Lisbon, Portugal

One of the coolest capitals in Europe.

Lisbon has recently become a popular destination for travelers from all around the world and it’s no surprise why. Named one of the top 10 friendliest cities in the world, Lisbon is not only charming, rich with history, and full of cultural diversity, but also a great location if looking to venture to other parts of Portugal.

Think San Fransisco meets Barcelona, and that is Lisbon. Hills and and a breath-taking coastline dominate Lisboa, which create stunning views at all different parts of the city.

It’s easy to get lost in any number of the different neighborhoods that Lisbon has to offer as there is so much beauty and color encompassing this European city. 

I tend to be a last minute traveler, which means I don’t have a ton of time for researching where I’m going, so when I decided to embark on my 3 day journey to Lisbon, I knew I wanted to stay somewhere central and get to see as much of the city as possible.

Here is a breakdown of my trip.

Accommodation:

I stayed at Destination Lisbon Hostel, which is located in Rossio Train Station and about a 30 minute bus ride from Lisbon’s airport. The bus cost 4 Euros one way or 6 Euros if you buy a round trip ticket. Just make sure you check that your travel times fall in-between the operating times.

A lot of people have misconceptions about hostels, but places like Destination Lisbon put all those fears to rest. This perfectly located hostel is: full of cool people, a fully loaded kitchen that guest can use, an awesome breakfast that is included, eco-friendly showers, and a ton of group activities. 

My total stay for the 3 nights was $98, which for Europe is super cheap. There are a ton of other options if looking to do things on a tighter budget, but what you get, where you are located, and the activities offered make this place super worth it.

Eats:

I highly recommend wandering around Lisbon and just venturing into any little hole in the wall restaurant as the food is delicious, but definitely check out Time Out Market located two minutes from Cais do Sobré train station. This awesome market brought 5 of the best chefs in Lisbon together to give tourists and locals a taste of their incredible cuisine, but not break the bank.

Make sure you try Ginja in a chocolate shot cup, Cataplana de Marisco, and Bacalhau Fritters!

Scroll through my slide show above to see what I saw and get the vibe this city has to offer. Lisbon offered me a very welcomed culture shock of colors, patterns, and way of life. Remember never stop traveling!

Posted on November 7, 2017 .
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Traveling Through Thailand: Bangkok

After spending 3 weeks, and going on 4, in Thailand, I've come up with a few tips, a bunch of advice, and a list of my favorite places to make your travel to this truly incredible country that much smoother.

Top 10 Tips

Things to do/know before you head to Thailand:

  1. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months before travelingI learned this the hard way when I got to the Cambodian border. To enter Thailand you only need 3, but if you plan on going anywhere else around South East Asia, which you will most likely end up doing, you need 6 months validity. Extra tip: the US embassy can get you an "emergency passport," which gives you a year extension, 5 pages to travel with, and is processed in 5 hours. 
  2. Learn how to ride a motor bike.  This will save you a ton of money in taxis, and get you feeling safe and comfortable on something that a lot of people just jump onto and injure themselves with. 
  3. Make sure you have a phone that is unlocked. I switched from Sprint to Verizon partly for this reason. This will allow you to save a ton of money, and get a Thai SIM card. I've been adding a certain amount of money and when it runs out I add more at a number of locations like 7/11, yes they have those here. Extra tip: save your data by switching to airplane mode and use wifi whenever you can. 
  4. Bring half of what you think you need. Everyone I've spoken to has agreed we all brought too much. Almost anywhere in Thailand from Bangkok to Phuket to Krabi will have amazing street markets where you will end up buying a ton of stuff from. The goods are cheap, well made, and way more appropriate for the weather than most of what you'd bring on any other trip, especially if you're backpacking or doing humanitarian work. You can literally buy your suitcase here as well. I'm talking like $3 for fake or possibly real Nike, Adidas, or any number of brands shirts, shorts, shoes, etc. 
  5. The Thai are super friendly but give zero fucks when driving. They literally have 3/4 people on one motor bike and this includes babies. They fly through the streets, don't wear helmets, and are crazy when driving, so again if you think you're going to drive or ride a motorbike be prepared.
  6. Bring a spare bank card. The ATMS may eat your card, you may lose your card, or you may just find you need a backpack for a number of reasons. 
  7. Don't ride the elephants. This may be obvious to some, but I've encountered a lot of people that didn't realize what they were contributing to by riding these gentle giants. In order to ride an elephant their spirit must be broken, and these beautiful creatures are made to roam free and wander, not have you on their backs.
  8. Download Travel Apps. Trip Advisor, Kayak, Agoda, and Rome2Rio are all super helpful when trying to figure out ease, expenses, and effort when traveling around. 
  9. Get lost, be open, and say hello to people. Yes, you want to have a plan and know where you're generally going, but my favorite days have been when I had no plan at all except to pick a spot and just wander. You'll find incredible people, street food, and sights that aren't listed on any travel blog, website, or app. Part of the magic of traveling is experiencing new things, so just go for it. 
  10. Know there is so much more to see than you realize. You can either rush through Thailand or take weeks/months to really see everything. Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, and a number of other places are huge in their own right and can take weeks to see everything they have to offer.

