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12 Travel Apps You Need to Download Right Now

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17 October 2014

48 Hours of Food, Fun, and (Benjamin) Franklin in Philadelphia

Having lived on the East Coast my entire life, can you believe I never made the quick jaunt over to Philly? How ridiculous is that?!

At just over 2 hours away from New York City, Philadelphia makes the perfect getaway for a long weekend just about any time of year. So when my sister Ali and I were both able to take a day off from work (!!!), we decided that the City of Brotherly Love would be the most perfect place to explore for a few days.

With just about 48 hours in Philly to cram in as many attractions (and local treats) as we possibly could, we started each morning early and ended each night late. We spent our time gallivanting around the streets (a good mix of cobblestone and paved roads), admiring the murals scattered around the city, shoving our mouths with treats from Reading Terminal Market, all while learning about some of the country’s most significant historic attractions.

While researching before our trip, we came across the Kimpton brand, and it’s two properties in Philadelphia – Hotel Palomar and Hotel Monaco. What do you do when you're staying in a city and cannot decide between two hotels? You stay at both, obviously! While some amenities overlapped, each one had its own distinct style and charm. Both locations were ideal for site seeing, and very convenient to drool-worthy restaurants and parks. No need for a car or even public transportation while staying at each property- now that’s what you call a walkable city! Our bodies definitely thanked us for all the exercise we got after all the indulgences we hadn’t thought twice about.

We even had our own leopard-print bathrobe dance party in our hotel room – a surprisingly treat we found in the closet. My sister then proclaimed the need to have her future bachelorette party at Hotel Monaco. With complimentary wine hour at both properties, unlimited bellini’s at the Red Owl Tavern (at Hotel Palomar), and funky chandeliers and a chic atmosphere; she’s right, either would make for the most perfect girls getaway!

Here are some of the highlights from our weekend of sisterly bonding:

LOVE Park:

Officially named JFK Plaza, but commonly referred to and nicknamed LOVE Park, this area was no better place to continue our weekend of sisterly bonding. We made sure to snap a few selfies in front of the LOVE sculpture – you can’t miss it, just be courteous to the other tourists and wait in line. We also enjoyed sitting by the single spout fountain, which not only brings some sparkle to the space, but is a great place to bring your pretzel or cookies from Reading Terminal Market and people watch.

Even better, we were able to walk to LOVE Park from Hotel Palomar, meaning we could enjoy our bellini’s from brunch without any worry of reckless driving. J

Rittenhouse Square:

Freshly manicured lawns, memorial statues placed throughout, and comfy benches for people watching - what a great green space in the heart of Philly! We got lucky and stumbled upon a farmers market, complete with organic produce, fresh flowers, local art, and lots of floppy-eared dogs, which I later learned actually runs year round!

After some strolling, we found ourselves hungry again (a recurring theme in Philly) and shared a meal across the street, alfresco style. The square is surrounded by restaurants, shops, and hotels, so naturally, we checked out the latest fashions while digesting. Next time we visit, I’m definitely bringing a good book and relaxing on a bench for a while. Seems like the perfect place to get lost for a while.

Benjamin Franklin Parkway:

This self-guided tour can take you all day or only a few hours, depending on how much time you spend at each stop. We opted to move through pretty fast since we had other items on our agenda for the day (including making it back for wine hour at the Palomar à very necessary).

The Parkway, as it’s commonly referred to, is a mile-long scenic road in Philadelphia, starting from City Hall, looping around Logan Circle, and ending before the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Art sculptures line the boulevard (you just have to know where to find them), and some of the city's most famous sights are here, including the Free Library of Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute, The Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Rodin Museum. If museums are your thing, there’s plenty to see and do, but if you’d rather go for a leisurely scenic stroll, be sure to walk to Fairmount Park via the northern end of the Parkway. On a bright and sunny day there’s no better place to be than on Kelly Drive or the Schuylkill River Trail. 

Liberty Bell Center:

How can you visit Philly, home of the country’s most significant historical attractions, and miss out on the Liberty Bell? Two words, you can’t. With no admission fees and easy access (being so close to Hotel Monaco and Independence Hall), it would be a shame to skip this symbol of American Independence altogether. Ali and I waited on a rather long line, which thankfully moved pretty fast. You can take your time throughout the exhibit, reading and learning how the Bell influenced American History.

If you’re exceptionally tight on time (or the Liberty Bell Center is closed), you can actually view the bell 24/7 from the outside of its glass pavilion. I guarantee you your photos won’t be as good though.

Fun Fact: Did you know there have actually been three (!!!), yes three, Liberty Bells? The first one cracked during a test ringing, and had to be recast twice in 1753. The Bell then cracked again in 1835, which is the bell and crack we view today.

Reading Terminal Market:

This market is no ordinary market. With fresh cut flowers, the best restaurants/venders under one roof, and a farmers market (albeit rather pricy), you’ll want around an hour or so to walk around and take all the energy in.

