My Trip to Seattle, Washington

My Trip to Seattle, Washington

A few months ago, an idea came into my mind. I decided to see if I could find a travel company that takes groups of millennials on trips. Sure enough, I stumbled upon For The Love of Travel. FTLOT offers amazing weekend trips to cities in North America, as well as longer international getaways. Not only did it sound amazing, but they had a trip to Seattle, one of the cities I wanted to visit. After chatting with a few of the team members via email and on the phone, I booked the Seattle trip before I could talk myself out of it.

The official FTLOT trip started on Friday, but I flew in a day early to get some extra site-seeing in, and most importantly, to see Ellen Degeneres live! I started my day with brunch and coffee at Tilikum Place Cafe, before heading to the Museum of Pop Culture. I thought this museum was really cool, and I especially enjoyed the exhibits for Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. I liked learning more about the musicians, and seeing actual artifacts such a diary entrees Hendrix wrote, and guitars he played. Another musical highlight of the museum was the Sound Lab, where you can try your hand at playing musical instruments.

 

One of the other women on the trip, Michelle, arrived a day early as well, so we met up for dinner that night at Local 360 Cafe & Bar. We both got a cocktail and sliders, which were delicious. Michelle and I got along really well, and it turned out we were roommates for that weekend, so it worked out great!

After dinner, I went to Benaroya Hall to see Ellen DeGeneres’ stand-up comedy show. It turned out that the show was actually a live taping of her Netflix comedy special, which I didn’t even realize ahead of time. The show was hilarious, and she even did a Q&A session afterwards. Unfortunately, I was sitting too far back to ask a question, but it was really cool to learn more about her. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for when that airs on Netflix so I can watch and say “I was there!”

On Friday, I started my morning out right with a stack of pancakes and a mimosa at Portage Bay Cafe. They have a breakfast bar, where you can put all of the toppings your heart desires on your stack of pancakes. After breakfast I met up with Michelle and to head over to the Space Needle. Another member of the group, Joe, met us and we went up the Space Needle together. Even though it was pretty overcast that day (typical Seattle weather) it was still an awesome view of the city from the top! The highlight was definitely the new glass, revolving floors, which were terrifying at first. It took me so long to even step one foot on the floors, because my brain was registering it as unsafe, even though logically I knew it was fine. As you can see, I did eventually conquer my fear to stand, and even sit, on the floor!

 

Next we went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. Dale Chihuly is an artist that creates pieces out of glass, and this exhibition includes indoor galleries, a Glasshouse, and a garden. All of the pieces were so bright and colorful, my photos can’t even do it justice. You can check out more photos other people have taken on Instagram.

 

Friday night we finally met up with the entire FTLOT group we’d spend the rest of the weekend with. There were 8 of us total, including Tara, the founder of the company, and Kelsey, the Operations Coordinator and leader of the trip. We all grabbed drinks at Queen Anne Beerhall, a cool European-style bar with long communal tables and lots of food and beer. Afterwards we went to Brimmer and Heeltap for dinner. The food was amazing and we had a wine pairing with every course, which just made it that much better.

Saturday was a fun day of exploring and eating more great food. We began the day at Pike’s Place Market, where we went on a food tour. Our tour guide walked us around to the different vendors and restaurants, and we got to taste everything from samosas to grilled salmon. We also went to the Gum Wall, which is an alleyway near Pike’s Place that is covered in chewing gum. It’s a little bit gross, but makes for a cool background for Instagram pictures at the very least!

 

After Pike’s Place, we went on a boat tour, where we were able to get a really great view of the city from the water. We also learned a lot of history about Seattle during the tour, including some fun facts about different landmarks. At one point during the tour, the guide mentioned a chair called The Wishing Chair, which sits at the top floor of Smith Tower. The myth of the chair is that single women who sit in it, will find love within the year. Michelle and I decided to go see it after the boat tour. It has yet to be determined if the powers of the chair have worked, but we shall see!

