My Trip to Australia: Part III

I landed in Sydney mid-afternoon on Tuesday and took the train from the airport to my friends train stop. I got off and she quickly met we there; we embraced and started talking nonstop. We went back to her apartment, dropped my bag off, and wandered into the city.

We stopped at this super fancy food court and enjoyed delicious salads at a Sydney health-food chain. After dinner, we headed to the Sydney Opera House for the beautiful night views. We took plenty of photos and saw a stunning light show projected on the Opera House outside.

At the moment, I decided I had to try and see a show. It was quickly cemented in my mind and I determined our best chance would be the first-come, first-serve discount tickets available starting at 9am.

The next morning we woke up early, I saw my friend’s gorgeous university campus, and took the train to Circular Quay—the home of the Opera House. I lucked out and scored two discounted tickets to La Boheme for that night.

Thrilled by my success, I headed off to meet the walking tour group scheduled for the next event of the day. It started around 10:30 and was an entirely free three hour walking tour all over the city. I learned so much and met so many interesting people from all over the world. I highly recommend the free walking tour in Sydney.

I loved this open art exhibit; each cage represents a species of bird that has lost its habitat as Sydney grew. There were speakers around that playing each bird’s song.

After the long walk I was exhausted so I grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the cool, hipster neighborhood where I planned to meet up with my friend for dinner. I got there much earlier than expected, so I went thrifting for about an hour and a half scoring great gifts!

I met up with my friend and we went to a quick vegan Vietnamese restaurant before heading to the Sydney Harbor to the show. As we headed there, we both got a bit hungry so we stopped at Woolworth’s and picked up our favorite thing—a pint of Halotop! We walked through a beautiful park eating the ice cream straight out of the pint as we walked, laughing & talking.

We got to the show in perfect time. We people watched for a few minutes before the show began. I can’t say the Opera was my favorite, but the stage and tech was incredible! The stage was literally floating on the harbor and they had real snow falling down into the audience throughout the show.

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By the end of the show, I was completely wiped out. My friend virtually dragged me home (bless her patience). Up to that point, I’d felt zero jet lag..but I’d also gone to bed no later than 8pm every other night.

I think I’m at my worst when I’m that tired, but luckily I woke up feeling ready for action! We had a day trip scheduled to the Blue Mountains. The day was a mixture of hiking & vista points, each more stunning than the last. During our big hike, my friend sprained her ankle on the steep, rocky stairs so we hung back for the last bit of the hike.

Afterwards, we ventured off to a cute town for lunch, followed by a trip to see town-funded graffiti, which is as beautiful & diverse as you can imagine.

We also saw kangaroos (of course)!

We stopped at a few other beautiful lookout points and finally headed home. It was a lovely day, but dog-tired we headed back to the apartment and threw together a quick dinner.

On Friday I rewarded myself by sleeping in a bit, and it was worth every minute. I enjoyed a cup of tea and began my journey to Coogee Beach for the insanely gorgeous Coogee to Bondi Beach Walk.

A definite tourist favorite, and I can see why. Stunning views the whole way. I took the day slow and stopped every so often to read or just stare into the aquamarine waters.

After my walk, I didn’t have time for any major activity so I met my friend at her favorite book store & cafe called Sapphos Books. It was such a quaint little shop and I found a book of feminist comics in German for my dad (he is learning German).

I had a transit disaster right after…ending up 45 minutes in the wrong direction. I decided to go without cellular data during my trip, and I didn’t have a single issue until my second to last day. As the bus went stop after stop, I got the uneasy feeling that I might be going the completely wrong direction. I asked a woman sitting next to me and she saw my dismay and helped me sort out what to do. We got to talking and she told me how much she loved Nashville (my hometown), Taylor Swift, and Graceland. We bonded quickly and she was rooting for me as I hopped off the bus at her instruction. I made it back to my friend’s apartment later that night and we had a relaxing low key evening.

The next day we took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach. We decided to spend the morning eating brunch, exploring the street market, and wandering the beach. Brunch was to die for…I ordered a vegan breakfast bowl and it was filling, delicious, and beautiful full of roasted kale, kabocha, turmeric-spiked cauliflower, avocado, and pickled lemon peel with vegan feta & micro greens.