With that said here are the places I visited and my recommendations for them.

Bangkok

This huge city surprised me in so many ways, and I can't believe I almost didn't see the magic and electricity the city has to offer.

  1. Khaosan Road. This wild street, which is about a 45 minute taxi or 2 hours bus ride from Suvarnabhumi Airport, is what you've probably seen in the movies. Think Vegas meets backpacker central. The street is a cultural experience where you can buy cheap goods, eat a number of insects or creepy crawlies, get henna tattoos, and party hard. Super fun, but you probably don't need more than 1-2 nights here. There are a number of cheap hostels and hotels that you can stay in right on this road or off to the side for under $10 a night.
  2. Lumphini Park. This gorgeous park sits in the middle of the main city center and is truly picturesque. I accidentally came across this park and it was such a happy occurrence. I took a swan boat out for a ride on the big lake in the center of the park, which has cranes, komodo dragons, fish, and amazing people watching. The 30 minute boat ride costs 40 TBH (about $1). 
  3. MBK Shopping Center. This wildly busy street will put you in the thick of it and has over 2000 shops to get lost in. Beyond the shopping, the food, the people, and the infrastructure that makes up this part of the city are a welcomed culture shock that shouldn't be missed.
  4. The Temples. Thailand has so many temples to see, but the two I got to in Bangkok are highly recommended and beyond breathtaking. Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew are across from one another on the main river that runs through Bangkok and are must sees.
  5. The Grand Palace. It's an opulent former residence and museum that I didn't get the chance to go into because of the King's passing, but from what I've been told is insane.
  6. The Jim Thompson House. This amazing museum and former residence of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson is breathtaking and full of art, antiques, and lush gardens. A tucked away gem that was highly recommended to me, and one that I would definitely send any tourist to. You'll take a required guided tour for 150 TBH (about $5) that is very informative and entertaining. 
  7. Charm Restaurant. An accidental find that was really tasty, very cool, and gives you an insider look into Thai culture in a trendy way. They're open late, which is perfect if you're used to late dining like I am. Located in a perfect little area for bar hopping afterwards. 

Let me know some of your tips for Bangkok in the comment section below!

Posted on July 15, 2017 .
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Vienna, Austria

When I found out that I was going to be heading to Vienna, Austria for the AIDS Life Ball, I have to admit I didn't know what to expect. For some reason Vienna was never really on my list of top cities to see, and the AIDS Life Ball was something I had heard of, but didn't know much about.

After exploring this amazing city, and attending what I can only describe as one of the most spectacular events, I can honestly say I've been blown away.

Vienna is hands down one of the most gorgeous cities I've ever seen. Every where you walk looks like you're about to approach a palace or botanical garden, and there's definitely a reason why it has been voted for countless years as one of the top 5 most livable cities in the world. 

AIDS Life Ball is Europe's largest charity event supporting people with HIV and AIDS, and is an incredible thing to witness first hand. The amount of things to look at, the overflowing energy of love, and the pure fun that you have makes this one of those event you'll remember forever. 