 

Saturday night we had another amazing multiple-course dinner at Tavolata, followed by drinks and playing bocce ball at Rhein Haus. I’d never seen a bocce ball court inside a bar before, and we had a blast playing (very badly) for a while. It made me want to look up bocce ball in Austin, and I found out you can play at Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. I’ll definitely be checking it out soon!

Sunday was the final day in Seattle. We went to brunch at the Chihuly Collections Cafe, and then went to check out Gas Works Park, which is a public park on the site of a former gas company, and many pieces from the plant are still in the park. We also went to see the Fremont Troll, which is a weird sculpture of a troll under a bridge.

 

To say I’m glad I went on this trip would be an understatement. It was such a great experience in so many different ways. I made new friends, explored a new city, and even learned a thing or two about myself along the way. If you’re a millennial looking for a group to travel with, I would highly recommend joining the For The Love of Travel tribe.

Where was the last place you traveled? Where are you headed to next? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to reach out to me on social media if you have any questions about FTLOT or travel in general!

Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

Travel Diary: Nosara, Costa Rica

As I mentioned in my New Year’s Resolutions post, one of my goals for 2018 is to travel to at least three new places, and I am happy to say I can now check one off the list! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I went to Costa Rica for a week with my mom. We went for a One Yoga Global yoga retreat, and stayed at the beautiful Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara.

This vacation was the first time I’d taken a full week off from work since I started my new job in October, and it was exactly what I needed. It was the perfect blend of relaxation, sunshine, fun excursions, and of course yoga. Instead of walking you through what we did every single day, I’m going to just share the top highlights from the trip.

The Location/Accommodations

As I mentioned, we stayed at Blue Spirit. We had a great experience there, and I would highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to stay there. One thing to note is that it is for yoga retreats specifically, so if you practice yoga you should definitely try to go on a retreat there. We stayed in a Nature Suite room, which looked like a little cottage with trees all around it which made it feel like a tree house!

There was a swimming pool at the resort, and a peaceful area with a koi pond that was nice to go to when you wanted some privacy. The beach was only a short walk away, so most days we would go for a swim in the ocean, and then go to the pool to cool off.

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Our room for the week
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My mom and I enjoying the ocean view

Besides the beautiful views, the best part of the accommodations was all of the delicious food! We got breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, buffet style. It was almost exclusively vegetarian, with fish being the only meat served. The chefs actually made a cook book, and my mom and I bought it so we can try to recreate some of our favorite meals back in Austin now! Stay tuned for some cooking posts in the future, where I’ll share some of those recipes.

We also became obsessed with drinking coconut water, which we drank out of real coconuts!

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One of the breakfasts. The plantains were delicious!
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Posing with my coconut water

The Yoga/Gong Practice

As you can probably assume from the fact that it was a yoga retreat, yoga was a big part of the trip. We woke up every morning bright and early for a sunrise yoga class, then had some free time before returning for a sunset yoga class, followed by a meditation after dinner. For those of you who are familiar with different types of yoga, we were practicing Kundalini yoga.

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Meditating during a sunset yoga class

Another big aspect of this trip was the gong instruments. During almost every yoga class the teachers would play the gong while we relaxed. If you’ve never heard a gong played before, you’re missing out! It is a very calming, yet transformative experience to lay and listen to the sounds. Our brain actually can’t fully understand all of the tones and sounds the gong makes, because it is so different than any other instrument.

Besides listening to the gong, my mom and I also attended a training course a couple of days out of the week, where we learned all about the gong and how to play it, as well as how to connect it to Ayurvedic beliefs and practices. Despite the fact I had only ever played the gong once before this trip, I actually got multiple compliments about how well I played. I will definitely consider learning more about how to play, and possibly even get my own gong someday!

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Meditating and listening to the gongs
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Gong virtuoso right here!