There are an overwhelming amount of options to choose from – hoagies, Thai, Indian, fish, cheesesteaks, pizza, etc etc etc, along with an endless supply of indulgences for dessert.  My suggestion – skip lunch and opt for soft pretzels from Millers Twist, homemade cookies from The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company, and ice cream from Bassett’s. Or have a proper meal and choose one (or two!) for dessert! Just make sure you go hungry! J


This long weekend was definitely not enough time to check off all the attractions and restaurants on our very ambitious list, but it gave us a pleasant sampling and overview of the city. On the bus ride back home to good ol’ NYC, we made a list of Philly to-do’s for our next trip, which will most definitely be sooner than later.

If you have more time in this historical city, consider these additional attractions:
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens
  • City Hall
  • Explore Philadelphia’s Art Scene
  • Meander through Chinatown
  • Head on over to the Franklin Fountain for some ice cream
  • Betsy Ross’ house
This sister weekend in the City of Brotherly Love was the most perfect way for us to bond… over freshly baked cookies and homemade ice cream. No Philly Cheese Steaks during this trip, until next time that is, when I’ll be taste testing two or three.

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14 July 2014

Healthy Tips for Traveling

Staying healthy on holiday should be our number one concern, yet despite that, it’s something we often forget, in favour of having fun instead.

It’s not hard to see why, we save all year around and look forward to our break in the sun, so in our little world, of course we’re not going to get ill or have an accident! Unfortunately however, these things do happen, so to cut out the chances of bad luck striking in your direction, let’s look at a few things we can do to make it less likely.

Healthy breakfast

Cut out stress

Sort out all your travel plans in good time, so you don’t get yourself into a total frenzy on travel day. Drive yourself to the airport so you're calm and have total control over your day plus no one is burdened by having to taxi you around. Why not spoil yourself a bit -- you're on vacation after all! A friend fell in love with this splurge the first time they used a car park in Edinburgh. They used Edinburgh airport parking and fell in love. You can use places like this all over the world. Look into ParkBCP’s deals. This is the first one I used and I found them to be very reasonable. Certainly cheaper than long term parking at the airport itself. Now I always look forward to my stress-free journey. That way I know I’ll always be calm and grounded when it comes to checking in, which is the best possible start.


Think travel health

If you are at risk of deep vein thrombosis, even in the slightest, take precautions. Wear compression stockings – yes, I know they’re not overly fashionable, but wear them under leggings, jeans, skirts etc, and nobody will be none the wiser! You can always whip them off in the airport when you land. Drink plenty of water or juice, avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, including fizzy coca cola, and get up and walk around the cabin whenever possible. This will mean you land both in resort and back home, healthily.  Be sure to continue your daily fitness exercises while away- and don't forget to stretch!

Sport and stretching concept on summer

Consider your food choices

We all know that famous tummy bug which strikes tourists in resorts. This is caused often by drinking the local water, which is never advised. Instead, drink bottled water only, and even brush your teeth in it – don’t leave anything to chance. The same can be said for salads and fruit that might have been washed in tap water, however in large resorts this generally won’t be the case. As for food, make sure everything you eat is cooked, and if you’re not sure, just don’t eat it.

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Insure it all the way!

Travel insurance is the major must-do for any travel plan, let alone holiday. Make sure you book it, take it with you, and declare all pre-existing medical conditions. Never be tempted to withhold any information, as your policy will be null and void if you need medical attention for that problem whilst away on holiday. If you’re planning on doing any adventure sports, make sure your policy covers you for that too, and you may need to buy a special form if this is the case – read all small print if you’re not sure.

Be alcohol aware

Yes, you’re on holiday, so of course you’re going to have a few drinks, but just be aware that measurements of alcohol are often stronger overseas, so it might be worthwhile nominating a ‘sober person’ per night, to look after everyone in the group, and make sure everyone stays together and gets home safely.

It’s all common sense, right? Yes, but too often we leave that at the airport!

Any other healthy tips you care to share?!

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30 June 2014

A Little Luxury in Las Vegas

When I think of the word "honeymoon", my brain instantly goes to blue waters and luxurious spa treatments.  However, on my last trip to Las Vegas, I was surprised to see more than a handful of honeymooners on the strip.  Despite it's reputation for alcohol-infused pool parties and over-the-top bachelor and bachelorette parties, there's definitely room for some romance there.

1) World Class Dining

Las Vegas is known for it's gourmet food, and it's true -- some of the world's greatest chef's have opened restaurants here.  Try out a new spot every night and be sure to take advantage of all the tasty treats after dinner!

2) Luxurious Spa Treatments

Many of the popular Las Vegas hotels have spa packages that you can take advantage of with your new spouse.  How about a mud bath or a relaxing cucumber facial after hanging out in the whirlpool all morning?  Sound's pretty awesome to me!

3) Helicopter Ride

Nothing screams honeymoon more than a romantic helicopter ride around the strip after dark or above the Grand Canyon.  Hold on to your loved one as you fly above the clouds to one of America's most awesome sites.

4) See a show

It's almost a crime to leave Vegas without seeing one of the nightly world famous shows.  From comedians, singers, circuses, performing animals, and water tricks, they will surely not disappoint.

5) Alternative Las Vegas Honeymoon Ideas (for the adrenaline junkie):
  • indoor skydiving
  • shoot guns
  • exotic car racing
Where would you like to go on your honeymoon?!  Check out My Holiday Centre - they've got you covered!

