Category Archives: Take 5

The Take 5 articles are designed to highlight 5 things you must experience if you only have a short time to visit a place.

The Best of Ubud Bali

Ever heard of a magical Indonesian island called Bali? Chances are, you have. And if you’re into yoga, meditation or healthy living, you’ve also probably heard about a “must visit” destination called Ubud. 

When I first arrived, I liked Ubud, but I was conflicted. It felt so touristy. I wondered if I had made a mistake going there. With time, I figured out how to enjoy the best of Ubud, while also getting a taste of the “real Bali”. It took me a few days to figure this out, and this post is intended to share the best of Ubud with you, to help save you the struggle of figuring out how to fall in love with Bali… 

Rice terraces in Ubud

If you come to Ubud, these first five are my “must do, can’t miss” experiences, and then afterwards I’ll go into detail on places to eat, sleep, explore, etc., but first…

Top Five Things to Do While in Ubud

1. Take a bicycling tour with Sepeda Bali Cycling and Adventure.

I remember when someone first recommended I take a cycling tour, I scoffed at the idea once I arrived and felt the Bali heat. However, a week or so later, an ex-pat friend asked if I was keen to spend a day exploring the countryside of Bali on bike, led by a local, and I figured why not give it a go. I’m so glad I did, because it was *amazing*! If you’re at all curious about seeing the “real Bali”, this is the way to do it! Our tour took us to the luminescent Tegalalang rice terraces, then up to Mount Batur, where we had a tasty local meal to fuel us up while overlooking the majestic mountains and lake. We then entered the forest where we mountain biked past farmers’ fields, and stopped at a few various farms to learn about {luwak poo} coffee production, bamboo wind chime production, and to hydrate with a coconut water and fresh fruit pit stop before making our way to a waterfall for swimming. We finished the bicycling at the tour guides’ home where a delicious typical meal had been prepared for us. After eating we went to a black sand beach to watch the sun set, then returned back to Ubud. The authenticity and organization of this tour is unparalleled. The twin brothers who are running it are excellent ambassadors for Bali, and take great care of you along the way. Also, with this tour, you don’t need to be uber fit to participate- it’s nearly all downhill, making for easy riding. Also, don’t let the 600,000 rupiah price tag hold you back- it is worth every single penny. You can also customize the tour more to your preferences. 

Bike tour in Bali
Bike tour in Bali

2. Go to ecstatic dance at Yoga Barn on Friday night or Sunday morning…or both! 

Yoga Barn has quite the hype in Bali, but it earns it. The place is massive, attracts a good-vibe crowd, and has classes and events that are worth the price tag. However, if you can only make it to one thing, go and experience an ecstatic dance! Everyone joins together to dance their hearts out to some amazing rhythms and tunes. The beats are awesome, and it is incredibly freeing to let your body move however it wants in an atmosphere of no judgement and pure positive energy. My advice? Close your eyes, and dance how you feel. Another piece of advice? Get there early to get a ticket (the line starts about 2 hours before the event, but after you get your ticket you’re free to leave until it starts) or if you arrive and they’ve reached the 150 person limit, just stay and dance outside on the deck, and check about availability after the event starts, because sometimes people who originally got a ticket don’t actually come back to go in. If you go on a Sunday morning, do yourself a favor and go to a kundalini yoga class first (~7:30am), then line up for your ecstatic dance ticket when the class ends. It’s perfect timing, and you get to experience both an excellent yoga class, and attend an epic ecstatic dance session. Win-win. 

3. Check out the restaurant Pomegranate up in the rice fields above Ubud. 

Sure, it’s about a 20 min walk from the center of Ubud, but that’s exactly why you want to check this place out- because it’s beautifully nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The restaurant is in the middle of a rice paddy, and it is so peaceful; a perfect place to lounge and sip a traditional Balinese coffee, or to have a full on fresh and tasty meal. There are also a few artists stalls up along the path, so you can enjoy a browse of beautiful artwork in a tranquil setting along the way. 

