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Travel

I haven’t been very well for the last few weeks and I’m so sick of this gloomy Melbourne Winter weather that I’m dreaming of travelling again. Truth be told, my mind is always on travelling but the travel bug is getting stronger and I thought I’d spend this morning listing places I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

California

1. California

I’ve been to California before but it was brief. During my brief stay last year, I fell in love with the weather and the chill and relaxed nature of its inhabitants. I only had one day in LA, two days in San Diego, one day in San Francisco and two days at Bass Lake and hiked in Yosemite National Park. I especially want road trip along the coast, find solace at Salvation Mountain, see Audrey Kawasaki‘s work in her own hometown, hug Mickey at Disneyland and explore Little Saigon.

Paris

2. Paris

Parisian culture and lifestyle has always intrigued me. I’ll definitely smell flowers in Monet’s Garden, take the mandatory Eiffel Tower photos, smile at Mona Lisa at the Louvre and munch on croissants in St Germaine. It’s a place I know I will love everything about!

Japan

3. Japan

Everyone is always surprised when I say that I have never been to Japan. It’s an assumption many friends have made because I was a huge Japanese fangirl back in my teenage years and I love Japanese food. I’ll be taken away into the imagination of the Studio Ghibli museum and the ‘kawaii-ness’ of Sanrio Puroland but that will ease as I will reach zen as I relax in my own onset at a Japanese style inn.

Iceland

4. Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I dislike the cold but something about this place draws me in. The contradiction of its existence and its beauty. It’s also only 39 km from Reykjavik and its quaint colourful houses is like an illustration from a children’s book!

Hungary

5. Hungary

I honestly do not know much about Hungary but Eastern Europe has been calling out to me for a long time. Something about not knowing exactly what the language sounds like, what kind of food, what kind of sights to see is so alluring. One thing for sure it is a beautiful place.

Western Australia

6. Pink Lake, Western Australia

Something closer to home for me. Who knew a lovely natural wonder is just two states away? Possible road trip!

Greece

7. Greece

Sun baking on the white beaches; sipping cocktails on a little boat and dipping into the azure waters and walking amongst the remnants of civilisations past. The colours of this place just make me smile.

New York

8. New York City

Of course. I’ve been there twice on solo trips and love it even more each time.

With Winter creeping in in Melbourne, my mind can’t help but wonder to warmer climates. While I was in Oaxaxa, Mexico I found the most beautiful place. Before my trip it was already on my to do list and I was so excited to discover that it was on my tour’s itinerary when I arrived. Hierve el Agua, also known as the Frozen Waterfalls.

A fifteen minute walk off the beaten track down the side of a hill, and you are created with an emerald spring overlooking the carbonated falls. It was like a secret paradise, on the edge of a cliff, just around the corner from civilisation.

We floated and splashed in the cool emerald waters and then perched ourselves up on the water’s edge to admire the view. It is more beautiful in person than on any photo. It was surreal really; when I showed my family and friends the photos, they couldn’t believe it was real, they thought it was photoshopped… and the photos were taken with my iPhone!

What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited? Which simply took your breath away?

Oaxaca Market Flowers

The girls and I could spend hours in the markets in Oaxaca. A labyrinth of cute knick knacks, spices, meats, breads, flowers, fabric, costumes, jewels and grasshoppers (seasoned with chilli and lime of course)! Every time we went back we found a new route, a new store, another skull! By the end of the trip everyone loved skulls. The Mexicans really know how to make skulls “cute” and “gorgeous”!

Oaxaca markets

Vibrant wooden handcrafts. We later get to go to the home of an artist to watch them carve and paint these.

Oaxaca sugar skulls

Candy skulls; sugar, chocolate and sesame. Our tour guide explained that people bought/made them and put their beloved names on the back to represent them on the altar. After the festival ends, the sugar skulls are given to children or friends and relatives. It is believed the sweetness disappears by then because the dead of taken all the nutrients/taste when they came to visit. When children eat these it’s almost like “laughing in the face of death.”

Oaxaca Mexico Sugar Skulls

I bought a candy skull with pink decor to represent my grandmother on my mother’s side.