Take this short quiz to find out what suits you best!

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please consider sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or via Email. Also, I’d love to keep sending you updates about my adventures around the world, so please subscribe to A Passion and A Passport via RSS or by email!

26 June 2014

Every Bucket List Should Include a Trip to Rome

Vatican City is located in the area where Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar crucified and buried St. Peter approximately 2000 years ago. As a result, people have long considered the location to be a significant one. Before 1860, the Papal States, which were ruled by the Pope, controlled most of central Italy. At the time, hired mercenaries and international armed forces protected the lands. By 1860, the Kingdom of Italy had gained control of most of the Papal States. Rome was the last city to surrender. The city relinquished its power in 1870. During 1929, the Lateran Treaty permitted the formation of the State of the Vatican City. The treaty also allowed the Pope to rule the area.

How the Papacy Developed Throughout the Years 

According to the Catholic Church, the Pope’s leadership is based on the basic principle that Jesus gave authority of the church to St. Peter who is succeeded by the bishop of Rome. The term “Pope” means father, and during the first few hundred years of the Catholic Church, members used the title of “Pope” for bishops who were influential and respected. In ancient times, the bishop of Rome was one of the Christian world’s most honored bishops. Throughout the years, the city of Rome has always been highly respected by Christians for its connection to Peter and Paul as well as for its position as the place of worship in the Empire’s capital. Respect for Rome increased once the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity. As a result, the status of the Roman bishop grew. The position’s supremacy reached its full power during the late 13th century with Pope Boniface VIII.

The History of Rome 

There is some debate about the origination date of Rome. The Romans reported that the city was founded in 753 BC while today’s history experts believe it was during 625 BC. At first, kings ruled Rome, but after supporting seven of them, the Romans took control of the city and established a council called the senate to create rules and regulations. Later, citizens called the council the Roman Republic. It was a successful government since the people kept it in power for about 500 years. Today, the city is famous for its distinctive architecture and intriguing past.

CityWonders Tour 

Due to quality construction and conservation efforts, people can still observe many of Rome’s historic structures. In addition, the Catholic Church welcomes visitors and pilgrims of the Vatican by presenting Papal Audiences. The church does not organize the services as a church mass. Instead, they allow attendees to listen to the Pope’s advice and receive his apostolic blessing. The church arranges most Papal Audiences on Wednesday mornings at 10:30am, and the gatherings are held in St. Peter’s Square or in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall. During the month of August, the presentation usually takes place in the Castel Gandolfo.

If you’d like to listen to Pope Francis I in person, then you can reserve a Papal Audience tour through the City Wonders Tour Company. With the booking, you’ll receive pre-reserved tickets for a Papal Audience to see the Pope. The tour company provides English-speaking guides to help you locate the best viewing area, and they’ll keep you entertained before the presentation by telling you about the history of the Papacy. The company’s guides will also prepare you for the Papal Audience experience, and the tour option is nondenominational. Therefore, you’ll feel welcome whether you are a member of the Catholic Church or are viewing the event as a guest.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please consider sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or via Email. Also, I’d love to keep sending you updates about my adventures around the world, so please subscribe to A Passion and A Passport via RSS or by email!

16 June 2014

Philly is for Foodies: A Weekend of Eating in the City of Brotherly Love

It's no doubt that I love food. I practically have at least one foodie post up for every destination I go (check out my indulgences in Maui Hawaii, Boston, Israel, and New York, just to name a few). Sometimes I even plan entire trips based around the food alone (have you been to New Orleans yet?!)

But when I started planning my weekend trip to Philly, I hadn't considered all the tasty treats and delectable dishes I would come across. Sure, I knew there would be cheesesteaks on every corner, but the best sandwich in America, unlimited bellinis at brunch, and the oldest ice cream shop? I basically had to redo my entire itinerary in order to squeeze in all this eating. What a horrible problem, I know! :p

My gluttonous self probably gained a few pounds while in Philadelphia- but I don't regret a single calorie I consumed. I made sure to lick my lips after each and every bite. :)

WARNING: Reading the remainder of this post will make you hungry. Don't be surprised if you find yourself licking the computer screen. I won't tell anyone.

1) Federal Donuts

With overly creative and some standard original options, you're bound to find a few donuts to smack your lips about. We opted for cookies n' cream and chocolate covered strawberry donuts, but the mint chocolate cookie, maple bacon, spicy PB&J, and lemon bar sounded out of this world as well.

Want fresh donuts (and coffee) delivered to your hotel room first thing in the morning? Book the Philly is for Foodies package at Hotel Palomar. I mean, who wouldn't want to have donuts in bed?

Craving some fried chicken? You're in luck- Federal Donuts serves some of the best in the city (and with some amazing spice rubs). I don't think this place can get any better!

Insider Tip: Donut flavors change on occasion, since the shop is always adding new ways to spice up the fried dough. Follow them on social media to be up to date with the latest donut flavors!

2) Rybread

If you’re hanging around Fairmount Park and Kelly Drive (a must-do for any first-time visitor to Philly), be sure to walk a few blocks to Rybread. This small café, located in the Fairmount neighborhood, offers sandwiches, salads, and downright delectable treats. With made-to-order paninis, sandwiches named after different cities, and heavenly scones, it was the perfect place to enjoy a quick breakfast with my sister.