If Vienna isn't on your travel list that needs to change ASAP, and it's that much easier to get to now that Austrian Airlines offers direct flights from both LA and NYC. This airline is one of the best I've ver flown, and regardless if you are sitting in Business or Economy you're sure to have a pleasant and easy flight with great service.

Below you can find my photo journal of Vienna and a list of recommendations that includes places to see, where to stay, and where to eat.

Vienna you are a total 10 in my book! 

Additionally, I have to say a big thank you to Tom from the Vienna Tourism Board who made our time in Vienna amazing, Andreas from Austrian Airlines who made our travel perfection, Nikkie who expanded our minds, and Tiefe Kummernis who was the most epic Drag Queen tour guide ever! 


RECOMMENDATIONS

Where to stay:

I absolutely loved stay at 25 Hours Hotel in the Museum Quarter as we were perfectly located to see and do just about everything!

Things to see:

  1. Belvedere Castle + Gardens
  2. Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)
  3. Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) 
  4. Hofburg (Imperial Palace)
  5. Naschmarkt and the surrounding area
  6. St. Stephen's Cathederal
  7. Ringstrasse Boulevard

Places to eat:

  1. ON Market - great asian dishes and located right in the Naschmarkt.
  2. Labstelle - delicious and very cool.
  3. Das Loft - amazing service and food, but the view is what really sets this superb restaurant apart from everything else.
  4. J. Hornig Cafe - Barbie the owner is amazing, and this place has some of the best coffee I've ever had!
  5. Vestibul - a total splurge, but a total must if you can get reservations. Opulant and it truly feels like you're going back in time!
  6. Veganista - a vegan or any icecream lovers dream. Innovative flavors, super cute, and beyond affordable. 

Horse heads like these signify that these buildings and areas were once stables.

Posted on June 14, 2017 .
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Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Cherry Blossom Season

Every year in April the blossoming of cherry blossoms, or sakura as they are known in Japanese, become a spectacle across the Northern Hemisphere. In New York, we have our own cherry blossom season at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and for the first time ever I went to witness their incredible bloom.

Hanami is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom, and was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court; however, centuries later this relaxing practice has become one that people from all walks of life enjoy.

In conjunction with Buddhist influence and Japanese culture, cherry blossoms are thought to represent the ephemeral nature of life, and embody the concept of mono no aware or "the pathos of things.". I've always found these gifts from nature to be dazzling, but after learning about their symbolism I feel even more connected to these pink wonders.

If you have the chance I highly recommend going to take part in hanami for yourself, and dozing off underneath these Japanese symbols for clouds.

 

 

Posted on April 24, 2017 .
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One & Only Hayman Island: My 'Treat-Yourself' Weekend

A truly one and only experience.

When I decided to come to Australia I had no set plans except that I was going to fly in and out of Sydney. Everything from there on out was up in the air.

After arriving in Sydney and narrowing down the few specifics of where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to see, I knew everything would just work out from there.

And for the record, it did.

As a child of nature, one thing I knew I had to do during my first trip to Australia was to go and swim at the Great Barrier Reef. I didn’t know exactly where that was, how I was going to get there, and where I was going to stay, but after talking to a few friends and doing some research I found an incredible getaway that took care of all my questions.

One & Only Hayman Island Resort came up when asking one of my travel savvy friends where would be the best place to stay to visit the Great Barrier Reef. I had never heard of this gorgeous resort, but once I saw a few pictures I knew I had to have a “treat-yourself” pre-birthday weekend at this piece of paradise.

If I’m being honest, I very rarely treat myself to luxurious experiences because growing up my family struggled financially. Yes, I travel quite often, but I tend to do everything on a budget. However, as I head into my final year in my 20’s, I knew that this was something I had to do for myself, especially being that I was going to be able to fulfill one of my top bucket list items.

So I did.

A quick train ride from The Gold Coast to Brisbane, a flight from Brisbane to Hamilton Island, and BAM, I landed at the beginning of my One & Only experience. I knew that I had set something very special up for myself, but I had no idea how truly special One & Only would turn out to be.

