I wanted to go ahead and see what would happen if I submitted myself for this dream job that combines travel with blogging. At first, I just wanted to see how far I could go, but the more I thought into it, the more I found that this opportunity is right up my alley. Let’s show the world that Cancun is more than just booze and beaches!
This morning I got a call from one of my best friends, Isabel, because she had an extra ticket to tonight’s Aces of Taste event. Aces of Taste is an interactive dining experience that brings down the wall between chef and customer. Tonight’s dinner was a four-course Peruvian-inspired cuisine paired with Korbel champagne, followed by a Q&A portion featuring the two local chefs that prepared the meal.
Each month, the event is held at a unique venue. My first Aces dinner was inside a neat local shop on Wertheimer near the Common Bond Cafe & Bakery. Tonight’s dinner was hosted on the top floor of the new Big Brother Big Sisters building, which was very modern and filled with bright colors and positive vibes.
Upon arriving to the event, we were immediately greeted at the Korbel table and graciously took a flute of champagne mixed with either pineapple, grapefruit, or orange juice and their corresponding fresh fruit toppings.
I wish I could remember the name of the delicious pre-dinner snack that was being passed around because it was delicious, but I had a hard time hearing the server over the live DJ. I think it was some sort of corn fritter topped with pickled red onions. Idk, but it was good.
The first course of the night was a Ceviche Mixto, a combination of corvina, shrimp, and calamari with sweet potato and choclo, marinated with fresh lime juice. I could definitely eat that again! Paired with Korbel’s Brut Rosé
Round two was a light stuffed avocado prepared with a quinoa atalamada drizzled with a nice rocotto mayonesa. Paired with Korbel’s Blanc de Noirs
Número tres was a roasted duckenmolada, which was out of this world amazing! The mole was a perfect balance of sweet and spicy and beautifully countered with the fresh cream and cotija cheese. Seriously, my mouth is still watering. Paired with Korbel’s Brut (classic!)
And who could skip out on dessert when you are presented with a nice stack of churros with a nice berry compote? All I was missing was a nice cup of Mexican drinking chocolate to dip them in! Paired with Korbel’s Sweet Rosé
Immediately following the dinner, the star chefs, Toya Terry and Evelyn Garcia, came out to speak to the guests and answered all of our questions. My favorite part was listening to them explain their inspiration for creating the menu for our delicious dinner. The food is much more enjoyable when you know the people that have cooked it for you and their stories behind the flavors.
Always a good time at Aces of Taste, but tonight’s dinner was spot-on perfect! I’d give it a 10/10 rating for the Peruvian theme, food, drinks, and overall atmosphere! And I would definitely recommend attending your first Aces of Taste experience if you ever find yourself in the Houston area! Check them out here.
I have been home for a little over a month now, and I have had some time to reflect on all the things that I have learned from my trip. I was inspired to create a “Things Travel Has Taught Me” post from my friend and fellow travel-blogger, thefreshstarttraveller. If you haven’t already, check out her blog for awesome travel tips and neat insights on a plethora of travel destination! Onto my list…
7. Be Social. Looking back on it, I definitely can say that I feel like I am much more confident in initiating conversations with strangers than I was before. As a solo traveler, the only way to get that social interaction that we sometimes crave is to buck up and be the first person to strike up a conversation. A simple “hey” is all you need sometimes.
Travel Tip: Any time you hear your native language, for me that would be “American English,” make it a point to introduce yourself and find out where that person is from. You immediately have something in common right away and sometimes it’s nice to hear a familiar voice from back home.
6. Be Appreciative. Travel has opened my eyes to see how other people live across the world. It has taught me to be appreciative of the things I have in my life, both physical and non-physical. I knew I was blessed with the opportunity to completely leave my life behind and venture off into the world. I knew that most people will not ever get the chance to do what I did because of financial restraints or family obligations. However, exploring the small towns throughout the Philippines showed me another level of gratitude that I could have never imagined. So many locals live simple lives, working day by day to provide food for their families and a roof over their heads, and yet they were so happy. They were always smiling and grateful for visitors, eager to share their culture with others.