The menu is rather extensive, and everything looked and sounded phenomenal- too bad we were leaving that afternoon! I really want to try the Savannah (oven roasted turkey breast, brie, cranberry sauce, and mayo on multi-grain bread) and the San Diego (chicken, sharp provolone, roasted red pepper, pesto, and caramelized onion) on my next trip the City of Brotherly Love.

The sandwiches may be on the pricey side, but definitely make up for in taste, quality, and flavor.

3) Red Owl Tavern

My sister and I headed to Red Owl Tavern for brunch one morning, which was ultra-convenient considering we were staying at Hotel Monaco for part of our stay. We made sure to make reservations ahead of time the moment we found out about their "Bottomless Bellini Brunch" offer. Girls from NYC love their brunch!

The menu includes cinnamon bread french toast (with vanilla marscapone and a sweet cherry wine compote), buttermilk pancakes (with apple-walnut chutney and cinnamon whipped butter), and belgian waffles (with seasonal mixed berries and maple syrup). YUM.

Along with all the traditional brunch options above, Red Owl Tavern also has a few items for those who prefer a lighter and therefore healthier brunch. How does the Red Owl Tavern Omelet, made with eggs, prosciutto, baby arugula, herb goat cheese, asparagus, and black truffle vinaigrette sound? My sister, a Registered Dietician, approved! That just means I can have a double order, right? :p

Not only was the food and service of excellent quality, but we were able to drink our personalized bubbly in style by adding fruit purée. And we made sure to try them all- strawberry, pear, peach, and passion fruit (more than once each).

Something that I particularly like is that Red Owl Tavern cares about the Earth. Composting fruits and vegetable peels into mulch, and turning grease into biodiesel fuel are just two ways this restaurant is giving back. Pretty cool if you ask me. A restaurant that serves unlimited bellini's and is helping preserve our Earth- yes please! I'll gladly come back.

Insider Tip: Be sure to make your reservation at Red Owl Tavern on a Saturday or Sunday. The bottomless bellini's are not to be missed!

4) La Scala’s

Located just blocks from Hotel Monaco (with the chicest rooms I’ve ever seen), we stumbled upon this place when we couldn’t decide on dinner one night.

We decided to stock up on veggies that evening (especially since our day consisted of treats from around town), and ordered the Arugula salad and an eggplant hand tossed pizza.

The pizza was great – crust was thin and crispy, perfect amount of ricotta cheese, and toppings were perfectly seasoned. Not very greasy at all, which is something I always hope for when ordering pizza. The bread basket with a mix of olive oil, butter, and herbs was divine!

Our waiter was very personable, and with a nice atmosphere and reasonable prices, I’ll definitely be back next time I visit Philly!

Conveniently located to the Independence Park area and just steps from Hotel Monaco, makes this spot absolutely perfect for tourists.

5) Rouge

With it’s perfect location just across from Rittenhouse Square, and it’s outdoor seating with direct views of the park, Rouge was the perfect spot for lunch one afternoon.

The meals we ordered (tilapia tacos and the quoina black bean burger) were both fantastic, and although service was a tad slow, we enjoyed the great people watching right from our seats. And what eccentric people we watched!

The bun was the best I’ve ever had- perfectly toasted with the right amount of butter. The burger was huge and amazing, and you can really taste the quality of the ingredients with each and every bite.

Make sure to sit outside- a great option on a bright, sunny day in Philadelphia! Definitely a staple in the Rittenhouse area, and a great place for a weekend brunch/lunch.

Pro Tip: Be sure to order the specialty fries – a must try!

6) Bassetts Ice Cream

How can you visit the City of Brotherly Love without trying America's oldest ice cream company? Established in 1861, this shop creates homemade ice cream with a beyond creamy richness.

Bassetts is known for their creative and unusual flavor combinations, and my sister and I shared three scoops of this creamy deliciousness. My favorites were the WHYY experience (no, not a typo), which consisted of vanilla ice cream, chocolate covered pretzels, and a rich caramel swirl, and Gadzooks, chocolate ice cream with peanut butter brownies and chocolate chunks. I think next time I'll try the cinnamon and Guatemalan ripple. The flavors we orders were true to taste, which is becoming more and more difficult to perfect in this day and age considering all the unnatural ingredients used.

The consistency was firm, yet creamy and smooth, and is quite possibly one of the best (if not THE best) ice cream I've ever had.

Located in Reading Terminal Market, this ice cream shop is a must for any first-time visitor to the city. Or, basically anyone looking for a cool treat on a hot summer day. Don't let the long lines fool you- the line moves quickly and the rich, creamy ice cream is definitely worth the wait.

Pro Tip: The scoops appeared bigger in a cup, so if you're looking to share an abundance of this creamy treat, opt out of a cone. Or ask for the cone on top. We even had to throw some out, which in retrospect, I regret fully.

Other noteworthy suggestions for a cup or cone include the Franklin Fountain (oldest ice cream shop) and Little Baby Ice Cream. Those are on my list for my next visit to Philly.