Of course we also tried a famous Australia classic–the acai bowl!

After brunch we wandered around the outdoor market and climbed up hills near the beach—finding some gorgeous views.

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After the beach I went and packed up my stuff and we decided to have a fun night out. We had dinner at this super cool vegan restaurant called “Lentil as Anything” that has a pay-as-you-can policy. The choices were limited, but delicious. After dinner we wandered the streets until we made our way to a zombie-themed bar. After an hour or so there, we arrived at the best stop—the Cuban themed bar & club. The downstairs half of the club was a mess—bad music & drunken teens everywhere!

Luckily, the upstairs half was a game changer. Live salsa music and a few incredible dancers on the floor. After watching for a few songs, one of my roommate’s friends gave us a brief lesson, and soon my friend and I were on the dance floor. We had a blast, even if our salsa moves were lacking. Oftentimes when I go out, people tend to make a big deal of the fact that I don’t drink. Luckily this crew couldn’t care less, and we danced the night away and ended up playing in a park with the dozens of other party-goers out that night.

We got back to the apartment after catching the last train; running to make it on time! It was 2AM and I collapsed into bed, all packed for my 5am wake up call to begin the journey home to San Francisco.

I made it the airport after one insanely expensive uber ride (I regret nothing!) and I collapsed into a deep sleep on the plane, with a whole row to myself! I woke up in Hong Kong feeling nothing but gratitude & playing my Australia memories in my head over and over again.

 

My Trip to Australia: Part II

I arrived in Airlie Beach and my amazing Airbnb host picked me up from the bus stop, gave me a quick drive through tour of the area, and after dropping my stuff off, I began a fun day of wandering the beach town. I had a wonderful picnic lunch on the water and walked along the shore for hours.

That evening I took an insanely fun speedboat tour around the area. I got there early and after talking with an employee there, I learned she lived in Nashville (my hometown) and went to Vanderbilt, not to mention she nannied for a family from my school. What a small world! Times like this are the perfect example of how interconnected we all are–it just takes a little bit of friendliness! It was a roller coaster on water–such a fun 30 minute ride! I even got to see some of the turtles the area is famous for.

I got back to my Airbnb around 6, ate dinner, and promptly fell asleep about 10 minutes into reading my book. I woke up the next morning, and after a bit of confusion, made it to the right dock to catch my beach/hiking/snorkeling day trip around the Whitsundays.

We started out the day at Whitehaven beach, one of the best beaches in the world (and I can see why). The perfectly white sand is soft because it’s made of silica (the result of the volcanic eruptions that made the islands), which also means it does not retain heat. After lying on the sand, I decided to take advantage of the paddle boards our boat offered. I’ve always wanted to paddle board, but I haven’t because 1) I’m afraid I would fall 2) I didn’t want to pay 3) living on the Pacific Ocean, the water is FREEZING. So this was finally my chance! I would say it went pretty well for about 5 minutes:

And then…

Now I can say I’ve tried it! I definitely want to try it again.

After the beach stop, we made our way to a short hike with incredible views.

The hike was gorgeous and I relaxed on the beach after. After a quick lunch on the boat, we set off to our snorkeling location. The Captain was awesome and decided to take us to a location slightly further away because their usual spot was spot was too crowded, which meant the wildlife would be overwhelmed and it wouldn’t be the best experience for us or the fish!

Don’t I look cool while snorkeling? LOL

This was actually the most awesome wildlife experience I caught on camera while in Australia. I felt like I was a part of the school of fish–it was such a bizarre experience. The fish had no fear!

The one and a half hours snorkeling and exploring the reef flew by and I was back on the boat riding back before I knew it. I was dropped off about a mile from my Airbnb and took about an hour exploring a local grocery store (one of my favorite activities!). I found tons of interesting things and walked out with $40 worth of chocolate and ingredients to make dinner.

I make it back to the Airbnb, cooked dinner, chatted with my host for a few hours, and put my laundry in. I went to shower and immediately passed out in bed. I woke up the next morning and my host had folded up all of my laundry–how sweet is that? I really lucked out. If you’re traveling to Airlie Beach/the Whitsundays, you’ve got to stay with Chris & Glenn.

