My love for Taiwan runs deep. I grew up visiting at least once a year, partly because much of my extended family still lived there at the time. Every January, my mom would fly us to Taipei to celebrate the Lunar New Year when my cousins would get a break from school and have time to play. We went, that is, until my 2nd-grade principal called and said my mom needed to stop taking me out of school for a month at a time.
I spent 4 years living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but admit to only spending a handful of days wandering through Boston. It felt so accessible at the time that I rarely found myself jumping at the opportunity to explore one of the oldest cities in the US. Just a few weeks ago I visited again, and found myself spending the majority of my day alone. This was fabulous– I felt like I finally saw parts of Boston I hadn’t noticed before. Funny, isn’t it, that we appreciate the towns of our past more once we’ve left? I often wonder if I’ll miss SoCal more than I’m willing to admit. But I digress.
Boston is no hidden gem; it has been a popular destination for Americans and internationals alike, not least because of its sophisticated melding of historical and modern. But the history is really what Boston is known for– and it has no small amount of charm.
I love it when I find something that never ceases to fascinate me.
I’ve sung the praises of California’s central coast enough for you to know that this is one of my absolute favorite parts of the world. Nothing can parallel its crashing waves, myriad shades of blue, or the fact that it’s all very accessible to intense hikers and slow wanderers alike.
The first time I visited Point Lobos was not so long ago. It’s a popular stop for visitors to the area, so I’ve often skipped over for fear of having a hard time parking.
Pebble Beach is well-known for a few things: excellent golf courses, stunning coastlines, and large-for-California mansions. Located just south of Monterey, Pebble Beach is a branded, gated community that sees thousands of tourists each year. Famous for its stunning 17 mile drive, PB is a must-see for anyone traveling down California’s coast.
I grew up traveling down to this region– its kelp-dotted waters still cause me to remember times at the beach with family. But this is no ordinary beach: it is less appropriate for tanning and more appropriate for hiking, photography, and picnicking with a coat on.
There are no real “secrets” in Pebble Beach, but there are must-see stops along the way. Here are my tips for visiting this stunning coastal region.
This summer I will have been on the road for about 7 weeks total. From our time traveling through Japan to our volunteering experience in Ecuador, Aaron and I have learned to work productively while we’re away from our usual space.
One of the benefits to working remotely is that it allows for flexibility of location. Freedom of location is something many of us desire– and yet, productivity can be elusive.
Some friends have asked me how I keep up with posting, emails, and even social media while I’m traveling. The truth is, it takes quite a bit of effort, but it’s definitely doable.
If you want to work while while away from home, you’ll have to throw out any preconceived notions of bronzy, attractive people lounging with their margaritas and laptops at the beach. Instead, you need to start practicing discipline– and finding a good rhythm so that neither your work nor your travels will suffer too much.
Not long ago, I came across a post from a popular travel blogger that mentioned the evils of volunteering abroad.
I was surprised by how vehemently she denounced the practice, so I read on.
Before we headed to volunteer in Quito, Ecuador, it had never occurred to me that American (or largely Western) volunteers overseas had a bad reputation. My experiences abroad had always been fruitful, engaged, and rewarding for everyone involved. I was, quite honestly, shocked that the work I did could offend someone….Continue Reading
See the mint-green house below?
Two dreams came true there.
1) My dream this summer was to interact with children in need and support a ministry doing amazing work. And that’s exactly what happened.
2) Alicia’s dream years ago was to purchase this dilapidated home and turn it into a redemptive force in the community. And that’s what it is now.
There’s a feeling I can’t seem to shake. Coming back from Japan, I was energized by the beauty we explored there. But coming back from Ecuador, I was just nostalgic– crazy nostalgic.
Perhaps this is because we did not simply tour the lovely cities of Quito and Cuenca while we were there. We actually spent most of our time in Quito working with underprivileged youth at Casa Victoria, a ministry that is dear to my heart. I will be sharing more about our time at Casa Victoria next week.
But, without any doubt, Ecuador is absolutely gorgeous. Popular mainly for the Galapagos Islands– which we had neither the time nor budget to visit– Ecuador’s mainland is less recognized among Americans.
But both Quito and Cuenca are gems in Ecuador’s Andean range, 8,000-9,000 feet above sea level. This means the whole area is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, and little towns bedeck the hills!
So, in an effort to convince you to add Ecuador to your travel bucket list, I’ve compiled my ten favorite snapshots from our time there. Perhaps this means I’m only indulging the nostalgia more…
10 Best Snapshots From Ecuador
There’s often something stressful about international (or even domestic) travel. It’s odd that a leisure activity can be so anxiety-inducing, but most of us will work up a bit of a sweat before we step on the plane. We’re usually running through a mental checklist of items, hoping that there’s nothing vital that has been left behind.
How a trip turns out is often a matter of perspective; but we can do our best to plan ahead. So how do we go from conception to execution in a streamlined, thorough, and possibly even enjoyable manner?
There are some obvious steps towards good trip planning, which I won’t elaborate on:
- Start planning early, especially for flights and accommodations.
- Set a budget and research the estimated costs of all aspects of the trip.
- Choose a destination that is financially, mentally, and physically appropriate.
In addition to these steps, however, there are a few tricks I use to make sure the trips I plan go as smoothly as possible. Here they are!