Zip lining adventure

One of the highlights of the trip was when we went zip lining with Miss Sky Canopy Tours. It is the longest zip line tour in the world, with 21 different runs! If you read my Colorado travel post last summer, you know I tried zip lining for the first time then. This one was actually less scary, but much more fun. Unlike in Crested Butte, we didn’t have to jump off any platforms. Instead, we started on the solid ground each time and went off of the mountains. The views were incredible, and it was actually really relaxing to just lay back and fly through the air!

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The view from the top of one of the lines
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Right before going down upside down!

Refuge for Wildlife

Our last excursion of the trip was a visit to the Refuge for Wildlife, which is an awesome rehabilitation center for injured, displaced and orphaned wildlife such as howler monkeys that have been injured on electrical wires or bitten by dogs. The purpose of the center is to rescue, rehabilitate, and then release the animals back into their natural habitat after they are better.

We got to tour the facility and see some of the different animals that are being helped right now. They specialize in the howler monkey, but they help all types of animals from birds to raccoons. They don’t want us to share any photos publicly, but you can see a gallery on the website here.

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If you look closely you can see monkeys playing in the trees at Blue Spirit

 

Those were the main highlights of my trip! I hope you enjoyed hearing about it and seeing some photos. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever traveled to Costa Rica, and which places are on your travel bucket list. Also, enjoy my travel diary video below!

 

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

I just got back from an amazing road trip to Crested Butte, Colorado with a quick stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico! I’d been to Santa Fe once when I was younger, so I was looking forward returning. I’d never been to Crested Butte before, but my parents and my sister had and they told me how beautiful it was. I’m excited to share some of the photos I took, and talk about the adventures I had, which included zip lining, white water rafting, horseback riding, and a few long hikes.

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We started our journey by driving to Santa Fe on Friday, July 21st. We stayed overnight at a family friend’s house, then spent Saturday exploring the farmer’s market, which was a lot of fun. We got to try “healthy” donuts, and look around at all of the fruits, veggies, and other products being sold. I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to window shop!

 

 

 

After the farmer’s market we headed to our next stop on the trip, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Ojo Caliente has a bunch of awesome natural mineral hot springs, as well as a pool and a mud bath. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning enjoying the springs, going on walks, and eating at the delicious restaurant, the Artesian.  

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Sunday afternoon we made the drive up to our main destination: Crested Butte, Colorado. On my first day there I went on a long walk on the hike and bike trail, and not only got to take in the wonderful view, but also learned some fun facts about the town. Crested Butte and the surrounding area was originally home to the Ute Indians, and later became a coal mining town. Today, it’s more known for skiing and other outdoor activities like zip lining and horseback riding (both of which I did later in the week).

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The rest of the week was quite eventful and adventure-filled. Like I mentioned above, I went zip lining and horseback riding. But I also went white water rafting, which was my personal favorite activity! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures from zip lining or rafting (it’s a little difficult to take a selfie whilst zipping through the mountains and avoiding rocks in a swift river).

But I did get this photo on my awesome horse, whose name was Cobra! He was pretty old and slow, but I was okay with that since I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was young. Cobra also didn’t like any horses riding behind him, so I had to ride in the back of the group.

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The final part of the vacation I wanted to mention was when we hiked to the top of Mount Crested Butte. The hike was quite strenuous, partly because of the high altitude which made it difficult to catch your breath. It was also a unique climb because the terrain changed quite a bit throughout the hike. Parts were like a normal hiking trail, but towards the end, it got super rocky and you had to use your hands to balance and climb to the top. Needless to say, my legs were quite sore for the next couple of days. But it was definitely worth it to see the exquisite view at the top!

 

 

 

Overall it was my ideal vacation – a good blend of adventures and relaxation. If you ever find yourself in Colorado, I would highly recommend checking out this town! And if you’ve never been to Santa Fe, I would 10/10 recommend that city as well.

Have you ever been to either of these places? Where are you headed on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments!