After a relaxing morning, I took a shuttle to the Proserpine Airport to catch a flight to Sydney and begin the next amazing leg of my journey.

 

My Trip to Australia: Part I

My trip to Australia felt like a big eff you to my anxious thoughts & feelings. First of all, I booked my tickets only a month ahead of time with minimal ideas of what I would do. I read TripAdvisor reviews about the places I had in mind and reached out to my friends for advice.

As soon as I had the locations set, it became tremendously easier. After talking with my pre-school friend who spent nearly a year in Australia she gave me a few life-saving pieces of advice: 1) take a “On the Wallaby” or “Uncle Brian’s” tour just outside of Cairns 2) Whitsunday/Whitehaven beach are a must 3) Greyhound buses can be a good option

With places and dates, my searches became much more limited—in the best way possible.

Cairns has a few notorious party hostels, and I immediately knew I would require a less well-known option. I ended up going with a similar hostel called “Calypso Inn,” which will be called “Mad Monkey” in the coming months. It was a perfect compromise—I booked a single room and the property had a lively welcoming atmosphere with shared bathrooms, showers, and kitchen. Even with some late night partying, it wasn’t loud and the staff were always available to answer questions or help. I really enjoyed my time there—comfortable bed, clean, and solid AC.

Far more important than the accommodations: the activities! So day 1 was basically me wandering around Cairns aimlessly. Wasted day? Uh no! I loved every minute of it (aside from my heavy back pack). I strolled up and down the esplanade, went to a beautiful (free) museum, and sat in a coffee shop reading “In a Sunburnt Land” by Bill Bryson while an afternoon storm blew over. It was perfect. After my glorious day, I checked into my hotel and promptly passed out by 7pm while watching the movie “Australia” on Netflix.

The next morning I woke up even before my alarm and felt so good; chipper and ready for a day of chasing waterfalls! The “On the Wallaby” tour was a day long excursion to 4 different sites. We lucked out and had a very small group, which made it feel very intimate. Our guide, Cuz Rohan, was hilarious and kept us all in good spirits and even encouraged me to get in the freezing waterfall for a classic “sexy hair flip” photo at Milla Milla Falls.

Day 3 was a scuba dive day! I had a strange sense of fear come over me the night before. I had not been diving in years…how can I still consider myself certified? Luckily exhaustion kicked in so I had little time to worry until I plopped down on the boat the next day. A guy about my age sat next to me and I quickly learned he was in the same boat (see what I did there 😉 ) and he had not been diving in about 8 years.

We walked through some basics together and quickly became fast friends, dive buddies, and went to dinner together that night.

I signed up for the maximum three dives possible to squeeze in for one day. I quickly learned that only a few other people did the same, and most of them were highly experienced. I wanted to get the most out of my day on the reef so I’m glad I did all three, but it was intense!

My first dive was generally me mildly panicking and sticking close to the guide, but about halfway through I felt the same sense of calm sweep over me. The sense of calm that makes me love diving. The weightlessness, the quiet, the long slow breaths.

The reef itself was endless–stunning with numerous textures & colors. Beautiful fish near inches from my face. The next two dives were even better. I learned that a shark swam right by me and I didn’t even see it (I would be the first to die in real-life Jaws).

After my long day of diving, I went to dinner with my dive buddy and wandered back to my hostel to kill 4 hours before catching my 1AM greyhound. I sat down on the sofa in the hostel “lobby” (I don’t think it qualifies as a real lobby..) and awoke to the guys at the front desk discussing their sexual exploits. They had no idea I was there and their surprise was hilarious as I sleepily popped my head up.

I caught a cab to the bus stop and was greeted my the nicest greyhound bus (and driver) I’ve ever seen! I settled in and slept for a solid 5 hours before waking up to watch the views through rural Australia en route to Airlie Beach and the magnificent Whitsundays.

