most famously used inIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade and is still open for visitors.

fictional destinations you can visit, Paradise Falls from UPPhoto: Uploaded by Tintazul via Wikimedia Commons

Angel Falls in Venezuela: Paradise Falls (Up)

Paradise Falls is the central destination Pixar’s Up. Carl’s beloved Ellie never gets to see it herself, but with the help of about 10,000 balloons, Carl and Russell manage to make the trip. Its real life counterpart is Angel Falls in Venezuela, part of the Auyantepui mountain in Canaima National Park. At a height of over 3,000 feet, it’s the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. The hike to see the falls from the top can be a multi-day journey, but the stunning view is worth the trek.

fictional places you can visit, Hobbiton

Matamata, New Zealand: Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings)

Perhaps the most famous fictional travel destination is the Hobbiton set of Peter Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. Nestled in the countryside surrounding Matamata in New Zealand, the set features over 30 hobbit dwellings as well as a mill and a double-arched stone bridge. After The Hobbit movies finished filming, the houses were left fully furnished for visitors. Truly devoted fans can even enjoy Second Breakfast at the nearby Shire’s Rest Cafe.

Admittedly, it may be difficult to find a cheap flight these further afield destinations. Though, if the end result is stepping into Anne’s home in PEI or popping into a Hobbiton hovel who could argue with getting to live out your childhood dreams?

Cover Photo: Flickr user R Muscat via Wikimedia Commons

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Nov. 11th.

The Ugly Side of Travel: A Human Trafficking Story

JULY 2014 UPDATE: Thanks for supporting The Human, Earth Project. With your help, we managed to raise the full $12,000 on this campaign against human trafficking. Ben and Moreno have found the kidnapped M. in China, and had a chance to meet with her in person. Unfortunately though, she was forced into marriage and has a baby now, so her situation is very complicated…

The following is a guest post from The Human, Earth Project and its Human Trafficking Awareness Crowdfunding Campaign. With your contribution, no matter how big or small, we can certainly make a difference.

human trafficking story

The Ugly Side of Travel

Not everybody loves travel. The 2.5 million people who are currently victims of human trafficking, taken from their homes to work elsewhere in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, definitely don’t.

Ben Randall was just another tourist who loved travel – until he learned that one of his friends, a 16-year-old from Vietnam, we’ll call her “M”, had been kidnapped.

Instead of turning away, he decided to search for M and began using his skills as a photographer and filmmaker to make a documentary to shed light on the issue of human trafficking. He gave up a full time job and for many months now has funded the project from his own savings.

Now he is asking for our help to finish the documentary and help bring the issue of Human Trafficking to the world.

Please take a moment to watch this short trailer of The Human, Earth Project:

You can visit ‘The Human, Earth Project’ crowdfunding page here. Any contribution you can offer will make a big difference to the campaign, and ultimately to those most affected by human trafficking. Ben is offering some great rewards, including film credits and his stunning photography of SE Asia.

Before you leave, please take a moment to share the story on your favorite social media sites by clicking these buttons:

Share this Human Trafficking Story on Facebook Share this Human Trafficking Story on Twitter Share this Human Trafficking Story onGoogle Share this Human Trafficking Story on Pinterest

Help to ensure everyone can love travel as much as you do.
Let’s fight human trafficking. TOGETHER.

My depression, summer travel plans, awesome photos + other updates

The past 12 months have been seriously tough on me… But I’ll talk about my summer travel plans first before I lose my inspiration altogether.

summer travel plans, Canadian poutine

Canadian poutine: yes, PLEASE (The Kozy Shack, Flickr)

My summer travel plans: Ontario & Québec, Canada!

