Gasparilla Invasion video and photos: 2014 PARADE

AHOY! I had already crossed Tampa Bay’s Mardi Gras, a.k.a. the Gasparilla Invasion, off my travel bucket list back in 2006. HOWEVER, I didn’t know the experience could be that much better when witnessed from a BOAT! Luckily, I had that ultimate experience last month 🙂 Debating whether you should experience it too (it is known, after all, as a festival of debauchery)? Check out my Gasparilla Invasion videos and photos below to decide yourself 😉 With the right crowd (and outfits), I promise you: it’s a lot of fun.

HOW to cross the Gasparilla Invasion off your travel bucket list

If I have convinced you, here’s how you can cross the Gasparilla invasion of your travel bucket list: You may hitch a ride with a Tampa Bay Couchsurfer who happens to own a boat, a friend, a total stranger. Just show up with some drinks, mixers and I doubt any friendly Floridian will deny you entry to their vessel 😉

Gasparilla parade photos, pirate outfits

I found some friendly pirates!

OR, if you feel more comfortable, go the ‘conventional tourist’ route and book a one of the unlimited wine/beer/soft drinks FERRY TOURS from St. Petersburg:

photos Gasparilla Invasion, FERRY TOUR

Throwing BEADS at one of the FERRY TOURS coming from St. Petersburg

Where to stay when attending the Gasparilla Invasion?

It really depends where your new found friend parks his/her boat, if you are boat hitchhiking or whether you’re taking a ferry tour. IF you are not Couchsurfing and plan to stay in Tampa, I recommend hotels close to Jackson’s Bistro (601 S Harbour Island Blvd, Tampa, FL 33602), such as the Marriott and the Westin.

You must book your room WAY in advance, as locals snatch these early. Naturally, traffic is impossible on Gasparilla parade day, so I don’t recommend any hotel outside walking distance from Harbour Island…

Gasparilla parade photos, boats

It gets CROWDED, very crowded! But from the comforts of a boat, not a big deal at all. Unless

Getting to the Gasparilla Invasion: Parade day tips

Speaking of which, boat traffic is pretty terrible before, during, and after the Gasparilla Invasion as well. Therefore, if your friends are planning to come into Harbour Island, make sure you arrive either the night before or on parade day by 9:30 AM sharp. Also, don’t plan to leave until sunset. Otherwise, it will be a nightmare.

^^ WARNING: strong Sofia Vergara-esque accent due to all-day imbibing ^^

On the other hand, if you’re staying in St. Petersburg and taking one of the ferry tours, ask your tour company which hotel is closest to its dock. Gasparilla can get pretty crazy, so make sure your hotel is nearby!

Gasparilla parade photos, vision impaired

That shall be me — and very likely your vision after attending the Gasparilla parade!

If you have any other questions about Tampa Bay and/or attending the Gasparilla Invasion Parade, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

For more photos, check out my Gasparilla photo album here.

Is the Gasparilla Invasion Parade on your travel bucket list?

2014 New Year resolutions: study in Indonesia and finally discover ASIA!

Hiiiiiii! *Waves energetically* Indeed, I’m so excited by the development of my 2014 New Year resolutions this past week! As some of you know, I’ve been struggling with some issues + in-between jobs for most of 2013, so I’m certainly looking forward to the new year. And so, it was during one of those “I have no idea where my life is going” moments that I remembered 2 items that have been buried deep within my travel bucket list for way too long:

To study in Indonesia and finally discover ASIA

2014 New Year resolutions, Yogyakarta volcano

Volcano in Yogyakarta

But, HOW? I’m living off savings as we speak. I’m back home with my parents. And then it occurred to me

There’s a SCHOLARSHIP to study Bahasa Indonesia in-country! YES!

I scoured my computer and all online backup storage websites I’ve signed up for in order to find it. And I did. In fact, I found TWO scholarships: one that would whisk me away, all-expenses-paid, for 3 months, not only to learn the Indonesian language but also to delve deep into the culture, learning more about their traditional dances; while the other would allow me to study Bahasa Indonesia for an entire YEAR, my only expenses being my medical insurance and RT airfare.

learn Bahasa Indonesia, 2014 New Year resolutions

Bahasa Indonesia sign (Indonesian language) at Prambanan Temple by Remon Rijper

I couldn’t wait until January 1st to get started on these 2014 New Year resolutions, though! In less than 10 days, I got 2 of the 3 recommendation letters I need and most of the application packet contents. I’m just waiting to hear back from one professor of mine, to get my passport photos taken, and to update my resume.


and another opportunity to break my heart into tiny little pieces

mend broken heart, 2014 New Year resolutions

Another 2014 New Year resolution? Mend a broken heart—& dreams [Photo: Romana Klee]

It’s so weird: I’ve been through so many disappointments, broken dreams lately that there’s this seething, new-found fear within me whenever I plan BIG. Once again, there’s an “application process.” Once again, here I am all thrilled only to possibly be in tears in a couple of months’ time. I can fight it, I’m strong—but it also gets tiring.