5. Be Aware. As Americans, our reputation precedes us as “dumb” and “self-centered,” and it’s actually true. It’s definitely a stereotype, but I think we could all use a little bit of travel in our lives. So many people live their lives in an imaginary box, never venturing outside of their own country. I wouldn’t call myself the stereotypical dumb American, but I never knew the capital of Canada was Ottawa until a Canadian told me. I didn’t know the capital of Australia was Canberra (not Sydney).
Perhaps the biggest wake-up call for me was when I learned that 85% of the world’s population is multilingual. And here I am struggling to learn Spanish, and I don’t even know how to speak Tagalog. It’s so easy for us, as Americans, to say, “learn English, learn English” but truth be told, we’re the ones that are behind. We are uneducated. We expect the world to speak a language that we can understand, but we don’t bother to learn theirs. We were raised on the idea that, “America is the greatest country in the world,” but is it really? (That’s as political as I’m going to be)
4. Be Yourself. You may not even realize it, but it’s very common to act a certain way based on whoever is in your company. It’s human nature. We conform to others’ expectations of ourselves. Maybe not everyone does this, but I certainly have a more malleable mind. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I found that living in an environment surrounded by people who didn’t know me to be very liberating (and also knowing you will never see those people again). So be honest. Say what you mean. And don’t apologize for being yourself.
3. Be Brave. This one was not originally on my list of things that I wanted to take away from my trip, but it happened. While I will always be one to preach about safety while traveling, I will also say that there is a certain amount of risks that you should take. The best example I have for this was when I jumped off the platform on the 10 meter cliff at Salagdoong Beach in Siquijor. Now, if you had asked me three months before, or two weeks before, or even the morning of, I would’ve told you hands down that there was no way in hell you could get me to jump off a cliff.
However, the idea of facing my fears first sprouted in my head after spending a week in Queenstown, NZ and watching my friends face their fears by doing crazy ziplines and skydiving and bungy jumping and death-boat rides. I felt like I was the only one walking away from Queenstown without conquering anything. And I was okay with that! I would have been perfectly fine, except there was something inside of me telling me that I should do it. That was the feeling I had to focus on to just do it (also with the help of my cousin). Again, I would have been perfectly fine without jumping off a cliff, but because I was able to conquer that fear, it led to a jump rope swing into a waterfall and renting a motorbike in a foreign country (that was a big deal for me). Sometimes it’s nice to have someone with you that pushes you a little bit past your limit.
2. Be Present. This was one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn while abroad. Mostly because I have always been the type of person that is constantly looking into the past or hoping for the future. It took so much mentally to discipline my mind to focus on the present. To live in the now. When times were tough, I had to physically take a deep breath, slow down my thoughts, and remind myself to be aware of my surroundings. It usually went like this, “Hey, you’re in fucking Australia!” Something will always go wrong, but at the end of the day, figure out a way to move past it, and you will be a better traveler afterwards.
1. Be Happy. Perhaps one of the greatest things that I could have taken back from this trip was my newfound ability to “take a step back” from my life and see things clearly. I didn’t realize that for two years, I had been living my life shift-by-shift and week-by-week, constantly worrying about getting through the next day and relieved when my 3-shift week was ending. On my days off, I spent a lot of time inside my apartment, on the couch, catching up on TV shows that I had missed while at work. I let my relationships with family and friends slide to a level that I was unhappy with and wrote it off as “we’re all busy doing our own thing.”
I’ve learned that I do not want to be in a position where I am constantly gettingthrough each shift and always waiting for my next vacation to be happy. Travel has made me realize that it’s okay to put your own happiness first, above everything else. Be a little selfish. Get that massage. Take the day off. Explore. Do whatever you need to do to maintain your happiness, because without it, what’s the damn point?
Disclaimer: I have not received any services or compensation from Discovery Shores Resort for writing this review. All opinions are solely my own based on my experience at the resort.