Let me tell you a little secret. Sometimes I don’t plan my travels. At all.
When I decided that we would do a brief excursion to Cuenca during our 3 weeks in Ecuador, I figured we would stroll its quaint streets, people-watch at cafes, window-shop the artisanal alleys and pretend we were in Europe. The only planning I did was to purchase our tickets and reserve a place to sleep. I left the rest up to our whims.
We did do those things, but Cuenca was smaller than I expected. We finished seeing almost everything on foot in one full day (granted we’re fast walkers!).
And so, with 2 days remaining, we had to ask ourselves: what are we going to do? We decided to slow down, take a breath, and see the city all over again.
The best part about having 2 more days “stuck” in Cuenca? We went back to the same sights and saw things we didn’t see before. The detail on the edge of a stairwell. The variation of florals in the balconies.
Because wandering slowly through is exactly what Cuenca is for. Its old-world charm and subtle details take time to see. Not to mention, there’s a bustling life (and smog-breathing buses) to look beyond.
We are back from Ecuador! After spending 3 weeks mostly in historical Quito, I’m ready to share some of our favorite spots. What a special place– Quito has the largest historical center in South America, with some of the most beautiful churches and buildings!
If you find yourself in Quito, I highly recommend spending at least a full day, if not two, in the historic center. The days in Quito are usually exactly 12 hours long, but not without variation! As the sun breaks through the clouds you will see the most glorious light, and the bluest skies! It’s definitely worth it to hang around all day to admire the colorful architecture.
Quito, though it has its problems, feels relatively safe. People tend to mind their own business here, and you likely won’t run into any over-enthusiastic sales people. By keeping a low profile and being smart about our valuables, we didn’t have any issues at all!
10 Places to Visit in Historical Quito
It’s sad but true: we’re often emotionally attached to the clutter that fills our homes. That’s why we’ve held onto those things for years–they hold some meaning and memories we’re afraid we’ll lose otherwise.
Travel is a huge culprit when it comes to accumulating stuff. Nothing captures this reality better than the term, souvenir shopping.
And why should we be surprised? Whenever we travel, we carry a tiny percentage of our belongings with us– giving us the illusion that we don’t already have too many things at home.
Plus, part of the travel experience for many of us is to shop at our destination. For better or for worse, shopping is often equated with touring, and it’s hard to resist.
Compounding this dilemma is the fact that local industries often rely on foreign tourists to bring money into their small economies. Artisans, restauranteurs, guides and hotel owners “need” us for business.
So how do we travel in a manner that cherishes those experiences without lugging home a suitcase full of things we don’t need?
5 Tips For Clutter-Free Travel
When I wrote our quick guide to Kyoto, I felt like I had to keep it reasonably short– namely, limit the number of photos. But I can’t stress enough how photogenic Kyoto (and the rest of Japan) really is! Everywhere we turned was a potential snapshot, and it required little cropping or editing to get them to look beautiful.
You can spend many, many days in Kyoto without getting bored; with over 2,000 temples (many with gardens) it would take years to see them all. Whether you have years or only a few days, Kyoto is a must-visit, and Travel & Leisure agrees. We took our time in Kyoto; we didn’t rush to see absolutely everything, because I am partial to slow travel. So, without further ado……Continue Reading
Travel can carry a lot of weight, especially if you don’t get to do it very often. Once we’ve selected our destination, paid good money for flights and hotels, and finally arrived, the question tends to be: how do I make this worthwhile?!
The odd thing about travel is that it’s a leisure activity that can induce a lot of stress. Vacation time and resources are precious; in the meantime, being in unfamiliar territory can be scary.
Traveling with other people can also be a pressure cooker, because everyone wants to get the most out of their vacation. The truth is, all of us (even within the same family) move at different paces and have unique interests. This can end in conflict if we’re not prepared!
So how do we go about making the most of our travels?
More specifically, how do we travel with depth and vision? Because the greatest value in travel is allowing that new place to change us: to give us a new perspective, to refresh our tired soul, to inspire our thirsty minds.
Most of us do not want to be the tourist that comes back with hundreds of photographs but not a single ounce of inspiration. We want our travels to have an impact– we want this rare opportunity to carry meaning. Whether it’s 3 days in a new city or 3 months overseas, here are 8 ways to get as much as you can out of your adventure!
As I sift through our Japan photos, I have to ask myself: is there any place more photogenic than this?
So I decided to select only 10 snapshots that come with a good story or memory from our time in Japan. After reading this I hope you’ll feel compelled to visit one day! And if you have not read my other Japan-related posts, you can find them here.
If you’re asking yourself, “Should I go to Japan?”, take a look at these photos and you tell me!
This bamboo forest was the bane of my existence for about 24 hours. We just could not find it! There’s an entrance to the forest that many people go to, and it looks kind of like this– except there are other trees and tons of electricity lines everywhere. We thought that was it… and that the famous bamboo forest had been totally overhyped. One early morning Aaron and I went to that beginning section of the forest, looking for it. We then searched in the wrong direction and found ourselves in a quiet residential neighborhood, disappointed. It was not until the 3rd time we looked for the forest that we wound up in the right place– here! It’s not overhyped after all!…Continue Reading