I would like to think that it gets a bit easier though. At least applying for scholarships is something that I’ve done before (quite successfully! That’s how I studied for an entire year in Egypt—all expenses paid). It’s not some stupid contest based on whether they like me in front of the camera or not. It’s based on solid facts: my experiences, my GPA (suddenly, those honor program diplomas are worth something!). So let’s hope I have a better chance at these 2014 New Year resolutions

SO! Let’s DREAM! Where would I be going if I’m a selected scholar?!

Sewu Temple, 2014 new year resolutions

Sewu Temple, Yogyakarta by Ferian-pz, Flickr

Yogyakarta, a student town + epicenter of Javanese arts and culture

My biggest dream would be to be awarded the one-year scholarship. My top choice is the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), as it is one of the most prestigious Bahasa Indonesia programs in the country, in addition to being located in Yogyakarta, a student town with over 100 other colleges PLUS the epicenter of Javanese arts and culture. I hear from locals and experts alike that it’s such a great environment: lots and lots to do, full of artists, not as crowded, etc.

Dian Al-Mahri mosque, 2014 new year resolutions

Dian Al-Mahri mosque in Depok, West Java by GedhangGoreng, Flickr

Depok, close to the capital and home of University of Indonesia

I’m not that thrilled about my 2nd choice, but I hear it’s an excellent Bahasa Indonesia program as well. I keep hearing horror stories about Jakarta (and Depok on weekends) though: much pollution, chaos. It eerily reminds me of Cairo though and how I lived an entire year there. It was a love-hate relationship, but some love there regardless. So let’s see where the universe takes me

discover Asia Golden Triangle, 2014 new year resolutions

not going to talk about the Golden Triangle now: these are just countries I want to visit, discover Asia in 2014! 😉 [Photo: mikkelz, Flickr]

Discover Asia: Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma, Singapore

If I get the one-year scholarship, that means I would have to take care of my own airfare. We frequent flyers know that it’s cheaper to buy a multi-stop ticket than a round-trip ticket sooo
! Time to DISCOVER ASIA! Yay! I would probably leave a month in advance, going to Hong Kong (2-3 days), Thailand (2 weeks), Burma (1 week), Laos (2 days), and Singapore (2-3 days) before landing on Indonesia. That’s assuming I already know which boarding house I’ll be staying at

South Sulawesi Beach, study in Indonesia

Another reason to study in Indonesia: the beautiful beaches of South Sulawesi [Photo: Thomas Blower, Flickr]

Sulawesi or Javanese dancing? That is the question

As far as the 3-month arts and culture scholarship goes, I’m between learning about the South Sulawesi or Javanese. The more I look into Sulawesi though, the more I’m intrigued! In comparison to Java, it is so remote, so gorgeous, amazing diving
 And, since I might be living in Yogyakarta, I might as well check out Southern Sulawesi for 3 months! Here I am, already assuming I got both the 3-month and the regular one year scholarships back-to-back
 Why do I have to be such a dreamer?!

study in Indonesia, South Sulawesi architecture

South Sulawesi architecture exhibit inside a ‘theme park’ in Jakarta by Joseph Younis, Flickr

What are your top 2014 New Year resolutions? Why?

Things to do in Quebec City: My Personal Recommendations (PHOTO essay)

This week’s Travel Bucket List Wednesday post is all about some of my personal favorites: paid and free things to do in Quebec City! I fell so deeply in love with its walled old town and basse-ville when I visited last June. Just, the vibe… unbelievably romantic, captivating, beautiful. So glad I got to cross this lovely town off my travel bucket list on my first trip to Canada!

things to do in Quebec City, Old Town panorama

Old Quebec City from a room at the Hilton by Sean Haynes, Flickr

Paid + Free Things to do in Quebec City: My Personal Recommendations!