After my dreams were crushed last month, I knew I had to come up with some quick summer travel plans. And while I was so paralyzed I couldn’t even think of a destination for days, I was finally reminded of TBEX Toronto. This meant… 2 weeks in Canada because flights were cheap on those dates! 😛

On May 18th, I have an overnight layover in Toronto before flying out the 19th to Montréal. I’ll meet with fellow blogger Karla and hopefully do a week-long road trip, including Ottawa and Québec City. I can’t wait to finally try poutine, eat in the dark at O.NOIR, and experience French culture. Oh by the way, believe it or not, I haven’t been to France yet! So this road trip should be fun…

summer travel plans, Québec

Old Québec City by Andre Mondou, Flickr

A week later, I’ll head out to Toronto and stay there until June 4th. I plan to go Couchsurfing and hang out with locals most of my stay, not doing tours until the conference weekend. That means no-plans Toronto, woo hoo! Except for a couple of restaurants I want to check out from this list and…

A Niagara Falls and winery tour on May 30th! I got invited by a Canadian operator to take part of such day trip with Karla — really looking forward to it. More details to come.

Then it’s TBEX time: agenda packed as always. Weekend will include:

* A First-Timer’s Special: All About Toronto tour for 3 hours the morning of Friday, May 31st. Then, after lunch, it’ll be time to hit the kaleidoscope of international neighborhoods  this Canadian city has to offer with the Toronto: The World in a City tour! Best of all? Both outings were included with my conference ticket 😀

* June 1-2nd = all-day conference sessions + pitching attendants. Parties TBA!

summer travel plans, Toronto

Toronto’s Little Portugal? (Robyn Lee, Flickr)

* Was planning on taking part of some TBEX tours that Monday after the sessions. Unfortunately, they were all full, so it seems like I’ll be couchsurfing once more from June 3-4th!

Rest of my summer travel plans: road tripping Puerto Rico

As you know, I moved back with my parents in Puerto Rico on April. While I haven’t been getting as much sun is I would like, I do plan to do lots of day trips soon as I get back from Canada. I even bought some surfing lessons on the West Coast! That’s, of course, assuming my friend actually gets the travel bug…

Either way, my boyfriend is finally visiting from June 23 – July 9 and we got some exciting plans then! Here are some photos I’ve taken the past month to get you excited:

summer travel plans, caving

I’ll take you caving…

summer travel plans, Puerto Rico cave

yes, REALLY!

summer travel plans, Cueva Ventana

We’ll take in gorgeous vistas…

summer travel plans, culinary adventures

…among other adventures!

What about my depression? Not doing too well…

Now on to the sad news: I haven’t been doing too well. In fact, I’ve been doing horrible. You have no idea the amount of will power it took me to write about my summer travel plans all happy-go-lucky. Truth of the matter is, I’ve lost control of most of my life. This type A individual is going absolutely nuts because:

  • No news from workers comp insurance about new orthopedic doctor
  • I’m in pain, even though I’ve been using voice recognition software + minimal work
  • Not being able to drive nor work online much, I have nothing to do during the day
  • I’m not close to the beach or anything truly exciting
  • Did I mention I haven’t seen a fucking doctor in over a month?!

I don’t fucking know where I’m going. Heck, besides my summer travel plans & paying off my debt with my disability checks, I have NO IDEA what the fuck is going to happen to my life. My career. To everything. The fact I can’t keep myself busy with work or hang out with friends because THEY are working is not helping me deal with my demons. Not at all. It’s actually FEEDING them. It’s quite scary.

dealing with depression

Feeding The Black Dog by Michelle Robinson, Flickr

The reason why I’m letting you know? So you keep tabs on me.

Sorry, but you can’t tell a person suffering from depression to please think of their blessings, etc. I KNOW THAT. I’M KNOW I’m lucky. Believe it or not, I send a thanksgiving prayer to the heavens every night. Still, that doesn’t help me cope during the day. That doesn’t help me quiet the big loud Black Dog. Honestly, all I can think of is ways to hurt myself. I’m surprised I haven’t done it yet…

Right now, I’m really holding back from throwing every object in my room.

This is worse than prison! If I only had time to spend with my family during the day, that would make it all better. But I don’t. They are working, working too hard because of this American Dream mirage. I only get to truly hang out with them on weekends. I then thought about going housesitting abroad or something. But I can’t. Why?

I can’t fucking move until they find me a fucking orthopedic doctor!