4. Get a massage or treat yo’ self to a spa! 

When I was in Ubud, I went to a place called Pertenin and indulged in a four hand massage, followed by a coffee body scrub, a green tea body mask, and a soak in a flower bath. It was 2.5 hours of pleasure in a professional and upscale spa, all for approximately $25. After being spoiled like this, I don’t know if two hands will ever satisfy me the same way! 

Spa day in Ubud
Relaxing with a spa day in Ubud

5. Check out a fire dance or kecak performance. 

Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s really different than anything you’ve ever seen. The whole performance is set to the vocal rhythms of many men seated in a circle around a glowing fire. There are a few main characters of the show, and they all have amazing traditional costumes. Also, pay attention to the way the beautiful women move their fingers and arms as they dance- it’s almost like they’re doing a really smooth version of “the robot” as their fingers click into a new position with each “click chuck click chuck click chuck” of the men’s voices.
Now, apart from these top tips to enjoy Ubud, let me give you one solid piece of advice- get a scooter and get out of town! Whether you want to rent one yourself (they’re super cheap, about 60,000 rupiah/ day) or if you’d rather have a driver, either way, there is so much to see in the surrounding area that it makes Ubud a great base. 

My favorite driver ever is named Gede, and is an excellent tour guide and host. His whatsapp number is: +62 813 37003004 and his email is:

 He will give you a fair price and help you customize a trip based on your interests and needs. Tell him Holly sent you. I spent a whole day with him and he was professional, fun, and informative. I only wished I had met him at the start! 

Now, allow me to give you a few pointers that will further help you to enjoy your time in Ubud. 

Where to stay?
Stay in a Homestay! 

Homestays allow you to have a peek into the traditional Balinese way of life. You will see the women making the offering baskets, canang, each day and placing them around the housing compound each morning. Each family has their own temple on their property, and if you ask some questions you can learn more about the Balinese traditions. 
I moved around a bit while in Ubud, and a few places I came across which I really liked were as follows: 

KT Kuaya Homestay: by far the nicest place, with super clean, fresh and spacious rooms, a gorgeous garden, and a lush pool fit for a queen. It includes a tasty breakfast and the family is nice, although not much for suggestions. Strong wifi. Higher end, with a minimum price tag of 250,000 Rupiah per night. 

Duana’s Homestay: located on the same property as KT Kuaya but a bit less expensive, at around 180,000 Rupiah per night, still including breakfast. The room wasn’t as pristine as Kuaya, but you are still staying in the same gorgeous garden compound, and I had a better time communicating with this family. Each morning I watched the father meticulously groom the frangipani tree and it was incredibly tranquil. Patchy wifi, but it works. 

Jati Homestay: lovely staff with decent English. Rooms have private patios overlooking lush green space and the common area is really peaceful. It’s set back off Hanoman street, so you’re right by everything, yet it’s still quiet. The owner is an artist so you will see his pieces in progress on the property. Around 180,000 Rupiah including breakfast. Strong wifi.  

Wayan’s Family Homestay: shared rooms, hostel-style. Clean and with a beautiful garden space and swimming pool, breakfast and wifi included, located off Hanoman. 
The places I have mentioned are best if you don’t have a scooter and want to be able to easily walk to the center of Ubud and around. If you have a scooter, I’d suggest staying further out of town. Although all these places are their own little reprieve from the bustling streets, the further out of Ubud you go the more tranquil life will be. 

Where to eat? 

Embrace both sides of Ubud- the local Warungs as well as the health-food influenced cafes and restaurants. 

Tasty traditional Balinese cuisine

My favorite Warung’s are:

Warung Makan Bu Rus, which teaches you not to judge a book by its cover. When you first approach it off the street it looks like a hole in the wall, but when you enter you can sit in the back garden and it’s gorgeous! If you go in the evening there is the soft glow of lanterns and candles, and typical Balinese music on a stereo. I went alone two nights in a row, and both nights ended up meeting other fabulous solo travelers over dinner. All the food is fairly priced, freshly prepared and delicious. Try the Cap Cay or GadoGado. Also, this street has beautiful temples on it, so take a stroll here during the day. 
Warung Bui Don– a new-ish restaurant that is simple, clean, affordable and delicious. Here I had my first ever bowl of Cap Cay and it changed my life. For a bowl of soup, some rice and a fresh fruit drink I paid only 35,000, and that was including a 5,000 tip for the super sweet staff. Tipping is not expected in Bali. 
Warung Popesh– tasty, affordable, authentic, and on a cute side street which is worth a wander. 