My first Quebec City travel tip? Go online and print a map of the city. Why? Because I did my best to arrange the recommendations and landmarks on this photo essay in a way that allows you to create your own walking tours! So dot down/circle the places I have listed, connect them all with a line, and have a fun holiday 😀

**You me start at Upper Town and end at Citadel — vice versa 😉

things to do in Quebec City, Vieux-Québec

St. Lawrence River ferry, Vieux-Québec

Get lost in Upper Town & the vicinity

I Couchsurfed in Quebec City and let me tell you, it was an experience in itself. For 4 days, my base was a neighborhood north of Rue Saint-Jean and Avenue Turnbull (up the hill, bordering Upper Town). It was so multicultural and charming. People always had a smile on their faces, willing to strike a conversation. You could easily walk up to a small grocer and find everything from Polish beet soup to a complete assortment of Indian spices. Let alone the variety of charming restaurants/cafes down the hill, within easy walking distance of Vieux QuĂ©bec. My type of neighborhood! 🙂

free things to do in Quebec City, Haute-Ville

Upper Town and vicinity, Québec City

Lazy morning (or afternoon) at Gare du Palais & Rue Saint-Paul

Yes, I’m actually recommending you to spend some time at Quebec City’s central train station (450 Rue de la Gare du Palais), whether you arrived or are leaving from here or not. For starters, it’s a beautiful building! I took several pictures of its architecture, inside and out. Moreover, its good cafĂ©s, people watching, and free Wi-Fi are the perfect ingredients to “waste some hours away.”

free things to do in Quebec City, Gare du Palais

Even the central train station has character in Québec City!

Continue your day walking down Rue Saint-Paul, which is nearby!

Rue Saint-Paul stroll, free things to do in Quebec City

Stroll down picturesque Rue Saint-Paul: another idea on free things to do in Quebec City! (Photo: Gilbert Bochenek, Wiki Commons)

A few hours at Musée de la Civilisation

Outstanding architecture and history of the ambiguous Quebecois heritage are always on display at Musée de la Civilisation (85 Rue Dalhousie). Marvel at its beautiful façade, the adjacent Maison EstÚbe, and the Pagé-Quercy Vaulted Cellar.

Pagé-Quercy Vaulted Cellar, things to do in Quebec City

Integrated into one of the exhibition rooms, “PagĂ©-Quercy Vaulted Cellar is part of the 27 vaults of Place-Royale, which are some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful structures” (

Speaking of exhibitions, you must NOT miss the “People of QuĂ©bec…Then and Now”–the museum’s permanent run-through of over 400 years of the province’s history. It will really put things in perspective for every visitor.

Musee de la Civilisation, things to do in Quebec City

Musee de la Civilisation façade (Photo: Claude Gagnon, Wiki Commons)

ChĂąteau Frontenac: inside and out

While just being inside this gorgeous mansion is absolutely amazing, their afternoon tea (offered on selected dates; call  for details) is icing on the cake. Unless you actually book a night at the hotel + buy a President Club membership…now that’s just royal. Literally.

free things to do in Quebec City, ChĂąteau Frontenac

ChĂąteau Frontenac in all its glory

Mural scavenger hunt, ferry ride & nightlife in historic Basse-Ville

Basse-Ville dates back to the 1608 settling of Quebec and, since there wasn’t electricity back then: did you know that many of this district’s buildings have an entire side without any doors or windows? I forget which direction they face, but it’s where the strongest, chilliest winds come from. So! In order to cover this “unattractive” side of the buildings up, many artists took the task of painting beautiful windows and murals over them. Why not take a couple of hours to do a “mural scavenger hunt,” with the player who spots the most camouflaged walls and murals winning a prize? 😉 It’s harder than you think!

free things to do in Quebec City, Basse-Ville

yup, that’s a plain flat wall – with gorgeously-detailed MURAL!

After the exhausting hunt, take a ferry ride to Levis. You don’t even have to get off on the other side: just relax and enjoy the Saint Lawrence River and Old Town views from a different perspective. Particularly impressive in the winter, by the way!

St. Lawrence River ferry, things to do in Quebec City

View of Levis and the frozen St. Lawrence from the ferry by Robbie, Flickr

Not tired yet?! Stick around and join the happening scene after 6 PM. Cafés, some bars, and even a street musician or two start to spice up the streets then!

EXTRA tip: Try to visit during the New France Festival, to watch (or join!) hordes of people dressed in 17th-18th century costumes.