7) Famous 4th Street Cookie Company

If you're looking for rich, warm, moist cookies, this is the place to go. We came across this cookie shop while exploring Reading Terminal Market, and couldn't leave without testing a few out. A wide variety of cookies are showcased here, including chocolate chip, macadamia nut, peanut butter, white chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin.

Baked right on the premises, these are seriously amazing cookies- chewy and warm with ooey gooey chocolate and crispy edges. They were definitely worth the extra calories, I just made sure to have a light dinner that night!

I heard that their version of the black and white cookies are to die for- a sugar cookie with black and white frosting. A bit different from the traditional, but just as tasty!

Cookies are a bit pricy, roughly $2 each, and are sold by the pound. Bring cash- they don't accept credit cards at this time.

Pro Tip: If you go right before closing (after 4:30pm), all cookies are only $1. Definitely a great way to stock up for less!

image via roadfood.com

8) Miller's Twist

Move over Auntie Anne's, the Amish know pretzels, and they know them really well!

The pretzels here are so light and tasty, you don't even need mustard. With their distinctive pretzel taste, along with being warm, savory, and buttery, I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

Although I opted for a traditional soft pretzel with salt, Miller's Twist has numerous flavors and other delicious pretzel-y treats. How about trying the jalapeño cheddar, beef jumbo, turkey sausage, or broccoli rabe fillings? The pretzel ice cream cones and pretzel dogs looked incredibly appetizing as well. The fact that I didn't gain 10 pounds from this stand alone is surprising.

Another spot in Reading Terminal Market you can't miss! If you're full from all this delicious eating throughout the day, think about getting a pretzel to go- they travel incredibly well! My sister and I decided to pick one up and eat it later in the day at the park.

Pro Tip: Come early in the day and try one of the breakfast stuffed pretzels.

Can you believe I didn't even have a cheesesteak! I'm probably the worst traveler I know! But with all the other treats mentioned above, my tongue (and stomach) didn't really miss it. I'll have two (or three or four) next time I'm in Philly to make up for it. You can definitely hold me to that!

So, I bet you came to this post hoping for a recommendation for a philly cheesesteak? I wont disappoint, promise. Here are two suggestions I was given prior to my trip:

  1. Campos Deli 
  2. Pat’s & Geno’s

******** Again, if you're looking for even more delicious food options, I urge you to book the Philly is for Foodies package at Hotel Palomar. Not only do they supply you with a list of their favorite secret restaurants, but you're also provided with donuts and coffee upon wake-up (delivered to your room from Federal Donuts) and a $25 gift card to Reading Terminal Market. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please consider sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or via Email. Also, I’d love to keep sending you updates about my adventures around the world, so please subscribe to A Passion and A Passport via RSS or by email!

10 June 2014

Part-Time Traveler Talk with Megan Hettwer

Today I bring you another Part-Time Traveler Talk, this week with Megan Hettwer.   

I started reading Megan's blog quite a while ago and have recently loved reading about her experiences in Turkey - a country I have so much desire to travel to!  I find Megan super inspiring because not only has she given up on the everyday "9-5", but she has found ways to support herself and her love for travel through freelance work.  It takes a hard-working girl to go out on her own, financially and literally (Megan has traveled solo in the past).

A specific quote on her blog really stands out to me, as I find it describes myself to the T as well:

"Everything I do is geared toward creating world-rocking, make-my-heart-smile, happiness and I love seeing and helping other people do the same." 
- Megan Hettwer

1) Tell us a little about your non-traveling/non-blogging self. What are you up to when you aren't jetting around the world?

I obviously love travel, but the bulk of my time is spent being active outdoors and working on my freelance business. Since I currently live in Boulder, Colorado it's so easy to spend my free time hiking, rock climbing, camping, and just finding adventure outside. I love exploring Colorado with my dog and in many ways it's just as much fun as exploring a new country. On the work side of things, I'm amping up my freelance writing business. I didn't want to let go of work to travel, so I needed to find a way to create my own job. I'm still learning and building things up, but so far it's not too bad!

2) Is long-term travel something you've ever dreamed of? Would you give up your current life to travel the world indefinitely?

I've definitely dreamt about traveling long term, but the more I travel the more I realize it's not ideal for me. Living abroad is something that really appeals to me, but living out of a backpack full time? Not so much. I'm finally accepting that I'm more of a slow travel/settle down for a bit sort of traveler, and I'm totally okay with that. I love having a home base to come back to and I'm really enjoying my current lifestyle.

3) Approximately how many days out of the year are you on the road? Is this enough running around for you?

I aim for around two longer trips per year, with several shorter jaunts around the U.S. My trips usually range from three to six weeks on average. When I'm at home it doesn't feel like I'm traveling enough, but when I'm on the road it feels just right. My desire to be at home with my fiancé and pets is constantly battling with my desire to be on the road, but I think I've struck a happy medium.

I spend a lot more time traveling than someone with an office job, but I try to keep things reasonable. I need a routine in order to get anything done, so I try to treat my days like a normal workday. It helps keep me accountable!

4) Where was your last trip? When and where is your next trip? For how long?