Warung Baih Baih – full of people enjoying the locals specials like Mei Goreng (fried noodles) and reasonable prices. 
And now for more western influenced restaurants: 

Kafe – all around delicious health food with hearty salads, mixed juices and a variety of coffees. Very chill place to either lounge or sit on the patio and watch the world pass by. Free wifi, but they charge for a glass of water. 

Kismet– tons of tasty options, again hearty salads, mixed juice concoctions, desserts and coffees. Free wifi. Nice sidestreet location. 
Bali Buda– Pure yum. Got the crunchy salad special two times in a row and was in love with its hearty wholesomeness. Strong coffee and a variety of juice drinks.

My all-time favorite off the beaten path place: Pomegranate Restaurant. Nestled in the rice fields about a 15-20 min walk above Ubud, it is the perfect place to feel at peace and remove yourself from the city. I didn’t eat here but all the food that surrounded me looked and smelled incredible. My traditional Balinese coffee was just what I needed to relax and recharge. 

Want to do some yoga and wellness activities?
My favorite places were Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive yoga studios. 
Yoga Barn is full of hype, but it earns it. When you go there you will most likely meet other cool, conscious travelers, and you will no doubt experience a first class yoga class or course. I went for kundalini yoga, both times on Sunday morning, and both times left me buzzing with positive energy. Another thing you absolutely must experience while in Ubud is ecstatic dance at the Yoga Barn, either Friday night or Sunday morning, or both! Get there early to get a ticket. The recent trend is to be there about 2 hours early, get a sticky note with a number (capped off at 150 people), then come back just before the dance starts to pay and get your wristband. It’s worth it. And if you don’t get in, hang around, dance on the deck outside, and see if they have open spaces about 15 minutes after the event starts. Inevitably, some people don’t show up to claim their space. 

Radiantly Alive is a gorgeous yoga studio set overlooking a lush forest. I went for a morning gentle flow session and really enjoyed the practice and the space. It’s also right up the road from Bali Buda, so indulge in a bite after your yoga, perhaps with newfound friends! 

Want to see some art? Apart from enjoying looking at all the local artisans, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Blanco Museum if you enjoy art and creativity. Artist, Antonio Blanco, was originally from Spain and married a Balinese dancer, then moved to Bali and began painting with his main subject being beautiful, bare-breasted women. The building is architecturally interesting and full of color, and the paintings often have specially designed frames to compliment the artwork. 

Into Temples? Go to Goa Gojah, the elephant cave temple! It’s just a few kilometers outside of Ubud and had a really cool, intricately carved entryway to an ancient cave temple where monks used to meditate. 

The Goa Gojah Elephant Cave entrance

Like outdoor walks? Check out the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It’s a lovely path that takes you up and out of central Ubud, walking through rice paddies and artists’ villages. Take it easy, take it in, and feel free to pause and enjoy a tasty meal or refreshing bevvy along the way. Also, take a moment and talk with the artists. Learn about their artwork. It’s a great insight into Balinese culture. 

Balinese artist with typical wooden painted eggs
There’s obviously much more to be found in Ubud, but let this serve as a starter kit to having a great time in this blissful Balinese city. 

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Any other suggestions for Ubud? Feel free to share below! 

5 Perks of a Travel Buddy 

“Holly, you know what I just remembered??” asked Yasemin, my travel partner throughout all of Peru. We were walking down the street in Arequipa, in search of dinner, and our time together was drawing to a close.