Quartier Petit Champlain, North America’s oldest commercial district

Speaking of Basse-Ville, did you know that Quartier du Petit Champlain is North America’s oldest commercial district?! Incidentally, Rue du Petit-Champlain is the oldest commercial street in the continent.

While the quarter has become a little bit of a tourist trap, you may still find specialty stores selling unique Quebecois merchandise–which you might not find anywhere else.

Long walk down Terrasse Dufferin & picnic at Plains of Abraham

One of my favorite free things to do in Quebec City is a long walk down Terrasse Dufferin, the 671-meter boardwalk that starts right below Chùteau Frontenac and extends along the St. Lawrence River:

Terrasse Dufferin, free things to do in Quebec City

The start of Terrasse Dufferin, right by ChĂąteau Frontenac

Bring your own picnic basket and (weather permitting!) walk all the way down the Terrasse until you reach the Plains of Abraham. There, lay on the grass and bask in the peace & beauty of the entire city below you. Or, if feeling particularly adventurous, visit the former battlefield’s Discovery Centre + follow the tip of a Tripadvisor user: “Find the underground entrance and view the house and military items hidden behind sod bunkers. It’s a walk but well worth it.”

Plains of Abraham, free things to do in Quebec City

One of SEVERAL distinct, panoramic views from the expansive Plains of Abraham by meddygarnet, Flickr

Free tour of the Parliament Building

Looking for more free things to do in Quebec City? Take advantage of the HĂŽtel du Parlement English tour, where QuĂ©bec’s National Assembly meets (Grande-Allee and Honore-Mercier Avenue). The guides, who are friendly and extremely responsive, will teach you about the history and functions of the provincial government. Fascinating, informative, fun!

And, while not free, I highly recommend you finish off your Parliament visit with an unforgettable meal by elected Quebecois representatives at the café, which offers an excellent Menu de Jour for CAD $8.

free things to do in Quebec City, Parliament building

Parliament building, Québec (my apologies for the shitty exposure: gloomy day!)

Changing of the Guard & Governor General’s residence at La Citadelle

Speaking of Parliament, did you know that “Canada’s monarchy operates in Quebec as the core of the province’s Westminster-style parliamentary democracy and constitution” (Wikipedia)? This takes us to another Quebec City landmark, La Citadelle (1 CĂŽte de la Citadelle)! Great tours included in admission price, plus magnificent views of the Saint Lawrence River and Old Town thrown in.

free things to do in Quebec City, Citadel

Citadel entrance by Dennis Jarvis, Flickr

I highly recommend you start a full day around Old Quebec here, arriving early enough to join the first tour (9 AM from May to September; 10 AM from October to April). Then, stay for the Changing of the Guard at 10 (seasonal; June 24 to the first Monday of September only). A true history buff? I also recommend the tour of the Governor General’s residence at 11, which is free by the way! You will enjoy them all, pinky promise.

**Please note, the Citadel is closed December 25 and January 1

Changing of the Guard, free things to do in Quebec City

Spectacular shot of the Changing of the Guard, with ChĂąteau Frontenac in the background, by Conrad Kuiper, Flickr

That’s it for my favorite things to do in Quebec City! Mind you, this list is not exclusive–I had to leave some attractions out due to space and time. Which reminds me, my next Quebecois post will be all about my favorite places to eat in QuĂ©bec’s capital! 😀

Got more tips and things to do in Quebec City? Share them below!

Want more photos? Check out my Canada album on FB!

Oktoberfest History and VIDEO: Travel Bucket List Wednesday

Yah, I’m back! Welcome to another fun edition of Travel Bucket List Wednesday. In addition to talking to you about Oktoberfest history beer and sharing a short VIDEO I created, I have an announcement to make
which, if you wish to read, will have to keep scrolling down until you see it… 😉

Oktoberfest history and VIDEO

ZUM WHOL! It’s time to introduce you to the real story behind the world-renowned festival, Oktoberfest. So without further ado, let me show you a short clip (no fancy editing) of my visit to Oktoberfest Tampa, while telling you how the famous German fair came about:

According to Wikipedia, a parade took place for the first time in 1810 to honor the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. So yeah — a MARRIAGE. Is what gave birth to the world’s largest fair? YAH! Now you also know why the site where Oktoberfest is held every year is called Theresienwiese – that’s exactly where the 2 got married!

However, it wasn’t until 1881 that booths selling bratwurst popped up. Furthermore, beer wasn’t served or even an important part of the fair until 1892. Crazy to think about, no?