If I move and don’t see a doctor, they suspend the disability checks that are actually paying for my debt. I have to stay put. It’s the stupidest fucking situation…

I called my lawyer to try to speed things up, but nothing has happened in about a month. Thank goodness I’m going to Canada in less than 2 weeks or else…

*sighs* making my blog a bit more personal. Hope I didn’t scare you…

I know: depression doesn’t make sense to onlookers or even my own self.

dealing with depression, waiting for better day

Waiting for a better day…

Do you have any exciting summer travel plans? Share them with us below

Biggest Baddest Bucket List: my RTW itinerary!

I know I know: I’m getting ahead of myself here. The Top 10 finalists for the Biggest Baddest Bucket List contest (#myBBB) won’t be announced for another 5 days. However, you also know from my life dream post that I already had not one RTW itinerary, but 2 full blueprints planned out to the date

So! For Travel Bucket List Wednesday this week, I decided to share all the details of one of the blueprints with you 😀 Granted, 6 months will only allow me to scratch a tiny surface of my Biggest Baddest Bucket List. For this reason, I will include the most epic (and toughest!) experiences in my itinerary if I were to win 😉 And now, with no more preambles, I present you RTW itinerary A!

My Biggest Baddest Bucket List: RTW itinerary A

RTW itinerary map, biggest baddest bucket list

RTW itinerary A map of my biggest baddest bucket list! (CLICK to enlarge)

RTW itinerary list: my biggest baddest bucket list

List of stops: RTW itinerary A! (CLICK to enlarge)

Ambitious, I know! This RTW itinerary includes almost 40 countries (39 when not counting Puerto Rico) which, divided by 6 months, averages out to about 4.5 days per country. Fast-paced indeed, but this was always meant to be a sampler anyway! 😉

For lack of space, I will only be listing the Biggest Baddest Bucket List items from this RTW itinerary today. Are you ready for this?! 😀

RTW itinerary, Monastery of Meteora

Monastery of Meteora, Greece (Didrik Johnck, Flickr)

  • Climb to the spectacular monasteries of Meteora, Greece.
  • Discover Eastern Europe’s unique hidden gem: Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • Bathe in Pamukkale’s cotton-like pools & Cappadocia hot air balloon, Turkey.

my biggest baddest bucket list, Pamukkale pools

The stunning pools of Pamukkale. In Turkish, it means cotton castle! (Ray Wewerka)

  • Witness Great Migration at Masai Mara & Serengeti, Kenya/Tanzania.
  • Ancient kingdoms and African Christianity pilgrimage around Ethiopia.
  • Photographic nirvana through the eerie landscapes of Madagascar.

biggest baddest bucket list, Madagascar Baobabs

“The Avenue or Alley of the Baobabs is a prominent group of baobab trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar.Along the Avenue in some 260 m long segment are remaining some 20 – 25 trees about 30 meters in height, of the species Adansonia grandidieri, endemic to Madagascar.” – Ralph Kränzlein, Flickr

  • Stay at one of the most expensive hotels in the world: Burj Al Arab, Dubai.
  • Go sandboarding in Sharjah, UAE.
  • Overland trip from Dubai, across historic cities in Iran, through Silk Road!

RTW itinerary, Samarkand

Guri Amir Mausoleum, Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Fabio Achilli, Flickr)

  • Silk Road overland: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
  • Be one step away from the Door to Hell in Darvaza, Turkmenistan.
  • Spend the night in a yurt by the mountains of Almaty, Kazakhstan.

biggest baddest bucket list, Kazakhstan yurt

A yurt in Kazakhstan: traditional housing throughout Central Asia and Mongolia! (Irene2005, Flickr)

  • See the bright sights of Rajasthan + relax in a houseboat in Kerala, India.
  • Get a cameo in Bollywood film in Bombay.
  • Experience the Kingdom of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness vs. GDP!

RTW itinerary, Bollywood

Bollywood movie poster (tajai, Flickr)

  • Take a ride on a traditional Chinese Junk in Hong Kong + Macau day trip!
  • Take part of an intriguing indigenous ritual in Papua New Guinea.
  • Hop on a liveaboard to scuba dive sites along PNG & Great Barrier Reef.

biggest baddest bucket list, Papua New Guinea indigenous people

Huli Wigman Sing Sing in Papua New Guinea (Drew Douglas, Flickr)

  • Experience g-force aboard an aerobatics flight in Sydney, Australia.
  • Bathe in gorgeous beaches and visit a glacier in one trip to New Zealand.
  • Swim with sharks + stay at overwater bungalow in Bora Bora.