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Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

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Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

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What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny from the awesome travel blog Glam TravelGram over Skype. Jenny is such a sincere person, and her passion for travel and writing really inspired me to put even more work into my blog. I know you all will get just as much out of reading her responses to my questions, as I did with talking to her.

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Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I have a passion for travel, and it’s something I get to do a lot in my career [as a conference planner]. Throughout my career I’ve seen the beauty of travel, and with this passion I wanted to do more. I was always posting on social media and writing memoirs about my experiences. I found myself almost over-posting on social media, but my friends liked it, and they were always asking me for advice.

One night I was talking to my brother on the phone, and I said I had been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I should start it because there are so many travel bloggers out there, and I didn’t know if I could succeed. He said he thought I had the talent for it, and I should try it and just see how it goes. That same night, I started my blog!

I like what you said under ‘Why I Travel’ in the About section of your blog: “Every time I leave my home, I come back to it a different and better version of myself.” What exactly is it about traveling that you think makes you a better version of yourself?

I’ve met people from all walks of life, and seen people who live in much harsher environments than myself. Seeing people from different religions and customs has really widened my scope of knowledge about the world we live in, and makes me realize how blessed I am in my own life. After seeing so many people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, I realized we aren’t so different. We all speak the same language of love. We all want to be loved and we all want to love. The world is so connected.

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What is the biggest lesson traveling has taught you?

Being present, in the moment, and really seeing what’s in front of you. I wasted a lot of time taking photos and being on my phone while I was traveling, and now I’m trying to focus on seeing things with my own two eyes, and actually recording those memories in my head so I have stories to tell instead of just photos to show. 

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

I’m proud that I got to learn some of the technical aspects of blogging. I like to go behind the scenes and make sure that I’m tuned into my website as a whole, to make sure it is running properly, and that it’s aesthetically pleasing to my readers. I want to know the ins and outs of everything.

But what makes me most proud is that I’ve been able to really explore my creativity and my writing skills. One of the articles I wrote recently on the Mojave Dessert, I would call my masterpiece, because I put a lot of thought into that. I hope to continue writing like that and really exploring the kinds of things I can do with my writing.

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I’d like to grow a steady readership, which I think is the most difficult part in blogging; building a loyal audience. My blog is still only 3 months old, so I’m just hoping I can keep a steady readership from here on out. To gain followers I’ve been doing what I did from the beginning, which is promoting on social media. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are my main portals, and they’ve all been doing fairly well, Instagram being at the top.

It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life from your career to your blog to your extensive traveling schedule. How do you balance everything in your life? 

Having the support of my husband has helped a lot. He is constantly reminding me what’s most important in life, and helping me prioritize. I’m also a very organized person. I plan out my days and set goals for myself which helps me accomplish everything. But I wouldn’t be able to do all of this without the support of my husband. He understands and supports me. So no matter what, I make time for him because he is my priority.

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Who are you most inspired by in your life, and why?

My main inspiration is my mom. She’s Super Woman and I don’t know how she gets everything done. I look to her and I think “okay, I want to be like that.” So she definitely inspires me in a lot of ways.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

My biggest piece of advice is to not give up. After about a year, a lot of people decide to stop blogging. So I say, push through it. Get through that year. Keep going no matter what. One of the biggest lessons blogging has taught me is to have patience.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m a hardcore perfectionist, from the way that I dress to the way that I write. It takes me ten times longer than most people to do things because it’s never perfect, and I want to produce excellent things. My dad taught me growing up that you have to always be striving to be better than you were yesterday. And those have become the words I live by. I can’t even help it, it’s in my blood! A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I guess now they’re going to know…


Don’t worry, Jenny, your perfectionist secret is safe with us! 🙂

I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Please take a moment to check out Jenny’s awesome travel blog and social media accounts (linked below), and as always please get in touch with me if you’d like to be featured on my interview series!

My email if you’d like to collaborate: shelly@shellyray.com