I was in Guatemala for 5 weeks total in March, then, in May, I spent 9 days in Panama. Prior to this trip, I spent about 2 months traveling in summer 2013. I was able to make it to Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria, and Iceland. It was probably one of my favorite trips to date, but it was an insanely hectic pace and I was completely burnt out by the end of it. Plus, I didn't get any blogging or business work done.

5) Have you changed your life to travel more? If so, then how?

The biggest change I've implemented in my life has been to pursue freelancing. It's been terrifying, exhilarating, rewarding, and frustrating, but I think it's allowing me to have this location flexible life I've always wanted. I also tend to travel solo because my fiancé actually enjoys his job, so I've had to become okay with spending time apart. It's not ideal, but I've been traveling regularly since we first started dating 6 years ago, and my wanderlust doesn't come as a surprise to either of us.

When I'm actually on the road, I'm totally a budget traveler. Not in the hardcore backpacker sense, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to cut costs. Most of my cost-cutting is with my plane tickets. I've finally gotten the hang of travel hacking with credit cards, and that's how I afford most of my flights. 

6) What is one tip you can give others with a full-time life/job hoping to travel more?

The only thing holding you back is yourself! Even if you only have 2 weeks of vacation per year, you can still use it to travel. Sure, most of my trips are pretty long, but there's nothing wrong with a one or two week trip. Heck, I've seen people travel to Paris for only a 3 or 4 day weekend, and they loved it. It's all about prioritizing how important traveling is to you and making it happen. The first steps are always scary, but it's worth it.

Also, don't underestimate "microadventures"! You can have mini adventures in your home town, or in nearby towns. If you love the outdoors like me, this could be a longer hike, trying to bike from your town to a nearby town, or trying out a new activity like stand up paddle boarding or kayaking. Sometimes just re-framing the way you look at things can make a huge difference!

7) Tell us about your current vacation time from work and how you make the most of it to travel.

Well, I'm currently ramping up my freelance career, so I technically have as much vacation time as I'm willing to give myself. But, it's extremely tricky to juggle building a business with intense travel, which is why I'm trying to travel at a slower pace. Theoretically, I could travel long term, but that would involve abandoning my lifestyle in Colorado. I love my home life so much, and I'm totally okay with spending the majority of my time there.

Before I began freelancing I had a cycle of get a job/quit the job/travel/get a new job/quit that job/travel/repeat. There was an obvious cycle going on, and I'm pretty sure it got to the point where my work history was raising some eyebrows. My current system seems to be going well so far. 

8) Describe your perfect work-life-travel balance.

I really like the idea of traveling or living somewhere for around 2-3 months at a time, returning home for 2-3 months, and repeating. I don't think backpacking around is sustainable for me right now (I get way too distracted!) and I love really settling into a place and getting to know it.

9) Are there any destinations you've been longing to go to? Why?

Oh boy...is "everywhere" an option? But specifically, I've been really fascinated by places like Jordan lately. It always seemed like a destination I should avoid, but I've read a lot of posts by other travel bloggers over the past few months, and it seems like a fantastic place. I also really want to bike through the Baltics (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.)

10) What is the best advice you've ever received regarding your dreams and traveling?

I don't know that I can pinpoint one specific piece of advice, because I've had so many influences in my travel life. Honestly, travel bloggers are probably the group that made me realize my dreams were possible. I didn't grow up with many travelers, so there's been a ton of trial and error figuring out how to make this crazy life work. I know that's not very helpful! I'm open to any witty, soul-enhancing bits of wisdom anyone else might have, though ;-)

Are you a part-time traveler?! I would love to hear your experiences balancing work and travel!

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27 May 2014

The Weekend Warrior: The Best of Boston in 48 Hours

It’s safe to say that Boston is a city filled with historical facts just around each and every corner.  Despite being a prominent city in US history, the largest city in New England has so much more to offer. The luscious green parks are abundant, the long waterfront walks are plentiful, and the amount of shopping will surely make any woman smile.  Being one of America’s oldest cities, it’s safe to say that there are a ton of activities to keep busy.

Compared to New York (a city that spans over 305 square miles, versus a measly 48), Boston is much smaller and therefore way more realistic for a long weekend. There's still a wide array of activities, but not too much to make it seem overwhelming.

Boston Common // image via Expedia
Luckily, if you stay at a hotel in the city’s center, almost all the sites will be within walking distance and you won't waste your time (or money) waiting for the T.  We stayed at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Boston, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.  I would recommend this hotel in a heartbeat (you can read my full review here).

But let's get real - when you only have roughly 48 hours to explore, a set plan is very important and more than necessary. Put on your walking shoes and don’t plan on eating before you arrive.

Day One:

8:00 A.M.
Head to one of my favorite spots for breakfast (Bruegger’s Bagels or Boston Common Coffee Company) and indulge in an artisan breakfast sandwich or wild bagel creation.  The coffee options at both are outstanding (including coconut coffee and salted caramel – YUM).  If you want something sweeter, try a donut at BCCC – they looked out of this world.

You’ll want to head to breakfast earlier than later, as many of the popular joints get crowded rather quickly. 

Pro Tip: Skip a big breakfast, as you’ll want to pace your eating throughout the day. Trust me on this one. Boston really is a foodie’s paradise.