“What’s that? What do you remember?” I responded, curiosity creeping in.
“That time that the police escorted us home when we were lost!” she exclaimed with a grin.
This brought a huge smile to my face, and I couldn’t help but laugh as I began to remember the details. We had been in Trujillo, Peru, and it had been quite the day. We had walked through dusty, labyrinth-like ruins in the desert, been separated from our Couchsurfing host, made our way to the beautiful and distinct beach town of Huancacho where dozens of man-made boats of straw line the beach, and had even been exclusively invited  up into the bell-tower of the church on the hill which overlooked the entire town, at sunset, to have a special up-close and personal encounter with the bellman, as he clanged the bell with rocks and rang the bell by the string and intermittently told us stories about the 26+ years which he had been ringing this bell, every day, through wind and rain and even earthquakes. We had then caught the bumpiest local bus ever through traffic which nearly rivaled India, to get back to Trujillo’s town center, where we jumped off, armed with a joke of a map, and a few minutes before darkness, to try and navigate our way back to a hostel which we had barely even gotten to know in the daylight. That was when I saw the police officers on the corner and decided to ask them for directions. As usual, they didn’t know which direction to point us, but three of their co-workers rolled up at just the right time and knew exactly where we were trying to go, so they told us to get in, and they would bring us there. Whew. What a crazy and amazing day, typical of traveling with joy.

Huancacho Bell Tower

 When she reminded me of this, I was so grateful. I hadn’t thought of it in weeks as so many other ridiculous experiences had overtaken this particular incredible experience in my memory.
People always ask me how I feel about solo travel, and I honestly can say it doesn’t bother me to “be alone”. I have no trouble meeting people, and I also have no trouble with my own company. However one day, a guy who didn’t understand solo travel asked me, “But isn’t it better to be with someone, so you can look back on the time of your travels and laugh while you remember your stories?” That always stuck in my memory, because it is true.
After traveling half way through Peru with my soul-sister of a travel buddy, I will now disclose the 5 best parts about having a travel buddy, written on my bittersweet night of separation from one of my best travel partners yet.

Crossing the Border into Peru

1. You have someone with whom you can share your crazy, new, amazing and horrifying experiences, and better yet, you have someone who you can look to and remember these experiences. Chances are that you and your travel buddy are both going through a new place together, and will both be slightly shocked or delighted at many things you encounter along the way. Having someone there at your side to share these experiences really is priceless.
2. You can split the costs. Whether it be of a taxi, a hotel room, or a meal, dividing the bill in two helps stretch your travel budget a wee-bit further. I was really lucky with Yasemin, because we liked the same types of food, and could oftentimes share a meal, cutting down on restaurant prices, and leaving room for dessert. We were also on the same financial spending pattern, which helped a lot. We weren’t super cheap, turning over every travel penny a million times, but yet we were money conscious, opting for the most economical option when it made sense.
3. You have someone with which you can share stories, and create your own new stories. When I began to travel with Yasemin, it was especially fun because she was quite well-traveled on her own, and had tons of interesting travel stories and life experiences to share. As time went on I realized we were making some pretty epic travel moments of our own: hiking to 5000m high glaciers, picnicking alongside turquoise mountain lagoons, connecting with local shopkeepers, having personalized bell-tower serenades and police escorts, and sledding, buggying, and running down sand dunes in the middle of a desert oasis, just to name a few. It is incredible to be able to share these amazing moments with someone, and to know that when you look back on these events, you will always remember this person being at your side.
4. When the times get tough, you have someone to lean on. Travel can be hard; it can be exhausting; it can stretch you to your limits. Throughout all of this, a good travel buddy can help be your rock. They will not crumble during the difficult times, they will help reflect your own inner strength, and the two of you together can suck it up and take on the world, with whatever crazy experience comes your way.
5. You teach each other, share with each other, and help one another to be the best you can be. When I first met Yasemin, we were in the coastal town of Puerto Lopez. I was enjoying my daily practice of exercise every morning, which at that time consisted of a run on the beach, followed by yoga. At the time, she was thoroughly enjoying a solid sleep-in every morning, but soon after we started to travel together she picked up the habit of starting her day a bit earlier with me with a bit of yoga and ab exercise. I was happy to share this practice with her, and in turn, she shared her skills as a hair-stylist with me, teaching me to appreciate the techniques of cutting and coloring hair, and even helping me maintain my own locks. Before we separated, I taught her how to put in my beloved feather-extensions, and she put them in my hair like a champion. She loved the idea, and even thought she would bring it back to her salon in Germany. Talk about a win-win situation. When you can share your passions with another person, everyone comes out ahead.
These are just five of the many perks that come with having a travel partner. The truth of the matter is that having a travel buddy is a priceless gift, but you can’t settle for just anyone. If you are going to sacrifice your amazing solo-travel experience to travel as a team, you need to choose wisely with your travel partner. Be with someone who enhances your experience, rather than drains you or distracts you from the magic of travel. Be with someone who helps you be the best and the happiest person you can be. Life is short, and travel should be enjoyed. Find a travel buddy who is on your same rhythm, financially, energetically, and socially, and when you do, enjoy it as long as it lasts.
Everyone is on their own journey, and after awhile even good things must come to an end. When it came time to separate from Yasemine, it was because I wanted and needed to start moving a bit more quickly. Even though having a travel partner is amazing, you must ultimately be true to yourself.
On our last afternoon together, we had a walk to the market and as we exited she told me to close my eyes and put out my right hand. I had no idea what to expect; I thought I was going to be gifted a nut she had just purchased inside, when suddenly I felt something being slipped on my wrist. When she knew our days together we’re coming to a close, she had secretly bought a beautiful red-seeded bracelet, friendship style: one for her and one for me. It was the perfect soul-sister-travel gift. I had been admiring those particular bracelets for weeks. Now, as I set off on my own, I have a constant reminder of my special friend with whom I traveled through Peru. What a wonderfully enhanced travel time we had, and I am oh-so-grateful for my time with a travel buddy.