The Discovery Shores Resort experience begins from the time you step foot off the plane and out of Caticlan Airport. There is a representative from the resort waiting to take your bags as you arrive and ready to transport you to the lounge by the pier via van. At the lounge, you will receive your Discovery Shores Resort bracelet as you wait for the speedboat to pick you up and jet across the water to the beautiful island of Boracay.
After the short 5-minute speedboat ride, which includes a snack, water, and a cool towel, another van is waiting to take you to Discovery Shores approximately twenty minutes away. Once you arrive at the resort, all the staff is waiting to greet you with a kind hand over their heart as you are led to the front desk for check-in.
Every morning, the breakfast buffet is set with a mixture of various Western and Filipino dishes. They even have two types of bacon, crispy and soft, depending on which you prefer. The food, all the food from the restaurant, is delicious! We had a chance to try breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the resort and everything that came out of the kitchen was amazing. I did not try a single dish that I did not like from the restaurant. Throughout the day, you can order snacks like poké bowls or nachos at the pool or at the beach, and they will even bring it straight to your lounger.
Travel Tip: Try the adobo fried rice! Yum!
The Terra Spa is located above the restaurant and front desk and is one of the best spa experiences I have ever had. We booked a 90-minute massage and a 60-minute facial during our last night at the resort. We all agreed it was definitely worth the price. The treatments are very affordable and the therapists are very professional and truly skilled.
The food, the accommodation, and the spa are all very good at Discovery Shores, but the thing that sets this place apart from all the others is the staff. The staff goes above and beyond the standards of excellent customer service to a level that is unparalleled to anywhere else in the world. Walking around the grounds, every staff member you pass will politely greet you with their hand across their chest and a big smile. They will even fold your clothes while you swim at the pool or clean your sunglasses for you if they get dirty. There is no task that is impossible for the team at Discovery Shores, and I have no doubt that they will do whatever they can to help make your vacation in Boracay a true paradise.
Less than two weeks since I’ve arrived back home from my trip, and I’ve already found myself at an all-too-familiar place, IAH airport! This time I won’t be alone. Banff National Park has been on my travel bucket list, along with my parents’ and aunt’s, for quite some time now. So naturally, when the opportunity arose and the price was right, we did not hesitate to book our tickets. Mind you, I was still somewhere halfway across the world.
Traveling with my family was a very different experience for me. Over the past four months, I had developed my own style of traveling. I had the airport routine down to a science. Sometimes our travel styles collided, but at the end of the day, we were all there to experience the same thing. We landed in Calgary, Alberta and had a shuttle from our hotel pick us up from the airport. Our first and last nights were spent at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton.
There are several Hampton hotels with the same name in the area, so I’ll put the information for the one we stayed at somewhere at the bottom. This place was excellent! The service from everybody, but especially the front desk staff, was outstanding. They had recommendations for places to eat and gave us directions to several Asian markets in the area (per request). It may have just been the perks of being Filipino. Side note, there are A LOT of Filipinos in Calgary. I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently it is. Anyways, back to the Hampton… free hot breakfast every morning, our last day included a full English breakfast and a DIY waffle station. And of course, free coffee and hot chocolate 24/7 in the lobby.
There were four of us sharing a room. The first night we had 2 queen beds, which was fine, but since we were returning at the end of our trip, we asked to be “upgraded” to one of their 1-bedroom suites with sofa bed. It was no problem and significantly worth asking for! The price for the suite was exactly the same as the regular room but was much more spacious and came with a kitchenette, including a full-size refrigerator. Disclaimer, we did bring our own twin air mattress which aided in our ability to sleep four adults in a 1-bedroom suite comfortably.
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On our second day in Calgary, we rented a car and drove approximately 1.5 hours to Banff National Park. We were blessed with beautiful weather (from Texan standards), although the air was a bit smoky due to the nearby wildfires burning in the region. When we arrived at the park, we showed them our national park pass, which allowed us free admission into Banff.
Travel Tip: As this year is the 150th Anniversary for Canada, all the national parks are offering free admission for the entire year. All you need to do is go online before your trip to apply and they will mail you a free park pass.