Oktoberfest history beer, food

Typical Oktoberfest fare by Verde Canyon Railroad, Flickr

Modern Oktoberfest history: how much has it changed?

Oktoberfest has been the traditional festival we know today since 1950. Previously, there was no 12-gun salute nor the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by Munich’s current mayor. In fact, Oktoberfest was mostly horse races, which the entire royal family enjoyed, and an agricultural show to promote Bavarian products for the first 100 years. Nowadays? Mostly a way to attract the greatest number of tourists as possible, luring them in with great German beer 😀 Hey, nothing wrong with that!

Oktoberfest history beer, keg tapping

Tapping of the first Oktoberfest keg by Munich’s mayor (2008) by Rich Anderson, Flickr

Why Oktoberfest is on my travel bucket list

Hordes of people from all over the world, delicious curry wurst, and excellent German beers [less than € 9 for one liter!] all day every day for 2 weeks…oh, let’s not forget the dances, dance, and lively energy throughout. Need I say more?! I can’t wait to experience Oktoberfest history myself.

So! When am I thinking to cross this one off my travel bucket list, you ask? I have huge plans for 2014, so that might be the year! What might happen is so so exciting, I can’t even tell you the whole story yet. Just PLEASE keep me in your prayers and let’s hope those doors open next year. Because if they do, WE’RE GOING TO OKTOBERFEST THAT SOON! 😀

Oktoberfest history beer tent, Schottenhammel Festhalle

“Schottenhammel Festhalle is the oldest tent at Oktoberfest in MĂŒnchen, Deutschland. In 1867, Michael Schottenhamel built a little wooden barn behind the “Königszelt” at the Theresienwiese that would fit just about 50 people. This “Oktoberfest restaurant” grew to its current dimensions, which can hold up to 10,000 people at a time. * This tent is also where Oktoberfest begins every year, with the mayor of Munich tapping a keg. Schottenhammel serves Spaten beer, one of the famous local brands, in one liter glasses”    -Grufnik, Flickr

+NEWS: I didn’t make it to the CWE Final 5. Just made it to the Top 10…

SPEAKING OF other plans for 2014: yah, I didn’t make it to the final round of Jauntaroo’s Chief World Explorer competition. Of course, disappointment hit me hard once more, just like I predicted. HOWEVER! It was short-lived due to the AMAZING outpouring of support and encouraging messages I received not only from friends and fans, but also from TV PRODUCERS
! Just check out what the judges from Jauntaroo said about my videos, hosting style and how people from the actual industry reacted.

What Jauntaroo said to me:

You were definitely one of our top 10 choices. In an effort to provide some candid feedback on why you were not selected, we would say just a little more polishing on camera. That comes with practice and we truly enjoyed your videos.

What a former Travel Channel producer told me:

Being natural on camera is MUCH better than being polished. I like your style, keep on being spunky, it’ll take you much farther than being boring, rehearsed and polished. Suerte con todo!

So yah — I’m not changing anytime soon 😉

history of Oktoberfest beer and festival, Paulaner ALE

Let’s drink to that! ;D (photo: Erik, Flickr)

Do you know any fun facts about Oktoberfest history beer?

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: The One That Got Away

Back in 2005, I visited Europe and Venice for the first time. The sometimes stinky alleyways and channels couldn’t take away from the romanticism in the air. Yet, Burano Island, the most colorful, magical Venetian island
is the one that got away
from me! And so, for my long-lost love, this special Travel Bucket List Wednesday post. I’ll come back to you, I swear!

Burano Island photo, Venice

Colorful alleyway of Burano Island, Venice, Italy (Saffron Blaze, Wiki Commons)

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: How to Get There

I don’t know what’s crazier: the fact that my high school group missed out on Burano or that I saw Burano Island photos for the very first time this summer. I mean, it’s only located 4 miles away from the center of Venice!

All it takes is a 40-minute ride on the water taxis or Venetian motorboats (vaporetti, Wikipedia). For instance, LN water bus departs from San Mark’s (€6.5 each way), stopping at Lido, Burano Island, Murano, and others.

Every time I remember I missed out on it, makes me want to cry

Venice photos, vaporetti

Vaporetti along Ponte degli Scalzi, Venice by Gwenaël Piaser, Flickr

Burano Island, Venice, Italy: Things to Do

Bright, colorful architecture

Fun fact: residents of Burano Island must send an official request to the local government if they wish to paint their home, as the change must be pre-approved plus fit with the color scheme of their neighborhood. Crazy huh?!

things to do in Burano Island, architecture

Houses of Burano by Paul R, Tripadvisor

Fabulous lace shopping at Martina Vidal Venezia

Love lace? Martina Vidal Venezia [Via San Mauro 307] is the place to be. As with many other popular shopping districts, vendors here may be pushy, but just be firm and take in the culture.