  • Mingle with unique wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
  • Paraglide over Christ the Redeemer & Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • Spectacular dunes & waters at Dos Lençóis Maranhenses Park, Brazil.

Finish in Puerto Rico so I can show you the cheeriest Christmas in the world! 😀

RTW itinerary, Dos Lençóis Maranhenses

Dos Lençóis Maranhenses Park, Brazil (Iain and Sarah, Flickr)

RTW itinerary A: the conundrum

I’m still debating whether to include that many cities of Eastern Europe on my final RTW itinerary. It is such a (relatively) easy continent to visit from Puerto Rico! But contest rules state that the winner must include at least 2 destinations from each continent + 25 destinations from their network…

That being said, many cities I plan to visit in Europe are part of My Destination’s network. Concurrently, many of the off-the-beaten-path places on my biggest baddest bucket list are not part of said network! 🙁 So I must compromise: shorten my European itinerary, while adding other “easy” destinations from Southeast Asia such as Thailand

OR

shorten some of my time in Asia, which would mean shaving off a week from India or my epic Silk Road itinerary through the ‘Stans…eek!

RTW itinerary, Ljubljana

Honestly though? Charming Ljubljana can wait…! (Krister, Flickr)

Of course, it would all depend on the My Destination team (haha, I’m already writing as if I won…). But if I have a say on the matter, I will probably be shortening my European itinerary, choosing to visit the French Riviera/Monaco and Moscow only (connecting in London). Eastern Europe and the Greek islands can wait, no?

And so, this is why RTW itinerary B comes to play 😀 Yet, you will have to wait until next week to get the full scoop 😉 Let’s hope that by then, I will also have a VERY exciting announcement to make!

What’s your biggest baddest bucket list RTW itinerary like?

My life dream is so close, I can’t sleep!

It’s 3 AM. My life dream is so close, I can’t sleep.

Heck, I can barely write. I’ll try my best though, as I need a medium to channel this bipolar energy. Round and round, it wanders aimlessly through my body and my mind, keeping me awake with the tremendous amount of, and lack thereof, possibilities.

My life dream, possibilities

Do possibilities have a price? Wade M, Flickr

Possibilities? Dreams? I recently found myself without a job… and without a Plan B. All I got are a couple of freelance gigs, my blogs, my savings, and this contest. Oh! And because rent can’t really be afforded for long without a steady job, I’m moving back to my rents’ house in Puerto Rico starting in April.

 For Type A individual like myself, this is a crisis.

Ironically though, I have been able to easily shut down the fact that my life has been put on hold. Everything around me seems to have stopped in some parallel universe, giving me the opportunity to pursue the dream of my lifetime. Seriously, the, I mean MY life dream.

Did I tell you that I planned, I mean have, 2 full itineraries as if I already earned this travel presenter gig? As of, 6 months worth of traveling planned to the date.

My life dream, RTW itinerary option

One of my RTW itineraries: NOT included are my 2 weeks around Eastern Europe via low-cost airlines, Burma via Thailand, Papua New Guinea + the 60-Day Silk Road Overland tour I’ll be joining, covering most of the ‘Stans! 😀

Yeah, 2 of those! But that’s not the only reason why I know that this is not just a dream, but my calling…

Whenever I think of traveling the world, whenever I think of volunteering abroad, whenever I share a travel tale of mine…my breathing gets heavy. My blood vessels swell. Sometimes, I even get teary-eyed. Then, almost instantly, my inner Energizer Bunny jumps out like a powerful water stream rushing out of a broken dam. Even though I’ve been to over 20 different countries…

It’s still like love at first sight. Like meeting The One over & over again.

Even if you’ve never been in love, we’ve all had that one crush, that one person that has this supernatural power over us, able to stop everything around us, cutting our oxygen supplies short, and giving us an intoxicating, dizzying feeling that not even a few shots of top shelf tequila could match.