NYC Eats: foodie love on the East coast

I was on the road for about two weeks between business and spending time at home. I had the chance to spend a weekend in NYC visiting a dear friend from college, Zoe, and hanging out with an new friend I met through health blogging! My first meal on Friday was a HIT! We started our evening at Souen, and it was delicious. We split the sautéed mushrooms to start and I enjoyed a macrobiotic plate for my main. I loved that it included kabocha—my friend, Zoe, and I initially met because we both loved this squash (I’m 100% serious) and here we are 4 years later!

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For dessert, we enjoyed some of Hungry Root’s delicious black bean brownie batter–sooo delicious! My friend has been working for this amazing company for years so I was thrilled to try one of her creations 🙂

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We ate breakfast on the go before an amazing kickboxing class at Shadowboxing–one of my favorite workout classes to date! It had a great vibe—dark, music that was just loud enough (not too loud), challenging but without any judgement! It was intervals of boxing moves, strength conditioning, cardio, & bag work. Workout rating: 10/10

After getting all cleaned up, we enjoyed a later lunch at Hu Kitchen (it’s all over instagram and I kept hearing amazing things)…

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Next up was an extravagant dinner at The Little Beet Table. Almost everything on the menu sounded superb so we tried not to order everything…we started out with an arugula fennel salad. It wasn’t anything too exciting, but definitely tasted light and fresh.

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Now this dish stole the show; the beetroot tartare–black pepper-lemon yogurt, hazelnut, watercress, horseradish…an incredible combination of sweet, bitter, and tangy.

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My entree pick was the grilled cauliflower steak on a bed of green curry served up with maitake mushrooms, a salad of market herbs, apple & almond. I could have easily eaten an entire plate of the mushrooms! The other entree we ordered was the Atlantic salmon with daikon & carrot slaw, baby bok choy, coconut & turmeric; the curry sauce was quite spicy, but the combination was fantastic.   

Apparently the brussel sprouts are a must at the Little Beet Table so we ordered a side of those as well–they were delicious! A little on the oily side for my taste, but incredibly flavorful. Even a veggie hater would love these.

One of my last meals in the city was a great big kale & shaved brussel sprout salad with a bunch of roasted almonds, beets & orange.

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Do you prioritize good eats when you travel? Do you crave veggies when you’re on the go?

Holiday Travel: the good, the bad, the ugly

Holiday travel can be unpleasant, to put it mildly! I hate traveling on the average day (the flights, not the destinations and experiences), but somehow the holidays amplify the stress and bring out a little extra crazy. I’m now flying home from the West Coast and opt for overnight flights to avoid losing a day at home or work, plus these flights are often less pricy. In an effort to make my travel as comfortable as possible, I’ve come up with a few tips and tricks that help me.

  1. Make a packing list: you’ll probably tell yourself “oh, I would never forget that..,” but there is nothing worse than arriving at your destination without underwear or the murder mystery you were halfway done reading.
  2. Packing cubes:
  3. Water bottle:
  4. Chargers:

Specific to overnight flights:

  • Pack a pillow! I recently bought a Turtl pillow (yes, I realize how silly they look). It is so important to have good neck support so you can sleep and wake up without serious neck pain when you arrive at your destination.
  • Take something to help you sleep whether that’s melatonin or a low grade sleeping aid; just ensure that you have enough time in the air after you take it so you are not too drowsy when you land. Depending on what you take, I like to have a minimum of six hours of buffer time after I’ve taken my melatonin or other sleep aid.
  • Pack socks–nothing is worse than cold feet! They take up so little room and will definitely be worth it.

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Will you be traveling this holiday season? What are your best travel tips?

Gratitude in Action

We talk so much about gratitude; usually we talk about expressing gratitude, but it often revolves around reflection–or events in the past we now feel grateful for.

But what about the gratitude of the NOW? Of the present moment?

I had a surreal day where I made a particular effort to be mindful of my gratitude in the moment, and it truly enriched my experience. Living in California has been both the scariest change and this biggest blessing in my life. I had the chance to go horseback riding along a beach trail and every moment felt like a magical gift.

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I love horses. Sure, they smell and there are more flies, but these are wise animals. I feel a strange sense of security and calm when riding. It was a quiet, peaceful ride along near the beach, through a woodsy trail, culminating at a pristine beach.