At the top of Huacachina

5 Things to Know Before Taking a Galapagos Islands Vacation

As I set off for the Galapagos Islands I had no idea what to expect. I knew I was heading to a place I had dreamed of going all my life, and I knew I could speak Spanish well enough that I would be able to find my way around, but I had not done any official research whatsoever. While there, I talked with many people and picked up tips and tricks which made the most of my week on the amazing islands, but this article will share a list of 5 things you should know before you take a Galapagos Islands vacation.

Giant tortoise Galapagos Islands

1. There are hefty taxes to get on to the island. Before you check in at the airport you must scan your luggage, and pay a $20 tax for visiting the islands. Don’t lose this ticket stub because you need to show it when you leave the islands! Upon arrival to the islands you must pay $100 to enter if you’re not from South America, $50 if you’re from South America, and $8 if you’re from Ecuador. Blue Footed Boobies

2. If you want to see the 3 main islands and make the most of a trip that is 7 days or less, look in to flying into an airport on one island and flying out on another island. You could fly in to Santa Cruz, spend a few days, then take a boat to Isabela, spend another few days, then come back to Santa Cruz and pass on to San Cristobal to spend your last few days. Boats do not go from Isabela to San Cristobal or vice versa, you must pass through Santa Cruz.Marine iguanas Galapagos Islands

3. If you’re flying out of Santa Cruz, you have two (or three) options for how to get to the airport. Option 1- take a taxi to the bus station ($1) and catch a bus at either 6:30, 7, 7:30 or 8AM. Apparently once the buses fill up they leave, so these times are approximate. I arrived at 7:45 and there were no more buses. I had to pay the full $18 to be taken to the canal in the taxi, which is Option 2. If you have an early flight, you could also try and talk to one of the dive shops (Option 3) beforehand to hitch a ride with them when they take off at 7am to head to the same canal which you must cross to get to the airport. They will charge you a little something, but it will be less than the $18 taxi fee. My flight was at 12:45 and I ended up leaving at 7:35 from Puerto Ayora to get to the airport and wait for a few hours. It’s not so bad. There are gift shops, places to eat, and places to sit, both inside and outside. Make sure you have something to do to pass the time. Galapagos Islands

4. If you do one paid tour on the Galapagos, make it the Los Tuneles tour on Isabela Island! With this snorkeling trip you will see as much marine life as you do while scuba diving, and you will also walk across amazing lava bridges and encounter hundreds of blue footed boobies, as well as spot dozens of penguins and sea lions. It is amazing to swim up close and personal with sea turtles, white tip reef sharks and rays, as well as massive schools of fish and even sea horses! In low season the tour costs around $75, and in high season it’s around $90, but it is totally worth every penny. Isabela island is by far the most natural and beautiful of the islands. On Isabela you can also see flamingos, and visit a giant tortoise hatching center, as well as snorkel for free at Concha Perla.