That’s the rush I get every time I think of traveling & helping others.

And as I find myself at this crossroad, without a job and without any offers on the table, I stand dazed and confused. But why? Is it because we are institutionalized, taught to be like obedient sheep in a mechanized society?

I should be excited! I have no kids, no marriage, no strings attached. It’s the perfect time to work hard toward my life dream!

But hey, I’m only human. Thus, I’m freaking out because my only possibility of reaching this life dream of mine lies on this freaking contest at the moment. Heck, that’s my ONLY shot / possible route for my life to take the rest of 2013.

And I can’t. stop. thinking. about it

Sure, I could join Peace Corps & even defer these student loans. But nah, that’s just not the same. Besides stressing out about interest piling up while I’m  away, why do I feel this way?

My life dream, Peace Corps meh

Ken Murphy, Flickr

Having the freedom to prepare my own itinerary, record videos, write my own articles in several languages (in addition to learning new ones!), and help charities I personally believe in — that combo hits my heart like a powerful water stream rushing out of a broken dam.

This is why I’m pushing through to pay off my student loans as soon as possible. This is why I want to become a digital nomad.

And this contest would allow me to do ALL this in 2013. THIS.FREAKIN’.YEAR

Being in front of the camera also brings me tremendous joy. I can’t explain it — I’ve been posing for pictures even before my first birthday. And I love to talk. I mean seriously, I can ramble on and on about the things I love for days.

My life dream, smiling and traveling

😀

Which is what I’ve pretty much been doing this entire blog post. Oops.

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

 My life dream is to become a travel host, nomadic translator & volunteer.

I want to travel the world indefinitely…after I pay off these student loans!

Let’s hope My Destination judges think this is my calling as well. Until then, I probably won’t be getting much sleep.

Win it all!

That’s my life dream + top item on my travel bucket list! What’s yours?

_________________________________________________________________

Liked this? Learn more about Puerto Rico and VOTE FOR MY DREAM!
Just click on the badge, then click on the social media SHARE buttons on my audition page. THAT’S IT! No forms to fill or anything. 😉

Vote for me

If I’m selected, I’ll be a travel host for the company My Destination, reporting to YOU from dozens of countries around the world, in all continents, for 6 months!

Thanks for helping me make my dream come true 🙂

Puerto Rico travel video and photos: my first hosting bid!

Last month, I had the opportunity to shoot my first travel hosting bid! Yes, I had my very own cameraman and even a director. The following Puerto Rico travel video was made for a competition that will hopefully send me around the world for 6 months btw, taking you to the most exciting places on my biggest, baddest travel bucket list! 😀

Puerto Rico: The Land of a Thousand Blessings

Liked it? Then VOTE FOR ME here! All you have to do is go to that page, then click on the social media icons beside my Puerto Rico travel video there. Share that entry page on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and even Pinterest!

Puerto Rico travel video, Puerto Rican girl

The Making of: more work than you think!

Remember that old MTV series “Making the Video”? I loved going behind the scenes of my favorite music videos, learning about special effects, how storylines are written, and how hard the artists actually work for what comes to be a mere 3-5 min. video clip.

That being said: how long you think it took us to shoot the previous 3-minute Puerto Rico travel video? C’mon, take a wild guess!

Puerto Rico travel video, Luquillo Beach

Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico by Ard Hesselink

More than 20 hours!

We worked for 14 continuous hours the first day of shooting, visiting over a dozen locations (scattered throughout the island!), taking video clips, stills, and different commentary. Then, on the second day, we worked a couple more hours to capture a glimpse of the nightlife.

But of course, with only 3 mins. to work with, a lot of good material had to be sacrificed…which makes me sad! All in all though, a great learning experience.

Puerto Rico travel video, La Guancha Ponce

Pelican at La Guancha, Ponce, Puerto Rico by José Zayas

While filming was hard work, I had a blast. I honestly wouldn’t mind working more than 14 continuous hours on a single day, all while travel hosting! It didn’t feel like work. It felt like a great adventure, road tripping all over Puerto Rico 😀

What did you think of my Puerto Rico travel video? VOTE FOR ME here!