As soon as I got off the plane I was greeted by one of the incredible staff members from One & Only Hayman Island Resort. Sarah helped collect my bags, and brought me to the yacht, yes yacht, that would take me the hour long ride from Hamilton Island to Hayman Island. I, along with the four couples aboard, was treated to champagne, snacks, and an interesting conversation with a younger couple from The Sunshine Coast celebrating their 4 year anniversary while riding this beautiful boat. 

As we approached the island, a team of One & Only staff members waved us in, and greeted each of us personally before being taken on a private tour of this exotic resort. 

Think the jungle meets island luxury, and that is where I found myself in awe.

After being escorted to my beyond gorgeous suite, I started my “treat-yourself” weekend with a delicious sashimi lunch at the resorts main pool, and then was off to a Swedish Deep-Tissue Massage that was insane. My masseuse, Dheeraj Shrestha from Nepal, and who has 10 years’ experience had the hands that were made to heal. I left feeling beyond relaxed, and decided to go for a sunset swim in one of the resorts salt watered pools.

A feeling of peace just kind of followed me from there on out while at One & Only.

My first day was concluded with a delicious dinner at the resorts Italian restaurant, Amici. A glass or two of Rose, lobster pasta, and the fish of the day left me feeling perfectly satisfied as I made my way back to my suite to quickly fall into one of the best sleeps I have ever had.

Waking up on day two to the sound of Cockatoos singing was truly magical. The alarm on my phone usually plays a gentle jungle bird symphony, so to wake up to the real life version was simply enchanting. 

Once I dragged myself out of bed, I had a beautiful breakfast at Pacific, and a casual paddle board session that left me reflecting on how truly grateful I was for what I’ve made my life to be. After watching giant Trevally fish feed at the resorts Marina, I escaped to Blue Pearl Island by speedboat to snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef. 

I could try to explain how unbelievable this experience was, but words and pictures could never do justice to how magnificent seeing the Great Barrier Reef with your own two eyes truly is. It’s an experience of a lifetime, and I will forever remember the colors, patterns, and amazing creatures that roam around this natural wonder of the world.

A hike to the top of Whitsunday’s lookout point, and a session of meditation on the beach, left me feeling beyond grateful for the days exploration. 

As if things couldn’t get more eventful, I was treated to an indulging Chef’s Table experience that happens only once a week at the resort. This dinner, which I had the pleasure of experiencing with 13 other resort guests was a decadent immersion into fine dinning. This by far was one of my favorite activities during my stay at One & Only. I left this dinner having made new friends from around the world, and engaging my senses on multiple levels. 

The night concluded with some of us heading over to Aquazure for a night cap, which lead to some incredible conversation amongst this highly diverse group of people.

Before I knew it my third and final day had come. I wrapped up my stay with one final breakfast accompanied by two of the hotels amazing senior staff, who gave me some great insight into island living and things to do in Melbourne. An hour long ride back to Hamilton Island on the resort’s luxury yacht perfectly wrapped up one of the best weekends of my life, and just like that I was off to Melbourne.

I can honestly say that my final weekend of 28 was perfect, and that this was all because of One & Only Hayman Island.

I’ve always said it isn’t so much what you see, but who you meet along the way that makes travel so interesting, and my stay at One & Only solidified this thought for me. The resort sprinkled an indescribable magic with its welcoming and relaxing vibe that allowed me to interact with some truly inspiring and beautiful souls.

I met a gorgeous newlywed Indian couple, whose “small” wedding of 600 people in Bali sounded beyond incredible, and we made a promise to see each other again. I received an open invitation to dinner whenever I’m back in Sydney by a CEO and his stylish wife, who were beyond welcoming. I connected with a younger couple, who moved out of the city to a more rural part of Australia to breathe a little easier, and give their two adorable boys a better life. I befriended the most beautiful, friendly, and successful couple I’ve ever met. Finally I had the pleasure of dining, exploring, and hiking with a woman, who made my stay all the more amazing, and reminded me that I’ve got this weird sixth sense for understanding people.

Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better “treat-yourself” weekend, and I will forever remember all the adventures I went on, the people I met, and my overall stay at this piece of paradise.

28 you were truly great!

Posted on March 27, 2017 .
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