We spent the next four days and three nights exploring the park at our own pace. It was much different from say, New Zealand, where you were constantly waking up in a new place and usually had a free walk or activity planned for the day, but it was nice. The backdrops were unbelievable and everywhere you looked, there was a picture-perfect scene.
We waited until the first morning to check out LakeLouise, one of the iconic locations in Banff. By 10am, it was already packed with tourists, but it wasn’t impossible to snap a photo and adjust the angle just right to cut out all the other bodies doing the exact same thing.
Along the perimeter of Lake Louise is a nice hiking trail, which we walked all the way around the bend until there was a section of the lake that you could actually walk onto because the water level was so low. After our walk, we headed back into town and had lunch before crashing out in the hotel room.
On the following morning, we went to the second iconic site in Banff, and my favorite spot of the trip, MoraineLake. The lake, along with Lake Louise, is filled with glacial dust, which gives the water its famous glacial blue color. It is definitely one of the most beautiful sights in the world, and I am so glad to have found one so close to home, albeit 2,000 miles away. When we arrived at Moraine Lake, the initial views of the lake were partially blocked d/t the awkward angle. A random stranger had recommended that we take the short path to the side to bypass the hills for a better view. The path was only about 300 meters and the view that it provided was phenomenal. Definitely worth the trek up the steps for an unobscured view of Moraine Lake, in fact, I even did it a second time.
The little town of Banff reminded me a bit of Wanaka and Queenstown in New Zealand (I love NZ!). It’s just a cute, small town with lots of restaurants and shops lining the main road. The thing that I really loved was behind the town’s buildings, you see beautiful peaks in the distance and there’s a river that runs along the side with a nice trail to follow. There’s loads of outdoors-y type things to do around Banff, from hiking to canoeing, to rock climbing. It’s definitely worth a visit!
And just like that … I’m home. The 12-hr flight from Japan to Houston was pretty smooth. I was lucky enough to have an exit row seat so I had plenty of room to stretch out my legs. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, only an hour here and there, but mostly passed the time by watching a couple of shows and the latest Blockbuster movies. When we touched down on the runway, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I’ve never been a nervous flyer, but there was something about being back in Texas that was very comforting.
Customs was a breeze. (Thank you, Global Entry!) And after I collected my bags from the conveyor belt, my mom was already waiting for me outside of the terminal. Everything felt … normal. Perhaps I haven’t been away long enough to feel the “reverse culture shock” of returning to the US that all the other travelers talk about. The biggest shock was probably finding out about all the car problems I’ve suddenly inherited. My lease had ended in February, most of my furniture was sold. The only thing that I really left behind was my car. I hadn’t had to worry about it for the past couple of months, as walking and public transportation became the new normal. However, the last thing I was expecting to return to was a mess of problems and the very real possibility of purchasing a new car to replace it. So much for that cushion budget.
The other huge reality that I had to face, this one I had been expecting, was the need to find a job. I briefly started my search in the last week or two, browsing the available positions online. It’s one thing that I was hoping to have a clear answer to at the end of this trip. But that just didn’t happen. There was no almighty sign from God to point me in the correct direction upon my return. No ultimate epiphany on the road. I was back to where I was four months ago, with lots of possible directions and no idea which way to turn.
The biggest thing I’ve realized upon my return, though, is that I am happy. Like truly happy. I feel like I have lived so much of my life in the past four months. I am both proud and amazed at what I have accomplished. I’m glad I stuck through the hard times and never gave up. The best thing that this trip could’ve ever given me was clarity. Although not in the way I originally thought. Clarity in a sense that I was able to look back at my life, my work, and my relationships with others, and really see them. A good friend and fellow travel blogger once wrote,
To take a step back from everything that causes you stress and take care of yourself and your dreams is healthy. -thefreshstarttraveller
So I come back renewed. Feeling refreshed and ready to tackle life and all the stresses that come with it. There’s no clear path ahead, but that’s all part of the adventure. If travel has taught me anything, it’s that the future is always going to be unclear, but just keep moving forward. It’s all you can do.