Los Tuneles Galapagos Islands

5. It’s actually kind of chilly! Despite being right around the equator, I found the Galapagos to be quite chilly. However, take this information with a grain of salt. I was there in September when the island was being affected by El Niño and I had several cloudy days. Bring long, lightweight pants as a safety precaution. I used mine every night. Also, having a room with hot water was much appreciated because after spending some time swimming in the ocean I felt chilled to the bone, and it was nice to come back to the room and warm up with the hot water. Galapagos IslandsThese are just a few useful things I learned while traveling the Galapagos Islands. Have you ever been, or would you like to go? What are some things that you would share with other tourists who are about to take a Galapagos Islands vacation?

sunset on Galapagos Islands

Say Hello to Strangers

The world isn’t full of dangerous people, it’s full of friends you haven’t met yet.

As I travel the world, non-travelers always ask me, “Don’t you get lonely?”

My response is, “I am never alone.”

Traveling on your own teaches you many very valuable lessons, two of which are:
1. How to be happy with your own company
2. How to make friends quickly with complete strangers

The first is a deep personal journey I’ll let you embark on in your own time. However, allow me to elaborate on the latter, as making friends with strangers has always been my specialty.

When it comes to saying hello to strangers and making a new friend, it comes down to five simple steps.

1. Look people in the eyes. Project your positive energy with a warm smile. Typically you will get a feel for people with matching energies and will be able to understand if they are receptive to meeting someone new.

Say Hello to Strangers
An invitation for a run through the mountains and laughs shared over traditional food was all it took to become lifelong friends with this wonderful Costa Rican couple.

2. Embrace small talk. Break the ice by commenting on things relative to the moment. If you have a sense of humor, use it.

Anna Purna Base Camp
We met when I thought I had altitude sickness. The bloke in the middle laughed at me and told me we were too low for that to be possible. The next day these guys became my hiking partners, and we eventually hiked our way up to the AnnaPurna Base Camp.

3. Ask questions. Getting to know someone requires effort and interest. You’re not going to make a new friend staring down at your phone screen. It requieres active engagement and a bit of enthusiasm.

Tayrona National Park
I brought this crew together through asking lots of questions. From starting conversations in the middle of the street, to the shared shuttle bus, to the line in Tayrona National Park, our pack kept growing.

4. Don’t be shy. Tell people you are looking for friends to hang out with. People aren’t mind readers, sometimes you need to put yourself out there in order to make things happen.

eating in the hostel prison
We became friends after a free walking tour in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and we all decided to continue exploring the city together, after a quick coffee and chocolate ball, of course.

5. Make plans. After you have broken the ice and successfully engaged someone in conversation, make follow up plans if you want to hang out with this person again. This requires putting yourself out there a little bit more. You can ask them if they have plans that night or that weekend, or see if they are interested in joining you to do  something that you were thinking of doing yourself. Then get their contact information. If you just give out your information, you might find yourself waiting around, and that’s not how you want to be spending your time!

Poon Hill Loop

Of course these five steps are only the beginning. You must always trust your intuition. Don’t go wandering off with every stranger you meet. But do keep an open mind, and the next time you find yourself looking to say hello to strangers and to potentially make a new friend, think of these five steps.

Perfect example of all of the above:

I was recently in Mindo, Ecuador, a place which is best appreciated when you have a local friend who will show you the secret spots. While I was at a public waterfall, a local “lifeguard” reprimanded me for climbing on some rocks and we got to talking. We talked about the nature, the river, the waterfall and our beautiful surroundings. He told me all about how he loved to hike to the waterfalls for free, and I brazenly told him, “I need a friend like you!” and asked him what we was up to the following day. He happened to have the day off, and we made plans to go bird watching and waterfall chasing. With just the right stroke of luck and ambition, I had turned a stranger into a friend, and secured a personal tour of the coolest places that Mindo had to offer. Give it a try and see who you meet.

5 Questions to Serve As Your Compass to Success 

Have you ever heard the saying that you are the summation of the five people you spend the most time with? That these five people affect your perspective, your habits and the way you generally live your life, so you should take care as to who you have “in your circle”? 