Oaxaca Mexico Skull figurines

Cute skull figurines everywhere we went. Dressed in every day clothes to festive wear and sometimes in awkward sexual positions!

Oaxaca Market Chili

Every Mexican dish needs chilli!

Oaxaca Market Cacao

Cacao beans at a “chocolate” factory. We saw them grind the beans and turn them into chocolate.

Oaxaca Main Square Balloon seller

I loved the balloon stores around the city, especially around the main square. So tempted to buy a bouquet of balloons!

Oaxaca Market Bread

Bread with blessings on them :)

Oaxaca Markets

And of course the clothes. Some of the women in the tour group purchase beautiful tradition costume while others bought skeleton suits and sparkly wings to accompany their skull painted faces for the Day of the Dead parades. Next post- Day of the Dead festivities!

Oaxaca Mexico school bus

I remember the excitement which filled me as I stepped out of the plane onto Oaxaca, Mexico. The tiredness and anxiety I had as I rushed from a dinner to the airport in San Francisco, to another plane in Mexico City immediately subsided. The tour I had booked had organised transport to pick me up from the airport which was also a good opportunity to meet the tour guides because they had just flown in from Mexico City and Cancun. (By the way, above is a school bus; isn’t it the coolest thing?)

Oaxaca, Mexico Hotel Casantica

I immediately fell in love with the colours and the architecture of the city. My tour guide was a local and you could immediately tell that she loved her country and was extremely excited to share it. She added that Oaxaca was the best place to get an “intro to Mexican life and culture” as it is the art and cultural hub.

Hotel Casantica

I stayed at the Hotel Casantica which used to be an old convent and is only a block away from the main square. The tour organised shared rooms, however since I arrived a day early I had to organise my own accommodation and the only room available was the Master Suite. So for 24 hours I lived a life of luxury, haha! If I had known I would’ve stayed in the Suite longer, the price is cheaper than many 3 star hotels here or in the States!

Oaxaca Cathedral, Mexico

After fumbling my way through Spanish and grabbing a bite to eat I decided to go on a wander along the streets. I walked down to the main square which is watched over by the Cathedral. I sat on the steps eating pastries and people watched.

Oaxaca Cathedral flowers

The Cathedral doors were framed with beautiful flowers, all in preparation for the Day of the Dead festival. There was a definite excitement in the air.

Oaxaca Mexico

Santo Domingo Oaxaca Mexico

This is around my favourite church in Oaxaca, Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman. It has beautiful gold interiors and there’s a museum in the former convent. I was fortunate enough to witness a wedding whilst I was there.

Oaxaca Mexico

Colourful and beautiful hotels and restaurants surround the main square.

Oaxaca Mexico

Another old church turned museum now hotel.

Oaxaca Mexico

I just love the colours! I sent these photos back home and my sister responded “It looks so Mexican!” Haha.

Oaxaca Mexico

I was a little nervous how the quality of these photos will turn out because they were taken with my iPhone (I had lost my camera in Las Vegas; that’s another story), but I’m pleasantly happy with them. I enjoy wandering the streets of any unknown city and Oaxaca had a surprise on every corner. I can’t wait to show you what this beautiful city looked like when they celebrate their biggest festival!

Fiji

Cocktails on Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, FIji

Mana Island Resort and Spa, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island jetski, Fiji

Snorkelling, Mana Island, Fiji

Mana Island, Fiji

I travelled to Fiji in 2011 and never got around to posting the rest of my photos. I used to think Fiji was one island, it wasn’t until I set travel plans in place that I realised Fiji was made up of many islands. We spent 4 days on the main island- Viti Levu, 7 days on a smaller island called Mana Island then 3 days on the main island again. Despite it’s size, it only took us 10 minutes to walk from one side to the other, Mana Island had a lot of relaxing and fun activities to keep us preoccupied :o)

1. On our way to Mana Island 2. First cocktail on Mana Island 3. Fresh flowers everyday 4. Our little home on the island 5. The cutest Japanese girl performing with the other kids from the kids club 6,7,8. Parasailing 9. Hermit crabs on the beach 10. Photo op with the dancers 11. more cocktails! 12. Relaxing in the pool 13. Jetskiing 14. Snorkelling 15. Bye bye Mana Island!