Postscript, thank you to everyone that has supported me up to this point! Thank you for all the readers and people following this blog. Whether it was one post or every post along the way, I am truly thankful for your time. The last 123 days have been a blessing, and I’m glad I was able to share them with you. As for me, travel is still going to be a huge part of my life. And who knows, my nextdextination might just be around the corner.
That’s a wrap! The last day of my trip came up so fast. Looking back, I’m still in awe at everything that I’ve been able to accomplish since Day 1. From Thai temples, cooking classes, pampering elephants in Chiang Mai, a half-moon party, learning to SCUBA dive in Koh Tao, to beautiful beaches on the West Coast.
From the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, to the perfect bowl of chili pan mee, to a week in Bali and yoga in the rainforest.
From diving the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, a Whitsundays live-aboard, a camping trip on Fraser Island, my first surf lesson, cuddling a koala and feeding kangaroos in Brisbane, the lighthouse in Byron, the Sydney Opera House, road-tripping the Great Ocean Road, to the week in Melbourne.
From Cathedral Cove, digging a geothermal spa on the beach, experiencing Hobbiton, learning the haka at the Tamaki Maori Village, lots of day hikes, my first helicopter ride, hiking a glacier, picturesque lakes, a week in Queenstown, a cruise down Milford Sound, to snowboarding in June.
From the Supertree Grove in Singapore to a floating cloud forest. From my birthday in Boracay, parasailing, ATV rides, stand-up paddle boards, sunset dinner on the beach, an upside down museum in Manila, an unforgettable day island-hopping in Coron, renting motorbikes, rope swinging into a waterfall, to jumping off a 10 meter platform in Siquijor.
From the perfect bowl of ramen in Japan, to a beautiful shrine, a ride on the world’s fastest bullet train, staying in a capsule hotel, walking through a series of torii gates, Osaka Castle, the crazy Tokyo nightlife, to a trip to DisneySea.
The ride has been truly amazing. The people along the way have been the best. I am so lucky to have made so many new friends along the way from all over the world. I’m blessed to have been able to go on a life-changing trip like this one. I wanted to explore the world, to see new things, to do things that scare me. I feel like I accomplished this and so much more in the past four months, and looking back I just think … WOW. I can’t believe I did all that.
Disclaimer: I have not received any services or compensation from The Millennials Kyoto for writing this review. All opinions are solely my own based on my experience at the hotel.
Overview. First and foremost, this is NOT a hostel. The Millennials Kyoto is a capsule-style hotel geared towards the younger generation known as “millennials.” It’s perfect for anybody that has come to Japan seeking to experience the infamous “capsule hotel” without sacrificing comfort. The hotel doubles as a coworking space, open to the public based on an hourly fee (or daily pass).
Location. The hotel is located on the busy street, Kawaramachi, in Kyoto, Japan. The best way to find the hotel from Kyoto Station is to take a local subway to Sanjo Station and walk approximately 5 minutes. It is also possible to catch a local bus and get dropped off at one of the multiple bus stops along Kawaramachi. The Millennials is located next to the Can Do shop and directly across the street from KFC and Flying Tiger. The reception desk is available on Level 8.
Accommodation. Each capsule includes a 1.2 meters bed, which are very spacious. The beds convert upwards into a comfortable sofa for daytime sitting. Other functions, including the lights, fan and projector screen* are controlled by an iPod Touch that is provided upon check-in. This is also your “keycard” to grant you access onto the floor. My floor had 38 individual capsules with a shared bathroom. There are also 4 toilets, 4 showers, and a tub with plenty of sink space. This was not an issue, as the floor only had a handful of guests each night, but may become an inconvenience if all the beds were full.
*Projectors are only available in select pods for an additional cost. Remotes provided, HDMI cables and Apple convertors are available at the reception desk upon request.
Amenities. Every pod includes a bath towel, small towel, free amenities kit and a pair of slippers. The hotel also provides complimentary sleepwear (for the full Japanese capsule experience). There is a kitchen on the 8th floor, a “rooftop terrace” which was just the roof and bike racks. There is also coffee and beer available according to the Welcome video, but I did not get a chance to try either.