9:00 A.M.
Spend the morning in Boston Common, the oldest park in the United States. The park covers over 50 acres of land, and features structures and monuments including the Boston Massacre Memorial, Boylston Station (the first subway station in America), Brewer Fountain, and the Frog Pond (which turns into an ice-skating rink in winter months). Being the starting part of the Freedom Trail, you won’t want to miss this!

Adjacent to Boston Common is the Public Garden, which contains a lake and many planting areas that are maintained by the city.  Here you can sit in a Swan Boat and get peddled around the lake by a tour guide under the large and delicate weeping willows. The park boasts a wide variety of tree species as well as flowers which vary from season to season.  During the spring and summer months, the Public Garden is beyond filled with colorful blooms – make sure to bring your camera!

Why not have a picnic in the park and eat your breakfast on a bench?  It’s the absolute perfect place to people watch and enjoy the fresh air and lush gardens. 

Pro Tip: The park is sometimes erroneously referred to as the “Boston Commons”.   Call it this, and you’re basically screaming TOURIST! The proper name is “Boston Common”, although “The Common” is widely used as well.

"Make sure to ride the Swan Boats! They are ridiculously cheap for the amount of beauty and happiness they bring. I once took a whole class of adult ESL students to ride the boats, and it was magical to see these folks from Saudi Arabia, Colombia, China, and so many other countries squeezing close together on the benches, laughing and pointing at all the sights around the water." - Lillie Marshall

11:30 A.M.
After relaxing in the park for a few hours, make your way to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, one of the first urban marketplaces in the country. Faneuil Hall includes three long granite buildings called North Market, Quincy Market, and South Market, home to many stores and restaurants.

On the cobblestone promenades surrounding the buildings you will find world-renowned street performers and musicians, just waiting to entertain those around. Grab some lunch and watch the very talented artists for a while.

With over 50 shops and dozens of options for lunch (including lobster, oysters, and clam chowder), you’ll want to spend a few hours here. The area is filled with history, but you’ll also find the popular American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch within it’s grounds.

Although extremely touristy, it’s a must-do for the first-timer in Boston.

"Quincy Market is most definitely one of the best places to eat in Boston.  Formerly a traditional market where there were sold fresh produce such as vegetables, fruits and meat, Quincy Market has become one of the most popular attractions in Boston and a must stop on your visit.  My advice? Don’t forget to taste chocolate strawberries. So delicious!" - Sara Rodriguez

"About two weeks after the Boston Marathon Bombing, I went to Faneuil Hall and the tour guide walked us through the history of the building, its main chamber having held speakers as diverse as suffragettes like Lucy Stone and modern politicos like President Obama and Senator John Kerry. Before we left, she thanked us for "having the bravery" to come visit Boston after the tragedy . . . it wasn't us who were brave, but the women and men who have stood inside Faneuil Hall -- whether to deliver a speech or their first words as American citizens." - Ann Santori

image via Wikipedia Commons
2:30 P.M.
Walk a few blocks up to the North End, which is known as Boston’s Little Italy.  It is the oldest residential community in the city, and people have lived in the area since they first settled here in the 1630s.

The narrow streets are lined with cafes, small grocery stores, and Italian restaurants, loved by both locals and tourists alike.  Make sure to stop at one of the famous bakeries to satisfy your sweet tooth with a cannoli or other tasty Italian treat.  Top contenders are Mike’s Pastry Shop, Marias, or Modern.  We sampled the peanut butter cannoli and mint chocolate chip cannoli at Mike’s and left wanting more.  The lines can be long, but just wait.  You’ll be happy you did when you’re stuffing your face with cannoli cream or a lobster tail.

Don’t miss Paul Revere’s House, the Old North Church, and Union Wharf. Hang out by the waterfront for a bit too, preferably with some gelato in hand.

"Mikes Pastry is a highlight for those with a sweet tooth -my friend Maria loves the black and white cookies." - Suzanne Wolko 

image of Paul Revere's house via Wikipedia Commons
4:30 P.M.
Next on the agenda: the ever-so-picturesque Boston Harbor Walk.  Boston is surrounded by water, and it would be a shame to miss out on fantastic views of the waterfront. Make sure your camera is charged, as there are infinite picture-taking opportunities.  Spanning almost 50 miles, don’t expect to walk the entire path.  However, don’t fret- all areas are scenic and easy to follow with Harbor Walk signs practically everywhere.

If you whizzed through the morning’s activities and have extra time, spend an hour or so at the New England aquarium.  The Harbor Walk route takes you right to it.  If time isn’t on your side, you can still see the seals at eye level in their tank (for free).

In the summertime, there are numerous sailboats out on the water, and the occasional whale-watching boat tooting its horn.  All in all, it’s a great way to relax and spend a sunny afternoon after running around all day.

Pro Tip: Take a break at the end of Commonwealth Pier.  You’ll have the best view of the harbor, and be able to relax your feet for a bit before continuing.


7:30 P.M.
It’s (finally) dinnertime!  Head to Avenue One for some seasonal local cuisine, and make sure to order a bowl of New England clam chowder and the crab cakes – my new favorites.  All the dishes are downright delectable, and the ambience and wait staff will surely exceed all your expectations.  The bar located adjacent to the restaurant is an excellent choice for some after-dinner drinks.