Not into shopping? STILL go! Voice on the street says that Martina’s place is decorated impeccably, with beautiful views of Burano rooftops and the Venetian lagoon off the terrace. Take many, many pictures.

things to do in Burano Island, Martina Vidal Venezia

Martina Vidal Venezia rooftop photo by Arzana Agency

San Martino Cathedral and it’s leaning tower

Yes, it exists! If you got no time for Pisa, head to Burano Island and experience San Martino Cathedral’s 18th-century leaning tower [Via Baldascare Galuppi].

things to do in Burano Island, leaning tower

San Martino Cathedral and its leaning tower by Gerry Balding, Flickr

Burano’s canals

No visit to a Venetian island is complete without its canals. Make sure you capture that postcard image, including Burano’s colorful houses sprinkled throughout one of its many channels.

things to do in Burano Island, Venice canal photo

Burano Island, Venice canal by Rafal Kiermacz, Flickr

Got more photos or things to do in Burano Island? Share them below!

COLORFUL destinations for your bucket list: Travel Photo Roulette

I’m participating on round 61 of Travel Photo Roulette, which I decided to merge with Travel Bucket List Wednesday this week. Why’s that? The theme is COLORFUL, so I wanted to show you photos of colorful destinations you must see before you die. Check them out!

My official Travel Photo Roulette submission: This is Curaçao

Claiming one of the top spots of my travel bucket list: the Dutch Caribbean nation of Curaçao. As you remember, I finally crossed it off back in Nov 2011 in an unusual fashion: I traveled there without a plan! And what an adventure it was: from its people to its architecture, everything about the ABC island is colorful, warm, and cheery. I can’t wait to go back! Below, my favorite photo of the trip:

travel photo roulette 61, colorful Curaçao

This is Curaçao

It was such a surprise too: I was walking with an Aussie to grab a bite to eat, when we decided to get lost among the narrow alleys of Punda: the heart of the capital. And while we couldn’t find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant to eat at, we stumbled upon the colorful gentleman above. One of the best portraits I’ve taken after visiting 20+ countries across 4 continents!

Other COLORFUL destinations you must visit

When I got my PADI diving certifications in the Red Sea, I encountered a unique little organism living off the colorful coral. Its name? Nudibranch, a type of sea slug. I had never seen anything like it! So bright, odd, eye-catching. It actually became the Travel Photo Roulette submission of my Middle East blog:

colorful Nudibranch, travel photo roulette 61

Make sure you visit this little fella and the unique town of Dahab, Egypt someday!

Speaking of the Arab world, two colorful destinations you cannot miss are the medieval city of Marrakesh and fairytale town of Chefchaouen. Located in the North African Kingdom of Morocco, its culture is a mix of Berber, French, and Arab heritage. You’ll fall in love with the leather tanneries, bright cones of spices, deep blue hues, and ancient kasbahs.

colorful destinations, Marrakesh

I love how the city of Marrakesh is sprinkled with color everywhere you look, especially the bazaars’ spice towers! (Spacmonster, Flickr)

colorful destinations, Chefchaouen

The unique town of Chefchaouen, Morocco by Mark Fischer, Flickr

For this one, I can only call its name: Burano Island, Italy. Located in the Venetian lagoon, I can’t believe we missed it during my high school Euro trip! I can’t even describe it with words
too…[look at photo below to see what I mean]

colorful destinations, Burano Island Italy

Burano Island, Italy: the one that got away! Photo by John O Dyer, Flickr

And speaking of Europe…it may come as as a huge surprise to you, but France has never been on top of my travel bucket list *hears deep gasps in the background* Sure, I wouldn’t mind paying a visit, but I would rather go small town hopping to indulge in their cuisine rather than go sightseeing. But then
 I discovered the picturesque village of Menton, a stone throw away from Italy (literally) in Provence, Cote d’Azur. It is now one of the top colorful destinations on my list! I wonder if their cuisine is just as kaleidoscopic as its Old Town

^^ Feel free to mute…couldn’t find colorful Creative Commons photo… 🙁

Any colorful additions to the Photo Roulette? What’s on your bucket list?

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 KrĂ€nzlein, 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


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!