Value. At around $28-31 USD/night, the price of The Millennials Kyoto is a great value! As a backpacker, I was very pleased with the hotel. The facility was brand-new and very clean. The staff was very friendly and spoke exceptional English. The lobby has a nice vibe that made me feel like I was back at home. The lack of laundry service could easily be overlooked, because as previously stated, this is not a hostel. It is, however, a great option for any traveler looking to experience their first capsule-hotel. I would highly recommend The Millennials Kyoto, you will not be disappointed!
If you found this review helpful, please be sure to Like this post below or leave a comment with a suggestion of what you think it’s missing! Thank you!
Last day in Tokyo! This morning was a little rough. The roommates in my dorm kept walking in and out of the room all morning. One guy keeps forgetting the key code to open the door so he has to keep trying over and over again. Unfortunately, my bed is the closest to the door so I can hear every beep on his failed attempts. At one point, I wanted to just tell them to keep the damn door open, so they wouldn’t have to keep opening and closing it so loudly. But I didn’t want to be that guy. And tonight is my LAST night in a hostel. Praise the Lord! One thing I definitely will not miss are the bad nights in hostels. Oh, the stories! I will say, they are not all bad but the bad ones will make you cringe.
I haven’t done much today, as I’ve now been in Tokyo for over a week in total and I feel like I’ve seen all that I really wanted to see. There’s still more that could be explored but I think I’d rather save that for another time, when my spirits are higher and I am excited about travel again. The thing about this trip is, travel is tiring. It’s not all sunshine and beaches and beauty. While it is those things, it’s also long overnight bus journeys, sleepless nights, red-eye flights, and a whole lot of sweat. I’m still not complaining because the past four months have definitely been a dream, but at this point I’m ready to wind down a bit and just mentally prepare myself for the 12-hr flight back home.
Anyways, I did a tiny bit of window shopping before meeting up with my cousins, Nika and Rap, in Shinjuku. It was just a quick Heyagain before they leave back to the Kyoto/Shiga region and before I head back towards Narita to get closer to the airport. After seeing them, I stopped by FlyingTiger to pick up some last minute knick-knacks for myself and Dean & Deluca, which is an awesome bakery that I’ve passed by several times but never bought anything. I was like a kid in a candy store, piling up muffins and scones onto my tray! On my way home, I stopped at a couple more stores trying to find some special Japanese shampoo for my dad and then came back for a mid-day shower!
It’s still early in the day, but I think I will just relax with some Netflix, pack my bags and finish up any last minute errands before tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be checking-out of the hostel and catching the trains back to Narita. I booked myself in a hotel close to the airport to save myself the 2-hour commute on the morning of my flight back home. It’s all pretty much tying up loose ends from this point on, and before I know it … I’ll be home.
This morning I went to the TsukijiMarket, which is one of the most famous markets in the world. I didn’t care to wake up at 0500 to possibly catch the live tuna auction, instead I casually strolled in around 10am and walked the aisles of various eateries. I stopped when something caught my eye, like the freshest salmon and tuna nigiri, that was literally caught that same morning. Or the matcha soft serve ice cream, of course!
After my fun at the market, I decided to check out HamarikyuGarden down the street. I had been in a little bit of a funk all morning. Everyone is entitled to one of those days. But I had no idea I would be in such a negative mood at the end of my trip. It was more like a bunch of little things all adding up, and I didn’t become aware of it until I was walking around the garden. It’s so hot and humid during the day. Plus, I’ve got a little URI going on and it’s impossible to find Western medicine here.
Frustrated, I realized there was no better place in the world to be than exactly where I was right now. I was literally standing in the middle of a Japanese sanctuary, surrounded by trees, ponds, and nature. I decided to find a nice shady spot next to the river, laid out on a bench and just calm down. After just sitting there for awhile and watching a few boats float down the river, I started to feel much better.
300 Year Pine
300 Year Pine
The rest of my day went immensely better. I found a huge patch of flowers around the garden on my way out. I ended up going back to the hostel for a shower and cooled down before heading back out to explore Shinjuku at night. I stopped into a little tempura restaurant late at night and had a very late dinner amongst the locals.