By now you are more than likely exhausted, and I suggest crawling into bed earlier than later to prepare yourself for the next day’s activities.

Day Two:

9:00 A.M.
Start off your day at Elephant and Castle for a hearty breakfast, which was only steps away from our hotel at Hyatt Regency Boston. Here you can enjoy scrumptious platters of banana stuffed french toast, complete with syrup, whipped cream, and applewood smoked bacon, honey ham or British banger sausage. 
Or try out the poutine, you can never go wrong with some early in the morning!

If you wind up getting an early start, you’re in luck, because Elephant and Castle begins serving breakfast at 7am. 

11:00 A.M.
A walk along Newbury Street will surely hold your attention with all of its elegant boutiques and wide variety of restaurants.  Known to have the city’s top shopping, this chic area is lined with both high-end specialty shops (great for window shopping) as well as more affordable chains.

Basically, a great spot for foodies and shoppers alike! Be sure to try out Stephanies’ on Newbury and Snappy Sushi when your stomach starts to growl from all the shopping.  If shopping isn’t your thing, take a stroll in the area among the beautiful architecture and people-watch.

Spanning 8 blocks and filled with funky salons, fine dining, and trendy galleries, there is most definitely something for everyone here.  If you love Newbury Street, continue onto Commonwealth Ave, which runs directly parallel and has a similar cool vibe.

"Everyone visiting Boston makes a bee-line for Cheers, but when I want to go someplace where everybody knows my name, I head to Daisy Buchanan's on Newbury Street. This fixture pub is popular with sports fans, and with a name pulled straight from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby it attracts an eclectic and funky crowd. I spent a great New Year's Eve at Daisy's a few years ago reconnecting with my old high school friends, and I am sad to hear Daisy's will be closing in October 2014." - Tara Lepore

"This is my go-to area for taking visitors on walks through Boston. It has a European flavor, and such enjoyable architecture and foliage. Consider trying a chocolate and beer tour there!" - Lillie Marshall

image via Wikipedia Commons
2:00 P.M.
Time for more shopping! Once you go up the elevator at the Prudential Center, you’ll notice the dramatic glass ceilings and high-end shops.

Green spaces are located throughout, which we thoroughly enjoyed when we needed a little break from walking.  You’ll find a Pink Berry in the middle of the tower, which is obviously the key to my happiness (I would have it every single day if my belt allowed me to).

You’ll think I’m crazy, but if you’re like me – it’s time for your mid-afternoon “snack”.  Head to Wagamama’s in the Prudential Center for some of the best ramen and Japanese noodles you’ll ever have. Share if you want to have room for dinner, as the portions are rather large.

After yet another meal, it’s time to take the elevator to the Skywalk Observatory, the only location in New England offering 360-degree panoramic views of the Greater Boston area. You’ll see the Charles River, Fenway Park, Copley Square, and Boston Common, among other areas from 50 stories high.

Don’t worry, those with a fear of heights have nothing to worry about.   The observatory is an enclosed walk around with large picture windows overlooking the city.  Choose to wear a headset (featuring an audio tour pointing out important landmarks) as you take in the sweeping dramatic views of the city, or simply explore yourself.

Pro-Tip: You can get from Bolyston all the way to the South End/Back Bay Station without stepping outside (perfect for when it’s too hot or too cold out!)

6:00 P.M.
You can’t leave Boston without catching a game at historic Fenway Park! Get tickets beforehand, and hang out at the stadium prior to the game feasting on sausages and hot dogs from nearby food carts.  If tickets are unavailable, stop by one of the local bars for a drink and to cheer along.  Trust me- you won’t be alone.

If your visit to Boston doesn’t coincide with baseball season, think about taking a Fenway Park Stadium Tour during the day. You’ll have to swap around a few activities, but the excitement at Fenway shouldn’t be missed!

Pro Tip: If you are a Yankees fan, keep that information to yourself.  Red Sox fans are extremely loyal and you wouldn’t want anyone to “accidentally” spill some mustard on you!

Although we didn’t get to experience a game here, just standing outside the stadium peering through the gates was enough to give you a sense of excitement as you think of all the legends that have crossed home plate in this iconic stadium.  We would highly recommend taking a tour of ‘America’s Most Beloved Ballpark’ on your next trip to Boston as for only $17 it is a real bargain to experience one of the most famous stadiums in American sporting history. - Chris Boothman

If you have additional time:
  • Check out Harvard and MIT in the Cambridge Area.  Both campuses are absolutely gorgeous to walk through, and you could spend an entire afternoon exploring.
  • A little off-the-beaten-path, and mostly unknown to tourists, Jamaica Pond makes for a great walk on a bright, sunny day.  Plus, the ice cream at J.P. Licks can’t be beat! 
  • Interested in yet another picturesque walk? The three-mile leafy path of the Charles-River Esplanade will provide just that. Tired of walking? Go canoeing in the river or tan yourself with those great river breezes! 
  • Care to hang out with the sharks, stingrays, and penguins? Head on over to the New England Aquarium for an afternoon! The massive 3-story center tank is truly impressive.

Have you ever been to Boston?
What secret places/restaurants have I missed?!

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