More photos? Photos from main island Viti Levu

Growing up I was taught to be cautious, about my actions, my words and … my dreams. This advice got me out of trouble however it left me in a state of dissatisfaction as I was too cautious. This all changed during my university years when certain events forced me to look inside myself and ask “what do I really want?” I still ask that question everyday, however now I have more confidence to obtain it instead of leaving it hovering over me.

I love to travel; I love being immersed in new cultures, trying new delicacies, speaking difference languages, wandering through different environments. I made excuses – money, no one to go with, not safe. But the desire to fly became strong and in 2 years I’ve travelled by myself to 3 countries. I loved every minute. Of course there were times I wish I had a companion to share a view, experience or taste, however the growth and self discovery I’ve obtained from travelling solo has strengthened my sense of self and confidence that I can do what I set my mind to. Travelling alone is not for everyone, however it’s something you should try at least once. It will change you.

Now I’m no expert when it comes to travelling, but having travelled solo to 3 countries, I thought I’ll pull together a list of pros and cons of solo travelling for those who are interested and for those who are waiting for that nudge.

Disadvantages

1. Taking photos

In my opinion, this is the main disadvantage when travelling alone. After a while you get sick of taking images of scenes, objects… you want some life in it, some of you in it- after all, to prove to yourself and others that you were there! I am self-conscious when taking photos of myself and often rush it, but you gotta bite the bullet for memories! You become really good at self-photography though! ;oP

2. Shopping

Some people thrive on shopping alone. I don’t. Well, I’m not good at buying things for myself alone — I prefer an opinion or a confirmation from someone before purchasing. Buying things for others is easy-peasy in my book and I can stroll along 5th Avenue doing that all day. But I can’t shop for myself alone.

3. Eating out
This is the one necessity I found very difficult during all my travels. It took me at least 2-3 weeks in Austria (my first solo trip) to get over the fear of dining alone in a restaurant. I lived on spaghetti, 2 minute noodles and snack foods in my room that time. I can’t remember what forced me to leave the comfort of my room to eat elsewhere but I did. I still feel awkward dining alone, you’re not quite sure where to rest your eyes or do between mouthfuls or when you’re waiting for your meal. You find yourself fiddling with your mobile or concentrating intensely on the drinks menu. In New York I dined alone in fast food joints, touristy places but could never get myself to eat at fancy cafes, restaurants or bars, which I really wanted to do. This is something I need to work on!

4. Feeling lonely
You really don’t have time to feel this because most of your attention is on the excitement of being in a spanking new environment with new people. If they are lonely moments, they are fleeting ones.

Advantages

1. Flexibility

You can do whatever you want. You can plan your day but then change it last minute.You can turn left instead of right. You can peruse a gallery for hours without an impatient groan by your side. You can munch on your meal at your own pace. You can stay in a city for another day because you loved it. The possibilities are endless!

3. Carrying less stuff

This is something I definitely noticed when I arrived at the airport. My trips with family were often chaotic and stressful because there was too much stuff! It felt nice to just be responsible for my own belongings – a backpack and a suitcase.

3. Time for yourself and your thoughts

Our minds are so crowded with chatter and traffic at home we don’t have time to reflect. What better time to turn off that noise than on holiday?

4. You become your best friend

As you know your mind can be your worst enemy at times. Sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves and start to assume the worst when something happens– in those times I rely on my boyfriend to stop my destructive thoughts and drag me back to reality. Being thousands of kilometres away from home, I had to rely on myself. When the urge to panic came, I took a deep breath and stepped back: “Okay, if so-and-so street is this way, I must need to go that way” … “It’s okay, I’ll just ask that security guard over there” … “I’m not going to miss my flight if hundreds of other people are also in my position. Relax.”


5. You notice things more

There’s no one there to distract you, and your senses are free to soak in the surroundings.

6. Personal achievement

Lastly, it’s an awesome feat! After both trips, I returned home buzzing with excitement and glowing with pride. I dreamed of working in Europe and laughing over cocktails with new friends after work; living in Manhattan, devouring a hotdog on the subway home from watching a show on Broadway or shopping at Macy’s … and I did it! Anything is possible if you put your mind to it!