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We had to leave our phones behind (a wonderful exercise for living in the present) so while we couldn’t take great selfies, we could fully embrace the beauty and experience. I felt so calm, centered, and fulfilled afterwards and will continue to seek out experiences that force me out of my routine, cut me off from technology, and let me immerse myself in deep gratitude.

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Do you practice gratitude in the now?

Some Bay Area Eats (Part 1)

I moved to the Bay Area about a month ago and time has absolutely flown by! It’s been a hectic, fun experience and I’ve had the chance to try out quite a few different restaurants! I’ve found a few gems, and a few I wouldn’t recommend…

1. I’ll start with the not so good. While this isn’t a picture of the actual food, the food from The Third Eye Restaurant and Bar was not photogenic OR tasty. I think my sister enjoyed her Momo, but the other dishes, including tandoori chicken and an eggplant dish, were awful. We were surprised because the restaurant had fairly good reviews.

2. Maverick Jack’s caught my eye immediately; the building is right on the train tracks, has yellow trim, and looks like an old train station (which it is!). Luckily the food lived up to the cute look. The menu includes an assortment of interesting drinks and milkshakes–the strawberry lemonade was delicious and was made with plenty of freshly mashed strawberries. I ordered the southwestern salad, shown below, but everything was delicious.

3. We arrived in San Francisco with about 20 minutes to eat before our play started so this pick was based mostly on convenience, but it was delicious! After Osha was tasty and quick. I enjoyed my sweet and sour mushroom soup and we split fresh, tasty spring rolls.

4. I went out to eat with my cousins and they picked a great place in Burlingame–Steelhead Brewing Company. I am obsessed with jicama so I had to go with the southwestern salad, and it was a good choice! So fresh and so much food. Also, if you’re a fan of shoe string French fries–this is the place for you!

6. This Greek place Souvla was AMAZING. My friend and I spent like an hour deciding where to eat, and this meal made every minute worth it. I ordered the warm roasted chicken salad with fennel and she got the lamb gyro. Check out those pickled veggies!

Expect more good eats to come!

Travel+Eats+Emotions in Northern California 

My mom and I booked a last minute trip to visit San Mateo after learning this will be my new home! After leaving the house at 4AM Tuesday morning, we arrived in San Francisco exhausted, but ready to explore.

 

We took it easy and explored the area and looked at a few potential housing options before grabbing a late dinner in downtown San Mateo at Hummus. I thought it was just okay–nothing too special!

The next day just so happened to be my birthday, and yes I am feeling 22! So we went to Half Moon Bay, enjoyed artisan tea at the cutest coffee shop, went thrifting, and finally stopped at an adorable produce stand on the side of the road.

We also stopped at this great restaurant called Tres Amigos! I got the grilled chicken salad–I loved the addition of jicama and orange slices!

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Doesn’t this look so fresh?

That night we drove to Mountain View and met up with a dear friend who works at Google. He gave us a tour of the incredible campus–from snack bars to arcade rooms! After the tour, we grabbed a delicious dinner together.

A plate of goodies from the buffet style cafeteria!


The next day, Thursday, was just as busy with apartment hunting! After scoping out a few places I found one I loved and submitted an application, which was followed by a celebratory Whole Foods lunch! We went back to our hotel exhausted later that evening, got a quick dinner, then enjoyed popcorn, Questbars, and the show “Girlboss” on Netflix (we were not big fans of the show).

Delicious fresh lunch from the Whole Foods hot bar!


We certainly needed the night of R&R before our last day. We got up and went to more apartment viewings and then got the wonderful news that I had an apartment secured! I was so excited, but that also meant the move actually felt real…

*cue the water works*

So I completely lost it in the Smart & Final parking lot for a solid 30 minutes, but I am SO beyond excited for this new adventure. After my mini-meltdown, we got a delicious lunch in cutesy downtown Burlingame and eventually went into the city to see a show called Mortified before our red eye back home.

Thai Chicken Salad–this chicken was some of the best I’ve had in my life!


So much has happened within the past week; it is mind-boggling, but in the best of ways.

I think this sign I saw in San Francisco sums it up pretty well.