As I travel, I change my surroundings every few days, so I don’t have a set group influencing me, but even so, when I find myself in the company of those who do not have the same values or lifestyle I deem important I take notice and I take care, because you can walk the line for some time, but if you cross over from good habits to bad, it’s an effort to get back on track. 

I recently was staying with a kind family in Colombia, and although they were nice, I found myself slipping into their way of life: late nights and late mornings, overeating and eating out, and simply existing versus making the most of my precious and valuable time on this planet. 

A blessing and a curse of mine is that I can be a chameleon and adapt to my surroundings very easily. I am a “go with the flow” type of person, so the path of least resistance was to join their way of life. I found myself frustrated from time to time, but I reminded myself that this situation wasn’t permanent, and I tried to take my personal choices when possible which lead me down the healthy lifestyle path that makes me happy. 

During this time, I read a quote which really spoke to me, “Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.” It was simple yet profound and it reminded me that I am in control of my life, my goals, my outcome, and if I want to be successful and happy I need to actively take these things into my own hands. 

When I think of things that determine whether or not I will have a successful day or life, a few things come to mind. Below are 5 quick questions outlining the general aspects to use as a “compass” for life’s decisions. Take a read and keep them in mind. You might just find them useful as well. 

*How do you start your day? 

The way we start our day has an impact on our outlook and our overall productivity. Are you starting your mornings early and on a positive note? Meditation, exercise and a healthy breakfast with at least one cup of coffee, that’s how I like to start mine. 


*What kind of food do you eat? 

You know that saying “you are what you eat”? It is true. The things we put in our bodies act as our fuel for life. Are you getting your greens, or is your life made up of processed sugars and carbs, prepared and packaged by someone else? 


*Who do you surround yourself with? 

Are the people around you fountains of inspiration, or do they drain you of your natural energy and enthusiasm? It is important to consider this because your energy in life matters, and those you share it with can also reflect it back to you. If you’re around people who are negative black holes, then you will find yourself constantly giving without getting any positive feedback in the process, and that is just plain draining. 


*Are you on the path to achieving your dreams? 

Is what you’re doing helping you put one foot in front of the other to bring you closer to your dreams? If not, is what you’re doing really worth your time? Sometimes we have responsibilities which we need to take care of, and other times we are just in a rut because we’re doing what we think is expected of us. Think twice before you continue blindly doing what you have always done. Is it bringing you one step closer to your happiest self? 


*Have you learned something new? 

Keep your eyes and ears open. Observe. Let the world be your teacher. Whether it’s about yourself, someone else, or things that are going on or have happened in the world, it’s important to continuously learn and expand our minds. 


There you have it. Life is short, live it well, and let these 5 questions serve as your compass to success. 

Don’t Get Pissed, Get Polished – 5 Tips for Overcoming the Blues

Anyone who has ever traveled knows that in order to experience the amazing highs that come with exploring a new place, you have to go through some really frustrating times as well. There are some days where everyone talks too fast, walks too slow, and you find yourself feeling lost and going in circles. It’s on these days that you want to throw your hands up and go back to the home you know, the people you love, and say,  “Screw it, I’ve seen enough.” But then you find an off-the-beaten path gem, a stranger smiles at you, and you remember why you decided to follow your bodacious dream to see the world.
On the days that you find yourself feeling melancholic and the world seems to be a bit lackluster, step outside of yourself. Adjust your attitude. Remind yourself that you have a precious human life, and you’re not going to waste it. As this fantastic quote by Rumi says, “If you’re irritated by every rub, how will you ever be polished?” Keep this in mind, and when the day isn’t going your way don’t get pissed, get polished.
Here are some things I try to do to improve my mood when I feel myself walking down a dark path of loneliness, contempt or self-pity. These are things we can all do, whether we are traveling or just having a bad day at home.
1. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember that whatever negative thing you’re feeling- it will pass, if you let it. You’re in charge of how you feel. Choose positivity. Find the bright side of things. Did you just step in shit? Well, as Forrest Gump says, sometimes it happens.

Tayrona National Park

 2. Exercise yourself into a better state of mind. Sweat out your worries, increase your endorphins, and strengthen your body in the process. Whether you’re counting your squats or push-ups, focusing on your breath during yoga, or trying not to trip while running down the sidewalk, your mind will be busy.

Beach exercise

3. Smile. Smile at yourself in a reflection. Smile at a stranger and see their reaction. Smile to the sun and remember that life is good. And if you’re crying, smile. Be happy you’re not a heartless robot.

Tayrona National Park

 4. Find a quiet place, preferably with green space. Breathe the life of the plants. Admire their beautiful details and remember that we are all connected. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.

Minca Colombia

5. Pick up trash. You’ll distract yourself and make the world a better place at the same time. At least if you’re feeling worthless you will be doing something worthwhile. And smile. :) Remember, one person can make a difference.

Oropendola nests

At the end of the day, try not to let every rub hit you the wrong way; allow yourself to become polished. You’re only as happy as you make up your mind to be, so put a few of these tips to the test and see if you can turn your frown upside down.
Happy happy.

5 Things to Do in Budapest

As I made my way into Budapest, Hungary, I was astounded by everything around me. From the architecture, to the people, to the shops and the statues lining the streets, there is so much to take in that you almost don’t know where to start. Budapest is a city full of modern pleasures which have been integrated alongside historical markers, and this combination makes it the special place that it is today.  Budapest was just one of many stops on my backpacking route through Central and Eastern Europe, but this city sticks out in my memory for many reasons.

If you only have a few days to spend exploring the wondrous Hungarian capital city, make sure the following 5 items are on your “must do” list…

1. Take a Free Walking Tour 

Like many big cities, Budapest offers a variety of Free Walking Tours. Take advantage of them!! They are an excellent way to learn about the city’s history, familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, and meet new people who you can explore with. The “Free Walking Tours” company in Budapest has more specialized tours than any city I have ever visited in Europe- they offer a general tour of Budapest, a tour on Communism, a tour on Judaism, and a special bar crawl tour in the evenings. As the tours are offered in the morning and in the afternoon, it is possible to enjoy several of these tours in one day. If you only have time for one, make it the general walking tour, and do it on your first day in the city!


2. Soak in the Thermal Baths

Budapest has been influenced by many surrounding cultures, and thanks to this they have adopted the Turkish baths. Your visit to Budapest will not be complete without a soak in a thermal bath, so carve a few hours out of your day and pick a bath house to enjoy. My personal favorite is the exquisite Gellert Baths found near the Liberty Bridge. While you soak in the mosaic-encrusted pools, you can enjoy water temperatures ranging from frigidly cold to nearly boiling hot, and they even have steam rooms and a must-see wave pool on the top floor!


3. Eat Traditional Goulash

Budapest is known for Goulash, and the absolute best place to eat it is a place called For Sale, also near the Liberty Bridge. This restaurant has such a unique ambiance, that you will likely end up passing a few hours here without even trying. The walls and ceilings are lined with notes, business cards, and drawings from previous patrons, and the floors are littered with peanut shells. The portions are MASSIVE, so either come with a friend, or come ready to eat like a king.


4. Explore a Ruin Bar

The Ruin Bars of Budapest are such a unique experience that even if you don’t drink, you have to stop by and see what they’re all about. These ultra hip bars are located in old abandoned and somewhat decrepit buildings, and are filled with eclectic furniture, antique decorations, and graffiti art. From the outside, you typically can’t even tell the place is a bar, as most Ruin Bars are mixed right into the existing neighborhood, but once you walk in, there are large open courtyards and hoards of people, hanging out and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. A great way to see a variety of Ruin Bars is through the Free Walking Tours pub crawl, however if you can only pick one to see, go to the Ruin Bar Mecca, Szimpla Kert.


5. Hike up to Mattias Church and Enjoy the View

This suggestion actually combines a few of Budapest’s wonders together. Not only is the Mattias Church architecturally stunning, but from here you can also see the cool Fisherman Bastion statue, and enjoy a great view of the city below. It’s a three-for-one suggestion, which is totally worth the walk.


Now I’m curious… Have you ever been to Budapest? If so, what were some of your favorite things to do and see?  Leave a comment and let me know!